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See Inside February 2007

News Scan Briefs

PSYCHOLOGY
Think of Money, Be Less Helpful
Money is an incentive to work hard, but it also promotes selfish behavior. Those conclusions may not be surprising, but psychologists at the University of Minnesota recently found that merely thinking of money makes people less likely to give help to others. Researchers subconsciously reminded some volunteers of money by showing them lucre-related words such as "salary" or by revealing a poster with currency on it....

APPLIED PHYSICS
Cordless Charging
To recharge portable electronics, scientists hope to perfect a method for transmitting electrical energy wirelessly. The effect, which has not yet been demonstrated, would take advantage of induction, in which a varying magnetic field can induce electrical flow in a nearby conductor. To boost the range and power, Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers propose introducing a short gap in a metal loop and attaching two small disks at each end....

ANTHROPOLOGY
Deciphering Neandertal's Faded Genes
A short, fossilized femur from a 38,000-year-old Neandertal could lead to the first full genome sequence for the closest relative of Homo sapiens. Working off samples from the same bone, two research groups used different methods to obtain partial DNA sequences and compared them with human DNA. The two genomes are at least 99.5 percent identical (in comparison, chimpanzees share 99 percent of the human genome)....

ASTRONOMY
Free Flow on Mars
Deposits formed in Martian gullies during the past seven years suggest that liquid water exists on Mars today. An image taken by the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft in 2005 shows a downhill track on the wall of a crater that was not present in the previous image of the crater, taken less than four years earlier. In subsequent views of the deposit, the sun's light is coming in at different angles, but the light-colored material remains, suggesting it is not a trick of the light or the result of dry erosion....

GLOBAL WARMING
Methane Flatline
For 20 years, the levels of methane in the lowest layer of our atmosphere soared. But recent data indicate that the growth rate of the greenhouse gas, which is less abundant than carbon dioxide but traps 23 times more heat per molecule, began slowing in 1998. Researchers agree that the pause results from decreasing emissions of methane, but they have not pinpointed which sources have decreased and by how much....

GENETICS
Edible Cottonseeds--If You Want to Eat Them
In Joseph Heller's novel Catch-22, the business-minded mess officer Milo Minderbinder ends up with a surplus of Egyptian cotton, which he considers unloading by covering it with chocolate and serving it to the soldiers. Even if one did not mind cottonmouth, it would be a bad idea because cottonseeds contain the toxin gossypol. Researchers at Texas A&M University, however, have discovered a method to grow cotton plants that do not produce gossypol in their seeds, a finding that they claim could supply up to 500 million people a year with a high-protein food source....

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