theoretically ...

NASA's second rocket to Mars, the Mars Pathfinder, should have taken off at 6.09 GMT this morning - assuming all went well. This was the only time NASA had for a launch today, though there is a 24-day "launch window" lasting until 31 December. Pathfinder is due to arrive on Mars on 4 July next year. It will investigate the Martian atmosphere and surface weather, and use a small six-wheeled rover to investigate the terrain around the spacecraft, and the geology and elemental composition of rocks and soil there.

The relaunch of the Cluster project, lost when Ariane 5 blew up, is all systems go - providing national governments come up with the funding. On this page last week we forecast that the European Space Agency would probably give Phoenix the go-ahead. Now it needs the Department of Trade and Industry to stump up pounds 7m over four years to refit the experiments for launch. Watch this space.

Don't get nervous - but anxiety seems to have a genetic component. A report in last week's Science magazine found that levels of neuroticism correlated with two different variants of a gene that encodes a protein critically involved in controlling levels of the neurotransmitter, serotonin. An investigation of 505 people found that this genetic variation accounted for about 4 per cent of variation in anxiety-related traits. A small difference, but the sort that could nag away at the back of your mind.

Odd, isn't it, how there are more organic compounds with an even number of carbon atoms than an odd number? That's the observation by a five-strong international team. And they ask: could that fact mean something? In the latest Nature, they report how a database of nearly 7 million organic compounds shows that, in general, even numbers of carbon atoms are significantly more common than the adjacent odd numbers. "Could there be some underlying parity rule that is yet to be discovered?" they ask. Any answers?

A mauve carnation can be yours. Florigene, an Australian biotechnology company, has spent $A25 million (about pounds 12 million) and a decade of research to produce one, using genetic engineering. It is the first step towards a range of genetically engineered blue flowers - including the long sought- after blue rose. The company isolated the gene responsible for blue flower pigmentation in 1991. The new flowers will cost about twice as much as normal carnations, but no doubt smell as sweet.

The Internet is bad for science, suggest two researchers at MIT. They point out in Science that it tends to produce specialists who don't stray out of their own areas. "If information technology helps an algebraic topologist spend more time interacting with colleagues globally, what happens to his or her interactions with the computer scientist, the biologist or the graduate student down the hall?" they ask - pointing out that the theory dinosaurs were wiped out by a meteorite strike came from the collaboration of a geologist and physicist.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there