In the wake of Tuesday’s historic U.S. presidential election, it would be easy to overlook the rest of the weeks news, but there were a few other big victories and notable setbacks this week.

Let’s start with the winners:

Old School Reptiles – A nest of tuatara eggs was discovered in a wildlife sanctuary near Wellington, New Zealand. This marks the first evidence of wild breeding of tuataras on the main island in nearly two centuries, and could be the start of a comeback for this ancient reptile which has been on the verge of extinction since the introduction of Polynesian rats to it’s habitat in the 1700’s. Kudos to you, you dragon-like reptile with a scale covered third eye, and many happy returns.

Endangered Species and Potential Woolly Mammoths – Japanese scientists at the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology have successfully cloned a mouse from cells that had been frozen for 16 years. While earlier similar experiments have also proven successful, this is the first time that a clone has been created from cells not chemically treated for preservation. This is one more small step forward in cloning technology that could rescue critically endangered species from extinction with just a cabinet freezer and a Hefty bag, according to Robert Lanza of Advanced Cell Technology. It may not be glamorous, but hey, don’t knock results, right?
Less pragmatically, it means that the future cloning of long extinct but preserved animals “is no longer science fiction,” according to Teruhiko Wakayama, the project’s leader. Sadly, Michael Crichton won’t be around to see it. R.I.P.

The Internet – While Barack Obama and Democrats nationwide were busily wiping the floor with an ailing GOP, the FCC unanimously approved the opening of the existing ‘white space’ TV spectrum to broadband providers. The opening of the spectrum, which can deliver a more powerful, Uber-Wi-Fi signal without significantly interfering with television broadcasts, may well usher in a new generation of peer to peer wireless devices and, more importantly, provide under served rural and urban areas with affordable, reliable Internet access.

And lest we get to full of ourselves, a reminder that even after a good week, things ain’t all rainbows and kittens. Here’s a small selection of the week’s losers:

The Environment, At Least in the U.S. – No Longer content simply to fiddle while Rome burns, the Bush administration is spending it’s waning days in power taking a flame thrower to federal environmental protections. The administration’s current proposals include easing power plant emissions standards, giving a helping hand to the incredibly hazardous practice of mountaintop coal mining and, oh yeah, lowering safety standards for drinking water. So for all you liberals rejoicing in an Obama win and asking “How much damage can Bush do in less than three months?” – the answer is quite a lot, especially since the proposed rules may prove exceptionally difficult to undo.

European Particle Physicists – Illinois’ Tevatron particle accelerator may have stolen some thunder from CERN’s Large Hadron Collider when it’s CDF experiment released a 70 page paper detailing a statistically significant number of experiments which suggest the presence of previously undetected fundamental particles. It’s very early to think that they’ve actually discovered a new particle or process, especially considering that nearly a third of the experiment’s 600 participants refused to sign the paper, suggesting that more testing needed to be done. But to their credit, CDF isn’t making any claims – they’re just presenting a set of data that’s interesting, exciting, and could be a huge discovery. And could also be nothing – time will tell.

Fantastic Four Fans – A manned trip to Mars just got a lot safer for astronauts, as researchers have used computer simulations to show that a portable magnetic field generator that could be easily worked into spacecraft design would likely protect the ship’s crew from the hazardous effects of ‘space weather’ they would almost certainly encounter during the lengthy trip to the red planet. And while I’m all for protecting these brave explorers from bombardment by solar wind and cosmic rays, one has to wonder – who’s going to save the planet from an army of long forgotten underground beasts when these folks return without super powers?

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