|SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY|
UNDERSTANDING THE UNIVERSE
Chemical milk, popularly termed as "synthetic milk", is the invention of devil-minded mafia of certain milk traders. Of late reports have been received that large quantities of such spurious and fatal product have found way in markets of Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Orissa. The monster is surfacing in Punjab and Haryana also.
Chemicals like urea, caustic soda, refined oil (cheap cooking oil) and commonly used detergents are used in the preparation of synthetic milk. Detergents are added to emulsify and dissolve the oil in water, giving the frothy solution the characteristic white colour of milk.
Refined oil is used as a substitute for milk fat. Caustic soda is added to the blended mixture of chemical and natural milk to neutralise the effect of increased acidity, thereby preventing it from turning sour during transport.
Urea/sugar is added for levelling the contents of solid-not-fat (SNF) as are present in the natural milk.
The cost of preparing synthetic milk is less than Rs 3 per litre and it is sold to consumers at a price ranging between Rs 10 and Rs 15 per litre after blending with natural milk.
Chemical or synthetic milk looks like natural milk as far physical appearance is concerned, but it is totally different in taste. It does not have any nutritive valued. Contrarily, it is a health hazard and harmful if consumed. The use of chemical or synthetic milk has been found to have cancerous effect on human beings. Urea and caustic soda are very harmful to the heart, liver and kidneys. Presence of urea overburdens the kidneys as they overwork to remove urea contents from the body. Caustic soda, which contains sodium, acts as a slow poison for those suffering from hypertension and heart ailments. Caustic soda also deprives the body from utilising Lysine, an essential amino acid in milk, which is required by growing babies.
Such an artificial milk is harmful for all, but is more dangerous for pregnant women, foetus and persons who are already having heart and kidneys problems.
Detection of elements of urea, caustic soda, starch, glucose, sugar, pond water or nitrate etc at home by the consumers, particularly the housewives, is very difficult, but before utilising the milk at home, consumers can judge the difference in main characteristics of natural milk and synthetic milk as shown in the table.
What is natural milk?
Natural milk is an emulsion of fat in a watery solution of sugar and mineral salts and proteins in colloidal suspensions. Chief constituents of natural (buffalo) milk are generally in the following proportion.
Fat 7.00 %
The protein, carbohydrates or salts of milk are termed as "milk solids-not-fat" or solids-not-fat. Dry matter is commonly designated as total solids. Natural milk has no pronounced taste but is slightly sweet. Any pronounced taste is abnormal.
Freshly drawn milk has a characteristic, but not very pronounced odour which is quite volatile and which practically disappears when the milk is exposed to the air. Other odours are abnormal.
If fresh milk is tested with litmus paper then blue litmus paper turns red and red litmus paper turns blue. When phenolphthalein is used as an indicator, normal fresh milk shows an acid reaction and it titrated with a standard alkali solution, the acidity will be found to vary from 0.10 to 0.14% calculated as lactic acid.
Fresh milk has a hydrogen-ion concentration of approximately pH 6.8 which indicates that it is really somewhat on the acidic side of neutrality. Natural milk appears unchanged by heating until a point near the boiling point is reached when a tough film forms on the surface. Prolonged boiling results in a brown shade of colour and a change in the taste.
Any adulteration would disturb the natural balance of the milk constituents. Addition of water reduces the fat contents. It also lowers the SNF contents, which can be tested by using Lactometer. National Dairy Development Board has developed "testing kits" with the help of which it becomes easier even at home to detect presence of adulterants in milk.
The Dairy Development Department has launched a massive campaign to educate consumers in the state and is organising camps in all important cities and towns of the state where on the spot testing facility is being provided to the consumers free of cost. For further assistance, consumers may call at 0172-2700228 or 0172-2700055.
The writer is Director Dairy Development Deptt, Punjab
As the "Conserve water, save life" movement gains momentum, the first innovation made in this direction by sanitaryware industry is Waterless Urinals. Invented by BVG-Falcon Waterfree Technologies of USA, waterless urinals have arrived in India and will soon take over the world scene as each such urinal is capable of saving 1.5 lakh litres of water every year.
