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August 20, 2006, 3:07 PM CT

MIT ranks 1st in engineering

MIT ranks 1st in engineering
MIT ranks fourth among national universities, first in undergraduate engineering and second in undergraduate business programs, as per the 2007 US News & World Report guidebook, "America's Best Colleges." The rankings appear today online and the guidebook will be available on newsstands Aug. 21.

MIT shares the number four slot with Caltech and Stanford. Princeton, Harvard and Yale, respectively, are ranked the top three schools.

Among the key criteria for judging schools is selectivity as gauged by the lowest acceptance rate (MIT's is 14 percent), and class size as gauged by the highest proportion of classes with fewer than 20 students (MIT's is 68 percent).

MIT's School of Engineering is the top-rated undergraduate program in engineering nationally, and the Sloan School of Management ranks second in undergraduate business programs. In engineering specialties, MIT was ranked first in more disciplines than any other school -- five out of 12.

In undergraduate engineering specialties, MIT ranked first in aerospace/aeronautical/astronomical; chemical; computer engineering; electrical/electronic/communications; and mechanical engineering. In environmental/environmental health engineering, MIT ranked second, and the Institute ranked fourth in civil engineering, tied with Stanford and University of Texas at Austin. MIT tied for fourth with Georgia Institute of Technology in biomedical engineering and tied for second with the University of California at Berkeley in materials engineering.........

Posted by: John      Permalink         Source

August 20, 2006, 3:05 PM CT

Deng Seeks Peace In Sudanese War Of Identities

Deng Seeks Peace In Sudanese War Of Identities Francis Deng
The seemingly simple question, "How a number of brothers do you have?" produces a soft chuckle from Francis Deng, a former Sudanese ambassador to the United States and now a visiting fellow at MIT's Center for International Studies (CIS).

"That is a good question. The answer will shock you," said Deng, who was born in the Abyei area of Sudan, an isolated area bordered by the Arab-influenced Muslim north and the African Christian-influenced south. His father, as his grandfather and great-grandfather before him, was a "paramount chief" of the Ngok Dinka tribe.

"My father, by the time he died, had over 200 wives," Deng explained. Thus, he had close to 1,000 brothers and sisters, all part of a structured, extended family.

Deng and some of his brothers were the first in the family to attend local primary school; Deng went on to study at the University of Khartoum, Oxford University in England and Yale University before embarking on a distinguished academic and diplomatic career. Deng is now a fellow at the Brookings Institution and director of the Center for Displacement Studies at Johns Hopkins University.

Appointed in May as a Robert E. Wilhelm Fellow at CIS, Deng will conduct research and help to raise awareness about Sudan, a country wracked by genocidal violence that is rooted, Deng believes, in differing perceptions of national identity.........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source

August 20, 2006, 2:59 PM CT

Astronomers proclaim Pluto is a planet

Astronomers proclaim Pluto is a planet
Yes, Virginia, Pluto is a planet.

And it's about to be joined by several more, thanks to a new definition of the word "planet" announced recently by the world's astronomers through the International Astronomical Union (IAU).

The seven-person international panel that spent two years defining the difference between planets and smaller "solar system bodies" such as comets and asteroids includes an MIT astronomer.

If the definition is approved this week at the IAU General Assembly in Prague, our solar system will include 12 planets, with more to come. They include the eight classical planets that dominate the system, three planets in a new and growing category of "plutons" - Pluto-like objects - and Ceres. Pluto remains a planet and is the prototype for the new category of plutons.

"It's time to rewrite the textbooks," said Richard Binzel, an MIT professor of planetary science in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences.

As per the new draft definition, two conditions must be satisfied for an object to be called a planet. First, the object must be in orbit around a star, while not being itself a star. Second, the object must be large enough (or, to be more technically correct, massive enough) for its own gravity to pull it into a nearly spherical shape.........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source

August 20, 2006, 2:21 PM CT

Immune cells protect retina from damage

Immune cells protect retina from damage Abnormal blood vessels and hemorrhage underneath the retina in the wet form of age-related macular degeneration
Although some recent studies have suggested that inflammation promotes retinal damage in age-related macular degeneration (AMD), new work from Washington University ophthalmology researchers has found that a particular type of inflammation, regulated by cells called macrophages, actually protects the eye from damage due to AMD.

The researchers report in the Aug. 15 issue of Public Library of Science (PLoS) Medicine that in a mouse model of AMD, macrophages help prevent the formation of blood vessels that grow underneath the retina and cause the majority of severe vision loss associated with AMD.

Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in the United States in people over the age of 50. It accounts for more than 40 percent of blindness among the institutionalized elderly, and as baby boomers get older, the problem is expected to grow, with at least 8 million cases of AMD predicted by the year 2020.

There are two varieties of AMD: a "dry" form and a "wet" form. Most patients have the dry form of the disease, and although this can progress and cause severe vision loss in some, between 80 and 90 percent of the blindness and severe vision loss occurs in the wet form of the disease, according to the paper's first author Rajendra S. Apte, M.D., Ph.D.........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source

August 20, 2006, 6:37 AM CT

A Different Kind of Buff

A Different Kind of Buff
A Different Kind of Buff.

Dave Moloney spotted these metal buff pieces on the lifts in The Meridian Hotel in Nice.........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source

August 20, 2006, 6:31 AM CT

The Abbot's Compassion

The Abbot's Compassion
So Ferocious you are,

King of the forest;

As a killer, you are merciless;

It has become legendary;

Your fierceness and cruelty,

Everyone is well aware;

How ruthless a tiger is;

But with a heart of love and care;

I tend for you, gently and bit by bit;........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source

August 19, 2006, 9:25 PM CT

New Treatment For Dangerous Staph Infections

New Treatment For Dangerous Staph Infections Staphylococcus aureus
Duke University Medical Center researchers have demonstrated in an international clinical trial the effectiveness and safety of a new drug for treating bloodstream and heart infections caused by Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, a major cause of sickness and death worldwide.

