The British Broadcasting Corp. reports that microbiologists at the Institute of Biomedical Problems in Moscow have developed a special yogurt made from bacteria culled from the saliva and guts of Russian cosmonauts. Originally developed to help space travelers maintain healthy levels of bacteria in their intestines, the yogurt has become so popular with the cosmonauts that the institute is marketing it commercially, along with new varieties of cottage cheese and traditional Russian cheese products made with the same cultures. Who knows what NASA may be up to, but one American microbiologist has remarked that there is no evidence that the out-of-this-world yogurt is really better than any other yogurt product.
A five-year study by 200 plant scientists has produced a "family tree" of the plant world that details the relations of the world's million species of photosynthesizers. Findings include: There is not one plant kingdom but three; a rare tropical flower is the closest living relative of the Earth's first flowering plant; and many plant families appear to have evolved from a single "Eve," whose close relatives survive in some of today's more pristine lakes. The study also confirmed the theory that fungi are more closely related to humans than to plants.
Not a Shroud of Doubt?
New research by botany professor Avinoam Danin (Hebrew National University in Jerusalem) lends credence to the theory that the Shroud of Turin is Jesus Christ's burial cloth. Based on his analysis of pollen grains and plant images (imprints of flowers and other plant parts) taken from the shroud, Danin says the cloth existed in the eighth century, and maybe even before. He presented his findings at the 16th International Botanical Congress in St. Louis this month and also offered evidence that the shroud originated in or near Jerusalem, the International Herald Tribune reports. Continuing to dispute the theory that the shroud wrapped Jesus' body are scientists at the University of Arizona, who reiterate the results of their 1988 carbon dating of the cloth: The cloth is no more than 600 years old, they say. "It's not the burial cloth of Jesus," physics professor Douglas Donahue told the Associated Press.
Quality Control for Legal Pundits
Legal pundits: Boon or bane? Both, say law professors Erwin Chemerinsky of the University of Southern California and Laurie Levenson of Loyola Law School. TV and radio legal pundits both educate and mislead the public about legal proceedings, Chemerinsky told the AP. The two professors say the remedy for out-of-control commentators is a set of voluntary guidelines (outlined here), which will "raise the professional quality of behavior" of legal commentators and the media outlets that broadcast them. The guidelines suggest that pundits "1) comment only on subjects that the commentator knows first hand, by watching the trial or reading trial transcripts; 2) speak as neutral experts whenever possible, and disclose potential conflicts of interest and biases; and 3) refrain from scoring trials like sports events or predicting jury verdicts." Two nationwide voluntary lawyers' groups--the American College of Trial Lawyers and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers--have adopted similar codes for their members in response to the proposal, which has been outlined in recent law review articles.
Professor Full Monty
A Florida State University law school professor is returning to work after a year off following a sexual harassment charge. Sixty-five-year-old William McHugh was placed on paid leave (read the letter from FSU President Sandy D'Alemberte to McHugh) after dropping his shorts to show a female student his hernia scar--a move that also exposed his genitals. The student filed a sexual harassment complaint against McHugh, who admitted to showing his hernia scar but insisted that the full Monty was accidental. According to the TampaTribune, a panel of FSU professors concluded a five-month investigation recently and found that McHugh had, indeed, suffered from accidental exposure.