SCIENCE REPORTER

ISSN: 0036-8512                                                                                              

VOLUME 47                                                      NUMBER   2                                               FEBRUARY 2010

                               Total visitors:4848 since 19-02-2010 

CONTENTS

 

COVER STORY

 

Adding Fizz to Science!

Changing Role of Science Museums & Science Centers

JAYANARAYAN PANDA & BIKASH RANJAN MOHANTY

               

8

INTERVIEW

DR G. S. RAUTELA, Director General of the National Council of Science Museums

 

14

FEATURE ARTICLES

Visit to a City of Science: PUSHPA GUJRAL SCIENCE CITY, KAPURTHALA

HASAN JAWAID KHAN

               

16

Kusum – Multipurpose Tree, Yet Not Popular

D. SAHA, R. RAMANI & B. BABOO

 

20

Secrets of Plant Pigments

DIPANJAN GHOSH

 

29

SILICON – A VERSATILE MATERIAL!

SHANKAR DUTTA  & P. DATTA

 

40

Danger Lurking Underwater!

ARUN KUMAR & N. BABU RAO

45

SHORT FEATURE

INERTIA AT WORK

IQBAL ABDUL DHALAIT

                               

53

FICTION

The Ring

V.M. Vivek Mohan

 

36

DEPARTMENTS

 

REACTIONS

6

EDITORIAL

7

 

TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE

24

CARTOONS

26

PUZZLE CORNER

50

 

LIVING FOSSILS                                                                                 

55

NATURAL HAZARDS

56

 

FUN QUIZ

58

WHAT’S NEW   

60

CROSSWORD                     

62

 

 

Science Reporter

Vol. 47, February 2010, pp 8-13

Adding Fizz to Science!

Changing Role of Science Museums & Science Centers

JAYANARAYAN PANDA & BIKASH RANJAN MOHANTY

Science museums and science centers are helping innumerable masses experience and learn science, often igniting curious minds and unleashing their creativity.

 

WANT a ride in a spacecraft? Just step into a simulator and you could whiz past planets and stars. Want to know what the dinosaurs looked like? Take a stroll in a dinosaur park with the huge animals making peculiar sounds. And if you want to know how the heart works, just step inside a life-size model of a heart and you get an idea how the blood flows. You can explore and experience all this and much more if you happen to visit any science museum or science center that your city or the nearest city boasts of.

Much of the science we read in books is hard to imagine. Think of electrons in an orbit – double helical DNA – tetrahedral carbon atom – silicon chips – nuclear reactors – eight planets – earthquakes – volcanoes – evolution – sea horses – jelly fishes – insectivorous plants… the world is awesome to experience. It becomes extremely difficult to encapsulate the innumerable scientific phenomena and processes in straight-jacketed textbooks. And, much more difficult for students to grasp the complexities associated with such phenomena.

Science museums and science centers, however, lend a helping hand, deconstructing complex ideas and explaining them through working models. Science exhibits at such places are unique resources for non-formal education helping develop skills and positive attitudes towards science. They not only give wings to our imagination but also provide a better understanding of the world around us. They are places to discover, explore, and test ideas about the natural world.

 

 

Science Reporter

Vol. 47, February 2010, pp 14-15

IN CONVERSATION

Former Director of the Nehru Science Centre, Mumbai and Science City, Kolkata, DR G. S. RAUTELA is the Director General of the National Council of Science Museums (NCSM), Ministry of Culture, Government of India. During his career spanning 33 years, he has contributed to development of science centers, hands-on and minds-on science exhibits, exhibitions and activities and non-formal science education programmes for students and teachers. In an interview with Hasan Jawaid Khan, Dr Rautela talks about the changing role of science centers and the efforts science centers and science museums are making to not only attract visitors but also to spread the culture of science among the masses.

 

Science Reporter

Vol. 47, February 2010, pp 16-19

Visit to a City of Science: PUSHPA GUJRAL SCIENCE

CITY, KAPURTHALA

HASAN JAWAID KHAN

EVER imagined your shadow could do much more than meekly following you? Well, at the Virtual Reality Gallery at the Pushpa Gujral Science City in Kapurthala you can shove balls in different directions with your shadow and even use your shadow to create intriguing music on a shadow harp! And then, walk right into a giant-size heart in the health gallery and figure out how the blood flows.

