Published: Saturday 15 January 2005

using cotton gin residue: US researchers have found the waste generated when cotton is ginned (seeds separated from fibre) can yield valuable products.

They have developed manufacturing processes to extract specific chemicals and make two products -- ethanol, which can be a fuel in automobiles, and xylitol, a sugar. The team was headed by Foster A Agblevor, professor of biological systems engineering in Virginia Tech's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

heat map: European space scientists have made a high resolution sea surface temperature (SST) map of the Mediterranean Sea using satellite imagery. An equivalent ground-based map would have been prohibitively expensive as it requires almost 1.5 million thermometers placed into the water simultaneously, one for every two square kilometres of sea. The SST map is updated on a daily basis.

SST data is important for weather forecasting and increasingly seen as a key indicator of climate change.

geometric progression: Ants use angled signposts, marked with scent, to find their way home or follow the path into the wilderness, according to a study published in Nature . Scientists at the University of Sheffield, England, looked at the foraging trails laid by Pharoah ants (Monomorium pharaonis).

Scout ants would set the trail from the nest using pheromone scents as indicators for those coming behind them.

Wherever the trail forked to let the ants explore potential sources of food, one of the angles between the forks was always about 60 degrees, the researchers found. This means an ant that has gone off the trail can find its way by detecting this narrow angle. By having its back to the angle, the ant knows it can find its way home.

shark's compass: Marine biologists say they have obtained the first proof that sharks can spot changes in magnetic fields, boosting evidence that the fish have an internal compass to guide them, as well as a phenomenal sense of smell.

The study conducted by a team from the Hawaii University appeared in the Journal of The Royal Society Interface . The team found six sandbar sharks and one scalloped hammerhead shark learnt to associate food with an artificial magnetic field over six weeks.

name change: The Third World Academy of Sciences, or TWAS, has a new name. It will now be called the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World, but the acronym will remain the same. TWAS president C N R Rao told a meeting of TWAS in Trieste, Italy in October that the step was taken "to reflect TWAS's growing importance and influence in the developing world.

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