Science: Update

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A CARDBOARD can for fizzy drinks has been created by a team of British researchers who claim it is a breakthrough in recycling technology. It is the first time anyone has created a cardboard container strong enough to hold a carbonated beverage. This week's New Scientist reports that Richard Freeman, of Scientific Generics, in Cambridge, made the can with four layers of thin cardboard, with seams staggered for strength. An aluminium membrane is sprayed inside to make it airtight; the ends are plugged with shallow cones pointing outwards, one of which can be removed to convert the can into a beaker.

A SINGLE gene could be the switch that determines the left- and right- hand symmetry in vertebrates - animals with backbones. Although we are nearly symmetrical on the outside, the inside of our bodies is asymmetrical. Our hearts are on are left and our intestines loop and coil in an asymmetrical pattern. Scientists have puzzled over what causes this internal asymmetry during the development of the vertebrate embryo. Now, in a paper in Nature, they think they have found a gene called Pitx2 that alters the position of organs and the direction of body rotation in the embryos of chicks and frogs. Changes in Pitx2 also affect the asymmetrical development of mice, so it is almost certainly involved in human development as well.

A MAN from Seattle has become the first person to sue under a new law in the United States to stem the proliferation of unsolicited e-mail messages - "spam". Adam Engst, an author of computer books, filed the suit against WorldTouch Network, a Los Angeles company, for allegedly sending him more than 100 unsolicited e-mails since the Washington state law came into effect on 11 June. Victims of spam attacks in Britain have no such recourse to the law - yet.

The Government is to fund a multi-million-pound research ship for oceanographic studies. The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food said the vessel, to be delivered by 2002, will conduct long-term research into fisheries and the environmental needs of the next century. Negotiations are under way to sign up a team of marine consultants to advise on buying the ship, which will be based at the Centre of Environmental Fisheries and Aquaculture Sciences in Lowestoft. A key area of research for the vessel will be gathering data on fish stocks, water quality, the safety of seafood and studies into fish biology and ocean circulation.