[ASC-media] NEW SCIENTIST PRESS RELEASE - 23/30 DECEMBER 2006
RBI - NewScientist - Media (RBI - AUS)
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Wed Dec 20 00:18:53 CET 2006
MAGAZINE ISSUE DATE: 23/30 DECEMBER 2006 (Vol. 192 No's 2583/84)
NOTES TO JOURNALISTS:
* THIS SPECIAL DOUBLE ISSUE OF THE MAGAZINE IS ON SALE ONE DAY EARLY THIS WEEK, THEREFORE THE EMBARGO TIME HAS BEEN MOVED FORWARD TO TODAY.
· THESE STORIES BELOW ARE NOT TO BE USED FOR PUBLICATION OR BROADCAST BEFORE:- 05:00 HRS AEST WED 20 DECEMBER 2006.
* FOR THOSE REGISTERED TO THE PRESS SITE, THE STORIES ARE AVAILABLE IN FULL NOW - FOLLOW THE RED TEXT ON THE FRONT PAGE.
THE HOLLY AND THE OZONE
The holly tree, a Christmas favourite, is endangered by ozone pollution, according to two studies in the UK. All 400 species of holly tree across the northern temperate zones of the US, Canada and Europe could be affected. When dosed with ozone concentrations typical of that of a summer's day, holly plants grew fewer new leaves and shed more of their existing ones than normal. Ozone, a component of smog, also weakens the ability of holly trees to withstand cold in winter. Page 6
JUST CAN'T GET ENOUGH
Many of us now spend a lot of time emailing and blogging, which can become an addictive behaviour. But, as New Scientist found out, the internet is also feeding some strange new dysfunctional habits and obsessive techno-addictions. Take a "Wikipediholic" who can't stop tweaking and editing the entries. Then there's the "photlurker" who trawls photo websites like Flickr to browse other people's photo albums. See also confessions of a: cheesepodder, Google-stalker, and cyberchondriac. Pages 34-37
NO BUSINESS LIKE SNOW BUSINESS
While watching circus clowns showering fake snow onto their audience, psychologist Richard Wiseman wondered if he could put on a better show for them. And so the challenge began: could scientists create a more convincing snowstorm than clowns? After testing the twirliness of huge batches of different-sized bits of falling paper, could the scientists beat the clowns? You can watch Richard Wiseman's paper snow videos and vote for the most realistic one at: www.newscientist.com/perfectsnow (this page will be live after 6pm tonight). Pages 52-53
We're all now getting good at recycling our household waste, trying not to use our cars unnecessarily and being more cautious with energy usage, but there's still an environmental monster in all our homes: our pee. Toilets are wrecking the planet. The problem is that although mostly water, urine contains nitrogen and phosphates that can wreck ecosystems if they're not removed in sewage treatment plants. And of course all that flushing is a huge waste of perfectly good water. To reduce our personal pee-print we should all be buying the latest eco-accessory for the home: the urine separation toilet. The device separates out the urine so it can be treated and recycled as fertilisers. Pages 45-47
WEB 2.0 IS ALL ABOUT THE FEEL-GOOD FACTOR
What makes Web 2.0 websites such as YouTube and Flickr, who rely on user participation, so successful? According to a researcher at Stanford University, California, the key to the success of these sites are the persuasion strategies they use. The secret is to tie the acquisition of new friends, compliments and status (which humans will work hard for) to activities that enhance the site, such as inviting new users and contributing photos. Page 30
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VINCENT VAN ROBOT
San Francisco artist Max Chandler uses robots to help him paint. Not just as a gimmick, but rather to create designs that humans can't, for instance, precise micro-patterns of multi-coloured lines. The robots don't do it by printing; they have physical brushes and either walk or roll around the canvas, so the resulting strokes look alive. It's part of the burgeoning field of robotic art, for which there are a growing number of exhibits, including "Artbots" in New York this month.
THE EVOLUTION OF BEER
Ever wondered why brewer's yeast is so good at making alcohol? Geneticists have now managed to trace the evolution of this ability. The ancestors of modern yeast produced alcohol only if no oxygen was available, but a series of mutations and gene duplication allowed brewer's yeast to keep on pumping out alcohol even if oxygen is present. By doing so, it can kill off other microbes trying to feed on the same sugar source, and then use the alcohol as food once the sugar was exhausted.
"Indestructible" food reaches deep into cupboard to find 34 year-old chutney ("it had a very strong flavour"), an 1895 can of clams found in 1951 (still good eating, apparently), an 1855 can of consommé opened in 1990 (splendidly nutritious), 1899 hardtack ruefully sampled by its owner 70 years later ("It wasn't any good then, and it isn't any good now"), a Boer War candy ration that turned up in 1991, or Irish peat bogs hiding casks of butter buried 2000 years ago. What, exactly, makes some food still edible centuries later, but others revolting after just a week or two?
SCENT OF A WHALE
It's not easy to study whales - they may be big, but they also swim fast and dive deep. Now one researcher is training sniffer dogs to find whale poop floating on the surface of the ocean. Once they've found it the researchers scoop it up and study it to find out when females are in reproductive condition, and to find out what they're eating. So far it's worked well; the only snag is that the dogs sometimes get sea-sick. Joe Roman joins the team and their poop-scooping pups on their latest mission.
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