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     Volume 5 Issue 98 | June 9, 2006 |

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Hurricanes cause ecological harm
A study by marine scientists at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and other institutions suggests effects such as enhanced growth conditions for potentially harmful algae, low oxygen levels in bottom waters, and declines in some fisheries lasted as long as three years after a storm such as 1999's Hurricane Floyd. The study leader, Hans Paerl Kenan, professor of marine and environmental sciences at UNC's Institute of Marine Sciences, said the period of elevated hurricane activity that began in 1995 added yet another stressor to waterways already affected by man-made nutrient, over-enrichment and degradation of fisheries habitat. With another above-normal hurricane season predicted for the north Atlantic this year, the study points to the need for adaptive ecosystem management approaches to accommodate these large-scale events over long time spans, said Paerl.

Don't give up sun block just yet
A U.S. dermatologist says research on a sunburn-preventing South American fern extract is very promising, but the jury's still out. The extract, Polypodium leucotomos, recently became available in the United States as a dietary supplement. Israel-based Teva Pharmaceutical Industries sells the fern extract under the brand name Heliocare. The cost is about $60 for 60 capsules. Two small but rigorous studies have shown Heliocare reduced sunburn and genetic changes that cause skin cancer. But the caution, U.S. experts say, is that the studies were funded by Industrial Farmaceutica Cantabria -- the Spanish maker of the extract sold in the United States. It's very promising, but the jury is still out says James Spencer of New York's Mount Sinai School of Medicine. In the meantime, he and others recommend that people wanting to avoid sunburn continue to use products that block the sun's ultraviolet rays.

Robot see, robot do
Tokyo University Institute of Industrial Science's painting robot "Dot-cyan" demonstrates its abilities to recognise an apple and grab a paint brush to reproduce it using watercolours, at the university's laboratory in Tokyo. Tokyo University's Professor Katsushi Ikeuchi and Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music are using the robot composed by multi-view CCD cameras and multi-fingered hands, to reproduce the whole procedure involved in painting by humans.

Strap Up and Jump Like Mario
Mario can jump four times his height, and soon so could you. The Nintendo Amusement Park is a project by three New York University students who want to create a life-size obstacle course based on Super Mario Bros. that lets players strap into a bungee system to jump 12 feet in the air, smash Goombas, collect coins and snag magic mushrooms, just like in the classic video game. The game is a product of NYU's Big Games class, which was responsible for PacManhattan, a re-creation of Pac-Man on the streets of New York. The Nintendo Amusement Park is an obstacle course navigated with a "power-assist harness" that gives players the superhuman abilities of video-game characters. "We started off with the idea of making a real-life duplicate of the game," said Noah Shibley, one of the amusement park's creators. The students say they are paying homage to the game company that inspired them, and hope Nintendo will eventually team with them to develop an advanced version of their "augmented-reality" game.

iRiver clix 2-GB Portable Media Player
The clix is a gem of a media player. The entire device is 2.7 x 1.8 x 0.6 inch with a bright, 2.2-inch, 260,000-colour display. Uncluttered by buttons or scroll wheels, this gadget has the slickest menus I've ever seen: The screen itself is a four-way rocker -- you press down on an edge to navigate. However, there's a downside to the design -- my greasy fingers had a tendency to smudge up the high-gloss screen. Sound and video playback are great though, with a clear picture and crisp, clean audio. And it supports most audio and video formats (sadly not DivX or XViD). Want more? There's a digital FM radio tuner, games, five-band EQ, Macromedia Flash player, voice recorder and alarm clock. Just don't try giving it to your prospective fiancée instead of a diamond.

A scooter that runs on air
This could sound like a load of hot air, but a mechanic in Rajasthan says he can run his scooter on air! Hari Narayan Prajapati, 35, astonished people here recently when he drove his scooter using air as fuel. He covered a distance of half a kilometre with a total of 150 pounds of air in a special fuel cylinder attached to the vehicle. Prajapati has been working on this project for the last four years. The scooter runs at a speed of 20 km per hour and can accommodate only one person. The vehicle is like a regular scooter and starts with a kick. However, the accelerator wire of the scooter is directly connected to the air fuel tank. "I have spent about Rs.150,000 on my project. Though it was a huge amount, what made it worthwhile was that I succeeded," said Prajapati.


Compiled by IMRAN H. KHAN


Source: AFP, New Scientist, Wired and Webindia123


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