brain wave: A team of Swiss neuroscientists and computer engineers are trying to program a computer to create a brain.

In collaboration with IBM, the scientists are building a computer model of the neocortical column of a rat. They are trying to put together a single circuit of about 10,000 cells, each of which is capable of thousands of connections. The model will depict the electrical activity of neurons.

tracing roots: Edible root plants similar to turnips and rutabagas may have been one of the reasons for the split in the lineage of humans and chimpanzees 5-7 million years ago.

Researchers Greg Laden of the University of Minnesota and Richard Wrangham of Harvard University say the presence of fleshy roots and tubers must have sustained our ancestors who left the rain forest to colonise the savannah. The rain forest and its abundance of fruit and leaves left behind is the mainstay of modern chimpanzee diets.

dental dating: The radioactive carbon-14 is providing scientists a more precise way to determine a person's age at the time of death. The method could help identify victims of Hurricane Katrina and other large-scale disasters.

Developed by researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, the new technique estimates carbon-14 in tooth enamel. Scientists can relate the extensive atmospheric record for carbon-14 to when the tooth was formed and calculate the age of the owner, to an accuracy of within about 1.6 years.

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