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Global Environmental Challenge

Positive Side of CO2
Monitoring Methane
Capping Methane Emissions
Methane Emissions from Ruminants
S e p t e mb e r 2 0 1 0 <
Cloud Bursts
Tagore and
Science -
n ic. mm
A CSI R Publication
VOL. 47 N o. 9 SEPTEMBER 2010 I SSN 0036- 8512
Do we keep on pl underi ng the
earth for our materi al benefits
or do we protect it f or our
future generati ons?
The t rauma of
schi zophreni a can be
lessened t hrough
compassi on and care
Hi gher C0 2 levels coul d be benefi ci al
for the productivity of f ood crops,
trees and other plants 23
The Royal Society, among the
ol dest scientific academi es in
existence, turns 350 this year
j f sl j ! -
Cl i mate change has hit islands hard, there is a need to f rame
effective adapti ve and management policies specifically for the islands ...
Literary Giant with Scientific Bent
On the occasi on of the 150
t h
birth anni versary of
Rabi ndranath Tagore we catch a gl i mpse of his deep
understandi ng of science
8 SCI ENCE REPORTER, September 2010 25
Lesson in Rainfall
The cover story, Measur i ng
Rain by K.V. Bal asubramani an,
deserves a pat and a cl ap. He
has made us
underst and how
"pr eci pi t at i on"
in al l f orms is
i mportant to us.
The history and
tools of rainfall
me a s u r e me n t
unf ol d t he pai ns
taken by our predecessors.
Onl y a met eor ol ogi st
coul d have underst ood until
now the di fference between the
terms " heavy" and "rat her
heavy" rainfall. But after goi ng
through the article my students
and myself coul d di fferenti ate
them with ease. After readi ng
the article some students have
made their own rain gauges.
Coul d thi s ar t i cl e be
recommended as a lesson for
Ms Kamala Sundaram
Kendriya Vidyalaya No. 2
Tambaram, Chennai
Proud Indian Consumer
The Edi t or i al , The Gr een
Indian Consumer, in the July
issue of SR is a pl easant fi ndi ng,
somethi ng all Indians woul d be
proud to know. Even Indi ans
living in the US coul d proudl y
boast to their US colleagues that
despite bei ng
a third worl d
count ry, we
ar e mor e
r esponsi bl e
when it
comes t o
taki ng care of the envi ronment
than them.
The f eat ur e ar t i cl e
Connect t o Decode gi ves us
r esear cher s a r adi cal
met hodol ogy to t arget dr ug
del i ver y and det ect i on
probl ems. In fact, many other
t i me-consumi ng probl ems that
woul d take years, if tried to crack
al ong conventi onal lines, coul d
be t r i ed out usi ng t hi s
techni que. It demonstrates the
power of col l abor at i on and
del egat i on of the proj ect into
smal l er t asks. Thi s hi gh-
potential techni que woul d catch
up fast once we see concrete
resul t s out of any pr oj ect
resol ved using C2D.
Parnika Agrawal
Visit to Biosphere 2
The June 201 0 issue that was
brought out as ' Envi ronment
Speci al ' was very attracti ve in
t er ms of cont ent .
Congrat ul at i ons. I read wi th
interest the Editorial and all the
articles therei n. The Edi tori al
(Perils of El ect roni c Wast e)
aptly hi ghl i ghts the magni t ude
of the e-wast e pr obl em and
warns devel opi ng countries like
I ndi a t o be on guar d. The
pr oposed E- Wast e
( Management and Handl i ng)
Rules 201 0 of the Government
of Indi a, whi ch, inter alia, seek
t o make t he pr oducer of
el ect r i cal and el ect r oni c
equi pment r esponsi bl e f or
pr oper di sposal of e-wast e
generated at the end use are a
step in the right di recti on.
The wr i t e- up on
Bi osphere 2 in the Spectrum
col umn was very f asci nat i ng
and it i ndeed prompt ed me to
pl an a visit to the structure on
the Or acl e road via Fl orence,
120 miles f rom Phoenix. As I
am on a private visit to Phoenix,
Ari zona, I had an opport uni t y
to t our the vari ous faci l i ti es of
Bi osphere 2 wi thi n the gl ass-
seal ed structure constructed on
t he 34. 5- acr e campus. The
facilities i ncl ude the habi tat, the
ocean and the energy center.
The habi t at was f ormerl y the
l i vi ng quarters for those who
wer e seal ed i nsi de. It now
houses the command center as
wel l as of f i ces, l aborat ori es
and cl assrooms. The energy
cent er uses nat ur al gas f or
generat i ng electricity to power
Bi ospher e 2. Recycl i ng is
adopt ed f or wast e
management .
The t our on 17 July 2010
enabl ed me to experi ence first
hand the envi ronment s of this
engi neer i ng mar vel . Thi s
uni que st r uct ur e gi ves t he
vi si t or s an oppor t uni t y t o
under st and how nat ur al
envi ronments create hospi tabl e
condi t i ons f or human
sustai nabi l i ty. It can al so be
used to underst and the rol e of
life on earth and the effects of
cl i mate change.
Dr. E.R. Subrahmanyam
Member State S&T Sub Committee
Jana Vignana Vedika (A.P.)
Hazards to Health
I read the June 201 0 issue and
f ound it excellent. The write up,
The Ki l l i ng Fi el ds of
Al angl , rel ati ng to hazardous
work management for the health
of t he wor ker s was real l y
i nformati ve. There are maj or
const rai nt s percei ved by the
workers in adopt i on of toxi c
mat er i al handl i ng and
hazardous substance delivery,
especi al l y pertai ni ng to health.
Sanjay Goswami, Mumbai
Lesson to Learn
I was most i mpr essed on
readi ng the exclusive interview
of Hon' bl e Koji Omi , Founder
of the Science & Technol ogy in
Society f orum in Japan by Er
Anuj Si nha. India shoul d take
i nspi r at i on f r om Japan. A
count r y t hat was al most
compl et el y dest r oyed when
atomi c bombs were dropped on
and 9
t h
August 1 945 on the
t wo ci ti es - Hi r oshi ma and
Nagasaki - has managed to
cl i mb to the top in the field of
sci ence and t echnol ogy. We
have a lesson to learn.
Prakash Manikpure
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SCI ENCE REPORTER, September 2010
Disappearing Islands
Hasan Jawaid Khan
Printed and published by Deeksha Bist on behalf of the National Institute of Science Communication And Information Resources (NISCAIR), CSIR,
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National Institute of Science Communication And Information Resources (NISCAIR)
WHETHER you areadding your bit to theheap of garbage piling
up in your locality or not becomes meaningless when the garbage
begins to rot - thestench zvill reach your nose too. Climate change
induced by global warming works much thesame ivay. Nations
that have set their sights on economic growth with nary a regard
for the carbon burden they are heaping on theEarth's protective
shield zvill also ultimately have to bear the
consequences of a warming Earth. Of course, the
poor throughout the world it is zvho would have to
face themajor burden of theill consequences turning
a large chunk of such people into ivhat are called
'environmental refugees'.
Lester Brozvn of the Worldzvatch Institute
popularized the term 'environmental refugees' in
the 1970s and in 1995 Myers and Kent defined
them as "persons who no longer gain a secure
livelihood in their traditional homelands because of
what areprimarily environmental factors of unusual
scope". Theenvironmental refugees could bethosefleeing desertification, thosedisplaced (or potentially
displaced) by sea level rise, or victims of environmental conflict. According to some estimates, the
ranks of environmental refugees displaced from their traditional homelands could swell to 25-50
million by the next year.
A major proportion of theenvironmental refugees would becomprised of those inhabiting coastal
areas and islands. Faced zvith rising seas due to a gradual heating of theplanet on account of global
warming, islands and island communities are the most in danger due to a rise in sea levels that
threatens their islands until complete submergence. People might beforced to leave their homes as a
result of shoreline erosion, coastal flooding and agricultural disruption linked to climate change.
In fact, themost recent evacuation of an entire people on environmental grounds began last year
in the Carteret Islands, a low-lying atoll in Papua New Guinea, in the South Pacific. Persistent
flooding is slowly submerging theisland. According to some indications this could bedue to rising sea
levels on account of global warming. With saltzvater intrusion contaminating the island's freshwater
supply and preventing thegrowth of crops, theislands were declared uninhabitable by the government
in 2005 and are expected to be completely submerged by 2015. Last year thefirst few families zvere
relocated to Bougainville on the mainland causing the Carteret Islanders to be labeled as the world's
first environmental refugees.
The danger mark could soon bebreached for island nations such as Maldives as well. In fact, the
Maldivian underwater cabinet meeting last year zvas a symbolic action to drazv attention to its
threatened future existence.
The long Indian coastline is also under real threat. A recent study by a team from the University
of Colorado at Boulder, USA detected rising sea levels in parts of the Indian Ocean, including the
coastlines of theBay of Bengal, theArabian Sea, Sri Lanka, Sumatra and Java. According to the study,
the rise appears to beat least partly a result of human-induced increases of atmospheric greenhouse
gases. Thesea level rise, zvhich may aggravate monsoon flooding in Bangladesh and India, could affect
hundreds of millions of people who inhabit the coastlines.
There is now irrefutable evidence to show that the climate is indeed changing driven in a major
way by global warming. It has also been shown that even zvith minimal rise in sea levels some of the
zvorld's biggest and most densely populated urban centres will bedirectly affected, with some facing
complete submersion. This should be reason enough for urgent action.
SCIENCE REPORTER, September 2010
The mesmerising Maldivian island
Climate change has hit islands hard with some in danger
of disappearing completely as sea levels rise. Being the
most vulnerable ecosystems with regard to climate
change, there is a need to frame effective adaptive and
management policies specifically for the islands.
lHE worl d's first underwater
cabinet meeting organised by
the Maldivian president on 17
October 2009 was a symbolic
cry for help over rising sea levels that
threaten the tropi cal archi pel ago's
exi stence. Thi s i sl and archi pel ago
nation off the tip of India, best known
for its mesmeri si ng beauty and
sparkl i ng beaches, represented by
1,200 atolls, 80% of which are no more
than a metre above sea level, is among
the most threatened by rising seas.
I n 2007, the Uni ted Nati on's
I ntergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change (IPCC) warned that a rise in
sea l evel s of between 18 and 59
centimetres by 2100 would be enough
to make the Mal di ves vi rtual l y
uni nhabi tabl e. The economy of this
I ndi an Ocean i sl and nati on is
supported by cl i mate-sensi ti ve
acti vi ti es l i ke fi shi ng and touri sm.
Global warming and sea level rise, if
continued unabated, would affect the
very exi stence of the nati on and
therefore the nation's government is
developing a plan to evacuate the entire
country to new homes in Sri Lanka,
India or Australia in case of need!
The alarm bell is ticking not just
for the Mal di ves but also for many
i sl ands across the gl obe. The New
Moore Island of India in the Sunderbans
has been consumed recentl y by the
rising seaeven as Bangl adesh was
also claiming its right over it! The New
Moore is not the fi rst i sl and to be
submerged in the Sunderbans. The first
i nhabi ted i sl and to have been
submerged by the rising sea level was
Lohachara. Once home to about 10,000
peopl e, the i sl and was submerged
under the sea in 1996. The submerging
of islands also results in migration of
people making them "envi ronmental
The first uni nhabi ted i sl and to
vanish from the map due to sea level
ri se was the Paci fi c atol l nati on of
Ki ri bati . The peopl e of l ow-l yi ng
islands in Vanuatu, also in the Pacific,
have been evacuated as a precaution,
though the island still remains above
the sea. The impacts of climate change
are more pronounced in some l ow-
lying Pacific island nations as they are
slowly being submerged by the rising
water levels of the Pacific Ocean. As the
seas conti nue to swel l , they wi l l
swallow whole island nations, from the
Mal di ves to the Marshal l I sl ands,
inundate vast areas of countries from
Bangl adesh to Egypt, and submerge
parts of a large number of coastal cities.
The islands are much more vulnerable
to the impacts of climate change and
subsequent sea level rise.
What is Special About Island
I slands encompass a diverse range of
terri tori es, di fferi ng in l andform,
climate and biogeography. Nearly one
fourth of the worl d's countri es are
islands! With the legacy of a uni que
SCIENCE REPORTER, September 2010 25
evol uti onary hi story, i sl ands are
treasure troves of bi odi versi ty. The
species may become island dwel l ers
either by drifting or by dispersal. Once
they reach the islands, they are confined
to small, isolated pockets, much away
from the mainland. The formation of
new islands and their isolation from
the mai nl and provi des many
unoccupied niches for species to adapt
In the absence of many predators
and competi tors, the newl y arri ved
species may easily get established in
the new ni ches avai l abl e. As the
chances of breedi ng wi th mai nl and
species are limited, through isolation
(and with restricted gene pool), they
devel op i nto di sti nct speci es, some
with highly specialized characteristics.
This results in a high rate of endemism,
wi th speci es restri cti ng thei r
distribution to l ocal i zed areas. The
adaptive radiation and origin of new
species in the i sl ands of Gal apagos
explained by Charles Darwin is well
documented in science.
Compared to the mai nl and,
islands have a disproportionately high
number of endemi c speci es. For
example, 50% of endemic bird areas are
found on i sl ands. Over 90% of
Hawaiian island species are endemic.
In Mauritius, about half of all higher
plants, mammal s, birds, reptiles and
amphi bi ans are endemi c, and the
Seychel l es has the hi ghest l evel of
amphi bi an endemi sm in the worl d.
The i sl and of Cuba is home to 18
endemic mammals, while Madagascar
is home to more than 8,000 endemi c
speci es. I n other words, i sl and
biodiversity is often very unique.
Lakshadweep is the tiniest Union
Territory of India and this archipelago
consists of 36 coral islands, 12 atolls,
three reefs and five submerged banks.
Onl y 10 of these i sl ands namel y,
Agatti, Amini, Andrott, Bitra, Chetlat,
Kadmat, Kal peni , Kavaratti , Ki l tan
and Mi ni coy are i nhabi ted. Both
inhabited and uninhabited islands are
ri ch in bi odi versi ty. Si mi l arl y, the
Andaman and Nicobar islands include
572 islands in the territory, of which
onl y approxi matel y 38 are
permanently inhabited. Andaman and
Ni cobar I sl ands are bl essed wi th
unique tropical rainforests, made of a
mi xed fl ora wi th el ements from
I ndian, Myanmarese, Malaysian and
endemi c floral strains. So far, these
I sl ands are home to about 2,200
varieties of plants, out of which 200
are endemi c. In addition to these, a
wide spectrum of uninhabited islands
is there in association with the Gulf of
Mannar and the Sunderbans.
I sl ands are ri ch in ecosystem
diversity too, as within islands we may
come across mountain forests to coastal
wetl ands. These ecosystems provi de
food, fresh water, wood, fi bre,
medi ci nes, fuel , tool s and other
important raw materials, in addition
to aesthetic, spiritual, educational and
recreati onal val ues. I n fact, the
l i vel i hood and economi c stability of
the islands depend on its biodiversity.
Think about corals and mangroves
that border island ecosystems. These
8 SCIENCE REPORTER, September 2010 25
uni que ecosystems provi de a wi de
array of ecosystem services, including
defence agai nst natural di sasters,
support to recycling of nutrients, and
regulation of microclimate. They also
act as homes and nursery grounds of
hundreds of marine species. Above all,
bi odi versi ty of i sl ands not onl y
supports the economy and food
securi ty of the i sl ands but al so
determines the livelihood and cultural
identity of 600 million island-dwelling
people across the world.
Coral reefs provide an estimated
US$ 375 billion per year in goods and
services to the world. This i ncl udes
support for marine fi sheri es, whi ch
provide the principal protein source
for many i sl and popul ati ons. The
Lakshadweep is a coral island. Coral
reef ecosystems around Indian islands
are home to hundreds of mari ne
ornamental fi shes. Uni ted Nati ons
Envi ronment Programme (UNEP)
estimated the val ue of coral reefs as
between US$100,000 to US$600,000 per
square kilometre a year!
Vulnerability of Islands
Each island ecosystem is unique in its
biological character and therefore even
sl i ght changes in envi ronmental
condi ti ons may drasti cal l y i mpact
biodiversity and life of human species
inhabiting there. These ecosystems are
fragile, often comprising species that
have evol ved in the absence of
aggressi ve competi tors, di seases or
predators. Though they are more
biodiverse than mainland regions and
the degree of endemi sm is high, the
smal l si ze of popul ati ons and
separati on restri cts movement and
gene fl ow, l i mi ti ng the abi l i ty for
recolonization following catastrophic
events. Many of the islands are thickly
populated and there are pressures from
human devel opmental acti vi ti es,
including tourism. Conversely, remote
i sl ands did not recei ve popul ar
attenti on, though the i mpacts are
Over the past century, i sl and
biodiversity has been subject to intense
pressure from anthropogeni c
i nterventi ons in the form of habi tat
destruction, introduction of invasive
alien speci es, over-expl oi tati on, and
more i mportantl y pol l uti on and
climate change. Of the 724 recorded
animal extinctions in the last 400 years,
about half were island species! We have
the classical example of Dodo in the
i sl ands of Mauri ti us as a symbol of
The impacts of climate change and
rel ated events are much more
effervescent in islands than any other
Cover Story
P ^i
Kiriboti Island
Cover Story
New Moore Island of India
The New Moore Island of India in the Sunderbans has been
consumed recently by the rising seaeven as Bangladesh
was also claiming its right over it! The New Moore is not the
first island to be submerged in the Sunderbans.
ecosystem in the worl d. The most
significant impacts of climate change
are sea l evel and sea-surface
temperature (SST) rise. Because most
small islands are low lying and have a
large exposure of coasts in relation to
l andmass, as wel l as a hi gh
concentration of population in coastal
zones, i sl ands are extremel y
vul nerabl e to sea-l evel rise. Experts
A member of the
Jarawo tribe
inhabiting the
Andaman &
Nicobar Islands
predict that average sea level could rise
by as much as 21 centimetres by 2025
and 66 centimetres by 2100, may lead
to inundation, storm surge or shoreline
erosion, with the potential to destroy
island economies.
Cl i mate change is expected to
cause serious degradation of the coastal
environment and natural resources on
whi ch poor rural peopl e depend.
Hi gher rates of erosi on and coastal
land loss are expected in many islands
as a consequence of the projected
increase in sea level. Pacific Islands are
shown to be mai nl y vul nerabl e to
coastal flooding and decreased extent
of coastal vegetated wetlands. There is
also a detectable influence on marine
and terrestrial pathogens, such as coral
diseases and oyster pathogens. Low-
lying islands as well as states and atolls
are likely to experience increased sea
flooding, inundation and salinization
as a direct consequence of sea level rise.
Sea-l evel ri se wi l l al so cause
increased salinity due to encroachment
of the sea and saltwater intrusion into
freshwater lenses, contributing to an
increasing shortage of water supply
and loss of agricultural land. Water
stresses caused by climate change will
have terri fi c i mpacts on poor rural
people reliant on water resources for
thei r l i vel i hoods. Ocean warmi ng,
frequent tropical cyclones, flash floods
and droughts are l i kel y to have
dramatic impact on food production
system in i sl ands. This woul d al so
affect export of agricultural produce
from many island nations.
Fisheries contribute significantly
to the economy and rural poor
livelihood on many islands. As fishing
is the major occupation of many island
peopl e, the soci o-economi c
implications of fisheries loss would be
severe and thi s may tri gger other
anthropogeni c stresses such as over-
fi shi ng. For exampl e, more i ntense
tropical cyclones and rise in sea surface
temperature wi l l negati vel y i mpact
i nshore fi sheri es and food suppl y,
"14 SCIENCE REPORTER, September 2010
Increase in sea
surface temperature
Increased storm/
cyclone frequency
Cover Story
A rise in temperature
causes coral bleaching,
which negatively affects
especially in rural areas. Not all effects
of cl i mate change on agri cul ture are
expected to be negati ve. For exampl e,
i ncr eased temper atur es i n hi gh-
l ati tude i sl ands are l i kel y to make
condi ti ons mor e sui tabl e for
agri cul ture and provi de opportuni ti es
to enhance resi l i ence of l ocal food
The rise in sea temperature causes
coral bl eachi ng, whi ch negati vel y
affects fi shes, sponges, gi ant cl ams,
mol l uscs and other sea cr eatur es,
whose survival depends on reefs. As a
result, the food securi ty and economi es
of islands, whi ch are l argel y dependent
on mar i ne ecosystems, wi l l be
negati vel y affected. The El Ni no event
of 1998 resul ted in massi ve bl eachi ng
and mor tal i ty of coral s i n the
Lakshadweep, and subsequent l oss of
structure, and si gni fi cant al terati ons
of fi sh communi ti es. The coral
bl eachi ng events are now frequentl y
r epor ted f r om seas ar ound
Lakshadweep as wel l as A ndaman and
Ni cobar i sl ands due to i ncrease i n SST.
The food securi ty of the Lakshadweep
i sl ands i s not hi t because of thi s
phenomenon pr i mar i l y due to
dependence of peopl e on tuna, a
pel agi c fi sh caught abundantl y i n
waters around the islands.
A report i ssued by the Wor l d
Worl dwi de Fund for Nature (WWF)
argues that Austral i a's Great Barri er
Coral Bleaching
Coral s are mari ne ani mal s i ncl uded in class Ant hozoa and phyl um Cni dari a. These organi sms, produci ng hard exoskel eton of
cal ci um carbonate, are represented by a col ony of geneti cal l y si mi l ar fl ower-l i ke structures cal l ed polyps. Over many generati ons the
col ony secretes a skel eton that is characteri sti c of the species. Huge deposi ts of these skeletons over l ong peri ods of history may
give rise to coral reefs. Each pol yp is typically onl y a few mi l l i metres in di ameter and has a skel eton cup, tentacles wi th sti ngi ng cells,
a mout h and a st omach. The tiny tentacl es snatch at passi ng pl ankt on f or f ood.
Many coral s f orm a symbi oti c rel ati onshi p wi th a class of al gae, zooxant hel l ae, of the genus Symbiodinium. Typically a
pol yp harbours one species of al gae. Via photosynthesis, these provi de energy for the coral , and ai d in cal ci fi cati on. The al gae benefit
from a safe envi ronment, and consume the carbon di oxi de and ni trogenous waste produced by the pol yp. Due to the strain the al gae
can put on the pol yp, stress on the coral often drives the coral to eject the al gae. Mass ej ecti ons are known as coral bl eachi ng,
because the al gae contri bute to coral ' s brown col ourat i on;
other col ours, however, are due to host coral pi gments, such
as green fl uorescent protei n (GFP).
Rising water temperatures bl ock the photosynthetic reaction
that converts carbon di oxi de into sugar. This results in a bui l d-
up of products that poi son the zooxanthel l ae. To save itself, the
coral spits out the zooxanthel l ae and some of its own tissue,
l eavi ng the coral a bl eached white. This phenomenon is often
referred to as coral bl eachi ng.
Most reef-bui l di ng coral s normal l y cont ai n around 1 -5 x
zooxant hel l ae per square cm of live surface tissue and
2- 10 pg of chl orophyl l per zooxanthel l a. When coral s bl each
they commonl y lose 60- 90% of thei r zooxanthel l ae and each zooxanthel l a may lose 50- 80% of its photosyntheti c pi gments. The
bl eached coral can recover, but onl y if cool er water temperatures return and the al gae are abl e to grow agai n. Wi t hout the
zooxanthel l ae, the coral slowly starves to death.
Apart f rom heat stress, other causes of coral bl eachi ng may i ncl ude: (i) i ncreased exposure to ul travi ol et (UV) radi at i on; (ii)
l arge amount s of storm water f rom heavy rains f l oodi ng the reef; (iii) exposure of coral to certai n chemi cal s or di seases; (iv)
sedi ments such as sand or dirt coveri ng the coral ; and (v) excess nutrients such as ammoni a and nitrate f rom fertilisers and househol d
products enteri ng the reef ecosystem.
"14 SCI ENCE REPORTER, September 2010
Bleached massive coral in Tamil Nadu coast (left); Bleached branching coral in Tamil Nadu
coast (right). (Image Courtesy: SDMRI)
Defining Islands
An i sl and, strictly speaki ng, is a pi ece of l and surrounded by water. The Mi l l enni um
Ecosystem Assessment (MA), a research pr ogr amme supported by the Uni ted Nati ons,
defi nes islands as "l ands i sol ated by surroundi ng water and with a hi gh proporti on of
coast to hi nterl and". This defi ni ti on stipulates that they must be popul at ed, separated
f rom the mai nl and by a di stance of at least t wo ki l ometres, and measure between 0.1 5
square ki l ometres and the size of Greenl and (2.2 mi l l i on square kilometres).
Islands l ocated wi thi n seas can be categori zed in many ways, i ncl udi ng by their
area. Based on al ti tude, islands are classified into hi gh and l ow-l yi ng islands. The
islands are al so classified into i nhabi ted and uni nhabi t ed; classification is also made
based on the density of popul at i on. They are al so grouped as conti nental (land areas
that used to be connect ed to the mai nl and) or oceani c (those that rose f rom the sea as
a result of coral deposi ts, vol cani c activity or tectoni c forces) islands.
