Solar blast debris photos received


Scientists with NASA's STEREO mission say their twin spacecraft have sent back the first-ever views of debris from a solar blast called a coronal mass ejection as it races across the gulf between the sun and Earth.

"The panoramic view is absolutely unique," Russ Howard of the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington said yesterday. "Seeing the evolution of this material as it's going out into planetary space, and seeing the interaction with the solar wind. ... It's quite important and quite useful."


STEREO is operated from a control center at the Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Lab near Laurel.

In April, the two spacecraft will begin to transmit stereoscopic images of the sun and region between the sun and Earth. Scientists hope the data will help them provide more accurate predictions of solar weather, which can affect satellites, communications and astronaut safety.


Images at


Taking bets on bird flu spread

Think bird flu will become a worldwide threat this summer? Want to put some money on that? In an unusual effort to better predict the advance of a potential flu pandemic, public health experts will get $100 stakes to bet on the spread of bird flu.

This type of grim futures market has also been used in the past to predict hurricanes and even terrorist attacks - but the goal this time is a faster way to collect expert opinion about the potential spread of a deadly disease outbreak.


"Farmers have used futures markets for decades to make decisions about what crops to plant. We're just borrowing that concept to help people in public health and health care make decisions about the future," said Dr. Phil Polgreen, a University of Iowa assistant professor of medicine who helped create the project.

The market is funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which is donating nearly $250,000 to the effort. The University of Iowa, which set up futures exercises for hurricane predictions, box office receipts and presidential elections, will operate the bird flu enterprise. The commodity: a prediction that deadly bird flu will infect a human being in Hong Kong by July 1.

"Yes" contracts on that prediction are trading at 43 cents. That means the experts think there's a 43 percent chance of that occurring.



Duct tape remedy not too successful


Duct tape has many uses, but curing warts probably isn't one of them, according to the latest research.

A small study in 2002 gave credence to an old notion - and some evidence - that duct-tape applied to warts long enough would irritate the skin, thereby causing an immune reaction that clears up the infections responsible for warts. The original study found that after six days, duct tape worked more often than the usual treatment: freezing.

The latest study, published in the Journal of Family Practice, looked at 103 children - twice as many as the original. Duct tape was applied to problem areas for seven days and then the spots were soaked in warm water and rubbed with pumice stones. This technique worked about 16 percent of the time, about the same as applying corn pads overnight with once-weekly soaks and rubs.

Another study last year went a step further by compiling and analyzing data from 60 studies that examined various removal methods. That research, published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, found that simple skin treatments with salicylic acid were probably the best option. Applied regularly, the study found, they had a cure rate of about 73 percent.




Wrinkle treatment kick-starts collagen

Restylane, a popular cosmetic treatment for temporarily plumping out wrinkles, makes the skin produce more collagen, the natural stuff that makes skin look young, according to a new study.

That means the product, which millions of people have had injected around their lips, cheeks and foreheads, has effects beyond what its manufacturers claim, the team at the University of Michigan Health System reported.

The researchers tested Restylane, marketed by Q-Med AB of Uppsala, Sweden, and Medicis Pharmaceutical Corp. It and rival products use hyaluronic acid, which holds onto water in the skin.

"Everybody had thought that the whole story with this stuff is that you inject it and because of its volume-filling nature that it would go in and fill up whatever defect is there and that is why it made people look better," said dermatologist Dr. John Voorhees, who led the study. "What we are saying here is that in addition to the space-filling concept, it is forcing your body to make its own collagen."

The study was reported in last month's issue of Archives of Dermatology. The company did not pay for the experiment and does not know what the report says, the researchers said.


Los Angeles Times