Short items

Hobby gets out of hand

A Swedish man has been arrested for unauthorised possession of nuclear material. Richard Handl of southern Sweden had samples of radium, americium and uranium in his kitchen, as he was trying to split the atom at home. Only later did he realise that it might not be such a good idea and contacted Sweden’s radiation safety authority. If convicted, Handl could face fines or up to two years in prison. He says that from now on he will stick to theory.
The Guardian, 4 August 2011 

Artificial heart transplant 

A British man has received a plastic heart which should give him time to wait for a suitable donor heart to become available. The artificial heart replaces both right and left ventricles which usually pump blood around the lungs and body. The plastic pumps are powered by an external power pack which can be carried around in a backpack.
The Independent, 3 August 2011 

Intelligence puzzle worked out 

A DNA study of over 3500 people has shown that genetic factors explain about half of the difference between individuals’ intelligence. But instead of one gene being responsible, the small influence of hundreds or thousands of genes adds up to a large effect overall. The results could eventually help us to understand and counteract cognitive decline in old age.
The Times, 10 August 2011 

Bats’ blood detection 

Vampire bats can target blood vessels extremely accurately owing to infra-red sensors on their snouts. The heat sensors are a variant of the heat sensitive nerves (TRPV1) that humans have, but in a more sensitive form that can detect temperatures above 30?C. This allows the bats to home in on blood vessels up to 20cm away. Uncovering what makes these nerves more heat sensitive could help in the treatment of people who have become hyper-sensitive to heat after injury.
Daily Mail, 4 August 2011