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,,25689-2008448,00.html

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., 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 -
Friday, Jan 13, 2006