called prions, which can flip between two different shapes, might
help in laying down memories, according to US researchers. The
finding hints at an entirely new set of roles for the proteins.
Prions are unusual in the protein world: when they adopt one of
their guises, they can reproduce, converting other identical proteins
into copies of themselves. Often such replicating prions are harmful
- they clog up the brains of cattle with mad cow disease and patients
with variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD).
This has been
a good year for planet-spotters, with the red eye of Mars glaring
down through the summer nights. And 2003 has one final treat in
store: on New Year's Eve, Saturn will make its closest approach
to Earth for 30 years. To revellers contemplating the night sky,
Saturn - which is 1.2 billion miles away on 31 December - will
look like a very bright yellowish star.
week unveiled some really cool images—along with some positively
chilling spectra. The new images include pictures of a hidden stellar
nursery and the first spectra ever taken of organic material in
a remote galaxy. An infrared observatory, the Spitzer Space Telescope,
had gathered the data since its launch last August. The telescope "will
change the way astronomers do astronomy," predicts John N.
Bahcall of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J.
There's an old
saying that no good deed goes unpunished. Here's a related bit
of sadomasochistic wisdom: No research finding, good or not, goes
public without eventually yielding unforeseen consequences that
leave researchers either shaking their heads or spinning in their
Protein from a
blood-sucking parasite might help to fight the deadly Ebola virus,
a new study suggests. There is currently no treatment for the disease,
although tests of a vaccine have just begun in humans. Researchers
injected nine Ebola-infected monkeys with a protein that prevents
blood clotting. Three survived. Ebola is normally 100% fatal in
Like a bird,
the world's very first airplane had flexible wings. The lightweight
wood, cloth, and wire flyer, built by Wilbur Wright and Orville
Wright and first flown on Dec. 17, 1903, was steered and stabilized
by pulleys and cables that twist the wingtips. Some aviation historians
say that this bird-inspired control mechanism was the pivotal innovation
that enabled the Wright brothers to achieve heavier-than-air flight
whereas others pursuing that same goal had failed.
of the proton is under the microscope at the Thomas Jefferson National
Accelerator Facility, where a series of experiments continues to
produce unexpected results. Simple theories of proton structure
say that the way electric charge is distributed in the proton is
the same as the magnetization distribution. But Jefferson Lab results
indicate these distributions are definitely different.