Science News

Killer Virus Wiping Out Frogs in Southeast England

Sun, 10th Feb 2002

Part of the show Andrew Bradley discusses Organ Transplantation

Common frogs in the South East of England are being wiped out in their thousands by a killer virus brought by goldfish imported from America, according to frog conservation group Froglife Trust. It sounds very unpleasant - the frogs die slowly, developing sores all over their bodies and even losing their toes and legs. The number of dead frogs totals 62,000 although the disease has only been confirmed in 1 in 20 cases. Frogs are invaluable to gardeners as they feed on pests like slugs. But gardeners don't just rely on frogs to get rid of slugs - they also kill them off with copper-coated pellets. Researchers say that frogs feeding on these dead slugs have more copper in their livers and this makes them more susceptible to the killer virus.
Mathematicians are often accused of having their heads in the clouds. But maths expert Paul Coe from Illinois has got his feet planted firmly on the ground, and is trying to solve a problem which could help us all - the ultimate strategy for winning the gameshow "The Weakest Link". He noticed that each week the winner of this show went home with only a fraction of the possible winnings and decided to use maths to work out the strategy to get the most cash. In "The Weakest Link" much more money can be made by "banking" the winnings after answering a series of questions correctly, rather than after each correct answer. His analysis told him that contestants should either bank their money after each correct question, or hold their nerve whilst presenter Anne Robinson snarls at them, and wait until at least 6 correct questions in a row have been answered. However, he admits that the psychological terror induced by Anne Robinson's is one factor that could not be added into his model.


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