Chandigarh, Thursday, September 10, 1998
the red planet
by Radhakrishna Rao
Suddenly the red planet, Mars, has become the cynosure of the space reseachers. For it is hoped that the possibility of life that existed or exist on Mars could open up the possibility of colonising this planet in the solar system in the none too distant a future.
|Cybersurfing with Amar
A worthy time-saver
Regular websurfers will agree with me that one ends up spending more time seeking information than with the information itself or in downloading it. A utility called Searchpad is now available on the Net, which saves a lot of time.
phone and TV will be as one
Exploring the red
Suddenly the red planet, Mars, has become the cynosure of the space reseachers. For it is hoped that the possibility of life that existed or exist on Mars could open up the possibility of colonising this planet in the solar system in the none too distant a future. The United States, whose ambitious $ 247-million Global Surveyor mission has been hit by a failure in one of its solar panels severely restricting its mission objectives is now preparing to send a series of probes to Mars every 26 months when the earth and Mars are favourably oriented. The first such mission to reach Mars will be the Mars Climate Orbiter in tandem with Mars Polar Lander. The Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is now working on the mission profiles to Mars.
NASA has also a plan up its sleeve to send manned missions and two cargo trips to Mars. The first cargo mission in 2007 will send a fully fuelled earth return vehicle to Mars orbit. The crew would later rendezvous with the return vehicle and use it to fly back to earth after completion of the surface exploration mission. There will be Martian material brought back for detailed analysis. At that point of time, researchers need to know what to look for in a fossilized evidence of primitive life. That is where the Rhynie Chart comes in.
Space scientists believe that if primitive life does exist or had existed on Mars, it might be similar to the primitive life on earth. Thats why a team of researchers from NASA visited a small Scottish village Rhynie in Aberdeenshire in quest of clues to life on Mars. Here are the fossiliferous deposits known as the Rhynie Chart, deposited approximately 400 million years ago by hot springs and geysers.
The Rhynie Chart is a hard blue grey rock, rich in silica and is found only in a small area near Rhynie. This world renowned rock preserves fossils within it which include representative of some of the earliest plants and animals to colonise the land area of our planet. Here in Rhynie, eruption of the springs resulted in the flooding of areas and depositing of silica on plants, thus preserving the plants in amazing detail.
The American team is particularly fascinated by the so called thermophilic fossil containing the heat loving bacteria. Such bacteria inhabit the hot springs of the world and are amongst the most primitive life forms alive on earth. If primitive life does exist or had existed on Mars, it might be similar to these bacteria. However, NASA scientists are keen to know how to recognise such life forms in the fossil state and since Rhynie chart is a 400 billion years old hot spring deposits. It is a good place to look for evidence of such organism.
a group of experts from United Kingdom have used
authentic data from NASA to produce a state of the art
simulated exploratory journey to the Red Planet for a
space mission. The Morphis Movie Ride Theatre experience
made by Camber Entertainment of Crowly, Sussex, allows
the viewers to fly a mission over Martian mountains,
valleys and rivers and even encounter dust storms.
The mission involves carrying out a geological
expedition on Mars, some 20 or 30 years into the future.
The base station and vehicles are all based in genuine
NASA concepts and the terrain is based scientifically on
known data says Paul Spence, Cambers Managing
Canalisation of Ghaggar
Canalisation of the river Ghaggar is high on the agenda of the Punjab Government so as to save several districts (Patiala, Sangrur and Mansa) from the fury of floods every year.
While working out the design, lessons learnt from the working of the Sutlej canalisation scheme must be kept in mind. The Sutlej has been canalised to flow in a width of 1000m, from original width occupied of seven to eight km, by jacketing the river by building two parallel earthen embankments (Dhusi bundhs). The scheme covers the length of the river between the Ropar headworks and the Harike barrage. While finalising the design of the scheme, the help of hydraulic modelling was taken, to finalise the layout of the embankments and control works. Several departures were made in the scheme as completed, particularly the construction of two control points and this led to several problems.
