Published online 28 June 2006 | Nature | doi:10.1038/news060626-5
Corrected online: 3 July 2006


Science on the solstice 16:00-19:59

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28 June 2006, 16:20 UT, Atlanta, Georgia

At the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Fred Tenover is dismayed by the outcome of his latest study. His team has been looking at the automated systems that identify antimicrobial-resistant bacteria. He wants to know whether they can detect strains resistant to linezolid, a potent antimicrobial agent released only a few years ago. Tenover has just found that several of the systems fail to identify the strains of multidrug-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and Enterococcus faecium that are known to be resistant to linezolid. If labs can't detect these strains, they will tell doctors that a patient's infection should respond to the drug, when it might not. This is not the 20th wedding anniversary present that Tenover was anticipating.

33°43' N 84°23' W; 12:20 local time

28 June 2006, 16:40 UT, Arcadia, California

Having mowed his lawn and packed for a trip to the East Coast, Grant Jensen checks his e-mail and finds a note from Nature editor Deepa Nath: his paper on cryoelectron microscopy imaging of bacteria has been officially accepted. When he gets to his hotel, he'll forward the e-mail to the first author, a graduate student whose postdoc prospects may just have got significantly better.

34°08' N 118°02' W; 09:40 local time

28 June 2006, 16:42 UT, Sutherland, South Africa

At dusk on the high plateau of the Great Karoo Desert, staff astronomers Encarni Romero Colmenero, Nicola Loaring and Fred Marang carefully align the 91 individual segments of the South African Large Telescope's 11-metre mirror. Tonight's scientific programme has been designed specifically to test the instruments and subsystems of this fledgling observatory. Tasks include observations of a gravitationally lensed quasar, black-hole candidates in the galactic bulge, dynamic winds from Wolf-Rayet stars and giant radio galaxies.

32°23' S 20°49' E; 18:42 local time

28 June 2006, 16:43 UT, New York

The American Museum of Natural History has invited the press 'behind the scenes' to preview a snakes and lizards exhibition. Postdoc Jack Conrad is showing off a slab of orange sandstone collected from the Gobi Desert that contains the delicate, 84-million-year old skeleton of a recently discovered lizard species. Conrad, who has been studying the fossil lizard for the past few months, will soon reveal its name. The grey-banded kingsnake vanishing up curator Darrel Frost's sleeve, meanwhile, is neither an exhibit nor a piece of research; it's a pet.

40°47' N 73°58 W; 12:43 local time

28 June 2006, 16:59 UT, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

At a geothermal upwelling in Amphitheater Springs, Tim McDermott and graduate student Dana Skorupa use pipettes to remove samples of algae from water that can reach 72 °C. The researchers, based at the Thermal Biology Institute of Montana State University, will extract messenger RNA from the algae for use in microarrays. They are studying which genes get turned on or off in June, when levels of visible and ultraviolet light reach a peak, and the algae die off in a big way.

44°48' N 110°44' W; 10:59 local time

28 June 2006, 17:00 UT, Ambo, Peru

An international team of scientists sponsored by the National Geographic Society is deep inside a cave, partway up a cliff that overlooks Ambo — some 2,000 metres up in the Andes. Bruce Shockey of the American Museum of Natural History is excavating a partial skeleton of a large sabre-toothed cat; 20 metres below him, Rodolfo Salas of Lima's Natural History Museum discovers the jaw of a new sloth. French colleagues map the labyrinth known locally as Jatun Uchco, the 'profound hole'. Later, on his way to an Internet café, Shockey gets "caveman dust" all over the people sharing his taxi.

10°08' S 76°12' W; 12:00 local time

28 June 2006, 17:00 UT, Loughborough, UK

After measuring a subject's sleepiness in various ways through the afternoon, Charlotte Platten, a research associate at Loughborough University's Sleep Research Centre, makes him dinner: chilli con carne with rice and an apple.

52°46' N 1°12' W; 18:00 local time

28 June 2006, 17:00 UT, Monterey Bay, California

Barbara Block and her colleagues at the Tuna Research and Conservation Center are putting a 10-kilogram bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) into a respirometer chamber — the tuna equivalent of a treadmill. They are looking at how digestion changes the fish's energy requirement while swimming, so they have fed it with sardines and squid beforehand; normally the tuna are fasted before such experiments.

36°37' N 121°54' W; 10:00 local time

28 June 2006, 17.03 UT, Muscat, Oman

In her office at Sultan Qaboos University, botanist Annette Patzelt finishes formatting the draft manuscript of the Oman Plant Red Data List. The book contains detailed information about the conservation status of 262 Omani plants; it is the first such register in the whole of the Arabian peninsula.

23°36' N 58°32' E; 21:03 local time

28 June 2006, 17:15 UT, Waterloo, Canada

"How do you make a clock out of light?" asks Olaf Dreyer, a visitor having lunch at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics. He wants to figure out whether it is possible to use light beams to define time in a theory of quantum gravity. Fotini Markopoulou and Daniel Gottesman from the institute kick the idea around with him for a bit before more people arrive and the conversation inevitably turns to the World Cup. No practical plans for a light-clock emerge.

43°28' N 80°32' W; 13:15 local time

28 June 2006, 17:30 UT, Belo Horizonte, Brazil

At the clinical-immunology lab of the René Rachou Research Center, Cassia Silva draws blood from a volunteer for assays. Her work is part of the Human Hookworm Vaccine Initiative, which is fighting one of the world's most prevalent infections. Hookworm larvae live in the soil and pass directly through the skin to infect people; then they consume blood, causing anaemia and malnutrition. Although drugs are available to treat it, people quickly become reinfected, hence the need for a vaccine.

