SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

Not seeing stars
Roopinder Singh
India joined the elite club of nations—the USA, Russia, the European Space Agency, Japan and China— that have a lunar mission with the launch of Chandrayaan-I in October 2008.The Indian Space Research Organisation rightly deserves credit for the feat. Chandrayaan-I cost a fraction ($80million) of the cost of the Chinese lunar probe ($187m) and Japan’s probe ($480m).

Trends
New tests may help spot  early-stage Alzheimer’s
Status quo won’t get NASA to Mars, new chief says
Experts unearth history of pandemic flu viruses


Prof Yash Pal
Prof Yash Pal

THIS UNIVERSE
PROF YASH PAL
What is main source of Helium in the universe?
It is believed that most of the Helium in the universe was produced at the time of the Big Bang. Universal abundance of Helium with respect to Hydrogen is about 1/4 by mass. Of course, the chemical composition of our earth does not represent the composition in the universe as a whole because the earth is subject to lot of differentiation and loses light gases like hydrogen and helium since the gravity of the planet is not enough to keep them imprisoned at the top of the atmosphere. Therefore we do not have significant amount of free hydrogen and helium in our atmosphere.

 


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Not seeing stars
Roopinder Singh
 The Chandrayaan project has given a fillip to the country’s capacity to make more efficient rockets and satellites
The Chandrayaan project has given a fillip to the country’s capacity to make more efficient rockets and satellites

India joined the elite club of nations—the USA, Russia, the European Space Agency, Japan and China— that have a lunar mission with the launch of Chandrayaan-I in October 2008.

The Indian Space Research Organisation rightly deserves credit for the feat. Chandrayaan-I cost a fraction ($80million) of the cost of the Chinese lunar probe ($187m) and Japan’s probe ($480m).

The recent news that one of its major sensors is not working any longer has to be tempered with the fact that Chandrayaan-I, is still performing its tasks, albeit from a modified orbit, and with less functionality.

Chandrayaan-I’s mission included creating a three-dimensional atlas of the Moon, study its chemical and mineral composition, look for Helium-3 — which could be a future energy source — and search for the presence of water-ice.

It is carrying a total of 11 instruments, including high-resolution cameras and spectrometers. Five instruments are Indian, six of have come from NASA, the US space agency, the European Space Agency and Bulgaria.

ISRO maintains that Chandrayaan-I has sent more than 70,000 images of the lunar surface and made 3,000 revolutions around the moon.

No doubt, there have been problems, and some were noticed in January, when the temperature within the satellite rose to 80 degrees Celsius, double the optimal level. However, in any such mission, 100 per cent success is not hoped for, nor expected.

The star sensor failure, detected on May 16, is blamed on “excessive radiation from the sun”. However, ISRO has maintained control on Chandrayaan-I by activating the gyroscope, which has assisted in orienting the satellite.

ISRO should draw lessons for the future from the functioning of Chandrayaan-I. Was there too much emphasis on keeping the cost low? Work on Chandrayaan-II and other moon missions must continue in right earnest, while more attention should be paid towards building redundancies for such critical missions.

Though we have no reason to doubt the ISRO chief G. Madhavan Nair’s assertion that more than 90 per cent of the objectives of Chandrayaan-I have been achieved, the fact is that it is now burning more fuel and transmitting lower resolution images. While the mission continues, the component failures have put a cloud over ISRO’s first giant leap to the moon. However, there is no doubt that the Chandrayaan project has given a fillip to the country’s capacity to make more efficient rockets and satellites, and given fresh avenues for young Indian scientists.
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Trends

New tests may help spot early-stage Alzheimer’s

CHICAGO: New tests assessing brain changes and body chemistry are showing promise at diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease in its earliest stages, aiding the search for new drugs, researchers said on Tuesday. In one study, Irish researchers found scans measuring brain volume and a combination of memory tests accurately identified nearly 95 percent of people who had progressed from mild cognitive impairment to early Alzheimer’s disease.

Status quo won’t get NASA to Mars, new chief says

CAPE CANAVERAL: NASA cannot continue on its present path, which includes staffing the International Space Station and returning astronauts to the moon by 2020, and fulfill its ultimate goal of getting people to Mars, the U.S. space agency’s new chief said on Tuesday. NASA is trying to finish construction of the $100-billion space station and retire the shuttle fleet next year. It also is developing two new rockets and a capsule-style craft that can ferry crews to the moon and other destinations in addition to the station, which orbits 225 miles above Earth.

Meanwhile, in Moscow, four Russians, a Frenchman and a German ended a simulated 105-day space trip in Moscow designed to test their responses in the kind of isolated surroundings they would experience in a manned mission to Mars. Stepping out of their sealed compartments in a Moscow scientific complex, the crew members were ending one test just as space agencies step up preparations for a longer 520-day isolation experiment expected to start next year.

Experts unearth history of pandemic flu viruses

HONG KONG: Flu viruses that sparked the three worst pandemics in the last century circulated in their near-complete forms for years before the catastrophes occurred, researchers in Hong Kong and the United States have found. The H1N1 virus that sparked the Spanish flu of 1918-1919 circulated in swine and humans well before the pandemic started, and it did not come directly from birds as previously thought, they added. Instead, it was probably generated by genetic exchanges between flu viruses from swine and humans. — Reuters
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THIS UNIVERSE
PROF YASH PAL

What is main source of Helium in the universe?

It is believed that most of the Helium in the universe was produced at the time of the Big Bang. Universal abundance of Helium with respect to Hydrogen is about 1/4 by mass. Of course, the chemical composition of our earth does not represent the composition in the universe as a whole because the earth is subject to lot of differentiation and loses light gases like hydrogen and helium since the gravity of the planet is not enough to keep them imprisoned at the top of the atmosphere. Therefore we do not have significant amount of free hydrogen and helium in our atmosphere.

However, we also have a source of helium in the body of the earth. This source is the radioactive decay of elements like Uranium. Helium comes out from gas wells and can be separated. It is a valuable gas that is hard to get and unless properly stored escapes easily from the earth. India has not done too much in mining helium and most of what we use is imported. This is a pity.

When we jump on a fur or a foam we don’t feel the same amount of force as when we jump on a rigid surface, but in both the cases we are applying our weight and according to Newton’s third law we should get same force. Does force take some time to act?

The operative part of the reaction begins when the direction of motion is reversed, after hitting the hard bottom. By that time, your motion downward is greatly decelerated by the foam layer. That is why the upward force of reaction is so much smaller. If the foam were much thicker, you would just quietly sink in without coming up!

I want to know what thing makes vinegar and wine different, when both are made from fermented juice of fruits. Why the vinegar is not intoxicating like wine?

Vinegar is mainly acetic acid. It can be produced by fermenting rice and other cereal. But vinegar also results when bacteria in the atmosphere convert the alcohol in wine into acetic acid. So the basic difference between the two is that wine still has some alcohol while vinegar is mainly acetic acid.


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