New Scientist - Issue 20 August 2005

17-Aug-2005 8:55 AM EDT

New Scientist

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MAGAZINE ISSUE DATE: 20 AUGUST 2005 (Vol. 187 No 2513)

NEWS:

BABY CELLS PATCH UP MOTHER'S BRAINA team from Singapore have shown that stray stem cells from a growing fetus can colonise the brains of mothers during pregnancy " at least in mice. Initial results suggest that the fetal cells are summoned to repair damage in the mother's brain. If the finding is repeated in humans, the medical implications could be profound. It's a long way off but there's good reason to hope that one day fetal cells could be injected into the bloodstream to treat brain damage caused by strokes or Alzheimer's disease. Pages 8-9

DWARF GALAXY LIGHTS UP DARK MATTER DEBATEA faint dwarf galaxy has been found circling the Milky Way. Astronomers believe the galaxy, named UMajor, has the biggest proportion of dark matter of any galaxy yet found. The discovery supports the theory of cold dark matter, which predicts that there are hundreds of low-mass dwarf galaxies circling our galaxy. Page 17

SOLAR HEAT STORE DE-ICES ROADThe summer sun could help prevent cars skidding on icy roads in the winter. A trial of the idea has begun, where a network of polyethylene water pipes have been buried below a private road in the UK. The idea is that in the summer, the blazing sun on the asphalt heats the water in the pipes, which is pumped into storage alongside the road into insulated pipes. Come winter, sensors detect a drop in temperature on the road surface, and the warm water is pumped back under the road to prevent ice forming on the road surface. Page 25

3D COMPUTER MODEL FROM A PILE OF SNAPSFor the first time, ordinary digital photos of a sculpture can be transformed into a 3D computer model. The software, developed by researchers at the University of Cambridge, can be used to create virtual models for sculptors to post on websites, or for auction houses to make models of its sculptures for potential buyers. Page 28

EARLIER SPRING THAW TO GREAT LAKESThe Great Lakes of the US are thawing earlier each spring, according to an analysis of ice break-ups dating back to 1846. According to a US researcher, who studied the break-up of ice on 61 lakes between 1975 and 2004, the rate of change is three times as fast as it was before 1975. Page 18

THE NOT-SO-FROZEN NORTHA Norwegian-led expedition has discovered the most northerly undersea hydrothermal vents in the Arctic. The vents support a variety of life. "It's like going to a new continent for the first time," comments Jon Copley, a British deep-sea biologist. Page 6

SPECIAL REPORT: WHAT IF"¦?Have you ever wondered what your life would be like if you hadn't taken certain small decisions in life? Small choices change everything. This is certainly true of world history but what about science? Would present day be the same if Einstein and Newton hadn't made their revolutionary discoveries? New Scientist asked a panel of experts to speculate on the scientific pasts that might have been. INTRO Page 34-45

1662: KING'S EVIDENCEShortly after Charles II took the throne, he approved the formation of the Royal Society which focused on an experimental approach to science. If Charles hadn't established the Royal Society, science may have taken a very different, more philosophical path. Pages 39-40

1684: THE DIFFICULT ONEIn 1678 Isaac Newton lost interest in science and threw in the towel for 6 years. What if he hadn't returned to science at all and made any of his brilliant discoveries about the motions of planets and laws of gravity? Pages 37-39

1731: NO DARK SATANIC MILLSWhat if Michael Faraday had discovered electric power 100 years earlier than he did? For one thing, the industrial revolution would have looked a lot cleaner without the hallmark smoke and grime from large steam-fuelled factories. Pages 40-42

1830: EVOLUTION'S INSIDE MANCharles Darwin's father very nearly didn't let him go on his voyage on HMS Beagle because he wanted him to settle down as a parson. Would someone else have arrived at the theory of natural selection if Darwin hadn't sailed to the Galapagos Islands? If so, would they have had the same clout to make evolution a fit subject of debate? Pages 43-44

1905: ALBERT WHO?Without an editor taking a chance by publishing three papers from an unknown amateur physicist 100 years ago, our view of the universe would be very different. If Einstein's papers hadn't been published we may have had a different face as the icon of science. Pages 46-47

1943: A DARKER SHADE OF GREENWhat if the Nazis had won the war and become a global superpower? The scientific agenda for the next half century would have been dominated not by subatomic physics and nuclear energy, but by ecology. Nazis would have ended mass vaccinations, encouraged vegetarianism, outlawed vivisection and advanced space travel more rapidly. Pages 36-37

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