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Advertiser science writer and columnist Jan TenBruggencate provides a brief summary of the big interest in Hawaii, as elsewhere, in alternative energy including windfarms...

Advertiser science writer and columnist Jan TenBruggencate provides a brief summary of the big interest in Hawaii, as elsewhere, in alternative energy including windfarms, solar cells, and ethanol. It leaves a question in the mind of The Tracker, who is old enough to remember the old C&H jingles and their closing refrain, "pure cane sugar from Hawai...i." Sugar cane has in recent decades faded dramatically as a major player in Hawaiian farming. The question unanswered in Jan's column is whether, with Brazil as an example, ethanol could get the old cane fields back into business. Just wondering....

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Other alternative energy news: Philadelphia Daily News...

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The AP's Biotech writer Paul Elias reports from a Toronto industry meeting that a new fiber called Ingeo could give synthetics like nylon or polyester a run for their money. It's made from sugars derived in large...

The AP's Biotech writer Paul Elias reports from a Toronto industry meeting that a new fiber called Ingeo could give synthetics like nylon or polyester a run for their money. It's made from sugars derived in large part from genetically modified corn and fermented into a material resembling plastic. However, as one reads deeper, it becomes clear that the genetic modification has nothing specifically to do with providing superior fibers, which would be fascinating. It is simply a consequence of the manufacturer's indifference to what kind of corn it uses. A lot of US corn has extra genes for pest resistance and the like, so in it goes. The Tracker is posting this because it seems to use the GM angle to pique interest, yet GM debates are peripheral to the product and any biotech innovation they reflect. Instead it's about hand-wringing greens who might have to choose between petro-...

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The Times's Elizabeth Rosenthal reports that the plight of the biggest member of the tuna family is truly dire in the Med. One source tells her its population is in complete...

The Times's Elizabeth Rosenthal reports that the plight of the biggest member of the tuna family is truly dire in the Med. One source tells her its population is in complete collapse. She files from Croatia, where a remnant wild population is well-protected, but where commercial fish farms thrive. In them are juvenile, wild blue fins netted elsewhere and brought to cages along the Adriatic coast to get fattened up for market. The story is a different take on, and a microcosm of, the conflicting economic and environmental stakes driving so many fisheries toward oblivion.

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The Globe regularly runs profiles and Q&A's with noted or interesting scientists. They are not very long, are interesting to read, don't usually have a specific news peg, and probably serve as guideposts for young readers wondering about science as a career. Today has a good example, by Andrew Rimas...

The Globe regularly runs profiles and Q&A's with noted or interesting scientists. They are not very long, are interesting to read, don't usually have a specific news peg, and probably serve as guideposts for young readers wondering about science as a career. Today has a good example, by Andrew Rimas. He visits a young researcher with a talent for applying mathematical analysis to complex biological systems. Much of it is devoted to laying bare the mysteries and the health implications of mitochondria.

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Evidence presented at an Alzheimers Assoc. meeting in Madrid piled on new evidence that chances of Alzheimer's rise sharply among people with Type 2 diabetes, a disease worsened by obesity and whose incidence is going up rapidly. Thus the data "add dementia to the cloud of threats" posed by diabetes, reports the...

Evidence presented at an Alzheimers Assoc. meeting in Madrid piled on new evidence that chances of Alzheimer's rise sharply among people with Type 2 diabetes, a disease worsened by obesity and whose incidence is going up rapidly. Thus the data "add dementia to the cloud of threats" posed by diabetes, reports the Times's Denise Grady. Among other implications, sources tell her, is that a common medical practice to relax efforts to control blood sugar in elderly people could raise chances that they they will lose mental faculties.

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Late Addition (Jul 18): Reuter's Maggie Fox files on...

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News continues to be dire on the condition of Barbaro, the injured race horse whose good left rear...

News continues to be dire on the condition of Barbaro, the injured race horse whose good left rear leg is now ailing following surgery on the shatttered right one. The Chronicle's Sabin Russell provides a much-needed explanation of laminitis. Ditto for Jennie Rees at the Louisville Courier-Journal. Laminitis is inflamation at the root of the hoof and is now the ailing champion's primary peril. The ailment is not only exceedingly painful for the horse, it can cause the hoof support structure to disintegrate. After reading these, one knows why it is that vets and horse owners often put an animal down when the case gets serious. And this appears to be a serious case.

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A report by the Insitute of Medicine--an arm of the National Academy of Sciences--says the rate of premature births in the US is up 30 percent in just 25 years. It is now one in eight babies...

A report by the Insitute of Medicine--an arm of the National Academy of Sciences--says the rate of premature births in the US is up 30 percent in just 25 years. It is now one in eight babies. The full explanation appears unclear. One changing factor, the report says, is the use of fertility treatments and the multiple births that often result. But poverty, uneven access to health care, drug use, and the rising age at which women have babies may be involved. The report, "Preterm Birth: Causes, Consequences, and Prevention," is a 570-page book. While such studies are usually reviews of literature, not the result of fresh research, they can bring considerable new weight to issues. Most of the press reports are of modest length, rich in stats and a few quotes. AP's Lauran Neergaard has one of its authors lamenting that happy stories in the...

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Plenty of baby animals clearly learn from watching other animals including their parents, but scientists don't often find mommies and daddies providing formal instruction. Thus Science magazine sees merit in a...

Plenty of baby animals clearly learn from watching other animals including their parents, but scientists don't often find mommies and daddies providing formal instruction. Thus Science magazine sees merit in a report from Cambridge researchers this week that meerkats, in South Africa, provide deliberate classes for their young. They show the pups how to eat insects by starting with dead ones and working their way up through injured to healthy ones, how to take the stingers from scorpions, and who knows, perhaps how to RSVP to a meerkat coffee klatsch (Well, they are very social). As the students master skills, such as controlling a grasshopper, writes the Telegraph's Roger Highfield, the parents move on to tougher assignments. Often, they even teach others' youngsters in the colony. But Highfield also throws in that the supposedly lovable meerkats are...