By a combi nat i on of the size of the l and area, and pol i ti cal and demographi c
cri teri a, islands are grouped into the Smal l Island Devel opi ng States. Countri es known
collectively as Smal l Island Devel opi ng States (SIDS) have in common their smallness
and insularity that often al so i ndi cates their vulnerability. These smal l island and low-
lying coastal countries are subject to structural vulnerability that affects their productivity,
devel opment and cooperat i on policies. Since SIDS were i denti fi ed as a special group
duri ng the 1 992 Earth Summi t, a number of i nternati onal l y agreed devel opment goal s
have been f ormul at ed to address SIDS vul nerabi l i ti es and to bui l d resistance and
sustainability. Current l y 52 states in the Car i bbean, the Pacific, and Afri ca, Indi an
Ocean, Medi t erranean and South Chi na Sea are i ncl uded in this category.
An archi pel ago is a chai n or cl uster of i sl ands that are f ormed tectoni cal l y. It
is now used to general l y refer to any i sl and gr oup or, someti mes, to a sea contai ni ng
a l arge number of scattered islands. Archi pel agos are usually f ound isolated in bodi es
of water; less commonl y, a l arge l and mass may nei ghbour t hem. The five largest
modern countri es that are mai nl y archi pel agos are Japan, the Phi l i ppi nes, New
Zeal and, the Uni ted Ki ngdom and Indonesi a. The l argest archi pel ago in the worl d,
by size, is Indonesi a. Australia is geographi cal l y consi dered a conti nent, not an island,
al t hough in the past it was consi dered an i sl and country for touri sm purposes. It is
someti mes still consi dered an island country.
Cover Story
The government of India has
recently prepared the National
Climate Change Action Plan that
identifies a roadmap for energy
efficiency and sustainable
Reef, the l argest of i ts ki nd in the
world, could lose 95% of its living coral
by 2050 shoul d ocean temperatures
increase by the 1.5 degrees Cel si us
projected by climate scientists. This is
due to the phenomena of coral
bleaching and ocean acidification. As
oceans absorb more amount of carbon
dioxide, more carbonic acid is formed,
resul ti ng in ocean aci di fi cati on.
Animals with hard exoskeleton such as
diatoms, corals and molluscs, may fall
prey to ocean aci di fi cati on as thei r
skeleton may become weak very fast. If
global temperatures increase by 2 C,
corals may not be able to adapt quickly
enough physiologically or genetically.
It has been estimated that, in order to
counter the threat of ocean acidification
through global warming, a reduction
of up to 40% of current emissions is
needed, and up to 95% by 2050.
Warming may also contribute to
increase in occurrence of coral diseases.
A host of new coral di seases
including black band di sease, whi te
band di sease and skel etal erodi ng
band, are now reported frequentl y
from the world's oceans.
The majority of the world's turtles
have environmental sex determination,
whi ch means the sex of sea turtl e
hatchlings is temperature dependent.
Warmer temperatures i ncrease the
number of femal e sea turtl es at the
expense of males. When the sea turtles
deposit eggs on the beach, the eggs are
subject to changes i n beach
condi ti onstemperature, moi sture,
and oxygen avai l abi l i ty. The
i ncubati on temperature of the eggs
duri ng the fi rst tri mester of
development determines the sex of the
hatchling. It has been found that eggs
incubated above a pivotal temperature
of about 30C develop into females and
those bel ow about 30C develop into
Some sci enti sts are now
suggesting that global climate change
has the potenti al to el i mi nate the
production of male turtle offspring if
mean global temperatures increase by
4C, and increases of less than 2C may
dramatically skew the male-female sex
ratios. Global warming, therefore, will
have impacts on sea turtle populations,
majori ty of whi ch prefer cal m and
pristine beaches around islands to nest.
The islands are also well known
for their human diversity and cultural
diversity. For example, the Andaman
group of islands are inhabited by four
Negri to tri bes, vi z., the Great
A ndamanese, Onge, J arawa and
Sentinalese and the Nicobar group of
islands by two Mongoloid tribes, viz.,
Ni cobarese and Shompens. Recent
molecular genetic studies revealed the
presence of these tribes in India around
60,000 years ago! As life of these island
people depends fully on the health of
the forest ecosystems and fi shi ng,
climate change events could make their
lives more miserable.
Decl i ne in resources have been
documented by the island communities.
Women in the Cook I sl ands have
noticed a scarcity of pupu shells which
are used by them for maki ng l ocal
handi crafts and thi s is l i nked to
warmi ng of seas. The i ndi genous
peopl e of northern Europe, Sami
peopl e, observed changes in species
composi ti on in tradi ti onal rei ndeer
grazing lands, which reduce sufficient
quanti ty of food for the rei ndeer
popul ati ons. They depend on the
reindeer for food, clothing and other
Adaptation and Mitigation
Though the devel oped countri es
contri bute more towards cl i mate
change, the impacts of climate change
are much more effervescent in
devel opi ng countri es, i ncl udi ng the
islands. The geographical location of
the countri es of Asi a, Afri ca, Latin
America and Small Island states, located
in tropical and subtropical regions are
most likely to be affected by climate-
change i mpacts. There is ongoi ng
political and public debate on a global
scale regarding actions to be taken to
reduce or reverse future warming or
to adapt to its expected consequences.
"14 SCIENCE REPORTER, September 2010
Cover Story
The first uninhabited island to vanish from the map due to sea level rise was the
Pacific atoll nation of Kiribati. The people of low-lying islands in Vanuatu, also in the
Pacific, have been evacuated as a precaution, though the island still remains above
the sea.
To counter the impacts of climate
change, scientists, conservationists and
policy makers are now envisaging
combi ni ng mitigation efforts with
cl i mate adaptation measures and
strategies. Adaptation refers to all
those responses to climate change that
may be used to reduce vulnerability
or susceptibility to harm or damage
potential. For fighting climate change,
we need elaborate high quality data and
i nformati on on cl i mate, and on
environmen/ a/ , eco logical md Mil
systems affected by climate changes.
The adaptation and mitigation
measures cannot always be led by
governments. There should be
partnerships with communi ti es,
individuals, and the private sector to
frame effective measures to reduce the
impact of climate change on islands.
We have very little studies, including
modeling to realize the impact of
climate change on our own islands. We
need strong databases to study the
impact of climate change, specifically
on islands. We need separate packages
for adaptation and mi ti gati on in
islands, including community based
adaptation measures such as co-
management of coastal areas.
Community-based programmes,
such as vector control , water
conservation, coastal management, or
mangrove/ coral restoration will need
the support of government and
nongovernmental organizations. There
should also be programmes for finding
out alternative employment schemes
for the island dwel l ers. Publ i c
awareness and di scussi on forums
involving community representatives
could help convey information about
the impacts of climate change and gain
consensus on the adaptation options.
The large student power available in
the country can also be used for this
purpose. Some adaptation measures
will need to rely on government
i nterventi ons. These include early
warning systems and disaster
mi ti gati on programmes,
improvements in primary health care,
and coastal protection in town areas.
There shoul d be synergi es
between climate mitigation strategies
and development policies in areas such
as energy efficiency, fuel substitution,
renewables, afforestation, and land and
waste management. The afforestation
activities in islands not only help
wmagffiggfdwdmterdis&sfge, but
also reduce pressure on natural
ecosystems such as forests. The
mitigation in islands also includes
ensuri ng heal th to coral reef and
mangrove ecosystems surrounding it.
There should also be al ternati ve
empl oyment opportuni ti es for the
island inhabitants.
The government of I ndia has
recently prepared the National Climate
Change Action Plan that identifies a
roadmap for energy efficiency and
sustainable development. It also talks
about coordinating national strategic
pathways for assessment, adaptation
and mi ti gati on of climate change.
India is a Party to the United Nations
Framework Convention on Climate
Change. The Nati onal I nventory
Management System (NIMS), formed
under the Ministry of Environment and
Forests, plans to generate a
comprehensive knowledge base on
sci enti fi c issues related to climate
change for informed decision making
and mi ti gati on. I denti fi cati on of
vul nerabi l i ti es and hence risks
associated with climate change at state
level, agro-ecological zones and agro-
cl i mati c zones enabl es the
devel opment of adaptati on
frameworks at these levels for a target
sector or for the associ ated
The planning should not be for
temporary economi c gains and
support, but for sustainability in future
as well. For example, sea walls are built
along the coastal areas to protect
settlements against coastal erosion and
storms. However, sea walls do not
solve the underlying cause of erosion
and may cause further probl ems
downstream. Strategic replanting of
mangroves might be a more efficient
solution to guard against peri odi c
For the islands, even though the
threat at climate change is not
i mmi nent, there shoul d be a
"precauti onary approach". These
include better management of
resources i ncl udi ng bi odi versi ty,
coastal habitats, land, and water, and
measures such as di sease/ vector
control and maki ng sustainable
devel opment pl ans based on the
carrying capacity of the islands. For
exampl e, the Lakshadweep and
Andaman and Nicobar Islands of India
are important tourism destinations and
therefore we need to plan tourism
development based on the resource
availability and carrying capacity of
the i sl ands. Acting now would
defi ni tel y reduce vul nerabi l i ty to
extremes of climate change and
reducing the magnitude of the damage.
Consi deri ng the fact that the
i sl ands are the most vul nerabl e
ecosystems with regard to climate
change we need to frame effective
adaptive and management policies
specifically for the islands. Therefore,
in all devel opment and pl anni ng
activities climate change should form
the major agenda, as the underlying
principle is "precaution is better than
Dr A. Biju Kumar is with the Department of Aquatic
Biology & Fisheries, University of Kerala,
Thiruvananthapuram-695 581, Kerala; Email:
"14 SCIENCE REPORTER, September 2010
Himalayan Red BerryWonder Heart Tonic
Hi mal ayan Red Berry
(Crataegus crenulata Roxb. Syn.
Pyracantha crenulata (D.Don) M.
Roemer, Fam. Rosaceae) is
endemi c t o Hi mal ayan hi l l s
rangi ng f rom 900 to 2400 m
al t i t ude. Local l y known as
"Ghi ngar oo", this dense bushy
shr ub gr ows wi del y i n
abundance in barren, rocky and
dry grassl ands. This drought
and frost tol erant species can
wi t hst and t emper at ur e
f l uct uat i ons f r om subzero t o
35 C. These bushes are 5 to
15 ft hi gh, profusely branched
with dark green leaves and are
l aden with dark red col oured,
pul py berries duri ng the mont h
of August - Sept ember . Thi s
perennial, deci duous and thorny
shrub is commonl y known as
Indi an hawthorn.
Conventi onal l y this pl ant is
expl oi t ed by t he l ocal
i nhabi t ant s f or f enci ng of
agri cul tural fields and maki ng
t ool handl es. Several reports
on medi ci nal pr oper t i es of
other species of Crat aegus are
avai l abl e i n t he l i t er at ur e.
Presence of bi of l avonoi ds in
several species of Crat aegus is
usef ul i n t he t r eat ment of
di sor der s of t he hear t and
ci rcul ati on system especially in
case of angi na. The fruits of
Cr at aegus al so have
ant i spasmodi c, di ur et i c,
sedat i ve, and vasodi l at at i on
pr oper t i es. The f rui t s and
f l ower s have hypot ensi ve
properties and hence are useful
in cases of hi gh bl ood pressure.
Owi ng to its nutraceuti cal ,
p h a r m a c e u t i c a l ,
bi ot echnol ogi cal and
envi r onment al usage, t he
Defence Institute of Bi o-Energy
Research (DIBER), Hal dwani has
made a successful attempt in
expl oi t at i on of t hi s pl ant
species. Hawthorn berries are
very nut r i t i ous, havi ng
f l avonoi ds (2-3%), vi t ami n A
( 289 l U/ l OOg) , vi t ami n B,2
(1 1 Oug/ 1 OOg), vi t ami n C
( 57. 8mg/ l OOg), vi t ami n E
( 289mg/ l OOg), protein (1.6%),
cal ci um ( 3. 79 mg/ l OOg) ,
magnesi um (1. 38 mg/ l OOg) ,
potassi um ( 1, 39mg/ l OOg).
Modern scientific research
has shown that this shrub has
pot ent i al appl i cat i on f or
t r eat ment of hyper t ensi on
patients. Cl i ni cal trials on heart
patients with hypertensi on have
shown that total fl avanoi ds of
Crat aegus reduce chol esterol
l evel and i mpr ove car di ac
functions. Crataegus leaves are
also found useful for antioxidant,
i mmunomodul at or y and anti -
i nf l ammat ory activities.
Ant i oxi dant s present in
berri es of hawt hor n r educe
damage f rom free radicals. By
t he earl y 1800s, Amer i can
doctors recogni zed the herb' s
medi ci nal properties and began
usi ng it t o t reat ci rcul at ory
di sor der s and r espi r at or y
illnesses. It is used mai nl y for
Musical Training Enhances Learning
Mosquitoes to
Curb Dengue
Austral i an scientists cl ai m to
have f ound a new way t o
control dengue fever, a pai nful
and debi l i tati ng di sease that
kills more than 40, 000 peopl e
wor l dwi de and af f l i ct s 50
mi l l i on more every year. As
of now, there is no vacci ne or
cure for dengue fever.
A t eam of scientists f rom
the University of Queensl and
f ound that the l i fespan of the
mosqui t oes t hat t r ansmi t
dengue f ever coul d be
shortened by i nfecti ng t hem
wi th a bact eri um known as
Wol bachi a. Wol bachi a
bact er i a ar e r ampant i n
nat ur e, wher e t hey ar e
esti mated to infect 60% of all
i nsect speci es. The
r esear cher s f ound t hat
mosqui t oes i nf ect ed wi t h
Wol bachi a bacteri a proved
resistant to dengue fever and
Chi kungunya, whi ch usually is
not as fatal as dengue but can
cause symptoms si mi l ar to it.
The infected mosqui toes al so
became poor hosts for a f orm
of mal ari a parasites that infect
The f i ndi ngs of t hese
r esear cher s have been
publ i shed in t he l eadi ng
scientific j ournal Cell. The
lead author Scott O' Nei l l said,
" . . . We have f ound t hat
mosquitoes carrying Wol bachi
are resistant to a range of
pat hogens t hat can cause
disease in humans i ncl udi ng
dengue, Chi kungunya and
malaria parasites."
O' Neill and his t eam are
now wor ki ng on ways t o
spread t he i nf ect i on t o
mosqui t oes, whi ch ar e
responsible for transmi tti ng
human di seases such as
mal ari a. They hope to seed
t he nat ur al mosqui t o
popul ati on with Wol bachi a by
releasing mosquitoes infected
in the l aboratory.
Contributed by Dr P.K. Mukherjee,
43, Deshbandhu Society, 15,
Patparganj, Delhi-110092
A dat a- dr i ven r evi ew by
Nor t hwest er n Uni ver si t y
researchers has sifted t hrough
i nnumer abl e st udi es on
musi cal t rai ni ng to fi nd that
musi cal trai ni ng al so helps in
l ear ni ng ski l l s i ncl udi ng
l anguage, speech, memory,
at t ent i on and even vocal
emot i on. The st udy was
publ i shed on July 20 in Nature
Reviews Neuroscience. The
sci ence covered comes f rom
labs all over the worl d, f rom
scientists of varyi ng scientific
phi l osophi es, usi ng a wi de
range of research methods.
Sci enti sts use the t erm
neuropl asti ci ty to descri be the
brai n' s abi l i ty to adapt and
change as a result of trai ni ng
and exper i ence over t he
course of a person' s life. The
st udi es cover ed i n t he
Nort hwest ern revi ew offer a
model of neuroplasticity, says
Ni na Kraus, l ead author of the
study. The research strongl y
suggest s t hat t he neur al
connect i ons made dur i ng
musi cal trai ni ng al so pri me the
br ai n f or ot her aspect s of
human communi cati on.
An active engagement with
musi cal sounds not onl y
enhances neuropl asti ci ty, she
sai d, but al so enabl es t he
nervous system to provi de the
stable scaffol di ng of meani ngful
pat t er ns so i mpor t ant t o
l earni ng.
"The brai n is unabl e to
process al l of t he avai l abl e
sensor y i nf or mat i on f r om
second to second, and thus must
sel ect i vel y enhance what is
relevant," Kraus said. Playing an
i nstrument pri mes the brai n to
choose what is rel evant in a
compl ex pr ocess t hat may
involve readi ng or rememberi ng
a score, t i mi ng i ssues and
coor di nat i on wi t h ot her
"A musi ci an' s br ai n
sel ect i vel y enhances
i nf ormat i on-beari ng el ements
in sound, " Kraus sai d. In a
beaut i f ul i nt er r el at i onshi p
between sensory and cogni ti ve
processes, the nervous system
makes associ at i ons bet ween
compl ex sounds and what they
mean. " The efficient sound-to-
meani ng connect i ons ar e
i mportant not onl y for music but
f or ot her aspect s of
communi cati on.
The Nature article reviews
l i t er at ur e showi ng, f or
exampl e, that musi ci ans are
mor e successf ul t han non-
musi ci ans i n l ear ni ng t o
i ncorporat e sound patterns f or
a new l anguage i nto words.
Chi l dr en who are musi cal l y
t rai ned show stronger neural
acti vati on to pi tch changes in
speech and have a bet t er
vocabul ary and readi ng ability
t han chi l dr en who di d not
receive music trai ni ng.
And musi ci ans trai ned to
hear sounds embedded in a rich
| g SCI ENCE REPORTER, September 2010
Antioxidants present in
berries of hawthorn
reduce damage from
free radicals
treating disorders of the heart
and ci r cul at i on syst em,
especi al l y angi na. West ern
herbalists consi der it increases
the bl ood f l ow t o t he heart
muscles and restores normal
heart beat. This effect is brought
about by t he pr esence of
bi ofl avonoi ds in the fruit, these
bi ofl avonoi ds are al so strongly
anti oxi dant, hel pi ng to prevent
or reduce degenerati on of the
bl ood vessel s. The f rui t is
ant i spasmodi c, car di ac,
di uret i c, sedat i ve, t oni c and
vasodi l ator.
Besides the hypertensi ve
effect, the fruits and fl owers of
hawt hor n ar e used i n
preparations of mild heart tonic.
Consi der ed a " car di ot oni c"
herb or heart toni c, the fl owers
and berri es of the hawt horn
pl ant were used in tradi ti onal
medi ci ne t o t reat i rregul ar
heartbeat, high bl ood pressure,
chest pai n, hardeni ng of the
art eri es, and hear t f ai l ur e.
Hawt horn is commonl y used to
strengthen the heart. They are
especi al l y i ndi cat ed i n t he
t r eat ment of weak hear t
combi ned wi t h hi gh bl ood
pressure, they are al so used to
treat a heart muscl e weakened
by age, i nf l ammat i on of the
heart muscl e, arteri oscl erosi s
and for nervous heart probl ems.
Prol onged use is necessary for
the treatment to be effi caci ous.
It is normal l y used ei ther as a
tea or a ti ncture. Crat aegus
leaves are mi xed wi th gi nkgo
( Gi nkgo bi l oba) t o enhance
memor y by enhanci ng t he
bl ood suppl y to the brai n cells.
Crat aegus is i denti fi ed for
envi ronment al benefits as well
i ncl udi ng soi l and wat er
conservat i on, desert i f i cat i on
control and l and recl amati on in
fragi l e mount ai n ecosystems.
The shr ub devel ops an
extensi ve root system, whi ch
hol ds the soi l and hel ps in
r educi ng soi l er osi on and
l andsl i des. The thorny shrub
has proven to be benefi ci al in
acti ng as a barrier to pedestrian
t r af f i c pr event i ng sensi t i ve
veget at i on f r om bei ng
hampered. Tradi ti onal l y the
shr ub is pl ant ed ar ound
agr i cul t ur al f i el ds and
pl ant at i on si tes t o pr ot ect
agai nst stray ani mal s.
DIBER has devel oped a
her bal bever age named
"Hri dayamri t ' f rom its berries
and herbal tea f rom its leaves.
Transfer of t echnol ogy of its
product s wi l l be a steppi ng-
st one i n t he economi c
upl i ftment of the poor villagers
of the regi on. It may serve as
an exampl e of how a lesser-
known and less exploited shrub
t hat gr ows in t he hi l l s of
Ut t ar akhand Hi mal ayas can
benefit modern society through
scientific research.
Contributed by Mr Ranjit Singh, Mr
P.S. Negi & Mr Zakwan Ahmad,
Defence Institute of Bio-Energy
Research, Field Station, Pithoragarh-
262501, Uttarakhand
vul nerabl e to the del eteri ous
effects of background noi se,
accordi ng to the article. "Musi c
training seems to strengthen the
same neural processes t hat
of t en are def i ci ent i n
individuals with devel opmental
dyslexia or who have difficulty
heari ng speech in noi se."
The research review, the
Nor t hwest er n r esear cher s
concl ude, argues for seri ous
investing of resources in musi c
t r ai ni ng in school s
accompani ed wi th ri gorous
exami nati ons of the effects of
such instruction on l i steni ng,
l earni ng, memory, at t ent i on
and literacy skills.
" The ef f ect of musi c
trai ni ng suggests that, aki n to
physical exercise and its i mpact
on body fi tness, musi c is a
resource that tones the brai n
f or audi t ory fitness and thus
requi res society to re-exami ne
the rol e of musi c in shapi ng
i ndi vi dual devel opment , " the
researchers concl ude.
8 SCI ENCE REPORTER, September 2010 25
net wor k of mel odi es and
har moni es are pr i med t o
understand speech in a noisy
background. They exhibit both
enhanced cognitive and sensory
abilities that give them a distinct
advant age f or pr ocessi ng
speech in chal l engi ng listening
envi ronments compared wi th
non-musi ci ans.
Chi l dr en wi t h l ear ni ng
di sor der s ar e par t i cul ar l y
Playing an instrument
primes the brain to
choose what is
relevant in a complex
process that may
involve reading or
remembering a score,
timing issues and
coordination with
other musicians.
Aromatic Rice
Agri cul ture scientists
worki ng at the Anand
Agri cul ture University (AAU),
Anand , Guj arat have
devel oped a new variety of
rice whi ch is si mi l ar to
' Basmati ' in ar oma. Besides,
accordi ng to Dr M. C.
Varshney, Vi ce Chancel l or,
AAU, "The new variety of
aromat i c rice cal l ed, GAR-1,
has shorter maturi ty peri od
of 1 25- 130 days and so has
doubl e the yield as
compared to the nati onal
average of 2. 5 tonnes per
GAR-I is the onl y variety
that has aroma similar to
Basmati and superi or grai n
quality. The commerci al
seed producti on of GAR-I
has begun and its mass scale
producti on woul d begi n from
next year. GAR-I is
consi dered ideal for sowi ng
in Central and South
Guj arat.
Basmati is one of the
l ong grai n varieties of rice
grown mai nl y in India and
Pakistan. In India it is grown
in Karnal, Panipat, Kai thal ,
Kurukshetra and Ambal a
districts of Haryana. It is
also grown in Punj ab,
Dehradun regi on of
Uttranchal and Jammu
regi on of Jammu & Kashmir.
It has del i ci ous
fragrance and a uni que
flavor rarely f ound in other
rice types. There are many
varieties of Basmati rice
avai l abl e and all of t hem are
l ong grai ned. Anot her
uni que feature of basmati
rice is that it is not sticky like
most of the other l ong
grai ned rice varieties.
Contributed by Mr G.V. Joshi,
E/2-11 Girijashankar Vihar,
Karvenagar, Pune-411052
News Briefs
The di scovery in Gabon of more than 250 fossils in an excellent state of conservati on has
provi ded proof , for the first ti me, of the existence of mul ti cel l ul ar organi sms 2.1 bi l l i on years ago.
This fi ndi ng represents a maj or breakt hrough, until now, the first compl ex life forms (made up of
several cells) dated f rom around 600 mi l l i on years ago. These new fossils, of vari ous shapes and
sizes, i mpl y that the ori gi n of organi zed life is a lot ol der t han is general l y admi t t ed, thus chal l engi ng
current knowl edge on the begi nni ng of life.
The discovery of a uni que copper-repressi ng protei n in the tubercul osi s
causi ng bacteri um may pave the way t oward new strategies to prevent
tubercul osi s i nfecti on. Earlier, scientists di d not know exactly how i nvadi ng
bacteri um protect themselves f rom copper ions used by the body as a defense
agai nst i nfecti on. Now they can pursue ways to deacti vate the repressor
protei n, so that tubercul osi s can be prevented.
Bi omedi ci ne scientists have i denti fi ed and sequenced the genes of a
bacteri um cal l ed Salinispora tropica. It produces anti -cancer compounds
and can be f ound in ocean sedi ments off the Bahamas. A product cal l ed
sal i nosporami de A has shown promi se in treati ng a bone marrow cancer
cal l ed mul t i pl e myel oma, as wel l as sol i d t umour s. A San Di ego
pharmaceuti cal company is using it to treat patients havi ng bone marrow
cancer and it coul d soon be tested to treat other cancers.
The evol uti on of bi rd bills is rel ated to cl i mate accordi ng to latest
research. By exami ni ng bill sizes of a diverse range of bi rd species
around the worl d, researchers have f ound that birds wi th l arger bills
tend to be found in hot environments, whilst birds in col der environments
have evol ved smal l er bills. The size and shape of these distinctive
structures are usually expl ai ned by thei r rol e in feedi ng and mate
attracti on.
