Published Online: September 3, 1997

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Sweet music

A high school student from Suffolk, Va., has found that not all music is good for the soul.

David Merrell, a junior at Nansemond River High School, exposed groups of mice to the heavy metal band Anthrax and the classical music of Mozart in a science fair project that earned him regional and state awards.

"Looking at the results, hard rock music has a greater negative effect on mice," Mr. Merrell said in a recent interview.

Mr. Merrell timed 72 male lab mice as they navigated a 5-by-3-foot maze, and found that it took them an average of 10 minutes.

He then divided the mice into control, hard rock, and classical groups, and played music at 70 decibels for 10 hours a day over four weeks for the latter two groups. Each mouse ran through the maze three times a week.

At the end of the four weeks, the control group maneuvered through the maze in an average of five minutes, and the classical group took an average of 1 1/2 minutes. The hard rock group, meanwhile, staggered through in an average of 30 minutes.

Mr. Merrell was reluctant to apply his findings to humans, but he isn't taking any chances. He doesn't listen to hard rock.

Taking cover

Michael G. Wilson remembers "duck and cover" drills in school while growing up in the early Cold War era amid fear of nuclear attack.

Now a principal in Los Angeles, Mr. Wilson watches his students at Gates Street Elementary School do monthly "drop drills" to prepare for a more likely threat: stray bullets.

Starting at the innocent age of 5, children throughout the Los Angeles Unified School District are taught to lie flat on the ground next to their desks when their teachers yell, "Drop!" The drills are held regularly, just like fire and earthquake drills.

Many district schools are in neighborhoods that are plagued by gang- and drug-related violence.

"Fortunately, we haven't had any real gunfire," Mr. Wilson said, "but we have had to evacuate the playground because of police chases."

--LAURIE HATFIELD & BETH REINHARD

PHOTO: David Merrell and his award-winning science project. --AP/Wide World

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