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VOLCANIC ASH DAMAGE TO JET ENGINES
The eruption of the volcano, Eyjafjallajokull in Iceland, caused many airports in Europe to shut down for days, stranding people all over the world. The ash plume from the volcano, which has been blanketing northern Europe's airspace caused, and may still cause the problem as volcanic ash has peculiar properties which can cause massive damage to jet engines. To determine how real that risk is, you have to look at the engines of planes that have encountered volcanic ash. In 2000, during another volcanic eruption in Iceland, a NASA DC-8 jet flew through ash while carrying out atmospheric research. The pilots thought they had avoided the plume, but the scientific instruments told them otherwise. Tom Grindle, aircraft maintenance division chief at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Centre in the US, told us the damage was surprising and significant.
Stuart John, Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering in London, former president of the Royal Aeronautical Society, and someone with over 50 years in the civil aviation business gives us his viewpoint on the situation in Europe. He agrees that the only way to really test whether it's safe to fly is to send up test planes to see for themselves.
Scientists have been struggling to efficiently split water into hydrogen and oxygen for years. Plants use sunlight to drive the photosynthesis process, turning water into chemical fuel to power their growth. We've been using expensive catalysts and electricity, until now...researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have come up with a novel way to mimic the process using viruses. A clean, green source of hydrogen could provide us with a fuel for the future, for everything from our homes to cars. Angela Belcher is a material scientist, and biological engineer, and one of the researchers who has just reported this advance in the journal Nature.
PROTECTED AREAS IN JORDAN
This is the International Year of Biodiversity, population pressure and climate change are putting increased pressure on the world's wildlife. In Jordan, the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature is establishing a series of protected areas and involving local people in their management and ecotourism. Martin Redfern went to see the progress.
BRAIN TRAINING DOES NOT MAKE YOU BRAINIER
Brain training games are big business. We're lured in by the promise that the brain training software will make us smarter. If the 'use it or lose it' ethos is to be believed, doing mental arithmetic, solving puzzles and testing our spelling against the clock will improve our cognitive function in all everyday thinking tasks. But a huge study, started by the BBC, and following over 11,000 people has shown that playing brain training games only makes you better at...playing more brain training games. The author of the paper published in the journal Nature this week is neuroscientist, Adrian Owen of the MRC Cognition and Brain Science Unit in Cambridge in the UK.