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Showing posts from 2015

Cure for Psoriasis - a possiblity

Psoriasis (Photo credit: Wikipedia)WebMD defines psoriasis as a "baffling and persistent skin disorder." With no real cure and treatment methods that have side effects, psoriasis can be a daunting condition to handle. Although, it is not a life threatening condition, it does reduce the quality of life and according to WHO estimates, affects more than 140 million people on the planet. Drugs, currently, in the market are primarily aimed at suppressing the immune system in general. So, although, symptoms reduce, the body is not putting up its best defense and the patient is prone to secondary infections. However, a promising study published in Science Translational Medicine might just enable us to treat psoriasis and not just symptomatically. But to understand this, we first need to look into what really happens in psoriasis.
Psoriasis involves the abnormal production of skin cells due to a cascade of inflammatory responses which are triggered by Tumor Necrosis Factor (TNF) and

Salamanders helping us heal fractures faster

Salamanders are best known for their ability to regrow their amputated limbs. While regrowing limbs in humans might sound like science fiction for now, the canonical Wnt signalling pathway, which allows salamanders to regrow their limbs, plays an important role in maintenance of our body and also during the process of healing. 
Recent research has shown that the Canonical Wnt pathway can be stimulated to promote faster healing of fractures. My story on this was published recently in Health Section of The Wire. 
Read the complete story here

Harvesting dinosaurs from Ghost Ranch [Video]

Tyrannosaurus rex, Palais de la Découverte, Paris (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Once in a while, we come across a news story of paleontologists finding a dinosaurfossil in some part of the world. The significance of the fossil is then explained and the news story is buried into the depths of our mind to be excavated out the next time, there is a similar news story.

But there is a lot more than happens between discoveries, which is left out of the story but if you would like to witness it, you could simply visit, the Ghost Ranch in New Mexico, a hot bed for finding dinosaur fossils.

In this episode of the Shelf Life, you can see how dinosaur fossils are excavated and prepared to be brought back to the American Natural History Museum to be added to their vast collection and studied some day.





Excavations in Ghost Ranch began in the year 1928 and continue to this day.

How mass surveillance can actually help us

The face of Edward Snowden is etched in history as the man who brought out in the open the mass surveillance programs run by the National Security Agency of the United States. While the very idea of mass surveillance raises questions about the government's right to mine data, keep its programs classified for purposes of national security and also our right of privacy in this digital age, there is also the other side of the coin, which we are failing to look at, the side where mass surveillance can be used in a positive manner, to help people. This is the kind of surveillance, Telenor did in Pakistan.
Surveillance of phones in Pakistan 
For those who might not be aware, the city of Karachi in Pakistan has been afflicted with the deadly disease of dengue for many decades. At the time of writing this post, there are 2896 dengue fever cases reported in the province of Sindh in Pakistan this year, of which 2829 are reported in Karachi alone. It is only a matter of time, before the virus …

Hummingbirds : Now a model for micropumps too!

For many years now, scientists have been studying the hummingbird for its flying abilities. Their acrobatic flight is a great model for aeronautical engineers to develop air-crafts for the the future. While everybody concentrated on the wing action, dynamics of the air flow below and over them and the structural differences between humming birds and other fliers to figure out what makes these birds such special fliers, there was something that we had wrongly presumed many years ago, waiting to be discovered about these wonderful birds. 
Since the year 1833, we have been assuming that humming birds feed themselves using capillary action. This means, that bird dips its beak into the flower nectar and waits for nectar to slow rise along its longish beak, much like what happens when you sip a cola with a straw, except that you are actually using your mouth to sip in the cola but the humming bird simply waits for the nectar to reach its mouth. 
There are two issues with this theory. One Scie…

Buying plants online is not a good idea. Here's why?

Can you recollect the episode from The Simpsons where Bart takes a bull frog to Australia and unconsciously ends up introducing an entirely new species in the ecology. Bart's innocent act invited the anger of the island nation but ended in Bart mooning the Australians that had gathered around the American embassy and the Simpson family needing a bail out to save their lives. If you remember further, the episode ended with a koala piggying back a ride on the helicopter that was taking the Simpson's home but like most Simpson's episodes the end is not followed through (what happens next is left to the imagination of the viewers and also quickly forgotten before the next episode airs). What deserves special mention is that this episode aired in 1995 managed to highlight the major issue that is facing the connected world today, the loss of native habitats.
As we move towards a society that is well connected and where movement of people and goods occurs seamlessly, we are also f…

An Elevator that's 20 kilometres high

The Burj Khalifa is the currently the world's tallest building at 829.8 metres and has the world's third fastest elevator. You might have seen a few YouTube videos that showcase how the elevator travels from ground to Floor 124 in just under a minute and many think that its an amazing feat. But, did you know that the Burk Khalifa elevator travels at modest pace of 10m/s whereas the elevator at the CTC Finance Centre doubles this speed with quite an ease. Check this nice graphic from the Financial Times which takes you through the transit times in the elevators in the high rise buildings
But today, we will not be talking about how fast can elevators go. Instead, we are going to look at how tall an elevator can we build? Going back to the graphic from the Financial Times, we know that tallest elevator shaft award will go to the Burj Khalifa for its public/ high speed elevator travels just under 600 metres, if you count from the Ground Floor. So, to break this record, one woul…

Why do fish need sunscreen? [Coffee-byte]

Danio rerio, better known as the zebrafish (Photo credit: Wikipedia)If you remember your last trip to the beach and try to list out the things you took for this trip, chances are that the sun block or sunscreen will feature in there. Why just the beach, using a sun screen is almost a part of our daily routine, whenever we know we will be spending time under the sun. But, as you might have noticed, it is only humans who wear a sun block while the rest of creatures walk, swim and fly on the planet, unprotected. As much as we, humans, like to think that we are the smartest on the planet, we actually are not. The fact is that we have to manufacture our sun blocks in factories, whereas fishes can do it on their own. Why just adult fishes, even fish eggs can do this nifty trick that protects them from harmful sunrays.
Research conducted at the Oregon State University, shows that zebrafish can produce this magic chemical called gadusol, that can protect it from UV-B rays of the sun. Before th…

The Science of Success!

A good player rarely makes a good coach

I never quite understood what it tried to say, till I discovered this whole new genre of Hollywood
movies, where a bunch of skinny, dorky looking teenagers come together to beat the star players of the school in a game of baseball, or football, basically any team sport. This whole feat is however impossible, without the guidance of a rather obscure (career wise, of course) coach who has been ousted by the community or who just knows the game too well to be bothered by some trophy that other coaches crave for. But don’t be fooled by their rather tragic past, or even their rude, unkempt demeanour there is something that makes you root for them despite the fact that their track record is not very good. Logically speaking, they have far too much experience losing, which is why we as the audience is always eager to dismiss them as backbenchers, let alone a team to have potential to win. Why is it, (if not for the empathetic angle created by the br…