Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Honda co-develops process to make biomass ethanol

Honda Motor said on last week that it has co-developed the world’s first practical process for producing ethanol out of cellulosic biomass in what would be a big step towards using non-edible plant materials as fuel. Ethanol is a major source of motor fuel in Brazil and is gaining popularity in the US, France and other countries, but the renewable fuel is produced mainly from sugar cane and corn, raising the issue of balancing supply against the use of the crops as food. Honda and its partner Research Institute of Innovative Technology for the Earth, or RITE, a non-profit entity set up by the Japanese government and private enterprises, said the new method allows large volumes of ethanol to be produced from widely available waste wood, leaves and other so called soft biomass.
The Economic Times
New Delhi, 15 September 2006

Glowing firefly fish to indicate pollution

Schools of glowing fish could become a tool for monitoring water quality. The US government's National Institute of Environmental Health Services (NIEHS) has been funding research into fish that glow like a firefly when exposed to polluted water, a patent application reveals.
Fireflies light up when an enzyme in their stomach called luciferase oxidises luciferin. The NIEHS hopes to insert luciferase-producing genes from fireflies into the eggs of zebrafish. A related approach has been proposed previously (see Glowing red GM fish to sell in US).
Other genes would then be injected into the zebrafish making them sensitive to a particular pollutant. This could make the fish generate luciferase in the presence of mercury, for example.
The genetically modified fish could then be dangled in a cage into water at risk of pollution. After half an hour they could be removed and dunked into a solution containing luciferin. If they start to glow, it means the water is polluted. The brightness of their glow could even reveal just how bad the pollution is. And the fish should survive the process for re-use later.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Turmeric turning out to be a Brain Booster!

We call it turmeric, yellow ginger, 'haldi' or E100, the yellow root of Curcuma longa, a staple ingredient in curry, is turning out to be very healthy. Now Tze-Pin Ng and colleagues at the National University of Singapore have discovered that curry eating seems to boost brainpower in elderly people.

Curcumin, a constituent of turmeric, is an antioxidant, and reports indicate that it inhibits the build-up of amyloid plaques in people with Alzheimer's. Ng's team looked at the curry-eating habits of 1010 Asian people unaffected by Alzheimer's and aged between 60 and 93, and compared their performance in a standard test of cognitive function, the Mini Mental State Examination. Those people who consumed curry "occasionally" (once or more in 6 months but less than once a month) and "often" (more than once a month) had better MMSE results than those who only ate curry "never or rarely"

(American Journal of Epidemiology, DOI: 10.1093/aje/kwj267).

Popular curry spice is a brain booster

(From New Scientist Print Edition, 04 August 2006)


Wednesday, September 06, 2006

'Crocodile Hunter' Steve Irwin Killed....

News.com has reported that Steve Irwin was killed in a freak accident while filming one of his well-known documentaries. Surprisingly it wasn't a crocodile, it was a sting-ray."

Down below is the Media statement released (Dated: 4th September 2006) on http://www.crocodilehunter.com/

At 11am today, the 4th September 2006, Steve Irwin was fatally wounded by a stingray barb to his heart whilst filming a sequence on Batt Reef off Port Douglas for his daughter’s new TV series.

Emergency services were called from Cairns Rescue Base and met Croc One, Steve’s rescue vessel at Low Isle on the Great Barrier Reef. The Croc One crew performed constant CPR during the thirty minute dash to Low Isle, but the medical staff pronounced Steve dead at approx. 12 noon.

His producer and closest friend, John Stainton said on Croc One today,

“The world has lost a great wildlife icon, a passionate conservationist and one of the proudest Dads on the planet. He died doing what he loves best and left this world in a happy and peaceful state of mind. Crocs Rule!”

More Steve Irwin photos at: http://news.yahoo.com/photos/ss/events/lf/090406steveirwin

Read more about this news at:




Tuesday, May 16, 2006

WWF's International Smart Gear Competition - 2006 winners have been announced....

