Latest research news

April 30, 2002

Women's fertility in decline by late 20s
Women begin to lose their fertility in their late 20s and not in their 30s, scientists have discovered. A study published today by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in North Carolina and the University of Padua in Italy reveals that a woman's chance of conceiving a child during each menstrual cycle starts to decline once she reaches the age of and continues to slip over the next decade. (Times, Guardian, Independent, Daily Telegraph)

'Tome raider' plundered books worth £1.1m
A Cambridge University graduate who plundered rare antiquarian books worth £1.1 million from British libraries was jailed yesterday for masterminding one of the biggest thefts of the country's literary treasures. William Simon Jacques, 33, stole more than 400 books and pamphlets from collections at the British Library, Cambridge University Library and London Library between July 1994 and May 1999. (Times, Guardian, Independent)

Le Pen victory stokes fires on French campuses
French universities are bracing themselves for weeks of turbulence after Jean-Marie Le Pen's strong showing in the presidential election and the political impasse which has afflicted the country during the years of "cohabitation" between left and right and which shows no sign of being relieved.

Moth rustlers of Mull walk free
Police on the Scottish island of Mull believe they may have come across a previously unknown threat - the moth rustler. Officers stopped two men believing they could have been trying to steal sea eagle eggs and discovered their car was loaded with rare caterpillars and moths. The case highlights the growing problem of rare but unprotected fauna being taken from the wild. (Guardian)

African woman goes home after 200 years
France yesterday returned to South Africa the remains of the "Hottentot Venus", a young woman who was a freak-show attraction in France and Britain in the 19th century. (Guardian, Times)

Ancient cures tempt modern business
Doctors in Delhi, India, are conducting human trials on a cure for Aids using the 5,000-year-old alternative medicine known as ayurveda. But if India has woken up to the commercial potential of ayurveda, so too has western business - multinational drug companies are waiting to cut deals if the results are promising. (Financial Times)

Celera human genome 'largely' the boss's
Craig Venter, the controversial leader of Celera Genomics' project to decode the human genome, has announced that the DNA his company used was largely his own. Both Celera and the publicly funded Human Genome Project consortium released first drafts of the human genome in June 2000. At the time, Celera said it had used DNA from five anonymous people from different ethnic groups. Now Venter has told the New York Times that his own DNA was the largest contribution. (New Scientist)

Early birds have big eyes
Birds with large eyes begin singing earlier in the morning than their small-eyed neighbours because they can see better in low light. So say British researchers explaining why, on a spring day in Welsh woodland, robins and redstarts pipe up a good hour and a half before chaffinches and blue tits. (Nature)

Oldest fossil footprints on land
The oldest fossils of footprints ever found on land hint that animals may have beaten plants out of the primordial seas. Lobster-sized, centipede-like animals made the prints wading out of the ocean and scuttling over sand dunes about 530 million years ago. Previous fossils indicated that animals didn't take this step until 40 million years later. (Nature)

Nasa keeps eye on space junk
Reports of the demise of Nasa's space junk monitoring programme appear to have been premature. A spokesman has told New Scientist that the space agency will spend about $3 million next year observing small orbital debris. (New Scientist)

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