|SCIENCE TRIBUNE||Thursday, June 13, 2002, Chandigarh, India|
lipstick to fight depression
with no viscosity
more nuclear disasters
During the early hours of April 26,1986, the operators at the Chernobyl nuclear power station carried out an experiment to test a safety related equipment. They were very anxious. A year ago the same experiment failed. This time, they wanted the experiment to succeed. They deviated from established safety procedures. They ignored the fact that the reactor had serious design drawbacks. All these combined to cause the most serious nuclear accident at the station.
As a result of the accident, 30 persons mainly plant workers and firemen, died within a few days to a few weeks. The accident caused widespread radiological and socio-economic impact in Belarus, Ukraine, parts of the Russian Federation and in a few regions of Europe.
The accident invoked in many the bizarre images of gross deformities — genetic devastation many times more crushing than the original injuries… millions suffering from thyroid disorders across the radiation trail from Chernobyl… Media exaggerated the tragedy. A paper ran a story that hunters caught a two-metre high mutant chicken in the forest closed to Chernobyl! Many myths prevailed.
The most authentic study by the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Ionising Radiation (UNSCEAR) tells a different story. According to the UNSCEAR, 1800 cases of thyroid cancers in children in Belarus, the Russian Federation and Ukraine observed between 1990 and 1998 were most likely caused by radiation exposure at the time of the accident. No other thyroid disorders were found among the exposed individuals.
An international conference held jointly by the World Health Organisation and the International Atomic Energy Agency at Vienna, in 1996, observed that the thyroid cancers among children appear to respond favourably to standard therapeutic procedures if appropriately applied. Till 1995, three out of about 800 children diagnosed to be suffering from thyroid cancer have died of this disease. The affected children need prompt treatment.
UNSCEAR noted that besides the increase in thyroid cancer after childhood exposure, no increases in leukemia or overall cancer incidence or deaths have been observed that could be attributed to ionising radiation. The risk of leukaemia does not appear to be elevated even among the workers engaged in the recovery operations, who received higher doses of radiation. Generally, leukaemia is the first cancer to appear after radiation exposure, as its latency period is only 2 — 10 years. Neither is there any proof of other non-cancer-related disorders that are associated with ionising radiation.
The committee referred to the tendency to attribute increases in the rates of all cancers over time to the Chernobyl accident and observed that the increases were seen in the affected areas before the accident. So far, no increase in birth defects, congenital malformations, still births or premature births could be linked to radiation exposures cause by the accident.
The committee observed that although those most highly exposed individuals are at an increased risk of radiation associated effects, the great majority of the population is not likely to suffer from serious health consequences of radiation from the Chernobyl accident.
UNSCEAR is a committee of scientists from 21 countries, set up by the United Nations General Assembly in 1955. Its mandate is to assess and report levels and effects of exposure to ionising radiation. Governments and organisations throughout the world rely on the committee’s estimates as the scientific basis to evaluate radiation risk, establish radiation protection and safety standards and regulate radiation sources.
There was total lack of public information, particularly immediately after the accident. The evacuees suffered indescribable stress and trauma. The relocation of 116,000 persons initially and 220,000 later led to breaking of social ties. The fear that radiation exposure is damaging their own health and that of their children had telling adverse impact. Specialists qualified this as "radio-phobia"
I had an interview with Mr Vishneviskiy, Chairman of the State Regulatory Authority of Russia, at Vienna. I asked him about the known deficiencies of Chernobyl nuclear power reactors.
"Frankly speaking, there were some observations on the weaknesses of Chernobyl reactors. But nobody could foresee that the deficiencies could lead to such a reactor accident", he continued, "Before the accident, the attitude of the management towards the nuclear power reactor was the same as towards a conventional power station. The only difference was that they know that one is a "nuclear boiler" and the other a "conventional boiler". But, after the accident there was clear change in the attitude of the management. They started respecting the process of nuclear reactions". He concurred with my view that complacency was one of the reasons for the disaster. According to him the operators were known to be skilled specialists. "Production of power was their main goal".
The factors that led to the accident continue to be controversial. The designers blamed the operators and the operators blamed the designers. In an interview published in the Nuclear Engineering International, a physicist from Kurchatov Institute disputed the official version. Mr Vishnevskiy told me that the Russian Academy of Earth Sciences stated that there was a localised earthquake close to unit 4; the bottom structure of unit 4 developed a crack. "There are different versions, therefore, I cannot comment finally. Now we are closely reviewing opinions", he said.
