Today's news

July 25, 2002

Animal tests secrecy must end, peers say
Animal experiments are necessary to protect humans, animals and the environment - but scientists should also be looking for alternative ways of ensuring safe medicines, a House of Lords committee said yesterday. The committee also called for more openness by government, laboratories and industry, and for more informed public debate. (The Financial Times, The Guardian, The Independent, The Daily Telegraph, The Times)

Asteroid on collision course for Earth
Astronomers have warned that a direct hit from a newly discovered asteroid, estimated at between 2km and 4km in diameter, on February 1 2019 could cause continent-wide destruction and severely alter the global climate. (The Daily Mail, The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, The Independent)

Is early Earth life on the Moon?
Manned missions to the Moon should be restarted to hunt for fossils left by the earliest living things on Earth, scientists have said. Some comets and asteroids have struck the Earth with such force that chunks of the planet’s surface were ejected beyond the pull of gravity. New evidence of such bombardment is published in Nature by Ronny Schoenberg of Queensland University. (The Daily Telegraph)

Computer detects breast cancer spread
A medical computer system based on the way people think has assessed correctly in nine out of ten cases whether breast cancer tumours would spread or recur within five years. The results will be announced today by scientists based at Newcastle University, who developed the system with colleagues in Milan. (The Guardian)

The spark of life revealed
Research has solved the century-old riddle of how a sperm activates an egg to develop into an embryo. (The Guardian)

Being male is bad for health
A study of death statistics from 20 countries has shown for the first time how much bigger the risk of premature death is for men than women. In the US, those up to the age of 50 are about twice as likely to die from any cause as women, and the increased risk continues beyond the age of 80, researchers led by Randolph Neese from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor report in the New Scientist . (The Daily Mail, The Daily Telegraph)

Community challenge
A year after the riots, a new school in Bradford is hoping to reverse the trend of segregation in the community, but will Challenge College live up to its name? (The Independent)

Jury out on new qualification
Do vocational A levels prepare students for real life? (The Independent)

Access project hit by summertime blues
Tower Hamlets Summer University, a pioneering project that has run courses in a deprived area of London since 1995, is in jeopardy. (The Independent)

Sorry chaps, it’s going pear-shaped
A study by Datasize Research Management suggests that in only 30 years the average waist size has increased by 3.4in, from 32.6in to 36in, and could reach 42in-44in by 2032. (The Daily Mail)

Ghosts are all in the head
Close encounters with the paranormal may depend on the chemistry of the brain, according to research by Zurich neurologist Peter Brugger reported in the New Scientist . Those with high levels of dopamine are more likely to find significance in coincidences and to pick out patterns where there are none. (The Daily Mail)

Scott took anthrax to Antarctica
Captain Robert Falcon Scott unwittingly carried anthrax with him on his ill-fated expedition to Antarctica 90 years ago, and the spores are still present at the base camp hut he built, scientists from Waikato University in New Zealand have said. (The Daily Telegraph, The Independent)

First seed-eating bird found
Evidence of seed-eating in a primitive bird has been found in China. A long-tailed bird, Jeholornis prima, dating from about 120 million year ago was found with 50 well-preserved seeds in its stomach, Nature reports. (The Times)

Breaking of law spells bad news for nanotechnology
The second law of thermodynamics has been broken, and it is bad news for nanomachines. Scientists have speculated that the law, which states that energy tends to dissipate from bodies into their surroundings, holds true for large systems but not always for small. The first evidence that this may indeed be the case comes from scientists at the Australian National University and is published in Physical Review Letters . The observations suggest that the motion and workings of machines only a few molecules in size could be disrupted in unpredictable ways by sudden transfers of energy from their surroundings. (The Financial Times)

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