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>>Mad about Monica
Who says a Republican in the White House means no more presidential-intern talk? Lauren G. Berlant, professor of English language & literature, believes there's more to be said. In the anthology Our Monica, Ourselves: The Clinton Affair and the National Interest (New York University Press, 2001), Berlant and co-editor Lisa Duggan of New York University offer retrospective assessments of the Monica Lewinsky affair by 24 journalists, scholars, and activists. Essays range from a wry riff on Linda Tripp jokes to a historical analysis linking President Clinton's impeachment to the history of the right wing since the New Deal.

PHOTO:  Small Magellanic Cloud

>>Let there be silicon and iron
Until recently astronomers have assumed that silicon was produced more abundantly than iron in the early lifetimes of young, distant galaxies. But new findings from the Hubble Space Telescope suggest that both of those heavy elements may have been produced in comparable amounts-a possibility that will help researchers better understand star formation. The findings, presented by senior research associate Daniel Welty, SM'79, PhD'85, at the June 4 American Astronomical Society meeting, are based on analyses of gas and dust in the Small Magellanic Cloud, 200,000 light years away. Welty's co-authors are astronomy & astrophysics professor Lewis M. Hobbs and Donald G. York, PhD'71, the Horace B. Horton professor in astronomy & astrophysics.

>>Do herbs and surgery mix?
Why and when patients should stop using herbal medications before undergoing surgery depends on the herb being used, say anesthesia and critical care assistant professor Chun-Su Yuan, professor Jonathan Moss, and senior resident Michael K. Ang-Lee in the July 11 Journal of the American Medical Association. Their study assesses interactions between eight commonly used herbs (echinacea, ephedra, garlic, ginkgo, ginseng, kava, St. John's wort, and valerian), anesthesia, and surgery, suggesting ways to reduce risks.

>>Mirror, mirror
In the 1960s British theoretical physicist Nevill Mott described how glass and other amorphous substances can function as semiconductors by changing between electrically conductive (metallic) and insulating (nonmetallic) states. Physicists quickly figured out that lacing certain simple compounds with hydrogen can turn shiny metal conductors into clear insulators. But how to turn them back again? By flashing the compounds-in this case, hydrides of the rare earth elements yttrium and lanthanum-with ultraviolet light, reports Thomas F. Rosenbaum, professor of physics, in the June 4 Physical Review Letters. Such UV-switchable mirrors are intriguing both in their basic physics and for possible applications in optical computing and fiber-optic network switching, where researchers seek tricks for controlling light with light.

>>Few grim prognoses
In only 37 percent of cases are physicians willing to give terminally ill cancer patients their best estimate of how long the patient might expect to live. So says a study by Nicholas Christakis, associate professor of medicine and sociology, and Elizabeth B. Lamont, SM'00, internal medicine instructor, in the July 19 Annals of Internal Medicine. In 40 percent of cases the doctors said they would knowingly provide an inaccurate estimate of survival time-usually an overestimate-and in 23 percent the doctors said they would refuse to provide any estimate. Physicians want to give patients hope, but the authors say withholding bad news prevents patients from making informed choices.

>>Rare neonatal diabetes gene
A complete deficiency of glucokinase, an enzyme that helps regulate blood-sugar levels, is the culprit in a rare form of neonatal diabetes, according to a report in the May 24 New England Journal of Medicine. Co-authored by Graeme I. Bell, professor of biochemistry & molecular biology, the study links the genetic defect to permanent neonatal diabetes mellitus, which occurs in one in 400,000 live births. -S.A.S.

  AUGUST 2001

  > > Volume 93, Number 6

  > > Consuming interests
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The iron taxman cometh
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Street arts
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