Published: Wednesday 15 January 2003

jumbo fighters: Tiny bugs would no longer trouble jumbo jets. If undetected, microbes in aviation fuel harm the planes' instruments and even eat through the wings. They also produce misleading readings in fuel gauges. Now, Cardiff-based ECHA Microbiology has developed an industry-standard test for the pests, which lets non-microbiologists check oils, fuels and process water for microbial fouling, spoilage and corrosion.

dna gifts: Want to buy your friend a unique gift? Why not give her/him gifts bearing patterns of their DNA. And that's exactly what England-based company, Complement Genomics, has to offer. Customers have to just provide the company with some sputum cells. The company extracts DNA from the cells and analyses it to provide the basis for a DNA pattern, which resemble the DNA codes seen in fingerprints taken for forensic examination.

what a find: Archaeologists have uncovered a 500-year-old ostrich egg covered with quotations from the Koran and poetry, which describes a soul's journey from death to life. The egg was found in the Red Sea port of Quseir, Egypt.

wild definition: Researchers have rephrased their definition of a 'wild area'. According to two environmental groups, to be termed as wild, an area has to cover more than 10,000 square kilometres. Furthermore, it should have at least 70 per cent of its original vegetation intact -- the area should not be logged, farmed or mined. As per this definition, 37 regions covering about 70 million square kilometres of the planet fit the bill. This is an area of the size of Africa and the Americas combined, but its population size is similar to that of Bangladesh.

fur detective: We no longer need to rely on the 'mere glance' of a specialist to stamp-out illegal trade in skins of endangered species. A technical detective is on the way. Klaus Hollemeyer, an expert in biocatalysis at Saarland University in Germany, has come up with a technique to develop a unique genetic mark for skins of every animals. Hollemeyer first treats hair strands of the skins with the trypsin enzyme. This strips protein fragments from the strands. These fragments are then fed into a spectrometer, which generates a genetic mark of the animal skin. The mark facilitates identification of skins that are being illegally traded.

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