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JUNE 2006


First Indian at the South Pole 3

P.S. Sehra
Madame Marie Curie – Radioactivity and 10
Atomic Energy
N.R. Dhar
Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose – 19
His Life and Work (1858-1937)
D.S. Kothari
Assessment of Learning and 26
Acquisition of Scientific Temper
N. Panchapakesan
Conserving Biodiversity — 32
An Important Environmental Priority
Monica Davar
Green Chemistry and Education 35
Obote, Ime Bassey
Hearing – A Physical Phenomenon 39
Vanitha Daniel and S. Suresh Kumar
Nanoscience and Nanotechnology: 43
Perspectives and Overview
R. Ravichandran and P. Sasikala
An Investigation into Learning Difficulties 50
Experienced by Indian Children in
Learning Division Algorithm of Simple Factors
Tapan Kumar Maiti and Jayant Kumar Maiti
On Composition of Natural Numbers 58
M.N. Bapat and R.K. Sonwane
First Indian at the
South Pole*
Sledge Odyssey to Antarctica

Professor of Meteorology Agronomy
Department of Agricultural Meteorology
Punjab Agricultural University
Ludhiana 141 004

Fig. 1: Icebergs floating in the frozen Antarctic

certificate: Thinking

that the Russian doctor on board
the ship ‘Viese’ sailing to I did not undergo any special
Antarctica might be asking for my acclimatisation programme or training
International Health Certificate, I before setting foot at the South Pole. I had
promptly gave him that. But he smiled no ‘adaptability certificate’ and the
and remarked, “Wintering over the South Soviets (erstwhile USSR) allowed me to
Polar Ice-cap where the temperatures participate in their Antarctic Expedition
range from 40 to 90°C and the winds blow during 1971-73 at my own personal risk.
with speeds exceeding 200-300 km per My long Antarctic ordeal included many
hour is not a joke, my friend. Your unforgettable scary moments in the ice.
certificate is meant only for the posh What is Antarctica? In Greek it
cities of the world. Antarctica demands means “Anti-Arctic i.e. the opposite of the
from an individual the utmost in Arctic”. Including its permanently
physical stamina and mental soundness attached ice shelves, Antarctica covers
with mature judgement so that a man about 5.5 million square miles
working there may act quickly and (14.23×106km2 approximately) surro-
positively in order to survive. Prior to unding the South Pole, and has 18,500
selection for Antarctica, we conduct a miles (29,767km) of coastline. It is as big
thorough medical check-up and a tough as the United States and Mexico
physiological and psychological combined. About 95 per cent of the
screening of our expedition members and world’s permanent ice is in the
also impart them a special training. Only Antarctic: 7 million cubic miles
after qualifying all these tests and (30.5×106km3) of it. This great mass has
training they are given ‘adaptability made Antarctica the highest of all
certificate’ and taken to harshest continents, its average elevation is about
continent Antarctica”. 4,500 feet (225m). The world’s lowest
*Reproduced with permission from “Indian Mountaineer”, Vol. 2, 1978
4 SCIENCE 2 0 0 6

temperature minus 88.3°C has been microscopic plants, plankton to giant

recorded in Antarctica and violent whales. The best-known birds in
snowstorms with winds of over 250 km Antarctica are the flightless penguins,
per hour speed are very frequent in this which walk erect and waddle along like
icy desert. It is the coldest and the a cartoonist’s version of man returning
windiest continent. from a formal dinner! Wandering through
the ice pack, penguins frequently
encounter seals, six species of which
breed in the Antarctic. There are also
colonies of some flying birds such as the
polar skuas and snow petrels. To the
present knowledge, Antarctica has never
had any native human population. Men
now go to Antarctica primarily to study
the earth, the space around it and the
life upon it.
The climax of our Antarctic
Expedition came in when we reached the
geographic South Pole. I got lost in my
deep thoughts while standing at the
bottom of the world (90 degrees South)
on a high ice-covered plateau more than
9,000 feet (nearly 2,700m) above sea
level. The temperature at that time was
60°C and the pressure much below the
normal. It was the place first reached by
the great Norwegian explorer Roald
Amundsen 60 years ago (1911). On
January 17, 1912 about a month after
Amundsen, Captain Scott and four other
Englishmen stood on the same spot, who
Fig. 2: Map of Antarctica and South Pole
were later trapped by a blizzard and
never returned home.
Although there is so much ice in At this historical place there is an
Antarctica, there is almost no fresh American station called Amundsen-Scott
water. Such a cold dry area cannot South Pole Station, which has been in
support much life of any kind. On land operation since 1957, the International
only 4.5 per cent of which is bare, a few Geophysical Year. The sun sets here for
primitive plants exist, and there are the winter on March 22, not to rise again
bacteria and some insects and similar until September 21. A full year consists
small animals. The Antarctic waters, of only one day and one night, each of
however, abound in sea life ranging from six months duration. On June 21, the

sun begins its ascent marking Midwinter to zero. Most of the route was 3,000
Day. As at all stations this turning point metres above sea level with constantly
of the winter was celebrated with gusto. low temperatures, about minus 70°C due
With the day marked by holiday routine, to which our snow tractors could not
practically every one of us slept late. The move. Many of our huskies pulling our
only exception was our cook, who was sledges died on the way and we had to
busy preparing a lavish meal for that eat their meat in order to survive.
evening. Snowstorms and poor visibility continued
to hinder our progress. One of our
comrades who became ill with acute
appendicitis died on the way and yet
another fell into a deep crevasse and
buried alive. Despite all these difficulties,
we traversed 1,500 kilometres in two
months, and conquered the pole of
inaccessibility. I can forget anything in
my life but not these tough experiences.
I must add here that one who has not
Fig. 3: Glaciological and Geodetic observations travelled deep into the South Pole Ice-
being made on way to Vostok. The author Cap cannot know Antarctica!
participated in the 1,500 Km sledge odyssey
from Mirny to Vostok, the pole of cold,
The coldest place in the world ‘Vostok’
completed in one and a half months at 78.45 degrees South and 106.8
degrees East lies at an altitude of 3,488*
Now a desperate struggle of two metres on approximately 3,700 metres of
months to reach ‘Vostok’, the pole of ice. The air is perpetually drier then in
inaccessibility and extreme cold (having the world’s worst deserts. During the
recorded the world’s lowest temperature polar night, temperatures drop so low
(minus 88.3°C). During our 1,500 km that they would normally freeze carbon
trekking from Mirny station to Vostok dioxide out of the atmosphere which
located at the geomagnetic South Pole, condenses at 78.5°C. The high altitude
we had plenty of difficulties, we starves lungs of oxygen, and the normal
sometimes failed, we sometimes won, we rate of heartbeats nearly doubles. Here
always faced them and made all possible 15 of us wintered over, isolated from
scientific observations. contact with rest of the world for more
Our trekking expedition comprising than nine months, half of this time in
of heavy machines ‘towmobiles’ and dog utter darkness. I must say that six
sledges carrying about 30 tons of months continuous darkness followed by
equipment for Vostok roared into action six months daylight at the South Pole
and slowly pulled out of Mirny during the were the extremely boring phenomena of
summer. After two weeks, a heavy nature I experienced there. When I
snowstorm began reducing the visibility returned, I found that a 12 hour day
6 SCIENCE 2 0 0 6

Leningradskaya, Bellingshausen,
Novolazarevskaya, Amery and
Molodezhnaya and relieved the old staff
with the new expedition members. We
sailed all along the Antarctic Circle and
chose the site of a new Soviet station
‘Russkaya’ on the shore of the Amundsen
sea. We took fuel and fresh food
provisions for our ships and for the
Antarctic stations from the port of Punta
Arenas, Chile. But, unfortunately, the
Fig. 4: A view of the Soviet Antarctic station
station Molodezhnaya could not be given
‘Molodezhnaya’. During the extremely cold,
dark and stormy 6-month long night, some of sufficient food supply due to which we
the huts were blown off along with the inmates. had to face a number of problems there.
Winters are harsh and there is plenty of snow I visited several other stations operated
accumulation due to violent snow-storms.
by the Antarctic Treaty member-nations
Some huts are built underground wherein
sound does not reach, nor does light filter in order to collect maximum possible
through. scientific data.

followed by a 12 hour night were, indeed

a great blessing!
During our 1500 km sledge odyssey
between Mirny and Vostak, we made
snow measuring observations and set up
new automatic stations for the
continuous recording of magnetic
variations and meteorological data in
addition to our other field work on
geodesy, glaciology and so on.
Circumnavigating all around the
Antarctic continent on board the
icebreaker ships ‘Navarin’ and ‘Ob’
during the expedition, was most thrilling
voyage of my life which recalls me of
Captain James Cook who between 1772
to 1775 first sailed around Antarctic and
brought to an end the dream of an
inhabited southern continent.
Fig. 5: ‘M-100’ rocket at take-off from the
During the Antarctic circumnavi- launching-pad near ‘Molodezhnaya’ Antarctic
gation our ships resupplied all the station during the extremely cold, dark and
Soviet coastal stations viz. Mirny, stormy 6-month long South Polar night
8 SCIENCE 2 0 0 6

that sizable perturbations occur in the

South Polar atmospheric structure
during the winter.
My participation in the Soviet
Antarctic Expedition in 1971-73 was
made possible (through the efforts of Prof.
P.D. Bhavsar, Prof. P.R. Pisharoty and the
late Prof. Vikram A. Sarabhai) under an
agreement between the Indian Space
Research Organisation and the
Hydrometeorological Service of the USSR.

Fig. 8: The seas surrounding the Antarctic

continent freeze during winter months for
hundred of miles offshore. In summer the ice
breaks up to form pack-ice which constitutes
a hazard to shipping and a barrier, making
access to the coast extremely difficult. For
these reasons special ice-breaker ships are used

return from there, misfortune followed my

footsteps. Growing weaker each day from
the exertion and the lack of food, I also
encountered violent storms and blizzards
and lost the way. I met with several hair-
raising accidents during my South Pole
odyssey, but fortune ever smiled on me
and I always had a narrow escape.
In Antarctica, I was the Project
Scientist for carrying out the upper
atmospheric rocket soundings from the Fig. 9: The author in the company of penguins.
main Soviet Station Molodezhnaya. The The penguins are very curious and social birds
and frequently come close to camps, ships and
M-100 rockets could carry 67 kg payload groups of men to watch what is going on. They
upto 100 km altitude and were launched usually walk erect and waddle along looking
twice in a week. My research and like a cartoonist’s version of man returning
investigations showed for the first time from a formal dinner

Editor’s Note
India is amongst few countries of the world that has been actively pursuing
programmes to conduct wide ranging studies on Antarctica. It has already
established a permanent station on this icy continent. The first Indian
expedition to Antarctic Programme was undertaken in 1981. Since then India
has been sending multi-disciplinary scientific expeditions to Antarctica every
year. In 1983 India commissioned its first research station in Antarctica,
which was named as ‘Dakshin Gangotri’. It has since been replaced by the
indigenously designed second Indian permanent station, ‘Maitri’ with
adequate infrastructure facilities for conducting scientific research of
contemporary nature in the icy continent. India has always recognised the
importance of preserving the pristine nature of this remote and unique
continent. To uphold this commitment, India, an original votary of the Protocol
on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty, has ratified this Protocol
in April 1996.
10 SCIENCE 2 0 0 6

Madame Marie Curie – crystal appeared on the plate. He

reported to the French Academy of
Radioactivity and Atomic Sciences in February 1893 (Compt. rend.
Energy* 122, 420; 24 February, 1896) that this
salt, ‘must emit radiations which are
capable of passing through paper,
opaque to ordinary light’. He also
N.R. DHAR observed that the same effect was
Sheila Dhar Institute of Soil Science produced in the dark and by other
University of Allahabad uranium compounds, and the radiations
given out by uranium made a gas

S LATE as 1895 physicists and conduct X-rays and cathode rays. This
chemists seemed to be convinced was the discovery of the radioactivity of
that the ultimate particles of uranium, which is spontaneous
matter consist of atoms which cannot be decomposition of matter into smaller
further broken down. In 1896, a new particles. This subject of radioactivity
phenomenon, i.e., radioactivity, was was greatly advanced by Madame Curie
discovered by Henri Becquerel (1852- with the help of her husband, Pierre
1908) of France, which changed our Curie, because they made the capital
ideas regarding the ultimate particles of discovery that a very highly radioactive
matter. The discovery of X-rays by Prof. material, which was named radium, was
Roentgen (1845-1923) in 1895, of cathode present in the mineral pitchblende even
rays by J. Plucker (1801-1868) and after the removal of uranium compounds.
others also helped in modifying the Radium decomposes spontaneously and
scientists’ notion regarding the atom. much more vigorously with liberation of
Prof. Becquerel was the Head of the heat and other radiations than the
Physics Department of the Natural uranium compounds. This discovery
History Museum in Paris and was an made it possible for man to visualise the
authority on fluorescence of uranium production of energy by the breaking of
compounds. He exposed a fluorescent atoms.
potassium uranyl sulphate crystal to Marya (Marie) Curie was the
sunlight and then placed it on a daughter of a Polish Professor Sklodovska
photographic plate wrapped in black and was born at Warsaw on November
paper and observed an image of the 7, 1867. As Poland was backward in
crystal on the photographic plate when science at that time, she had to learn
it was developed. In the next few days science from books; but, in 1890 she
there was no sunlight in Paris and could carry on some elementary
Becquerel put the crystal over a experiments in physics and chemistry in
photographic plate wrapped in black her cousin’s laboratory. She wanted to
paper. In this case also an image of the study science in the Great Centre of
* Reprinted from ‘School Science’, Vol. IV, No. 4, December, 1965.

