SCIENCE TRIBUNE Thursday, November 22, 2001, Chandigarh, India
 

Solar storms can pose threat to India
Dinesh Pal Singh
T
HIS is the golden age of solar discovery. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) of the USA has produced a report regarding the sun’s behaviour during 2001-2005. This report entitled Scarey Solar Scenario shows tat solar storms during this period may assume severeness and such severity may cause disaster on earth. Such disasters can cause havoc with the world’s communication systems, cripple its electricity supply network and jeopardise the health of astronauts, as mentioned by Geoffrey H. Lindop in his article “Solar weather forecasting” (Science Tribune Oct 11, 2001).

The flyash menace
G. S. Dhillon
P
RODUCTION in excess of flyash to the extent of two-thirds of the estimated figure at the Lehra Mohabat Thermal Power Plant (now named Guru Hargobind Thermal Plant), is a cause for great concern not only to the operators of the thermal plant but also to those who live in the neighbourhood. This thermal plant has two units of 210 MW and was commissioned some three years back.

SCIENCE QUIZ
J. P. Garg tests your IQ

NEW PRODUCTS & DISCOVERIES
Entertainment robot

Following on from the sale of the first ever autonomous entertainment robot AIBO ERS-110, Sony now introduce a 2nd generation “AIBO” ERS-210 that has a greater ability to express emotion for more intimate communication with people. Available now, with no restriction on the number of units produced or the time period for orders: all customers ordering “AIBO” ERS-210 will be able to purchase a unit.

  • Girls Giggle, Guys Grunt

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Solar storms can pose threat to India
Dinesh Pal Singh

THIS is the golden age of solar discovery. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) of the USA has produced a report regarding the sun’s behaviour during 2001-2005. This report entitled Scarey Solar Scenario shows tat solar storms during this period may assume severeness and such severity may cause disaster on earth. Such disasters can cause havoc with the world’s communication systems, cripple its electricity supply network and jeopardise the health of astronauts, as mentioned by Geoffrey H. Lindop in his article “Solar weather forecasting” (Science Tribune Oct 11, 2001).

The solar storms actually create such a magnetic chaos on earth that polar magnetism of earth is changed in unusual fashion. The magnetic field lines, which start from north pole, travel high in space and stop at south pole also have to change their path and position. Thus on sunward side field lines are depressed and on nightside, these lines are elongated. The magnetism of earth may change upto 40% due to solar storms/solar winds. Thus if at geosynchronous altitude of 36000 km above earth surface, geomagnetism is 31400/L3 (nanotesla units) i.e. 107 nT during quiet time, it may become 150 nT under the effect of solar storms (L is known as Mcllwain parameter to measure distances in space from earth centre, 1L=6372 km i.e. earth radius). At earth surface, geomagnetism may change its value from 31400 nT to 43960 nT. How do the solar storm dangerous protons enter the earth’s space? These particles enter the geo-space through tail (Fig. 1). They are accelerated along magnetic field lines and enter the plasmasphere at the sunward side after arriving there through the mechanism of cross-field drifts. These devastating protons can also drift in the azimuthal direction.

What are the impacts of solar storms when they attack geospace? Actually during these periods radiation intensity of x-rays and gamma rays is enhanced. Because of it telecom systems, electric supply systems, airtraffic control, navigation and surface transport systems may fail.

The history of solar storm devastation shows that scientists were not familiar about their impacts before 1940. During World War II, the British Communication systems stopped functioning and Britain considered it due to advanced Radar Jamming Technique developed by scientists of Hitler. During 1960s and 1970s, the solar storms had affected badly the television broadcasting and computer networking which were being controlled by man-made satellites orbiting the earth.

The change of geomagnetism around geospace, and impact of highly energetic solar storm protons, not only affect the satellite control systems but may fail their functioning totally. For instance, in 1984, when Ronald Reagan, ex-president of the USA was touring China, his aeroplane remained “out of contact” for many hours and it gave rise to many rumours and speculations all over the world. In 60s and 70s of 20th century, many aeroplanes deviated from their path and arrived at places much away from their destinations. These aeroplanes become direction-less because of solar storms impacts. War against terrorism is on and it may continue for a year or two as per President George Bush’s statement dated October 12. Severe solar storms may attack the earth during this period. Since ultramodern missiles are direction-controlled by GP (global positioning) satellite, which may malfunction under the impact of solar storms, US missiles projected towards Afghanistan may deviate from their paths and fall on India, and surrounding countries. Prof D.P. Tiwari, (Ex-V.C., Meerut University, Meerut) who worked in Energy Study Centre, Indian Institute of Technology, New Delhi, is of the view that not only satellites but birds, too, can deviate from their path during solar storms. He recently expressed the fear that though coming of solar storms (during 2001-2005) can be predicted now a days but which country will be the target of directionless missiles can never be foretold.

