SCIENCE TRIBUNE Thursday, January 18, 2001, Chandigarh, India

Towards a quantum leap in space 
by Radhakrishna Rao
S part of its move to emerge as a front —ranking space power, India is now busy preparing for the launch of its most advanced space booster Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV). The successful launch of the cryogenic fuel driven, three stage GSLV from India’s eastern launch range located on Sriharikota island, about 80 km to the north of Chennai (Madras), would mark a big leap forward for the three decades old Indian space endeavour. 

Finding the Higgs Boson
by Nataraja Sarma
E all know that we are made up of, ultimately, electrons and nucleons. We also know that nucleons are in turn built up of quarks cemented together by gluons. We are also aware that the forces between these various elementary particles are of four kinds — the electromagnetic, the weak, the strong and the gravitational interactions. This is the basis of the so-called Standard Model.

New products & discoveries 

  • Trencher for pipe laying
  • Laughing gas no laughing matter
  • New way to control pest

Science Quiz 
by J.P. Garg



Towards a quantum leap in space 
by Radhakrishna Rao

AS part of its move to emerge as a front —ranking space power, India is now busy preparing for the launch of its most advanced space booster Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV). The successful launch of the cryogenic fuel driven, three stage GSLV from India’s eastern launch range located on Sriharikota island, about 80 km to the north of Chennai (Madras), would mark a big leap forward for the three decades old Indian space endeavour. For so far only the USA, Russia, China, Japan and the European Space Agency (ESA) have established a capability to build and launch GSLV class space boosters. Essentially, GSLV is designed to orbit 2.5-tonne class INSAT domestic spacecraft series of India. Right now, the cryogenic fuel driven vehicle like GSLV represent the ultimate in the conventional space launching systems.

During its maiden flight, GSLV will launch a 1650-kg, experimental communications satellite. The launch capability of GSLV will be obbsted in a gradual and phased manner so that it would ultimately attain the capability to launch a 2.5-tonne satellite. More importantly, GSLV will help India attain total launch independence by doing away with the dependence on the hired commercial launchers. Currently, the Indian INSAT series of satellites are launched by means of the European Ariane booster on commercial terms.

While the initial flights of GSLV will make use of the Russian supplied cryogenic upper stages, fully Indian made cryogenic stages will be used in the subsequent GSLV flights.

As it is, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) had entered into an agreement with the Glavkosmos of the erstwhile Soviet Union for the supply of cryogenic stages as well as the relevant technology for the indigenous production of cryogenic engines, way back in early 1990s. But the collapse of the Soviet Union leading to the birth of Russia changed the ground reality. And as the events unfolded, Russia was coerced into dropping the technology part of the agreement by the USA which said the Indo-Russian deal constituted a clear violation of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). Consequently, India—Flavkosmos deal was restricted to just supplying seven cryogenic upper stages.

Against such a backdrop, ISRO launched the Cryogenic Upper Stage Project (CUSP) for the development of an indigenous cryogenic stage as the replacement for the Russian cryogenic engine. The fully Indian cryogenic stage is expected to be ready by 2003. According to the trade magazine Aviation Week and Space Technology “GSLV’s promised 5500-lb capability at $70-million should make it a major alternative to the established US, European, Russian and Chinese systems”.

While the third stage of GSLV is cryogenic fuel driven engine, its first two stages are derived from the modules of India’s highly successful third generation Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). With a liftoff weight of 294 tonnes and featuring alternate liquid and solid fuel stages, PSLV is designed to place one ton class earth observation spacecraft into a polar orbit. PSLV is the first operation space vehicle developed by ISRO which claims that it is the most cost efficient booster to place lightweight satellites into a low earth orbit.

Indeed with GSLV launch round the corner, India has come a long way since it entered the global space club with the successful flight of its four stage experimental rocket SLV-3 in July,1980. This all solid fuel driven space vehicle was designed to launch a 50-kg. Rohimi satellite into a low earth orbit. After two more successful flights, SLV-3 was declared operational. SLV-3 was followed by the Augmented Satellite Launch Vehicle (ASLV) capable of boosting a 150-kg. class research and technology satellite into a low earth orbit. After ASLV was declared operational in May, 1994, India went ahead with the test flight of PSLV.

Another ground breaking space project India is now contemplating is the launch of Microgravity Recoverable Satellite (MARS). This recoverable, reusable satellite weighing 900-kg is planned to be launched by means of PSLV. So far only a handful of countries such as the USA, Russia, China and Japan have built and operated satellites for microgravity research. The Bangalore based ISRO Satellite Centre (ISAC) is well equipped to build this Rs 2000-million satellite. Experiments in the microgravity conditions of the outer space have paved the way for manufacturing high purity, high strength materials.

