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     Volume 4 Issue 38 | March 18, 2005 |

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Life is a Lottery
You haven't inherited all your mother's genes have you? She's quite different from you in some respects. Of course you've only got half of her complete set of chromosomes - but which half? It's a lottery that's drawn when the chromosome pairs line up before division. The new egg cells could receive either member of each chromosome pair and the selection is random. That leads to a staggering 8, 388, 608 possible combinations of the different chromosomes. You just don't know which of mum's genes are coming your way. The shuffling of chromosomes before they are halved in the egg production factory is only half of the story in terms of the shuffling of genes that goes on as they are handed down through families. Before chromosomes are distributed into a sperm or an egg, genes are shuffled between matching chromosome pairs in a process known as recombination. Because of recombination, every chromosome in every sperm and egg contains a unique mixture of genes.

Microsoft Clock
Microsoft has taken an idea straight from the pages of the Harry Potter novels by inventing a "clock" that can pinpoint the exact location of everyone in a household. The futuristic device that uses satellite technology to track down people and then transmits the information back to a wall clock has words such as "home", "work" and "school" on its face instead of numbers. The Microsoft gadget that was unveiled at the Seattle-based Company's annual in-house science show is not expected to be widely available for several years. But the company said it could eventually be used by parents to keep track of their children.

Short Index Finger links to Aggression
The length of a man's fingers can reveal how physically aggressive he is, a new research has said. According to researchers at the University of Alberta, if the index finger is shorter than the ring finger, then the man will be more boisterous. This is the conclusion scientists arrived at after studying 300 people's fingers. There is known to be a direct correlation between finger lengths and the amount of male hormone testosterone a baby is exposed to in the womb. Among women, the two fingers are usually almost equal in length, as measured from the crease nearest the palm to the fingertip while in men the ring finger tends to be longer than the index. In the current study, scientist Peter Hurd found men with the shortest index fingers scored higher on measures of physical aggression than those with longer index fingers. Hurd is now looking at male hockey players to see if there is any correlation between finger lengths and each player's penalty record for contact and fouling during matches.

Scientists May Have Found First Dark Galaxy
Radio astronomers might have stumbled upon the first galaxy composed of dark matter or still invisible matter that scientists believe most of the universe is made of. The so-called "dark galaxy" is located in the Virgo cluster about 50 million light years away from the Earth and rotating in a way similar to regular galaxies made of visible matter but it has no stars. The discovery made by astronomers from Cardiff University in collaboration with Italian scientists is to be published next month. It was detected with the help of radio astronomy techniques that have recently been used to observe complex structures such as galaxies made of gas instead of stars. The dark matter is named due to the fact that it absorbs rather than emits radiation. The only proof of its existence is the gravitational pull that it exerts on the visible matter. Astronomers believe the universe contains about five percent visible matter, 25 percent dark matter and 70 percent dark energy.

Chicken Learn Tricks while Pigs Cheat
Farm animals may be dumb but they are definitely not stupid. While the humble hen can master complex tricks, sheep have been found to react to facial expressions and, like humans, seem to prefer a smile to a grimace, research has said. Findings offer compelling evidence that creatures caricatured as mindlessly dumb can actually feel emotions usually associated with humans - such as jealousy, love and loss. Scientists at the Babraham Institute in Cambridge have discovered that sheep possess a sharp sense of individuality and can remember the faces of at least 10 people and 50 other sheep for at least two years. Further studies, which involved tests, show that sheep mourn absent individuals, reinforcing the notion that they are more like humans than previously believed. Researchers have found that pigs were found to have a cerebral capacity beyond popular preconception. They were found to be masters of deceit, deliberately misleading other pigs if it would result in more food for them. Chicken, however, command an extraordinary degree of self-control over food. They are willing to delay gratification if they think a larger portion will be offered in due course. Other research found that the chicken boast a greater sense of spatial awareness than young children and also proved that they could learn tricks such as opening doors and navigating mazes with a speed usually seen in dogs and horses. Similarly the cow, often viewed by modern society as little more than a benign food source, has also shown to be an astute animal capable of solving riddles with an intellect traditionally more associated with an ape. The reputation of parrots as purveyors of a broad vocabulary has been reinforced with one study that saw a grey parrot mastering 1,000 words and learnt to communicate in a manner that would shame some British adults. Similarly, new evidence suggests that fish earlier known to have a three-second memory, can be highly manipulative and cultured. Elephants can make graves by breaking branches to cover their dead colleagues. They also have a large hippocampus, the part of the brain that stores mental maps.

Source: The BBC and Webindia/23

Compiled by: Imran H. Khan

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