Welcome to the ITBHU Chronicle, February 2010 Edition Chronicle Extra Section.
Blogs
Popular websites for international travelers
@ Feb 06, 2010
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Here is the list of popular websites for international travelers for getting help in booking flights, hotels, travel planning, etc. There are also equally good other websites not mentioned here.

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For flight booking

Two major websites are Expedia (www.expedia.com) and Orbitz (www.orbitz.com). Both offer flight booking, hotel and rental car booking. Users are advised to check price on the websites of respective airlines first and then compare it with other websites.

Both Expedia and Orbitz offer an easy to use interface, guaranteed price and good customer service. They can also sort the availability according to airline preference, price (high or low) and flight schedule.

There is another website, Kayak (www. kayak.com) which is a price aggregator site and shows about 4 different price schedules from other websites. Other websites well-known are Travelocity (www.travelocity.com), Cheap Tickets (www.cheaptickets.com) and Hotwire (www.hotwire.com).

There is a website called Seat Guru (www.seatguru.com) exclusively devoted for finding the best seat in a flight.

For current flight arrival and departure status, please refer to individual airlines website, where applicable. The user can also visit Flight Arrivals (www.flightarrivals.com) or Flight Stats (www.flightstats.com).

For hotel booking

Apart from above websites (which also offer hotels booking), hotels.com (www.hotel.com) is the most popular one. It offers not only price, but room description and photos, traveler’s comments and rating of a hotel, etc.

Rating and reviews

There are some websites exclusively dealing with posting of traveler’s experience of a hotel, place, flight, etc. Trip Advisor (www.tripadvisor.com) is the leading among them.

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Additional link

Booking a Flight the Frugal Way

http://frugaltraveler.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/02/16/click-it-and-ticket-booking-a-flight-the-frugal-way/

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Photo Gallery
India thrash South Africa by 153 runs, win series 2-0
@ Feb 06, 2010
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http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/sports/cricket/series-tournaments/south-africa-in-india-2010/top-stories/India-thrash-South-Africa-by-153-runs-win-series-2-0/articleshow/5612996.cms

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Sachin Tendulkar celebrating his century against South Africa during the second one-day international match in Gwalior on Wednesday. (PTI Photo)

(Photo courtesy: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshowpics/5612341.cms)

PTI, Feb 24, 2010, 10.14pm IST

GWALIOR: Sachin Tendulkar rewrote history on Wednesday by smashing the first double century in ODI cricket as India crushed South Africa by 153 runs in the second one-dayer to clinch the three-match series with one game to spare.

Tendulkar (200 not out) became the first batsman in the four-decade history of ODI to hammer a double century as India piled on a mammoth 401 for three and then skittled out South Africa for 248 in 42.5 overs for a facile win.

With this victory, India not only took an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series and rendered Saturday's third and final match in Ahmadabad inconsequential but also ensured there was no threat to their status as the number two ODI side in the world.

For them, Dinesh Karthik (79 off 85 balls), Mahendra Singh Dhoni (68 not out off 35 balls) and Yusuf Pathan (36 off 23 balls) starred with the bat but the day belonged to Tendulkar.

Everything else paled in comparison to Tendulkar's epic 147-ball blistering knock, studded with 25 fours and three sixes, as the master blaster treated the capacity crowd at the Captain Roop Singh stadium to a stunning exhibition of strokeplay.

It was not only Tendulkar's 46th ODI century but also the highest score in one-dayers, eclipsing the previous record of 194 which was held jointly by Pakistan's Saeed Anwar and Zimbabwe's Charles Conventry.

Charl Langvedt went into the history books as Tendulkar steered the pacer to the off side to get to the magical figure as the packed stadium went into a frenzy.

Tendulkar's previous best was an unbeaten 186 against New Zealand made at Hyderabad in 1999.

South Africa's mammoth chase looked doomed as Praveen Kumar cheaply castled swashbuckling opener Herschelle Gibbs (7) in the third over.

S Sreesanth (3/49) removed Roelof van der Merwe (12) with his fourth delivery and returned to see the back of in-form Hashim Amla (34 off 22 balls).

Ashish Nehra got the better of Jacques Kallis (11) in his second spell and by the 23rd over, South Africa were gasping for breath at 134 for seven.

AB de Villiers (114 not out) showed the kind of defiance not seen in his teammates as he hit his fifth ODI century. He added 77 runs with Wayne Parnell (18) to delay the inevitable but South Africa's defeat was just a matter of time by then.

De Villier's unbeaten 101-ball knock had 13 fours and two sixes in it.

It all, however, was reduced to a footnote on Wednesday as Tendulkar made history.

During his unforgettable knock, Tendulkar rattled up a record 194-run second-wicket partnership with Dinesh Karthik, who recorded his career best 79 off 85 balls with the help of four fours and three six.

They bettered the earlier Indian record of 181 runs that Tendulkar had put together with Rahul Dravid against the same opposition at Nagpur in 2000.

It was Tendulkar all over as he also shared quick and big partnerships with Pathan and skipper Dhoni to pile the agony on the South Africans.

With Pathan he added 81 runs for the third wicket, which ended when the Baroda all-rounder fell to Roelf van der Merwe.

Pathan played his own aggressive brand of game and was ruthless against Parnell, hitting the left-armer for two sixes and a four in the 38th over.

Then for the fourth wicket, Tendulkar and Dhoni raised an unbeaten 101-run stand, which took India to its highest score against South Africa.

Earlier, Wayne Parnell had cut short Virender Sehwag's (9) stay but once Karthik joined Tendulkar in the middle, India were always in charge.

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Commonwealth Shooting Championships: India wins two Golds
@ Feb 06, 2010
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http://www.ndtv.com/news/sports/commonwealth_shooting_championship_begins_today.php

NDTV Correspondent, Friday February 19, 2010, New Delhi

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(Gagan Narang)

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(PT Raghunath)

It has been a good start for India on the first day of the Commonwealth Shooting Championships in New Delhi with two gold medals.

India's Gagan Narang and PT Raghunath shot Gold with their respective scores of 599 and 594 in the 10m air rifle pair event.

Tournament favourite Gagan Narang lived up to the expectation as he not only clinched gold but his score of 599 is also a Commonwealth Shooting Championships record.

Meanwhile, in the 25m sports pistol women's pair event, the pair of Aneesa Sayyed and Annuraj Singh picked up India's 2nd Gold of the day.

The Shooting Championships is the first test event ahead of October's Commonwealth Games. It's also the first event at the refurbished Karni Singh shooting range.

All eyes are on the Indian shooters. But it is still not clear how many will actually get to see it. The fairly festive air at the inauguration ceremony was in stark contrast to the tight security ring that had been thrown around the Karni Singh range.

But while its fine to have sharpshooters, more than 200 CCTV cameras and 1000 security personnel on the prowl, you also need the spectators, all of whom are reportedly being kept at bay.

"Not today, but otherwise when they buy their tickets, they will have their tickets and they will come with their tickets," said Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dixit.

For the moment, all the stakeholders for this venue are speaking in one voice, praising the facilities and expressing their confidence in the security provided. And that led to perhaps the most memorable sight of the day.

With 186 (146 from overseas) shooters taking part in this competition from different Commonwealth countries, the government has provided top security cover for the event to prevent any untoward incident, after Saturday's Pune bomb blast.

163 shooters from 12 countries (including 43 from India) are competing in the championship.

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Prime Minister concludes historic Saudi visit
@ Feb 06, 2010
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http://www.hindustantimes.com/PM-concludes-historic-Saudi-visit/H1-Article1-514201.aspx

Agencies

Riyadh, March 01, 2010

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday concluded a historic three-day visit to Saudi Arabia during which 10 bilateral agreements were signed and the Riyadh Declaration was issued to strengthen ties between India and the influential oil-rich nation.

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King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during their talks in Riyadh on Sunday.

(Photo courtesy-

http://beta.thehindu.com/news/national/article124450.ece?homepage=true)

In a rare honour accorded to a foreign dignitary, Singh was invited to address the Majlis-ash-Shura, the Saudi parliament, where he not only sought investments from the Islamic kingdom but also pressed the need for Pakistan to "act decisively against terrorism".

He said that India would grow at the rate of 9 to 10 percent for the next 25 years.

"We seek Saudi investments in a range of sectors from infrastructure and manufacturing to the services and hospitality sector." 

"Equally, Indian industry is ready to take advantage of the many opportunities that are opening up in the IT, banking, telecommunications and pharmaceutical and hydrocarbon sectors in Saudi Arabia," he said. The kingdom is the largest supplier of hydrocarbons to India. 

He also said that India wishes to "live in peace and friendship with its neighbours". 

"If there is cooperation between India and Pakistan, vast opportunities will open up for trade, travel and development that will create prosperity in both countries and in South Asia," he told the Majlis-ash-Shura.

But for this, he said, Pakistan needs to "act decisively against terrorism". He added that India's desire for cooperative relations with Pakistan was aimed at seeking permanent peace in South Asia.

Manmohan Singh said the challenge of terrorism was immense in Afghanistan, where a Taliban suicide attack Friday in Kabul left 17 people dead, including nine Indians.

The prime minister visited the King Saud University where an honorary doctorate was conferred on Manmohan Singh, an economist turned politician.

The prime minister left the Saudi capital for home after attending a function at the Indian embassy where he met representatives of the 1.8 million Indian expatriate community.

Indian officials said the Saudi visit, the first by an Indian prime minister after Indira Gandhi's in 1982, was aimed at forging a strategic relationship with Saudi Arabia.

The prime minister and Saudi King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz signed the 'Riyadh Declaration - A New Era of Strategic Partnership' Sunday to put their seal on steadily growing ties. This is expected to cover security, economy, defence, technology and political areas as well as ways to combat terrorism.

"The two leaders reviewed the status of implementation of the historic Delhi Declaration signed in 2006, and expressed their satisfaction at the steady expansion of Saudi-India relations since the signing of the Delhi Declaration," the new declaration read.

A pathbreaking extradition treaty was signed to enhance the existing security cooperation between the two countries. It will help the authorities in apprehending criminal elements wanted to stand trial in each other's country.

Besides the king, Manmohan Singh also met Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal, Petroleum and Mineral Resources Minister Ali Al-Naimi and Commerce and Industry Minister Zainal Alireza.

Another agreement signed by the two countries was to facilitate transfer of sentenced prisoners to their own country.

"We hope this treaty will facilitate the transfer of Indian prisoners back to India where they could serve the remaining (part of the) sentence (given by a Saudi court)," said Latha Reddy of the Indian external affairs ministry.

The third agreement was on cultural cooperation between the two ministries of culture.

The fourth memorandum of understanding was on cooperation on the peaceful use of outer space. It was signed between India's Department of Science and Technology (DST) and Saudi Arabia's King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST).

Tata Motors has agreed to supply Saudi Arabia's Hotil schoolbuses worth $80 million. A pact was also signed between the Gulf Bureau of Research and DFL, and another between India's Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) and Saudi Arabia's King Saud University.

On Saturday, the prime minister had arrived to an unprecedented welcome in the Saudi capital when, setting aside protocol, the Saudi crown prince and the entire cabinet turned up at the airport to receive the Indian leader.

On Sunday, King Abdullah officially welcomed him at a grand ceremony where a guard of honour was presented and a state banquet thrown in his honour.

India is working to develop close relations with Saudi Arabia, which was one of only three countries to back the Taliban regime in Kabul when New Delhi supported the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance.

The Saudi approach to Islamists underwent a radical change after 9/11.

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Topics
Mastermind of Mossad's secret war
@ Feb 15, 2010
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http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article7034933.ece

From The Sunday Times

February 21, 2010

Uzi Mahnaimi

IN early January two black Audi A6 limousines drove up to the main gate of a building on a small hill in the northern suburbs of Tel Aviv: the headquarters of Mossad, the Israeli secret intelligence agency, known as the “midrasha”.

Hit squad - fake Brits

 

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The false passport photos - and real identities of Britons caught up in assassination

Slide Show

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Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a Hamas leader assassinated in Dubai in January 2010.

Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, stepped out of his car and was greeted by Meir Dagan, the 64-year-old head of the agency. Dagan, who has walked with a stick since he was injured in action as a young man, led Netanyahu and a general to a briefing room.

According to sources with knowledge of Mossad, inside the briefing room were some members of a hit squad. As the man who gives final authorisation for such operations, Netanyahu was briefed on plans to kill Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a member of Hamas, the militant Islamic group that controls Gaza.

Mossad had received intelligence that Mabhouh was planning a trip to Dubai and they were preparing an operation to assassinate him there, off-guard in a luxury hotel. The team had already rehearsed, using a hotel in Tel Aviv as a training ground without alerting its owners.

The mission was not regarded as unduly complicated or risky, and Netanyahu gave his authorisation, in effect signing Mabhouh’s death warrant.

Typically on such occasions, the prime minister intones: “The people of Israel trust you. Good luck.”

Days later on January 19, Emirates flight EK912 took off from the Syrian capital Damascus at 10.05am. On board, as Mossad had anticipated, was Mabhouh, who was also known by the nom de guerre of Abu al-Abd. The Israelis suspected he planned to travel from Dubai to the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas to arrange for an arms shipment to Gaza.

As the Airbus A330 rose into the wintry sky and headed south, Mabhouh, an athletic 49-year-old, could see the minarets of the ancient city — his home since he had been deported from Gaza by Israel more than 20 years before.

He had made the trip to Dubai several times before on Hamas business and had little reason to think that in less than 12 hours he would be dead.

From a highway below a Mossad agent watched the departure of EK912. Knowing from an informant at the airport that Mabhouh, who was travelling under an assumed name, had boarded the flight, the agent sent a message — believed to be to a pre-paid Austrian mobile phone — to the team in Dubai. Their target was on his way.

A few hours later, as the world now knows, Mabhouh was murdered in his hotel room — and the Israeli spy agency nearly got clean away. For days the death appeared to be from natural causes.

When suspicions did arise, it was only because of Dubai’s extensive system of CCTV cameras that the work of the assassination team was revealed.

The cameras recorded the hit-team’s movements, from the moment its members landed in Dubai to the moment they left. Last week their photographs were released by the Dubai police and splashed across the world’s newspapers and television screens.

Mossad is now deeply embarrassed. Its use of the identities of British, French, German and Irish nationals as cover for agents to carry out the hit has angered western governments. In the ensuing diplomatic fall-out, sources close to Mossad said yesterday that it had suspended similar operations in the Middle East, mainly because of fear that heightened security would put its agents at greater risk. Dagan’s job is also on the line.

