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The Independent Culture
PLUTONIUM PRODUCED by Britain's civil nuclear reactors may secretly have been used to make hundreds of American nuclear bombs, say scientists who claim to have identified an imbalance in the Government's plutonium inventory.

Keith Barnham, professor of physics at Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine in London, and his colleagues believe the export figures for civil plutonium to the US indicate that about 1.4 tons ended up with the American military.

"If sufficiently pure, this amount of plutonium could provide up to 300 warheads," they say in Nature.

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A NEWLY developed bullet may soon help explosives experts to locate and destroy land-mines without having to set foot on the ground. The bullet, developed by researchers at the University of Missouri, is fired from a helicopter flying about 100m (300ft) above ground level. When it hits the ground, it sends out bursts of radio waves that are reflected by any land-mines within a 15m (50ft) radius and then picked up by an antenna on the helicopter, reports New Scientist.

According to the magazine, "Once the mines are located, they can be destroyed at once, or their exact position noted so they can be dealt with later. Of course, a mine would explode if the bullet hits it."

GENETICISTS IN China support the idea of improving the genetic stock of the nation using DNA technology. Genetic testing of job applicants by employers, strongly condemned in the West, was supported by 86 per cent of the 255 geneticists who took part in the survey. Ninety-one per cent also believed that governments should carry out premarital tests on couples to prevent those carrying the same mutations from having children.

The survey, by Zin Mao of the West China University of Medical Sciences in Chengdu, reported in New Scientist, also found support for genetic testing of children to see whether they are susceptible to problems such as alcoholism, with 69 per cent in favour.

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TYRE MANUFACTURERS could leap ahead of the competition by copying the toe-pads of tree frogs. This advice comes from Dr Joe Barnes, a zoologist at the University of Glasgow, who studied the ability of 14 species of Trinidadian tree frog to hang on to glass surfaces. He gradually turned each glass surface over until the frog clinging to it fell off. Heavier frogs hung on for longer than expected and had twice as much adhesive force in their intricately patterned toe-pads than the lighter species.

"Their ability to hang on surprised me," he said.

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