SCIENCE REPORTER

ISSN: 0036-8512                                                                                              

VOLUME 47                                                      NUMBER    6                                              JUNE 2010

Total visitors:5535 since 07-06-2010

CONTENTS

 

COVER STORY

 

THE KILLING FIELDS OF ALANG!

PRAKASH KUMBHARE & ARINDAM GHOSH

 

 

8

FEATURE ARTICLES

Flying into Volcanic Ash!

BIMAL SRIVASTAVA

 

 

 

19

Radiation Alert!

K.T. THOMAS KANNAMPALLIL

 

22

Polluting Rays Strike Out

SHREERUP GOSWAMI

27

Green Computing

L.K. PANDA, S.P. SAHOO, D. PRADHAN & R.B. PANDA

 

 

31

Plastics from Plants

ARVINDER  SINGH 

 

44

PLASTICS—BOON OR BANE?

S. AANAND & M. KATHIRESON

46

SHORT FEATURE

Eroding Beaches in West Bengal

A.K. MONDAL, S. PARUI, N. DAS, A. MANDAL, P.K. DAS, T. CHAKRABORTY, D. BHUNIA, & B. SASMAL

 

 

53

 

FICTION

My Last Wish

ANKIT PRATAP SINGH

 

36

DEPARTMENTS

 

REACTIONS

6

EDITORIAL       

7

 

SPECTRUM       

16

POINT-COUNTERPOINT

39

 

 

TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE

42

PUZZLE CORNER

50

 

BOOK REVIEW

52

 

LIVING FOSSILS                                                                                 

55

NATURAL HAZARDS

56

 

FUN QUIZ

58

WHAT’S NEW   

60

CROSSWORD                    

62

 

 

Science Reporter

Vol. 47, June 2010, pp 8-14

The Killing Fields of Alang!

PRAKASH KUMBHARE & ARINDAM GHOSH

India’s ship breaking industry is vital for its economy but unsafe for the environment and more so for the health of the workers. Strict monitoring and regulation and incorporation of best practices and environmentally sound technologies can retrieve the situation.

In April this year six people were killed as a massive fire broke out in Plot No. 27 at the Alang ship-breaking yard in Gujarat.  The six people were dismantling a ship from which too much oil leaked into the sea. Soon the ship caught fire and the six unfortunate workers were charred to death.

            But this is not the first time that such tragic incidents have happened at Alang, one of the world’s biggest and busiest ship-breaking yards.  Besides, apart from deaths and injuries, the devastation caused to the health of those working in close proximity of potentially hazardous materials on ships is anybody’s guess.  And then one has also to grapple with the huge environmental cost. Alang was once a pristine beach before it was turned into a death yard.

 

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Science Reporter

Vol. 47, June 2010, pp 19-22

Flying into volcanic ash!

BIMAL SRIVASTAVA

The recent volcanic eruption in Iceland shut down several airports in much of Europe. Clouds of volcanic ash could pose dangers for flying aircraft.

There is no place in the world where you can see a combination of volcanic eruptions and glaciers, except of course, Iceland. The spectacle was on display in full flow in the middle of April recently. On 14 April 2010, volcanic ash clouds drifting from Iceland's spewing volcano under the Eyjafjallajokull glacier (situated in Southern Iceland) forced closure of air space over northern Europe. It was the second time in less than a month that the volcano under the Eyjafjallajokull glacier erupted and the first major eruption since 1821, since when it has lain dormant.

The expelling dust and ash made it extremely difficult for operation of aviation traffic, and the phase of low visibility continued to trouble British airlines for the next few days. The 10-km-high plume of ash affected millions of air travellers, with much of Europe shutting its airports, including Britain, Ireland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Belgium. The worst affected was the British Aviation Industry, as all flights to Heathrow Airport in London came to a total halt. Germany and France closed some of their major airports. The number of flights cancelled worldwide was about 6000.

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Science Reporter

Vol. 47, June 2010,  pp 23-25

Radiation Alert!

K.T. THOMAS KANNAMPALLIL

The recent incidence of radiation exposure in a New Delhi scrap market raised serious concerns. What happens in cases of such radiation exposure?

The recent radiation leak reported from a scrap shop in the Mayapuri industrial area in New Delhi left almost 10 people with burn injuries caused due to radiation from a radioactive material Cobalt-60. Twelve people, including policemen and residents of nearby areas, were also sent to New Delhi-based Institute of Nuclear Medicine and Allied Sciences (INMAS) to undergo investigations to detect whether they had been exposed to radiation.

            While those directly exposed and suffering from severe symptoms were rushed to hospitals, crowds of people thronged the vicinity of the scrap market to take a look at the site of radiation exposure—little knowing that they were exposing themselves to harmful radiation. In general, it has been seen that awareness about radiation damage to humans is still very low.   