Howver. few believe that Mossad will give up the secret war it has long waged against Israel’s enemies.

Mossad has had a reputation for ruthlessness since it hunted down the Black September terrorists who massacred 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics in 1972. Time and again its vengeful arm has reached out across the Arab world and into Europe, too, smiting enemies.

Under Dagan’s leadership, such operations have increased. Dagan differs markedly from his predecessor, the London-born Ephraim Halevy, a nephew of the late writer and philosopher Isaiah Berlin.

Halevy was dubbed the “cocktail man” for his long chats with foreign diplomats. He shrank from brutal covert operations. Eventually the then prime minister, Ariel Sharon, removed him and appointed Dagan in his place.

The new chief soon began to restore Mossad’s reputation for lethal operations. The tone of his directorship is set by a photograph on the wall of his modest office in the Tel Aviv headquarters. It shows an old Jew standing on the edge of a trench. An SS officer is aiming his rifle at the old man’s head.

“This old Jew was my grandfather,” Dagan tells visitors. The picture reflects in a nutshell his philosophy of Jewish self-defence for survival. “We should be strong, use our brain, and defend ourselves so that the Holocaust will never be repeated,” he once said.

One hit he masterminded was in Damascus two years ago against Imad Mughniyeh, a founder of Hezbollah and one of the world’s most wanted terrorists. Mughniyeh was decapitated when the headrest of his car seat exploded — close to the headquarters of Syrian intelligence.

Six months later, Mossad, in co-operation with special forces, struck again at the heart of the Syrian establishment. General Mohammed Suleiman, Syria’s liaison to North Korea’s nuclear programme, was relaxing in the back garden of his villa on the Mediterranean shore.

His bodyguards were monitoring the front of the villa. Out to sea a yacht sailed slowly by. No noise was heard, but suddenly the general fell, a bullet through his head.

One of Dagan’s most recent concerns has been the rise of the Iranian threat to Israel, both directly and through its links with Hamas. It is in that context that the operation to eliminate Mabhouh should be understood.

Preparations appear to have been in train for months. When Mabhouh landed in Dubai, Mossad agents were waiting for him. They had flown in from Paris, Frankfurt, Rome and Zurich in advance using their forged passports, some based on the details of British nationals living in Israel who were unaware their identities had been stolen. The agents had also obtained credit cards in the name of the identities they had stolen.

Yesterday Dhahi Khalfan, the Dubai police chief, said investigators had found that some of the passports had been used in Dubai before. About three months ago it appears Mossad agents using the stolen identities followed Mabhouh when he travelled to Dubai and then on to China. About two months ago they followed him on another visit to Dubai.

In January, after he had landed and collected his luggage Mabhouh headed for the exit and a taxi for the short ride to the nearby Al-Bustan Rutana hotel. A European-looking woman in her early thirties waiting outside saw him leave and sent a message to the head of the team.

Dubai is a hub of international commerce and intrigue. Scores of Iranian agents are active there and its hotels are often used as meeting places for spies and covert deals. The main concern of the Mossad squad was to corner Mabhouh, alone if possible.

They divided into several teams, some for surveillance of the target and others to keep a look-out, and one for the hit. Some changed their identities as they moved about the city, putting on wigs and switching clothes.

When Mabhouh checked in to the hotel, at least one Mossad agent stood close to him at the front desk trying to overhear his room number. Then two others, dressed in tennis clothes, followed him into the lift to confirm which room he was going to.

According to an Israeli report yesterday he specifically asked for a room with no balcony, presumably for security reasons. The Mossad team booked the room opposite.

Mabhouh left the hotel in early evening, tailed by two of the Mossad team. Hamas also knows where he went and whom he met, but is not saying.

The Dubai police have not released CCTV footage showing exactly what happened next in the hotel, but the available evidence and sources point to two possibilities.

One is that while Mabhouh was out, the hit team entered his room and lay in wait. To do this they would have needed a pass key or would have had to tamper with the lock. It is known that while Mabhouh was out someone had tried to reprogramme the electronic lock on the door to his room.

However, they may have failed to gain entry. If so, the second possibility is that one of the team lured Mabhouh into opening the door after he had returned to his room. Perhaps a woman agent, pictured in CCTV footage in the hotel wearing a black wig, knocked on the door posing as a member of the hotel staff, allowing the hit team to force their way in.

Exactly how Mabhouh was killed remains unclear. The Dubai police said he was suffocated; other sources say he was injected with a drug. But at first sight there was no evidence of foul play.

When the killers left they relocked the door and left a “Please do not disturb” sign on it. Within hours the Mossad agents were flying out of the emirate to different destinations, including Paris, Hong Kong and South Africa.

Nobody suspected anything was wrong until the following day when Mabhouh’s wife called Hamas officials to ask about her husband. He wasn’t answering his mobile phone, she told them. The hotel management was alerted and the room entered.

THERE were no signs of struggle or any violence to Mabhouh, who appeared to be asleep. When he couldn’t be woken, a doctor was summoned from a nearby hospital.

In the room some medicine for high-blood pressure was found — planted by Mossad, say Israeli sources — and the doctor decided that the Palestinian had died of natural causes, possibly from a heart attack. In Gaza and Damascus 40 days of mourning began.

Mossad appeared to have got away with it, though some in Hamas had their suspicions that Mabhouh had been poisoned. They well-remembered a previous Mossad plot in 1997 in which an Israeli agent blew poison into the ear of one of its leaders on a visit to Jordan — an operation authorised by Netanyahu during a previous term as prime minister. The Hamas leader, Khaled Mashal, survived only because two agents were caught — and Jordan demanded that an antidote be handed over.

Some Palestinians also suspect that Yasser Arafat, the long-standing leader who died in 2004, was poisoned, though there has never been any evidence to prove it.

When results of Mabhouh’s post-mortem came through, they were still inconclusive. Yesterday one source claimed that burns from a stun gun were found on his body and that there were traces of a nosebleed, possibly from being smothered. However, no firm evidence of exactly how Mabhouh died, either from natural causes or foul play, emerged.

The uncertainty alone was enough for Hamas to declare that Israel had killed their man. The police investigated, CCTV images were gathered and and the affair began to unravel.

One well-informed Israeli source said: “The operative teams were very much aware of the CCTV in Dubai, but they have been astonished at the ability of the Dubai police to reconstruct and assemble all the images into one account.”

For Israel, the fallout has been considerable and the reverberations continue. The real owners of the stolen or forged passports, several of them Britons living in Israel, have complained that they were innocent victims of a murder plot.

The Mossad agents who used their names have been put on Interpol’s wanted list, and the real individuals are worried that they will now always be associated with the murder of a Hamas official.

Dubai can no longer avoid being embroiled in the Arab- Israeli conflict. It is calling for an international arrest warrant to be issued against Dagan and says it will release more information confirming that this was a Mossad killing.

In Britain there were initial suspicions that the government had been tipped off about the operation, or had even quietly condoned it. William Hague, the shadow foreign secretary, demanded to know when the Foreign Office had first found out that British passport holders were involved in the affair.

A spokesman for the Foreign Office insisted there was no mystery or cover-up. “Suggestions that the government had prior warning or was in some way complicit in this affair are baseless,” he said.

“The Dubai authorities told us of the role of British passports on February 15 and we were able to tell them the passports in question were fraudulent the very next day.” This account was backed up by a statement from Dubai’s police chief.

However, the broader question of Britain’s response to Israel’s activities remains unresolved.

Gordon Brown has announced an investigation by the Serious Organised Crime Agency into the identity theft, and David Miliband, the foreign secretary, is expected to address the House of Commons on the issue tomorrow.

Israel is a key ally for Britain in the Middle East and an even closer ally of the Americans. Brown and Miliband will hope that the affair will fade away, though the pro-Arab lobby will try to ensure the matter is not easily buried.

Hugo Swire, MP and chairman of the Conservative Middle East Council, said: “These allegations against the Israeli government need to be answered. This is not something that can just be swept under the carpet. You cannot conduct foreign policy at this extremely sensitive time by this sort of illegal behaviour.”

In Israel the reaction is mixed. Few shed tears over the death of one of Hamas’s top men, but there is dismay that Mossad may have damaged the country’s reputation abroad. Though in time the furore will no doubt blow over, critics of Dagan have renewed their demands for him to go.

The mastermind of Mossad may yet find himself a casualty of his own secret war.

Additional reporting: Jonathan Oliver

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Why one cookie is never enough
@ Feb 15, 2010
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http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life/health-fitness/diet/Why-one-cookie-is-never-enough/articleshow/5624154.cms

ANI, Feb 28, 2010, 12.00 am IST

 

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Why one cookie is never enough (Getty Images)

Ever wondered why munching one cookie is not enough to satisfy your taste buds? Well, researchers have found the answer for you: the culprit is glucose-fructose syrup.

The Daily Mail reports, research shows processed snack foods often contain glucose-fructose syrup, an ingredient that makes your brain think you need to eat more.
Glucose-fructose syrup is a type of sugar based on one found in fruit that is used to add bulk and moisture to foods. It's a common ingredient in processed snack foods, cereals, yogurt and fizzy drinks, reports The New York Daily News.

Dr Carel Le Roux, a consultant in metabolic medicine at Imperial College London, told the Daily Mail that fructose can scramble messages to the brain about being full.
"When we eat sugar, our body releases insulin which tells the brain that we have had enough to eat.

"High insulin levels are one of the factors that dampen the appetite," she said.
The expert added: "But fructose doesn't trigger as much of an insulin response as regular sugar, so the brain won't get the message that you are full."

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Useful tips about health and lifestyle from USAweekend.com
@ Feb 15, 2010
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http://www.usaweekend.com/

Feb 21, 2010 issue

 

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a) Use plants to clear the air

 

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Want cleaner air in your home or office? Get a houseplant. Some are especially good at reducing indoor air pollutants, says B.C. Wolverton, co-author of Plants: Why You Can't Live Without Them. His favorites: lady palm, areca palm, English ivy, golden pothos and rubber plant. Strive for at least two plants per 100 square feet.

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b) Snack alert: These myths are false

 

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Do you crave snacks at 3 p.m. every day? Don't ignore the urge to nibble. Nutritionist Keri Glassman, author of The Snack Factor Diet, busts three snacking misconceptions:

MYTH: Snacks ruin appetite.

People often don't snack because they think they'll be full come mealtime. But without some healthful munching, "people often dive in and overeat during meals, which slows down their metabolism," Glassman says. And they often make poor choices because they're racing to get food into their system.

MYTH: Snacks are junk food.

"Think of food as snacks," Glassman says. Pack a small portion of your dinner for an afternoon treat. Anything can be a snack -- two slices of turkey or a handful of soybeans. "Avoid anything refined, processed or packaged foods, and food laden with trans-fats, like a lot of chips. Stick to whole grains, fruits and veggies."

MYTH: Healthful snacks aren't convenient.

"Have a little snack survival kit" of healthful foods, Glassman says. Some of her other suggestions: Keep a non-perishable item in your bag for emergencies, and keep some go-to snacks, such as crackers and peanut butter or string cheese, at work.

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c) Drive away your child's car sickness symptoms

Avoid hard stops and turns. Take frequent fresh-air breaks.

 

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Even if your child is prone to motion sickness, you still can take a car trip this spring break. These tips from pediatrician Christopher Tolcher, a spokesman for the American Academy of Pediatrics, may help avoid or ease symptoms:

Fuel up.

Make sure your child has food in his stomach before you hit the road. Grains and fruits usually can help settle stomachs, Tolcher says. And ginger -- the actual root, not the soda -- is known to relax sensitive stomachs.

Stay cool.

Put a cold compress on the back of your child's neck to help ease or prevent symptoms.

Avoid distractions.

Don't let your child read, watch DVDs or play video games in the car. This can increase symptoms.

Drive gently.

Go slowly around curves and turns, and avoid sudden stops and starts. If your child's symptoms are bad, take frequent fresh-air breaks.

Medicate if needed.

Give a child medicine only if his motion sickness is significant (for example, if he vomits) and regular. Kids under 6 may benefit from Benadryl; others may use Dramamine or Bonine. Consult your doctor.

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d) Our doc shares his top fixes for varicose veins

Dr. Tedd Mitchell

Can't stand your varicose veins? For the most part, they’re not cause for concern. But they can be uncomfortable and unsightly: Some are bluish, and others appear enlarged, swollen and/or twisted.

 

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(http://www.hipusa.com/webmd/encyclopedia/varicose_veins/index.html)

To prevent varicose veins or to improve the appearance and slow the progression of those you have, try the following tips:

Lose weight.

The increase in abdominal pressure caused by being overweight raises the pressure in the leg veins. This is why pregnant women often develop varicose veins.

Exercise.

Routine activity can improve circulation. Try doing low-impact exercises such as walking, cycling and swimming.

Wear compression stockings.

These help support leg veins and improve circulation.

Elevate the legs.

Gravity helps direct blood flow away from the distended vessels.

Keep moving.

Prolonged sitting or standing lets blood pool.

These ideas can help, but despite folks’ best efforts, varicose veins can progress. Those people may benefit from minor office procedures or more involved surgeries. If your problem is significant, talk to your doctor about your best options.

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Why Do People Become Lactose-Intolerant?
@ Feb 15, 2010
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http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703562404575067264166151750.html?mod=rss_Today%27s_Most_Popular

FEBRUARY 15, 2010

Scientists Turn to DNA in an Attempt to Answer Why Adults Develop Trouble Digesting Milk But Can Eat Ice Cream

By Shirley S. Wang

(See Corrections & Amplifications item below.)

Most of us drank milk every day when we were young without a problem. Then, sometime in our teens or early 20s, we start to feel bloated or have discomfort after consuming a lot of milk, typically two or more glasses at a time.

Scientists have discovered that most people develop some degree of lactose intolerance as they get older. Why we lose this ability to break down lactose, the key sugar found in milk, is a puzzle that researchers have been trying to figure out. The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, part of the National Institutes of Health, will hold its first conference on the topic next week.

It is unusual for people to lose the ability to digest a nutrient as they age. But most people stop making large quantities of "lactase"—the enzyme that breaks down lactose—after childhood, says Eric Sibley, an associate professor of pediatrics at the Stanford University School of Medicine, who has been studying why people develop lactose intolerance as they get older.

 

201003-723a-milk1.png

 

201003-723a-milk2.png

 

So Young Lee/Journal of Biological Chemistry 2002

Most people stop making large amounts of lactase—the enzyme that breaks down lactose, pictured above—as they age.

