[ASC-media] NEW SCIENTIST PRESS RELEASE 20 MAY 2006

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Wed May 17 09:46:02 EST 2006


 
NEW SCIENTIST PRESS RELEASE
 
MAGAZINE ISSUE DATE: 20 MAY 2006 (Vol. 190 No. 2552)
 
EMBARGO: THESE ITEMS BELOW ARE NOT TO BE USED FOR PUBLICATION OR
BROADCAST BEFORE: 04:00 HRS AEST THURSDAY 18 MAY 2006. 
 
IN NEWS THIS WEEK:
 
WELCOME TO SUN CITY, PERU                                          
A spooky coincidence? The capital of the sun-worshipping Inca
civilization was Cuzco, in modern-day Peru. Five hundred years later, a
team of New Zealand-based researchers armed with the latest satellite
data has established that the spot on Earth blistered by the highest UV
levels is... you've guessed it, Cuzco. Page 6 

HIMALAYAN FORESTS QUIETLY VANISHING
The bio-diversity rich forests in the Indian Himalaya region are
disappearing so fast that by 2100, researchers predict the area will
have lost almost half its forests. The team from India say large-scale
conservation efforts are urgently needed to avoid the disappearance of
native animals and plants from the region including tigers, black bears
and leopards. However, to make matters more confusing, official
statistics from the Indian government imply that forest cover will rise
rather than fall, which could have severe repercussions. Pages 20-21
 
WAKING UP TO CHRONIC FATIGUE
It affects millions of people around the world, and yet chronic fatigue
syndrome (CFS) is still under-funded and misunderstood. But a meeting of
CFS experts last week could change all that. A team in London looked at
the gene expression of 47,000 genes in people with CFS and in a group of
people without the disease. They found about 100 genes which were
expressed differently between the CFS patients and the controls. And
most of these abnormally expressed genes were involved in the immune
system. The team's work could herald a treatment based on immune system
therapy, and a diagnostic test. Pages 10-11
 
HOW OUR BODY'S DEFENCES AID COMPUTERS 
Scientists are using the body's immune system as a model to design a
similar system for protecting computer networks against viruses and
hackers. The software, designed by computer scientists in the UK, mimics
dendritic cells which pick up distress signals in the body when cells
die. The team's alternative model scours the computer network for danger
signals such as error messages and if these signals increase, an alarm
is sounded. Page 32
 
BABY TRUMAN SHOW 
No, it's not the latest reality TV series, but a project designed to
capture a stream of experiences, on an unprecedented scale, from a
newborn baby right up to his third birthday. Researchers from the MIT
media lab in the US have installed a network of microphones and cameras
to record a baby for 14 hours a day, 365 days a year, in an attempt to
unravel how the environment affects how a child learns to talk. And the
team leader has so much faith in the project, he volunteered his own
family. Page 17
  
PIGEON-BRAINED BIRDS THINK IN LOGARITHMS
It may have you totally confused, but when it comes to logarithms, the
pigeon is no bird-brain. Experiments by a researcher in Canada show that
the way pigeons tap levers conforms to a logarithmic model. These means
they might perceive both time and number on a logarithmic scale. Page 23
 
FEATURES:
 
REDESIGNING LIFE
Synthetic biologists, or bio-hackers, get their kicks from taking
microbes apart and putting them together in novel ways. Genes and
proteins are plugged together as the components or biobricks, while a
bacterial cell is regarded as the "chassis", and used as a circuit
board. It may not pervade our lives as much as personal computing, but
synthetic biology's first world-changing application may not be far off.
Bill Gates is pouring millions into synthetic biology on a quest to
defeat malaria. Pages 43-47
 
JUST A GAME?
With around 30 million people around the world playing virtual games
every week, it's no surprise that crime is now beginning to spill over
from the virtual world into the real world. There is no real law
enforcement inside these games, which have led players to set up their
own alternatives. For example, you can ask the virtual Mafia to "sort
out" any problems with your virtual enemies. But games companies are
starting to accept that some policing of the games is necessary and have
started testing punishment such as virtual jail, banishment, and even
crucifixion to those who break the rules. Pages 38-42      
 
THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING IGUANA
Researchers have evidence to show that the Galapagos marine iguana
changes its size from one year to the next - the first vertebrate found
to demonstrate this. The iguanas seem to shrink with the weather, losing
bone mass when food is scarce and regrowing when food becomes plentiful
again. Their work could help researchers at NASA and those studying
osteoporosis. Pages 48-49
HEAD 'EM OFF AT THE PAST
According to a physicist at the University of Hawaii, the door to time
travel could be anywhere and everywhere in our universe. He says there
are possible short cuts through high-dimensional space, which could make
time travel possible. And unlike other contenders for time machines,
including wormhole tunnels and black holes, his theory can be tested
here on Earth. Pages 34-37
 
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Media Manager - Australia
New Scientist 
Tel: +61 2 9422 2893

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