Dream escap from the solar system
WEEKLY August 24 - 30, 2013
Six health myths you should ignore
HALFof a celestial in-betweener
TAG, YOU’RE IT
Drones hunt via
Kicking heroin with
Science and technology news
US jobs in academia
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GOOD COP, BAD DOG
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Volume 219 No 2931
This issue online
India’s ambitious food plan. Planet names to
reflect people’s choice. China to stop using
inmate organs. New gender in Germany
8 THIS WEEK
When the oceans got lost in Oz. Dark
energy may spring from Higgs boson.
The longest-lived bat. Conversations with
locked-in people. Prehistoric pit stop in the
12 FIELD NOTES
Kicking heroin addiction with a hallucinogen
16 IN BRIEF
Elderly stars get booted. Birds respect road
speeds. Blood test for suicide?
for escaping the
On the cover
Do not eat
Six health myths
you should ignore
Escaping the solar system
Half star, half planet
Tag, you’re it
Drones hunt via
Kicking heroin with
Good cop, bad dog
Delinquent dog detectives
Ciaran Griffin/Getty Images
19 Drones play tag. AI cuts your electricity bills.
Hone your basketball skills. Twitter predicts
conflict in Egypt. Weather drones
24 The coldest city on Earth
26 Forget Silicon Valley Mariana Mazzucato
reveals the real backers of innovation
27 One minute with… Beth O’Leary A bill in
Congress may protect moon landing site
28 Did I do that? Elizabeth Loftus on the perils
and potentials of false memory research
30 LETTERS Twins in space. Kill the cat?
32 Do not eat (see above left)
37 Half star, half planet Unlikely rise of
a cosmic in-betweener
40 Good cop, bad dog Delinquent hounds
turn eco detectives
44 Wiped out (see left)
The race to save our
48 A living heart Why did the public love the
Gaia theory while scientists hated it?
49 Ghost ships sail Virtual gallery proves a
pleasing way to preserve old exhibitions
Coming next week…
The clockwork brain
What really makes your thoughts go round?
Heart of darkness
EDITORIAL The frontier spirit has well
and truly arrived in space
FEEDBACK Real time travel update
THE LAST WORD Metallergy
JOBS & CAREERS
Closing in on the universe’s missing matter
24 August 2013 | NewScientist | 3
The fracking fracas
PROTESTS against proposed fracking
operations in England culminated this
week with the arrest of Caroline Lucas
(pictured), a Green Party member of
parliament, for refusing to cooperate
with police during a demonstration.
Meanwhile, the latest geophysical
research concludes that over 100
quakes were triggered in a single year
of fracking-related activities in Ohio.
Lucas was among a handful of
demonstrators arrested during a
protest at a site in West Sussex
where oil and gas exploration firm
Cuadrilla aims to sink a conventional
oil well as a prelude to possible
fracking operations. No permission
has yet been given for fracking.
The Ohio quakes, centred around
Youngstown, were triggered by the
disposal of wastewater from fracking
operations in neighbouring
Pennsylvania rather than by hydraulic
fracturing itself. As more and more
wastewater was injected into a deep
well, the water pressure in the rock
rose and triggered 109 small quakes
between January 2011 and February
2012. The largest had a magnitude of
3.9 (Journal of Geophysical Research:
Solid Earth, doi.org/nh5).
Quakes are not the only reason that
fracking is controversial. There are
concerns that the chemicals added to
fracking water may contaminate
groundwater reservoirs. However,
geologists at the British Geological
Survey say that groundwater
reservoirs usually lie thousands of
metres above the rocks that are
fracked in well-managed operations,
making contamination unlikely.
–Refusing to cooperate–
“Kepler’s bounty of star
data has now given us a
better way to find new
Earths in the galaxy”
Secret clean-up of nuclear stash
IT IS always good to learn that the
world has become a safer place –
especially when the danger was
a warren of unsecured tunnels
containing enough plutonium to
make dozens of nuclear bombs.
The radioactive material was at
Semipalatinsk in east Kazakhstan –
a former nuclear test site where
numerous birth defects have been
reported. Credit for the 17-year
clean-up goes to US and former
Soviet nuclear weapons scientists
6 | NewScientist | 24 August 2013
who convinced governments to back
them. The US footed much of the
$150 million bill, but project details
The operation is described in a
report released on 15 August by
Harvard University’s Belfer Center
for Science and International Affairs.
Co-author Eben Harrell suggests
that cooperation between scientists
could help secure other hazardous
sites, such as France’s nuclear test
range in the Algerian Sahara.
For daily news stories, visit newscientist.com/news
Cosmic name game
The UN has warned of an “explosive”
outbreak of polio in Somalia. The
alert came days after medical charity
Médecins Sans Frontières said it was
closing all its programmes in the
country, believing it too dangerous
for staff to continue their work. At
least 105 cases of polio – half last
year’s global tally – have been
recorded in Somalia this year.
“The arbiter of celestial
nomenclature has given
its stamp of approval for
public naming contests”
Hot water leak
–Enough for 800 million people?–
Feeding the masses
Beleaguered is an understatement.
Tepco, the operators of the wrecked
Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan,
say some 300 tonnes of radioactive
water have leaked from storage
tanks. An hour’s exposure to the
water would give a radiation dose of
100 millisieverts – five times the
permitted annual dose for workers.
Jupiter moon erupts
It’s OK to be neither
“Critics have described the
move as electioneering
ahead of India’s general
election next year”
The most volcanically active world
in the solar system just blew its
top. Volcanoes erupt on Jupiter’s
moon Io almost continuously, with
vastly more power than those on
Earth. But the explosion on
15 August was big even by its
standards, with lava spouting
upwards hundreds of metres.
The Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change has concluded that
there is at least a 95-per-cent chance
that humans are to blame for climate
change. That’s according to the
latest leak of its upcoming report,
due out next month. The last report,
published in 2007, cited a 90-percent or greater confidence level.
It’s one level down from a supernova.
On 14 August, the brightest nova
seen since 2007 appeared in the
constellation Delphinus, visible to
the naked eye. Novae occur when
hydrogen on a white dwarf’s surface
explodes in a runaway fusion
reaction. Unlike supernovae, the star
survives. Nova Delphini 2013 may be
visible from Earth for weeks to come.
–Nukes detonated under here–
24 August 2013 | NewScientist | 7
Take me to Alpha
Centauri, one day
An interstellar trip won’t happen anytime soon,
but the technology it is inspiring is useful on Earth
Anne-Marie Corley, Dallas
–Laser propulsion, anyone?–
8 | NewScientist | 24 August 2013
“Any single planet species
is doomed to extinction –
so we need ways to escape
the solar system”
In this section
When the oceans get lost in Oz, page 10
Kicking heroin addiction, page 12
Drones play tag, page 19
Technology at a mature stage
It would take 25,000 years...
Viable; no new physics required
Requires huge laser array in space
Mars “FedEx”; vaporising
asteroids and space debris
“It’s our ambition to be
the first spacecraft to be
overtaken on the way to
Fast enough to carry people
Fusion engine required; hydrogen
scoop may create drag
Time travel, of a sort; fusion would
mean clean energy for Earthlings
Warp drive, wormholes
No existing technology
Who’s to say?
–Breathe in hydrogen - and fuse!–
24 August 2013 | NewScientist | 9
STEVE PARISH/STEVE PARISH PUBLISHING/CORBIS
oceans go to hide
“River channels in the
east of Australia run into
a low-lying desert basin,
not out to sea”
–I’m an ocean… get me out of here–
SHEER WEIGHT OF WATER
When the seas rose at the end of
the last ice age, all hell broke loose.
According to a new analysis, the
extra weight of liquid water deformed
the seabed, causing vast submarine
landslides and tsunamis, perhaps
even releasing extra greenhouse
gases. Today’s rising seas could
have similar effects, but probably
not for centuries.
Underwater landslides were more
common in the first 5000 years after
the last ice age than they are today.
During that time, sea levels rose by
120 metres as melting ice sheets
10 | NewScientist | 24 August 2013
poured their cargo into the ocean.
Daniel Brothers of the US
Geological Survey in Woods Hole,
Massachusetts, and his colleagues
estimated how much stress the
extra weight would have placed on
the seabed. They found that faults
were more likely to rupture along
the Amazon and North Carolina
coasts, triggering landslides
Submarine earthquakes and
landslides can cause tsunamis, so
these monster waves may have been
more common as sea levels rose.
The changes might also have
released methane, which is stored
beneath the seabed in icy crystals
called clathrates. Methane is a
potent greenhouse gas, so would
have helped to warm the climate.
Simon Day of University College
London broadly agrees with the
findings. He adds that we are unlikely
to experience similar convulsions.
It would take about 10 metres of
sea level rise to affect the number
of underwater landslides. Most
predictions for this century are for
a rise of about 1 metre.
For daily news stories, visit newscientist.com/news
Dark energy may spring
from the Higgs boson
NASA/CXC/SAO/A.VIKHLININ ET AL.
–Field test for new physics–
The secret of
long life that lies
in bat genes
NOT all small animals lead short lives,
and now we know which genes may
be behind a remarkable example.
Brandt’s bat (Myotis brandtii)
typically weighs 4 to 8 grams – about
half the weight of a house mouse.
At that weight, a well-established
link between body mass and lifespan
dictates that it should live no more
than five years. Yet in 2005, biologists
captured a Brandt’s bat in Siberia
41 years after it had first been caught.
Now, analysis of the species’
genome suggests an explanation.
Vadim Gladyshev at Harvard Medical
School and his colleagues found
key changes to genes in a hormonal
system known as the “growth
hormone/IGF1 axis”. These changes
are not seen in other mammals
except as rare mutations.
Some are linked to dwarfism in
animals and humans, says Gladyshev,
and others are linked to ageing. He
thinks that as the bat adapted to its
insect-eating niche, where small size
is an advantage, its genes may have
changed to reduce its body size – and
inadvertently increased its lifespan
(Nature Communications, DOI:
That could be a partial explanation,
says Steven Austad at the University
of Texas Health Science Center in
San Antonio, but would not account
for the bat’s 41 year lifespan. In mice,
changing the growth hormone axis
“In 2005, biologists
captured a bat in
Siberia 41 years after it
had first been caught”
can extend lifespan by, say, 50 per
cent, he adds.
Gerald Wilkinson at the University
of Maryland in College Park thinks
other factors are also at play. For
instance, Brandt’s bats hibernate,
which slows down their metabolism
and may help prolong lifespan, but
some other bats and small animals do
not. “Of course, lifestyle, hibernation,
and possibly other factors also
contribute to Brandt’s bats’ longevity,”
says Gladyshev. “But at the molecular
level, the altered growth hormone/
IGF1 axis is the strongest lead so far.”
24 August 2013 | NewScientist | 11
FIELD NOTES Baja California
Can a mind-altering drug
cure heroin addiction?
“This euphoric state
brought about an instant
relief from the discomfort
of going without heroin”
A NEW ERA IN AMERICA’S WAR ON DRUGS
Are prospects improving for addicts
hoping to beat their habit? As well
as new ways to treat addiction
(see main story), the US government
seems to be adopting a more nuanced
take on its “war on drugs” – a policy
that has seen the US imprison a
higher proportion of people on
drugs charges than any other nation.
On 12 August, US Attorney
General Eric Holder announced
a plan to reduce the currently
lengthy minimum sentences
handed out under federal law for
non-violent drug offenders. And
12 | NewScientist | 24 August 2013
some states are bringing in even more
In 2007, Texas abandoned plans
to spend $523 million on building
prisons, and instead invested around
half that on crime-reduction policies,
including expanding substance-abuse
treatment programmes. Crime rates in
the state are now down to levels not
seen since the 1960s.
This bold move may not have
happened had it not been for the
Washington State Institute for
Public Policy, which has led the way in
evidence-based criminal justice. The
institute conducts rigorous studies to
determine whether particular policies
work and whether they provide value
for money. It has found that one of the
most cost-effective approaches is to
offer reduced sentences to convicted
drug offenders if they undergo
while in prison.
Arguably, the most impressive
approach is “swift and certain
sanctions”. This involves probation
with strict monitoring, in which any
offender caught using drugs knows
they will be immediately jailed – for
just a few days. A trial in Hawaii
found offenders enrolled into the
scheme were 55 per cent less likely
to be rearrested.
As they involve sanctions,
such approaches are acceptable to
politicians who might otherwise
worry about being seen as soft on
crime. That means the measures are
acceptable on both sides of the
political spectrum, says Steven
Raphael at the University of
California, Berkeley. “The country
seems to be ready for this change.”
STEVE RAYMER/NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CREATIVE
For daily news stories, visit newscientist.com/news
“Given the chance of relief
from the dependence, I am
free to make conscious
The writer of this article wishes
to remain anonymous
–Kill the craving–
Start your search now at:
24 August 2013 | NewScientist | 13
MASSIMO BREGA/THE LIGHTHOUSE/SPL
Driest place on
–May be paying attention–
Meeting minds with
“The method may provide a
starting point for creating
a gold standard for
14 | NewScientist | 24 August 2013
THE heart of the Atacama desert is
the driest place on Earth. But that
didn’t prevent the first settlers of
South America from setting up home
there more than 12,000 years ago.
Aside from Antarctica, South
America was the last continent that
modern humans colonised, says
Claudio Latorre of the Pontifical
Catholic University of Chile in
Santiago. The first settlers arrived
from North America at least 14,000
years ago, but their route south is a
mystery. Most researchers assume
they travelled through fertile
corridors, perhaps down the west
coast where seafood was plentiful,
at least until you hit the desert.
“Extreme environments, such as
the Atacama, were naturally assumed
to be barriers,” says Latorre. “This
was not the case.”
Latorre and colleagues excavated
a site called Quebrada Maní, which
lies 85 kilometres inland and only
receives rain a few times a century.
Digging on a low hill surrounded by
arid valleys, they found stone tools,
animal bones, seashells and the
remains of a fireplace (Quaternary
Science Reviews, doi.org/ng8).
How did these people survive in
the Atacama? Most of the desert’s
core was just as harsh then as it
is today. But the team found the
remains of plants at the site,
suggesting that the valleys had
seasonal marshes that acted as
oases, and which have since dried up.
If people did enter South America
along its west coast, Quebrada Maní
could have been an important pit
stop for heading inland, says team
member Calogero Santoro of the
University of Tarapacá in Arica, Chile.
“Certain features of the site seem to
correspond to a base camp,” he says.
“We need to think in terms of
oasis-hopping,” agrees Silvia
Gonzalez of Liverpool John Moores
University in the UK. She has found
similar archaeological sites in
Mexican deserts. Michael Marshall
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New science fiction from:
New essays & ideas about
the future from:
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a r c f i n i t y. o r g
Galaxy shapes set
near cosmic dawn
Do you know the speed limit?
That barn owl does
BIRDS cannot read road signs, but they know that some
roads have higher speed limits than others. They will take
off further away from an approaching car on a faster road
than on a slower road – regardless of the speed of the car.
When Pierre Legagneux of the University of Quebec
at Rimouski and Simon Ducatez of McGill University in
Montreal, both in Canada, were working together in
France in 2006, they began studying the birds they
encountered on the drive home from the lab. They found
that where there was a 50-kilometre-per-hour speed
limit, birds on the road typically took off when the car
was about 15 metres away, whereas on a 110-km-perhour road, they took off when a car was nearer 75 metres
away. They did this even when faced with a car travelling
faster on the slow road or slower on the fast road.
The researchers think the birds treat cars as predators,
and realise that in some parts of their environment the
predators are more dangerous than in others (Biology
Letters, DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2013.0417).
“Birds are able to associate environments, like
forests or roads, with risk,” says Christopher Lepczyk,
an ornithologist at the University of Hawaii, Manoa.
He thinks the work could prompt follow-up studies
comparing birds in urban and rural areas, and perhaps
encourage more innovative methods. “I just think it’s really
cool,” he says. “We don’t do enough of this kind of work.”
Aggressive bacteria have a weakness
16 | NewScientist | 24 August 2013
Elderly star couple
flees the galaxy
For new stories every day, visit newscientist.com/news
AS ANTI-CANCER regimes go, this
one is not going to get many takers.
The Middle East blind mole rat
(Spalax ehrenbergi) spends almost
all of its 20 years of life hurrying
down dark, fusty tunnels full of
oxygen-deprived air. But for reasons
unknown, it works: in 50 years of
research on the rodents, none
has ever spontaneously developed
cancer. Now it turns out that even
exposure to potent carcinogens
does not trigger tumours in these
Aaron Avivi of the University
of Haifa in Israel exposed 20 mole
rats to one of two cancer-causing
chemicals – DMBA/TPA or 3-MCA.
Even after three years, only one of
the animals developed any tumours.
By contrast, rats and mice exposed
to the same chemicals developed
tumours in a matter of months
(BMC Biology, doi.org/nhn).
“We’ve shown that whether
the mole rats are young or old, it is
almost impossible to induce cancer
in them,” says Avivi.