            The Pushpa Gujral Science City (PGSC) in Kapurthala is one of the biggest science cities in the country. Named after former Prime Minister I.K. Gujral's mother, the science city is a joint project of the Government of India and the Punjab Government. Established on 72 acres of land on the Jalandhar-Kapurthala road in Punjab, the doors of the Science City were thrown open to the public on 20 March 2005. Since then, more than 14 lakh visitors have visited the Science City.

Visitors to the Science City cannot help being struck by the sprawling campus with captivating and architecturally unique buildings, each housing a gallery on a particular theme. The Science Voyage Hall, designed as a spaceship, comes into view as one enters the gates of the Science City. One can also not help noticing a huge globe, which one is told has been constructed with nearly 25 lakh computer-designed tiles of differing colours.

 

Science Reporter

Vol. 47, February 2010, pp 20-22

Kusum – Multipurpose Tree, Yet Not Popular

D. SAHA, R. RAMANI & B. BABOO

Despite providing an array of benefits, the Kusum tree has not yet gained the popularity it deserves.

 

THERE are many trees that are grown for multiple products. They are known as multipurpose trees (MPTs), a term widely used in agro-forestry. While such trees provide shade, habitat for organisms, soil improvement, etc, many useful products are also obtained from them such as fruits, nuts and leaves as food as well as timber, firewood and variety of metabolic chemicals, which may be used in the form of home remedies and for traditional medicine. Thus MPTs fulfill more than one basic need of human beings and have a high impact on food and health security of farmers, especially those living in and around the rural and forest areas.

Schleichera oleosa (Lour.) Oken, commonly known as lac tree or kusum, is a forest tree species of tropical and subtropical region. The tree is utilized for multifarious purposes and is a boon for a subsistence farmer. The extended foliage and canopy of the kusum tree provides good shade and is suitable for mixed farming with other heat susceptible economic plants.

The tree is commonly known to host lac insects (Kerria lacca Kerr.) for production of natural, biodegradable and commercially important lac resins that serve as a livelihood support to millions of poor farmers in states like Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal. Various plant parts of kusum are either a favorite pick of traditional vaids for indigenous therapies and medicine or a source of food, animal feed, timber and oil. Oil and timber are utilized in small-scale industries. The kusum tree is also grown as an avenue tree or wayside tree.

 

 

Science Reporter

Vol. 47, February 2010, pp 29-33

Secrets of Plant Pigments

DIPANJAN GHOSH

Colours of higher plant organs depend largely on the pigments they contain. These pigments are not only responsible for the beautiful colours we observe around us, they are also integral to the survival of the plants and life on earth too. 

 

THE world is like a colour box with waves of colours everywhere. The radiance of colour we see in and around our mundane life is bestowed on us mostly by the magnanimity of plants.  The greenery of leaves and tender stems soothe our eyes. The withered yellow and red leaves fallen on the ground mark the onset of autumn. Come spring and the surroundings are bedecked with flowers of various shades. Colourful strawberries and apples are visually appealing. But pigments in plants do much more than just help plants perform aesthetic functions.

            We all know that photosynthesis is the first step in the food chain that connects all living organisms.  Plants use chlorophyll to covert sunlight into energy they can store in simple sugar during photosynthesis.  The concocted food is later utilized by plants to run different life processes. 

Pigments also play a significant role in pollination as well as propagation.  A flower may be rendered conspicuous by the bright colour of its petals or perianth (floral parts not differentiated into sepals and petals) and thus attracts certain insects.  However, majority of the compound-eye insects are bichromatic and they have just two types of colour pigment receptors.  Their colour spectrum is limited and blue shifted compared to ours.  Honeybees are trichromatic—they have three types of pigment receptors like us.  They can distinguish a wider spectrum and that is why honeybees visit various coloured flowers to fetch honey and are mostly involved in pollination.  Red colour is invisible to insects while they can see ultraviolet light and so insects distinguish flower colour different from humans.  Some butterflies are also successful pollinators as they are able to distinguish flower colour like honeybees.

 

Science Reporter

Vol. 47, February 2010, pp 40-42

 

SILICON – A VERSATILE MATERIAL!

SHANKAR DUTTA  & P. DATTA

Silicon is one of man’s most useful elements. Its applications extend from the IC industry to biology and solar cells.

THE ability to fabricate tens of millions of individual components (diodes, transistors etc.) on a minute silicon chip has enabled the modern information age. Now a days the essence of this silicon IC technology is almost a household word.