Most people continue to produce some lactase, but at much-diminished levels. After they reach their individual threshold and can no longer break down lactose, it passes intact through the intestine until it reaches the colon, where it is finally fermented by the bacteria that reside there. As the bacteria do their job, they produce gas as a byproduct, which causes discomfort and pain as well as symptoms such as cramping and diarrhea.

Training the Bacteria

Some people, after diagnosing themselves, cut out regular consumption of dairy—which can potentially make symptoms worse when they do consume it. The bacteria in the gut can become less efficient at processing lactose if they aren't continually asked to do it. Conversely, people can train the bacteria to tolerate more dairy if they consume it regularly.

By understanding which genes and proteins are responsible for turning off lactase production, scientists are hoping they can then flip a genetic switch to turn the system back on—but only in the intestine. The hope is one day to be able to "program the intestine to take on the ability to maximally use nutrients," says Dr. Sibley.

This type of complex localized gene therapy isn't likely to be used in run-of-the-mill lactose-intolerant individuals, who can just watch the amount of dairy that they consume or take enzyme supplements. Instead, says Dr. Sibley, it could be used to treat children with serious digestive diseases, such as short bowel syndrome, get the nutrients they need.

Dairy products that have gone through some processing, such as cheese and ice cream, tend to have less lactose because the fermentation process breaks some of it down. But those with an intolerance should keep an eye out for lactose that has been added to products like cookies by reading the food label, says Gilman Grave, acting director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development's Center for Research for Mothers and Children.

A separate group of individuals have an allergic reaction to milk that isn't related to lactose. Instead, they are allergic to a protein in cow's milk and tend to have more blood in their stool and abdominal pain, instead of bloating. The allergy typically fades after childhood.

For years, doctors thought that lactose intolerance primarily affected individuals from certain parts of the world, such as Asia and Africa. But newer evidence suggests the opposite is true. Most adults develop lactose intolerance. Only a minority—those descended from herding cultures in northern Europe and parts of Africa—have a mutation that allows them continue to break down lactose into adulthood. The misperception likely developed in part because so many Americans are of northern European descent and have the mutation.

"A lot of people are self-diagnosing themselves with being lactose-intolerant just because they're a member of a certain ethnicity, and they may not be," Dr. Grave says.

Dr. Sibley, who holds a doctorate in biochemistry and also is a pediatric gastroenterologist at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford, has spent more than 15 years in the lab investigating genes and proteins that tell the lactase system to shut down production.

To track whether the lactase gene is turned on or off, Dr. Sibley borrowed the firefly's "luciferase" gene, which is responsible for lighting up the firefly's tail. Light is emitted when the gene is turned on.

In the lab, Dr. Sibley and his colleagues take fragments of DNA from regions they think are important to lactase production and graft them into the luciferase gene. They then implant the combination gene into human intestine cells in a dish and allow them to grow. If the DNA fragment indeed starts the lactose production process, it turns the gene on. Thanks to the graft, the turned-on gene emits light, which can be measured.

Using these methods, Dr. Sibley figured out what section of DNA appeared to be responsible for turning the lactase system on and off. In cells from people descended from northern Europeans, a single genetic mutation was associated with the continued ability to tolerate lactose.

They then took cells with those mutations, and in a dish, showed that they increased luceriferase production, which suggests the mutation does change the cell's behavior. These findings were published in 2003 in the journal Human Molecular Genetics.

With the small segment of the African population that is lactose-tolerant, the mutations appear to be slightly different but are located in the same region of the DNA.

Multiple Proteins

Dr. Sibley and his colleagues have also identified several key proteins that must be bound to specific regions of the lactase gene and in the right combinations in order to turn on the gene. One protein they are currently studying, called PDX-1, appears to suppress lactase production in cells in the dish. But when the group generated mice that don't make PDX-1, lactase production was only slightly increased. This suggests that there are multiple proteins working together to suppress lactase and that PDX-1 alone isn't enough to turn the system off completely, says Dr. Sibley.

They also are working to figure out which segment of the DNA sequence tells the lactase gene to produce lactase in certain cells of the intestine but not others, and when the system should be turned off. The ultimate goal of this line of research would be to be able to turn on genes in cells in the intestine that don't naturally produce it, says Dr. Sibley.

Individuals who are worried they are lactose-intolerant can do a self-test by cutting out dairy for two weeks and seeing if their symptoms subside, says Dr. Sibley. There is also a breathalyzer test that measures the amount of hydrogen in the breath, which is a byproduct that bacteria produce if they are breaking down lactose. Most individuals don't need it to be diagnosed with lactose intolerance, according to Dr. Sibley.

For most individuals, lactose intolerance doesn't mean they should permanently cut out all dairy. Studies have shown that people who are lactose intolerant can drink one to two glasses of milk a day without symptoms, says Dr. Grave, who encourages all people without allergies to drink this amount. Many people say their symptoms actually improve when they regularly drink milk, perhaps because the bacteria in the colon break down lactose more efficiently or the number of bacteria build up, he says.

Another reason to drink milk: calcium. If children in particular don't get the amount of calcium they need, their growth and skeletal health may be compromised, says Dr. Grave. A New Zealand study showed that kids on a dairy-free diet get only one-third of their needed daily calcium and had a higher fracture rate, compared with kids who consumed dairy.

It is certainly possible to get calcium from other foods, but people would have to eat vast amounts of it in order to get the same amount found in dairy, says Dr. Grave. For instance, you would have to eat many servings of spinach in order to absorb the same amount of calcium you would get in one cup of milk.

Write to Shirley S. Wang at shirley.wang@wsj.com

Corrections & Amplifications:

Eric Sibleyis an associate professor of pediatrics at the Stanford University School of Medicine. Tuesday's In the Lab column on lactose intolerance incorrectly identified him as an assistant professor.

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15 Internet Annoyances, and How to Fix Them
@ Feb 15, 2010
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http://www.pcworld.com/article/189198/15_internet_annoyances_and_how_to_fix_them.html

The Internet's a wonderful thing, but it can also be a royal pain. Fortunately, there's help.

Jared Newman, PCWorld

201003-722a-PC1.png

Artwork: Chip Taylor

It seems that every day we go online and there's some new type of nagging Web annoyance to deal with. In a perfect world, we wouldn't have to worry about auto-playing video ads, leaping pay walls to read the news, fake emails phishing for our bank details, or Farmville spam from Facebook. But for now, we're on our own. Here are 15 of the most annoying things on the Internet, and how to work around, ignore, improve or fix them.

You Must Register

My abbreviated rant on pay and registration walls: No. Impressive as it as that sites can track your visits without any sign-in process, asking to cough up money after a limited number of articles--I'm looking at you, Financial Times--is silly if you're not a regular reader.

The Fix: Some sites, such as the Wall Street Journal, will let you in via aggregators like Google News. So if you're blocked, try a Google News search on the subject. You can also try snipping some of the text and plugging it into a search engine, in quotes, to see if another site has quoted or summarized the article.

Social Networking Overload

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Between Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Foursquare and now Google Buzz, there are just too many social networks to keep track of. Sure, you could pick one and stick with it, but then you might only be paying attention to some friends while neglecting others. It's the worst kind of information overload.

The Fix: Use a program that aggregates several social networks into one interface, such as Digsby or Meebo. You might not get the full functionality of your favorite network, but at least you can keep an eye on status updates with minimal effort.

This Ad is a Video

Is it just me, or have Web sites with auto-playing video ads become more prevalent lately? Congratulations, advertisers, you got me to listen to your pitch by sheer force. Only now, I hate your brand, if only I could remember what it was.

The Fix: Here's a neat piece of Windows software called FlashMute. It installs to your system tray and can deny Flash access to your audio hardware. Just click the icon or hit Ctrl-Alt-M to switch it on and off. Note: Anti-virus programs tend to flare up when visiting FlashMute's download page. The developer says it's because FlashMute uses the same method of hooking into your browser as some types of AdWare, but it's only intercepting sound from Flash and other Web sources. Fair warning.

I Don't Care About Farmville

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Farmville ribbons, quiz results, articles on subjects you don't care about--isn't Facebook magical? As nice as it is to keep in touch with friends (or “friends”) and look at photos from bar night, constantly hearing about the time-killing habbits of others can be downright boring.

The Fix: Firefox users can check out Facebook Purity, a script that's part of the browser's GreaseMonkey add-on. It automatically strips quizzes and other application notices from your Facebook home page For everyone else, there's Facebook Lite, which strips your feed down to its bare essentials.

Too Much Phishing

The number of schemes that pop up on the Internet are too numerous to mention, but recent attacks on Twitter, Facebook, Hotmail, Gmail Talk, and Adobe PDF files come to mind. Even if you've never been hit, you can't help but be annoyed that these scams exist.

The Fix: Here are some tips on how to avoid getting scammed, and how to spot malicious links buried in TinyURLs. Fortunately, most browsers, including Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari and Opera, all include some sort of anti-phishing filters.

Don't Open That Window

We are Web surfers, not babies, so why do some Web sites open new browser windows or tabs when you click on a link? If your site is compelling enough, I promise I won't leave just to check out a link.

The Fix: Firefox users can type about:config in the address bar, search for “browser.link” in the filter field, double click on open_newwindow and change the value to 1. Still, I wish browsers had a “never open in new window or tab” option. My solution was to train myself over many years to open pretty much everything in its own tab.

A Frame to Block Your View

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I thought browser frames went out with Netscape Navigator, but once again our Web browsers are being invaded by the DiggBar and its ilk. These are sad attempts to keep us penned in to one site's pages.

The Fix: Once again, add-ons save the day, at least for Firefox users. The DiggBar Killer script for Firefox's Grease Monkey add-on will ensure that you never see the DiggBar again.

This Link is an Ad

No money-making editorial Web site is free of advertisements--PCWorld included--but I hope my publishers never include those links that create a pop-up ad when you hover over them. Do people even look at those ads? I just hunt for the “X” and get back to the editorial.

The Fix: Internet Explorer users have it easy: Go to your list of restricted sites (Tools, Internet Options, Security, Restricted Sites in IE8) and block the following: “*.vibrantmedia.com,” “*.intellitxt.com” and “*.kontera.com.” Firefox users can get the same results by restricting those sites with the BlockSite add-on. Everyone else can block those sites with a free OpenDNS account.

Junk Sites in Search Results

Have you ever navigated past the first or second page of search results? It's a wasteland of junk Web pages and bad information. If Google, Bing and Yahoo replaced those back pages with a message that read, “You've failed. Try again,” I don't think we'd be any worse off.

The Fix: I can't make search engines read your mind, but I can shamelessly promote some expert advice on getting better Google searches. And don't neglect subsections of search engines, such as Google News and Bing Shopping.

This Search Bar is Worthless

As a whole, Web sites' internal search engines are so bad that I rarely trust them anymore. They'll fail to dig up that article you read a few months ago, or they'll bury it among countless irrelevant results, and they lack the tools of a real search engine.

The Fix: Head to your search engine of choice and precede your search with site:nameofsite.com "what you're looking for” for a surprisingly good index of what you seek. Google can even display results by date when you click “Show options.”

We Don't Serve Your Browser Here

Just because Internet Explorer has over 60 percent of the Web browser market, some sites don't support any other browser, such as page for HP computers. If you use something else, opening a page in IE feels like sleeping in a stranger's bed.

The Fix: Use the Coral IE Tab add-on for Firefox and the IE Tabs extension for Chrome. The former even lets you mark specific sites to automatically open an Internet Explorer tab in the future.

I'm Not a Robot, Honest

There must be a special circle of hell reserved for CAPTCHA, that little section at the end of a form where you must decipher and re-type a few barely legible letters and numbers. The intentions are good--stop spammers from pummeling Web forums--but there's got to be a better way. Same goes for annoying wait times before you can start downloading a file.

The Fix: I've spent too long looking for an easy solution to no avail. An experimental Firefox add-on called NoCaptcha reportedly doesn't work. However, MegaUpload users can try MegaUpload TimeAttack, which automatically fills out forms and starts downloads, and SkipScreen helps jump the wait line for Rapidshare and Megaupload. MySpace users can skip CAPTCHA by verifying their account with a phone number. Also, Mashable has some tips for dealing with Facebook's CAPTCHA: You needn't type spaces, numbers, dashes, colons, semicolons, apostrophes, characters with umlauts.

This Web Site is Bogus

Sometimes when you mistype a URL or click an old, abandoned link, you'll come upon these junky Web sites filled with useless links, a search bar that returns who-knows-what and a deliciously ironic slogan, “What you need, when you need it.” This is called domain parking, the practice of occupying potentially popular URLs until they're sold, and monetizing them in the meantime. (Update: This article previously and erroneously referred to this as "cybersquatting," an equally bothersome but illegal practice of using a domain name to profit on someone else's trademark)

The Fix: Firefox users can once again use BlockSite to turn one major domain parker's Web sites into blank pages--just add “*. information.com ” to your restricted list. This will foil the source whose sites always refer back to that domain -- if a site displays worthless info, it might as well display nothing, right? Unfortunately the same trick doesn't work in Internet Explorer's list of restricted sites.

Flash Spoils Appetites

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I don't understand restaurants' fascination with Flash Web pages. Maybe they're intentionally trying draw out the navigation process to make us hungrier, thereby ordering an extra appetizer or two. It's not working.

The Fix: Why bother with restaurant Web sites any more, especially if you're dining in a city? Use sites like Yelp and UrbanSpoon for information, OpenTable for reservations and MenuPages for menus.

Five Stars, Big Surprise

The problem with online user reviews is that everyone's in denial (or a covert shill). No one wants to admit their budget HDTV has a terrible viewing angle or their new netbook's keyboard feels like putty. Save for the one guy who got bad customer service and awarded one star (and ranted in all capital letters), user reviews inevitably land in the four- to five-star range. The exception is music, movie, game and book reviews, for which everyone wants to be a critic.

The Fix: There is valuable information to be gleaned from the crowd. Just look for consistencies. Steer clear of the 5-star laptop where even the enthused complain of tinny speakers, or the fridge that everyone says can get a little loud.

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It's official: An asteroid wiped out the dinosaurs
@ Feb 14, 2010
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http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20100304/sc_nm/us_dinosaurs_asteroid

By Kate Kelland, Health and Science Correspondent Kate Kelland, Health And Science Correspondent – Thu Mar 4, 2:07 pm ET

LONDON (Reuters) – A giant asteroid smashing into Earth is the only plausible explanation for the extinction of the dinosaurs, a global scientific team said on Thursday, hoping to settle a row that has divided experts for decades.