He felt that Chernobyl accident turned out to be a blessing in disguise. After the accident, the regulatory agency got more powers. More importantly, the accident brought about important changes in the minds of those who operate the reactors — greater awareness in the operators. That was more important than the regulatory agency getting more powers, he asserted
Nuclear technology at its
current level of development is an unforgiving technology. There is
absolutely no room for complacency in this field. Pro-nuclear activists
may blandly assure us that that the technology is safe. Over zealous
anti- nuclear activists may marshal their own arguments against the
technology. But if we have to benefit from this technology, the
promoters of the technology have to be exceptionally vigilant. This is
happening all over the world. Chernobyl provided the much-needed wakeup
call. No one can afford another nuclear disaster.
to fight depression
Feeling depressed, worn out and over stressed - wear a herbal lipstick to fight anxiety. Sounds strange but it is true. The National Botanical Research Institute (NBRI), an off-shoot of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), has developed lipsticks, made from different herbal plants which can help a person to tide over anxiety and help him or her to fight depression.
The novel concept, developed by the NBRI, combines cosmetics with aroma therapy. After extensive research carried out on the essential oils and essential oil isolates as well as on natural colour these are found to be powerful agents for promoting physical health. They are considered to have characteristics for evoking specific moods and can work by merely inhaling the fragrance.
The scientists of the NBRI, which is engaged in the development of scientifically validated herbal products, have found that essential oils and essential oil isolates have different attributes and specific blends of the same could induce or stimulate specific positive mood. Not only this the set pattern of these essential oils can help in alleviating stress, anxiety, fatigue and can even relieve pain.
In some cases these oils can also help in fighting cold or in short these help a person to feel good, said Dr JK Johri, of the NBRI.
After an in-depth study the NBRI has developed custom made lipstick with about 15 different shades of natural colours and blended it with selected essential oils/essential oil isolates to relax the body and mind, or to achieve the desired mood and emotional state of mind.
These lipsticks would not be just the prerogative of women. For men different composition of essential oils and essential oils are isolated to give a transparent shade to their lipstick.
How these lipsticks work? These work on the principle of aroma therapy - meaning cure through smell. The lips are the most sensitive part of our body. The vapours of the natural colours and aroma compounds, used in the lipstick, enter the body through transdermal abroption through lips’ skin. As the nose is close to lips the vapours of the select combination of essential oils enter the brain. These release neuro-chemicals in the brain bringing the desired effect.
The NBRI has also developed a range of custom made nutritional supplements like Horlicks and Bournvita. These products are fortified with specific nutritional components that are expected to take care of specific requirements of pregnant women, lactating mothers, infants and growing children.
What formed the basics of these products were writings in holy scriptures like "Shodsha Karma". Dr Johri said that this holy book is full of incidents where some families were found to maintain high level of intellectual faculty. This characteristic was found to pass from one generation to another.
These families were supposed to get special diet and herbal supplement. The same were given to the pregnant mothers so that they could bear handsome, intelligent and healthy baby. Dr Johri said though little record was maintained about these herbal diets as it was kept as a closely guarded secret but a study carried out by the scientists of the NBRI found these mentions in Shodsha Karma to be correct.
Taking a cue from this the
NBRI has formulated some neutraceutical products for pregnant women,
lactating mothers, infants and growing children for promoting the best
possible balanced growth and development of physical body and brain so
that he/she will grow as a healthy, strong, intelligent and productive
We know that all matter round us exists as solid, liquid or gas. What is relatively unknown is that is can assume other and more interesting forms. For instance, there are the liquid crystals that give you the display in digital watches, and now in modern television screens. These liquid crystals have a structure somewhere between a solid and a liquid. At extremely low temperatures, matter can take the form of a superfluid that has no viscosity. One such example is liquid helium-3 whose intriguing properties were discovered long ago, in the early days of low temperature research.
What makes matter assume these varied forms? Forces between atoms create long correlations and these hold a solid in its rigid structure. As the solid is heated the atoms vibrate and as the remperature rises. their movements build up at random and the long range correlations between them are destroyed, The structure breaks down and a liquid is formed. When the liquid is heated beyond the boiling point, the atoms become energetic enough to break all bonds and drift off as a gas. This process is reversible and cooling restores the solid when vibrations dampen down.