Learning, Paris, and had to save money emitted by radioactive bodies consist of
for this purpose by serving as a a α -particles, positively charged,
governess for about six years. She joined consisting of helium, β -rays which are
for a short while her sister and brother-
negatively charged and γ-rays, similar to
in-law at Paris. Soon afterwards she
x-rays, are given out. Madame Curie
shifted to cheap lodgings and registered
devoted herself to the chemical
herself for Licence Degree in Science
manipulation of separating large
Faculty, University of Paris, Sorbonne,
amounts of extraneous substances
in 1891. She obtained first position in
dealing with one ton of pitchblende
Licence in Physics in 1893 and second
supplied by the Austrian Government
position in mathematics in 1894 whilst
from which uranium was separated. In
living in Paris under great privations. In
1893 she carried on some research work April 1898 she came to the conclusion
on the magnetic properties of steel under that pitchblende contains an unknown
Prof. G. Lippmann, a Nobel Laureate in element, much more radioactive than
Physics and came in contact with Prof. uranium. The problem was to separate
Pierre Curie of the Ecole de Physique et the active material from pitchblende by
de Chimie, Paris, a great authority on chemical group separation and fractional
magnetism. crystallisation. The radioactivity of the
From 1896 she carried on the products was determined by the
chemical analysis of numerous uranium electrometer method. The laborious and
minerals found in Prof. Becquerel’s the tedious chemical separation was
Institute and other laboratories in Paris undertaken by Madame Curie. One
and made a striking observation that the evening after returning to their
uranium content of these minerals and laboratory in the Ecole de Physique et de
their power to discharge a charged gold Chimie, the Curies were pleasantly
leaf electroscope do not go hand in hand. surprised to find that their radioactive
The power to discharge a gold leaf products were emitting light in the dark
electroscope, which is caused by the room.
radioactivity of the minerals and the
Discovery of Radium by Pierre and
ionisation of the surrounding air, may be
Madame Curie
large, specially of pitchblende, even after
the separation of uranium. By that time, In June, 1898 a radioactive element was
i.e. in 1895, she was married to Prof. obtained in bismuth sulphide precipitate
Curie who realised the importance of the and was named polonium after the name
investigations undertaken by his wife of the motherland of Madame Curie. In
and joined her in these researches. The December, 1898 the discovery of radium
husband tackled this problem from the in the barium sulphate precipitate was
physicist’s point of view and announced. This impure radium
concentrated on the determination of the preparation showed a radioactivity which
properties of the radiations given out. He was million times greater than that of
and others proved that the radiations uranium.
12 SCIENCE 2 0 0 6

A third radioactive element was Soddy (1877-1956), Fajan, Boltiwood, O.

discovered in the ammonium hydroxide Hahn and others. Rutherford studied the
precipitate containing ferric and rare activity of uranium and thorium and
earths compounds by A. Debierne in reported in 1899, that the rays emitted
1900, who was helping Pierre and by uranium were of two kinds (i) those
Madame Curie. They called this product stopped by thin sheets of aluminium
actinium, which was also independently which he called α -rays, and (ii) the other
discovered by O. Giesel (1852-1927), who requiring much thicker sheets of
was a chemist in a quinine factory in aluminium designated as β -rays, which
Brunswick. It has been reported that
are deflected by a magnetic field.
Giesel also prepared and sold radium
Madame and Pierre Curie reported
bromide and his own breath was found
to be radioactive, although he lived over in 1900 that β -rays carry a negative
25 years after the discovery of actinium. charge. Becquerel, in 1900, by deflection
Madame Curie presented her thesis for in electric and magnetic fields
the D.Sc. degree in the Sorbonne in 1902 determined the velocity (1.6 × 10 cm. per
embodying her researches on radium second) and the ratio of charge to mass
and radioactivity, and the same was (e/m = 3 ×1017 e.s.u./g of β -rays). These
published in the following year. In 1902 values are of the same order of
she determined the atomic weight of magnitude as those for cathode rays.
radium by precipitating 0.09 of radium Strutt (4th Baron Rayleigh) in 1901 and
chloride with silver nitrate and obtained Crookes in 1902 suggested that α -rays
a value of 225 as the atomic weight of were positively charged particles of
radium. Again, in 1907, working with 0.4 relatively large mass. This was confirmed
of radium chloride, she found the atomic by Rutherford in 1903. Villard discovered
weight to be 226.4 taking silver as 107.88
the rays which were called γ -rays by
and chlorine 35.46. The eminent
Rutherford. They are more penetrating
authority on determination of atomic
weight, Prof. Honiogschmid of Vienne, in than β -rays and are not deflected by
1911, obtained a value of 225.95. Aston’s magnetic field.
mass spectograph indicated the value as In 1910 Madame Curie could
226.1. The accepted value today is prepare one gram of radium from
226.05. In 1910 Madame Curie and pitchblende after great efforts and
Debierne isolated metallic radium by presented this valuable material to her
electrolysing a solution of radium laboratory. In 1920 she was invited by
chloride with a mercury cathode. The the women of America and many
mercury was separated from the honorary degrees and distinctions were
amalgam by distillation. showered upon her, and the women of
Radioactivity was intensely studied America subscribed for the purchase of
all over the world, specially by Rutherford another gram of radium for her
(1871-1937) in Canada and England, institute.

Madame Curie, First Woman were theses and 31 publications in the

Professor of the Sorbonne and twice name of Madame Curie appeared
Recipient of the Nobel Prize during the period 1919 to 1934. Doctor
Reguad, Director of the Biology and
In 1903 the Davy Medal of the Royal
Medicine Branch of the Pavillon Curie
Society of London was awarded to
treated 8,319 patients from 1919 to
Professor Pierre and Madame Curie. The
1935. Baron de Rothschild and Lazard
Nobel Prize of 1902 in Physics was first
Freres and an annonymous donor
awarded to Prof. Becquerel and Pierre
contributed 3.5 million francs to the
Curie, who represented to the Nobel
Curie Foundation.
Committee that the discovery of radium
was as much due to him as to Madame
Life Pension Sactioned by French
Curie, and, the Committee agreed to
Government in 1923
award half of the Nobel Prize to the
husband and the other half to the wife. On December 26, 1923, i.e., 25 years
In April, 1906 Pierre Curie was killed in after the discovery of radium, the French
a street accident in Paris. The authorities Government voted 40,000 francs as
of the University of Paris appointed annual pension to Madame Curie with
Madame Curie as Pierre Curie’s the right of inheritance to her daughters
successor to the Chair of General Irene and Eve.
Physics at the Sorbonne. This was the
Prof. Regaud wrote: ‘Madame Curie
first time that a woman was appointed
can be counted among the eventual
as University Professor. In 1911 Madame
victims of the radioactive body which she
Curie was awarded the Nobel Prize in
and her husband discovered’.
Chemistry. Thus she was the only
recipient of the Nobel Prize twice in Death of Madame Curie caused by
science. Radioactive Emanations
Since 1900 the physiological effect of
radium rays was investigated by the In 1934 she became seriously ill and
Pasteur Institute of Paris and the Paris proceeded to the Sancellemoz
University jointly established a radium Sanatorium where she died. The Officer-
institute known as Pavillon Curie with in-Charge, Doctor Tobe recorded: ‘The
Madame Curie as the Director of Physical disease was a plastic pernicious
Sciences, which was ready for anaemia of rapid, feverish development.
occupation in July 1914-1918. Madame The bone marrow did not react, probably
Curie installed X-ray equipment for beacuse it had been injured by a long
military purposes in 20 motor cars and accumulation of radiation’. Due to
200 hospitals in different parts of France constant exposure to the highly toxic
for the trreatment of the wounded. rays from radioactive substances
From her research institute 483 investigated by them, Irene and her
scientific communications of which 34 husband also died prematurely.
14 SCIENCE 2 0 0 6

Madame Curie – a brilliant Director 1921, Blackett in 1922 and Harkins and
and Lecutrer R yan in 1923 demonstrated the
disintegration of atoms by the cloud
Prof. Einstein stated: ‘Marya Curie is of
chamber method. When α-particles
all the celebrated beings the only one
having mass 4 and charge 2 bombard
whom fame has not corrupted’.
nitrogen atom, mass 14 and nuclear
I had the honour of working in her
charge 7, they enter the nucleus
institute for two years – 1917-1919, and
producing a particle of mass 18 and
I found that she took great pains in
nuclear charge 9, which is an isotope of
preparing university lectures with
fluorine. This nucleus emits a proton,
experimental demonstrations in which
mass 1 and charge 1, producing a
her daughter Irene helped her. After
nucleus of mass 17 and charge 8, which
receiving the Nobel Prize with her
is an isotope of oxygen. In 1932, Cockroft
husband, Prof. Curie Joliot, Irene visited
and Walton disintegrated lithium into
different countries and visited India in
helium. This was the first artificial
atomic disintegration by bombardment
Prof. Jean Perrin, the Nobel Laureate,
with high energy protons from hydrogen
who was also my teacher, frequently
ionised in a discharge tube and
stated: ‘Madame Curie is not only a
accelerated by high potential difference.
famous physicist, she is the greatest
In 1933, F. Joliot and Irene Curie observed
laboratory director I have ever known’.
that both positive and negative electrons
During this period a galaxy of brilliant
are emitted by thin layers of berylium,
mathematicians and scientists, Henri
boron and aluminium bombarded by
Poincare, Appel, Painleve, Le Chatelier,
particles from polonium. In 1934, they
Bouty, Lippmann, Haller, Behal, G.
reported that the emission of positron
Bertrans, Roux, Delepine, Caullery,
persisted even after the removal of the
Urabain, Langevin, Duclaux, Job,
source of α -particles. This was the first
Matignon, Jungfleisch, Pierre and
discovery of artificial radioactivity.
Madame Curie, Mouton, Fabry, D.
Berthelot, Moureu, Dufraisse, Grignard,
Fission of Uranium to Barium by
Fournier and others were teaching in
Otto Malhn and Influence of
Chemical Evidence in Fission
E. Fermi and collaborators, by
The collision of fast α -particles, protons, bombarding uranium, atomic number
deuterons or neutrons with atoms of 92, with slow neutrons obtained by
other elements may cause the breaking passing through water or paraffin wax,
of the nucleus. Rutherford reported in thought that they had obtained an
1919 and 1920 that nitrogen exposed α - element of atomic number 93. They
particles emit long range protons which reported similar results with thorium in
came from the nitrogen nucleus. 1934, but Frau Ida Noddack criticised
Similarly, Rutherford and Chadwick in Fermi’s chemical evidence and stated: ‘It

is conceivable that in the bombardment It was soon discovered that the

of heavy nuclei with neutrons, these fission of uranium by neutrons liberates
nuclei break up into several large a large amount of energy according to
fragments which are actually isotopes of Einstein equation: E = Mc2 where E =
known elements, not neighbours of energy liberated; M = mass destroyed
irradiated elements’. O. Hahn and and c = the volocity of light. Both isotopes
Strassmann in 1938, by co-precipitating of uranium U235 and U238, are split by fast
the solution of the product of the neutrons but U235 is broken up by slow
bombardment of uranium with neutrons neutrons. In this process, more neutrons
with a barium salt solution, thought that are liberated, but the fast neutrons
they had obtained an isotope of radium. escape quickly and it is only the slow
After β -ray decay, the products of the neutrons which are effective for breaking
U235 and the creation of an atomic bomb.
bombarded material were precipitated
with lanthanum. Hence, the authors
Discovery of Transuranium Elements
regarded them as the actinium isotopes.
Madame Joliot Curie and Savitch, in In modern times increased neutron
1937, reported that the bombarded fluxes are being achieved as nuclear
product concentrated with lanthanum reactors are improving and 12 new
rather than with actinium. elements beyond uranium have been
Early in 1939, Hahn and Strassmann isolated. The first four of these
concluded that their supposed radium transuranium (94), americium (95) and
was actually barium, and from chemical curium (94), americium (95) and curium
evidence they concluded that their (96) can be manufactured in kilograms
actinium and thorium were really whilst californium (98) in grams. The
lanthanum and cerium. The authors chemistry of berkelium (97) has been
stated that their experimental results studied with submicrogram amount
contradicted the accepted views in and, hence, this element along with
nuclear physics. Lise Meitner, who was einsteinium (99), fermium (100), has only
a collaborator of Prof. Hahn for a number been obtained in traces. The elements
of years in Berlin, and O.R. Frisch, in upto fermium (100) are formed from U238
1939, reported that nuclear physics
by succession of neutron capture and β -
must give way to chemistry and stated:
‘On the basis of present ideas about the ray decay as shown by the reaction
behaviour of heavy nuclei, an entirely leading to the discovery of neptunium
different and essentially classical picture and plutonium.
of these new disintegration processes It has been found that elements of
suggests itself. It seems possible that the atomic number of 100 or more decay by
uranium nucleus has only small stability spontaneous fission with very short half
of form and may, after neutron capture, life, so that their preparation cannot be
divide itself into two nuclei of roughly achieved by exposing uranium or
equal size. transuranium elements to a reactor or
16 SCIENCE 2 0 0 6

more rapidly by exploding a thermo- emitted have two important

nuclear device in a suitably sealed consequences relating to health hazard
underground cave and processing the and to their chemistry. The first is that
debris. Such elements are prepared by they are among the most toxic substances
bombarding plutonium, curium or known to man because of the irreversible
californium with boron, carbon, nitrogen, damage to tissue caused by such
oxygen or neon ions accelerated in a materials. When ingested, they are
cyclotron or linear accelerator. The yields selectively retained in critical organs in
of mendelevium (101), nobelium (102), the body. Plutonium, for example, tends
lawrencium (103) and element 104 are to concentrate in the bone; other
extremely small. Along with elements in the series are retained in the
transuranium elements, fair amounts of kidneys or in the gastrointestinal tract.
technetium (43) and promethium (61) are The high toxicity becomes immediately
formed as fission products in nuclear apparent when one compares the
reactors. Polonium 210 and actinium 227 maximum permissible concentrations
can be readily synthesised by neutron per cubic metre in air for continuous
irradiation of bismuth and radium exposure, assuming a 40-hour week with
respectively. those for the more conventional poisons.
The figures for carbon monoxide and
Atomic Fission Markedly Increases hydrocyanic acid are 100 mg and 10 mg
Production of Highly Dangerous respectively while those for 239Pu and
Radioactive Materials 241
Am are 3.1 x 10–8 mg and 1.8 x 10–9 mg
Before the fission of uranium by neutron respectively many orders of magnitude
in 1939, the amount of radioactive smaller than those for hydrocyanic acid.
matter in use in the hospitals and Chemistry played a major part in the
laboratories throughout the world was discovery of fission process by identifying
only equivalent to a few hundred grams barium as one of the products of thermal-
of radium of atomic weight 226. Today, a neutron bombardment of uranium.
low power (10 megawatt) nuclear reactor Chemical processes have also played an
fed with natural uranium will produce essential role in the application of the
fission products giving out α -radiations fission process to the production of
equivalent to one ton of radium together nuclear power. These processes involve
with α -particles emitting transuranium the treatment of several thousand tons
elements equivalent in activity to 200 of uranium per annum; this tonnage is
grams of radium. The generation of large comparable to that of the metals, mercury
amount of radioactivity is highly and silver, substantially lower than
hazardous and the investigations of the elements such as arsenic, tin and nickel,
chemical properties of the new elements yet rather larger than gold, beryllium and
are not straightforward because of their tantalum.
radioactivity, which is more intense for Two sequences of chemical processes
the higher elements. The radiations are involved. In the first, ore concentrates