The word ‘Silicon’ originated from silicium (Latin), meaning what was more generally termed as "the flints" or "Hard Rocks". It is an abaundant non-metallic element found throughout the Universe. On earth, silicon is one of the most common elements after oxygen and carbon.  It was first discovered as an element by a Swedish chemist named Jacob Berzelius in 1824. He prepared amorphous (non-crystalline) silicon through the heating of sodium (Na) and silicon-tetrafluoride (SiF4). The first crystalline silicon was prepared by Henry Sainte-Claire Deville in 1854. But the popularity of silicon blossomed with the invention of the silicon Integrated Circuit (IC) – a revolutionary concept in the field of electronics.

Only a small portion of the total silicon consumption is used up in IC technology. Silicon finds application in many areas starting from steel, alloys, bronzes, solar cell, MEMS to the biomedical sector. Additionally, silicon-based fertilizers have been proved to have plant susceptibility to fight diseases. 

 

Science Reporter

Vol. 47, February 2010, pp 45-48

 

Danger Lurking Underwater!

ARUN KUMAR & N. BABU RAO

The submarine is a deadly danger lurking underwater for enemy ships. But it could be equally lethal for the crew manning it. The Defence Bioengineering & Electromedical Laboratory  (DEBEL) based in Bangalore has come up with an indigenous Submarine Escape Set that has come up to the expectations of the Indian Navy.

 

A submariner once remarked – “What goes up, always comes down, but what goes down may not always come up.”  Obviously he was referring to the submarine, which has its operational abode under water.  His apprehensions are quite understandable considering the lethal and hazardous nature of underwater environment.  Life protection and life support systems become the primary concerns for safety of personnel engaged in underwater operations.

            The submarine is a hydroplane with tremendous operational capabilities under water and is fundamentally designed to serve the needs of defence personnel although it is also used for civilian purposes like research, underwater exploration, oil and gas platform inspection and pipeline surveys and tourism.

            The concept of submarine development surfaced in the late nineteenth century and was probably influenced by the famous science fiction novel 20,000 leagues under the Sea published by Jules Verne in 1870.  The novel tells about the adventures of Prof Pierre Aronnax and his friends aboard the Nautalis, an electrically powered submarine built by Captain Nemo.  Interestingly, some of the author’s ideas in the book became a reality with the development of high speed nuclear and diesel submarines, which are currently being used for secret underwater operations.  The author also seemed to have a faint idea of the military use of submarines and the danger they pose to warships, as was evident from the crippling damage inflicted on British ships by the German U-Boats in the two World Wars.

 

 

Science Reporter

Vol. 47, February 2010, pp 53-54

INERTIA AT WORK

IQBAL ABDUL DHALAIT

YOU have probably seen a magician pull a tablecloth off a table without upsetting any of the table settings. You may not have tried this trick yourself with your family’s dishes and glasses because of fear breaking the costly fragile utensils. The magician performing this trick wasn’t really using magic. He or she just had a good understanding of a scientific principle called Inertia. It is the property of matter by which an object continues in its existing state of rest or uniform motion in a straight line, unless that state is changed by an external force.

You may want to try some simple experiments that will help you understand inertia and how that magic trick works.

 

 

 

Science Reporter

Vol. 47, February 2010, pp 36-39

 

THE RING

V.M. VIVEK MOHAN

            Zackron,” he said, shaking my hand warmly, “Glad to meet you.”

            It was on the flight from Mumbai to Cairo.  I was seated next to the window and, as usual, was taking quite a bit of interest in the sights below.

            “Beautiful view, isn’t it?” asked the man next to me, “I see quite a lot of that.”

            “You travel often?” I asked.

            “You could say that,” he replied, with a mysterious glint in his eye.

            We were soon deep in conversation, as if we had known each other for years.  A friendship was struck and before we knew it, the plane was touching down on the tarmac at Cairo.

            “I guess we part ways here,” I said as he hailed a cab outside the terminal, after having exchanged contact numbers.

            “Yeah,” he grunted as he loaded his luggage in the cab.

            “I want you to have this, as a token of our friendship,” he said, producing a small box.

            “What is it?” I asked, opening it.

            It was a silver ring. I was speechless.

            “Who knows what adventures you’ll have with it,” he said with that glint in his eye. 

            And then, he was gone.

            I tried to contact him on numerous occasions later, but without success.