Based on the trial, the Food and Drug Administration already has approved the drug -- daptomycin -- for treating heart infections and bacteremia, also known as bloodstream infection or blood poisoning, caused by S. aureus, according to Vance G. Fowler Jr., M.D., an associate professor of infectious diseases who participated in the study.

"This is the first new drug the FDA has approved in two decades for treating these types of potentially life-threatening infections," Fowler said. "This advance adds a new weapon to our dwindling arsenal of antibiotics against these difficult-to-treat infections".

Daptomycin had been approved by the FDA in 2003 for treating skin infections caused by S. aureus. But until now, Fowler said, no one knew definitively whether the drug would be effective against the more serious bloodstream and heart infections.

The researchers published their findings in the August 17, 2006, issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. Cubist Pharmaceuticals, which manufactures daptomycin, funded the study.........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source

August 19, 2006, 9:12 PM CT

Stellar Pinwheels At Our Galaxy's Core

Stellar Pinwheels At Our Galaxy's Core
Astronomers have finally learned the identity of a mysterious "Quintuplet Cluster" of stars situated near the supermassive black hole at our galaxy's core: At least two of the objects are not individual stars, but binary pairs that live fast and die young, forming fiery pinwheels as they spin around one another.

A multinational team led by Peter Tuthill of the University of Sydney in Australia, used the extraordinary resolution of the 10-meter telescope at the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii, to determine the nature of the enigmatic objects. They report their findings in the Aug. 18 issue of the journal Science.

Until these observations, scientists had not known whether the extremely red "cocoon" quintuplets were aging stars surrounded by shells of dust, or young stars accompanied by disks of bright gas. Neither hypothesis was convincing, and neither fully explained the enormous light output: Each quintuplet emits 10,000 to 100,000 times as much radiation as the Sun.

The new findings indicate the quintuplets are members of a rare class called "Wolf-Rayet colliding-wind binaries" -- massive, fast-burning star pairs that live only a few million years before exploding in terminal supernovae. By contrast, the Sun is about 5 billion years old and only middle-aged. The pinwheel effect is caused by the way each star's dusty mantle is affected by that of its partner, producing spiral plumes.........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source

August 19, 2006, 9:08 PM CT

Loss Of Just One Species Makes Big Difference

Loss Of Just One Species Makes Big Difference The flannelmouth characin is native to South American rivers. (Photo by Brad Taylor)
Scientists at Dartmouth, Cornell University, and the University of Wyoming have learned that the removal of just one important species in a freshwater ecosystem can seriously disrupt how that environment functions. This finding contradicts earlier notions that other species can jump in and compensate for the loss.

Brad Taylor, currently a research associate in the department of biological sciences at Dartmouth, and colleagues studied a fish called the flannelmouth characin (Prochilodus mariae) native to South American rivers. This particular fish eats detritus, the fine organic matter on the river bottom, and because of this, it plays a critical role in regulating the breakdown and transport of carbon in the rivers.

"This fish species is a popular food source; it is harvested regularly, and in some cases, it's overfished," says Taylor, the lead author on the study that was reported in the August 11 issue of the journal Science. "We learned that removing this particular fish greatly altered the metabolic activity of the river ecosystem. Other fish species did not compensate for the lack of Prochilodus, an effect consistent with observations from other rivers where they have been excluded much longer by dams".

The scientists used a heavy, plastic divider to split a 210-meter stretch (a little more than a tenth of a mile) of Rio Las MarĂ­as in Venezuela into two separate river sections. On one side, they removed only Prochilodus, and on the other, all the fish remained. The team then took a series of measurements upstream and downstream to quantify the transport of particulate organic carbon (POC).........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source

August 19, 2006, 2:46 PM CT

Ocean Noise Has Increased Considerably

Ocean Noise Has Increased Considerably Sean Wiggins (left) and John Hildebrand deploy listening devices at various locations around the world. This instrument was recovered in the Gulf of California.
With populations increasing around the globe in recent decades, no one would be surprised by an increase in the amount of noise produced in terrestrial environments. Now, a unique study involving researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, has shown that the underwater world also is becoming a noisier place, with unknown effects on marine life.

New research published in the recent issue of the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America (JASA) has shown a tenfold increase in underwater ocean noise off Southern California's coast as compared with the 1960s. Mark McDonald of WhaleAcoustics in Bellvue, Colo., and John Hildebrand and Sean Wiggins of Scripps Oceanography accessed acoustic data recorded in 1964-1966 through declassified U.S. Navy documents and compared them against acoustic recordings made in 2003-2004 in the same area off San Nicolas Island, one of the Channel Islands more than 160 miles west of San Diego.

The results showed that noise levels in 2003-2004 were 10 to 12 decibels higher than in 1964-1966, an average noise increase rate of three decibels per decade. The culprit behind the increase, according to Hildebrand, appears to be a byproduct of the vast increase in the global shipping trade, the number of ships plying the world's oceans and the higher speeds and propulsion power for individual ships. The noise detected off Southern California originates from ships traveling across the entire North Pacific Ocean. According to Lloyd's Register figures quoted in the JASA paper, the world's commercial fleet more than doubled in the past 38 years, from 41,865 in 1965 to 89,899 in 2003.........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source

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