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     Volume 4 Issue 32 | February 4, 2005 |

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Lunar Colony to run on
Moon Dust or Robots

Simulated moon dust has been used to make a key component of a working solar cell, giving an unexpected boost to President George W. Bush's project of setting up a colony on the moon. Bush's plan, announced a year ago, envisages a permanent lunar base from which people can go out and explore the moon and then go on to Mars. "We will need a power source," says David Williams, a planetary and lunar scientist at NASA. Four years ago, Alex Freundlich and his colleagues at the University of Houston in Texas came up with the idea of getting robotic rovers to build solar cells entirely out of lunar dust or "regolith". This fine, grey powder is half silicon dioxide, with the remainder made up of a blend of oxides of 12 metals, including aluminium, magnesium and iron. This mix contains all the elements necessary to build a solar panel, and suggested that robots trundling over the lunar surface could melt regolith, refine it and then lay down a glassy substrate on which solar cells could be deposited.

Cancer "Ringleaders"
Cancer treatments could improve by targeting cancer "stem cells" which give birth to all other cells in tumours, say researchers who have devised techniques for identifying and potentially killing two types of cancer stem cell. Killing the stem cells is vital because these cells avoid destruction and trigger regrowth of cancer, even when all other cancer cells have been obliterated through standard drug or radiation therapy. By wiping out the stem cell "ringleaders" as well as the other cancer cells, doctors stand a much better chance of eradicating the cancer in a patient for good. But it could be five years before the first treatments start to come through.

Largest Iceberg on Earth
The world's largest iceberg appears to have run aground in Antarctica instead of crashing into an enormous floating tongue of ice, as predicted by previous satellite imagery. But the iceberg remains a concern as it is starving local penguins by blocking their route to the sea and also threatening to cut off supply lines to a number of research bases in the area. The bottle-shaped iceberg is the largest floating object on Earth today, stretching 120 km in length, with an area of 2500 square kilometres.

A Brainy Issue
The difference between the two sexes is just not limited to men being from Mars and women from Venus but if a new study conducted by researchers at University of California Irvine is to be believed it extends to the brain as well. The study shows women having more white matter and men more gray matter related to intellectual skill, revealing that no single neuroanatomical structure determines general intelligence and that different types of brain designs are capable of producing equivalent intellectual performance. "These findings suggest that human evolution has created two different types of brains designed for equally intelligent behaviour. In addition, by pinpointing these gender-based intelligence areas, the study has the potential to aid research on dementia and other cognitive-impairment diseases in the brain," lead researcher Richard Haier was quoted as saying.

Ancestors of Ducks and Geese Existed with Dinosaurs
Anewly published research into the evolution of birds shows the first definitive fossil proof linking close relatives of living birds to a time when dinosaurs roamed the earth. Research by paleontologist Dr. Julia A. Clarke, an assistant professor in the marine, earth and atmospheric sciences department at NC State, and colleagues provides unprecedented fossil proof that some close cousins to living bird species coexisted with dinosaurs more than 65 million years ago. In the "big bang" theory of bird evolution, these scientists have proposed that relatives of today's birds came on the scene only after non-avian dinosaurs became extinct. "We now know that duck and chicken relatives coexisted with non-avian dinosaurs. This does not mean that today's chicken and duck species lived with non-avian dinosaurs, but that the evolutionary lineages leading to today's duck and chicken species did," she added.

Hands-free Kits could Reduce Radiation
Mobile phones have become indispensable in today' s world and users do not realise the harmful effects of the radiations that the device emits, but now researchers have developed a hands-free mobile phone kit with an earpiece connected to the handset by a wire, which can reduce the levels of radiation. Research has shown that even if the hands-free wire is placed directly next to the phone's antenna, the radiation is reduced on average by about 50 percent. Team leader Stuart Porter's findings come four years after which the study suggested the wire-based hands-free kits actually increased the user's exposure to radiation. This was followed by a study which appeared to contradict this. However Dr Porter said: "We spend about a year-and-a-half looking at the geometry of the wire in respect to the head and how this affected exposure. It does reduce it by a factor of 10, if not a factor of a hundred or a factor of thousand in some positions."

Source: Webindia123.com / Newscientist.com

Compiled by: Imran H. Khan

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