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News Release 06-007

2005: Year in Review

Discoveries in biology, astrophysics and climate change rank highly

Another banner year in science.

2005 was another banner year in science.

January 11, 2006

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2005 was another banner year for science research. Here are some highlights of NSF-supported discoveries and breakthroughs during the past year. Starting in January....

Scientists Propose Sweeping Changes to Naming of Bird Neurosystems to Acknowledge Birds' True Brainpower
Duke University neurobiologist Erich Jarvis and a team of 28 other neuroscientists have proposed sweeping changes to the terminology associated with the brain structures of birds--a century-old nomenclature the researchers consider outdated and irrelevant to birds' true brainpower. The international research group concluded in a Feb. 2005 paper published in Nature Reviews Neuroscience that significant discoveries made over time reveal that birds are much closer to mammals in cognitive ability, and therefore, a new consistency in language will enhance studies of both. Discover magazine rated this work 51st in their top 100 list for 2005.
Jan. 31, 2005
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New Clues Add 40,000 Years to Age of Human Species
Nearly 40 years after an historic anthropology expedition to Ethiopia's Lake Turkana basin, researchers have uncovered new evidence suggesting human bones found at that time are roughly 195,000 years old. The skull fossils, discovered near the town of Kibish in 1967 and called Omo I and II, are far more ancient than researchers originally suspected and nearly 40,000 years older than skulls from Herto, Ethiopia, which held the previous records.
Feb. 16, 2005
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New Generation of Robots 'Walk Like a Man' (or Woman)
Members of three independent research teams jointly unveiled a new breed of powered, energy efficient, two-legged robots with a surprisingly human gait. All three robots verified a long-held hypothesis that suggests motors can substitute for gravity in passive-dynamic walking devices. A slope is not required, only careful engineering. Discover magazine rated this work 59th in their top 100 for 2005.
Feb. 17, 2005
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VLA Probes Secrets of Mysterious Magnetar
A giant flash of energy from a supermagnetic neutron star thousands of light-years from Earth may shed new light on scientists' understanding of such mysterious "magnetars" and of gamma-ray bursts. The blast from an object named SGR 1806-20 came on Dec. 27, 2004, and was the brightest outburst ever seen coming from an object beyond our own solar system. While the intensely bright gamma ray burst faded in a matter of minutes, the Very Large Array (VLA) telescope and other radio telescopes tracked the explosion's "afterglow" for weeks and produced a wealth of surprising information about the event. Science magazine rated this work 4th in their top 10 for 2005.
Feb. 18, 2005
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The First Key Piece of Telomerase
In research that could lead to important new targets for drug design, biochemists at UCLA have determined the 3-dimensional structure of a critical piece of the enzyme telomerase. Telomerase acts on chromosomes and is a key player in the spread of cancer.
March 14, 2005
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Reappearance of Missing Genetic Information Poses Exception to the Rule
For more than a century, a basic tenet of inheritance has dictated that an organism's genome passes directly from one generation to the next in a predictable manner: from grandparents-to parents-to children. Susan Lolle, Robert Pruitt and their colleagues showed this cardinal rule of inheritance is sometimes broken. The scientists reached their conclusion by tracking how genetic information passes through multiple generations of the plant Arabidopsis. In violation of current genetic theory, they found a significant percentage of the plant grandchildren had genetic information identical to that of the grandparent, but not the parent.  Science magazine rated this work 3rd in their top 10 for 2005.
March 23, 2005
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T. rex Fossil Yields Soft Tissue and Geologists Find First Clue to T.rex Gender in Bone Tissue
North Carolina State University paleontologist Mary Schweitzer and her colleagues extracted soft tissue from the fossilized leg bone of a nearly 70-million-year-old Tyrannosaurus rex specimen. The researchers went on to determine that the T.rex fossil is that of a young female, and that she was producing eggs when she died. Discover magazine rated this work 7th in their top 100 for 2005.
March 25, 2005
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June 2, 2005
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Scientists Aboard Drilling Vessel Recover Rocks from Earth's Crust Far Below Seafloor
Scientists affiliated with the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) and seeking the elusive "Moho"--the boundary, which geologists refer to as the Mohorovicic discontinuity, between Earth's brittle outer crust and its hotter, softer mantle--have created the third deepest hole ever drilled into the ocean bottom's crust. From the ocean drilling vessel, JOIDES Resolution, the researchers recovered rocks from more than 4,644 feet (1,416 meters) below the sea floor that will provide valuable information about the composition of the Earth.
April 5, 2005
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After the Tsunami
The Indian Ocean tsunami of Dec. 26, 2004, ranks as one of the great disasters of human history, whether its toll is measured by the hundreds of thousands of lives lost, by the billions of dollars in property destroyed or by the thousands of communities shattered. Within days after the tsunami smashed into communities on nearly every shore of the Indian Ocean, NSF-supported teams of scientists and engineers rushed to the scene in hopes of learning how to guard against such ruin in the future.
April 27, 2005
