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American scientists have made a whole artificial chromosome which they can inject into a cell to repair genetic defects , to make missing proteins . This is a very significant advance as it will allow us to make any kind of organism we want. The computer will predict the DNA of the wanted lifeform , it will assemble the DNA ladder and make artifical chromosomes . Not only dinosaur but many animals which have never existed on earth could be created easily by this method soon.
The subcontinent has been extremely lucky not to have had a drought in the last ten years. Scientists have found that striking the ground with a 7 kg hammer and analysing the returning sound waves can tell if there is any water upto a depth of 100 meters. A bigger hammer can search deeper. Finding underground water in arid areas could lead to humans settling in desert areas
Chimps love TV
Bored chimps , our closest animal relatives, in a zoo were allowed to watch TV. It was found that they could concentrate for 40mins at a time and liked nature programs and other movies but if made to watch educational films would start jumping on the set.
The brightest comet this century is now visible in the early evening . Look where the sun sets and just to the right of it. Comet Hale Bopp can be seen low down in the sky and will be around for the next two months. It is also visible in the mornings.
Plant yields doubled !
Scientists have injected the gene for making haemoglobin ,the molecule which takes up oxygen in animal cells. This made the tobacco plant much more efficient and doubled yields. Scientists hope to transplant this gene into rice , wheat and other plants so that yields can be increased markedly and the growing populations fed. There may be a risk that these plant/animal hibrids will use up the planet's oxygen , leaving animals gasping for breath.
Large Mammal Cloned
British scientists have made a remarkable advance. They have cloned an adult sheep
, making a copy exactly like itself. A cell is taken from the udder of a donor and
put in a salt solution with no nutrients except growth factor . This stops it dividing
and allows the nucleus to revert to a primitive state so that genes that are normally
inactive can be activated.. An egg cell is taken from a host sheep and its nucleus
removed and discarded. The nucleus from the other sheep is removed and injected
into the egg cell. An electric current is passed to make the nuclear membrane melt
and the new nucleus to take over the egg cell and start multiplying into more cells.
The embryos are implanted into another sheep.
It is now possible to clone thousands of copies from one animal , exactly like itself. Since a frozen cell was used , extinct animals like mammoths could be brought back to life . Brain dead clones would provide organs like kidneys as one gets older , pancreas if one becomes a diabetic . Geniuses could be cloned .
Antarctic ice beginning to melt
Alarming news that the ice sheets covering Antarctica may be beginning to melt which could cover much of low land lying areas of the world like Bangladesh , Maldives and London in water. Last year big icebergs, bigger than many countries like Lebanon floated off into the sea, and this year further ones from the Larsen Ice Shelf are expected. Antarctica holds 90% of the worlds fresh water in an ice cap many miles thick. Normally ice is lighter than water but here it is so thick that the ice is compressed and heavier than water and if it all melts will raise sea level world wide by some estimates 30 feet or more.
The water may be lead off into deep artificial inland seas created for example in the Sahara and Australian deserts but the earth may continue to heat up from release of carbon dioxide in coal and gas and oil. Some years there may even be an apparent cooling from volcanic eruptions or pollution but the underlying long term shows a steady heating of the planet. The carbon dioxide traps heat as it does in a greenhouse and the heating it is thought will become progressively worse . Our neighbour Venus with its oven like 300 degrees centigrade surface temperature and a mostly carbon dioxide and sulfuric acid atmosphere could well be the hallmark of an ancient civilisation which got careless in its use of fossil fuels . It should provide an awful warning.
Mohammed Yunus , a brilliant Bangladeshi Professor of Economics came up with the idea of microcredit , which has been proven to work extremely well in lifting the poorest of the poor out of poverty. Women are leant a small sum of money as little as $20 , at a slight positive rate of interest , without security . They pay this back over one to three years in monthly instalments. Formed into small groups , none of the group members gets any further credit if one fails to pay back . There is therefore a lot of peer pressure to succeed and a lot of self help. With a successful loan repayment of over 95% it has a better record than almost any in the world. Much of the West was built with similar credit union self help , non profit , schemes . Other countries like India are now adopting them and it is likely that with first lady Hilary showing such interest that more funds will be available to start development from the ground up.
