SciTech Briefs

Oral sex, mouth cancer connected

A study at Johns Hopkins University announced that there may be a connection between the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) and oral cancer. HPV is the virus responsible for cervical cancer and is sexually transmitted. Oral cancer affects one in 10,000 people. The link was discovered after studying 3400 oral cancer patients on four continents; HPV was found in a few samples of their oral tissue.

The patients who tested positive for HPV on cancerous tissues were found more likely to have multiple oral sex partners than to be tobacco users. Additionally, HPV16, the strain of HPV most likely to cause cervical cancer, was the most prevalent strain in patients with oral cancers.

Experts say that tobacco is still by far the most common cause of mouth cancer and expressed hope that a cervical cancer vaccine might help to cure oral cancer.

Source: BBC

Russians design Soyuz successor

Russian officials have announced their intent to replace the Soyuz spacecraft in use since 1967. The new "Clipper" craft will be able to transport six crewmen — twice what the Soyuz can — and will be reusable up to 25 trips, unlike Soyuz spacecraft which need replacement after every trip.

Beyond the capacity improvement, the space agency hopes to lighten forces on the crew during reentry, one of the major disadvantages of the Soyuz compared to the NASA's space shuttles. Officials at RKK Energiya say that their firm can build the Clipper in five years if the government properly funds the project. Energiya is also proposing the construction of another craft, 40 times larger, for a Russian manned mission to Mars.

Source: CNN

People to live at Love Canal again

Love Canal, the Buffalo, N.Y. area toxic waste dump, was declared clean and was proposed to be removed from the Superfund list of waste dumps on Wednesday. The 19th-century canal, filled with over 80 industrial chemicals and then covered to form a subdivision in a Niagara Falls neighborhood, gained national notoriety in the 1970s when some of the chemicals started oozing into buildings, burning occupants and eventually causing birth defects.

The removal from the register of hazardous waste dumps is the capstone of a 21-year, $400 million program to clean up the site. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), created contemporaneously with the beginning of the Love Canal program, has started to repopulate the area, selling 260 renovated houses for residents and 150 acres to industrial use.

There will be public comment for 30 days to decide whether Love Canal and two other sites will be removed from the list, but the EPA will continue clean-up efforts and renovations regardless.

Source: The New York Times

Germans create new pentaquark

A new type of subatomic particle, a charmed pentaquark, has been created at a lab in Germany. The massive particle, consisting of two "up" quarks, two "down" quarks, and an "anti-charm" quark, is only the second type of pentaquark ever created.

The particle decays in 10-23 seconds and was only detected because of the products of its decay, an unusual meson and a proton. The team at the Hadron-Electron Ring Accelerator (HERA) in Hamburg is puzzled, however, because in spite of the short lifespan of the pentaquark, it is approximately 100 times more stable than they predicted.

Source: New Scientist