April 18, 2012

See Rare Bald Eagles in the San Francisco Bay Area

Photo of an American Bald Eagle
by Tina Phillips
SAN MATEO (KCBS) – San Francisco Bay Area bird lovers are flocking to Crystal Springs Reservoir in San Mateo County to see the Peninsula’s first nesting bald eagles in almost a century. The pair is nesting in a tall Douglas fir on the shore of the reservoir. The birds can be viewed from Skyline Boulevard, just off Black Mountain Road.

“It’s very exciting for us,” said Julie Mabel of Foster City. “You have to be patient though; you have to have the patience of a fisherman.” Mabel and her husband Burt, are among those bringing their binoculars and telescopes to zoom in on the mother eagle, tending her nest. “I did see her get up and kind of wiggle around, over the eggs I presume,” said Mabel. The male is there, too. Both adult birds have bright white heads and seven-foot wingspans.

Larry Caughlan, who used to rehabilitate injured wild eagles at the San Francisco Zoo said bald eagles may be common elsewhere, but not here. “The last sighting of a bald eagle nest in San Mateo County was in 1915 in La Honda,” said Caughlan.

April 11, 2012

Is Cancer Research Unreliable?

Image by jscreationzs
(Reuters) - A former researcher at Amgen Inc has found that many basic studies on cancer -- a high proportion of them from university labs -- are unreliable, with grim consequences for producing new medicines in the future.
By Sharon Begley

During a decade as head of global cancer research at Amgen, C. Glenn Begley identified 53 "landmark" publications -- papers in top journals, from reputable labs -- for his team to reproduce. Begley sought to double-check the findings before trying to build on them for drug development.

Result: 47 of the 53 could not be replicated. He described his findings in a commentary piece published on Wednesday in the journal Nature.

"It was shocking," said Begley, now senior vice president of privately held biotechnology company TetraLogic, which develops cancer drugs. "These are the studies the pharmaceutical industry relies on to identify new targets for drug development. But if you're going to place a $1 million or $2 million or $5 million bet on an observation, you need to be sure it's true. As we tried to reproduce these papers we became convinced you can't take anything at face value."

The failure to win "the war on cancer" has been blamed on many factors, from the use of mouse models that are irrelevant to human cancers to risk-averse funding agencies. But recently a new culprit has emerged: too many basic scientific discoveries, done in animals or cells growing in lab dishes and meant to show the way to a new drug, are wrong.

April 3, 2012

Are Green Search Engines Viable Alternatives?

Image by Stuart Miles

By Helina Jolly and Matt Williams

Searching for an Alternative:
What Role for Green Search Engines?
Googling 'how much carbon does Google use' brings up nearly 25 million results in 0.21 seconds. A new breed of search engines claims to not only overcome such emission problems, but to in fact benefit the environment. They fall into two broad categories. The first group saves energy with black screen backgrounds, and the second offsets carbon emissions from the online search by green investment of their profits. There are over 30 such green search engines available and the two front runners are currently Blackle and Ecosia.

Today’s online world is about speed and volume. If you're still writing letters instead of E-mail or Facebook, or perhaps using an encyclopedia rather than a search engine you might as well be huddled around a fire outside, grunting and chewing on the mammoth you just bludgeoned to death with a copy of Whittaker’s Almanack. But who needs to kill a mammoth when Microsoft Bing can point you in the direction of the five nearest, trendy mammoth eateries and tell you which movie your cave-dwelling date might like to go and see after a lightly braised mammoth steak?

Search engines are the oracles which lead us from our questions to the answers. They also reduce our need for tomes of paper to store information on, thus reducing our need to cut down trees. But are they an end to forest-destroying mountains of paper, or do they have their own hidden environmental costs?

In the Beginning…
The realization is emerging that search engines can have their own environmental problems, mainly the huge amount of energy required to run them. The idea of alternative, green search engines emerged in 2007 on the ecoIron blog, run by Mark Ontkush, an America-based green computing consultant (ecoiron.blogspot.com). It was suggested on ecoIron that if the Google homepage were made black, it could save a lot of energy and therefore carbon emissions. The potential saving were calculated to be 750 Megawatt hours a year. The blog inspired HeapMedia to create what is called Blackle, a search engine making a positive energy impact with a black background.