Latest research news

February 12, 2003

Orbiting debris may have brought down Columbia
Nasa engineers examining the break-up of the space shuttle Columbia think a possible cause may have been the clutter of human debris in space. US air force scientists who track objects in orbit spotted something moving slowly away from Columbia on January 17. It could, Nasa experts say, have been a meteor, a fragment of the shuttle itself, or ice from waste water dumped from the spacecraft.

European rocket bows out
The final launch of a rocket that formed the workhorse of the European space industry is set for Wednesday. An Ariane 4 rocket carrying a communications satellite is due to blast off from Kourou, French Guiana, for the 116th time. The launcher is being retired to pave the way for the giant Ariane 5, capable of hurling larger loads into orbit.

Diarrhoea may protect against colon cancer
The scourge of every traveller - diarrhoea - may protect against colorectal cancer. The bacterial toxin that causes the illness was also found to slow the growth of dividing colon cancer cells to a crawl, US researchers found.
(New Scientist)

Universe to expand for ever
The universe will expand for ever, at an ever-increasing rate, Nasa scientists are to announce. They base their conclusion on new data obtained by the Microwave Anisotropy Probe satellite, which has been orbiting the Sun beyond the Moon since shortly after its launch in 2001.

Man vs machine chess match ends in stalemate
Gary Kasparov chose to draw the deciding game of his match with the computer program Deep Junior on Friday rather than push for a win and risk defeat. Kasparov was booed by some members of the audience for accepting the draw while having a far stronger position on the board and a better chance of winning.
(New Scientist)

Lab to tackle mystery of vanishing vultures
A new laboratory has opened in India dedicated to identifying the mystery disease that is exterminating South Asia's vultures. But the die-off is now so bad that scientists fear they will have to try breeding at least one species in captivity to save it from extinction, even before they diagnose the killer infection.

King of Stonehenge was Swiss immigrant
The Amesbury Archer, a Bronze-Age man who was buried near Stonehenge in the richest grave from the period found in Britain, was an immigrant from the Swiss Alps, archaeologists have discovered. Chemical analysis of his teeth and bones revealed that he spent his youth living in the mountains of Central Europe, modern-day Switzerland was his most likely home.
(Times, Guardian, Daily Telegraph)

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