SciTech Briefs

Federal computers hacked

The leader of the Romanian hacking group “The White Hat Team,” Victor Faur, has been indicted on charges for hacking into more than 150 U.S. government computers. After breaking into them, Faur took control and programmed them to operate as chat rooms he used to speak to his team.
The interference cost NASA, the Department of Energy, and the Navy a total of $1.5 million. Faur faces up to 54 years in prison.

Source: USA Today

Corporate logos stimulate emotion

Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used to study the brain’s responses to various well-known corporate logos. The experiment, done by Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich, Germany, found that the centers most stimulated were those associated with self-identity, reward, and overall positive emotional processing.

In contrast, lesser-known corporate symbols produced negative reactions.

This marks the first occasion where the impact of brand names on the brain has been shown with fMRI.

Source: BBC Health

Poison removed from cottonseeds

For every kilogram of fiber, commercial cotton plants produce about 1.65 kilograms of seeds. These seeds contain high-quality protein, but they cannot normally be eaten.

Scientists at Texas A&M University have changed that by engineering cotton plants to produce seeds that are missing the poisonous compound gossypol, which had previously rendered them inedible.

With the amount of cotton crop currently planted around the world, these modified cottonseeds could fill the daily protein needs of about 500 million people, researchers say.

Source: Science News Online

Milk makes organs visible

Barium sulfate, the liquid that patients must drink before having a CT scan, could be replaced by whole milk.

Researchers at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital in New York have found that drinking whole milk before the scan has essentially the same effect. Whole milk is high in fat, which is digested slowly.

The scientists studied 168 patients scheduled for an outpatient CT scan. Before the scan, 62 of them drank about a quart of a diluted barium sulfate solution, and the rest drank whole milk. The barium drink distended the small intestine somewhat more than the milk, but the definition of the intestinal walls was just as clear with milk as with barium. A significant benefit is that the milk costs $1.39 per patient, while the barium sulfate costs $18.

Source: The New York Times

Kidney drugs show promise

According to a study conducted with mice, the experimental drug Roscovitine, developed by the Genzyme Corp., may inhibit degenerative kidney disease. The drug seems to shrink the mice’s cysts and allows the kidneys to filter blood more effectively. Tests on humans are not scheduled until next year.

Source: Science News Online

Compiled by
Christine deBriffault