Braun (212-327-8160, email@example.com) says this is the first quantitative experimental evidence, on a microscopic level, that biological molecules (DNA was used rather than RNA because RNA can quickly degrade in the presence of proteins in the solution) can be trapped in this way. Demonstrating a mechanism for confining early metabolic and replicative life forms in a far-from-equilibrium environment such as localized heat sources (e.g., hydrothermal vents) immersed in a cold ocean, should be of interest to biologists who ponder the advent of life. (Physical Review Letters, 28 October 2002; see www.dieterb.de/indexe.html; independent thermophoresis expert: Werner Kohler in Bayreuth, Germany, firstname.lastname@example.org)
NONINVASIVE EEGs. Conventional electroencephalograms (EEGs) monitor electrical activity in the brain with electrodes placed either on the scalp (involving hair removal and skin abrasion) or inserted directly into the brain with needles. Now a noninvasive form of EEG has been devised by scientists at the University of Sussex. Instead of measuring charge flow through an electrode (with attendant distortions, in the case of scalp electrodes) the new system measures electric fields remotely, an advance made possible by new developments in sensor technology.
The device's sensitivity is demonstrated by watching electric activity change as the ambient relaxed brain signal (the so-called alpha wave, at a frequency of 8-14 Hz) gives way to the beta wave (14-35 Hz) as the subject opens his eyes (figure at http://www.
NAVAL NEUTRINOS, emitted by nuclear subs as a routine byproduct of the reactions producing propulsion, will have to be taken into account when studying neutrino oscillations, suggests a team of Stanford physicists. Oscillation experiments probe the fascinating process by which one type of neutrino turns into other types. The power generated by nuclear submarines (100-200 operating at any one time) is only a few percent of all nuclear-generated thermal power in the world, and the neutrino flux from a typical naval reactor is only about 200,000 per sq. cm per second at a distance of 40 km. This does not represent much of a background for the current generation of reactor-based neutrino-oscillation experiments. But for future reactor-based experiments, trying to perform higher precision measurements or those using a lower flux from a longer baseline (neutrino flux drops with the square of the distance), naval-reactor neutrinos will have to be factored in. Stanford physicist Giorgio Gratta (650-725-6509, email@example.com) says that, on the other hand, neutrinos from naval reactors may be used for a new breed of oscillation experiments in which the baseline for oscillations could be changed by simply "sailing the reactor" to a new position with respect to the (fixed) large detector. It is suggested that a nuclear ice-breaker could be chartered for this purpose. And, no, a sub's neutrino flux is not strong enough to give away its position. (Detwiler et al., Physical Review Letters, 4 November 2002; text at www.aip.org/physnews/select)
Number 610 October 22, 2002 by Phillip F. Schewe, Ben Stein, and James Riordon