An i nternati onal t eam of scientists has decoded the genome of a
songbi rd - the Austral i an zebra fi nch - to reveal i ntri gui ng clues about
the geneti c basis and evol uti on of vocal l earni ng. An analysis of the
genome suggests a l arge part of the bi rd' s DNA is actively engaged by
heari ng and si ngi ng songs. This study coul d hel p identify the geneti c
and mol ecul ar ori gi ns of speech di sorders, such as those related to
auti sm, stroke, stuttering and Parkinson' s disease, the researchers say.
Human-dri ven changes in the earth' s atmospheri c composi t i on are
likely to al ter pl ant diseases of the future. Elevated carbon di oxi de levels are more likely to have a
di rect effect on pl ant diseases. Plants grown in hi gh carbon di oxi de envi ronments close their stomata
more often. Because pl ant pathogens often enter the pl ant t hrough the stomata, the more frequent
cl osi ng of the stomata may hel p prevent some pat hogens f rom getti ng into the plant.
A lot of l arge particles of dust and pol l en in the at mosphere may make your nose twitch, but they
can l ead directly to greater preci pi tati on in cl ouds, scientists have di scovered for the first ti me.
Special particles cal l ed aerosol s - resulting f rom desert dust, some bi ol ogi cal processes and possibly
f rom pol l uti on - are needed as catalysts to f orm ice in cl ouds, whi ch can influence preci pi tati on and
cl oud dynami cs. These particles can serve as the center, or nucl ei , for cl oud dropl ets that combi ne to
f orm rai ndrops.
Researchers have devel oped a more efficient techni que for produci ng
bi ofuel s f rom woody plants that significantly reduces the waste resulting
f rom conventi onal bi ofuel product i on techni ques. Traditionally, to make
bi ofuel s, producers have used corn, beets or other pl ant matter that is
hi gh in starches or si mpl e sugars. But, in woody plants, their energy
potenti al is l ocked away inside the plant' s lignin that provides each pl ant' s
structural support. Breaking down that lignin to reach the plant' s component
carbohydrates is an essential first step t oward maki ng bi ofuel s.
| g SCI ENCE REPORTER, September 2010
Feature Article
The ill effects of global
warming are all too
visible today. Do we
keep on plundering
the earth for our
material benefits or
make sure we protect
it for our future
HE world climate has always
been hi ghl y vari abl e. Many
changes are driven by natural
factors, but others are now the
resul t of a si ngl e speci es (human
beings), which is driving a significant
shift in the global climate. People have
been influencing the biosphere for at
least 8000 years, since the invention of
agriculture. But for several decades, it
is the very composition of the global
atmosphere that they have been
modifying. We now know that there
has indeed been a major change in
climate since the arrival of people on
earth, and 18000 years ago, the climate
was radically different from what it is
It is worrying that the growth of
human popul ati on and human
technology is begi nni ng to produce
very perceptible effects, at faster paces,
on the atmosphere. Compared to the
geological and astronomical rhythms
that seem to have governed the great
climatic changes of the past, the pace at
whi ch the gl obal atmosphere is
changing today is therefore extremely
If we expand our perspective to
take in the entire history of our planet,
what is most striking is the relative
stability of its climate. Of course it has
undergone some major changes. The
key to this paradox seems to be the
"greenhouse effect", which depends on
the composi ti on of our pl anet's
atmosphere. This brings us back to the
probl em of greenhouse gases
parti cul arl y carbon di oxi de. As the
greenhouse gases bui l d up in the
20 SCIENCE REPORTER, September 2010 -| g
atmosphere the earth gets hotter. It is
i ndi sputabl y true that in the last 30
years there has been a significant and
fai rl y regul ar i ncrease in the
proporti on of greenhouse gases
particularly CO, in the atmosphere.
In short, we are modi fyi ng the
physical state of our planet on a global
scale, in a manner that can no longer
be ignored. Organizations have quickly
realized this and since 1980 there has
been a huge research effort to explain
probable effects on our environment.
The research continues, as we try to
discover what rates of change can be
Feature Article
Global warming: Causes and effects
Earth's temperature has risen
about 1 degree Fahrenheit in the
last century. The past 50 years
of warming has been
attributed to human
Greenhouse gases are emissions that
J *
During the past 100 years
global sea levels have risen
S n
S 4 to 8 inches.
H 11 o ( l Ut i ' wI l
Some predictions for J
local changes include
increasingly hot
summers and intense
Damaging storms, droughts and related weather phenomena cause an
increase in economic and health problems. Warmer weather provide
breeding grounds for insects such as malaria-carrying mosquitoes.
The Greenhouse Effect
We all know that a greenhouse is a
devi ce i ntended to protect or
accel erate, or even to force the
devel opment of certai n pl ants. The
infrared radiation that is thus trapped
inside the greenhouse helps maintain
an el evated temperature before it
finally escapes to the outside world.
Without it, the sun's energy would just
enter the planet, or bounce off it.
But the i rony is that the sun's
energy by i tsel f is not suffi ci ent to
make the pl anet warm enough for
us to live on. The reason the earth is
at just the ri ght temperatures for
humans and other species to develop
and thrive is because of this miracle
cal l ed the "greenhouse effect". It is
thi s phenomenon that keeps
temperatures on the earth's surface
averagi ng 15C. Wi thout it the
temperature would be -20C - a cold
in which humanity woul d never have
been able to evolve.
Like the other planets in our solar
system, the energy that the sun
constantl y emi ts strikes our pl anet,
warmi ng the surface. Because of the
presence of an atmosphere havi ng
al most perfect composi ti on,
sustai nabi l i ty of l i fe on earth is
ensured. Venus, for instance, has a thick
confirmed that
the 1990s have
been the hottest
decade since
records began
150 years ago.
SCIENCE REPORTER, September 2010 -| g
It is important to slow the
warming as much as
possible. This means using
less fossil fuels, eliminating
CFCs altogether, and
slowing down deforestation.
atmosphere (thicker than the earth),
which is composed mostly of carbon
dioxide. Combined with its closeness
to the sun, the carbon dioxide levels
on Venus send temperatures soaring
to 460C. On an average, the energy
of sun's radi ati on on the top of the
earth's atmosphere is 1355 W/ m
(the solar constant). The effect this has
on the earth's cl i mate is cal l ed the
solar forcing of the cl i mate system.
This varies from season to season on a
larger timescale. At the earth's surface
on a sunny day the i nci dent energy
would be about 1000 W/ m
. The
greenhouse can be consi dered as
an addi ti onal forci ng factor, as it
prevents some radi ati on from
escaping to space.
It is clear that the evolution of the
earth's atmosphere has been
i nti matel y l i nked wi th the
development of life on earth. Today
both bi ol ogi cal and geochemi cal
processes are involved in maintaining
i ts composi ti on, but one speci es,
human, has now become so numerous
in numbers that it is begi nni ng to
affect the composi ti on of the
atmosphere, shi fti ng i t from i ts
natural equilibrium. The greenhouse
effect changes the way the sun impacts
the earth. CO, and other gases in the
atmosphere act l i ke the gl ass in a
greenhouse, trapping the heat from
the sun. As more greenhouse gases are
added to the atmosphere, more heat
is trapped and the worl d's cl i mate
grows warmer: 'cl i mate change'
The greenhouse gases are trace
gases that alter the heating rates in the
atmosphere by al l owi ng i ncomi ng
sol ar energy to pass through but
trapping the heat emitted back by the
earth surface. They have strong
radi ati ve properti es. Absorpti on of
radiation is a property of a wide range
of gas molecules, including COz, CH4,
CFCs, N 20 and SO,. Among them CO,
is the most i mportant. These are all
l ong-l i ved greenhouse gases. I nter
Governmental Panel on Cl i mate
Change (I PCC) expresses the
effectiveness of different greenhouse
gases in terms of Gl obal Warmi ng
Potentials (GWPs). These indicate the
contribution of each greenhouse gases
to likely global warmi ng, relative to
Water vapour is one of the most
important greenhouse gases but its role
is a bi t compl i cated. When water
vapour condenses into clouds it can
ei ther absorb l ong-wave radi ati on
from the ground causi ng further
warming or reflect radiation from the
sun causing a cooling effect. Which of
these predomi nates depends on the
type of cl ouds and its hei ght in the
Carbon dioxide contributes about
50% to the greenhouse effect. The
primary source of the increase in C02
is use of fossi l fuel s, but l and-use
changes al so make remarkabl e
contri buti on to it. Si nce prehi stori c
ti mes peopl e have burnt wood and
other plant remains to produce heat and
light. As wood became scarce, the use
of coal became increasingly important
and ultimately oil and gas. The demand
of energy increased sharply and this
demand was l argel y met by the
increased use of fossil fuels, ultimately
releasing more and more greenhouse
gases into the atmosphere, particularly
The burning of fossil fuels is not
the onl y way in whi ch C02 can be
released into the atmosphere. It is also
produced in l arge amounts as a
consequence of l and-use change.
Before the i ndustri al revol uti on the
rise in the concentration of CO, was
largely ascribed to deforestation, and
agricultural land-use. Till now 20% of
the rel eased C02 (carbon content
onl y) has been contri buted by land-
use changes. Land-use changes can
rel ease C02 into the atmosphere by
causi ng oxi dati on of carbon
compounds in the vegetation or the
soil. Due to deforestation, there is an
increase in soil erosion, which exposes
organi c matter to rapi d oxi dati on,
which ultimately becomes the source
of C02.
Deforestati on is now out of
control. It is estimated that the earth is
l osi ng more than 150,000 km
tropical forest every year. Today the
case of A mazon forest is the most
spectacular (more than 120,000 km
in 1987, adding 500 million tonnes of
C02 to the atmosphere) but we must
not forget that in West Africa more than
hal f the forest (about 80%) has been
destroyed in less than 60 years, and that
cl eari ng operati ons still conti nue in
south east Asia and I ndonesia (more
than a million hectares of forest was
burned in 1997 in I ndonesi a).
Deforestation of China occurred long
ago; in Ameri ca, vast stretches were
deforested in the last century. Thi s
destructi on of forests has major
consequences. The loss of forests also
means that there are fewer trees to
absorb C02. However, deforestation
releases less than half the yearly total
of CO,, the rest comes from the burning
of fossil fuels.
Besides, every time we switch a
l i ght on we are addi ng to the
greenhouse effect. Electricity is mainly
created from burning of coal and oil.
The concentration of C02 has increased
25% si nce the i ndustri al revolution.
Half of this rise has been in the last 30
years. It is expected to double within
decades if it is not checked.
As a feedback process, about half
the C02 rel eased by burni ng fossi l
fuels is absorbed by the oceans. Recent
research suggests that as the earth heats
up, the ocean will be less efficient in
absorbi ng C02 l eavi ng more in the
atmosphere and so adding further to
global warmi ng. Observati ons since
1961 show that the ocean has been
absorbing more than 80% heat added
to the climate system, and that ocean
temperatures have increased at depths
of around 3000 m. Hence, efficiency of
absorbi ng C02 by oceans has been
The concentration of methane in
the atmosphere is also rising at a fast
rate. I t is produced by anaerobi c
respi rati on in a wi de vari ety of
envi ronments, such as stomachs of
ani mal s, swamps, paddy fi el ds,
waterlogged soil, release of natural gas
from landfills and vegetation rotting
i n the absence of oxygen. A
considerable amount is also produced
duri ng mi ni ng and oi l / natural gas
extracti on. Methane is constantl y
removed from the atmosphere by
reaction with hydroxyl (OH) radicals
in the air and by the activity of soil
organi sm.
8 SCIENCE REPORTER, September 2010 25
Feature Article
We are modifying the physical state of our planet on a global scale, in
a manner that can no longer be ignored.
There has indeed been a major
change in climate since the
arrival of people on earth, and
18000 years ago, the climate was
radically different from what it is
The problem is that as the world
popul ati on i ncreases, agri cul tural
activity must increase for the sake of
sustai nabi l i ty and ul ti matel y the
emission of methane also i ncreases.
Since 1960, the amount of methane in
the atmosphere has increased by 1%
per year - twice as fast as the build-up
of CO,. A methane mol ecul e is 20
times more effective in trapping the
heat than COz mol ecul es. Methane
molecules survive for 10 years in the
atmosphere. As the worl d warms,
large quantities of methane stored in
the frozen tundra of the north may be
rel eased. Methane trapped in the
seabed may also be freed by rising of
oceanic temperature.
Nitrous oxide contributes about
6% to greenhouse effect at the
moment. It comes from both natural
and man-made processes. N 20 is
contri buted about 45% by man-
influenced sources mai nl y through
fossil fuel consumption, ni trogenous
fertilizers, burni ng rai n forests and
ani mal wastes. A tmospheri c
concentration is quite low at around
0.31ppm, and they are ri si ng much
more slowly than methane.
Chl orofl uorocarbons are
extremely effective greenhouse gases.
Al though there are l ower
concentrati ons of CFCs in the
atmosphere than C02, they trap more
heat. A CFC molecule is 10,000 times
more effective in trapping heat than a
CO, molecule. CFC molecules survive
for 110 years because they are very
stable and decay slowly. CFCs rise and
gradual l y accumul ate in the
stratosphere where they are broken
down by the sun's ul travi ol et light,
rel easi ng chl ori ne atoms. Chl ori ne
attacks ozone (03); one chlorine atom
can hel p to destroy 100,000 ozone
mol ecul es. Hence it is necessary to
achieve the global phase-out of CFCs
at the earliest.
Although SO, is a greenhouse gas,
its accumulation in the atmosphere has
probably had a net cooling effect. SO,
released in the gas phase is converted
to aerosol particles of sulphate. These
aerosol parti cl es absorb short-wave
radi ati ons and are the mai n
condensation nuclei for water vapour,
whi ch ultimately becomes the source
of cl ouds. Sul phate aerosols last for
short peri ods in the troposphere but
thei r l i feti me in the stratosphere is
several years.
The source of sul phate i n
stratosphere is volcanic eruptions. The
eruption of Elchino (1982) and Pinatubo
(1991) produced a cooling effect for
several years because of the presence
of sul phate aerosol in stratosphere.
Dimethylsulphide (DMS) is produced
in l arge amounts by some mari ne
phytopl ankton, and coul d act in a
feedback loop to stabilize temperature.
Hi gh sea temperature coul d lead to
more DMS bei ng produced: thi s
increases cloud cover, reflecting solar
radiation and trapping heat radiated
from the earth.
Impacts of Warming
Because of the combi ned effect of
greenhouse gases, the changes that are
happeni ng now are certai nl y rapi d
enough. I f no acti on is taken the
greenhouse effect could lead to rise in
average global temperatures between
1.5C to 4.5C as early as the year 2030.
Experts from the IPCC confirmed that
the 1990s have been the hottest decade
si nce records began 150 years ago.
A ccordi ng to them, el even of the
twelve years in the period (1995-2006)
rank among the top 12 warmest years
in the instrumental record. They also
found that the average temperatures
had risen by roughly 0.74C since 1900.
And forecasts for the future are even
more alarming.
These rises will be greater towards
the poles and less at the tropics. There
will also be more warming in winter
than summer. Such increases will make
the world hotter than it has been for
more than 100,000 years. The rise will
also be faster than ever before. Overall
effects are more horri fyi ng. Storms,
cycl ones, gal es, hurri canes and
typhoon will become more frequent
and stronger as oceans heat up causing
more water to evaporate. Evidence is
building up at an alarming rate.
I n the same way, conti nental
heartlands will face droughts. Ethiopia,
suffered one of the worst heat waves
and droughts in the recent past.
With sea levels rising at a rate of 1
to 2 mm each year due to the melting
of the polar ice and mountain glaciers
it could lead to major flooding in the
coastal areas, estuaries and low lying
islands such as Bangladesh, Nile delta,
and Maldives. Other likely impacts are
on human heal th. Warmer
temperatures would enable insects and
other disease (such as malaria) carriers
to expand their range.
Unfortunately, as our economi es
continue to grow, we are using more
fossil fuels than ever before. Around
four-fifths of the world's energy comes
from them. And forecasts suggest their
domi nance woul d not end any ti me
soon, either. On current trends, the
world's use of energy is set to almost
doubl e in the fi rst 30 years of thi s
century, with about 90% of the growth
likely to be met by gas, oil and coal.
Oil is more in demand than ever, and
suppl i es are expected to jump by
double. Both oil and coal will maintain
their current shares of the total energy,
while natural gas is actually expected
to rise than ever before.
It is clear that things are starting
to heat up, and that the number of
droughts, storms, floods, heat waves,
and other extreme events are on the
rise, too. So it is important to slow the
warmi ng as much as possi bl e. Thi s
means usi ng l ess fossi l fuel s,
el i mi nati ng CFCs al together, and
slowing down deforestation. This can
be achi eved best through energy
conservation, including better use of
publ i c transport and through
renewable energy such as solar, wave
and wind energy.
Do we plunder the earth or make
sure we protect it for future
generations? The choice is ours.
Dr Zulfequar Ahmad Khan has taught geography in
the Jamia Millia Islamia. Currently he is
associated with the Centre for Studies on Agriculture,
Food and Environment (CSAFE), University of
Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand. Address: 21 -B,
Lane No 3, Zakir Nagar, New Delhi-110025.
20 SCIENCE REPORTER, September 2010 -| g
Feature Article
The rising carbon dioxide concentration in
the atmosphere must be viewed with
caution. It is inappropriate for public
discussion of the issue to focus only on the
hypothetical dangers of global
warming that might result from higher
carbon dioxide levels. It is important to
stress as well on the known benefits of
higher carbon dioxide concentration for
the productivity of food crops, trees, and
other plants.
N hi gh school bi ol ogy, we l earned about a l i fe-
sustaining process called photosynthesis. Plants pull
carbon dioxide through tiny openings in their leaves,
fix it as carbohydrates that, di rectl y or i ndi rectl y,
supply almost all animal and human needs for food apart
from providing oxygen. The principal factors affecting the
rate of photosynthesis are favourable temperature, the level
of light intensity, and the availability of carbon dioxide.
Most green pl ants respond qui te favourabl y to
concentrations of CO, well above current atmospheric levels.
I n fact, there is growi ng evi dence that i ncreases in
atmospheri c concentrati ons of CO, may also have great
impact on plant growth by affecting rates of photosynthesis.
Trees absorb more carbon dioxide when the amount in the
atmosphere is higher, but the increase is unlikely to offset
the higher levels of CO,.
Actually it is one of the best-kept secrets in the debate
on climate change that the vegetation on Earth would benefit
greatly from a higher level of carbon dioxide (CO,) in the
Positive Effects
There are plenty of examples to show that if CO, levels
increase more than the present level of 360 parts per million,
most plants would grow faster and larger because of more
efficient photosynthesis and a reduction in water loss. There
would also be many other benefits for plants, among them
being greater resistance to temperature extremes and other
forms of stress, better growth at low light intensities,
improved root/ shoot ratios, less injury from air pollutants,
and more nutrients in the soil as a result of more extensive
nitrogen fixation.
There are two important reasons for this productivity
boost at higher CO, levels. One is superior efficiency of
photosynthesis. The other is a sharp reduction in water loss
per unit of leaf area. This benefit comes from the partial
closing of pores in leaves, which is associated wi th higher
C02 levels. These pores, known as stomata, admit air into
the leaf for photosynthesis, but they are also a major source
of transpiration or moisture loss. By partially closing these
pores, higher CO, levels greatly reduce the pl ants' water
lossa significant benefit in arid climates.
There are marked variations in response to C02 among
plant species. The biggest differences are among three broad
categori es of pl antsC3, C4, and Crassul acean Aci d
Metabolism or CAMeach wi th a different pathway for
photosynthetic fixation of carbon dioxide.
20 SCIENCE REPORTER, September 2010 -| g
Feature Article
Trees absorb more
carbon dioxide
when the amount
in the atmosphere
is higher, but the
increase is unlikely
to offset the
higher levels of
Most green plants, in forests that account for two thirds
of global photosynthesis, algae, and most major food crops
are C3 plants. C3 metabolism allows them to respond most
dramatically to higher levels of C02. At current atmospheric
levels of CO,, up to half of the photosynthate in C3 plants is
typically lost and returned to the air by a process called
photorespiration, when photosynthesis rate is fast in these
pl ants. El evated l evel s of atmospheri c COz vi rtual l y
el i mi nate photorespi rati on in C3 pl ants, maki ng
photosynthesis much more efficient.
Cereal grai ns wi th C3 metabol i sm, i ncl udi ng ri ce,
wheat, barley, oats, and rye, show yield increases ranging
from 25% to 64%. Rice (the most eaten food in the world)
was shown to increase mass and use less water with higher
C02 levels, meaning that the most important food in the
worl d hi ghl y benefi ts from C02 i ncrease. They al so
experience a boost in photosynthetic efficiency in response
to higher carbon dioxide levels, but because there is little
photorespiration in C4 plants, the improvement is smaller
than in C3 plants.
Instead, the largest benefit C4 plants receive from higher
C02 levels comes from reduced water loss. Loss of water
through leaf pores declines by about 33% in C4 plants with
a doubl i ng of the C02 concentrati on from its current
atmospheric level as in case of corn, sugarcane, sorghum,
millet, and some tropi cal grasses. As these pl ants are
frequentl y grown under drought condi ti ons of hi gh
temperatures and limited soil moisture, the yields improve
even when rainfall is lower than normal. They show yield
increases ranging from 10 to 55%, resulting primarily from
superior efficiency in water.
The l owest response to higher CO, levels is usually
from the CAM pl ants that are al ready well adapted for
effi ci ent water use. However, some CA M pl ants l i ke
succulents follow the C3 pathway when they are not under
water stress, that is, experi ence hi gher producti vi ty at
elevated levels of carbon dioxide.
If plants respond so well to additional carbon dioxide,
then we woul d expect to see posi ti ve responses to the
substantial increase in atmospheric C02 over recent decades.
Several pieces of evidence suggest exactly such a response.
Some Evidences
Accordi ng to a report publ i shed by sci enti sts wi th the
Finnish Forest Research Institute in the 3 April 1992 issue of
Science magazine, a 25 to 30% increase was reported in the
growing stock of forests in Austria, Finland, France, Sweden,
Switzerland, and West Germany between 1971 and 1990,
and this growth was attributed in part to a 9% increase in
atmospheric carbon dioxide during the same period.
In most green plants, productivity continues to rise up
to C02 concentrations of 1,000 ppm and above. For rice, the
opti mal C02 level is between 1,500 and 2,000 ppm. For
unicellular algae, the optimal level is 10,000 to 50,000 ppm.
An i ndoor garden wi th the carbon dioxide amount
increased from an ambient level of 300 ppm to a high level
of 2,000 ppm can nearly double plant growth. Experiments
have shown that pl ants can handl e up to 10,000 ppm
of CO, wi th no i l l effects on mai ntai ni ng al l pl ant
resources at maxi mum and at a temperature not exceeding
30C (86F).
Richard Norby of the Department of Energy and his
colleagues have examined the responses to elevated carbon
dioxide levels in sweet gum trees. The experiment consisted
of pumping tonnes of carbon dioxide into the plots, raising
the concentration of carbon dioxide in the tree. The total
amount of carbon dioxide fixed into organic matter such as
leaves, stems and roots, was found to be higher in plots
given extra carbon dioxide. The average increase was 24%.
Fi ne root and wood producti on i ncreased si gni fi cantl y
duri ng onl y the first year of treatment in response to
elevated carbon dioxide.
Fine roots are important for water and nutrient uptake,
but they have a short life and their carbon returns to the soil
within a year. I nitial results suggest that the increase in
carbon supply to fine roots has increased the carbon content
of the soil (carbon dioxide fertilization). Norby cautions,
however, that the posi ti ve effect of carbon di oxi de
ferti l i zati on is i nsuffi ci ent to hal t the ri si ng l evel of
atmospheric carbon dioxide.
A Russian study from 1961-1998 found that as carbon
dioxide increased the forest increased at the same rate. Pine
trees grown for 2 years at 600 ppm grow more than 200%
faster compared to normal rates. If some types of forest
trees grow more rapidly then higher atmospheric CO, holds
the prospect of lowering timber costs and hence lowering
housing and furniture costs!
Trees and their seedl i ngs grown under control l ed
envi ronments or in open top chambers si mul ati ng the
outdoors have shown remarkabl e growth responses to
elevated levels of C02. Addition of carbon dioxide to black
wal nut, sugar mapl e, oak, ash, sweet gum, pi ne, and
eucalyptus shows good results. The forestry department at
Michigan State University has produced plantable trees in
months, rather than years, by subjecting seedlings to 1000-
ppm C02 concentrations under optimal conditions of light,
temperature, day length, and nutrients.
The Water Conservati on Laboratory of the U.S.
Department of Agri cul ture has shown that orange trees
accumulated 2.8 times more biomass in five years, and in
their first two years of production produced 10 times more
It is also standard practice for l aboratory scientists
working with algae cultures to conduct their research in
C02-enri ched environments. They cut costs by shortening
their season and better crops.
For over 100 years, nurserymen have been addi ng
carbon dioxide to their greenhouses to raise the yields of
vegetabl es, fl owers, and ornamental pl ants. These
20 SCIENCE REPORTER, September 2010 -| g
Most plants would grow
faster and larger because
of more efficient
photosynthesis and a
reduction in water loss.
greenhouse-grown vegetabl es, i ncl udi ng tomatoes,
cucumbers, and lettuce, show earlier maturity, larger fruit
size, greater numbers of fruit, a reduction in cropping time,
and yield increases ranging from 10 to 70%, averaging 20 to
50%. Tuber and root crops, including potatoes and sweet
potatoes, show dramatic increase in tuberization (potatoes)
and growth of roots (sweet potatoes). Yield increases range
from 18 to 75%.
