[ASC-media] NEW SCIENTIST PRESS RELEASE 7 JULY 2007
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Wed Jul 4 01:54:09 CEST 2007
NEW SCIENTIST PRESS RELEASE 7 JULY 2007
MAGAZINE ISSUE DATE: 7 JULY 2007 (Vol. 194 No's 2611)
THESE STORIES BELOW ARE NOT TO BE USED FOR PUBLICATION OR BROADCAST BEFORE:- 03:00 HRS AEST THURS 5TH JULY 2007.
These articles below are distributed in advance of publication to those authorised media who may wish to quote extracts as part of fair dealing with this copyrighted material. If reporting on any of the stories below please credit New Scientist Magazine.
ORGANIC TOMATOES WIN ON LEVEL FARMING FIELD
A 10-year study comparing organic tomatoes with those conventionally grown suggests that organic food may be healthier for us after all. According to the new findings by researchers at the University of California, levels of two flavonoids were found to be higher in organic tomatoes. Flavonoids are known antioxidants and have been linked to reduced rates of cardiovascular disease and some forms of cancer. Previous research studying crops such as wheat and carrots have found no differences between organic and conventional crops.
SPARROWS TIRE OF THE SAME OLD SONG
Just as music goes out of fashion over time, so it seems does birdsong. According to a behavioural ecologist in the US, female sparrows solicit more copulations and males showed more aggression when played contemporary sparrow song than to recordings of old bird tunes from 1979. SHORT STORY - Page 17
LEFT EYE, I'M SCARED, RIGHT EYE, I'M COOL
Like humans, fish process information - and perhaps emotions - on different sides of their brain. UK researchers found that fish growing up in the wild among predators use their left eye to look at novel objects, while their offspring raised in captivity used their right. This suggests that life experiences can affect which side of the brain fish use, and even, that fish have emotional mindsets as different sides of the brain may correspond to a suspicious attitude. Page 10
GET MOVING AT A LICK
Steering a wheelchair with your tongue is the impressive technology that will be available to disabled people by the end of 2007. US researchers have created a device that identifies a range of different tongue movements using a microphone that sits inside the ear. The microphone then transmits the movements to a computer which converts them to commands to steer the wheelchair. Page 23
LIFE BEGINS AGAIN
Last week, Craig Venter grabbed headlines with the announcement he was close to creating a synthetic genome, housed within a bacterial cell and constructed chemically from the building blocks DNA. Meanwhile, other scientists are working towards the even more ambitious goal of building "synthetic life" - creating an entire living cell from scratch using the basic chemical ingredients. Last week at a meeting in Switzerland, an Italian researcher announced that he had taken a step in achieving this goal by synthesising proteins in cell-like compartments. Pages 6-7
http://www.newscientist.com/data/pdf/press/2611/261106.pdf (Graphics available)
SNAKES ALIVE? NOT IN CAMBODIA
Seven million: that's the estimated annual toll in the world's largest snake harvest, currently taking place on Tonlé Sap in Cambodia - the largest freshwater lake in south-east Asia. The water snakes were largely undisturbed until about two decades ago when declining fish catches left the area's local fishermen with no choice but to begin harvesting and trading the snakes.
SHORT STORY Page 4
The following five stories are not available on the press site. For full text articles please contact Nicole Scott at media at newscientist.com.au <mailto:media at newscientist.com.au> .
QUANTITY, QUALITY AND EQUALITY
Even in 2007, science is still a male-dominated arena. A review has found that on average, male scientists produce almost twice as many scientific papers over their career as female scientists. The difference is particularly noticeable in the physical sciences, where women make up fewer than 5% of professors. But despite this apparent lack of productivity and progress among female scientists, the papers women do publish on average are being cited 20% more than those published by men. Australian post-doctoral research fellow Matthew Symonds examines the possible reasons for this disparity, and suggests we need a shift in thinking about what makes a good scientist. Pages 2-3
WHO NEEDS OIL?
Oil is the lifeblood of modern society. It provides us not only with fuel for our vehicles, but with the plastics we have become almost totally dependent on, the cosmetics we apply daily and the pharmaceuticals we take regularly ... to name just a few things. But with global oil production forecast to peak any time between now and 2030, a substitute for oil must be found. Biofuels may form part of the solution but we still need something to replace oil in its multitude of other forms and uses. New techniques are being developed for processing biomass - everything from sugar cane to turkey guts - into molecules with the potential to replace the cornerstone petrochemicals. Pages 28-31
Robots are a very modern invention, or so the story goes. But nearly 500 years ago, Leonardo da Vinci built a clockwork lion, and now a researcher believes he has discovered evidence of a programmable robot dating back 2000 years, built by the great Greek engineer Hero. The workings of this automated shrine on wheels more closely resembled knitting than any modern circuitry. Using nothing more than twine, weights and various rollers and pegs, Hero constructed a moving shrine to Dionysus, the Greek god of wine, featuring six automata that performed a short show then trundled off stage. Pages 32-35
WHAT MADE YOU READ THIS?
We all like to think we are free-willed, conscious and self-governing beings in control of all our actions. In fact, we are all automata - 90% of the actions we take in any one day are so predictable our movements can be forecast with just a few mathematical equations. So much for those conscious intentions and deliberate choices; most of the time we are simply reacting instinctively to our environment. These insights come from a novel study in which researchers attached 'black boxes' to their human subjects which monitored where the wearers went, how fast they travelled, their tone of voice and details of their body language. Pages 36-39
In hospitals around the world, thousands of patients are lying in a state known as "living death" - alive, breathing unassisted, sleeping and even making erratic movements and facial expressions - yet unable to do anything of their own free will. Some are allowed to die, although not without controversy. This persistent vegetative state has become a medically and ethically-troublesome condition, as new research challenges the notion that these patients are permanently unconscious and beyond all help. A car-crash victim in this state for five months showed flickers of consciousness on a brain scan, while another patient who had been in a persistent vegetative state for 19 years woke up. Pages 40-43
- ENDS -
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NOTES TO EDITOR:
* New Scientist magazine is the world's leading science and technology news weekly, boasting a worldwide circulation of over 175,000 (ABC Audit March 2007).
* The magazine is complimented by NewScientist.com, your ultimate science and technology website. It includes breaking news updated throughout the day by our global network of specialist correspondents providing comprehensive coverage of science and technology news.
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