[ASC-media] NewScientist Media Release - 1 November 2003

Sapier, Jeff (RBI - AUS) Jeff at NewScientist.com.au
Wed Oct 29 16:11:25 EST 2003


US DEVELOPS LETHAL NEW VIRUSES A scientist funded by the US government has
deliberately engineered an extremely deadly strain of mousepox, a relative
of smallpox, that kills 100 per cent of mice even if they have been
vaccinated. But the work doesn't stop there - the cowpox virus has been
altered in a similar way. The researcher tells NewScientist that the work is
necessary to explore what bio terrorists might do. However, many researchers
think this latest pox research is risky, bringing with 
it the terrifying prospect of pox viruses being turned into diseases lethal
to humans. Pages 6-7

IS A NEW STRAIN OF SMALLPOX WORTH THE RISK? Meanwhile, another team in the
US want to breed a new strain of smallpox that infects monkeys, with the
hope of developing new treatments and vaccines. Critics argue that this is
unnecessary. The World Health Organisation committee will meet next week to
decide whether to approve the work. Page 7

RACE TO CLEAN UP ATHLETICS As the sports industry comes under scrutiny as
never before, NewScientist has learnt that monitoring of
performance-enhancing drugs is set to change. Before the end of the year,
the UK will launch the world's first initiative to routinely screen the
multimillion-dollar supplements industry - which many athletes are quick to
blame when their urine tests positive. 
A co-ordinator of the scheme says the scheme will reveal if retailers have
tampered with products while discouraging guilty athletes from trying to
pass the buck. Pages 8-9

TUNE INTO THE BIG HUM The big bang sounded more like a deep hum than a loud
bang. To produce the sound, an American physicist took data from a NASA
probe - which has been measuring temperature variations in different parts
of the sky. From these variations he was able to calculate the pitch and
loudness of sound waves during the early universe - which can be played as
an audio file 
on a PC. Page 16

NINE-EYED ROBOTS ARE A GO A robot's navigation skills could be vastly
improved by giving it eyes in the back of its head. Researchers in the US
say that a robot with just one camera for an eye cannot tell whether it is
travelling in a straight line or spinning on the spot. Their solution is a
nine-eyed sphere which feeds images to software and can easily identify the
direction of motion. Page 25

ROBO-SCOPES BRING HEAVENS TO EARTH Cheap automated telescopes that find an
area of sky at the press of a button, together with digital cameras and
clever software are transforming amateur astronomy and challenging the
professionals. This latest trend has seen a huge rise in amateurs searching
the skies for comets or supernovae. Page 26

ULTRA-THIN FILMS BEAT EVAPORATION A biodegradable blanket of organic
molecules on the surface of lakes or reservoirs could prevent evaporation of
precious water. A Canadian company, the first to commercialise the
technique, say that the technology showed between 30 and 45 percent
reduction in evaporation in field trials. Page 24

A UNIVERSE LIKE NO OTHER In 1969, Leonard Susskind was one of the physicists
to propose the string theory - the most ambitious attempt in theoretical
physics to explain the laws of nature. But about a year and a half ago - he
tells NewScientist - he became rather sceptical that he and other string
theorists had the right expectations about their own theory. Pages 34-45

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