[ASC-media] Media Release - 27 MARCH 2004

Sapier, Jeff (RBI - AUS) Jeff at NewScientist.com.au
Thu Mar 25 11:06:12 EST 2004


NOT MIND-READING, BUT IT COMES CLOSE NASA engineers are developing a system
that can work out what people are saying by monitoring the electrical
signals sent to the speech muscles. It might allow people to carry on
conversations in silence, or restore speech to people with damaged vocal
systems. Page 8

POP A PILL TO FEND OFF THE BENDS Divers may soon be able to take a drug
which allows them to stay under the water longer without risking
decompression sickness when they get to the surface. Researchers in Europe
initially found that a burst of exercise before diving reduces the chances
of a diver getting the bends. And a Norwegian group has now shown that
giving mice a drug that mimics the effects of exercise also reduces bubble
formation in the blood. Pages 12-13

BIRD FLU'S TICKING TIME BOMB Vaccinating chickens may be the only way out of
the bird flu nightmare in Asia. But it introduces the fear that the flu
virus may mutate among vaccinated birds into a strain that could lead to a
human pandemic. And that has been underscored by new research in Mexico
which shows for the first time that the bird flu virus evolves at an
unprecedented rate in vaccinated chickens. Pages 6-7

SCENE SET FOR NEXT MASS EXTINCTION In Britain, butterflies are becoming
extinct at a faster rate even than birds, according to a comprehensive
study. It is the strongest evidence yet that we are in the middle of a mass
extinction of a wide variety of species on a par with the five others that
have marked the history of life on Earth. Pages 10-11

INTERVIEW: FIRE MAN Phil Cheney got no satisfaction from predicting the
wildfire that hit Canberra in January 2003. Australia's foremost fire
scientist talks about being in the frontline against bushfires, fighting
fire with fire, how writing poetry helped him cope with stress, and what
Aboriginal history can teach us about fire.  Pages 44-47

UNDERWATER LUMBERJACK A 3-tonne chainsaw-wielding submersible robot may
sound like something out of a sci-fi movie. But such a machine is chopping
down trees beneath a lake in Canada. They were submerged decades ago when
the area was flooded by a hydroelectric dam. Because this timber doesn't
rot, the wood can be dried out and used like any other lumber. Page 23

SOYA-POWERED PLANES American biochemists say aircraft fuel based on soya oil
is just the thing to give commercial aviation a greener future. The biofuel
blend would slash consumption of fossil fuel and slow the release of
greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, because the carbon it releases is from
renewable sources. Page 22

TAKE A DEEP BREATH Asthma rates are soaring and no one knows why. For
decades, doctors have focused on the inflammatory response to certain
triggers, such as dust mites and cigarette smoke. But recently a growing
number of researchers have begun to argue that permanent damage to our
airways in early development may be the root cause of the disease. Pages

AUSTRALASIAN: FACING EVILDOERS Bob Johnstone tells how Australian dental
researchers are helping the Japanese police with a new facial recognition
system. Page 47

NEW MONKEY VIRUS JUMPS TO HUMANS The discovery of a new class of monkey
virus which has jumped into humans has reinforced claims that HIV came from
hunting bushmeat. See also... Shuttle rudder's fatal flaw; Gamma ray mystery
solved; Killing HIV. New Scientist's free public website at
http://www.newscientist.com <http://www.newscientist.com> 

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