[ASC-media] NEW SCIENTIST PRESS RELEASE 13 MAY 2006

RBI - NewScientist - Media (RBI - AUS) media at newscientist.com.au
Wed May 10 09:52:17 EST 2006


NEW SCIENTIST PRESS RELEASE
 
MAGAZINE ISSUE DATE: 13 MAY 2006 (Vol. 190 No. 2551)
 
EMBARGO: THESE ITEMS BELOW ARE NOT TO BE USED FOR PUBLICATION OR
BROADCAST BEFORE: 04:00 HRS AEST THURSDAY 11 MAY 2006. 
 
IN NEWS THIS WEEK:
 
LET'S HEAR IT FOR RED WINE
Antioxidant compounds found in red wine, green tea or aspirin, may delay
the onset of age-related deafness and hearing loss caused by loud noise
and some powerful antibiotics. The delicate hairs in the ear can be
damaged by oxygen free radicals, so in theory at least, antioxidants
should protect against this oxidative damage. Researchers have already
found that patients given aspirin with an antibiotic to prevent ear
infection caused less damage to hearing than those treated with the
antibiotic plus a placebo. Page 8
 
CAN COMPUTER MODELS REPLACE ANIMAL TESTING?
The first realistic software models of human and animal organs are
starting to emerge, which potentially could replace some of the 50 to
100 million animals used each year for scientific research. Page 7

PREGNANCY STILL FERTILE GROUND FOR ACUPUNCTURISTS
Two European studies published last week suggest that acupuncture can
boost the chances of getting pregnant after IVF. However, a third trial
in Australia failed to find any significant benefit - so it looks as
though the jury is still out on whether acupuncture really does improve
fertility. Page 17

ANIMAL ACTIVISTS FLEE UK CLAMPDOWN
Since new laws in the UK cracked down on animal rights extremists, the
number of animal-rights related attacks have been falling. But while the
total number of attacks is decreasing, there are hints that they are
getting more severe, according to latest statistics from the Association
of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI). Meanwhile, there is
another alarming trend that animal rights extremists are spreading from
the UK to parts of Europe and even crossing the Atlantic to the US. Page
6-7
 
MUGGINGS WERE RIFE IN NEW STONE AGE
The first study of early Neolithic British skulls makes grisly reading.
>From 4000 to 3200 BC, Britons had a 1 in 14 chance of being bashed on
the head, and a 1 in 50 chance of dying from their injuries. The
researchers found that healed and fatal fractures to the skull were far
more frequent than they had considered. Page 16
 
'MASHUP' WEBSITES ARE A DREAM FOR HACKERS
Take an online map of a city, add in data from a few more websites on
house prices and crime levels, and you have a 'mashup' website. Mashups
are growing in popularity because of the easy way in which they present
users with local information. But according to some computer experts,
mashups could be an accident waiting to happen as developers are not
taking security and privacy issues seriously enough. Page 28-29
 
WAS OUR UNIVERSE MADE FOR US OR NOT?
The anthropic principle - which states that the constants of physics and
chemistry must be finely-tuned to allow the universe and life to exist
as we know it - has been criticised as untestable science. But there may
now be a way to test the theory, by seeing if the universe could have
supported life with a different so-called cosmological constant. Page 10
 
GAMING GETS THE PICTURE
US researchers have developed an online game that is designed to
encourage users to perform a public service while playing the game. The
aim is to get players to write missing captions to pictures as they go
along, to help visually impaired people listen to the content of the
game. Page 27
 
WHY PORES PROTECT WALLS FROM THE SEA
Sea walls designed to protect coastlines against the power of the sea,
are themselves at risk from the pounding of waves. So a German chemical
company is testing a polyurethane coating which can be sprayed directly
on to loose stone to reinforce a wall. The elasticity and porous nature
of the material help to absorb the energy of the waves. Page 30
 
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR: BIRD FLU
Since New Scientist reported that there may be flaws in the way samples
were collected and stored to test for bird flu in the UK (15 April 2006,
p12), the Veterinary Laboratory Agency (who carry out the tests to
detect H5N1 in wild birds) have told New Scientist that they are
studying the survival properties of viruses in different environments
and media. LETTERS Page 22
 
FEATURES:
 
SPECIAL REPORT: ENHANCED HUMANS
It no longer seems like science fiction - just around the corner people
will be able to upgrade to superhuman bodies with artificially sharpened
minds and senses. Many of us are already using technologies that can
enhance our normal human capabilities: for example: the drug Viagra,
smart drugs such as Ritalin to boost concentration, and cosmetic
surgery. But futurologists believe a rapid exponential growth in
technologies such as computing power, nanotechnology and biotechnology,
could lead to an end to disease and suffering, replacement body parts
and maybe even immortality. But won't enhancement technologies risk
destroying all that is human? And if these modifications are imminent,
shouldn't we be thinking about regulations now? Pages 32-38
 
ANIMAL APOCALYPSE
Even if bird flu never mutates to a form capable of turning into a human
plague, we still have a huge problem. The H5N1 virus has already caused
a massive number of deaths amongst wild birds and has acquired an
ability to infect a wider range of species than any other known flu
virus. Experts fear a nightmare scenario where the disease persists in
chickens, while wild birds keep spreading it far and wide. And the
hardest hit will be the wildlife species that are already on the brink.
Page 39-43
 
THE STUFF OF BEAMS
In the past few years, researchers have resurrected studies on 'optical
matter' - a unique set up where light can bind matter together like
glue, and then tear it apart at the flick of a switch. The ambition is
to create a microscopic construction site where light acts as architect
and builder to assemble nanoscale building blocks into objects or
machines. Pages 44-47
 
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Kitty Timpson
Media Manager - Australia
New Scientist 
Tel: +61 2 9422 2893
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