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Astronaut deaths, warming poles and SARS among the more disturbing headlines in science in 2003

Developments in the field of genetics have provoked criticism and praise at the same time - as well as the dangerous surgeries to separate the conjoined twins at the head

Dikla Oren (translation)

On the technology front, 2003 was a year of Internet harassment and online business woes, from the furor over spam to legal action against file sharers.

The loss of Colombia
Just minutes before signing off on the long journey, the space shuttle Columbia disintegrated on February 1 over Texas, killing six American astronauts and the Israeli astronaut. The investigation pointed the finger of blame at foam debris from an external fuel tank, which hit the shuttle's wing shortly after launch and created a hole that later allowed hot gases to enter the shuttle 16 days later during atmospheric entry. The disaster, which occurred seventeen years and a few days after the Challenger disaster, grounded the three remaining shuttles until at least the end of 2004.


The disappearing ice

While politicians and environmentalists debate whether to blame humans or nature, polar ice and mountain glaciers are melting at what some climate experts call a disturbingly fast pace.

In the Arctic region, the rate of warming over the past twenty years has been eight times higher than the rate of warming in the last century. According to one report, thinning ice shelves are endangering polar bears and changing the Arctic landscape.

In the South Pole, storms broke the world's largest glacier, a mass the size of Jamaica, which broke off from the Ross Ice Shelf in 2000. A few weeks later, scientists reported that twenty percent of the sea ice around Antarctica had disappeared in the last fifty years.

Furthermore, an international group that supports conservation has warned the United Nations that warming within a century could melt enough of the Hall glaciers to threaten the fresh water supply of billions of people.


Stirring in the garden pool

The year began as debate raged over a mysterious cult's claim on December 26, 2002, that it had cloned humans. Although the claim was never proven, it illustrated the growing dilemma, as science grapples with the promise and the catch of messing with genes, whether from humans, sheep and cattle, or crops.

Among the other flashpoints with DNA this year: the persistent battle of the US to sell genetically modified food to Europe and the study by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on whether to allow meat and milk from cloned cows to be sold to the public.


The Sars epidemic

Reports of a mysterious and contagious disease, for which there is no known treatment, began to emerge in the late winter of 2003. A month later, more than 8000 people in dozens of countries were infected, and more than 750 died from SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), the name given to the new disease .

Mass isolations, restrictions on international travel and wearing surgical masks have become commonplace in some parts of the world. Then in the summer, the number of reports of new SARS cases plummeted, but not before giving health authorities and the public a grim reminder of how quickly a global epidemic can emerge and spread. Also, experts in the field of medicine say that Sars can still make a comeback.

connected in their heads

Medical technology has made what were previously considered unsuitable conditions for surgery possible. The Egyptian twins Ahmed and Mohammed Ibrahim, who were born joined at the head, were successfully separated this year in an operation that lasted 34 hours and gently separated blood vessels and brains.

29-year-old Dan and Leli Bijani, on the other hand, were not so lucky. The Iranian sisters, who were joined at the head, died during their unprecedented operation, which had never been performed on adult twins.

Now, doctors are trying another method to separate conjoined twins. Instead of one long operation, the heads of XNUMX-month-old Carl and Clarence Aguirre will be operated on over a period of several months, with the complete separation planned for sometime next year.


The fight against spam

The US Senate and Congress passed anti-spam legislation in November, paving the way for an anti-spam law. However, critics, including the Wall Street Journal, say the Federal Trade Commission does not have the necessary resources to create an anti-spam list, as required by law.

Earlier that month, a computer programmer from Silicon Valley was indicted in a first-of-its-kind case, which was dubbed a "spam rage" by reporters from the Reuters news agency. Charles Bohr, 44, was charged with threatening to harm employees of a spam company he believed was responsible for sending penis enlargement emails to his mailbox.

File sharing

In November, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) simultaneously filed 261 lawsuits against private file sharers and at the same time announced the new page plan. It then announced 41 more lawsuits in early December. The program gives illegal music changers a chance to turn themselves in.

"For those who want to ... avoid a lawsuit, this is the way," said Mitch Bienwell, RIAA CEO and Chairman. RIAA blames music file sharing for a 31% decline in CD sales since mid-2000.


The Linux trend

Analysts say that Linux is a threat to the computer giant Microsoft. Microsoft's alternative Windows operating system has had a successful year, boasting more secure software.

Chairman Bill Gates announced at the Comedex conference, in what appears to be a move aimed at competing with the growing popularity of Linux, the development of a new security software called "Longhorn".

The games come from the big screen
Many of the films of 2003 had their counterparts on X-Box, Game Cube and PlayStation 2.

The trend reached its peak in the summer, with the release of "Enter the Matrix", "Tomb Raider: The angel of Derkness" and "The Giant" - all of which were released around the same time and hit the big screen in dramatic fashion.

Besides Hollywood's contribution to gaming, an unprecedented number of 250 new computer games were due for release during the Christmas shopping season.

64-bit chip

AMD's 64-bit Athlon processor and Apple's latest 5G computer both contain a revolutionary 64-bit chip, once reserved for servers, but now available in PCs.

There are no competitors for the computing power and speed of the new system, which is much faster than the 32-bit systems that are in most widespread use. Sixteen billion gigabytes of information can be handled simultaneously. Analysts suggest that companies with large databases will be able to save costs with this powerful chip.

Link to the original article on CNN

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