A New Jersey inventor was awarded the grand prize in the International Smart Gear Competition - 2006 for a fishing gear innovation that could save thousands of sharks a year from dying accidentally on fishing lines, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and its partners announced.

Grand-prize winner Michael M. Herrmann from SharkDefense -- a research company in New Jersey -- beat out more than 80 other contenders for the Smart Gear prize with an original idea that uses a shark's ability to detect magnetic fields as a way to protect them. Herrmann found that placing strong magnets just above baited hooks on a longline repels certain shark species, averting potential harm to the shark or the fishing gear. He was awarded $25,000 to further test and develop his idea.

Every year, thousands of sharks die after being caught on hooks set by commercial fisheries that are targeting tuna and swordfish. Earlier this month, the World Conservation Union announced that 20 percent of shark species are nearing extinction. Bycatch is a major contributor to their decline. Invention could prevent thousands of accidental deaths of sharks in fishing lines.

Runner-Up Prize Winners ($5,000 each)

Chris Carey,
New Zealand.


Mr. Carey designed a device that attaches to the trawl warps (the cables that pull the nets through the water) in order to reduce the number of seabirds being killed or injured during trawl fishing. Skipper Carey's goal was to make the warp lines and the area around them highly visible so that sea birds will be able to see them even in the midst of a feathery feeding frenzy. Using materials available on board any large fishing vessel, Mr. Carey's design consists of a rope that is clipped on to the warp line with purse seine clips and has stiff streamers made out of strapping tape that bristle out and make the rope look like a bottlebrush. The bristles form a visible and safe 'no fly zone' around the warp line so sea birds will be able to see it coming and can move before getting struck and injured or killed. The design is easily deployed and has the potential to be adapted to fit trawlers around the world.

The judges voted to award Mr. Carey's invention a prize because it is simple and immediately available, there is little to no cost for extra equipment, there is no concern for loss of catch and the design is readily adoptable by fishermen whose fishery could be closed due to high levels of seabird bycatch.

Kristian Zachariassen,
Faroe Islands

Winning Idea: THE FLEXI-GRID (Also known as THE FISH FILTER)

Mr. Zachariassen developed a flexible sorting grid built out of tubes and ropes. Inside a trawl net, the grid sorts the targeted fish from the unwanted fish and allows unwanted fish to safely exit the net. Bycatch larger than the targeted species can swim out of an opening in front of the grid rather than being herded into the cod end and kept. Many trawlers already insert filter grids into their trawl nets to stop non-target fish getting into the end of the net. However, these are not always effective at reducing bycatch and they also lower fishing efficiency because the water flow through the grid is reduced. The grids are also often extremely heavy and cumbersome. Mr. Zachariasssen made a flexible grid which consists of small plastic tubes set on ropes. Because of the grid's flexibility, water flows through the net differently, and fewer fish become entangled in the net in front of the grid. Trials show the grid is effective at cutting bycatch of cod and saith by 95%, while the catch of the target fish (blue-whiting) is only reduced by 1%.

Mr. Zachariassen's design is a technique, known from fish farming, developed by Johnson Seafarms Ltd in Shetland, who originally created the Flexi-panel to size-sort salmon and trout in fish-gages. Mr. Zachariassen and his colleagues at the Faroese Fisheries Laboratory and the trawl factory Vonin Ltd., together with the pelagic trawlers Naeraberg and Christian i Gropinum, re-developed this panel to the flexible panel, also called the Flexi-grid.

For more information on the International Smart Gear competition visit:





Monday, April 10, 2006

First fossil of fish that crawled onto land discovered

It was one of the most important events of the last 400 million years: the moment our fishy ancestors began hauling themselves onto dry land. Now a fossil from the very beginning of that crucial transition has been found in the remote Arctic.

