Science: Update

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The Independent Culture
THE SUN is getting brighter. This is not a judgement on Britain's most infamous tabloid, but a sign that global warming may be happening faster than we think.

Scientists have discovered that the Sun's magnetic field - a measure of its immense power output - has doubled this century, indicating that global warming may become a bigger problem than predicted.

Professor Mike Lockwood and colleagues at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Didcot used data from the Ulysses spacecraft - the first to fly over the poles of the Sun - to build up a three-dimensional picture of the magnetic field of our own star. The scientists compared this with fluctuations in the Sun's magnetic field as estimated by its effects on the Earth's, which has been monitored since 1868. "The results indicate that almost all of the observed global warming up to about 1930 can be ascribed to an increase in the brightness of the Sun - but only about a half of it for the period 1930-1970 and less than a third since 1970," Professor Lockwood said. "This confirms that the onset of man-made effects [of global warming] appears to be rather later, but considerably more sudden, than previously thought."

The results, published in Nature, show that though the changes in the Sun make a considerable contribution to global warming, man-made influences have become more important towards the end of this century.

A MIDDLE-AGED American man with haemophilia has become the first person in the world to undergo in vivo gene therapy for this disorder. The aim is to restore the missing clotting factor in the man's blood, said Margaret Ragni, professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh. The 50-year- old suffers from haemophilia A and lacks the factor VIII clotting protein owing to a defect in his gene. The phase 1 small-scale trial is primarily designed to test for safety. "Our hope is that this... will produce enough factor VIII protein to protect patients from spontaneous recurrent bleeding and thereby avoid some of the chronic disabilities associated with the disease," said Professor Ragni.