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The latest pest forecast
Break out the pesticides. Scientists can now better estimate when insect explosions will occur. A team including ecology and evolution assistant professor Greg Dwyer and graduate student Susan Harrell Yee has formulated a mathematical model that more accurately predicts flare-ups of gypsy moths, which defoliate trees. Likely applicable to other pests including small mammals, the model, reported in the July 15 Nature, takes into account such factors as disease resistance, predator levels, and weather variability.

image:  Nanocrystals, or quantum dots, emit colorful light.
Jason Smith
Nanocrystals, or quantum dots, emit colorful light.

Blinks begone
Nanocrystals have a behavior problem, as far as physicists are concerned. Also called quantum dots, the microscopic particles emit colorful light used in lasers, biological studies, and assorted applications. But they blink like flickering bulbs, a random habit that diminishes their technological
value. Matthew Pelton, a research associate in the James Franck Institute, has devised a simpler way to measure the property—and thus to begin understanding it. Composed of standard laboratory equipment, the system can study numerous dots at once, report Pelton, Philippe Guyot-Sionnest, professor in chemistry and physics, and New York University’s David Grier, formerly of Chicago, in the August 2 Applied Physics Letters.

Still self-centered
Adults are no less egocentric than children, according to new findings. Whatever their age, people automatically assume that others share their attitudes, perceptions, and knowledge bases. That’s according to a report in the November Journal of Experimental Social Psychology by a team including Boaz Keysar, associate professor in psychology. The team instructed subjects—33 kids and their parents—to move objects around a box. If the participants reached for objects that only they, and not the researchers, could see, the move counted as an egocentric “error.” The psychologists found that nearly all participants instinctively glanced toward the obstructed objects. But unlike children, who were more likely to reach for them, adults adjusted their self-based biases to accommodate the researchers’ perspectives.

FDR was right
Americans deserve a more socially and economically just society, argues Cass Sunstein, the Law School’s Karl N. Llewellyn distinguished service professor, in his new book The Second Bill of Rights (Basic Books). As a framework for reform Sunstein takes Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s 1944 State of the Union Address, which called for entitlements including the right to a job, to a decent home, to adequate medical care, to a good education, and to protection from the financial stresses of old age, sickness, accident, unemployment, and other conditions. Roosevelt’s vision, Sunstein believes, should inform politics today.

University researchers have pinpointed the genetic root of a common congenital brain disorder. Afflicting about one in 10,000 births, Dandy-Walker malformation can slow motor development, impair mental function, and cause hydrocephalus. Abnormalities in two genes, known as ZlC1 and ZlC4, are to blame, a team that includes human genetics professor William Dobyns, assistant professor Kathleen Millen, and graduate student Inessa Grinberg reports in the September Nature Genetics and the August 22 online edition. The geneticists study the disorder in mice—work that could lead to improved prenatal diagnosis of Dandy-Walker and to clues about other cerebellar defects, including autism. —M.L. and L.S.S.


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