19°45' S 43°54' W; 14:30 local time

28 June 2006, 17:45 UT, Earth seen by GOES EAST, 75 ° W

28 June 2006, 17:54 UT, Worcester, Massachusetts

Daniel Rowe and his mentor Douglas Golenbock raise a glass to celebrate Rowe's successful defence of his PhD thesis. For his doctoral project at the University of Massachusetts, Rowe studied the innate immune system. He identified a protein that interacts with an immune system molecule called toll-like receptor 4, or TLR4. The work took Rowe five years, but he's not sure where he'll spend the next few; he has yet to decide his postdoc position.

42°16' N 71°48' W; 13:54 local time

28 June 2006, 18:11 UT, Washington DC

In the Lepidoptera collection on the fifth floor of the National Museum of Natural History, John Burns is peering intently at the rear end of an Udranomia kikkawai skipper butterfly, trying to determine its sex. The butterfly was reared by his colleague Dan Janzen in Costa Rica. Some of these near-identical butterflies seem to have slightly different DNA 'barcodes', and Burns wants to see whether there is a morphological way to discriminate between what seem to be two 'cryptic' species.

38°53' N 77°02' W; 14:11 local time

28 June 2006, 18:15 UT, Low Earth orbit

In the space station, astronauts Jeffrey Williams and Pavel Vinogradov take a moment before bed to scribble down some thoughts in their journals. The diaries aren't just for personal reflection. They are part of a 'human factors' experiment to determine how future astronauts will deal with the prolonged and isolating trips to places like Mars.

28 June 2006, 18:21 UT, Santa Fe, New Mexico

Physicist Ole Peters is about to give a lecture about the geometry of rainfall at the Santa Fe Institute. Twenty-five people are crowded into the conference room, eating fajitas, comparing World Cup scores, and discussing the finer points of Ising models.

35°41' N 105°56' W; 12:21 local time

28 June 2006, 18:29 UT, Moorea Island, French Polynesia

Coral symbionts collected on a reef just after dawn are brought on board a research vessel by Gustav Paulay and Sally Holbrook of the Gump Research Station. Paulay is part of the Moorea Biocode Project, which aims to catalogue the entire flora and fauna of this volcanic island. Holbrook studies the complex system of coral reefs and lagoons that surround the island. The animals in the early-morning catch will be identified, photographed and genetically barcoded for use in studies of the reef's food webs and populations.

17°30' S 149°50' W; 08:29 local time

28 June 2006, 19.00 UT, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Everyone in the organic-chemistry department of Buenos Aires University is gathered in front of the department lounge's television to watch the Argentina–Netherlands football match. All research activity has stopped except for the NMR spectrometer next door, which is measuring a carbon-13 spectrum — something it will manage to do uninterrupted for the next 90 minutes.

34°12' S 58°18' W; 16:00 local time

28 June 2006, 19:00 UT, Gröningen, the Netherlands

The staff, students and researchers from Ben Feringa's synthetic organic chemistry lab at Gröningen University, having enjoyed their annual barbecue at the boss's house, are gathered indoors in front of a big screen for the Netherlands–Argentina match. Even those who come from neither country are pretty excited.

53°13' N 6°34' E; 21:00 local time

28 June 2006, 19:04 UT, Pasadena, California

At the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Jon Giorgini updates the orbit of asteroid 2004 XP14 and sends the tracking data to the Goldstone planetary radar facility in the Mojave Desert. 2004 XP14 will come almost as close to Earth as the Moon is on 3 July; it will be the closest asteroid approach ever observed by radar.

34°12' N 118°11' W; 12:04 local time

28 June 2006, 19:12 UT, Denver, Colorado

Bruce Williams, who teaches 13-year-olds at Joyce Kilmer School in Trenton, New Jersey, is registering a team to compete in the National Middle School Science Bowl in Denver. "For the most part, kids start losing interest in science after the fourth grade, once you've lost the magnet demonstrations. The science bowl is important to motivate students toward science, rather than sports." His students, Roger Barrett, Niyi Odumosu, Dyamond Ruffin and Dahlia Wesley, will compete in a hydrogen fuel-cell model-car race: the fastest over 10 metres wins.

39°41' N 104°58' W; 13:12 local time

28 June 2006, 19:30 UT, Hanford, Washington

Michael Landry leads the weekly teleconference of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) scientific collaboration from the control room of LIGO Hanford Observatory. The LIGO instruments are designed to be sensitive to distortions in space a thousandth of the radius of a proton over distances of four kilometres; they haven't turned up any waves yet. In the past year, the two LIGO instruments in the United States, one at Hanford and one in Livingston, Louisiana, have been working concurrently. This means noise that might look like a passing gravitational wave in one can be ruled out if it is absent in the other. They have recently been joined by the smaller GEO 600 detector in Hannover, Germany.

46°27' N 119°24' W; 12:30 local time

28 June 2006, 19:42 UT, Washington DC

Back among the Lepidoptera at the National Museum of Natural History, Dan Janzen discusses a new barcode tree — an analytical diagram of short DNA species-signatures ‐ annotated with natural history data. He is studying caterpillars and the flies that parasitize them. His synthesis of the molecular and natural-history data suggests the flies are surprisingly host-specific, and even hints at how they hunt their hosts in the bewildering diversity of a tropical forest.

38°53' N 77°02' W; 15:42 local time

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