Briefs | Centre for Science and Environment


Toxic neighbours
Happy that a petrol pump’s right next to your home? Here’s something to worry about. It has been found that if you live within a 100 metre radius of a petrol pump, you are vulnerable to cancer because of the high level of pollution. Airborne chemicals, coming mostly from unburned fuel evaporating during refilling of the stations’ storage tanks, during automobile refueling and from spillage, are to blame for this health hazard.

Data quantified
In 2002, the world began storing information digitally. Till then, three-quarters of the information was in analog form. By 2007, all but six per cent had been stored digitally. This was revealed in the first study of the world’s technological capacity to store, communicate and compute information. It tracked 60 analog and digital technologies from 1986 to 2007. In 2007, we stored 2.9 × 1020 bytes, communicated 2 × 1021 bytes, and carried 6.4 × 1018 instructions per second. General computing grew at an annual rate of 58 per cent.

Plants keep bees at bay
Collecting pollen is one of the most important tasks a bee does. Now biologists have shown that flowers use chemical defences to protect their pollen from bees. They secrete unfavourable chemicals which bees cannot withstand. Plants have a good reason to do so. Bees need enormous amounts of pollen to feed their young, which could be used for pollination. The pollen of several hundred flowers is needed to rear one single larvae. They also found that bees have physiological adaptation to survive on pollens of a certain flower. Denied pollen, they die.

Time to taste vaccines
Fed up of injections and shots? Here’s some good news. It has been found that salivary glands can act as a route through which vaccines can be administered. To make this advance, researchers studied two groups of mice. The first group was inoculated with live virus into their salivary glands and the other an inactive virus. The first group showed an increase in antibodies. The other had no immune response. When both the groups were exposed to the same virus later, only the mice immunised with an active virus had no infection.


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