Palaeontologists didn't previously have a decent fossil representing the intermediate between finned fish and four-footed land animals, or tetrapods (Tetrapods evolved from lobe-finned fishes between 380 and 365 million years ago). The new animal has been named Tiktaalik.


Thursday, January 26, 2006

Smallest extra solar planet revealed by microlensing

Astronomers have found an extra solar planet that may be just 5.5 times as massive as the Earth - that would make it the smallest exoplanet ever detected around a normal star.

It orbits a common red dwarf star, 22,000 light years from the Sun and was found using a technique called gravitational microlensing.

The planet is too far from its host star - and therefore too cold - to harbour life as we know it, but the new find offers hope that there are smaller, warmer worlds out there waiting to be found.

Read the full story:

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Researchers Discover World's Smallest Fish In Sumatra

Scientists have discovered the smallest known fish on record in the peat swamps of the Indonesian island of Sumatra - in peat swamp where the water color resembles that of strong tea! Scientists had thought that little if anything could survive in such acidic peat swamps water but have been astonished to discover several species of small fish including the latest specimen, named Paedocypris progenetica. A Swiss biologist, Maurice Kottelat, and Tan Heok Hui from the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research in Singapore, discovered the fish by sieving the water of the Sumatran swamps with a fine-mesh fishing net. They sent specimens of the fish to the Natural History Museum in London where Ralf Britz, a zoologist and fish expert, identified it as a species new to science. Dr. Britz said that it was a member of the carp family.

The team said that the "tiny and bizarre" fish is also the smallest known freshwater vertebrate. Individuals of the Paedocypris genus can be just 7.9mm long at maturity, as reported by the scientists in a journal published by the UK's Royal Society. Females grow no bigger than 7.9mm (0.31in) and the male measures up to 10.3mm. The males were distinguished by having a pair of large pelvic fins which were manipulated by well-developed muscles. "This is one of the strangest fish that I've seen in my whole career. It's tiny, it lives in acid and it has these bizarre grasping fins," Dr Britz said. Adult Paedocypris fish are transparent and resemble juvenile larval fish despite being sexually mature, with males sporting the well-endowed pelvic fins.

To remain small the fish have abandoned many of the adulthood characteristics – which is hinted in their name Paedocypris progenetica. For instance, their brain lacks bony protection and the females have room to carry just a few eggs. The males have a little clasp underneath that might help them fertilize eggs individually.

Being so small, the fish can live through even extreme drought, by seeking refuge in the last puddles of the swamp; but they are now threatened by humans - because widespread forest destruction, drainage of the peat swamps for palm oil plantations and persistent fires are destroying their habitat. Paedocypris may have been discovered just in time - but many of their miniature relatives may already have become extinct.

Related stories:

Scientists find 'smallest fish'

By Roland Pease (BBC science correspondent)


Scientists find world's tiniest vertebrate: it's a real tiddler

By Mark Henderson


Scientists Discover World's Smallest Fish In Sumatra

by Axxel, January 25th 2006



Pictures of the tiny fish:





Friday, January 20, 2006

Google's way to tackle Click Fraud and Suspicious Click Patterns &

The search giant Google has always offered its many services for nothing, but the threat of click fraud may change the way it does business. Now the Mountain View company is mulling over some new plans:

* A Plan to use technology to detect suspicious click patterns
* Plan to explore new revenue streams like paid video downloads

I came across this story 'Clicking hell: the Google way to bankrupt' It goes like this:

John Carreras was once a contented Google advertiser. He used text adverts that appeared alongside searches to bring people to his trade exhibition website. He happily paid Google a few cents for every referral, believing that anyone who clicked through to his site from Google was a likely customer. But then he attended a conference in Las Vegas, and he noticed something strange: the number of Google referrals he was getting dropped dramatically, only to rise again once the conference was over.

Mr. Carreras became convinced the "missing clicks" were not from customers, but from his competitors, who had all been in Vegas along with him. He believed his unscrupulous rivals whiled away their office hours clicking on his Google ads, knowing that every tap cost him money.

If you add in a second kind of scam, where people earn themselves a little money from Google by clicking on ads they are hosting on their own sites, you can see the potential for malice. Click fraud, as it is called, is acknowledged by Google as a problem: last year, Google chief financial officer George Reyes described it as "the biggest threat to the internet economy."

While Google Labs, as the company calls its development division, turns out new products at a cracking pace, Google remains largely dependent on just one source of income: advertising. Google would never admit to being uneasy about that reliance. Why should it? Advertising is doubling the company's revenue every year, and is expected to generate almost $10 billion this year. But for all the undoubted strengths of its pay-per-click system, some worrying vulnerabilities have emerged. At the same time as it tries to combat click fraud, Google is preparing to add a second string to its money-making bow, by charging users for video downloads. It may not sound earth-shattering, but if it works, it could represent the start of chapter two in the Google story.

The problem of click fraud remains. Marissa Mayer, the company's vice-president of search products, calls it "a serious problem for us, but also a very solvable problem." In principle, the company will not charge its advertisers for clicks that are not from genuine potential customers. Typically, Google is hoping to use technology to detect suspicious click patterns.

For the Mountain View company, click fraud has the potential to become the kind of technological arms race that has been a drag on Microsoft in its battle against ever-changing security threats. Nobody knows the exact extent of it. Right now, advertisers are getting such a good return on their investment that it doesn't matter to them whether click fraud is 5 per cent or 30 per cent. But as Google advertising becomes more competitive and the level of fraud grows. There is no question that Google's ad system is still a runaway success, as Nick Mudge points out, a business idea does not have to be perfect or fool proof to work on the Internet. A business idea doesn't have to make total sense. It just has to be workable enough... Workable enough for people to take it up.

With click fraud on the radar, it is a good time for Google to explore new revenue streams. Previously, Google Video (http://video. google.com), unveiled in January last year, only offered a chance to upload and view uncopyrighted videos free - creating a jungle of thousands of weird, searchable amateur videos (try "party," "family" or "vacation" to get the flavour).

But Google is now signing up professional broadcasters, and soon users will be asked to pay for downloads. But how will users take to paying a company that has so far offered them so much for nothing? "It will be a new experience for them," admits Jennifer Feikin, director of Google Video.

Google's new interest in selling is a worrying trend for the likes of Amazon, but Mr. Battelle believes online retail is only the start of Google's commercial ambitions: "They are changing the economic presumptions of a number of industries. You can start to tick the boxes of all the information-driven, intellectual property-driven businesses in the world. And it's a very, very big bundle of businesses - the biggest bundle one can imagine."

So far, Google has remained tight-lipped about whether its video payment system will be the basis for other services.

Read more about these stories:
Clicking hell: the Google way to bankrupt your rival
[ January 20, 2006, The Sydney Morning Herald ]

Fraud nags at Google's grand strategy
[ Charles Miller, Thursday January 19, 2006, The Guardian ]

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The Disgraced cloning pioneer Woo Suk Hwang and colleagues could keep his patents

A patent application, filed by disgraced stem cell scientist Woo Suk Hwang and colleagues and based on work now admitted to be fabricated, may nevertheless be granted, a New Scientist investigation finds.

Furthermore, the filing of the application could present a substantial obstacle to anyone seeking future patents in the same field.

The application was filed on 30 December 2003 by Hwang, along with 19 other researchers at Seoul National University. SNU has publicly apologised for Hwang’s misconduct, but it has not said whether it will voluntarily abandon all patents.

Read the full story here:

Friday, January 13, 2006

How 'Guppies' got their name

In 1868, R.J Lechmere Guppy, president of the Scientific Association of Trinidad sent some specimens of a tiny tropical fish to the British museum. Since then, fish of this species have been called Guppies!

Extracted from:

The Hindu Daily (Online edition - http://www.hindu.com)
Friday, Jan 13, 2006