The biggest advantage of waterless urinals is that these can be installed at places where there is no water available to keep a urinal running. Installation of these urinals may also help in maintaining better hygienic conditions and our country may get rid of the stigma of frequent roadside urination against the walls by the people.
Urinals generally provided at roadsides or public places need water for manual or automatic flushing at regular intervals. Otherwise, after a few days, the stink becomes unbearable. Waterless urinals need no such flushing. Their working is dependent on a "cartridge" installed at the base of the urinal. The cartridge contains a sealant liquid that forms a barrier between the open air and the urine as it makes its way through the cartridge, sealing all odours within the cartridge. A cartridge is able to collect the uric sediment while the remaining urine flows to the drainage pipe. So there is no requirement or wastage of water.
"You don’t need water to transport water" is the philosophy behind waterless urinals. Urine contains 96 per cent water and travels through the cartridge to the drain pipe. Specific gravity of the sealant liquid is less than that of water. That’s why it allows the urine to flow through it. A cartridge is suitable for 7000 uses which means it needs to be replaced two to four times a year depending upon the daily use. A urinal used for 175 times a day is said to be under heavy use. Such a urinal will need cartridge replacement after 1.5 months or so. After 7000 to 8000 uses, the flow of urine into the cartridge slows down. This is an indication that the cartridge needs to be replaced now. The cartridge gets locked in the seat and there can’t be any leakage.
The sealant as well as the cartridge are biodegradable. The cartridge is made of recyclable ABS plastic and can safely be disposed off in the landfill. Top test houses of US, Germany, UK, Singapore and New Zealand have tested the cartridges and the sealant and found them safe. University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) has compared the number of organisms (bacteria) present on the interior surfaces of traditional flush urinals and waterless urinals. The organism count per square inch has been found to be lesser in waterless urinals.
In India, cost of a waterless urinal comes to about Rs.10,000. There is almost zero installation cost as no plumbing for water supply is required. Just a connection to the drainpipe is enough to install a waterless urinal. Thus no time is lost in installing these urinals and inserting the cartridge. The sealant is to be filled only once. It does not evaporate. Nor does it dissolve with time or usage. These urinals are therefore ideally suited for airports, hotels, hospitals, theatres, multiplexes, schools, colleges and such public places.
No use of water or energy, no odour
and no operating or installation costs make these urinals worth a
consideration. The inlet pipe of these urinals is small thus
preventing cigarette butts from blocking the urinal drain opening.
Above all, no touching of handles, people are so reluctant to do at
public places, is involved.
Under land and sea, in vast subterranean laboratories, scientists are working to uncover the secrets of the universe, from "dark matter" to global warming.
A paradox in science is that the smallest and most ubiquitous things imaginable can often only be detected by some of the biggest and most expensive scientific instruments ever built. And most of them are so sensitive they need to be shielded in deep subterranean caverns. The Kamioka Underground Observatory in Japan is housed in an old mine located 1,000 metres below ground. At its core is a giant tank of ultra-pure water weighing some 3,000 tons and surrounded by 1,000 highly sensitive light detectors.
The water tank is 16m high and 15.6m in diameter. The 1,000 photomultiplier tubes fitted around the inside of the tank are there to detect the tiny flashes of pale blue light that may be emitted as a certain subatomic particle travelling at the speed of light collides with the nucleus of a water molecule. This particle — called a neutrino — has achieved almost mythical status in physics.
The Nobel laureate Wolfgang Pauli predicted the existence of the neutrino — which means "little, neutral one" — in 1931, but it took a further 25 years to prove its existence. Physicists calculated that neutrinos must be emitted in their trillions in space as a result of the nuclear fusion reactions of the Sun and stars, and the gigantic stellar explosions of supernovae.
The problem with neutrinos, however, is that they are so small and so electrically neutral that they pass straight through most things without ever interacting with them. Billions of these ghostly elements pass through each and every one of us every second without any effect.