More efficient learning
Students who did a maths course on the Internet with email to the teachers to clear up difficult areas did 20% better in exams than those who attended 14 weekly lectures. With the Internet and computer pirces having fallen to less than $1000 there is no reason that even poor students in the third world should not have in the libraries access to the latest material and ask help from the experts .
Kids dont know much
Researches in the UK were amazed to find that the majority of under 15s could not even locate London on a map of Britain. Most of these also could not do simple arithmetic needed for everyday living such as adding prices , calculating discounts etc. Studies elsewhere have shown that paying a small sum to students if they pass exams can result in almost 100% of them attaining targets in a short time. It seems children need financial incentives as much as adults to work hard.
Scientists at Arizona State university have managed to make chemicals which mimic the photosynthetic process. Solar cells can only convert 20% of the Sun's energy falling on to them into energy while photosynthesis which shunts protons and electrons to different areas and then converts this potential electrical difference to ATP the molecule which powers life is an amazing 60% efficient . This may lead to a tremendous increase in energy supplies in tropical countries.
Using the simple technique of using metal detectors in gold mines scientists have managed to find gold upto a few feet from the surface in old gold mines . They can then dig out the rock in just that area. The use of ultrasound can extend this a bit further.
CD Brown of Seven Oaks have developed a special glue which when mixed with mud stops road surfaces being washed away during the monsoons . This may save countries like India billions of rupees each year.
Children love violence
It has been known that children love violent cartoons like Tom and Jerry . Now it appears that even the very young ones realise that the violence is stylised and remain unaffected. In fact many are quite scornful of the special effects like blood shown. They do however get upset at more realistic violent scenes shown in soap operas. It appears also that sexually explicit scenes leave them unmoved as they dont have the hormones to react . They should however be told that hitting somebody on the head with a club does not knock them cold but may leave them with permanent brain damage !
Self destruct command
Abbot Labs have discovered a death domain on cells , an area which receives signals from higher centres telling the cell to kill itself. They hope to design drugs to activate these zones in cancer cells and others to block them immediately after strokes when brain cells self destruct.
Faster than light
Professor Gunter Nimitz of Cologne claims he has transmitted Mozart across a 14 cm metal barrier at 4.7 times the speed of light . Professor Raymond Chiao of California has also measured transmission at 1.7 times the speed of light. This was reported in the BBC Science Program Horizon . According to Einstein faster than light travel is not possible if one starts at below light speed so these results are astounding. They rely on a mechanism called quantum tunnelling where a photon can be in several places at once. Some believe that the photon is really interacting with another one in a parallel Universe hence the weird effects seen when for example two photons sent through two separate slits instead of forming two distinct bright spots , interact with each other producing many dark and light bands. How one photon can be in so many places at once is for budding geniuses to explain.
Water on the Moon !
Exciting news that a lake of water a few hundred yards wide and about 15ft deep has been discovered on the moon in a crater on the south pole. The crater is very deep , 8 miles , so deep that Everest upside down would fit into it and there would still be three miles more to go ! At the bottom of this crater lies the ice , dicovered by radar imaging from the orbiting satellite Clementine. There will probably now follow a race to colonize the moon by the space powers - China , Russia , EEC , USA and Japan because the water will allow permanent colonies to be established there to mine and bring to earth helium 3 a catalyst for thermonuclear fusion to produce endless energy.
Getting drunk without drinking
Researchers were puzzled why some Finnish soldiers were getting drunk before the alcohol had a chance to get to the brain . Thye did an experiment giving them just disguised water and they still got drunk. It seems they were determined to have a good time even though they had limited funds. But the group who had only water did not get the morning headaches. It seems one does not need to spend a lot of money to have a 'good time'.
