Short Science, January 13, 2013

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 13 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 13 January, 2013, 6:03am

'Virtobot' autopsies done without a cut

A state-of-the-art computer-assisted autopsy system that is increasingly being used in European hospitals may eventually mean there is no such thing as a "perfect murder". The "virtopsy" is now being used at selected forensic medical institutes in Europe, after University of Zurich scientists pioneered the method. Instead of reaching for the scalpel and making the Y-shaped incision in the chest in a traditional autopsy, pathologists can now examine the corpse in 3-D via computer screens. Virtopsies combine the images from high-powered magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT) and surface scans of bodies. Combined, the devices are referred to as a "virtobot". Scientists said relatives of the dead were much keener on the non-invasive method. The Guardian


DNA pioneer slams cancer fighters

After an exhaustive national report on cancer found the US is making only slow progress against the disease, one of the country's best known and most and iconoclastic scientists weighed in on "the war against cancer". James Watson, co-discoverer of the double helix structure of DNA, lit into targets large and small. On government officials who oversee cancer research, he wrote in a paper published last week in Open Biology: "We now have no general of influence, much less power … leading our country's 'War on Cancer'." Reuters


Life on Mars easy for an earthly microbe

A hardy bacteria common on earth was surprisingly adaptive to Mars-like low pressure, cold and carbon dioxide-rich atmosphere, a finding that has implications in the search for extraterrestrial life. The Serratia liquefaciens bacteria is found in human skin, hair and lungs, as well as in fish, aquatic systems, plant leaves and roots. Reuters


Russia hopes to revive space glory with funds

The country that oversaw the launch of the world's first artificial satellite hopes to regain its former glory with a big boost in space spending. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev approved a 2.1 trillion rouble (HK$536 billion) plan to develop Russia's space industry from 2013 to 2020. Reuters