The truth is out there: 12/12/2009

A weekly look at the world

*The world's first wireless brain computer interface – a system to convert brain waves to FM radio signals which can be decoded into sounds – has been described by a new paper in Public Library of Science. The implant system has been trialled on 26-year-old Eric Ramsey who was left almost entirely paralysed after a car accident 10 years ago. So far Ramsey can express only vowel sounds but it is an important step, said

*This week a West Sussex crematorium announced plans to become the first in Europe to use the heat from burning bodies to run its own electricity and heating. But according to ecofriendlymag, cremation has a surprisingly high carbon footprint. The energy and emissions involved in burning a body are apparently comparable to driving across America.

*Humans have an incredibly complex and previously undiscovered sensory network, according to a study published in the latest issue of Pain, the journal of the International Association for the Study of Pain. The network is located throughout our blood vessels and sweat glands and is entirely separate from the nerves, according to Science Blog.

*The Wall Street Journal has refuted claims made by Bloomberg that Goldman Sachs employees were buying guns to protect themselves from a popular uprising against bankers. The claims were made by Bloomberg columnist Alice Schroeder, but when the WSJ investigated it found only four employees had applied for gun permits in recent years, the last of which was in 2003.

*In Bloomberg's defence, it is possible the employees have acquired weapons without filling out the paperwork, as is allegedly the case with Walt Disney's grandson, who was arrested in LA this week on suspicion of illegal gun possession. The arrest was made after a search of Patrick Disney Miller's home in California, where it is illegal for felons to posses a firearm, reported KTLA news.

*What do sex, human organs, political favours and children have in common? According to the Freakonomics blog on The New York Times, they are all goods or services which are perfectly legal when given freely but become illegal when offered in exchange for money.

*The most Googled term in mainland China is Baidu – the name of its biggest rival, according to new figures released by Google and reported by the Beijing Times this week. China is one of the last countries where Google is not the dominant search engine.

*China Radio International's poll of the country's best foreign friends includes British scientist Joseph Needham. More than 56 million people voted in the officially endorsed list of foreigners who have made "an exceptional contribution to the country in the past 100 years." Also on the list: Indian Dr Dwarkanath Kotnis and Canadian Dr Norman Bethune, who treated soldiers during the Sino-Japan war.