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New Primate Discovered in Mountain Forest of Tanzania
Two research teams working independently in Tanzania discovered a monkey that had eluded scientists despite decades of research in the region. The "highland mangabey" is the first monkey species to be described in Africa since 1984.
May 19, 2005
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Arctic Warming May Be a Factor in Demise of Lakes
According to researchers, rising Arctic temperatures over the past two decades appear to have thawed the ground enough to allow more than 125 lakes to drain into the soil and vanish. The new finding provides additional evidence that the 20-year-old warming trend documented in the Arctic is affecting the landscape. Science magazine ranked climate-change research 8th among their top 10 for 2005.
June 3, 2005
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Astronomers Announce the Most Earth-Like Planet Yet Found Outside the Solar System
Taking a major step forward in the search for Earth-like planets beyond our own solar system, a team of astronomers announced the discovery of the smallest extrasolar planet yet detected. About seven-and-a-half times as massive as Earth, with about twice the radius, the planet orbiting the star Gliese 876 may be the first rocky planet ever found orbiting a star not much different from our Sun.
June 13, 2005
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Ultra-Fast Camera Captures How Hummingbirds Hover
Using a sophisticated digital imaging technique, scientists have now determined the aerodynamics of hummingbird flight. The team found that hummingbirds support 75 percent of their weight during the wing's down stroke and 25 percent on the up stroke. The data disprove conclusions from numerous earlier studies that hummingbirds hovered like insects. Insects produce equal amounts of lift during their down and up strokes.
June 22, 2005
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Hurricanes Becoming Stronger and More Numerous
Not only do hurricanes seem to have grown significantly more powerful and destructive over the past three decades, but the number of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes worldwide appears to have nearly doubled during that period. Science magazine ranked this work 8th in their top 10 for 2005.
July 31, 2005
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Sept. 15, 2005
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International Team Maps Rice Genome
Researchers with the International Rice Genome Sequencing Project (IRGSP) published the "finished" DNA blueprint for a crop that feeds over half of the people in the world. Analysis of the rice genome, reported in the Aug. 11 issue of the journal Nature, revealed the location and sequence of over 37,500 protein-encoding genes in 389 million bases of DNA.
Aug. 10, 2005
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Inka Textile Devices Served as Business Ledgers
New evidence shows Peru's original inhabitants used a 3-dimensional system of knotted strings to keep track of things. Harvard University anthropologist Gary Urton and database developer Carrie Brezine say their computer analysis of 21 of the knotted objects, known as "khipu," revealed distinct patterns that help confirm the textile devices were used for record keeping and to communicate affairs of state throughout the sprawling empire of the Inka. Discover magazine ranked this work 55th in their top 100 for 2005.
Aug. 11, 2005
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Four-legged Family Members Must be Included in Emergency Plans
NSF-funded research--reported two weeks before Hurricane Katrina--found that concern for pets is one of the main reasons why some people won't evacuate disaster areas.
Aug. 16, 2005
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TeraGrid Award Heralds a New Era for Scientific Computing
NSF has made a five-year, $150 million award to operate and enhance the Extensible Terascale Facility (ETF)--also called "TeraGrid." Built over the past 4 years, TeraGrid is the world's largest, most comprehensive distributed cyberinfrastructure for open scientific research. Through high-performance network connections, TeraGrid integrates high-performance computers, data resources and tools, and high-end experimental facilities around the country. Researchers and educators around the country can now access a range of computing resources that will accelerate advances in science and engineering.
Aug.17, 2005
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Teachers Strike Scientific Gold at Kitt Peak
Thanks to a happy accident of timing--and their own careful observations--a group of high-school teachers made a significant contribution to science. On the night of June 30, 2005, the group was undertaking a five-night observation at the Kitt Peak National Observatory in Ariz. as part of the Teacher Leaders in Research Based Science Education (TLRBSE) program, which is designed to help experienced teachers master the techniques of research-based science education, and to prepare them for mentoring other teachers when they return home. When the teachers used the telescope to take a practice shot of a famously photogenic spiral known as the Whirlpool Galaxy, M51, they discovered that they had captured one of the first scientifically useful images of a brand new supernova.
Aug. 26, 2005
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NSF Responds to Katrina
In addition to providing support for students displaced by Hurricane Katrina, and for the repair of research facilities damaged by the storm, NSF has sent more than 70 "rapid-response" research teams to the Gulf Coast in an effort to draw as many lessons as possible from the disaster before evidence is lost and memories fade.
Sept. 27, 2005
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Sept. 28, 2005
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Dec. 20, 2005
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The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2017, its budget is $7.5 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 48,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards.

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