He is now trying to identify what
substances within their cells offer
such strong protection. Avivi’s team
has found out that fibroblast skin
cells from the armpits of the rats
can kill human cancer cells in a
dish. So did fluids secreted by the
fibroblasts, suggesting that they
contain something of great value
for combatting cancer.
Suicide risk could show up in a blood test
Mole rats immune
springs back to life
Gravity map gets more extreme
WANT to lose weight fast? No need
to adjust your diet – just move to
higher ground. This weight change is
the result of fluctuations in Earth’s
gravity, which a new high-resolution
map shows are greater than thought.
Gravity is often assumed to be
the same everywhere on Earth, but
it varies because the planet is not a
perfect sphere. For instance, gravity
is weaker at higher altitudes, further
from Earth’s centre, as seen in the
section of its gravity map showing
Mount Everest (large red area, above).
Christian Hirt of Curtin University
in Perth, Australia, and colleagues
combined gravity data from satellites
and topographic data to map gravity
changes between latitude 60° north
and latitude 60° south, covering
80 per cent of Earth’s land mass.
The model pinpoints more
extreme differences in gravitational
acceleration than previously seen
(Geophysical Research Letters, doi.
org/nht). Mount Nevado Huascarán
in Peru is the lowest point and the
highest is in the Arctic Ocean. You
would lose 1 per cent of your body
weight by moving from one spot
to the other, although your mass
24 August 2013 | NewScientist | 17
For more technology stories, visit newscientist.com/technology
“Nanocrystals can be
sprayed by a handlaunched drone and
illuminated with a laser”
–Better mist than missiles–
A new game of tag
Using drones to label and track people or cars may
offer a wiser alternative to lethal drone strikes
Many ways to make your mark
TAGGING technology has moved on
since the days of using water cannon
with indelible dye to mark rioters.
Selectamark Security Systems, a
company based in London, produces
a range of products containing
unique synthetic DNA sequences.
These include automatic sprays for
marking intruders, a personal
defence spray and a device similar to
a paintball pistol that can tag an
individual from 30 metres away.
Defence giant Lockheed Martin
has developed a grenade which
disperses nanoparticle taggants
(see main story). Standard grenade
launchers can fire it at targets
hundreds of metres away, marking
vehicles and people over a wide
radius from the point of impact.
24 August 2013 | NewScientist | 19
Electric easy street
SPITTA + HELLWIG/PLAINPICTURE
Let artificial intelligence cut your energy bills and make the grid smarter too
–How do you like yours?–
“The system makes small
adjustments to customers’
thermostats when energy
suppliers need a hand”
20 | NewScientist | 24 August 2013
For more technology stories, visit newscientist.com/technology
ONE PER CENT
THINK you’ve got game? Try this
on for size: a sensor-laden sleeve
promises to improve basketball
players’ shooting skills by tracking
their arm movements and calculating
the arc of their shots.
The sleeve is equipped with
accelerometers that sit over the
player’s biceps, forearm and back of
the hand. As they practise, the sleeve
keeps track of every arm movement
and compares it with an ideal model
of arm motion for a basketball shot.
It can either provide feedback
through a series of light and sound
cues from the sleeve’s sensors, or run
in silent mode so the player can focus
on practising. Afterwards, they can
check their performance on a laptop.
“We asked coaches, ‘How do
you teach a shot? What do you
consider good form?’ ” says Cynthia
Kuo, co-founder of Vibrado in
Sunnyvale, California, which
developed the sleeve. “They look at
things like keeping your elbow in,
following through with your wrist,
and keeping your arm up, but not too
far up. So we created a model of the
The software can also calculate
the arc of the ball as it leaves the
hand. This could be useful as previous
studies have shown that there is an
ideal release angle depending on
where the player is on the court.
Releasing the ball at an angle of
around 52 degrees gives the best
chance of success for free throws,
which are always taken from
around 4.5 metres from the basket,
“Coaches can give players specific
skills to work on – they can say, ‘I want
you to go home and take 100 free
throws’ or something – and the sleeve
will help them work on their form,”
The sleeve has been in testing
over the last few months at the Top
Flight Sports Academy in San Jose,
“The sleeve keeps track of
every arm movement and
compares it with an ideal
model of arm motion”
California, which trains promising
teenage players hoping to play
at college level. An app is being
developed so that players can check
their performance on a smartphone.
“This would be very good for
teaching consistency,” says Larry
Silverberg at North Carolina State
University in Raleigh, who studies the
mechanics behind basketball shots.
But he says the device’s usefulness
is limited as it can’t help players with
footwork, which can be crucial. A shot
“starts with the feet and goes up
from there”, he says. Michael Reilly
Basketball sleeve helps
you make the perfect shot
A holy house of cards
You’ll never look at a toilet roll in the same way again. Last
week a “cardboard cathedral” was unveiled in Christchurch,
New Zealand, replacing the building destroyed by the 2011
earthquake. Designed by Japanese architect Shigeru Ban,
the Transitional Cathedral is made from 98 giant cardboard
tubes, holds 700 people and is designed to withstand
earthquakes. The tubes are coated with waterproof
polyurethane and are sheltered by a polycarbonate roof
that glows when the cathedral is lit at night.
“We would have been bringing the
future forward a year or two”
Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Canonical, talks to the BBC
about a bid to crowdfund the building of an Ubuntu Edge
smartphone, which would be as powerful as a PC. With three
days left, the firm had raised a crowdfunding record of more
than $11 million - but was still short of its $32 million target.
Get some balance in your life
Are you politically biased? Maybe you need some balancing.
A web browser widget keeps track of the political leanings
of your surfing history – and suggests ways to even out
your habits. The Balancer, created by Sean Munson at the
University of Washington in Seattle and colleagues, is an
indicator in the corner of your browser window to say if your
history is tilting to the left or right, with suggestions of sites
to visit to get an alternative viewpoint. In tests, it pushed
users towards a slightly more varied diet of news.
DAN CARLSON/SPIRAL MOON MEDIA
Magnetic robot goes nuclear
Where humans dare not tread… a magnetic, wall-climbing
robot may go instead. Designed to crawl around inside a
nuclear reactor after meltdown, Gunryu was made to
decommission the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant
in Japan. The robot, developed by Woosub Lee at the Tokyo
Institute of Technology and colleagues, has a dextrous arm
that lets it perform laser cutting while it sticks to the walls.
–Get it right every time–
24 August 2013 | NewScientist | 21
INSIGHT Social media
I predict a riot
Could the violence in Egypt have been avoided by heeding Twitter?
MORE than 800 people have been
By tracking how the polarity of
killed in Egypt since police attacked
these hashtags changed, the team
protesters supporting former president was able to see the level of political
Mohamed Morsi, who was deposed
divergence between the two main
on 3 July. Could analysing Twitter
groups. If secularists and Islamists were
have helped to avoid the massacre?
both talking about politically neutral
In early 2011, when Egyptians
topics like the iPhone or Justin Bieber,
protested in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and
then polarisation was assumed to be
overturned Hosni Mubarak’s regime,
low. But when more secular users are
social networks like Facebook and
tweeting hashtags like #tamarrod,
Twitter got a lot of the credit for
roughly meaning “rebel”, polarity
helping rebels spread their message.
was judged to be high, for example.
Now, just over two years later,
They found that the increasing
Egypt has been plunged into violence.
political polarisation they measured
Twitter isn’t in the spotlight in the
same way as it was during the Arab
Spring, but nonetheless it did show
on Twitter preceded
that the latest conflict was coming.
Ingmar Weber and colleagues at the real-world strife”
Qatar Computing Research Institute
have created the Political Polarization
on Twitter preceded real-world strife.
Index to measure tension on Twitter.
“Quite strikingly, all outbreaks of
They looked at Egyptian tweets
violence happened during periods
between March 2012 and June 2013
where the hashtag polarity was
and assigned each user a score
comparatively high,” the team says.
between 0 and 1 depending on
It doesn’t mean Twitter can
which prominent figures – Islamist or
suddenly predict all events, but
secular – they had retweeted. The
Weber’s team hopes that such
“polarity” of popular hashtags used to
measures of rising tension might give
group messages was then calculated
governments enough foresight to
by averaging their use across all
steer away from violent conflict.
Egyptian tweeters, taking each user’s
“If governments realise that society
religious preferences into account.
is drifting apart, they might think of
22 | NewScientist | 24 August 2013
positive countermeasures,” says Weber.
