LA Times Science Files for 2007/06/29

These are items compiled by staff of the LA Times.

    DNA team transforms one bacterium into another

    Biologists have converted one species of bacterium into another by replacing all of its DNA, a critical step toward their ultimate goal of designing entire organisms from scratch, according to a study published Thursday. The transplanted DNA took over its single-cell host in about three days. The resulting bacterium was indistinguishable from the donor species, the researchers reported in the online edition of the journal Science. By Karen Kaplan, Times Staff Writer.

    The Lewis and Clark of Mars

    The ruddy surface of the alien world unraveled before Ken Edgett’s eyes in noodle-like strips. Each image from the camera aboard the Mars Global Surveyor covered a two-mile-wide swath of dunes, rock valleys and jagged ribbons of carbon dioxide ice. Twelve orbits a day, for eight years. A total of 243,926 pictures of the Martian wasteland. By John Johnson Jr., Times Staff Writer.

    FDA says Chinese fish tainted

    WASHINGTON – The list of quality-compromised goods from China got longer Thursday as federal authorities slapped a highly unusual hold on shrimp and certain fish from that country after tests showed contamination from potentially harmful drugs. By Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Times Staff Writer.

    Ancient farming in South America

    South Americans were raising crops at least 10,000 years ago, about 5,000 years earlier than previously thought and nearly contemporary with the emergence of agriculture in the Old World, based on new ages obtained for agricultural samples excavated from the Andes 20 years ago. By Thomas H. Maugh II, Times Staff Writer.

    High court spares mentally ill killer

    The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Texas could not execute a severely mentally ill man because he could not comprehend why he was going to be put to death. The 5 to 4 ruling, written by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, spared the life of Scott Louis Panetti, 49, who murdered his former in-laws in 1992 after battling mental health problems for years. By Henry Weinstein, Times Staff Writer.

    Domestic cats’ origin shifts a bit

    Friendly felines first cozied up to humans in the Fertile Crescent at least 9,500 years ago, not in Egypt as commonly thought, an international team of researchers reported Thursday. While archeological evidence had previously suggested the date for the taming of wildcats, the new study, published in the journal Science, provides genetic evidence that confirms the Near Eastern origin of domestic cats. By Amber Dance, Times Staff Writer.

    Mexico City faces smoking ban

    MEXICO CITY – Sure, the dateline says Mexico City, but this place is turning more San Francisco every day. City lawmakers this year have legalized abortion and same-sex civil unions. Next up? A ban on smoking in restaurants, schools, taxis and buses. By Sam Enriquez and Cecilia Sanchez, Times Staff Writers.

    Chairman of state air resources board fired

    The chairman of the California Air Resources Board, Robert F. Sawyer, was fired by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger this week amid mounting criticism of the agency’s leadership on global warming and air pollution policies. By Janet Wilson, Times Staff Writer.


    Michael Moore is back again examining America’s healthcare system in the aptly named “Sicko.” It’s likely his most important, most impressive, most provocative film, and it’s different from his others in significant ways. By Kenneth Turan, Times Staff Writer.

    Governor, show a little care for the mentally ill

    Hey, Gov. Schwarzenegger, it’s been too long since our last cigar. You busy the next few days? Yeah, I know. You’re always busy in budget season. But that’s all the more reason for us to get together. If you can squeeze it in, I’d like to introduce you to a few people who have caught some tragically tough breaks in life and now face the possibility of another: a $55-million budget cut by you. By Steve Lopez, Times Staff Writer.

Wesley R. Elsberry

Falconer. Interdisciplinary researcher: biology and computer science. Data scientist in real estate and econometrics. Blogger. Speaker. Photographer. Husband. Christian. Activist.