[ASC-media] Media Release - NewScientist 8 November

Sapier, Jeff (RBI - AUS) Jeff at NewScientist.com.au
Thu Nov 6 08:42:38 EST 2003


STORIES FROM 8 NOVEMBER 2003 ISSUE


THE US CRACKDOWN ON BIOTERROR IS BACKFIRING After the anthrax attacks of
2001, the US passed stringent laws, complete with criminal penalties, to
control the research, and researchers, that deal with dangerous pathogens.
They are coming into force now. But some measures are having unintended
consequences. Instead of strengthening our defences, they could leave us
more vulnerable to bioterrorism and natural disease outbreaks. New Scientist
spoke to some of the top scientists involved in the bioterror-related fields
in the US, who say the new regulations - and the high-profile criminal
prosecution of a plague researcher in Texas - are driving them to despair.
Pages 6-8

NOW WHO'S IN THE DRIVER'S SEAT? Taking control away from the driver is old
hat in the aviation industry, where "fly-by-wire" has been used successfully
for 30 years. But now, all the major car makers are developing the car
equivalent. Should we be worried about a technology that takes away the
control of braking and steering from the driver, and puts it under computer
command? Experts say it would be very difficult to design drive-by-wire cars
to anticipate all the reactions made by a driver to every scenario.  Pages
28-31
 
HEAVENS ARE DIMMED FOR CHANDRA SPACE TELESCOPE The $2 billion Chandra
spacecraft is losing its sight. A mysterious build-up of grease on one of
its camera filters is partially obscuring astronomical objects of study.
Astrophysicists say the contamination is causing uncertainty in data, but
engineers are hoping that heating up the instrument could boil away the
grease. Page 23
 
THE VIRTUAL TV STUDIO The BBC has developed a virtual TV studio that allows
actors to interact with computer-generated characters in real time. A
virtual landscape and characters are projected onto the studio walls and
floor so that the actor can see them. The director is also able to see the
results immediately. This new system could replace the traditional blank
background used for special effects which has severe limitations. Page 25
  
ARMED AND DANGEROUS Box jellyfish are probably the most toxic creatures on
Earth putting hundreds of people in hospital each year. Yet despite the
severity and frequency of the stings, there is no antivenin because no one
has managed to characterise the venom. But now the tourist industry is
pouring money into box jellyfish research and biologists are finding some
surprises. Pages 34-37
 
THE GRAVITY RADIO Raymond Chiao, a physicist, claims he can detect tiny
gravitational waves in a lab using paint cans. Bearing in mind that three
giant multi-million dollar detectors around the world set up to look for
gravitational waves have so far failed to see anything, the experiment is in
danger of looking like crackpot science. But is he concerned about his
reputation? No. In fact, he is also determined to prove there's a link
between gravity and electromagnetism and that it's possible to build a
"gravity radio". Pages 38-43
 
WAY TO GROW How does gene activity translate to the complex curves we see
every day in flowers, leaves, shells or the human body? Developmental
biologists are beginning to understand how genes control shape. Pages 44-47

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