Latest research news

August 31, 2005

Publish university science for free, urges web creator

A group of UK academics including Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the world wide web, has called on the government and public bodies that fund academic research to ensure anybody can view publicly funded research for free on the system he helped develop. In an open letter to the science minister Lord Sainsbury and Research Councils UK - which brings together Britain 's eight public backers of research - Sir Tim and seven other academics have launched a stinging attack on moves by traditional scientific publishers to prevent the public dissemination of research.

The Guardian


Most scientific papers are probably wrong

Most published scientific research papers are wrong, according to a new analysis. Assuming that the new paper is itself correct, problems with experimental and statistical methods mean that there is less than a 50 per cent chance that the results of any randomly chosen scientific paper are true. John Ioannidis, an epidemiologist at the University of Ioannina School of Medicine in Greece , says that small sample sizes, poor study design, researcher bias, and selective reporting and other problems combine to make most research findings false. But even large, well-designed studies are not always right, meaning that scientists and the public have to be wary of reported findings.

New Scientist


David's toe points art historians to origins of Michelangelo's marble

Scientists have identified the precise origin of the marble block used for Michelangelo's David, and say the discovery will be useful for helping to preserve one of the world's greatest sculptures. Until now, art historians knew only that the large block came from the Carrara quarries in Tuscany , which still produce many types and qualities of marble. Analysts have now used three tiny samples, to track down the marble's origin. Not only were they able to determine the exact spot of excavation - the Fantiscritti quarries in Miseglia - they also found that Michelangelo's marble is of mediocre quality, filled with microscopic holes, and likely to degrade faster than many other marbles.

The Guardian


Lasers trigger cleaner fusion

Russian scientists have managed to use lasers to create a billion-degree nuclear fireball. The resulting fusion reaction is far cleaner than the kind currently being investigated to generate nuclear power. Sadly, the team's efforts are no good for power generation at the moment as the laser takes so much energy to run. But achieving this kind of laser-driven fusion in the lab will give scientists a better way to investigate the phenomenon, which could one day be used to create cleaner energy.



Molecular motors push liquid uphill

Droplets of liquid have been moved uphill by molecular motors designed to manipulate Brownian motion. While other researchers have found ways to make drops of liquids move before, what is new here, says David Leigh at the University of Edinburgh, is the use of molecular motors to achieve it: “This is the first time you can use molecular-level motion to move a macroscopic object. OK, so it’s only a tiny droplet – but it’s a start.” “You could pump liquids around a silicon chip,” says Leigh. With very small quantities of liquid, and with traditional pumps, this can be difficult as the liquid becomes very viscose at that scale. “It would be like trying to pump treacle.”

New Scientist


Coral reefs escaped damage from Asian tsunami

The Asian tsunami had a devastating effect on life and property, but the vast majority of the area's coral reefs escaped damage, according to research published today. Most of the Indian Ocean coral reefs were spared long-term damage from the deluge last Boxing Day, research by Thai scientists found. The most detailed research of its kind was based on 175 study sites along the west coast of Thailand - the area where the tsunami had the greatest effect on the coral.

The Scotsman


10p tax on plastic bags is rubbished by researchers

The prospect of Scotland following Ireland and introducing a 10p tax on plastic carrier bags receded yesterday when an official report concluded that it would bring only limited environmental benefits. A team of Scottish Executive researchers also said that full environment gains would only be achieved if paper bags were covered by a similar levy. The conclusions, produced in response to a Private Member’s Bill from the Liberal Democrat MSP Mike Pringle, appear to make it difficult for ministers to back the move which will, however, find a sympathetic response from backbenchers of all parties.

The Times

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