MAGAZINE ISSUE DATE: 26 AUGUST 2006 (Vol. 191 No. 2566)


JUST CAN'T GET ENOUGHCan gambling, online gaming, shopping and sex really be as addictive as drugs and alcohol? A rise in behavioural addictions has triggered debates about the real definition of the term "addiction" , and how to treat the growing problem. Evidence is mounting from brain studies to show that the same biological processes lie behind all addictions, whether it's behavioural or chemical. Researchers have shown, for example, that addicted gamblers experience comparable cravings and withdrawal symptoms as drug addicts. Pages 30-35

BULLSEYEWhen the Large Hadron Collider is completed next year at CERN near Geneva, it will be the most powerful particle accelerator in the world. So why have physicists been designing another accelerator costing billions of dollars? Part of the reason is that the International Linear Collider will be built in America. But more importantly, the potential rewards from the ILC promise to be stunning. With sharper instruments than the LHC, the linear collider will be able to examine more precisely the secrets of whatever's flung from the collision. Pages 36-40

ALIENS ROCK!Ten years ago a small rock shot to fame when a team of scientists claimed it contained evidence of ancient Martian life. It turned out to be a false alarm, but now another Martian meteorite is causing intrigue, which could make it just as famous. This one fell to Earth in Egypt in 1911 and initial results show small tunnels that could be biological in origin. Pages 44-45

BURDEN OF PROOFThis week the Mathematical Union announced that it was awarding the prestigious Fields medal to the Russian Grigori Perelman - although it's looking unlikely that he will collect his prize. The prize was for his work four years ago proving the Poincaré conjecture. The controversy around this award has highlighted the fact that mathematicians are now finding it increasingly difficult to decide what constitutes a complete proof, especially since the introduction of computer-assisted proofs. Pages 41-43


COT DEATH SURVEY POINTS TO BABIES MOST AT RISKA genetic study of babies who died of sudden infant death syndrome, or cot death, suggests that abnormal lung development may be the cause in at least some cases. The researchers from the UK found significant differences in two genes between SIDS babies and controls: one gene was for lung function and the other to do with the immune system. The team suggest that a combination of impaired immune system and lung function at a time when immunity is already low may put a baby at increased risk under certain conditions. Page 11

ETHER RETURNS IN BID TO OUST DARK MATTERThe idea of an all-pervading "ether" in space, was ruled out over a century ago. But now researchers are reincarnating the ether in a new form that would defy Einstein's theory of relativity, but does away with the mysteriously unseen dark matter. They are proposing an ether field rather than a physical substance, which pervades space-time. Pages 8-9

EGYPTIAN INSCRIPTIONS SAVED BY A MOUSEEgyptologists are being urged to put down their tracing paper and pencils, and go digital. The hieroglyphics that cover the walls of Egyptian temples are in danger of being washed away as groundwater seeps into the stone. Now researchers in France have developed a much faster system for transcribing the precious inscriptions, with a simple software tool that can record the hieroglyphic on a searchable database. Page 28

LASERS ADVANCE SLOWLY INTO THE BATTLEFIELDDespite ploughing billions of dollars into developing lasers into effective weapons, the Pentagon has so far been unable to convert the technology into a usable system for military operations. The main problem has been their size, with huge trailers just to carry the laser's fuel. Now, two US contractors are competing to develop solid-state lasers, which can be powered by electricity rather than chemical fuel. Pages 26-27

WHERE DISEASES GO TO EVOLVEThe warm, wet conditions found in the cooling towers of factories and oil refineries could make them a perfect spot for emerging respiratory diseases. Many species of bacteria, including those that cause legionnaire's disease, evolve in association with amoebas. Researchers in America have found that amoebas in cooling towers are 16 times as likely to host bacteria as those in ponds and lakes. SHORT STORY PAGE 19


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