Changing a child's behaviour
Researchers have found that ignoring a child's temper tantrums or when he is hitting another child while dealing with the victim ie the other child and then 20 minutes later praising the offending child when he has stoppe ( 9 temporarily!) started behaving again can if carried on over a couple of months leads permanently to better behaviour. Socially skilled adults may also unconsciously employ the same tactic for eg staying out of the boss's way when he is off mood but being friendly to him when he has quitened down while those who are likely to come to grief may argue when put upon.
3D CT Scans
Scientists at Guys hospital in London have combined ordinary CT Scans to form 3D images . With false colors for blood vessels they can identify where a brain tumour is in relation to the main arteries. 500 or more scans can be combined into one 3D scan which gives the illusion of 3D on a flat screen by the image being rocked from side to side.
Smoking causes breast cancer
Women who smoke run four times the risk of breast cancer , many times that of cervical cancer but most will die of smoking related heart disease. It appears that some have a gene defect which makes them susceptible to the cancer causing chemical in cigs discovered recently.
Humans catch mad cow disease
Amercian scientists have shown that the prion structure in mad cows is identical to that in young humans thought to have come down with mad cow disease. It is different from CJD the illness that affects older humans. The implications are alarming. Millions of people have eaten infected beef - the fact that not so many have come down with it so far may mean that there may need to be blood contact -open wounds etc. Prions are proteins which seem to reproduce without DNA and are infectious. They may settle in the soil , so even killing all the animals may not get rid of it. There are reports that it has spread to sheep and wild animals. Very high temperature incineration appears the only way to kill the prion.
Cold Virus kills cancer Cells!
Normal cells have a good gene called the p53 gene which makes a p53 protein which tells cancer or virus infected cells to kill themselves . As we get older in some cells the p53 mutates and becomes defective - so if cancer starts the cell keeps multiplying. Smokers inhale a chemical called benzopyrene which causes cancer by damaging the p53 gene. Now scientists have made an altered cold virus - an adeno virus which gets into cells with the damaged p53 , multiplies and kills it and spreads to other cancer cells. Just a small dose can therefore kill all cancer cells. The trick is to stop the body disabling this virus in the blood before it gets into the cells. In tests 60% of mice which had cancer were completely cured by this virus and trials have started in humans.The interesting finding is that the hardest to treat solid cancers like lung , breast etc. are the ones which succumb to the virus.
Bucky balls as ball bearings
Scientists have found that bucky balls -shaped like footballs (soccer balls) of 60 carbon atoms with a hollow centre act as extremely good ball bearings . This could lead to many uses in industry. The discoverer of buckyballs -made by elec charges in carbon gas - has just been awarded the Nobel Prize.
Earth changing color
Iron sprinkled in ocean regions which have the biggest expanse of lifeless areas on this planet have increased algal growth tenfold. Sprinkling this iron on floating plastic partly submerged plastic islands may however allow the iron to stay on top and the fish to breed in huge numbers feeding on this algae. The mid ocean blue water turns green and then red with algal growth. Just 20 tonnes of iron filings were enough to change the color of 300 sq miles of ocean for weeks. The oceans could provide a vast new food source . Aliens would be mystified as from space the planet Earth now blue because 70% of it is ocean blue ,changes to green and then red !
Gold atoms in chips
Scientists report that they have made chips from gold atoms instead of silicon. Gold allows much higher density of circuits as it is better at dissipating heat . More details later. Another unrelated use of gold might be in arthritis - pills are used , but it maybe that eating of gold leaf in sweets maybe the reason for the low incidence of arthritis in South Asian countries.
Marker for mad cow disease in humans
Scientists in California have found a protein in the spinal fluid in animals and humans which indicates the prescence of mad cow or CJD a brain degenerative disease thought to be due to a new type of life form which has no DNA. The technique uses monoclonal antibodies which bind to the protein. Although there is no cure for mad cow disease identifying non infected animals would stop unnecessary slaughter.