(largely U8O3) are converted to nuclear Atomic Energy not yet in the Picture
fuels, uranium metal or dioxide. In the of World Energy Resources
second, the nuclear fuels, after removal
The discovery of the neutron fission of
from reactors, are treated for the recovery
uranium to barium and opther elements
of useful constitutents, such as
in 1939 by Prof. Otto Hahn with
plutonium or fission-product strontium.
liberation of tremendous energy has led
The radioactivity in the first category is
to fabulous activity and expenditure all
relatively low, but in the second very
over the world for obtaining atomic energy
for the use of man. But, uranium occurs
on the earth’s surface to the extent of 4
Thorium as Fissionable Material
grams per ton of the earth’s crust, whilst
Since the application of uranium in thorium, another fissionable element, is
atomic fission as a power source has three times more abundant. Moreover,
been developed to such an extent, 0.7 per cent of natural uranium is
attention has been directed to thorium uranium 235 which actually breaks up
which is more abundant in nature than in energy production. Although, 12 new
uranium, as a possible source of the transuranium elements have been
secondary nuclear fuel U233. According synthesised in the last 26 years, the
to J. Paone (1960) an important potential consensus of expert opinion seems to be
use of thorium is its application in the that even on the basis of the most
field of nuclear energy. By the capture of optimistic assumption about the future
slow neutrons Th232 is converted to Th233 rate of nuclear developments, the
a negative beta particle being emitted contribution of atomic power until 1975
with a 23-minute half life. The product to growing energy demands will be
of Th232 is protoactinium, which is also marginal. (The Petroleum Handbook, 4th
beta active with a half life of 27.4 days. It edition, London, 1959, page 20).
decays into fissionable U233 and a long ‘Nuclear power offers no panacea for
lived α -particle with 1.63 × 105 years half the world’s energy problems. The
life. Thus, the thorium nucleide, upon adoption of fission power will be slow and
bombardment by thermal or slow its rate will depend ultimately on the
neutrons, becomes eventually a potential exhaustion of fossil fuel reserves. Fusion
nuclear fuel material capable of power, while potentially having many
initiating a chain reaction. Nuclear advantages over fission power including
reactions employing a blanket of thorium an inexhaustible fuel supply for
around the reactor are capable under negligible cost, has not yet been
certain conditions of producing as much established as feasible and its costs
and possibly more fuel than is consumed cannot be reliably assessed. Both types
in fission. A number of major reaction of nuclear power are uniquely adapted
projects proposing to use thorium have to the generation of electrical power and
been under way for several years in the less so to the production of other forms
USA. of energy, such as those now used in
18 SCIENCE 2 0 0 6

comfort and process heating or in land atomic fission with Lise Mertner who was
transportation. Thus, a radical change associated with Hahn in atomic fission
in existing energy consumption patterns studies and who being a Jewess was
is required before the fossil fuels are on her way to Sweden from Berlin.
finally enhausted.’ (Robert C. Axtmann, After reaching USA, Bohr contacted
pp. 488-495 in The Population Crisis and A. Einstein, who also was of Jewish origin
the Use of World Resources, edited S. and a Professor in the Princeton
Mudd, 1964, The Hague, Dr W. Junk, University as a nautralised American
Publishers). citizen. These two great men discussed
the fabrication of the atomic bomb and
Beginning of Atom Bomb
Einstein wrote to President Roosevelt to
After the beginning of the Second World take up this work. Roosevelt consulted
War in 1939, Prof. Otto Hahn of Berlin Churchill, the Premier of the United
approached Hitler and informed him that Kingdom, who was encouraged by Lord
he was in a position to manufacture a Cherwell (Prof. Lindemann), Churchill’s
powerful bomb from his discovery of scientific adviser. Also, Churchill sent
atomic fission. Hitler asked him how some of his able atomic pysicists,
much time he would take for this purpose mathematicians and engineers to join the
and Hahn replied that it would take two USA experts. This tremendous
years. But, Hitler was impatient and he undertaking, which was extremely
stated that he had no use for a discovery difficult in execution, resulted in the
which cannot prolduce tangible result construction of atomic bombs under the
within six months. leadership of R. Oppenheimer, another
On the other hand, after the Jew from Germany and settled in the
occupation of Denmark by Hitler, Neils USA. Under the Presidentship of Truman,
Bohr, the great Danish atomic physicist the two bombs fell on Hiroshima and
had to leave his own country for USA as Nagasaki in 1945, and, thus, began the
he was a Jew. But, before he left atomic age with all its complications and
Denmark, he discussed the details of dangers.
Acharya Jagadish General President of the Indian Science
Congress in 1927. He served on the
Chandra Bose: His Life Council for Intellectual Co-operation of
and Work (1858-1937)* League of Nations from 1926 to 1930.
* * * * *
Bose was born on November 30,
D.S. KOTHARI 1858, in the town of Mymensingh in East
Chairman Bengal** . (His father, Bhagwan Chandra
University Grants Commission Bose, was at the time Duputy Magistrate
New Delhi of the place). He died on November 23,
1937, at the age of 79 years. (He was
survived by his wife Smt. Abala Bose. She
CHARYA Jagadish Chandra Bose was the daughter of Shri Durga Mohan

A occupies a high, almost unique,

place in the recent history of
Indian science. He was an investigator
Das, a leading advocate of the Calcutta
High Court). He received his primary
education at the local school at
of uncommon courage, resourcefulness Faridpur; his father did not send him to
and dedication. Bose’s scientific work the English school which was there in
broadly falls under three periods. From the same town. Later, he joined the St.
1894 to 1899 he was almost entirely Xavier’s School in Calcutta, and the
concerned with the study of electric College, from which he graduated at the
waves; between 1899 and 1902 he shifted age of 20. He subsequently went to
from the physical to the biophysical field, England and joined the London
and beyond 1903 he was occupied with University to study medicine. He
the study of plant-responses under attended some lectures by the famous
physical stimuli of various types. For zoologist, Ray Lancaster. Due partly to
these studies he developed and reasons of health, he left London to join
constructed his own instruments which the Christ College at Cambridge. He
were remarkable for their originality and studied for the Natural Science Tripos,
extreme sensitivity. Bose founded the and attended lectures, amongst others,
Bose Institute in Calcutta in 1917. He by Lord Rayleigh (Physics). He took the
continued to be the Director of the Tripos (Cambridge) and B.Sc. (London)
Institute till his dealth in 1937. Bose in 1884. On his return from England he
visited Europe many times, and America was appointed Professor of Physics in the
twice, on lecture tours. He was elected a Presidency College, Calcutta, in spite of
Fellow of the Royal Society in 1920, and serious opposition from the then
Corresponding Member of the Academy Education Department. Bose had to do
of Sciences, Vienna, in 1929. He was the as much as 26 hours of lecture and

* Reprinted from ‘School Science’, Vol. 3, No. 1, March 1964

** Now in Bangla Desh
20 SCIENCE 2 0 0 6

demonstration per week. (This was much Rs. 2,500. Bose’s earliest research work
more than what was normal for his was concerned with electric waves and
British colleagues in the same college). their interaction with matter. Electric
He retired from the college in 1915. waves were first produced in the
laboratory by Heinrich Hertz in 1888 in
his epochal experiments. The existence
of these waves had been predicted by
Maxwell about 20 years earlier on the
basis of his extremely far-reaching and
extraordinarily fruitful (as later work
showed) electro-magnetic theory. It has
been sometimes said that Bose was led
to the study of electric waves, after
reading a paper by Sir Oliver Lodge on
‘Heinrich Hertz and has Successors’
(1894). From the very beginning Bose’s
remarkable physical insight, and his
superb ingenuity and resourcefulness in
experimentation were apparent. He
succeeded in generating waves of wave-
lengths much smaller than what Hertz
and others had done. He produced waves
of about half-a-centimetre in wave-
length. Because of this he was able to
investigate in considerable detail the
‘optical’ properties of electric waves, such
Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose (1858-1937) as refraction, polarisation and double
refraction. He determined the refractive
It was probably at the age of about indices of many substances and also
35 that Bose seriously made up his mind investigated the influence on total
to dedicate himself completely to the reflection of the thickness of the air-gap
pursuit of science and scientific between two dielectric slabs. In the
research. No grant at the time was paper published in the Proceedings of the
available to him for research work. The Royal Society in November, 1897, he
laboratory in the Presidency College, observed “It is seen from the above, that
Calcutta, was poorly equipped and as the thickness of the air-space was
sometimes Bose had to construct his gradually increased, the reflected
apparatus from his own personal component increased, while the
resources. It was several years later that transmitted portion decreased. Minimum
the Government sanctioned for his thickness for total reflection was found
work in the college an yearly grant of to be 8 mm”. He also verified that the

thickness of the air-gap, for which total hollow tubes was probably based on the
reflection disappeared, increased with used of metal tubes in telescopes and
the wave-length. It may be mentioned microscopes’.* Bose also employed
that Bose’s first paper entitled ‘On conical horns —he called them collecting
Polarisation of Electric Waves by Double funnels—for concentrating the waves on
Refracting Crystals’ (he tried beryl, the detectors. He studied the rotation of
rocksalt, etc.) was published in May, the plane of polarisation, and found that
1895, in the Journal of the Asiatic Society a bundle of twisted jute fibres gave right
of Bengal. In 1897 Bose gave a lecture at or left-handed rotation depending on the
the famed Royal Institution, London. It right or left-handed twist of the fibres.
is interesting (and also instructive) to This constituted a ‘large-scale or macro
recall that the demonstration apparatus demonstration’ of the optical
exhibited at the lecture, which in phenomenon of the rotation of the plane
present-day terminology may be of polarisation.
described as a (simple) microwave For the detector, Bose used the
spectrometer complete with transmitter coherer discovered by Branly and Lodge.
and receiver (improved type of coherer), He made considerable improvements,
was constructed in Calcutta and taken particularly in sensitivity and reliability.
by Bose with him to London. The He also experimented with the point-
originality and simplicity of the contact-type detector consisting of a
apparatus employed by Bose in his metal wire in contact with a metal plate
experiments were most remarkable. For or semi-conducting crystal. In the case
instance, he demonstrated the of most substances, the resistance falls
polarisation of electric waves by the when the detector is exposed to electric
simple device of ‘interleaving the pages waves but there is also a rise of resistance
of a Bradshaw railway time table with for some substances such as lead
sheets of tin foil’. Again, to eliminate the peroxide and potassium. Bose found that
undesirable reflections of electric waves in the case of galena crystal the detector
in tubes employed to guide them (as in was not only sensitive to electric waves
the case of spectrometer), he tried many but also to light radiation extending from
different coatings — in other words, he infra-red to violet. Here, he was obviously
was searching for an absorber of dealing with what later came to be
microwaves. He found that blotting-paper recognised as photovoltaic effect. These
dipped in electrolyte gave the best experiments dealing with the variations
results. ‘Bose, in India between 1895-97, in contact resistance under the
used hollow tubes of either circular or influence of electric waves—particularly
square section as wave-guides and wave- the erratic behaviour of the system in
guide radiators on wavelengths between many cases—brought to Bose’s mind the
5 mm and 2.5 cm. His adaptation of phenomenon of electric response in

* J.F. Ramsay, ‘Microwave Antennae and Waveguide Techniques before 1900’ Proc. I.R.E.,
Feb., 1958.
22 SCIENCE 2 0 0 6

animal muscle when subjected to be obtained with this model of Bose.*

stumuli. ‘Bose enquires whether Mention here may also be made of the
inorganic models may not also be devised interesting analogy between the
which will satisfy this criterion. In this excitation of nerve and the passivity of
way he was able to construct models in iron dipped in strong nitric acid. This was
which mechanical and light stimuli investigated in great detail by Lillie (1920-
produce electrical responses. The 36) and later by Bonhoeffer.** The first
proportionality which exists between suggestion came from W. Ostwald in
intensity of stimulation and electrical 1901. Another interesting model is due
response, the gradual appearance of to Bredig (1903-1908) in which the
fatigue in response after repeated oscillations of a mercury drop placed in
stimulation, from which the system a hydrogen peroxide solution appear
recovers after it is given sufficient rest, (outwardly) to resemble the rhythmic
the increase of response on treatment pulsations of an animal heart.
with one set of chemicals and its These investigations gradually led
inhibition by another set, are similar to Bose to the formulation of his
what occurs in living tissues. We shall fundamental concept (and in this
describe here only one of his models : it context it is relevant to call attention to
is made of two wires of pure tin, whose his early training in physiology and
lower ends are clamped to an ebonite medicine) that basically the response,
block; the upper ends pass through an under stimulus, in the non-living (e.g.
ebonite disc, and are joined through metal) and the living (e.g. animal muscle)
binding screws to the two terminals is of the same nature, though they differ
of a sensitive galvanometer. The in their level of complexity. From about
arrangement fits into a cylindrical glass 1903 onwards Bose investigated with
vessel, filled with distilled or tap water. great ingenuity, vigour and persever-
On giving one of the tin wires a sharp ance the response phenomena in plants
twist, an electric current flows from the when exposed to various kinds of stimuli,
wire through the galvanometer system. e.g. mechanical, electrical and chemical
The amplitude of response is enhanced and also light radiation. He regarded that
when a small quantity of sodium the response phenomena in plants lie
bicarbonate is added to the distilled between those exhibited in inorganic
water; on the other hand, if oxalic acid matter and in animals. He developed and
is added to the water the response is constructed in his own laboratory special
abolished. Many of the effects observed instruments for the purpose of
in animal tissues under stimulation, viz., measuring almost every type of plant
of the opposite effects of small and large response. The rate of growth of plants is,
doses of a chemical poison, etc., could crudely speaking, of the order of 0.1 –

* D.M. Bose, Jagadish Chandra Bose: Birth Centenary Series III. Science and Culture, 24, 5 (1958).
p. 215.
** R.R. Bonhoeffer, ‘On the Passivity of Iron’. Corrosion, II (1955). See also R. Fatt, ‘Physics of Nerve
Processes’. Reports on Progress in Physics, XXI. (1958), p.112.

