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October 22, 2007
Volume 85, Number 43
p. 88


Squeezed: Pythons in trouble.

The government of Hong Kong is putting the squeeze on the local population of Burmese pythons, according to a report in the South China Morning Post. However, Hong Kong wildlife experts are not happy about a government policy that relocates troublesome pythons to rural areas of mainland China.

The snakes do cause problems for Hong Kong residents. In one recent incident, a python attacked a poodle named Poppy, out for a walk with its owner in a local park. The owner, Catherine Leonard, had to battle the nearly 15-foot python to save Poppy from being crushed to death.

Wildlife experts say that taking grown pythons out of the local snake population may cause an explosion of deer, wild boar, and other python prey. And unceremoniously relocating the pythons—an endangered species—could export all sorts of diseases and upset wildlife population balances in their new home.

The government has exported about 100 pythons to the mainland in each of the past three years. A spokeswoman for Hong Kong's Agriculture, Fisheries & Conservation Department says, "If they encroach upon private premises and cause a nuisance, the police will hire professional snake catchers to remove them for subsequent re-homing. Therefore, as far as the conservation and management of Burmese pythons in Hong Kong is concerned, there is no imminent problem."


Students who chew gum before or during an exam may spit out higher scores. In an admittedly unscientific study involving nearly 600 students in a Cornell University marketing class, those who chewed gum during an exam achieved a mean score of 90 compared with the overall class mean of 78.

Jason Koski/Cornell University
Gum: Not just for flavor.

The students received a sample pack of Wrigley's new gum called "5" the day before their exam. During the exam, they indicated whether they had chewed any and whether they were chewing during the exam.

Ed McLaughlin, who teaches the introductory marketing class, noted that students who had chewed none of the gum received a mean score of 60. Students who chewed several pieces before the exam had a mean score of 81, and those who chewed the entire pack had a score of 86.

"There was no control group; we did this just for fun. But there were over 150 people in each of the categories," McLaughlin noted.

The survey results couldn't have turned out better for the Chicago-based chewing gum maker. The company claims gum can have benefits other than as a breath freshener. Recent research, it claims, has shown that chewing gum increases blood flow to the brain by some 25%, potentially increasing concentration and test performance.

Its website cites a 2002 study, "Chewing Gum Selectively Improves Aspects of Memory in Healthy Volunteers," in the journal Appetite (38, 235), by researchers at the University of Northumbria, in the U.K.

Nanoart Competition

Artists, get your brushes out. You scientists can join in, too. The NanoArt 2007 international online competition is now under way.

According to artist/scientist Cris Orfescu, founder of the contest's sponsor, NanoArt is a new art form showcasing micro- or nanosculptures created through chemical and/or physical processes and visualized with tools such as scanning electron microscopes.

Competitors may work over their own images of nanostructures or let their imaginations run wild with three high-resolution monochromatic electron microscope scans (such as one pictured here) available online for artistic interpretation at the NanoArt website:

Visitors to the NanoArt website can submit their online votes between Jan. 1 and March 31, 2008. Winners will be notified and published online around April 15.

This week's column was written by Marc S. Reisch. Please send comments and suggestions to

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Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
Copyright © 2009 American Chemical Society


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