Bytes

 
Published: Friday 31 October 2003

All-rounder: Installing filters on diesel engines is not only more expensive, but also worse for the environment than switching to liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). A paper by Eric Johnson, a Swiss-based scientist, argues that a switch-over to LPG is preferable under all circumstances. For instance, a shift to LPG in the UK would cut particle emissions by up to seven per cent. It would also result in 400 fewer hospitalisation and prevent 80 premature deaths over one year.

protective umbrella: Scientists from the National Research Centre for Mushroom, Himachal Pradesh, have developed a 'cryopreservation' technique that will help sustain mushroom stock culture for an indefinite period. The technology is far better than the expensive and, at times inefficient, process of refrigeration (extremely low temperature can deteriorate the preferred genetic characteristics of the produce)."We analysed DNA fingerprinting profiles of 11 edible mushrooms, and found that cryopreservation caused no damage," reveals R C Upadhyaya, the lead scientist.

trouble, nodding: War-stricken Sudan faces a new calamity: a disease whose first symptom is that victims (usually children) nod deeply and involuntarily when presented with food. 'Nodding disease' gradually progresses into seizures and stunted growth. It is 100 per cent fatal. Locals say it has been around since 1980s. Experts from the World Health Organization are unable to pinpoint the causing factor. There are many theories: perhaps the locals have eaten something tainted -- either a poisonous plant or relief deliveries that have gone bad. Some suspect that it is associated with onchocerciasis or river blindness, that plagues the region.

coral draw: More than 90 per cent of the shallow water corals of the Indian Ocean died due to El Nio in 1998. A similar catastrophe may be just 10 to 15 years away, according to new research. Charles Sheppard of the UK-based University of Warwick has created a sophisticated model of future coral mortality by combining historical and predictive data on sea warming for more than 30 sites in the Indian Ocean. The model shows that changing weather would prove fatal for the corals, as it would affect the source of their nutrition.

french cut: About 1,500 French scientists have recently signed a petition demanding an end to the destruction of fields of genetically modified crop. Almost half the experimental fields in France were destroyed this summer, ruining years of research. "We have to stop this waste," says Alain Toppan, one of the petition's organisers, who is the director of research at Biogemma, a French biotechnology company that in July 2003 threatened to leave France because of attacks on its field. Plots belonging to Monsanto, the US-based biotechnology giant, were also attacked.

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