A bunch of enthusiasticAsha for Education, Purdue chapter volunteers have come together and initiatedTeam Asha Purduefor raising awareness and funds for education of underprivileged children in India. To get started with, about 40+ Team Asha Purdue members will be running for 5k run on March 31st which is organized byAcademy of student Pharmacists. Team Asha Purdue is hoping to raise about 4k through this event and to achieve that goal your help is needed. In future, Team Asha Purdue will be participating in 15k and half marathons. I will be running 5k run on 31st March and will be targeting half marathons in coming months. I request all of you toplease donateany amount possible- $5, $10- anything will be helpful for the kids’ education back in India.
Theday of 7 billionis here. As per United Nations predictions, world population is estimated to reach 7 billion in coming months. UN is going to announce the projected world population of 7 billion on Oct 31 which is also being referred to as “day of seven billion”. The day is more of symbolic in nature as the seven billionth baby is not going to be born untilnext March 2012. By taking into account 1-2% margin of error in the projection model, 7 billionth baby could be born anytime between March 2012 and July 2014. As per Lutz et al., there is a 60% probability that the 7 billionth baby will be born between March 2012-Jul 2014 (source). The figure here shows uncertainty distribution of the time at which the world’s population reaches 7 billion.As a symbolic gesture, NGO Plan International is going to issue a birth certificate on Oct 31, marking an Indian baby girl in Uttar Pradesh as the 7 billionth child.
Well, if you want to know where you fit in this crowd of 7 billion, you can visit BBC page or7 billionandme page. I was 4,372,720,343rd person alive on earth when I was born, while I was 78,916,646,853rd person ever born since history began. So What’s your number? The most astonishing number I got from the data was that since the day I was born 767,963 species have become extinct; that’s a mind boggling number! Another interesting number is the ratio of population under 15 vs population over 60. We are one of the youngest generation in history; majority of this younger generation lives in developing countries with scarce resources and opportunities.
The concern here should not be the exact date when the seven billionth child will be born but rather what steps need to be taken in coming years to handle the issues which are already looming upon us–scarcity of natural resources, food insecurity, fresh water scarcity, lack of sanitation and health care, imbalance in wealth distribution, imbalance in population distribution across different ages and so on. It’s a complicated issue and is going to affect all of us around the globe. Collective action would be required and hopefully the number 7 billion will result in 7 billion ideas, 7 billion steps forward…
Top image credit: Boston.com/Bigpicture|Edgard Garrido/Reuters
Asha for Education is participating in ongoing Chase Community Giving Program. Yourone click can help Asha for Education in winning $500,000 which will be used for education of underprivileged community in India. Voting ends tomorrow, May 25th. Do Vote!
Here is the BigIdea about How Asha will use funds if it wins $500,000:
Asha For Education is dedicated to driving socio-economic change in India through education of the underprivileged. With over 270 million illiterates and over 370 million below the poverty line, a large section of the population reaps very little benefit from the ongoing economic boom. We believe that education is a critical first step towards bringing the underprivileged into mainstream. Over 20 years, we have served tens of thousands of children in the lowest socio-economic strata of society through 400 project partners and 73 worldwide chapters. We would use $250K to start a “rural entrepreneurship” initiative that would help 750 people in rural India start and operate small businesses through a customized “mini-MBA” program. We would use the other $250K to start a “Vocational education” initiative that complements our formal education efforts. We will help 3,000 graduates find skilled jobs through career guidance and training in computer skills and spoken English.
Brains of babies are simply amazing. Babies are like little scientists or explorers collecting data/information from their surroundings and analyzing them every moment, every second they are growing up. It’s just amazing to observe how the brains of babies work. When babies are born, their brain cells lack the synaptic connections (connections between brain cells). As they explore their new world, these experiences lead to building of connections between different cells (“synaptic exuberance”). During the first few formative years baby brains are very active, building up millions of such links between the cells. The process starts at birth and peaks up when they are 8-9 months old.
