Arctic on ever thinner ice


ON THE RADAR: The pick of the science news

This week’s alarming research results from Nasa and the US National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) show that the thin, seasonal ice in the Arctic, which melts and re-freezes every year, now makes up around 70 per cent of the polar cap in wintertime, up from 40 to 50 per cent in the 1980s and 1990s. Meanwhile, the thicker ice that survives more than two years is down to around 10 per cent of total winter ice, a fall from 30 to 40 per cent.

The amount of ice covering the cap is also on the wane, judging by month-specific data from the NSIDC: “The linear trend indicates that for the month of March, ice extent is declining by 2.7 per cent per decade, an average of 43,000 square kilometres of ice per year.”

Why a woman nose best

A woman’s nose is harder to fool, according to new research. In a set of whiffy experiments, male and female subjects smelled under-arm sweat collected from volunteers.

Sniffed on their own, the samples were rated as equally strong by men and women. But when fragrance was added, 19 out of 32 scents were able to block the sweaty smell for men, while only two blocked the under-arm whiff for women.

The American study, published online in the Flavour and Fragrance Journal, suggests that females are more attuned to biologically relevant information in sweat.

By numbers


The average length, in millimetres, of Noble’s Pygmy Frog, a newly described amphibian from the Peruvian Andes that fits on a human fingertip


The number of Twitter updates (at time of writing) posted by Nasa astronaut Mike Massimo about training for a May shuttle mission to overhaul the Hubble space telescope (see

Claire O’Connell e-mail: