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Tuesday, June 2, 1998 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Digest

Two Researchers Honored

The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center is planning to name a new building after E. Donnall Thomas, the Nobel Prize-winning bone-marrow-transplant pioneer.

The building, the second phase of development at the center's South Lake Union campus, will be called the E. Donnall Thomas Clinical Research Laboratory. Dedication ceremonies will take place Thursday.

Separately, Thomas and Leland Hartwell, president and director of the Hutchinson Cancer, have been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The scientists were among 146 scholars and professionals recently elected to the academy, which includes 161 Nobel laureates and 65 Pulitzer Prize winners.

Hartwell's research on cell cycle control has contributed significant insights into key genetic components that regulate cell division. Thomas, director emeritus of the center's clinical-research division, won the Nobel Prize in medicine in 1990 for his 40 years of research on immunology of bone-marrow transplantation.

A snap of a tale

For research into how massive dinosaur tails snapped at supersonic speeds, Microsoft Chief Technology Officer Nathan Myhrvold has been named a finalist for a national science award.

Fifty-two finalists were selected for the Computerworld Smithsonian Awards, which highlight individuals who use information technology to improve society. Myhrvold and paleontologist Philip Currie are among five finalists in the Science category. Winners

will be announced Monday.

Myhrvold and Currie theorize that male sauropods employed their 41-foot-long tails in courting and in communication. Like a bullwhip, the long tail's wispy end was snapped faster than the speed of sound to make a thundering sonic boom. To confirm the notion, Myhrvold used a computer program to reconstruct the biophysics and biomechanics of the movement of the largest class of dinosaurs.

Good news, bad news

The yin and yang of El Nino continues.

Fewer people in the Northwest suffered acute carbon-monoxide poisoning this winter compared with the past 15 winters, an El Nino attaboy.

But conditions are ripe in the Southwest for an explosion of the deadly Hantavirus strain called Sin Nombre, an El Nino demerit.

Virginia Mason Medical Center treated only 15 patients in its hyperbaric chamber for acute carbon-monoxide poisoning from January through March of this year. That compares with 26 patients treated on average during the same period for the past 15 winters.

Medical authorities credit the warmer winter: January was 2.3 degrees warmer than normal, February was 2.5 degrees warmer and March squeaked in at 1 degree warmer than normal. The balmy temperatures meant less time spent indoors and less reliance on heaters - a common source of carbon-monoxide poisoning.

Meanwhile, Sin Nombre cases are expected to rise this year because the deer-mice population has exploded with El Nino-driven rainstorms and mild winter temperatures. The often fatal illness is believed to be transmitted through contact with droppings or urine from infected deer mice.

Copyright (c) 1998 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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