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 Closer To Truth 

Weekend Edition, 9 - 11 July 2004
"eppur si muove"


Here's the best intelligent, informed science and technology coverage and analysis you can find on a daily basis, sourcing a huge range of great writers and excellent publications. If you'd like to find out more about the fundamental issues of our times, check out what scientists, scholars and artists are debating about at Closer to Truth and its interactive HyperForum.

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Features and Background

The man who saw red: Percival Lowell was bewitched by Mars, and his vision of the Red Planet, however flawed, helped spawn the space age ... [more]
Cocktail hour: Get ready for high-speed pharmbots that mix and match drugs and doses by the millions ... [more]
We're a long way from a "commitment pill" but scientists have found a clue as to why some males are promiscuous and some are doting and faithful ... [more]

Nicotine fix: Mounting evidence suggests that the long-standing villain in tobacco could yet prove a hero in medicine -- but researchers are wary of giving cigarettes a good name (registration required) ... [more]
There's a Blue Moon coming on July 31st. But is the moon ever really blue? ... [more]
Leading to lead: Modified disinfection methods may have changed the chemistry of drinking water in Washington, DC, making it more likely to dissolve lead-encasing minerals in pipes ... [more]
A new meta-analysis of studies on stress and the immune system shows that the effects depend on the type of stress and its duration ... [more]

Images that pierce Titan's smoggy veil are providing fresh insights about Saturn's methane-bound moon ... [more]
The seismic underground: It's the sweet spot of the San Andreas fault, the perfect place to build the ultimate earthquake science lab. It's also 2 miles straight down ... [more]
A UK scientist has worked out what a waterfall in space -- or, more precisely, a methanefall on Titan -- might sound like, ahead of a mission that could find oceans on Saturn's largest moon ... [more]
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Iron seeding just doesn't pay: inducing phytoplankton blooms is too expensive, and too inefficient, to end global warming (registration required) ... [more]
Longevity uncorked? A compound found in red wine shows promise as the first real antiaging drug, but don't drink to your health just yet ... [more]
Hubble's last hurrahs? The satellite telescope that has captured some of the most wondrous images in the universe -- and vastly enlarged our knowledge of it -- may not be long for this world ... [more]
A South African scientist has developed a cheap and simple method for monitoring infection in HIV/AIDS patients, and it's benefiting people throughout Africa and beyond ... [more]
One slip, and you're dead ... The lethal toxins produced by cone snails are being developed as potent drugs -- but for snail farmers, milking time is fraught with danger ... [more]
Cryptographic analysis of a famously puzzling medieval document, the Voynich Manuscript, suggests that it's nothing but gibberish ... [more]
"How doth the little busy bee
Improve each shining hour ..."

They've been fooling us all along, says a German zoologist: bees would rather Zzzzzz than Buzzzzz ... [more]
Scientists working in the Philippines say that rising global temperatures are leading to a significant drop in rice yields -- an alarming trend since it's the staple diet for most of the world's expanding population ... [more]
Popping a capsule of prickly pear cactus extract before boozing could offer drinkers some protection against hangovers ... [more]
Bilingualism may have an unexpectedly beneficial side-effect: it appears to protect the mind from deterioration in old age ... [more]
Shrimp's meteoric rise as the West's favourite crustacean has come at a heavy cost: shrimp farming has devastated Asia's native mangrove forests and wild fish stocks ... [more]
Saved by the storm? Clouds formed by thunderstorms may help brake global warming. Or maybe not ... [more]
A drink a day may keep the doctor away, but only from some of us. It seems your doctor is still the best person to ask for advice ... [more]
Data from the Cassini space probe's flyby of Saturn's moon, Phoebe, give scientists hope for uncovering the mysteries of the solar system, including its origin ... [more]
Just about everything that makes a living in or off of the oceans owes its existence to phytoplankton, one-celled wonder-plants that even influence global climate ... [more]
Some dogs can can predict epileptic seizures and protect children from injuries -- and at the same time, help kids deal with the daily struggle of their condition ... [more]
Computer-simulated psychosis could help psychiatrists empathize with mentally and emotionally disturbed people ... [more]
From the hardhead catfish, which goes on a multi-week starvation diet while holding its young in its mouth, to the South American marmoset, which cares for its babies from birth, many animal fathers are hands- (and fins-) on parents ... [more]
Ever felt as though a piece of music speak to you? You could be more right than you know, says to an Argentinian physicist ... [more]
The first private astronaut has rocketed into space -- and come safely home again -- potentially opening space for widespread commercial development ... [more]

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Books and Media

Recent fiction has featured pi, Fibonacci numbers, and phi. John Allen Paulos considers the narrative possibilities of the number e ... [more]

