[ASC-media] NEW SCIENTIST PRESS RELEASE 12 JANUARY 2008

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Tue Jan 8 23:40:28 CET 2008


NEW SCIENTIST PRESS RELEASE 12 JANUARY 2008

MAGAZINE ISSUE DATE:  12 JANUARY 2008 (Vol. 197 No. 2638)

EMBARGO: 
THESE STORIES BELOW ARE NOT TO BE USED FOR PUBLICATION OR BROADCAST BEFORE:- 05:00 HRS AEDT THURS 10 JANUARY 2008. 

All FULL-TEXT articles together with artwork, photos and graphics shown on the PDFs below are not to be reproduced without prior permission from New Scientist. The articles are distributed in advance of publication to those authorised media who may wish to report on our stories, quoting extracts as part of fair dealing with this copyrighted material.  Please remember to credit New Scientist Magazine - thank you.

LIFE'S A BEACH ON PLANET EARTH
Did life on Earth begin on a radioactive beach?  New Scientist reports on claims, by Zachary Adam, at the University of Washington in Seattle, that life's ingredients could have emerged among the radioactive sand grains of a primordial beach laced with heavy metals and pounded by powerful tides.  Page 8.
http://media.newscientist.com/data/pdf/press/2638/263808.pdf 
 
FORGET FAMILY, LET'S BE GROUPIES
The evolution of insect altruism, which is seen in hundreds of ant, bee and wasp species, has been previously explained by kin selection.  The idea that helping your relatives - and therefore helping spread the genes you share with them - outweighs the cost of not having offspring of your own.  This is encapsulated in Richard Dawkins' pervasive metaphor of the selfish gene.  Now, in what has baffled evolutionary biologists worldwide, New Scientist reports that Edward O. Wilson, the father of sociobiology, says insect altruism does not require kin selection to evolve. Page 6. 
http://media.newscientist.com/data/pdf/press/2638/263806.pdf 

Richard Dawkins responds to Wilson's claims in The Group Delusion, Page 17. 
http://media.newscientist.com/data/pdf/press/2638/263817.pdf 
 
INFANT MONKEYS FED LEAD DEVELOP BRAIN PLAQUES
The toxic effects of lead could be more far-reaching than previously thought.  Monkeys exposed to the heavy metal during infancy may be predisposed to develop the equivalent of Alzheimer's disease.  The findings reveal how environmental and genetic factors might combine to alter susceptibility to the disease.  Page 12.
http://media.newscientist.com/data/pdf/press/2638/263812.pdf 
 
QUAKES HOLD CLUE TO PREDICTING EPILEPTIC FITS
They both start with tiny, barely perceptible tremors that lead up to a cataclysmic climax - and now it seems that the similarities between earthquakes and epileptic seizures run deep.  Seismology could even hold the key to new ways of predicting and avoiding epileptic fits. Page 9. Graphic Available.
http://media.newscientist.com/data/pdf/press/2638/263809.pdf 

IN BRIEF:

JAPAN'S SILICON POET TAKES A BOW
Humans have been honing the concise style of haiku poetry since the 17th century.  Now it's a computer's turn.  Naoko Tosa of Kyoto University in Japan has written a program that takes two or three keywords entered by a user and creates a three-line poem related to them in the haiku's structure of five, seven and five syllables per line.  Short Story, Page 21
http://media.newscientist.com/data/pdf/press/2638/263821.pdf 

GARLIC HELPS FIGHT ARSENIC POISONING
Garlic may provide some relief for millions of Bangladeshis and Indians whose drinking water is contaminated with arsenic.  Researchers at the Indian Institute of Chemical Biology dosed rats with arsenic, equivalent to levels found in groundwater in Bangladesh and West Bengal.  Rats which were also fed garlic extracts were found to have less arsenic in their blood and liver.  Short Story, Page 14
http://media.newscientist.com/data/pdf/press/2638/263814.pdf 


The following four stories are not available on the press site. For full text articles please contact Nicole Scott at media at newscientist.com.au.

A GAME TO TRAIN YOUR BRAIN
"Use it or lose it": that's the message given to older people who want to hang onto their grey matter, but does 'brain training' have any benefits for the young and healthy? The internet is rife with websites offering to train your brain and boost your brain power, but not all brain exercises are equal. Studies suggest some types of training do have long-term effects, but whether these translate into real world benefits is yet to be discovered. But the real benefit may be for those with psychiatric illnesses such as schizophrenia and depression. Pages 26-29

FILTHY HEALTHY
Cleanliness may be next to godliness, but it's not doing your health any favours. The hygiene hypothesis already suggests that exposure to dirt and germs may reduce the risk of allergies but new evidence suggests living dirty may also reduce our risk of cancer. While some pathogens such as viruses can cause cancer, research suggests that children exposed to infections early in life may be less likely to develop some childhood cancers. And evidence is slowly building up of a similar effect in adults. Pages 34-37

THE MYSTERY OF PLANET X
Two years ago, our solar system lost a planet when Pluto was demoted to the lesser rank of dwarf planet. But a replacement may be hiding in the wings - a frigid 'super-Pluto' the same size as Earth, lurking just beyond Pluto. The first hints of this mysterious Planet X come from the Kuiper belt, a ring of icy debris in the outer solar system. Researchers have discovered several anomalies in the debris that could be the result of the gravitational influence of a large object orbiting just beyond the edge of the belt. Pages 30-33

THE GREAT SEED BLITZKRIEG
It's been described as the biggest act of bio-piracy in history, yet few know the story of how in 1943, a crack team of Nazi SS botanists plundered the Soviet Union's seed bank, carrying away almost 40,000 samples. The samples were intended for a post-war plant breeding program, yet as the Red Army approached the breeding program's home in Austria in 1945, the program's leader, Heinz Brücher, defied an order to destroy the collection and absconded to Argentina. Brücher was murdered in mysterious circumstances in 1991, but an even greater mystery is the whereabouts of the seeds.  Pages 38-41

- ENDS -

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For breaking science and technology stories everyday visit www.newscientist.com

Nicole Scott
Marketing and PR Manager - Australia/NZ
New Scientist 
Tel: 61 2 9422 2893
Email: media at newscientist.com.au
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