en español: El Innovador de Texas
Supporting Our Veterans
The fine men and women of Texas who have served our country with dignity, pride and integrity are the true heroes of our state. The 1.75 million Texas veterans who survived the challenge of combat know that freedom has never been free, but it is worth the price.
Shortly after 9/11, I made 59 recommendations in Texas Responds, the Texas War Relief Package, which was designed to support the families and children of the men and women in harm’s way and to thank veterans for their service to our country. One of my recommendations was that Texas should continue state-paid health insurance contributions for state employees called to active duty. I did this at the Comptroller’s office, and it was passed into law for all state agencies.
I was pleased to have worked hand-in-glove during the recent regular legislative session with the Texas Veterans Commission to add more counselors to help our veterans identify all the benefits they deserve and to help Texas veterans apply for and receive the federal benefits they have earned. My office determined this appropriation would be at no cost to the state because the dollars these counselors will bring in more than offset the cost; this resulted in the Veterans Commission receiving an extra $306,000 in its budget to hire seven new counselors.
In addition, the Legislature acted on my recommendation and gave the independent Comptroller’s office the authority to solicit, as well as accept, gifts and grants on behalf of Texas Veterans. The Texas Veterans Commission can now accept, but not solicit, gifts and grants.
I commend the 2005 Texas Legislature for passing these bills that help improve the quality of life for our fine men and women that have served or are serving in our nation’s armed forces, but we can and must do more.
Texas must recognize the sacrifices of military spouses. I have called for extending the Hazlewood Act education assistance to spouses of Texas service members who are killed in the line of duty.
Furthermore, we should realize military pay is often much lower than pay in the private sector, and our military personnel face financial hardships when they are called to lengthy deployments. The law should be changed to allow Texas reservists and National Guard members who are called to active duty to claim an additional homestead exemption for the duration of their deployment.
Finally, we should recognize the sacrifices our disabled veterans have made and increase the homestead exemption for disabled veterans. I will continue to fight for this increase to honor those Texans who have fought and paid so dearly.
Our government must reflect the veterans of Texas—strong, proud, courageous and caring. I salute those whose sacrifices and services ensure the eternal flame of faith, family and freedom.
Carole Keeton Strayhorn
Pocket full of fusion
Scientists at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) created a device that fits in a lab-coat pocket and helps produce nuclear fusion, the process that powers the sun.
Neutrons, the byproduct of fusion, have applications in security scanning, said Brian Naranjo, a UCLA graduate student. Unlike typical airport X-ray scanning, neutron scanning provides specific information about an object’s atomic makeup, he said.
“To an X-ray scanner, an explosive substance may just appear as a dense blob,” Naranjo said. “With neutrons, however, you can also see that it has a high concentration of oxygen and nitrogen. Using a crystal to supply the neutrons may significantly reduce the size and complexity of a portable neutron scanning system.”
Naranjo and his research team heated a pyroelectric crystal, a material that becomes charged when heated, in a vacuum chamber holding deuterium gas, a heavy form of hydrogen. As it grew hotter, the crystal produced a large electric field. Ions in the electric field bombarded a solid target with enough energy to generate neutrons.
“This large electric potential is then used to drive nuclear fusion,” Naranjo said.
For more information, contact Brian Naranjo, UCLA,
Researchers moved one step closer to automated robot factories in space or on Mars—though the ultimate goal is still a long way away.
Cornell University researchers built a robot that is essentially a stack of modular cubes. The individual modules are about four inches long on each side and can swivel diagonally.
The robot can replicate itself by detaching one of its cubes, then adding new pieces. The original stack of cubes bends over mechanically and deposits the top cube, which becomes the bottom cube of the new robot.
Magnets hold the cubes together, and each module contains a computer program for replication and machinery that lets it help build the new robot.
The experiment was a step beyond two previous self-replication projects, one involving wooden tiles in the 1950s and another that featured Lego blocks in 2001.
While the robots can’t do anything other than replicate, it wouldn’t be difficult to add simple tools like grippers and cameras, said Hob Lipson, one of the researchers. He also hopes to design microscopic systems with thousands of units.
For more information, contact Simeon Ross,
Three Purdue University graduates developed a three-wheeled bicycle to help youngsters learn to ride on two wheels. Called “Shift,” the tricycle design, which has two rear wheels, transforms into a two-wheeled bike as the rider gains speed.
The creators won first place for their design in the International Bicycle Design Competition in Taiwan, said design-team member Matthew Grossman.
“There wasn’t much innovation in children’s bicycles,” Grossman said. “That got us thinking about the whole experience of learning to ride.”
While the “learning to ride” years served as a motivator to design the bicycle for kids, the designers received hundreds of e-mails and letters from adults who never learned to ride or have trouble with balance, Grossman said. With that in mind, he said there is a demand for a full-sized version.
Shift is a year or two from the market, Grossman said, but he added that the developers have spoken with a few well-known manufacturers.
“There seem to be a lot of people interested, so it would be great to get it out there and hopefully make the learning experience a little less scary someday,” Grossman said.
For more information, contact Matthew Grossman,
Soak up the vitamin D
Occasionally forgetting the sunscreen may actually help prevent some forms of cancer rather than cause them, according to a study by Dr. Edward Giovannucci, professor of medicine and nutrition at Harvard Medical School.