The annual flow in the Ghaggar in its upper reach (near Panchkula) is around 0.2 MAF (Million Acre Foot) with peak flow of above 20,000 cusecs and the base flow of 25 to 75 cusecs. Near the tail reach the annual flow has been observed to be around 0.32 MAF with flood peak reaching 25000 to 30000 cusecs. (The above data is based on the actually observed values during 1976-77).
The river flow carries large silt load and its peak concentration reaches above 5500 ppm (parts per million) but normal level of turbidity ranges between 2250 and 3500 ppm.
Near its outfall, the Rajasthan Government attempted to utilise the flood flows for recharging the ground water table and so made a scheme to fill 18 depressions located along the Ghaggar channel. But due to the presence of hard-pan at shallow depth, which hindered the vertical drainage or flow of water, so the scheme backfired and resulted in spread of waterlogging and has affected many villages.
So the canalisation scheme to be built must consider the effect of the scheme on this affected area and should not at least increase the sufferings of the people by bringing more water to the area.
As will be seen from the figure, the river channel has meandering tendency. So the embankments built to contain or jacket the river flows will be either located out on the meandering belt or be strong enough to withstand erosion due to river flows.
To convert a flashy torrent into a nearly uniform flow canal, as intended through canalisation, some storage needs to be created to reduce the gap between the base flow and the peak flow discharge. This storage preferably is located in the head reach. In this case a medium height earthern dam, called Ghaggar Dam, is being considered.
The proposed dam will be located near Mubarkpur (Dera Bassi) and its estimated cost is put at Rs 450 crore. This dam has power potential and would meet the water requirements of Chandigarh through its right bank canal whose capacity is put at 300 cusecs. The area to be submerged covering 13 villages will fall in Haryana. The scheme will involve shifting of the National Highway No 22 and the Communication and Power Supply Lines.
In view of the dim chances of construction of the Ghaggar Dam, the Punjab Government is going to give priority to the construction of the control structure, which would provide some storage and improve water flow in the Bannur canal. This structure would reduce erosion of banks of the river in the upstream reach and regulate flows down stream. The needed investigation, including the sub-soil investigation, for the Chhatt Bir were carried out a long time back.
There is urgent need of restoration of the Devigarh regulator, to provide an effective control point for the river Ghaggar and restore utilisation of flows by the Devigarh area. The farmers of the area are badly affected as water table in the area has declined to a large depth drying number of tubewells.
This constitutes an important parameter as it would govern the waterway to be provided i.e. spacing between the two parallel embankments to be built. To ensure the silt charge carried by the river will be safely transported through the canalised reach, it would be necessary to provide an excavated, preferably straight channel, to carry the dominant discharge. Presence of severe bends in the alignment of the canalised reach will suffer from silting along the inner side of the bend and scouring along the outer side of the curved reach.
The Sutlej Canalisation Scheme (SCS) completed during early 1970s has been found to suffer some snags. Though in the hydraulic model tested, it was proposed to construct two control points within the canalised reach, but in the scheme as built these control points were not built.
Another shortcoming noticed is that the planners of the SCS had provided the waterway based on the assumption that the flood water of 2.85 lakh cusecs will scour waterway and carry the design flood. But it has been found that the above assumption was wrong and the flood flows do not get enough time to scour and make waterway to pass the flood flows. So every time the embankments built hardly 1000 m apart, come under the flood fury, there are large number of breaches. The most critical flood stage for the dhusi bundhs built is around much below the maximum flood stage of 2.85 lakh cusec, due to the river adopting strong meandering pattern, which attack the dhusi bundhs and these get breached and ring bundhs have to be provided to contain the flood spills. Now these dhusi bundhs, which were conceived and built to be straight are covered by numerous ring bundhs, promoting the meandering tendency further.
Though it may look strange, within the 1000 m width, there have been built number of spurs and studs to push water flow to the other banks. As the management of the two embankments is with two different engineering divisions so each agency tries to push the flow to the other bank by constructing spurs and studs.
Some time earlier a scheme was prepared for providing the earthern embankments with stone protection so as to with stand erosion but it was found to be too costly. So only protection at the critical location can be afforded and due to continually shifting meanders of the river, it is difficult to locate such locations. With the help of remote sensing it would be possible to anticipate the location of critical locations where severe river action may occur and stone protection be provided.
