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Radio Extra Stories From 10 May 2003 Issue

Radio Extra Stories From 10 May 2003 Issue

ARE ALIENS HIDING THEIR MESSAGES? If we are not alone in this Universe, why have we never heard from an extraterrestrial civilisation? Two physicists suggest aliens could be communicating with each other in a cunning way which makes it impossible for eavesdroppers to distinguish their messages from background noise. Page 22

PEANUT BUTTER ENTERS HALL OF FAME Peanut butter has been given the very special status of a standard reference material (SRM). All its constituents have been measured as accurately as possible by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology. Food companies use SRMs to test their own nutrient-measuring methods and equipment. Page 20

SPECIAL REPORT ON CIVILIAN SPACE FLIGHT: WHO NEEDS NASA? The race is on to win the US$10 million X-prize for the first civilian crew into space. But it's not just the prize money that drives the contenders-the winner also will corner a hefty chunk of the space tourism market. New Scientist reports on the teams hoping to blast into space by the deadline of 1 January 2005. Pages 12-13

WEEVILS SAVE LAKES FROM PEST Two species of weevil are credited with saving the lakes and the economy of Benin in West Africa, by eating the water hyacinth which has become a major problem on waterways worldwide. The aquatic super-weed makes water acidic and changes the ecology of lakes so that fishing is all but impossible. Page 10

CALLING TIME ON DRUGS (short story) Drugs that have passed their use-by date are dangerous. So a British company has patented a medicine bottle with a threaded cap sleeve which biodegrades by the expiry date. The cap no longer grips the bottle, locking the drugs in. Page 22

ALL HOOVES TO INDIA'S PUMPS Bullocks will soon be helping Indian villagers to purify their drinking water. The animals will supply the energy for a desalination system that will provide clean water to villages with no access to electricity. Page 19

MICROCOCKTAILS SHOULD BE STRIPED, NOT STIRRED A new technique offers a simple, cheap and elegant solution to a major headache for engineers designing the new generation of microchip-sized laboratories-mixing two liquids together. Page 18

HOW MATHEMATICAL BEAUTY SURFACES IN ART (short story) Sculptors have a sense of mathematical beauty-even if it's subconscious, says an expert on the shapes that surfaces adopt to minimise surface tension. Time and again he finds he can recreate modern sculptures using minimal surface equations. Page 24

FLY FROM GONDWANA (short story) A fossil of a maggot found in Antarctica is evidence that complex flies evolved millions of years earlier than was thought. Page 24

TRAFFIC POLLUTION DAMAGES MEN'S SPERM Traffic pollution damages sperm and may reduce fertility in young and middle-aged men, an Italian study of tollbooth attendants has found. New Scientist's free public website at

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