Science & Technology - Bytes

Published: Wednesday 31 December 2014

Deadly to germs

DNA study finds more diversity of bacteria on vulture's face than in its gut, indicating digestion killed them


HOW DO vultures survive despite eating food that will most likely kill other species? The answer lies in their gut. Vulture diet includes car cases filled with toxic bacteria and faeces. But even these are not able to harm them because their digestive system has adapted and evolved to destroy most of the dangerous bacteria it ingests. DNA profiles of bacteria living on the face and gut of 50 vultures showed, on an average, the presence of 528 kinds of bacteria on the face and 76 in the gut, indicating the majority of the bacteria had been destroyed during the digestive process.

Nature Communications, November 25

Plastic that disintegrates

Plastic WASTE takes ages to degrade. But a new type of plastic has been created which can be broken down to molecules by exposing it to ultraviolet light for a few hours. The molecules can then be reused to create new plastic. The recyclable polymer has been created from oilseed, cellulose, lignin and sucrose. AngewandteChemie, November 12

Andy Kale, University Of AlbertaASTRONOMY
Earth's invisible shield

There IS a magnetic shield around Earth which blocks harmful electrons moving around the planet at nearly the speed of light from entering the atmosphere. These electrons are considered a threat to astronauts and damage satellites. The invisible shield, located around 11,500 km above Earth, was discovered in the Van Allen radiation belts, two doughnut-shaped rings that contain high-energy electrons and protons. Nature, November 27

Sugar breathalyser

ANEW test can help spot signs of type 1 diabetes even before a person starts to show symptoms of the disease. Patients of type 1 diabetes have a severely reduced insulin-producing capacity. In the absence of insulin, the body starts to process fats to meet its energy needs. Breakdown of fats produces ketones, which lead to a condition called diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). One of the by-products in the development of DKA is acetone which is released in the breath. The test, that can be done using a hand-held device, can detect increased acetone levels in the breath. Journal of Breath Research, November 25

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