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News and Trends
March 16, 2009


Making the Varsity Green Team
A Pill That Navigates
America's First Chocoholics?
The Joke Is in the Notes
Friends—Until I Delete You
Now Made in China: Hip-Hop

Making the Varsity Green Team
Friendly competition is helping to raise energy-awareness on college campuses. Students living in the Eco-Dorm at Central College in Pella, Iowa, can monitor each other's energy use on the school's Web site. To make sure they stay greener than their dorm mates, some even go off campus to charge their cell phones. Yale University recently held an energy-reduction contest focusing on everyday habits. "Everyone can change their computer settings to power-save mode; they can unplug their appliances," Victoria Charette, a sophomore, told The Yale Daily News. At the University of Connecticut at Storrs, a competition among dorms resulted in a 2 percent reduction in electricity use. "As Americans, we are good at entertainment and competition," says Donald Kelley of the BrainShift Foundation, which uses games to raise environmental awareness. "It's why on American Idol they get 40 million voters," he says. "It's the part of this culture that people really understand, and we should be harnessing it."

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A Pill That Navigates
In the 1966 sci-fi classic Fantastic Voyage, doctors who have been "miniaturized" travel through a patient's body in a tiny submarine to treat a deadly blood clot. The Intelligent Pill, or iPill—developed in the Netherlands by Philips Electronics—may be the next-best thing. Doctors can't go along for the ride, but the capsule can be programmed to navigate to specific trouble spots in the body to dispense its medicine. The technology, now being tested in the U.S. on animals but not yet on humans, may one day be used to treat digestive-tract disorders like colitis and Crohn's disease. The size of a plump multivitamin, the iPill is one-third medicine and two-thirds microprocessor, battery, antenna, and other miniaturized equipment. A tiny pump dispenses the drug. The pill, which is taken with food or water, radios data to a control station about temperature and the time that has elapsed since it was swallowed. If the doctor sees an adverse reaction, a signal can be sent for the pill not to release any more of the drug. The iPill is powered by a silver oxide battery that lasts about two days—twice the time it usually takes for the pill to travel through, and exit, the body.

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America's First Chocoholics?
Cylindrical clay jars found in the ruins at Chaco Canyon in New Mexico were unlike any other pottery found there, and anthropologists had long puzzled over how they were used. Now the mystery may be solved: The jars apparently were used for drinking chocolate, like the Maya of Central and South America did as far back as 1000 A.D. A chemist for the Hershey chocolate company tested the pottery and found traces of theobromine, a biological marker for cacao, from which chocolate is made. That would make the Chacoansק,200 miles from the nearest cacao trees—the first consumers of chocolate in North America. Their chocolate arrived via a 3,100-mile trade route that extended to New Mexico from as far south as Ecuador and Colombia, where cacao is grown.

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The Joke Is in the Notes
Charles Schulz, the creator of "Peanuts," was going for more than a punch line when he made Schroeder a Beethoven-obsessed music nerd. "The music is a character in the strip as much as the people are, because the music sets the tone," according to William Meredith, a Beethoven scholar at San Jose State University. Schulz often jotted down ideas for the strip during classical concerts. (His own favorite composer was Brahms, but he decided that the name Beethoven looked and sounded funnier.) Schulz carefully chose each musical passage Schroeder played and transcribed the actual notes from the score. In the panel shown here, Schroeder annoys Lucy with a rendition of Beethoven's somber-sounding "Pathetique" sonata.

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Friends—Until I Delete You
Facebook users—all 150 million of them—are still figuring out the etiquette of "un-friending": how to do it, when to do it, and how to get away with it. "If someone with more than 1,000 friends un-friends me, I get offended," says Greg Atwan, an author of The Facebook Book, a satirical guide. "But if someone only has 100 friends, you understand they're trying to limit their intimates." Atwan, a 2005 graduate of Harvard (where Facebook got its start), recommends culling your friend list once a year to remove total strangers and hangers-on. Keeping your numbers down, he says, gives you more leeway to be selective about who's on your list in the first place. It can be jarring to be un-friended. After all, the person who dumped you at some point either requested you as a friend or accepted your request. And even in the "too much information" world of Facebook, un-friending someone (also known as "de-friending") doesn't generate a notification of any kind—leaving members to discover they've been deleted only when they find they no longer have access to someone's profile. "We believe that relationships change," says Brandee Barker, a Facebook spokeswoman, "and users should be able to have the friend list respect those changes without the pressure of a public notification."

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Now Made in China: Hip-Hop
Over the last decade, many students and working-class Chinese have been writing rap as a form of self-expression. Rougher and more rebellious than the well-scrubbed pop music that floods China's airwaves, this kind of hip-hop is not sanctioned by broadcast media producers or government censors. "Hip-hop is free, like rock 'n' roll—we can talk about our lives, what we're thinking about, what we feel," says Wang Liang, 25, a popular D.J. in China, who is known as Wordy. In China, he says, "There's not much opportunity for personal expression or thought; difference is discouraged." American rappers like Eminem and Q-Tip have been popular in China since the 1990s. Zhong Cheng, 27, a rapper in Beijing, says, "The big change was when rappers started writing verse in Chinese, so people could understand."

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