July 2014

Kiran Musunuru Vaccination against heart attacks: Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI) scientists collaborating with researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have developed a "genome-editing" approach for permanently reducing cholesterol levels in mice through a single injection, a development that could reduce the risk of heart attacks in humans by 40 to 90 percent. Read more ....

Electric eel 'Shocking' truth: Scientists have found how the electric fish evolved its jolt. Writing in the journal Science, a team of researchers led by Michael Sussman of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Harold Zakon of the University of Texas at Austin and Manoj Samanta of the Systemix Institute in Redmond, Washington identifies the regulatory molecules involved in the genetic and developmental pathways that electric fish have used to convert a simple muscle into an organ capable of generating a potent electrical field. Read more ....

Football Football physics: It happens every four years: The World Cup begins and some of the world's most skilled players carefully line up free kicks, take aim - and shoot way over the goal. The players are all trying to bend the ball into a top corner of the goal, often over a wall of defensive players and away from the reach of a lunging goalkeeper. Yet when such shots go awry in the World Cup, a blame game usually sets in. Players, fans, and pundits all suggest that the new official tournament ball, introduced every four years, is the cause. Read more .....

Penguins Warming and penguins: A study of how penguin populations have changed over the last 30,000 years has shown that between the last ice age and up to around 1,000 years ago penguin populations benefitted from climate warming and retreating ice. This suggests that recent declines in penguins may be because ice is now retreating too far or too fast. Read more ....

Football Splendid kick-off: On June 12, during the opening of the FIFA 2014 World Cup in Brazil, a paralyzed person wearing a brain-controlled robotic exoskeleton made the first kick of the football championship. For those who were watching the opening ceremony on television sets, it was a fleeting glimpse. Read more ....

Making rain

I am a blockhead. My teachers at school told me I would never be able to do anything substantial in life; I have done justice to their prophecy.

But my brother, older than me by four years, is just the opposite - he has loads and loads of grey matter. He always received merit cards in school for excelling in science, mathematics and other subjects. I received a merit card only once - when I was in the third grade; merit card for "Good Behaviour". Although a blockhead, I had enough wisdom not to open my mouth un-necessarily or do something to attract the attention of the teachers for fear of punishment; the school thought that was "good behaviour".

I think my earliest peek into my brother's repository of grey matter was when I was seven years old and he eleven.

Mother had sent brother to buy something from the market and I followed him in the hope of getting a share of candies if he could manage to buy some.

As we made our way to the market, we saw a group of children encircling a roadside magician (you don't get to see them nowadays).

Curious to know what was going on, we joined the crowd. The magician was "making rain"! He held a tin can in his hand, and when he uttered the words "rains start", water spurted out from the bottom of the can. When he said "rains stop", the water stopped pouring. For a kid of my age that was simply amazing.

I looked at my brother; he had a cynical smile playing on his lips. He went up to the magician and demanded to be shown the can. The magician refused. The tin can, he said, had to be handled only by the right persons; if touched by anybody else, it would lose its magical properties.

When we returned home, I began excitedly telling mother what I had seen. Brother had disappeared and was nowhere in sight. He appeared even as I was in the midst of recounting my tale. Brother held a tin can in his hand, and when he said "rains start" water poured out and when he said "rains stop" the water obeyed. I could only gape at him in astonishment.

Of course, brother, unlike the magician, was more than willing to tell me how the trick worked. He had obtained a small can with the lid fitting tight. He had punched a hole in the centre of the lid and a number of holes at the bottom. He kept his thumb pressed on the hole in the lid after filling the can with water. All that he had to do to cause the "rains" was to remove his thumb from the hole; when he wanted to stop the "rains" he had to cover the hole again. The words "rains start" and "rains stop" were mere mumbo jumbo.

That was simple science, with atmospheric pressure really "performing the magic". But, as I said, I was a blockhead who was more interested in witnessing the magic rather than probe into the causes. So, I did not ask my brother how the trick actually worked; it is years later that I learned about atmospheric pressure.

Anyway, next day brother was sent to the market once again, and I followed him. Brother carried his magical tin can with him, and he made it to the spot where the roadside magician had performed his tricks. But the magician was nowhere in sight; he was a prudent magician who never performed his magic at the same place more than once!

Some useful links for
your career:

  • Union Public Service Commission - www.upsc.gov.in
  • IIT-Kharagpur - www.iitkgp.ac.in
  • Indian Statistical Institute - www.isical.ac.in
  • Indian Institute of Technology Madras - www.iitm.ac.in
  • Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad - www.iimahd.ernet.in
  • Indian Institute of Mass Commission - www.iimc.nic.in
  • IIT Bombay - www.iitb.ac.in
  • Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad - www.ismdhanbad.ac.in
  • Birla Institute of Technology, Ranchi - www.bitmesra.ac.in
  • Central Institute of Fisheries Nautical and Engineering Training - www.cifnet.nic.in
  • Indian Institute of Information Technology, Allahabad (Deemed University) - www.iiita.ac.in
  • Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute, Kochi - www.cmfri.com
  • Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai - www.tiss.edu

DISCLAIMER: The contents of this website are for informational purposes only. Although due care is taken, the correctness and accuracy cannot be guaranteed. The science and medical research articles are for informational purposes only, aimed at kindling an interest in science. They are not intended to provide any kind of advice.