SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

Preparing for the Indian human space mission
By Radhakrishna Rao

The unqualified success of India’s maiden lunar mission Chandrayaan-1, launched in October last, has spurred the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to create the spadework for India’s manned flight slated for a take off in 2015. The feasibility study carried out by the Indian space agency envisages the design and development of a man rated crew vehicle capable of carrying two or three crew members to a 400-km near earth orbit. Significantly, the successful accomplishment of this human flight project will make India the fourth country after US, Russia and China to send a man into space.

Doing our bit for the environment
Dr. S.S. Verma

We all feel concerned/discuss about the climate change all around us and its present and future consequences related to living beings/earth but without any eagerness/commitment to sacrifice a bit of our comfort which in the present civilization is generally derived from energy sensitive devices.

Trends
UK girl recovers fully after  donor heart removed
Satellites can spot tsunamis
Brain device for OCD approved

Prof Yash Pal

Prof Yash Pal

THIS UNIVERSE 
PROF YASH PAL

I have a question, which has troubled me a lot since long.
As I am a student of biological sciences I have always wondered how much of our perception and understanding of the universe is influenced and possibly modified by the nature and physiology of human brain?

 


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Preparing for the Indian human space mission
By Radhakrishna Rao

The unqualified success of India’s maiden lunar mission Chandrayaan-1, launched in October last, has spurred the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to create the spadework for India’s manned flight slated for a take off in 2015. The feasibility study carried out by the Indian space agency envisages the design and development of a man rated crew vehicle capable of carrying two or three crew members to a 400-km near earth orbit. Significantly, the successful accomplishment of this human flight project will make India the fourth country after US, Russia and China to send a man into space.

India’s manned mission is a crucial first step towards sending a human landing mission to moon which has become a focus of an intensive exploration by space faring nations on account of the possibility of water and Helium, a rich and clean source of energy existing in its entrails. As pointed out by G. Madhavan Nair, Chairman, ISRO, the critical aspect of the Indian human flight mission would be the successful performance of an autonomous spaceship with astronauts onboard and its safe return on completion of the mission. ISRO, which considers this mission as a national endeavour of importance, would tap the human expertise, scientific talent and technological infrastructure available in the country to the fullest extent possible with a view to provide an upward thrust to the Indian human spaceflight project.

According to Western space analysts, India was nudged into initiation an action plan for its manned flight after the neighbouring China successfully pulled of its first human flight mission in October 2003. The Indian manned mission which would be launched from Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC), the Indian spaceport on India’s eastern coast by means of a man rated version of the three stage Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) would cost the exchequer a whopping Rs.12,400-crore. After 16 minutes of its lift off, the GSLV equipped with an upper cryogenic stage, will inject the manned capsule into an orbit of 300 km x 400 km. To support this mission, a third launch pad with facilities for entering into the crew capsule and an escape chute is being set up at SDSC.

The concept design of the Indian orbital vehicle for the manned mission was released by ISRO in 2009 February. This orbital vehicle capable of staying in orbit up to a duration of seven days features a crew module designed to accommodate up to three crew members and a service module which would incorporate life support and mission management elements. It will also have provisions for emergency mission abort and crew rescue.

To sharpen its technological edge for the upcoming manned mission — especially in the area of re-entry which is critical to a manned flight — ISRO will launch its second space capsule recovery experiment SRE-2. ISRO which lacks expertise in building a man rated orbital vehicle is expected to make use of the technology of Russian Soyuz spacecraft for realising its manned spaceship. And as part of the Indo-Russian space pact signed in March 2008, Russia has offered to fly an Indian onboard its Soyuz vehicle to the International Space Station in2013.Way back in 1984, Sq.Ldr Rakesh Sharma flew on a Soyuz-T spaceship to become the first Indian to go into space.

Meanwhile ISRO in tie up with the Bangalore based Institute of Aviation Medicine(IAM) is working on building an astronaut training facility in the outskirts of Bangalore, which will have a radiation simulator chamber to help the astronauts handle radiation from the sun, a centrifuge to enable manoeuvres in space, a zero gravity simulator to familiarise the astronauts with conditions in outer space as well as hardware meant to train astronauts to fly their spaceship.
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Doing our bit for the environment
Dr. S.S. Verma

We all feel concerned/discuss about the climate change all around us and its present and future consequences related to living beings/earth but without any eagerness/commitment to sacrifice a bit of our comfort which in the present civilization is generally derived from energy sensitive devices.

As we know that till now maximum energy production is by using fossil fuels and a recent study report says that present day carbon dioxide levels in atmosphere have touched the highest mark in the past 2.1 million years which may result in large scale climatic changes from greenhouse effect.

Any individual or country is not ready to cut his/her carbon dioxide emission levels. So, to be in control of the climate change, use of renewable sources of energy like solar, wind, biomass, geothermal and many more is always tossed but without any serious laws to implement the same.

There is always a tussle between the use of conventional and non-convention sources of energy. Unless renewable sources of energy become as convenient in terms of their use and cost as conventional sources of energy, people will always find it difficult to switch over to them. Therefore, instead of promoting the use of renewable sources for general utilities on individual basis (except some specific applications) it will be better to link the generation of energy from them to convenient and efficient grid system. Because people are not concerned from which source the energy is reaching to them, they are interested in its extensive use only. No one is interested to have power plants, hydroelectric dams, nuclear power plants, solar panels or wind farms near them but they just want silent, safe and continuous supply of energy.

