Published: Saturday 04 July 2015

perpetual expansion: The aging of clay bricks is governed by how quickly they absorb water from the atmosphere. As they soak up water, the bricks expand. But until now the impression was that most of this process takes place within hours or days of bricks being cooled from the kiln. Not really, say researchers. Moira Wilson and her colleagues in the UK-based University of Edinburgh have discovered that bricks never stop expanding. The finding is significant for architects, who often take into account a building's life while planning.

quick on the uptake: Scientists have developed a software that speeds up the accurate computer interpretation of texts written in Devanagari -- a centuries-old script that is still used as the basis of a large number of contemporary Indian languages.The software eliminates the need for manual checking of digital interpretations of the script which is required in existing versions, says Venugopal Govindraju from the US-based University at Buffalo, whose team developed the programme in collaboration with the Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata.

draining the brain: Exposure to some insecticides may cause chemical reactions in the brain that could lead to Parkinson's disease. A team from the US-based Virginia Polytechnic Institute studied levels of key chemicals in the brain of mice exposed to the insecticide permethrin. They found that the insecticide stimulated a reduction in levels of an important transmitter chemical called dopamine. Parkinson's symptoms have been linked to the loss of dopamine production in the brain.

light in the slow lane: Researchers from the University of Rochester in the US have slowed down the speed of light using a ruby at room temperature. The researchers reduced the speed of light from 300,000 kilometres per second to a sluggish 57 metres per second. They used a laser to make a ruby crystal transparent to light of a very narrow range of wavelengths. Light has been slowed down previously, but only under very low temperature. With the new development, light can be used in telecommunications.

not anti bodies: Camels are now to be used to tackle disease. According to research from the United Arab Emirates Zayed Complex for Herbal Research and Traditional Medicine, the antibodies of camels can be very useful for making medicines. They are smaller than the human antibodies and can, therefore, reach tissues and cells that are normally inaccessible; they have fewer components, making them easier to manufacture.

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