 

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AFP/File – Skeleton of a dinosaur is pictured on display at a Tokyo museum. Dinosaurs were wiped out by a huge asteroid …

A panel of 41 scientists from across the world reviewed 20 years' worth of research to try to confirm the cause of the so-called Cretaceous-Tertiary (KT) extinction, which created a "hellish environment" around 65 million years ago and wiped out more than half of all species on the planet.

Scientific opinion was split over whether the extinction was caused by an asteroid or by volcanic activity in the Deccan Traps in what is now India, where there were a series of super volcanic eruptions that lasted around 1.5 million years.

The new study, conducted by scientists from Europe, the United States, Mexico, Canada and Japan and published in the journal Science, found that a 15-kilometre (9 miles) wide asteroid slamming into Earth at Chicxulub in what is now Mexico was the culprit.

"We now have great confidence that an asteroid was the cause of the KT extinction. This triggered large-scale fires, earthquakes measuring more than 10 on the Richter scale, and continental landslides, which created tsunamis," said Joanna Morgan of Imperial College London, a co-author of the review.

The asteroid is thought to have hit Earth with a force a billion times more powerful than the atomic bomb at Hiroshima.

Morgan said the "final nail in the coffin for the dinosaurs" came when blasted material flew into the atmosphere, shrouding the planet in darkness, causing a global winter and "killing off many species that couldn't adapt to this hellish environment."

Scientists working on the study analyzed the work of paleontologists, geochemists, climate modelers, geophysicists and sedimentologists who have been collecting evidence about the KT extinction over the last 20 years.

Geological records show the event that triggered the dinosaurs' demise rapidly destroyed marine and land ecosystems, they said, and the asteroid hit "is the only plausible explanation for this."

Peter Schulte of the University of Erlangen in Germany, a lead author on the study, said fossil records clearly show a mass extinction about 65.5 million years ago -- a time now known as the K-Pg boundary.

Despite evidence of active volcanism in India, marine and land ecosystems only showed minor changes in the 500,000 years before the K-Pg boundary, suggesting the extinction did not come earlier and was not prompted by eruptions.

The Deccan volcano theory is also thrown into doubt by models of atmospheric chemistry, the team said, which show the asteroid impact would have released much larger amounts of sulphur, dust and soot in a much shorter time than the volcanic eruptions could have, causing extreme darkening and cooling.

Gareth Collins, another co-author from Imperial College, said the asteroid impact created a "hellish day" that signaled the end of the 160-million-year reign of the dinosaurs, but also turned out to be a great day for mammals.

"The KT extinction was a pivotal moment in Earth's history, which ultimately paved the way for humans to become the dominant species on Earth," he wrote in a commentary on the study.

(Collins has created a website at

 http://impact.ese.ic.ac.uk/ImpactEffects/Chicxulub.html which allows readers to see the effects of the asteroid impact.)

(Editing by Myra MacDonald)

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Chile Earthquake May Have Shortened Days on Earth
@ Feb 14, 2010
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http://news.yahoo.com/s/space/20100302/sc_space/chileearthquakemayhaveshorteneddaysonearth

SPACE.com  Staff

space.com – Tue Mar 2, 10:00 am ET

The massive 8.8 earthquake that struck Chile may have changed the entire Earth's rotation and shortened the length of days on our planet, a NASA scientist said Monday.

 

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View of a car trapped in rubble after a tsunami hit the Chilean town of San Antonio on February 28.

The quake, the seventh strongest earthquake in recorded history, hit Chile Saturday and should have shortened the length of an Earth day by 1.26 milliseconds, according to research scientist Richard Gross at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

"Perhaps more impressive is how much the quake shifted Earth's axis," NASA officials said in a Monday update.

The computer model used by Gross and his colleagues to determine the effects of the Chile earthquake effect also found that it should have moved Earth's figure axis by about 3 inches (8 cm or 27 milliarcseconds).  

The Earth's figure axis is not the same as its north-south axis, which it spins around once every day at a speed of about 1,000 mph (1,604 kph).

The figure axis is the axis around which the Earth's mass is balanced. It is offset from the Earth's north-south axis by about 33 feet (10 meters).

Strong earthquakes have altered Earth's days and its axis in the past. The 9.1 Sumatran earthquake in 2004, which set off a deadly tsunami, should have shortened Earth's days by 6.8 microseconds and shifted its axis by about 2.76 inches (7 cm, or 2.32 milliarcseconds).

One Earth day is about 24 hours long. Over the course of a year, the length of a day normally changes gradually by one millisecond. It increases in the winter, when the Earth rotates more slowly, and decreases in the summer, Gross has said in the past.

The Chile earthquake was much smaller than the Sumatran temblor, but its effects on the Earth are larger because of its location. Its epicenter was located in the Earth's mid-latitudes rather than near the equator like the Sumatran event.

The fault responsible for the 2010 Chile quake also slices through Earth at a steeper angle than the Sumatran quake's fault, NASA scientists said.

"This makes the Chile fault more effective in moving Earth's mass vertically and hence more effective in shifting Earth's figure axis," NASA officials said.

Gross said his findings are based on early data available on the Chile earthquake. As more information about its characteristics are revealed, his prediction of its effects will likely change.

The Chile earthquake has killed more than 700 people and caused widespread devastation in the South American country.

Several major telescopes in Chile's Atacama Desert have escaped damage, according to the European Southern Observatory managing them.

A salt-measuring NASA satellite instrument destined to be installed on an Argentinean satellite was also undamaged in the earthquake, JPL officials said.

The Aquarius instrument was in the city of Bariloche, Argentina, where it is being installed in the Satelite de Aplicaciones Cientificas (SAC-D) satellite. The satellite integration facility is about 365 miles (588 km) from the Chile quake's epicenter.

The Aquarius instrument is designed to provide monthly global maps of the ocean's salt concentration in order to track current circulation and its role in climate change.

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Bloom's power plant in a box? (FAQ)
@ Feb 14, 2010
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http://news.cnet.com/8301-13924_3-10457646-64.html

February 22, 2010 5:32 PM PST

by Brooke Crothers

Start-up Bloom Energy says it can deliver a power plant in a box. What is it and how does it work?

The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company, which is generating some serious buzz this week, will officially announce on Wednesday what it calls the "Bloom box." In an interview Sunday on CBS News' "60 Minutes," CEO K.R. Sridhar said the goal is to get businesses, and eventually consumers, off the transmission line grid and deliver power at a much lower cost with low emissions.

What is the Bloom box?

It's a fuel cell. (See photo.) While that's nothing new--as Greentech Media editor Michael Kanellos says, fuel cells have been around since the 1800s--it's Bloom Energy's secret sauce that makes it special. Kanellos said that the solid oxide fuel cell patents point to a "yttria stabilized zirconium" material. This formula is used to fabricate an ink-coated floppy-disk-size ceramic tile (with an ink-based anode and cathode) made from 'beach sand." These are then stacked (see photo) into small blocks, and multiple stacks are housed in a unit about the size of a refrigerator.

 

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Inside the Bloom box

(Credit: CBS News)

Oxygen is fed into the fuel cell on one side and fuel on the other, according to the "60 Minutes" segment. The two combine in the cell to create a chemical reaction, which produces electricity. No burning or combustion. No power lines from an outside source. More here.

How much does it cost to "save" money?

In the "60 Minutes" interview, Sridhar said the boxes that companies buy cost between $700,000 and $800,000 and the goal is to make them available to the "average person" for less than $3,000. As an example of how the Bloom box is being used in corporate America today, eBay's five boxes run on landfill waste-based bio-gas and generate more power than the company's 3,000 solar panels, according to eBay CEO John Donahoe, who spoke to "60 Minutes." When averaged out over seven days, the Bloom box generates five times as much power that eBay can use, Donahoe said.

The Bloom box is capable of generating electricity at a cost of as little as 8 cents per kilowatt hour, according to reports. Cheaper, in some cases, than commercial electricity prices. One tile generates enough electricity to power a light bulb. A relatively small stack (size of a large brick) of tiles will power a home (PDF).

What kind of fuel does it use?

Fossil fuels like natural gas or renewable fuels such as landfill gas, or bio-gas, and solar.

Who is using Bloom boxes right now?

Google, Fedex, Wal-Mart, Staples, the San Francisco Airport, and the CIA, to name some of the most high-profile companies and organizations. A total of 20 companies are testing the box in California today. A four-unit box, using natural gas, has been powering a Google data center for 18 months. Here's a yardstick: a 30,000-square-foot office building would use four of these boxes.

 

201003-721b-bbox2.png

 

Bloom box stacks

(Credit: CBS News)

And subsidies or tax breaks?

In California, 20 percent of the cost is subsidized by the state and there's a 30 percent federal tax break, according to "60 Minutes."

Who is investing in Bloom Energy?

There is a total investment of about $400 million. Board members and observers include: John Doerr of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Vinod Khosla of Khosla Ventures, and T.J. Rodgers, the CEO of Cypress Semiconductor. Advisers include former Secretary of State Colin Powell and Floyd Kvamme, a partner emeritus at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

How economically feasible can it be?

"If this works, basically you have a natural gas tube going to your house or neighborhood, it goes into the fuel cell, and, pow, it makes electricity," Kanellos said. "Your power bills will go down." Potentially, consumers, in the future, will be buying natural gas but getting more bang for their gas-bill buck. The challenge is that the device itself costs a lot of money, Kanellos added. "It will take a few years to pay it off," he said.

Note on "zero emissions" claim: Greentech Media's Michael Kanellos says Bloom Energy patents discuss technology that can make fuel out of the waste products: essentially recycling the emissions--which is an extremely challenging technology that the firm may try to bring out down the road.

Disclosure: CNET News is published by CBS Interactive, a unit of CBS.

Update, February 23 at 7 p.m. PST: More details added throughout.

 

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Brooke Crothers has served as an editor at large at CNET News, an editor at Dow Jones' Asian Wall Street Journal Weekly, and a senior editor at InfoWorld. His CNET blog covers chip technology and computer systems, and how they define the computing experience. He also contributes to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. Disclosure. Follow Brooke on Twitter @mbrookec.

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Fleeting Youth, Fading Creativity
@ Feb 14, 2010
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http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703444804575071573334216604.html?mod=WSJ_hpp_RIGHTTopCarousel

   * FEBRUARY 19, 2010

The decline of successful young scientists could hurt innovation; tracking peak performance

By JONAH LEHRER

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Aaron Goodman

When James Watson was 24 years old, he spent more time thinking about women than work, according to his memoir "Genes, Girls and Gamow." His hair was unkempt and his letters home were full of references to "wine-soaked lunches." But when Mr. Watson wasn't chasing after girls, he was hard at work in his Cambridge lab, trying to puzzle out the structure of DNA. In 1953, when Mr. Watson was only 25, he co-wrote one of the most important scientific papers of all time.

Scientific revolutions are often led by the youngest scientists. Isaac Newton was 23 when he began inventing calculus; Albert Einstein published several of his most important papers at the tender age of 26; Werner Heisenberg pioneered quantum mechanics in his mid-20s. At the time, these men were all inexperienced and immature, and yet they managed to transform their fields.

Youth and creativity have long been interwoven; as Samuel Johnson once said, "Youth is the time of enterprise and hope." Unburdened by old habits and prejudices, a mind in fresh bloom is poised to see the world anew and come up with fresh innovations—solutions to problems that have sometimes eluded others for ages.

When They Were Young

Five scientists who made their marks in their early years.

Archimedes

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North Wind Picture Archives/Associated Press

Some say he was in his 20s when he solved his famous "golden crown" problem in the bathtub, causing him to run naked in the streets yelling "Eureka!"

Galileo

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The Granger Collection

Galileo published his first piece of writing around age 22. He began his experiments on the speed of falling objects in his late 20s.

Marie Curie

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Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The physicist was just turning 30 when she began investigating radioactivity. She won two Nobel Prizes before she turned 45.

William Lawrence Bragg

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SSPL/Getty Images

The Australian-born physicist is the youngest-ever Nobel Laureate. He won in 1915 at age 25 for his work on X-rays and crystal structure; he shared the prize with his father.

J. Robert Oppenheimer

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Associated Press

The future director of the Manhattan Project made his first important discovery around the age of 23.

Such innovation could be at risk in modern science, as the number of successful young scientists dramatically shrinks.

In 1980, the largest share of grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) went to scientists in their late 30s. By 2006 the curve had been shifted sharply to the right, with the highest proportion of grants going to scientists in their late 40s. This shift came largely at the expense of America's youngest scientists. In 1980, researchers between the ages of 31 and 33 received nearly 10% of all grants; by 2006 they accounted for approximately 1%. And the trend shows no signs of abating: In 2007, the most recent year available, there were more grants to 70-year-old researchers than there were to researchers under the age of 30.

"This is definitely an issue we're concerned with," says Francis Collins, the 59-year-old director of the NIH. "One thing I've learned from being in science is that the researchers in the early stages of their careers tend to be the ones with the fire in the belly. They're not afraid of tackling the really hard problems." In recent years, the NIH has responded to this concern by increasing the percentage of its grants going to new investigators, or scientists applying for their first grant, from 25% to 30%.

According to the NIH, much of the shift reflects the aging of the baby boomer generation, which has increased the number of older faculty at major medical schools. Some critics, however, argue that the funding changes also reflect the conservatism of the NIH, as the agency increasingly favors less risky research. Mr. Collins says such criticism is mostly unwarranted.

The age distribution of NIH grants has significant implications for American science. It has become much harder for young scientists to establish their own labs. According to the latest survey from the National Science Foundation, only 26% of scientists hold a tenure-track academic position within six years of receiving their Ph.D.

The aging of science might also alter the productivity of the nation's labs. In recent years, psychologists have begun studying the relationship between age and creativity, trying to understand how increasing experience affects the way we think.

One theory suggests that creative output obeys a predictable pattern over time, which is best represented by an "inverted U curve." The shape of the curve captures the steep rise and slow fall of individual creativity, with performance peaking after a few years of work before it starts to decline in middle age. By the time scientists are eminent and well-funded—this tends to happen in the final years of their careers—they are probably long past their creative prime.

