Published: Sunday 15 July 2007

lab tool: A professor at University of Delhi has developed a new instrument that can measure the surface tension and viscosity of liquids together. The 'survismeter' can do both jobs simultaneously giving researchers and industry users a gadget that will change the way experiments are conducted in Indian laboratories and industrial houses. Presently, researchers use two instruments--the viscosimeter and stalgometer--to perform these experiments. The integrated instrument will save resources, chemicals, time and money, Man Singh of Deshbandhu College says.

no speed limit: Using robotic telescopes, astronomers in Italy have for the first time measured the velocity of cosmic explosions called gamma-ray bursts. The material travels at the extraordinary speed of more than 99.999% of the velocity of light, the maximum speed in the Universe. "We can now study the very first moments following these cosmic catastrophes," says team leader Emilio Molinari. Gamma-ray bursts are powerful explosions in distant galaxies signalling death of stars. The bright bursts briefly rival the whole universe in luminosity.

dressy moms: University of California researchers have found that female side-blotched lizards induce different colour patterns in their offspring in response to social cues, "dressing" them in patterns for a lifetime. The mother gives her progeny patterns likely to ensure success as adults. In a paper published online in Ecology Letters (June 10), they reported that moms give an extra dose of estradiol to eggs in certain circumstances. The extra hormone affects their back patterns, creating lengthwise stripes or bars on the side.

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