Science: Update

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The Independent Culture
MORE DOUBTS have been cast on the work of Arpad Pusztai, who said that rats fed genetically modified potatoes suffered stunted growth and damaged immune systems. Scientists from the Rothamsted research centre in Hertfordshire said that Dr Arpad's report would be unpublishable in a refereed journal, echoing concerns voiced last week on this page by Professor Tom Sanders of King's College London. Rothamsted said it was hard to see how Dr Pusztai had arrived at his conclusions, based on a statistical analysis of the data. "Dr Pusztai's reputation as a lectin [plant protein] chemist is... high. However, the experiments and his conclusions imply limited familiarity with experimentation with plant material, animal nutrition or statistical inference."

A CHUNK of the Moon roughly 50 metres across has been discovered in a solar orbit just beyond that of the Earth, according to New Scientist. Discovered by an automated telescope that hunts for asteroids, the new object - catalogued as 1999CG9 - orbits the Sun roughly once every 1.09 years and lies 9million kms (5.6m miles) further out than the Earth. The most likely explanation is that it is a piece of the Moon, blasted into orbit by a meteor impact.

SCIENTISTS HAVE found that a newborn marsupial mouse relies more on its skin than on its lungs to breathe. The Australian Julia Creek dunnart, Sminthopsis douglasi, is 4mm long at birth. Scientists from McGill University in Montreal, Canada report in Nature that gas exchange through the fine, hairless skin exceeds that through the lungs. It was not until the animals were 20 days old that the lungs contributed two-thirds of respiratory needs. This is the only mammal shown to rely more on its skin than its lungs for breathing; it can do so because its small size gives a high surface-area-to-volume ratio.

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