The inverted U curve was first documented by Adolphe Quetelet, a 19th-century French mathematician and sociologist. Mr. Quetelet's study was simple: He plotted the number of plays produced by French and English playwrights over the course of their life spans. He soon discovered that creativity had a sweet spot, which seemed to always occur between the ages of 25 and 50. (The data neatly confirmed Mr. Quetelet's own life story, as he was 39 when his magnum opus was published.)

Dean Simonton, a psychologist at the University of California, Davis, has spent the last several decades expanding on Mr. Quetelet's approach, sifting through vast amounts of historical data in search of underlying patterns. For instance, Mr. Simonton has shown that physicists tend to make their first important discovery in their late 20s, which is why it's a common joke within the field that if a physicist hasn't done Nobel-worthy work before getting married, then he or she might as well quit. According to Mr. Simonton, the only field that peaks before physics is poetry.

Why are young physicists and poets more creative? Mr. Simonton argues that they benefit, at least in part, from their willingness to embrace novelty and surprise. Because they haven't become "encultured," or weighted down with too much conventional wisdom, they're more willing to rebel against the status quo. After a few years in the academy, however, "creators start to repeat themselves, so that it becomes more of the same-old, same-old," Mr. Simonton says.

This research has led some thinkers—such as the Stanford economist Paul Romer, who studies the role of new ideas in generating economic growth—to worry about the long-term implications of funding older scientists. "If we're not careful, we could let our institutions…slowly morph over time so that old guys control more and more of what's going on," Mr. Romer says in an interview in the book "From Poverty to Prosperity." "And the young people have a harder and harder time doing something really different, and that would be would be a bad thing for these processes of growth and change."

But Mr. Simonton and others point out that increasing innovation is not simply a matter of funding the youngest researchers. While physics, math and poetry have always been dominated by their most inexperienced practitioners, other disciplines seem to benefit from middle age. Mr. Simonton suggests that people working in fields such as biology, history, novel-writing and philosophy might not peak until their late 40s.

Interestingly, these differences in peak age appear to be cultural universals, with poets peaking before novelists in every major literary tradition, according to his research.

What accounts for these variations? Mr. Simonton suggests that they're caused by intrinsic features of the disciplines. Those fields with a logically consistent set of principles, such as physics and chess, tend to encourage youthful productivity, since it's relatively easy to acquire the necessary expertise. (The No. 1 ranked chess player in the world today, Magnus Carlsen, is 19 years old.) Because the essential facts can be quickly learned, and it usually doesn't take that long to write a lyric poem, the precocious student is free to begin innovating at an early age.

In contrast, fields that are loosely defined and full of ambiguous concepts, such as biology and history, lead to later peak productive ages. After all, before a researcher can invent a useful new idea, he or she must first learn an intimidating assortment of details.

The decline in creativity is far from inevitable, and many individuals have increased their creativity late in life by pursuing new intellectual challenges. The novelist Thomas Hardy became a full-time poet in his late 50s and wrote his greatest poem at the age of 61. The mathematician Paul Erdos was famous for hop-scotching around his discipline, and his productivity never flagged: He ended up co-writing nearly 1,500 scientific papers, making him one of the most prolific mathematicians of all time. Of course, quantity isn't the only measure of creativity—and some argue that the more mature (in art, for example) do their best work later in their careers because they have greater wisdom and experience. The fall of the creative curve can be postponed.

Another possible factor in the decline of successful young scientists is the institutions and funding mechanisms that discourage the sort of risky research that produces major innovations. Tyler Cowen, an economist at George Mason University who has studied the funding bodies that support the arts, such as the National Endowment for the Arts, notes that these institutions frequently become more risk-averse over time. "They become more beholden to special interests and fall under greater political scrutiny," he says. The end result is an increasing unwillingness to support projects that might fail. Mr. Cowen notes, for instance, that the NEA has gone from directly funding "whomever they wanted, with very little scrutiny"—this led to many success and scandals, such as the furor over Robert Mapplethorpe—to a recent focus on Shakespeare, classic jazz and the teaching of poetry in high school. While such programs are laudable, they're also unlikely to produce major cultural innovations.

In recent years, a number of organizations in the scientific community have tried to fill this void. In 2006, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute opened Janelia Farm, a scientific research campus near Ashburn, Va. The ambitious goal, as outlined in its mission statement, is to "offer creative scientists freedom from constraints that limit their ability to do groundbreaking research." It fully funds all of its 250 resident scientists, which means that they don't have to apply for outside grants. Furthermore, the Farm explicitly targets scientists "at an early career stage," modeling itself after other successful research institutions, such as Bell Labs, which benefited from the exuberant creativity of inexperienced researchers.

It's not just non-profits that are borrowing elements from the Bell Labs playbook. 3M seeks out young researchers, fresh out of graduate school, for its prestigious Corporate Research Laboratory in St. Paul, Minn. The scientists don't stay long. Larry Wendling, the vice president in charge of the lab, says his goal is to have 70% turnover every five years, with the older scientists migrating to other research positions in the company. "We encourage people to move because it keeps them excited," Mr. Wendling says. "It's a way of making sure they're always getting new challenges."

The Grand Challenges Explorations Program, established a few years ago by the Gates Foundation, dispenses grants in the field of global health. The goal of the program is to encourage more unorthodox research. Instead of asking applicants to fill out a lengthy application or show reams of preliminary data, the Gates Foundation only asks for a two-page description of the creative concept. These proposals are then sent to a variety of reviewers, each of whom is instructed to pick a single project to fund. Those projects are then given $100,000.

The end result, says Andrew Serazin, program officer at the Gates Foundation, is that many risky projects have been given a chance to succeed. In the most recent round of applications the funding rate of post-docs and grad students—scientists at the start of their careers—was three times higher than that of their established professors. "One of the tragedies of science is that many of the most talented people with the best ideas don't have access to capital," Mr. Serazin says. "We're trying to fix that."

—Jonah Lehrer is the author of "How We Decide" and "Proust Was a Neuroscientist."

 

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Topics- PC, Internet & Information Technology
15 Internet Annoyances, and How to Fix Them
@ Feb 15, 2010
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http://www.pcworld.com/article/189198/15_internet_annoyances_and_how_to_fix_them.html

The Internet's a wonderful thing, but it can also be a royal pain. Fortunately, there's help.

Jared Newman, PCWorld

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Artwork: Chip Taylor

It seems that every day we go online and there's some new type of nagging Web annoyance to deal with. In a perfect world, we wouldn't have to worry about auto-playing video ads, leaping pay walls to read the news, fake emails phishing for our bank details, or Farmville spam from Facebook. But for now, we're on our own. Here are 15 of the most annoying things on the Internet, and how to work around, ignore, improve or fix them.

You Must Register

My abbreviated rant on pay and registration walls: No. Impressive as it as that sites can track your visits without any sign-in process, asking to cough up money after a limited number of articles--I'm looking at you, Financial Times--is silly if you're not a regular reader.

The Fix: Some sites, such as the Wall Street Journal, will let you in via aggregators like Google News. So if you're blocked, try a Google News search on the subject. You can also try snipping some of the text and plugging it into a search engine, in quotes, to see if another site has quoted or summarized the article.

Social Networking Overload

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Between Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Foursquare and now Google Buzz, there are just too many social networks to keep track of. Sure, you could pick one and stick with it, but then you might only be paying attention to some friends while neglecting others. It's the worst kind of information overload.

The Fix: Use a program that aggregates several social networks into one interface, such as Digsby or Meebo. You might not get the full functionality of your favorite network, but at least you can keep an eye on status updates with minimal effort.

This Ad is a Video

Is it just me, or have Web sites with auto-playing video ads become more prevalent lately? Congratulations, advertisers, you got me to listen to your pitch by sheer force. Only now, I hate your brand, if only I could remember what it was.

The Fix: Here's a neat piece of Windows software called FlashMute. It installs to your system tray and can deny Flash access to your audio hardware. Just click the icon or hit Ctrl-Alt-M to switch it on and off. Note: Anti-virus programs tend to flare up when visiting FlashMute's download page. The developer says it's because FlashMute uses the same method of hooking into your browser as some types of AdWare, but it's only intercepting sound from Flash and other Web sources. Fair warning.

I Don't Care About Farmville

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Farmville ribbons, quiz results, articles on subjects you don't care about--isn't Facebook magical? As nice as it is to keep in touch with friends (or “friends”) and look at photos from bar night, constantly hearing about the time-killing habbits of others can be downright boring.

The Fix: Firefox users can check out Facebook Purity, a script that's part of the browser's GreaseMonkey add-on. It automatically strips quizzes and other application notices from your Facebook home page For everyone else, there's Facebook Lite, which strips your feed down to its bare essentials.

Too Much Phishing

The number of schemes that pop up on the Internet are too numerous to mention, but recent attacks on Twitter, Facebook, Hotmail, Gmail Talk, and Adobe PDF files come to mind. Even if you've never been hit, you can't help but be annoyed that these scams exist.

The Fix: Here are some tips on how to avoid getting scammed, and how to spot malicious links buried in TinyURLs. Fortunately, most browsers, including Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari and Opera, all include some sort of anti-phishing filters.

Don't Open That Window

We are Web surfers, not babies, so why do some Web sites open new browser windows or tabs when you click on a link? If your site is compelling enough, I promise I won't leave just to check out a link.

The Fix: Firefox users can type about:config in the address bar, search for “browser.link” in the filter field, double click on open_newwindow and change the value to 1. Still, I wish browsers had a “never open in new window or tab” option. My solution was to train myself over many years to open pretty much everything in its own tab.

A Frame to Block Your View

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I thought browser frames went out with Netscape Navigator, but once again our Web browsers are being invaded by the DiggBar and its ilk. These are sad attempts to keep us penned in to one site's pages.

The Fix: Once again, add-ons save the day, at least for Firefox users. The DiggBar Killer script for Firefox's Grease Monkey add-on will ensure that you never see the DiggBar again.

This Link is an Ad

No money-making editorial Web site is free of advertisements--PCWorld included--but I hope my publishers never include those links that create a pop-up ad when you hover over them. Do people even look at those ads? I just hunt for the “X” and get back to the editorial.

The Fix: Internet Explorer users have it easy: Go to your list of restricted sites (Tools, Internet Options, Security, Restricted Sites in IE8) and block the following: “*.vibrantmedia.com,” “*.intellitxt.com” and “*.kontera.com.” Firefox users can get the same results by restricting those sites with the BlockSite add-on. Everyone else can block those sites with a free OpenDNS account.

Junk Sites in Search Results

Have you ever navigated past the first or second page of search results? It's a wasteland of junk Web pages and bad information. If Google, Bing and Yahoo replaced those back pages with a message that read, “You've failed. Try again,” I don't think we'd be any worse off.

The Fix: I can't make search engines read your mind, but I can shamelessly promote some expert advice on getting better Google searches. And don't neglect subsections of search engines, such as Google News and Bing Shopping.

This Search Bar is Worthless

As a whole, Web sites' internal search engines are so bad that I rarely trust them anymore. They'll fail to dig up that article you read a few months ago, or they'll bury it among countless irrelevant results, and they lack the tools of a real search engine.

The Fix: Head to your search engine of choice and precede your search with site:nameofsite.com "what you're looking for” for a surprisingly good index of what you seek. Google can even display results by date when you click “Show options.”

We Don't Serve Your Browser Here

Just because Internet Explorer has over 60 percent of the Web browser market, some sites don't support any other browser, such as page for HP computers. If you use something else, opening a page in IE feels like sleeping in a stranger's bed.

The Fix: Use the Coral IE Tab add-on for Firefox and the IE Tabs extension for Chrome. The former even lets you mark specific sites to automatically open an Internet Explorer tab in the future.

I'm Not a Robot, Honest

There must be a special circle of hell reserved for CAPTCHA, that little section at the end of a form where you must decipher and re-type a few barely legible letters and numbers. The intentions are good--stop spammers from pummeling Web forums--but there's got to be a better way. Same goes for annoying wait times before you can start downloading a file.

The Fix: I've spent too long looking for an easy solution to no avail. An experimental Firefox add-on called NoCaptcha reportedly doesn't work. However, MegaUpload users can try MegaUpload TimeAttack, which automatically fills out forms and starts downloads, and SkipScreen helps jump the wait line for Rapidshare and Megaupload. MySpace users can skip CAPTCHA by verifying their account with a phone number. Also, Mashable has some tips for dealing with Facebook's CAPTCHA: You needn't type spaces, numbers, dashes, colons, semicolons, apostrophes, characters with umlauts.

This Web Site is Bogus

Sometimes when you mistype a URL or click an old, abandoned link, you'll come upon these junky Web sites filled with useless links, a search bar that returns who-knows-what and a deliciously ironic slogan, “What you need, when you need it.” This is called domain parking, the practice of occupying potentially popular URLs until they're sold, and monetizing them in the meantime. (Update: This article previously and erroneously referred to this as "cybersquatting," an equally bothersome but illegal practice of using a domain name to profit on someone else's trademark)

The Fix: Firefox users can once again use BlockSite to turn one major domain parker's Web sites into blank pages--just add “*. information.com ” to your restricted list. This will foil the source whose sites always refer back to that domain -- if a site displays worthless info, it might as well display nothing, right? Unfortunately the same trick doesn't work in Internet Explorer's list of restricted sites.

Flash Spoils Appetites

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I don't understand restaurants' fascination with Flash Web pages. Maybe they're intentionally trying draw out the navigation process to make us hungrier, thereby ordering an extra appetizer or two. It's not working.

The Fix: Why bother with restaurant Web sites any more, especially if you're dining in a city? Use sites like Yelp and UrbanSpoon for information, OpenTable for reservations and MenuPages for menus.

Five Stars, Big Surprise

The problem with online user reviews is that everyone's in denial (or a covert shill). No one wants to admit their budget HDTV has a terrible viewing angle or their new netbook's keyboard feels like putty. Save for the one guy who got bad customer service and awarded one star (and ranted in all capital letters), user reviews inevitably land in the four- to five-star range. The exception is music, movie, game and book reviews, for which everyone wants to be a critic.

The Fix: There is valuable information to be gleaned from the crowd. Just look for consistencies. Steer clear of the 5-star laptop where even the enthused complain of tinny speakers, or the fridge that everyone says can get a little loud.

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It's official: An asteroid wiped out the dinosaurs
@ Feb 14, 2010
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http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20100304/sc_nm/us_dinosaurs_asteroid

By Kate Kelland, Health and Science Correspondent Kate Kelland, Health And Science Correspondent – Thu Mar 4, 2:07 pm ET

LONDON (Reuters) – A giant asteroid smashing into Earth is the only plausible explanation for the extinction of the dinosaurs, a global scientific team said on Thursday, hoping to settle a row that has divided experts for decades.

