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News and Trends
May 5, 2008


An Arctic Fort Knox
Mom Was Right
Google's Space Race
Camp Kaboom
Do You See The Resemblance?

An Arctic Fort Knox
Bored deep into an Arctic mountain, the cave-like facility is designed to withstand bombs and earthquakes; its security system resembles that of a missile silo. But it's not for nuclear weapons or gold. The Global Seed Vault, located near Longyearbyen, Norway, will store and protect samples of every type of seed from every seed collection in the world. It has the capacity to house more than 4 million samples of 500 seeds each. With plant species disappearing at an alarming rate, these seeds will serve as a backup in case a natural disaster, political upheaval, or human error erases a plant species from the earth. "The erosion of plants' genetic resources is really going fast," says Rony Swennen, a crop biotechnology expert. "We're at a critical moment, and if we don't act fast, we're going to lose a lot of plants that we may need."

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Mom Was Right
It turns out that breakfast really could be the most important meal of the day—especially for teens. A five-year study of the eating and exercise habits of 2,222 teens in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area found that the more often they ate breakfast, the less likely they were to be overweight. Why eating breakfast leads to fewer unwanted pounds is unclear, but the study found that breakfast eaters consumed more carbs and fiber, got fewer calories from fat, and exercised more. They may also feel more satisfied and eat less later in the day—including unhealthy snacks from school vending machines. Girls were more inclined to skip breakfast consistently, while guys were more likely to eat it every day.

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Google's Space Race
More than 30 years after the last Apollo astronauts roamed the surface of the moon, Google is trying to rekindle interest in lunar exploration. The company is sponsoring the Lunar X Prize, with $30 million in prizes for the first two teams to land a robotic rover on the moon that will send images and other data back to Earth. Ten teams, with participants from Canada, Italy, Romania, the U.K., and the U.S., have entered the competition. Google is also offering bonuses for feats like visiting a historic landing site or finding lunar ice, but the prize money starts to shrink if the mission is not accomplished by 2012.

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Camp Kaboom
Fireworks and other explosives are strictly forbidden at most summer camps—but not at Summer Explosives Camp in Rolla, Missouri. The camp recruits students for the University of Missouri's engineering school in Rolla, where many of the graduates go to work in industries like mining and demolition. Campers, who must be at least 17, blast water out of a pond, blow up a tree stump, and obliterate a watermelon. Much of the week-long session is devoted to learning how explosives are used in real life, with safety the first priority. Imelda Rays, from Kansas City, Missouri, says she considered more conventional summer programs before she ended up at the camp: "Watching stuff blow up," she says, "is better than summer school."

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Do You See The Resemblance?
Running for President now seems to come with free genealogical research guaranteed to uncover ancestral connections to modern-day celebrities and historical figures. For example, Senator Barack Obama is a distant cousin of both Vice President Dick Cheney and Brad Pitt, and a relative of six Presidents: George W. Bush and his father; Gerald Ford, Lyndon Johnson, Harry Truman, and James Madison. Senator Hillary Clinton's distant kin include Madonna, Celine Dion, Alanis Morissette, and Angelina Jolie, a ninth cousin. Senator John McCain is a sixth cousin of First Lady Laura Bush, and a descendant of William the Lion, the King of Scotland from 11651214. (See
NotableKin.org for the candidates' pedigree charts.) Of course, genealogists point out that if you look hard enough, we're all related somehow: Go back 400 years and the average person has about 130,000 relatives.

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