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Methane from BP oil spill was quickly degraded; Hijacking research to make recreational drugs; Studying the Northern Lights; Brain is better at predicting whether you will quit smoking better than you

Gulf of Mexico oil spill update
A large component of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico from the BP Deep Horizon well was natural gas, including methane. Scientists measured the hydrocarbons in the ocean for the duration of the event. They found that the methane was degraded by naturally-occurring bacteria far quicker than they had expected.

Hijacking research to make recreational drugs
Eminent pharmacologist Professor David Nichols was horrified to discover that his openly-published scientific work on psychedelic drugs and similar compounds was being used as a 'recipe sheet'by people operating in the shady world of recreation drugs – looking for compounds that can give so-called 'legal highs'. It is a dilemma that many scientists have to face when they publish work on dangerous compounds.

Northern Lights
The aurora borealis, or Northern Lights, is a dramatic display of dancing ribbons of light, visible from northern parts of the world. Charged particles from the Sun are deflected by the Earth's magnetic field and funnel in around the poles. They excite molecules in the upper atmosphere and create the shimmering green curtains. The interaction is known as incoherent scatter. A group of nations has clubbed together as EISCAT - the European Incoherent Scatter Organisation - to operate giant radars in the Arctic to study what's going on.

Quitting success
You may think you have strong will-power when in comes to giving up smoking or using more sunscreen. But scientists have found that a person's perception of their inner strength is not nearly as good as reading activity directly from the brain. And by scanning a certain region of volunteer’s brains while they are watching health promotional advertisements, they can tell which ads will work better than others, and who is most likely to succeed.

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Sun 9 Jan 2011 15:32GMT


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