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Researchers in Iran are publishing what they describe as the first study on a fungus that can remove sulfur, a major source of air pollution, from crude oil more effectively than conventional refining methods. The finding could help reduce air pollution and acid rain caused by the release of sulfur components in gasoline and may help oil companies meet tougher emission standards for fuel, the scientists say. Their study is scheduled for the Oct. 1 issue of Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research.

Jalal Shayegan and colleagues point out that existing processes for refining so-called "heavy," or high-sulfur, crude oil convert sulfur to hydrogen sulfide gas at high temperatures and pressures. However, they leave behind some kinds of sulfur-based compounds, which wind up in gasoline and other fuels. Scientists long have known that certain microbes can remove sulfur from oil. But nobody had tried using these microbes in so-called biodesulfurization of heavy crude oil until now, they indicate.

After several years of research and development on the promising idea of an intelligent writing tool for correcting and enhancing a user's text, WhiteSmoke 2009 says thet can deliver it. Featuring a grammar checking engine that detects a wider range of errors than any other commercial grammar checker, and a range of other tools to create an all-in-one writing solution, WhiteSmoke 2009 says it is the ideal software application for writers, copy editors and at-home Internet users who are concerned with creating error-free texts.

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The Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet has today decided to award The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for 2008 with one half to Harald zur Hausen for his discovery of "human papilloma viruses causing cervical cancer" and the other half jointly to Françoise Barré-Sinoussi and Luc Montagnier for their discovery of "human immunodeficiency virus."

Harald zur Hausen went against current dogma and postulated that oncogenic human papilloma virus (HPV) caused cervical cancer, the second most common cancer among women. He realized that HPV-DNA could exist in a non-productive state in the tumours, and should be detectable by specific searches for viral DNA. He found HPV to be a heterogeneous family of viruses. Only some HPV types cause cancer. His discovery has led to characterization of the natural history of HPV infection, an understanding of mechanisms of HPV-induced carcinogenesis and the development of prophylactic vaccines against HPV acquisition. 


Afraid to fly? It may not be rational, since airplanes are quite safe, but to people who have that phobia, it defies rationality. Researchers from the Center for Obesity Research and Education and the department of kinesiology at Temple University say the same psychological barrier may inhibit some obese women from exercising.

Much like a crippling worry that arachnophobes have about spiders, the research presented at the Obesity Society's Annual Meeting on October 5th says some obese women face a barrier when it comes to exercise that normal weight women do not.

Chemicals used in the environment to kill bacteria could be making them stronger, according to a paper published in Microbiology. Low levels of these chemicals, called biocides, can make the potentially lethal bacterium Staphylococcus aureus remove toxic chemicals from the cell even more efficiently, potentially making it resistant to being killed by some antibiotics.

Biocides are used in disinfectants and antiseptics to kill microbes. They are commonly used in cleaning hospitals and home environments, sterilizing medical equipment and decontaminating skin before surgery. At the correct strength, biocides kill bacteria and other microbes. However, if lower levels are used the bacteria can survive and become resistant to treatment.

The fossilized trail of an aquatic creature suggests that animals walked using legs at least 30 million years earlier than had been thought. The tracks, two parallel rows of small dots, each about 2 millimeters in diameter, date back some 570 million years, to the Ediacaran period.

The Ediacaran preceded the Cambrian period, the time when most major groups of animals first evolved.

Scientists once thought that it was primarily microbes and simple multicellular animals that existed prior to the Cambrian, but that notion is changing, explained Loren Babcock, professor of earth sciences at Ohio State University.

"We keep talking about the possibility of more complex animals in the Ediacaran -- soft corals, some arthropods, and flatworms -- but the evidence has not been totally convincing," he said. "But if you find evidence, like we did, of an animal with legs -- an animal walking around -- then that makes the possibility much more likely."