Archive by date | September 2011

Who were the Hobbit’s ancestors?

Who were the Hobbit's ancestors?

Nearly a decade after its discovery in Liang Bua cave on the Indonesian island of Flores, scientists are still debating just what Homo floresiensis, aka the Hobbit, really is. There’s still no clear answer, but new research presented at a conference in Germany hints at what H. floresiensis may not be. Debbie Argue, a palaeoanthropologist at Australian National University in Canberra who led the study, says theories about the Hobbits’ origins fall into two categories. Some scientists say that H. floresiensis represents a dwarfed or diseased descendant of anatomically modern Homo sapiens. A second camp, to which Argue belongs, contends  … Read more

Vagueness reigns as UK science agency defends cuts

The tensions and protests have been sparking since July — but there were few fireworks at a meeting today in London, where more than a hundred senior researchers gathered to quiz officials at the UK’s physical sciences grant-funding agency about controversial changes to its strategy.

Miracle fruit surrenders its secret

Miracle fruit surrenders its secret

Meet the miracle fruit, the berry of the West African plant Richardella dulcifica. Its surprising ability to make sour food taste sugary has spawned ‘flavour-tripping’ parties among the culinary chic as well as scientific curiosity about how the effect actually works.

Controversial science prize back on UNESCO’s agenda

Should an African dictator whose regime is widely viewed as corrupt and repressive be allowed to sponsor a UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) science award? The Paris-based organization thought it had dismissed this question last year, but the dictator in question — who just happens also to be chair of the African Union — is refusing to take ‘no’ for an answer.

First embryonic stem cell trial approved outside the US

An embryonic field seems to be developing rapidly. Just two months after Advanced Cell Technology (ACT) launched the second and third trials involving products derived from human embryonic stem cells (ESCs) in an operating room at the University of California–Los Angeles, the Santa Monica-based biotech announced today that it had gained approval from the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency to conduct the first ESC cell trial outside the US.