William Souder's Under a Wild Sky paints naturalist John James Audubon as a brilliant artist, scientist and liar [more], while Audobon's famed The Birds of America takes on new life in Harmonie/Harmony, an animated web exhibit ... [more]
Forget the radio, tune in to the net: Internet radio services keep getting better and attracting bigger audiences. But some of the services are better than others ... [more]
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A dozen recent ruminations about human body weight -- memoirs, science, self-help -- trip grievously on the obesity dilemma, stumbling between the options, getting lost even while pretending to reach certainty, says Virginia Heffernan (registration required) ... [more]
At a time when books about the brain, mind and consciousness compete for readers' attention, Dianne Ackerman's An Alchemy of Mind presents a helpful survey of the field, leavened by yeasty writing and provocative insights ... [more]
Better science through gaming: Software for analysing genomic data has been woefully inadequate, leaving scientists in a DOS-like wasteland. One company is solving the problem with a video-game sensibility ... [more]
The skin we’re in: In Flesh Wounds, Virginia L Blum delves into the world of cosmetic surgery to find out whether beauty really is skin deep ... [more]
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FW: Send This Article to 10 Friends and Win Quick Cash Now! Is Bill Gates offering big bucks to track your email? On the trail of the most forwarded hoax in internet history ... [more]
Germs of truth: In Greek Fire, Poison Arrows and Scorpion Bombs, Adrienne Mayor makes the case that biochemical warfare is not a modern invention ... [more]
When it comes to science, the US justice system is not only blind but ignorant, says David Faigman in Laboratory of Justice ... [more]
Isaac Asimov turned androids into pop culture icons -- and invented the science of robotics in the process. Half a century later, his I, Robot is going Hollywood ... [more]
Trouble in paradise: Carolyn Merchant's Reinventing Eden examines the environmental fallout of the Genesis story ... [more]
The eating cure: Forget drugs -- diet is the way forward in treating mental illness, says Lucy Mayhew in Healing Without Freud or Prozac ... [more]
A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, but cultivated ignorance is worse. And computer users' ignorance is what dooms us to live with viruses and spyware, says Clive Thompson ... [more]
Entomological tales: Thomas Eisner's For Love of Insects is a manual for discovery, which also imparts an intuitive understanding of evolution ... [more]
Paradise isn't lost. It's just waiting to be dug up, suggests archaeologist Maureen Carroll in Earthly Paradises, a slim but substantial survey of the remarkable world of ancient gardening ... [more]
Is there such a thing as too much cancer testing? In some cases, there may be, says Dr H Gilbert Welch (registration required) ... [more]
A US 'neuromarketing' proponent says brain scans reveal what audiences really like to see. But is this high-tech cultural analysis, or just another pseudoscientific mind-reading technique? ... [more]
The accidental scientist: The late Robert K. Merton's book on serendipity and science notes that chance indeed favors the prepared mind ... [more]
You, too, can dive with the dead and explore sacred Maya cenotes -- in an interactive dig in the Yucatán ... [more]
Two US computer scientists have created a high-tech artwork, called Imagination Environment, which looks at the internet search as an exercise in free association (registration required) ... [more]
"Blogologists" say webblogs are changing academia, politics and traditional journalism. Blogs are certainly influential, how much of an effect are they really having? ... [more]
Galileo in Rome focuses on the events leading up to and including Galileo's trial by the Tribunal of the Inquisition, but some of the most interesting material in the book has nothing to do with that ... [more]
The universe made simple: Brian Greene, author of The Fabric of the Cosmos, discusses philosophy, physics, and the challenge of opening readers' eyes to the hidden forces that govern our world ... [more]
Robert Finch reviews three new adventures in literary birding: Peter Cashwell's high-octane and hyper-literary The Verb 'To Bird', Mark Obmascik's obsessively competitive The Big Year, and Robert Winkler's intimate, devoted and lyrical Going Wild ... [more]
"Dear person who sent me a yet-unanswered e-mail, I apologize, but I am declaring e-mail bankruptcy." Writer and internet legal expert Lawrence Lessig is behind in his email -- so far behind that he's finally given up ... [more]
Why do we suffer from jet lag? How do clocks affect our sleeping? Why are medicines most effective at certain times of day? It's all down to the Rhythms of Life, say Russell Foster and Leon Kreitzman: the biological clocks that control the daily lives of every living thing ... [more]
Another turn of the worm: With In the Beginning Was the Worm, Andrew Brown has produced a compelling account of the "worm workers" who adopted and tamed C. elegans as a model organism for genetic research ... [more]
The Thermochemical Joy of Cooking: Superchef Alton Brown is part MacGyver, part mad scientist. Welcome to his lab ... [more]
There's no question that the population bomb is still ticking, warn Paul Ehrlich and Anne Ehrlich in One With Nineveh. The question is: why do so many people remain unconvinced and unconcerned? ... [more]

