The brightness of wealth, seal whiskers, and the smell of death

Tim’s blog

This week on radio, Tim Thwaites is talking about ozone-hole recovery; the brightness of wealth; seal whiskers; the smell of death; and more

Stem cell setback as mice reject reprogrammed cells—Hopes that people might one day be given transplants constructed from their own reprogrammed cells have been dashed. Mice seem to recognise such reprogrammed cells as foreign and reject them, American researchers have found. But another study shows such cells can be useful in repairing damaged livers.—Science, Nature

Nature stories on this topic can be found at and

Antiviral drugs stop HIV spreading to sexual partnersIn a decisive breakthrough against the spread of HIV, an international study has demonstrated conclusively that antiretroviral therapy blocks the spread of HIV from an infected person to their uninfected partner. The results were so clear that the study was stopped halfway through.—US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

A New Scientist story on this topic can be found at

First signs of ozone-hole recovery spotted The hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica is starting to heal, according to researchers in Sydney. They have detected a recovery in average springtime ozone levels, 22 years after introduction of the Montreal Protocol which banned the use of CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons).—Geophysical Research Letters

A Nature story on this topic can be found at

Bright lights, rich citiesIt seems pretty crude, but US researchers have found that the brightness of night lighting in a country gives a pretty good estimate of how wealthy it is. Apparently it provides a reasonable indication of how countries such as North Korea, Cambodia, or Somalia, for which there is very little economic data, are faring.—Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

A New Scientist story on this topic can be found at

Is that fish worth chasing? A seal’s whiskers can tell—Marine biologists have known for years that seals can track prey using their whiskers to follow its wake. But now German researchers have found that the whiskers can supply much more detailed information on which fish are worthwhile to hunt.—Journal of Experimental Biology

A Science story on this topic can be found at

Is the ‘smell of death’ strong enough evidence?—In the case against a young US mother accused of murdering her two-year-old daughter, the prosecution wants to submit evidence that an air sample taken from boot of her car contains key chemical compounds of human decomposition, as well as a large concentration of chloroform.—New Scientist

A New Scientist story on this topic can be found at