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Charles Darwin listed the species of finches on the Galapagos Islands, with their clear common heritage but wide range of physical features and habits, as a particularly obvious example of recent, ongoing evolution. In Science...

Charles Darwin listed the species of finches on the Galapagos Islands, with their clear common heritage but wide range of physical features and habits, as a particularly obvious example of recent, ongoing evolution. In Science magazine this week Peter and Rosemary Grant, researchers from Princeton University, reveal yet another example of fast evolution among the birds. Their work gained wide exposure in the popular book The Beak of the Finch by Jonathan Weiner some years ago. In this latest case, an existing species rapidly shifted its beak size to take advantage of different foods after a competitor bird showed up. (Of course the Creationist crowd will just say this is merely microevolution, not real evolution, but picky, picky, picky.) AP's Randolph E. Schmid writes it to broad pickup.

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A controversial test of a blood substitute in ambulances has run into problems. A closed-door federal meeeting to discuss use of Hemopure, made by the Cambridge-based company Biopure, has been put on hold. Patient advocacy...

A controversial test of a blood substitute in ambulances has run into problems. A closed-door federal meeeting to discuss use of Hemopure, made by the Cambridge-based company Biopure, has been put on hold. Patient advocacy groups had objected that some people might be getting the fluid, derived from cow blood, without consent. Apparently the company, and the test's sponsor, the US Navy, did not sign waivers to have the closed-door meeting opened to the public in response to lawsuits from outside groups. In the meantime, tests of another product, called Polyheme from Northfield Laboratories, are nearing completion but under similar attack from critics concerned that many patients are getting it in ambulances and the like without knowing it. The protocols, it says here, say the substitutes are to be given only when appropriate blood types are not on hand.

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National Cancer Institute researchers say a seaweed extract "floored" them with its ability to kill HPV, the virus that causes genital warts and is the main cause of cervical cancer. The...

National Cancer Institute researchers say a seaweed extract "floored" them with its ability to kill HPV, the virus that causes genital warts and is the main cause of cervical cancer. The discovery was made during a systematic screening review of materials already in use against other infectious agents. And as it happens, the material is already in some sexual lubricants as an HIV preventive. It is a commercial product called carrageenan, isolated from red seaweed. Aside from some applications for anti-HIV qualities, it is mostly used in processed foods as an emulsifier and thickener. The researchers say it could be an additional bulwark against cervical cancer beyond the recently-approved HPV vaccine. The innoculation works against most of the primary variants of the virus, but not all. Further work is needed to learn whether the substance is effective against...

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This is a nice enough story but is also a chance for The Tracker to be grumpy. Not that it matters deeply but the lede in this story by the Herald's...

This is a nice enough story but is also a chance for The Tracker to be grumpy. Not that it matters deeply but the lede in this story by the Herald's Phil Long reflects some common, muddled thinking about so-called living fossils, evolution, and ancestry. The event is a webcast of loggerhead turtles laying eggs at a wildlife refuge. This story presumably reflects a general assignment reporter at work, doing a cheerful and generally conscientious job. But it also is an example why newspapers need specialty beats including science reporting. So much for the rant. The lede is "Tonight, ancestors of some of the planet's oldest and most beloved creatures will come face-to-face with some of the world's newest technology." That bit of illogic may be inspired from one of the quotes that "sea turtles are basically...

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The Star's Bill Graham reports that zebra mussels, among the most iconic of invasive alien species in the US, have cropped up in a small lake at...

The Star's Bill Graham reports that zebra mussels, among the most iconic of invasive alien species in the US, have cropped up in a small lake at Offutt Air Force Base south of Omaha. This is their first appearance north of Kansas City and is not far from the Missouri River. The lake drains into the river, it says here. State officials may treat the lake chemically. They hope for no gullywashers in the meantime.

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In Australia Andrew Darby of the Sydney Morning Herald reports worry over Russian plans to punch into Lake Vostok, long sealed under miles of ice, over the next two summers. A drill bit has...

In Australia Andrew Darby of the Sydney Morning Herald reports worry over Russian plans to punch into Lake Vostok, long sealed under miles of ice, over the next two summers. A drill bit has already penetrated the ice to within a few hundred meters of the lake's liquid surface. Other scientists and enviros, at a meeting in Hobart, want them to take it easy. This issue has been surfacing in the press occasionally lately. Again in this instance, critics fear not enough is being done to prevent contamination of the lake, a 14,000-square-kilometer (5400 square mile) body of water sealed for many millenia some 3650 meters, or more than two miles, under the east Antarctic ice sheet. There could be exotic tube worms or who knows what down there. One wonders how to study such a place without wrecking it. The Russians say they will be careful.

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A paper in Nature on one man's success at controlling a computer cursor, a robot arm, and by some reports even playing Pong thanks to an implanted brain sensor and a lot of computers is getting plenty of press...

A paper in Nature on one man's success at controlling a computer cursor, a robot arm, and by some reports even playing Pong thanks to an implanted brain sensor and a lot of computers is getting plenty of press today. The man, who has since had the sensor removed after its effect faded, is a quadriplegic due to a knife in the neck during a beach brawl. His story of his test of the brain-reading machine has been told before, sometimes at feature length. The company that is working on the so-called BrainGate system has previously disclosed bits of progress too. But a cover story in Nature summons a crowd. Authors are from Harvard, Brown, and from Cyberkinetics, the company the makes the gadget and in which several university authors are deeply involved.

Many reporters went with the info in the journal and most recent releases by reporting just two patients tested so far --...

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