Rock surrounding the Kamioka water tank shields the detectors from interfering cosmic rays, which allows the faintest interaction between a neutrino and a water molecule to be picked up. On February 23, 1987, the Japanese physicist and Nobel laureate Masatoshi Koshiba used the Kamioko instrument to detect a tiny fraction of the massive flux of neutrinos that passed through the earth as a result of a distant supernova explosion. The instrument managed to detect just 12 neutrinos out of an estimated total of a thousand trillion that passed through the detector at that moment in time.
Neutrinos are important because they are the one subatomic particle that appears not to conform to one of the great universal laws of physics - the so-called Standard Model. At one time, neutrinos were thought not to have any mass at all; now, physicists believe they have some mass, but are much lighter than other subatomic particles. At another underground mine, near Sudbury in Ontario, a different neutrino detector has been designed to study one of the particle’s most unusual properties — the ability to oscillate from one form to another.
The Sudbury Neutrino Observatory is located 2,000 metres below ground in another disused mine carved out of solid norite rock. This time, however, the 12m-wide tank at the core of the instrument is filled with 1,000 tons of heavy water, valued at (pounds sterling)125m and on loan from the Canadian nuclear industry.
UNDERSTANDING THE UNIVERSE
Can machines ever become as intelligent as humans?
This issue has sparked an active debate amongst the artificial intelligence community. Some of the earlier enthusiasm has waned. It has been shown that computers can play chess as well as the best players. But is being good at chess a comprehensive definition of intelligence? Detractors argue that it is not possible to find a representation for all human experience and observation. That which cannot be so represented in a format a computer can process will therefore be excluded. Others counter that this cannot be interpreted as saying that such representations are impossible. If everything from love to hate, affection to aversion, patriotism to linguistic jingoism, reverence to friendship could find representation, then a powerful machine could do things that would be difficult for an ordinary intelligent human. I have a feeling that for the moment, the argument is settling in the following direction. We have already shown that there are things that machines can do more efficiently than humans. This includes taking quick (but not necessarily correct) decisions and acting on these. The contribution of computers towards increasingly diverse areas of human endeavor has been invaluable. The applications geography of the region where this can happen is likely to widen. It would be a mistake, however, to expect that computers (or other machines) might, or should, begin to mimic human beings. The beauty of human intelligence, imagination and individuality might never be realised. Also humor, poetry and compassion.
How do we smell things around us?
Smell is conveyed by transport of molecules of volatile substances to the receptors in our nose. The receptors are specific to the structure of different molecules, much like locks and keys. There are an enormous number of receptors, each sensitive to a different molecule. It is possible that different smells are often perceived through a coincidence in several receptors. The sense of smell is vital for many of the functions of living organisms. We can distinguish so many different shades.
A baby can recognise its mother through the way she smells. We are protected from harmful things by their smell. Fragrances evoke memories. The taste of food also depends on the way it smells. Taste buds and smell receptors seem to work in concert. In the animal world, smell is even more central to functioning.
We all know the capability of dogs to detect and follow specific smells. They can find hidden things, including narcotics in the bags of smugglers, or explosives hidden in boxes. Snakes follow a field mouse using their forked tongues to detect the difference in the number of molecules spread on the two sides of the track taken by the mouse.
The science of smell is being extensively
researched, with regard to the specificity of nasal receptors and the neural
processing involved. Smell recognition also implies a delicate storage
mechanism (or memory response) for the sensations that smells produce.
New products & discoveries
How lizards hang from
So strong is the stickiness of some geckos’ feet that the lizards can hang from a ceiling by a single toe. Despite that clinginess, the forest of adhesive fibers on the underside of each toe stays nearly dirtfree without grooming or washing.
Now, researchers say they’ve figured out the secret. Moreover, because dirt typically weakens adhesive bonds, the findings could inspire improved surface-attachment schemes for mountain climbers and robots.
Extra healthful fruit, veggies
Philipp Simon and his colleagues at a
US Department of Agriculture lab in Madison, Wis., have been
developing carotenoid-enhanced, yellow-orange cucumbers and red and
anthocyanin-rich, dark-purple carrots. This team bred some of the
carrots now on the market, which retain the traditional orange color
but produce 75 percent more beta-carotene than