We hope this is not going to occur, since if there is a disease there is a cure. The wave particle interactions (WPI) will de-energise these particles and instead of hoping a missile to hit us, we hope to see aurorae (coloured rain-bow, generally made up of vertical strips of different colours and are usually seen in countries near north/south poles) in Indian sky. Aurorae are by-products of WPI.
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The flyash menace
G. S. Dhillon

PRODUCTION in excess of flyash to the extent of two-thirds of the estimated figure at the Lehra Mohabat Thermal Power Plant (now named Guru Hargobind Thermal Plant), is a cause for great concern not only to the operators of the thermal plant but also to those who live in the neighbourhood. This thermal plant has two units of 210 MW and was commissioned some three years back.

The thermal plant is working at around 88% load factor i.e. giving a good performance. The second stage of the project comprising two units of 250 MW is to come up soon and it would cost Rs 1912 crore. Then the combined capacity of the G.H. Thermal Plant would touch the figure for a Super Thermal Plant and production of ash would reach nine lakh tonnes annually.

The flyash at the thermal plant is posing a serious problem to the board as the space provided by the 21.5 ft high dykes surrounding the disposal pond meant to last for five years, has got filled up in just three years. This means the production of ash (flyash and the furnance bottom ash) has exceed the estimated figure by 65%.

Now the PSEB wants to raise the dykes’ height to over 50 ft by spending Rs 4 crore. But the proposal is not free from dangers. First, the earth for the raising of the dykes would have to be acquired and the immediate neighbourhood land suitable for the purpose may not be available. Second, the ash pond with such high dykes would present stability and security problems.

While approving the project report of the thermal plant, it had been provided that as per the latest requirements the dry mode of ash disposal would be adopted. But reports appearing in the print media say that wet mode is being adopted.

In the mode the ash is washed and pumped to the ash disposal pond in the form of slurry having ratio of 10 parts of water to one part of ash. In this form the disposed ash occupies a very large volume and takes considerable time to shed off water and get consolidated.

In the dry mode, the flyash is separated for dispensing to the agencies needing it for manufacture of useful products like cement of PPC variety and burnt clay bricks, etc. The rest of the waste is deposited in the form of layers in the disposal area and suitably compacted as the pile rises. The outer slopes of the pile are kept reasonably flat to present no problems and are further protected by provision of vegetative cover. A successful example of this mode of disposal can be seen at the Badarpur thermal plant near Delhi.

So if the dry mode of disposal had been adopted the volume of ash to be disposed would have been much less and hence manageable. This would result in an improved environment as the addition of seepage water from ash ponds carrying heavy metals or highly toxic elements, would not be there in the dry mode. Due to the fact that the sides of the ash pile would carry vegetative cover, so the blowing of fly ash into the air due to even a slight breeze would be prevented.

According the October 1999, notification of the Government of India, all the brick kilns located within the 50 km radius of the thermal plant were required to utilise flyash to the extent not less than 25% by weight o f the soil while making burnt clay bricks. The Punjab State Pollution Control Board (PSPCB) was required to monitor the operation of the brick kilns located within the designated area.

In case of the non-compliance by the brick kilns of the above requirement, PSPCB could withdraw the consent granted already and also cancel the mining lease granted for obtaining soil for manufacture of bricks.

On the part of the PSEB, as per the terms of notification, it was required to facilitate the ash in the desired quantity to each brick kiln owner free of cost, in addition to making available land, electricity and water for manufacturing activities of flyash bricks. Also a proper access need to be provided by the PSEB so that, if required, ash could be taken directly from the ash disposal pond or area.

On checking the position at the site it is found that only one brick kiln having annual capacity of two crores bricks, is working at 90% of its capacity and is facing many technical problems for which there is no R&D Agency of the PSEB to render help.

So, till today, the utilisation of flyash for making bricks is virtually insignificant (less than 3%).

As per the agreement reached with the Grasim: Aditya Birla Group, the utilisation unit was required to come up right along with the thermal plant. But the clinker grinding unit has not come up. So utilisation on this front is virtually nil.

The PSPCB should intervene so that the problem of management of thermal plant wastes is solved by using the most appropriate modes.

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SCIENCE QUIZ
J. P. Garg tests your IQ

1. Name the winners of the 2001 Nobel Prize in medicine. In the treatment of which dreaded disease have they made a breakthrough?

