SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

mobile phoneConvergence on hand
The mobile phone today is practically a PC on your palm, says Roopinder Singh

What do you get when you put in a wireless transmitter/receiver device, a computer, a global positioning system receiver, a camera and a video camera together? Well, you get the new mobile phone.

Gene linked to obesity
Steve Connor

Scientists have discovered the clearest link yet between genes and obesity in a study that opens the way to explaining why some people seem destined to put on weight while others remain slim.

Prof Yash Pal

Prof Yash Pal

THIS UNIVERSE
PROF YASH PAL
Oxygen is necessary for getting fire. But sun also spits out fire. That means in sun also oxygen exists. Is that right?

You have to realise that the importance of oxygen for supporting a fire is due to the fact that we have an abundance of materials that have carbon and hydrogen as their components. These elements are found in all vegetation, in wood, in coal and in oil. Oxygen is abundant in the atmosphere. When temperature is raised, through lighting a matchstick, a lightning strike, a spark or any other means these materials and oxygen combine to produce energy. If such materials were absent oxygen itself will not produce fire.

 


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Convergence on hand
The mobile phone today is practically a PC on your palm,
says
Roopinder Singh

What do you get when you put in a wireless transmitter/receiver device, a computer, a global positioning system receiver, a camera and a video camera together? Well, you get the new mobile phone.

The convergence of various electronic devices, which did not hitherto interact with each other, and the miniaturisation of the gadget are well demonstrated in mobile phones, so much that today’s advanced mobile phone is a scaled-down Personal Computer (PC), just as the PC is in itself a miniaturised mainframe of the mid-1960s.

Not just a device that only makes voice calls or sends/receives text messages; the mobile phone has become an ubiquitous lifestyle statement, and a must-have in today’s world.

When the telecommunications protocol for mobile GSM phones was being formulated, no one could have foreseen that the Short Message Service (SMS), that allowed the sending of short text messages, would become such a killer application.

Who could have predicted its popularity—in the year 2000 (17 billion SMS messages sent). The number rose up to 250 billion in 2001 and to 500 billion in 2004. Incidentally, Asians are SMS champions, followed by users in Europe, with the Americans far behind.

After SMS came the MMS, which is Multimedia Message Service, a method that transmits graphics, video clips, sound files and short text messages over wireless networks.

Pictures and video dominate MMS utilities and camera phones date back to the year 2000. So popular have these gadgets become that today it is hard to find a phone without a camera. People love to take photographs, and there has been such a spurt in picture-taking and sharing that there have been serious concerns about ensuring people’s privacy.

In South Korea and Japan, all camera phones must make a clearly audible sound whenever a picture is taken. Many gyms, museums and dance clubs ban their patrons from using camera phones. In fact, in 2004, Saudi Arabia banned camera phones for a few years, till it realised that the ban was impracticable.

Video-phones are the next step, and now practically all camera phones are video phones. Although the quality of shots taken by such phones is not too good as of now, concern about their possible misuse has multiplied. However, by the year 2008, it is expected that over 1 billion camera phones will be sold worldwide, and they will all shoot video.

E-mail over mobile phones is now old news, but it was a revolution when it happened. Most of the new smart phones have typewriter-like keyboards that give users an easy way to input data, long a bugbear of mobile phones.

Talking of smart phones, many have a Global Positioning Service (GPS) receiver integrated in them. You can download maps and use them, along with other services that provide information about the area you are in, say the nearest restaurants and their ratings, police stations etc.

Of course, one of the earliest casualties of smart phones was the palmtop organisers — Palm and Psion. Now all your contact and calendar details can be in your phone, and who wants to carry another electronic organiser. In fact, Palm itself makes the Treo line of phones, which is a convenient marriage of these functions. However, Apple’s iPhone has generated the maximum hype.

What is it? A mobile phone, a widescreen iPod with touch controls, and an Internet communications device with desktop-class email, web browsing, maps, and searching —all in one small and lightweight, handheld device.

