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How Goldilocks is helping us find Earth-like planets [Coffee-byte]

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Illustration of Kepler Spacecraft
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)2014 has been an exciting year for space research. Apart from the India's Mars Orbiter Mission that is now orbiting the Red Planet to find out more about our neighbour, we are just a few days away from Philae's historic attempt to land on a comet and carry out investigations that will probably give us some idea about the origin of Life. While these missions are aimed to help us understand our neighbours in the solar system, however they were formed, what they are made up of, somewhere down the line, we are all looking for signs of life or at least conditions that may support life now or sometime in the future. 
It was with this very aim that the Kepler Mission was launched in March 2009 with a telescope that enables it to spot planets orbiting different stars which might be able to support life. But the Milky Way consists of an estimated 100 billion stars and probably as many planets. So, how we narrow down this number …

Its not the complex talk but the attitude that matters!

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On a lazy Sunday evening, I stepped out of the house for some weekly chores and on my way back, saw a couple of kids play in the open. Irrespective of the size of the open space, kids in India are usually seen playing cricket, but these two 5-7 year-old kids, were doing something different! With some readily available materials like a polythene bag, a small plastic skateboard and a thin string, these kids were attempting a scaled down version of kite boarding.
If you do look up kite boarding, it is an adventure sport and needs all sorts of complex safety gear. But the science behind kite boarding is quite simple. Wind that gets caught up in the kite/ sail, pushes the boarder forward.  The kids got this right; and by neatly tying up the polythene bag at its mouth it created a giant sail for a toy skateboard that was merely 5 cm long. Taking advantage of the monsoon winds, this toy skateboard tethered to the polythene sail, slowly inched forward as the winds picked up, giving immense j…

Is Asafoetida the panacea we were looking for?

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Known as devil dung, stink gum etc. ferula, commonly known as 'hing' in Hindi, Asafoetida is a pungent smelling sap of an underground rhizome that grows primarily in Iran, Afghanistan, China and India. Famous in many cuisines as a flavour enhancer, asafoetida has long been an important ingredient in traditional remedies for combating trouble in the digestive tract, respiratory tract and even been used as a traditional contraceptive. Ferula asafoetida is also a popular home medicine for cough, cholera and chronic bronchitis. Because of its pungent odour and taste, it is many times used as a cure for hysteria as well.

But like every traditional remedy, the medical value of Asafoetida is not taken very seriously. This trend of disregarding local medicines and home remedies can somewhere be related to the lack of having sufficient scientific backing. And like many home remedies, the trend of following it blindly through generations, doesn’t really help its cause in an age of growin…