Greenhouse-grown fl ower crops, i ncl udi ng roses,
carnations, and chrysanthemums, grow to earlier maturity,
and have l onger stems and l arger, l onger-l i ved, more
colorful flowers. Yield increases range from 9 to 15%, with
a mean of 12%.
New Mutations and Adaptations
Some researchers have reported the discovery of the first
known plant with a genetic mutation that makes it strongly
insensitive to increased levels of carbon dioxide, which will
provide additional i nformati on about the mechani sm of
pl ants' response to carbon dioxide levels. However, the
researchers caution that a number of factors in addition to
future atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, such as
temperature, precipitation and available nutrient levels, will
need to be consi dered before it wi l l be possi bl e to
thoughtfully predict plant behavior based on molecular
Using Arabidopsis thaliana, a fast-growing, flowering
pl ant used for geneti c and devel opmental studi es,
Dominique Bergmann, an assistant professor of biology,
Gregory Lampard, a postdoctoral fel l ow, and Cora
MacAlister, a PhD student, found a unique structural region
on a protein with 10 sites that can be modified by a well-
known, environmentally-controlled signaling pathway to
dictate the number of stomata a plant makes.
Japanese researchers have found a way to make plant
leaves absorb more carbon dioxide in an innovation that
may one day help ease global warmi ng and boost food
production. Accordi ng to chief researcher I kuko Hara-
Nishimura of Kyoto University, soaking germinated seeds
in a protein solution raised the number of pores, or stomas,
on the leaves that inhale C02 and release oxygen. A larger
number means there are more intake windows for carbon
dioxide, contributing to lowering the density of the gas.
Another effect is higher starch production in photosynthesis,
the process in which green plants use CO, and water to
produce sugar and other organic compounds as food and
bio fuel.
In the experiments, the team used budding leaves of
thale cress, or Arabidopsis, which has a short life span of
two months and is widely used as a model plant in biology.
They found that the number of pores multiplied relative to
the concentration of the solution of the protein, which the
researchers named Stomagen, an expensi ve product,
achieving a maximum of four times the number of pores of
an untreated plant. An alternative may be to genetically
modify plants to have more pores.
Good News or Bad News
So, there's an argument to be made that carbon dioxide
concentrati ons i ncrease pl ant growth and abundance.
Actually it's misleading to say that, if C02 is good for plants,
it's good for the environment. Research shows that with
higher carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere we
would see more wood growth, but that there may also be
more pests due to higher temperatures.
Whi l e scientists di sagree about the likely effects of
addi ti onal carbon di oxi de on gl obal temperature, they
general l y agree a doubl i ng of the carbon di oxi de
concentrati on in the atmosphere, as is projected, would
increase plant productivity by almost one-third. Most plants
woul d grow faster and bigger, wi th increases in leaf size
and thickness, stem height, branching, and seed production.
The number and size of fruits and flowers would also rise.
Root/ top ratios would increase, giving many plants better
root systems for access to water and nutrients.
It does not necessarily mean that such a doubling is
good for the planet. We do not know what the optimal level
of atmospheric carbon dioxide should be. So many variables
could be affected by a major increase in C02 including
temperature and a redistribution of water resources, that
the honest observer has to conclude he does not really know
what will happen. Even so, the good news about plant
growth makes it possible to project a number of features of
the global ecosystem in the next century.
Fi rst, we can expect a rapi d expansi on of food
production that may offset some of the presumed adverse
climate effects. As crop yields rise with higher C02 levels,
the amount of land devoted to agriculture could decline. It
will be much easier to protect envi ronmental l y sensitive
land areas from over-cultivation for crops.
Since C3 plants will benefit somewhat more than C4
plants from higher CO, levels, there will be some shift in
the mix of plants. Trees are C3 plants, so we can expect
more rapid reforestation and an enormous expansion in
forest biomass. Of the 21 most i mportant food crops, 17
have C3 pathways. They include rice, wheat, barley, oats,
rye, soybeans, field beans, mung beans, cowpeas, chickpeas,
pigeonpeas, potatoes, sweet potatoes, cassava-yams, sugar
beets, bananas, and coconuts. The exceptions are corn,
sorghum, millet, and sugarcane, which have C4 pathways,
and which will probably decline in relative production. On
the other hand, since 14 of the 18 most noxious weeds are
C4 plants, rising levels of atmospheric COz will generally
favour crop production over weeds.
Plants, directly or indirectly, provide 95% of the total
food of the earth. Since plants are at the bottom of the food
chain, a boost in plant production shoul d lead to major
increases in bird, fish, and mammal populations as well.
Ms Sushma Sardana has been teaching biology in the higher classes at the
Delhi Public School, R.K. Puram since the last 18 years. Address: K1/107,
SF, Chittaranjan Park, New Delhi-110019
8 SCIENCE REPORTER, September 2010
Point Counterpoint
Keeping Animals in Zoos is Unethical"
For their Own
As a l ayman, it is very easy to
say "Keepi ng ani mal s in zoos is
unethi cal ". But as a student of
science, I cannot go with this
statement. No doubt ani mal s
do not like to live out of their
natural habitats in zoos, whi ch
depri ve t hem of thei r natural
f reedom, but zoos are built only
f or thei r benefi t to conserve
their precious species. Because
there are some probl ems in the
nat ural habi t at t hat can be
overcome only by keeping them
in Zoos. That is, en- si t u
conservation is as i mportant as
i n-si t u conser vat i on i . e.
Nati onal parks and Biosphere
reserves. No doubt they have
to sacrifice their f reedom but in
t urn they are get t i ng t hei r
speci es pr ot ect ed f r om t he
danger of extinction.
Nidhi Anand
Jammu (Nowshera)
Threatened Humans
in Zoos Too?
In vi ew of t he uncont r ol l ed
dest r uct i on of t he del i cat e
envi r onment
and merci l ess
ki l l i ng of wi l d
ani mal s by the
h u m a n
speci es, t he
f o r e g o n e
concl usi on is
that man made zoos are the only
place left where ani mal s can find
protecti on and can propagat e
their species. These menageri es
or col l ecti ons of wi l d ani mal s
in cages not onl y i mpar t
knowl edge about our
magni f i cent wi l d l i f e t o
i ndi vi dual s but al so pl ay an
i mpor t ant r ol e i n t hei r
conservati on. Zoos are al so
home to ani mal s breathi ng their
l ast on t hi s pl anet due t o
ecol ogi cal vandal i sm caused by
ant hr opogeni c act i vi t i es on
nature and natural resources.
But often we come across
news of wild ani mal s in captivity
f aci ng unhygi eni c condi t i ons
and dyi ng due t o some
mysterious i ncurabl e disorders.
This is due to the less frequency
of gene reshuffling in capti ve
breedi ng gi vi ng birth to geneti c
drift in these ani mal s. These
ani mal s ultimately gi ve birth to
sexual l y sterile ani mal s who
cannot often combat vari ous
diseases. The mai n obj ecti ve
of constructi ng zoos was the
resurrection of ani mal s that are
faci ng exti ncti on but will it be
fair to keep the abori gi nes and
other tri bal communi t y in zoos
just because they are on the brink
of exti ncti on or are the richest
source of gene pool ? Is it not
an i nhuman and unet hi cal
undertaki ng? Freedom is the
birth right of every organi sm on
this earth and one has no right
to expl oi t it.
Rahul Rohitashwa
Care for Caged
In human society there are a lot
of systems, rul es, l aws and
et hi cs gr adual l y st r uct ur ed
al ong wi t h t he cul t ur al
devel opment . Ani mal s are
al ways free and it's natural that
they woul d move in jungles or
localities, but never be kept in
cages ei t her in zoos or in
houses. Instead of this natural
law, they are often or al ways
used, control l ed and consumed
by humans, the highest f orm of
ani mal . The common argument
in favour of keepi ng ani mal s in
zoos that if the ani mal s are not
kept in zoos, then how our kids
woul d l earn about t hem. But in
such a case, necessar y
arrangements must be taken for
the proper care of the caged
ani mal s in zoos or pets.
Swapan Rudra
Sonamukhi, Bankura (W.B.)
Freedom in Zoos
The ever-i ncreasi ng growth of
popul at i on, t echnol ogi cal
expansi on, i mbal anced
consumpt i on and l i mi t l ess
expl oi t at i on of nat ur al
r esour ces has l ed t o t he
di sappearance of so many races
of birds and ani mal s f rom our
pl anet. So it is not unethi cal to
keep t hem in zoos. But the onl y
thi ng is that we shoul d provi de
t hem wi th comf ort abl e facilities
and moderate f reedom in zoos.
M.S. Narayana
Necessary for
Preserving Species
Keepi ng ani mal s in zoos is an
at t empt t o pr ot ect t he
endangered species of ani mal s
by i sol at i ng t hem f r om t he
unsui t abl e or
t h r e a t e n e d
h a b i t a t .
Ani mal s i n
zoos ar e
pl aced under
t he car e of
humans; zoos
hel p in recoveri ng popul at i ons
as well as preventi ng exti ncti on
of ani mal s. They al so provi de
f avour abl e condi t i ons t hat
closely resembl e thei r natural
habitats. Zoos are i mportant for
ex situ conservat i on (off-si te
conser vat i on appr oach) of
bi odi versi t y. It wi l l not be
unethical to keep ani mal s in the
zoos because we have a moral
duty to care f or well bei ng of
ani mal s and pass on t he
bi ol ogi cal l egacy to our future
generati ons. As every species
has an i nt r i nsi c val ue, it
r equi r es conser vat i on. The
f ormat i on of zoos is one of the
most ef f ect i ve ways in thi s
di recti on but one' s carelessness
t owards ani mal s is unethi cal .
We now r eal i ze t hat
degr adat i on of habi t at s
threatens the survival of many
species. About 27 species have
become extinct in the last twenty
years al one. The Dodo of
Mauri ti us, Quagga of Afri ca,
Thyl aci ne of Austral i a, Steller' s
sea cow of Russia and three sub-
species (Bali, Java, Caspi an) of
ti ger are now ani mal s of the
past. Ecol ogi sts bel i eve that
species richness and diversity
are essent i al f or ecosyst em
heal th and the survival of race
of humans on the earth. Hence,
the establ i shment of zoos is a
right step.
Prabin Kumar Sharma
Inside the Rods of
Iron Cages
People are used to l ooki ng at
ani mal s inside the rods of i ron
cages. But every ani mal has a
uni que characteristic that makes
it so di fferent f rom others and
this behavi or is defi ned by its
n a t u r a l
habi tat. When
peopl e vi si t
zoos, some
ani mal s t hat
are not used
t o human
i nt er f er ence
devel op a
di f f erent behavi or t han thei r
natural habitat. Keeping animals
in zoos is just a compromi se
necessary due to the unethi cal
activities of humans that have
destroyed their habitats.
Arvlnd Negi
Shri Guru Ram Rai Institute of
Technology & Sciences
Patelnagar, Dehradun
8 SCI ENCE REPORTER, September 2010 25
Point Counterpoint
Animals Helpless in
Yes! Keepi ng ani mal s in zoos
is unethi cal because they are
not given good quality f ood and
they are packed in small spaces.
Thi s l eads t o a number of
di seases in the ani mal s and
many di e t oo. I ndi a is an
i ndependent count ry and so
shoul d al l ow i ndependence for
ani mal s al so. In zoos so many
fami l i es visit that the privacy of
ani mal s is di st urbed, so they
cannot reproduce. The normal
body functi on of ani mal s is al so
Sanjay Goswami
Leave Them Free
I have been to several zoos in
our country. Really the condi ti on
of animals is not good compared
to the Nandan Kanan Zoo,
Orissa. So, the ani mal s shoul d
not be kept inside the zoo, they
shoul d enj oy thei r f r eedom,
l i berty in a nat ural set t i ng.
Ar t i f i ci al envi r onment is
detrimental and disruptive for the
ani mal s. Ani mal s are essential
part of our ecosystem. They
shoul d be left t o live i nsi de
forests, not in Zoos.
B.K. Das
Safe in Zoos
Keepi ng ani mal s in zoos is
unethi cal owi ng to the fact that
they al so need f r eedom, but
t hei r f r eedom is not mor e
i mport ant than thei r safety. If
these ani mal s come out of the
zoos they will be dangerous for
both urban and rural popul ati on
l i vi ng i n t he count r y and
ul t i mat el y peopl e wi l l st art
hunti ng t hem or will put t hem in
a circus for earni ng money. But
in zoos t hey have a cushy
l i festyl e. Our gover nment is
i nvesti ng a huge amount of
money f or thei r f ood, shel ter
and vari ous ameni ti es.
Shivangi Raghuvanshi
Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh
Tough Life in
All living thi ngs under the sun
on t he ear t h t end t o l i ve
independently. Ani mal s too lead
a carefree life in forests. But
when they are taken in zoos,
they cannot l ead their natural
carefree life. Ani mal s when in
forests can take their f ood when
they desire. In zoos, they do not
have pr oper gr owt h, as al l
zoos do not provi de adequate
facilities for the animals. Ani mal s
movi ng in groups, like elephants,
are separ at ed f r om t hei r
compani ons causi ng depression
in them. Besides, peopl e who
visit zoos tease them.
Supratim Sarkar
Class VI, Holy Child School,
Sacrificing for the
Here we have to create a sharp
line between the interests of a
species and an i ndi vi dual . Yes,
keepi ng anybody in a zoo (i.e.
in capti vi ty) is a t or ment i ng
experience for the individual, but
if we hope to see endangered
species like tigers or crocodi l es
in the wi l d in the future, we will
need capt i ve br eedi ng
pr ogr ams. Thei r pr esent
generati on will have to sacrifice
t o ensur e a f ut ur e f or t he
species. However, we must take
care that we take sufficient steps
that the ani mal s feel most at
home, the enclosures shoul d be
large, and more importantly, the
of f spr i ng shoul d be
accl i mati sed to the wi l d as soon
as possi bl e so that they can be
rel eased.
Siddhant Sadangi
Bhawanipatna (Odisha)
Sanctuaries are
It is real l y unet hi cal t o put
ani mal s in zoos on ethi cal as
wel l as ecol ogi cal gr ounds.
Ani mal s have the intrinsic right
to liberty. But it is deni ed to
t hem. Undoubt edl y zoos
support conservati on, promot e
awareness and educat i on via
exhibition and programmes. But
this is nothi ng compared to the
di ffi cul ti es f aced by ani mal s.
Zoos i sol ate t hem f rom thei r
natural envi ronment. They are
often given harsh treatment due
t o whi ch t hey suf f er f r om
psychol ogi cal adversities and
abnor mal i t i es. Many l and
ani mal s are given less space.
Aquat i c habi t ant s don' t get
enough wat er f or f r ee
swi mmi ng. Many tree cl i mbi ng
ani mal s like monkeys lose thei r
ability to cl i mb trees. Ti gers,
l i ons and ot her car ni vor es
slowly lose their capabi l i ty to
catch prey by chasi ng t hem.
Birds sheltered in cages and
api ari es are subjected to loss
of flying knack. These hamper
their physiological devel opment
and bring psychol ogi cal stress.
There is al so the risk of
i nbreedi ng t hat can l ead t o
di seases, bi rt h def ect s,
mut at i ons, etc. In my vi ew,
nat i onal parks and wi l dl i f e
sanctuaries are far better as they
pr ovi de t hem f avour abl e
envi r onment and basi c
necessi t i es and make t hem
br eat he i n t hei r soci al
envi ronment in i nteracti on with
different plants and ani mal s.
Yatee Gupta
Unchain Them
Ani mal s, who are meant t o
shar e t he beaut i f ul pl anet
equal l y wi th every breat hi ng
t hi ng, ar e mer el y made
recreat i on and entertai nment
st ocks by t he so- cal l ed
i ntel l i gent breed, that is, we
humans, who are devel opi ng
enormousl y no doubt as far as
technol ogi cal devel opments are
concerned, but our ethics seem
to be f adi ng away with ti me.
They ar e not any mor e
dangerous than the visitors to
zoos. These i nnocent creatures
shoul d be unl ocked
i mmedi atel y.
Nikita Bisht
Haldwani, Uttarakhand
Give me Some
SunshineLet Me
Ani mal s are most beauti ful as
wi l d as the chi l d in the mother' s
l ap. Today zoos are not only for
peopl e' s entertai nment but also
f or conservati on (ex-situ) and
pr ot ect i on of ani mal s. But
unfortunatel y the ani mal s are
f aci ng lots of troubl es in many
zoos not onl y for their captivity
but al so f or thei r unheal thy,
car el ess envi r onment . The
natural growth and behavi or of
ani mal life is partially di srupted
wi thi n the zoo. It is true that we
are provi ded with entertai nment
when we vi si t zoos but we
shoul d realize their yearni ng to
be set free.
Tamal Chakraborty
Vidyasagar University,
West Bengal
Now write in your thoughts on this topic for inclusion in the forthcoming issues:
"Sports should be made compulsory in schools."
Be brief and be logical! Send in your photo, if you like.
8 SCI ENCE REPORTER, September 2010 25
Short Feature
Methane Studies
EPORTS have establ i shed
that among the greenhouses
gases methane is one of the
most dangerous and most
powerful . I ts contri buti on to gl obal
warming is estimated to be about 18%
and it has 20 ti mes hi gher gl obal
warmi ng potenti al than COr The
concentration of atmospheric methane
has increased steadily during the last
few decades due to several reasons like
i ncreasi ng temperature, over
preci pi tati on, constructi on of new
dams, etc.
Researchers group methane
emission sources into two - natural
sources (e.g. natural wetlands, termites,
and wi l d rumi nants) and
anthropogeni c sources (e.g. ponds,
dams, paddy fields, catties and other
domestic ruminants).
In vi ew of the gl obal methane
emi ssi on, wetl ands are the major
emi tters of methane. For i nstance,
nearly 110 Tg (1 Tg =one million tons)
methane is emi tted every year from
wetl ands. A mong them, tropi cal
wetlands contri bute 60%. I t is wel l
established that the occurrence of high
temperature and heavy rainfall in the
tropical regions are responsible for the
high emission from this region.
I roni cal l y, very few sci enti fi c
studi es are avai l abl e about the
emission of methane from the I ndian
wetlands. A study entitled 'Methane
emission modeling from wetlands and
water logged areas using MODI S data'
reported only five classes of wetlands
- aquatic vegetation/ marshes, water,
mud flats, slat flats, and flood plains.
The study failed to give data about
paddy fields that contribute much more
to methane emission. Globally several
reports poi nt to the pi votal role of
paddy fi el ds in methane emi ssi on.
Therefore, it is essential to study the
level of methane emission from Indian
agri cul ture l ands. Accordi ng to the
I ndi an Wetl and Di rectory Report
(1993), India has 58.2 million hectares
of wetl ands, and of this 40.9 million
hectares are under rice cultivation.
We do not have data about
methane emi ssi on from I ndi an
mangroves too, the other group of
important wetlands. These mangrove
wetlands should be taken into account
for two i mportant reasons - hi gh
organic load as well as the amount of
landmass they occupy. Mangroves are
important wetlands that contain high
nutrient load throughout the year.
According to a report of CAS in
Mari ne Biolog^T Parangi pettai ,
Tamilnadu, the Pichavaram mangrove
of Tamilnadu alone produces 7,45,107
tonnes of organic matter every year.
I nteresti ngl y, the Forest Survey of
India (FSI) has reported that India has
nearly 4, 87,100 ha of mangrove - 3%
of the gl obal mangroves. So, it is
important to calculate the exact amount
of emission of methane from the Indian
Besi des, dams al so contri bute
si gni fi cant amount of methane
emission. According to a report from
the Worl d Commi ssi on on Dams,
I ndi a has nearl y 4,291 l arge and
smal l er dams and these dams
contribute almost 33.5 million tonnes
of methane every year to the
Next to wetl ands, landfills emit
considerable amount of methane. India
has several small and large towns and
cities, and most of the areas have a
common dumping site located outside
the territory or city outskirts, where
all organic loads are simply dumped
without any precaution or processing.
So emission of methane from dumping
sites might be higher than the expected
Rumi nants (ani mal s that bri ng
back food from their stomach and chew
it again, such as cows and goats) also
contri bute a si gni fi cant l evel of
methane to the atmosphere. The role
of I ndian catties in methane emission
(11.75 Tg) was estimated by Chhabra
(2009). But we do not have data about
the contribution from wild ruminants.
I ndi a has a good di versi ty and
population of wild ruminants as well
as feral catties too.
The avai l abl e l i terature cl earl y
indicates that I ndia's contribution to
gl obal methane emi ssi on is
underestimated till date. It is the need
of the hour to cal cul ate the exact
amount of methane emi ssi on from
India, at least from major sources such
as paddy fi el ds, mangroves and
adjoining ecosystems, dams, land fills
and wild ruminants.
Shri S. Sandilyan, Shri K.Thiyagesan &
Shri R. Nagarajan are with the PG and Research
Department of Zoology and Wildlife Biology,
A.V.C. College, Mannampandal, Mayiladuthurai,
Tamil Nadu-609305
Dams also contribute significant amount of methane
emission. According to a report from the World Commission
on Dams, India has nearly 4,291 large and smaller dams and
these dams contribute almost 33.5 million tonnes of methane
every year to the atmosphere.
SCIENCE REPORTER, September 2010 31
ETHANE is one of the
greenhouse gases adding
to the net energy input of
the l ower atmosphere
thus resulting in an increased global
temperature (al so cal l ed gl obal
warming). During the past 200 years,
its concentrati on has i ncreased
dramatically because of an imbalance
between gl obal sources and si nks.
According to the report of the I PCC,
the atmospheri c concentrati on of
methane has more than doubl ed
during the past 200 years, rising over
the past 15 years by an average of 1%
every year. The i ncreasi ng
concentration of methane is, therefore,
a cause for concern.
Atmospheric methane is produced
by a wide variety of natural (70%) and
anthropogeni c acti vi ti es (30%).
Approxi matel y 70-80% of the total
global emission is biogenic in origin.
The most important known sources of
methane are natural wetl ands, fossil
fuels related to natural gas, coal mines,
coal industry, enteric fermentation, rice
paddi es, bi omass burni ng, l andfi l l s
and animal waste. Methane production
is also carried out by anaerobic bacteria
known as methanogens and the process
is referred to as methanogenesis.
f i f e
Rice fields are the most significant
contributors of atmospheric methane
accounting for 11-13% of the world's
total anthropogenic methane emission.
Accordi ng to the I nternati onal Rice
Research Institute, world rice harvested
area increased by approximately 33%
from 115.5 M ha in 1961 to 153.3 M ha
in 2004. Accordi ng to a current
estimate, rice production will need to
expand by around 70% over the next 25
years to meet the demands of the
worl d's growing human population,
maki ng ri ce cul ti vati on a potenti al
major cause of increasing atmospheric
In flooded rice fields, methane is
produced by anaerobi c bacteri a
(methanogens) as the terminal step of
the anaerobic degradation of organic
matter. The anaerobic degradation of
organi c matter and generati on of
methane in flooded rice fields involves
following four main steps:
1. Hydrol ysi s of pol ymers by
hydrolytic organisms,
2. Aci d formati on from si mpl e
organi c compound by fermentati ve
3. Acetate formation from metabolites
of fermentations by homoacetogeni c
or syntrophic bacteria, and
28% CH
Emission From
Different Sources
1 5 %
1 3 %
1 1 % 1 0 o / o
8 SCIENCE REPORTER, September 2010 25
Short Feature
Methane oxidation by different forest soils
4. Methane formation from H2/ C02,
acetate, simple methylated compounds
or alcohols and C02.
Methanogens are archebacteri a
that produce methane as a metabolic
byproduct in anoxi c condi ti ons.
Bacteri al methanogenesi s was first
evi denced by A. Vol ta in 1776.
Methanogens are usually coccoid or
rod shaped. They convert carbon
sources such as C02, CH, compounds
or acetate into CH, to ful fi l l thei r
energy requi rement. A general
reacti on of CH4 producti on in
anaerobic condition by methanogens
may be presented as:
4H2 +CO, Methanols CH4 +211,0 (A G =
-31 kcal/ mole)
Many methanogenic bacteria are
found in the rumen of cows where they
produce methane from the H2 and C02
rel eased by other anaerobi c gut
bacteria. Methanogens in the rumen of
cow are estimated to release about 50
L CH4 per day. Some exampl es of
methanogens are: Methanococcus,
Methanoculleus, Methanosarcina,
Methanoplanu, Methanospirillum etc.
Major Sinks of CH4
In the global CH4 cycl e, CH4 is also
consumed by chemical and biological
processes. The major sinks for CH4 are
biological oxidation at or near the sites
of producti on, and photochemi cal
oxidation in the atmosphere. However,
oxi dati on of atmospheri c CH4 by
aerobic soils also provides a significant
additional sink. About 90% chemical
oxidation occurs in the troposphere
through reaction with free hydroxyl
radi cal - the "detergent" of the
atmosphere. The onl y known
biological sink for atmospheric CH4 is
its oxidation in aerobic soils (forest and
dry l and paddy soi l s) by
methanotrophic bacteria. This CH4sink
mediated by soil methanotrophs can
contribute up to 15% to the total global
CH, destruction.
