Chemistry: Osamu Shimomura of the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass., Martin Chalfie of Columbia University and Roger Y. Tsien of the University of California, San Diego, for their discovery of the green fluorescent protein and its development as a visual tag in bioscience.
Economics: Paul Krugman of Princeton University, for his theories on international trade patterns and geography, which explain why cities are growing and why similar industries clump together.
Vanishing Act for Mammals
A new survey of the world’s 5,487 mammal species reveals that one in four is in danger of dying out—including some species of bats, the most numerous of mammals. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) concludes that at least 1,139 mammals around the globe are threatened with extinction and that the populations of 52 percent of all mammal species are declining. South and Southeast Asia are home to the most threatened mammals. Deforestation and hunting are the prime causes of the rapid declines in land mammals, such as elephants in Asia; most endangered marine mammals, such as the vaquita porpoise in Mexico’s Gulf of California, have succumbed to fishing nets, ship strikes or pollution.
Concerted efforts have brought some mammals, such as the black-footed ferret, back from the brink, but long-term success depends on tackling the root problems, the IUCN warns in its report published in the October 10 Science.
For the budget-conscious terrorist, fertilizer has been the ingredient of choice—because it contains ammonium nitrate, the chemical foundation of many kinds of bombs. Honeywell International—the Morristown, N.J.–based company famous for thermostats—has now patented a blast-free alternative. The company’s fertilizer adds in ammonium sulfate, which binds to the ammonium nitrate and makes it unable to burn quickly. In tests, the fertilizer does not detonate even when mixed with diesel or other fuels. What remains to be seen is whether it performs well as plant food; target crops would be those that need both nitrate and sulfate, such as tomatoes, cabbages and potatoes. Honeywell plans to offer the product by the end of 2009. Farmers will likely pay more for the so-called Sulf-N 26 fertilizer, but those who use it will have some assurance that the Department of Homeland Security won’t come calling when they buy in bulk. —David Biello
The actual benefits of intensive psychotherapy have long been controversial. Now investigators report that such therapy can be effective against chronic mental problems such as anxiety and depression. They looked at 23 studies involving 1,053 patients who received long-term psychodynamic therapy, which seeks clues into the unconscious roots of disorders and focuses on the relationship between patient and therapist. Psychotherapy that lasted a year or longer appeared significantly more beneficial for complex mental problems than shorter-term therapies and seemed cost-effective. Analyze more in the October 1 Journal of the American Medical Association.
—Charles Q. Choi
The Deadly Dozen
The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has issued a report of 12 diseases that are likely to spread and get worse as the world warms up and precipitation patterns change, providing more opportunities for these outbreaks. They are bird flu (H5N1 influenza), babesiosis (a malarialike disease), cholera, Ebola, infections by animal parasites (such as the worm Baylisascaris procyonis), Lyme disease, plague, poisonings from algal blooms called red tides, Rift Valley fever, sleeping sickness, tuberculosis, and yellow fever. To prevent some of these ailments from becoming the next Black Death or 1918 flu pandemic, the WCS suggests monitoring wildlife to detect signs of these pathogens before a major outbreak erupts.