Latest research news

February 23, 2005

End of Sars as a deadly threat
The killer Sars virus has been contained so effectively that it can be considered eradicated outside laboratories, scientists said on monday. Severe acute respiratory syndrome killed 774 people between November 2002 and June 2003 but it is no longer circulating in human beings or animals, according to research that ends fears that fresh outbreaks could emerge from natural reservoirs still harbouring the disease. For Sars to return as a threat, it would have to evolve again from scratch or be released in a laboratory accident or bio terror attack, the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference heard.
The Times

High-energy particles reveal volcanic interiors
Flowing magma could one day be traced beneath the surface of active volcanoes using instruments that detect the high-energy space particles that stream through the rock. Scientists have shown that muons - high-energy particles generated when cosmic rays interact with the Earth's atmosphere - can be used to probe the inner structure of volcanoes. They appear to be able to trace geological activity as it occurs and might one day provide early warnings of a volcanic eruption. Existing methods for probing volcanoes - such as echo-sounding - would be unreliable by comparison.
New Scientist

UN committee approves cloning ban
After three years of deadlock, a United Nations legal committee has recommended that member nations should be urged to ban all forms of human cloning. The decision undermines efforts to develop medical treatments with stem cells, scientists say. If the UN General Assembly approves the statement in a future vote, however, it would not become an international treaty. Instead, the non-binding declaration is a compromise that was hammered out after negotiations failed to agree on a legally binding treaty to ban cloning internationally.
Nature, The Telegraph

New medical research
Women who have underactive thyroid glands have a reduced risk of breast cancer, says a Texas University study which suggests that thyroid hormone may raise women’s risk of the disease. The research studied more than 22,000 women and found that those with hypothyroidism had a 61 per cent lower risk of developing invasive breast cancer. The discovery may lead to new treatments.
The Times

Without meat children are damaged, say scientists
Some say meat is murder, while others dismiss a meal without animal products as rabbit food. Now a leading US nutritionist has given both sides something to chew on with a claim that parents who refuse to feed children meat are acting unethically. Professor Lindsay Allen of the University of California said that to deny growing children animal products during the critical first few years of life could cause permanent damage.
The Guardian, The Telegraph, Nature

Birds' IQ table gives tool-users something to crow about
Crows capable of creating tools to dig up grubs and falcons that recognise the sound of gunshots have topped the first IQ table for birds. The survey of 2,000 observations by ornithologists showed that some birds display imaginative behaviour to rival that of great apes and humans. Among the examples, collected by Dr Louis Lefebvre, was a story of war-zone vultures that waited by a minefield for animals to be blown up. Their macabre behaviour was spotted during the civil war in Zimbabwe by a border guard.
The Scotman, The Financial Times, The Telegraph

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