Today's news

October 2, 2003

GM crops fail key trials amid environment fear
Two of the three GM crops grown experimentally in Britain, oil seed rape and sugar beet, appear more harmful to the environment than conventional crops and should not be grown in the UK, scientists are expected to tell the government next week. The results of the three years of field-scale trials - the largest scientific experiment of its type on GM crops in the world - will be published next Friday by the august Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society . The study will include eight peer-reviewed papers about the effect of growing GM crops and accompanying herbicides on the plants and animals living in the fields around. The papers compare the GM fields with conventional crops grown in adjacent fields.
( Guardian )

Zoos urged to give predators room to roam
Large predators, which have huge hunting ranges in their natural habitats, have the highest rates of infant mortality when kept in zoos or safari parks, researchers at Oxford University have found. Species such as the polar bear, lion, cheetah and tiger are also the most likely to show symptoms of stress and psychological disturbance. The results are surprising because until now it was thought that not being able to hunt was the biggest problem for zoo carnivores. The findings are published today in the journal Nature .
( Times, Guardian, Independent )

Secret of lifelong happiness lies mainly in the genes
The secret of happiness lies mainly in our genes, an analysis of the scientific keys to a contented life has concluded. A genetic propensity to good cheer is more important to happiness than a happy marriage, loyal friends, the riches of Croesus or religious faith. A survey by New Scientist magazine, which was based on discussions with behavioural scientists and psychologists, rates "making the most of your genes" as the most critical of ten factors that have been proved to contribute to personal happiness.
( Times )

Vintage chutney undergoes time test
A vintage jar of chutney that has been gathering dust for more than 30 years will test the boundaries of food science when it is opened today. The Royal Society of Chemistry and the Institute of Food Research agreed to do a variety of tests to find out whether the chutney was still safe to eat and how the years had affected it.
( Times )

Prehistoric Long Man is 16th-century boy
The Long Man of Wilmington, carved into the South Downs in Sussex, may be a relatively recent addition to the landscape, according to a team of researchers led by Martin Bell, an environmental archaeologist at Reading University,  Tests carried out this summer have produced compelling evidence that it dates from the mid-16th century.
( Daily Telegraph )

Scientists crack the crumbly biscuit riddle
A crumbly conundrum has been solved by scientists investigating why biscuits crack up so often. Physicists at the University of Loughborough ran laser tests that showed that biscuits often develop "fault lines" a few hours after baking. As the biscuit cools, it picks up moisture around the rim, which causes it to expand. At the same time, moisture at the centre makes the biscuit contract. The difference results in a build-up of strain forces, which pull the biscuit apart.
( Independent )

Light shed on the contents of women's handbags
German brothers Philipp and Axel Bree have invented the world's first internal handbag light. They used a new type of plastic that can be shaped and does not produce heat to illuminate the bag's contents.
( Times )

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