Science Simplified!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Technology for safety and a little bit of fun [Coffee-Byte]

5:02 PM Posted by Editor CTS , , , , No comments
We usually discuss science here and it can get a little heavy at times. So for a change, here is an application of technology for purposes of safety. No, this is not about driver less car that Google is making or some kind of hi-tech device that ensures safety in aeroplanes. This is for the safety of pedestrians at the riskiest place for them in the world, the traffic signals!

The video comes from Smart, a smart car maker, which is part of the Daimler AG in Germany.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Treat 2 genes to beat jet lag and cancer too! [Coffee-byte]

9:00 AM Posted by Editor CTS , , , , No comments
Image credit:
www. mrbarlow.wordpress.com
The circadian clock is the clock that we were born with. As kids it helped us sleep and wake up on time and as adults it keeps us awake when we travel to different time zones. It is more efficient than any clock ever made by man for it keeps adjusting itself for every little change that we make and now we know how it works! 

The circadian clock has been associated with
four genes, namely CLOCK, Period, Cryptochrome and BMAL1. It is the work of these genes (their respective proteins) that help us maintain our circadian rhythm. When a take a flight through different time zones, these genes take a while to adjust to new environs and this is why we experience 'jet-lag'. But researchers Rui Ye and Aziz Sancar at the University of North Carolina, were able to show that CLOCK and BMAL1 were the most important genes needed to maintain our circadian rhythms. Now, that we know how the clock works, we can design drugs that can help us to set the clock quicker or later as we need and get into routine quickly.

While these drugs are still away from being available in the market, the very idea of popping pills to mitigate a jet-lag may seems too much dependence on pills doesn't it? Well, research carried out on these genes has also revealed that an enzyme called XPA was found in high levels when the circadian clock was at its high or active state while it dipped in the afternoons, when the clock was also going through its low phase. Drugs designed to control circadian rhythms could be used to target cancerous cells as well and use other methods such as chemotherapy to triumph over cancer. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Plants, too, have microbiomes you know [Coffee-byte]

If you have read our post about being in sync with your microbes, you are well aware of 'microbiomes', the role they play in our lives and how unique they are to us. Researchers at the Institute of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Oregon, have now found that just like us, plants, too, have microbiomes! 

Plant leaves, especially, are home to millions and millions of bacteria. Using modern sequencing technology, researchers mass sequenced the multitude of bacteria found there and identified these bacteria using unique sequences called 'barcodes'. While there were some microbes that were found on most plants, there were also some that were unique or rarely found. 

The role of all the bacteria is not well understood but these microbes could be responsible for helping plants evade pathogenic infections or even help in faster growth. Certain bacteria were also found is certain areas where the air composition was markedly different, thereby showing that plants are working with microbes to make their environs more suitable for surviving. 

While the data reveals very little information as of now, such studies will help in the long run to help conserve certain plants and their eco-systems! 

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Earth images in 4K [Coffee-byte]


4K displays made quite a furore at tech shows this year and there are many models of 4K TVs that are available in the market to buy. For the uninitiated, 4K resolution, also called Ultra High Definition (UHD), is the next big thing after HD. But what is the use of these TVs or displays when you do not have the content to see.

Well, the European Space Agency has recently released a video of the Earth Images, taken from the International Space Station (ISS) by astronaut, Alexander Gerst. Images that are part of this video were shot through a high resolution (4256 X 2832 pixels) camera on top of the ISS every one second and then sent back to the Earth.

A team at ESA then made this video by playing the still pictures at 25 frames per second and also taking the liberty to add some artistic touches to it.

The resolution for the video here can be raised all the way to 4K but the video is enjoyable even at lesser resolutions! Do post your reactions in the comments section below and subscribe to our blog to get such fascinating news every time!


Saturday, September 13, 2014

Rosetta update: Philae's landing site chosen and a 3D model of the Rosetta mission!

Having analysed all the landing site options in depth, the European Space Agency (ESA) has finally made its choice for the landing site for Rosetta's probe, Philae. After shortlisting five probable sites earlier, the ESA had to go back to its longer list of probable landing sites after the sites were found not be be safe for landing Philae

After much deliberation and rethinking,  the ESA is looking at site J as the possible landing place for
Photo credit: ESA
Philae and will now make its decision final by September 26 after completing trajectory analysis. If our readers recollect, the landing mission of Philae is going to be completely autonomous with no possibility of real time maneuvering after the probe leaves Rosetta. The ESA therefore needs to be absolutely sure that the landing site is perfect for probe, not only to land, but also have sufficient lighting for Philae to be able to charge its batteries and continue his analysis of the comet's surface after landing. Also, site C has been chosen as backup landing site in case, site J does not receive a final 'Go' on the 26th.