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Science Reporter

Vol. 47, June 2010,  pp 26-30

POLLUTING RAYS STRIKE OUT

SHREERUP GOSWAMI

We are generally concerned about what we can feel and observe—photochemical smog, hazardous substances, industrial effluents, polluted water bodies, ruthless deforestation, dirty solid wastes and unhygienic bio-medical wastes. But we are more intimately and persistently affected by invisible electromagnetic rays.

Electromagnetic fields have always been part of the earth's environment. The pressure and temperature of the core of the interior of the earth are assumed to be over three million atmospheres and around 6000oC respectively, and the ionosphere is an electrically charged layer of the atmosphere. Thus resonances occur between the earth's molten iron-nickel core and the charged gases of the ionosphere.

These pulses at definite frequencies (between 0.1 and 25Hz; mostly at about 10Hz), act as regulators for the biological time clocks of all living creatures. If man, or any animal or plant is totally shielded from these fields for any length of time, the result is discomfort and even death. It has recently been shown that even each cell division is timed according to these pulses. However, anything too much is bad for us.

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Science Reporter

Vol. 47, June 2010, pp 31-34

Green Computing

Lokesh Kumar Panda, Sharada Prasad Sahoo, Devadatta Pradhan & R.B. Panda

The mushrooming growth of IT industries worldwide is slowly poisoning the environment. The need of the hour is for both governments and the corporate world to join hands to usher in more green computing solutions.

Green computing is the art of utilizing computing resources in an efficient and eco-friendly manner. In recent years, this practice has drawn serious attention both from environmental organizations and the corporate world. In the current trend, “going green” becomes an agenda for the IT industries in terms of public relations and reduced costs. Green computing focuses on the triple bottom line of economic viability, social responsibility, and environmental impact. It differs from traditional business practices that focus mainly on economic viability of a computing solution.

Green computing is one of the latest fads in the digital domain. Often, it’s dressed up as corporate responsibility and used as a marketing tool. Corporate computer-users may talk about reducing their “carbon-footprints” to slow global warming, but what they really mean is finding a way to slash their electricity bills.

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Science Reporter

Vol. 47, June 2010, pp 44-45

Plastics From Plants

Arvinder  Singh 

Researchers are turning toward plants as being a potentially cheaper and more convenient method of producing renewable, biodegradable plastics.

The slow biodegradation rates of plastic materials have created a need for alternative materials with physical and industrial properties similar to petrochemical derived plastics but well biodegradable. Bioplastics are natural polymers synthesized and catabolized by various microorganisms and accumulate in microbial cells under stress conditions.

Unlike petroleum-based plastics, bioplastics are eliminated from our biosphere in an environment friendly fashion. These can be conventionally managed and recycled, landfilled, or incinerated so that neither leaves plastic litter nor leads to depletion of our finite resources (fossil fuels). Moreover, these are helpful in reducing carbon footprints by as much as 40%.  

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Science Reporter

Vol. 47, June 2010, pp 46-48

Plastics – Boon or Bane?

S. Aanand & M. Kathireson

Human life appears to be inseparable from the world of plastics for the immense benefits of this versatile, man-made material. A judicious use of this material is, however, imperative as the non-biodegradability of plastics poses a serious threat to our environment.

Found everywhere in different forms – plates, mugs, garden hose, cars, fans, children’s toys and in plethora of electronic gadgets – plastics seem to have inundated our lives with innumerable items on which we all unconsciously depend most of the time. The word, ‘plastic’ is a household name, derived from the words ‘plasticus’ (Latin) or ‘plastikos’ (Greek) that simply means, ‘being able to mould’.

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Science Reporter

Vol. 47, June 2010, pp 53-54

Eroding Beaches in West Bengal

Amal Kumar Mondal, Sanjukta Parui, Natasha Das, Asim Mandal, Pijush Kanti Das, Tamal Chakraborty, Debashis Bhunia, & Babulal Sasmal

 

One of the most popular sea resorts of West Bengal, Digha, is fast becoming a victim of soil erosion. Massive coastal erosion, to the extent of 15 to 20 metres a year, has led to loss of land and property. Digha, which has nearly 400 hotels to accommodate the great rush of tourists round the year (over 16 lakh tourists every year), has almost reached a saturation point.

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Science Reporter

Vol. 47, June 2010, pp 36-38

 

My Last Wish

Ankit Pratap Singh

It was June 5, 2025.  Sunny was attending the funeral ceremony of a total stranger, Mr. Eric Rockwood in Sydney, Australia.

“After the funeral ceremony, Sir would like to meet you, Mr Singh,” said the secretary of the Prime Minister of Australia, from the other end of the phone line.

“Yeah,” said Sunny.

Sunny always wanted to visit Australia someday.  He liked this country for its geographical beauty, government policies and sports loving people. But even in his wildest dream, he never imagined being invited by the Australian Prime Minister himself.  Though Australia had 23% of the world’s uranium deposits and was the world’s second largest producer of uranium after Canada, it had always refrained from producing any nuclear weapon.  And this had always made Sunny admire this country even more.  But in the last seven years, many things changed over the world dramatically and this led Australia to produce its own nuclear weapons, though majority of its countrymen were still against it.

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