Cybersurfing with Amar
Regular websurfers will agree with me that one ends up spending more time seeking information than with the information itself or in downloading it. A utility called Searchpad is now available on the Net, which saves a lot of time. It obtains the information based on your query and classifies it into well-organised categories relevant to your area of interest. You can view the search results at leisure when you are not on the Net.
It can be downloaded at http://www.satyam.com/~searchpad. Based on a highly advanced pattern recognition algorithm, the utility works on both Windows95 and Windows NT4.0 platforms.
Some readers have asked us about search engines. Well, in the laymans language a search engine is a sort of a supermarket where you can pick up all goods (information in the context of Internet) you require, so to say, under one roof. The more information a search engine has and the better organised it is, the more effective it is. The best known are www.yahoo.com and www.altavista.digital.com. Then there are www.excite.com, www.hotbot.com and www.infoseek.com.
For more focused information, one will need to go to specialised search engines. Those looking for medical information can try www.pridesun.poly.edu/ ,which knows medical terminology, uses a thesaurus of 540,000 medical terms to expand or narrow searches for optimal results and can even send queries to other search engines. Another good site is www.medscape.com.
For finance and investment professionals, a good site is www.streeteye.com. It includes sites from the financial news media, market data providers, brokers, banks, exchanges, investment managers etc.
Beatrices web guide (www.bguide.com), a joint offering from Yahoo and Womens Wire, the San Francisco-based womens lifestyle site, bring users a female-oriented site while Yahooligans.com is targeted towards children.
For specialised search engines, visit www.dreamscape.com/ frankvad/search.html.
visiting all these sites and others of your choice, it is
very easy to lose track of time. As long as this love for
the Internet is within reasonable limits, it is
illuminating. But taken to extremes, it can very well
become an obsession. Take heart; there is help at hand.
It can be downloaded free of cost from the site of the
vendor Cybertimer (cybertimesoftware.com) and can be used
to restrict the total time allowed to be online and even
restrict access during a particular period of time.
Parents should find this facility particularly useful.
Can TV give you the fits?
Dont sit too close to the TV. An admonishment give by parents to children for years, but one that Japanese parents are now taking more seriously. While the matter is still under study by Japanese authorities, details concerning a television broadcast that triggered epileptic-like fits among more than 700 Japanese viewers, most notably children, are now coming to light.
The incident occurred in December during a prime-time episode of an animated show called Pokemon (Pocket Monsters). Near the end of the 30-minute programme, a cartoon vaccine bomb was thrown at a computer virus representation. The bomb exploded on screen in a bright red flash, followed by about 5 seconds of intensely bright alternating red and blue lights. Within minutes, young viewers experienced such symptoms as seizures, nausea, headaches, and dizziness. Even some adults were affected.
Medical authorities in Japan speculate that the illnesses may have been prompted by a combination of high strobe rate and picture brightness, stimulation from the colour red, and proximity to the TV.
English researchers have shown that the strobing trigger rate is about 18 frames per second but can vary among individuals. The 18-fps frequency seems to affect certain electrical signals produced by the brain. As a result, British broadcasters are prohibited from strobing above 3 fps, but a corresponding regulation has not been found.
In general, Japanese children closer to the TV than their American counterparts. Average viewing distance in Japan is 3 to 7 feet; in United States, it is 7 to 12 feet. At close range, the TV image covers more of each retina. Farther away the screen not only occupies less of the field of vision, but the TVs alternating scanning lines are not visible.
may appear on US television this fall, but the producers
pledge that they will avoid a video pyrotechnics.
Researchers also note that a well-lit room can minimize
the effects of brightness and strobing.(Popular Science)
Soon phone and TV will be as one
THE transformation of the television set from humble programme provider to multi-purpose information hub continued this week with the announcement that the box will soon be able to make and receive your telephone calls.