It has been reported that CH4-
oxi di zi ng bacteri a (MOB) pl ay an
i mportant rol e in the gl obal CH4
budget by consumi ng potenti al
amounts of methane in soils of forest
and rice fields. In paddy fields, CH4
oxidation greatly limits release of CH4
to the atmosphere. Methanotrophs
associated with the rhizosphere of rice
plants oxidize CH4 with molecular O,
and use it as the sole source of carbon
and energy. MOB is present in the
aerobi c soil layer, the roots, the soil
surroundi ng the roots, so-cal l ed
rhizosphere, and on the stem bases of
flooded rice plants. Some examples of
different types of MOB are: Type I -
Methylomonas, Methylobacter,
Methylomicrobium; Type II- Methylosinus,
Methylocystis and Type X-Methylococcus.
Several sci enti fi c i nvesti gati ons
have demonstrated that aerobic forest
soi l s al so serve as si nks for
atmospheri c methane. The current
temperate soil sink is estimated at 20
Tg per year. Most unsaturated soils
consume atmospheri c methane. The
rate of methane oxidation varies with
soi l water content, l and use and
ammoni um inputs. Consumpti on of
atmospheri c methane has been
demonstrated in coni ferous and
deci duous forest soi l s, agri cul tural
soils, grasslands, and tundra soils. The
amount of atmospheri c methane
consumed by oxi c soi l s has been
estimated at 40 to 60 Tg per year. This
During the past 200 years, its
concentration has increased
dramatically because of an
imbalance between global sources
and sinks.
Approximately 70-80% of the total
gl obal emi ssi on is bi ogeni c in
origin. The most important known
sources of methane are natural.
amount is approximately equal to the
annual i ncrease in atmospheri c
methane duri ng the past century.
Methane uptake by di sturbed forest
soils, undisturbed tropical forests, and
subtropical woodlands are presented
bel ow.
Because the bi ol ogi cal si nk for
atmospheric CH4 in soil is mi crobi al
medi ated it is sensi ti ve to
environmental factors (e.g., moisture,
temperature), fertilizer application and
di sturbance by soi l management
practices. Atmospheric methane uptake
is decreased after fertilization of soils
with nitrogen, conversion of grasslands
to croplands, tillage, and clearing of
forest lands. The conversion of forests
and grasslands to croplands results in
a reduction in methane consumption
in these ecosystems of 1.5 to 7 Tg per
The data of di fferent sci enti fi c
studies indicate that during the past 200
years the concentrati on of CH4 has
increased significantly because of an
imbalance between global sources and
sinks due to anthropogenic activities.
Although the increase in CH4 emission
had declined during the last 2-3 years,
it is not known whether the decline
rate is due to decrease in emission or
increase in CH4 oxidation. It has been
recently reported that a 10% reduction
in emissions of CH4 may stabilize the
current concentrati on of CH, in the
atmosphere. Therefore, it is important
to defi ne the sources and si nks of
atmospheric CH4 to determine which
steps have practical value to mitigate
the global warmi ng problems due to
Dr Jay Shankar Singh is working on the
environmental problems related to ecology of
methanotrophs in paddy fields. He is a Senior
Research Associate (Scientists' Pool Scheme,
CSIR), Department of Environmental Science, B.B.
Ambedkar University, Rai Bareilly Road, Lucknow-
226025. Email:jayshankar_1
8 SCIENCE REPORTER, September 2010 25
Short Feature
Ruminating Over
Methane Emissions
LOBAL cl i mate change is
going to be one of the most
seri ous concerns in the
coming years. Global rise of
atmospheri c temperature has
cautioned scientists and policy makers
worl dwi de to take posi ti ve steps
towards attempts to tackl e the
probl em. Emi ssi on of di fferent
greenhouse gases (GHG) like carbon
di oxi de (C02), chl orofl uorocarbon
(CFC), methane (CH4), and ni trous
oxi de (N 20) from vari ous
anthropogeni c acti vi ti es has l ed to
i ncrease in the atmospheri c
temperature which in turn is already
creating many visible problems in the
environment today.
Livestock contributes about 18% of
the global GHG emissions, and as much
as 30-37% of the anthropogenic methane
mostly from enteric fermentati on by
ruminants. Methane is a greenhouse gas
whose atmospheric concentration has
increased dramati cal l y over the last
century. I t is the l argest potenti al
contri butor to the gl obal warmi ng
phenomenon as it is 20 ti mes more
potent in heat trapping than C02 With
the largest population of farm animals,
I ndi a contri butes 10-tegagram (Tg)
methane per year of the world's total of
80 Tg. Cattl e produce about 80 gm
methane per day, which is a net loss of
8 to 10% of its gross energy intake.
Methane emi tted by rumi nant
livestock comes from two di fferent
sourcesenteri c fermentati on and
fermentation of manure of which the
former is the major source.
Enteric methane is produced as a
result of mi crobi al fermentati on of
feed components. Methane is
predominantly produced in the rumen
(87%) and to a small extent (13%) in the
l arge i ntesti ne. Rumi nant ani mal s
harbor a l arge number of
mi croorgani sms in thei r di gesti ve
tract. Cattl e rumen l i quor contai ns
bacteria (10
to 10" cells/ ml), ciliate
protozoa (10
to 10
/ ml ), anaerobi c
fungi (10
to 10
zoospores/ ml ) and
bacteri ophages (10
to 10
/ ml). More
than 60 speci es of methanogeni c
bacteri a commonl y known as
'methanogens' have been isolated from
various anaerobic habitats but only five
species have been i sol ated from the
rumen, i .e. Methanobrevibacter
ruminantium, Methanosarcina barkerii,
Methanosarcina mazei, Methanobacterium
formicicum and Methanomicrobium mobile.
Methanogens are strict anaerobes
and can grow only in an environment
where redox potential is below -300 mv.
Rumen provi des them such a
favourable envi ronment with highly
reduced medium and temperature of
37C to 39C and about neutral pH.
Methanogens use hydrogen, formate,
acetate, methanol and mono, di and
trimethylamine as their substrate for
methanogenesis. Hydrogen is the most
common substrate in the rumen, which
is produced during fermentation of
complex carbohydrates like cellulose
and hemi cel l ul ose to vol ati l e fatty
acids (VFA). It is necessary to remove
this hydrogen produced for proper
functioning of the rumen.
During the production of acetate
and butyrate, hydrogen is produced
while during production of propionate
by the acryl ate pathway it is bei ng
consumed. Methanogens use this extra
hydrogen for reducti on of C02 by
usi ng hi gh-energy el ectrons of
hydrogen. I n thi s reacti on, CO, is
converted to methane.
Very special cofactors are used in
this reaction. Presence of cofactors like
coenzyme M, HS-HTP, F420 and lipids
l i ke i sopranyl gl ycerol ether make
methanogens a di sti nct group of
mi croorgani sms. Rumen methane is
primarily emitted from the animal by
eructation. Methane production from
rumi nants is dependant on many
factors especially the diet of the animal,
i ts retenti on ti me and mi crobi al
population in the rumen.
Reducing Methane Emission
from Ruminants
The sel ecti on of successful methane
emission reduction options depends on
several factors i ncl udi ng cl i mate,
economi c, techni cal and materi al
resources; exi sti ng manure
management practi ces; regul atory
requirements and the specific benefits
of devel opi ng an energy resource
(biogas) and a source of high quality
fertilizer. Generally the strategies to
mi ti gate methane emi ssi on from
ruminants can be grouped under three
(1) I mproving animal productivity
(2) Nutri ti onal and management
strategies and
(3) Mani pul ati on of rumen
Improving Animal
I n general, when animal productivity
is i mproved through nutri ti on,
management, reproduction or genetics,
Enteric fermentation
Manure 4%
Rice 11%
Biomass burning 5%
combustion 4%
Natural Gas
Coal 8%
Waste water 10% Solid waste 13%
Contribution of different sources to global anthropogenic methane emission
SCIENCE REPORTER, September 2010
Short Feature
methane production per unit of milk
or meat is reduced. This is because the
number of animals required to produce
the same amount of milk or meat is
Different producti on enhanci ng
agents like bovine somatotropin (bST)
are al so avai l abl e but thei r use is
discouraged due to health risks.
Schematic representation of
methane production from
Forage preservation: Methane production
was shown to be lower when forages
were ensi l ed. Thi s is because of
extensi ve fermentati on that occurs
duri ng si l age maki ng. It is al so
observed that rumen fermentation of
silage is characterized by higher molar
proporti on of butyrate and l ower
proportion of acetate.
Nutritional and Management
Type of carbohydrates: Fermentation of
cell wall carbohydrates produces more
methane than that of soluble sugars.
High grain diet leads to high rate of
ruminal digestion and faster passage
rate, which favours higher propionic
acid producti on. It will also l ower
ruminal pH that inhibits the growth of
methanogenic bacteria and protozoa.
Forage species and maturity: Methane
producti on in rumi nants tends to
increase with maturity of forage fed
and methane emi ssi on from the
rumi nal fermentati on of l egume
forages is general l y l ower than that
from grasses.
Feeding frequencies: Low feedi ng
frequencies tend to increase propionic
acid production and reduce acetic acid
producti on. Al so there is hi gh
fluctuation in the ruminal pH, which
i nhi bi ts methanogens and reduces
methane production.
Forage processing: Grinding or pelleting
of forages to improve the utilization
by rumi nants has been shown to
decrease methane production due to
lowered fiber digestibility, decreased
ruminal available organic matter and
faster rate of passage.
Manipulation of Rumen
Addition of fats: Fats added in the diet
i ncrease the energy densi ty of diet
thereby causi ng l owered i ntake of
fibrous feed resulting in low methane
production. Medium chain fatty acids
(C8-C16) cause the greatest reduction in
methane production.
Propionate precursors: By increasing the
presence of propionate precursors such
as pyruvate, oxal oacetate, mal ate,
fumarate and succinate more hydrogen
will be used to produce propionate. The
dicarboxilic acids, fumarate and malate
have been suggested as potenti al
hydrogen acceptors that reduce
methane production in ruminants.
Defaunation: Methanogenic bacteria are
general l y attached to the exteri or
surface of rumen ciliate protozoa in the
rumen. Therefore, removal of protozoa
from the rumen (defaunation) has been
associated with decreases in methane
producti on. But some workers have
observed that defaunati on l eads to
si gni fi cant reducti on of forage
digestibility. So this approach should
be tried with great care.
Stimulation of acetogens: Rechanneling
the substrates for methane production
into al ternati ve products is another
Methane production from ruminants is
dependant on many factors especially the
diet of the animal, its retention time and
microbial population in the rumen.
way to reduce methane producti on.
Some acetogenic bacteria produce acetic
acid by the reduction of carbon dioxide
wi th hydrogen and thus depress
methane producti on when added to
rumen fluid in vitro. Even if a stable
population of acetogens could not be
established in the rumen, it might be
possible to achieve the same metabolic
activity using the acetogens as a daily
fed feed additive.
Ionophores: I onophores like monensin,
lasalocid, and salinomycin are known
to i nhi bi t growth of methanogens
l eadi ng to reduced methane
Methane oxidizers: Methane oxidizing
bacteri a from gut of young pi gs
decrease methane accumulation when
added to rumen fluid in vitro. However,
this approach has not been validated
in vivo.
Immunization: Scientists in Australia
have shown that vaccination of sheep
with a number of experimental vaccine
preparati ons agai nst methanogens
produced anti bodi es agai nst
methanogens. Methane production was
reduced by 11% to 23% in vaccinated
ani mal s and producti vi ty was al so
Some new approaches like use of
bacteri oci ns, bacteri ophages, herbal
products, geneti c mani pul ati on of
methanogens, etc. have also been tried
by researchers. Future research for
reduci ng methanogenesi s shoul d be
focused on the devel opment of new
products/ del i very systems for
anti methanogeni c compounds or
al ternati ve electron acceptors in the
rumen and reducti on in protozoal
numbers in the rumen. There is also
need for further studies into making
these strategies most cost and long-
term effective, as well as evaluating the
resource i nputs associ ated with the
mitigation strategies in terms of their
contribution to total greenhouse gases.
Mr S. M. Shete is a PhD Scholar and Dr S. K.
Tomar is Principal Scientist with the Dairy Cattle
Nutrition Division, National Dairy Research Institute,
Karnal (Haryana)-132 001
SCIENCE REPORTER, September 2010 31
Celestial Sphere
For underst andi ng an ast ronomi cal event in the sky and shari ng the same wi th
ot her f el l ow ast ronomers, a concept ual model to l ocate the obj ect in the sky is
used. This is the cel esti al sphere or Khagol . Wi t hout the concept of celestial
sphere there woul d be no cel esti al dynami cs.
Astronomers use different types of coordi nate systems for locating celestial
obj ects, like hori zont al , equat ori al and ecl i pti c. Each of these has a great circle
. - as t he ci rcl e of reference and a poi nt
... chosen on it ast He ori gi n. Visitors can
move the pol ar axis on the meri di an
/ * m i ^ H K
speci f i c l at i t ude and poi nt a
f / k I ^ * \ hypot het i cal st ar or cel est i al
/ I _ f ' \ obj ect . Then they can fi nd the
I 'I coordi nates of the same t hrough
. ' t he marki ngs in the reference
i ' ci rcl e. Al so they can recreate
f i | J J the pol ar skies, see the
~ - ci rcumpol ar moti ons,
,... iair* di urnal mot i ons and
Short Feature
HE thri l l and joy of
learning and knowing
cel esti al objects in the
heavens is a never-ending
process. More so, when
you see cel esti al bodi es
through the eyepiece of a
telescope. Last year, which
was cel ebrated as the
I nternati onal Year of
Astronomy, mi l l i ons of
peopl e round the gl obe
had a peek at the stars and
planets through telescopes
thanks to the Galileoscope
The Regional Science
Centre & Planetarium at Calicut also
organized a variety of activities during
IYA-2009 such as road side astronomy,
astro exhi bi ti ons, tel escopi c maki ng
workshops, teacher trai ni ng
programmes, astronomy
demonstrati ons, sky observati ons,
eclipse observations and much more.
A part of the Nati onal Counci l of
Science Museums (NCSM), the RSC &
Pl anetari um, Cal i cut al so recentl y
threw open a 4100 sq ft gallery titled
"Hall of Astronomy". This Gallery was
inaugurated on 7 March 2010 by Shri
T. K. A. Nair, Principal Secretary to the
Prime Minister of India.
The astronomy gallery is divided
into four subsections:
1. Pre Telescopic Era
2. Post Telescopic Era
3. Sun & Solar system
4. In Search of Cosmic Truth.
The pre tel escopi c era takes us
through antiquity when astronomers
were mostl y thi nkers, phi l osophers
and mathemati ci ans. They tri ed to
understand the heavens through the
A view or tne Astronomy uonery
l ogi c of dai l y experi ences. They
i magi ned vari ous model s of the
universe and the solar system. While
Aristotle was for Earth-centric universe
(popularly called geocentric universe),
Ptol emy expl ai ned the compl ex
moti ons of the pl anets through
epi cycl es, havi ng a dogmati c
assumpti on that all the heavenl y
moti ons can onl y occur through a
perfect curve or a combination of such
curves, whi ch was the ci rcl e.
Coperni cus was a revol uti onary to
propose the heliocentric concept.
From thinkers, slowly the trend
drifted towards accurate observations
and anal ysi s. The champi on among
them was Tycho Brahe. Hi s young
assi stant was J ohannes Kepl er who
carried out a thorough analysis of the
master's observed data for 16 years
resulting in the three laws of planetary
motion. But a physical basis for these
l aws had to wai t l ong, till Sir I saac
Newton came up with his theory of
gravi tati on. Anci ent I ndi an
astronomers have also contributed a
lot to the vast pool of astronomi cal
knowledge. Many slokas in Sanskrit are
testimony to this fact.
The post telescopic section starts
with homage paid to the architect of
modern science, Galileo Galilee, who
took the revolutionary step of pointing
the telescope to the sky and observing
the details of heavenl y objects. This
stopped the process of guessing and
imagining thereby paving the way for
experi mentati on in studyi ng and
SCIENCE REPORTER, September 2010 31
Shri T.K.A. Nair, Principal Secretary to the PM, on a round of the gallery (above);
Internal structure of the sun (right);
Visitors take a look at a model depicting Aristotle's view of the universe (below);
Children peering through telescopes provided as part of the Galileoscope
programme (below right).
^ r r *
" " "
understanding science. That one act
gradually changed our perception of
the universe. Further, in this section
there are model s showi ng how a
reflector or a refractor works. Modern
telescopes are based on technological
devel opment. Adapti ve opti cs and
active opti cs are common
terminologies among professi onal s.
There is an exhibit hi ghl i ghti ng the
principle behind these concepts. Radio
telescope has opened a new window
to the universe. Some celestial objects
may not be observable in visible light
but can be detected usi ng radi o
telescope. A working model of a radio
tel escope gi ves us i nsi ght into the
working of these instruments.
Next, in the secti on of sun and
sol ar system, topi cs rel ati ng to
celestial events as observed from earth
and facts rel ati ng to sun and solar
system are hi ghl i ghted. There are
exhi bi ts showi ng the effects of
Precession and Nutation. The eclipses,
transi t and occul tati on are very
dramati cal l y exhi bi ted through a
There is an Astro
Quiz corner where
one can test ones
knowledge in
astronomy. Also
there is a kiosk
giving career
options in this
field nationally.
Transit, Occultation and Eclipses
This i nteracti ve exhi bi t hel ps the visitor underst and the phenomenon behi nd these
events. A transi t occurs when a cel esti al obj ect is seen to cross across the vi si bl e
disc of anot her celestial obj ect. Exampl es i ncl ude the crossi ng of pl anets Mercury or
Venus across the visible disc of the Sun. Further the satellites of Jupi ter cross across
the f ace of the parent pl anet.
Occul t at i on occurs when a celestial obj ect hides behi nd anot her celestial obj ect
for certai n durat i on of ti me. The f ormer is sai d to be occul t ed by. the letter. Exampl es
of this phenomenon are the occul t at i on of Venus by Moon, or' fHe occul t at i on of
bri ght stars by a pl anet of Moon and so on.
Eclipses are wel l known phenomenon. All of us know that there are t wo types of
ecl i pses - the sol ar and the l unar. These are shadow games pl ayed by cel esti al
8 SCIENCE REPORTER, September 2010 25
Play with Martian Rover
Recent Martian expeditions have created curiosities in the minds
of the general public. People want to know more about mars.
Young students want to know how through remote control the
rover moves on the Martian surface.
This exhibit replicates the 3D view of the Martian surface with
a working rover through wireless control using software interface
as the Earth station. This is not a virtual reality or simulation.
Here the control of the rover is left in the hands of the visitors.
They can move the rover trough the control buttons in the GUI.
Short Feature
SCIENCE REPORTER, September 2010 31
A model showing Galileo
looking through his
telescope (above);
Be an astronaut (left);
A view of the solar
system (below);
Sextant as per original
design of Astronomer
Tycho Brahe (bottom).
participatory exhibit where people can
pl ay arid learn the cause of these
phenomena. An animated model of the
sun discloses its internal structure. An
electro mechanical model of the solar
system (also called an orrery) shows
how the planets move
around the sun. There is
also an exhibit that shows
visitors how much he/
she weighs on different
planets. Further, near the
entrance of the gallery,
there is a worki ng
Foucault pendul um
whose plane of
oscillation changes with
time. This in effect proves
that the earth is rotating.
In the last
section, there is a
working exhibit of a
pulsar and an exhibit
on astronomical
s p ect r o s co p y .
Further, there is an
Astro Quiz corner
where one can test
their knowledge in
astronomy. Also
there is a kiosk
giving career options
in this field
nationally. Using the
interactive graphical
Mr V. S. Ramachandran is Project Coordinator,
Regional Science Centre & Planetarium, Near Jaffer
Khan Colony, Planetarium Road, Calicut, Kerala-673006
Trying to understand Kepler's law
A model depicting Kepler's laws
user interface visitors can learn about
various institutes in India where students
can pursue studies in astronomy and
astrophysics. They can also learn about
the eligibility requirements and
admission procedures.
Feature Article
Literary Giant With Scientific Bent
As the nation celebrates the 150"' birth anniversary of the great
intellectual - Rabindranath Tagore - we catch a glimpse of
his deep understanding of science, which is reflected in many
of his poems.
OT only in Bengal 's arena of transcendental
culture and heritage, Rabindranath Tagore, the
peerless Nobel laureate spread his iridescent,
omnipresent spectrum of literary genius in all
the segments of Indian psyche. However, few would know
that apart from the fragrant greenery of literary excellence,
Tagore had also dabbled in popul ar wri ti ng on several
scientific topics, too.
luyuit VVI I I I 1.1. munuiuiiuui) \ iiym/ |
Although Bengali literature is replete with the writings
of a galaxy of popular science writers like Acharya Ramendra
Sundar Tribedi, Akshay Kumar Dutta, Acharya Prafulla
Chandra Roy, J agadananda Roy, and Acharya J agadi sh
Chandra Bose, by dint of his inquisitive insight and cerebral
prowess, Rabi ndranath Tagore easily emul ated them to
convi nce the l aypersons about the i ntri cate facts and
inventions of science.
The palatial, ancestral house at Jorasanki, that nurtured
waves of soci o-cul tural Renai ssance wi thi n the British-
occupi ed Bengal , al so bapti zed the juveni l e soul of
Rabi ndranath into the wonderful worl d of sci ence and
technology. The person who ignited the sparks of science
wi thi n Rabi ndranath was his science teacher - Sitanath
Ghosh, an enthusiastic scholar in the physical sciences who
was repeatedl y recol l ected by Tagore in hi s
autobiographies - Jiban Smriti (Remembrance of Life) and
Chhelebela (The Childhood).
Through homely experiments carried out by Sitanath,
the child Rabindranath came to learn about the boiling of
milk, emission of steam and conducti on of heat. Being
encouraged by Tagore's illustrious father and one of the
pioneers of the monotheist Brahmo religiosity in Bengal,
Maharshi Dabendranath Tagore, Sitanath Ghosh used to
contribute articles on general science in lucid language in
the periodicals Hindoo Patrika and Tatvabodhini. These writings
i nspi red Rabi ndranath to show i nterest i n sci enti fi c
appl i cati ons, and due to whi ch he urged hi s son
Rathi ndranath to go overseas and l earn techni cal
agriculture. Rabindranath also introduced the scientific way
'ding silk worms and producing silk (sericulture) in
e tries to fashion the rapport among
ture, science and philosophy by exploring
:osmic order of heavenly bodies in many of
nis songs and poems
20 SCIENCE REPORTER, September 2010 -| g
Tagore had the
capacity to denote
Feature Article
He tells us about the possible existence of thousands of solar
systems like the Antares star with its diameter of an
overwhelming 39 crores of miles.
Rabindranath got his primary lessons in science from
Sitanath Ghosh who had astonished everyone by setting up
a magnetic healer with 6000 ft. copper wire and galvanized
battery at 54, Mechhua Bazaar Street in central Kolkata, to
cure people of rheumatism and arthritis with the help of
magnetic induction. Sitanath also crafted a weaving mill,
wheat-fl our gri ndi ng machi ne, mechani cal pl ough and
maki ng of sepi a-i nk. Duri ng hi s associ ati on wi th the
countrywide "Swadeshi " movement against the autocratic
announcement of the partition of Bengal by Viceroy Lord
Curzon, Tagore urged the manufacture of such indigenous
machines and tools to alleviate the country's reliance on
forei gn-made sci enti fi c products and to i ncrease the
importance of science education as well as applications in
That was why he greeted Acharya Prafulla Chandra
Roy for his dexterity in chemistry and his formulas of soaps,
detergents and phenyl in his celebrated institution - "Bengal
Chemical". He envisioned it as the Bengalee youth's self-
reliant stride boldly along with the global changes in the
world of science and technology. Tagore's establishment
of the organization - Shriniketan - within the premises of
Shantiniketan to i mpart skill to rural women in cottage
industries and entrepreneurship was also inspired by the
thought of scientific innovation in Bengal.
Rabi ndranath Tagore was deepl y i nspi red by the
epochal theory of Creati ve Evol uti on of l i vi ng bei ngs
He showed his
avid interest
for Africa as
the place of
origin of the
human species
about which ,
he hinted in his
He always
wondered at
the peerless
existence of
atoms as the
base of the
creation of this
vast universe.
propounded by the French sci enti st and thinker Henri
Bergson. The French intellectual said: "We change without
ceasing and the state itself is nothing but Change." In this
context, Tagore went through The Origin of Species By Means
of Natural Selection by Charles Darwi n and Philosophise
Zoologique by Jean Baptiste Lamarck. Being curious about
the theory of human evolution, Tagore delved deeper into
anthropological texts to follow the advent of the Modern or
Cro-Magnon man, from his primitive and Paleolithic lineage
of Peking men or Neanderthals.
