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Medicine

Half of American Doctors Often Prescribe Placebos 238

damn_registrars writes "'Half of all American doctors responding to a nationwide survey say they regularly prescribe placebos to patients. The results trouble medical ethicists, who say more research is needed to determine whether doctors must deceive patients in order for placebos to work.' The study just quoted goes on to say that the drugs most often used as placebo are headache pills, vitamins, and antibiotics. Studies on doctors in Europe and New Zealand have found similar results."
Space

Do We Live In a Giant Cosmic Bubble? 344

Khemisty writes "Earth may be trapped in an abnormal bubble of space-time that is particularly void of matter. Scientists say this condition could account for the apparent acceleration of the universe's expansion, for which dark energy currently is the leading explanation. Until now, there has been no good way to choose between dark energy or the void explanation, but a new study outlines a potential test of the bubble scenario. If we were in an unusually sparse area of the universe, then things could look farther away than they really are and there would be no need to rely on dark energy as an explanation for certain astronomical observations. 'If we lived in a very large under-density, then the space-time itself wouldn't be accelerating,' said researcher Timothy Clifton of Oxford University in England. 'It would just be that the observations, if interpreted in the usual way, would look like they were.'"
Robotics

Submission + - Robotic Telescope Installed on Antarctica Plateau

Reservoir Hill writes: "Antarctica claims some of the best astronomical sky conditions in the world — devoid of clouds with steady air that makes for clear viewing — that unfortunately lie deep in the interior on a high-altitude plateau called Dome A with an elevation up to 4,093m known as the most unapproachable point in the earth's southernmost region. Now astronomers in a Chinese scientific expedition have set up an experimental observatory at Dome A after lugging their equipment across Antarctica with the help of Australia and the US. The observatory will hunt for alien planets, while also measuring the observing conditions at the site to see if it is worth trying to build bigger observatories there. The observatory is automated, pointing its telescopes on its own while astronomers monitor its progress from other locations around the world via satellite link. PLATO is powered by a gas generator, and has a 4000-litre tank of jet fuel to keep it running through the winter. The observatory will search for planets around other stars using an array of four 14.5-centimetre telescopes called the Chinese Small Telescope Array (CSTAR). Astronomers hope to return in 2009 with new instruments, including the Antarctica Schmidt Telescopes (AST-3), a trio of telescopes with 0.5-metre mirrors, which will be more sensitive to planets than CSTAR."
United States

Submission + - California sues US over emissions

gollum123 writes: "California is suing the US federal government, in an attempt to force car makers to conform to tougher cuts in greenhouse gas emissions ( http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/7169200.stm ). The lawsuit comes after the federal Environmental Protection Agency denied California a waiver from US law needed to enact its own efficiency targets. Fifteen other states or state agencies are set to join the action. It challenged the Epa's denial of California's request to implement its own emissions law — which would require a 30% reduction in motor vehicle greenhouse gas emissions by 2016 by improving fuel efficiency standards. For years, California has been allowed to set its own environmental targets in recognition of the "compelling and extraordinary conditions" the state faces — and the Epa has never before denied California a waiver request. The other states joining the fight are: Massachusetts, Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington."
Transportation

Submission + - Tata Set to Launch World's Cheapest Car

theodp writes: "Ready for one-automobile-per-child (OAPC)? India's giant Tata Group is on the verge of launching the world's cheapest car. The People's Car, slated to be unveiled January 10th at a New Delhi auto show, will carry a sticker price of 100,000 rupees ($2,500), which some analysts say could revolutionize automobile costs worldwide. The cheap car, a pet project of Cornell-trained architect Ratan Tata that he helped design, is aimed at improving driving safety by getting India's masses off their motorbikes and into cars."

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