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SCIENCE
March 12, 2014 | By Karen Kaplan
A project that could point the way to a new class of drugs to treat influenza won the top prize Tuesday night at the Intel Science Talent Search, netting 17-year-old Eric S. Chen a cool $100,000. Chen, a senior at Canyon Crest Academy in San Diego, combined chemistry, biology and computer modeling to find compounds capable of blocking an enzyme called endonuclease, which the flu virus needs to spread. Despite taking home the grand prize at the 2013 Google Science Fair and the top individual honor at the 2013 Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technology , Chen said he didn't expect to come in first at the Intel competition . “I had no idea I was going to win,” Chen told his hometown newspaper, the San Diego Union-Tribune, after the awards were announced in Washington, D.C. “If I had placed between fifth and 10th, I would have been incredibly happy.” Chen has worked in the lab of Rommie Amaro , an assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry at UC San Diego, since the summer of 2012.
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CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
March 12, 2014 | By Rong-Gong Lin II and Rosanna Xia
If a 9.0 earthquake were to strike along California's sparsely populated North Coast, it would have a catastrophic ripple effect. A giant tsunami created by the quake would wash away coastal towns, destroy U.S. 101 and cause $70 billion in damage over a large swath of the Pacific coast. More than 100 bridges would be lost, power lines toppled and coastal towns isolated. Residents would have as few as 15 minutes notice to flee to higher ground, and as many as 10,000 would perish. Scientists last year published this grim scenario for a massive rupture along the Cascadia fault system, which runs 700 miles off shore from Northern California to Vancouver Island.
SCIENCE
March 12, 2014 | Monte Morin
Ever feel the rainy-day blues on a bright and sunny afternoon? If so, your Facebook account may be to blame, according to new research. In a paper published Wednesday in the journal PLOS ONE, scientists argued that the hugely popular social networking site exerts an emotional "spillover" effect that may carry significant consequences for an increasingly interconnected world. By analyzing more than a billion Facebook status updates, authors concluded that emotionally positive posts gave rise to more positive posts by friends, while negative posts spawned more negative posts.
HEALTH
March 7, 2014 | By Karen Ravn
March 14 has been declared World Sleep Day , a time to recognize and celebrate the value of sleep. Many sleep experts hope it will be a wake-up call. According to a 2013 poll by the National Sleep Foundation, nearly 4 in 5 Americans don't get as much sleep as they should during the workweek. On average, adults are thought to need at least eight hours of sleep a night, although some can get by with less and some won't do well without more. But the survey found that, on workdays, only 21% of Americans actually get a full eight hours of sleep, and another 21% get less than six. To many of us, the thought of spending more time sleeping is, well, a big yawn.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
March 5, 2014 | By Kurt Streeter
Pope Francis is one of the best-known religious figures in the world, but a new Pew Research poll seeking to quantify his popularity raises questions about the so-called Francis effect. The poll found an overwhelming embrace of Francis, who has been trying to steer the Catholic Church toward a greater emphasis on compassion for the poor and marginalized. Sixty percent of non-Catholics and 85% of Catholics surveyed said they viewed the pontiff favorably - numbers approaching those of Pope John Paul II, whose peak popularity ratings among Catholics hovered just above 90%. However, the poll found no change in the number of people who self-identify as Catholic or in the number sitting in church pews on Sundays.
NEWS
February 25, 2014 | By Christi Parsons
WASHINGTON -- President Obama said Tuesday he was proud of the four manufacturing innovation institutes his administration has launched over the last year, but he said Congress needs to step in to expand the effort. Obama announced two new research hubs in Chicago and Detroit, where the government will join universities and businesses to train workers and develop new technologies. The White House tapped existing funds for the two sites and two others already underway in Ohio and North Carolina.
OPINION
February 25, 2014 | By The Times editorial board
The manipulation of human genes could lead to profound advances in our ability to cure or prevent terrible diseases. But in some cases, it might also mean introducing genetic material that could be passed from one generation to the next, changing the human gene pool in a manner that could inadvertently harm peoples' health. Such "inheritable" DNA is a hotly debated issue among bioethicists, and one that an advisory committee of the Food and Drug Administration will review Tuesday and Wednesday as it considers whether human trials should be allowed for a new therapy that could prevent a rare but devastating inherited disorder.
SCIENCE
February 24, 2014 | By Melissa Healy
Pregnant women have long been assured that acetaminophen can treat their aches, pains and fevers without bringing harm to the babies they carry. Now researchers say they have found a strong link between prenatal use of the medication and cases of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder in children. The results, published Monday in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, add to growing evidence that the active ingredient in Tylenol may influence brain development in utero. But they do not provide clear answers for mothers-to-be or their doctors about whether acetaminophen is safe during pregnancy.
SCIENCE
February 24, 2014 | Mary MacVean
A vegetarian diet may help lower blood pressure, researchers who reviewed data from 39 previous studies said Monday. The researchers suggested that a vegetarian diet could be an alternative to drugs for people whose blood pressure is too high -- a condition known as hypertension and one that is a risk factor for heart disease and other problems.  About a third of Americans have high blood pressure. Seven clinical trials, with 311 participants, and 32 observational studies, including 21,604 people, were analyzed by researchers from Japan and the Physicans Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington, which advocates for plant-based diets.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
February 19, 2014 | By Larry Gordon
UC San Diego graduate student Alex Piel is studying the family dynamics and habitats of chimpanzees in Tanzania's savanna. The research requires tracking animals, retrieving fecal samples and then testing to confirm genetic links. It does not come cheap. So after tapping traditional funding help from UC and other sources, Piel and Fiona Stewart, his wife and collaborator, recently decided to try their luck on the Internet. They posted a description of their project and an appeal to the public for money on Experiment , an online crowdfunding site devoted to science.
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