 

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AFP/File – Skeleton of a dinosaur is pictured on display at a Tokyo museum. Dinosaurs were wiped out by a huge asteroid …

A panel of 41 scientists from across the world reviewed 20 years' worth of research to try to confirm the cause of the so-called Cretaceous-Tertiary (KT) extinction, which created a "hellish environment" around 65 million years ago and wiped out more than half of all species on the planet.

Scientific opinion was split over whether the extinction was caused by an asteroid or by volcanic activity in the Deccan Traps in what is now India, where there were a series of super volcanic eruptions that lasted around 1.5 million years.

The new study, conducted by scientists from Europe, the United States, Mexico, Canada and Japan and published in the journal Science, found that a 15-kilometre (9 miles) wide asteroid slamming into Earth at Chicxulub in what is now Mexico was the culprit.

"We now have great confidence that an asteroid was the cause of the KT extinction. This triggered large-scale fires, earthquakes measuring more than 10 on the Richter scale, and continental landslides, which created tsunamis," said Joanna Morgan of Imperial College London, a co-author of the review.

The asteroid is thought to have hit Earth with a force a billion times more powerful than the atomic bomb at Hiroshima.

Morgan said the "final nail in the coffin for the dinosaurs" came when blasted material flew into the atmosphere, shrouding the planet in darkness, causing a global winter and "killing off many species that couldn't adapt to this hellish environment."

Scientists working on the study analyzed the work of paleontologists, geochemists, climate modelers, geophysicists and sedimentologists who have been collecting evidence about the KT extinction over the last 20 years.

Geological records show the event that triggered the dinosaurs' demise rapidly destroyed marine and land ecosystems, they said, and the asteroid hit "is the only plausible explanation for this."

Peter Schulte of the University of Erlangen in Germany, a lead author on the study, said fossil records clearly show a mass extinction about 65.5 million years ago -- a time now known as the K-Pg boundary.

Despite evidence of active volcanism in India, marine and land ecosystems only showed minor changes in the 500,000 years before the K-Pg boundary, suggesting the extinction did not come earlier and was not prompted by eruptions.

The Deccan volcano theory is also thrown into doubt by models of atmospheric chemistry, the team said, which show the asteroid impact would have released much larger amounts of sulphur, dust and soot in a much shorter time than the volcanic eruptions could have, causing extreme darkening and cooling.

Gareth Collins, another co-author from Imperial College, said the asteroid impact created a "hellish day" that signaled the end of the 160-million-year reign of the dinosaurs, but also turned out to be a great day for mammals.

"The KT extinction was a pivotal moment in Earth's history, which ultimately paved the way for humans to become the dominant species on Earth," he wrote in a commentary on the study.

(Collins has created a website at

 http://impact.ese.ic.ac.uk/ImpactEffects/Chicxulub.html which allows readers to see the effects of the asteroid impact.)

(Editing by Myra MacDonald)

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Chile Earthquake May Have Shortened Days on Earth
@ Feb 14, 2010
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http://news.yahoo.com/s/space/20100302/sc_space/chileearthquakemayhaveshorteneddaysonearth

SPACE.com  Staff

space.com – Tue Mar 2, 10:00 am ET

The massive 8.8 earthquake that struck Chile may have changed the entire Earth's rotation and shortened the length of days on our planet, a NASA scientist said Monday.

 

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View of a car trapped in rubble after a tsunami hit the Chilean town of San Antonio on February 28.

The quake, the seventh strongest earthquake in recorded history, hit Chile Saturday and should have shortened the length of an Earth day by 1.26 milliseconds, according to research scientist Richard Gross at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

"Perhaps more impressive is how much the quake shifted Earth's axis," NASA officials said in a Monday update.

The computer model used by Gross and his colleagues to determine the effects of the Chile earthquake effect also found that it should have moved Earth's figure axis by about 3 inches (8 cm or 27 milliarcseconds).  

The Earth's figure axis is not the same as its north-south axis, which it spins around once every day at a speed of about 1,000 mph (1,604 kph).

The figure axis is the axis around which the Earth's mass is balanced. It is offset from the Earth's north-south axis by about 33 feet (10 meters).

Strong earthquakes have altered Earth's days and its axis in the past. The 9.1 Sumatran earthquake in 2004, which set off a deadly tsunami, should have shortened Earth's days by 6.8 microseconds and shifted its axis by about 2.76 inches (7 cm, or 2.32 milliarcseconds).

One Earth day is about 24 hours long. Over the course of a year, the length of a day normally changes gradually by one millisecond. It increases in the winter, when the Earth rotates more slowly, and decreases in the summer, Gross has said in the past.

The Chile earthquake was much smaller than the Sumatran temblor, but its effects on the Earth are larger because of its location. Its epicenter was located in the Earth's mid-latitudes rather than near the equator like the Sumatran event.

The fault responsible for the 2010 Chile quake also slices through Earth at a steeper angle than the Sumatran quake's fault, NASA scientists said.

"This makes the Chile fault more effective in moving Earth's mass vertically and hence more effective in shifting Earth's figure axis," NASA officials said.

Gross said his findings are based on early data available on the Chile earthquake. As more information about its characteristics are revealed, his prediction of its effects will likely change.

The Chile earthquake has killed more than 700 people and caused widespread devastation in the South American country.

Several major telescopes in Chile's Atacama Desert have escaped damage, according to the European Southern Observatory managing them.

A salt-measuring NASA satellite instrument destined to be installed on an Argentinean satellite was also undamaged in the earthquake, JPL officials said.

The Aquarius instrument was in the city of Bariloche, Argentina, where it is being installed in the Satelite de Aplicaciones Cientificas (SAC-D) satellite. The satellite integration facility is about 365 miles (588 km) from the Chile quake's epicenter.

The Aquarius instrument is designed to provide monthly global maps of the ocean's salt concentration in order to track current circulation and its role in climate change.

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Bloom's power plant in a box? (FAQ)
@ Feb 14, 2010
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http://news.cnet.com/8301-13924_3-10457646-64.html

February 22, 2010 5:32 PM PST

by Brooke Crothers

Start-up Bloom Energy says it can deliver a power plant in a box. What is it and how does it work?

The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company, which is generating some serious buzz this week, will officially announce on Wednesday what it calls the "Bloom box." In an interview Sunday on CBS News' "60 Minutes," CEO K.R. Sridhar said the goal is to get businesses, and eventually consumers, off the transmission line grid and deliver power at a much lower cost with low emissions.

What is the Bloom box?

It's a fuel cell. (See photo.) While that's nothing new--as Greentech Media editor Michael Kanellos says, fuel cells have been around since the 1800s--it's Bloom Energy's secret sauce that makes it special. Kanellos said that the solid oxide fuel cell patents point to a "yttria stabilized zirconium" material. This formula is used to fabricate an ink-coated floppy-disk-size ceramic tile (with an ink-based anode and cathode) made from 'beach sand." These are then stacked (see photo) into small blocks, and multiple stacks are housed in a unit about the size of a refrigerator.

 

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Inside the Bloom box

(Credit: CBS News)

Oxygen is fed into the fuel cell on one side and fuel on the other, according to the "60 Minutes" segment. The two combine in the cell to create a chemical reaction, which produces electricity. No burning or combustion. No power lines from an outside source. More here.

How much does it cost to "save" money?

In the "60 Minutes" interview, Sridhar said the boxes that companies buy cost between $700,000 and $800,000 and the goal is to make them available to the "average person" for less than $3,000. As an example of how the Bloom box is being used in corporate America today, eBay's five boxes run on landfill waste-based bio-gas and generate more power than the company's 3,000 solar panels, according to eBay CEO John Donahoe, who spoke to "60 Minutes." When averaged out over seven days, the Bloom box generates five times as much power that eBay can use, Donahoe said.

The Bloom box is capable of generating electricity at a cost of as little as 8 cents per kilowatt hour, according to reports. Cheaper, in some cases, than commercial electricity prices. One tile generates enough electricity to power a light bulb. A relatively small stack (size of a large brick) of tiles will power a home (PDF).

What kind of fuel does it use?

Fossil fuels like natural gas or renewable fuels such as landfill gas, or bio-gas, and solar.

Who is using Bloom boxes right now?

Google, Fedex, Wal-Mart, Staples, the San Francisco Airport, and the CIA, to name some of the most high-profile companies and organizations. A total of 20 companies are testing the box in California today. A four-unit box, using natural gas, has been powering a Google data center for 18 months. Here's a yardstick: a 30,000-square-foot office building would use four of these boxes.

 

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Bloom box stacks

(Credit: CBS News)

And subsidies or tax breaks?

In California, 20 percent of the cost is subsidized by the state and there's a 30 percent federal tax break, according to "60 Minutes."

Who is investing in Bloom Energy?

There is a total investment of about $400 million. Board members and observers include: John Doerr of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Vinod Khosla of Khosla Ventures, and T.J. Rodgers, the CEO of Cypress Semiconductor. Advisers include former Secretary of State Colin Powell and Floyd Kvamme, a partner emeritus at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

How economically feasible can it be?

"If this works, basically you have a natural gas tube going to your house or neighborhood, it goes into the fuel cell, and, pow, it makes electricity," Kanellos said. "Your power bills will go down." Potentially, consumers, in the future, will be buying natural gas but getting more bang for their gas-bill buck. The challenge is that the device itself costs a lot of money, Kanellos added. "It will take a few years to pay it off," he said.

Note on "zero emissions" claim: Greentech Media's Michael Kanellos says Bloom Energy patents discuss technology that can make fuel out of the waste products: essentially recycling the emissions--which is an extremely challenging technology that the firm may try to bring out down the road.

Disclosure: CNET News is published by CBS Interactive, a unit of CBS.

Update, February 23 at 7 p.m. PST: More details added throughout.

 

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Brooke Crothers has served as an editor at large at CNET News, an editor at Dow Jones' Asian Wall Street Journal Weekly, and a senior editor at InfoWorld. His CNET blog covers chip technology and computer systems, and how they define the computing experience. He also contributes to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. Disclosure. Follow Brooke on Twitter @mbrookec.

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Fleeting Youth, Fading Creativity
@ Feb 14, 2010
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http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703444804575071573334216604.html?mod=WSJ_hpp_RIGHTTopCarousel

   * FEBRUARY 19, 2010

The decline of successful young scientists could hurt innovation; tracking peak performance

By JONAH LEHRER

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Aaron Goodman

When James Watson was 24 years old, he spent more time thinking about women than work, according to his memoir "Genes, Girls and Gamow." His hair was unkempt and his letters home were full of references to "wine-soaked lunches." But when Mr. Watson wasn't chasing after girls, he was hard at work in his Cambridge lab, trying to puzzle out the structure of DNA. In 1953, when Mr. Watson was only 25, he co-wrote one of the most important scientific papers of all time.

Scientific revolutions are often led by the youngest scientists. Isaac Newton was 23 when he began inventing calculus; Albert Einstein published several of his most important papers at the tender age of 26; Werner Heisenberg pioneered quantum mechanics in his mid-20s. At the time, these men were all inexperienced and immature, and yet they managed to transform their fields.

Youth and creativity have long been interwoven; as Samuel Johnson once said, "Youth is the time of enterprise and hope." Unburdened by old habits and prejudices, a mind in fresh bloom is poised to see the world anew and come up with fresh innovations—solutions to problems that have sometimes eluded others for ages.

When They Were Young

Five scientists who made their marks in their early years.

Archimedes

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North Wind Picture Archives/Associated Press

Some say he was in his 20s when he solved his famous "golden crown" problem in the bathtub, causing him to run naked in the streets yelling "Eureka!"

Galileo

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The Granger Collection

Galileo published his first piece of writing around age 22. He began his experiments on the speed of falling objects in his late 20s.

Marie Curie

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Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The physicist was just turning 30 when she began investigating radioactivity. She won two Nobel Prizes before she turned 45.

William Lawrence Bragg

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SSPL/Getty Images

The Australian-born physicist is the youngest-ever Nobel Laureate. He won in 1915 at age 25 for his work on X-rays and crystal structure; he shared the prize with his father.

J. Robert Oppenheimer

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Associated Press

The future director of the Manhattan Project made his first important discovery around the age of 23.

Such innovation could be at risk in modern science, as the number of successful young scientists dramatically shrinks.

In 1980, the largest share of grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) went to scientists in their late 30s. By 2006 the curve had been shifted sharply to the right, with the highest proportion of grants going to scientists in their late 40s. This shift came largely at the expense of America's youngest scientists. In 1980, researchers between the ages of 31 and 33 received nearly 10% of all grants; by 2006 they accounted for approximately 1%. And the trend shows no signs of abating: In 2007, the most recent year available, there were more grants to 70-year-old researchers than there were to researchers under the age of 30.

"This is definitely an issue we're concerned with," says Francis Collins, the 59-year-old director of the NIH. "One thing I've learned from being in science is that the researchers in the early stages of their careers tend to be the ones with the fire in the belly. They're not afraid of tackling the really hard problems." In recent years, the NIH has responded to this concern by increasing the percentage of its grants going to new investigators, or scientists applying for their first grant, from 25% to 30%.

According to the NIH, much of the shift reflects the aging of the baby boomer generation, which has increased the number of older faculty at major medical schools. Some critics, however, argue that the funding changes also reflect the conservatism of the NIH, as the agency increasingly favors less risky research. Mr. Collins says such criticism is mostly unwarranted.

The age distribution of NIH grants has significant implications for American science. It has become much harder for young scientists to establish their own labs. According to the latest survey from the National Science Foundation, only 26% of scientists hold a tenure-track academic position within six years of receiving their Ph.D.

The aging of science might also alter the productivity of the nation's labs. In recent years, psychologists have begun studying the relationship between age and creativity, trying to understand how increasing experience affects the way we think.

One theory suggests that creative output obeys a predictable pattern over time, which is best represented by an "inverted U curve." The shape of the curve captures the steep rise and slow fall of individual creativity, with performance peaking after a few years of work before it starts to decline in middle age. By the time scientists are eminent and well-funded—this tends to happen in the final years of their careers—they are probably long past their creative prime.

The inverted U curve was first documented by Adolphe Quetelet, a 19th-century French mathematician and sociologist. Mr. Quetelet's study was simple: He plotted the number of plays produced by French and English playwrights over the course of their life spans. He soon discovered that creativity had a sweet spot, which seemed to always occur between the ages of 25 and 50. (The data neatly confirmed Mr. Quetelet's own life story, as he was 39 when his magnum opus was published.)