Cerebral cortex produces most of its synaptic connections after birth, in a massive burst of synapse formation known as the exuberant period. At its peak, the cerebral cortex creates an astonishing two million new synapses every second. With these new connections come a baby’s many mental milestones, such as color vision, a pincer grasp, or a strong attachment to his parents. By two years of age, a toddler’s cerebral cortex contains well over a hundred trillion synapses. [Zerotothree.org]
In the above time-lapse video , Francis Vachon who is a journalist and photographer in Quebec, Canada, recorded the 4-hour activity of his 9 months old son Edward. You can see how baby Edward is exploring his surroundings during his 4-hour stay in the room. (If some of you wonder whether the baby was left alone in the room for 4-hours, don’t worry he was not left alone. The shots of adults in the video has been cut to increase the cuteness factor of the video.)
If you look at the plot below, it’s the formative age when most of the cell connections in the brain are made and then the connections start dying out during teenage years. It’s not like we are becoming dumber as we grow up (or maybe we are), but the baby brains overdo the process of making cell connections. As we grow, our life style preferences, nurturing,and social influences starts optimizing or fine tuning these connections. The ones we need are retained and strengthened while the ones which are no more required starts dying out. This process makes each individual unique with a unique personality trait, mentality, aptitude and so on.
It was last year this day, Jan 12th, when a powerful 7.0 earthquake shook Haiti and what remained afterwards were rubbles, dead bodies, crying and wounded survivors. The tragic event killed more than 200,000 people and completely destroyed the capital city Port-au-Prince. Countries promised aid money and resources, non-profit organizations rushed to help the survivors but even after one year much need to be done. Only 5% of rubble in the capital city has been cleared till now; less than 10% of promised aid money has been delivered. Non-profit organizations helped in rehabilitating the survivors, but the whole effort has been so uncoordinated that it has,at many instances, made the situation worse. Nature has been cruel to Haitians, during the past year they encountered hurricanes and thunderstorms and that too while living in make-shift tents. Currently the country is reeling under Cholera epidemic. Haitians are known for their resilience but the NGOs and other nations need to do better job in coordinating the Haiti rebuilding activities. Just the funds, promises and volunteerism will not work, proper planning is needed and hopefully this year things will pick up and situation will improve for Haitians.
About the above picture: Beaudin Lovinsky, a 4-year-old orphan, is dropped off with his belongings in a suitcase by his uncle (left) to be placed in the Children’s Foundation of Haiti orphanage, which is currently housed in makeshift tents in a tent city near the airport on January 10, 2011 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Lovinsky’s mother perished in the earthquake and his uncle said he could no longer afford to take care of him. It is common for Haitian families to place children they cannot afford to care for in orphanages. The orphanage’s building was damaged by the earthquake, forcing many of the orphans into tents. The orphanage has received no governmental assistance and little help from aid groups. According to the United Nations Children’s Fund, Haiti was home to more than 350,000 orphans before the earthquake, with many more orphaned following the quake. UNICEF recently announced that around 380,000 Haitian children are still living in camps one year after the earthquake.
It’s not everyday that you are going to come across a peer-reviewed research article published by bunch of cool and smart eight year old kids. In last week’s early online edition of Biology Letters anew study has been published by 25 eight-to-ten-year old kids from Blackawton primary school in UK. The study reports about how bumble bees use different color and pattern identification strategies to determine which flower to choose for getting nectar and which ones to avoid. What’s unique about this study is that the kids came up with the questions they wanted to study and then they designed the experiments themselves and did the data analysis (ofcourse under supervision and guidance of their teachers and neuroscientist Dr R.B. Lotto of thelottolab). The article is fully written by children in their own language (except the abstract) and cites no references. Lack of any references made it difficult to get published in peer-reviewed journal initially but the authors of the paper insisted that the it was not the historical studies which made them do the study, rather it was their own interest, curiosity and observations which prompted them to carry out the study. The article is not only informative but fun to read. You will rarely see sentences such as “We also discovered that science is cool and fun because you get to do stuff that no one has ever done before” in a research article. Figures and tables are hand-drawn and one of the section title has also got some sound effects “Training phase 2 (‘the puzzle’ . . .duh duh duuuuhhh)”. But the article is not just about the cuteness but it has got some serious scientific observations. As the authors themselves point out in the article that “This experiment is important, because, as far as we know, no one in history (including adults) has done this experiment before.”The experiments are very sound, well thought of and results are well discussed and most of all after reading the paper you can get the feeling how much the kids enjoyed doing this study and how proud they are of their findings. I will summarize their findings here but I will also recommend all of you to go and readthe article, I am sure it will motivate the kid inside you to ask some basic scientific questions and make you do some funful research! The article is available for free until new year eve.
