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Archives – October, 2010

Picture(s) of The Day: The Commonwealth Games

After months of speculations and controversies, Delhi Commonwealth Games concluded on Oct 14th on a relatively successful note. India was also able to win record number of medals, 101 total medals,  and stood in second position in medal tally after Australia. I am glad that the event went on successful but now it’s time for introspection and a thorough investigation to find the culprits who misused the public money in the name of the games and almost humiliated the whole nation in front of the world. There is no doubt that corruption was rampant; successful closing and opening ceremonies shouldn’t cover up those glitches. Indian media has a history of short term memory but I hope they pursue the issue this time.

Picture credit: various sources

Leave a Comment October 15, 2010

Weekend Video: Seaweed and Nuit Blanche

For this weekend, here are two very creative and experimental videos for you to enjoy. The first video is titled “Seaweed”. The second video titled ” Nuit Blanche” directed by Arev Manoukian explores a fleeting moment between two strangers, revealing their brief connection in a hyper real fantasy. Enjoy and have a nice weekend!!

Leave a Comment October 8, 2010

Picture of The Day: Shooting Down Milky Way?

You need not worry, nobody is shooting down our galaxy. Astronomers at Very Large Telescope (VLT), Chile are simply focusing a high energy laser beam towards galactic center for observations and measurements. Taking images using ground based telescopes can be tricky as atmospheric distortions can blur the images and fine details can be lost. In order to overcome such distortions, astronomers use adaptive optics where the mirror can slightly deform in real time in response to atmospheric distortions and thus avoid blurring. For adaptive optics to work, a reference star is required which can be used for measuring the distortions caused by local atmosphere which in turn can be used to modify mirror. But suitable stars are not available everywhere in the sky, so astronomers create an artificial star using a high energy laser. The laser shown above is tuned to energize sodium atoms which are found in upper atmosphere courtesy meteorites. Laser excites sodium atoms which start glowing resulting in formation of an artificial star which can be used as a reference by the adaptive optics for clear and crisp images. Awesome, right! So that was image of the day and also my 200th post!!

Picture credit: European Southern Observatory

1 Comment October 7, 2010

Molecule Makers Win 2010 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Three scientists, Richard F. Heck, Ei-ichi Negishi and Akira Suzuki, share this year’s Nobel prize in Chemistry “for palladium-catalyzed cross couplings in organic synthesis”. Carbon-to-Carbon molecules form the backbone of life on Earth. While the presence of such molecules on earth is ubiquitous, synthesizing such a molecule in lab is not that easy as Carbon is very stable and doesn’t react easily with other Carbon to form bond. The trio,while working independently, have come up with chemical reactions where such molecules can be synthesized using Palladium as a catalyst.

Palladium-catalyzed cross coupling solved that problem and provided chemists with a more precise and efficient tool to work with. In the Heck reaction, Negishi reaction and Suzuki reaction, carbon atoms meet on a palladium atom, whereupon their proximity to one another kick-starts the chemical reaction. Palladium-catalyzed cross coupling is used in research worldwide, as well as in the commercial production of for example pharmaceuticals and molecules used in the electronics industry. [

I will add more information about their work later during the day.

2 Comments October 6, 2010

Many Suns, Many Worlds: The Galactic Quest for Exoplanets

The Planetary Society, the American Astronomical Society’s Division of Planetary Sciences, and the Keck Institute for Space Studies held a discussion session “Many Suns, Many Worlds: The Galactic Quest for Exoplanets,”  on Monday, October 04, 2010 at Caltech in Pasadena. Four leading experts in the field  reviewed how exoplanets form, the latest techniques used to go exoplanet hunting, and how to determine what type of exoplanet has been found.


* Professor Eric Ford, University of Florida
* Professor Jason Wright, Pennsylvania State University
* Professor Natalie Batalha, San Jose State university
* Dr. Mark Swain, NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Special welcome by:
Bill Nye the Science Guy “ ”

Leave a Comment October 5, 2010

Graphene Wins 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics

Andre Geim (age 51) and Konstantin Novoselov (age 36) from Univ of Manchester won this year’s Nobel prize in physics for their innovative and pathbreaking work in the field of Graphene. Congratulations!! What’s interesting to note here is that they are probably the quickest recipient of Nobel prize after their discovery. They reported a novel technique of generating Graphene sheet in 2004 and they won the prize in 2010, that’s pretty fast! They were predicted to win the Nobel prize in 2008 by Thomson Reuters.

