Latest research news

February 19, 2003

Hole at the heart of the Milky Way
Fresh evidence suggesting that the Milky Way has a supermassive black hole at its centre has been discovered by astronomers. Research at the University of California, Los Angeles has revealed that a newly discovered star, named S0-16, is moving at a speed of 52 million miles an hour at the centre of the galaxy. This could be achieved only under the gravity of a black hole.

Side effect of Mona's diverting smile
The secret of Mona Lisa's smile lies in the way that the brain processes peripheral vision, according to a Harvard University researcher. It seems to fade because its blurry qualities look most striking when seen out of the corner of the eye. Peripheral vision is tuned to lower light frequencies and analysis of the painting shows that the smile gives off light of mainly low-frequency wavelengths.
(Times, Guardian, Independent)

Gravity wave detector all set
Scientists report that one of the greatest observatories ever constructed works as expected and is now ready to go for goal. The Ligo facility, built at a cost of nearly $300 million (£188 million), is trying to detect gravity waves, the ripples created in the fabric of space-time that occur every time a star explodes or black holes collide.

Coast conservation criticised
Coastal conservation policy needs a rethink, experts warned this week. Studies showing that young fish linger in small, fragile neighbourhoods support the introduction of marine reserves. The caution will fuel an ongoing debate about how best to preserve the fertile shallows between the shore and the deep ocean. Fishing, development and pollution increasingly affect these areas.
(Nature: AAAS)

Molecular secret to special forces toughness
Special forces soldiers have neurological differences that make them more resilient to post-traumatic stress disorder than the average soldier, say researchers. A study of soldiers based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, found that Green Berets were much less likely to suffer symptoms of PTSD after a week of gruelling exercises that simulated being captured and interrogated by the enemy.
(New Scientist)

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