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SCIENCE

When Earth was a snowball...

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TORONTO - Scientists think areas of open water may have allowed early creatures to survive when most of Earth was frozen 600 million years ago.

Prof. Richard Peltier at the University of Toronto and colleagues at Texas A&M University believe that, "the extreme climates may ... have exerted pressure on the multi-celled animals to evolve and adapt, possibly leading to the rapid development of new forms of animals and their movement into new, unpopulated habitats when the Earth exited the snowball state," Peltier said.

ENVIRONMENT

Bring the whole family - and they did

CALIFORNIA - Like something out of a plot from a bad 1950s sci-fi movie, a gigantic colony of ants has invaded California from Mexico to north of San Francisco. These ants aren't 10 feet tall and they didn't come from outer space. Rather, the regular-size insects came to the US via Argentinian ships in the 1890s displacing other local ants.

How did they succeed? Argentine ants in California are much more genetically homogenous, apparently because they tend to inbreed. Ants in Argentina are much more genetically diverse. The Californian ants thus tend to form large, genetically related "supercolonies" that dominate their territory and rarely fight one another.

TECHNOLOGY

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Making computers 'lighter'

TORONTO - University of Toronto researchers affiliated with the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research say they have produced a silicon-based material that can trap light, controlling it the same way microchips control electrons.

An optical microchip would be revolutionary - potentially much faster and more efficient than electronic chips and opening up wide new possibilities for innovative technology.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society