Published: Monday 15 March 2004

el nio tracker: El Nio, the harbinger of bad monsoon, is no longer an enigma. Researchers from the US-based Ohio State University have developed a statistical model to forecast the unusual warming of seawater in the East Pacific Ocean six months in advance -- long enough for farmers to plan for the next planting season.

astronomical find: For the first time oxygen and carbon have been detected in the atmosphere of a planet located beyond our solar system. An international team of astronomers viewed the gases swirling near the Jupiter-like planet Osiris. The carbon was found in 'ionic' form and oxygen in 'atomic' form. The latter observation means the oxygen has not been produced by extraterrestrial life.

respite for ozone layer: A nasty molecule capable of destroying the ozone layer has been caught red-handed. Years of experiments had convinced scientists that the molecule (Cl-O-O-Cl) was responsible for ozone depletion; but they could not detect it in super-cold polar stratospheric clouds over the Arctic where ozone destruction normally occurs in the spring. Its detection by scientists of the US-based California Institute of Technology has already lead to the generation of comprehensive simulations of ozone loss.

embryos cloned: In an unparalleled experiment, South Korean scientists have cloned 30 human embryos. The scientists, from Seoul National University, took genetic material from normal cells of women donors and combined it with their eggs. The resulting embryos were grown to produce stem cells that can function normally in the body; the feat will allow replacement of cells in patients with problems such as Alzheimer's disease.

the smoke bomb: Smoking is causing widespread health problems in the UK. As per a report of the British Medical Association, around 120,000 young men in the country are impotent due to smoking. It is also responsible for around 1,200 cases of malignant cervical cancer and nearly 5,000 miscarriages per year.

flawed food products: Many organic food products on sale in the UK contain genetically modified (GM) ingredients, as per a study by the University of Glamorgan, the UK. Transgenic soya was found in 10 of 25 organic products tested. Eight of the 10 were labelled either as 'organic' or as 'GM-free'.

turtles in trouble: Endangered loggerhead and leatherback turtles have a mere 50 per cent survival chance if snared by a deep-sea fishing line, claim researchers from the US-based Duke University. As per their findings, more than 200,000 loggerheads and 50,000 leatherbacks were caught in fishing gear worldwide in 2000; many of these encounters were fatal. The researchers are now calling for the creation of ocean wildlife reserves.

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