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SCIENCE

X-ray 'eyes' peer into space

NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory should soon have a friend - a companion with golden eyes. The European Space Agency expects to orbit it's X-ray Multi Mirror (XMM) satellite Dec. 10. This carries a trio of X-ray telescope modules with gold-coated mirrors that form the most powerful X-ray observatory yet orbited. In a cost trade-off between precision and X-ray gathering power, Chandra has smaller, but sharper, X-ray mirrors. However, while Europe's XMM can't match Chandra's best images, it has five times the X-ray gathering power to detect very faint X-ray sources. These two new observatories should be joined by a third when Japan launches Astro-E - its fifth X-ray

- Robert C. Cowen

Gobble gobble, slither slither

AMHERST, MASS. - The eating habits of the threadsnake, a small burrowing snake in the Caribbean, are under scrutiny. According to the journal Nature, two University of Massachusetts researchers have discovered that while many snakes use their upper teeth and hinged jaw to gobble food, the threadsnake swings the front part of its jaw back and forth to quickly sweep in the ant larvae and pupae it usually dines on. This dine-and-dash ability may have evolved because worker ants attack the snake when it enters their nest.

CULTURE

Pidgin on the chopping block

HONOLULU - A poor showing by Hawaiian students on a national writing test is raising questions about whether pidgin English is undermining the learning of standard English. The National Assessment of Educational Progress found that 72 percent of island eighth graders were writing at or above basic achievement levels, compared with 83 percent nationwide. The superintendent of education, Paul LeMahieu, says students should not be discouraged from speaking pidgin, but learn to use dialects where appropriate. Others, such as writer Lois-Ann Yamanaka, say pidgin is integral to island life and should not be suppressed.

Compiled from news wires by Lane Hartill

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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