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What Happened To My Blog??

Everything is upside down!! What happened to my blog??

Well that was something I was trying to play as April 1st prank. If you would have visited  my blog during day time today, you would have found my website turned upside down and the above snapshot shows how it looked like. Anyhow, now it’s time to get back to normal state as I don’t want to turn away my readers.

Leave a Comment April 1, 2011

Origin of the Word Scientist

Scientist is a very common word these days and I myself work in the field of mixed territory of science and engineering. Everyone knows the meaning of the word-from a layman to a scientist. But for the heck of it, let’s see what various dictionaries have to offer.

According to Merriam Webster:

Main Entry: sci·en·tist Pronunciation: \ˈsī-ən-tist\ Function: noun Etymology: Latin scientia Date: 1834

1 : a person learned in science and especially natural science : a scientific investigator

According to Dicitionary.com:

–noun an expert in science, esp. one of the physical or natural sciences. Origin:
1825–35; < L scient (
ia ) science + -ist

So, if you look into various other dictionaries inlcuding Oxford you will get similar defintion of the word, nothing that exciting about it. But what I found interesting is the year of the origin of the word. It’s very recent- sometime between 1825-1835 it was coined and started being used for defining people who worked in the field of science. Oxford dictionary mentions the year against each word which tells the year when the word was first cited or used in a print, and for the word scientist the year is mentioned as 1834. Till now I thought the word must have been used for centuries, my guess was the Renaissance period, but I was wrong, it’s just 176 years old! So now the question comes who coined the word and what was the word used before scientist came into existence.

So here is the story. The word was first coined in 1833 by Cambridge University Philosopher of science and historian William Whewell and then published for the first time in 1834 in Quarterly Review. Prior to 1834, “Natural philosophers”, “Men of Science” or “Cultivators of science” was used to describe group of people who practiced science. He came up with this word because he thought the words like philosopher was not suffcient to generalise complete gamut of new emerging field of sciences unless used with some prefix word such as natural philosopher or experimental philosopher and so on. First few words he came up were savant, men of learning and naturforscher (German for naturalist).  Then someone suggested to him or he came by himself with the analogy of the word artist. Ho toyed with this analogy for sometime, but was little apprehensive of using a word which sounded similar to economist and atheist, not very popular words those days and had negative connotations attached. But ultimately he decided that scientist should be the word to describe people who pursued science. Another interesting thing to notice here is that prior to word scientist being popular, most of the names ended with er– astronomer, philosopher, naturforscher but after word scientist became popular words like biologist,  geologist, physicist became a trend. So that’s the word of the day- scientist.[ Wikipedia , NPR ]

We need very much a name to describe a cultivator of science in general. I should incline to call him a Scientist. Thus we might say, that as an Artist is a Musician, Painter, or Poet, a Scientist is a Mathematician, Physicist, or Naturalist. [Whewell, 1840 ]

Leave a Comment June 17, 2010

Hole-Punch Clouds: Mystery Solved

Any guesses what punched that hole in the cloud? Well, researchers have been looking for the answer for a while and airplanes have been the main suspect for this phenomenon. New research study confirms that planes, both propellers and jet planes , can cause formation of these shapes in the clouds named as “hole-punched clouds ” or “punched hole clouds” as a result of enhanced precipitation effect. These clouds have also been linked to UFO sightings in past, most famous one being in Moscow during October 2009.

Let’s try to understand how planes can trigger this phenomenon. We all know water freezes at 0 degree C, but due to lack of any dust particles or any other surface in higher altitudes, water can be in liquid form even below zero degrees or in other words it can exist in supercooled state. Now any particle which can work as seed particle can trigger the formation of ice and airplanes can provide the seed particles. Exhaust of jet planes generate tiny particles which can trigger ice formation, while propeller planes causes sudden pressure drop leading to sudden cooling to about -50 degrees C resulting in formation of ice which acts as trigger. As water precipitates, it sucks humidity from surrounding area and form larger ice particles and eventually fall down as snowfall, leaving a hole in the cloud.

Previous research also suggests that propeller planes could make snow fall when they flew through supercooled clouds, where water droplets remain liquid despite subfreezing temperatures. But until recently, a direct connection between airplanes, hole-punch clouds and snowfall was missing. Now, a team of atmospheric scientists report observing all three in the June Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. [Wired]

 

Andrew Heymsfield from National Center for Atmospheric Researchand team flew in one of snowfall region resulting from hole-punched clouds accidentally while doing some cloud study. Their turboprop plane loaded with instruments took video and images of the cloud while on the ground unexplained snowfall was recorded near Denver International airport.