In Egypt, the tension online and offline
entered a “red zone” during the row
over the country’s new constitution
in November and December 2012,
he says. That could have indicated to
the Morsi government that it should
reconsider its actions, especially as
tension didn’t really drop again, even
if the streets were quiet at the time.
Weber says they might improve the
system by keeping track of whether
individuals have used polarising
hashtags before, as a measure of
whether discontent is on the rise. “If
100 users use an anti-Morsi hashtag,
it might matter whether they are just
‘the regular suspects’ or are users who
have not been politically active in the
past but have now decided to express
their frustration,” he says.
Christopher Neu of Techchange in
Washington DC, which trains people to
use technology to drive social change,
agrees that insight from social media
can be useful in conflict situations,
but says that it would function like a
canary in a coal mine – warning people
of impending crisis, but not necessarily
helping them fix it. “Being able to tell
that something is wrong and doing
something about it are very different,”
he says. Hal Hodson
THERE’S a buzz in the air. A system
that listens to the sound of a
drone’s propellers and deduces
atmospheric conditions could one
day be used for measuring air
pollution, and even providing
Developed by Anthony Finn and
Kevin Rogers at the University of
South Australia in Adelaide, the
system uses an array of groundbased microphones to listen for
the distinctive sound created by
the propellers of a small uncrewed
aircraft. Columns of air between
the drone and the microphones
distort the sound depending on the
air temperature and how fast the
air is moving. If the system knows
the sound made at the source,
it can analyse the distortions to
work out the properties of the air.
A test in St Leonards, Victoria,
used five microphones and one
drone to measure air temperature
and wind speed up to 500 metres
above ground, finding a
temperature gradient that went
from 21 °C at ground level to 18 °C
at 500 metres.
Finn says his approach could
lead to mobile weather stations
that can monitor large volumes
of atmosphere and can move to
follow weather patterns. The work
will be presented at the Acoustics
conference in Victor Harbor, South
Australia, in November. Hal Hodson
Want to know
Listen to a drone
Coldest city on Earth
NO REFRIGERATORS needed here. A fish market,
and freezing fog that the sun struggles to pierce,
bear witness to the ferocious chills of Yakutsk,
Siberia’s largest city – and the world’s coldest.
In January, when Swiss photographer Steeve
Iuncker arrived in the Russian city, population
270,000, the temperature was -48 °C. “I won’t
forget it,” he says. In less than a minute he lost
feeling in his index finger. Then his camera froze.
With an average winter temperature of -40 °C,
Yakutsk isn’t quite the coldest place on Earth –
that crown goes to Antarctica. Nor is it the coldest
settlement; the nearby towns of Oymyakon and
Verkhoyansk average -47 °C in winter. But, built
on a layer of permafrost, it is the coldest city, says
Anton Vaks, who studies Siberian climates at the
University of Oxford. The lowest temperature
ever recorded there is -64.4 °C.
Siberia is so cold because it is isolated from the
warming effects of oceans, says Vaks. “The Pacific
Ocean to the south-east is blocked by mountain
ranges, and the Atlantic is too distant to moderate
the cold. The only ocean that’s relatively close is
the Arctic, but it’s frozen in winter.”
Back in France, the Natural History Museum in
Paris has just awarded Iuncker a €10,000 prize
based on these Siberian shots to create an
exhibition entitled Extreme Cities.
Right now, though, Yakutsk isn’t cold. Despite
the permafrost, it heats up in the summer, with a
record high of 38.4 °C. Andy Coghlan
Steeve Iuncker/Agence Vu
24 August 2013 | NewScientist | 25
State of innovation
Forget Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. It is government that should be credited
for backing wealth-creating technology, says economist Mariana Mazzucato
“Every technology that
makes the iPhone a
smartphone owes its vision
and funding to the state”
26 | NewScientist | 24 August 2013
Comment on these stories at newscientist.com/opinion
One minute with...
A bill that proposes a US national park on the moon is one
small step towards preservation, says the space archaeologist
As longtime champion of a national park on
the moon, what do you think of the bill in the
US Congress that proposes to create one?
I wasn’t involved in writing the bill, but I applaud
those who put it forward. It is a first attempt to
secure legal protection for the Apollo moon
landing artefacts. Will it succeed? Probably not.
But if it opens the discussion, that’s good.
Is a US national park the best solution?
When we say the US will make a park, people in
the international community may perceive that as
a claim of sovereignty. We have been very careful
to talk about just the artefacts. The trick is the
legality of doing this. That’s what I have struggled
with for the last 14 years. I am a believer that
when those first people went to the moon they
didn't just represent America but humanity as a
whole. Ultimately, the attempt to preserve sites
has to be international.
Are there any precedents?
Antarctica, which we have protected by a series
of treaties with different countries. The other
analogy is Admiralty law, which covers the oceans.
Mariana Mazzucato is an economist
and professor of science and
technology policy at the University
of Sussex, UK. Her latest book is The
Entrepreneurial State: Debunking
public vs. private sector myths. She
tweets on @MazzucatoM
Does other space material need protection?
Vanguard 1 is a good example: it’s the oldest
artificial satellite still in orbit and NASA predicts it
will be there for another 600 years. Hubble is due
to be retired. Is there a way to preserve these in
space, put them at a Lagrangian point – where
they can maintain a stable orbit – and leave them
for future space tourism? Colleagues of mine were
distressed when Russia's Mir space station came
down in 2001. Could it have been saved?
Beth O’Leary is an archaeologist at New Mexico
State University. She has created a project with
NASA to make the 1969 Apollo 11 lunar landing
site a National Historic Landmark
Apart from advocating preservation, what do
you do as a space archaeologist?
We look at material culture left in outer space or on
other celestial bodies. It is quite a recent group of
artefacts and sites, but you can do archaeology in
all places. This place happens to be off Earth.
How can you work at such distances?
A lot of archaeology is now done by remote
sensing, using aerial or satellite photos. The Lunar
Reconnaissance Orbiter, which maps the moon,
came close enough to image the Apollo 11 lander
and traces of the astronauts’ presence. These
are comparable to the kind of pictures we would
take of the remains of ancient roads in the Chaco
canyon in New Mexico, for example.
How did you get interested in this field?
As a girl I wanted to be an astronaut. But I chose
another A-word, archaeology. In 1999, a student
asked whether federal preservation law applies
on the moon. You know, when you get a good
question like that, you just have to go with it.
Interview by Jon White
24 August 2013 | NewScientist | 27
Why do such remote sites need protecting?
There are plans to return to the moon. There's the
Google Lunar X Prize, which is a competition for a
robotic mission, and eventually people are going
to go back too. We have lost a lot of things on Earth
by not having the protocols in place. In my deepest
fears the moon becomes a marketplace. You only
have to look at sites selling space memorabilia.
Some of these things are very, very valuable.
I could have sworn…
From repressed memories to faulty eye-witness testimony, psychologist
Elizabeth Loftus has made her name working on false memory. She tells
Alison George how recollections can be conjured up, and how this process
could even be used in therapy
You study the fallibility of memories. Are we
all prone to making things up?
I hear you collect accounts of false memories.
How did you study the process of creating
Elizabeth Loftus is
at the University of
California, Irvine. She
has a PhD in cognitive
and her publications
can be found at
was interviewed at the
in Edinburgh, UK
How does this happen? What exactly is going
on when we retrieve a memory?
How susceptible are people to having these
types of memories implanted?
Is it the power of suggestion from a therapist
that creates these “memories” then?
How did you end up studying false memories?
Do you think it’s not possible to repress
memories of traumatic events?
What is the current focus of your research?
You’re known for debunking the idea of
repressed memories. Why focus on them?
28 | NewScientist | 24 August 2013
For more interviews and to add your comments, visit newscientist.com/opinion
Could false memories be used for therapeutic
purposes – like reducing alcohol consumption?
Isn’t the deliberate planting of false memories
entering into ethically dubious territory?
“The process of calling a
memory into conscious
awareness can change it”
How did you conduct this study of US soldiers?
Is there any way to distinguish a false memory
from a real one?
Our brains are not like reference books,
memories are fluid and changeable
Could brain imaging one day be used to do this?
This works with alcohol too?
Do you think it’s important for people to realise
how malleable their memory is?
How do you plant these memories?
24 August 2013 | NewScientist | 29
Keep it clean
Kill the cat?
Enigma Number 1763
Eve said to me that she had in mind
an even three-figure number that
was divisible by 3. She also told
me that she had spelled out the
number in words and that she had
counted the number of letters used.
Knowing the number of letters
would enable me to work out her
number, she said.