Administrators at the space programme headquartered in Bangalore, often called the “Silicon Valley of India”, say that India has been able to make commendable progress in its space exploration venture with a shoestring budget. India’s space budget for the current year has been estimated at $458-million. Of course this is an increase of 17% over the previous year’s funding level for the Indian space programme. This funding increase has been accounted for by the need to build high performance earth imaging satellites that would enhance India’s intelligence gathering capability. In fact, the so called Kargil Commission had come down heavily on India’s glaring failure in intelligence gathering during the shortlived mid-1999 Kargil border conflict between India and Pakistan.” Every effort should be made and adequate funds provided to ensure that a capability of world standards is developed indigenously and put in place in the shortest possible time” said the Kargil Commission.

Against this backdrop ISRO has speeded up the work on the development of Cartosat satellites—under IRS series—designed to collect data down to the size of 2.5-metre. This satellite expected to be launched in 2002, will be of great advantage to the Indian armed forces planning their warfare strategy. In particular, Cartosat will provide stereo imaging useful for the generation of digital terrain model. The satellite is also designed to revisit a spot every fifth day.

Obviously, Cartosat marks India’s growing strength in the area of satellite based earth observation programmes which took off with the launch of the Indian Remote Sensing Satellite IRS-1A in March, 1988. So far eight satellites in IRS series have been launched for purposes ranging from agricultural yield estimation and environmental monitoring to ocean studies and forest mapping. Data from IRS series of satellites are used for applications such as crop acreage and yield estimation, drought monitoring, flood mapping, wasteland management, water resources management, mineral resources prospecting and forest cover mapping.

On the other hand India’s INSAT domestic spacecraft system described as one of the largest constellations of communications satellites in the world has brought about sweeping changes in the field of communications, broadcasting, radio networking and disaster management. In all, more than 400 earth stations located in various parts of the country, including hitherto inaccessible areas, are linked to INSAT system to facilitate smooth communications. The successful launch of INSAT-3B satellite in March last year by means of an Ariane booster has given a big boost to the INSAT system capability. Satellites in INSAT series which are multipurpose in nature are also providing round the clock meteorological cover of the Indian Subcontinent. The Very High Resolution Radiometer (VHRR) payload onboard INSAT has orved useful in providing advance warning of the impending natural disasters, including tidal storms. Using INSAT communications and weather wtch capability, a disaster warning system has been commissioned along the coastal pockets of India which are vulnerable to the onslaughts of tidal storms and cyclones.

With a scientific and technical manpower of 10,000 plus ISRO has its mandate the exploitation of space technology for speeding up the pace of socio-economic development in the country. Sources in ISRO say that selfreliance is the key to the success of the Indian space programme. In this context the latest Annual Report of the Indian Space Dept says: “Even as India entered the new millennium, the space programme in the country has matured to a status where space has become an important element of the national infrastructure, especially in the areas of communications, broadcasting, meteorology, disaster management and resources monitoring India is recognised the world over for is unique applications driven space programme. The plans to further enhance and improve space services by launching follow on satellites in the INSAT and IRS series in the coming years and to enhance launch capability to place INSAT class of satellites in orbit through GSLV, the Indian space programme is poised to play a significant role in the country’s march towards progress in the new millennium”.

India has termed as “misleading and false” the observation of the Western strategic analysts that its space programme in the long run will be synergised towards the development of an Inter Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM).


Finding the Higgs Boson
by Nataraja Sarma

WE all know that we are made up of, ultimately, electrons and nucleons. We also know that nucleons are in turn built up of quarks cemented together by gluons. We are also aware that the forces between these various elementary particles are of four kinds — the electromagnetic, the weak, the strong and the gravitational interactions. This is the basis of the so-called Standard Model.

The way modern science pictures interactions, a field causes an interaction and a particle carries this field. More than a century ago, James Clerk Maxwell found that electrostatic and magnetic forces were two faces of a single interaction that is now termed the electromagnetic interaction. For instance, a positive charge attracts a negative one to change its movement through an electromagnetic field. This electromagnetic interaction can also be described as the exchange of a particle of the field. In this case, the particle is a photon that carries no electric charge. The photons, more familiar to us as the particles of light thrown out by an electric bulb, has no mass.

On the other hand, some radioactive elements emit electrons and so change their nuclear charge. Initially there was some problem in formulating this beta radioactivity but soon it was found to be due to a “weak” interaction. Many years later, Abdus Salam, Glashow and Weinberg found that the electromagnetic and weak forces would merge into a single “electroweak” interaction at high energies, a discovery that led to their Nobel prizes.

The electroweak interaction, therefore, does or does not transfer charge and so the particles that carry this interaction can be charged or neutral. These are the bosons termed W and Z, respectively. Over the last 10 years, these particles have been detected in the laboratory and their masses measured accurately . They are heavy — approximately 90 times heavier than the hydrogen atom! Such a mass variation upsets our image of the natural symmetry of the universe.

