New Scientist - Issue 23 Oct 04

20-Oct-2004 9:10 AM EDT

New Scientist

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MAGAZINE ISSUE DATE: 23 OCTOBER 2004 (Vol. 184 No 2470)

THE BAG THAT NEVER FORGETSBy mix and matching patches of smart material you can build artificial intelligence into any everyday object. For example, imagine a bag that will tell you if you've forgotten your umbrella, but only if it knew it was going to rain that day. Each computerised fabric patch, developed by engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, contains a unit of the system: a radio transceiver, a sensor, a microphone, batteries or a display. The patches can be joined together in a variety of ways with Velcro, enabling data and power to flow from one to the next. Page 23

COULD 1918 FLU VIRUS ESCAPE FROM LABS? Researchers working with reconstructed versions of the 1918 flu virus are being accused of compromising on safety. In 1918 the virus killed at least 40 million people across the world. If a lab worker got exposed to the virus today " and it spread beyond the lab - the death toll could be much higher. Yet despite the dangers, researchers in the US are working with the virus at less than the maximum level of containment. Pages 6-7

BABIES BORN AFTER SURGERY ON EGGSTwenty children have been born to women for whom IVF had failed, after doctors performed a kind of transplant surgery on their eggs. Scientists in Taiwan told a meeting this week that a technique, which involves injecting the woman's own mitochondria into her eggs, boosted the pregnancy rate per cycle dramatically from 6 to 35 per cent. But other experts have concerns about the safety of the technique. Page 12

GUILT BY ASSOCIATIONA new technique called familial searching stretches the reach of national DNA databases to include a list of possible relatives to the owner of a particular DNA sample. This means that in a few years a large proportion of the UK's population will be included, by association, in the database, even though they have never been suspected of a crime. Should familial searching be allowed? Not without public debate say Frederick Bieber and David Lazer. Page 20

A SCREEN AS GLOSSY AS A MAGAZINEHewlett-Packard has announced it can make revolutionary liquid-crystal display screens that can match the clarity of a glossy magazine. Conventional computer screens can only manage 1600 by 1200 pixels, while HP reckons it can make A4-size images with 7000 by 5000 pixels.They say they will also be able to replicate this quality on large advertising billboards. Pages 24-25

THE VIOLENT GAMES PEOPLE PLAYThere is no doubt that children are being exposed to more games violence than ever, and this has been linked to school killings such as the Columbine High School murders. But is there any scientific evidence that games can make children or young adults more aggressive? Or is it a simple case of aggressive kids being attracted to violent games? Page 26

BORING INSECTS MAKE INTERESTING MUSICTermites are responsible for the characteristic sound of a didgeridoo according to an Israeli study. Traditionally, didgeridoos are made from eucalyptus branches that have been hollowed out by termites. Scientists found that it is the randomly shaped bores that have a unique effect on the sound of the instrument. Short Story Page 19

CAN QUANTUM QUIRK GIVE OBJECTS MASS?If you thought that quantum entanglement " the weird effect that allows two particles to behave as one " doesn't affect you or your life, think again. A British physicist has evidence to show that entanglement could be linked to the mass of everyday objects, including you. Pages 10-11

FEATURES:

BAD MEDICINEDoctors are finding themselves ordering unnecessary tests and prescribing drugs not because they're needed but for fear of being sued if the patient fails to make a full recovery. This "defensive medicine" is the result of soaring medical litigation costs, which is extreme in the US, and now climbing in other countries. But the paradox is that patients may end up more at risk. Pages 38-41

VORTEX DRIVEAny fluid will swirl into a vortex as it is moved, but engineers have long been trying to harness the energy that vortices soak up. When a jet from one fluid pushes into another, it curls up into a "vortex ring" . And if engineers can understand exactly how to use these vortex rings as thrusters they could be used to propel an underwater craft, or on a much smaller scale to power a vehicle inside the human body. Pages 30-34

FETAL FLAWSEpilepsy looks as if it should be a genetic disease, but what does "genetic" really mean? Geneticist Kenneth Weiss believes that the condition can be genetic, but not inherited. He says we need to rethink our notions of genetics to lead to a better understanding and new treatments for epilepsy and other neurological conditions. Pages 35-37

THE PETROLHEADS OF TITANWhen the spacecraft Cassini approaches Saturn's moon, Titan, next week it will enter unexplored territory. We know Titan has a thick atmosphere, and that it is seething with organic particles, perfect building material for life. But how can life exist at 180 ËšC below freezing, and what kind of exotic creatures would they be? Pages 43-46

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New Scientist is the world's leading science and technology news weekly, boasting a circulation of 145,000. The magazine is now available to readers worldwide, with US and Australian editions of New Scientist now being published. Visit our public website for further stories with our daily online news service: http://www.newscientist.com

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