Thursday, April 28, 2005

The March of Science and Medical News--4.28.2005

[We’re working on the marching music.]

Could Elvis be next?—It was thought extinct since 1944, but the extraordinarily beautiful ivory-billed woodpecker is still with us. Despite Elvis sightings for years, no one had actually verified they still exited until now. Science Magazine reports that Cornell scientists are sure they saw one in the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge in Arkansas. So, we haven’t killed them all off yet, huh? Science Now WP NYT

Send me your tired, your poor, but particularly your engineers—Bill Gates, he of Microsoft, says something must be done to let American companies get access to more foreign engineers. The country is in danger of losing its technological advantage because there are not enough America-born engineers around, and the number of H-1B visas for foreigners are less than the number Windows security upgrades. Reuters

When bad things happen to good planets—Science magazine has two articles with further evidence that global warming is real and world-altering, unless perhaps we eat plankton. One study shows that glaciers on the Antarctic Peninsula have been in retreat for half a century; 87 percent of glaciers investigated are shrinking. Another study shows that Europe is warming up and how that affects summer monsoon winds. The good news is that this warming is producing a bumper crop of plankton in the Arabian Sea. Science and Science AP Nature

Tahoe Tsunami—An earthquake in the Sierra around Lake Tahoe could cause a 30-foot tsunami, which would really screw up real estate values. There is a major quake there every 3,000 years, writes David Perlman, and it isn’t clear when the last one was, so we don’t know when the next one is expected. But it could happen. Quakes in the past have thrown the ground up 10 feet or more and that would trigger one mother of a wave. SF Chronicle

Birds causing exploding toads—I’m not making this up. Toads have been exploding all over northern Europe (you didn’t know?), which, if you are a toad, is disconcerting at best. It’s even disconcerting if you are standing next to one. The plague has now spread from Germany to Denmark. Scientists doing necropsies on the splattered remains have found one peculiarity, which may solve the mystery: no livers. It turns out that crows have been pecking out the livers, the toads puff themselves up in defense, but with a void left where the livers have been removed, blood vessels and lungs burst and the toad explodes. You read it here first. OK, second: AP [SJMN]

You can't get a good cheese steak anyplace, you know—Following W.C. Field’s advice, Helis, the beluga, has returned to Philadelphia, swimming up the Schuylkill River, as if it was joining one of the boat clubs. Whales are not common in the Schuylkill. Indeed, few living things are. The whale had been in Philly nine days earlier, thought the better of it, and left, but it’s back. NOAA experts think it must have decided feeding was better in Philly than where it ended up. Philadelphia Inquirer

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