People absorb vitamin D from the sun and by eating vitamin D-rich foods, but getting enough of the nutrient in foods is difficult, Giovannucci said.
The study showed people living in regions with less sunlight and groups associated with lower circulating vitamin D, such as African-Americans and overweight or obese people, have higher rates of cancer.
Giovannucci cautions that the study isn’t a license for people to lounge by the pool all day. Fifteen minutes of sun without sunscreen a few times a week is all that’s necessary.
Adequate vitamin D consumption might help prevent 30 deaths for each one caused by skin cancer, Giovannucci said.
For more information, contact Dr. Edward Giovannucci,
Oculus Innovative Sciences, a biotech firm based in Petaluma, Calif., developed a solution that it says promotes rapid healing while destroying deadly bacteria, viruses and spores. It’s water.
Water with a twist, anyway. Oculus’ Microcyn solution is produced by the electrolysis of salt and super-oxygenated water. The resulting product ruptures the membranes of single-celled organisms and kills them on contact, yet it’s harmless to animal and plant life and won‘t damage healthy human tissue.
Microcyn has proven effective in healing wounds caused by burns and diabetic ulcers. The company also said it may prove effective against antibiotic-resistant “super bugs” and lethal viruses such as bird flu.
Scientists have known of the antiseptic properties of super-oxygenated water for some time, but until now, such water could only be produced by expensive machinery and lost its healing qualities rapidly. Oculus reports that Microcyn has a yearlong shelf life.
Governments in Canada, Mexico and Europe have approved Microcyn, and the United States has approved it for testing. Oculus is organizing test trials for its use as a preoperative disinfectant and as a treatment for burn and diabetes wounds and dental applications.
For more information, contact Dan McFadden,
Oculus Innovative Sciences, email@example.com
A pilot program in Rochester, N.Y., that enables day care centers to provide “virtual” doctor visits for the children in their care is expanding.
The Health-e-Access program, a telemedicine program created by the University of Rochester Medical Center, uses the Internet to connect pediatricians with children in Rochester-area child care centers.
Pediatricians from the university’s Golisano Children’s Hospital at Strong launched the program in 2001. The university provided specially designed computer equipment to seven day care centers in inner-city locations, allowing trained child care providers at the centers to hold teleconferences and send live video and audio to doctors at the hospital. Doctors were able to diagnose ailments, prescribe treatments, provide treatment reports and deliver prescriptions. Parents didn’t have to take time off from work for office visits.
In March 2005, the program began a yearlong expansion to include suburban child care centers and city and suburban elementary schools. The program will serve 22 sites and about 8,500 children. In addition, nine local pediatric offices are joining the program to provide treatment services.
Dr. Kenneth McConnochie, founder of Health-e-Access, said the program makes it possible to more efficiently treat common childhood illnesses, which account for nearly 75 percent of pediatric office visits for illness.
For more information, contact Nancy Wood,
Lizard licks diabetes
Help in the fight against diabetes could be coming from an unlikely source: the Gila monster lizard.
Derived from Gila monster saliva, the drug Byetta helps control blood sugar levels in patients with type 2 diabetes. The drug is derived from a chemical found in the saliva of the venomous lizard found in the deserts of Arizona, Utah, Nevada and New Mexico.
The medication stimulates insulin secretion in response to high blood sugars and inhibits glucagons, a hormone that helps increase blood sugars, according to the drug‘s maker, Indiana-based Eli Lilly and Co.
In three 30-week test trials, Byetta improved blood sugar levels and helped patients lose weight. In combination with other diabetes drugs that encourage insulin production, such as sulfonylurea, patients sustained long-term weight loss and reduced blood sugar over 82 weeks.
The American Diabetes Association estimates that 18 million Americans have diabetes, with about 95 percent diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
Eli Lilly & Co. and California-based Amylin Pharmaceuticals released the drug in June 2005.
For more information, contact Phil Belt,
Women with breast cancer who walk at least an hour a week have better odds of surviving cancer than those who don’t exercise at all, according to researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston.
In a study released in May 2005, the researchers said that women who cut back on exercise after being diagnosed with breast cancer hurt their chances of survival. The study found that less than a third of breast cancer survivors get 30 or more minutes of exercise a day, five days a week—the amount of exercise recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
For information, contact the Journal of the American Medical Association,
Cost, size, complexity and fuel availability plague the development of fuel cells as a viable energy alternative for the world. Cambridge, England-based CMR Fuel Cells patented a fuel cell design called Compact Mixed Reactant that it says will lead to fuel cells small enough to power many modern electronic devices, including laptop computers and power tools.
The company has no timetable on when the fuel cell design will be available for commercial release.
Swiss researchers reported some success with an experimental vaccine aimed at helping smokers kick the habit. The vaccine, under development by Cytos Biotechnology AG of Zurich, Switzerland, produces an antibody response in recipients that appears to aid them in battling addiction. In a study released in May 2005, smokers who developed high levels of the antibodies were twice as likely to quit for six months as others in the study.
For more information, contact Dr. Claudine Blaser,
Cytos Biotechnology AG, firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor: Karen Hudgins
Contributing to this issue: Angela Freeman, Magdalena Hamner, Ann Holdsworth, Greg Mt.Joy, Edd Patton, Clint Shields, Suzanne Staton, and Bruce Wright