Archive by date | February 2008

The ritualistic recipe for ‘Maya blue’

Reports this week announced that researchers have ‘solved the mystery’ of how Maya Blue was made (National Geographic News, New York Times), off the back of a paper published in the journal Antiquity. The vivid pigment, which was painted on human and other sacrifices, has been a focus of interest for decades. Although the main ingredients of the pigment – indigo and clay – have long been known (see this 1966 paper in Science), archaeologists have wondered about the details of how, when and where it was made.  Read more

Induced stem cells made safe?

Over on Nature Reports Stem Cells, there’s a blog posting about a company’s recent claim that they can reprogramme adult cells into embryonic-like stem cells, without the viral vectors normally used to do this. This should make the cells less likely to cause cancer: quite a big deal in terms of using such cells in future therapies. But the company hasn’t published their results (just a press release), so it’s unclear exactly what they’ve done or what to make of it. Yet.  Read more

Remember those planets… however many there are

Remember those planets… however many there are

National Geographic has announced the winner of their planet-naming mnemonic competition. Ten year old Maryn Smith’s winning entry to remember the ‘newly designated planets’ (here listed as Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Ceres, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto and Eris) is: My Very Exciting Magic Carpet Just Sailed Under Nine Palace Elephants.  Read more

UK astronomers keep telescope access

UK astronomers keep telescope access

The UK government has reached an agreement with the Gemini Observatory that will allow British astronomers to retain access to both of its 8-metre telescopes. In November, the government shocked astronomers by announcing its intent to withdraw from the project. Subsequent negotiations to retain access to just one telescope, located atop Maneau Kea in Hawaii, failed. By early this year, British astronomers feared that their access to Gemini might be lost forever. Those fears were premature, as neither side really wanted to break up the partnership. According to an agreement announced last night, the UK government will stay in the  … Read more

Armed robot rampage

Sheffield University professor and media darling Noel Sharkey took the spotlight at a policy conference yesterday, warning that wars and terrorist attacks may soon be conducted by robots that can think for themselves. The conference, sponsored by British defence think-tank Royal United Services Institute, was organized specifically to discuss the ethical and legal implications of using unmanned vehicles for defence and security.  Read more