Dean Simonton, a psychologist at the University of California, Davis, has spent the last several decades expanding on Mr. Quetelet's approach, sifting through vast amounts of historical data in search of underlying patterns. For instance, Mr. Simonton has shown that physicists tend to make their first important discovery in their late 20s, which is why it's a common joke within the field that if a physicist hasn't done Nobel-worthy work before getting married, then he or she might as well quit. According to Mr. Simonton, the only field that peaks before physics is poetry.

Why are young physicists and poets more creative? Mr. Simonton argues that they benefit, at least in part, from their willingness to embrace novelty and surprise. Because they haven't become "encultured," or weighted down with too much conventional wisdom, they're more willing to rebel against the status quo. After a few years in the academy, however, "creators start to repeat themselves, so that it becomes more of the same-old, same-old," Mr. Simonton says.

This research has led some thinkers—such as the Stanford economist Paul Romer, who studies the role of new ideas in generating economic growth—to worry about the long-term implications of funding older scientists. "If we're not careful, we could let our institutions…slowly morph over time so that old guys control more and more of what's going on," Mr. Romer says in an interview in the book "From Poverty to Prosperity." "And the young people have a harder and harder time doing something really different, and that would be would be a bad thing for these processes of growth and change."

But Mr. Simonton and others point out that increasing innovation is not simply a matter of funding the youngest researchers. While physics, math and poetry have always been dominated by their most inexperienced practitioners, other disciplines seem to benefit from middle age. Mr. Simonton suggests that people working in fields such as biology, history, novel-writing and philosophy might not peak until their late 40s.

Interestingly, these differences in peak age appear to be cultural universals, with poets peaking before novelists in every major literary tradition, according to his research.

What accounts for these variations? Mr. Simonton suggests that they're caused by intrinsic features of the disciplines. Those fields with a logically consistent set of principles, such as physics and chess, tend to encourage youthful productivity, since it's relatively easy to acquire the necessary expertise. (The No. 1 ranked chess player in the world today, Magnus Carlsen, is 19 years old.) Because the essential facts can be quickly learned, and it usually doesn't take that long to write a lyric poem, the precocious student is free to begin innovating at an early age.

In contrast, fields that are loosely defined and full of ambiguous concepts, such as biology and history, lead to later peak productive ages. After all, before a researcher can invent a useful new idea, he or she must first learn an intimidating assortment of details.

The decline in creativity is far from inevitable, and many individuals have increased their creativity late in life by pursuing new intellectual challenges. The novelist Thomas Hardy became a full-time poet in his late 50s and wrote his greatest poem at the age of 61. The mathematician Paul Erdos was famous for hop-scotching around his discipline, and his productivity never flagged: He ended up co-writing nearly 1,500 scientific papers, making him one of the most prolific mathematicians of all time. Of course, quantity isn't the only measure of creativity—and some argue that the more mature (in art, for example) do their best work later in their careers because they have greater wisdom and experience. The fall of the creative curve can be postponed.

Another possible factor in the decline of successful young scientists is the institutions and funding mechanisms that discourage the sort of risky research that produces major innovations. Tyler Cowen, an economist at George Mason University who has studied the funding bodies that support the arts, such as the National Endowment for the Arts, notes that these institutions frequently become more risk-averse over time. "They become more beholden to special interests and fall under greater political scrutiny," he says. The end result is an increasing unwillingness to support projects that might fail. Mr. Cowen notes, for instance, that the NEA has gone from directly funding "whomever they wanted, with very little scrutiny"—this led to many success and scandals, such as the furor over Robert Mapplethorpe—to a recent focus on Shakespeare, classic jazz and the teaching of poetry in high school. While such programs are laudable, they're also unlikely to produce major cultural innovations.

In recent years, a number of organizations in the scientific community have tried to fill this void. In 2006, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute opened Janelia Farm, a scientific research campus near Ashburn, Va. The ambitious goal, as outlined in its mission statement, is to "offer creative scientists freedom from constraints that limit their ability to do groundbreaking research." It fully funds all of its 250 resident scientists, which means that they don't have to apply for outside grants. Furthermore, the Farm explicitly targets scientists "at an early career stage," modeling itself after other successful research institutions, such as Bell Labs, which benefited from the exuberant creativity of inexperienced researchers.

It's not just non-profits that are borrowing elements from the Bell Labs playbook. 3M seeks out young researchers, fresh out of graduate school, for its prestigious Corporate Research Laboratory in St. Paul, Minn. The scientists don't stay long. Larry Wendling, the vice president in charge of the lab, says his goal is to have 70% turnover every five years, with the older scientists migrating to other research positions in the company. "We encourage people to move because it keeps them excited," Mr. Wendling says. "It's a way of making sure they're always getting new challenges."

The Grand Challenges Explorations Program, established a few years ago by the Gates Foundation, dispenses grants in the field of global health. The goal of the program is to encourage more unorthodox research. Instead of asking applicants to fill out a lengthy application or show reams of preliminary data, the Gates Foundation only asks for a two-page description of the creative concept. These proposals are then sent to a variety of reviewers, each of whom is instructed to pick a single project to fund. Those projects are then given $100,000.

The end result, says Andrew Serazin, program officer at the Gates Foundation, is that many risky projects have been given a chance to succeed. In the most recent round of applications the funding rate of post-docs and grad students—scientists at the start of their careers—was three times higher than that of their established professors. "One of the tragedies of science is that many of the most talented people with the best ideas don't have access to capital," Mr. Serazin says. "We're trying to fix that."

—Jonah Lehrer is the author of "How We Decide" and "Proust Was a Neuroscientist."

 

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Topics-Art, Literature, Politics. Life Style, etc.
Mastermind of Mossad's secret war
@ Feb 15, 2010
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http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article7034933.ece

From The Sunday Times

February 21, 2010

Uzi Mahnaimi

IN early January two black Audi A6 limousines drove up to the main gate of a building on a small hill in the northern suburbs of Tel Aviv: the headquarters of Mossad, the Israeli secret intelligence agency, known as the “midrasha”.

Hit squad - fake Brits

 

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The false passport photos - and real identities of Britons caught up in assassination

Slide Show

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Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a Hamas leader assassinated in Dubai in January 2010.

Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, stepped out of his car and was greeted by Meir Dagan, the 64-year-old head of the agency. Dagan, who has walked with a stick since he was injured in action as a young man, led Netanyahu and a general to a briefing room.

According to sources with knowledge of Mossad, inside the briefing room were some members of a hit squad. As the man who gives final authorisation for such operations, Netanyahu was briefed on plans to kill Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a member of Hamas, the militant Islamic group that controls Gaza.

Mossad had received intelligence that Mabhouh was planning a trip to Dubai and they were preparing an operation to assassinate him there, off-guard in a luxury hotel. The team had already rehearsed, using a hotel in Tel Aviv as a training ground without alerting its owners.

The mission was not regarded as unduly complicated or risky, and Netanyahu gave his authorisation, in effect signing Mabhouh’s death warrant.

Typically on such occasions, the prime minister intones: “The people of Israel trust you. Good luck.”

Days later on January 19, Emirates flight EK912 took off from the Syrian capital Damascus at 10.05am. On board, as Mossad had anticipated, was Mabhouh, who was also known by the nom de guerre of Abu al-Abd. The Israelis suspected he planned to travel from Dubai to the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas to arrange for an arms shipment to Gaza.

As the Airbus A330 rose into the wintry sky and headed south, Mabhouh, an athletic 49-year-old, could see the minarets of the ancient city — his home since he had been deported from Gaza by Israel more than 20 years before.

He had made the trip to Dubai several times before on Hamas business and had little reason to think that in less than 12 hours he would be dead.

From a highway below a Mossad agent watched the departure of EK912. Knowing from an informant at the airport that Mabhouh, who was travelling under an assumed name, had boarded the flight, the agent sent a message — believed to be to a pre-paid Austrian mobile phone — to the team in Dubai. Their target was on his way.

A few hours later, as the world now knows, Mabhouh was murdered in his hotel room — and the Israeli spy agency nearly got clean away. For days the death appeared to be from natural causes.

When suspicions did arise, it was only because of Dubai’s extensive system of CCTV cameras that the work of the assassination team was revealed.

The cameras recorded the hit-team’s movements, from the moment its members landed in Dubai to the moment they left. Last week their photographs were released by the Dubai police and splashed across the world’s newspapers and television screens.

Mossad is now deeply embarrassed. Its use of the identities of British, French, German and Irish nationals as cover for agents to carry out the hit has angered western governments. In the ensuing diplomatic fall-out, sources close to Mossad said yesterday that it had suspended similar operations in the Middle East, mainly because of fear that heightened security would put its agents at greater risk. Dagan’s job is also on the line.

Howver. few believe that Mossad will give up the secret war it has long waged against Israel’s enemies.

Mossad has had a reputation for ruthlessness since it hunted down the Black September terrorists who massacred 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics in 1972. Time and again its vengeful arm has reached out across the Arab world and into Europe, too, smiting enemies.

Under Dagan’s leadership, such operations have increased. Dagan differs markedly from his predecessor, the London-born Ephraim Halevy, a nephew of the late writer and philosopher Isaiah Berlin.

Halevy was dubbed the “cocktail man” for his long chats with foreign diplomats. He shrank from brutal covert operations. Eventually the then prime minister, Ariel Sharon, removed him and appointed Dagan in his place.

The new chief soon began to restore Mossad’s reputation for lethal operations. The tone of his directorship is set by a photograph on the wall of his modest office in the Tel Aviv headquarters. It shows an old Jew standing on the edge of a trench. An SS officer is aiming his rifle at the old man’s head.

“This old Jew was my grandfather,” Dagan tells visitors. The picture reflects in a nutshell his philosophy of Jewish self-defence for survival. “We should be strong, use our brain, and defend ourselves so that the Holocaust will never be repeated,” he once said.

One hit he masterminded was in Damascus two years ago against Imad Mughniyeh, a founder of Hezbollah and one of the world’s most wanted terrorists. Mughniyeh was decapitated when the headrest of his car seat exploded — close to the headquarters of Syrian intelligence.

Six months later, Mossad, in co-operation with special forces, struck again at the heart of the Syrian establishment. General Mohammed Suleiman, Syria’s liaison to North Korea’s nuclear programme, was relaxing in the back garden of his villa on the Mediterranean shore.

His bodyguards were monitoring the front of the villa. Out to sea a yacht sailed slowly by. No noise was heard, but suddenly the general fell, a bullet through his head.

One of Dagan’s most recent concerns has been the rise of the Iranian threat to Israel, both directly and through its links with Hamas. It is in that context that the operation to eliminate Mabhouh should be understood.

Preparations appear to have been in train for months. When Mabhouh landed in Dubai, Mossad agents were waiting for him. They had flown in from Paris, Frankfurt, Rome and Zurich in advance using their forged passports, some based on the details of British nationals living in Israel who were unaware their identities had been stolen. The agents had also obtained credit cards in the name of the identities they had stolen.

Yesterday Dhahi Khalfan, the Dubai police chief, said investigators had found that some of the passports had been used in Dubai before. About three months ago it appears Mossad agents using the stolen identities followed Mabhouh when he travelled to Dubai and then on to China. About two months ago they followed him on another visit to Dubai.

In January, after he had landed and collected his luggage Mabhouh headed for the exit and a taxi for the short ride to the nearby Al-Bustan Rutana hotel. A European-looking woman in her early thirties waiting outside saw him leave and sent a message to the head of the team.

Dubai is a hub of international commerce and intrigue. Scores of Iranian agents are active there and its hotels are often used as meeting places for spies and covert deals. The main concern of the Mossad squad was to corner Mabhouh, alone if possible.

They divided into several teams, some for surveillance of the target and others to keep a look-out, and one for the hit. Some changed their identities as they moved about the city, putting on wigs and switching clothes.

When Mabhouh checked in to the hotel, at least one Mossad agent stood close to him at the front desk trying to overhear his room number. Then two others, dressed in tennis clothes, followed him into the lift to confirm which room he was going to.

According to an Israeli report yesterday he specifically asked for a room with no balcony, presumably for security reasons. The Mossad team booked the room opposite.

Mabhouh left the hotel in early evening, tailed by two of the Mossad team. Hamas also knows where he went and whom he met, but is not saying.

The Dubai police have not released CCTV footage showing exactly what happened next in the hotel, but the available evidence and sources point to two possibilities.

One is that while Mabhouh was out, the hit team entered his room and lay in wait. To do this they would have needed a pass key or would have had to tamper with the lock. It is known that while Mabhouh was out someone had tried to reprogramme the electronic lock on the door to his room.

However, they may have failed to gain entry. If so, the second possibility is that one of the team lured Mabhouh into opening the door after he had returned to his room. Perhaps a woman agent, pictured in CCTV footage in the hotel wearing a black wig, knocked on the door posing as a member of the hotel staff, allowing the hit team to force their way in.

Exactly how Mabhouh was killed remains unclear. The Dubai police said he was suffocated; other sources say he was injected with a drug. But at first sight there was no evidence of foul play.

When the killers left they relocked the door and left a “Please do not disturb” sign on it. Within hours the Mossad agents were flying out of the emirate to different destinations, including Paris, Hong Kong and South Africa.

Nobody suspected anything was wrong until the following day when Mabhouh’s wife called Hamas officials to ask about her husband. He wasn’t answering his mobile phone, she told them. The hotel management was alerted and the room entered.

THERE were no signs of struggle or any violence to Mabhouh, who appeared to be asleep. When he couldn’t be woken, a doctor was summoned from a nearby hospital.

In the room some medicine for high-blood pressure was found — planted by Mossad, say Israeli sources — and the doctor decided that the Palestinian had died of natural causes, possibly from a heart attack. In Gaza and Damascus 40 days of mourning began.

Mossad appeared to have got away with it, though some in Hamas had their suspicions that Mabhouh had been poisoned. They well-remembered a previous Mossad plot in 1997 in which an Israeli agent blew poison into the ear of one of its leaders on a visit to Jordan — an operation authorised by Netanyahu during a previous term as prime minister. The Hamas leader, Khaled Mashal, survived only because two agents were caught — and Jordan demanded that an antidote be handed over.

Some Palestinians also suspect that Yasser Arafat, the long-standing leader who died in 2004, was poisoned, though there has never been any evidence to prove it.

