Science: theoretically ...

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So farewell then, cold fusion - or at least the search for patents. Almost exactly nine years after Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann claimed to have produced nuclear fusion in a test tube, the University of Utah Research Foundation has abandoned its pursuit of patents for the work. Everyone's heading the same way: Japan spent more than pounds 12m trying to make cold fusion work, but gave up last year. Meanwhile the US Patent Office has continued to reject cold-fusion patent applications.

Pons and Fleischmann claimed in 1989 that their tabletop device was producing heat which could only be explained by nuclear reactions. A scramble to reproduce the experiment soon led to most people abandoning the attempt: they couldn't reproduce the results or find supporting evidence.

Was Homer Simpson helping? An "undetermined number" of the protective thermal tiles on Space Shuttle Columbia will have to be replaced, after being ruined when the spacecraft was banged by a lifting sling during preparations for its launch next month. Engineers are checking to see whether anything under those tiles was damaged. There was "no immediate explanation" for the incident, said Nasa, but added that the 16 April lift-off date is still the target.

"Bioterrorists" really are very difficult to prevent: how do you know what that fellow with the test tube on the Underground is up to? A number of American cities are playing out drills in which they simulate what would happen during "bioweapon" attacks, according to New Scientist. New York has already simulated an anthrax attack, but found that the difficulty is that most doctors have never seen a case of the disease - so if it really happened, they wouldn't realise what they were up against.

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