Discoveries

DISCOVERIES

August 05, 2005

Quick Takes

Superficial look at natural cures

Natural Cures "They" Don't Want You To Know About, by Kevin Trudeau, (Alliance Publishing Group Inc., $29.95)

This is an updated version of a popular title that claims to give readers the skinny on natural cures.

It doesn't stop there. The book lashes out at corporate America and the media. Kevin Trudeau says that pharmaceutical giants, food companies, trade groups and the government are in cahoots to keep people sick.

"Natural cures are being suppressed and hidden from the public," he writes.

But consider the source. Trudeau starts the book by saying: "It's important to note that I am oversimplifying everything." He is not a medical doctor, and he has served time in prison. In 2004, he settled a $2 million case with the Federal Trade Commission over charges that he falsely claimed a coral calcium product cures cancer.

Still, Natural Cures is shooting to the top of the nonfiction best-seller lists. It's surprising, given that the book lacks the detail and medical depth necessary for readers to learn anything substantial.

Bottom Line: Save your money. There are better sources of information on natural healing. -- Mary Beth Regan

ARCTIC OCEAN BRIMS WITH LIFE

Beneath its ice, the Arctic Ocean is teeming with life, says a team of international scientists that recently completed a 30-day expedition to the northern ocean.

In the months and years ahead, the 45 scientists from the United States, Canada, China and Russia that took part in the Hidden Ocean expedition will pore over thousands of photographs, ice samples and ocean specimens collected in the Canada Basin.

"We were surprised. There was an awful lot more life up here than what people expected and believe there is," said Russ Hopcroft, a Canadian researcher and assistant professor at the Institute of Marine Science at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks.

Hopcroft said most scientists found new species or, at least, species not previously believed to exist in the Arctic.

Despite the region's inhospitable climate for humans, the northern ocean is home to many life forms, including viruses, bacteria, fungi and unicellular and multicellular plants and animals.

From the shelter of the U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker Healy, teams of scientists explored from the ice surface to the ocean floor. With the aid of a remote-operated underwater vehicle, a photo platform lowered from the vessel, diving suits and 24-hour sunlight, the team collected samples from places never before seen by the human eye.

The specter of global warming makes it urgent to document life in the far north and the Antarctic.

"There's already fairly good indications that we're undergoing some kind of global climate change, and the areas that are warming up the fastest are the poles," Hopcroft said.

Among the rare finds for scientists were observations of comb jellies, or ctenophores, a jellyfishlike creature so fragile that some pour like liquid out of collection jars.

The expedition also had the first close look at mysterious pockmarks on the ocean floor in the northern reaches of the basin.

Most surprising was the amount of sea life that call the depressions home. Ian MacDonald, a professor at Texas A&M University, counted 72 sea cucumbers in an area of 3 square meters.

"The abundance and diversity on the sea floor was the highest we've ever seen, anywhere," he said. "We're very excited about that, but we don't, at this point, have any clue as to why." -- Associated Press

In Brief

A dry eye on Titan

Scientists peering through a ground-based telescope say the surface of Saturn's planet-sized moon Titan appears dry and not awash in oceans of liquid hydrocarbons as is commonly believed.

Titan -- one of only a few moons in the solar system known to have an atmosphere -- has long baffled scientists because it's surrounded by a thick blanket of nitrogen and methane. Scientists have speculated that the atmospheric methane probably came from seas of liquid methane and ethane.

But telescopes and orbiting spacecraft have yet to turn up evidence of a global ocean of methane on Titan.

In the latest study, scientists using the Keck II telescope in Hawaii failed to see any reflections of sunlight that would indicate a body of liquid on the frozen moon during several viewings in 2003 and 2004, said lead researcher Robert West of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. Results appear in yesterday's issue of the journal Nature.

The latest Earth-based observations were focused on Titan's southern hemisphere. It's possible the northern region may still contain pools of liquid organic material, West said.

Scientists have theorized that Titan's smoggy atmosphere may be similar to that of the primordial Earth and studying it could provide clues to how life began here.

Bird's bug repellent

A bird species found in some parts of Western Alaska is believed to emit a natural mosquito repellent with properties similar to DEET, the key ingredient in many commercial repellents.

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