September 18, 2009 2:42 am

Science briefing: Terrorism linked to public opinion

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Terrorism linked to public opinion

The amount of terrorism directed against a nation is directly linked to foreign public opinion of its leadership, according to a study in the journal Science . But the journal said it had no direct link with poverty.

Alan Krueger, economics professor at Princeton University, and Jitka Maleková, of Charles University in Prague, analysed Gallup opinion polls conducted in 2006-07 in which people from 19 Middle East and north African countries were asked for their views of the leadership of nine of the most powerful nations: the US, UK, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Japan and Russia.

The researchers correlated the opinions with terrorist attacks between 2004 and 2008. They found a strong association between the number of terror attacks and negative opinions of a country’s leadership.

“This is the first study to relate public opinion across countries to concrete actions such as terrorism,” said Prof Krueger. “Public opinion appears to be a useful predictor.”

The paper suggests that if the election of President Barack Obama has reduced disapproval of the US leadership, there might be fewer subsequent terrorist attacks against American targets. It found no connection between terrorism and gross domestic product per capita in the country where attacks originated. But wealthier countries were more likely to be targets of terrorism.

Tyrannosaurus rex and Raptorex

A Tyrannosaurus rex and the much smaller Raptorex

T-rex ancestor found in Mongolia

The ancestor of the fearsome Tyrannosaurus rex – the world’s dominant predator 90m to 65m years ago – was a slimline dinosaur almost identical in body shape but weighing only 1 per cent as much. The discovery of Raptorex, as it has been called, is announced in the online edition of the journal Science.

Raptorex lived 125m years ago in what is now Inner Mongolia. Palaeontologists have identified it on the basis of a skeleton that was excavated illegally and bought by Henry Kriegstein, a US fossil collector, who handed it to Paul Sereno, a dinosaur expert at the University of Chicago.

The discovery solves a puzzle in dinosaur evolution. It turns out that the distinctive features of Tyrannosaurus – huge skull, strong jaws and tiny arms – did not evolve as the predators grew in size over millions of years – the same features were present on a small scale in its ancestors.

Not that Raptorex was small by modern standards – it grew three metres long with a body weight similar to a man’s. Tyrannosaurus was up to 13 metres long and weighed seven tonnes.

Public research boosts spending

UK health economists have shown that spending on scientific research by governments and charities stimulates more spending by the private sector.

They reject the alternative possibility that public and charitable spending might crowd out commercial investment.

The study, commissioned by the Alzheimer’s Research Trust and conducted by the industry-funded Office of Health Economics, analysed data from dozens of papers.

The stimulus is particularly strong in basic scientific research, where every £1 ($2) of public or philanthropic spending leads to more than £8 in private investment during the following eight years. In medical research, a £1 increase in public spending stimulates £2 to £5 in investment by the pharmaceutical industry.

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