By Will Dunham WASHINGTON (Reuters) - American scientists and the general public hold vastly different views on key scientific issues including the role of people in causing climate change, the safety of genetically modified food, and evolution, a poll released on Thursday showed. Eighty-seven percent of scientists questioned by the Pew Research Center said human activity was the main cause of global climate change, compared with 50 percent of the public. The issue has become increasing divisive, with some leading conservatives expressing doubt that human activity like the burning of fossils fuels that release greenhouse gases is driving a global warming trend. There was an even bigger chasm over genetically modified foods, with 88 percent of the scientists saying they were safe to eat, compared with 37 percent of the public.
Charles Townes, who shared the 1964 Nobel Prize in Physics for invention of the laser, a feat that revolutionized science, medicine, telecommunications and entertainment, has died at age 99, the University of California at Berkeley reported. A professor emeritus at Berkeley, he was a member of the university's physics department and Space Sciences Laboratory for nearly five decades.
By Will Dunham WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A partial skull retrieved from a cave in northern Israel is shedding light on a pivotal juncture in early human history when our species was trekking out of Africa to populate other parts of the world and encountered our close cousins the Neanderthals. The researchers said characteristics of the skull, dating from a time period when members of our species were thought to have been marching out of Africa, suggest the individual was closely related to the first Homo sapiens populations that later colonized Europe. They also said the skull provides the first evidence that Homo sapiens inhabited that region at the same time as Neanderthals, our closest extinct human relative. Tel Aviv University anthropologist Israel Hershkovitz, who led the study published in the journal Nature, called the skull "an important piece of the puzzle of the big story of human evolution." Previous genetic evidence suggests our species and Neanderthals interbred during roughly the time period represented by the skull, with all people of Eurasian ancestry still retaining a small amount of Neanderthal DNA as a result.
By Sharon Begley NEW YORK (Reuters) - When patients with Parkinson's disease received an injection described as an effective drug costing $1,500 per dose, their motor function improved significantly more than when they got one supposedly costing $100, scientists reported on Wednesday. The research, said an editorial in the journal Neurology, which published it, "takes the study of placebo effect to a new dimension." More and more studies have documented the power of placebos, in which patients experience an improvement in symptoms despite receiving sugar pills, sham surgery, or other intervention with no intrinsic therapeutic value. Earlier studies have shown that patients' expectations can lead to improvements in Parkinson's, a progressive motor disease in which the brain's production of dopamine plummets. As it happens, dopamine release is increased by belief, novelty, and the expectation of reward - mental states that underlie placebo effects, said neurologist Alberto Espay of the University of Cincinnati, who led the new study.
By Nichola Groom Orange County, Ca (Reuters) - Welcome to the utility industry's future - or at least that's what Southern California Edison is hoping. Here in a non-descript, 53,500-square-foot building, the $12 billion utility's research team is testing everything from charging electronic vehicles via cell phone to devices that smooth out the power created by rooftop solar panels. Those are some of the roughly 60 projects in the works at Edison's Advanced Technology division. The engineers from California's largest utility are hatching plans to insure its survival - and maybe even the survival of the nation's other big utilities, which are watching the project closely. The lab was formed by Southern California Edison in 2009 after California passed a landmark law to lower its greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels - and source one third of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020. The result has been more electric vehicles here in the Golden State.