When results of Mabhouh’s post-mortem came through, they were still inconclusive. Yesterday one source claimed that burns from a stun gun were found on his body and that there were traces of a nosebleed, possibly from being smothered. However, no firm evidence of exactly how Mabhouh died, either from natural causes or foul play, emerged.

The uncertainty alone was enough for Hamas to declare that Israel had killed their man. The police investigated, CCTV images were gathered and and the affair began to unravel.

One well-informed Israeli source said: “The operative teams were very much aware of the CCTV in Dubai, but they have been astonished at the ability of the Dubai police to reconstruct and assemble all the images into one account.”

For Israel, the fallout has been considerable and the reverberations continue. The real owners of the stolen or forged passports, several of them Britons living in Israel, have complained that they were innocent victims of a murder plot.

The Mossad agents who used their names have been put on Interpol’s wanted list, and the real individuals are worried that they will now always be associated with the murder of a Hamas official.

Dubai can no longer avoid being embroiled in the Arab- Israeli conflict. It is calling for an international arrest warrant to be issued against Dagan and says it will release more information confirming that this was a Mossad killing.

In Britain there were initial suspicions that the government had been tipped off about the operation, or had even quietly condoned it. William Hague, the shadow foreign secretary, demanded to know when the Foreign Office had first found out that British passport holders were involved in the affair.

A spokesman for the Foreign Office insisted there was no mystery or cover-up. “Suggestions that the government had prior warning or was in some way complicit in this affair are baseless,” he said.

“The Dubai authorities told us of the role of British passports on February 15 and we were able to tell them the passports in question were fraudulent the very next day.” This account was backed up by a statement from Dubai’s police chief.

However, the broader question of Britain’s response to Israel’s activities remains unresolved.

Gordon Brown has announced an investigation by the Serious Organised Crime Agency into the identity theft, and David Miliband, the foreign secretary, is expected to address the House of Commons on the issue tomorrow.

Israel is a key ally for Britain in the Middle East and an even closer ally of the Americans. Brown and Miliband will hope that the affair will fade away, though the pro-Arab lobby will try to ensure the matter is not easily buried.

Hugo Swire, MP and chairman of the Conservative Middle East Council, said: “These allegations against the Israeli government need to be answered. This is not something that can just be swept under the carpet. You cannot conduct foreign policy at this extremely sensitive time by this sort of illegal behaviour.”

In Israel the reaction is mixed. Few shed tears over the death of one of Hamas’s top men, but there is dismay that Mossad may have damaged the country’s reputation abroad. Though in time the furore will no doubt blow over, critics of Dagan have renewed their demands for him to go.

The mastermind of Mossad may yet find himself a casualty of his own secret war.

Additional reporting: Jonathan Oliver

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Topics-Health & Life Sciences
Why one cookie is never enough
@ Feb 15, 2010
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http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life/health-fitness/diet/Why-one-cookie-is-never-enough/articleshow/5624154.cms

ANI, Feb 28, 2010, 12.00 am IST

 

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Why one cookie is never enough (Getty Images)

Ever wondered why munching one cookie is not enough to satisfy your taste buds? Well, researchers have found the answer for you: the culprit is glucose-fructose syrup.

The Daily Mail reports, research shows processed snack foods often contain glucose-fructose syrup, an ingredient that makes your brain think you need to eat more.
Glucose-fructose syrup is a type of sugar based on one found in fruit that is used to add bulk and moisture to foods. It's a common ingredient in processed snack foods, cereals, yogurt and fizzy drinks, reports The New York Daily News.

Dr Carel Le Roux, a consultant in metabolic medicine at Imperial College London, told the Daily Mail that fructose can scramble messages to the brain about being full.
"When we eat sugar, our body releases insulin which tells the brain that we have had enough to eat.

"High insulin levels are one of the factors that dampen the appetite," she said.
The expert added: "But fructose doesn't trigger as much of an insulin response as regular sugar, so the brain won't get the message that you are full."

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Useful tips about health and lifestyle from USAweekend.com
@ Feb 15, 2010
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http://www.usaweekend.com/

Feb 21, 2010 issue

 

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a) Use plants to clear the air

 

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Want cleaner air in your home or office? Get a houseplant. Some are especially good at reducing indoor air pollutants, says B.C. Wolverton, co-author of Plants: Why You Can't Live Without Them. His favorites: lady palm, areca palm, English ivy, golden pothos and rubber plant. Strive for at least two plants per 100 square feet.

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b) Snack alert: These myths are false

 

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Do you crave snacks at 3 p.m. every day? Don't ignore the urge to nibble. Nutritionist Keri Glassman, author of The Snack Factor Diet, busts three snacking misconceptions:

MYTH: Snacks ruin appetite.

People often don't snack because they think they'll be full come mealtime. But without some healthful munching, "people often dive in and overeat during meals, which slows down their metabolism," Glassman says. And they often make poor choices because they're racing to get food into their system.

MYTH: Snacks are junk food.

"Think of food as snacks," Glassman says. Pack a small portion of your dinner for an afternoon treat. Anything can be a snack -- two slices of turkey or a handful of soybeans. "Avoid anything refined, processed or packaged foods, and food laden with trans-fats, like a lot of chips. Stick to whole grains, fruits and veggies."

MYTH: Healthful snacks aren't convenient.

"Have a little snack survival kit" of healthful foods, Glassman says. Some of her other suggestions: Keep a non-perishable item in your bag for emergencies, and keep some go-to snacks, such as crackers and peanut butter or string cheese, at work.

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c) Drive away your child's car sickness symptoms

Avoid hard stops and turns. Take frequent fresh-air breaks.

 

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Even if your child is prone to motion sickness, you still can take a car trip this spring break. These tips from pediatrician Christopher Tolcher, a spokesman for the American Academy of Pediatrics, may help avoid or ease symptoms:

Fuel up.

Make sure your child has food in his stomach before you hit the road. Grains and fruits usually can help settle stomachs, Tolcher says. And ginger -- the actual root, not the soda -- is known to relax sensitive stomachs.

Stay cool.

Put a cold compress on the back of your child's neck to help ease or prevent symptoms.

Avoid distractions.

Don't let your child read, watch DVDs or play video games in the car. This can increase symptoms.

Drive gently.

Go slowly around curves and turns, and avoid sudden stops and starts. If your child's symptoms are bad, take frequent fresh-air breaks.

Medicate if needed.

Give a child medicine only if his motion sickness is significant (for example, if he vomits) and regular. Kids under 6 may benefit from Benadryl; others may use Dramamine or Bonine. Consult your doctor.

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d) Our doc shares his top fixes for varicose veins

Dr. Tedd Mitchell

Can't stand your varicose veins? For the most part, they’re not cause for concern. But they can be uncomfortable and unsightly: Some are bluish, and others appear enlarged, swollen and/or twisted.

 

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(http://www.hipusa.com/webmd/encyclopedia/varicose_veins/index.html)

To prevent varicose veins or to improve the appearance and slow the progression of those you have, try the following tips:

Lose weight.

The increase in abdominal pressure caused by being overweight raises the pressure in the leg veins. This is why pregnant women often develop varicose veins.

Exercise.

Routine activity can improve circulation. Try doing low-impact exercises such as walking, cycling and swimming.

Wear compression stockings.

These help support leg veins and improve circulation.

Elevate the legs.

Gravity helps direct blood flow away from the distended vessels.

Keep moving.

Prolonged sitting or standing lets blood pool.

These ideas can help, but despite folks’ best efforts, varicose veins can progress. Those people may benefit from minor office procedures or more involved surgeries. If your problem is significant, talk to your doctor about your best options.

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Why Do People Become Lactose-Intolerant?
@ Feb 15, 2010
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http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703562404575067264166151750.html?mod=rss_Today%27s_Most_Popular

FEBRUARY 15, 2010

Scientists Turn to DNA in an Attempt to Answer Why Adults Develop Trouble Digesting Milk But Can Eat Ice Cream

By Shirley S. Wang

(See Corrections & Amplifications item below.)

Most of us drank milk every day when we were young without a problem. Then, sometime in our teens or early 20s, we start to feel bloated or have discomfort after consuming a lot of milk, typically two or more glasses at a time.

Scientists have discovered that most people develop some degree of lactose intolerance as they get older. Why we lose this ability to break down lactose, the key sugar found in milk, is a puzzle that researchers have been trying to figure out. The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, part of the National Institutes of Health, will hold its first conference on the topic next week.

It is unusual for people to lose the ability to digest a nutrient as they age. But most people stop making large quantities of "lactase"—the enzyme that breaks down lactose—after childhood, says Eric Sibley, an associate professor of pediatrics at the Stanford University School of Medicine, who has been studying why people develop lactose intolerance as they get older.

 

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So Young Lee/Journal of Biological Chemistry 2002

Most people stop making large amounts of lactase—the enzyme that breaks down lactose, pictured above—as they age.

Most people continue to produce some lactase, but at much-diminished levels. After they reach their individual threshold and can no longer break down lactose, it passes intact through the intestine until it reaches the colon, where it is finally fermented by the bacteria that reside there. As the bacteria do their job, they produce gas as a byproduct, which causes discomfort and pain as well as symptoms such as cramping and diarrhea.

Training the Bacteria

Some people, after diagnosing themselves, cut out regular consumption of dairy—which can potentially make symptoms worse when they do consume it. The bacteria in the gut can become less efficient at processing lactose if they aren't continually asked to do it. Conversely, people can train the bacteria to tolerate more dairy if they consume it regularly.

By understanding which genes and proteins are responsible for turning off lactase production, scientists are hoping they can then flip a genetic switch to turn the system back on—but only in the intestine. The hope is one day to be able to "program the intestine to take on the ability to maximally use nutrients," says Dr. Sibley.

This type of complex localized gene therapy isn't likely to be used in run-of-the-mill lactose-intolerant individuals, who can just watch the amount of dairy that they consume or take enzyme supplements. Instead, says Dr. Sibley, it could be used to treat children with serious digestive diseases, such as short bowel syndrome, get the nutrients they need.

Dairy products that have gone through some processing, such as cheese and ice cream, tend to have less lactose because the fermentation process breaks some of it down. But those with an intolerance should keep an eye out for lactose that has been added to products like cookies by reading the food label, says Gilman Grave, acting director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development's Center for Research for Mothers and Children.

A separate group of individuals have an allergic reaction to milk that isn't related to lactose. Instead, they are allergic to a protein in cow's milk and tend to have more blood in their stool and abdominal pain, instead of bloating. The allergy typically fades after childhood.

For years, doctors thought that lactose intolerance primarily affected individuals from certain parts of the world, such as Asia and Africa. But newer evidence suggests the opposite is true. Most adults develop lactose intolerance. Only a minority—those descended from herding cultures in northern Europe and parts of Africa—have a mutation that allows them continue to break down lactose into adulthood. The misperception likely developed in part because so many Americans are of northern European descent and have the mutation.

"A lot of people are self-diagnosing themselves with being lactose-intolerant just because they're a member of a certain ethnicity, and they may not be," Dr. Grave says.

Dr. Sibley, who holds a doctorate in biochemistry and also is a pediatric gastroenterologist at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford, has spent more than 15 years in the lab investigating genes and proteins that tell the lactase system to shut down production.

To track whether the lactase gene is turned on or off, Dr. Sibley borrowed the firefly's "luciferase" gene, which is responsible for lighting up the firefly's tail. Light is emitted when the gene is turned on.

In the lab, Dr. Sibley and his colleagues take fragments of DNA from regions they think are important to lactase production and graft them into the luciferase gene. They then implant the combination gene into human intestine cells in a dish and allow them to grow. If the DNA fragment indeed starts the lactose production process, it turns the gene on. Thanks to the graft, the turned-on gene emits light, which can be measured.

Using these methods, Dr. Sibley figured out what section of DNA appeared to be responsible for turning the lactase system on and off. In cells from people descended from northern Europeans, a single genetic mutation was associated with the continued ability to tolerate lactose.

They then took cells with those mutations, and in a dish, showed that they increased luceriferase production, which suggests the mutation does change the cell's behavior. These findings were published in 2003 in the journal Human Molecular Genetics.

With the small segment of the African population that is lactose-tolerant, the mutations appear to be slightly different but are located in the same region of the DNA.

Multiple Proteins

Dr. Sibley and his colleagues have also identified several key proteins that must be bound to specific regions of the lactase gene and in the right combinations in order to turn on the gene. One protein they are currently studying, called PDX-1, appears to suppress lactase production in cells in the dish. But when the group generated mice that don't make PDX-1, lactase production was only slightly increased. This suggests that there are multiple proteins working together to suppress lactase and that PDX-1 alone isn't enough to turn the system off completely, says Dr. Sibley.

They also are working to figure out which segment of the DNA sequence tells the lactase gene to produce lactase in certain cells of the intestine but not others, and when the system should be turned off. The ultimate goal of this line of research would be to be able to turn on genes in cells in the intestine that don't naturally produce it, says Dr. Sibley.

Individuals who are worried they are lactose-intolerant can do a self-test by cutting out dairy for two weeks and seeing if their symptoms subside, says Dr. Sibley. There is also a breathalyzer test that measures the amount of hydrogen in the breath, which is a byproduct that bacteria produce if they are breaking down lactose. Most individuals don't need it to be diagnosed with lactose intolerance, according to Dr. Sibley.

For most individuals, lactose intolerance doesn't mean they should permanently cut out all dairy. Studies have shown that people who are lactose intolerant can drink one to two glasses of milk a day without symptoms, says Dr. Grave, who encourages all people without allergies to drink this amount. Many people say their symptoms actually improve when they regularly drink milk, perhaps because the bacteria in the colon break down lactose more efficiently or the number of bacteria build up, he says.

Another reason to drink milk: calcium. If children in particular don't get the amount of calcium they need, their growth and skeletal health may be compromised, says Dr. Grave. A New Zealand study showed that kids on a dairy-free diet get only one-third of their needed daily calcium and had a higher fracture rate, compared with kids who consumed dairy.

It is certainly possible to get calcium from other foods, but people would have to eat vast amounts of it in order to get the same amount found in dairy, says Dr. Grave. For instance, you would have to eat many servings of spinach in order to absorb the same amount of calcium you would get in one cup of milk.

Write to Shirley S. Wang at shirley.wang@wsj.com

Corrections & Amplifications:

Eric Sibleyis an associate professor of pediatrics at the Stanford University School of Medicine. Tuesday's In the Lab column on lactose intolerance incorrectly identified him as an assistant professor.

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