0.01 mm per minute, and to measure the work performed by the pulvinus of
that he constructed many instruments Mimosa’. In the case of Desmodium
which he named Crescographs (crescere: gyrans he observed that the detached
to grow). The high-magnification leaflet continued to show rhythmic
crescograph consisted of a combination pulsations, the period being of the order
of levers (in some cases mechanical and of two minutes. The pulsation occurs
optical) giving a magnification of about between the temperature of about 17°C
10,000. The magnetic crescograph, in and 45°C. The pulsation is affected by
which the small displacement of a chemical reagents and electric stimuli.
magnet caused a large deflection in a Bose also investigated the problem of the
static magnetic system, produced a ascent of sap in plants. He thought,
magnification of more than a million. contrary to the generally accepted view
Bose also developed several types of then and now, that this is brought about
automatic recorders in which friction by peristaltic activity of the inner cortical
between the recording pan and the cells in the plant stem, somewhat
writing plate was eliminated by either analogous to the activity of the animal
vibrating the plate or the stylus. He heart.
constructed an instrument to record * * * * *
the liberation of oxygen during It may be observed that one of the
photosynthesis in plants. He also most far-reaching concepts which has
studied the variations, as a result of emerged from the biological and
stimulations, in the electrical physiological researches during the
resistance of plant tissue. He was the present century is that all vital processes
first to use electric probes for the in living organisms can be (completely)
localisation of actively metabolising understood in terms of physical and
layers in plants. chemical laws governing material
Bose’s plant work was largely carried phenomena. (It appears – some think it
out with the Mimosa plant and with is certain that this is not likely to be the
Desmodium gyrans (telegraph plant, the case in the realm of phenomena
Indian name is bon chural). He studied concerning the mind). Towards this
even such things as the effect of load realisation Bose made a pioneering and
(placed on the leaf) on response to very important contribution. In one of the
stimulus. For instance, he observes: ‘The papers read (but not published) before
effect of load on the response of Mimosa the Royal Society in 1904 he observed:
is similar to that on the contractile ‘From the point of view of its movements
response of muscle. With increasing load a plant may be regarded in either of two
the height of response undergoes a ways: in the first place, as mysterious
progressive diminution with shortening entity, with regard to whose working no
of period of recovery. Within limits, the law can be definitely predicted, or in the
amount of work performed by a muscle second place, simply as a machine,
increases with load. The same is true of transforming the energy supplied to it,
24 SCIENCE 2 0 0 6

in ways more or less capable of direct or indirect action upon it of

mechanical explanation. Its movements external forces, the element of chance
are apparently so diverse that the former being thus progressively eliminated, as
of these hypotheses might well seem to the definite sequence of cause and
be the only alternative. Light, for effect comes to be perceived with an
example, induces sometimes positive increasing clearness; and only, I venture
curvature, sometimes negative. to think, as this is worked out, can we
Gravitation, again, induces one learn to apprehend fully the true
movement in the root, and the opposite significance of the great Theory of
in the shoot. From these and other Evolution’.
reactions it would appear as if the * * * * *
organism had been endowed with In his papers and books Bose gives
various specific sensibilities for its own very few references to previous and
advantage, and that a consistent contemporary workers. This is partly, no
mechanical explanation of its doubt, due to the fact that he was in
movements was therefore out of the most cases exploring new ground. It
question. In spite of this, however, ‘I have should also be mentioned that ‘the
attempted to show that the plant may priority of many of Bose’s observations,
nevertheless be regarded as a machine, e.g. positive and multiple responses,
and that its movements in response to alike electrical and mechanical, and
external stimuli, though apparently so transmission of death excitation, is
various, are ultimately reducible to seldom given the acknowledgement due,
fundamental unity of reaction’.* And in current literature on plant physiology…
further, to quote from his book, Plant He has left behind nineteen volumes
Response as a Means of Physiological which form a record of the work carried
Investigation (1906): ‘The phenomenon of out and directed by him over a period of
life, then, introduces no mystical power, nearly thirty seven years. Bose was truly
such as would in any way thwart, or a great man of science and his
place in abeyance, the action of forces pioneering spirit and work have played
already operative. In the machinery of the a vital role in the revival of scientific
living, as in that of the non-living, we research in our country. But for all this
merely see their transformation, in he was more in the nature of a lone
obedience to the same principle of worker — a towering but isolated peak-
conservation of energy as obtains rather than a builder himself of a school
elsewhere; and it may be expected that, of scientific research. To conclude we may
in proportion as our power of quote his memorable words spoken at
investigation grows, the origin of each the end of the lecture at the Royal
variation of the living organism will be Institute (London) in January, 1897: ‘The
found more and more traceable to the land from which I come did at one time

* ‘Plant Response as a Means of Physiological Investigation’ by Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose (1906),

strive to extend human knowledge, but Geddes in his ‘Life of Bose’ gives the
that was many centuries ago. It is now following extract from the Spectator
the privilege of the West to lead in this (London) : ‘We can see no reason
work. I would fain hope, and I am sure I whatever why the Asiatic mind, turning
am echoing your sentiments, that a time from its absorption in insoluble
may come when the East, too, will take problems, should not betake itself
her part in this glorious undertaking; and ardently, thirstily, hungrily, to the
that at no distant time it shall neither research into Nature, which can never
be the West nor the East, but both the end, yet is always yielding results, often
East and the West, that will work together, evil as well as good, upon which yet
each taking her share in extending the deeper inquiries can be based. If that
boundaries of knowledge, and bringing happened – that would be the greatest
out the manifold blessings that follow in addition ever made to the sum of mental
its train’. force of mankind’.

Nearly 100 years after Guglielmo Marconi’s first transatlantic wireless

communication, a group of scientists of the US-based Institute of Electronics
and Electrical Engineers (IEEE) have reported that – “the origin and first major
use of the solid state diode detector devices led to the discovery that the first
transatlantic wireless signal in Marconi’s world famous experiment, in 1901,
was received by Marconi using the iron-mercury-iron coherer with a telephone
detector invented by Sir J.C.Bose in 1898”.

D.M. BOSE. 1958. Jagadish Chandra Bose, Science and Culture, Nov.
M.N. SAHA. 1940. ‘Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose’, Obiter Notices of Fellows of
the Royal Society, 3, 1-12.
PATRICK GEDDES. 1920. ‘The Life and Work of Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose, M.A.,
D.Sc. U.D., F.R.S., C.I.E., C.S.I.’, Longmans.
‘Obituary Notice’. 1937. Nature, p. 1041 (Dec. 18).
J.F. RAMSAY. 1958. ‘Microwave Antennae and Wave-guide Techniques before
1900’, proc. I.R.E., Feb.
J.C. BOSE. 1927. ‘Collected Physical Papers’, Longmans, p. 404.
——— 1902. ‘Response in the Living and Non-living’, Longmans, p. 199.
——— 1906. ‘Plant Response (as a means of Physiological investigation)’,
Longmans, p. 781.
——— 1913. ‘Researches on Irritability of Plants’, Longmans, p. 376.
——— 1924. ‘The Physiology of Photosynthesis’, Longmans.
——— Transactions of the Bose Research Institute ,1919-1937.
SCIENCE 2 0 0 6

Assessment of Learning education. Even in the best of cases, the

aims of persons in different segments or
and Acquisition of layers of the system are not identical.
Scientific Temper Perceptions vary widely depending on the
environment. A teacher is not perfect.
She has to worry not just about
N. PANCHAPAKESAN communicating but also about her
Retired Professor students doing well in the examinations.
Department of Physics and To remove subjective distortions, a fairly
Astrophysics, University of Delhi inflexible system is set up and adhered
K-10, Hauz Khas Enclave to meticulously, almost obstinately. The
New Delhi 110 016. result is often counter- productive to the
aims of education. If the society or the
system was perfect, as envisaged by a

E ARE at the end of the year
‘World Year of Physics’. It theoretical model, then there is no
celebrates the centenary of problem. However in a realistic, human
Albert Einstein’s ‘Special Theory of situation, there are deviations,
Relativity’ given in 1905. It is said that departures, imperfections, which can be
this theory removes absolutism and ignored only at our peril. What we need
brings in the idea of relativism. Every is a perception, an understanding of the
inertial observer has his own time and deviations (imperfections ?) in any given
event simultaneities. No one observer is situation. By definition these can not be
special in any way. Put another way, modeled in an ideal or perfect way.
everyone is unique! Philosophers say This is where ‘Science Education’
that this (along with other events) has ceases to be a ‘natural science’ and
led to ethical relativism. No one wants to becomes a ‘social science’ with all its
take a definite stand against or for any heartaches and uncertainties. We look
absolute value or principle. But at the qualitative differences between the
Einstein’s theory of relativity also pointed natural and social science. Acquiring
out and discussed invariances and scientific temper is akin to learning
covariances which exist in the universe. values and is really a part of social
Universal and relative concepts live science. Science education has very little
together. to do with developing a scientific temper.
The discussion will be against the
This is what we need to keep in mind
background of the ‘Hoshangabad Science
when we look at any problem, including
Teaching Programme’ which ended in
Assessment. There is a common level of
Madhya Pradesh a few years ago.
objectives and aims and at the same time
each learner has his own space-time, his
1. Introduction
own world. These distinctions become
very important when we have It is ironic that I should have been
institutional frameworks for imparting chosen to speak on assessment. I have

a great aversion to judging people. I have 2. Imperfect Institutional

not been on any committee or group Frameworks- Need More
involved with the NET examination of the Assessments
UGC or CSIR or the admission committee
My main theme in this talk is that the
in my department. It is not that I have
time has come for the workers in the field
refused to do these things, but I was
of education to go to the second stage.
never asked. Maybe others guessed my
The first stage was to agree on child
reluctance or had doubts about my
centering. The National Curriculam
competence. But somehow I got involved
Framework (NCF) has already done that.
in assessment with HSTP.* Students
However, child centering is an ideal
were doing so badly that it was decided
concept. It requires perfect conditions,
that they should be marked on the curve.
low student teacher ratio, highly qualified
I came up with simple minded analysis
and motivated teachers etc. Going to the
of marks which could then be modified
second stage is to recognise the
to get a decent distribution (sophisticated
imperfections and try to work in a non
fudging !). Otherwise all the students
ideal system. A lot of optimisations will
were in a pile at the bottom. This was
have to be done. We might recall that
more than 25 years ago. After that the
whatever progress the subject of
HSTP has grown and I am sure, changed.
economics has made, is because of the
I do not know if the analysis was changed,
recognition of imperfect markets and
modified or continued. Anyway that is
imperfect competition, and not working
the only justification for my standing
with the idea of a hidden hand of Adam
before you, talking about assessment in
Smith. A physical law is same for every
schools. Of course, I have been forced to
observer but each observer uses his own
assess my own students at the
space- time to work in.
Start with an example. A class has
My first observation follows naturally
30 students instead of 5 or 6. Then :
from what has been said above. The
source group in HSTP had (or liked) to ● It is necessary to have students in
do things they were never qualified for, groups of 5 or 6.
but had secretly wanted to do ! We had ● One needs attendance registers
people getting interested in drawing ● One needs submission of class and
sketches, designing book lay outs etc. In home work and its correction and
many cases their efforts were very evaluation.
creative, good and successful. That is
● One needs periodic and final
something the formal systems never
encourage or permit. I think that is a plus
point for People Science Movements like None of this is needed if one had a
HSTP. very small number of students.

*Hosangabad Science Teaching Project

SCIENCE 2 0 0 6

Let us take an example from HSTP of 3. Assessment—An Overview

30 years ago.
The topic of this paper is an important
● Unqualified Teachers part of educational policy and has been
● Absence of Kit discussed ably in the National
Curriculam framework (NCF). It may be
● Ignorance of Decimals
useful to begin with what they say and
● Non Suitable examination their conclusions. By and large they are
● Lack of language fluency among non controversial.
students “Education is concerned with
These were addressed by preparation for meaningful life and
evaluation should provide feedback on
● Having monthly meetings with
the success in implementing such an
education. Current processes of
● Getting involved in designing/ assessing a very limited range of faculties
purchasing and distributing Kit. are highly inadequate. Even the limited
● Writing and including a chapter on purpose of providing feedback on
Decimals. scholastic and academic development
● Designing and conducting can be achieved only if the teacher is
examinations in theory and prepared before the course of teaching
practicals. with the techniques of assessment, the
parameters of evaluation and the kinds
Linguistic Ability could not be of tools that will be employed. In addition
addressed. It was way out of our ambit. to judging quality of student’s
Many other problems were never tackled achievement, a teacher has to collect
though one was aware of them. Some of analyse and interpret performance on
these were various items of assessment to
● Parental anxiety about doing well in understand the learning in different
Medical (PMT) and Engineering domains. The purpose of assessment
(JEE) entrance exams. is to improve teaching-learning
● No substantial advantage offered by process and materials, and to review
HSTP in performance in 9th Class the objectives one began with, in the
and above. light of capabilities of learners as
revealed by testing. In the evaluation
The old system may not be good of learning we should also have
education but over the years an parameters which encompass creativity,
informal parallel system of well checked innovativeness, development of the
guidelines and suggestions has whole being, attitudes to learning and
developed on how to score highly in ability for independent learning.
examinations! Assessment and examinations must be

credible and based on valid ways of 4. Scientific Temper, Science and

gauging learning.” (emphasis has been Spirituality (or Religion)
added and considerable editing has been
Before we can discuss scientific temper
we have to deal with the difference
The examination reform committee,
between natural science and social
associated with NCF, had recommended
science. ( sometimes referred to as hard
Continuous and Comprehensive
and soft science) This requires a brief
Evaluation (CCE) coupled with teacher
review of the world view of a person and
empowerment. The NCF, however, urges
the place of different types of knowledge
caution as CCE places a lot of demand
in that world view. Broadly speaking, we
on the teacher’s time and ability to
can talk of an inner and an outer world
maintain records. This is an example of
for a person.
what I would like to call recognising
I, the thinker, am at the centre of the
imperfections on the ground. CCE is both
inner world. I receive continually, from
good and bad. Niels Bohr, the famous
physicist had several famous arguments birth, perceptions which serve to define
with Albert Einstein and often came out my world view. Free will or capacity to
victor. He said “A great truth is one for make a choice is assumed. In deciding
which the truth and its opposite, both or making a choice, one needs a value
are true”. CCE seems to fall into that system, part of which is inborn and part
category. Social science is full of great comes from outside due to parental and
truths! ( Physics has only a few, like other societal influences, including, of
Particle — Wave duality.) course, faith or religion. The ordering of
The Examination reform committee one’s perceptions defines a flow of time,
also gives suggestions on nature of a personal time which can be related to
questions which should be asked. Their physical time of the outside world.
detailed recommendations on different Communication with the outside world
ways of testing different classes (in the by speaking, listening, reading (use of
context of CCE) can be very useful, if not language ) coupled with logic enables the
used rigidly or forcibly. It is made quite construction of the outside world. As is
obvious at various places that making of clear the centre of description of the inner
tests ensuring their reliability, credibility world is oneself. The details of many of
and validity is a specialised job requiring the above processes, like construction
professionals. The scarcity of such of outside world, are subjects of study in
professionals is a matter of deep concern themselves. Every generation of
in our country. The corporate sector also philosophers re-examine and write
needs evaluation instruments. They are treatises on them.
now coming into the country as part of The outer world is the objective or
collaborations with foreign institutions. impersonal world which existed before
There is however a total lack of my birth, holds me in it now and will
indigenous effort in creating instruments continue to exist after my death. It is the
for academic testing. world of physics and other sciences.
SCIENCE 2 0 0 6

