SCIENCE REPORTER

ISSN: 0036-8512                                                                                              

VOLUME 47                                                      NUMBER   7                                             JULY  2010

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CONTENTS

 

COVER STORY

 

Measuring Rainfall

K.V. BALASUBRAMANIAN

8

FEATURE ARTICLES

“Connect to Decode”

A New Paradigm of Doing Science

SUKANYA DATTA

 

19

Harnessing Hidden Hunger

SHARMISTHA BARTHAKUR

 

32

Malicious Malaria
P. CHEENA CHAWLA

 

40

Defence Weaponry against Mosquitoes 

NATASHA DAS

 

47

Kiwifruit:  Miracle Berry

S. LAL, N. AHMED, S.R. SINGH, D.B. SINGH, J.I. MIR & R. KUMAR

 

 

52

INTERVIEW

“India is a very promising country with an emerging economy”: HE Mr. Koji Omi

ANUJ SINHA

 

 

26

SHORT FEATURE

Curbing A Menace

BISWA RANJAN MAHARANA & MANJIT

PANIGRAHI

45

FICTION

TIME THIEF

Shripad Dharkar

 

36

DEPARTMENTS

 

REACTIONS

6

EDITORIAL       

7

 

SPECTRUM       

16

TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE

24

POINT-COUNTERPOINT

39

PUZZLE CORNER

50

 

LIVING FOSSILS

55

 

NATURAL HAZARDS

 

56

FUN QUIZ

58

WHAT’S NEW    

60

CROSSWORD                    

62

 

 

 

Science Reporter

Vol. 47, July 2010, pp 8-15

Measuring Rainfall

K.V. BALASUBRAMANIAN

Measuring rainfall forms a very important input for the economic planning of the country. But there is a whole lot of scientific work and periodic maintenance that goes into making this activity a reality.

When the first showers of the monsoon give respite from the sweltering heat, the first thing you do is smell the earthy flavour wafting through to your nose. You might also want to catch a few drops on your palm or perhaps get drenched in the pouring rain. But why would someone want to measure the rainfall? Is it important?

Well, the oceans hold 97% of the earth’s water (which is saline), while 2% is available frozen in ice caps.  Deep ground water accounts for 0.31%.  The remaining 0.69% of water is only available for the humanity.  The main source of this small amount of water is precipitation in the form of rain or snow. So, measurement of this precipitation (rainfall/snowfall) becomes absolutely necessary since it forms a very important input for the economic planning of a country.

 

 

Science Reporter

Vol. 47, July 2010, pp 19-22

“Connect to Decode”

A New Paradigm of Doing Science

SUKANYA DATTA

C2D demonstrates the power of people to connect through the Internet, particular young people, and accomplish complex research tasks. This exercise has provided a large number of clues towards obtaining a comprehensive view of the microbes as a whole, producing several testable hypotheses that can now be verified in the laboratory.

Almost at the dawn of its creation in 2008, the Open Source Drug Discovery (OSDD) http://www.osdd.net programme, which is a CSIR-led Team India consortium with global partnership, had identified Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) as its first target. The reason is not far to seek. With a history going back to prehistoric times, TB has stalked the Earth for millennia, claiming Pharaohs of ancient Egypt as well as Poets of contemporary times. However, despite all our grand advances in science we have failed to wipe it off the face of the globe.

Fortuitously for us, however, the IT-revolution in the early days of the twenty-first century has powered Genomics research such that looking at genomes has become easier.  Rational drug discovery hinges on knowing the best target to attack, the best pathway to exploit and to do so while wasting a minimum of resources, including time. Knowing the genome is now the first step to knowing how to control a pathogen.

 

Science Reporter

Vol. 47, July 2010, pp 26-29

“India is a very promising country with an emerging economy”: HE Mr. Koji Omi

 

Mr. KOJI OMI is a key figure in the field of science and technology in Japan. He has served in various capacities in the ministry of International Trade and Industry. He has been a member of the House of Representatives for eight terms and a Cabinet Minister with different portfolios. He promoted the founding of the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology, an international and interdisciplinary graduate university. He also founded the Science and Technology in Society (STS) forum with the aim of building a worldwide network among scientists, policymakers and business people.

Mr. Koji Omi visited India during March 2010 and met political and economic leaders, academicians and left with high hopes of cooperation between the two countries. Er. ANUJ SINHA, Consultant, Department of Science & Technology, Govt. of India and Director, Vigyan Prasar interacted with Mr. Koji Omi, during his visit to India.

 

Science Reporter

Vol. 47, July 2010, pp 30-31

The Case of the Aging Nukes

M.S.S. MURTHY

 

AFTER the nuclear weapon tests by India and Pakistan in 1998, no other country has conducted such tests except North Korea in recent years. Most of the nuclear weapon countries have declared “no first use” moratorium. They deploy nuclear weapons only as a deterrent. Under such circumstances, the reliability of the weapon has to be more than 100 per cent to ensure the desired deterrence and also provide national security. However, there is a problem. Some of these warheads are more than 30 years old. Like all engineered systems, nuclear weapons also age and this puts a question mark on their reliability.

No system is engineered to sit inactive for years or decades and still be able to spring into action in just a few moments notice. It cannot happen with a car, a TV or even a bicycle. However, that is what is expected of a nuclear weapon.