Oddy said to me that he had in
mind an odd three-figure number
divisible by 3. He told me that he, too,
had written the number in words
and that he had counted the number
of letters used. He said that knowing
the number of letters would again
enable me to work out his number.
Then the two of them had a little
chat and announced that their
numbers had no digit in common.
What were their numbers?
WIN £15 will be awarded to the sender of the first correct
answer opened on Wednesday 18 September. The Editor’s decision is final.
Please send entries to Enigma 1763, New Scientist, Lacon House,
84 Theobald’s Road, London WC1X 8NS, or to firstname.lastname@example.org
(please include your postal address).
Answer to 1757 Power point: The five numbers are 343, 243, 256, 216
The winner Alex Maynard of Ann Arbor, Michigan, US
30 | NewScientist | 24 August 2013
Stem cell debate
To join the debate, visit newscientist.com/letters
One tough roach
Not so natural
Twins in space
Anonymity must go
Letters should be sent to:
Letters to the Editor, New Scientist,
84 Theobald’s Road, London WC1X 8NS
Fax: +44 (0) 20 7611 1280
Include your full postal address and telephone
number, and a reference (issue, page number, title)
to articles. We reserve the right to edit letters.
Reed Business Information reserves the right to
use any submissions sent to the letters column of
New Scientist magazine, in any other format.
24 August 2013 | NewScientist | 31
32 | NewScientist | 24 August 2013
We are constantly being bombarded with health
advice, but not all of it is based on rigorous evidence.
Caroline Williams debunks six common myths
MAIN: DAVE KING/ DORLING KINDERSLEY THIS PAGE:MACIEJ TOPOROWICZ, NYC/GETTY
WATER PER DAY
24 August 2013 | NewScientist | 33
A doughnut can
teaspoons of sugar
We live in a toxic world. You’re breathing in lead
as you read this. Your next meal will contain
everything from natural poisons to pesticides and
pollutants. As a result, the human body is a veritable
cesspit of suspect chemicals. The last US National
Report on Human Exposure to Environmental
Chemicals found potentially concerning levels of
dozens of undesirable substances, including heavy
metals, dioxins, PCBs and phthalate plasticisers,
in the blood and urine of Americans.
The question is, what can we do about it?
According to popular wisdom, we need to “detox” to
get rid of these poisons in our body, and there is no
shortage of advice on the best way to accomplish
this. But do any of these detox plans actually work?
And is detoxing really good for us?
For a start, we are already doing it all the time,
with the help of our livers, kidneys and digestive
systems. Most of the toxic chemicals we consume
are broken down or excreted, or both, within hours.
However, it can take weeks, months or even
years to get rid of some substances, especially
fat-soluble chemicals such as dioxins and PCBs.
34 | NewScientist | 24 August 2013
OUR BODIES CAN
AND SHOULD BE
If we take these in faster than our bodies can get rid
of them, levels build up in our bodies.
Many detox programmes promote a period of
consuming only fluids and no solid food, but this will
make virtually no difference to levels of chemicals
that have built up over years. “For many of these it
will take between six and 10 years of zero exposure
to get rid of one-half of the amount stored in our fat
tissues,” says Andreas Kortenkamp, a toxicologist at
Brunel University in London. “That is not achievable,
because, unfortunately, there is no zero exposure.”
What’s more, fasting or dieting releases
fat-soluble chemicals into the blood, rather than
eliminating them from the body. One study found
the level of organochlorines and pesticides in blood
shot up by 25 to 50 per cent after people lost a lot
of weight quickly (Obesity Surgery, vol 16, p 1145).
Animal studies show that this increases the level
of compounds in tissues like the muscles and brain,
where they can do more harm than in fat.
This sudden flood of chemicals could even
cause the kind of problems detoxers are trying to
avoid, says Margaret Sears, an environmental
health researcher at the CHEO Research Institute
in Ottawa, Canada. “These chemicals have
toxic effects as endocrine disruptors that
paradoxically affect energy levels and appetite,
potentially contributing to yo-yo weight loss and
gain,” she says. Plus there’s no guarantee that
chemicals released from fat will actually leave
PILLS HELP YOU
body is a
the body – some will end up back in storage.
With chemicals that the body does eliminate
rapidly, such as phthalates, a short fast will lower
levels. It’s not clear that this does you any good,
though. As soon as you start eating again, says
Kortenkamp, levels go back to where they were.
For these reasons, Sears recommends what she
calls a “lifelong detox”, which involves eating as
healthily as possible and avoiding chemicals in
the home and workplace as much as you can. But
Kortenkamp isn’t convinced that even that will
help much. “Only regulatory action that reduces
exposures will work. Individual avoidance strategies
are but a drop in the ocean,” he says.
That said, you can greatly reduce your exposure
to toxic chemicals like nicotine and alcohol. There
is also one way of speeding up the removal of many
fat-soluble toxic chemicals that is supported by
scientific evidence – producing milk (Lipids, vol 36,
p 1289). While it is possible for women to induce
lactation without giving birth – and even for men to
lactate – the milk-yourself detox method is probably
unlikely to catch on.
It seems blindingly obvious. As our cells metabolise
the food we eat, they produce rogue molecules called
free radicals that wreak havoc. Over a lifetime, the
damage they do slowly builds up and may cause all
kinds of degenerative diseases. Luckily, though, many
chemicals can act as antioxidants that mop up free
radicals. Plus, eating vegetables rich in antioxidants
seems to reduce the risk of degenerative diseases.
So popping pills packed with antioxidants must surely
help stave off these diseases too?
That’s what some scientists started thinking from
the 1970s onwards. The Nobel prizewinning chemist
Linus Pauling enthusiastically promoted high doses
of vitamins without waiting for the evidence, the
public lapped it up and a whole new industry sprang
up to meet demand.
Then, in the 1990s, the results of rigorous trials
of some of the most popular supplements, including
beta carotene, vitamin E and vitamin C, started to
come in. Study after study has found that while
these substances do work as antioxidants in the test
tube, popping the pills does not provide any benefit.
On the contrary, some studies suggest that they
are harmful. A 2007 review of nearly 70 trials
involving 230,000 people concluded that not only do
antioxidant supplements not increase lifespan, but
that supplements of beta carotene and vitamins A
and E actually seem to increase mortality (Journal of
the American Medical Association, vol 297, p 842).
Why? Perhaps because high levels of free radicals
tell cells to ramp up their own built-in antioxidant
defences, says Barry Halliwell, a biochemist at the
National University of Singapore. He thinks these
internal defences are far more effective than the
antioxidants we get from food. So by taking
supplements we may be deactivating a first-rate
defence mechanism and replacing it with a poorer
one (Nutrition Reviews, vol 70, p 257). “Free radicals
in low amounts also play useful roles,” Halliwell says.
If this is right, the benefits of vegetables may have
nothing to do with antioxidants. One suggestion
is that vegetables are beneficial because they are
mildly poisonous – a little poison may activate
protective mechanisms that ward off disease.
In the meantime, the antioxidant juggernaut rolls
on. No one seems keen to abandon the idea that
antioxidant supplements are good for you.
24 August 2013 | NewScientist | 35
BEING A BIT
MEANS YOU WILL
Let’s be clear – being seriously obese is bad for
your health. A body mass index of over 40
increases the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart
disease and certain cancers and increases the
risk of dying from any cause by up to 29 per cent.
This is not a health myth.
But carrying just a few extra pounds, far from
being a one-way ticket to an early grave, seems
to deter the grim reaper, according to a recent
review of nearly a hundred studies involving
nearly 3 million people. The review, led by
Katherine Flegal of the US Centers for Disease
Control in Hyattsville, Maryland, reported earlier
this year that being “overweight” – defined as
having a body mass index (BMI) of 25 to 29 –
seems to have a protective effect, with a
6 per cent reduction in death risk compared
with people with a BMI of between 18.5 and 25.
Those with BMIs over 35, however, have a higher
risk (JAMA, vol 309, p 71).
It isn’t clear why being overweight might
protect against an early death. Perhaps carrying
a few extra pounds in reserve helps the body
fight off illness or infection. Perhaps overweight
people are more likely to receive medical
attention. Or perhaps some of those counted as
“normal” had lost weight due to serious illnesses.
Whatever the reason, Flegal says her
finding is not a green light to eat all the pies.
Overweight people might be more likely to
develop diseases that affect the quality of life,
for instance. Even so, it seems that a little bit of
flab may not be the crime against health it has
always been made out to be.
