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  Graphic element SPACE, ASTRONOMY: A new planetary system - and it looks like home (25/06/02)  
    Scientists from the Anglo-Australian Planet Search team, in collaboration with American astronomers from the Keck and Lick Planet Search teams, say they have found a planetary system resembling our own solar system.  
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  Graphic element SCHOOLS, BIODIVERSITY: South African schools playing their part in the WSSD (25/06/02)  
    As governments, institutes and businesses busily prepare for the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg later this year, South African school children will be having their say on key issues confronted during the event.  
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  Graphic element TELECOMMUNICATIONS, TELEVISION: Afghan TV back on the box (25/06/02)  
    Since the departure of the Taliban from Afghanistan in December 2001, Afghan TV is back on air but with help from the EU, Unesco and private organisations the station's future should be more solid.  
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  Graphic element ENVIRONMENT, ANTARCTIC: Caring for Antarctica (17/06/02)  
    Since the 1950s, and the signing of the Antarctic Treaty, to the approval of the Madrid Protocol in 1991, the Antarctic has been protected as a natural reserve dedicated to scientific activity. Work continues on rehabilitating the area and utilising its potential.  
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  Graphic element INFORMATION SOCIETY, CANDIDATE COUNTRIES: Real progress on eEurope+ (17/06/02)  
    A first progress report on the eEurope+ Action Plan in the candidate countries was launched at a European ministerial conference in Ljubljana, Slovenia between 3 - 5 June 2002.  
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  Graphic element TELECOMMUNICATIONS, HEALTH: China plans curbs on mobile radiation (17/06/02)  
    Recent draft legislation put forward by the Chinese government aims to limit the levels of radiation from mobile phones. Should Europe be taking note?  
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  Graphic element ENVIRONMENT, SUSTAINABLE RESOURCES: Megacities threaten key resources in SE Asia (10/06/02)  
    International scientists meeting in Bali, Indonesia, on 4 June 2002 for an international science roundtable, held during the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), discussed how science can combat the impact of increasing demands on energy and resources in SE Asia.  
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  Graphic element COMPETITION, SCIENCE: Second competition for young science writers in NIS (10/06/02)  
    INTAS is offering young science writers from the New Independent States the chance to put their scientific message across to a wider audience.  
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  Graphic element ENVIRONMENT, MAPPING: The ocean - now available online (10/06/02)  
    On 5 June 2002, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) announced the launch of a new online atlas of the world's oceans to combat their unsustainable exploitation.  
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  Graphic element FINLAND, REACTOR: Finns favour nuclear power (03/06/02)  
    Finland will become the first West European country since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster to approve the construction of a new nuclear reactor to meet future energy needs and greenhouse gas targets.  
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  Graphic element CUBES, EDUCATION: A physics lab redefines the word 'experience' in work experience (03/06/02)  
    Students recently found themselves voluntary guinea pigs in possibly the weirdest work experience at the Warwick University's Physics department.  
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  Graphic element WEBSITE, SCIENCE: New platform for debating 'science & sustainability' (03/06/02)  
    A website reporting on how science and technology can meet the needs of developing countries has launched a 'science and sustainability' section. SciDev.Net will use these pages to stimulate debate in the run up to September's World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg.  
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graphical element SPACE, ASTRONOMY: A new planetary system - and it looks like home (25/06/02)
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  Scientists from the Anglo-Australian Planet Search team, in collaboration with American astronomers from the Keck and Lick Planet Search teams, say they have found a planetary system resembling our own solar system.
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Artist's impression of the possible scene from a moon orbiting the extrasolar planet 55 Cancri, Image: © Lynette Cook
Artist's impression of the possible scene from a moon orbiting the extrasolar
planet 55 Cancri
Image: © Lynette Cook

British and Australian astronomers announced last week their discovery of four new extrasolar planets using the 3.9m Anglo-Australian Telescope located in the state of New South Wales, Australia. Meanwhile, US astronomers from the Lick Observatory in California and Keck Telescope in Hawaii announced during a NASA conference last week that they have found 13 new planets. One planet discovered by the US team stands out. Going by the name 55 Cancri, it is a Jupiter-like star located in the constellation Cancer. Geoffrey Marcy, Professor of Astronomy at the University of California, said: "This is the first near analogue to our Jupiter. All other extrasolar planets discovered up to now orbit closer to the parent star."

