Latest research news

October 27, 2004

Gene wars only a few years away, say doctors
Genetically targeted weapons capable of ethnic cleansing could become a reality within five years because the “window of opportunity” to tackle their development is shrinking fast, doctors said on Monday. The warning comes after a report by the British Medical Association, that stated that within a decade genetic research would unleash new and terrifying biological weapons capable of killing only people of specific ethnic groups.
The Times

Space mission to track gamma-ray bursts
British and US scientists are preparing to launch a robot spacecraft to track down the brightest and most dangerous objects in the universe. Gamma-ray bursts - brief, brilliant flashes of energy bright enough to be spotted across a distance of 12 billion light years - were mistaken for Soviet nuclear weapons tests in space when they were first spotted 35 years ago.
The Guardian

Deadwood clearance poses threat to endangered species
Insects and plants are dying out in forests because too much deadwood is cleared away, according to a report. The World Wide Fund for Nature says that the lack of veteran trees and deadwood — on which beetles and other insects, lichens and fungi rely — is having a disastrous effect in Europe’s forests. Woodpeckers, bats and squirrels, which nest in hollow trees, have also lost their natural habitat.
The Times

Tea helps memory
Scientists have come up with the ideal riposte for those accused of taking too many tea breaks: tea keeps your brain healthy, they say. Tests on green and black tea suggest that regular tea drinking could help prevent age-related memory loss and keep dementias such as Alzheimer's disease at bay.
The Guardian

Electric currents boost brain power
Connecting a battery across the front of the head can boost verbal skills, says a team from the US National Institutes of Health. A current of two thousandths of an ampere (a fraction of that needed to power a digital watch) applied for 20 minutes is enough to produce a significant improvement, according to data presented this week at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, held in San Diego.
Nature

Jammy little dodger may not be extinct
A hundred jam sandwich traps have been hidden in remote forests in Yorkshire in an attempt to catch a mammal thought to have been extinct in England for 100 years. Scientists will discreetly monitor the sticky mixture, squashed into plastic feeding tubes, for hairs and other DNA traces of pine martens, which once roamed the area under royal protection because of their thick, highly-valued fur.
The Guardian

Fatal attraction of swallowed magnets
American scientists have identified yet another improbable accident waiting to happen. Don't, they warn today, ever let your baby swallow two magnets at the same time. One magnet, no problem, says Alan Oestreich of Cincinnati children's hospital, writing in the latest issue of the journal Radiology. Two magnets, however, could set up a potentially fatal attraction. "Any time more than one magnet passes beyond the stomach of a child, urgent surgical consideration is required," he warned.
The Guardian

Rabbit invasion puts Roman forts under siege
Rabbits are threatening to destroy forts and watchtowers built by the invading Roman legions 2,000 years ago. Archaeologists say burrows have undermined about 60 defensive sites in Scotland, and some structures are in danger of collapse. The large fort at Ardoch, near Braco in Perthshire, established about 80AD, is one of the worst-affected sites
Daily Telegraph

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