Science: Theoretically

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The Independent Culture
The operators of the oldest operating nuclear power plant in the United States have been fined $55,000 (pounds 34,300) for breaking safety regulations that could have led to a reactor meltdown in a power cut. The 619-megawatt plant at Oyster Creek, New Jersey, started generating electricity in 1969, and lies about 80 kilometres (50 miles) north of Atlantic City.

The fine was imposed by US nuclear investigators because the company did not check that at least three of five "relief" valves would stop the reactor coolant from draining away if there was a power loss; only two valves would have worked.

"Eco-warriors" have torn up genetically modified (GM) crops at a trial site on a farm in Edinburgh, taking the total of sites attacked to 21 since January . The crops under test were oilseed rape which was engineered to be resistant to Monsanto's Roundup herbicide. More attacks are likely: a total of 16 companies have trials of GM plants under way but under European legislation they have to state publicly where the sites are - including a map reference.

Children as young as three can do simple sums irrespective of their social background. Scientists at the University of Chicago who studied a group of toddlers from disadvantaged backgrounds found that they could add and subtract even though their language skills were not well developed. Although the children could not answer verbal maths questions, they were able to work out problems when the teachers use objects instead of verbal cues. The researchers also found that children as young as three can do more abstract calculations. The children were shown two black discs, which were then removed. Shown cards with different numbers of discs, they correctly chose a card that had a picture of two discs on it. Four year olds begin to develop even more abstract number concepts. Upon hearing two drum beats - but no verbal instructions - most children were able to pick out a card with two objects on it.

Further delays have hit the International Space Station. The first piece of the station was supposed have been launched this month but this has been postponed to 20 November because of delays in completing the Russian- made module. Nasa is now working on an American version in case the Russian module is still not ready later this year. Completion of the station, which will weigh nearly 500 tons is now scheduled for early in 2004, about 10 years behind the original plans first proposed in 1984.

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