Archive for August, 2004

Grass Grows 13-Foot Roots of “Steel”

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: August 31, 2004   View Article

Watching grass grow is never boring for the staff of the Bethesda, Maryland- based Vetiver Network—assuming the grass is vetiver.

Native to India, vetiver is taking root in a growing number of tropical countries, where it is used as an engineering tool to solve problems from soil erosion to pollution cleanup.

Beak Size Matters for Finches’ Song, Scientists Suggest

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: August 27, 2004   View Article

Darwin’s finches in Ecuador’s Galápagos Islands are cornerstones to the late British naturalist Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection: the size and shape of the finches’ beaks are adapted to take advantage of their individual ecologic niches.

Some of the sparrow-sized songbirds have large beaks which are able to crush hard seeds—an especially useful trait in drought-prone regions. Other finches have short, sharp beaks which are good for eating insects.

Who Knew? U.S. Presidential Trivia

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: August 27, 2004   View Article

Just 11 weeks remain in the race for the White House. Thousands of Republican Party faithful will gather in New York City next week to nominate George W. Bush as their candidate for a second term as U.S. President. Last month Democrats anointed Massachusetts Senator John Kerry as their party’s choice to lead the country. Ralph Nader, meanwhile, leads the list of independent and third-party candidates who are seeking the nation’s top political job.

Getting into the campaign spirit, National Geographic News compiled the following presidential trivia:

Brain Study Shows Why Revenge Is Sweet

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: August 27, 2004   View Article

Revenge is sweet. Many of us have felt that way, and now scientists say they know why.

A new brain-imaging study suggests we feel satisfaction when we punish others for bad behavior. In fact, anticipation of this pleasure drives us to crack the whip, according to scientists behind the new research.

Drug Discovery Plan to Tap, and Help, Africa Forests

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: August 26, 2004   View Article

The beleaguered rain forests of Madagascar are home to thousands of plants found nowhere else—and perhaps new lifesaving drugs. Could the search for medicinal plants help keep the forests of this African island nation intact?

A team of scientists hope the answer is yes.

In Crocodile Evolution, the Bite Came Before the Body

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: August 25, 2004   View Article

Today the crush of a crocodile’s mighty jaws signals lights-out for many a fish or other water-loving animal. But according to a new study, the croc’s characteristic jaws evolved on dry land—and long before its swim-tuned body.

The finding stems from the discovery of a well-preserved fossil of an ancestor of crocodilians in northwestern China. A crocodilian is any member of an order of reptiles that includes crocodiles, alligators, caimans, gavials, and related extinct forms.

Dogs in Training to Sniff Out Cancer

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: August 20, 2004   View Article

Some people say that old dogs can’t be taught new tricks. But don’t tell that to Larry Myers.

A professor of veterinary medicine at Alabama’s Auburn University, Myers has trained unwanted dogs to detect everything from drugs and bombs to off-flavor catfish and agricultural pests.

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