Meanwhile, in addition to sending back some excellent pictures of the comet 67P, Rosetta has also completed analysis of the gases that the comet has been releasing as it approaches the Sun. Rosetta has found methane, methonal, Carbon di-oxide and water in these gases, all constituents that would be required to make amino acids, the building blocks of proteins in our body. It will be up to Philae to check amino acids in their native forms are actually present on this comet. While Rosetta  has found hydrogen and oxygen separately, water, is strangely missing from the surface of the comet.

For now, Rosetta is about 30 km away from the comet and is making its way to get as close to 1 km to the comet, before she let's Philae go. This is expected to happen mid- November, so keep following our blog to get these timely updates.

And if you cannot wait to see what will happen in November, here is an excellent 3D model of the Rosetta mission that marks its progress so far and its milestones ahead. Not only is it a great looking model, its interactive too! So, give it a try and tell us how you find it. The creators of this visualization at INOVE will like that too! Thank you, Michal Saldon at INOVE for bringing this to our notice and if you like this, there is another visualization of Comet Siding Spring which will have a close encounter with Mars this October. 





Fractals- the Bizarre and Beautiful pattern to chaos [Coffee-byte]

I have always loved how everywhere you look, you cannot help but notice how symmetric everything in nature really is. I have been fascinated with repetitive pattern and I have always managed to find inspiration all around me for my doodles.

Fractals - they are called, and they are made up of the simplest patterns forming complex larger patterns. They are, as fractalfoundation puts it, - 'never ending patterns that are infinitely complex and self similar across different scales.' The term 'fractals' was first used by the mathematician - Benoit Mandelbrot, who worked on the "theory of roughness"- which argued that like everything else in nature, roughness, chaos and mess also have a pattern.
The Mandelbrot set, that is a never ending loop of the same pattern within the pattern, which may sometimes gives you a headache after staring at it for a while, was first displayed by him and rightfully named so in his honour.

 Here are some that are quite interesting






You can find more of these here.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The beauty in symmetry

Symmetry seen in a butterfly
Image source: www.vicvapor.com
Have you ever wondered why you are sometimes attracted to some piece of art, and not to the other? Or why you find something visually appealing while another almost repulsive. Well next time, you do find yourself in such a situation, just take a moment, and see if what you are staring at, is symmetric or not. If you like it, chances are that the piece of work is very symmetric. Studies show that, when given an option to choose between symmetric and asymmetric pictures, people are more likely to choose symmetry over asymmetry. And this phenomenon is gender independent, so whether you are man or a woman, you will pick symmetry where possible

If we look around, we find that symmetry seems to be a very important part of nature too. Every organism is an example of symmetry. Right from viruses that show radial symmetry to fruits and flowers that have perfectly aligned parts, there is symmetry everywhere. Iniologists believe that symmetry is nature’s way of displaying fitness and superior genes. 
sects are probably one of the best examples for proudly displaying symmetry. B

Interestingly, we also hold similar scales to judge the attractiveness and beauty of an individual. Like art, people are more likely to select a face that is symmetrical, as beautiful, over an asymmetric face. In fact studies show that people with symmetrics face are more social, extroverted, agreeable, and positive.

This subconscious obsession of ours is deeply embedded into our systems; our fascination for symmetric faces can be traced back to a study done on infants. It is understandable that infants would choose familiar faces over unfamiliar ones. But when asked to choose between unfamiliar faces, infants tend to choose symmetry over asymmetry, meaning facial features that are more symmetrical than those that aren’t.

While symmetry may be our cue to finding healthy genes or person with good social skills, the question to be asked would be why is that we do not asymmetric faces appealing. 

To answer this, researchers at the Ohio State University conducted a study and found that individuals who had more asymmetric features were more likely to be aggressive, and impulsive, in comparison to those that were symmetric. Also, asymmetry is a good indicator for environmental and developmental stress. e.g. Fluctuating asymmetry is an indicator of alcohol abuse, or other substance abuse by the mother during pregnancy.

But all this talk about symmetry and asymmetry, the interesting part about it is that,  experimentally, it is very difficult to break symmetry.  Deviating symmetry is nearly impossible in a laboratory setting, in fact breaking symmetry in fruit flies was impossible. 

We all are invariably attracted to very proper, neat and calculatedly symmetric features. However, predictable and horribly prone to our natural instinct it may sound, we are in the end of it all, attracted to symmetry and artists, photographers often exploit this very weakness that is deeply embedded into our genome.

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