Predicting asthma attacks, cyberstalking, and ancient Egyptian prostheses

This week on radio, Tim Thwaites is talking about predicting asthma attacks; black hole spin; cyberstalking; ancient Egyptian prostheses; and more


Carbon dioxide won’t boost plant growth—An ambitious international experiment involving researchers at the University of New South Wales has undermined the idea that the rising levels of carbon dioxide will stimulate enough tree growth to bring global warming under control. By encasing natural stands of trees in plastic tents and exposing them to increasing levels of carbon dioxide the researchers showed the trees soon ran out of other nutrients like water and nitrogen, so their growth was limited.—Australasian Science

An Australasian Science story on this topic can be found in the latest issue.



Black holes put a new spin on lightAn international group of astronomers and physicists including an Australian has found that rotating black holes leave an imprint on passing radiation that should be detectable using today’s most sensitive radio telescopes. This could provide a powerful new probe of black holes and the space surrounding them and yet another test of Einstein’s general theory of relativity.—Nature Physics


A Nature story on this topic can be found at


Breath sensor can predict tomorrow’s asthma attack A handheld breath sensor can warm someone with asthma that an attack is imminent, giving them up to 24 hours to take preventative medication. It measures the telltale rise in the levels of nitrogen monoxide.—New Scientist


A New Scientist story on this topic can be found at


Watch out, your lover may be cyberstalking you—About one in three female students questioned in a US survey said they had broken into their partner’s email. A lower proportion of male students admitted to doing so, but men were more likely to use hidden cameras, spyware and GPS tracking to monitor their partner’s activities.—Computers in Human Behavior


A New Scientist story on this topic can be found at


Electronic toy turns human body into an instrumentThe latest toy from Japanese firm Tomy is a gadget that turns the entire human body into a musical instrument. The hand-sized toy, called Ningen Gakki, has four exposed silver electrodes that can pass a weak electric current into the user. Completing the circuit by touching him or her in some way creates all sorts of sounds through remote speakers.—New Scientist


A New Scientist story on this topic can be found at

Mummies’ false toes put a spring in amputees’ stepA British archaeologist has found what she believes are the earliest examples of prostheses—big toes—in Egyptian mummies. She has even gone so far as to persuade amputee volunteers to try the prosthetic toes out. And they work!—The Lancet


A New Scientist story on this topic can be found at


The Achilles heel of golden staph—The bacterial scourge of hospitals, golden staph, is responsible for more deaths annually in the US than HIV/AIDS, partly because it develops antibiotic resistance so quickly. But American researchers now think they may have a way to beat it, by blocking its ability to recycle its genetic material.—Public Library of Science, Pathogens


A Science story on this topic can be found at

Sex and violence linked in the brainUS researchers have discovered a tiny patch of cells buried deep within the brain of a male mouse that determines if it fights or mates with other mice. Meanwhile another research group has found a chemical in the female squid’s egg sac that makes males go ballistic, fighting any other male within reach.—Nature/Current Biology


A Nature story on the mice can be found at

A Science story on the squid can be found at


Laser can stop cancer cells spreadingTumour-zapping lasers have been deployed on another front against cancer by Finnish researchers. They have found they can stop malignant cells from spreading by destroying the lymphatic vessels that act as highways for them.—Science Translational Medicine


A New Scientist story on this topic can be found at



A sweet tooth predicts the success of treatment for alcoholismResearchers in Finland have found a link between those who do not like sweet tastes and lack of success of alcoholism therapy.—Alcohol and Alcoholism


A New Scientist story on this topic can be found at