Human population on the planet earth is increasing day by day (at present more than 600 crore) so is the dependence of human beings on energy driven devices. Human body is one of biggest miracle of nature in terms of its renewable energy capacity. Before, energy sensitive industrialisation people used to make a lot of use of human body energy but with time people are becoming so lethargic and highly pumped with social status phobia that they are stopping to make use of the abundance source of this (the human body) renewable energy and are totally becoming dependent on the external energy based devices. Some negative practices of energy using prevalent in masses at present are:

  • People have stopped walking, cycling and using mass transportation even for small distances
  • People are going from semi-automatic to fully automatic energy devices in which they have to do nothing.
  • Simple house hold chores (like water heating, utensil cleaning, cloth cleaning, grinding, cutting, kneading etc.) are all becoming totally energy dependent
  • People are going for from cycle-scooter-car-big car
  • People are going for fan-cooler-air conditioners
  • People are going for individual than sharing/collective nature of use of energy devices like computers, TV, Laptops, music systems
  • People are going for single door-double door-triple door refrigerators

There are so many things like that and it is appropriate to say that we wish that what ever we want/desire should take place through energy driven machines and we need not move even our finger. This type of growing mentality of masses is putting undue pressure on the generation of energy which is leading to unwanted climate change. We have to take a lesson and come forward to contribute by making use of our body’s renewable energy in every possible job which will not only ease the energy pressure but will also keep us fit and fine.
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Trends

Hannah Clark poses between doctors Magdi Yacoub (L) and Victor Tsang, after a news conference in London July 13, 2009. Clark, a British girl who was given an extra heart as a toddler, has made a full recovery after having it removed a decade later, doctors said. Clark, now 16, is the first heart transplant patient in the world to return to full health after having her donor organ removed and function restored to her original heart.

UK girl recovers fully after donor heart removed

LONDON: A British girl who was given an extra heart as a toddler has become the world’s first heart transplant patient to make a full recovery after having her donor organ removed and function restored to her original heart. Hannah Clark, now 16, had a “piggyback” transplant operation in 1995 aged two, when a new heart was inserted in parallel to her own failing one.

Satellites can spot tsunamis

WASHINGTON: Satellites can spot the leading edge of a tsunami, US government researchers said in a study that might lead to better ways of detecting the giant waves and get people out of their way. They went back and looked at satellite images in the Indian Ocean as the December 2004 tsunami raced across to destroy coastlines in Thailand, Sri Lanka and elsewhere. They found clear patterns in the water.

Brain device for OCD approved

CHICAGO: Medtronic Inc received regulatory approval in Europe for an implantable brain stimulator to treat patients with severe obsessive-compulsive disorder. 

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THIS UNIVERSE 
PROF YASH PAL

I have a question, which has troubled me a lot since long.
As I am a student of biological sciences I have always wondered how much of our perception and understanding of the universe is influenced and possibly modified by the nature and physiology of human brain?

This is a question that has always engaged sensitive minds. Sometimes we can argue that there is nothing like reality, only our awareness of what we call reality. We get some signals through our senses and we learn to interpret them with the help of processing in our brain This processing is also dependent on our observations, models already constructed and stored, also the manner in which we have been brainwashed over the years. Our senses are very sophisticated. These include eyesight, sounds, smells and touch. But we have to realise that perfect as they are, they have been developed to help us survive as human beings on this planet. Some of our capabilities are not as good as those of several other creatures. Think of migratory birds that can detect polarisation of skylight and earth’s magnetic field to navigate over long distances across land and oceans. Our eyes are not sensitive to ultraviolet that provides excellent navigation to bats and some other creatures. Our smelling capability is not as good as that of snakes and dogs. And we cannot talk like whales across thousands of kilometers under the oceans. But, in spite of all these deficiencies, we are OK. We are OK because we are blessed with a rather sophisticated brain.

Therefore your suggestion that our understanding of the “reality” of universe would depend on our biology includes the processes of our brains. And as I already hinted it would also be influenced by cultural indoctrination. As a biologist you might be already aware of the fact that the theory of evolution is not accepted by most religions. Irrespective of how much biology and science we have imbibed, we find it difficult to reject the divinity and miraculous powers of a multitude of Gods.

There is a frequent observation reported that a rising full moon or a setting sun look much bigger than the normal size of these celestial bodies, even though when actually measured they come out to be of their normal size. This must be due to the fact that our brain plays tricks with us. The reason for this observation seems to be the following:

When we look at the moon near the horizon we also happen to see trees, people and buildings at the same time. Many of these are far away and look very small. But our brain knows that in actual fact they are much bigger. Therefore it automatically makes a correction in the observed size of the moon and makes us perceive it as bigger. I am not entirely happy with this explanation. Why only so much bigger? The same observation is made in respect of the rising or setting sun and the very same explanation is given.

I have given you the explanation I am aware of. One thing one can definitely say — that there is no physical difference in size. There is a long way to go before our brain really understands itself to always distinguish between the real and the non-real!

Besides all this there is a real scientific and philosophic argument about the realty of theories that have been actually shown to work! Take, for example, the atomic model first given by Neils Bohr. It was obvious that an electron going around a nucleus would lose energy through radiation and fall into the nucleus. That is why quantum mechanics was invoked to develop the idea of stationary states. The theory works, but it is still difficult to believe in the reality of electrons going around a nucleus. This semi-classical picture is definitely unreal. We have to take recourse to probabilistic hypothesis of quantum mechanics. With out going into further details in this matter it would be fair to state that there is continuing debate on fundamentals of quantum mechanics, in spite of the fact that it works beautifully.

Finally let me touch on a touchy point! All of us have grown up on mythological stories. I personally believe that mythology is not history or a collection of facts. On the other hand it is a valuable, enjoyable and often instructive collection of fables and stories, often laced with rich imagination. There is frequent, but need less, confrontation and controversy when we confuse this inheritance of extreme creativity with factual reality. We have not yet learnt the art of respecting and enjoying each of them in their own right. 
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