New Scientist Magazine Press Release - Issue 25 Feb 06

22-Feb-2006 9:00 AM EST

New Scientist

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GLADIATORS FOUGHT BY THE BOOKAlthough a form of very brutal entertainment, gladiators stuck to strict rules of combat. A team from Austria used forensic techniques to analyse the cause of death of 67 gladiator remains found in a cemetery in Turkey. The lack of multiple bone injuries and mutilation shows that gladiators fought by the book and did not resort to the type of savage violence typical of a battlefield at that time. Page 17

IS THIS THE BARD I SEE BEFORE ME?Some detective work carried out on a little-known bust from London strongly suggests that a 17th-century death mask in Germany is that of William Shakespeare. A new imaging technique showed that the bust shared the same facial features as paintings already believed to show a "true likeness" of the Bard. But a more striking discovery came when a 3D computer model of the bust was superimposed onto that of the death mask to reveal perfect matches between the forehead, eyes and nose. Page 12

AN AMERICAN CITY FIGHTS FOR SURVIVALThe 2006 hurricane season begins in three months time and arguments still rage over how to protect New Orleans. The US Army Corps are busy restoring damaged levees, flood walls and pumps to more or less how they were before Hurricane Katrina struck last year. But residents and scientists are worried that this won't be enough to protect the city against future floods. Pages 8-11

SPACE IS RUNNING OUT OF SPACEA leading American space expert warns that it will take a major collision in space between satellites, spacecraft or space junk, to make people aware of just how crowded space is becoming. In an upcoming paper, countries will be called on to begin planning space traffic management. Page 27

DINOSAUR DETECTIVESThings are moving on in the world of palaeontology. Dinosaur hunters are now using the latest technologies such as advanced imaging to peer into skeletons and burial sites revealing more about how the creatures lived and died. Scanners are taking 3D maps of the sand a dinosaur was found in and the whole skeleton in situ. While high-resolution CT scans of dinosaur bones are being used to calculate what a juvenile dinosaur would have grown to look like. Pages 28-29

HOW TO OPERATE ON A BEATING HEARTSoftware that synchronises the movement of robotic surgical tools with the motion of a beating heart will make it possible to operate without stopping or slowing the heart down. The new software has been designed by researchers in London for use with a surgical robot called da Vinci. The surgery would even be carried out with the chest closed. Page 30

WATER GAVE LIFE ON EARTH A GUIDING HANDAmino acids made in the lab come in mirror-image pairs. But mysteriously it's only the left-handed form of the particle that nature favours in biological processes. Now a team in Israel have suggested the answer may lie with an obscure property of water. They suggest that it's the weak magnetic force in water that makes left-handed amino acids slightly magnetic and more stable than the right-handed version. Page 16


ZOOM WITH A VIEWAstronomers are already scanning the skies to spot Earth-like planets that might harbour life. But one researcher wants to go a step further and image the "exoplanets" in exquisite detail. An astronomer in France plans to build a hypertelescope, measuring hundreds of kilometres across, capable of mapping a 1000-kilometre patch of forest on a planet 30 light years away. Pages 40-43

TRIASSIC PARKThe end of the Triassic period has attracted little attention compared to the better known extinction of the dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous 65 million years ago. But fossils are now showing that the demise of the Triassic was pretty spectacular too, marking the end of some weird and wonderful creatures forever. Pages 44-47

THE PARCHED PLANETAll across the world farmers are sucking water from reserves beneath their fields to irrigate crops. But this water is completely unsustainable, and is rapidly running out. A water expert in India estimates that an explosion of water pumps in fields over the last ten years could leave up to 200 million people waterless and foodless. As rivers and underground reserves dry up, can anything be done to revive them? Pages 32-36

GREEN GOLDIf hydrogen is going to replace gasoline as the fuel of the future, growing algae on farms could be an environmentally friendly way to produce the vast amount required. The vision in California is for fields full of water-filled plastic tubes teeming with microscopic algae that soak up the sun's rays and produce enough hydrogen to fuel the state's vehicles. Pages 37-39


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