Finding Earth's cousins
Data collected on the 55 Cancri was passed on to Greg Laughlin, Assistant Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz, for further analysis. His research confirms the likeness between our solar system and the constellation Cancer. "Just as other planets in our solar system tug on the Earth and produce chaotic but bounded orbit, so the planets around 55 Cancri would push and pull an Earth-like planet," said Mr Laughlin. But he cautions against hasty presumptions that such planets would host life. The UK team are more upbeat about the discoveries. Dr Allan Penny of the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory said he was especially looking forward to being able to compare the new planetary system with our own solar system in his work with the European Space Agency's Eddington mission, recently announced for a 2007-8 launch.
The long-term goal of these programmes is to uncover comparable systems to our own solar system. The discovery of other such planets and planetary satellites within the next decade will help astronomers assess our place in the galaxy and whether planetary systems like our own are common or rare. The recent discoveries are a major step towards this goal.

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Source: Anglo-Australian Observatory, AlphaGalileo

Contact: hsim@aaoepp.aao.gov.au

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graphical element SCHOOLS, BIODIVERSITY: South African schools playing their part in the WSSD (25/06/02)
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  As governments, institutes and businesses busily prepare for the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg later this year, South African school children will be having their say on key issues confronted during the event.
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Thirty years ago, the international community met in Stockholm for the first United Nations Conference on the Human Environment. Then, in 1992, the world gathered again for the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan describes the event as a 'conceptual breakthrough' in sustainable development. "No longer…would environmental protection be regarded as a luxury or afterthought," he wrote in a lecture recently delivered to the American Museum of Natural History. This year, at the WSSD, the agenda is focused squarely on five challenges: water, energy, health, agriculture, and biodiversity. South African children in the Gauteng area - chosen for its closeness to the WSSD venue - are tackling this challenge in their own way. Their task, as part of the Biodiversity & Biotechnology School Competition, is to design and present eye-catching posters for the world to see at the Summit.

A child's view
Like the world's leaders, the children are being asked to investigate and debate the relationship between biodiversity and biotechnology, paying special attention to a number of important issues like sustainable biodiversity; biodiversity benefits and risks; biotechnology innovation and the need for novel genes; bioethics; and poverty alleviation. The organiser of the competition, the (South African) Foundation for Education, Science and Technology, say they are looking for entries showing holistic research methods, creative thinking, and effective presentation - analogous qualities to those we might hope for in our leaders in achieving the right sustainable development balance. In the words of Mr Annan: "[at the WSSD] … we have a chance to restore the momentum that had been felt so palpably after the Earth Summit. Already, the process leading up to that event has brought renewed attention to issues that have been largely overshadowed by conflicts, globalization and, most recently, terrorism."

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Source: Foundation for Education, Science and Technology (South Africa)

Contact: helen.malherbe@fest.org.za

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graphical element TELECOMMUNICATIONS, TELEVISION: Afghan TV back on the box (25/06/02)
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  Since the departure of the Taliban from Afghanistan in December 2001, Afghan TV is back on air but with help from the EU, Unesco and private organisations the station's future should be more solid.
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Five years after the Taliban shut it down, Afghan TV is again broadcasting a mixture of news, music, sport and films. However, due to a lack of funding and a technical infrastructure dating from 1976, Afghan TV - with an audience of only 500 000 viewers a night - needs urgent help to get back on its feet. To get the ball rolling, EU countries have already pledged assistance for the beleaguered station - Italy's Silvio Berlusconi has offered to set up an entire TV station - and the United Nations' educational scientific and cultural organistion, Unesco, has set aside £24 000 (€37 000) to train technical staff. The DISCOP organisation has also launched the 'TV for Afghanistan' initiative, whose objective is to raise within a year up to $10 million (€10.5 million) for Afghan TV.