Graphene is a form of carbon. As a material it is completely new – not only the thinnest ever but also the strongest. As a conductor of electricity it performs as well as copper. As a conductor of heat it outperforms all other known materials. It is almost completely transparent, yet so dense that not even helium, the smallest gas atom, can pass through it. Carbon, the basis of all known life on earth, has surprised us once again.

Geim and Novoselov extracted the graphene from a piece of graphite such as is found in ordinary pencils. Using regular adhesive tape they managed to obtain a flake of carbon with a thickness of just one atom. This at a time when many believed it was impossible for such thin crystalline materials to be stable. []

Interestingly, I attended few talks yesterday and have to attend to few more today focused on  Graphene and Carbon nanotubes!! To know more about Graphene, here is a great article written by Nobel Laureates themselves in 2007 which was published in Nature Materials. The abstract of the article is as follows:

Nature Materials 6, 183 – 191 (2007)

The rise of graphene

A. K. Geim1 & K. S. Novoselov1


Graphene is a rapidly rising star on the horizon of materials science and condensed-matter physics. This strictly two-dimensional material exhibits exceptionally high crystal and electronic quality, and, despite its short history, has already revealed a cornucopia of new physics and potential applications, which are briefly discussed here. Whereas one can be certain of the realness of applications only when commercial products appear, graphene no longer requires any further proof of its importance in terms of fundamental physics. Owing to its unusual electronic spectrum, graphene has led to the emergence of a new paradigm of ‘relativistic’ condensed-matter physics, where quantum relativistic phenomena, some of which are unobservable in high-energy physics, can now be mimicked and tested in table-top experiments. More generally, graphene represents a conceptually new class of materials that are only one atom thick, and, on this basis, offers new inroads into low-dimensional physics that has never ceased to surprise and continues to provide a fertile ground for applications.

2 Comments October 5, 2010

Superman Needs To Learn Physics, Maths, History, Philosophy…

Comic-strip Source: Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal

Leave a Comment October 5, 2010

Nobel Prize 2010 For Medicine: Robert G Edwards For In Vitro Fertilization

Nobel prize in Medicine or Physiology for 2010 has been awarded to UK researcher, Dr Robert G Edwards, for his pioneering work in development of in vitro fertilization (IVF). The prize was announced today morning; rest of the prizes will be announced during the week. His research, which was full of controversies and oppositions from religious groups as well as scientists over ethical issues, has led to birth of approximately 4 million individuals round the globe who are now adults and some of them have also become parents. Despite all the controversies and funding problems, he and his colleague Dr Patrick Steptoe, continued working and finally first test tube baby was born on 25th July 1978.

As early as the 1950s, Edwards had the vision that IVF could be useful as a treatment for infertility. He worked systematically to realize his goal, discovered important principles for human fertilization, and succeeded in accomplishing fertilization of human egg cells in test tubes (or more precisely, cell culture dishes). His efforts were finally crowned by success on 25 July, 1978, when the world’s first “test tube baby” was born. During the following years, Edwards and his co-workers refined IVF technology and shared it with colleagues around the world. []

While the world is today recognizing the work of Dr Edwards, I would like to write a few lines about another researcher, Dr Subhash Mukhopadhyaywhose work was not recognized and who met a sad end to his life, thanks to politicians and bureaucrats. World’s second test tube baby, Durga alias Kanupriya Agarwal, was born in India  on Oct 3rd 1978, merely 67 days after Dr Edwards first test tube baby creation, using a different technique whichc Dr Mukhopadhyay developed as compared to Dr Edwards’ group. Instead of receiving any recognition, his work was dubbed dubious and bogus by the then Govt of West Bengal in India and he was barred from attending any international conferences. This apathy and insult ultimately led him to commit suicide on June 19th, 1981 (a bollywood movie ” Ek Doctor ki Maut” was made based on his life story). It was not until 1981 when other countries started reporting successful test tube babies. Some of the works by other researchers later went on to get published in Nature, the work which has been already done by Dr Mukhopadhyay in 1978. India’s first “official” test tube baby was born in 1986 under direction of T C Anand Kumar, but thanks to his efforts, he passed on the duly deserved recognition to Dr. Mukhopadhyay, after he went through his notes in great detail. A sad story, but I am glad his field of work is being recognized today and hopefully in India people recognize his contribution  to the field of medicine. You can read more about him in this blog dedicated to Dr Mukhopadhyay.

1 Comment October 4, 2010

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