Is there an undiscovered tenth planet circling the Sun, as big as Earth? Many St. Petersburg astronomers believe so. Their opinion is based on a complicated mathematical analysis of the flight trajectory of a comet know in the astronomical catalogues under the index number of 1862-3.
The comet's orbit seems to be distorted by a large unknown gravitational center.
If, as they think, it is a planet, it would have a diameter of 5,000 to 7,500 miles and a similar mass and volume as Earth. It would be very much farther out, however-circling the Sun at a distance of about 5,000 million miles, some 54 times the distance of Earth from the Sun.
If the orbit coincides with the one calculated, it will be certain proof of the existence of the unknown planet.
One of the mysteries of Lake Balkhash, in eastern Kazakhstan, has been cleared up. This salt lake, as large as half a dozen English counties, always stays at the same level, though it stands in a desert which rarely gets any rain and is fed by only a few surface rivers.
It has now been discovered that there are, however, huge rivers underground.
The largest of them carries some 176,000 million gallons a year.
Remains of an extinct hippopotamus have been discovered in the Gobi desert by a party of paleontologists.
This is the first such discovery in the Gobi - hitherto such fossils have been discovered only in North America. The Gobi hippo lived about seven to ten million years ago. At that time the Gobi desert was a hot marshy plain covered with rich vegetation.
A legend has long been current that the town of Yangikent in the Syr-Daiya delta in Central Asia was abandoned by its inhabitants because of a plague of snakes.
The ruins of the town were first discovered by Russian travellers in 1741, but there was no clue to why it had been abandoned. There were no traces of conquest. The most recent tombstones were dated 1362.
A rich grave, almost 5,000 years old, has been found inside а hill in the Northern Caucasus.
It is made of slabs of volcanic rock, some of them weighing over a ton.
It contained the bodies of a man and a woman, together with household utensils and golden ornaments and jewellery, possibly of Sarmatian and Hunnish origin.
One of the most interesting points was the height of the man: over 7 ft 2 1/2 in.
He would have been a giant today, let alone 5,000 years ago, when most researchers suggest that men and women were generally very much shorter than at present.
A robot recruit to British industry was shown to the public in London. The creature's name is Zaan, and its talent is for sorting out small objects by their colour. In particular, for the food industry to pick out foreign bodies and sub-standard candidates from rivers of beans or nuts or potato flakes. It can separate rejects at the rate of 200 rejects a second.
This sort of work has been done in the past by four or five men sitting alongside a conveyor belt picking out tiny or bad fried potato flakes from satisfactory ones. Men can pick out rejects at a rate of about one a second; it is tedious work. It costs $ 50 a ton to sort dehydrated food flakes by hand.
There are machines which can sort small objects by size and shape, for instance rejecting a bean with a maggot hole which is detected by intelligent needles. But Zaan Colour Sorter inspects the small particles with photo-electric eyes and casts out any which are the wrong colour or the wrong brightness.
Unlike human sorters, the machine is unaffected by emotional problems, fatigue, eye-strain, the tea-break, or the conversational next door. The inventors claim that it is cheaper, more hygienic, and more accurate than traditional methods of sorting.
The mechanism by which by which spreads from one place in the body to many, has been the subject of intensive research у scientists for many years. What may be an answer to that question - and a suggestion as to how metastasis might be inhibited - came from the Institute for Cancer Research.
Speculation on haw cancer spreads throughout the body has included the possibilities that it does so through the migration of whole malignant cells from the primary tumour mass, or through viruses that are released from dying cancer cells.
The report in the journal Science suggests a third possibility. This is that cancer cells or viruses leak their genes - in the form of deoxyribonucleic acid, DNA - into the bloodstream, and the DNA then travels to places where it invades normal cells and transforms them to malignant ones.
To test this hypothesis scientists injected mice with DNA from polyoma cancer virus and from a pneumococcal bacterium and compared the results.
They found that DNA from tumor viruses was much more resistant body defences than the bacterial DNA. The reason for this, they said, may have had something to do with the closed-ring form of the tumor-type DNA molecules. They said results indicated that this DNA could still produce its cancerous effects.
Thus, the report said that "tumor-inducing DNA can be transported in biologically active form from one part of the body to another."
Some persons were disturbed last week over a report of experiments in which the behaviour of animals and people was influenced by electrical stimulated of selected regions of their brains.
According to the report, weak currents made to flow through electrodes implanted in the brains of monkeys and cats enabled scientists to "play" the animals like little electronic toys. They yawned, climbed, ran, turned, slept, mated and changed their emotional states from passivity to rage an vice versa, all on electrical command.
