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30,208 articles from Guardian Unlimited Science

Scent of tragedy lingers in a 650-year-old perfume bottle buried by pogrom victim

When the tiny stopper is delicately eased free, a mere wisp of scent imprisoned for over 650 years is released.In a unique experiment, scientists at the L'Oreal perfume institute in Paris tried to analyse the ingredients of a perfume whose precious container survived the Black Death, which annihilated a third of the population of Europe.The young Jewish woman who wore the pretty silver bottle...


FRIDAY 13. FEBRUARY 2009


Shower after swimming to avoid MRSA, scientist advise

Holidaymakers should shower after swimming in the sea to reduce their chances of picking up the superbug, MRSA, according to scientists.The warning follows one of the first major studies into dangerous microbes that bathers might encounter during a trip to the seaside. Researchers found that people who went swimming at a popular beach in Florida had more than a one-in-three chance of coming into...

Kissing helps us choose the right breeding partner, claims scientist

The 17th-century satirist Jonathan Swift once wondered "what fool it was that first invented kissing". Now scientists believe they have an answer.They have turned to evolution and believe smooching serves as a quick way of screening potential partners by marking out those who are the best prospects for a long-term relationship.Helen Fisher, an anthropologist at Rutgers University in New Jersey,...

Dawkins takes on the ex-bishop

It's not often you see two heavyweights limbering up for a prize fight among the dinosaurs of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History. Even rarer when the warm-up is set to the strains of Haydn. Last night Richard Dawkins and Lord Harries of Pentregarth (formerly Bishop of Oxford) did just that. They revisited the great evolution debate between Thomas Huxley (who was representing a poorly...

Male birds pair up to attract female

Evolutionary biologists have stumbled across a strangely familiar form of courtship in the jungles of Costa Rica.Video footage of the tropical manakin bird has found that males employ a wingman to help them find a mate. To attract females, the pair perform an elaborate song-and-dance routine, even though only the more dominant male ever gets to mate.David McDonald at Wyoming University recorded...

'Amazing' songbird migration patterns

Songbirds fly faster and further than anyone has realised, according to scientists who have tracked their migration routes for the first time. The researchers said they were "flabbergasted" by the findings, which will help biologists predict how climate change and habitat loss will affect the birds.Songbirds are the most common type of bird, but until now little has been known about their annual...


THURSDAY 12. FEBRUARY 2009


Far-off food puts vast penguin colony under threat

One of the largest penguin colonies in the world is under threat because the birds are being forced to swim further to find food.Magellanic penguins living in the Punta Tombo colony on the coast of Argentina are feeding 25 miles further from their nesting sites than they did only a decade ago, according to scientists who attached satellite tags to the birds.The extra distance spent searching for...

Obesity: Blame the ancestors

The modern scourge of obesity could owe more to the lifestyle of our ancient ancestors than previously thought, according to scientists.Anthropologists claim our urge to eat supersized portions can be traced back to the dramatic growth of the human brain and body that occurred in the face of environmental changes two million years ago.The expansion of the human brain, which coincided with the...

Pointing boosts toddlers' language skills

Encouraging toddlers to use hand gestures can improve their vocabulary and boost their chances of doing well at school a few years later, according to new research.Pointing and other hand signals seem to give babies a head start in learning language skills, possibly by helping them to make connections between words and the objects in the world around them, psychologists found.The research...

Scientists unravel Neanderthal genome

Scientists have unravelled the complete genetic make-up of the Neanderthal, the long-faced, barrel-chested relative of modern humans.Anthropologists analysed more than a billion fragments of ancient DNA plucked from three Croatian fossils to reconstruct a first draft of the Neanderthal genome.The extraordinary feat gives scientists an unprecedented opportunity to clarify the evolutionary...

Space debris

NASA is tracking hundreds of particles of debris from the collision between a Russian and US satellite in space. Some space hardware has fallen to earth in the past.

Darwin was right. Up to a point

What, one wonders, would Charles Darwin or indeed his pugnacious supporter Thomas Henry Huxley have made of the recent rash of posters aimed at those who have nothing better to do than look at the sides of buses? These now serve to inform the world at large that, by the way, there may not be a God (although if you keep staring at buses you may also read precisely the opposite message).With atheist...

Russian and US satellites crash in space

Nasa scientists are closely monitoring the skies after two satellites crashed into each other over Siberia, in what experts have said is the first collision of its kind.The accident, which took place more than 400 miles above the earth's surface on Tuesday, has left a large cloud of debris drifting in space. Nasa officials are keeping watch to see if the wreckage could endanger other spacecraft,...