Science News at AAAS 2009

The American Association for the Advancement of Science is holding its annual meeting February 12 through 16 in Chicago. Leading researchers from all fields will discuss recent work and insights. Check here for the latest news from the SN writers attending the meeting.

First rough draft of Neandertal genome released
Neandertal genome may reveal secrets of human evolution

CHICAGO — An international group of scientists has completed the first rough draft of Neandertal’s genetic instruction manual. The genetic evidence suggests that humans and Neandertals are very similar, but that the two species probably didn’t interbreed. Read More

Kids’ gestures foretell better vocabularies
Kids’ gestures foretell better vocabularies
Language acquisition may begin even before children start saying many words

CHICAGO — Anyone who has witnessed a 3-year-old imitate a rude hand signal from his car seat knows that young children are perfectly capable of picking up gestures from adults. New research suggests that 14-month-old children who gesture more will go on to have higher vocabularies by the time kindergarten begins, researchers reported February 12 at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The research also appears in the Feb. 13 Science. Read More

Kissing chemistry
Unlocking the secrets of the lip-lock

CHICAGO – With all due respect to the old song, a kiss is not just a kiss.
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Sponge’s secret weapon restores antibiotics’ power
Bacteria treated with compound lose their resistance

CHICAGO — A chemical from an ocean-dwelling sponge can reprogram antibiotic resistant bacteria to make them vulnerable to medicines again, new evidence suggests.
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Science & the Public Blog: Stress can make plants more nutritious
People who aren’t veggie lovers might want to seek out types of produce that deliver an especially big nutrient bang for the gram.

Most people know the benefits of diets rich in fruits and veggies. They’ve been linked to lower rates of heart disease, diabetes and stroke, for instance. Yet Americans typically ignore those data, preferentially chowing down instead on meats, other foods rich in fats, and starches.Read More

Science & the Public Blog: March of the hungry penguins
Patagonian penguins have become sentinels of climate change and human impacts on the marine world.

Most of the year, Dee Boersma works at the University of Washington. But for 26 years, she has made long visits to the southern Atlantic coast of Argentina to study Magellanic penguins. Her base is Punta Tombo. It’s home to the largest Patagonian penguin colony, some 200,000 breeding pairs. Read More

Earth may be home to unearthly life
Scientists may not need to explore outer space to find ‘alien’ biology, cosmologist says

CHICAGO — When ET phones home, he may not have to make a long-distance call.Read More

Coupons help evaluate game of Go
Game theory math might clarify complexity of chess

CHICAGO—A new twist on the ancient board game Go may clarify the complicated mathematics behind games like chess, suggests research from the mathematical field known as combinatorial game theory.Read More

Jumping genes provide unexpected diversity
Jumping genes provide unexpected diversity

CHICAGO ─ Mobile pieces of DNA may have given humans a jump-start on evolution, a new study reveals. Read More

The hidden costs of better fuels
Clearing tropical forests to grow biofuel crops doesn’t add up

CHICAGO — Biofuels could lose their green sheen if they are grown at the expense of tropical forests. Demand for the liquid fuels could lead to severe deforestation, researchers warn, which would release far more carbon into the atmosphere than that saved by switching to the greener fuels. Read More

Science & the Public Blog: Climate-friendly dining … meats
The carbon footprints of raising livestock for food

For the good of the planet, we’re all being asked to reduce our carbon footprints — the quantities of greenhouse gases, aka GHGs, associated with our actions. Since some 30 percent of the global warming potential attributable to society’s GHG emissions stems from the production of foods and beverages, menu choices are critical. Read More

MRSA has its day in the sun
Researchers turn up evidence of antibiotic-resistant staph strain at the beach

CHICAGO — A sunburn and sand between the toes may not be all you take home from a day at the beach. An antibiotic-resistant strain of bacteria known as MRSA lurks in ocean water and perhaps in sand, Lisa Plano of the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine reported February 13 at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Read More

Bullies’ brains empathize, but with a twist
Adolescents with conduct disorder show greater activity in pain and reward regions of the brain while viewing clips of painful situations

CHICAGO — Seeing a hand slammed in a car door makes most people cringe. But others seem to lack such empathy, which might help explain why some are capable of repeatedly inflicting pain on others. Now a study suggests that adolescents with aggressive conduct disorder — characterized by physical aggression, bullying and disregard for rules — may have robust rather than blunted reactions to others’ pain. Read More

Science & the Public Blog: Climate-friendly fish
Many intangibles determine how big — or small — the carbon footprint is of that fish you’re thinking about eating.

If eating meat in place of other proteins hogs natural resources and spews an overabundance of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere (see last blog), wouldn’t fish be a climate-friendlier menu selection? Usually, but not always. Or so panelists pointed out this morning at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting, here in Chicago.Read More

Predators zoom in on lice-infested salmon
Parasite picked up near fish farms may harm wild juveniles in unexpected ways

CHICAGO — Young lice-infested wild salmon not only bear the burden of a parasite load, but they are also more likely to get snapped up by predators than their clean schoolmates, new research shows. Read More