Other manufactures are too in the race and you can expect a slew of new products. This is mobile convergence at its best, a multi-function device that gives the consumer best picks from the world of telecommunications and computers. 
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Gene linked to obesity
Steve Connor

Scientists have discovered the clearest link yet between genes and obesity in a study that opens the way to explaining why some people seem destined to put on weight while others remain slim.

The researchers have identified a type of genetic variation that gives a child a 70 per cent higher risk of developing obesity compared to a child who has not inherited the genetic variant.

Although the scientists cannot explain how the gene involved makes obesity more likely, they believe that the discovery will start a race to find the fundamental reasons why some people are born with a predisposition to being fat.

“As a nation, we are eating more and doing less exercise, and so the average weight is increasing, but within the population some people seem to put on more weight than others,” said Professor Andrew Hattersely from the Peninsula Medical School in Exeter.

“Our findings suggest a possible answer to someone who might ask ‘I eat the same and do as much exercise as my friend next door, so why am I fatter?’ There’s clearly a component to obesity that is genetic,” Professor Hattersely said.

Obesity is reaching epidemic proportions in the developed world due to the combination of high-calorie food and lack of exercise.

In Britain over 20 per cent of the population are clinically obese, and half of men and a third of women are classified as overweight, which carries a significantly greater risk of heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

The study investigated variations in the DNA of a gene known as FTO — short for “fatso” — which occur in patients with type-2 diabetes. More than 2,000 diabetes patients and 3,000 healthy “controls” took part in the study, published in the journal Science.

The scientists from the Universities of Exeter, Plymouth and Oxford searched the genomes of the diabetes patients and found a strong association between the disease and a certain variant of the FTO gene.

When the scientists expanded the study to look at 37,000 other people without diabetes they found that the same variant was also strongly associated with being overweight. The study found that carrying one copy of the FTO variant imparted a 30 per cent increased risk of obesity compared with a person with no copies.

“By identifying this genetic link, it should be possible to improve our understanding of why some people are more obese, with all the associated implications such as increased risk of diabetes and heart disease,” Professor McCarthy, who was associated with the study, said.

By arrangement with The Independent

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THIS UNIVERSE
PROF YASH PAL

Oxygen is necessary for getting fire. But sun also spits out fire. That means in sun also oxygen exists. Is that right?

You have to realise that the importance of oxygen for supporting a fire is due to the fact that we have an abundance of materials that have carbon and hydrogen as their components. These elements are found in all vegetation, in wood, in coal and in oil. Oxygen is abundant in the atmosphere. When temperature is raised, through lighting a matchstick, a lightning strike, a spark or any other means these materials and oxygen combine to produce energy. If such materials were absent oxygen itself will not produce fire. But we know that energy is produced in other reactions, chemical and not chemical. Solar energy is not produced chemically but through nuclear reactions in which lighter elements combine to produce heavier elements. In fact it is now known that elements like carbon, nitrogen and oxygen are also produced in the solar furnace, deep inside the sun. This is also true of all other elements. Sun like stars are responsible for the production of most of the elements we know. This happens in various phases of evolution of the stars. Most of the reactions that do this are exothermic, in the sense that they also produce energy. Yes, oxygen exists in the sun but is not primarily responsible for the solar flares that emanate from its surface. These fires have a different origin and a different nature.

Why does paper become translucent when oil is applied to it?

Paper is a porous material. When reasonably thick it is opaque. White paper is opaque and white, meaning that the light falling on it is mostly scattered back. When we apply oil on its surface we fill the pours on the paper with relatively transparent oil. Therefore, some of the light falling on the paper manages to get across. That is why we call it translucent.

Tell me how air bubbles accidentally injected into our veins can causea heart attack?

I am no expert in this area but I understand that a small amount of air going into our veins is usually cleaned up in our lungs and may not lead to any serious consequences. On the other hand a significant amount of air could cause a sort of “vapour lock” in the heart obstructing the proper function of the heart valves and interfering with the flow of blood. Such a vapour lock often causes problems in fuel pumps of motor vehicles of automobiles. I can see that even a small amount of air in an artery could cause a serious obstruction in smooth transport of blood to heart and the brain.
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