The truth is out there: 17/10/2009

A weekly look at the world
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The Independent Online

*Six people were sentenced to death in China this week in connection with the 5 July riots in Xinjiang, according to China Daily. The exact number of executions carried out annually in the communist state is not known but according to Amnesty international it was 1,718 in 2008 (72 per cent of the global total).

*Xinhua.net also reported this week that China's far western region has suffered a 26.6 per cent decrease in tourist numbers during the National Day holiday as a result of the racial unrest between the Muslim Uighur people and ethnic Han Chinese.

*Scientists from the University of Glasgow have established a link between a sense of fear and measurably heightened senses, recording the effects of "looming sounds" on eyesight. The experiment, reports Sciencedirect.com, involved playing a selection of sounds to 15 people and recording their perceptions of "illusory light", which was 20 per cent higher when the sounds seemed to be approaching.

*Israeli company NanoCyte has taken the sting out of the drugs market, reports New Scientist, using cells from sea anemones to inject medicines such as insulin for diabetics. The company is harvesting the "nano-injector technology" of jellyfish, anemones and other cnidarian stings and hope to have products on the market by 2010.

*"Choice architecture", a design that nudges us to do the right thing, has got 66 per cent more people taking the stairs at Stockholm's Odenplan metro station. Giant piano keys that play real notes were installed next to the elevator with the effect that far more people chose the active option. The project was installed by Volkswagen, reports geanostra.com.

*A male fruit fly is famously unfussy in choosing a mate but, ironically for a species known for a love of faeces, their one bugbear is smell. Scientists from the University of Toronto manipulated the fly's external hydrocarbons – which act like pheromones – finding that just by changing one of their many "smells" they could completely alter who m and what the fly would mate with, reported nature.com.

*An improbable move in the file-sharing industry could be the saviour of budding film-makers, reports Boing Boing this week, with the news of a coalition of filesharers banding together to promote new works. The site, Vodo, would encourage users to make a direct contribution to willing artists and is reported to include the likes of file-sharing giants Pirate Bay, Mininova, Isohunt and many others. The first film – Us Now by Ivo Gormley – is available on the site now.

*Need the help of a chimpanzee? Just ask. Researchers at the Primate Research Institute and the Wildlife Research Centre of Kyoto University have found that chimpanzees are perfectly willing to lend a hand but are much more likely to if asked. The findings could go some way to help to explain the evolution of altruism, reports Science Daily.

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