SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

Shrink your carbon footprint
Global warming is now a universal phenomenon. The world has woken up to the adverse effects of greenhouse emissions including a catastrophic impact of climate change due to global warming on the flora and fauna. The developed nations being the real offenders for release of major percentage of the Carbon Dioxide into the atmosphere are looking for all alternatives except scaling down industrialisation of their own land. These nations have therefore begun to buy Carbon Credits. However, disastrous effects of climate change can be diluted only through a combined effort of all nations rather all individuals. Only then the earth can be saved.

Trends

  • Found: 25 new genes that may trigger diabetes

  • Subtle signs in human behaviour key to impending pandemic

  • Embryo’s heartbeat drives formation of blood stem cell

Prof Yash Pal

Prof Yash Pal

THIS UNIVERSE 
PROF YASH PAL

Our Sun along with all its planets revolves around the centre of the galaxy. What is the speed at which it moves?
This speed is 220 km per second! At this speed it takes about a million years to go around once, because the galaxy is so large. Humanity has not been around even for one revolution! It is useful to know that the galaxy does not rotate like a hard disc. As a result the matter and stars in the galaxy take on a spiral shape.

 

Top

















Shrink your carbon footprint
By Jagvir Goyal

Global warming is now a universal phenomenon. The world has woken up to the adverse effects of greenhouse emissions including a catastrophic impact of climate change due to global warming on the flora and fauna. The developed nations being the real offenders for release of major percentage of the Carbon Dioxide into the atmosphere are looking for all alternatives except scaling down industrialisation of their own land. These nations have therefore begun to buy Carbon Credits. However, disastrous effects of climate change can be diluted only through a combined effort of all nations rather all individuals. Only then the earth can be saved.
A handout pictures shows the Ariane 5launching system enclosing the Herschel and Planck spacecraft on the launch pad at Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana,
A handout pictures shows the Ariane 5launching system enclosing the Herschel and Planck spacecraft on the launch pad at Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, May 13. The Ariane 5 that will loft Herschel and Planck into space has been declared ready for launch following the conclusion of the Launch Readiness Review held on May 9 and a close-out review held on May 12. — Reuters

An individual can contribute towards reducing climate change by shrinking his own carbon footprint. At the individual level, we make both primary and secondary emissions. The average annual carbon footprint of an Indian is only 1.2 tonnes while that of a person living in industrial nations is 11 tonnes. However, in urban areas of India, the carbon footprint is comparable to industrialized nations. This is rather high when compared to the worldwide average of four tones. The aim, of course, is to reduce the worldwide average to two tones.

Primary emissions depend upon the annual consumption of energy such as electricity, heating oil, coal, gas, wood, LPG etc in a household. Then again, the number of flights taken, kilometers traveled road or rail, and any other fuel consuming mode also contribute to primary emissions. Even the year of manufacture, model, brand and derivative of a car can matter in affecting carbon footprint.

An aircraft flying at a higher altitude leaves almost double the carbon footprint of a low flying aircraft. Carbon emissions of aircraft flying at high altitude have higher effect on global warming. DEFRA, the department for environment, UK has termed this increase as Radiative Forcing Factor and valued it as 1.9.

Secondary emissions are based on the type of food consumed, the type of clothes we wear, type of furniture and electrical equipment, our recreational activities and even by the financial and other services used. Whether the products bought are packed, are recyclable, organic, seasonal, imported or home grown also affect secondary emissions.

A household with two persons consuming 500 units of electricity, two litres of heating oil and one cylinder of LPG per month will have a carbon footprint of about 6.3 tonnes. That means a carbon footprint of 3.15 tons per person on account of living in the house alone. Driving about 20,000 km in a 2002 model of small car such as a Maruti-800 or an Alto per year will add another 3.9 tonnes to the carbon footprint. This does not yet include air and road travel. Two Delhi-Bangalore return trips by air will add another 0.36 tonnes to the carbon print. A 1,000 km bus journey, 5,000 km rail journey and a 3,000 km taxi journey will add another 0.93 tonnes of carbon footprint raising the total to almost nine tones.

Calculating secondary emissions, a vegetarian who consumes some organic food, a mix of seasonal and off season food but no imported food, regularly shops for clothes, uses packed items and occasionally goes to movies and restaurants while using a moderate range of financial services will have a carbon footprint of about five tones. Add this figure to the primary emissions and the footprint measures 14.44 tons, which is much higher than the average of even industrialised nations. Eating fish and meat will further increase the carbon footprint from secondary emissions.

Only by consuming less energy, by maintaining a fuel efficient car, traveling less, pooling journeys, walking more, using a bicycle, being a vegetarian, consuming seasonal foods and having lesser number of bank accounts will contribute to saving the earth and its environment. 

Top

Trends
Found: 25 new genes that may trigger diabetes

Sydney: An international team of scientists has identified more than 40 genes, including 25 new ones, that could be factors in triggering type-1 diabetes.