There are some liquids where atomic vibrations persist and the substance remains a liquid, even at absolute zero (-273 degree C) the lowest temperature theoretically possible. These are called quantum fluids or super fluids. As mentioned earlier, liquid helium-3 is an example. Recently, however, scientists managed to break this barrier and freeze a quantum liquid by applying a strong magnetic field. Depending on the direction of the field, the liquid was turned into a solid in just two or in three dimensions!
In 1995, Cornell and Weiman gathered a few hundred thousand atoms of rubidium into a small volume and cooled them to an exceedingly low temperature. The gas condensed into a single object called the Bose-Einstein condensate. The success of the experiment won them a Nobel Prize.
The experiment was the demonstration of a theory that Surendra Nath Bose proposed in the early 1920s for which he did not become a Nobel Laureate. Bose reckoned that particles of light, otherwise known as photons, of the same energy would be indistinguishable. No possible measurement could therefore tell them apart. Bose wrote describing his idea to Einstein who then applied it to atoms.
Today we know that there are two kinds of particles in this universe and that includes the atoms. There are those that have fractional spin and these are easily identified since not more than two of them have identical properties. Fermi and Dirac described their behaviour and they are termed Fermions. Other particles have integral spin and these were the ones that were dealt with by Bose and so they are called Bosons.
A gas of bosons atoms, when cooled to near absolute zero, ends up all in the same energy state and since they are all identical, appear to coalesce into a single super-atom. Cooling to achieve this ends is not easy. Cornell and Weiman bounced laser photons off the atoms in such a way that the atomic movements were slowed down. Laser beams produced by diode lasers similar to those in compact disk players trap nudged wayward atoms that tried to escape back into the active volume. Once the atoms were trapped, the lasers were turned off and the atoms kept in place by magnetic field. But by allowing those atoms with high energy content to escape the temperature of the rubidium vapour was reduced to 170 billionths of a degree above the absolute zero.
They found that the 2,000 atoms of rubidium became a single lump about 20 microns in diameter that slowly spread out over the experimental volume. The condensate was then put into a net formed by criss-crossing laser beams. initially the atoms moved freely through the net, but as the laser power was increased to make the net stronger, the superfluidity was lost and the atoms gathered into incoherent blobs. A group at Rice University also used the same techniques to explore this exotic regime of matter of Bose-Einstein condensation. BY 1995, they had succeeded in coaxing a gas of magnetically confined Li-7 atoms to become a Bose condensate though theorists believed that this would not happen. Subsequent investigation of this novel system has led to the direct observation of condensate growth and collapse. The group has also produced the first quantum degenerate mixture of Li-6 and Li-7, bosons and fermions.
These were the first
visible displays of the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. According to
Heisenberg, if an atom was located in space, its momentum. and therefore
its energy is uncertain and so the coherence is lost. Alternatively, if
the atoms are stopped, their momentum is defined to be zero and so its
position becomes uncertain and it could be anywhere. PTI
SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY CROSSWORD
1. Basic SI unit of temperature.
6. Low pitched noise.
8. Optical counterpart of an object.
10. A mineral silicate of Magnesium & Iron.
11. Symbol for Radon.
12. Short for Cast Iron.
13. ….fin, hydrocarbon containing less hydrogen.
15. A branch of Keralotomy used in treatment of myopia.(abbr.)
16. An electronic machine used to test sophisticated equipment.
18. Abbr. for Institute of Town Planners of India.
20. ……nitrate, a colourless volatile pleasant smelling liquid, used in medicines.
22. Structural components supporting a bridge.
23. Symbol for Cobalt.
24. Natural & synthetic materials like essential oils, gums, flower oils etc.
1. Sudden, irregular burning of fuel mixture causing jerks against piston in an engine.
2. Great circle formed by intersection of plane of earth’s orbit with the celestial sphere.
3. Place artificially prepared to keep wild animals in natural state.
4. First software company to introduce engineering export system in India.(abbr.)
5. One thousand millionth.
6. Symbol for Helium.
7. ….meter, device to measure difference in heights of two liquid columns.
9. This is produced by processing a protein found in bones and fibrous tissues.
14. An imaginary fluid supposed to be present in all space.
17. Nest of eagle.
19. Dehydration product of interwoven mat of hydrated cellulose fibres.
20. Magnesium sulphate used as purgative.
21. A psychotropic drug often used by drug addicts.
23. Symbol for Copper.
Solution to last week’s Crossword: