'Miracle' mineral traps ammonium to lessen odour of pig slurry and reduce greenhouse gas emissions
Chabazite is a remarkable mineral. It saved Parma ham a few years ago and may provide a way to combat the proliferation of green algae along the coast of Brittany, France. A pilot scheme is due to start soon near Cap Fréhel, focusing on the drainage basin of the river Frémur.
Chabazite belongs to the zeolite group and is found in volcanic tuff. Traditionally it has been used for construction work in L'Aquila province, Abruzzo, in central Italy. But some years ago Elio Passaglia, a researcher at the University of Modena, discovered that it had unsuspected virtues. It can trap NH4+, or ammonium, which gives rise to the nitrates responsible for the proliferation of toxic algae along coastlines.
The rock, which exists in a very pure state in Italy, is also found in Arizona in the United States and has attracted the attention of Nasa scientists. Passaglia was, however, the first to demonstrate its powers publicly during the hot summer of 1998 when it was feared that the stench from pig farms in Tuscany might discourage tourism.
Yielding to local pressure the head of the town council at Pavullo nel Frignano, south-west of Bologna, demanded the closure of some farms. At a meeting called to resolve the crisis, Passaglia performed his "magic" trick. He got some particularly fragrant pig manure and poured powdered chabazite into it; the stench was gone. A pilot scheme was launched, in great secrecy, and the complaints stopped.
In 1999 Giovanni Battista Pasini, head of the Union of Emilia Romagna Mountain Communities, published a decree encouraging pig farmers to include chabazite in their feed. About half the members now add chabazite.
Verdi, a small company based between Modena and Parma, now mines the mineral, at Sorano, Tuscany. "It's the biggest concentration in the world," claims Pietro Azzolini, the head of the company. Potential reserves are estimated at 6.5m cubic metres. In 10 years, 300,000 cubic metres of this rock – which is the same yellow-ochre colour as nearby villages – has been quarried. The rock is crushed and dried to obtain a powder "with no trace of any water or organic substances", Azzolini adds. He maintains that reserves would be sufficient to meet the needs of Italian and even Breton farmers for a century.
Thanks to cavities in its structure, the rock traps ammonium. A kilo of chabazite can absorb 18g of it. On pig farms the powder is added to pig feed, at a 3% concentration. This reduces the amount of ammonium in the slurry by about a third and cuts atmospheric emissions by one-fifth.
Further research in France has confirmed the substance's ability to eliminate smells. "Up to 40% cuts in peak odour can be achieved," says Eric Poincelet, a green technology specialist and joint head of Nitracure, a company set up in Montpellier in 2012, with backing from Verdi. The phosphorus content of pig slurry can be cut by 40%, with a roughly 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions – carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. "In simpler terms," Poincelet explains, "the pigs produce less gas because they digest and assimilate nutrients more easily." Chabazite granules can also be sprinkled on the ground, at concentrations of six cubic metres a hectare. An EU funded pilot scheme to test this is taking place in Italy.
"It's not the philosopher's stone," says Nitracure head Jacques Bouyer. "But in 2011 these impressive results convinced Michel Cadot, then prefect of Brittany, and Claudy Lebreton, leader of the Côtes d'Armor regional council, to launch a series of studies and experiments." These confirmed the Italian findings.
Chabazite is being tested at Kerguéhennec Farm, Morbihan, an experimental unit operated by the regional chamber of agriculture. Monique Le Clézio, deputy-leader of the Côtes d'Armor council, who took part in a study visit to Italy, cautions: "It's too soon to get excited and several experiments will be needed to find solutions which will certainly have an effect but also come at a cost."
"The chabazite will cost €700 [$950] a tonne, delivered in Brittany," Poincelet says. "And half of that is for transport." "The business model is certainly viable," Bouyer adds. At a cost of €4 for each 100kg pig, with the average consumer buying 35kg of pork a year, it would represent an additional annual cost of €1.30 per person. "We're only just beginning to get the financial picture, but you can be sure of one thing: with the massive amounts central and local government are about to spend on cleaning up water and soil pollution in Brittany, it must be worth trying chabazite," Bouyer affirms.
Lebreton hopes it will have a positive impact in terms of jobs, but above all for public health and farming. It is an opportunity to be seized, he believes, in view of the criticism recently heaped on the area's intensive farming model.
But it is still not clear how the cost of importing the wonder mineral will be financed. The extra cost may seem insignificant but neither the pig-feed suppliers nor the farmers have any desire to foot the bill.
This article appeared in Guardian Weekly, which incorporates material from Le Monde
A new paper by Drew Shindell of NASA provides more evidence to support relatively high climate sensitivity estimates
We hear a lot of talk these days about climate sensitivity. It is often considered the most important measure for predicting how much the Earth's temperature will increase as we emit heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide.
But, the term sensitivity has to be used carefully because it can mean different things in different contexts. For instance, there is a long-term (equilibrium) sensitivity to doubling carbon dioxide which refers to the ultimate temperature reached by the planet if we were to double carbon dioxide. There are also shorter term (transient) sensitivities which relate to temperature changes as heat trapping gases increase at some specified rate.
Values for climate sensitivity in general can be obtained many ways. My favorite way is by looking at deep history. If we can measure how sensitive the climate was in the past, perhaps we can infer its sensitivity now. A second way is through the use of modern temperature records and recent greenhouse gas levels. A third way is through the use of climate models (computer programs that replicate the Earth climate system). Regardless of the method used, there is general agreement that if we were to double carbon dioxide, the Earth's surface temperature would eventually increase by 1.5–4.5°C (2.7–8.1°F). Obviously, if the Earth sensitivity is at the upper end of the range, we are in trouble.
Recently, there have been some studies which suggest that maybe the climate sensitivity is at the lower end of this range. Most of these studies have only used the second method to calculate sensitivity, a fact that will soon become important. In addition to real science studies, there have been policy organizations that have promoted these low-sensitivity results. But my question is, what does the science say? Fortunately, a paper just published in Nature Climate Change provides some guidance on this question. The study was completed by Dr. Drew Shindell from NASA, and what he found was exciting. It turns out, not all Watts are equal. Energy changes to the Earth system from changes of sun-reflecting particulates or from ozone have a different impact than energy changes from carbon dioxide.
The Earth has a greater sensitivity to particulates and ozone than to carbon. The reason for this seemingly strange behavior is that aerosols are largely located near industrialized areas in the Northern Hemisphere. This hemisphere also happens to contain much more land area than the south – and land regions are more sensitive to changes in energy, at least in the near term. In short, particulates and ozone impact more sensitive parts of the planet. Carbon dioxide, on the other hand, spreads out uniformly across the globe – it doesn't accumulate in one hemisphere or another.
However, let's not get too excited about particulates saving us from global warming. Dr. Shindell also showed that while in the short run, the cooling effect from particulates matters a lot, in the long run, it doesn't make much of a difference. The impact can be seen in this figure which shows the prior expectations of the climate (dashed line) alongside the revised prediction (solid). By 2050, there really is little difference.
What does this have to do with climate sensitivity? Well, it means that studies based on observed warming (such as the recent low climate sensitivity studies) have underestimated the sensitivity because they did not account for the greater response to aerosol forcing. Multiple lines of evidence are now consistent showing that the climate sensitivity is very unlikely to be at the low end of the range. The consequences of climate change are thus likely to be towards the more damaging end of the estimates, unless we take action to quickly reduce our emissions.
As Dr. Shindell aptly states,
"I wish we could take some solace from the slowdown in the rate of warming, but all the evidence now agrees that future warming is likely to be towards the high end of our estimates so it's more clear than ever that we need large, rapid emissions reductions to avoid the worst damages from climate change."
Fortunately for us, the technologies are available for us to reduce emissions, we just need the will.John Abraham
The Soyuz space capsule has returned one American and two Russians safely back to Earth after more than six months on the International Space Station
Research finds young people exceed recommended intake on a daily basis, with much of it coming from bread and cereals
More than a third of children's salt consumption is from bread and cereals, researchers have found.
Analysis of young people's diets found that they eat an "unhealthy amount of salt on a daily basis". The research found 36% of this salt comes from cereal and bread-based products.
The study, published in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension, found that many children exceed the recommended intake of salt on a daily basis.
Those aged five and six are eating 0.75g more than the recommended daily amount and teenagers are exceeding the limit by about 1.5g, the research suggests.
The researchers examined 24-hour urine samples of 340 children from the capital as well as food diaries and photographs of meals.
They found that on average five- and six-year-olds consumed 3.75g of salt daily – exceeding the suggested amount of 3g for this age group.
Meanwhile, those aged 13 to 17 were consuming 7.55g of salt every day – 1.5g above the suggested NHS guidance, which suggests those aged 11 and over should eat no more than 6g every day.
Boys tended to have a higher salt intake than girls, the authors said.
In addition to the 36% of salt, meat products provided 19% of salt intake while dairy products accounted for 11%, they added.
They cautioned that excessive salt consumption is one of the main contributing factors to high blood pressure, which in turn can lead to heart disease and stroke.
"We know that salt starts increasing the risk of high blood pressure in children starting at age one," said Graham MacGregor, author of the study and professor of cardiovascular medicine at the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine at Queen Mary University of London. "There needs to be a much greater effort to reduce salt in foods.
"While salt intake in children wasn't measured prior to the UK's salt-reduction campaign, the salt intake in adults has fallen 15% in six years. So that policy is working, but it's not working fast enough.
"It is very difficult for parents to reduce children's salt intake unless they avoid packaged and restaurant foods and prepare each meal from scratch using fresh, natural ingredients."
High-frequency sounds enhance the sweetness in food, while low frequencies bring out the bitterness. So could sound replace sugar? And what kind of music should restaurants play?
I am sitting at my kitchen table eating chocolate in the name of science. (Turns out I'm pretty good at science.) I'm trying out some "sonic seasoning" whereby, if I listen to a low-pitched sound, my taste awareness somehow shrinks to the back of my tongue and focuses on the chocolate's bitter elements. When I switch to a high frequency, the floodgates to sweetness open up and my entire mouth kicks back in a warm, sugary bath. (Try it yourself here.) It is a curious sensation because it doesn't feel, to me at least, as if the chocolate tastes different. It is more that the sounds are twisting my grey matter, changing how it perceives the taste.
The sound is what sensory science nuts call modulating taste, and the past few years have seen a boom in research in this area. Sound is the final frontier in food presentation. Restaurants agonise over menus, crockery, furniture and lighting, yet often any old CD will be stuck on for background music with nary a thought. However, now that we're starting to understand that everyone has synaesthetic tendencies when it comes to taste, sound is set to play a bigger part in our eating experience. Ben & Jerry's, for example, is considering a sonic range of ice-cream flavours, with QR codes on the tubs that will allow eaters to access complementary sounds via their phones.
Back in 1997, Heston Blumenthal introduced his iPod-enhanced seafood dish, Sounds of the Sea, but that was a more literal, more Pavlovian association: eat fish, listen to the sea, fish tastes fresher and better. But a number of recent experiments have now shown how abstract sounds can turn tastes up or down by remote control, as it were.Bittersweet symphonies
The Crossmodal Laboratory at Oxford University fed a group of volunteers some cinder toffee while playing them high- and low-frequency sounds, and asked them to rate the taste on a scale running from sweet to bitter. Just as I experienced in my kitchen, high notes enhanced sweetness and low brought out the bitter. But a laboratory setting is far removed from real life, so Charles Spence, who runs the lab, teamed up with food artist Caroline Hobkinson to test whether the results would be replicated out in the field.
For one month, London restaurant House of Wolf served a "sonic cake pop" of chocolate-coated bittersweet toffee, which came, intriguingly, with a telephone number. On the other end of the line was an operator instructing the diner to dial one for sweet and two for bitter, and they were played the high and low-pitched sounds accordingly. Hobkinson says: "It makes me laugh because it works every time, and people say, 'Oh! That's so weird!'"
She put on a similar event at the Royal Institute in London for which, instead of playing the synthesised sound clips, the Royal Academy of Music devised some abstract live performances that would do the trick with more feeling. "It works with coffee, too," she adds, and she foresees exciting possibilities such as sound replacing sugar in your morning espresso. Meanwhile, another study by Spence also matched the savoury taste, umami, with low pitches.Why airline food can't win
Confirming the hunches of so many ravenous aeroplane passengers, a study published in 2011 found that loud background noise suppresses saltiness, sweetness and overall enjoyment of food. (For flyers, this is compounded by the high altitude blocking nasal passages, and therefore access to aromas.) Incidentally, for those among you who curse that you can't hear yourself think, or indeed taste, in some restaurants, it isn't unheard of for the background din to register 90db, which is a tad louder than commercial flights.
However, Spence points out: "Have you ever noticed how many people ask for a bloody mary or tomato juice from the drinks trolley on aeroplanes? The air stewards have, and when you ask the people who order, they tell you that they rarely order such a drink at any other time." Spence reckons this is because umami may be immune to noise suppression. If he proves his hypothesis, perhaps concentrating on umami-rich ingredients such as tomatoes, parmesan, mushrooms and cured meats in the sky could help obliterate plane-food hell.Sound and smell
Last year, a paper published in the journal Chemosensory Perception looked at matching pitches and instruments with odours (smell being the dominant sense in flavour appreciation). The aromas of candied peel, dried plums and iris flowers were all matched with piano significantly more than woodwind, strings or brass. Musk, on the other hand, was overwhelmingly brass. In terms of pitch, candied orange and irises were significantly higher than musk and roasted coffee.
This is just the start of a long and winding road of research, and the findings will undoubtedly be noted most by multinational companies keen to manipulate us into loving their products. Have you knowingly experienced synaesthesia when it comes to taste? Does matching sound to taste seem a massive, unnecessary faff? Does restaurant noise often spoil your meal?
• Follow Amy Fleming on Twitter @amy_fleming.Amy Fleming
Think hyperbole rhymes with Super Bowl? Don't worry, it could be the start of something beautiful
Someone I know tells a story about a very senior academic giving a speech. Students shouldn't worry too much, she says, if their plans "go oar-y" after graduation. Confused glances are exchanged across the hall. Slowly the penny drops: the professor has been pronouncing "awry" wrong all through her long, glittering career.
We've all been there. I still lapse into mis-CHEE-vous if I'm not concentrating. This week some PR whizzes working for a railway station with an unusual name unveiled the results of a survey into frequently garbled words. The station itself is routinely confused with an endocrine gland about the size of a carrot (you can see why they hired PRs). Researchers also found that 340 of the 1000 surveyed said ex-cetera instead of etcetera, while 260 ordered ex-pressos instead of espressos. Prescription came out as perscription or proscription 20% of the time.
The point is malapropisms and mispronunciations are fairly common. The 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary lists 171,476 words as being in common use. But the average person's vocabulary is tens of thousands smaller, and the number of words they use every day smaller still. There are bound to be things we've read or are vaguely familiar with, but not able to pronounce as we are supposed to.
The term "supposed" opens up a whole different debate, of course. Error is the engine of language change, and today's mistake could be tomorrow's vigorously defended norm. There are lots of wonderful examples of alternative pronunciations or missteps that have become standard usage. Here are some of my favourites, complete with fancy technical names.Words that used to begin with "n"
Adder, apron and umpire all used to start with an "n". Constructions like "A nadder" or "Mine napron" were so common the first letter was assumed to be part of the preceding word. Linguists call this kind of thing reanalysis or rebracketing.When sounds swap around
Wasp used to be waps; bird used to be brid and horse used to be hros. Remember this when the next time you hear someone complaining about aks for ask or nucular for nuclear, or even perscription. It's called metathesis, and it's a very common, perfectly natural process.When sounds disappear
English spelling can be a pain, but it's also a repository of information about the history of pronunciation. Are we being lazy when we say the name of the third day of the working week? Our ancestors might have thought so. Given that it was once "Woden's day" (named after the Norse god), the "d" isn't just for decoration, and was pronounced up until relatively recently. Who now says the "t" in Christmas? It must have been there at one point, as the messiah wasn't actually called Chris. These are examples of syncope.When sounds intrude
Our anatomy can make some changes more likely than others. The simple mechanics of moving from a nasal sound ("m" or "n") to a non-nasal one can make a consonant pop up in-between. Thunder used to be "thuner", and empty "emty". You can see the same process happening now with words like hamster, which often gets pronounced with an intruding "p". This is a type of epenthesis.When "l" goes dark
A dark "l", in linguistic jargon, is one pronounced with the back of the tongue raised. In English, it is found after vowels, as in the words full or pole. This tongue raising can go so far that the "l" ends up sounding like a "w". People frown on this in non-standard dialects such as cockney ("the ol' bill"). But the "l" in folk, talk and walk used to be pronounced. Now almost everyone uses a "w" instead- we effectively say fowk, tawk and wawk. This process is called velarisation.Ch-ch-ch-changes
Your grandmother might not like the way you pronounce tune. She might place a delicate "y" sound before the vowel, saying tyune where you would say chune. The same goes for other words like tutor or duke. But this process, called affrication, is happening, like it or not. Within a single generation it has pretty much become standard English.What the folk?