No TV sets, no viewers!
An important priority for the TV for Afghanistan initiative will be to replace Afghan TV's archaic infrastructure, while Afghan journalists, production and programming executives are given the tools and training to use it. As pressing is the lack of television sets. There are less than 200 000 in Afghanistan at present, and this number will need to be increased if more viewers are to be reached, and vital communication channels opened up. One company offering to help the cause is GEOLINK, which currently provides satellite broadcasting technology to European broadcasters such as TF1, FRANCE 2 and RAI. With help from GEOLINK and foreign broadcasters from as far away as Turkey, India and Japan, Afghan TV will be able to broadcast images to international stations outside Afghanistan.

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Source: EuropePR, The Guardian online

Contact: coco@discop.com

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graphical element ENVIRONMENT, ANTARCTIC: Caring for Antarctica (17/06/02)
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  Since the 1950s, and the signing of the Antarctic Treaty, to the approval of the Madrid Protocol in 1991, the Antarctic has been protected as a natural reserve dedicated to scientific activity. Work continues on rehabilitating the area and utilising its potential.
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Photo: Prof. H. Decleir (VUB)

Photo: Prof. H. Decleir (V
UB)

One organisation active in such work is the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD), part of the Australian Government's Department of the Environment and Heritage. The AAD aims to 'value, protect and understand' Antarctica and is developing a ten-year plan to clean up old waste sites in the region. AAD is also working on a tourism strategy which maximises Antarctica's undeniable potential while protecting its ecosystems from the impact of 12 000 visitors a year, and particularly from 'invasion biology' - the inadvertent introduction of alien plants and invertebrates. The Division recently announced the publication of their Australian Antarctic Magazine online to coincide with World Environment Day on 5 June 2002.

Additional support in the Antarctic
Another signatory to both the Madrid Protocol and the Antarctic Treaty (as a founder member), Belgium maintains an active and important presence, as do all the EU member states. Recognising the unique scientific opportunities provided by Antarctica, in 1985 the Federal Office for Scientific, Technical and Cultural Affairs (OSTC) organised a national multi-annual programme specifically devoted to the Antarctic. This is currently in its fifth phase as part of the 'Second Multi-annual Scientific Support Plan for a Sustainable Development Policy (SPSD II - 2000-2005)' where research is being carried out under topics including global change, ecosystems and biodiversity.

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Source: AAD website, OSTC website

Contact:
information@aad.gov.au

vcau@belspo.be

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graphical element INFORMATION SOCIETY, CANDIDATE COUNTRIES: Real progress on eEurope+ (17/06/02)
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  A first progress report on the eEurope+ Action Plan in the candidate countries was launched at a European ministerial conference in Ljubljana, Slovenia between 3 - 5 June 2002.
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The presentation of the progress report was the key event of the conference, attended by over 450 participants including Information Society Commissioner Erkki Liikanen. The report shows there is considerable political interest in and significant progress with the development of the information society in candidate countries. National strategies and programmes are being developed and the implementation of a coherent and effective policy and regulatory framework is under way. Telephone and mobile penetration rates are high.

Critical mass needed
However, according to the progress report, candidate countries still lag behind their EU neighbours in the potential use of information technologies. The cost of and access to the internet is still a prohibitive factor and there is little indication of progress in areas such as eCommerce or in the availability of data which could help give a better understanding of usage patterns and trends - all of which seem unlikely to be successfully addressed until a critical mass of users is established. These problems will be the focus of the plan's next phase alongside new challenges that have arisen, particularly cyber-crime and network and information security.
The eEurope+ Action Plan was launched by the candidate countries prime ministers at the Göteborg European Council in June 2001. It parallels the aims of the eEurope Action Plan - launched in June 2000 - for Europe to become 'the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world' in the next decade.

