SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

Future packaging
Dr S.S. Verma

Concept of packaging starts with the origin of life itself when a baby is born in a naturally packaged (safe and secure) environment in the mother’s womb. Later on skin, hairs and feathers etc, are the natural packaging provided to the body to protect it in the open environment.

Math is now a “team sport”
Steve Connor
Mathematicians have mapped the inner workings of one of the most complicated structures known to science and in the process produced a calculation that covers an area bigger than the island of Manhattan.

Prof Yash Pal

Prof Yash Pal

THIS UNIVERSE 
PROF YASH PAL

Seawater is saline. Then how are fish able to meet their water requirement?
Fish live in a watery environment that might be too salty or not salty enough, depending on the type of fish and its  natural habitat.
The important thing to remember is that fish take in or lose water through their skin, or the fins. Water comes in through the process of osmosis.

 

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Future packaging
Dr S.S. Verma

Concept of packaging starts with the origin of life itself when a baby is born in a naturally packaged (safe and secure) environment in the mother’s womb. Later on skin, hairs and feathers etc, are the natural packaging provided to the body to protect it in the open environment.

Sources of renewable and biodegradable materials
Sources of renewable and biodegradable materials

Dressing according to weather to protect the body or as per occasion to please and impress the society is also a kind of packaging. Human beings have always protected food and drink in containers, using skins, leaves, and gourds, and then baskets, pottery, and, as early as 1500 bc, glass containers. A. F. Pears, in England, launched what was to become one of the most consistently prosperous industries in the world when he established the first packaged Soap Company. Modern packaging, the technology used to contain, protect, and preserve products throughout their distribution, storage and handling, and at the same time to identify them, provide instructions for their use, and promote them. Such packaging has become an important part of our daily life. Almost every thing in the market is coming in colorful, hygienic and suitable packaging, which not only attracts the eyes of the customer but also makes its (product) self-life longer, safe and secure. Packaging also keeps the item safe from climatic changes, including light and temperature.

Future packaging
Future packaging 

Packaging industry is growing very fast as it has become a marketing necessity with the changing life- style. Presently more people are working in packaging and packaging operations than any other business area. The estimated value of packaging materials and machinery used for packaging throughout the world is £270 billion. Since the coming of the supermarket, packaging has developed to allow customers to serve themselves. Some 60 per cent of all packaging is used for food and drinks, and it is also essential for cosmetics, domestic chemicals and electrical goods, pharmaceuticals, health care products, agricultural chemicals, seeds, and feeds, and industrial goods of all types, such as motor parts, and computer hardware and software. Packaging has no more remained as a simple technology. Packaging is a very complicated art with a meaning and purpose as mind starts seeing and appreciating it. Presently packaging is required for everything, which involves particular technology of sophisticated nature and specialized skills. Packaging should be accomplished with knowledge of the principles of science & technology and imitating nature.

Packaging has never seemed as important as it does now. For years, the consumer’s main thought about packaging has been rapping the product in “paper or plastic?” But in light of recent bioterrorism threats, packaging — from envelopes to food storage — has taken on new meaning and new urgency. Innovations in packaging technologies and design are transforming brands, enabling new consumer benefits and enriching lives. Future smart packaging is expected to be equipped with following characteristics: innovations in user convenience; diagnostic; active and speaking packages; transforming the supply chain; deterring counterfeiting; self-heating and cooling containers; improved drug delivery and recording of use; the package as part of the product etc. Developing better packaging for food safety, however, has long been a priority but terrorism has given the added need to find new ways to protect food supply and enhance public security. Packaging that incorporates nanomaterials can be “smart”, which means that it can respond to environmental conditions or repair itself or alert a consumer to contamination and/or the presence of pathogens.

Whether active and/or smart, packaging was there and will be there but once it has done its job of protecting its contents from factory to home, is discarded as household waste which accounts for around four to five per cent of all waste in developed countries and situation is coming almost same in developing countries also. Excessive packaging and packaging with non-renewable, environmentally non-friendly and costly materials is making packaging a serious business. Hence, it attracts a great deal of environmental concern. Facilitating a recovery system can minimize packaging wastes that can be achieved by the four R(s) — reduce, recycle, recover and reuse. Environmental considerations have resulted in a trend to make packaging as light as possible without impairing its protective properties. Households and communities should plan recovery of this valuable packaging waste. Today one talks of eco-friendly packaging. Thus, the consumers are seeking packaging that is recyclable and environmentally friendly. Scientists and engineers are trying to develop a number of sustainable technologies that meet the above goals whilst maintaining product integrity, value and desirability.

