Published online 28 June 2006 | Nature | doi:10.1038/news060626-2


Science on the solstice 04:00-07:59

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28 June 2006, 04:00 UT, Tokyo, Japan

The hundreds of small mirrors, beam splitters and lenses in Akira Furusawa's quantum-computing lab at the University of Tokyo look like a mess; in fact, they are meticulously organized. One of his students is trying to beat the world record for enhancing the quantum correlation between photons as a way to increase the efficiency with which they can be used in computation.

35°43' N 139°46' E; 13:00 local time

28 June 2006, 04:00 UT, Krasnoyarsk, Russia

At the Sukachev Institute of Forest, Eugene Vaganov and Ernst-Detlef Schulze, visiting from the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry in Jena, Germany, pore over a joint publication on carbon-isotope ratios in wood. They are trying to figure out how to disentangle the contributions of isotopes from photosynthesis, carbon storage, respiration and wood formation when interpreting the isotope patterns found in tree rings.

56°00' N 92°47' E; 12:00 local time

28 June 2006, 04:33 UT, New York

In a dark, cramped lab at Columbia University Medical Center a microscope automatically snaps images of live yeast cells as they divide. Joanne Bruno is trying to find out which fluorescently tagged proteins behave asymmetrically during cell division, segregating unevenly between daughter cells. The experiments form part of the Rothstein lab's efforts to model asymmetry in yeast.

40°48' N 73°58' W; 00:33 local time

28 June 2006, 04:35 UT, Tidbinbilla, Australia

At the Deep Space Network station outside Canberra, a 34-metre radio dish starts to receive data from Mars Odyssey, 343.6 million kilometers away. Data will pass between the ground station and the satellite for the next four hours and thirty five minutes.

35°26' S, 148°56' E; 14:35 local time

28 June 2006, 04:59 UT, Batavia, Illinois

Moments before local midnight, the beams of protons and antiprotons racing around Fermilab's Tevatron, the world's most powerful particle accelerator, unexpectedly collapse. Such failures are becoming more common because of new components and a faster pace of operations. Marty Murphy, the accelerator operator leading the 'owl shift', calls in experts to check the system. By dawn, they get the beam back.

41°51' N 88°19'W; 23:59, 20 June, local time

28 June 2006, 05:11 UT, Würzburg, Germany

At the wine laboratory of the Bavarian Health and Food Safety Authority, Norbert Christoph is switching on the sample changer of the 400-MHz NMR spectrometer that he is going to use to determine the deuterium:hydrogen isotope ratio of ethanol and sugar in two Macedonian wines and three apple juices as a check of authenticity and geographical origin. In less than an hour, the staff of the institute will leave for their annual outing — an excursion by bus to the city and castle of Langenburg. After a visit to the old town, the castle and a vintage car museum they'll be enjoying the local food and wine. Meanwhile, back in the lab, the NMR wine spectrometer is pulsing at 61.4 MHz every 7 seconds in order to measure the deuterated ethanol molecules.

49°47' N 09°56' E; 07:11 local time

28 June 2006, 05:15 UT, Satish Dhawan Space Centre, India

The Indian Space Research Organisation is in the midst of preparing the next take-off of its Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle, scheduled for early July. The partially assembled rocket is undergoing tests at the launch site, and the weather is good, which helps the work. INSAT-4C, the communications satellite that the rocket will take to orbit, will be the first such satellite launched from Indian soil. Right now, it is being prepared for its transfer later in the day to the building where it will be fuelled.

13°43' N 80°14' E; 10:45 local time

28 June 2006, 05:20 UT, Osaka, Japan

Kazushi Kuroki of Japan's Center for Deep Earth Exploration and his colleagues prepare the deck of the research vessel Chikyu for the world's first 'riser-based' scientific drilling exploration. Riser drilling uses circulating mud to prevent the hole being drilled from collapsing, and allows deeper penetration than standard methods. Chikyu will begin test drilling this August and is scheduled to launch on its first mission for the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program in September 2007, when it will investigate a region that is the source of many earthquakes.

34°38' N 135°25' E; 14:20 local time

28 June 2006, 05:52 UT, Ewa Beach, Hawaii

At the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, Brian Shiro has a eureka moment. After a day of trying, he finally figures out how to take seismic-event coordinates from the centre's new RSS feeds and dynamically plot them on a map by programming PHP scripts into the its web server. This will improve the service the centre offers through its website.

21°19' N 158°01' W; 19:52, 20 June, local time

28 June 2006, 06:00 UT, Biopolis, Singapore

Alan Colman, chief executive of ES Cell International, a company aiming to develop therapies based on stem cells, attends a board meeting of the company's Israeli subsidiary, Cell Cure Neurosciences, by telephone. At least the time difference is just five hours — nothing like as bad as meetings with the United States. When the meeting is over he cranes his neck out of the window to see the giant television screen set up outside for the World Cup, as he does so he nudges the mirror on the windowsill, which has been put there by a cleaning lady to enhance feng shui.

1°18' N 103°48' E; 14:00 local time

28 June 2006, 06:24 UT, Munich, Germany

Martin Hrabé de Angeles enters the German Mouse Clinic at the National Research Centre for Environment and Health. Today he and his colleagues are going to start characterizing new mouse models for bone-related diseases. By the end of the day they will have made a total of 1,636 measurements of different phenotypes, or characteristics, such as bone density, strength and biochemical composition. While gathering these data, they will discuss ways in which models may shed light on the molecular basis of bone diseases.

