Short Science, March 31, 2013

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 31 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 31 March, 2013, 1:06am


Italy slammed over new stem cell therapy

Scientists have criticised an Italian government decree allowing a group of terminally ill patients to continue using an unproven stem cell treatment, saying such therapies may cause harm and risk exploiting desperate people. The treatment, created by the privately owned Stamina Foundation, was banned by Italian medicines regulator AIFA last year after it inspected their laboratories. Reuters


Pesticides may scramble bees' brains

Pesticides used by farmers to protect crops or bee hives can scramble the brain circuits of honeybees, affecting memory and navigation skills needed to find food, scientists said. This in turn threatened entire colonies of bees whose pollinating functions are vital for human food production, they wrote in the journal Nature Communications. The team observed honeybee brains in the lab after exposing them to neonicotinoid pesticides used on crops, and organophosphates, the most widely used group of insecticides in the world - in this case coumaphos - sometimes used to control mite infestations in beehives. AFP

Mysterious particles shape-shift on journey

Mysterious particles called neutrinos which go "missing" on the journey from the Sun to earth are in fact shape-shifting along the way, arriving undetected, physicists find. The evidence: a muon-type neutrino dispatched from the Cern research laboratory near Geneva had arrived as a tau neutrino at the INFN Gran Sasso Laboratory in Italy 730 kilometres they said. It is only the third time that the mutation has been observed by the Opera experiment. AFP


Solar plane to attempt to cross US in month

The first crossing of the United States by a solar-powered plane is expected to start in about a month, its creators say as they make final preparations for an attempt two years from now at the first round-the-world flight without any fuel. Swiss pilot Bertrand Piccard and project co-founder and pilot Andre Borschberg, whose Solar Impulse made its first intercontinental flight from Spain to Morocco last June, aim for their plane to take off from near San Francisco in early May and land at New York's John F. Kennedy airport about two months later. Reuters