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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

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

Japan Crisis: Live Updates

It’s more than a week since Japan was struck by massive 9.0 earthquake, followed by Tsunami and then the nuclear plant fiasco. All along this, efforts were being made to avert any kind of nuclear crisis, search for the survivors, provide basic amenities like food, water and shelter to the victims. Last week’s efforts to tackle the nuclear fiasco brought mixed results; the situation at the nuclear facility is relatively better as of now, but there has also been reports of presence of Iodine isotopes in spinach ad milk from the area creating fear that the isotopes might have already entered the foodchain. The number of people who lost their lives or are missing has now crossed more than 20,000 and is expected to reach about 25,000 or even more. Most of the people who lost their lives are elderly who couldn’t outpace gushing waters brought by Tsunami waves. The search for survivors is on but hopes of finding any survivors are getting dimmer each passing day. Amidst all these, there’s also some positive news such as rescue of 81 year grandmother and her teenager grandson after they spent 9 days beneath the rubbles. Now Japan embarks the rehabilitation and rebuilding stage which is not going to be easy and would require help and support of everyone. So donate and help out whichever way you can. Choose your organization of choice such as Redcross or simply Text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation and support Redcross’ disaster relief efforts to help those affected by the earthquake in Japan and tsunami throughout the Pacific.
For live TV coverage from Japan, please visit my earlier post. For live updates on the crisis, follow the twitter updates below.

Image 1 credit: | Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters | A man checks lists of evacuees at an evacuation center in Rikuzentakata March 18

Image2 credit: | Jiji Press/AFP/Getty Images| A man comforts a woman as she cries in front of her damaged home in the town of Watari in Miyagi prefecture on March 14, 2011.

Leave a Comment March 21, 2011

Live Updates On Japan Crisis

1 Comment March 17, 2011

The Japan Crisis

After Japan was struck by 9.0 magnitude earthquake, followed by 23-33 ft Tsunami which completely wiped away various cities in north-east coast of Japan, the country is now facing danger of nuclear meltdown and resulting effects from radiation leaks. It’s tough times for the people of Japan, our heart and wishes go out for them. I will be posting updates, news, pictures and other related info hereon.

Image credits: | Reuters| Associated press

Leave a Comment March 17, 2011

Memorial To Tucson Victims

Leave a Comment January 13, 2011

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