He showed his avid interest for Africa as the place of
origin of the human species about which he hinted in his
revol uti onary poem - "Afri ca". He had composed it to
oppose Italian invasion in Abyssinia (now Ethiopia). The
chaotic state of a heated, gaseous and nascent Earth, after
her post Big Bang separation from the greater body of the
Sun, as a smal l er mass of gas and her subsequent
condensation of water vapour to form oceans and seas are
allegorically stated in this poem:
"I n those turbulent days of constant convulsion by the
O Africa, you were snatched and grabbed by the wavy
arms of the furious seas." (Translation by self)
Rabi ndranath was al ways fasci nated wi th the
progressively astronomical theories of the genesis of the
Universe and its celestial bodies, which were elucidated in
the treati ses of Aryabhatta, Coperni cus, Tycho Brahe,
Galileo and J ohannes Kepler. Tagore tries to fashion the
rapport among l i terature, sci ence and phi l osophy by
exploring such cosmic order of heavenly bodies in many of
his songs and poems:
"Akaaskh bhara surya taara
Viswa bhara praan
Tahaari Majhkhaane
Ami Payechi Mor Sthan"
(The sky is filled with sun and stars. Life spreads in the
entire Universe. I secure my place among themtranslation
by self)
While being a believer in the divine form of the sun, as
found in the Vedas, Tagore was also aware of the heliocentric
20 SCIENCE REPORTER, September 2010 -| g
theory - the sun as the core of this solar system. Such
interminable might of the sun to originate and to nurture
all the life forms is praised by Rabindranath:
"Hebijoyi veer, naba jibonero prate
nabino ashar kharga tomar haate"
(O valiant warrior! At the dawn of new l i ves, you are
wielding the cutlass of new hopes - translation by self)
Rabindranath's spectacular work on astronomy and
physics of matter is "Vishwaparuchaya" (Introduction to the
Universe), which he dedicates to the celebrity Bengal ee
scientist Satyendranath Bose. In this grand work, Tagore
blends his literary prowess with scientific facts and figures to
make them more attractively readable, as opposed to formula-
oriented texts. He revealed that he had been inspired about
sky-viewing at night by his father whi l e hol i dayi ng at
the Dalhousie Hills. He also went through astronomical
titles composed by Laplace, Robert Boyle and Newcombs.
In this book, Tagore says that the mighty sun, as the
universal creator and sustainer of energy, does not let us
know about the constant tempest of fusi ons of pl asma
particles when it rises like a golden dish in the east, daily,
just behind the mango groves. At dawn, he compares the
light beams and light years as "royal messengers" which
make the earth feel the presence of solar beams after eight
and half minutes of sunrise. The light beams are delineated
by Tagore as the compendium of multiple waves of sub-
atomic particles like photons and tachyons. The solar beam's
spectrum is beautifully compared by him with the seven-
coloured, tail-feather of a dancing peacock or with a regal
chandelier, having tinted, glinting glass, pieces.
The radioactive Gamma and Beta rays were renamed
as Akaashvani, the message from the sky by Tagore. He also
chri stened the nati onal radi o centre wi th that name,
poi nti ng at those long and short waves that have been
rel ayi ng programs from radi o-stati ons to radi o-sets.
Rabindranath pays tribute to the German physicist Wilhelm
Conrad Roentgen by writing about the X-ray, which he calls
a penetrative light that discloses our skeleton by crossing
into the cover of our skin. The ultraviolet ray and infrared
ray are renamed in articulate Bengali by Tagore as "Beguni
Paarer Aal o" and "Laal Ujaani Aal o".
He writes that "Sodi um gas" entraps the solar beam
within the Sun's photosphere and the sun contains all the 92
el ementary matters that are avai l abl e in thi s pl anet.
Rabinbranath informs that the gemstone ruby absorbs all
the colours of the spectrum, except the red, for which it
gains that colour itself. If all the mortal objects were used
to suck up all the solar colours, the entire worl d woul d
have been dark. Tagore descri bes atom as the most
fundamental of all particles, which if arranged side-by-side
would occupy only one inch of space.
The positive and negative attributes of both electron
and proton particles within the nucl eus of an atom and
atomi c structure of hydrogen are l uci dl y elaborated by
Tagore. He menti ons the neutron as "samya-dharmi " or
having egalitarian value. Stating about the nucleic structure
of an oxygen atom, Tagore compares the negative aspect of
electron with ladies and positivism of proton with males.
He further jokes - a family becomes too much masculine if
ladies are prohibited to enter there. Any atom without any
electron would be like that. He also compares protons and
electrons with bear-charmers and chained bears that are
compelled to be guided by those charmers.
Tagore with Karel Hujer, an astronomer
8 SCIENCE REPORTER, September 2010 25
Feature Article
In Vishwa Parichaya, Rabindranath
shows the i mportance of radi oacti ve
el ements l i ke Pi tchbl ende, Radi um,
Pol oni um, Thori um and Acti ni um by
payi ng tri bute to thei r di scoverers -
Henri Becquerel, Marie Curie and Pierre
Curie. While bantering at those particle-
emitting and sel f-decayi ng matters as
persons who have been forsaki ng
thei r castes (j aat-khowabar dal)
Rabi ndranath real i zes that such
radi oacti ve matters woul d adopt a
leading role to germinate nuclear power
in future.
Rabi ndranath di vi des the Vishwaparichay into fi ve
chapters - Paramanulok (atomic world), Nakshatralok (the
stel l ar worl d), Sourajagata (sol ar system), Grahal ok
(planetary world) and Bhulok (the earth). He states that the
earth's weight equals the mass of 23 Mercury planets. He
lucidly describes the thick, blanket-like layer of carbon gas
over Venus as "angarik gas" (angar being the Sanskrit word
for carbon). He describes that the innermost rocky layer of
planet Jupiter extends up to 22,000 miles. Its upper layer of
snow is thick upto 16,000 miles.
The gravi tati onal circle around each solar planet is
interpreted by Rabindranath as "Bipader gandi" - the barbed
borderline of danger. He says that any satelite that enters
into that circle of massive pull, turns inflated and oval in
shape. Then that satellite begins to break into fragments, to
be turned, into pl anetoi ds. The formati on of mountai n
ranges within the nascent earth is compared by Tagore with
wrinkled lines on any old person's face.
He had the capacity to denote unique, vernacular terms
to scientific objects and happenings. So, the expanded corona
of the sun made of helium gas, which is visible during the
Solar Eclipse, is named by him as "ki ri ti ka" - the Solar
Crown. He also renames Helium as "saurak" - the solar
gas, Cosmic Ray as "akasmi c rashmi " (sudden ray), and
light-years as "alo-chalaar maap" (measurement of light's
l ocomoti on).
He calculates that a light-beam cruises about 5 lakhs 88
thousand crores of miles in 366 days. He compares the
Andromeda gal axy wi th an ever-rotati ng cartwheel .
Rabindranath describes the structure of radio-telescope as
a combi nati on of photographi c l ens and deci pheri ng
machine (barnalipi-yantra).
He tells us about the possible existence of thousands
of solar systems like the Antares star with its diameter of
an overwhelming 39 crores of miles. Compared to those
systems, the sun is a mere mi ddl e cl ass star wi th its
diameter of 8 lakhs 64 thousand miles only. He pays respect
to the massi ve gravi tati onal pul l among all the objects
which he also mingles with his tribute to divinity in one
of his songs:
Taba naam loyesurya taara
Asima Shnnye dhayichhe
... Graha hote grahe chhayichhe
(The sun and heavenly bodies are speeding towards infinite
space, by taking your holy name - Your fame is being spread
from planet to planet - translation by self)
Tagore calculates that a light-
beam cruises about 5 lakhs 88
thousand crores of miles in 366
Rabi ndranath, l i ke an astute
astronomer, si mpl i fi es the i ntri cate
cosmi c theory of Sir J ames J eans and
Giodarno Bruno to discuss about the ever-
expandi ng, spheri cal uni verse. He
mentions the Star Algol in the Perseus
Constellation, the photoelectric pulse of
Cepheid stars, like the pulse felt at our wrist's radial artery
and a new star, Lacerta which he renames as "Godhika"
the big lizard. The quasars, pulsars and Red Giant Star
within Orion (kaalpurush) are noted by Tagore.
He compares the distance between the earth and the
sun wi th the connecti on of nerves with our brain. He
simplifies the measurement of the sun's diameter by stating
that 110 earths, if posed side by side can cover that distance.
Rabindranath compares the 24-hour rotation of the earth
around her axis very s'tnply with a potato through which
an iron stick is run.
He also makes an elaborate observation about solar
spots, which he describes as the huge vortices on the upper
solar layer through which heated gas has been constantly
spiraling out. He also says that the nature of global climate
varies according to the ups and downs of the sunspots.
Rabindranath Tagore was a close associate of Acharya
J agadis Chandra Bose, the ace botanist who proved that
plants have lives. Tagore followed many experiments on
plants by Acharya J.C. Bose, especially on Lajjabati (Mimosa
pudica) and Banacharal, with the help of his two invented
tools Crescograph and Resonant Recorder. Tagore's faith
in Acharya Bose's experiment was manifested ir his advice
to Shanti ni ketan ashrami tes to carry on wi th the
afforestation programme and sowing the seeds (Halkarshan)
Rabi ndranath also encouraged Jagadananda Roy, a
teacher of science in Vishwabharati during its formative
years, to script popular articles on the utilities of our green
fri ends. Tagore's passi on to preserve our dwi ndl i ng
ecosystem and sustain vegetation is embodied within the
little boy character - Balai - in one of his short stories. Balai
always felt the shimul tree and the blades of green grasses
within the courtyard of his uncle as integral parts of his
juvenile soul, just as Tagore regarded the old and shady
chhatim tree in Shantiniketan.
Rabindranath never denied the theory of the distant
possi bi l i ty of an extra-terrestrial, alien life. He al ways
wondered at the peerless existence of atoms as the base of
the creation of this vast universe. While talking about the
first cell - Protista - Tagore wonders how impeccably every
cell concentrates energy of survival into its mitochondria -
the powerhouse of cell - to enrich itself.
Mr Koushik Roy teaches at the Abeshkuri High Madrasah (H.S.), Vill.
Sabarandighi, PO Sarbamangala, P.S. Gangarampur, Dist. Dakshin Dinajpur,
West Bengal-733124
Rabindranath Tagore with Einstein
20 SCIENCE REPORTER, September 2010 -| g
Feature Article
Psychosis of Schizophrenia
Love works wonders. With no foolproof cure, the trauma of schizophrenia
can only be lessened through compassionate care and efforts to
reintegrate the victims into society.
UR actions make each one
of us unique. Going a little
deeper into what makes an
action to occur, it dawns
that every single action is preceded by
a thought. Deeper still,
it seems that thoughts
ari se due to physi cal
sensati ons that
sti mul ate the human
body. Well, the human
mi nd can al so create
sensations in the body
through what we
imagine, which in turn,
may generate thoughts.
Now what woul d
happen if our mi nd
were haunted by weird
thoughts? Surely, our actions woul d
then become weird and unacceptable
to the so-called real world.
This is what happens to the victims
of a mental disorder, popularly called
schizophrenia, who have a seriously
di si ntegrated thought process.
Affecting about one percent of the
human population, the thought process
of the victim manifests itself as spine
chilling paranoid or bizarre delusions
and fearful auditory hal l uci nati ons.
Respondi ng to such del usi onal
thoughts, the action outcome is in the
form of di sorgani zed speech and
absurd behavi our wi th compl ete
disconnection from the world we live
in. Paul Valery has indeed rightly said
that, "a man who is 'of sound mind' is
one who keeps the i nner madman
under lock and key."
Deri ved from the Greek words,
skhizein (to split) and phren (mind),
the term 'schizophrenia' was coined by
Eugen Bl eul er in 1908. I t was fi rst
descri bed by i
Benedi ct Morel in
1853 as a mental
i l l ness affecti ng
teenagers and
young adults. The
term dementi a
praecox was used
in 1891 by Arnold
Pi ck that means
'earl y dementi a'.
Later in 1893 Emil
Kraepel i n al so
d e s c r i b e d
dementi a praecox
as a disease of the Eugen Bleuler
brai n, a form of
dementia that affected young adults.
Shocking Symptoms
The onset of symptoms, typi cal of
schizophrenia, occurs in young adults,
commonl y in the age group 16-32
years. Late adol escence and earl y
It ultimately rests with the
'sane' individuals of the family
and society as a whole to
remove the stigma associated
with schizophrenia and
accept their less fortunate
brothers and sisters suffering
from this disorder as an
integral part of family
adulthood are peak years for the onset
of schi zophreni a, as these are the
formative years critical to one's social
and vocati onal devel opment. Thus,
what most parents might mi stake as
teenage probl ems coul d actual l y be
si gns of a seri ous mental
di sorder, whi ch is why
i mmedi ate medi cal hel p is
necessary. Normal l y, young
adul ts who devel op
schizophrenia experience non-
speci fi c symptoms like social
wi thdrawal and general
i rri tabi l i ty before the actual
symptoms of psychosis begin to
show more prominently.
Commonly, schizophrenics
experience hallucinations in the
form of hearing strange voices.
The disordered thought process
al so gi ves ri se to a host of
delusions that have devastating
effect on the soci al l i ves of
schizophrenics. Delusion a fixed wrong
bel i ef coul d be of vari ous types. A
bizarre delusion is one that is not only
very strange but i ts occurrence is
al most i mpossi bl e. For exampl e, a
schi zophreni c person may have a
del usi on that some parts of hi s/ her
body have been removed by strange
bei ngs or the worl d is comi ng to an
A non-bi zarre del usi on, on the
other hand, could be possible but for a
normal individual the belief is surely
mistaken, like an unfounded belief of
bei ng under constant pol i ce
surveillance. A delusion could also be
a reflection of one's mood like the grim
thoughts of rejection by all while being
in a state of depressi on or havi ng
strange manic thoughts like being the
Pri me Mi ni ster of the country. A
SCIENCE REPORTER, September 2010 -| g
Feature Article
MR! scans of 28-year-old
male identical twins
showing the enlarged
brain ventricles in the twin
with schizophrenia (right)
compared with his well
brother (left)
schi zophreni c may al so strongl y
believe that he/ she has special powers
or abilities and is a famous personality.
Some of the common del usi ons
that most schi zophreni cs experi ence
i ncl ude the fal se bel i ef that some
external force or an unknown person
is control l i ng thei r thoughts and
feel i ngs. Cal l ed the 'del usi on of
control', victims of such a delusion feel
hel pl essl y i mpri soned and have
absolutely no control whatsoever over
thei r bodi l y movements. Such
unfortunate vi cti ms are constantl y
troubled by the false belief that their
thoughts are bei ng heard al oud or
someone is tryi ng to i nsert/ remove
thoughts from thei r mi nds. Most
schi zophreni cs al so have a very
disturbing delusion that other people
can know their thoughts.
Another common del usi on that
schi zophreni cs, and even most
otherwise normal persons, have is the
'delusion of infidelity' that makes one
strongly believe that one's spouse or
l over is havi ng an affai r. On the
contrary, some vi cti ms may suffer
from 'erotomani a' that makes them
believe that another person is in love
with him or her.
The vi cti ms of thi s mental
disorder may also have a 'delusion of
gui l t', due to whi ch they hol d
themsel ves responsi bl e for a cri me
they have never commi tted or
consi der themsel ves the cause of a
natural di saster l i ke earthquake or
fl oods. Si mi l arl y, such persons may
wrongl y bel i eve that an
envi ronmental event may have a
speci al message for them. Other
del usi ons that rui n the l i ves of
schi zophreni cs i ncl ude the bel i ef of
being cheated, harassed or attacked by
others. Thi s del usi on pl unges the
victim in a state of constant fear from
the unknown 'other'.
Schi zophreni cs may al so suffer
from chronic depression and anxiety
disorder, besides some of them being
under the grip of substance abuse. Due
to their inability to take good care of
themselves, many victims suffer from
physical health problems and remain
unempl oyed. A disorder in thinking
invariably results in social isolation.
I n some cases however, vi cti ms
become mute and remain motionless
in bizarre postures, which is a clear-
cut si gn of a condi ti on cal l ed
Neurocognitive impairments
Social anxiety and isolation
(Genetic, obstetric complications) Social stress/isolation
Diagnosing Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia affects men and women
equally. It rarely occurs in children, but
awareness of chi l dhood-onset
schizophrenia is increasing. The risk is
highest for an identical twin of a person
wi th schi zophreni a. A young adult
havi ng an abnormal behavi our is
confirmed to be a case of schizophrenia
based on the vi cti m's self-reported
experi ences and abnormal i ti es in
behavi our reported by fami l y
members and fri ends. Psychi atri c
assessment basi cal l y i ncl udes a
psychiatric history of the disorder in
the family and development of typical
symptoms ascertaining the possible
factors that might have triggered the
di sease. No l aboratory tests are
conducted for substanti ati ng the
diagnosis as the observed behaviour
itself is quite typical of this mental
The most wi del y used
standardized criteria for diagnosing
schi zophreni a is based on the
Ameri can Psychi atri c Association's
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of
Mental Disorders, version DSM-IV-TR,
and the Worl d Health Organization's
International Statistical Classification of
Diseases and Related Health Problems, the
I CD-10. The l atter cri teri a are
typically used in European countries,
while the DSM criteria are used in the
Uni ted States and the rest of the
worl d.
The three di agnosti c criteria
general l y accepted for di agnosi ng
schizophrenia are: the presence of at
l east two characteri sti c symptoms
(del usi ons, hal l uci nati ons,
di sorgani zed speech, di sorgani zed
behavi our, catatonic behaviour); the
presence of soci al / occupati onal
dysfuncti on that makes the vi cti m
unable to carry out normal work where
i nteracti on wi th family members,
friends and colleagues is important,
and the presence of above symptoms
for at least six months.
The symptoms of schi zophreni a
are quite typical, although psychotic
symptoms are also present in other
mental di sorders, l i ke bi pol ar
di sorder, personal i ty di sorder, and
drug-i nduced psychosi s, while non-
bizzare delusions are present in social
anxi ety di sorder. Si mi l arl y, the
symptoms of obsessi ve compulsive
di sorder are di fferent from the
delusions of schizophrenia.
20 SCIENCE REPORTER, September 2010 -| g
Feature Article
Analysis of brain functioning with
Positron Emission Tomography (PET)
has shown that a lowered frontal lobe
acti vati on of the brai n duri ng a
working memory task poses the risk
of i ncreased acti vi ty of a
neurotransmitter called 'dopamine' in
the synaptic junctions where neurons
meet. Besi des the frontal l obes,
functi onal di fferences in the brai n
activity of schizophrenics also occur in
the hippocampus and temporal lobes.
Similarly, MRI and other brain imaging
technologies have today revealed the
Certain genes
linked to an
increased risk of
have been found,
which produce
proteins that play
a crucial role in
altering the
cl ear-cut di fferences i n the brai n
activity of schizophrenics.
The brai ns of peopl e wi th
schizophrenia also look different than
those of heal thy peopl e. Thanks to
these i magi ng technol ogi es,
differences in the size and structure of
certai n areas of the brai n in
schi zophreni cs are cl earl y known
today. MRI studies have shown that the
vol ume of the whol e brai n and the
hi ppocampus regi on are markedl y
reduced in schizophrenics, while the
fluid-filled cavities at the center of the
brai n, called ventricles, are larger in
schizophrenics as compared to healthy
Cause Factors
Besi des bei ng geneti cal l y i nheri ted,
thi s di sorder is al so found to be
tri ggered by some traumati c
experiences during early adult life. It
is now al so known that prenatal
exposure to i nfecti ons i ncreases the
Parietal lobe
pnns Temporal lobe
Medulla oblongata
Spinal cord
It is the
production of
dopamine that
disturbs the flow
of information
through the
neural wiring, and
thus plays havoc
in the thought
process, typical
of schizophrenia.
20 SCIENCE REPORTER, September 2010 -| g
risk for developing schizophrenia later
in life. Besides, childhood experiences
of abuse or trauma are also serious risk
factors for developing schizophrenia.
Unsupporti ve parenti ng where
chi l dren devel op strai ned
rel ati onshi ps wi th parents al so
contributes to an increased risk of this
Certai nl y, there occur di screte
biochemical changes in the brain cells/
neurons of the victims that result in
altered neurochemi stry whi ch is the
hal l mark of di si ntegrated thought
process. The network of neurons that
is spread all over the human body
basi cal l y compri ses bi l l i ons of
interconnecting neurons that pass on
the neural message from one cell to the
other i n the form of speci fi c
neurochemi cal si gnal s, whi ch are
nothi ng but bi ochemi cal mol ecul es
cal l ed 'neurotransmi tters'. These
substances al l ow brai n cel l s to
communicate with each other, and are
released in very precise amounts at the
junctional points where the dendrites
of one neuron intersect with the axon
terminals of another neuron. One such
neurotransmitter is called 'dopamine',
whi ch pl ays a cruci al rol e in brai n
chemistry. It is the excessive production
of dopamine that disturbs the flow of
information through the neural wiring,
and thus plays havoc in the thought
process, typical of schizophrenia.
Many different genes seem to be
i nvol ved in the abnormal l y rai sed
activity of dopamine in the neurons.
Certain genes linked to an increased
risk of schizophrenia have been found,
which produce defective proteins that
play a crucial role in altering the neural
si gnal l i ng. Rare del eti ons or
duplications of tiny DNA sequences in
Axon Hillock
Feature Article
A Rare Accomplishment
It is qui t e ast oni shi ng t hat a person
di agnosed as schi zophr eni c dur i ng
col l ege years has the interest to conti nue
his studies, so much so that in later life
he is admi red for his rare talents in the
field of mathemati cs and is awarded the
Nobel Prize for his uni que contri buti ons
to the field. This man was none other
than John Nash, a wel l accl ai med US
mathemati ci an, a victim of schi zophreni a,
who won t he 1994 Nobel Pri ze in
Economi cs. Hi s life has even been
depi cted in a film, A Beautiful Mind.
these genes make them al ter thei r
expression, thus causing the production
of a defective variant of the normal
protein. It is understood today that
there is an i ncreased producti on of
dopamine receptor D also known as
D2R, which is a protein encoded by the
DRD2 gene. This is known to give rise
to the posi ti ve symptoms of
schi zophreni a. Therefore, most anti-
psychotic drugs cause the D, blockage
or have dopami ne bl ocki ng effect.
However, newer anti-psychotic drugs
also affect the production of another
neurotransmitter called serotonin.
Indian scientists have made a mark
in unravel l i ng the geneti c basi s of
schizophrenia, thanks to the efforts of
Dr Sami r K. Brahmachari , Di rector-
General, CSI R and his team comprising
scientists at the Institute of Genomics
& I ntegrati ve Bi ol ogy (I GI B), New
Delhi who in 2003 identified a mutation
in a gene named 'synaptogyri n I '
(SYNGR 1 gene), si tti ng on
chromosome 22, which subtly alters the
neural signaling pathway and increases
i ndi vi dual suscepti bi l i ty to
schizophrenia and bipolar disorder in
the I ndian populations. The SYNGR1
gene has been found to be associated
with presynaptic vesicles in neurons
and plays a crucial role in transmitting
of neural messages. Based on this novel
finding, a US patent on 'Novel Primers
for Screening Schizophrenia and a Method
Thereof was granted in 2004. Similarly,
another gene called 'MLC1' has also
been associ ated wi th these mental
di sorders, whi ch al so suggests the
l i kel y i nvol vement of a common
pathway in the eti ol ogy of these
Gl utamate is yet another
neurotransmitter. Studies have shown
that there is a reduced function of the
glutamate receptor in schizophrenics.
Abnormal l y l ow levels of gl utamate
receptors are found in postmortem
brains of the victims of this disorder.
Substantiating this, it has been found
that gl utamate bl ocki ng drugs can
mimic symptoms of schizophrenia.
Persons at high-risk of developing
this disorder include those having a
fami l y hi story of schi zophreni a and
undergoing some psychotic experience.
Psychol ogi cal treatments and
medi cati on seem to be effecti ve in
reducing the chances of such 'high-risk'
peopl e to devel op ful l -bl own
Traumatic Treatment
Fi rst i ntroduced in the 1930s,
electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), also
called electroshock treatment, has been
a common psychi atri c treatment in
which seizures are electrically induced
in anesthetized patients for therapeutic
effect. Thi s treatment is, however,
rarely used as a first-line treatment for
schizophrenia and is only considered
after long, unsuccessful treatment with
anti-psychotic drugs.
Another shock therapy commonly
used in the hospitals during the 1940s
and 1950s was 'insulin coma therapy'.
This psychiatric treatment involved the
injection of large doses of insulin that
induced symptoms of reduced blood
sugar (pallor, perspiration, salivation,
restlessness) and resulted in coma if the
dose of insulin was high. Horrifyingly,
pati ents were subjected to several
comas with reducing dose of insulin,
before the treatment was stopped. It is
no longer practised now.
Psychosurgery or neurosurgery
for mental di sorders was fi rst
i ntroduced in 1930s. I t basi cal l y
involved the operation, under general
anaesthesi a where a smal l pi ece of
brain tissue was destroyed or removed
by thermo-coagul ati on, freezi ng,
cutti ng or using radi ati on. Another
neurosurgi cal method to treat
schi zophreni a has been 'deep brain
stimulation', where specific areas of the
brain are stimulated with implanted
electrodes. Although patients do show
improvement in their symptoms after
neurosurgi cal treatments, these
methods are not recommended.