Leading the Asia Pacific arm of the research group, Grant Morahan, professor, Western Australian Institute for Medical Research (WAIMR), described this as one of the largest ever genetic studies into type-1 diabetes and among “the most significant discoveries”.

“Where this discovery has much potential is that it could show us how to stop the disease returning by controlling how the risk genes work,” he said.

“This study involved screening DNA samples donated by more than 10,000 people with type-1 diabetes from across the world, and more than 11,000 people without the condition — including more than 2,000 families in which two children have type-1 diabetes.

“What’s really surprising about these findings is not only did we find so many new genes, but we’ve also come across risk factors that are located between genes along the chromosomes, and at least three of these are in what we call ‘gene deserts.’

“The purpose of gene deserts is still a scientific mystery, so this discovery could give us an insight into the function of these chromosome regions, as well as clues to how type-1 diabetes develops.” The international study was funded by United State’s National Institutes of Health (NIH), said a WAIMR release. The research was published in Nature Genetics online and will feature in the June edition of the journal.

Subtle signs in human behaviour key to impending pandemic

New York: A new approach could warn of impending pandemic, much before it surfaces among swathes of population, just by detecting subtle signs in human behaviour.

“The goal is a public information and awareness system for pandemic with the same level of credibility, timeliness and visibility as storm-warning icons presented on television screens,” said Barrett Caldwell, Purdue University associate professor of industrial engineering.

The system works by monitoring “event phases” of human behaviour, like people purchasing flu-related medications or “foraging” on the net for information bearing on flu.

Understanding these phases might be a way to overcome a fundamental hurdle in controlling pandemic: Conventional approaches require public-health officials to know when certain events leading to pandemic begin, Caldwell said.

“The problem with this requirement is that by the time you know an event has happened, it’s often too late to do much about it,” he said.

Caldwell and former Purdue industrial engineering doctoral student Sandra K. Garrett have proposed a new approach to warn the public of an impending pandemic, said a Purdue release.

“If you can recognise the triggers, the signals suggesting an event is likely to occur, you can start responding to it, gathering resources, preparing and mobilising people,” said Garrett, an assistant professor of industrial engineering at Clemson University.

Embryo’s heartbeat drives formation of blood stem cell

Washington: Biologists have puzzled over why the heart begins beating so early in the foetus, before the tissues actually need blood infusion.

Two groups of researchers from Children’s Hospital Boston, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI), presenting multiple lines of evidence from zebrafish, mice and mouse embryonic stem cells, provide an intriguing answer.

A beating heart and blood flow are necessary for development of the blood system, which relies on mechanical stresses to cue its formation.

Their studies offer clues that may help in treating blood diseases such as leukaemia, immune deficiency and sickle cell anaemia, suggesting new ways scientists can make the types of blood cells a patient needs.

This would help patients who require marrow or cord blood transplants, who do not have a perfect donor match, said a Children’s Hospital release. These findings were published online by Cell and Nature. — Indo-Asian News Service

Top

THIS UNIVERSE 
PROF YASH PAL

Our Sun along with all its planets revolves around the centre of the galaxy. What is the speed at which it moves?

This speed is 220 km per second! At this speed it takes about a million years to go around once, because the galaxy is so large. Humanity has not been around even for one revolution! It is useful to know that the galaxy does not rotate like a hard disc. As a result the matter and stars in the galaxy take on a spiral shape.

By analysing the differential rotation of the stars as a function of distance from the centre of the galaxy astronomers have concluded that besides the visible stars and clouds there must be a lot more matter that exerts a gravitational force on the matter in the galaxy. This is the so-called dark matter. We still do not know the identity of this matter!

Do animals, birds and other species of living things believe in God and worship him. If so what is the form of this God?

If God controls every thing living or non-living why must that God be one of human conception? Are we the only species that has the capability of concept formation? That appears unreasonable because, in spite of our domination we are a small minority.

Can we think of a God without any of us being around? Did God create us all or we, humans, created a God because we found Him essential? In essence all I am saying is that I do not know. I do not know whether anyone else does.

Every computer has a definite speed. What is the speed of the computer sitting in our head, namely our brain?

It is natural to surmise that our brain is a little bit like a computer. We are not sure that the analogy is perfect. First of all, let me say that the speed of our brain is orders of magnitude slower than that of a modern computer. But we have a very large number of processors that more than compensate for this slowness. One of the consequences is that we have “consciousness” that computers do not — we perhaps do not want computers that would be conscious and free. In the operating system of our brain we have room for values, love, pride, anger and frustration.

These would be considered dangerous quirks in most computer systems. It is possible most of these human qualities are a result of immense parallelism. Parallelism certainly compensated for lack of speed, but it might have also made us human and somewhat unpredictable. If I was given a choice between extreme fastness and extreme parallelism I would still choose the latter. Not surprising, because I confess to being partial towards the way we have been designed.

Readers wanting to ask Prof Yash Pal a question can e-mail him at palyash.pal@gmail.com

Top


HOME PAGE