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Week 16: 4th February 2010
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Publish-date-icon February 5, 2010
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IMAGE: The €1 billion European Extremely Large Telescope, pictured here compared to London's Big Ben, will be the largest and most powerful in the world when it becomes operational in 2018 [Credit: ESO]

SCIENCE MATTERS --- Where science impacts wider society ---
A DNA database to help Gardai fight crime has been talked about for years, but now, with recent legislation, it looks like it is finally going to happen. We talk to the Head of DNA at the National Forensic Laboratory, Dr Maureen Smyth, about the science behind the database, how DNA technology has improved over the years, and how the database might work in practice here in Ireland.

WHAT'S it ALL ABOUT? --- Experts explain their science ---
When the €1 billion European ELT (Extremely Large Telescope) goes into operation in 2018 it will become the world's largest telescope, capable of peering into deep space in a way not been possible before. One of the key scientific goals will be to search for the presence of water on 'exo-planets' - planets that share many characteristics with the Earth. If water is found it would be a strong indicator of life. We discuss the European ELT, with Alexander Goncharov, scientist at NUIG. Alexander is the only Ireland-based researcher to be involved in the design and planning stages of one of Europe's biggest ever science projects.

SCIENTIFIC LIVES --- Ireland's greatest scientists profiled ---
Charles Parsons, born into an aristocratic family in Birr, was a scientist of such importance that it can genuinely be said that he changed the world. His major contribution to the world, though by no means his only achievement, was the invention of the steam turbine engine in 1884. This made it possible for the first time to generate large amounts of electricity, relatively cheaply. This resulted in much change, including the development of faster marine vessels, powered by electricity from steam turbines, and a change in naval warfare. It also meant that small towns could now be supplied with electricity.

PAPER TALK --- Spotlight on a new scientific paper ----
Many dinosaurs had feathers, scientists have understood for several years now. However, little was known about the colour of the feathers, their arrangement on the body, or what the feathers were used for. That has all changed now, thanks to a paper published in Nature, with input from Dr Patrick Orr, UCD School of Geological Sciences, the exact colour of feathers on two dinosaur species, have been identified. Also, this research also indicates that dinosaur feathers were not pre-cursors to wings for flight, but rather than they were used for display purposes, much like the way the modern Peacock displays its feathers.

Birr Castle Demesne and Charles Parsons [http://www.birrcastle.com/inventionsAndExperiments.asp]
The National Forensic Science Laboratory [http://www.forensicscience.ie/]
The European Extremely Large Telescope [http://www.eso.org/public/teles-instr/e-elt/index.html]
Dinosaur feathers: published in Nature [http://www.ucd.ie/news/2010/01JAN10/280110_dinosaurs.html]

Science Spin Magazine [http://www.sciencespin.com]
Science Spinning Blog [http://www.seanduke.wordpress.com]
Archived Podcasts [http://www.sciencespin.podomatic.com]

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