Random Samples

Science  09 Feb 2007:
Vol. 315, Issue 5813, pp. 743

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    Dalí played with life's building blocks in this 1957 painting, Butterfly Landscape (The Great Masturbator in a Surrealist Landscape with D.N.A.).

    Eighteen years after the death of Salvador Dalí, some of his genetic material lives on. Michael Rieders, a Pennsylvania forensic toxicologist and longtime fan of the Spanish surrealist, decided to recover the DNA of this painter who “liked to make art out of scientific discoveries.” Friends of Dalí's in France sent Rieders two feeding tubes that had kept the artist alive during his last days. After extracting and fingerprinting DNA from both tubes, Rieders found that the samples were identical and free of any other genetic material. So they had to be Dalí's. Rieders plans to send the DNA to galleries and museums to help them authenticate disputed Dalí works in the future.


    Want to improve your public image? Try rewriting your entry on the Wikipedia Web site. At least that's the tack taken by someone at the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Last year, an anonymous employee of the agency (indicated by the IP address) repeatedly removed controversial sections of an article on NIDA, replacing them with prose about “unprecedented opportunities” at the institute and its aim of “improving the health of the Nation.” Among the sections deleted during a heated editing battle with Wikipedians, the citizens who write and monitor the entries, were mentions of debates over the potency of marijuana given to NIDA-funded weed researchers at the University of Mississippi and complaints that government statistics on emergency room visits overstate the dangers of pot.

    Deleted sections have since been restored. But NIDA maintains that the write-up is “biased” and “rife with inaccuracies”—including outdated information and information on non-NIDA-funded research—and “only touches on a small subset” of the agency's research portfolio.


    Infrared image of cool top.CREDIT: T. DOMINA/CMU

    By tradition, a hockey player's jersey is called a sweater, but National Hockey League (NHL) players are getting new togs that will minimize perspiration.

    At the request of Reebok, which manufactures uniforms for the NHL, researchers at Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant tested three different designs against a conventional sweater to see which kept a teenage player coolest during a simulated workout. “The idea is to find the combination of fiber, yarn, and structure that maximizes heat dissipation,” says Maureen MacGillivray, a functional apparel designer. She and colleagues used a thermal camera to map the surface temperatures of the jersey, the underlying pads, an undergarment, and the subject's skin. They also used a scanner to make 3D images to study how the tighter-fitting sweaters moved with the athlete. They found that the best design reduced skin temperature by as much as 3.3°C. The new material, which is engineered to transport moisture away from the body, helped keep the player cooler, but the cut of the garment was also important, says MacGillivray.

    Reebok kept close tabs on its prototypes, MacGillivray says. “People on campus say, ‘Oh, we want to see the new jersey,’ but they took them all back.” NHL players will wear them starting next season. Next job for MacGillivray and colleagues: cooler basketball uniforms.

  4. NETWATCH: Watching the Glaciers Go

    Dwindling mountain glaciers provide one line of evidence for global warming. Where are they shrinking faster? To find out, slide over to this data storehouse from the World Glacier Monitoring Service (WGMS) in Zurich, Switzerland.

    Just posted are the 2004 and 2005 measurements of net change in ice thickness, or mass balance, for 100 glaciers, including South Cascade in Washington state, Saint Sorlin in France, and Bahía del Diablo in Antarctica. Researchers have been continuously monitoring 30 mountain glaciers since 1980. The thickness of the average glacier fell by 725 millimeters in 2004 and another 625 millimeters in 2005. Only 20% of the glaciers are enlarging.

    For results on several hundred glaciers going back to 1990, you can download reports, issued every 5 years, that record variables such as movement of a glacier's front. One limitation of the site is that it doesn't provide a complete archive—to get data extending back to 1959, you have to contact WGMS.