Editor's choice: Tractor beam, aspirin benefits and Yoshiki Sasai


A round-up from the scientific and technical journals.


The ANU's discovery of wave patterns that behave like a "tractor beam" could draw your beach ball back to shore or control oil spills. – iStock

A tractor beam to control life on the ocean wave

Physicists at the Australian National University have created a "tractor beam" on water by creating waves that can force a floating object to move against the direction of the wave. While this means you will be able to get your beach ball back if it floats out to sea, the technique could have more important uses such as confining oil spills, manipulating floating objects or explaining rips at the beach. The team, led by Michael Shats, used a ping-pong ball in a wave tank to work out the size and frequency of the waves required to move the ball in the direction they wanted.

An aspirin a day is better than we thought

Numerous studies have shown that low daily doses of aspirin can protect against certain cancers and cardiovascular diseases. But there is also strong evidence that, in some people, aspirin can cause potentially dangerous stomach bleeding – raising nagging questions over risks versus benefits. A new analysis of all the studies done on this topic shows the benefits are very strong. If everyone aged 50-65 started taking aspirin daily, and continued for a decade, the total number of cancers, heart attacks and strokes would fall by 9% in men and by 7% in women. They also found the rates of serious bleeding were very low in people under 70. But if you’re now eyeing the aspirin bottle, the authors advise consulting your doctor first.

Research community mourns stem cell expert

The stem cell community is reeling from the tragic suicide of Yoshiki Sasai, the deputy director of Japan’s prestigious Riken Institute. It seems he shouldered responsibility for the scandal over unrepeatable research that claimed to create stem cells from ordinary cells by exposing them to mild acid. The study was published in Nature on 29 January and retracted in July. Sasai had the responsibility of overseeing the work of the lead author Haruko Obokata who has been accused of scientific misconduct. “He was a brilliant stem cell biologist whose work on organogenesis the formation of entire tissue structures resembling the eye or brain in a culture dish captured the imagination not only of the scientific community but of the entire world. If one day we are able to transplant whole tissues or organs made from stem cells into patients we will owe much to his pioneering observations that proved such things could be possible,” said Martin Pera, Program Leader of Stem Cell Australia.

  1. http://www.nature.com/nphys/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nphys3041.html
  2. http://annonc.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2014/07/30/annonc.mdu225.abstract
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