WE SHOULD LIVE
AND EAT LIKE
this year was
Caroline Williams is a freelancer based in Surrey, UK
36 | NewScientist | 24 August 2013
Best of all worlds
Meet the cosmic object going from zero to
astronomical hero, says Sarah Cruddas
brown dwarfs in all
their intriguing hues
24 August 2013 | NewScientist | 37
BABAK TAFRESHI/TWAN/SPL; PREVIOUS PAGE, TOP AND BOTTOM: MARK GARLICK/SPL; MIDDLE: NASA/JPL-CALTECH
”After years of speculation,
the first brown dwarf might
have enjoyed more fanfare,
but it was overshadowed”
Alien weather forecast
Brown dwarfs share many traits with gas giants such as Jupiter, including their size and occasionally
temperature. This means their weather could provide clues to exoplanet climates
Iron rain and silicate
snow fall in a hot,
38 | NewScientist | 24 August 2013
may be perfect
for water clouds
In the night sky, there
is roughly one brown
dwarf for every six stars
What colour is a brown dwarf?
Well, not really brown.
Brown dwarfs received their drab
name to differentiate them from other
celestial objects: observed with optical
telescopes, blue stars tend to be hot,
red stars cooler. Brown was chosen as
it is a mongrel shade, which some felt
appropriate given that the colours of
brown dwarfs were expected to be
tricky to pin down.
When astronomers showcase images
of brown dwarfs they use representative
colours. Most brown dwarfs are
observed using infrared telescopes,
with various filters to record data at
specific wavelengths. To produce a
representative colour in a red-greenblue palette, astronomers assign the
shortest wavelength filter they use to
blue and the longest to red, and then
stack them together. This commonly
creates a magenta shade, although
occasionally you get wilder colours,
So what would a brown dwarf look
like to the naked eye? Zoom past in a
spaceship and you may well fail to see
it because it would produce so little
visible light. Peer closer, though, and you
might see a faint glow in regions where it
is still hot enough to produce light – but
it might be more of a very dark orange.
Sarah Cruddas is a broadcaster and journalist based
in London. Additional reporting by Richard Fisher
24 August 2013 | NewScientist | 39
Sniffer dogs have always had a nose for trouble.
Now they are proving invaluable for tracking and
saving rare species, says Anthony King
40 | NewScientist | 24 August 2013
”Good sniffer dogs are
highly motivated and
what some might call
naughty or mischievous”
24 August 2013 | NewScientist | 41
A NOSE WITH ATTITUDE
A dog’s sensitivity to odours is
staggering. Dogs can detect
n-amyl acetate, which smells like
apples and bananas, at just 1.1 to
1.9 parts per trillion. That is the
equivalent of a pinch of sugar
in a billion cups of tea. They are
100,000 times more sensitive to
scents than we are. No wonder.
The olfactory surface within a
dog’s nose can measure more
than 150 square centimetres
and contain up to 300 million
Breeds vary (see diagram,
below) but all canine noses are
impressive compared with the
surface area and 6 million
receptors in human noses.
What’s more, the olfactory area
of a dog’s brain is proportionately
about 40 times as big as ours,
accounting for about an eighth
of its total brain mass, compared
with less than one-hundredth
Despite all this, it is not their
noses that make dogs such good
sniffer-animals. “The odourguided behaviour and abilities of
dogs are no more extraordinary
than those of a rat or a mouse,”
says Paul Waggoner of the
Canine Detection Research
Institute at Auburn University in
Alabama. “But dogs come with a
unique social relationship with
humans and they are amenable
to do tasks that we want them
to do. They want to please us.”
Most dogs do not possess other
qualities that mark out a prize
sniffer (see main story) but all
can learn to detect new smells
and will improve with training.
So if you want to try odour
training with your pet, go ahead.
Even if Fido doesn’t have a
talent for it, you should both
find it stimulating.
Sniffer dogs are expensive but effective
recruits in the fight against poaching
Watching the detectives
Not to be sniffed at
Dog noses are between 10,000 and 100,000 times more sensitive than ours. This is partly due to the number of scent detectors they have
= 1 million scent receptors
German shepherd 225m
42 | NewScientist | 24 August 2013
Fox terrier 147m
MIKE DEAN/EYE IMAGERY
On duty: when her
yellow harness goes on,
Luna knows it is time to
seek some scat
Pine martens are hard to spot, but a dog can
sniff out droppings to detect their presence
Anthony King is a writer based in Dublin, Ireland
Links to the research mentioned can be found in the
online version of this article at newscientist.com/
24 August 2013 | NewScientist | 43
PIC CREDIT HERE
A huge chunk of 20th-century history
could be erased if we don’t act now.
Sarah Everts reports
Photography: Dave Stock for New Scientist
44 | NewScientist | 24 August 2013
Much magnetic tape
can only be played on
24 August 2013 | NewScientist | 45
Tape comes in a
dizzying array of
The structural base of most magnetic tape
is a thick layer of polyester, although in
older audio tape it can be acetate, paper
or polyvinyl chloride. Whatever the base,
information is encoded in a thin coating
of magnetic particles embedded in a
In the earliest tapes, these particles were
made of iron oxide. Other magnetic particles
have since come on the scene. Barium
ferrite is less rust-prone and has a smaller
particle size, allowing information to be
encoded more densely. Chromium dioxide
is ideal when a recording has a lot of
The range of frequency and volume that
a tape can record, and the ease of recording
and re-recording, are determined by the size
of the particles, their range in size, and their
orientation on the tape. Various lubricants
make the tape flow smoothly through the
player, plasticisers make it supple, and
antifungal agents and antioxidants extend
its life. There are also other ingredients
whose identities are proprietary, says Eric
Breitung, a conservation scientist at the
US Library of Congress in Washington DC.
That’s a huge problem for conservators.
“There are at least 46 million magnetic
tapes in the US, and 40 per cent are in
unknown condition,” says Breitung. Most
manufacturers won’t disclose their recipes,
sometimes even decades after the tapes
have become obsolete, and when they
begin to degrade it is often a challenge for
researchers to figure out why. Breitung is
developing a method based on infrared
spectroscopy to identify the tapes most at
risk, in the first instance for audio tape held
by the Library of Congress.
Keeping it reel
In 2008, a European Union-funded project asked 374 European archives and libraries how much
videotape of various formats their collections contained. The total came to 8.8 million hours
1000 years of view
U-matic (¾ inch) 1971
Video8/Digital8 (8mm) mid 80s/1999
Betacam (½ inch) 1982
VHS/S-VHS (½ inch) 1976
SOURCE: TAPE (TRAINING FOR AUDIOVISUAL PRESERVATION IN EUROPE)
46 | NewScientist | 24 August 2013
”In many cases, not only are the tapes
degrading, but we have also lost the
technical know-how to play them at all”
Sarah Everts is a writer based in Berlin, Germany
24 August 2013 | NewScientist | 47
The living heart of things
Why did the public love the Gaia theory while scientists hated it? Michael Bond finds out
An Alaskan river system: easy to
imagine Earth as being alive
PAUL ANDREW LAWRENCE/WWW.PAULCOLOR.COM
The Gaia Hypothesis: Science on
a pagan planet by Michael Ruse,
University of Chicago Press, $26
“The scientific community
reacted to Gaia as though
a bad smell had been let
off at the vicar’s tea party”
48 | NewScientist | 24 August 2013
For more books and arts coverage and to add your comments, visit newscientist.com/culturelab
The animated fly-through has
a ghostly translucent quality
Ghost ships set sail
The virtual salvage of a bygone gallery is
a pioneering way to preserve exhibitions
The shipping gallery resided in one
of the Science Museum’s largest halls
“There are no jostling
elbows to contend with:
the experience is serene
The animation of the immortalised
shipping gallery is at bit.ly/187Sshn
24 August 2013 | NewScientist | 49
24 August 2013 | NewScientist | 51
JOBS IN ACADEMIA
Tenure-track Assistant Professorship in Organic Chemistry
Department of Neurobiology
Two Assistant Professor Positions
The Department of Neurobiology, in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences,
seeks to recruit two new tenure-track faculty members at the level of Assistant
Professor. Applicants holding a Ph.D. and/or M.D. degree and demonstrating an
outstanding record of scientiﬁc achievement will be considered. We are interested
in individuals whose research addresses fundamental issues in neuroscience and
who show signiﬁcant potential for innovation, scholarship, and commitment to
excellence in research and teaching.
