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Showing posts from April, 2013

Does lack of plants mean End of Photosynthesis on Earth?

Photosynthesis is a process used by plants and a few other organisms to make their own food by harnessing the energy from the sun’s light and converting it to chemical energy. The process of photosynthesis is dependent on a lot of factors and a change in any of these could actually prevent it from occurring normally, as we would like it. Major factors which could stop the process of photosynthesis include- absence of sunlight, carbon dioxide or water, since these are basic requirements for the process. While you might be aware that the process occurs in a small organelle inside the plant’s cells known as chloroplast, chlorophyll is an important pigment for the process. Any loss of this pigment due to genetic or biochemical factors would also prevent photosynthesis. Also, the end result is photosynthesis is the production of glucose. So, if a plant has enough glucose, there will be a halt in the process.

Of more interest is the optimum temperature range in which photosynthesis occurs-…

Is the Earth's gravity same everywhere?

Earth's gravity measured by NASA's GRACE mission, showing deviations from the theoretical gravity of an idealized smooth Earth. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)When you drop something, it falls downwards towards the ground. Why does it fall down? Why not up? All such questions were answered with a 7 lettered word-GRAVITY. Gravity is an attractive force and is stronger on Earth as compared to our Moon due to larger mass. When you drop an object it falls towards the ground and when it is dropped from a greater height it falls towards the ground with greater speed and impact. The greater impact and speed is attributed to acceleration (the rate of change of speed) which is higher due to gravity.
The force of gravity is inversely proportional to the radius of the Earth, that's what our textbooks said in school. But a recent press release from the European Space Agency, showed that the shape of the Earth is not a perfect sphere but a geoid or ellipsoid, bulging slightly at the equator a…

'Building in a bag' - the ingenuity of concrete canvas

Imagine a future where a piece of cloth that you lay down and  spray some water on turns into a slab of concrete! This is the magic of 'concrete canvas' and it is about to change some basic rules of civil engineering.
Concrete canvas is a great innovation from engineering students Will Crawford and Peter Brewin, that feels like a normal canvas but put some water on it and it hardens in a few hours to give you a robust construction.  The cloth, impregnated with concrete,  is easy to transport and just needs water and some air to complete a construction. It doesn’t need heavy equipment, good working surfaces and is not labour intensive at all. You will need lots of water, which need can be sourced from a bore well or even the sea, an air blower (if the construction is big and you are in a hurry)  and some labour to put the cloth in desired places. You can roll the sheets on to slopes and it will take up the contour of the land, making it truly easy to use.

What’s more, unlike norm…

Leptin can help you lose weight?

Leptin is a small hormone produced by the adipose tissues (fat cells) in our body and functions as a signal for the amount of fat present in the body. Depending on the 'Leptin' signal received, the brain can instruct our stomach to stop demanding food or our mouth to stop eating, thereby reducing food intake. So, in theory, more the amount of leptin in your body, lesser will you eat and it would be a a breeze to keep your weight in control. Of course, there is a catch.
The effect of Leptin was discovered in 1994 in a study involving voraciously eating obese mice. When these mice were given leptin injections, their craving for food dropped and they returned to normal body weight. So, scientists attempted to cure obesity in humans with the help of leptin injections. But, during trials, large amounts and frequent doses of leptin had to be injected to gain significant weight loss in highly obese patients. Also, large doses resulted in redness of skin at the site of injection for c…

The science of Consumerism

We live in a world where television, billboards, magazines and even toilets are hoarded with sales pitches trying to convince us that a particular brand of soup is what will rid us of our loneliness and make our lives happier. Every day we are bombarded with ideas and concepts to such an extent that we subconsciously start accepting them (almost like Inception). ‘Advertising’ is selling the viewer the idea that consumption (of a particular product) will lead to gratification. In fact, almost all advertisements tap into our insatiable appetite for prestige, power, happiness and status, making the idea quite seductive. Consumerism today has become a pastime, ideology and even a source of addiction.  In fact lots of economists and philosophers like to think of consumerism as the singular idea that has successfully taken over the world we live in today. People from all regions, religions and ages indulge in the idea that  - more is always better!

But really… is it?

Over the years we have …

7 facts about Polyomaviruses

Over the last few decades, cancer has become a commonly known disorder. Advances in modern medicine have brought in newer methods of cancer detection and treatment thereby improving the quality of life. But two facets  of cancer still remain elusive to us, a permanent cure as well as a well defined cause.
Different theories have been hypothesized to explain the emergence of cancer in first place. Various studies have been conducted around these theories and we have managed to come up factors such drinking, smoking, gene mutations etc. that might increase one's susceptibility to cancer but no defined cause. One of the tangible cause we have so far are viruses.
Known to us since 1950s, Polyomaviruses are viruses that possess the ability to cause multiple (poly) tumors (-oma). These are close relatives of the Papillomaviruses that are known to cause warts or non cancerous tumours in humans. For quite some time, we knew of only two Polyomaviruses that could infect humans. But studies…