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Source: Ministry of Information Society, Government of the Republic of Slovenia

Contact: mid@gov.si

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graphical element TELECOMMUNICATIONS, HEALTH: China plans curbs on mobile radiation (17/06/02)
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  Recent draft legislation put forward by the Chinese government aims to limit the levels of radiation from mobile phones. Should Europe be taking note?
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China is the world's largest mobile phone market. The number of mobile phone users has recently been estimated to be 128 million with some projecting this will rise to over 350 million by the year 2005. This represents an enormous market for network providers and phone manufacturers - especially since China's acceptance as a member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). However, draft legislation presented by the Chinese government would, if adopted, cap the level of permissible mobile radiation emissions at just half the current international standard, making China's mobile emissions standards the toughest in the world.

Lessons for Europe?
Although industry analysts doubt such draconian and far-reaching legislation could ever become law, the underlying research used to propose such curbs could be particularly relevant to European researchers working in the same areas. A number of European research projects funded under the 'environment and health' key action of the Quality of Life programme and in the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) are already looking at the potential health risks of electromagnetic radiation from mobile phones. Further cooperation, through the exchange of expertise and know-how and researcher mobility, could provide scientific and economic benefits for both Europe and China.

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Source: BBC World Service website, BDA China, RTD info No. 32

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graphical element ENVIRONMENT, SUSTAINABLE RESOURCES: Megacities threaten key resources in SE Asia (10/06/02)
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  International scientists meeting in Bali, Indonesia, on 4 June 2002 for an international science roundtable, held during the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), discussed how science can combat the impact of increasing demands on energy and resources in SE Asia.
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Hong Kong's congested urban landscape. - Photo: PhotoDisc

Hong Kong's congested urban
landscape.
Photo: PhotoDisc

Renewable and un-renewable resources are being exploited in SE Asia at a rate that could threaten the area's environmental and economic stability. For example, deforestation in Indonesia rose from 600 000 hectares a year in the 1980s to 1 600 000 hectares a year today. Marine resources, too, are under threat from over-fishing and the stripping of marine habitat for manufacturing processes. However, according to scientists at the WSSD, science can help in the management of these problems. Quantification of goods and environmental services that tropical forests offer is one option put forward by the scientists. They also advocate the correct marking of marine protected areas and calculating fish limits as a way of better managing SE Asia's fisheries.

Megacity mayhem
The problems are not only limited to forests or fisheries. The demands on the world's resources are increasing to support an ever-growing SE Asian urban population. By 2015, there will be 15 megacities in Asia, with a population of more than 10 million. These megacities represent an enormous environmental load in both direct and indirect consumption. But science can provide the means to understand and manage their impact on SE Asia's threatened renewable and un-renewable resources. As Dr Shobhakar Dhakal, of the Institute of Global Environmental Studies (IGES) suggests, "Improvement in technology, urban management and lifestyle changes are keys to a sustainable development in megacities. Scientific research can serve the policy-making community and will continue to be an indispensable component of sustainable development".

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Source: International Science Roundtable website, AlphaGalileo

Contact: clare.bradshaw@IGBP.kva.se

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graphical element COMPETITION, SCIENCE: Second competition for young science writers in NIS (10/06/02)
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  INTAS is offering young science writers from the New Independent States the chance to put their scientific message across to a wider audience.
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On 28 May 2002, the International Association for the promotion of cooperation with scientists from the New Independent States of the former Soviet Union (INTAS) launched their second writing competition for young scientists from the New Independent States (NIS). Young scientists awarded a grant through the INTAS fellowship programme - or as an individual grant - and who have finished a project since January 2002 are invited to present the results of their research in an article of no more than 1 000 words. The final date to send applications is 13 September 2002.

The story behind the research!
The competition aims to get young scientists to write in a way that highlights the relevance of their work while making it accessible to industry, policy-makers and the general public. It also provides a much-needed boost to the science communication channels in the NIS. The writing should be in English, following a journalistic style, and be straight to the point. A hint of humour is encouraged. Additional guidance is available from the INTAS website, including links to earlier winners' works and examples of writing from other scientists. INTAS will announce the winners in November 2002 after selection by a judging panel made up largely of scientific copy writers. The best article will receive €800, while the runners up articles will receive €400 and €200 respectively. All the winners will have their work presented on the INTAS website.

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Source: INTAS

Contact: lepot@intas.be | leydon@intas.be

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graphical element ENVIRONMENT, MAPPING: The ocean - now available online (10/06/02)
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  On 5 June 2002, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) announced the launch of a new online atlas of the world's oceans to combat their unsustainable exploitation.
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Launched on World Environment Day last week, and following ten years of planning and two and a half years of development, the FAO describe the atlas as the most ambitious global scientific information collaboration ever online. The atlas is an information system designed for use by policy-makers who need to find out about ocean issues; and by scientists, students and resource managers who need access to underlying information and different approaches to sustainability. It should also serve as an international consensus-building tool.

Maps galore
The online atlas presents 14 global maps and links to hundreds of others, including 264 maps showing the distribution of fishery resources. A further 100 maps show global ice cover, navigation routes, earthquakes and volcanic activity, as well as ocean temperature gradients, bottom contours, salinity and other ocean-based characteristics. With this level of coverage, the atlas is ideally equipped to spotlight the issues contributing to the decline in marine ecosystems. As Dr Jacques Douf, Director General of the FAO says, "The oceans play a crucial role of sustaining life on Earth." He adds, "This important new tool will allow us to monitor and pay attention to problems in a way that hasn't been possible in the past." In addition to the website, a CD-ROM will be produced with other media so that a wider audience can be reached.

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Source: UN Atlas of the Oceans website, BBC World Service

Contacts: john.everett@fao.org

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graphical element FINLAND, REACTOR: Finns favour nuclear power (03/06/02)
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  Finland will become the first West European country since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster to approve the construction of a new nuclear reactor to meet future energy needs and greenhouse gas targets.
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The move comes after a recent poll in which 54% of Finns favoured the building of a new nuclear reactor. Finland already has four nuclear reactors supplying 30% of their electricity needs. Following the Finnish Parliament's 107 to 92 vote on 24 May approving the expansion of nuclear power, this figure looks set to increase by 5%. The new facility - built for the power company Teollisuuden Voima - should be completed by 2010, say Finnish Government sources. Prime minister Paavo Lipponen (a social democrat) said immediately after the vote that Finland will not be turning into a promised land of nuclear power. He emphasised that the decision will safeguard diversity in Finland's energy supplies.

The pros and cons
Pro-nuclear campaigners believe a 'yes' vote makes Finland less dependent on energy from external sources - currently around 71% of energy in Finland is imported from Russia. The plans are also supported by both industrial employers and the trade union movement in Finland. The anti-nuclear lobby - made up of the three smaller government parties, the Left Alliance, the Greens and the Swedish People's Party (of Finland), the SPP - has criticised the Finnish government for casting aside health and security risks, particularly important since the September 11 attacks against the United States. The Green party's only cabinet member, minister of the environment Satu Hassi, announced straight after the vote that she wanted the Greens to resign from the government. She did not want to make a personal decision to quit but left her fate for the party to determine.

The European Commissioner for Energy, Mrs de Palacio, has made it clear the EU needs nuclear power to achieve the 1997 Kyoto Protocol's target of an 8% decrease in greenhouse gas emissions by 2012 (compared with 1990 levels). Officially, however, the European Union leaves decisions on nuclear energy to each Member State. Mrs de Palacio has suggested a proposal for common EU safety standards for nuclear power. In addition, the Commission is expected to issue a follow up of the Green Paper on energy supply, most probably in the form of number of action plans or legal initiatives.

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Source: Euractive, Reuters, Embassy of Finland, Washington DC

Contact: rtd-energy-rtd@ec.europa.eu

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graphical element CUBES, EDUCATION: A physics lab redefines the word 'experience' in work experience (03/06/02)
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  Students recently found themselves voluntary guinea pigs in possibly the weirdest work experience at the Warwick University's Physics department.
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A two-dimensional picture of a 4D Hypercube
A two-dimensional picture of
a 4D Hypercube

An extract from a movie of
a 4D Hypercube

(mov 895.54kb - open with 'Quicktime')
Multimedia: Warwick University

Download 'Quicktime' plug-in

For most students in Europe the words 'work experience' usually mean boring filing, photocopying, and coffee making. The students who recently turned up to the University of Warwick's Physics department were surprised to be taken to a small black room and dropped into a virtual reality four-dimensional (4D) hypercube. A what? Physicist Richard Wellard explains. He wanted to solve the major problem of how to rotate a four-dimensional object - a hypercube - in the three-dimensions (3D) of a virtual reality simulator. Most people have seen classic two-dimensional (2D) wire frame drawings of a 3D cube - it is also even possible to produce a 2D picture of a 4D hypercube, which looks like a cube within a cube. But, until now, researchers have found it difficult to get their 3D virtual reality systems to display and rotate a 4D hypercube without straining the viewer's understanding of how to manipulate the image, something which is usually well beyond the ability of most people.

A virtual reality wand
Mr Wellard's new system allows simple movements of a virtual reality wand to rotate 4D hypercubes with such ease that it took only an hour to train the work experience students to rotate them in precise ways. Mr Wellard poses the question, "Why would anyone want to rotate a 4D hypercube anyway?" He believes it will be an invaluable tool for anyone trying to explain, teach or research the difficult field of 4D objects such as the Klein bottle - a one-sided, closed surface that cannot be constructed in 'normal' space. It is most commonly pictured as a cylinder looped back through itself, effectively joining its other end. It will also prove useful to anyone trying to find patterns in data which involves plotting four different variables. Researchers will be able to use virtual reality systems to plot such data on a 4D virtual reality graph, which they can then rotate to search for recognisable patterns in the data.

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Source: Warwick University

Contact: p.j.dunn@warwick.ac.uk

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graphical element WEBSITE, SCIENCE: New platform for debating 'science & sustainability' (03/06/02)
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  A website reporting on how science and technology can meet the needs of developing countries has launched a 'science and sustainability' section. SciDev.Net will use these pages to stimulate debate in the run up to September's World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg.
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Set up last December with the backing of the world's two leading scientific journals, Nature and Science, SciDev.Net has already established itself as a reliable and informative source of news and science-based stories affecting developing countries. The site has the active support of the Third World Academy of Sciences, and is a registered charity funded by the UK Department for International Development, the Swedish International Development Co-operation Agency and the International Development Research Centre in Canada. The site appeals to scientists, development workers, journalists, policy experts, students, government officials, and indeed anyone interested in this important debate, particularly in developing countries. "We hope that creating this focal point for news and discussion about the role of science in sustainable development will help raise awareness of some of the critical issues facing the scientific, technical and development communities, particularly in the context of the WSSD," says David Dickson, director of SciDev.Net.

The digital divide in S&T communication
Individuals who have already agreed to contribute articles include Mohamed Hassan, the executive director of the Third World Academy of Sciences, Jane Lubchenco, the president-elect of the International Council for Science, and Claire Fraser, president of The Institute for Genomic Research. Initial topics to be addressed in the discussion forum include capacity building for science and technology, handling uncertainties over genetically modified crops, difficulties in implementing the Convention of Biological Diversity, bridging the 'digital divide' in science and technology communication, and whether nuclear energy has a role to play in sustainable development (see "Finns favour nuclear power").
Users of the website are in particular being asked for suggestions on concrete actions that could emerge from the WSSD. And wide participation in the debate on the issues is being encouraged.

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Source: SciDev Net

Contacts: info@scidev.net

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