Speci al cl ass of drugs called as
anti -psychoti c drugs hel p in the
treatment of schi zophreni a, as they
work by suppressing dopamine activity
inside the neurons. It was in 1950 that
the drug chl orpromazi ne - the first
drug devel oped with anti-psychotic
action - was synthesized. This drug
i ndeed brought a revol uti onary
advance i n the treatment of
schizophrenia, as hospitalization could
be avoided and social rehabilitation of
such persons could be done to a great
extent. Chl orpromazi ne works on
several receptors on neurons, blocking
the activity of neurotransmitters that
act by binding to those receptors. The
si de effects of thi s drug i ncl ude
sedati on, consti pati on, hypotensi on
and restlessless. Long term or high dose
use of the drug can cause involuntary,
repetitive body movements or tremors
called 'tardive dyskinesia', a condition
that is reversi bl e. Si mi l arl y,
another drug group, whi ch bl ocks
dopami ne functi on, is cal l ed
'phenothi azi nes', which can reduce
psychotic symptoms.
Today, however, there are more
effecti ve anti -psychoti c drugs
avai l abl e. Cl ozapi ne is the first of
atypical anti-psychotic drug used in the
treatment of schi zophreni a fi rst
introduced in Europe in 1971. Although
a hi ghl y effecti ve drug to treat
schizophrenia, it unfortunately causes
a drastic reduction in the number of
whi te bl ood cells, a condition called
agranulocytosis, which can prove fatal.
In 1989, the US FDA approved the use
of cl ozapi ne for onl y treatment-
resistant schizophrenia, or patients not
respondi ng to other anti -psychoti c
treatments. However, periodic blood
testing for pati ents taking clozapine
was made essenti al to moni tor the
adverse effects of thi s drug on the
(Continued on page 52)
20 SCIENCE REPORTER, September 2010 -| g
Feature Article
660, London. It is the weeknight
in November wi th a l i ttl e
dampened cobblestones in the
narrow, twi sti ng streets.
Hansom cabs are on urgent errands,
rumbling past the elegant tenements
and majestic houses, all wrapped in
misty swaths of illuminated fog. A few
learned men with silver heads have
gathered at the 'Gresham College'.
A conspicuously young man in his
twenti es is gi vi ng a l ecture on
astronomy. I t is wel l beyond thei r
horizons, delimited by the barriers of
their wisdom, rendering a bewildered
audience. And as they listen to him
speak, they think it would be a good
idea to create a soci ety to share the
vastl y accumul ati ng knowl edge of
science. With that the Royal Society of
London is born.
Si nce its i ncepti on, the Royal
Soci ety has pi oneered sci enti fi c
discovery and exploration. This oldest
among the sci enti fi c academi es in
existence is turning 350 this year. Truly
international in its outlook, the society
is celebrating its momentous history
and achievements through an yearlong
'festival of science' in 2010.
"Nullius in Verba"
It is for this the society exists - "nullius
in verba" - si gni fyi ng the motto
meaning in Latin "take nobody's ivord
for it." It demands its members to be
free from any controls and clans with a
determination to establ i sh the truth
through wi de experi ments. Bei ng
engraved on its 'coat of arms', it has
remained as a gladiator reflecting the
scientific endeavour of the soci ety,
shaping the world as we live in today.
Garbed as official, with a canton of the
Arms of England, it has now become
the 'United Ki ngdom's Academy of
Sci ences' advi si ng Her Majesty's
Government on matters of science.
diMxwewy cmd eafe/cwa/itm wnd' i& cmum^ /Ae o/c/eat ixxwitifie
a<xu/e<moe& m, mufonce 350
Safeguardi ng the sci ence pol i cy
and prophesi es of the publ i c, it has
been so, since the mi ddl e of the 18
century. Through the outstandi ng
stand of its fellows it has also been the
advisor of the European Commission
and United Nations on controversies
i nvol vi ng the materi al i zati on of
precari ous sci ence. Cel ebri ti es of
eminence like I saac Newton, Charles
Darwi n and Al bert Ei nstei n up to
Stephen Hawking have been there as
fellows, the fellowship remaining its
backbone and global hallmark.
The medieval relics are still there
on the premi ses of Carl ton House
Terrace, whi ch is hosti ng a grand
exhibition on the society's rich heritage
dating back to the rampages of absolute
ecclesiastical authority. The despotic
defence of the mystical theology was
much rampant, compelling everything
to bow before i t, i ncl udi ng the
phi l osophi cal thought. I t was an
offence to reject the reason of the
religion, throughout the long interval,
from the overthrow of the Roman
Indian Fellows of the Royal Society
Contrary to popul ar belief, the first Indian fel l ow of the Royal Society was not Srinivasa
Ramanujan, the mathemati cal genius. The di sti ncti on goes to Ardaseer Cursetj ee,
India' s first modern engi neer bri ngi ng industrial revol uti on to the gateways of Indi a.
He was elected as fellow on 27 May 1841. Ramanuj an came second in 1918
fol l owed by J.C. Bose in 1920. It is to the credit of the Royal Society that C.V. Raman
was elected as its fellow before he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics.
Meghnad Saha, Birbal Sahni, K.S. Krishnan, Homi J. Bhabha, Shanti Swarup
Bhatnagar, Subrahmanya Chandrasekhar, R Maheshwari , C.N.R. Rao, and M.S.
Swami nat han are the promi nent among the many who have represented the wi sdom
of Indi a in the Society.
Empi re to the fourteenth century.
Gl oomy gannets of superstitions and
deep ignorance hung over the clouds
of Europe, except for the nobl e
aspi rati ons of the I tal i ans,
representing a silver line. I taly was,
no doubt, the fair land on which rose
the i ntel l ectual sun prel udi ng an
i ntrepi d pursui t of truth and
substance. The wealthy inhabitants of
the principal I talian cities became the
ardent cul ti vators of l i terature and
phi l osophy ransacki ng much of the
intellectuals from Europe.
No fewer than 171 Academies and
Societies were there in I taly at that time
instituted in the form of independent
uni versi ti es. It is interesting to note
that Galileo was a member of one of
such Societies, known by the name, the
'L yncean'. However, the much
cel ebrated among them was the
Academy founded in Florence in 1582
which was for purifying the national
tongue, publ i shi ng a wel l -known
dictionary in 1612. Upto this period,
there was no Academy or institution
of similar kind either in France or in
The i ncepti on and proposal for
such an Academy in England was first
made by Edmond Bolton in 1616, an
eminent scholar and antiquary of that
period. King J ames I was on the throne
and so Bolton proposed its title to be
"King James His Academe of Honour" to
attract his favour. But, the death of the
king in 1625 put an end to everything
novel, including this ambitious dream.
20 SCIENCE REPORTER, September 2010 -| g
Carlton House Terrace
current home of the Royal
Society (since 1967)
The Queen at the 350th anniversary convocation held on 23rd June 2010 (top); Prince William at the convocation where he was made a Royal Fellow of the Royal Society (middle);
Following the convocation, the guests had the opportunity to have a first look at the Society's Summer Science Exhibition (above)
The "Invisible College"
The 'Mi nerva' s Museum' came next,
under the patronage of Charles I, but
rather than for spreading knowledge,
it was intended for fencing it for the
noble youth. The aristocratic tendency
of it was too obvi ous in demandi ng
anybody to be admi tted to submit a
testimonial of his arms and gentry. On
the other side, France was moving at
length to follow the stirring example
of I taly, forming a private society of
l earned men i n Pari s, del i beratel y
choosi ng the name the "French
It was established in 1629 with no
equivalent across the English Channel,
a di sgrace for the l earned Bri tons.
A cademi c gatheri ngs were not
uncommon in Engl and duri ng that
time, but none for the di scussi on of
sci enti fi c subjects. The vacuum
prevailed for decades, until a group of
natural phi l osophers formed an
"I nvi si bl e Col l ege" wi thout wai ti ng
for a royal decree. Samuel Hartlib was
the pioneer of this, extended through
Robert Boyl e, J ohn Wi l ki ns, Robert
Hooke, Wi l l i am Petty, Chri stopher
Wren and some others. Al chemi sts,
Astronomers and Mathematicians were
among them, but the purpose was
common: "acqui ri ng knowl edge
through experimental investigation".
Records of the "I nvisible College"
commence from 1646 and there was no
Uni versi ty in London at that ti me
except for the 'Gresham College', which
remai ned an "unusual institution of
higher learning". It was founded in 1597
under the will of Sir Thomas Gresham,
forming a platform for the public for
the frequent voi ci ng of their novel
i deas. I t granted no degrees, nor
enrol l ed any students, but played a
8 SCIENCE REPORTER, September 2010 25
Feature Article
Gresham College - first home of Royal
Society ( 1660- 1710)
major rol e in the medi eval
enlightenment of the English people.
Some members of the "I nvi si bl e
Col l ege" were there in Gresham
Col l ege as professors, such as
Chri stopher Wren l ecturi ng on
Astronomy and Robert Hooke on
natural philosophy. The specialty of
the Gresham College was that it acted
as a precursor for the invisible college,
attracti ng more members to it.
Everything was in an air of friendliness,
enacti ng no rul es or boundari es,
enabl i ng a wi de and enri chi ng
correspondence even from J ohannes
Kepler, Tycho Brahe and other eminent
signed on 15 July 1662. Thus the "Royal
Society of London" was created, with
Lord Brouncker as the first president.
With a second Royal Charter signed on
23 April 1663, the "coat of arms" was
granted to the Presi dent and to the
fellows of the Society along with their
20 SCIENCE REPORTER, September 2010 -| g
The Royal Charter
In the past, the 'i nvi si bl e col l ege'
remained truly " invisible" in the sense
that it had no official building of its
own, the members meeting in a variety
of l ocati ons, i ncl udi ng thei r own
houses and sometimes at the Gresham
College. At first, they were twelve, but
the membership expanded over time,
eventually splitting into two factions,
such as the 'London Society' and the
'Oxford Soci ety', in 1638 due to the
travel i ng i nconveni ence of i ts
members. Among these, the Oxford
Society was more active to an extent
remarkabl e for that peri od, i n an
attempt to overlay the heavy network
of theologic dogmatism.
I nitially they had no rules at the
"i nvi si bl e col l ege", but the Oxford
faction thought that they needed some
to ori ent themsel ves more
systemati cal l y. "The Phi l osophi cal
Society of Oxford" was the result, as a
separate i nsti tuti on, but sti l l
mai ntai ni ng l i nks wi th thei r
companions at Gresham College, which
had turned out to be the regul ar
meeti ng place of the London group.
The need for a permanent "col l ege"
was much fel t duri ng that peri od,
fol l owi ng their survival through the
infamous English Civil War of 1658.
The proposal for a structured
society was first made by J ohn Evelyn,
in a l etter to Robert Boyl e dated 3
September 1659, who wanted it to be a
learning centre for advanced research
and discussion on the emerging "new
science". Suggestions were also there
from other members l i ke Abraham
Cowl ey and Bengt Skytte rai si ng a
common expressi on. Accordi ngl y, a
"College for the promotion of Physico-
Mathematical Experimental Learning"
was decided to be formed in a meeting
at the Gresham Col l ege on 28
November 1660.
It had to meet on all weeks and at
the second meeting it was announced
that King Charles II had approved their
gatheri ng through a Royal Charter
The Royal Society Charter granted by Charles II and
Royal Society mace presented by Charles II in 1662;
(inset) Charles II
The fellows of the Royal Society
are el ected for l i fe, based on thei r
"substanti al contri buti on to the
i mprovement of natural knowledge,
i ncl udi ng Mathemati cs, Engineering
and Medi cal Sci ence". Forty-four
fel l ows are el ected each year and
currently there are 1,314 in total. The
fellows gain the right to use the 'FRS'
title after their name, as a prestigious
icon, rather than a statutory bearing.
The society also elects three more
kinds of fellows known as the 'Royal
fel l ows', 'Honorary fel l ows' and
'Foreign Members'. The Royal Fellows
are from the Monarchy of the United
Ki ngdom. Peopl e who are ineligible
to be el ected as fel l ows, but "whose
election would significantly benefit the
society" form the Honorary fellows.
Foreign members are scientists from
non-commonweal th nations "who are
eminent for their scientific discoveries and
attainments". They also are elected for
life, but their postnominal title is 'For
MemRs', not 'FRS'. The elected fellows
of the society include famous scientists
such as Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin,
Ernest Rutherford, Albert Einstein and
Stephen Hawking.
The Indian Links
I ndi a has l ong occupi ed promi nent
pl ace in the acti vi ti es of the Royal
Society, as evident from the historical
col l ecti ons of the soci ety. In the
Register Book of 1663, there is a report
on how the nati ves of Coromandel
vivified their drinks by exposing them
to the sun and wi nd. The Brahmi n
observatory in Benares was visited by
Sir Robert Baker FRS in 1774, revealing
the geometri cal tables used by the
astronomers there, for predi cti ng
ecl i pses of the Sun and the Moon.
J oseph Dal ton Hooker duri ng hi s
tenure as President to the Royal Society
in the 19
century came to study
the great equinoctial 'Sun-dial' there,
but onl y to find it in a sad state of
di srepai r. A reference meri di an to
Bri ti sh I ndi an was establ i shed by
Wi l l i am Petri e FRS who made it
possible through his own instruments
equi pped in an observatory at hi s
residence in Madras. It was that which
became "India's equivalent of Greenwich",
pl ayi ng a promi nent rol e in
astronomi cal ai ds to navi gati on
throughout the 19
The East I ndi a Company
strengthened i ts hol d on I ndi a
8 SCIENCE REPORTER, September 2010 25
The Society
The Royal Charters desi gnated the
Ki ng as the founder of the Royal
Soci ety, whi ch was for the
"improvement of natural knowledge".
The appointment of the members of the
society was authorised in the second
Charter, desi gnati ng them as the
"fel l ow of the Royal Soci ety". In the
beginning, there were 98 fellows, now
known as the "Original Fellows".
The Society was governed by its
counci l , whi ch was chai red by the
president of the society. The members
of the council and the president were
elected from the fellows by the fellows.
The fellows had the right to elect new
Fel l ows (still fol l owed as a custom
today) and al so a responsi bi l i ty of
financially sustaining the society.
Even though the ki ng was
supposed to be the patron, the society
coul d not rel y on hi s fi nanci al
assi stance and so the
favour of wealthy nobles
was necessary for the
survival of the society, in
its earlier times. So, many
of the earl y fel l ows of
the soci ety were not
sci enti sts or emi nent
i ntel l ectual s and thi s
i nevi tabl e practi ce
conti nued unti l the
fi nanci al securi ty of the
soci ety became more
certai n. I n May 1846, a
committee recommended
the sel ecti on of fel l ows
purel y on sci enti fi c
achi evement, del i mi ti ng
the members excl usi vel y
as scientific personalities.
Royal Mail launched a
series of 10 stamps
commemorating past
Fellows of the Royal
Society and their
enormous contributions to
modern science
Feature Article
As part of the Royal Society's 350th Anniversary
celebrations, an exhibition "The Royal Society: 350
Years of Science" will feature a number of treasures
from the Royal Society's extensive collections of archives,
rare books, artefacts, and portraits
The inception and proposal for such an
Academy in England was first made by
Edmond Bolton in 1616
fol l owi ng the Bri ti sh col oni al
adventures duri ng the 18
Better means of transport and
telecommunication such as rai l ways
and electric telegraph were coming to
I ndia demandi ng accurate physi cal
surveys. The 'Survey of I ndi a' was
establ i shed by the East I ndi a
Company in 1767, which initiated the
'Great Trigonometrical Survey (675)'
of I ndi a, under the gui dance of
William Lamb ton FRS.
Modern mapping methodologies
and scientific surveying methods were
adopted maki ng it a grand
technological vi ctory. The name of
George Everest is al so worth
mentioning. He joined the project as
Chief Assistr-
1 c
, 0 1
to become I
GTS, retirin
of India. He
northern j
successors '
foothills of
the 'Peak
honour. Th
known as t
mountai n
renaming w
48 sci i
Rosalind Elsie i.anklin was a
British biophysicist, physicist,
chemist, biologist and X-ray
crystallographer who played
a key role in the elucidation of
the structure of DNA but
received little recognition
before her untimely death.
She is one of the ten most
influential British women in
the history of science
according to a panel of
leading female scientists and
science historians assembled
by the Royal Society to affirm
its commitment to the
advancement of women in
Decoding the Biome
India was a land of natural novelties
to the British, inspiring pioneers like
Warren Hasti ngs FRS to empl oy the
European sci enti fi c observati on
anal ysi s i nto the myri ad of i ts
di versi ty. Speci mens of everythi ng
that seemed new from the natural
world were sent to Britain for scientific
classification and nomenclature. Many
of them came to the British Museum,
leading to their artistic renderings and
An early production was 'Indian
Zoology' by Thomas Pennant FRS, which
came out in 1790. The next was 'Century
of Birds from theHimalaya Mountains' by
J ohn Goul d FRS, one of Bri tai n's
foremost orni thol ogi sts. It was wi th
beauti ful hand-col oured l i thographs
and appeared in huge imperial folio
vol umes. Ori gi nal l y it was the
catal ogue of speci mens sent from
Nepal and northern I ndi a to the
museum of the Zool ogi cal Soci ety,
where Goul d was the offi ci al bi rd-
stuffer. Study of Indian flora was done
under the direction of Sir J oseph Banks,
the then president of the Royal Society,
mai nl y by William Roxburgh, which
Society demands its members to be free from
any controls and clans with a determination to
establish the truth through wide experiments.
1935 was no excepti on wi th an
embl azoned Royal Soci ety in i ts
featured amulets.
Apart from these di stant
engravings, a 'true friend of I ndia' was
there at the Royal Society, helping the
country during its formative years of
independence. It was Patrick Blackett,
who was the fel l ow of the Royal
Society from 1933 and president during
1965-70. He was met by Shanti Swarup
Bhatnagar FRS at the Empire Scientific
Conference in London in 1946, leading
to an invitation to attend the I ndian
Science Congress whi ch was due on
J anuary 1947. Nehru was there at the
Congress and it was the beginning of a
long friendship.
Blackett went on to stay for several
extended vi si ts to Nehru's Pri me
Ministerial residence in Delhi serving
as an advisor on military and scientific
matters. He was there to shape our
economi c growth, educati on and
development of atomic energy. In 1972,
an agreement was made between the
Indian National Science Academy and
tbling a large number
ictivities between UK
oday the relationship
ish with a real impact
al concern.
s Editorial Assistant,
3r Children's Literature,
ipus, Palayam,
Puzzle Corner
Prize Puzzle
Search for names of 1 5 glasswares found in the chemistry laboratory. They are arranged horizontally,
vertically and backwards.
E B M E A S U R I N G J A R o
X A K I P B U c T O C I N R U
R K R O T A C c I s E D P O M
T E E T T E R u B 0 D A I P E
C R C U S S H o F E S R P B T
C O N I c A L F L A s K E O R
I R N R c E B u T T s E T T I
R E A G E N T B 0 T T L E N F
T T S S A L G H c T A W O E L
L H I L G L A S E O M A D s S
Contributed by Dr K. Venkataraman, A-T-2, Porkudam Apts, Bypass Road, Madurai-10
There are three prizes of Rs. 500/ - each for three correct entries. In case there are a large number of correct entries, the prize
winner will be selected through a draw of lots. The decision of the Editor, Science Reporter, will be final.
Puzzle Corner Last date for the entries to reach us: 30-09-2010 |
Science Reporter
National Institute of Science Communication And
Information Resources, CSI R, Dr. K.S. Krishnan Marg
New Delhi-110012
Your Name
..Pin Code :
Sex :
Occuption : Student Housewife Teacher Professional Retired Other
Educational Level: Primary Secondary Graduate Postgraduate
*Please fill up the questionnaire at the back
*Please note: Now you can even send your answers on a photocopy of this page.
I - - - . . .
5 Q SCIENCE REPORTER, Sept ember 2010
Puzzle Corner
Symbol s of 1 4 chemi cal el ements have to be fi l l ed in the gri d wi th hel p of gi ven clues. Each symbol contai ns onl y one
1. A non-metal l i c el ement
burni ng with bl ue f l ame and
suffocati ng smell
2. A hard gray metal l i c el ement used
for strengtheni ng some steels
3. A gaseous el ement essential to pl ant
and ani mal life and hel ps in burni ng
4. A non-metal l i c el ement of hal ogen
group f ormi ng a vi ol et vapour
5. A non-metal l i c el ement extracted f rom
6. A metal l i c el ement used in maki ng
f ound in all organi c compounds
7. A metal l i c el ement wi th hi gh
mel ti ng poi nt used for fi l aments of
electric l amps
1. 8.
2. 9.
3. 10.
4 11.
5. 12.
6. 13.
7. 14.
8. A radi oacti ve metallic el ement
that is a source of nucl ear energy
9. A metal l i c el ement occurri ng
natural l y in seawater and minerals
1 0. An unreacti ve gaseous el ement
that f orms f our fifths of the earth' s
at mosphere
1 1. A non-metal l i c el ement used in
match sticks, fertilizers etc.
12. Lightest of elements, occurri ng
in water and all organi c compounds
1 3. Non-met al l i c el ement superconductors
14. Poisonous pal e yel l ow gaseous
el ement of the hal ogen group
Contributed by Mr Raashid Jamal, Bara Nana Sahab, Bazaria P.O. Dholpur (Raj)-328001
Sol ut i ons t o t he puzzl es publ i s he d in t he Jul y 2 0 1 0 i ssue:
Hidden Birds
Instrument Puzzle
Split & Scramble
The names of the prizewinners based
on a draw of lots from among the
correct entries are:
1. Par mi nder Sha r ma , 339/ 1 B, Tel i wara, Shahadara,
Del hi - 110032
2. Abi nash Chakr a, At JNV, Hadagarh, PO Hadagarh,
Via Anandpur - 758023
3. Shamai l a Fat i ma Khan, H. No. 6- 2- 655,
Nafees Mansi on, Khai rat abad, Hyder abad- 500004
all the winners!
SCI ENCE REPORTER, September 2010
Feature Article
A delusion could also be __
a reflection of one's
mood like the grim
thoughts of rejection
by all while being in
a state of
depression or
having strange
manic thoughts like
being the Prime Minister
of the country. A
schizophrenic may also strongly believe that he/she has
special powers or abilities and is a famous personality.
Psychosis of
(Continued from pg 43)
Risperidone, first released in 1994,
is al so a common atypi cal anti -
psychoti c drug used to treat
schi zophreni a. However, it i nduces
weight gain and sexual dysfuncti on
besi des havi ng other si de effects
common to most anti-psychotic drugs.
Si mi l arl y, another atypi cal anti -
psychoti c drug, ol anzapi ne is al so
associated with consi derabl e wei ght
gain and risk of metabolic syndrome.
Studi es have shown that a vast
majority of schizophrenics use drugs,
alcohol or tobacco, which is suggestive
of the vi cti m tryi ng to cope wi th
unpl easant states l i ke depressi on,
anxi ety, boredom and l onel i ness.
Substance abuse can make treatment
for schizophrenia less effective. In fact,
research has found increasing evidence
of a l i nk between mari juana and
schi zophreni a symptoms. Si mi l arl y,
smoking tends to make anti-psychotic
drugs less effective.
Above all, vocational and social
rehabilitation are very important for
maki ng schi zophreni cs l ead a l ess
traumati c l i fe. Publ i c educati on
campai gns al so assume great
importance for reducing the burden of
this disorder on human populations,
as information about risk factors and
early symptoms of this mental disorder
can help in timely treatment and social
Psychotherapy is personal
counsel l i ng of the pati ent, ai med at
increasing the sense of their own well
bei ng. Thi s i nvol ves several
relationship-building techni ques like
friendly communication and dialogue
for bringing about behavioural change
i n the vi cti ms. Techni ques l i ke
cogni ti ve behavi oural therapy and
cogni ti ve remedi ati on hel p to treat
psychoti c symptoms, and i mprove
social rehabilitation of schizophrenics.
Positive Approach
The Worl d Heal th Organi zati on
(WHO) coordinated the I nternational
Study of Schizophrenia (ISoS) - a long-
term fol l ow-up study of 1633
i ndi vi dual s di agnosed wi th
schizophrenia around the world - and
publ i shed the fi ndi ngs in 2001. The
results shook the prevalent belief that
schi zophreni a is a chroni c mental
illness. Of the 75% who were available
for fol l ow-up, hal f had favourabl e
outcome, and 16% had del ayed
recovery. It clearly came out that early
social i nterventi on was essential for
i mprovi ng pati ent condi ti on. WHO
studi es have al so shown that
i ndi vi dual s di agnosed wi th
schizophrenia have much better long-
term treatment outcome in developing
countries i ncl udi ng I ndia, Col ombi a
and Ni geri a than in devel oped
countries that include USA, UK, J apan,
and Russia. Scientists have learned a
l ot about schi zophreni a, but more
research is needed to provide answers
to many still unexpl ai ned facts. For
thi s, more fundi ng is needed to
promote mental health research.
Today, most psychi atri sts agree
that about one-third of schizophrenia
cases are curable. A positive approach
for i ntegrati ng schi zophreni cs back
into the web of society is the 'family
therapy' where all the family members
of an i ndi vi dual di agnosed wi th
schi zophreni a are appropri atel y
informed about this mental illness and
how a congeni al fami l y atmosphere
can contri bute towards better
i mprovement i n pati ent condi ti on.
