Upfront April 4, 2011 : Page 4

NEWS & TRENDS DNA En vir onment HOW GREEN ARE YOUR JEANS? U. .S U.S U S. S CHINA C A JA JAPAN J NORTH PACIFIC OCEAN Hawaii Nikumaroro Island EQ U A T O R AUSTRALIA SOUT U TH UT T H PA FIC PACI PAC OCEAN NEW ZEALAND N Amelia Earhart disappeared in 1937 while trying to fly around the world. Can Spit Help Solve a Historical Mystery? The seven-decade puzzle over what happened to Amelia Earhart may soon be solved. Scientists are hoping saliva—which contains DNA—on envelopes that Earhart probably licked will help them figure out what happened when the legendary aviator vanished in July 1937. The first woman to fly alone across the Atlantic, Earhart disappeared over the Pacific along with her navigator, Fred Noonan, while attempting to fly around the world by circling the equator. Though the duo’s remains were never found, researchers believe a bone fragment they discovered in 2009 on the South Pacific island of Nikumaroro is one of Earhart’s fingers. DNA from the envelopes can help verify the claim. But first, scientists will try to match the DNA from the letters, which hand been in the hands of her biographers, to that of Earhart’s living relatives—to confirm that the spit is, in fact, Earhart’s. • News & Trends was reported by Joyce Hor-Chung Lau, Tom Zeller Jr., and Sam Roberts of T he Ne w York T ime s ; and Veronica Majerol. Language Gossiping Prairie Dogs I f you’ve ever gone hiking in the Colorado Rockies, you’ve probably heard the prairie dogs. Their chirps, it turns out, weren’t just noise. Those prairie dogs were talking—and probably about you. Professor Con Slobodchikoff of Northern Arizona University has spent the past 30 years trying to decode prairie dogs’ sophisticated language system. What he’s learned so far through a series of experiments is pretty remarkable. The prairie dogs—which communicate in squeaks that sound something like “chee chee chee,” the professor told NPR News—have different calls for different kinds of predators, such as hawks, coyotes, or humans. They also seem to be able to describe people, by making a different sound if a human in a yellow shirt is approaching, versus, say, someone in a blue shirt. Slobodchikoff has even observed prairie dogs talking about things like height, creating strings of sounds that translate roughly into something like, “Heads up, that little guy in the yellow shirt is headed this way!” • 4 UPFRONT • UPFRONTMA G AZINE. C O M Are they talking about us? SSPL/GETTY IMAGES (EARHART); SKIP ODONNELL/I-STOCKPHOTO (PANTS); NIKKI O’KEEFE IMAGES/GETTY IMAGES (PRAIRIE DOGS) The label on your shirt tells you what size it is, where it was made, and who designed it. But that’s not enough, says the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, a group that’s creating a system to score how garment manufacturing affects the planet. While people near Xintang, China—where most of the world’s jeans are made—may be used to seeing blue dye wash downriver from textile mills, Americans rarely see the connection between the environment and their wardrobes because 98 percent of the clothes they buy are made overseas. The coalition hopes to assign scores to all players in the life cycle of a garment—from cotton growers and dye suppliers to packagers and shippers—based on measures like water use, waste, and greenhouse gases; they’ll then include a “green score” on clothing labels. “This will put the power in the hands of the consumer,” says an executive at Timberland, which is part of the coalition. “The government has standards for miles per gallon on a car, but we have no real standards for clothing.” •

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