Criminals cant read.
Psychologists trying to figure out why many criminals although good at cooking up schemes were unable to fill in simple forms found that a majority -52% and amongst drug and alcoholic criminals -90% were dyslexic and unable to read . Amazingly when they were taught to read by special methods , not one went on to reoffend. We may soon be able to empty prisons by insisting prisoners learn to read and get good grades before being allowed out.
Short term stress good
While chronic stress is harmful , scientists have found that short term stress - getting away from a lion , crossing a river on a rope bridge etc. boosts the immune system raising IG A levels. We may have a built in need for such stress.
Dinosaur trees for sale
Last year a living fossil - a tree species thought to have been extinct for millions of years was found in a remote forest in Australia. Next month its saplings will go on sale in nurseries worldwide. You can grow in your garden a tree 144 millions years old whose leaves the dinosaurs used to munch. We may even be able to recreate the dinosaurs by enabling certain genes in birds which are direct descendants of the dinosaurs and if that happens they will at least have a ready food supply.
Gold discovered by radar
Using high resolution radar archaeologists have discovered underground tombs in Colombia with vast amounts of gold ornaments - one tomb has as many as 500 kilos of it ! It may be possible to use this kind of radar to uncover South Asian treasure sites as well.
Eat Fat and stay Slim
By knocking out a gene called R2beta in mice scientists have fed them high fat
diets without the mice getting fat . It alters the metabolic rate of brown fat.
Another gene makes a hormone called leptin which induces hunger and trials are going
on to see if leptin injections will keep people slim. 80% of twins even brought
up separately end up with about the same weight - obese etc. so fatness is mostly
genetically determined and will need drug treatment. Dexfenfluramine sold as Adifax
raises brain serotonin levels and cuts appetite. It appears that food addiction
may be like any other addiciton and many of these respond to serotonin raising as
well. It would appear that physical activity might raise serotonin levels as well
which is why excercise reduces appetitie and leads to wight loss.
This article contains a summary (plus other info) of one by Anjana Ahuja the outstanding Science writer of the Times and the full one can be read from the link on the front page.
Oceans of water on Europa !
The Galileo probe has detected ice sheets 5km thick floating on what is thought to be a 50 km ( compare with just 10km on Earth ) deep ocean of water on Europa , a moon of Jupiter the size of our moon. The ice sheets are separated by channels 5 miles wide and hundreds of miles long . Jupiters gravity causes friction in the crust of Europa . With water and oxygen detected in the atmosphere it likely that weird life forms - maybe even big animals will be present in the oceans under the ice. It probably will look like earth animals since parallel evolution on earth for eg on Australia and Africa has shown that animals tend to evolve to similar shapes.
Life from another world !
After 2 years of careful studies NASA has announced that it has discovered what looks like evidence of life forms from Mars. Tiny tubelike bacteria fossils 4 billion years old where found deep inside a rock from Mars . The rock had been blown from the Martian surface 13 million years ago by a comet impact and after flying around in space had fallen in Antarctica 13000 years ago. It was picked up 10 years ago .
The rock is from Mars because the trapped air pockets inside it have oxygen isotopes found only on Mars and bacteria did not contaminate it from Earth because the concentration of these fossils is higher towards the inside of the rock (contamination would be outside. Compounds which living things produce - aromatic ring shaped carbon ones were also found near the bacteria fossils. the next stage would be to look at cell structure , maybe even DNA.
Two Mars explorers are already on their way to Mars and President Clinton has promised a conference where a manned trip will be discussed. The fact that life can appear on two planers next to each other may mean it is fairly common in the solar system and the Universe. Even the moon which has a lot of water at the poles and has been bombarded with comets containing carbon may have life forms in deep caves heated by radioactivity. The moon is 1,000 times nearer than Mars and when men go in caves it would not be surprising if they were met by rock throwing moonsters !
Jupiters moons and other moons are also likely to harbour life deep in the oceans on their surfaces.