Heavens

What happened in the first trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second after the Big Bang?

Super-sensitive microwave detectors, built at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), may soon help scientists find out.

The new sensors, described today at the American Physical Society (APS) meeting in Denver, were made for a potentially ground-breaking experiment* by a collaboration involving NIST, Princeton University, the University of Colorado at Boulder, and the University of Chicago.

WASHINGTON, D.C. - A new landmark study published today documents for the first time the process in which increased mercury emissions from human sources across the globe, and in particular from Asia, make their way into the North Pacific Ocean and as a result contaminate tuna and other seafood. Because much of the mercury that enters the North Pacific comes from the atmosphere, scientists have predicted an additional 50 percent increase in mercury in the Pacific by 2050 if mercury emission rates continue as projected.

Washington, DC − Endoscopic sinus surgery can significantly relieve symptoms of chronic rhinosinusitis – inflammation of the sinus cavities – according to a research team, led by a Georgetown physician, which conducted the first large-scale analysis of surgical outcomes from the procedure.

In the May issue of Otolaryngology Head Neck Surgery, researchers found that symptoms usually associated with the chronic condition, including nasal obstruction, facial pain, postnasal discharge, headaches, and impaired smell, all substantially improved after endoscopic sinus surgery.

NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft served up another curveball to a University of Colorado at Boulder team after a second flyby of the hot inner planet Oct. 6 detected magnesium -- an element created inside exploding stars and which is found in many medicine cabinets on Earth -- clumped in the tenuous atmosphere of the planet.

TEMPE, Ariz. – Up until last year globes of Mercury were blank on one side. The Mariner 10 spacecraft explored the small planet in three flybys (1974-1975), but since no more than half was ever seen it remained the least understood of the four terrestrial planets – Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars.

An extremely deep Chandra X–ray Observatory image of a region near the center of our Galaxy has resolved a long-standing mystery about an X-ray glow along the plane of the Galaxy. The glow in the region covered by the Chandra image was discovered to be caused by hundreds of point-like X-ray sources, implying that the glow along the plane of the Galaxy is due to millions of such sources.

It sounds like the plot of a sci-fi movie: rogue black holes roaming our galaxy, threatening to swallow anything that gets too close. In fact, new calculations by Ryan O'Leary and Avi Loeb (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics) suggest that hundreds of massive black holes, left over from the galaxy-building days of the early universe, may wander the Milky Way.

CHICAGO, IL–Sipuleucel-T (Provenge), an experimental immunotherapy improved survival in men with metastatic disease, according to new results to be presented April 28 at the American Urological Association (AUA) Annual Scientific Meeting in Chicago. These data from the Phase 3 Immunotherapy for Prostate AdenoCarcinoma Treatment (IMPACT) study were presented during the meeting's Late Breaking Science Forum.

Existing health systems in the developing world are fragile and many are unable to provide effective health services — and so there is growing consensus that the success of global health initiatives will depend on "health system strengthening" (a recent buzzword in global health). But a new literature review in this week's PLoS Medicine suggests that while many global health initiatives and agencies claim to support health system strengthening, their claims may not always be matched by their actions.

During the last two decades, astronomers have found hundreds of planets orbiting stars outside our solar system. New research indicates they might have found even more except for one thing – some planets have fallen into their stars and simply no longer exist.

The idea that gravitational forces might pull a planet into its parent star has been predicted by computer models only in the last year or so, and this is the first evidence that such planet destruction has already occurred, said University of Washington astronomer Rory Barnes.

Interactive voice response systems may help improve monitoring of patients taking anticoagulants such as warfarin while reducing the workload of clinical staff, found a study by Ottawa researchers in CMAJ (www.cmaj.ca).

Solar energy has the potential to improve the living conditions of poor rural households in India as well as contribute to the country's future energy security, according to Professor Govindasamy Agoramoorthy from Tajen University, who is Tata-Sadguru Visiting Chair, and Dr. Minna Hsu from the National Sun Yat-sen University in Taiwan. Their study1, looking at the benefits of solar lanterns on the livelihoods of village communities in Western India, as well as sustainable use of the environment, has just been published online in Springer's journal Human Ecology.

LINTHICUM, MD, April 26, 2009—Patients with stone disease could benefit from drinking diet soda. New research from the University of California, San Francisco suggests that the citrate and malate content in commonly consumed sodas may be sufficient to inhibit the development of calcium stones. The study was presented at the 104th Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Urological Association (AUA).

DURHAM, N.C. – Cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins may reduce inflammation in prostate tumors, possibly hindering cancer growth, according to a study led by investigators in the Duke Prostate Center.

Twenty-four unusual stars, 18 of them newly discovered, have been observed in new Hubble telescope images. The stars are white dwarfs, a common type of dead star, but they are odd because they are made of helium rather than the usual carbon and oxygen.This is the first extensive sequence of helium-core white dwarfs to be observed in a globular cluster, a dense swarm of some of the oldest stars in our galaxy.