SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

Needed, three wheelers
H. Kishie Singh
Two
news items that appeared in the last couple of weeks that are quite alarming and deserve some constructive thoughts. One, about a proposed mono-rail being built in Chandigarh and the second, a story celebrating 50 years of the auto-rickshaw.

Glaciers shrinking
Steve Connor
A
mysterious phenomenon is causing four major glaciers in the Antarctic to shrink in unison, causing a significant increase in global sea levels, scientists have found.The rise in atmospheric temperatures caused by global warming cannot account for the relatively rapid movement of the glaciers into the sea but scientists suspect that warmer oceans may be playing some kind of a role.

Quake alarm for your house
Anuradha Shukla
If
only there could be an alarm in our homes to tell us that an earthquake was on its way to save us from sitting out on the streets on nights of earthquake scares. Dr Kuldeep Singh Nagla, from Department of Instrumentation and Control Engineering and in charge of Robotics lab at Dr B.R. Ambedkar National Institute of Technology, Jalandhar, has made it a reality.

THIS UNIVERSE
PROF YASH PAL

Prof Yash Pal

Prof Yash Pal

 


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Needed, three wheelers
H. Kishie Singh

Two news items that appeared in the last couple of weeks that are quite alarming and deserve some constructive thoughts. One, about a proposed mono-rail being built in Chandigarh and the second, a story celebrating 50 years of the auto-rickshaw. It’s a wretched little machine, noisy, uncomfortable, pollutes like a brick kiln, can barely make it uphill on a flyover, is always in the wrong lane and is responsible for a lot of accidents.

It can carry only two passengers. Yes! It can carry 18 children in extreme danger to school. Other than using CNG as a fuel today and effecting minimal changes visually nothing has changed from an engineering point of view in 50 years. There has not been any improvement for safety and comfort. It is time to relegate the three-wheeler to the dustbin, just save a few for museums where they can be sharing space with the Ambassador and the Dodo Bird.

So, let us say we have managed to rid the streets of the auto-rickshaw, and this is possible. Delhi did do away with the “phut-phuts”. It is not an impossible dream. Then what? The babu-crats are threatening to go in for a mono-rail to connect Chandigarh with Mohali and Chandigarh. There is talk of building an elevated highway to Panchkula. A mono-rail plus elevated highway! Why?

Whatever be the outcome, the idea is to reinvent the wheel. But alas! The powers that be do not see the woods because of the trees.

The simplest, easiest and least expensive answer to the Mass Rapid Transport System (MRTS) would be a three wheeler! Yes, reincarnate. The picture shows a redesigned three wheeler. It accommodates six passengers in the cabin in comfort. Another two can be accommodated with the driver. It would be an eight seater. There is place for the baggage under the seat with easy access from outside. No bags and strolleys in your lap. Passenger would sit in comfort.

Most important, it would be driven by an electric motor powered by photo-voltaic batteries charged by solar panels on the roof. The vehicle would be good looking, and non polluting and silent and swift. Swift only to a point, the top speed would be restricted to 40 k.m.p.h. Three-wheelers are inherently unstable and cause accidents at speed. Restricting their speed would reduce accidents.

There would be a second battery as a backup for cloudy days and during the monsoon when the sun plays truant. It should be kept in mind that India has the longest sun hours in a year in the world.

When putting the Surya Phut-Phut (a very apt name) on the road the auto-rickshaw will have been laid to rest. It will also be necessary to have all non-motorised vehicles off the road. No cycle rickshaws, no animal drawn carts, no hand drawn carts. Chalk and cheese don’t mix, neither do motorised and non-motorised vehicles.

Just as a chain is as strong as its weakest link, traffic will flow as fast as the slowest vehicle. While waiting at a red light a couple of cycle rickshaws will have manoeuvred themselves to the front. This makes sure that the vehicles will slow to a crawl instead of shooting off as the light turns green. A traffic snarl is the result. Thanks to the cycle-rickshaw.

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Glaciers shrinking
Steve Connor

A mysterious phenomenon is causing four major glaciers in the Antarctic to shrink in unison, causing a significant increase in global sea levels, scientists have found.

The rise in atmospheric temperatures caused by global warming cannot account for the relatively rapid movement of the glaciers into the sea but scientists suspect that warmer oceans may be playing some kind of a role.

