Apr 26, 2009 | 17
U.S. officials declared a public health emergency today over swine flu, now that 20 cases of the illness have been confirmed in the country, with 80 dead and 1,300 infected in Mexico.
Twenty cases—in California, Kansas, New York State and Texas, although none fatal—may not sound like a lot, but the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) acting director Richard Besser told reporters in Washington, D.C., that is probably just the beginning. “We are seeing more cases of swine flu,” Besser said. “We expect to see more cases of swine flu. As we continue to look for cases, I expect we’re going to find them.”
Apr 18, 2009 | 5
SEATTLE -- If the U.S. wants real health care reform, it needs to make sure everyone is covered. The way to pay for that coverage? Limiting the tax-exempt status of health insurance premiums, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said yesterday at the annual meeting of the Association of Health Care Journalists.
Wyden's Healthy Americans Act -- co-sponsored with Republican Robert Bennett of Utah -- would require all Americans except those covered by Medicare or in the military to buy a health insurance policy. (The Wall Street Journal's Gerald Seib has an excellent summary of the bill here; you can see Wyden discuss the plan here and read the full text here.)
Mar 15, 2009 | 2
Space shuttle Discovery reached orbit 200 miles above earth tonight at 7:51 local time, after taking off from Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida at 7:43:44.
The shuttle will drop off the final pieces of the International Space Station's (ISS) solar arrays, and parts for its urine recycling system that would expand the ISS’s capacity from three to six crew members.
The launch was pushed back twice, first on February 4 when NASA said it needed more time to make sure that the valves controlling the flow of hydrogen gas into the external fuel tank do not pose a hazard. Engineers discovered that one of those valves had been damaged when another shuttle, Endeavour, lifted off in November.
Mar 13, 2009 | 1
If you missed our coverage of the 2009 Intel Science Talent Search finalists and winners earlier this week—or even if you didn't—below you'll find a package of whiz kid profiles. Spending time with them is enough to turn a hardened cynic into an optimist who believes that the next generation has a chance of solving many of the world's problems. Christie Nicholson, who produced the videos, and Laura Vanderkam, who did the interviews, will agree.
There's Aditya Rajagopalan, who figured out how to improve the way we make cellulosic ethanol (and had a few words for the President). There's Chelsea Jurman, who took fifth place out of 40 finalists and suggests that parents don't say too much about their own drinking to their kids. There's Philip Streich, who took third place in the competition, for his project on carbon nanotubes.
Mar 11, 2009 | 1
WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 10, 2009)—If you're 17 and visiting our nation's capital, it's probably enough that your hotel room at the Saint Regis, steps from the White House, has a television in the bathroom.
But if that weren't enough, you're here as one of the 40 whiz kids selected as finalists in the storied Intel Science Talent Search. You've got a shot at $100,000.
But for some kids, that might not be enough. Better throw in a meeting with the president.
The 40 finalists—who have been strutting their scientific stuff for several days, as we've been on hand to live-Twitter and to profile a few projects, everything from Splenda in drinking water to whether parents should discuss their drinking with their kids to cellulosic ethanol—had a hastily scheduled trip to the White House yesterday. That included a chance to meet President Obama.
Mar 10, 2009 | 3
WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 10, 2009)—Eric Larson, 17, of Eugene, Ore., took home the top prize at this year's Intel Science Talent Search here—a $100,000 scholarship—for "classifying mathematical objects called fusion categories." His work, according to Intel, "describes these in certain dimensions for the first time."
Here, we will attempt to explain what that means. (We expect readers sharper than we are to do a better job, so please comment away.) Fusion categories are a discipline of group theory. Basically, a group is a collection of actions that is self contained. Rubik's Cube is a good example of group theory: You can do twist a, then twist b, and the result will always be contained in the set of allowed moves.
Larson took second place in December in the Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technology, and he's published on the subject in arxiv. Here's what Siemens had to say about his project last year:
Feb 28, 2009 | 4
The New York Times and the Associated Press, quoting an anonymous White House source, are reporting that Pres. Barack Obama has chosen Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius as secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Sebelius is the former insurance commissioner of Kansas, a role in which she was cheered by consumer groups for blocking a merger between Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas with an Indiana company because of the possibility that is would raise premiums in her state.
Feb 22, 2009 | 1
The 81st Annual Academy Awards are tonight, and science would be in the running for best supporting theme—if there was an Oscar for that kind of thing.
As we pointed out in a post a month ago, there's a lot of science in the Oscar contenders this year. (Here's our in-depth report on science at the movies.) First there's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, up for 13 awards, whose premise is that humans can reverse the aging process. It's certainly an arresting idea, arresting the progress of aging, but a few experts we spoke to in December about the film called it, well, not entirely realistic.
Feb 15, 2009 | 5
CHICAGO—There is a moment in Steven Spielberg's E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial in which scientists realize that E.T. in fact has DNA, like Earth-based life forms. But that DNA is unlike any that scientists have thus far—it being 1982, of course—found in any Earthbound organism: It has six, instead of the usual four, bases in its alphabet.
Had E.T. been made today, a scientific consultant may have had to give a nod to a lab in Gainesville, Fla., where DNA with six nucleotides exists in a beaker.
"We have an artificial chemical system that is capable of Darwinian evolution," biochemist Steven A. Benner, of the Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution in Gainesville, said at a session here at the American Association for the Advancement of Science's (AAAS) annual meeting this morning.
Feb 14, 2009 | 47
CHICAGO—Fresh from adding a Grammy to his mantle Sunday, former vice president Al Gore told scientists gathered here for the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) to push administration officials and the general public for solutions to climate change.
"Scientists can no longer in good conscience accept this division between the work you do and the civilization in which you live," Gore said.
"Keep your day jobs, but get involved in the debate," he added.
In about a 45-minute speech, Gore reviewed the evidence for global warming, showing a set a slides that has evolved since An Inconvenient Truth. (A few of our Twitter followers—yes, we live—Twittered Gore's talk, so you can see the blow-by-blow here--pointed out that he had presented a lot of the slides at the recent TED conference.)
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