 

Science Reporter

Vol. 47, July 2010, pp 32-34

Harnessing Hidden Hunger

SHARMISTHA BARTHAKUR

 

In spite of being one of the world’s largest food producers, India has the highest number of malnourished people in the world, accounting for one third of 2 billion people worldwide suffering from these deficits. The need of the hour is to work towards supplementing the Indian diet with adequate micronutrients in an affordable way to achieve health and prosperity for all.

Reports of a looming global food crisis and high food prices have brought India also into the ring albeit this time the other way round, courtesy improved diet of Indians. The hunger in the country may have been reined in but we are still grappling with providing adequate nourishment for all. There is a huge difference between hunger (caloric intake of less than 2100 Kcal) and malnutrition (lack of essential nutrients).

 

Science Reporter

Vol. 47, July 2010, pp 40-44

Malicious Malaria
P. CHEENA CHAWLA

The challenge is to develop a safe and effective malaria vaccine but till then save yourselves from a mosquito bite and take timely treatment if malaria is detected.

Come summer and then rains, the terror unleashed by mosquitoes gets into full gear. The aftermath of a scratchy, painful bite of a mosquito could be traumatic, if the biting insect harbors the highly infective forms of a deadly bug called Plasmodium — the malarial parasite. So much so, if left untreated, there may occur severe life-threatening complications that often kill the victim.

This happens in most tropical regions of the world particularly Asia, Africa, Central and South America, where malaria is rampant and people are brutally exposed to the compromised health conditions. On a worldwide scale more than 250 million cases of malaria occur every year, out of which about a million victims die mostly young children in sub-Saharan Africa.

 

Science Reporter

Vol. 47, July 2010, pp 45-46

Curbing A Menace

 BISWA RANJAN MAHARANA & MANJIT PANIGRAHI

 

SINCE time immemorial millions and millions of people have been dying due to the menacing activity of a moving bombshell that transmits some of the world’s worst life threatening and devastating diseases. This living jeopardy had once become the nightmare of one of the greatest scientists, Sir Ronald Ross (Nobel prize winner for Physiology in the year 1902). It is none other than the deadly mosquito.

Mosquitoes transmit many parasitic and viral diseases like Malaria, Chikungunya, Dengue, Filariasis, Westnile fever etc that are on the rise in many tropical and subtropical countries. Over the past few decades efforts have been made to develop mosquito control strategies by targeting the larval or the adult stages and use of biological agents and genetic engineering techniques against the disease-transmitting mosquitoes.

 

Science Reporter

Vol. 47, July 2010, pp 47-48

 

Defence Weaponry against Mosquitoes

NATASHA DAS

What’s your defence against mosquitoes? Mosquito repellent mats, creams, sprays, and nets... Has it ever crossed your mind that the nation’s Defence Research and Development Organization, or the DRDO as we know it, is also working towards defending you from mosquitoes?

DRDO has made significant contributions to India’s strategic defence system over the last five decades. It often awes us with its contributions to the development of missiles such as Agni, Prithvi, Akash and Nag or the majestic battle tank Arjun. But the organization’s efforts are not limited to the development of arms and armament systems. Some spinoff benefits of DRDO’s efforts have found immense use for the society at large. One such line of research has helped provide defence against mosquitoes...one of man’s deadliest enemies.

 

Science Reporter

Vol. 47, July 2010, pp 52-54

 

Kiwifruit:  Miracle Berry

S. LAL, N. AHMED, S.R. SINGH, D.B. SINGH, J.I. MIR & R. KUMAR

 

REFRESHING, delicate flavour with pleasing aroma, and high nutritive value are the hallmarks of the ripe kiwi fruit. The kiwifruit (Actinidia deliciosa) or Chinese gooseberry is also popularly known as ‘China Miracle Fruit’ and ‘The Horticultural Wonder of New Zealand’. It is a large, woody, deciduous vine native to the Yangtze Valley of China and was introduced into India in the 1960s.

Approximately 84% of the world production is contributed by China, Italy, New Zealand, and Chile. In India, the area under this fruit is negligible. The average experimental farm productivity of kiwifruit in our country is about 25 tonnes/ha as compared to New Zealand’s 28.63 tonn/ha.

 

Science Reporter

Vol. 47, July 2010, pp 36-38

Time Thief

Shripad Dharkar

 

There was a hoarse cry from the man as he slumped helplessly on a chair.  It seemed as if he had lost all his energy.  Inspector Rane was looking at him with unbelieving eyes.  Slowly and slowly the man was changing.  His beautiful hair was falling about him, balding him.  The hair on his nape was graying.  His eyes, going inside their sockets were getting smaller and smaller.  Wrinkles on his forehead, cheeks shrunk.  His well-built body receded – his clothes hanging loose.  He looked like a man more than fifty.

                “Why, you look old!  What happened to you all of a sudden!” cried his wife.

                Inspector Rane was looking at him astounded, as if he were seeing a horror film.  Humans attain old age slowly over many years in a dignified way, but getting old all of a sudden – in a matter of minutes – and that too old by twenty years in such an unbelievably short time was a most unlikely happening. But it was all happening before him!