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It will be difficult – but not impossible – to detect the chemical breakdown products of any nerve agents that may have been used in the Damascus attack, but access to the victims could be critical in proving the illicit use of chemical weapons.

Science: A matter of life and death

Most animals have prions - proteins that can cause fatal nervous diseases. So why do we have them in the first place?

Scientists solve key mystery of scrapie and BSE

ONE OF the biggest mysteries in the 30-year history of research into "prion diseases", such as scrapie in sheep, BSE in cattle and CJD in humans, may finally have been solved.

Podium: The Lilliputian laboratory is changing science

Dr Andrew de Mello

Nutrition study brings new hope for Down's syndrome mothers

MOTHERS OF children with Down's syndrome appear to have problems absorbing folic acid, new research shows. The finding could lead to preventive measures against the disorder, which affects one in 1,000 births in Britain.

FOCUS: THE BRAIN DRAIN: Medical stars pack their bags

Lack of government funding, low salaries and even lower status are driving Britain's leading researchers overseas

Obituary: Professor David Baum

DAVID BAUM was from 1985 Professor of Child Health at Bristol University and, since 1997, President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health. His enthusiasm for life affected everyone with whom he came into contact, patients and colleagues alike. Those who knew him well will recall many examples of his impact on their thinking, their professional practice and their personal attitudes. But those who only met him once, whether recently or a long time ago, will also remember the experience clearly and with relish.

A Week in Books: Stars fall prey to the scorned spouse

ONE TELLING moment in Jane Hawking's bloated tome about her sad life with Professor Stephen comes near the end, after the (literally) window-smashing ferocity of their break-up. Jane finds herself pursued by the Inland Revenue. They are sniffing out the profits from A Brief History of Time because, she claims, the Treasury lacked funds "as a result of the high rate of unemployment caused by deliberate Tory government policy".

Open Eye: Bridging the 2C gap

It was back in the `50s that C P Snow spotlighted the two-culture gap. Crudely it meant that if you knew the second law of thermodynamics you were probably hazy about Shakespeare, and vice versa. At the end of the 1980s this nagged me into action. Everything I seemed to be involved with was word-based and verbal.

Herbal `antidote' leads to dangerous Ecstasy boom

BRITAIN'S largest health-food manufacturer has launched an investigation after discovering clubbers are using on of its herbal remedies as an "antidote" to the side-effects of the drug Ecstacy.

Obituary: Professor Alan Wellburn

ALAN WELLBURN was a biochemist who made numerous contributions to our understanding of the ways in which plants function in different environments, particularly in atmospheres contaminated with air pollutants. He was an early authority on "acid rain" and climate change.

Starfish `hold key to cancer relief'

STARFISH ARE helping scientists turn the tide against cancer, it was revealed yesterday.

Obituary: Garth Robinson

GARTH ROBINSON was a biochemist at Oxford University for over 30 years who became briefly, in the early Eighties, a national hero for his progressive policies on lawn mowing. "Why bother with a hover?" called the newspaper headlines.

Health: The smell good factor

Its powers and healing properties have been tried and tested; the French and Germans swear by it. But in Britain, aromatherapy is still not taken seriously.

I work for... Mad about the boffins

I Work For...: Jennie Wood is PA to Dr Graham Currie, research director of Marie Curie Cancer Care
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Harry Potter actor suffered 'severe flu-like symptoms' on a flight from London to Orlando

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Rap music mogul accused of running two men over in his truck

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Toronto tops the charts across a range of indexes
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World cities ranked in terms of safety, food security and 'liveability'

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Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee