September 1999 Archives

Report on a United Nations Population Fund report saying the world's population will be about 8.9 billion in 2050. This is down from an earlier prediction of 9.4 billion; a third of this gap is due to HIV/Aids which is spreading faster than expected. "In Botswana, where one of every four adults is infected, life expectancy has fallen from 61 years in the late 1980s to 47 today, and is expected to plunge to 38 by 2005-2010. Nevertheless, the population is still expected to nearly double by 2050." "Of the 4.8 bn people in developing countries, nearly three-fifths lack basic sanitation. Almost a third have no access to clean water."

NASA is starting a $600,000 project to turn astronaut waste into a power source using pyrolysis - breaking matter down by heating it without oxygen. Pyrolysis can result in liquids or gases, depending on the temperature of burning and these can either be burnt to release energy or turned into other materials such as plastics. They suggest the process could be used on earth for recycling human waste, plastic bags, etc.

Withered brain cells restored to health

Researchers at University of California, San Diego managed to revive cells in monkey brains which had previously been thought dead due to age, using gene therapy. Although the cells appeared to be physically back to almost normal, they haven't tested to see if they actually work yet.

The perils of the biotech century

Jeremy Rifkin on how we should approach the use of biotech. "It needs to be stressed that it's not a matter of saying yes or no to the use of technology itself and never has been ... Rather, the question is: what kind of biotechnologies will we choose in the coming biotech century? Will we use our new insights into the workings of plant and animal genomes to create genetically engineered "super crops" and transgenic animals? Or will we use them to advance ecological agriculture and more humane animal husbandry practices?