January 17, 2009 | Science News



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    SESAME opens doors to international collaboration

    In a synchrotron, charged subatomic particles (typically electrons) are accelerated through a large ring. As their paths bend, the electrons emit synchrotron light, which can range from infrared wavelengths up to X-rays. “Beam lines” attached to the ring carry off this light to perform a wide range of scientific experiments. In 1997, as German synchrotron BESSY I was nearing replacement, physicist Herman Winick of the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center in Menlo Park, Calif., proposed using it as the seed for an international research facility in the Middle East. Called SESAME, the facility is now under construction in

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    It’s written all over your face

    Eye candy might more appropriately be called brain candy. Seeing a pretty face is like eating a piece of oh-so-sweet chocolate — for the brain, if not for the stomach. In fact, attractive faces activate the same reward circuitry in the brain as food, drugs and money. For humans, there is something captivating and unforgettable about the arrangement of two balls, a point and a horizontal slit on the front of the head.

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    Team spirit

    Bacteria aren’t loners. In fact, they are quite social: These single-celled creatures band together to form sophisticated communities. They can even call out to each other to congregate, conspire and coordinate. Highly developed communication skills allow them to orchestrate small acts of cooperation and tackle big jobs as a unified force. For life’s tiniest players, living and working is a team sport.

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    For a big view of inner Earth, catch a few … Geoneutrinos

    Were the Earth a crystal ball, you might gaze 2,900 kilometers down to its outer core with a telescope. The Earth, though, is frustratingly opaque — to light. Most knowledge of the planet’s internal structure comes from studying seismic waves, which give a kind of ultrasound image. Inferences about Earth’s internal chemistry rely on the elements found in near-surface rocks, meteorites and the sun.

    Recently, geoscientists have developed a new tool for probing the Earth’s innards. Borrowing a page from astrophysics, they are using the curious subatomic particles known as neutrinos. Astrophysicists have used neut

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    Taking trophy heads close to home

    Members of the prehistoric Nasca culture in southern Peru took trophy heads from their own people rather than from foreigners captured in wars or raids, a new biochemical analysis suggests.