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English, Biology

Plastics, naturally

Professor Colin Webb

We sit on them, wear them and cook with them: plastics are everywhere. Yet this very versatility and abundance makes it all the more difficult to produce and dispose of plastics in environmentally friendly ways. David Bradley explains how researchers at the University of Manchester, UK, are among those working on a solution.

Synchrotron light illuminates the orang-utan’s obscure origins

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Paul Tafforeau from the University of Poitiers and the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in Grenoble, France, explains what synchrotron X-ray studies of fossil teeth can tell us about the evolution of orang-utans – and our own origins.

Launching ideas

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Isabel Plantier teaches biology and geology to 15-year-old students in Portugal. She has been teaching for 25 years and tells Sai Pathmanathan that time really does fly when you’re having fun.

Fun with genomes: the Mycomuncher DNA Puzzle

Fed up with explaining genomes, genes and proteins? Why not get your students to figure it out for themselves using Johan Leveau’s DNA puzzle?

Plant hallucinogens as magical medicines

Picture of a man collecting the mandrake root with the help of a dog (Tacuinum sanitatis, manuscript, 1390)

Did witches once soar through the night sky on broomsticks? Or were they hallucinating after eating or touching certain plants? Angelika Börsch-Haubold explains how modern pharmacology helps us to understand the action of many toxic plants – some of which are still used in medicine.

Silken, stretchy and stronger than steel!

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Could spider silk be the answer to medical and military challenges? Giovanna Cicognani from the Institut Laue-Langevin and Montserrat Capellas from the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, France, investigate Christian Riekel and Tilo Seydel’s research into this remarkable material.


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Teaching science in the classroom is all very well, but wouldn’t it be wonderful to let your students learn for themselves what it’s really like to work in a research laboratory? Sooike Stoops from the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology (VIB), Belgium, describes a project that does just that!

Ethics in research

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Is it acceptable to use human embryonic stem cells in research? What about live animals? Professor Nadia Rosenthal, head of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Monterotondo, Italy, talks to Russ Hodge about the ethics of her research.

The Third Man of the Double Helix

By Maurice Wilkins

Reviewed by Friedlinde Krotscheck, Internationale Gesamthochschule Heidelberg, Germany

Rhythms of Life: The Biological Clocks That Control the Daily Lives of Every Living Thing

By Leon Kreitzman and Russell Foster

Reviewed by Michalis Hadjimarcou, Cyprus

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