Published: Saturday 31 July 2004

bi-advantages: As per researchers from Canada's York University, bilingualism is useful not only because it makes it possible to talk to more number of people. They have found that bilinguals perform a variety of cognitive tasks better than people who speak only one language. Furthermore, the differences between the two groups increases with age, leading the researchers to hypothesise that knowing and using two languages inhibits the mind's decline. This might be because someone who speaks two languages is able to suppress (at a given moment) the activities of some parts of the brain, in particular those that are used for articulating the language not being spoken at a given time. This, the researchers speculate, allows a bilingual individual to use more of brain power just for a single task assigned.

new landslide prediction tool: Chinese scientists have started using the nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) technique to predict landslides. Geoscientists believe that movement of groundwater causes about 80 per cent of the landslides worldwide. The NMR technique allows the presence and quantity of the water to be confirmed. "The method is faster, more accurate and cheaper than the drilling technology conventionally used," claims Li Zhenyu of the China University of Geosciences, who developed NMR's application for landslide detection.

how to teleport atoms: Teleportation of atoms has finally become a reality. Researchers from the Austria-based University of Innsbruck and the US National Institute of Standards and Technology have transferred the key properties of one particle into another without using any physical link. As per experts, the ability to do so with massive particles could lead to new superfast computers. In the distant future, the feat could also lead to the development of 'transporters' used by Jean-Luc Picard and Captain Kirk in the famous television programme Star Trek.

big trouble: Inadequate vaccination programmes could create conditions that promote the evolution of virulent strains of disease-causing organisms. This is the finding of a study of the malarial parasite Plasmodium falciparum. Margaret Mackinnon and Andrew Read of the UK-based University of Edinburgh injected the parasite in two groups of mice. The first group comprised of immunised mice, which had been exposed to Pfalciparum and then treated with the anti-malarial drug mefloquine. The other group had mice that had not been immunised. The researchers found that over the generations parasites that were able to evolve in the immunised mice were more virulent than those from the untreated mice. The findings show that increased pathogen virulence could emerge if a vaccination programme does not lead to the death of every single parasite, as the ones that survive are likely to be the nastiest.

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