The question, therefore arises - if the photon and the W and Z bosons are of the same family, and become identical at high enough energy, why are their masses so different? If one simply postulates that these particles interact with the known elementary particles and have a large mass, the theory is inconsistent. The simplest models that explain the masses of the W and Z have only one such particle: the Higgs Boson. The answer, first given by Peter Higgs of Edinburgh University and, around the same time, by Robert Brout and Francois Englert, was very simple. It was used in an attempt to develop a unified field theory incorporating all the fundamental interactions of matter. (PTI)


New products & discoveries

 Trencher for pipe laying

THE AFT65 Trencher is a rugged high performance chain trencher for pipe and cable laying contractors, municipal authorities and farmers. Winner of the prestigious Gold Medal award for machinery at the Royal Show — Britain’s premier agricultural event — the trencher is designed to mount on the three point linkage of agricultural tractors in the 45-65 hp [33.5-48.4 kw] range without any modification to the standard tractor.

Four boom lengths are available giving maximum digging depths of 85cm, 1.00m, 1.15 or 1.30mn, and the machine boom fitted. The digging chain is provided with easily changeable digging blades to cut trenches 125mm, 150mm, 200mm or 300mm wide so that the ideal combination can be selected to suit work requirements.

The crumber, which cleans the trench bottom behind the digging chain, adjusts itself automatically to compensate for alternation to trench depth during work. The dug soil is conveniently placed for backfilling along both sides of the trench by twin augers or optional soil ploughs.

Laughing gas no laughing matter

THE fertiliser run-off into the Arabian Sea may be intensifying oxygen depletion which, in turn, stimulates the production of ozone-depleting nitrous oxide (laughing gas), according to a study by scientists of the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO).

A team of NIO scientists, led by Dr SWA Naqvi, presented the first evidence of the phenomenon that might have far reaching consequences for the earth’s climate. The study has been published in the British journal Nature.

The NIO team has found that the Arabian sea off the West coast has lost a significant amount of dissolved oxygen crucial for marine life. Simultaneously, it produces huge amounts of nitrous oxide, a green house gas potentially more harmful than carbon dioxide, each year in the monsoon months.

“The cause of the high rate of nitrous oxide production-low ambient oxygen concentrations-may have adverse effects on fisheries as the fish will either run away or be killed when faced with such condition. This will happen for the species that live close to bottom (the ‘demersal’ species such as prawns, pomfret, etc) while those that live in the well-oxygenated near-surface waters (the ‘pelagic’ species such as sardines and mackarel) will be unaffected; in fact, their biomass may increase in some cases.

New way to control pest

NEW techniques have been developed to control insect pests-which always stand in the way of production of quality food.

Control of insect pests in farming has always been a great concern. In many cases, this has meant using an ever-increasing concentration of pesticides which have detrimental long-term effects on human health and environment. There is evidence supporting the fact that up to a third of all the food we eat contains detectable traces of pesticides.

The recent development in genetically modified (GM) food-the next stage in the fight against pest-resistant foods-have raised heated debate on the long-term effect of GM foods on the environment and humans. — PTI



Science Quiz 
by J.P. Garg

1. This British physician discovered the main route of cholera infection in 1854 by studying the pattern of the disease in different streets of London during 1848-49 and tracing its origin to contaminated water delivered by a pump from the Thames. Can you name him?

2. This space probe, to be launched by the European Space Agency in 2007, is expected to tell us everything we ever wanted to know about the universe. Which is this probe that has been named after a physicist and will have a 15-month mission?

3. This songbird keeps on “singing” throughout the day and because of its repeated non-stop calls, it has been nicknamed the “preacher bird”. Which is this bird that is found in America and can be recognised by its red eyes?

4. When there is reduction in the amount of oxygen in our lungs and the resulting accumulation of carbon dioxide in our blood, a nervous action takes place. Which is this action?

5. Name three phenomena which can be described best in terms of wave theory of light.

6. What is an exotic phenomenon of rare occurrence of flowering of bamboo trees in Manipur and Mizoram called?

7. Blue vitriol is used in electroplating, electrotyping, dyeing, calicoprinting, for preserving wood, and as an insecticide. What is blue vitriol chemically?

8. A magnetometer is an instrument used for measuring the intensity of a magnetic field. What are the three main types of this instrument?

9. This cunning animal sometimes uses a trick to obtain its meal. It rolls in mud, lies down and pretends to be dead. When a bird settles down on its body to peck at it, the animal leaps up and catches the bird unaware. Which is this animal that is found in Asia Europe and North America?

10. What was the theme of the 88th Indian Science Congress held recently at New Delhi? 



1. John Snow 2. Planck 3. Vireo 4. Yawning 5. Interference, diffraction and polarization. 6. Mautang (it is associated with the growth of rodent population, which destroys crops and causes famine) 7. Copper sulphate pentahydrate 8. Deflection, vibration and nuclear magnetometers 9. Red fox 10. Food, Nutrition and Environment Security.