In one of the most spectacular experiments, a Spanish fighting bull was stopped in fall charge by a stimulus radioed to an electrode implanted in its brain, which inhibited aggressiveness.
People, too, have undergone such stimulation's in the course of diagnosis and therapy for severe cases of epilepsy. Electrical stimulation's of certain regions of their brains have produced feelings of intense pleasure and of severe anxiety, a loss of ability to think or express themselves a sudden increase in word output and profound feelings of friendliness.
The scientists who reported these findings was Dr. Jose Delgado of Yale University's School of Medicine. In a lecture, Dr. Delgado discussed some aspects of this work that might worry persons outside this field of research.
He emphasized, first, that the implantation of electrodes in the brain ah the passage of weak currents through them neither hurts (brain tissue is insensitive) nor causes any functional damage.
Such studies, Dr. Delgado believes, may enable scientists to discover the "cerebral basis of anxiety, pleasure, aggression and other mental functions, which we could influence in their development and manifestation through electrical stimulation's, drugs, surgery and especially by means of more scientifically programmed education".
Dr. Delgado believes that control of human behaviour on a large scale would not work because the effect of a stimulus can be changed or even overridden by the subject's own desires, emotions, etc. This has been shown in experiments on both animals and people. For example, monkeys in which aggressive behaviour was electrically stimulated did not just attack any other member of the colony, but made "intelligent" attacks only on rivals, sparing their "friends".
Dr. Delgado thinks it will be necessary to develop new theories and concepts to explain the biological bases of social and anti-social behaviour. These, he said, "for the first time in history can be explored in the conscious brain".
A special kind of fishing expedition was organized in Ohio. Its goal was to collect specimens, most of them known as placoderms, that lived some 300 million years ago.
What had brought about the project was the cutting of a highway into Cleveland. Giant earth-moving machines would cut through a formation of worldwide fame, the Cleveland shale. For more than a century it had been known as a rich source of fossil fish from the Devonian period. Specimens, collected where rivers had cut through the shale, were prized possessions of the British in New York and other centres.
Cleveland's Museum of Natural History conducted the new hunt which, it was hoped, would provide the first complete with movable jaws. Some of these species had been partially reconstructed into creatures of frightening appearan-ce.
Eastern region rail services were halted last night after drivers stopped work in sympathy with a driver who was dismissed.
The driver, who is based in Leeds, was acting in line with a decision by Eastern Region staff not to implement changes in working schedules arising from British Rail's economy measures.
After refusing to take out a train in accordance with a new schedule, he was sent home, and 400 drivers at the Leeds Holbeck depot decided to stop work until be was allowed to start work again. The action was supported by drivers in the London area.
On the Southern Region, the National Union of Railwaymen is recommending members to stop work for part of Thursday afternoon to coincide with the funeral of a guard 0 who was stabbed to death.
Experts from Russia, the United States and Japan have left Vladivostok aboard the research vessel Pegasus to study tsunami - the devastating tidal waves produced by undersea earthquakes in the Pacific.
There is regular exchange of information between the tsunami study centers in Sakhalin and Honolulu. Sakhalin transmits data from observers in Kamchatka and the Kuril islands. These lie in a zone where four-fifths of all earthquakes in the world occur. These earthquakes sometimes originate only 100-125 miles from Russian shores, a distance a tidal wave can cover in 20-30 minutes. But Russian stations give warning of possible danger within seconds of the quake.
The oily waters of the North Sea are polluting the Baltic.
This is the verdict of studies conducted by expeditions aboard the research ship Oceanograph. The waters of the North Sea now contain far greater amounts of harmful substances, particularly oil and oil products.
In the past the picture was quite the reserve. The currents passing through the Skagerrak and Kattegat brought oxygen into the Baltic and served as a ventilator for its waters at great depths.
The pollution of the North Sea has been caused by the rapid increase in oil extraction there. Large quantities of oil have escaped on to the northern European, particularly Scandinavian, continental shelf.
Urgent and efficient measures are needed to decrease the quantities of harmful waste thrown into the sea. All the states of northern Europe would agree with that, of course, but many aspects of the problem remain unsolved.
So far as the Baltic is concerned, the states along its shores have worked out a convention to prevent its pollution.
At the Institute of Gerontology in Kiev scientists are waging an offensive against old age.
We begin to age far earlier than we think. The process of "descending development" begins in the early thirties.
As a biological species, man ought to live 100-120 years, but for various reasons we lose the last 30 or 40.
We can now, however, to some extent, lengthen life. In experiments on animals, we have learned to prolong it by a third or more.