“There is a possibility that heat from the ocean is somehow flowing in underneath these glaciers but it is not related to global warming,” said glaciologist Duncan Wingham of University College, London.

“Something has changed that is causing these glaciers to shrink. We better sort it out as there is a lot of water backed up there. At this rate the glaciers will all be afloat in 150 years or so,” Dr Wingham said.

Satellite measurements have shown that the glaciers of Pine Island and Thwaites in West Antarctica and the Totten and Cook glaciers of East Antarctic are all retreating in a uniform manner, suggesting a common cause.

— By arrangement with The Independent, London
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Quake alarm for your house
Anuradha Shukla

If only there could be an alarm in our homes to tell us that an earthquake was on its way to save us from sitting out on the streets on nights of earthquake scares. Dr Kuldeep Singh Nagla, from Department of Instrumentation and Control Engineering and in charge of Robotics lab at Dr B.R. Ambedkar National Institute of Technology, Jalandhar, has made it a reality.

He has constructed an earthquake alarm which can give you those precious few seconds to run for your life when an earthquake strikes. The patent for the invention is ready for grant.

“The alarm, a simple audio-visual device, when available can be put on the wall of the house and can sense primary vibrations of an earthquake when the P wave (primary) strikes, which is before the actual tremors can be felt,” says Dr Kuldeep. One can run out of the building before collapse in the precious seconds provided by the alarm in case of an earthquake,” says Dr Kuldeep.

“The alarm gives instant warning of seismic activity by detecting the P (primary) wave, which is weak and starts from epicentre or the compression wave of an earthquake which travels 20 times the speed of sound in air.

It is thus 10 times faster than the more destructive S wave (secondary).

Its principle is different from all such alarms patented so far,” he adds.

Simple and low cost, it can be adjusted manually in areas near railway line or a mining area. “It is not a prediction device and detects primary waves when they hit your area,” he clarifies.

“The alarm is the size of a single phase electric meter and is a reliable advanced earthquake sensory system fitted inside a box and can be fitted on the wall of a room,” says Dr Kuldeep.

It looks like a small box which is at present made of wood and runs on rechargeable general purpose battery.

“The idea took birth in 1999 at the time of Rajasthan earthquake and was in incubation up to the middle of 2000. I had developed a miniature model by the end of 2000”. “It took roughly two years for research into it and the idea was to give signal before actual tremors are felt,” says Dr Kuldeep.

“If you are sleeping the sound of the alarm will wake you up and if in a noisy party you can actually see the alarm going off,” says Dr Kuldeep.

The patent has been financed by Punjab State Council for Sciences and Technology, Chandigarh and Technology Information Forecasting and Assessment Council (TIFAC), New Delhi.
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THIS UNIVERSE
PROF YASH PAL

How are dark matter and dark energy related, and is there conclusive proof for existence of either?

We started tackling this question last week and talked about dark matter. Picking up from there, let us proceed further.

It is difficult to detect something that remains dark and non -reactive except for the fact that it has mass, and hence a gravitational field.

Many observations in astronomy have used gravitational lensing for this purpose. If clumps of such matter exist in interstellar and intergalactic space they would produce a lensing effect on light sources they intercept. Such observations have produced overwhelming evidence foe the reality of existence of dark matter.

The behaviour of galactic clusters also provides strong support for this view. Indeed it is now believed that only about 5% of the matter in the universe is baryonic - meaning made up of constituents like protons and neutrons. Dark matter is the dominant occupant, accounting for about 30% of all matter.

While astronomical evidence is strong we still do not know the nature of dark matter. It is claimed by astronomers and cosmologists the dark matter provided the structure, the roads and by-lanes of the universe and the matter we know, see, feel and touch came then to populate the inexorable blueprints that had been laid out. All this makes many scientists, specially the particle physicists, very uncomfortable.

We do not yet have an inkling of why dark matter was essential for development of the special character of our universe. Some of the workers feel that a solution to this problem is becoming central to the enterprise of understanding the universe.

I am sure that the present difficulty is an essential hurdle in our path. It is a very exciting time for fundamental scientists of today.

Some time ago we thought if we could only find a way of incorporating gravity along with the other forces of nature we have been able to unify, we would have a theory of everything. Would the success of this effort depend understanding of dark matter? I am sure these problems are closely connected.
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