Borrowing from other languages can give rise to an entirely understandable and utterly charming kind of mistake. With little or no knowledge of the foreign tongue, we go for an approximation that makes some kind of sense in terms of both sound and meaning. This is folk etymology. Examples include crayfish, from the French écrevisse (not a fish but a kind of lobster); sparrow grass as a variant for asparagus in some English dialects; muskrat (conveniently musky, and a rodent, but named because of the Algonquin word muscascus meaning red); and female, which isn't a derivative of male at all, but comes from old French femelle meaning woman.Spelling it like it is
As we've mentioned, English spelling can be a pain. That is mainly because our language underwent some seismic sound changes after the written forms of many words had been more or less settled. But just to confuse matters, spelling can reassert itself, with speakers taking their cue from the arrangement of letters on the page rather than what they hear. This is called spelling pronunciation. In Norwegian, "sk" is pronounced "sh". So early English-speaking adopters of skiing actually went shiing. Once the rest of us started reading about it in magazines we just said it how it looked. Influenced by spelling, some Americans are apparently staring to pronounce the "l" in words like balm and psalm (something which actually reflects a much earlier pronunciation).
My head is spinning now, so it's over to you. Which words do you mispronounce, and which common mispronunciations do you think we should resign ourselves to? And please share your most toe-curling linguistic gaffes below.David Shariatmadari
How melting ice sheets and increased winds could be behind Antarctica's apparent paradox of growing sea ice in a warming world
As every good climate science denialist knows, the fact that there's a bit more sea ice in Antarctica is proof enough that global warming is probably a load of old Adélie penguin poo.
So when a ship carrying climate scientists on an expedition got stuck in that sea ice over Christmas it was time to sharpen the blogging knives with those stones of irony.
"Warmists trapped by irony off Antarctica," wrote News Corporation's Andrew Bolt.
"Global Warming's Glorious Ship of Fools" said The Spectator magazine.
"This very expensive GLOBAL WARMING bullshit has got to stop," Tweeted Donald Trump.
Bolt told his readers the expedition, led by Professor Chris Turney, "apparently hadn't realised sea ice there had grown over three decades to record levels" despite the fact that the expedition clearly did know about the conditions in the region they were about to explore.
On the expedition website, one of the nine stated scientific goals was to "explore changes in ocean circulation caused by the growth of extensive fast ice and its impact on life in Commonwealth Bay".
"How we laughed", wrote Bolt, who "apparently hadn't realised" that the expedition in fact had "realised" that sea ice was expanding.
Often when it's pointed out that Arctic sea ice is rapidly melting, the climate change contrarianites (or if we'd like to take the short route to eliciting a Nazi analogy, we can use the term 'deniers') will step bravely forth with data from Antarctica.
Antarctica is a vast continent that's almost double the size of Australia, almost one and a half Canadas or 60 Great Britains.
So what's going on down there?Antarctic vs Arctic Sea Ice
The Tasmania-based Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre has just released a new "position analysis" of the brain-achingly complex issue of southern hemisphere sea ice.
It's got a lot of science in it.
Antarctica's sea ice goes through dramatic swings from year to year.
Between September and October, the amount of sea ice can reach as much as 19 million square kilometres – an area one and half times the size of the continent. By the end of the summer melt season, there's only about three million square kilometres left.
The annual change, the ACE CRC reports, is "one of the biggest natural changes" observed anywhere on Earth.
The ACE CRC's report says that since 1979, the amount of sea ice coverage around Antarctica has been rising by about 285,0000 square kilometres every decade.
By contrast, the Arctic has been losing 1.8 million square kilometres per decade.
