`                                                                          SCIENCE REPORTER

ISSN: 0036-8512                                                                                              

VOLUME 47                                                      NUMBER    1                                      JANUARY  2010

                               Total visitors:6292 since 19-02-2010 

CONTENTS

 

COVER STORY

 

UNRAVELLING THE HUMAN GENOME: AN INDIAN BREAKTHROUGH

SUKANYA DATTA

 

8

FEATURE ARTICLES

PAINFUL POLIO

P. CHEENA CHAWLA

 

19

COMMUNICATING SCIENCE THROUGH SCIENCE BLOGS

ARVIND MISHRA

 

29

LOOK OUT FOR THE ANNULAR SOLAR ECLIPSE

SHISHIR DESHMUKH

46

SHORT FEATURE

IMAGINARY –PLAYMATES

NISHA SHEELAJ

 

52

Ecosystem Services

SHIVANI JADEJA

45

FICTION

THE LOST RACE

MANSI KWATRA

 

36

DEPARTMENTS

 

REACTIONS

6

EDITORIAL       

7

 

SPECTRUM       

16

CARTOONS

26

POINT-COUNTERPOINT

 

40

 

 

TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE

43

 

PUZZLE CORNER

50

 

LIVING FOSSILS                                                                                 

54

NATURAL HAZARDS

56

 

FUN QUIZ

58

WHAT’S NEW   

60

CROSSWORD                     

62

 

 

Science Reporter

Vol. 47, January 2010, pp 8-15

UNRAVELLING THE HUMAN GENOME: AN INDIAN BREAKTHROUGH

SUKANYA DATTA

Scientists at the Indian Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB), CSIR have successfully mapped the first complete and entirely Indian genome. The breakthrough holds potential to usher in the era of affordable and predictive healthcare.

WITH the first sequencing of the entire genome of a human being, India has finally made its way into an extremely elite Scientific Club. The only countries until now that had mapped the entire genetic material of a human being—the Human Genome—are the USA, UK, China, Canada and Korea. This giant step forward was made possible by CSIR scientists working at the Indian Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB), Delhi who used genetic matter sourced from a healthy male to present the first complete and entirely Indian genome.

This un-named Indian male is from Jharkhand and is in his early fifties, is 167 cm tall and weighs a modest 52 kg. But then, this is only the beginning. Rajesh S. Gokhale, Director, IGIB has expressed the desire to sequence ten other Indian genomes shortly.

The first Indian human genome sequencing (determining the exact order of the base pairs in a segment of DNA) not only marks a national milestone but also sets the stage for India’s entry into personal genomics, opening up new possibilities in disease diagnostics and treatment. Of course, it could take more than a decade before the fruits of this labour really start flowing in (see Interview with Dr Rajesh Gokhale). This would also open up new opportunities for affordable healthcare in India. 

 

Science Reporter

Vol. 47, January 2010, pp 19-24

PAINFUL POLIO

P. CHEENA CHAWLA

Our fight against polio ― a vaccine-preventable infectious disease ― is at its peak. Ensuring complete immunization of every child is the key to oust the deadly polio virus from our planet.

 

Children are beautiful gifts of Nature. Sheer neglect of hygiene in the early days of life can play havoc in the infant body, letting germs of a wide variety make home in the tiny organs playing a dangerous game of life and death. The aftermath of an infectious childhood illness is most appalling if survival is at the cost of living with a crippled body for whole life. This exactly happens when the deadly virus, known to cause polio, strikes!

One of the most dreaded childhood diseases, polio mostly strikes children under five years of age. What saddens most is that despite the availability of time-tested vaccines and global efforts in full swing to eradicate this disease, polio still incapacitates innocent, young lives in a few parts of the world that includes India.

Science Reporter

Vol. 47, January 2010, pp 29-33

COMMUNICATING SCIENCE THROUGH SCIENCE BLOGS

ARVIND MISHRA

A new era in science communication has begun through the creation of science blogs. Hop on to the bandwagon before you get left out and make a mark for yourself.

 

THE Internet has dramatically changed the very nature of dissemination of scientific knowledge to the common public over the past few years. Online journals like PubMed Central (http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/) and PloSBiology (http://www.plosbiology.org/home.action) have now become as respected as any print journal in the concerned fields. Moreover, now researchers do not send requests for paper reprints any more, as they can easily log on to their online libraries and download the required material.

Many search engines now bring to one's fingertips almost everything published in science practically as soon as it is published online. Google search engine is increasingly and appreciably allowing people not affiliated with big universities to find literature online. There is a growing trend of more and more journals coming up with their online editions. In this backdrop of a very varied and vast scenario of scientific activities on the Internet, the advent of science blogs heralds a new era in science communication.

 

What is a Science Blog?

There are as many definitions as there are science blogs. But in general, science blogs could be defined in two ways: by topic matter and by authority of the author. A science blog is one that always, often, or at least sometimes covers science as a topic or one that is written by a person with some expertise in science like a practicing scientist, a science student, or a science journalist.

