[ASC-media] NEW SCIENTIST PRESS RELEASE - 26 NOVEMBER 2005
RBI - NewScientist - Media (RBI - AUS)
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Wed Nov 23 09:56:27 EST 2005
NEW SCIENTIST PRESS RELEASE
MAGAZINE ISSUE DATE: 26 NOVEMBER 2005 (Vol. 188 No 2527)
THESE ITEMS BELOW ARE NOT TO BE USED FOR PUBLICATION BEFORE:- 04:00 HRS AEST THURSDAY 24 NOVEMBER 2005
WEATHER'S ROLE IN EARLY IRISH BUILDING
Bad weather made our ancestors huddle together in defensive settlements, according to a study of climate variation and fort building in Ireland over the past 9000 years. The Australian-led team concludes that long-term shifts in climate had a much bigger impact on human activity than had been realised. Page 19
GIZMO - SPY RESISTANT KEYBOARD
Microsoft Research has created a "spy-resistant keyboard" to stop people looking over your shoulder and stealing PINS and passwords that are typed in public. The technology was presented at a human-computer interface conference in Canberra, Australia, this week. Short news story p25
GM PEA CAUSES ALLERGIC DAMAGE IN MICE
For the first time, a genetically modified plant has been shown to cause inflammation in animals - the 10-year project to develop pest-resistant peas is dropped.
The researchers - at Australia's national research organisation CSIRO - took the gene for a protein capable of killing pea weevil pests from the common bean and transferred it into the pea. When extracted from the bean, this protein does not cause an allergic reaction in mice or people.
But when the protein is expressed in the pea, its structure is subtly different to the original in the bean. This structural change probably caused the unexpected immune effects. The researchers are calling for improvements in screening requirements for genetically engineered plants.
Read the full story: www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=dn8347
HOW LIFE SHAPES THE BRAINSCAPE
Our life experiences can profoundly change the structure and connectivity of the brain. Neuroscientists in the US found a thickening of certain brain regions in experienced meditators. While another study found that those who had experienced an early life trauma, such as divorce or neglect, had structural changes in the hippocampus - the area of the brain important for memory. On the flip side, if experiences can trigger changes that cause problems, experience could also treat it. A preliminary study has shown that for people with depression who had been through an early trauma, psychotherapy was far more effective than drug treatment. Pages 12-13
FAMILIES SHARE TRAITS OF AUTISTIC CHILDREN
The behaviours and brain abnormalities associated with autism have been found in some family members of people with the condition, even though they themselves do not have it. In one study of 40 parents with autistic children, researchers found that the parents shared several differences in brain structure with their autistic offspring. In another study, brothers of autistic children avoided eye contact just as strongly as their autistic sibling. The studies could help identify the environmental factors that interact with different genes to trigger autism. Page 14
YOU CAN'T RELY ON FIREARM FORENSICS
A New Scientist investigation has found that gunshot residue (GSR) on a suspect does not mean they fired the gun. Recent studies have shown that it is possible for a non-shooter to become contaminated by entering a crime scene, or from sitting in a police vehicle. Even worse, it is possible to pick up supposedly "unique" GSR particles from entirely different sources. Industrial tools and fireworks both produce particles with a similar composition to GSR. Pages 6-7
INNOCENTS DIE AS DNA GOES UNTESTED
Criminal justice systems are refusing to accept DNA tests as evidence that could confirm innocence or guilt. New Scientist looks at a few cases where possible miscarriages of justice in the Philippines and some areas in the US could have been overturned by a DNA test post-conviction. Page 10
SEEKING A SAFE PATH THROUGH THE LANDMINE DEBATE
Clearing large areas of land of anti-personnel mines is a slow, painstaking job, and countries are struggling to meet targets set out in the 1997 International Mine Ban Treaty. So is it time for a different approach? A growing number of governments think that it would be quicker to make large areas of land "mine-safe", rather than aiming for the "mine-free" status. Although it would mean a slightly higher probability that some mines would be missed, proponents argue that more lives would be saved in the long-run. Pages 26-27
QUANTUM BUBBLES ARE THE KEY
A US physicist has an idea that will make the atom-based quantum computers look passé before anyone has even built a full-size one. He is suggesting that bubbles of electrons in ultra-cold liquid helium could be used to build a quantum computer capable of carrying out 1030 calculations all at once. Page 9
A PASTRY A DAY...
Nobody doubts that the growing number of obese adults in the population makes shocking reading. Recent estimates have put obesity as second only to smoking as a preventable cause of death. But scientists are starting to argue that there is no good scientific evidence to show that being overweight is a health risk. They claim that most people in the "overweight" category are perfectly healthy, and that there is even evidence that overweight people who diet are putting their health at greater risk. Pages 39-41
IS THERE ANYBODY IN THERE?
Instead of searching the heavens for aliens using telescopes, we could find all we need to know about extraterrestrial intelligence in our PCs. Walter Wolfram, inventor of the world's most popular mathematics software, Mathematica, is pessimistic about our chances of finding an alien using SETI, and thinks that instead of searching the physical universe we should be looking for answers in the "computational universe". Pages 30-33
THE MORAL MAZE
How do we judge what's morally right and what's wrong? Developmental psychologists who have been studying the basis of morality have found there is more than rational reasoning at its roots. Emotions, intuition and culture also play a large part in how we make our moral choices. Pages 34-37
THE BABY BOOMERS
Just two years after Concorde was retired from service, a global race to launch the next supersonic passenger jet is under way. Engineers are working on new designs that are less noisy, and have better fuel efficiency. While others are trying to persuade regulators to lift the ban that prevents supersonic craft flying over populated areas of land. Pages 42-45
- ENDS -
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