Successful candidates will be expected to establish and maintain a high-proﬁle
research program attracting substantial extramural funding. The appointees will have
access to state-of-the-art life science research support facilities and opportunities to
interact with colleagues in the Interdepartmental Neuroscience Program consisting
of over 130 faculty, the Feinberg School of Medicine, the McCormick School
of Engineering, the School of Communication, as well the Center for Advanced
Molecular Imaging, the Chemistry of Life Processes Institute, the Institute for
Complex Systems, the Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center, the
Center for Reproductive Science, the Center for Sleep and Circadian Biology, and
the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Applicants will submit (in PDF format) a cover letter, a CV, and a description
of research plans. Applications must be submitted electronically. For details on
preparing and submitting the application, please visit neurobiology.northwestern.
edu/openings. Please plan to request at least three letters of recommendation.
Applications received by November 1, 2013 will be ensured full consideration.
All other inquiries may be directed to email@example.com.
Candidates are invited to apply for a tenure-track assistant professorship in organic chemistry, broadly
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organometallic chemistry, and catalysis. The appointment is expected to begin on July 1, 2014. The tenuretrack professor will be responsible for teaching at the undergraduate and graduate levels. We are seeking
candidates who have an outstanding research record and a strong commitment to undergraduate and
graduate teaching. Doctorate required by expected start date. Candidates should arrange to have three
letters of recommendation sent independently and provide a curriculum vitae, statement of teaching
philosophy, list of publications, and outline of their future research plans.
All applications and supporting materials must be submitted via the
ARIeS portal (https://academicpositions.harvard.edu/postings/4914)
no later than October 15, 2013.
Applications from women and minorities are strongly encouraged.
Tenure-track Assistant Professorship in Inorganic Chemistry
to include catalysis, synthesis, mechanism, materials, and energy-related research. The appointment is expected
to begin on July 1, 2014. The tenure-track professor will be responsible for teaching at the undergraduate and
graduate levels. We are seeking candidates who have an outstanding research record and a strong commitment
to undergraduate and graduate teaching. Doctorate required by expected start date. Candidates should arrange
to have three letters of recommendation sent independently and provide a curriculum vitae, statement of
teaching philosophy, list of publications, and outline of their future research plans.
All applications and supporting materials must be submitted via the ARIeS
no later than October 15, 2013.
AA/EOE. Women and minority applicants are encouraged to apply.
Applications from women and minorities are strongly encouraged.
University of Pennsylvania
Tenure Track Appointment in Energy Research
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Argonne Postdoctoral Fellowship Programs
The School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania
invites applications for a tenure-track assistant professorship in the
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three hires across the natural sciences focused on energy science. The
successful candidate will mount an innovative program of fundamental
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The successful candidate will also forge collaborative links with Penn
scientists and engineers involved in energy research and participate
actively in the future recruitments as the cluster hire initiative progresses.
It is anticipated that some of the candidate’s teaching will be of broad
interest to students beyond chemistry in another of the natural sciences
(Biology, Physics, and/or Earth and Environmental Science).
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Applicants must apply online at http://facultysearches.provost.upenn.
edu/postings/28. Required application materials include: curriculum
vitae including a list of publications, and a description of proposed research.
Applicants should also submit the names and contact information of
three individuals who will provide letters of recommendation. Review of
applications will begin on October 14, 2013 and will continue until the
52 | NewScientist | 24 August 2013
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JOBS IN ACADEMIA
Our Next Breakthrough In The
Fight Against Cancer Might Be You.
Located in Boston, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute brings together
world renowned clinicians, innovative researchers and dedicated
professionals, allies in the common mission of conquering cancer,
HIV/AIDS and related diseases. Combining extremely talented people
with the best technologies in a genuinely positive environment, we
provide compassionate and comprehensive care to patients of all ages;
we conduct research that advances treatment; we educate tomorrow’s
physician/researchers; we reach out to underserved members of our
community; and we work with amazing partners, including other
Harvard Medical School-afﬁliated hospitals.
HIV-1 Research Fellow
A postdoctoral position is available in the area of HIV vaccine
immunology with the goal to modulate B cell selection and ultimately
elicit high afﬁnity, broadly neutralizing antibodies. The candidate
will study the cellular and molecular mechanisms regulating B cell
immune responses including B cell repertoire analysis and CD4 T cell
requirements in a murine model. Schedule is Monday–Friday, 9–5.
A strong scientiﬁc background with emphasis on B cell and molecular
immunology is required. The successful candidate must have a PhD or
equivalent and be highly motivated.
If interested, please send your CV, a brief summary of research
experience and names of three referees to: Ellis Reinherz, MD, Professor
of Medicine, Harvard Medical School and the Department of Medical
Oncology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, 77 Avenue Louis Pasteur, HIM
419, Boston, MA 02115; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute is an Afﬁrmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer –
committed to diversity and inclusion in our workforce
Department of Molecular Biology, Massachusetts General Hospital
Department of Genetics, Harvard Medical School
The Department of Molecular Biology at the Massachusetts General Hospital
(MGH) and the Department of Genetics at Harvard Medical School (HMS)
invite applications for a joint appointment at the level of Assistant Professor.
The laboratory will be located in the Department of Molecular Biology at MGH
(http://molbio.mgh.harvard.edu), a major research center in the Boston area
and a teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School. The faculty appointment
will be in the HMS Department of Genetics (http://genetics.med.harvard.edu).
The following HMS faculty members have labs in the MGH Department of
Robert Kingston, Chair
Applications should be submitted no earlier than September 1, 2013
and no later than November 1, 2013 at: http://molbio.mgh.harvard.edu/
Please submit a curriculum vitae, statement of research plans, up to three
relevant publications, and contact information for three references.
Harvard University and the Massachusetts General Hospital are equal opportunity/
affirmative action employers. Applications from women and minorities are encouraged.
University of Pennsylvania
Tenure Track Appointment in Evolution
The School of Arts and Sciences at the University of
Pennsylvania seeks to add to the faculty of our newly
formed Evolution Cluster. We invite applicants for a tenuretrack assistant professor appointment in evolution, broadly
interpreted. We are interested in exceptional scientists who will
establish a research program to empirically study the evolution
or the construction and analysis of massive data sets. Areas
of interest include, but are not limited to: the evolution of
neural, social, ecological or linguistic dynamics and networks;
evolution of early life or exobiology; biochemical, neuronal, or
cooperative interactions and exchange of information at the
molecular, cellular, human, or ecosystems scales; directed
evolution of organisms or processes; analyzing extant
structures and networks, from molecules to populations, along
with their evolutionary trajectories, including the development
of new modalities to extract data from the geologic, genetic, or
linguistic historical records. The successful candidate’s primary
appointment will be in a single department in the natural
sciences: Biology, Chemistry, Earth and Environmental
Science, Linguistics, Mathematics, Physics and Astronomy,
or Psychology. Secondary appointments in other departments
can be arranged, as appropriate. The successful candidate
will have a strong interest in building a program that generates
interaction with researchers from other disciplines who are
working within the overarching theme of evolution and will teach
courses in his or her home department and participate in the
development of curricula pertinent to the Evolution Cluster (See
http://evolutioncluster.sas.upenn.edu for more information).
Applications should be submitted on-line at http://
facultysearches.provost.upenn.edu/postings/23 and include
a curriculum vitae, a research statement that includes the
departments, links to no more than three journal publications,
and the contact information for three individuals who will
provide letters of recommendation. Review of applications will
begin 1 November 2013 and will continue until the position is
24 August 2013 | NewScientist | 53
JOBS IN ACADEMIA
University of Pennsylvania
Tenure Track Appointment in Inorganic Chemistry
The Department of Chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania plans to
make a tenure track appointment in chemistry at the Assistant Professor
Chemistry. The candidate is expected to establish an externally funded
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Applicants must apply online at http://facultysearches.provost.upenn.
edu/postings/29. Required application materials include: curriculum
Applicants should also submit the names and contact information of
three individuals who will provide letters of recommendation. Review of
DSSOLFDWLRQV ZLOO EHJLQ RQ October 14, 2013 and will continue until the
Faculty Position in Biochemistry
Department of Chemistry
The Department of Chemistry at Purdue University, West
Lafayette, invites applications for a tenure-track faculty
position at the Assistant Professor level in Biochemistry
or related areas. Candidates that complement existing
program strengths in cancer biology, membrane proteins,
drug discovery and macromolecular structure/function,
with an emphasis on disease-relevant research questions,
are especially encouraged to apply. Purdue has an
outstanding tradition in biochemistry and the department
is looking to integrate a creative scientist into the cutting
edge interdisciplinary environment provided by Purdue
Candidates must have a PhD in Biochemistry or a related
an excellent track record of publications and a strong
commitment to excellence in teaching. Successful
candidates are expected to develop a vibrant research
program supported by extramural funding and teach
courses at the undergraduate and/or graduate level.