 

Science Reporter

Vol. 47, January 2010, pp 46-48

LOOK OUT FOR THE ANNULAR SOLAR ECLIPSE

SHISHIR DESHMUKH

The annular solar eclipse on 15 January 2010 will be the biggest eclipse of its kind in this century. Obscuring a large section of the Sun for more than 11 minutes, the Moon’s reversed shadow will run from Africa to China brushing India’s southeastern edge. This golden ring eclipse belongs to a special family of solar eclipses that has a lot of such rings in its ornament box.

 

ECLIPSES are one of the most spectacular astronomical events that mesmerize people. Every year about three to four eclipses occur. For a particular area the frequency of occurrence of a total solar eclipse is 375 years and for annular eclipse it is 226 years.

However, conditions conducive to the eclipse are not rare. The conjunction of sun, moon and earth repeats after one synodic month (the duration between two consecutive new moons). It is also called a lunation. The position of the sun with respect to its node is very vital for the occurrence of the eclipse. With detailed study of lunar motion and the gradual shift of the nodes, it is found that eclipses can be repeated after one, five or six lunations. However, the positions of the sun, moon and earth change during this span. Hence, even though the eclipse is repeated, the immediately succeeding eclipse differs drastically from the earlier eclipse.

Let’s consider the similarities and differences between the eclipses so repeated.

An eclipse repeated after one lunation occurs at the same node of the moon’s orbit. One of the eclipses occurring on consecutive new moons is always a partial eclipse. One of these consecutive eclipses occurs at the south of the ecliptic and the other one occurs at the north of the ecliptic. Further, the consecutive solar eclipses are seen from different geographical areas.

Eclipses repeated after five or six lunations occur at different nodes and are seen from different geographical regions.

 

Science Reporter

Vol. 47, January 2010, pp 52-53

IMAGINARY PLAYMATES…A CHILD’S MIND GAME

NISHA SHEELAJ

 

IF you want surprises tickling your senses then start observing a child around you—especially a toddler. Children of this age are at the point of their life were things they come across do not require a logical explanation. They are free to involve the unknown and the known aspects to there capacities of understanding, which is just learning to blossom. For them making friends even with the non-living things around them—their Barbie doll or their favorite GI Joe—is not illogical at all. This is the age when you never complain, ‘I don’t have a friend’ because at this age your thoughts and imaginations are completely unshackled.

Children of the age group of 2-6 years have just begun their journey through life – they are trying to understand the complications of reality and the fantasies of fairy tales—it’s an overlapping phase. It is a part of the learning process for them—socializing, communicating, gaining a conscious mind and exploring the creative part of their minds. They tend to improvise their vocabulary and their power of imagination slowly during this phase. And so, having an imaginary playmate is fairly common among children of this age. Not that it is something to worry. On the contrary, it is assumed to have a positive effect on children's social and cognitive development.

 

Science Reporter

Vol. 47, January 2010, pp 45

 

ECOSYSTEM SERVICES

SHIVANI JADEJA

Moving through a beautiful forest brings back memories of my school days when my classmates and I visited Jambughoda Wildlife Sanctuary, in Gujarat, for a nature camp. Through various fun activities Pranav Trivedi, a fine environmental educationalist, revealed so much about the importance and uniqueness of each creature in the forest ecosystem and their interactions and contributions that helped maintain the forests.

The role of the tiny bees is especially of great importance for the survival of trees and other plants. Without these bees, our forests would not have existed the way they are now.

Many plants need bees to pollinate their flowers. A plant makes beautiful and fragrant flowers to attract bees. The flowers produce nectar, which is the reward for the bees that visit the flowers. In the process of collecting nectar the bees pollinate the flowers. Only after the flowers are pollinated the plant can form seeds.

 

Science Reporter

Vol. 47, January 2010, pp 36-38

THE LOST RACE

MANSI KWATRA

21st April 2032

It was raining.  Rose Williams was sitting in her bedroom, the French windows showing the beautiful scene outside.  However, nothing seemed good to her today; everything was so dull, so meaningless.  She had just returned home after giving her mother a tearful farewell.  Her mother, whom she loved so much, was dead; the thought stung her.  Now she was orphaned, alone.

            She looked outside the window, the raindrops falling, taking her pain away every second.  She could think clearly now.  She cursed the wounds on her mother’s body that had oozed so much blood after the car accident.  She opened the window and a sudden gust of wind washed her face.  Then out of the blue, like a thunderbolt striking a tree, the idea came to her mind. Even though she was just a 17-year-old teenager, she found her life’s aim that evening.  As she heard the clouds roar, she decided that her life will now be dedicated to create a boon that won’t let a human being die helplessly, lying in a pool of his own blood.

      Her ambition was promising but a lot was to be learned.  She was sure that her mother’s little fortune would help her to fuel her dream.  That was the easy part; at least she was financially secure.  Now, all she had to do was to find the right people to guide her.