Emotion or feeling does not enter into the In the inner world heart, rather than
impersonal description of the outside the head, is the decider. Love, affection,
world. Logic and scientific method kindness, elation, ecstasy play big role
(repeatability, falsifiability) are in decisions. Soft sciences try to deal with
necessary. This world has a universal such problems in many ways, many of
time and history. It has no preferred or them statistical in nature. There is
obvious centre and is accessible to every however the difficult problem of,
individual through his or her empirical validity’. In the absence
perceptions. Science is related to outer of experimental or mathematical
world and decides our knowledge of it, proof, validity is by personal satisfaction.
its laws and evolution. One example is ‘Music Appreciation’.
Spirituality is related to inner world. Here personal satisfaction is a key
It does not use the scientific method or factor, though opinions of other experts
the intellect directly. If one has to may also play a role. Personal satisfaction
describe it one can say that it is a feeling is accompanied by elation or happy
of nobility, elation, love, bliss guided by feeling and decides our choice of good
emotion or a refined version of emotion, music. The ultimate in personal
yet seeming to transcend all these. satisfaction is what is called by
different names: peak experience, cosmic
Working of Inner World religious feeling, self-actualisation,
Inner world includes humanities, arts brahmananda, etc.
and social sciences and all other areas
Peak experience as a guide to truth
of outside science. Though this world is
not part of science, the scientific method, The peak experience plays as much role
i.e. logic and reasoning, plays an essential in the outer world of science as in the
role here. However, repeatability and inner world. This is because scientists
falsifiability do not exist; as controlled are human beings and the creative
experiments are not generally possible experience spans both the worlds. The
and where possible have large errors or role of peak experience in science has
dispersions. Some times the word ‘Soft however been difficult to grasp in an
sciences’ is used to describe these areas unambiguous way. Kepler’s laws of
which include economics, sociology, planetary motion led Newton to give his
political science, psychology etc. theory of gravitation. Kepler was in great
Statistical methods are crucial for their ecstasy when he discovered his laws and
study. To achieve objectivity in the study this convinced him of the correctness of
of these subjects is not easy. Detachment the laws. He was right in this case.
plays an essential role though perfect However, there were many other
detachment is not possible. Careful conclusions he reached, based on
authors declare their individual ecstasy, most of which were wrong. So it
viewpoints and beliefs to enable the appears that peak experiences have to
reader to discount subjectivity and bias. be subjected to experimental verification

and validated, before their scientific truth between science and spirituality as they
can be accepted. belong to different areas, either outer or
In the inner world there is no such inner world. Both are part of my world
way of validation. One has to live with view, in my mind. There is no body-mind
uncertainty and try to validate duality.
conclusions to the extent soft sciences
Scientific Temper
permit you. The acceptance of authority
in the real world, however, does not seem Scientific temper is an attitude to
to be based on validity alone. It is a different questions that arise in normal
mixture of charisma, social importance life of a human being. Like believing in
and the power wielded by the promoter superstition, accepting the pronounce-
of the idea. Hence use of logic, touch with ments of a religious authority. These are
reality and scientific method to the all based on man made rules not
extent possible, is absolutely necessary scientific laws. ‘What your scientific
to tell us if the ‘emperor has no clothes!’ temper is’, is hence a part of social
Logic and reason have been part of science. The acquiring of scientific
social science and philosophy much temper is akin to acquiring values.
before modern science developed. Science has nothing to do with scientific
Modern science has reinforced the use temper! It is a red herring in science
of logic and reason, now under the name education, though very important for
of scientific method, in soft sciences. This total education. This was seen in the
makes a person question the commands Hoshangabad programme. The real
of priests and religious books, reducing opposition to the new way of teaching
the power of the clergy. In the framework emerged only when social sciences were
given above there is really no conflict taught differently.
SCIENCE 2 0 0 6

Conserving Biodiversity: record. The current extinction is of a more

serious nature as species are being lost
An Important at a rate that far outruns the origin of
Environmental Priority new species. Thus conserving
biodiversity should be the utmost
MONIKA DAVAR Some other important reasons for
Lecturer, Department of Education conserving biodiversity are as follows:-
Maharaja Surajmal Institute
C-4, Janakpuri, New Delhi ● Uses to Humans: Humans derive
many direct and indirect benefits
from the wide variety of living
refers to variety and organisms. Bioresources include all

variability among living orga- our food, many medicines, clothing
nisms, their genetic differences fibers (wool and cotton), rubber and
and the ecosystems in which they live. wood. Thus, we have a stake in
The distribution of living organisms is conserving biodiversity for the
uneven on the earth because of different resources we use.
environmental conditions. Countries like ● Future Resources: As knowledge
Brazil, Columbia, Mexico, Indonesia, improves, new bioresources to
Peru, Malaysia, Ecuador, India, Zaire, increase human welfare may be
Madagascar and Australia are known as discovered and developed. Many
mega diversity countries because of their presently under-utilised food crops
rich biodiversity. India alone is estimated may become high yielding and
to have over 45,000 plants and 65,000 disease resistant varieties through
animal species. Biodiversity as a national hybridisation with wild species.
and global resource is extremely Genetic engineering of micro-
valuable. Biological resources once lost organisms’ promises further
cannot be replaced at any cost. advances in the production of new
compounds and medicines. This
WHY CONSERVE BIODIVERSITY? future potential will be lost if
The biological diversity of the planet is extinction of species continues at a
being rapidly depleted as a consequence rapid rate.
of human actions. An unknown but large ● Adapting to Change: Another great
number of species are already extinct value of the variety of life is the
while many others have reduced opportunity it gives us for adapting
population sizes. The current extinction to change. Genetic diversity will
problem has been called the ‘Sixth enable breeders to tailor crops to
Extinction’, as its magnitude compares new climatic conditions. A
with that of the other five mass multiplicity of genes, species and
extinctions revealed in the geological ecosystems is a resource that can

be tapped as human needs change. Baltic Sea. An increase in algal

● Biodiversity as an Asset: As a growth and change in fish stocks
country, it is important to protect has occurred leading to undesirable
our unique natural environments. changes in the aquatic ecosystem.
India attracts tourists from all over ● Continued Existence of the
the world due to its wide variety of Planet: Biodiversity not only
plants and animals. The tiger, lotus, provides stability to ecosystems
and peacock are our national icons. individually but also provides a
Some plants and animals have foundation for the continued
religious significance for Indians existence of a healthy planet. When
and are considered sacred. ecosystems are diverse, there is a
● Ecological Services: Besides range of pathways for primary
serving as an asset to the nation production and ecological processes
and resource to humanity, such as nutrient cycling, so that if
biodiversity also provides ecological one is damaged or destroyed, an
services. Vegetation acts as a buffer alternative pathway can be used so
and helps in maintaining movement that the ecosystems continue
and storage of water within the functioning at their normal level. If
biosphere. It also stabilises the biodiversity is diminished, the
climate. Plants prevent soil erosion. ecological balance of the whole
Biodiversity also helps in regulating planet will be disturbed.
the oxygen and carbon dioxide ● Research and Monitoring: Natural
balance, nutrient and mineral areas provide excellent living
cycling. Thus, the diversity of life laboratories for valuable research
needs to be conserved from into ecology and evolution.
ecological standpoint also. Unaltered habitats are often
● Interdependence of Species: In the essential for certain research
biosphere, all organisms are approaches, providing controls
interrelated and interdependent. against which the changes brought
Each species has its own place in about by human activities may be
the sequence of events even if it assessed.
does not seem like an important one. ● Human Responsibility for the
If one species is eliminated, it Planet: Irrespective of the benefits
interrupts the flow of processes. biodiversity provides, since human
This change affects the whole beings are the highest forms of life
ecosystem to varying degrees on this planet, they have the
depending on the role of the responsibility to protect all other
organism. In cases where the species.
species lost is a key one, it can lead ● Ethical Justification: On ethical
to complete breakdown of the whole grounds also, conserving bio-
ecosystem. An example of this is the diversity is justified because one
SCIENCE 2 0 0 6

species on earth does not have the pragmatic approach, however, recognises
right to drive others to extinction. that different arguments namely the
All species deserve respect because utility to humanity, use in maintaining
they are all components of our ecological balance, serving as research
biosphere. base, holding potential for future and
ethical and moral responsibility of man
There is possibly no single particular for continued existence of a healthy
argument which on its own provides planet together provide an over -
sufficient ground for maintaining all whelmingly powerful and convincing case
existing biological diversity. A more for the conservation of biodiversity.
Green Chemistry and change fundamental processes and
emphasises the use of chemical
Education principles and methodologies for source

Obot, Ime Bassey Why Green Chemistry?

Department of Chemistry
University of UYO, PMB 1017, UYO There is no doubt that our lives have
Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria been enhanced by chemistry. However,
environmental problems such as DDT,

REEN C H E M I S T R Y has evolved
from its roots in academic ozone depletion are all too familiar
research to become a examples of chemistry gone wrong. In
mainstream practice supported by responding to the growing concern,
academia, industry, and government. government introduced regulations to
While green chemistry encompasses limit pollution and exposure to
human health and the environment, it hazardous chemical and materials.
is guided by very specific principles of Green Chemistry represents a
chemical practice. The interest in using fundamental shift from this model
green chemistry and its practices has towards a pollution prevention paradigm.
extended internationally to become an Its premise is that a benign process and
alternative to traditional pollute-and- products presents no risk.
then clean-up industrial practice in The importance of Green Chemistry
developing countries. This evolution is as an alternative in the developing world
marked by significant contributions from cannot be overstressed. Sustainable
institutions with different goals that are development depends on providing goods
being satisfied through a common and services for a growing population
mechanism. without sacrificing environmental
quality. Estimates from the United
What is Green Chemistry?
Nations put the world population as high
Green Chemistry is the use of chemistry as 10.7 billion people by 2050 and this
for pollution prevention. More specifically, nearly doubled population creates a huge
it is the design of chemical products and demand for chemical goods and services
processes that are environmentally in the near future. Much of the growth
benign. Green Chemistry encompasses of the chemical industry is likely to take
all aspects and types of chemical place in the developing world, coincident
processes that reduce negative impacts with the rising population. However,
to human health and the environment. many of the global environmental
Green Chemistry provides an impacts attributable to this population
approach focused on the principle of growth have ties to chemical processes
moving pollution prevention upstream to or products: 1
SCIENCE 2 0 0 6

● loss of biological species in forest function while minimising their

and in water toxicity.
● ozone depletion 5. Safer Solvents and Auxiliaries:
● downstream pollution from The use of auxiliary substances
unsustainable agricultural (solvents, separation agents, etc.)
practices should be made unnecessary
● the pollution of fresh and marine wherever possible and innocuous
waters, further depleting food when used.
sources 6. Design for Energy Efficiency:
● the introduction of persistent Energy requirements of chemical
organic pollutants into the processes should be recognised for
ecosystem their environment and economic
● changing climates, causing as yet impacts and should be minimised.
unpredictable changes in the If possible, synthetic methods
hydrologic cycle with manifestations should be conducted at ambient
in flood, drought, sea level change, temperature and pressure.
and the spread of infectious 7. Use of Renewable Feedstocks: A
diseases. raw material or feedstock should be
renewable rather than depleting
The Twelve Principles of Green whenever technically and
Chemistry 4 economically practicable.
1. Prevention: It is better to prevent 8. Reduce Derivatives: Unnecessary
waste than to treat or clean up derivatisation (use of blocking
waste after it has been created. groups, protection/deprotection,
2. Atom Economy: Synthetic methods temporary modification of physical/
should be designed to maximise the chemical processes) should be
incorporation of all materials used minimised or avoided if possible,
in the process into the final because such steps require
product. additional reagents and can
generate waste.
3. Less Hazardous Chemistry
Synthesis: Wherever practicable, 9. Catalysis: Catalytic reagents (as
synthetic methods should be selective as possible) are superior
designed to use and generate to stoichiometric reagents.
substances that possess little or no 10. Design for Degradation: Chemical
toxicity to human health and the products should be designed so that
environment. at the end of their function they
4. Designing Safer Chemicals: break down into innocuous
Chemical products should be degradation products and do not
designed to effect their desired persist in the environment.

11. Real-time Analysis for Pollution chemicals, which are unlikely to pose a
Prevention: Analytical methodo- risk to human health and environment
logies need to be further developed even without specific exposure control
to allow for real-time, in-process measures due to the lack of hazardous
monitoring and control prior to the properties. This should be particularly
formation of hazardous substances. valid for open applications. In contrast,
12. Inherent Safer Chemistry for very hazardous chemicals should be
Accident Prevention: Substances authorised and used only in closed
and the form of a substance used systems or in installation where releases
in a chemical process should be are negligible, thus posing no risk for
chosen to minimise the potential for human and environment.3
chemical accidents, including Green Chemistry is a dynamic match
releases, explosion, and fires. of scientific, economic and social
interests that leads to a future where
chemistry is viewed as fundamental to
The Future of Green Chemistry
protecting the environment. However, the
There is no doubt that the emerging area success of Green Chemistry, will depend
of Green Chemistry has identified directly on the training and dedication
scientific principles, approaches, and of a new generation of Chemists—the
methodologies that have demonstrated students of today.
the most positive aspects of chemistry.
World Wide Web Resources 5
While the successes of Green Chemistry
thus far seem quite large in terms of Some websites that may be useful for
quantitative benefit to human, health those trying to incorporate Green
and the environment, they are merely the Chemistry into their teaching are given
tip of the iceberg when compared to the below:
potential. To reach this full potential, 1. http://www.acs.org/education/
greater awareness, adoption, and greechem/
development of Green Chemistry 2.http://www.lanl.gov/greenchemistry/
practices are necessary. 2 3. http://www.epa.gov/greenchemistry/
Sustainable economic development 4. http://www.rsc.orq/is/iournals/
depends on the chemical industry to current/green/greenpub.htm.
produce a vast array of chemical 5. http://www.rsc.org/is/journals/
products. Thus, in the future, the main current/green/GCOO2001.htm
sustainability target with regard to 6. http://www.chemsoc.org/networks/
chemicals will be to apply inherently safe gcn/.
SCIENCE 2 0 0 6

BENEDICK, R.E. 2000. “Human Population and Environmental Stresses in the
Twenty-first Century” in Globaler Wandel Global Change; Kreibich, R.
and Simonis, U.E. Eds; Berlin.
CHEMRAWNXlV Website: http://cires.colorado.edu/env_prog/chemrawm/.
GCl Website: http://www.lanl.gov/greenchemistry/.Listserver: gci@lanl.gov
ANASTAS, P.T. and WARNER, J.C. 1998. Green Chemistry: Theory and Practice;
Oxford University Press: New York. p.30
DENNIS L.H., DAVID L.S., and JANET, M.B. 2000. Journal of Chemical Education
Vol 77 No. 12.
Hearing – A Physical Frequency
The frequency of a sound is the number
Phenomenon of compressions per second, measured
in hertz (Hz-cycles per second). Pitch is
a perception closely related to frequency.
VANITHA DANIEL As a rule, the higher the frequency of a
Lecturer sound, the higher is its pitch. The
DIET, Kurukkathi maximum displacement of the wave
Nagapattanam, Tamilnadu corresponds to amplitude and the
V.S. SURESH KUMAR number of waves per second corresponds
Lecturer in Physics (S.G.) to frequency (Fig.1).
T.B.M.L. College Higher frequencies are perceived as
Porayar 609 307 having higher ptich. Humans can hear
Tamilnadu sounds ranging in frequency from a low
of 20 Hz upto a high of about 20,000 Hz.
Sounds of either end of this range are
quietest country side,

