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Banning sodas from school vending machines, building walking paths and playgrounds, adding supermarkets to food deserts and requiring nutritional labels on restaurant menus: Such changes to the environments where people live and work are among the growing number of solutions that have been proposed and attempted in efforts to stem the rising obesity epidemic with viable, population-based solutions. But which of these changes actually make an impact?


An extensive study of global habitat fragmentation - the division of habitats into smaller and more isolated patches - points to major trouble for a number of the world's ecosystems and the plants and animals living in them.

The study shows that 70 percent of existing forest lands are within a half-mile of the forest edge, where encroaching urban, suburban or agricultural influences can cause any number of harmful effects - like the losses of plants and animals.

The study also tracks seven major experiments on five continents that examine habitat fragmentation and finds that fragmented habitats reduce the diversity of plants and animals by 13 to 75 percent, with the largest negative effects found in the smallest and most isolated fragments of habitat.


Clear and realistic expectations are key to successfully hiring heads of departments, say Professor Pierre-Alain Clavien, University of Zurich, and Joseph Deiss, former President of the Swiss Confederation, in a commentary in Nature magazine.

Selecting a chair for a position in clinical academic medicine is often problematic, with the diverse demands placed on the position proving a constant source of debate. Today's heads of departments are not only expected to be outstanding physicians, researchers, and teachers, but also adroit and cost-conscious managers. Finding people with such an extraordinary skill set is a formidable task.


A controversial decision in 2011 to blow up Mississippi River levees reduced the risk of flooding in a city upstream, lowering the height of the rain-swollen river just before it reached its peak, according to a newly published computer modeling analysis led by UC Irvine scientists.

The work focused on a Missouri agricultural area called the New Madrid Floodway that was inundated when the levees were detonated. The researchers found that the region would have flooded anyway if the river had been allowed to overtop the levee banks. And separate modeling showed that the resulting damage to crops and buildings would have been similar either way, though the detonations did shift the damage zone toward Missouri and away from Illinois and Kentucky.


Are humans born with the ability to solve problems or is it something we learn along the way? A research group at the Department of Physics and Astronomy, Aarhus University, is working to find answers to this question.

The research group has developed a computer game called Quantum Moves, which has been played 400,000 times by ordinary people. This has provided unique and deep insight into the human brain's ability to solve problems. The game involves moving atoms around on the screen and scoring points by finding the best way to do so.


If kidney cancer is diagnosed early -- before it spreads -- 80 percent of patients survive. However, finding it early has been among the disease's greatest challenges.

Now, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have developed a noninvasive method to screen for kidney cancer that involves measuring the presence of proteins in the urine.

The findings are reported March 19 in the journal JAMA Oncology.

The researchers found that the protein biomarkers were more than 95 percent accurate in identifying early-stage kidney cancers. In addition, there were no false positives caused by non-cancerous kidney disease.

"These biomarkers are very sensitive and specific to kidney cancer," said senior author Evan D. Kharasch, MD, PhD.