A subsequent review of flight track records from the Federal Aviation Administration revealed that turboprop planes operated by two airlines flew close to the hole-punch location, following a standard flight path that produced the subsequent band of snow. Snow crystals began falling about five minutes after the second aircraft flew through the cloud. The snowfall, in a band about 20 miles long and 2.5 miles wide, continued for about 45 minutes, resulting in about two inches of snow on the ground. The researchers also examined data from onboard spectrometers that profiled the snowflakes within the band of snow beneath the hole punch. These plate-shaped crystals showed evidence of riming (accumulation of liquid water), whereas ice particles elsewhere in the cloud showed little or no riming.

“This tells us that the aircraft literally ‘seeded’ the cloud just by flying through it,” Heymsfield says.

“This apparently happens frequently, embedded in the cloud layers,” Heymsfield says. “You wouldn’t necessarily see it from satellite or from the ground. I had no idea this was happening. I was sitting in back of the plane. And then this data set just fell in our laps. It was a lucky break.” [UCAR News]

Photo Credit: Flickr user mullerb; Used under Creative Commons License

1 Comment June 17, 2010

The Deep Blue: World Ocean Day

World Ocean day was celebrated yesterday, June 8th. The importance of protecting our Oceans and it’s ecosystem can not be emphasized more in the wake of BP oil spill disaster. But it’s not like we have not been polluting our Oceans before this spill. We keep doing that on a regular basis– industrial waters, overfishing, excessive usage of plastic bags ending up in ocean currents , Ocean acidification due to excessive anthropogenic CO2 and list goes on. It is likely that roughly one billion gallons of oil enters our oceans each year as a result of man’s activities. Only 8% of this input is believed to derive from natural sources. At least 22% is intentionally released as a function of normal tanker “operational discharges,” 12% enters from accidental tanker spills and another 36% from runoff and municipal and industrial wastes. [American Zoologist , 1993]. I keep hearing politicians and people talking about that our Oceans are resilient and it can tolerate any kind of garbage we put in. No it is not. It can do to a limit (depending on the type of waste we are putting in, amount of waste, and time available to the marine organisms to bounce back) and I think we have already  crossed that limit.

The Ocean ecosystem is very fragile due to all the mess we have put in there and I would prefer to see beautiful marine life rather see images of dark crude oil gushing out incessantly. I have stopped updating about BP spill because its beyond my comprehension now seeing the response of BP, politicians, News channels. It’s not the time to get political mileage out of the disaster. When BP should be concentrating on the spill and cleaning beaches, paying out affected locals, it’s busy in PR campaign to clean it’s image. Search for BP spill on Google and you will find first sponsored link from BP.. then Tony Hayward, CEO BP, talking about how he and BP will make things right in a new BP commercial with beaches shown in the background… Action is the best PR not mere words, telling lies and getting exposed is worst PR.. Brown pelicans drenched in crude oil exposes all the lies of the amount of spill.. Is it 5,000 gallons per day, 10,000 or 50,000 or 100,000 or more, no one knows. Is it that hard to estimate the amount of spill knowing the dimensions of pipe, flow rates, temperature, viscosity etc?

Coming to politicians- one day they are bashing president for not acting tough, not showing anger and taking actions, the next day they want president to remove temporary offshore drilling ban asap. Wait a minute, you want drilling to continue even after seeing this disaster!! Why? Because banning offshore drilling will take away jobs of people who work on these rigs. What about fishermen, people employed in tourism industry- what will happen to their jobs if another such disaster happens- forget about brown pelicans which is also state bird of Louisiana and recently removed from endangered list? Jobs will come and go, newer markets will emerge, but if the ecosystem we live in is destroyed it’s irreparable. But looks like even if we are told that world will be destroyed tomorrow, we will be busy fulfilling our own interests to the last minute– BP will be doing PR and optimizing profits, politicians will be blaming each other to gain political mileage out of it, and rest of us will be saying ” I am too busy right now, maybe tomorrow I will jump into action, not today”.

Anyways, We need a collective action and that too everyday. There are certain things which we all can do and some of them have been compiled here by Smithsonian Ocean Portal .

  1. Ditch disposable lifestyle- bring your own reusable bags, containers coffee mugs etc.
  2. Check your car’s tire pressure regularly. Underinflated tires waste about 1.2 billion gallons of gas in US. This can save you some cash as well reduce usage of gas and thereby reduce some carbon emission– less ocean acidification.
  3. Unplug your electrical appliances- The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that this “phantom” energy use accounts for 75% of the power consumed by electronics in the average home.
  4. Choose wisely while eating seafood– some studies estimate that up to 90 percent of large predatory fish (those that eat other animals—and usually end up on our dinner plates) have disappeared since humans began heavy fishing. Look for sustainable seafood guide.
  5. Choose souvenirs carefully– steer clear of souvenirs, jewelry, and home furnishings that use real coral or other marine animal products. Deepwater pink and red corals in particular have been prized for their beauty in jewelry making, but they belong in the sea, not in our homes.
  6. Water system is all connected, reduce wastage of water. Finally, reduce dependence on fossil fuels whichever way possible.

