by Isabella Chow
Some laze in the hazy, humid days and party in the cool, dark nights. Some freeze their posteriors in over air-conditioned office buildings as they file, staple, stuff, photocopy, type, and field calls. Still others in the blazers and ties, heels and stockings of a real internship and actually learn something. However, few of you, I suspect, voraciously devoured copies of Science News or the New York Times Science section during your precious free time during the summer. Here's a bit of science news mini catch-up for those of you who might need a little conversation filler with this year's lab TA or GI (Info also valid for the honestly science-intrigued).
Soy protein...it is unsurpassedly potent in decreasing low-density lipoprotein (LDL: "bad") cholesterol in people with moderately high to high cholestorol levels. The report of the meta-study in the New England Journal of Medicine (8/3/95) ignites a rash of articles on the power of the bean, the veracity of the findings, even ways to integrate soy bean products into your own recipes. Now, if the mere mention of soy bean cheesecakes or soy-enriched coffee brings a wrinkle to your cheek, it may be that your perception is automatically tagged by the unconscious mind as negative. A study conducted by New York University Professor Jonathan Bargh (8/8/95) concludes that there are truly "neutral" perceptions: that is, all sights and sounds are assigned a neg ative or positive value by the preconscious mind. While "flowers," and "dancing," were among the most liked words, "death," and "cancer" ranked in the strongly disliked section. More interestingly, even nonsense words were found to have labels as well: " juvalamu" was found to be intensely pleasing, "bargulum" moderately so, and "chakaka" loathed, at least by English-speakers.
For those seeking painless cures for obesity, the discovery that a synthezised version of a natural protein caused up to 40 percent body weight loss in one month in obese mice may be sound like a dream come true. The reports in Science (8/7/95) indicate "a major breakthrough in the field of obesity," according to Douglas Coleman, who first identified a strain of obese mice in 1950. The "Ob protein" was effective in obese mice, normal mice, and artificially fattened--via high-fat diets--mice. Amgen Corp., which has paid $20 million for the rights to develop Ob protein products, hopes that human trials will begin next year, probably on people two or three times their ideal weight, and that a marketable version will be available in five to seven years. If you're interested in miracle drugs offered today, however, you may want to look into melatonin, now widely sold in health-food stores at less than $10 a pop for a month's supply. Drs. Walter Pierpaoli and William Regelson declare in "The Melatonin Miracle" (forthcoming) that the hormone can bolster imm une systems, keep cells from disintegrating, slow the growth of tumors and cataracts, and ward off heart disease. It, in fact, "may stop senescence, the downward spiral that we associate with aging."
On the other hand, who are we to prolong longevity? In the midst of all the good news in health advancements, many seismologists are now saying that as a classic example of a chaotic system, earthquakes may be impossible to predict on any practical scale (New York Times, 8/8/95). Precursory signals involving crustal shifts, which are sometimes produced by earthquakes, are now deemed to be too small, faint, and hidden from view to be detected and used for prediction purposes. In fact, the most recent damaging earthquake in Kobe, Japan, struck without any precursory signals. Some experts now believe that the bulk of $100 million/year spent on earthquake research and prevention should be diverted to the latter: findings ways to construct safer buildings, highways, and bridges.
Maybe out of soybeans.