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Analysis and Opinion

The tyranny of design: How could sophisticated biological mechanisms have evolved without some guiding hand? Henry Gee finds his answer to the argument of Intelligent Design in the lamprey ... [more]
There's no quick fix for Africa's food problems, says David Dickson. What's required is less of a 'green revolution' than a 'cultural revolution' -- including greater belief in science-based innovation ... [more]
gets to validate alternative medicine?
Mad-cow disease provides a case study in how to manage risks while still learning the facts, says Paul Brown ... [more]
A new gadget that helps people shape their dreams could provide new frontiers for the media. But like wild animals and flighty birds, our dreams are loath to be tamed, says Norman Solomon ... [more]
Laurie Garrett considers SARS in China, corrupt governments, empty streets, and why silence is rarely the solution ... [more]

Doom and gloom by 2100: Between unleashed viruses, environmental disaster and gray goo, astronomer Sir Martin Rees gives civilisation a 50-50 chance of making it to the 22nd century ... [more]
The science of suffering: We know torture when we see it -- the problem is those meting out the violence often don't, says sociology professor Martha Huggins ... [more]
After spending his life finding water in Israel's Negev desert, Arie Issar says more science and less religion will bring water for all in the West Bank ... [more]
Genome, meet your environment: As the evidence accumulates for epigenetics, researchers are reacquiring a taste for Lamarckism (registration required) ... [more]
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The Starship Free Enterprise: The successful flight of SpaceShipOne was a milestone in the birth of a new kind of space age ... [more]
Testing madness: More testing for mad cow disease does not necessarily mean better testing ... [more]
Masha Gessen's genes have a fatal flaw: a high likelihood of developing breast cancer. So she set out to discover the best treatments to even the odds ... [more]
Saying no to Saddam: Hussain Al-Shahristani explains why he chose prison over the Iraqi dictator's atomic weapons programme, and why he has just turned down the job of prime minister ... [more]
Selfish greens: Only science can help us overcome global warming, warns James Lovelock ... [more]
Check out our sister site
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for excellent items on art, literature and philosophy.

Psychologists are turning their attention to workplace bullies, discovering why cruel bosses thrive and how employees end up covering for managers they despise (registration required) ... [more]
Like religion, science is not a unified set of principles but a bunch of politicised factions, argues Annalee Newitz ... [more]
Paul Roberts, author of The End of Oil discusses the politics of the oil economy, the viability of alternative energy sources, and the high cost of "energy illiteracy" ... [more]
Doctors and executioner: Do doctors who assist with judicial executions violate the most fundamental tenet of medical ethics? Or are they providing a humanitarian service to the condemned? ... [more]
My favourite wiretappers: Next time you're feeling lonely online, just remember that somewhere out there, somebody is probably listening, says Annalee Newitz ... [more]
The brain-gain revolution is already under way. But will these "neural enhancement" drugs turn us into Einsteins or Frankensteins? ... [more]
Controversial Danish statistician Bj©ªrn Lomborg has a brain trust and a blueprint to solve the world's problems. He says it's all down to the numbers: we can cure AIDS, or end hunger -- but not both ... [more]
The cutting edge: A growing number of doctors are moving away from performing genital surgery on babies of indeterminate gender, says Claudia Kolker ... [more]
Cosmetic surgery was born 2,500 years ago and came of age in the inferno of the Western Front. The controversy about it is still growing, writes Ellen Feldman ... [more]
From the psychology of war to the maths of purest coincidence, past research sheds light on current events in the war in Iraq, says John Allen Paulos ... [more]
The paper chase: The paperless office is still a distant dream. In the interim, we should be recycling more and developing alternatives to wood-based paper, says Jim Motavalli ... [more]
Since long before the debut of Dolly the cloned sheep in 1997, genetic research has incited worldwide controversy. At the crux of the biogenetic debate lies the central question: How far should we go to refine humanity through science? ... [more]
To the moon and back: David Scott is one of just 12 men to walk on the Moon. When the cold war thawed, he became firm friends with cosmonaut Alexei Leonov, and they decided to write about the space race ... [more]
Unease over petroleum prices and the security of the world's oil supplies would seem to be good news for advocates of alternative fuels. But are they really enough to boost the case for renewables? ... [more]
Two studies, two trials and a debate: Most drug trials are sponsored by pharmaceutical companies. And that, some critics say, can lead to a conflict of interest (registration required) ... [more]
People of the forest: Anthropologist Conrad Feather has trained an Amazon tribe to use GPS, so they can stake a claim to their land and drive loggers out ... [more]

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