Photo credit: Flickr, used under Creative Commons License.

Leave a Comment June 9, 2010

Spill Continues:Health and Environmental Impact Widens

Some quick BP Spill updates:

1. Scientists and researchers have been asking government to look into the issue of use of dispersant (Corexit) by BP since the day they have been using it. Finally, today EPA gave directives to BP to use lesser toxic dispersant and to do tests and evaluate the effectiveness of the dispersant in sub-surface applications. EPA has given 24 hours to BP to choose the lesser evil and other 72 hours to replace Corexit with the other dispersant [Washington Post]. In one of my previous posts, I mentioned that there are lesser toxic and more efficient dispersant available such as Dispersit, still BP went ahead with Corexit and dumped huge amounts both on the surface (600,000 gallons) as well us below the surface (55,000 gallons). No one knows what these dispersant might be doing to the marine life beneath the Ocean. Interestingly, a formulation of Corexit was banned by Britain about 10 years ago due to toxicity issues.

2. As it was feared, Oil spill has entered “Loop Current” which can potentially take it to Florida and even further having far reaching impacts. Still waiting for further details and confirmations [Huffington Post]. With Hurricane season approaching, its still to be seen what impact oil slick is going to do to the intesnity of hurricanes or the other way around, how hurricanes might further spread the oil slick. Questions to be answered…

3. BP spill is a disaster not only to animals, birds and marine life but also causing health hazards to humans. The oil, the fumes and the toxic dispersants, all are combining and forming a dangerous cocktail to release dangerous toxic air pollutants which can lead to various respiratory diseases as well these particulates are carcinogenic in nature. People living close to shore, the workers involved in cleanup and the fishermen are the first to be affected by these airborne pollutants. Already the workers have started showing signs of respiratory disorders. A recent analysis by Louisiana Environmental Action Network shows that hydrogen sulfide concentration in Venice (75 miles offshore) has exceeded Physical Reaction Symptoms concentration (5-10 ppb) by 100 t0 120 times. Similar is the case for Volatile Organic Compounds where ambient air standards for VOC range from 0.25-3.76 ppb. The data provided by LEAN can be seen here. [LEAN].

4. Also, can be seen from the pic below, the oil has reached Louisiana shore. The oil is extremely thick and such huge concentration of oil is toxic to anyone. Any form of life coming into contact with this will die.Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said the presence of thick oil, instead of the light sheen that had already penetrated areas along the Gulf Coast, represented a worst-case scenario. “This is serious — this is the heavy oil that everyone has been fearing. It is here now,” Jindal said Wednesday as he toured the Mississippi Delta by boat and swept a fishnet through water, holding up dark, dripping glop. The region is home to rare birds, mammals and a wide variety of marine life.”This is one of the oldest wildlife management areas here in Louisiana, and now it is covered in oil,” Jindal said. [NPR]

5. A Live video feed is now being provided of the leak as the Congress insisted that everyone has right to know as to what is happening. Unfortunately, the website is currently down due to overwhelming response. It might be back sometime later. Finally, BP admitted today that the amount of oil gushing out of the well is more than what they estimated and have been reporting until today. The leak is way more than 5,000 gallons per day, the amount BP as well has the govt has been quoting. BP is able to suck some of the oil using mile-long tube and currently they are sucking close to 5,000 gallons/day and the video feed showed that huge plume of oil was still coming out from the sides of the tube implying that the amount of the leak is much more than what BP estimated.

Pictures credit: Huffington Post, AP/NPR

Leave a Comment May 20, 2010

NFL, Here Comes Tim Tebow!

With the 25th pick in the 2010 NFL draft, Denver Broncos select….. Tim Tebow !!! In an interesting NFL draft move, Denver Broncos today selected Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow. It’s an interesting move both for Denver Broncos as well as Tim Tebow. Past few months have been full of speculations about where Tebow will end up and if he will succeed at the next level of football. His hometown team Jacksonville passed up the opportunity to draft him at 10th pick and Broncos lapped up this chance to draft one of the most charismatic college football player of recent times. He will be starting his NFL career playing in Jacksonville (Sep 12th), but on the opposite team. Also, with Brandon Marshall leaving Broncos this season, jersey number 15 is available, the number which he used to wear as a Gator, so we might be seeing Tebow again in number 15 Broncos uniform. Being a Gator, I am very happy and excited for Tebow’s NFL career. Congratulations Tebow and all the best.

Photo Credit: FloridaToday.com

1 Comment April 22, 2010


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