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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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Pompeii, Capri & the Bay of Naples
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Prices correct as of 17 April 2015
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own
Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England