VEN IN THE harder to hear. At the other extremes,
there are still sounds, such as bats and porpoises can hear frequencies
wind, singing birds and buzzing well above 20,000 Hz. Low frequency
insects. Sound waves, a physical sounds under 10 Hz are audible to
phenomenon, are sure to occur when a homing pigeons.
falling tree hits the ground. The human
auditory system enables us to hear not
only the sound produced by a falling tree, In general, the greater the amplitude of
but also the birds singing in the trees sound waves, the louder the sound
and the wind blowing through their perceived (Fig. 1). The amplitude is
leaves. Our auditory systems are measured in decibels (dB). Even brief
amazingly well adapted for detecting and exposure to sounds over 120 decibels can
interpreting an enormous variety of be painful and affects auditory system.
Low frequency
Properties of Sound Waves
Higher frequency

Sound waves are characterised by their

amplitude, their wave length and their Low amplitude
purity. These physical properties affect
mainly the perceived qualities and sound High amplitude
like its loudness, pitch and timbre.
Varying wavelengths of sound are
0.1 Second
described in terms of their frequency,
which is measured in cycles per second Fig. 1: Four Sound Waves of different
or hertz (Hz). frequencies and amplitude
SCIENCE 2 0 0 6

The following table gives the relative periodic compression of air, water or other
intensities of a few sounds. The threshold media. When a source emits sound it
intensity is taken as zero decibel. basically sets up vibration in the
surrounding medium. The vibrating
Soft music – 40 decibels
source sets up tiny disturbances in
Telephone – 60-70 decibels the surrounding medium. These
Busy traffic – 70-85 decibels disturbances in air cause rise and fall of
Alarm clock – 80 decibels air pressure relative to the normal
ambient pressure. As the sound waves
Jet aircraft – 115-120 decibels
travel through the medium, the sound
According to WHO Noise affects energy is passed on by the air molecules
health and prolonged exposure to sound via vibration. The sound waves reach the
above 140 decibels may produce listener from the source in this manner.
insanity. The sound wave simply impinges upon a
Perception of high frequency decreses funnel (the pinna) in the human ear,
with age. Preschool children are better which acts to feed the sound wave down
than adults at hearing frequencies of a natural tube (the ear canal) to a
2,000 Hz and above (B.A. Schneider terminating membrane (Jympanic
Trehub, Morron giello & Thorpe 1986). membrane) to make it vibrate in
For middle aged adults, the upper limit response to the sound pressure variation
for hearing decreases by about 80 Hz and hence ‘pass on’ the sound energy
every six months (Von Bekery 1987). The via mechanical vibration. The sound
upper limit drops even faster for those wave is enhanced on arrival at the ear
exposed to loud noises. drum. This is a result of head baffle and
ear cancel resonance. Figure 2 shows
Loudness different regions of the pasilar
The loudness of a note depends upon the
intensity of sound or the rate of flow of
energy to the ear. But it is not
proportional to it since the sensitiveness
of the ear varies with the pitch. Near the
middle of the audible range of
frequencies, the ear is mot sensitive to
changes of intensity which it interprets
as loudness.
Sensory Processing in the Ear
Our ears are specially designed to detect
sound waves, turn them into nerve
signals and send these nerve signals to
the brain which analyses them and Fig. 2: The Basilar Membrane of
identifies the sound. Sound waves are the Human Cochlea
H E A R I N G — A

membrane of the ear that are sensitive of sound energy transfer from tympanic
to different range of frequencies. membrane to stapes foot plate being
If a person is to perceive a stimulus, achieved via mechanical vibration of the
it will be necessary to translate the ear ossicles. The sound pressure at the
molecular sound energy to fluid vibratory stapes foot plate is therefore enhanced
energy in the cochlea, which will in turn by a factor of ~18 relative to that at the
produce the electrical potentials of the tympanum membrane.
auditory nerve fibres. This can be The ossicles may be considered as a
achieved effectively in human by means series of levers. Since the length of the
of conducive pathway of the ear, which manubrium and nech of the malleus is
facilitates the efficient transfer of longer than the long process of the incus,
acoustic vibratory energy into fluid a mechanical advantage of 1.3 results.
vibratory energy, with the resultant Overall boost to sound pressure at the
generation of electrical potentials in the stapes foot plate is approximately a factor
auditory nerve (Fig. 3). of 23 (i.e. 18 × 1.3).

Sound wave
[about 100 Hz]

Action Potentials
from one
auditory neuron
Fig. 3

Air molecules are very light, inelastic The inner ear consists largely of
particles while the perilymph molecules the cochlea a fluid filled coiled-tunnel
are much denser and highly elastic. It is that contains the receptors for hearing.
necessary to boost the incoming sound The basilar membrane, which runs the
wave, so that an effective transfer of entire length of the spiraled cochlea,
energy to the fluid medium is achieved. holds the authority receptors called hair
The sound pressure at the tympanic cells.
membrane is enhanced to that at the Vibrations that are transmitted to
entrance to the pinna by the resonance cochlea through the oval window by the
effects of cochlea and ear canal. This foot plate of the stapes set up vibrations
sound pressure acts upon the tympanic in the perilymph which surrounds the
membrane and causes vibration. Two- membranous labyrinth containing the
thirds of membrane area is involved in end organs of hearing and balance. At
sound pressure transfer to the last the vibration of the basilar
manubrium of the mallius — a passage membrane cause a pull or shearing force
SCIENCE 2 0 0 6

on the hair cells attached to the tectorial These signals then travel along the
membrane. This action transform the acoustic nerve to the brain where they
fluid vibratory energy into electrical are translated into sound, whether it is
impulses that stimulate the fibres of the the sound of rustling leaves or chirping
acoustic nerve (eighth cranial nerve). birds or cars backfiring.

SAIHGAL, B.L. A textbook of Sound.
TUCKER, IVAN AND NOLAN, MICHAEL, Educational Audiology.
WEITEN, WAYNE. Psychology Themes and Variation.

Nanoscience and considered to be products of

nanotechnology. A nanometre is one
Nanotechnology: billionth of a metre (10-9 m) and is the
Perspectives and Overview unit of length that is generally most
appropriate for describing the size of
single molecules. The nanoscale marks
R. RAVICHANDRAN the nebulous boundary between the
Regional Institute of Education (NCERT) classical and quantum mechanical
Bhopal 462 013 worlds; thus, realisation of nano-
technology promises to bring
revolutionary capabilities. Fabrication of
Makhanlal Chaturvedi National
nanomachines, nanoelectronics and
University, 222 Zone-I, MP Nagar
other nanodevices will undoubtedly solve
Bhopal 462 011
an enormous amount of the problems
faced by mankind today.

ANOSCIENCE is fast becoming one of
Nanotechnology is currently in a
the major areas of science. Its
very infantile stage. However, we now
appeal lies in the long-dreamt-of
have the ability to organise matter on the
ability to investigate and manipulate
atomic scale and there are already
matter at the level of individual atoms
numerous products available as a direct
and molecules. And while it is scientific
result of our rapidly increasing ability to
curiosity that is currently driving
fabricate and characterise feature sizes
research forward in this area, there is
less than 100 nm. Mirrors that don’t fog,
the tempting thought that discoveries
biomimetic paint with a contact angle
could play key role in a future world of
near 180o, gene chips and fat soluble
nano-devices and nano-computers.
vitamins in aqueous beverages are some
Hence, it becomes very much essential
of the first manifestations of
on the part of the science teachers to get
nanotechnology. However, immenant
the science students exposed, enriched
breakthroughs in computer science and
and motivated on this interdisciplinary
medicine will be where the real potential
field which is going to rule this knowledge
of nanotechnology will first be achieved.
society. Also efforts should be made to
Nanoscience is an interdisciplinary
include this thrust area in school
field that seeks to bring about mature
science curriculum appropriately, for a
nanotechnology. Focusing on the
successful exploitation of this upcoming
nanoscale intersection of fields such as
physics, biology, engineering, chemistry,
computer science and more, nanoscience
Introduction to Nanotechnology
is rapidly expanding. Nanotechnology
Nanotechnology is defined as fabrication centres are popping up around the world
of devices with atomic or molecular scale as more funding is provided and
precision. Devices with minimum feature nanotechnology market share increases.
sizes less than 100 nanometres (nm) are The rapid progress is apparent by the
SCIENCE 2 0 0 6

increasing appearance of the prefix these devices is severely limited by our

“nano” in scientific journals and the ability to cut, carve and mold.
news. Thus, as we increase our ability Bottom-up manufacturing, on the
to fabricate computer chips with smaller other hand, would provide components
features and improve our ability to cure made of single molecules, which are held
disease at the molecular level, together by covalent forces that are far
nanotechnology is here. stronger than the forces that hold
together macro-scale components.
A Brief History of Nanotechnology Furthermore, the amount of information
that could be stored in devices built from
The amount of space available to us for
the bottom-up would be enormous.
information storage (or other uses) is
Since that initial preview of
enormous. As first described in a lecture
nanotechnology, we have developed
titled, ‘There’s Plenty of Room at the
several methods which prove that
Bottom’ in 1959 by Richard P. Feynman,
Prof. Feynman was correct in his
there is nothing besides our clumsy size
prophesy. The most notable methods are
that keeps us from using this space. In
‘scanning probe microscopy’ and the
his time, it was not possible for us to
corresponding advancements in
manipulate single atoms or molecules
‘supramolecular chemistry’. Scanning
because they were far too small for our
probe microscopy gives us the ability to
tools. Thus, his speech was completely
theoretical and seemingly fantastic. He position single atoms and/or molecules
described how the laws of physics do not in the desired place exactly as Prof.
limit our ability to manipulate single Feynman had predicted. Although the
atoms and molecules. Instead, it was our limitations of traditional chemistry were
lack of the appropriate methods for doing criticised in Prof. Feynman’s lecture due
so. However, he correctly predicted that to its seemingly tedious and random
the time would come in which atomically nature, recent advancements have
precise manipulation of matter would improved its potential uses for
inevitably arrive. nanotechnology.
Prof. Feynman described such atomic
Why Make Nanotechnology?
scale fabrication as a ‘bottom-up’
approach, as opposed to the ‘top-down’ One might ask, ‘what exactly are the
approach that we are accustomed to. The potential uses of nanotechnology?’ In the
current top-down method for limited number of years that
manufacturing involves the construction nanotechnology has been considered
of parts through methods such as possible, a plethora of answers to this
cutting, carving and molding. Using question have been presented. Possible
these methods, we have been able to answers include quantum computers,
fabricate a remarkable variety of long term life preservation and virtually
machinery and electronics devices. everything in between. It seems that
However, the sizes at which we can make nanotechnology could potentially solve

just about any problem that we could size, has applications in

think of; thus, a more interesting semiconductors, optoelectronics,
question is, ‘what real problems will and nonlinear optics. Nanoclusters,
nanotechnology solve first?’ As of now, it so-called quantum dots for example
appears that the first revolutionary can be developed to emit and absorb
applications of nanotechnology will be in a specific wavelength of light by
computer science and medicine. These changing the particle diameters.
two fields will most likely be affected first ● The large amount of surface atoms
since they both call for molecular scale increases the activity for catalytical
manipulation of matter in the near applications.
● The magnetic properties of nano-
sized particles depend on the large
Nanomaterials. Nanodevices and
surface to volume ratio. Unlike bulk
Applications of Nanomaterials
materials consisting usually of
Nanomaterials are single-phase or multi- multiple magnetic domains, several
phase polycrystals with a typical small ferromagnetic particles can
crystal size of 1 to 100 nm in at least form only a single magnetic domain,
one dimension. Depending on the giving rise to superparamagnetism.
dimensions they can be classified into This behaviour opens the possibility
(a) nanoparticles; (b) layered or lamellar for applications in information
structures; (c) filamentary structures; storage.
and (d) bulk nanostructured materials.
Nanodevices may be defined as
The properties of nanomaterials mainly
structurally organised and functionally
depend on four features, namely (a) grain
integrated chemical systems in the
size and size distribution; (b) chemical
dimension of nanometres. The
composition; (c) presence of interfaces
components may be photo-, electro-,
(grain boundaries, free surface); and (d)
iono-, magneto-, thermo-, mechano-, or
interactions between the constituent
chemoactive, depending on whether they
domains. Due to the large surface/
handle photons, electrons, or ions,
interface to volume ratio in nanophase
respond to magnetic fields or to heat,
materials, a wide variety of size-related
undergo changes in mechanical
effects can be introduced by controlling
properties, or perform a chemical
the size of the particles:
● The density of dislocation, interface Areas of application that can be
to volume ratio and the grain size foreseen to benefit from the small size and
strongly influence the mechanical organisation of nanoscale objects include
properties. quantum electronics, nonlinear optics,
● Quantum confinement, i.e., photonics, chemoselective sensing, and
quantisation of the energy levels of information storage and processing,
the electrons due to confined grain adsorbents, catalysis, solar cells,
SCIENCE 2 0 0 6

magnetic recording devices, superplastic manufacturing expense change with the

ceramics, superhard metals, metastable scale. Currently, Ultraviolet light is used
alloys. to create the silicon circuits with a lateral
resolution around 200 nm (the
Semiconductor Fabrication wavelength of ultraviolet light). As the
circuits shrink below 100 nm new
Moore’s law, optical lithography and the
fabrication methods must be created,
search for alternatives
resulting in increasing costs.
Computer chips (and the silicon based Furthermore, once the circuit size
transistors within them) are rapidly reaches only a few nanometres,
shrinking according to a predictable quantum effects such as tunneling begin
formula (by a factor of 4 every 3 years – to become important, which drastically
Moore’s Law). According to the changes the ability for the computers to
Semiconductor Industry Association’s function normally. Thus, novel methods
extrapolation of formulas such as this one for computer chip fabrication have been
(SIA road map) it is expected that the and are being intensely sought by
sizes of circuits within our chips will microchip manufacturers.
reach the size of only a few atoms in
about 20 years. Molecular and Quantum Computing
Since almost all of our modern
Alternative architectures for
computers are made from silicon
‘semiconductor’ transistors patterned
and carved by light (photolithography), In addition to single electron transistors,
the shrinking of circuits predicted by the two promising alternatives to traditional
SIA may not be the most economical computers are molecular computing and
method for the future. An enormous quantum computing. These two methods
amount of money has been invested in are intimately related, yet deal with
the semiconductor industry in order to information on two different levels. Much
consistently shrink and improve our progress has been made in these areas
semiconductor electronics. Smaller during the last few years and both have
circuits require less energy, operate more been shown to be feasible replacements
quickly and, of course, take up less for semiconductor chips.
space. Thus, Moore’s law has been Quantum computing seeks to write,
adhered to since computers first became process and read information on the
commercially available. However, this quantum level. It is at the nanoscale
simple shrinking of components can not that quantum mechanical effects such
continue for much longer. as (the wave particle duality) begin to
As transistors such as the Metal- become apparent. Numerous scientists
Oxide Semiconductor Field Effect are seeking ways to store information
Transistor (MOSFET - one of the primary within the ‘quantum mechanical’ realm.
components used in integrated circuits) This is not a simple task because of the
is made smaller, both its properties and delicate nature of quantum mechanical

systems. However, since the laws of massively parallel. This means that each
quantum mechanics involves DNA molecule can function as a single
unintuitive principles such as processor, which greatly improves the
superposition and entanglement, a speed of computation for complex
quantum computer would be able to problems.
violate some rules that limit our classical
Medical Applications
computers. For instance, taking
advantage of superposition would mean Molecular medicine, bioinformatics and
that a quantum bit of information, biomolecular nanotechnology are rapidly
termed a ‘qubit’ would be able to be used increasing our ability to heal and stay
in several computations at the same healthy
time. Taking advantage of entanglement The other field in which molecular scale
would mean that the information could manipulation of matter is receiving
be processed over ‘long distances’ abundant attention is medicine. Since
without the classical requirement of all living organisms are composed of
wires. molecules, molecular biology has become
Molecular computation is another method the primary focus of biotechnology.
complimentary to quantum computing Countless diseases have been cured by
that seeks to write, process and read our ability to synthesise small molecules
information within single molecules. One commonly known as ‘drugs’ that interact
molecule that has proved most promising with the protein molecules that make up
for molecular computation is the molecular machinery that keeps us
Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). DNA is a alive. Our understanding of how proteins
long polymer made of 4 different interact with DNA, phospholipids and
nucleotides that can be represented by other biological molecules is what allows
the letters A, T, C and G. The order or such progress.
sequence of these nucleotides within Living systems are able to live
DNA provides the information for making because of the vast amount of highly
protein, the main components of the ordered molecular machinery from
molecular scale machinery used by living which they are built. The central dogma
organisms to carry out life sustaining of molecular biology states that the
functions. information required to build a living cell
Mathematicians have figured out or organism is stored in the DNA (which
numerous ways to use DNA as the was described above for its use in
various proteins that come with it to molecular computation). This information
carry out numerical computations that is transferred from “M the DNA to the
are notoriously difficult for silicon proteins by the processes called
computers, namely ‘NP-complete’ ‘transcription’ and ‘translation’. These
problems. The advantage that molecular processes are all executed by various
computing using DNA has over biomolecular components, mostly protein
conventional computing is that it is and nucleic acids.
SCIENCE 2 0 0 6

Molecular biology is a field in which and predict data about molecular

the study of these interactions has led systems that would normally require
to the discovery of numerous enormous effort to obtain physically. By
pharmaceuticals that have been organising virtual atoms in a molecular
enormously effective in curing disease. simulation environment, one can
Understanding of molecular effectively model nanoscale systems.
mechanisms, including substrate Deepak Srivastava, one of the world’s
recognition, energy expenditure, electron leading experts in molecular simulation
transport, membrane activity and much and computational nanotechnology, has
more have greatly improved our medical described the situation with the following
technology. quote, Theory, modeling and simulations
So, what does this have to do with have provided and will continue to provide
nanotechnology? First of all it shows the insights into what to expect next and
abilities of molecular scale machinery. verification/explanation of what has been
Since the goal of nanotechnology is done or observed experimentally. For
molecular and atomic precision, nanoscale systems, simulations and
nanotechnology has much (if not theory in fact have provided novel
everything) to learn from nature. properties that has led to new designs,
Copying, borrowing and learning tricks materials and systems for nanotechnology
from nature is one of the primary applications. For example carbon
techniques used by nanotechnology and nanotubes applications in molecular
has been termed ‘biomimetics’. Secondly, electronics or computers were predicted
our ability to design synthetic, semi- first by theory and simulations, the
synthetic and natural molecular experiments are now following up to
machinery gives us an enormous fabricate and conceptualise new devices
potential for curing disease and based on those simulations.
preserving life. An extensive textbook Current limitations of molecular
titled ‘Nanomedicine’ has been written simulation techniques are the molecular
and does an excellent job of summarising simulation algorithm and computation
how nanotechnology is changing time for complex systems. Force field
medicine. algorithms are currently quite efficient
and are often used today. However, such
Molecular Simulation models neglect electronic properties of
Computer models of atoms, molecules the system. In order to calculate electron
and nanostructures provide the theory density, quantum mechanical models
behind nanoscience are required. However, as the number of
atoms and electrons is increased, the
Finally, a branch of computer science computational complexity of the model
that is allowing rapid progress to be quickly reaches the limits of our most
made in nanotechnology is the computer modern supercomputers. Thus, as the
simulation of molecular scale events. computational abilities of our computers
Molecular simulation is able to provide are improved (often with help from

nanoscience), increasingly complex potentials at the right time or else we will

systems will be within the reach of perish.
molecular simulation.
Useful links on the NET
The Future
Nanotechnology has arrived, but it has nanochemistry/
yet to realise its full potential www.nanoindustries.com
Our computers are quite fast and small, www.cordis.lu/nanotechnology/
but no revolutionary breakthrough in www.nanonet.de
computing has happened since the www.ieee.org/portal/index
transistor was invented. The human www.nanotechweb.org
genome project has reached completion, http://home.pusan.ac.kr/~nanobio//
yet limits in our ability to cure disease http://nano.gov/
on a molecular basis remain. While it is www.nanoapex. com
often difficult to predict the future, some www.nd.edu/~ndnano/index.html
things seem inevitable. Just as a ball www.nanobio.com
thrown into the air can be expected to www.nsti.org/
fall to the ground, so can we expect our www.nanobionet.de/
technology to reach the molecular scale. www.nanoword.net/pages/quiz.htm
We must keep a very close pace with this www.mitre.org/tech/nanotech/
new technology to harvest the best www.nanoword.net/pages/busquiz.ht

SMALLEY, R.E. 1999. Nanotechnology — A Revolution in the Making — Vision
for R&D in the Next Decade, Interagency Working Group on Nanoscience,
Engineering, and Technology, USA.
GONSALVES, K.E., RANGARAJAN, S.P., WANG, J. 2000. Handbook of Nanostructured
Materials and Nanotechnology, Vol. I, Synthesis and Processing, Academic
Srinivasan, S. 2004. Nanotechnology: the next revolution, National Book Trust,
New Delhi.
MHRD, Govt. of India. 2004. Nanoscience & technology base and vision for
R&D in India, New Delhi.
SCIENCE 2 0 0 6

An Investigation into the though they have been as useful as

before. There is no mechanical device to
Learning Difficulties facilitate the use of such fractions. The
Experienced by Indian teaching-learning of the algorithms of
School Children In simple fractions has remained the same
for decades.
Learning Division Under these circumstances, the only
Algorithm of Simple ways to ameliorate the teaching-learning
of simple fractions are to select the
Fractions methods of operation for them most
judiciously, and to follow up their
teaching-learning with diagnostic
TAPAN KUMAR MAITI programmes and remedial measures.
Assistant Teacher
Hetia High School (H. S.) The Only Division Algorithm for
JAYANTA KUMAR METE Simple Fractions taught in Schools
Reader, Department of Education Now there is one division algorithm for
University of Kalyani simple fractions that is used in the
Nadia, West Bengal 741 235 schools for teaching the school children.
It is the reciprocal algorithm. Its rule is

HE ONLY division algorithm for as follows:
simple fractions which is being To divide a number by a fraction
taught to the school children is multiply the number by the reciprocal of
the reciprocal algorithm. Apparently it is the fraction.
very simple. But, taught mechanically, (The reciprocal of a fraction is the
it gives rise to many learning difficulties, fraction formed by interchanging the
which the present investigation intends numerator and denominator; for
to highlight for the benefit of students,
teachers and method masters. c d
example, the reciprocal of is ).
d c
Introduction Thus, in this method:
After the introduction of cheap hand- a c a d
÷ = ×
held calculating machines, use of b d b c
decimal fractions in daily life has become The rationale of the method is as
very convenient. The teaching-learning follows.
of decimal fractions has also undergone
a sea change. a c a d c d a d a d
1 .
But matters have not been so much b d b c d c b c b c
fortunate in case of public use or So we see that, in this method, the
teaching-learning of simple fractions (also divisor is reduced to unity by multiplying
called “common” or “vulgar” fractions), it by its reciprocal fraction. To keep

balance, the dividend is also multiplied Doctoral Dissertation, University of

by reciprocal of the divisor. Calcutta, 1980].
The major criticism of this method is
that the teachers often forget to tell the Need of Diagnostic Programmes
students the mystery behind the Faulty teaching-learning of the basic
inversion of the divisor, and then its use mathematical skills may lead to
as the multiplier of the dividend to get development of learning difficulties in a
the quotient. student. Uncorrected for long, the
learning difficulties may develop into
Previous Researches on Simple permanent-learning disabilities which
Fractions may impede the learning of mathematics
From a study of recent researches on and career of the concerned student.
simple fractions, it was found that the Hence diagnostic testing after the
algorithms of simple fractions had not testing-learning of basic mathematical
drawn the attention of investigators skills should be an integral part of a
during the last 25 years. In 1930, school programme. The data can help a
Brueckner administered his ‘Diagnostic sincere teacher to help the concerned
Test in Fractions’ to 400 sixth grade students individually to ameliorate their
British pupils and made an analysis of learning. It would also help the teacher
the most frequent types of errors [Blair to formulate his/her teaching strategies
1962, 231-234]. In 1979 Smith so that the learning difficulties may not
experimentally compared two methods occur in his/her students in future
(techniques) of division of fractions,
Need of the Study
namely, ‘The common denominator
method’ and the ‘Reciprocal Method’ Thus, the only work, investigators of
(also called the ‘Method of Inversion’) on present study, known to in the last 25
their related gain in pupil achievement. years that had considered Indian
The reciprocal was found by him superior students’ learning difficulties in simple
to the common denominator method and fractions, was that of A. Bhattacharya
is significantly increasing pupils’ (1980). It is unfortunate that the
achievement in division of simple investigator paid little attention to
fractions [vide C. A. Smith, ‘Effect of a division of simple fractions, probably
Meaningful treatment for Division of thinking that it was only a modified
Fractions a Comparative Study’ version of fraction multiplication, which
(unpublished Doctoral Dissertation, the the ‘Reciprocal’ or ‘Inversion’ Method of
University of Texas at Austin, 1979). In division of fractions appears to be to
India, in 1980 A. Bhattacharya many.
conducted a doctoral study ‘to diagnose But experts like Brueckner [Ibid],
and prevent the learning disabilities of Siddons [Godfrey and Siddons 1957, 123-
Indian primary school students in simple 124], Mueller [Mueller 1964,251-252],
and decimal fractions’ [unpublished Adams, Ellis and Beeson [Adams, Ellis,
SCIENCE 2 0 0 6

and Beeson 1977, 138] and many others on Indian school students. The
have pointed out that, though knowledge was important for both of
apparently the reciprocal algorithm for them, because the school teacher had
division of fractions is very easy to use to chalk out his teaching strategies in
and practise, it is the major source of order to prevent development of learning
learning difficulties faced by the school difficulties amongst his pupils. And the
students in doing division of fractions methods teacher had to instruct the
sums in arithmetic. trainees in this matter.
This is why the investigators took
upon themselves the task of finding out, Selection of the Experimental School
for the first time ever, the learning
The investigators were in favour of a
difficulties of the Indian pupils in solving
school in between low-achieving and
division sums by the application of the
high-achieving schools in which the
reciprocal algorithm of simple fractions.
students had been taught division of
fractions in a rather casual and
The Diagnostic Test used in the Study
mechanical manner. Such a school
“Brueckner Diagnostic Test in Division usually contains all types of students.
of Fractions” was published by the They found a school in the Bankura
Educational Test Bureau, Minneapolis, District which fulfilled all these
Minnesota in 1930, 1943. The Test (vide requirements, and, besides, it was a large
Table) attempts to determine in a very school, with near about 200 students in
thorough manner what mistakes pupils Class VI. It was selected as the
make and why they make them. It experimental school, as its students were
contains 40 types of division sums. A expected to show all learning disabilities
diagnostic tabulation sheet provided for arising out of faulty learning-teaching of
it assists the teacher in interpreting the division of fractions.
data and in outlining suitable remedial The other details about the
work. It had been used in the study to experimental school are as follows:
analyse students’ difficulties in using the Type of school: Higher Secondary with
reciprocal method of division of fractions Arts and Commerce streams.
(vide Table). Number of students (average of last three
years) : 1400 students.
Purpose of the Study Nature of location : Rural.
General academic qualifications of
One of the investigators of the present
guardians: Very few are graduates or
study is a practising school teacher, the
have higher qualifications.
other a methods master. Both wanted to
know the learning difficulties likely to be
The Sample
developed by Indian school students in
the teaching-learning of the division The sample for the study consisted of 101
algorithm for simple fractions. But they students of Class VI selected randomly
found no such recent study conducted from 185 students of the class. They had

been taught the reciprocal method of errors which were found could not be
division of fractions “by rote”, by being ascertained. This is shown in 2(c) and
made to use the method only 10 of the Table under the caption
mechanically, without having any “unknown”. Nonetheless, the analysis
explanation of the inversion of the divisor would provide the teacher with a list of
and then its use as the multiplier. the major mistakes pupils make in
Actually it was this ignorance of the dealing with problems on fractions.
students for which the investigators had Individual diagnosis would reveal the
selected their class, as they were likely unknown sources of error.
to display all possible learning errors for
Indian students who are victims of faulty Findings of the Study
teaching of the reciprocal method. Following were the findings of the
Of the 101 students, 45 were boys diagnostic study:
and 56 girls. Their average age was 12 1. 31.70 per cent (that is,
years. As the IQs of the students were approximately one third) of all
unavoidable, their average score in the mistakes in division of fractions were
last Half yearly examination of 281 marks due to the student’s negligence to
and their average score in the last invert the divisor before performing
Arithmetic Test in the last Half yearly the process of multiplication.
examination of 28 marks were obtained
2. 24.70 per cent of all mistakes in
instead, as the correlation between
division of fractions were due to the
scholastic aptitude and academic
student’s lack of comprehension of
achievement is very high.
the process involved.
Administration of the Diagnostic Test These support Mueller’s observation
that the “why” behind the reciprocal
The test was administered on the method is not widely or easily understood
subjects on 23.10.02 (Wednesday) in two which accounts for the computational
sittings. The first sitting was held from blunders [Mueller 1964, 251]. Here the
1.10 to 1.50 p.m., and the second, after misunderstanding reached the peak [(1)
the tiffin recess, from 2.20 to 2.55 p.m. + (2) make up for 56.40 per cent of total
One of the investigators supervised the errors made by the pupils] because the
testings. students had not been explained the
logic behind the reciprocal method and
Results were asked to use it mechanically
The following Table presents the obtained without asking for the “why” of it. That is
data grouped under possible categories why the students inverted the dividend
of learning difficulties. The analysis in in place of the divisor (9.82 per cent of
the Table is based entirely upon an total errors were due to it), or inverted
examination of the pupils’ answer sheets both dividend and divisor (13.82 per cent
after they had been tested in a group. of total errors were due to it), so that
Consequently, the cause of some of the “inverting” the wrong term accounted for
SCIENCE 2 0 0 6

