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First LIBS Spectra From Mars!

Publishing a post after long long time, busy times! But couldn’t resist posting first LIBS (Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy) Spectra from Mars! It is interesting to see Hydrogen lines at 656 nm (possibly from ice on Mars or water condensation from Mars atmosphere). Carbon line adjacent to it is doubtful and needs further analysis. I can try to write more details about it later when I get time. If anyone is interested how LIBS plasma looks in Mars environment as compared to earth, you can see it here.

Leave a Comment August 24, 2012

Day of 7 Billion

The day of 7 billion is 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 until next 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 or 7 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:|Edgard Garrido/Reuters

Leave a Comment October 29, 2011

Picture of the Day: Rescued Baby Gorilla

There are roughly 900 mountain Gorillas remaining on earth and baby Shamavu (shown above) is one of them. Baby Shumavu was recued from the hands of poachers by a team from Virunga National Park in Congo led by Christian Shumavu. The team busted a poaching racket and were able to rescue this baby Gorilla, He was then named after the man who rescued him. As you can see from picture, Shumavu looks confused and scared. The rescue team found him stuffed inside a small backpack. He is about one and half years old and it is not sure if his mother survived from the hands of poachers. The baby was so terrfied from the whole experience that he would not leave the arms of his recuer or let any doctor treat him. It took a while until he earned the confdence of other humans.

For more pictures visit this facebook page or website of Virunga National Park.

Leave a Comment October 27, 2011

Hurricane Irene’s life span

Hurricane Irene spanned from Caribbean to Canada and lasted for more than a week. NASA/NOAA satellite GOES-13 kept a track of the hurricane and NASA posted a video of the hurricane dating Aug 21st to Aug 29th which covers almost entire life-span of the hurricane. In the video you can see the formation of eye (at about 30 seconds in the video). Right after the formation of eye, you can see a burst of white clouds on the right of the eye which then merges with the core of the hurricane. This burst is due to warm air rising the clouds , also called as overshooting tops, and resulting in severe rainfall. Hurricane Irene at it’s strongest was a category 3 hurricane and turned out to be one of the top ten most destructive hurricanes in the history of US since 1980. About 27 lives were lost, entire transportation system in east coast was affected and more than 5 million people lost power.

Leave a Comment September 5, 2011

Green Nobel Prize Winners For 2011

Every year on April 22nd we celebrate the Earth Day and on the same day Goldman Environmental prizes are awarded to grass root environmental activists in order to recognize their efforts as well as to highlight the importance of protecting our environment, endangered ecosystems, species, and to promote sustainability and influence environmental policies. These awards are also called as Green Nobel prizes. On the occasion of World Environment day, let’s take a look at this year’s award winners and their stories (video playlist showcasing the work of all the winners is embedded at the end of the post).

Raoul du Toit coordinated conservation initiatives that have helped to develop and maintain the largest remaining black rhino populations in Zimbabwe. “Conserving rhinos saves much more than the rhino themselves – they are flagships for biodiversity and for national development based upon sustainable wildlife management in Africa.”

Dmitry Lisitsyn fought to protect Sakhalin Island’s critical endangered ecosystems while also demanding safety measures from one of the world’s largest petroleum development projects. “The last wild, untouched salmon rivers, which we are trying to save on our island, are the embodiment of beauty, power and freedom of wild nature. I’m convinced – if we would lose them, all our planet would be poorer, because we will never be able to get them back”

In response to Germany’s expanded reliance on nuclear energy, Ursula Sladek created her country’s first cooperatively-owned renewable power company. “A renewable energy supply helps reduce nuclear dangers as well as climate change and therefore is central for the future of mankind.”

Biologist Prigi Arisandi initiated a local movement to stop industrial pollution from flowing into a river that provides water to three million people. “Protecting our water quality is important work to do, but it is more important to guarantee that water resources will be available for the next generations, because we do not want to be called a greedy water robber generation by our grandchildren”

North America
Now leading the battle for environmental justice on the Texas Gulf Coast, Hilton Kelley fights for communities living in the shadow of polluting industries. “I speak up for the disadvantaged because it is my duty, it is the duty of all mankind to help those in need, those who have no voice, no way of helping themselves. Having compassion for others in adverse situations is the very thread that creates a civilized and just nation, a just society.”

South & Central America
Living under the constant threat of assassination, Francisco Pineda led a citizens’ movement that stopped a gold mine from destroying El Salvador’s dwindling water resources. “My work is as an environmentalist; this is the principle for my life. When I began to understand the impact of the mining exploration, I couldn’t stay quiet.”