But Antarctica appears to be a much more complex beast than the Arctic, where sea ice is on a downward trend pretty much everywhere as the region warms at roughly twice the global average.
For example, the ACE CRC report says that in one area of Antarctica – the Bellingshausen Sea – the rate of sea ice loss is actually greater than the fastest melting regions of the Arctic.
In the Ross Sea, the area of frozen ocean has been going up by five per cent per decade.Complex changes
As counter-intuitive as it sounds, Dr Jan Lieser, lead author of the ACE CRC report, told me the increase in sea ice is consistent with the changes in a warming world.
The sea ice is sitting at the interface of the ocean and the atmosphere, and so it gets a double-whammy effect. We actually understand the physics of this quite well. It is because of the warming that we can see the sea ice increasing at the moment.
Speaking from Hobart and an international gathering of scientists to discuss polar sea ice, Dr Lieser said the picture of change in the Antarctic was complex.
But he said increased wind, wave and storm activity in the Antarctic helped to stir up the waters, creating ridges and rifts that helps sea ice to thicken.
Professor Ian Simmonds, of the University of Melbourne's School of Earth sciences, also told journalists that while it might seem paradoxical to have sea ice growing in a warming world, scientists understood the mechanisms behind it.
He said an increase in westerly winds across the continent which were linked to increasing greenhouse gas emissions were helping to create ideal conditions for ice to form, particularly in those areas where there have been marked rises in ocean ice.
But the paradoxes in the Antarctic don't stop there.
There's also a suggestion that a big contributor to the increasing sea ice could be the melting of the massive Antarctic ice sheet in the west of the continent.
According to the last IPCC report, between 2002 and 2011 the Antarctic ice sheet was likely losing ice at a rate of 147 billion tonnes a year – up from 30 billion tonnes a year over the previous decade.
A study published last year in the journal Nature Geoscience, concluded that all this added fresh water creates ideal conditions for Antarctic sea ice to form.
But the ACE CRC report notes that the current modest trend in rising Antarctic sea ice will likely be short lived.
The melting and break-up of glaciers, the changes in snowfall and changes in the air temperatures will all play a role in the future, says the report.
Overall, computer modeling suggests that Antarctic sea ice will decline in the future, but how it will effect different parts of the vast continent and its rich ecosystems is very much an area of live science.
So while some commentators prefer to rely on their intuition to form a view, the scientists travel to the world's most challenging environment to get answers.Graham Readfearn
This week a disused second world war bomb shelter will be transformed into a brain. Daring diners will descend into its depths to feast on the mind at the Guerilla Science Brain Banquet. Jen Wong tells us why
The ethical cosmetic company’s products are on sale in at least two Chinese airports, exposing them to animal testingHelen Davidson
Finds from Rendlesham in Suffolk will go on display for the first time this week at the National Trust's Sutton Hoo visitor centre
The home of the Anglo-Saxons who built the world famous burial mounds at Sutton Hoo in Suffolk, where a king was laid with golden treasure heaped around him, has been discovered on nearby farmland a few miles from the site.
The finds from Rendlesham, which will go on display for the first time this week at the National Trust's Sutton Hoo visitor centre, include fragments of exquisite gold jewellery comparable in workmanship, if not in scale, to the Sutton Hoo treasures, pieces of gilt bronze horse harness, Saxon pennies and metal offcuts from a blacksmith's workshop.
The 50-hectare (123.5-acre) site, four miles north-east of Sutton Hoo, was discovered by archaeologists after a local landowner, Sir Michael Bunbury, became concerned about nighthawks – treasure-hunting thieves who use metal detectors. The archaeology unit of Suffolk county council has for five years been surveying his fields, using aerial photography, soil analysis, ground-penetrating radar and metal detecting, eventually pin pointing the 50 hectare Anglo Saxon site within 160 hectares of farmland.
The Venerable Bede, in his eighth-century history, wrote of a royal settlement but its location was unknown until now.
Professor Christopher Scull, of Cardiff and London universities, said the site was of international importance for understanding the Anglo-Saxon elite and their European trading connections. "The quality of some of the metalwork leaves no doubt that it was made for and used by the highest ranks of society."
The Sutton Hoo discovery was one of the greatest of the 20th century. The low mounds on a ridge overlooking the river Deben were well known, but archaeologists believed grave robbers had emptied them centuries ago, until an eccentric landowner, Edith Pretty, insisted that she had seen ghostly figures walking on them.
