Latest research news

December 4, 2002

Rival joins race to clone first human
The race to clone the first human appears to have intensified after claims that a second team is about to begin experiments to clone babies for seven infertile couples. Italian fertility expert Dr Severino Antinori last week announced that the first human baby clone would be born within a few weeks. Now his former partner, Dr Panayiotis Zavos, has announced that he is pursuing his own cloning programme. (The Daily Telegraph)

Skull clue to first American
The discovery of the oldest American human skull, which belonged to a slender-faced hunter living in Mexico 13,000 years ago, is pushing back the date of the first colonisation of the New World. Its age and significance were revealed by Silvia Gonzalez, a geologist at Liverpool John Moores University. (The Daily Telegraph, The Independent)

A pint of health
For those who enjoy a pint of beer, scientists have come up with a “super-brew” that could be a major boost to health. The beer, expected to be available in the UK next year, contains high levels of a potent antioxidant that helps fight cancer. (Daily Mail)

Deathly secret of mother’s pride
A portrait of an extremely expectanct and wealthy young woman, acquired by the Tate gallery, has prompted new theories about a mysterious group of late 17th-century English paintings showing heavily pregnant women. Tate curator Karen Hearn has come to the bleak conclusion that they celebrate not just dynastic pride, but the possibility that a beloved partner may be about to die in childbirth. (The Guardian)

Edinburgh wins rainmaking grant
Researchers at Edinburgh University are designing a machine that could help to produce rain in areas where it is needed. The plan involves forcing seawater through nozzles so that it becomes a fine spray, which can then gradually form into clouds. (BBC)

Statistical physics predicts stock market gloom
A statistical physics model is predicting that the US stock market recovery suggested by recent rises will only last until spring next year, before tumbling yet further. Physicists at the University of California in Los Angeles claim to have identified an "anti-bubble" in the Standard and Poor's 500 stock market index. Their model also describes a similar anti-bubble in the Japanese Nikkei index in the early 1990s, which preceded a decade of decline. (New Scientist)

They came from outer space - and posed for portraits
Italy's Old Masters were recording flying saucers and unidentified flying objects in their paintings as far back as the 15th century, according to a scientist in Rome. Roberto Volterri argues that artists, dating back to 1406, included evidence of “strange objects in the sky” for later generations to see. (The Times)

Fifteenth-century ostrich egg found
Archaeologists have uncovered a 500-year-old ostrich egg covered in Arabic poetry. The verses mourn the death of a loved one. The egg was found in the Red Sea port of Quseir, Egypt. (Nature)

Bacteria to battle waste on the rails

Engineers from QinetiQ, the commercial arm of the UK's defence research agency, have come up with the Intratech Processing System (IWPS) - a cheaper, cleaner, and more environmentally friendly train toilet. The high-tech lavatory went on display last week at the railway industry's international technology exhibition, Railtex, in Birmingham, UK. (Nature)

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