Latest research news

September 1, 2004

Britons attack US cloning ban bid
Top British scientists are backing an international campaign to stop the United States obtaining a worldwide ban on all types of human cloning. The Royal Society is among 68 academies urging the UN to ban reproductive but not therapeutic use of the technology. Professor Richard Gardner, chairman of the Royal Society's working group on stem cell research and cloning, said: "It is clear that if the UN bans all forms of human cloning, the UK, and other countries which currently permit carefully regulated therapeutic cloning, will not sign up to it."
BBC News Online , August 31

Earth-like planet could harbour life
European scientists have found a planet circling a distant star that could be home to life. The planet, the first detected so far that is enough like Earth for life to develop, orbits a star called mu Arae in the southern constellation Altar . The discovery, across a distance of 50 light years, was possible only because of the accuracy of an instrument called Harps, a spectrograph on the European Southern Observatory's 3.6m telescope at La Silla in Chile.
Guardian , August 31

Bright outlook for drizzle
Drizzle, long associated with dull days and the lowering of human spirits, is something to be celebrated, a US scientist says. Robert McGraw has developed a theory that it falls most readily when the atmosphere is unpolluted. Research by his team at the United States department of energy's Brookhaven laboratory could lead to more accurate weather forecasts. Understanding drizzle formation will help scientists accurately predict both local weather and the effects of clouds on global climate.
Daily Telegraph , August 31

Scots physics pool to challenge Oxbridge
Scottish universities have begun to create a single physics "superdepartment" to compete with the scientific might of Oxbridge and Imperial, in a move that could revolutionise the way research is organised. An international panel met on Friday to consider the merits of the Scottish Universities Physics Alliance project, which its advocates hope will pioneer a strategy of pooling the research resources of a small country to match the increasingly cut-throat competition for ratings and funding. The verdict has not been made public but the scientists involved are confident of getting the go-ahead.
Guardian , August 31

First practical plastic magnets created
The world's first plastic magnet to work at room temperature has passed the elementary test of magnetism. Its creators at the University of Durham in the UK have used it to pick up iron filings from a laboratory bench. Other researchers have made plastic magnets, but typically they only function at extremely low temperatures, or their magnetism at room temperature is too feeble to be of commercial use. The new polymer was developed by Naveed Zaidi and his colleagues in Durham's organic electroactive materials group.
New Scientist , August 30

Brain may produce its own antipsychotic drug
A cannabis-like substance produced by the brain may dampen delusional or psychotic experiences, rather than trigger them. Heavy cannabis use has been linked to psychosis in the past, leading researchers to look for a connection between the brain's natural cannabinoid system and schizophrenia. Markus Leweke of the University of Cologne, Germany, and Andrea Giuffrida and Danielle Piomelli of the University of California, Irvine, found that levels of the natural cannabis-like substance anandamide were higher in people with schizophrenia than in healthy patients.
New Scientist , August 30

Mental ping-pong could aid paraplegics
Neuroscientists at Maastricht University in the Netherlands have created a computer game based on table tennis that people can play using nothing more than the power of their minds. It is hoped that the technology will one day train people to generate neural signals that could control a wheelchair or communication device. Each "brain pong" player lies in a functional magnetic resonance imaging machine. After a short period of training, the players are able to make their ping-pong bat move up and down the screen by concentrating on specific thoughts.
Nature , August

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