In 1939 a local archaeologist, Basil Brown, working with her gardener and gamekeeper, began to uncover the outline of a huge ship, the timbers rotted away but its shape perfectly preserved in the sandy soil. It was full of treasure, including solid gold buckles, jewelled and enamelled shoulder and belt clasps, and luxury imports from Rome, Byzantium and North Africa. One of its remaining mysteries – where the people who created the site lived – has now been solved.Maev Kennedy
Langstone, Hampshire: Newts use scent to navigate their way to water and the pond lies just beyond the cats' run
The garden security light flickered on. My cats were staring intently at something on the patio. They padded forward. Bimble cocked his head and watched as Teddy tentatively patted it with his paw. It twitched and both cats sprang into the air, their tails fluffed out like bottlebrushes.
I ran outside expecting to rescue a slug, snail or disoriented moth, but the creature cast a dragon-shaped shadow – it was a smooth newt. This part of the garden is enclosed for the cats, and the pond lies just outside the boundary of their run, but the newt's migratory path evidently involved crossing the exposed patio rather than taking the less risky route across the lawn and through the bog garden. Newts use scent to navigate their way to water. Studies have shown that they show high breeding-site fidelity, frequently returning to their natal pond. It wasn't the first time I had come across a newt shambling across the patio under the cover of darkness, and I wondered if this was perhaps the same individual I encountered last March.
I gently slid my fingers underneath the newt's body and coaxed it into my hand where it clung to my palm with tacky toes. Its skin felt cool and velvety to the touch, like a sea-smoothed pebble. Its upper body was olive green, with a pair of parallel dark stripes running from the neck to the tip of the tail on either side of its spine. Its underparts were cream with a flush of orange on its belly and a sprinkling of black spots. The muted colouration suggested that it was a female, although immature males lack the undulating crest sported by males in breeding condition and can resemble females in colour and pattern.
I carried the newt through the gate and slipped it into the pond. With a flick of its tail it powered through the water and disappeared into a tangle of fleshy flag iris rhizomes.Claire Stares
Public Health England warns of near-doubling of cases of highly contagious bacterial illness in February over previous years
Cases of scarlet fever in England are at the highest level for 24 years, figures show. During February there were significantly more cases of the highly contagious bacterial illness than expected, according to Public Health England, with 868 cases reported to health officials in the four weeks to 23 February.
In the past four years experts have noted an average of 444 cases. Officials said that the figure is at its highest for this time of year since 1990.
The most noticeable symptom of scarlet fever is a distinctive pink-red rash that feels like sandpaper to touch. Other symptoms include a high temperature, a flushed face and a red, swollen tongue.
The increase has been noted across England, but not in the north-west.
An interim report on the infection states: "Routine monitoring of surveillance data has identified widespread increases in scarlet fever notifications in February 2014, beyond those seasonally expected. These are the highest notification totals for this time of year since 1990."
A PHE spokeswoman said there was also a notable increase in the number of cases every few years and that the latest bout of infections was likely to be part of that cycle.
The organisation has warned health officials to be mindful of the current rise in figures when treating patients. Scarlet fever is extremely contagious and can be caught by breathing in bacteria from an infected person's coughs and sneezes, touching the skin of a person with a streptococcal skin infection and sharing contaminated towels, baths, clothes or bed linen.
PHE's head of streptococcal infection surveillance, Dr Theresa Lamagni, said: "The first symptoms of scarlet fever often include a sore throat, headache, fever, nausea, and vomiting.
"Between 12 to 48 hours after this a characteristic rash develops. Cases are more common in children although adults can also develop scarlet fever. Symptoms usually clear up after a week and in the majority of cases remain reasonably mild providing a course of antibiotics is completed to reduce the risk of complications.
"Children or adults diagnosed with scarlet fever are advised to stay at home until at least 24 hours after the start of antibiotic treatment to avoid passing on the infection.
"We will continue to closely monitor these increases and work with healthcare professionals to try and halt the spread of infection."
Jon Butterworth: Neutrino physics is one of the fastest-developing areas of particle physics. Two ‘long-baseline’ neutrino experiments in the US and Japan reported results last week