Applicants should submit a letter of application with
curriculum vita, a summary of planned research and a
statement on teaching philosophy to: Chair, Biochemistry
Faculty Search Committee, Purdue University, Department
of Chemistry, 560 Oval Drive, West Lafayette, IN 479072084. Applicants should also arrange for three letters
of recommendation to be sent to the same address.
Applications will be reviewed beginning November 1, 2013,
See http://www.chem.purdue.edu/ for further details.
A background check will be required for employment in this
position. Purdue University is an ADVANCE institution.
54 | NewScientist | 24 August 2013
Research Scientist or Postdoctoral Opportunity
The Department of Atmospheric Science at the University of Wyoming
has an opening for an individual with demonstrated capabilities and
productivity in aerosol physics, aerosol measurement, and in analysis
of the impact of aerosol on atmospheric radiation and chemistry.
The successful candidate will have an earned Ph.D. in atmospheric
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capabilities, and will have the potential to contribute to current
stratospheric balloon-borne measurement programs at the University
of Wyoming, through the collection of in situ measurements and their
Applications should include a statement of research interests,
and accomplishments, curriculum vita, and the names and contact
information of three references. Send an electronic copy (PDF version
preferred) of your application materials to Search Committee,
Department of Atmospheric Science, University of Wyoming, c/o
Terry Deshler: email@example.com. The search committee will begin
reviewing applications on 1 October 2013 and will continue until the
More information about this position, the University, the City of Laramie
and its surroundings can be found at http://www.atmos.uwyo.edu/info/
WyoResSci/ and http://www.atmos.uwyo.edu/info/WyoPostDoc/
dŚĞ E^ WŽƐƚĚŽĐƚŽƌĂů WƌŽŐƌĂŵ ŽīĞƌƐ ƐĐŝĞŶƟƐƚƐ ĂŶĚ ĞŶŐŝŶĞĞƌƐ ƵŶŝƋƵĞ
ĨŽƌ ŚŝŐŚ ĐŽƐƚͲŽĨͲůŝǀŝŶŐ ĂƌĞĂƐ ĂŶĚ ĨŽƌ ĐĞƌƚĂŝŶ ĂĐĂĚĞŵŝĐ ƐƉĞĐŝĂůƟĞƐ͘ ŝŶĂŶĐŝĂů
Master of Science in Management with specialization
in Biopharmaceutical Leadership
The Master of Science in Management with specialization in Biopharmaceutical Leadership allows scientists
to combine critical learning in the field of biopharmaceutical leadership with the management knowledge and
business skills required to be successful professionals.
The program provides unique and interactive ways to enhance leadership, management and organizational skills.
This master’s degree can be completed in two years of part-time study.
Expected Learning Outcomes
At the completion of the Master of Science in Management with specialization in Biopharmaceutical
Leadership, the student will: Demonstrate a proficiency of knowledge in the areas of 1) team leadership,
2) intellectual property, 3) the pharmaceutical regulatory approval process, 4) organizational development,
5) strategy, 6) written and oral communication, 7) analysis, 8) ethics and behavioral science interventions.
JOBS IN ACADEMIA
Faculty Position in Cervical Biology
Wayne State University School of Medicine
Wayne State University (WSU) seeks nominations and applications for a full-time faculty position
focused on the study of the uterine cervix in pregnancy complications. The programmatic goal is to
be a part of an exceptional unit to characterize cervical biology in normal pregnant women and
those with complications. A priority is to develop an understanding of the mechanisms involved in
cervical disease in pregnancy.
A cervical biology unit, specific to reproduction, is in place and this recruitment is meant to
strengthen the University’s impressive record of innovative discoveries and achievements in
obstetrics, maternal-fetal medicine and perinatal medicine. The unit promotes collaboration among
clinicians and faculty members working in reproductive immunology, genomics and computational
biology. This position is part of the WSU Perinatal Initiative to create partnerships with the
Perinatology Research Branch of the Division of Intramural Research, NICHD, NIH, DHHS, housed
at the WSU campus.
The successful candidate is expected to establish a productive and independent research program
in the area of cervical biology. A Ph.D. degree or equivalent, expertise and training in the areas of
extracellular matrix and collagen metabolism in the reproductive tract. The program is to examine
the mechanisms of cervical remodeling in pregnancy, as well as the effect of specific drug-delivery
systems on the cervix. Emphasis will be on both human and animal models. The faculty member
should be able to establish a laboratory, participate in graduate and medical education, recruit and
supervise laboratory staff, and lead a productive and dynamic team.
WSU is committed to academic excellence and diversity within the faculty, staff and student body.
WSU is interested in candidates who have demonstrated commitment to excellence in research
and teaching. Some scholarly activity and service towards building an equitable and diverse
scholarly environment is required. Successful candidates should possess excellent written and
verbal communication skills. Salary is commensurate with qualifications and experience and based
on the WSU pay scale. Tenure and non-tenure track positions are available. Series of appointment,
as well as a competitive start-up package, will be determined based upon the candidate’s skills,
qualifications and experience. National and international applicants are welcome.
Review of applications will begin immediately, and will continue until the position is filled.
Interested individuals should send:
a curriculum vitae,
a separate statement summarizing their experience and professional contributions,
and a list of three references to:
Sonia S. Hassan, M.D.
Associate Dean for Maternal, Perinatal and Child Health
Wayne State University School of Medicine
Wayne State University is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer
For more feedback, visit newscientist.com/feedback
IS THE “Internet of Things” – the
computerisation of our homes
heralded by futurists – really such
a good idea? What happens when
essential household appliances are
online and vulnerable to hackers?
Imagine the consequences if
someone could hack into your toilet.
This is not merely a theoretical
vulnerability. The Japanese company
Lixil has developed a high-tech
toilet called Satis that aims to be
comfortable, stylish and watersaving, with features that include
a lid that raises and lowers
automatically without being
touched, and a self-cleaning spray.
Two versions are available in the
US for just $4200 and $5800.
Unfortunately, a security firm
called Trustwave Holdings has found
a bug in the toilet’s computerised
control system. It is set up to allow
control using an app, via Bluetooth –
widely used for hands-free operation
of phones – hard-wired with an
access code of 0000. Trustwave says
it told the manufacturer about the
flaw, but never received a response,
so it has now issued a warning. If you
happen to find yourself sitting on a
toilet that flips its lid and sprays its
bowl by itself, it’s not a poltergeist,
it’s a prankster with an app.
Simon Horton wonders whether the missing
hyphen in a London Underground sign offering
“Real time travel updates” should be between
“real” and “time” or between “time” and “travel”
56 | NewScientist | 24 August 2013
READER Don Roworth was as puzzled
as we were by a practice examination
paper from CGP Books that asked for
ways in which an experimenter could
increase the rate of evaporation of
water in a beaker, and offered as an
answer “decrease the density of the
water” (3 August). John Owen-Jones
was just one of many readers who
pointed out that “I usually reduce
the density of water (and increase
evaporation) by turning the ‘on’
switch on my kettle.”
Yes, John, this would have that
effect – but decreasing the density
is not responsible for increasing the
rate of evaporation. It is the heating
that does both.
Had this been a philosophy of
science exam, it might have formed
part of a discussion of causality but,
as it stands, “by really wanting a nice
hot cup of tea” would be an equally
good answer – wouldn’t it?
THE Yahoo Movies website recently
ran a “stunning” clip from the new
space movie Gravity. The text
beneath it read: “The clip shows
Sandra Bullock’s astronaut thrown
into space after an explosion on
a space shuttle. Watch it above,
unless you’re claustrophobic.”
Matt Ashmore, who noticed this,
comments: “Your claustrophobia
must be pretty insurmountable if
you can’t stand to be in a space as
small as, well, space.”
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THE LAST WORD
You recently ran a question about
using silver in clothing as an
antimicrobial. I used to be a
consultant assisting a company that
refined precious metals. One of its
employees told me that his eyeballs
were jet black because he had
absorbed so much silver into his
body. He was otherwise totally
healthy. Can any reader confirm that
silver can do this to humans, how it
works and whether it conveys any
harm to the individual?
DOUBLE YOUR LUCK
How do pebbles skim on water?
Neither medium seems especially
elastic, so how do the stones
“The current world record
for stone skimming stands
at 51 skips by Russell Byars
on 19 July 2007”
“We can conclude that
eating from silver utensils
will not lead to any
significant health effects”
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Indianapolis, Oct. 1-4, 2013
Join us for the Annual Conference
of the National Organization for the Professional Advancement
of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers (NOBCChE ™)
Career Fair and Trade Show
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The opportunity to interact
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