48°07' N 11°34' E; 08:24 local time

28 June 2006, 06:30 UT, Bethlehem, Palestinian National Authority

IMoein Kanaan drops off some DNA sequencing reagents for his lab at Bethlehem University. Having an Israeli ID makes it easier for him than for many of his colleagues to move such reagents across the Israel–Palestine border. The next job of the day is to order a new spectrophotometer called a Nanodrop, an instrument that measures minute amounts of DNA, RNA and protein. Kanaan is trying to squeeze the supplier of the Nanodrop for as big a discount as possible.

31°42' N 35°12' E; 09:30 local time

28 June 2006, 06:37 UT, Copenhagen, Denmark

Erik Born of the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources is writing to the Danish Ministry of Justice for a permit to export and re-import two crossbows and a tranquillizer gun that he wants to take to Canada. He hopes to use the equipment to take skin biopsies from walruses on Baffin Island in August and to attach satellite transmitters to some of them. The transmitters he and his colleagues attached to walruses in the pack ice off western Greenland in March stopped working after about a month. Born and his co-workers hope to continue the study by putting 15 more transmitters on walruses at Baffin; those attached to tusks should have an operational life of two years.

55°41' N 12°36' E; 08:37 local time

28 June 2006, 06:46 UT, Low Earth orbit

On board the International Space Station, astronaut Jeffrey Williams photographs a 19-km-diameter crater in the Australian outback that is more than 515 million years old. The snapshot, the first of three Williams will take today, is part of a series of Earth observations that the station does for a variety of different scientific projects. (In this case, the crater pictures should help researchers understand how asteroid impacts shape geological processes on other planets.)

28 June 2006, 06:50 UT, Jerusalem, Israel

Nadav Lensky at the Geological Survey of Israel is analysing maps of sea surface temperatures for the Dead Sea. The maps have been plotted from satellite data, and meteorological and hydrographical data measured in situ. These are important for calibrating a dynamic computer simulation of the lake that the Geological Survey is using to look ahead to the next few decades. The Dead Sea is shrinking due to the diversion of drinking water from its drainage basin.

31°47' N 35°13' E; 09:50 local time

28 June 2006, 07:10 UT, Frederiksberg, Denmark

At a special supermarket run by the Danish Department of Human Nutrition, six overweight families collect food and drink for the next couple of days. This is part of Diogenes, a six-month dietary intervention trial sponsored by the European Union. The overweight families are assigned at random to diets differing in protein content and glycaemic index. All the products are supplied to the volunteers free of charge, and the bar codes on the food items are used to declare nutritional information, which is registered by a computer linked to the bar-code scanner at the check-out. Two families complain that the researchers are out of fresh chicken breast.

55°25' N 11°34' E; 09:10 local time

28 June 2006, 07:24 UT, Tsukuba, Japan

At the KEK B factory, birds are singing despite an overcast, rainy-season day. The electron and positron beams in the accelerator are colliding with a brightness that far outshines any other accelerator facility. The KEK B factory's Belle experiment has so far recorded more than 500 million pairs of B mesons. Like many at the facility, Jasna Dragic is analysing the large data sample and preparing a talk on the latest results, which she will present at the upcoming International Conference on High Energy Physics in Moscow. Her colleague Ruslan Chistov is impatiently waiting for final approval from Belle spokespersons to submit a manuscript to Physical Review Letters reporting the discovery of two new particles by the Belle experiment.

36°09' N 140°04' E; 16:24 local time

28 June 2006, 07:25 UT, Hyderabad, India

Sisinthy Shivaji, at the Centre for Cell and Molecular Biology, identifies a bacterium isolated from the Roopkund glacier, 5,044 metres above sea level in the Himalayan mountain range of India. It has the unique capacity to grow and divide at 2 °C but not at temperatures above 15 °C.

17°23' N 78°29' E; 12:55 local time

28 June 2006, 07:27 UT, Prague, Czech Republic

Catherine Staessen of the Flemish-speaking Free University of Brussels has just done her presentation at the annual conference of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology. She has analysed the limited trial data available so far on the value of screening embryos created by in vitro fertilization for chromosomal abnormalities before they are implanted. She concludes that there is no evidence that screening increases a woman's chance of having a healthy baby. Some of the fertility researchers in the audience are clearly incensed. "You have a beautiful approach but the wrong answers!" complains Yury Verlinsky, director of the Reproductive Genetics Institute in Chicago and a pioneer of preimplantation genetics. "Abnormal human embryos are an obvious fact, so if you remove those, how can there be no benefit?" Staessen's response: do the trials and prove to me it works.

50°04' N 14°26' E; 09:27 local time

28 June 2006, 07:30 UT, Hinxton, UK

At the European Bioinformatics Institute, Nicolas Le Novère launches a parameter scan on a computational model of biochemical pathways involved in neuronal signalling; a beautiful pattern of curves appears on his screen. The model contains 69 things that can react with each other and 151 reactions in which they can take part. It takes just 50 seconds for the COPASI software to run 100 simulations. The results will help Le Novère explore relationships in the dopamine signalling pathway that are affected by chronic cocaine use.

52°05' N 00°11' E; 08:30 local time

28 June 2006, 07:50 UT, Paris, France

Ian Foster, the researcher at Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois who invented the Grid approach to distributed computing, is at the IEEE International Symposium on High Performance Distributed Computing. He is listening to a keynote address by Peter Druschel of Germany's new Max Planck Institute for Software Systems. Foster finds the ideas about recent work on decentralized systems very interesting; but he can't decide whether such results are going to be fundamental to the structure of future computer systems, or as irrelevant as nineteenth-century anarchist theory is to modern politics.

48°51' N 2°21' E; 09:50 local time

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