Category Archives: Science in the News

Using Mother Nature to Help Stop the Spread of Computer Viruses

I received the following press release from the NSF news mailing list yesterday. It is a good example of how basic research can be applied to real world problems:


ARLINGTON, Va.-Taking their cues from Mother Nature and biodiversity, computer scientists at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of New Mexico are collaborating on a National Science Foundation (NSF)-supported project to study “cyber diversity” for computer systems as a way to fend off malicious viruses, worms and other cyber attacks.

In nature, diseases are most devastating when an infection-causing organism encounters a “monoculture,” a vast swath of genetically similar individuals, each susceptible to the organism’s method of attack. In the same vein, computer viruses and worms exploit the same flaw on every computer running the same software.

“We are looking at computers the way a physician would look at genetically related patients, each susceptible to the same disorder,” said Mike Reiter, a professor of electrical and computer engineering and computer science at Carnegie Mellon and associate director of CyLab, a Carnegie Mellon initiative focused on advancing cybersecurity technology and education. “In a more diverse population, one member may fall victim to a pathogen or disorder, while another might not have the same vulnerability.”

To read this press release in its entirety, click here.

What makes a scientist?

A recent survey in The Scientist “some 425 readers told [the magazine] about the influences that guided them to become scientists; they cited an average of three influential factors.” The results are published in the most recent issue of The Scientist, Volume 17, Issue 21, Nov. 3, 2003. (Free Registration is required to access the article on-line.) These influential factors are as follows:

Innate curiosity – 70%
Teacher at secondary school – 46%
Parents – 46%
Teacher at university of college – 45%
Book(s) that I read – 39%
TV or radio program(s) – 18%
Other family member – 12%
Other person – 9%
Other influence 9%
Teacher in early life – 8%

The Discovery Channel Young Scientist Challenge

Recently, the 2003 winners of the Discovery Channel Young Scientist Challenge (DCYSC) were announced:

1st place – Joseph Stunzi, age 13, of Watkinsville, Georgia for his project entitled “The Effects of Cell Phones on Pacemaker Patients’ Hearts.”

2nd place – Elizabeth Monier, age 15, of Boerne, Texas for her project titled, “A Comparison of the Antimicrobial Capabilities of Raw Honey with Raw Honey Treated with Heat, Ethanol, or Ultraviolet Radiation.”

3rd place – Elena Ovaitt, age 14, of Weston, Missouri for her project titled, “Purification by Ozonation: The Effects of Ozonation on Ascorbic Acid and Bacteria Colonies in Unpasteurized Apple Cider.”

Find out more about the DCYSC:

  • The 2003 Winners
  • Projects and profiles of the forty 2003 finalists
  • Details of the competition
  • How to get yourself nominated
  • “Science Fair Central” has ideas for student projects as well as information for teachers.
  • Nobel Prizes

    Over the course of the next 5 days, the winners of the 2003 Nobel Prizes will be announced. Each year, the Nobel Foundation awards prizes in medicine/physiology, physics, chemistry, economics and literature, as well as the Nobel Peace Prize.

    Vist the Nobel e-museum to learn about the “750 Prize Winners to date, the Nobel Organization, Alfred Nobel, and Nobel events, as well as educational material and games. Nobel e-Museum consists of more than 9,000 static documents, several databases and a number of multimedia productions with Nobel Prize connection.”

    Their educational material, for most Nobel categories: medicine, chemistry, physics, literature, and peace (sorry, no economics-related games), includes demonstrations of scientific concepts and games related to Nobel-award winning ideas:

  • liquid crystals
  • lasers
  • the structure of DNA
  • chirality
  • blood typing
  • the Pavlovian response
  • and many more…

    Note: most of the games are written for those 15 years and up.

  • Science in the News

    Here are some web sites where you can find info on current events and hot topics in science research:

    Science Daily News is an on-line magazine dedicated to bringing you “breaking news about the latest discoveries and hottest research projects in everything from astrophysics to zoology.” The sites is updated three times daily and has searchable archives.

    The Gene Media Forum maintains a website full of information on the current hot topics in genome research (including related ethical and legal issues) for members of the media and the general public. They also have information posted specifically for teachers.

    The Current Science & Technology Center at Museum of Science in Boston posts health related news bytes on their web site (updated monthly).

    If you would recommend any other sites as sources of “science news”, please let me know.