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News and Trends
April 6, 2009


India's Latest Export: Pitchers
Skateboarding for Credit
Career Watch: Cybersleuthing
What the Tape Reveals
Wrong Foot Forward
Studying Abroad: Where the Americans Are

India's Latest Export: Pitchers
Two 20-year-olds from India—who until recently had thrown only javelins—have become the first Indian athletes to sign with a major American sports team. The Pittsburgh Pirates signed Dinesh Patel and Rinku Singh after they appeared on an Indian reality TV show called Million Dollar Arm. On the show, young men tried to throw a baseball at least 85 m.p.h. The prize was $100,000 and a trip to the U.S. to train with a former big-league pitcher. Singh, a left-hander, won the contest and Patel, a righty, came in second. Both grew up in poor farming villages in northern India and had barely heard of baseball before. In February, they started spring training at the Pirates' camp in Bradenton, Fla. If all goes well, in June they'll be playing on the Pirates' farm team in the Gulf Coast League. "We do know the benefits of a billion people that are going to take a curiosity in, if nothing else, what these two young men do," says Pirates General Manager Neal Huntington. "It sends a message internationally."

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Skateboarding for Credit
It's not your typical gym class: Instead of playing dodgeball and running laps around the gym, students at East Side Community High School in New York can work on their ollies and kickflips. But first, they have to learn to push and steer properly. The skateboarding class is part of a trend toward phys-ed electives that can be pursued long after the class is over. At East Side Community, a professional skateboarder serves as the gym teacher and, unlike the male-dominated world of pro skateboarding, the class attracts as many girls as boys. "I just wanted to try a new sport," says Diana Castro, 15 , who had never been on a skateboard before taking the class last fall. Students in New York can also take gym classes that keep them in one place, like yoga.

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Career Watch: Cybersleuthing
Even when they don't leave fingerprints, a lot of 21st-century criminals forget about digital trails they leave behind. That's where cybersleuthing, or digital forensics, comes in, and more than 100 colleges offer concentrations in the field. Now that cell phones have become routine pieces of evidence, cybersleuths extract text messages and other data from devices used in crimes; examine that evidence and ensure that it's admissible in court; testify as expert witnesses; and test data-recovery software. The biggest employers of cybersleuths include government, corporate information-security departments, law-enforcement agencies, and law firms. Salaries start at around $50,000.

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What the Tape Reveals
Peeling tape from a roll will produce light—it's an experiment anyone can do in a dark closet. But researchers at U.C.L.A. have found that unrolling Scotch tape can produce X-rays. In fact, they are strong enough to take an X-ray of a finger. But that doesn't mean any tape dispenser can be used as a mini X-ray machine. The phenomenon occurs only when the tape is peeled in a vacuum. There's something about air, moisture perhaps, that short-circuits the X-rays. And so far, it's worked only with Scotch-brand tape. (Other brands of clear tape gave off X-rays, but with a different spectrum of energies.) The U.C.L.A. scientists say their "tape research" could lead to the development of simple medical devices that use bursts of electrons to destroy tumors.

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Wrong Foot Forward
The way four-legged animals walk has been well known since the 1880s, when the English photographer Eadweard Muybridge created motion-capture sequences that revealed the order of leg movement: The left hind leg moves forward, followed by the left foreleg, the right hind leg, and right foreleg. You'd think that since this information has been around for more than a century, artists, taxidermists, toy designers, and others responsible for depicting animals would get it right. But after analyzing more than 300 depictions of walking animals in museums, veterinary textbooks, and toy models, researchers at Eotvos University in Hungary report that nearly half the positions are wrong. For example, the researchers found that the skeleton of a dog at a Finnish museum depicts the right hind leg in a rearward position while the right foreleg is raised and moving forward. But in a correct depiction, the hind leg would be forward too, having moved before the foreleg. The researchers say that while toy designers might be forgiven, it's surprising that those who provide depictions for natural-history museums and textbooks are so scientifically incorrect.

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Studying Abroad: Where the Americans Are
Record numbers of American college students are studying abroad, and increasingly, they're going to China. While the traditional study-abroad sites—Britain, Italy, Spain, and France—still attract more students from the U.S., China now ranks fifth in popularity, reports the Institute on International Education. "With China looming so large in all our futures, there's been a real shift, and more students go for an understanding in what's happening economically and politically," says Alan E. Goodman, president of the Institute. Almost 242,000 Americans studied abroad in 200607. Of those, 11,000 studied in China—a 25 percent increase over the previous year. Other countries gaining in popularity include Argentina, South Africa, Ecuador, and India.

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