Published: Wednesday 31 December 2003

water foul: Marine epidemics spread 100 times faster than terrestrial disease outbreaks, shows an analysis of US-based National Centre for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis. The reason is the lack of marine barriers that could otherwise prevent the disease pathogens from spreading.

nutty discovery: A hoard of nuts buried by a rodent 17 million years ago is the oldest food larder discovered so far. The 1,800 fossilised nuts were found in a burrow by researchers from Germany-based University of Bonn while they were digging an opencast mine near the Garzweiler town in 1992. The finding was made public on December 3, 2003, after the entire burrow system and food cache was analysed.

toxic legacy: Large stashes of chemical weapons abandoned at the end of World War II in 140 locations of Japan pose a far more serious threat than was previously estimated. As per a study of the Japanese government, in 41 locations, chemicals have leached into the soil and groundwater sources, putting the health of millions at risk.

coral killer: Experiments conducted near the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico show that run-off of chemical fertilisers is harmful for coral reefs. It encourages the growth of the fungi Aspergillus, which kills the reefs by causing a disease called aspergillosis. The experiments were conducted by researchers from the US-based University of North Carolina.

fatal year: The highest number of new HIV infections and AIDS deaths worldwide was recorded in 2003, as per a report of the United Nations. Five million new infections of the deadly virus and three million deaths were recorded globally in 2003. Sub-Saharan Africa accounted for over three million of the new infections and 2.3 million of the deaths.

unique protection: The snow peaks of Mount Kilimanjaro could be saved from melting. It is estimated that because of global warming, the peak will be bare rock by 2020. According to climatologist Euan Nisbet of London's Royal Holloway University, the simplest solution will be to hang a white drape over the ice that will reflect the sunlight. But other scientists are sceptical about the idea.

protein synthesised: Researchers from the University of Washington, USA, have constructed a functional protein. The feat will help explore how proteins have evolved.

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