Such advocacy efforts for educati ng
fami l i es to i mprove pati ent care at
home, through compassi onate
understanding of this mental disorder,
can avoid unnecessary hospital visits
and even reduce the drug dose of such
It ultimately rests with the 'sane'
individuals of the family and society
as a whol e to remove the sti gma
associ ated wi th schi zophreni a and
accept their less fortunate brothers and
sisters suffering from this disorder as
an i ntegral part of fami l y/ soci ety,
and provi de them a supportive and
tol erant envi ronment that natural l y
draws such people back into the social
Dr P. Cheena Chawla is Editor, CSIR News,
NISCAIR. E-mail:;
World Mental Health Day
On Oct ober 1 0 every year, World
Mental Health Day is observed in
more than 100 countries. Cel ebrated
since 1992, this event is an initiative
of the Worl d Federati on for Ment al
Health (WFMH) and is supported by
the Wor l d Heal t h Or gani zat i on
(WHO). Several activities organi zed
at both regional and nati onal level
i ncl ude educat i onal l ectures and
vari ous advocacy pr ogr ammes to
raise publ i c awareness on ment al
heal th issues, besides i nvesti ng in
prevention and treatment services. The
t heme of this year' s Worl d Ment al
Heal th Day is Mental Health and Long
Term Illness: The Need for Continued
and Integrated Care.
20 SCIENCE REPORTER, September 2010 -| g
ORE than 1500 school students came together
at the Modern School, Barakhamba Road, New
Delhi for two days of fun and frolic, and, of
course, science - physics, to be more precise.
The children were participating in the Third
Annual Physi cs Symposi um, cal l ed "Cycl otron 2010",
organised by Illuminati, the Physics Club of Modern School,
Barakhamba Road. The event was organised on 30 and 31
July 2010.
The I lluminati Physics Club was founded in 2007 to
promote interest in students for physics and to motivate
them to ask questions, and share ideas and thoughts. This
would motivate students to look at science from the point
of view of a future research scientist. The Physics Club has
been organizing Cyclotron, the Physics Symposium, for the
past two years, to promote the development of scientific
temper in young minds and to encourage budding physicists
to ask questi ons and fi nd answers to them through
innovative and creative experiments.
Every year the annual symposium has been witnessing
marked growth in terms of the number of participants and
the quality of the events. This year, "Cyclotron 2010", put
together by students belonging of the I luminati Physics
Club, saw the participation of more than 60 schools and
around 1500 students from Delhi and NCR.
The competitive events at "Cyclotron 2010" aimed at
expl oi ti ng the practi cal and l ogi cal ski l l s of sci ence
students, who may turn out to be great sci enti sts and
researchers in the times to come. Students gathered at the
physi cs fest chal l enged themsel ves at six competi ti ve
Robolympics was a robotics event where participants
tested their skills in creating robots that were fast as well as
strong. Be The Change was a challenging event requiring
the participants to rack their brains to find innovative yet
realistic solutions to absolutely real problems of modern
day city life. At Whiz Quiz, quizzing wizards were on their
toes, racing their minds to find answers to exciting questions
on science. And at Junk Tech the students were required to
design a mechanical device not longer than one meter to
shoot a tennis ball in projectile motion for the maximum
The Surprise Event was a combination of four tasks
assigned to students on the spot. These tasks ranged from
Dr. Hukum Singh, in his address,
congratulated the school on
hosting such a major event so
successfully. His words proved to
be a source of motivation and
I l l t J MI MTI "
M O D E * * f C H O O l
8 SCIENCE REPORTER, September 2010 25
5 4 SCIENCE REPORTER, September 2010
desi gni ng a mechani cal pul l ey to l i ft wei ght to
demonstrati ng the
phenomenon of total
i nternal refl ecti on,
and from showi ng
the rotatory moti on
of a coi l usi ng
el ectri cal energy to
bui l di ng a strong
bri dge usi ng i ce-
cream sticks. And last
but not the least was
an event called Think
it Over, which tested
the parti ci pants'
l i ngui sti c skills and
their understandi ng
of the basic concepts
I U U M I N A T I mUittunalL
o f p h
i c s
C y c l o t r o n
2010" was
MODERN SCHOOL i naugurated by Mr.
B&RAKll AMB& Row P r e m N ar ayan
STUDY Saxena, Deputy
matet fvmm Secretary to the
halnc tharnan mind*
Mi ni ster of Home
Affai rs. The other
INTERTeuOOLPimief1YMP0HU* guests of honour
included Mr. Naresh Jain, Dr. Safman and Dr. Rajkumar.
The rolling trophy was won by the Bal Bharti School,
Pitampura with Amity, Noida being declared the runners
up. The Prizes were distributed by the Chief Guest for the
second day, Dr. Hukum Singh, Head of the Department of
Science and Mathematics, National Council of Educational
Research & Training (NCERT). Dr. Hukum Singh, in his
address, congratulated the school on hosting such a major
event so successfully. His words proved to be a source of
motivation and encouragement. He said: "I see a future
Nobel laureate in every student of today."
SCI ENCE REPORTER, September 2010 5 5
Ant from Mars thai%
Never Left Earth
Martialis heureka is a new speci es
of ant di scovered in 2003 under leaf
litter at the Empresa Brasi l ei ra de
Pesquisa Agropecuari a in Manaus, Brazil by Chri sti an
Rabeling, University of Texas, USA. The name/Marti a/i s
heuraka means "Eureka ant f r om Mar s. " This
bi zarre-l ooki ng ant is a bl i nd, subt erranean
predator; pal e in col our, 2- 3 mml ong wi th
l arge, tweezer-shaped jaws.
Apparentl y, the renowned bi ol ogi st
Edward O. Wi l son j oked that the ant
l ooked so strange it must come f rom
Mars. . . . hence the name Martialis. The term "heureka"
means "I' ve f ound it." The reference is to the way the single
speci men was di scovered after the first t wo were lost years ago.
Act ual l y, Manf r ed Ver haagh of the Staatl i ches Museum f ur
Nat urkunde, Karl sruhe, Germany, first di scovered two speci mens
in Manaus, Brazil in 2000. The speci men tubes dri ed up when
shi pped out for DNA analysis. The preserved ant specimens became
bri t t l e and cr umbl ed when handl ed. Ther ef or e, t he exact
t axonomi cal identity of the speci mens coul d not be determi ned.
Fi ndi ng Martialis heureka was a stroke of i ncredi bl e good
luck since Chri sti an Rabel i ng f ound just the one single ant wal ki ng
about in the leaf litter. It was far away f rom its nest and other
members of its cl an. So, Scientists had very little bi ol ogi cal materi al
to work wi th. The phyl ogeneti c posi ti on of Martialis heureka was
inferred from nuclear genes, sequenced f rom a single leg. However,
t he dear t h of bi ol ogi cal mat er i al has not det er r ed t he
myrmecol ogi sts or Scientists who study ants. They have cal l ed it
the "...l i vi ng coel acanth of ants..." and not wi thout reason.
Ma n y bel i eve t hat attracted by the f l oweri ng
pl ants, ants expl ored the surface
envi r onment onl y about 1 2 5 mi l l i on years
a g o .
"M. heureka itself appears to have evol ved 50 mi l l i on years
ago, " said Manf red Verhaagh, "many of its characteristics
bl i ndness, forcep-l i ke flexible mandi bl es appear to have been
retai ned f rom that ancestral proto-ant."
The name Martialis heureka is well deserved. It bel ongs to
the first new subfami l y of l i vi ng ants di scovered si nce 1 923.
Analysis of its DNA has reveal ed that it is a new species and genus
at the very base of the ant evol uti onary tree. It is A member of the
newly created Sub-fami l y Mart i al i nae - one of the most pri mi ti ve
Sub-fami l i es known: apparentl y one of the first Sub-fami l i es to
split off f rom the mai n l i neage, soon after ants evolved f rom wasps
more than 1 20 mi l l i on years ago. Al though not the direct ancestor
of all living ants, Martialis heureka is a "sister" branch of the
fami l y tree that di verged earl y in the history of ants. It chose a life
underground. Rabeling has specul ated that there was little pressure
for these ants to evol ve much and so they have persisted in thei r
current f orm. . . a characteri sti c shared with other living fossils
Scientists t hought that a primitive ant woul d resembl e the
wasp, live above the gr ound and have eyes like a wasp. Martialis
turned out to be total l y di fferent. Rabeling says, "Based on our
data and the fossil record, we assume that the ancestor of this ant
was somewhat wasp-l i ke, perhaps si mi l arto the Cretaceous amber
fossil Sphecomyrma, whi ch is wi del y known as the evol uti onary
missing link between wasps and ants."
It was ori gi nal l y bel i eved that, like wasps, the first ants dwel l ed
on the surface. However, scientists are revising that view. Many
believe that attracted by the fl oweri ng plants, ants expl ored the
surface envi ronment onl y about 1 25 mi l l i on years ago.
Chri sti an Rabel i n, Jeremy M. Brown and Manf red Verhaagh
publ i shed a paper enti tl ed Newly discovered sister lineage sheds
light on early ant evolution, in the j ournal Proceedings of the
National Academy of Sciences in 2008.
Dr Sukanya Datta
Scientist NISCAIR posted to Director General's Technical Cell, CSIR HQ
Living Fossils
A Cloudburst leads to the exact
phenomenon one would expect
if clouds burstcopious and
intense rainfall over a small
area. It is sometimes also
called Rain Gush or Rain Gust.
In Hindi it is referred to Badal
phatna, which is a literal
translation of the words Cloud
burst. It is easy to see how the
name stuck, if one goes by the
popular perception that clouds
hold large amounts of water
that would no doubt, fall to
Earth if they burst. In scientific
parlance, cloudbursts are
described as "devastating
convective phenomena
producing sudden high-
intensity rainfall (<"10 cm per
hour) over a small area."
LOUDBURSTS are common
in the tropics, al though they can
occur anywhere in the worl d.
Thunder and Cl oudbur st s
usually occur together, al t hough hail may
or may not be present. Cloudbursts not only
happen abr upt l y but are al so hi ghl y
unpredictable. The word "burst" has violent
overtones so the associ ated rainfall woul d
be expected to be of an extreme nature too.
It is. It has been reported that the intensity
of the rainfall may be so great that those
caught in the onsl aught may fi nd it di ffi cul t
to breathe! Cl oudburst-associ ated rai nfal l
does not usually last very l ong but it is
capabl e of pr oduci ng over whel mi ng
cl ouds t hat are usual l y responsi bl e f or
Cl oudbursts. Most Cl oudburst s occur in
association with thunderstorms. In such type
of storms there are strong uprushes of air.
These updrafts are filled with turbul ent wi nd
pockets that shove the smal l rai ndrops
ar ound l eadi ng t o col l i si ons bet ween
r ai ndr ops. The col l i si ons l ead t o
congl omerati ons and large-sized drops are
f ormed. The forceful upward rush of air al so
prevents the condensi ng rai ndrops f rom
fal l i ng downwards. So i nstead of fal l i ng
down to Earth the water droplets are pushed
upwar ds ti l l a l arge amount of wat er
accumul at es at a hi gh level. Eventually all
updrafts become weak and col l apse. Wi t h
nothi ng to push it up, the entire wat erf al l s
down al most all at once.
amount of rai nfal l . So a si ngl e Cl oudburst
can do far more damage than the same
vol ume of rain fal l i ng as a gentl e shower.
The peri l ous nat ure of Cl oudbur st s is
therefore because of these l arge rai ndrops
fal l i ng as a torrent, at great speed over a
smal l area.
Cl oudbursts cause flash floods. Flash fl oods
in turn, uproot trees, tri gger soil erosi on,
l andsl i des and landslips l eadi ng t o habi tat
destructi on, and massive loss of property.
Downst ream, the f l oodwat ers sl ow down
and deposi t l arge amount s of silt that may
choke the mout h of water bodi es and/ or
raise the riverbed. Ot her things bei ng equal ,
the rapidity wi th whi ch the rain sweeps away
the soil depends upon the steepness of the
sl ope. On hillsides, fl ash f l oods can be
Compounding Consequences
Cl oudburst s are especi al l y common in
mount ai nous areas. It is bel i eved that this
is because the war m ai r current s of a
t hunderst orm tend to fol l ow the upward
sl ope of a mount ai n. The consequences of
a Cl oudburst in a mount ai nous area are
Culprit Cloud
The Cumul oni mbus is a tall cl oud t hat
contains very hi gh, unpredi ctabl e wi nds.
Such cl ouds ar e associ at ed wi t h
thunderstorms. Typi cal l y these are the
Not onl y do the l arger drops fall wi th a
termi nal velocity of around 12 km/ h but
al so they have the added i mpetus of the
downdraf t speed, whi ch can easily exceed
80 km/ h. The i ntensi ty of rai nf al l
duri ng a Cl oudburst can be as much
as 10.2 cm/ h, with 1, 220 drops falling
per square metre at a velocity of up to
7. 9 metres/second. Just i magi ne the
i mpact of rai ndrops hitting the soil so
hard. The mechani cal acti on of rain is
greatl y i ncreased by the f orce and
India is no stranger to this
calamity. Perhaps many still
remember the downpour in
2005 that completely
paralysed Mumbai. That was a
Cloudburst too.
8 SCI ENCE REPORTER, September 2010 25
City road or Venice waterway!
compounded because the f al l i ng wat er
rushes down narrow gulleys/valleys. The
enor mous amount of r ai nf al l of t en
over whel ms the shal l ow hilly channel s
t hrough whi ch water fl ows and this leads to
flash fl oods.
Like the Cl oudburst , the fl ash fl oods
t oo are sudden, severe and short-l i ved.
When a sudden surge of water fl ows down
a narrow channel , its destructive powers
are unl eashed, sweepi ng away al most
everything in its path. Areas with dry creeks/
gul ches etc. are parti cul arl y vul nerabl e as
these can qui ckl y fill wi th water that sweep
away peopl e and ani mal s caught unawares.
In cities, f l oodi ng can transform roads
into the waterways of Veni ce and make it
i mpossi bl e for peopl e to wal k.
Accordi ng to the US Geol ogi cal Survey' s
Natural Hazards Gateway, a f l ood resulting
f rom a Cl oudburst rises so qui ckl y that it is
descri bed as a "wal l of water." It has peak
durati on of onl y a few minutes, fol l owed by
a rapi d subsi dence. One of the earliest
recorded cl oudburst s in USA (cal l ed a
wat erspout in those days) occurred in
Gol den Gat e Gul ch, on 1 4 July 1 872. The
" wal l of wat er " was descr i bed as a
"perpendi cul ar breast of 10 or 1 2 feet."
The force of the f l ood water can be
staggering. For exampl e, a cl oudburst fl ood
on Ki owa Creek (USA) in May 1878 caused
a standard-gauge l ocomoti ve to be washed
away. Al t hough search was mount ed, the
l ocomoti ve was never recovered.
India is no stranger to this cal ami ty.
There have been many maj or Cl oudbursts
that have caused untold loss in recent times.
In 2002, Cl oudburst affected f our vi l l ages
and t ook the lives of at least 33 peopl e in
Ut t arakhand. Perhaps many still remember
the downpour in 2005 that compl et el y
paral ysed Mumbai . That was a Cl oudburst
too. Reportedly, 950 mm of rai nfal l was
recorded over ei ght to ten hours.
Newspaper report s of t he 2007
Cl oudburst tragedy at Ghavni , Hi machal
Pradesh, record that a number of appl e
orchards, at least 15 houses, a pri mary
heal th centre and a school bui l di ng were
washed away because of the Cl oudburst.
At least 52 peopl e di ed.
The l andsl i de t r i gger ed by a
Cl oudburst on 8 August 2009 buri ed the
t wo vi l l ages of Jhakhl a and Lah
(Uttarakhand) under rubble and cl ai med 43
l i ves. Thi s year, Kashmi r , par t s of
Ut t arakhand and Guwahat i have al ready
faced the wrath of hard rain and there is no
guarant ee that Cl oudbursts will not strike
agai n.
And the latest in line was one that led
to untol d devastati on in Leh recently.
Dr Sukanya Datta
Scientist NISCAIR posted to Director General's
Technical Cell, CSIR HQ
8 SCI ENCE REPORTER, September 2010 25
Fun Quiz
8. Fi rst Vul t ur e Br eed i ng Cent r e i n I ndi a is
si t uat ed i n
a. West Bengal b. Assam
c. Haryana d. Madhya Pradesh
Know The Skylords
7. Vul t ure decl i ne is now bei ng at t r i but ed t o
a. Di cl ofenac
b. Habi tat destructi on
c. Decreased f ood availability
d. Al l
1. Whi ch vul t ur e
speci es
di sappear ed f r om
t he I ndi an ski es i n
mi d- 90s upt o t he
ext ent of 95-
a. Aegypius
b. Gyps
c. Cathardes
d. Sarcogyps
2. A gr oup of vul tures is cal l ed a , and when
ci rcl i ng t he ai r, a gr oup of vul tures is cal l ed a kettl e.
a. Venue b. Kettle
c. Ci rcl e d. Fl ock
5 8 SCI ENCE REPORTER, September 2010
3. The scavenger t hat
takes a bat h af t er each
meal is
a. Crows
b. Eagles
c. Vultures
d. Al l
6. Which vulture
feeds on nut of
the Oil Palm
besides feeding
on meat?
a. Gypohierax
b. Gyps africanus
c. G. coprotheres
d. Gyps tenuirostris
4. Whi ch r el i gi ous communi t y depends on
vul t ur es f or di sposal of human cor pses?
a. Parsis b. Chri sti ans
c. Sikhs d. None
5. Gyps indie us is l i st ed i n
a. CITES Appendi x II b. IUCN as Critically Endangered
c. Both d. None
Fun Quiz
9. First I nt er nat i onal Vul t ur e Awar eness Day (I VAD)
was cel ebr at ed on
l?r,lZ ^^I n t e r n a t i o n a l
Apri l 2009 S f V l l l t l i r P
c. 1 Oct ober 2009 W * *
d. 5
t h
September 2009 sept. 4.2010
10. Vul t ur es ar e f ound on
ever y cont i nent except
a. Antarcti ca and Oceani a
b. South Ameri ca
c. Africa
d. Europe
1 9. Vul t ur es mat ur e
at ar ound t he age
a. Five years
b. Two years
b. One year
d. Three years
20. Number of eggs l ai d by Gyps vul t ures i n one
br eedi ng season:
a. 3 b. 4
c. 2 d. 1
1 5. Vul t ur es cool t hemsel ves by
a. Taki ng a bath b. Urohydrosi s
c. None d. Both a & b
1 . b 2. a 3. c
7. d 8. c 9 . d
1 3. a 1 4 . d 1 5 . b
19. a 2 0 . d
17. In I ndi a t he number of speci es of vul t ures
i n t he wi l d is
a. 15 b. 22
c. 9 d. 17
18. Vul t ur es
may l ocat e
f ood t hr ough
a. Sight
b. Smell
c. Both
d. None
14. Vul t ures recei ve ment i on in whi ch scri pt ures
a. Indi an b. Egyptian
c. Greeks d. Al l
Contributed by Dr. Amita .Kanaujia, Associate Professor
( and Ms Sonika Kushwaha
(, Research Scholar, Department of Zoology, University
of Lucknow, Lucknow-226001
SCI ENCE REPORTER, September 2010 C Q
12. Among t he
f ol l owi ng, whi ch "is *
one of t he l ar gest J^f
vul t ur es wi t h a wi ng'
span of up t o 3. 2 m'
( 10. 5 f t ):
a. Andean Condor
b. Long-bi l l ed vulture
c. Ci nereous vul ture
d. Bearded vul ture
1 1 . Vul t ur e t hat uses t ool s
br eak open Ost r i ch eggs is:
a. Gyps tenuirostris
c. Neophron percnopterus
b. Gyps bengalensis
d. Gypaetus barbatus
13. New and ol d wor l d vul t ur es ar e amc
wor l d' s best exampl es of :
a. Convergent Evolution b. Di vergent Evol uti on
c. Adapt i ve Evol uti on d. None
What's New?
There' s a new kid in t own, his name is Twenty One, he is the latest
generati on of the humanoi d robots f rom Japan, He is the 21 st century
version of WENDY (Waseda ENgi neeri ng Desi gned sYmbi ont) hence
the name Twenty One. He is about 5 ft in hei ght and wei ghs about 245
lb. Equi pped wi th 241 pressure-sensors in each si l i con-wrapped hand,
he is gentle enough to handl e soft obj ects like bread and strong enough to
support humans as they sit up and stand. Woul dn' t it be cool to have
one of this in your house to do the l aundry and cl ean the house?
This vi ol i n-pl ayi ng robot is capabl e of perf ormi ng a variety of tasks
with its hands and arms. Its delicacy of movement is best demonstrated
by the fact that it can play the vi ol i n. It can achi eve vi brato on a vi ol i n
similar to that created by humans, enabl i ng it to pl ay all the classic
Chri stmas carols. The 1. 5-met re tall vi ol i n-pl ayi ng robot , equi pped
with a total of 1 7 joints in each of its hands and arms, uses precise
control and coordi nat i on to achi eve human-l i ke agility. It coul d al so
be used to assist wi th domesti c duti es or nursi ng and medi cal care.
have to admi t that robots will become a huge part
j r life someday, and this new robot is here to prove
it. This new robot is 1 25 cm tall and
wei ghts 45 kg. Besides, it comes
wi th 28 joints, three wheel s,
i ntegrated camera sensor, and
wi th Wi Fi compati bi l i ty. This
robot works like a
bartender and it will pour
and serve you your
favori te dri nk. It l ooks
interesting because it is
the onl y roboti c bartender
in the worl d. It l ooks cool wi th its
shades but it won' t be abl e to chat
with you, at least not yet.
^ Robot di nosaur expl ores its envi ronment on its own,
and interacts wi th you, but it al so expresses emot i ons
based on its life experiences. Robot' s sophi sti cated
m sensory system enabl es hi m to see, sense, t ouch and
detect obj ects in order to move autonomousl y. This i
* roboti c di nosaur i ncl udes a col our camera wi th a white-
j! light sensor to detect bri ght light f rom dark, see
col ours, detect mot i on, track a movi ng obj ect, and
percei ve obj ects in front of hi m. This unit al so i ncl udes
* bi naural mi crophones on the left and right that
m give hi m stereophoni c heari ng, al l owi ng hi m to
detect sound
^ di recti on and
a l oudness
t hrough both
ears. An i nfrared
m receiver and transmi tter
al l ow it to identify,
" communi cat e and interact
81 I
with one 1
s another. "J j L .
* 4H I

LEGO has narrowed the gap
between dream and reality.
Now, you can bui l d your
own robot in different forms
like scorpi on, humanoi d or
even an al i en life f orm. The brai n
of the ' toy' is a 32-bi t command centre
t hat can be pr ogr ammed usi ng a
comput er via USB or Bl uet oot h. The
brai n is nothi ng wi thout its arms and legs.
Wi t h atotal of 519 speci al l y sel ected
el ements and equi pped model -speci fi c
bui l di ng instructions, you can choose
to bui l d on different model s. There are
many robots that are avai l abl e to the
consumers but nothi ng compares to the
ful fi l ment of a dream.
0 SCI ENCE REPORTER, September 2010
1. A technique for separating compounds with small
molecules from compounds with large molecules
by selective diffusion through semi-permeable
membrane (8)
4. A giant assembly of stars, gas and dust (6)
7. To take food into the digestive tract (6)
10. Abbreviation for honorary, honorable (3)
11. Total amount resulting from addition of items (3)
12. Short form for acquired immune deficiency
syndrome (4)
14. An electronic component (5)
15. A Greek alphabet (3)
16. To empty contents of stomach through the mouth
18. Symbol for Osmium (2)
20. Capacity to do work (6)
21. Floating (6)
23. Far away Xerox (3)
25. Inert gas second only to lightness (2)
26. Abbreviation for reverse osmosis (2)
27. An apparatus for producing a photographic image
28. The locomotary organs of aquatic vertebrates (3)
1. Termination of vital processes in the organisms (5)
2. Second inner transition series (9)
3. A wise person, especially an old man/an herb with
grey green leaves that is used to flavour foods in
cooking (4)
4. The effect caused due to emission of gases like C02,
CH4 etc. (10)
5. A counting device used by ancient Greeks & Romans
to represent numbers (6)
6. The time measure that is the basis of the calendar
8. A thick soft partly liquid substance. (3)
9. Branch of inflorescence of climbing plants coils
around suitable support to elevate the climber (7)
g ? SCI ENCE REPORTER. September 2010
1 2. Glows of light, hundreds of kilometres above earth's
surface (6)
13. The study of sound and how it travels (9)
1 7. SI unit of frequency (5)
19. Implement for cutting furrows in the soil and turning
it up (6)
22. Flocculent mass of fine particles (4)
24. Combined form dry (4)
25. Short for high fidelity (4)
Contributed by Mrs. J. V. Bonde, Lecturer in Chemi stry,
Depart ment of Chemi stry
(Emai l : j ayashree. bonde@gmai l . com), and
Mrs. M. S. Chaudhari , H. O. D. , Depart ment of Zool ogy, Smt.
R K. Kotecha Mahi l a Mahavi dyal aya,
Smruti Sadan, Jamner Road, Bhusawal , Dist. Jal gaon,
Maharasht ra- 425201
Answer to August 2010 Crossword