Image credit:

Leave a Comment June 6, 2011

Pictures From Grímsvötn Volcano

Here are a couple of new images from Grimsvotn volcano in Iceland. The volcanic eruption has already caused cancellation of various flights and closure of various airports in Britain, Ireland and Germany while warning has been issued to Denmark and Sweden airports. Volcanic ash also led to changes in president Obama’s travel plans as he had to shorten his Ireland trip and leave for Britain earlier to avoid the volcanic ash which is heading towards Britain’s air space.

Image credit: 1) Olafur Sigurjonsson/Reuters 2) STR/AFP/Getty Images

Leave a Comment May 25, 2011

Another Icelandic Volcano Erupts

After a gap of 14 months, another Icelandic volcano has erupted. This time the name of the volcano (Grímsvötn) is less of a tongue twister as compared to last time (Eyjafjallajökull). Grímsvötn has erupted after an inactive period of seven years. On May 21, it started spewing out ashes and steam as high as 20 km above sea level. In the picture you can see ashes covering the snow and turning it brownish in color. Volcanic eruption led to closure of largest airport in Iceland. While initially it was predicted that this time the eruption won’t affect much of the air traffic in Europe, but as of recent updates it appears that air traffic in Ireland and UK will be affected. If you are flying that part of Europe then you might be cursing this untimely volcanic eruption, but for rest of us it gives a great opportunity to enjoy amazing pictures and videos which will be posted in coming days. Here’s one of the first videos of this volcano. Volcanic plumes usually produce lightning and Grímsvötn plume resulted in immense lightning activity, about 1000 times stronger than those produced by Eyjafjallajökull volcano. Enjoy the video! More updates later.

Image credit: NASA EarthObservatory

Video credit: Jon Gustafsson

Leave a Comment May 24, 2011

What Does mSv Dose of Radiation Exposure Mean?

In the wake of looming nuclear crisis, we keep hearing or reading about the units Sievert or Sv for the amount of radiation exposure. So what is Sievert and what to make of it when media reports that 0.6 μSv radiation per hour has been detected (as seen in the picture above).

Scientists use different terms to report the radiation measurement depending upon the context. For eg, unit Curie (Ci) or Becquerel (Bq) is used to measure the amount of radiation which is being released or emitted by a radioactive material, while unit rad or Gray (Gy) is used to measure the amount of radiations absorbed and deposited in the human tissue. A person’s biological risk which means the risk that person will suffer health effects due to radiation exposure is measured and reported in units  rem (roentgen equivalent man) or Seivert (Sv). Biological risk depends upon the type of ionizing particles emitted (alpha, beta, gamma, X-rays) and their ability to transfer energy to the cells. Based on this energy transfer function, each particle has been assigned a Quality factor (Q). In order to asses the biological risk this factor is multiplied by the radiation dose measured.

So, 1 Sv = 100  rem = Q x rad

Are these nuclear disasters the only source of radiation dose to humans? No. we constantly get slight dosage of radiation from variety of sources including cosmic rays (more when we are flying), naturally occurring radioactive minerals in soil, medical X-rays etc. In order to get some sense of what these numbers mean, here are few typical numbers from various sources (CDC):

Hopefully these numbers will give us some idea the radiation exposures being reported in the media. So on average, we receive about 300-350 mrems (3-3.5 mSv) of radiation dose per year, sometimes even higher if we are undergoing medical treatments. International law permits exposure of about 2000 mrems per year for those who work with or around radioactive materials. Here is an excellent chart by XKCD  and another by BoingBoing which can be helpful in understanding radiation exposure and health effects.

So how much are the radiations from the failed Japanese plants. It was reported that radiation level shot to about 0.8 rem per hour on March 15th. There have been conflicting reports on the correctness of amount of radiation exposure reported by various media as well as by Govt agencies. According to NRC, if a person is exposed to 500 rems of radiation at once, person will likely die without any medical treatment. Single dose of 100 rem will cause nausea and skin reddening and 25 rem of single dose can cause  temporary sterility in men. However, NRC also says that if the radiation is spread out over time instead of being delivered at once, the affects are less severe.

More about how radiations are measured and the current status in Japan in later post.

Image credit:| AP photos|Kyodo News: A radiation detector measures 0.6µSv, exceeding normal day data on Mar 15 near Tokyo station.

Data credit: CDC, NRC, NRC

Leave a Comment March 21, 2011

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1946 Gianni Versace
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