Scientists get death threats over Large Hadron Collider

Scientists working on the world’s biggest machine are being besieged by phone calls and emails from people who fear the world will end next Wednesday, when the gigantic atom smasher starts up.

The Large Hadron Collider near Geneva, where particles will begin to circulate around its 17 mile circumference tunnel next week, will recreate energies not seen since the universe was very young, when particles smash together at near the speed of light.


Hadron Collider: The final pieces slot into place

Such is the angst that the American Nobel prize winning physicist Frank Wilczek of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has even had death threats, said Prof Brian Cox of Manchester University, adding: “Anyone who thinks the LHC will destroy the world is a t—.”

The head of public relations, James Gillies, says he gets tearful phone calls, pleading for the £4.5 billion machine to stop.

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Massive floating generators, or ‘eco-rigs’, to provide power and food to Japan

Battered by soaring energy costs and aghast at dwindling fish stocks, Japanese scientists think they have found the answer: filling the seas with giant “eco-rigs” as powerful as nuclear power stations.

The project, which could result in village-sized platforms peppering the Japanese coastline within a decade, reflects a growing panic in the country over how it will meet its future resource needs.

The floating eco-rig generators which measure 1.2 miles by 0.5 miles (2km by 800m) are intended to harness the energy of the Sun and wind. They are each expected to produce about 300 megawatt hours of power.

Read moreMassive floating generators, or ‘eco-rigs’, to provide power and food to Japan

Sun Makes History: First Spotless Month in a Century


The record-setting surface of the sun. A full month has gone by without a single spot (Source: Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO))

Drop in solar activity has potential effect for climate on earth.

The sun has reached a milestone not seen for nearly 100 years: an entire month has passed without a single visible sunspot being noted.

The event is significant as many climatologists now believe solar magnetic activity – which determines the number of sunspots — is an influencing factor for climate on earth.

Read moreSun Makes History: First Spotless Month in a Century

Legal bid to stop CERN atom smasher from ‘destroying the world’

The world’s biggest and most expensive scientific experiment has been hit by a last minute legal challenge, amid claims that the research could bring about the end of the world.


Opponents fear the machine may create a mini-black hole that could tear the earth apart Photo: PA

Critics of the Large Hadron Collider – a £4.4 billion machine due to be switched on in ten days time – have lodged a lawsuit at the European Court for Human Rights against the 20 countries, including the UK, that fund the project.

Read moreLegal bid to stop CERN atom smasher from ‘destroying the world’

Women warned not to wear perfume during pregnancy

PREGNANT women have been advised to avoid using perfumes or scented body creams after research suggested the products can cause unborn boys to suffer infertility or cancer in later life.

Research on rats carried out by Professor Richard Sharpe has found that the reproductive system of male foetuses can be damaged as early as at eight weeks’ gestation by chemicals including those found in many cosmetics.

The damage can result in in fertility or testicular cancer – both growing medical problems across the world – said Sharpe, principal investigator at the Medical Research Council’s Human Sciences Unit.

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Cure for deafness now within reach

Deaf people could one day have their hearing restored through a groundbreaking gene therapy technique, a new study suggests.

The transfer of a specific gene is shown today by a milestone experiment to trigger the growth of new hair cells in the inner ear – the usually irreplaceable sensory cells that pick up sound vibrations and that are lost as a result of ageing, disease, certain drugs, and by excessive exposure to loud sound.

The approach, which one day could help millions of people worldwide with deafness and inner-ear disease, is made possible by a technique that is demonstrated in the journal Nature by an American team lead by Dr John Brigande of the Oregon Hearing Research Centre, Portland, who himself is profoundly hard of hearing.

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Cells switch identity in biological breakthrough

Scientists transform one type of cell into another in living mice

Talk about an extreme makeover: Scientists have transformed one type of cell into another in living mice, a big step toward the goal of growing replacement tissues to treat a variety of diseases.

The cell identity switch turned ordinary pancreas cells into the rarer type that churns out insulin, essential for preventing diabetes. But its implications go beyond diabetes to a host of possibilities, scientists said.

It’s the second advance in about a year that suggests that someday doctors might be able to use a patient’s own cells to treat disease or injury without turning to stem cells taken from embryos.

The work is “a major leap” in reprogramming cells from one kind to another, said one expert not involved in the research, John Gearhart of the University of Pennsylvania.

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Tiny Cellular Antennae Trigger Neural Stem Cells


Tiny thread like cilia on brain cells act as sort of an antennae that directs signals telling stem cells to create new neurons. (Credit: Image courtesy of Yale University)

ScienceDaily (Aug. 25, 2008) – Yale University scientists today reported evidence suggesting that the tiny cilia found on brain cells of mammals, thought to be vestiges of a primeval past, actually play a critical role in relaying molecular signals that spur creation of neurons in an area of the brain involved in mood, learning and memory.

The cilia found on brain cells of mammals until recently had been viewed as a mysterious remnant of a distant evolutionary past, when the tiny hair-like structures were used by single-celled organisms to navigate a primordial world.

“Many neuroscientists are shocked to learn that cells in the brain have cilia. Thus it was even more exciting to show that cilia have a key function in regulating the birth of new neurons in the brain,” said Matthew Sarkisian, post doctoral fellow in the department of neurobiology and co-first author on the study.

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Teen finds MSG slows brain cell growth

Test by high school student working with researchers reveals food additive’s direct effect on neuronal ability

CALGARY – A Calgary researcher is getting ready to publish a groundbreaking study that links a popular food additive to reduced growth in the brain cells of snails — work that could have major implications for children’s health.

Not bad for a teenager.

Michelle Ah-Seng is a 17-year-old high school student from Cochrane, just west of Calgary. She’s also the lead researcher on a University of Calgary study that offers the first solid proof that high concentrations of MSG, an additive used to boost flavour in everything from fast food to canned soups, can stunt the growth of brain cells.

“It has been shown that (in a pregnant woman), MSG will cross through the placenta and can affect the fetus,” said Ah-Seng.

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“Fetuses are still developing, and their brain cells are starting to grow and starting to reach out to each other. If MSG has been inhibiting or stunting the growth, then the cells basically won’t reach out to one another.”

Ah-Seng is one of 22 Grade 11 students spending six weeks of their summer vacation in labs and clinics at the University of Calgary as part of the 2008 Heritage Youth Researcher Summer Program, funded by the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research.

Her project involved directly dosing brain cells culled from snails with a concentration of monosodium glutamate equal to what might commonly be found in human blood or cerebral spinal fluid after eating a meal containing the additive, such as a bag of chips. Not only did the MSG inhibit growth of the snail’s brain cells, it also limited communication between them. The implications for human health aren’t hard to infer.

“There’s no difference between a snail brain cell and a rat or a human brain cell, only that there are fewer of them and (they’re) larger,” said Naweed Syed, Ah-Seng’s supervisor and a neuroscientist with the Hotchkiss Brain Institute at the University of Calgary’s faculty of medicine.

Read moreTeen finds MSG slows brain cell growth