Latest research news

May 28, 2003

Arsenic linked to madness of King George
The madness of King George III could have been caused by arsenic poisoning, according to evidence discovered in the king's hair nearly two centuries after his death. Tests on five strands of the hair kept at the Science Museum in London have revealed extraordinary levels of heavy metal contamination.

Euro space decision due
The future of Europe's space missions could soon be decided in a meeting to discuss the future of the troubled Ariane rocket project. Ariane has been plagued by technical problems and a shrinking market for launching satellites. Ministers have only until the end of June to secure its future and therefore Europe's independent access to space.

Oily fish 'prevents heart attacks'
Eating oily fish like salmon or tuna at least twice a week could prevent a heart attack, a study suggests. Alexander Leaf and colleagues at Harvard Medical School have found evidence to suggest that the omega-3 or n3 oils in this type of fish can stop dangerous irregular heart rhythms, which can trigger an attack. The study is the latest to highlight the potential health benefits of eating oily fish or taking supplements.

Long-term GM monitoring urged
The Royal Society has called for long-term monitoring of the impact of genetically modified crops, if commercial planting goes ahead in the UK. Vice-president Patrick Bateson said: "If the decision is taken to allow commercial planting of GM crops, it is essential that regulators in both the UK and EU monitor the environmental impact to pick up any potentially beneficial or harmful effects over a long period. It will not be enough to make best estimates at the start and then assume that everything will turn out as expected." The advice is included in the Royal Society's submissions to the government's GM Science Review, which is due to report in June.

Dark matter's pull spotted
A massive survey of galaxies orbiting each other has revealed how dark matter, the unseen stuff that is inferred to make up per cent of the universe, tugs on the 4 per cent that is the visible matter of stars, planets and dust. By measuring the velocity of satellite galaxies as they pass around larger ones, the study confirms that dark matter's diffuse gravitational pull speeds galactic orbits just as current theories predict. This is also the latest and best evidence that galaxies sit at the centre of giant clouds of dark matter.

Eyebrows reach peak of perfection
Women striving to meet supermodel standards have yet another correction to make, say cosmetic doctors - their eyebrows peak too early. Plastic surgeon Stephen Metzinger of Louisiana State University in New Orleans has calculated the point at which eyebrows crest for 100 Caucasian glamour-magazine models, and for 100 women on the street, by digitally analysing their face shots. (Nature)


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