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UPI NewsTrack Health and Science News

May 16, 2011 at 6:12 PM   |   Comments

Journal retracts global-warming study

FAIRFAX, Va., May 16 (UPI) -- Accusations of plagiarism have led a scientific journal to retract a study that condemned scientific support for global warming, its editors say.

The journal Computational Statistics and Data Analysis published a federally-funded study in 2008 headed by statistician Edward Wegman of George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., that suggested climate scientists colluded in their studies and cast doubts on global warming.

CSDA journal editor Stanley Azen of the University of Southern California said the journal's legal team "has decided to retract the study," following complaints of plagiarism, USA Today reported Monday.

Plagiarism experts said both the 2008 study and a 2006 congressional report authored by Wegman student Yasmin Said contained text from Wikipedia articles and textbooks.

Both have denied the allegations.

"Neither Dr. Wegman nor Dr. Said has ever engaged in plagiarism," said their attorney Milton Johns.

In a March e-mail to the journal, Wegman blamed a student who "had basically copied and pasted" from other sources into the congressional report and the same text was used in the journal study.

"We would never knowingly publish plagiarized material," wrote Wegman, a former CSDA journal editor.


SETI search to look at 'likely' worlds

BERKELEY, Calif., May 16 (UPI) -- U.S. astronomers searching for alien life say they'll aim radio telescopes at some likely candidates among 1,235 planets discovered by a NASA space telescope.

Astronomers at the University of California, Berkeley say once they acquire 24 hours of data on a total of 86 Earth-like planets among those found by the Kepler space telescope, they'll initiate a coarse analysis and then, in about two months, ask an estimated 1 million SETI@home users to conduct a more detailed analysis on their home computers, a CU Berkeley release reported last week.

"It's not absolutely certain that all of these stars have habitable planetary systems, but they're very good places to look for ET," CU Berkeley graduate student Andrew Simeon said.

Astronomers will concentrate on planets in a star's habitable zone, where liquid water could exist.

"We've picked out the planets with nice temperatures -- between zero and 100 degrees Celsius (32 degrees to 212 degrees F.) -- because they are a lot more likely to harbor life," said physicist Dan Worthier, chief scientist for SETI@home.

"It's really exciting to be able to look at this first batch of Earth-like planets."


Tiny robots map buildings -- without help

ATLANTA, May 16 (UPI) -- Tiny robots working by themselves and communicating only with each other can explore and map buildings, a team of U.S. researchers that built the machines says.

The robots, with advanced autonomous capability, developed by a team from the Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of Pennsylvania and the California Institute of Technology Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

"When first responders -- whether it's a firefighter in downtown Atlanta or a soldier overseas -- confront an unfamiliar structure, it's very stressful and potentially dangerous because they have limited knowledge of what they're dealing with," said Henrik Christensen, a professor in the Georgia Tech College of Computing.

"If those first responders could send in robots that would quickly search the structure and send back a map, they'd have a much better sense of what to expect and they'd feel more confident."

The team developed tiny autonomous robots that operate as a group, carrying sensors and transmitting a detailed floor plan of a building to nearby humans within minutes.

"There is no lead robot, yet each unit is capable of recruiting other units to make sure the entire area is explored," Christensen said. "When the first robot comes to an intersection, it says to a second robot, 'I'm going to go to the left if you go to the right.'"


Study: Seaports unready for climate change

PALO ALTO, Calif., May 16 (UPI) -- Most of the world's seaports are unprepared for possible damage from climate change in the coming century and need to create plans for it, U.S. researchers say.

Researchers at Stanford University who surveyed port authorities around the globe found most were unsure what steps to take to protect their facilities from rising sea levels and more frequent hurricane-strength storms, a Stanford release reported Monday.

"Part of the problem is that science says that by 2100, we'll experience anywhere from 1.5 to 6 feet of sea level rise," researcher Austin Becker said. "That's a huge range."

Port authorities have to make tough financial decisions when it comes to funding infrastructure, he said.

They need accurate predictions of possible impacts because a structure to withstand a 6-foot sea level rise would cost much more than one to accommodate a 1.5-foot rise, Becker said.

Although a majority of survey respondents ranked sea level rise and increased storm events associated with climate change high on their list of concerns, only 6 percent said they planned to build hurricane barriers within the next 10 years, and fewer than 18 percent had plans to build dikes or other storm protection structures.

Becker said plans to prepare for climate change and its effects are vital.

"As we saw with Katrina in 2005, storm and flood damage can devastate a regional economy for years after an event and have national impacts."

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