The main question which young scientists wanted to investigate was if bumblebees can solve the complex puzzle of identifying color or spatial patterns in a complex scenario and if they can learn to find the “good flower” based on these cues. “It is interesting to ask this question, because in their habitat there may be flowers that are bad for them, or flowers from which they might already have collected nectar. This would mean that it is important for bees to learn which flower to go to or to avoid” (quoted from the article).
They designed a Plexiglass bee arena (1 m cube) with four panels as shown above. Each panel consisted of two color patterns and at the center of each colored-circle, there was a tube feeder which either consisted of sugar water, salty water or no water. The bees were first trained with the above pattern where sugar water was present all the time in the 4-center colors (either blue or yellow), while salty water was present in the surrounding colors. This pattern kind of crudely represented a two color flower pattern. If the bees chose a random strategy, then 50% of times , they will encounter salty or sugary water; same will happen if they chose to follow a particular color. But if they were able to learn the color pattern to identify the sugar water, they will be more successful in getting the sweet water. In order to eliminate any bias due to any odor preference or contamination, the trained bees were let to choose the circles without any salt or sugar water in the feeders.
You can see from the tabulated results that about 90% of bees learnt the color patterns and chose to go to center feeders. The notations O,Y,B/Y, B etc are for identifying the individual bees which were marked as Orange, yellow, Blue Yellow and so on. As the article reports, somehow the yellow marked bee never came out of the bee arena and that explains why there is no data for the Y bee!
In second set of experiments, they maintained the two color pattern, but changed the central four colors to be green while the surrounding colors were changed to either yellow or blue. The purpose of this was to see if bees went to the central circles due to spatial preference or due to pattern learning process. When the central colors were changed to green, only 30.9% of the bees went to the central circles, implying that the pattern cues also play an important role for bees in identifying the right flower, not just the spatial cues. It also showed that it was not just the color or the spatial location, but the overall pattern cues which bees utilize in making decisions. Some of the bees also preferred to go to their favorite colors. Overall, the findings suggest that bumblebees employ a complex strategy of pattern and spatial cues in identifying the right flowers and they can memorize these patterns which helps them in deciding between the “right” vs “wrong” flower. Young researchers in this paper also say that ” bees have personality and have their personal ‘likings’.” The article concludes with the following paragraph:
Before doing these experiments we did not really think a lot about bees and how they are as smart as us. We also did not think about the fact that without bees we would not survive, because bees keep the flowers going. So it is important to understand bees. We discovered how fun it was to train bees. This is also cool because you do not get to train bees everyday. We like bees. Science is cool and fun because you get to do stuff that no one has ever done before. (Bees—seem to—think!)
Well done kids and along with your bee study results, I agree with one of your other important discovery– Science is cool and fun– Yes it is for sure!
Image credit: 1) Flickr user Ian Kirk, 2) Pattern, Data table: Biology Letters and Authors of the article.
This weekend’s video is a heartwarming documentary about a little girl Penny who received a heart transplant on March 31, 2010. Penelope Gorman or Penny as people call her lovingly, is a beautiful and charming little girl who developed heart complications at the age of 2. Her heart was enlarged and doctors diagnosed her with Dilated Cardiomyopathy. When all medications failed, doctors had no other options left but to attach an external device called Berlin Heart from outside which would assist her heart in pumping. She was kept on heart transplant list and then onwards the family kept waiting for the call that would tell them they got a heart available for their daughter. Watch the documentary to know more about the story.
Penny is healthy now with her new heart but then again there is always a risk of body rejecting the new heart. But the good news is that she is progressing well and we hope for the best.
Asha UFlorida chapter has released it’s annual newsletter AshaVarta2010 and the volunteers have done an awesome job of compiling all the information regarding various projects and activities. You can access the pdf version of newsletter here. Kudos to efforts of all Asha UFlorida volunteers. If you are planning to donate this season of giving, Asha for Education is another great organization you should consider.