2. Continuing on the subject, who won the first-ever Nobel Prize in medicine? For which year and for which discovery was he awarded this coveted Prize?

3. The bacteria for this disease can be found in Soil. The disease causes blurred vision, weakness, dry mouth, difficulty in speaking and swallowing, etc. It generally attacks people who eat improperly canned fish or food in which the bacteria has grown. Can you name this disease?

4. This metallic element is found in abundance at beaches in Kerala and can be used as a basic source for large-scale generation of power in nuclear reactors. Can you name this radioactive element which is also sometimes used in radiotherapy and in thermoionic emitters (which emit electrons on heating)?

5. What do the abbreviations UFO and UHF stand for?

6. Two pieces of paper can be joined by glue. What is the interaction between the surfaces of two closely adjacent bodies of the same nature (like pieces of paper) which causes them to cling together called? What is the interaction between the surfaces of two bodies of different nature (like paper and glue) called?

7. In mountains and hills, the sloping fields are given a special type of configuration (shape) to ensure the best use of rain water. Which type?

8. What is common between the animals tiger, giant panda, polar bear, white rhinoceros, blue whale, etc in terms of their number?

9. In the Molisch’s test, a deep violet ring is finally formed at the junction of the liquids used. For detecting which type of organic compounds is this general test used?

10. The WTI and IFAW have recently given a call “Say No to Shahtoosh” in many parts of the country, especially in Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi and part of Rajasthan, where shawls made of Shahtoosh are bought and sold in this season. What are the full names of WTI and IFAW? What is Shahtoosh and how is it obtained?
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Answers

1. American Dr Leland Hartwell and Britishers Dr R. Timothy Hunt and Dr Paul M. Nurse; cancer 2. German scientist Emil Adolf von Behring; for the year 1901 for discovering diphtheria vaccination 3. Botulism 4. Thorium 5. Unidentified Flying Object; Ultra High Frequency 6. Adhesion; cohesion 7. Terrace type 8. They are threatened with extinction 9. Carbohydrates 10. Wildlife Trust of India; International Fund for Animal Welfare; wool of an endangered Tibetan antelope called Chiru.

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Home

NEW PRODUCTS & DISCOVERIES
Entertainment robot

Following on from the sale of the first ever autonomous entertainment robot AIBO ERS-110, Sony now introduce a 2nd generation “AIBO” ERS-210 that has a greater ability to express emotion for more intimate communication with people. Available now, with no restriction on the number of units produced or the time period for orders: all customers ordering “AIBO” ERS-210 will be able to purchase a unit.

The new AIBO has additional movement in both ears and an increased number of LED (face x 4, tail x 2) and touch sensors (head, chin, back) which means that it can show an abundant array of emotions such as “joy” and “anger”. In order to increase interaction with people, the ERS-210 series most distinctive feature, its autonomous robot technology (reacting to external stimulus and making its own judgements) that allows AIBO to learn and mature, has been enhanced. It will now include features frequently requested by AIBO owners such as a Name Recording Function (recognizes its own name). Voice Recognition (recognises simple words) and Photo Taking.

The technologies that allow the ERS-210 to communicate, such as the autonomous feature which gives AIBO the ability to learn and mature plus the voice recognition technologies etc. will be available on a special flash memory AIBO Memory Stick software application (Autonomous AlBO-ware) called “AIBO Life” [ERF-210AW01] (*sold separately).

So that people can enjoy using AIBO in a variety of new ways an additional two application software (AlBO-ware), “Hello AIBO! Type A” [ERF-210AW02] demonstration software and “Party Mascot” [ERF-21 OAW03] game software (*both sold separately), are also being introduced. A new line-up of AIBO accessories such as a carrying case and software that enables owners to perform simple edits to AlBO’s movements and tonal sounds on a home PC will also be offered.

Girls Giggle, Guys Grunt

Santa Claus does not go “ho ho ho,” nor do this little elvish helpers go “tee hee” when someone cracks a joke on the Christmas-present production line, reports AFP.

In fact, says acoustical scientist Jo-Anne Bachorowski, real laughter is unlike either of those supposed sounds, and depends on what sex you are.

She asked 97 volunteers to watch various film extracts and secretly taped their laughter.

The subjects produced a thousand bursts of laughter, of a wide range types. Women were likelier to produce “voiced” or song-like, sound such as giggles and chucks, while men were likelier to grunt or snort.

All the volunteers were Americans, but Bacharowski, a researcher at Vanderbilt University at Nashville, Tennessee, suggests the findings may apply to other cultures. PTI
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