Special Jackal-Dogs Used for Airport Security

Jackals crossed with huskies are being used in Russia as sniffer dogs.
The hybrids have been bred to combine the keen nose of the howling scavenger with the temperament of man’s best friend.

Scientists say the dogs, which are a quarter jackal, can recognise a person’s individual scent.

They are being used at airports to detect explosives and drugs, and to catch criminals.

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New Nerve-Regeneration Chemicals

A team of researchers has provided one more glimmer of hope to people suffering from spinal cord injuries and other crippling neurological diseases. Scientists stress that regenerating damaged nerves remains one of medicine’s biggest challenges. New compounds, however, might be part of the solution to someday find a cure, says Dr. Ronald Schnaar, lead investigator in the study conducted at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. In particular, Schnaar realized that under laboratory conditions, newly discovered enzymes and antibodies helped dissected rats’ nerves grow back. More here.

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Hidden Cameras to Monitor Aircraft Passengers

Airbus, the European jet manufacturer, is planning to build concealed cameras into the light fittings above the seats in its aircraft. The idea is to let the crew monitor passengers and spot hijackers before they strike. The cameras also work in the dark.

The move is part of an attempt to reassure people who have been frightened off flying since the 11 September attacks.

At an airline technology conference in Prague last week, a delegate from the VALK Foundation said that before 11 September, none of the 4000 people it has helped to overcome their fear of flying had ever cited hijacking as the root of their fear. But since then it has become the main fear for a third of its clients.

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Gunning Down Skin Cancer

Australian scientists unveiled an “imaging gun” Tuesday they hope will reduce skin cancer deaths by allowing doctors to detect melanomas instantly.

Sunny Australia has the world’s highest skin cancer rate and around 1,000 Australians die each year from melanoma skin tumours.

The “Solarscan” is placed on a patient’s skin and takes an image of the potential melanoma spot. It then reads the image and compares it with a database of skin tumours to determine whether it is cancerous.

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Lingerie Maker Scores With ‘Hat Trick Bra’

A Japanese lingerie maker has scored a success with a novelty brassiere cashing in on Japan’s World Cup fever.

A spokeswoman for Triumph International (Japan) Inc. told AFP Wednesday the company’s head office had been deluged with enquiries after the “Hat Trick Bra” was unveiled as part of Triumph’s 2002 Fall/Winter Collection a day earlier.

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World Climate Simulation Project

The BBC reports that scientists at climateprediction.com are nearing the completion and public release in late summer of a distributed computing project that simulates the world’s climate from 1950-2050 AD. It seems that each user’s simulation will have different initial conditions built into their runtime simulation and a single completed simulation from 1950-2050 AD takes on average eight-months (Doh!), assuming average household computing power. The results will be sent back to the project’s team, where they will select the models that resulted in the ‘real’ climate patterns that have occured since 1950-2000. I presume they will then use these validated models to help extrapolate the world’s climate from 2000-2050. Pretty cool
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Sony Loosens Leash on AIBO Robot

As of next month, Sony Corp will offer free software kits for its plastic pet dog, called AIBO, which will give owners many more training options.

AIBO will even be able to meow rather than bark.

Up to now, most AIBO owners could only play with a pre-trained computerized pet whose behavior was largely defined by Sony’s programming, but the new software kit will allow experienced users to teach the dog any amount of new tricks. The release of the development kit, called OPEN-R SDK, is an about-face for the Japanese audiovisual electronics giant, which had tried to cage in independent developers who were hacking into the AIBO’s electronic innards and making what Sony claimed were unauthorized modifications.

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Immigrants Spurring Entrepreneurship

A new study details how immigrant professional workers in Silicon Valley help fuel entrepreneurship in their home countries and around the world. The study, by AnnaLee Saxenian of the Public Policy Institute of California, surveyed 2,300 high-skilled foreign workers, nearly all of whom (90 percent) are from China, India and Taiwan.

The gist of the report, according to the San Jose Mercury News, is that these workers are so connected to the people and places they know in their home countries that they are able to help their U.S. companies find markets abroad as well as help companies get started in their home countries.

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The Secret Einstein Files

For many years, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other agencies spied on Albert Einstein, acting on suspicions as disturbing as a tip that he had been a Russian spy in Berlin; as vague as an unease with his support of civil rights and pacifist and socialist causes; and as goofy as claims that he was working on a death ray or that he was heading a Communist conspiracy to take over Hollywood.

The investigation turned up nothing. Nevertheless, the agency dogged Einstein’s footsteps until his death in 1955, even cooperating with an investigation by the Immigration and Naturalization Service to see whether he should be deported.
More disturbing stuff about this here.

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Simulating Life on Mars

In the red dust of the Utah desert, six scientists are dressed in home-made spacesuits and living in a large tin can. Their mission: to prove that sending man to Mars is easier than NASA thinks.

Six top-drawer scientists are out here somewhere, living in a large, white tin can that looks like a stumpy grain silo with a conical roof, or a drawing of a spaceship in an old comic book, and dressing in spacesuits made from canvas and sticky tape. Whenever they venture out, they don helmets contrived from rubbish-bins and plastic light-fittings. Behind this odd behaviour lies a serious purpose (or at least an earnest one): to find out what it would be like to live on Mars, and whether humans could stand it.

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The World’s Simplest Bacteria

This critter is tiny, ancient and very, very hot–and scientists have never seen anything quite like it. German scientists have discovered an incredibly small and primitive species of bacteria that lurks in high-temperature, deep-sea vents. A San Diego, Calif.-based biotechnology company, Diversa, has already sequenced the organism’s DNA and has obtained the rights to any products mined from its genome–the smallest yet known. More here.

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