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Weeds can be good medicine

Weeds are a pain for gardeners, but they might also be the source of some relief.

A new study shows that weeds are widely used in cultures that treat themselves with plants from their surroundings.

In a recent issue of the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, researchers from Georgia and Michigan studied the medicinal plants of the Highland Maya in Chiapas, Mexico, and of other native peoples of North America.

The scientists defined weeds as plants that grow quickly and in disturbed areas. A disproportionate number of medicinal plants were weeds, the study found.

Weeds may be widely used as medicines because they are abundant and found near where people live. Long treks deep into forests to find medicines probably are not practical, the researchers said.

Evidence of meteorite strike

HOUSTON _ A puzzling geologic "structure" in South Texas could be the scar from a large meteorite.

New studies of the Bee Bluff structure, a 1.5-mile-wide circular feature in Zavala County, support the idea that it is an impact crater, scientists reported at a recent planetary science meeting.

Earlier work at the site had uncovered quartz grains with linear markings that can be formed during a meteorite impact. The new research puts the grains closer to the structure's center, suggesting both were created during the same event, scientists said.

"The evidence doesn't prove an impact but does strengthen the possibility," said team member Dwight Jurena of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y.

Brown dwarf sending radio waves

Astronomers have discovered a brown dwarf _ a celestial object bigger than a planet but smaller than a star _ that emits detectable radio waves.

Instead of being dim and boring, brown dwarfs might be more active than previously thought.

The newly found burst of radio waves was about 10,000 times stronger than would be expected from a brown dwarf, a student-led team reported recently in Nature.

Some unknown process must be accelerating energetic particles to the point of emitting radio waves, the researchers theorized.

Fish need swimming lessons

Your fish and chips could be an endangered species. The British government has revealed the truth behind the disappearance of cod _ the staple in fish and chips _ from the North Sea. "Cod are not very good swimmers so they are easily overtaken by trawlers and nets," the government says in a briefing note called Cod Facts given out during European Union negotiations on catch quotas.

Coming to terms with death

From Britain comes a report saying that allowing relatives to witness tests to confirm that a loved one is brain-dead may help them to cope with their loss. Families often find it difficult to accept that a relative who is still warm with no apparent injuries and breathing with the help of a ventilator can be brain-dead, despite explanations from medical staff. A survey of intensive-care doctors and nurses in the British Medical Journal showed that 69 percent believed witnessing the tests for brain death would be helpful for relatives.

Birds are being overpowered

Dead cormorants, gulls, owls, pelicans and songbirds are found daily beneath the electrical transmission towers across the Lake Audubon causeway near Underwood, N.D., says Dave Potter, manager of the Audubon Wildlife Refuge. With the potential development of 2,000 new wind-turbine towers within the next decade in North Dakota, experts are trying to find ways to protect birds.

As high as an elephant's eye

Let's hear it for Francis Childs. The Manchester, Iowa, farmer produced 357.3 bushels per acre to take first place for the second consecutive year in the National Corn Growers Association contest, which drew more than 3,500 farmers.

The state of domestic travel

A 1998 survey showed that 42 percent of all domestic travel expenditures occurred in just five states: California, Florida, New York, Texas and Illinois, American Demographics magazine reports.

_ Compiled from Times wires

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