As if 200 channels of programming combined with interactive services such as shopping and gambling were not enough, development engineers are now working on combining the TV and the telephone so that couch potatos can watch TV, telephone a friend and see the friend on-screen at the same time.
Andrew Wallace, marketing director of Pace Micro Technology, said the telephones functions would one day be copied on to the TV. Householders could see who was calling, and video conferencing would be made easier.
The cost of offering these services could also fall, as the cable companies, which will use the technology, will transmit the voice telephony over the Internet.
The developments will flow from an agreement struck by Cisco Systems, one of the worlds largest suppliers of Internet systems, and Pace, maker of set-top decoder boxes needed to convert todays analogue TV sets into digital receivers.
With Cisco, Pace will develop a set-top decoder that handles TV programmes, Internet data and telephony services.
Householders will plug their phones into the set-top box instead of the conventional wall-mounted jack.
entails Pace licensing Cisco technology, but the duo will
market the resulting products together. Commercial terms
were not disclosed. Mr Wallace said Cisco and Pace were
in talks with other UK cable operators, US and European
companies about selling the technology. (Guardian)
1. After being shut down in August, 1994, the second unit of RAPS became operational recently, with major inputs from BARC and NPCIL. What do RAPS, BARC and NPCIL stand for?
2. These particles, considered to be the most fundamental and indivisible have flavours like up and down and three colours Red, blue and yellow. Name these particles.
3. This football-shaped molecule made up of 60 carbon atoms possesses unique stability. Which is this molecule that has been named after its discoverer?
4. Which is the hardest polymer?
5. Which gland of human body contains alpha and beta cells, named after these two letters of Greek alphabet?
6. While taking picture of a moving person/object like an athlete, a photographer sometimes moves his camera in the direction of the object and clicks it at the right moment. What is this process called in photography?
7. Two rare species of birds have been recently spotted at the Harike bird sanctuary in Punjab. Name these threatened birds.
8. In the TV serial Captain Vyom, the distances between spacecrafts are expressed in megamiles. What is one hundred megamiles equal to in Hindi nomenclature?
9. Some enterprising and progressive farmers in a few states of India are growing crops without the use of chemical fertilizers. Instead, they use naturally available materials as manure. What is this type of farming called?
10. Who wrote the 13-volume classic Elements which was used as a textbook for more than 2000 years and is still a basic source?
Flying on a beam
Leik Myrabo of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Franklin Mead of the Propulsion Directorate of the United States Air Force Research Laboratory claim that within five years a lightcraft weighing 1 kilogram could be launched into orbit for $250 worth of electricity. By using its mirror as either a transmitter or telescope, a lightcraft could be adapted for a variety of telecommunications or remote sensing applications.
In a series of experiments conducted over the past year at the High Energy Laser Systems Test Facility at White Sands, a 10-kilowatt pulsed infrared carbon-dioxide laser has launched small lightcraft weighing 30 to 40 grams as high as 23 meters into the air. In tests planned for later this year, Myrabo and Mead hope to reach an altitude of 600 meters.
To reach even higher altitudes, the researchers would need a more powerful laser. Such an instrument exists, but lies in mothballs at the test facility. Known as Driver, it is a 100-kilowatt laser that packs enough wallop to boost a lightcraft to a height of at least 100 kilometers.(Popular Science).
Machine takes the
The system, jointly developed by researchers of Anritsu Corporation and Kyusyu University, is primarily designed to detect the taste of drinks such as beer, tea and coffee, and is able to discriminate between different brands of a particular product, reports Physics World.
The new taste sensor is based on the concept of global selectivity, which classifies an enormous range of chemical substances into a few broad groups. Such an approach is common in the taste-sensing systems found in nature
Pencils from used
The recycling technique involves collecting used cups from beverage vending machines, which are pulped and manufactured into pencils with lead inside. Tests have proved that they perform as well as conventional pencils, and cost half, reports British Commercial News.
The plastic pencil is only one of the products, along with rulers, note-trays and ball-point pen casings. It took two years of research and development to identify an efficient method of collection to reduce the costs.
The recycled process is very useful in converting a potential every day pollutant into a useful product, thereby reducing environmental pollution.
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