Published: Sunday 30 November 2003

marine boom: An unprecedented census of marine life is reporting three new fish species a week on an average. In the first interim report of the census, an international team of scientists predicts that as many as 5,000 unknown fish species may be lurking in the waters. By the time they are done in 2010, the scientists may have found more than two million new species. So far, in two years they have found 15,304 species of fish and 214,696 species of other marine creatures.

oldest-known grain: Scientists from the Chungbuk National University, South Korea, have found rice grains that are 15,000-year-old; their age challenges the view that rice cultivation originated in China about 12,000 years ago. The grains are genetically different from today's rice; this will help researchers trace the evolutionary history of the crop.

genetic surprise: The first genomic analysis of human faeces shows that our guts consist of 1,200 different viruses, more than half of which are unknown to science. "The findings are not so alarming, as a vast majority of these viruses do not impact our health. Most of them are phages -- viruses that infect and kill bacteria," explains Forest Rohwer of the US-based San Diego State University, who led the study.

clear evidence: Astrophysicists at last have found evidence to prove their theories about the existence of black holes. The proof is telltale radiations emitted by hot gases and dust spinning furiously around the edge of the black hole found at the centre of our galaxy. The astrophysicists, from different countries, used a very large telescope in Chile to measure the infrared radiation.

cheers to good health: Researchers from Imperial College, the UK, have found that resveratrol, a component of red wine, has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that can help treat chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). As COPD progresses, white blood cells called macrophages release chemicals called interleukins that provoke inflammation in the lungs. The researchers have found that resveratrol inhibits the action of the macrophages.

evolutionary debate: After analysing a fossil that is 58 million years old, researchers from France-based Institut des Sciences de l'Evolution have announced that the human family tree has very deep roots in Asia. The conclusion may ignite a debate about the evolutionary origin of primates, as most scientists firmly believe that they originated in Africa.

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