World and Nation

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Paper Challenges Ideas about ‘Early Bird’ Dinosaur

The “early bird” archaeopteryx may not be a bird, after all.

The first fossil of the raven-size species was an immediate sensation when it was excavated in 1860, in southern Germany. It had feathers and a wishbone, like birds, but teeth and a long, bony tail, like reptiles. Coming the year after publication of “The Origin of Species,” the discovery swayed many scientists into accepting Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection.

Thomas Henry Huxley, Darwin’s staunch ally, recognized the fossil in a limestone slab as a transitional species between dinosaurs and birds. Over time, the 10 known specimens of archaeopteryx became widely regarded as examples of the earliest bird, which lived about 150 million years ago.

Now scientists examining tiny pieces of a specimen’s long bone under powerful microscopes for the first time said they found unexpected patterns indicating that the species grew at a rate faster than living reptiles but three times as slow as that of modern birds. The evidence, they reported Thursday, challenges the hypothesis that archaeopteryx had already developed characteristics of a physiologically modern bird.

Study Finds That 10 Percent of Male Dropouts Are Incarcerated

On any given day, about one in every 10 young male high school dropouts is in jail or juvenile detention, compared with one in 35 young male high school graduates, according to a new study of the effects of dropping out of school in an America where demand for low-skill workers is plunging.

The picture is even bleaker for African-Americans, with nearly one in four young black male dropouts incarcerated or otherwise institutionalized on an average day, the study said. That compares with about one in 14 young, male, white, Asian or Hispanic dropouts.

Researchers at Northeastern University used census and other government data to carry out the study, which tracks the employment, workplace, parenting and criminal justice experiences of young high school dropouts.

“We’re trying to show what it means to be a dropout in the 21st century United States,” said Andrew Sum, director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern, who headed a team of researchers that prepared the report. “It’s one of the country’s costliest problems. The unemployment, the incarceration rates — it’s scary.”

Herta Muller, German Author, Wins Nobel Prize in Literature

Herta Mueller, the Romanian-born German novelist and essayist who writes of the oppression of dictatorship in her native country and the unmoored existence of the political exile, won the 2009 Nobel Prize in Literature on Thursday.

Announcing the award in Stockholm, the Swedish Academy described Mueller as a writer “who, with the concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose, depicts the landscape of the dispossessed.” Her award coincides with the 20th anniversary of the fall of Communism in Europe.

Mueller, 56, emigrated to Germany in 1987 after years of persecution and censorship in Romania. She is the first German writer to win the Nobel in literature since Guenter Grass in 1999 and is the 12th woman to do so. But unlike previous winners like Doris Lessing and V.S. Naipaul, M¸ller is a relative unknown outside of literary circles in Germany.