New Scientist Magazine - Issue 6-Nov-04

Article ID: 508081

Released: 3-Nov-2004 9:20 AM EST

Source Newsroom: New Scientist

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MAGAZINE ISSUE DATE: 6 NOVEMBER 2004 (Vol. 184 No 2472)

THE DISEASE THAT NEVER WAS?For more than a decade, the UK, US, Australian and Canadian governments have disputed that Gulf war syndrome exists, claiming that the illnesses war veterans suffer are hard to attribute and often psychological. Now the US authorities have changed their mind. Some US scientists are claiming that the questions in the studies the British were relying on were not designed in a way that would uncover a syndrome. According to a report due to be released next week in the US, there is a disease with physical conditions linked to chemical exposure in the Gulf. Pages 8-10

WEATHER HOTS UP UNDER THE TURBINESWind farms have a significant effect on the climate, according to US researchers who modelled a hypothetical wind farm. The model suggests that at night the turbines bring down to ground level the warm night air, increasing the temperature underneath the turbines by around 2°C. The findings are also backed by real observations from a wind farm in California. Page 19

MASSIVE PEAT BURN IS SPEEDING CLIMATE CHANGEThe recent surge in levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide may have been caused in part by smouldering peat bogs in Borneo, which began burning again last month. This is according to a UK expert on the bogs who says that further fires could accelerate global warming. Page 11

ZOMBIE NETWORKS FUEL CYBERCRIMEIt's becoming increasingly easy to execute an attack on company websites. Whether you want to take down rival websites, or send spam or blackmail attacks, all you need to do is rent software "bots" , or botnets, from hacking groups to do the dirty job for you. Botnets can be placed on hundreds of innocent PC's around the world. Then all it takes is for the controlling chat-room to type a simple command to waken the dormant bots to do their damage. Page 28

HOW CELLS FROM BABIES HELP HEAL THEIR MOTHERSIt has long been known that cells from a human fetus can remain in the mother's blood for many years. Now, researchers from Boston have shown that these fetal cells can help heal skin wounds in the mother, both during and after pregnancy. Page 14

THE STRANGE CASE OF THE SKEWED X CHROMOSOMEIn a new twist to the debate over "gay genes" , an intriguing study raises the possibility that it's variations in the genetic program we inherit from our parents, and not the genes themselves, that might determine sexual preference. The American study found that a normally random process called methylation, which shuts down genes, was extremely skewed in mothers with gay sons. The researchers told a meeting last week: mothers might not be resetting their own "I like males" programme. Page 14

MULTIPLE IMPACTSA joint French and Egyptian mission has discovered the largest field of impact craters ever uncovered on Earth. The size of the field suggests it's the first evidence of a multiple meteor strike. The field was partially buried beneath the sands of the Sahara desert. Page 6


SLEEP ON ITSolo yacht racers have to learn to cope with extreme sleep deprivation as they scan the horizon for danger, snatching 20-minute naps here and there. Sailors are now turning to scientists to learn how to manage their sleep to give them the most benefit. But other sleep-deprived people could also benefit from learning the art of napping, such as pilots, shift-workers or even parents. Pages 37-39

COUGHS AND SNEEZES SPREAD MIND DISEASESWhen you pick up an infection you expect to feel under the weather, but you don't expect to feel depressed or psychotic. In recent years several bugs have come to light that are able to trigger symptoms of mental illness, such as Lyme disease, which is a known cause of psychiatric illness. But which other germs can you catch a mental illness from? Pages 40-43

WELCOME TO ATTOWORLDThe attoworld is a world so tiny it seems completely alien and out of reach. But today's scientists are investigating gadgets that can measure attoqualities: a billionth of a billionth of a metre, or second or gram. With attogadgets you could: detect a single bacterium or virus from the bloodstream to diagnose disease much quicker; or develop a microscope that can take a 3D image of atoms within molecules; or a camera flash that captures single molecules in freeze-frame. Pages 33-36

BY ANY MACHINES NECESSARYModern-day activists have some high-tech tricks up their sleeves to grab the public's attention. How about sending a robot out into a crowd to shout slogans or distribute literature. Make it cute-looking and the droid will look a whole lot less confrontational than a human protester.


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