Material World - 15/11/2012
Quentin Cooper on the evidence for and against converting UK coal power stations to burn wood. Plus results from CERN continue to support the Standard Model of particle physics.
Quentin Cooper presents his weekly digest of science in and behind the headlines.
A report this week issued by Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and the RSPB suggests that crucial mistakes in our carbon accounting procedures make burning biomass in the form of wood appear a better idea than it really is. In fact, they go so far as to suggest we'd be better off sticking with coal. Yet recently some of the UK's biggest coal-fired plants have announced big increases in their biomass mix. From Princeton University in the US, Tim Searchinger - upon whose work much of the report is based - outlines the thinking. Gaynor Hartnell, CEO of the industry's Renewable Energy Association disputes the report.
Also this week, many results form the different LHC experiments at CERN are being presented at a meeting in Kyoto. Many scientists' hopes over the years have been that the LHC will find unexpected results and discoveries that will herald the "New Physics" - the theories that will take us beyond the standard model. A favourite has been supersymmetry. This week, a new type of decay (a Bs meson decaying into a muon and an anti muon) has been observed at a rate that almost exactly supports the standard model, rather than anything more exotic. And as we go to air, even the recently discovered Higgs boson seems to be nothing more exciting than a bog-Standard Model Higgs. But are reports of supersymmetry's demise highly exaggerated?
In the Netherlands, researchers have been working out whether emotions may be transmitted between humans via "Chemosignals" in people's sweat. You don't smell them, they are neither pleasant nor unpleasant, but left on a sweaty rag and wafted under female's noses they elicited a fear-like (and a disgust-like) response.
And finally Lambert Dopping-Hepenstal of consortium ASTRAEA talks to Quentin about imminent testing of civilian applications for Unmanned Aircraft, AKA drones...