Instead of relying on oil-based packaging materials, current research programmes are looking at biodegradable and renewable materials that can be made with natural polymers such as proteins, starch, sugars or fatty acids.  The goal is packaging products that are combustible, compostable, renewable and carbon-dioxide neutral. Renewable and biodegradable materials not only consume less energy in their preparation, but also are less problematic to dispose of at the end of their useful life. Researchers are focusing their research into renewable materials through the work being done in plant and animal breeding and genetics, and through the research into the forestry, wool, cotton, and food industries. Biodegradable materials are substances that will decompose in a natural environment. The research covers a wide range of activities, such as: re-engineering, designing and developing materials, processes and systems, including nano- and microstructured materials; investigating methods for processing plant proteins to produce biodegradable materials to replace petro-plastics. Due to public growing environmental concerns and advances in science and technology it is hoped that future packing will be more active, smart and ecofriendly.

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Math is now a “team sport”
Steve Connor

Mathematicians have mapped the inner workings of one of the most complicated structures known to science and in the process produced a calculation that covers an area bigger than the island of Manhattan.

Four years of intense collaboration between a team of 18 mathematicians have borne fruit in the shape of a proof that may help scientists to find the elusive theory of everything — a single unifying force of nature.

The structure has 248 dimensions and is known as “E eight” (E8). It does not refer to a part of East London but a mathematical concept called “the exceptional Lie group” — a matrix of calculations that would cover a huge area if it was written out in the smallest print.

The task was so daunting that the researchers found it difficult to find a computer big enough to handle the complex series of equations, with represents some 60 gigabytes of data — about 60 times bigger than the digital information of the human genome.

Lie groups were invented in the 19th century by a Norwegian mathematician, Sophus Lie, to study the rules of symmetry. Lie groups are at the heart of all 3D symmetrical structures, from spheres and cylinders to cones and squares.

“What’s attractive about studying E8 is that it’s as complicated as symmetry can get. Mathematicians can always offer another example that’s harder than the one you’re looking at now, but for Lie groups E8 is the hardest one,” said Professor David Vogel of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“There are lots of ways that E8 appears in abstract mathematics and it’s going to be fun to try to find interpretations of our work in some of those appearances,” said Professor Vogel, a leading member of the team.

“The uniqueness of E8 makes me hope that it should have a role to play in theoretical physics as well. So far the work in that direction is pretty speculative, but I’ll stay hopeful,” he said.

Prof Vogel presented the description of E8 at a lecture entitled “The Character Table for E8, or how we wrote down a 453,060 x 453,060 matrix and found happiness”.

Prof Peter Sarnak of Princeton University, who was not involved in the work, said that the description was an exciting breakthrough because its solution may underlines so many other fields of science.

“Understanding and classifying the representations of E8 and Lie groups has been critical to understanding phenomena in many different areas of mathematics and science, including algebra, geometry, number theory, physics and chemistry,” Prof Sarnak said.

“This project will be invaluable for future mathematicians and scientists," he said.

Hermann Nicolai, director of the Max Planck Institute in Potsdam, Germany, said that the achievement was impressive given the scale of the problem faced by the team of 18 mathematicians.

“While mathematicians have known for a long time about the beauty and the uniqueness of E8, we physicists have come to appreciate its exceptional role only more recently,” Dr Nicolai said.

By arrangement with The Independent, London

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THIS UNIVERSE 
PROF YASH PAL

Seawater is saline. Then how are fish able to meet their water requirement?

Fish live in a watery environment that might be too salty or not salty enough, depending on the type of fish and its natural habitat.

The important thing to remember is that fish take in or lose water through their skin, or the fins. Water comes in through the process of osmosis.

If the blood and body fluids of the fish are saltier than the seawater in which they live then osmosis leads to absorption of water from the sea. So their problem is prevention of water loss or excretion of salts.

Such fish, for example sharks, produce very little urine and have a process of concentrating salt and excreting it. Indeed some such fish often lack kidneys.

The fresh water fish do take in a lot of water and urinate a great deal. The kidneys help to keep the balance right.

The lesson is that living things have invented techniques of prospering in the environment in which they live.

We must also remember that their water requirement might be somewhat less than ours because they do not need to perspire to maintain their temperature.

I read somewhere that at least large sea mammals do not waste, as much as we do, the water that is produced during metabolism.

This question has drawn my attention to the importance of semi-permeable membranes in all living systems.

They are the discriminating partitioning walls without which life would be impossible. Impervious walls only create prisons — actually dungeons, not just mere prisons.

Factories of life are the cells. We cannot define a cell unless it has a boundary. This boundary is provided by the cell wall. But this is not like a stupid steel wall.

The cell wall protects the inside but also allows exchange with the outside — an intelligent exchange. Ingress and exit is allowed on a selective basis. This is a topic about which I could become rather ecstatic, perhaps in ways so detailed and global that I might begin wandering into realms that are at once sociological and philosophical — besides being scientific. Perhaps we can indulge in this on another occasion.

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