Published: Sunday 15 October 2006

conversation stoppers: Scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the US have developed a new strategy to fight bacterial infections. They have designed a group of small organic molecules that block the chemical signals that the bacteria use to communicate in an effort to stop their spread. Called 'conversation stoppers,' the compounds could help knock out deadly infections when combined with the killing power of antibiotics, the scientists say. In addition, these 'conversation stoppers' do not target bacterial growth, so the potential for the development of bacterial resistance is minimised.

natural fabrics: Imagine wearing suits and dresses made of chicken feathers or rice straw and nobody able to tell the difference. This may well be real as scientists at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in the US plan to develop agricultural waste products into conventional-looking fabrics to reduce the use of petroleum-based synthetic fabrics.

The feather-based fabric will resemble wool, while the rice straw fabric will look and feel more like linen or cotton, according to the researchers.

disease equations: Researchers from the Penn State University and the University of Virginia, both in the US, have shown that the spread of diseases among plants by insects can be described by equations similar to those for the force of gravity between planetary objects. Insects tend to transmit diseases while feeding on plants, and their movement between plants is influenced by plant quality (how good a meal they'll get) and the distance between plants, or, how far they'll have to travel to get the next meal.

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