One aspect of the institute's work is the discovery and testing of substances which will produce a physiological effect - combinations of vitamins which the aging body needs and preparations with microelements and amino-acids. Some of these are giving promising results.
Old age is a contradictory process. On the one hand, the body adapts itself in some ways, while, on the other, certain faculties atrophy and die.
It appears that our brains and muscles tend to stay young the more actively and regularly we use them.
A correctly chosen profession, doing as much work as we are fit for, sensible meals and purposeful, not passive, leisure are all things that help the body adapt.
It has long been remarked that there are in the world some places where people live longer, are less frequently ill, and are able to work almost to the end of their days.
The Kiev Institute of Gerontology has examined some 40,000 people aged 80 and over.
They questioned centenarians (that is, people over 100 years old) about themselves, and also about their forebears and the way they lived, what they ate, what work they did, and so on.
The laboratory of social gerontology has summed up the work done by over a thousand doctors.
They found, for instance, that as a rule centenarians live in rural areas, and that more than half of them are engaged in farming. Only one in twelve of them are vegetarians, but half never smoke or drink anything alcoholic. It is interesting that very few of them have been divorced.
The Kiev institute is engaged in joint undertakings with doctors in other countries.
The more joint study there is, the more exchange of information, and the more exchange of personnel, the sooner will problems that affect so many millions be solved.
Two lorry drivers working on a new road being cut through the Siberian forests were found recently after being lost in the taiga for nearly a month. The two, Anatoly Laptev and Vladislav Inshin, had gone hunting with no more than 20 cartridges between them.
After firing off all their cartridges, they met two bears. Fortunately these local residents appeared to have dined well and did not attack them.
Another encounter proved lucky. It was the half-buried carcass of a huge elk, recently killed by a bear and stored for future meals.
Meanwhile their comrades were looking for them. A helicopter and an AN-2 plane circled over the forest from morning to night.
The two men saw the helicopter, but had no way of signalling it. Their matches had run out as well, and rubbing two sticks together only blistered their fingers.
At the beginning of the fourth week, they found a hunter's winter hut, with stores of dry bread, matches and salt.
After bringing in wood, Laptev left his comrade, who had sprained an ankle, and went on, looking for help. He finally emerged near the Educhanka, a river falling into the Angara some 60 miles below the village from which their hunting expedition had started.
Even them it took another two days to find the hut, which could not be seen from the air.
Among the many weapons in the State History Museum in Moscow is Napoleon's sword. It has its own history.
Manufactured by the best armories of Versailles, it has a Damascus steel blade on which is inscribed: "To Napoleon Bonaparte, the First Consul of the French Republic". The hilt is inlaid with mother-of-pearl, and has bronze and filigree work as ornamentation. At the end of the hilt is a lion's head and a ring. The scabbard is of black leather, ornamented in bronze. The signature of Bouttle - the armorer -is engraved on the scabbard. The only time Napoleon ever parted with his sword was under the following circumstances.
When the French army was routed and the allied troops entered Paris, on March 31, 1814, the high command decided to exile Napoleon to the Island of Elba. Among the three allied commissars who were to accompany him was Count Pavel Shuvalov, aide-de-camp of Alexander I. When he learned that an attempt was to be made on Napoleon's life at one of the pots through which they would pass, Count Shuvalov offered to change clothes with Napoleon, and gave him his army greatcoat. As a token of gratitude Napoleon presented him with his sword.
In 1912 the sword was shown at an exhibition for the centenary of the Patriotic War of 1812. After the exhibition it was returned to Countess Vorontsova-Dashkova, nee Shuvalova, and was preserved for a long time at her estate in the Ukraine.
In 1926, a Red Army officer, whose name is not known, presented Napoleon's sword to the Museum of the Red Army as the weapon he used in the war. A little later one of the museum's staff discovered the inscription and the sword was given to the State History Museum.
Death speaks: "There was a merchant in Baghdad who sent his servant to market to buy provisions, and in a little while the servant came back, white and trembling, and said, "Master, just now when I was in the market-place I was jostled by a woman in the crowd and when I turned I saw it was Death that jostled me. She looked at me and made a threatening gesture; now lend me your horse, and I will ride away from this city and avoid my fate. I will go to Samara and there Death will not find me". The merchant lent him his horse, and the servant mounted it, and he dug his spurs in its flanks and as fast as the horse could gallop he went. Then the merchant went down to the market-place and he saw me standing in the crowd and he came to me and said, "Why did you make a threatening gesture to my servant when you saw him this morning?" "That was not a threatening gesture", I said, "it was a start of surprise. I was astonished to see him in Baghdad, for I had an appointment with him tonight in Samara".