Table 1: Analysis of Difficulties in Division of Fractions

Different Types of Errors Number of Per-

Errors centage

1. Wrong operation: Multiplication: 565 31.70

⎛ 3 2 ⎞ 11 5 55 7
⎜1 ÷ 1 ⎟ = × = =2
⎝ 8 3 ⎠ 8 3 24 24

2. Computation Errors
3 3 27 4 27 13
(a) Division: 3 ÷1 = × = = 3
8 4 8 7 14 14

1 1 6 2 12 2
(b) Multiplication: 1 ÷3 = × = = or 54
8 2 5 7 30 5

1 3 10 4 40 1
(c) Unknown: 3 ÷1 = × = = or 3 20
3 4 3 7 21 21
77 4.32
3. Lack of Comprehension of process involved
1 1 5 7 35 11
(a) Inverts dividend: 1 ÷3 = × = = or 2 175
5 2 6 2 12 12
(b) Inverts both dividend and divisor:
3 2 8 3 24
1 ÷1 = × = 246
8 3 11 5 55
(c) Adds denominators and multiplies numerators:
3 2 11 3 33 7
1 ÷1 = × = or 2 1
8 3 8 5 13 13
(d) Adds numerators and multiplies denominators:
1 1 6 2 8
1 ÷3 = × = 2
5 2 5 7 35
(e) Disregards denominator in quotient:
1 1 25 4
3 ÷1 = × =5 5
8 4 8 5

1 1 1 3
(f) Disregards numerator: ÷ = × =3 11
9 3 9 1
440 24.70

4. Difficulty in Reducing Fractions to the

lowest terms
1 1 4 3 4
(a) Does not reduce: 1 ÷3 = × = 57
3 3 3 10 10
(b) Divides denominator by numerator:
3 2 11 3 33 7
1 ÷1 = × = =1 –
8 3 8 5 40 33
57 3.20
5. Difficulty in changing mixed numbers to
improper fractions:
1 3 10 4 20 1
3 ÷1 = × = =1 84 4.71
3 4 3 12 18 9
6. Omitted 10 0.57
7. Failure to reduce improper fractions to
mixed numbers:
1 1 25 4 5
3 ÷1 = × = 201 11.27
8 4 8 5 2

1 1 5 3 15 1
8. Errors in copying: 1 ÷ = × = or 7 174 9.76
4 3 2 1 2 2
9. Cancellation Difficulties:
(a) Cancels within the denominators:
5 5 1 5
÷4= × = 3
6 6 4 6
(b) Cancels within the numerators:
1 1 6 3 3
1 ÷3 = × = 9
5 2 5 7 35

1 1 1
10. Unknown: 1 ÷3 = 12 0.67
3 3 5

162 9.10

1782 100.00

Notes: × 100 × 31.70
SCIENCE 2 0 0 6

23.64 per cent of total errors committed. “This fraction has four “stories” and
As stated, non-inversion accounted for we only want two. Obviously we should
24.70 per cent errors. The similarity of improve matters by multiplying top and
the findings of the two diagnostic testings bottom by 4 and also 5.
held 75 years apart upon children of two 3 3 ×4×5
3 2 3 × 5 15 7
different nations cannot escape our ∴ ÷ = 4= 4 = = =1 .
4 5 2 2 ×4×5 2×4 8 8
notice. 5 5
One of the testings was Brueckner’s Siddons expects that (see above)
held in 1930 upon 400 British school many pupils will discover the “reciprocal
children. The other was by the method” herefrom.
investigators’ held in 2002 upon 101 Siddons has also pointed out two
Indian school children of the same grade other benefits (other than preventing the
and age group. In both the groups of development of learning difficulties in the
children, nearly one-third missed to division of fractions) of the treatment
invert the divisor before using it as the suggested by him [Ibid, 124] :
multiplier of the dividend. But there were
also dissimilarities in findings. Whereas 1. “In the treatment I have suggested;
13.8 per cent of the British pupils the whole argument is made to hang
committed computation errors, it was on the one rule, ‘the golden rule
only 4.32 per cent in case of the Indian about fractions’ —
pupils, on the other hand, while 12.1 per ‘The value of a fraction is unaltered
cent of the British pupils committed by multiplying (or dividing)
errors for “Lack of Comprehension of the numerator and denominator by the
process involved”, the figure was double same number.’
(24.70 per cent) for the Indian pupils. 2. Exactly the same principles are
Suggestions for Prevention of used when dealing with fractions in
Learning Difficulties algebra.”

Godfrey and Siddons think that the rule The investigators however are of the
of the reciprocal method of division of opinion that, as the reciprocal method
fractions, viz., “Turn the divisor upside is the easiest division algorithm of
down and multiply by that” is quite fractions, it will be desirable if it is taught
unnecessary and certainly dangerous for and learned with proper understanding
the beginners. Instead of beginning with of its logic. So the beginner will work out
the method, Siddons has suggested the the whole process as the following worked
following method to start with [Godfrey out problem, and will themselves
and Siddons 1957, 123-124]. “If the abbreviate the method.
5 2 4
children are clear that 5 ÷ 8 = , Example 1 ÷ . The reciprocal of
8 3 15
3 2 4 4 15
÷ =
it is natural to assume that 4 5 2 is . Multiplied by it, the divisor will
5 15 4

be reduced to unity. But to keep balance, Example 2

the dividend will also be multiplied by
3 1 8 16 ⎛ 8 5 ⎞ ⎛ 16 5 ⎞
15 1 ÷3 = ÷ =⎜ × ⎟÷⎜ × ⎟=
. 5 5 5 5 ⎝ 5 16 ⎠ ⎝ 5 16 ⎠
⎛8 5 ⎞ 8 5
⎜ × ⎟ ÷1 = × .
2 4 ⎛ 2 15 ⎞ ⎛ 4 15 ⎞ ⎝ 5 16 ⎠ 5 16
∴ ÷ =⎜ × ⎟÷⎜ × ⎟=
3 15 ⎝ 3 4 ⎠ ⎝ 15 4 ⎠
⎛ 2 15 ⎞ 2 15
⎜ × ⎟ ÷1 = × .
⎝3 4 ⎠ 3 4

ADAMS SAM, LESLIE ELLIS, BEESON, B.F. 1977. “Teaching Mathematics with
emphasis on the Diagnostic Approach”. Harper and Row Publishers, New
York. Hagerstown. San Francisco. London.
BHATTACHARYA, A. 1980. “Diagnosis and Prevention of the Learning Disabilities
of Primary School students in Arithmetic”. Unpublished Doctoral
Dissertation, University of Calcutta.
BLAIR, GLENN MYERS. 1962. “Diagnostic and Remedial Teaching”. The Macmillan
Company. New York.
GODFREY, CHAIRES AND SIDDONS, A.W. 1957. “The Teaching of Elementary
Mathematics”. Cambridge at the University Press.
MUELLER, FRANCIS J. 1964. “Arithmetic its Structure and Concepts”. Prentice-
Hall Inc. Englewood Cliffs. N.J.
SMITH, C.A. 1979. “Effects of a Meaningful Treatment for Division of Fractions:
A Comparative Study”. Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation, The University
of Texas at Austin.
SCIENCE 2 0 0 6

On Composition of Natural numbers. Basically a number not only

gives an idea about the size of a physical
Numbers quantity but also presents by what
combination it can be arrived at.
If we critically observe the
M.N. BAPAT composition (structure) of a number we
Regional Institute of Education might take a step forward in
Mysore understanding the nature’s intricacies.
R.K. SONWANE The questions like: Why there are a
Department of Mathematics certain number of leaves, spots, bushes
Govt. P.G. College, Balaghat or veins in plants? Why there are a
(Earlier Teacher Research Fellow, Dr. certain number of arms, legs, etc. to an
H.S. Gour Vishwavidyalaya animal? What is the rationale for the
Sagar 470 003) number of branches to a natural species?
And so on.
itself through Here we will discuss how a number

a variety of things live, dead or > 1 is built up? What combinations or
in fossil forms and that too in components can a number be arrived at?
several numbers. Here by number we What is unique about the components
mean “that handy device which helps us of a number? What is the consequence
to judge and feel the extent of its of some of the unique components? And
manifestation” . may be similar other questions.
The number has been the building
Number as a Sum of Numbers
block of mathematics. The history of
counting things by a set of numbers is Let us first consider a few natural
quite old. Adding a least integer count numbers.
‘one’ to its preceding number has lead to If we look at these combinations
the formation of the successive integral carefully we see that as we move to

1* = 1
2 = 1+1
3* = 1+2
4 = 1+1+2 or 2+2
5 = 1+2+2 or 2+3 or 1+1+3 etc ..........
6* = 1+2+3 or 2+4 or 3+3 etc ..........
7 = 2+3+4 or 3+4 or 2+5 etc ..........
8 = 1+3+4 or 3+5 or 2+6 etc ..........
9 = 1+3+5 or 2+7 or 4+5 etc ..........
10* = 1+2+3+4 or 3+7 or 4+6 etc.........

higher numbers we have several natural numbers formed by the

combinations of its formation. Now combination of two numbers only.
observe the numbers that are 2 = 1+1
underlined. It is clear that these
3 = 1+2
numbers can be formed by combination
of independent numbers. 4 = 1 + 3, 2 + 2
5 = 1 + 4, 2 + 3
1* = 1
6 = 1 + 5, 2 + 4, 3 + 3
3* = 1+2
7 = 1 + 6, 2 + 5, 3 + 4
5* = 1+2+2 or 2+3
so on
6* = 1+2+3
7 = 2+3+4 or 3+4 or 2+5 We can notice that the partition of
8 = 1+3+4 or 3+5 or 2+6 number into two non-repetitive numbers
can be obtained in (n/2) — 1 ways if n is
10* = 1+2+3+4
even and (n-l)/2 ways if n is odd.
Further it is interesting to note that However, according to the theory of
the starred (*) numbers are special in probability more equitable distribution
that they can also be formed by among these would generally prevail in
successive integers. If one asks a nature.
question like: What is the probability of Now let us resolve the numbers into
formation of a number? Naturally the three components as
answer would be: it is proportional to the
3 = 1+1+1
number of ways it can be obtained. Hence
if we want to correlate these numbers to 4 = 1+1+2
characterise a nature’s manifestation we 5 = 1 + 1 + 3, 1 + 2 + 2
can expect that the probabilities of 6 = 1 + 2 + 3, 2 + 2 + 2
occurrence of the different species must
7 = 1 + 2 + 4, 2 + 2 + 3
be as per their numeric abundance. Does
it happen? Let us examine. 8 = 1 + 2 + 5, 1 + 3 + 4
According to simple mathematics the so on.
starred number N (i.e. N*) can be
We find that there are several ways
obtained as a sum of natural numbers
of doing so. But a partition into non-
up to a number n. As it is related through
repetitive components is unique. It is well
N* = (n12) (1 + n)
established and also we have shown in
Clearly the numbers span over the
the theory of magic squares that it is the
interval 1 to n.
non-repetitive numbers that form a
Then if we encounter n varieties
magic sequence. Then should we suggest
their disposition can be N fold.
that structures of many natural systems
could be understood on the basis of non-
Number as a Partition of Numbers
repetitive components? Let us see what
Let us now examine a few successive can be the basis for it.
SCIENCE 2 0 0 6

Theoretically a partition for a decimal indicated these are the combinations

number system can be obtained from the that occur when we want to form a magic
expression square.
(Xl + X2 + X3 + ..... + X9)n Nature is scrupulously selective. It
selects out probably unique combi-
where n represents the number of nations of the numbers in forming its
partitions intended and powers of x variegated design for its animal and
represents the number to be partitioned plant kingdom. Man is also taking
into n components. The numbers of ways advantage of the nature’s selective
in which we get the desired power are nature in his endeavours for his
the proper partitions. Thus if we want to developmental activities.
partition 15 in 3 components then the One may claim that if the theories
power 15 of x is to be got from the are properly coordinated we can
equation understand why certain numbers are
preferred over the others in certain
(X1 + X2 + X3 + ..... +X9)3 species of nature’s creation.
which is obtained as With the advances in science, it has
been claimed that a binary or
X1+5+9, X1+6+8, X1+7+7, X2+4+9, X2+5+8,
hexadecimal system is to be preferred
X3+3+9, X3+4+8, X4+2+9, X4+3+8, X4+4+7, X4+5+6,
X5+5+5, etc.
over the decimal number system. Let
progress choose its own way but it
If we identify among these partitions may be remembered that by choosing
the partitions with non-repetitive a certain counting method the
numbers we see that only 8 partitions nature’s unique manifestation is not
are unique. Incidentally as we have going to alter.

BAPAT, M.N. AND SONWANE, R.K. 1996. Magic Squares. Science Reporter, p.19.
DAVIS, P.J. 1961. The Lore of Large Numbers. The L.W. Singer Company.
PATNAIK, R.K. 1994. Calculus. CBS Publishers and Distributors, New Delhi.

those already in orbit around the Moon

Science News on ESA’s Smart 1 spacecraft, which is
surveying chemical elements on the
lunar surface. The Indian lunar satellite
India to explore the moon also would carry with it a U.S. radar
instrument designed to locate water and
India has announced that it plans to
explore the Moon and will send an
According to an ISRO press release,
unmanned probe there by 2008. The
Chandrayan-1 is the first mission in
Indian Space Research Organisation
“India’s foray into a planetary exploration
(ISRO) calls the first Moon Flight Project
era in the coming decades”.
Chandrayan Pratham, which has been
Chandrayan-1 will be the “forerunner of
translated as First Journey to the Moon
more ambitious planetary missions in the
or Moonshot One. The Chandrayan-1
years to come, including landing robots
weighing nearly 525 kg would be
on the Moon and visits by Indian
launched in 2007 or 2008 from one of
spacecraft to other planets in the Solar
India’s own Polar Satellite Launch
Vehicle (PSLV) space rockets.
At first, the spacecraft would circle Earth (Source: ISRO Press Release)
in a Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit
(GTO). From there, it would fly on out ISRO, NASA sign moon mission deal
into a polar orbit of the Moon some Mr G Madhavan Nair, Chairman, ISRO,
96 km above the lunar surface. and Dr Michael Griffin, Administrator,
The Chandrayan-1 mission would carry National Aeronautics and Space
X-ray and gamma-ray spectrometers Administration (NASA) of U.S.A. on May
and would send back data that scientists 9, 2006 signed Memoranda of
on Earth would use to produce a Understanding (MoU) at ISRO Satellite
high-resolution digital map of the lunar Centre (ISAC), Bangalore. According to
surface. The project’s main objectives MoU two U.S. Scientific instruments
are high-resolution photography of the would be included on board India’s first
lunar surface using remote-sensing mission to Moon, Chandrayan-1. These
instruments sensitive to visible light, instruments are: Mini Synthetic
near-infrared light, and low-energy and Aperture Radar (Mini SAR) developed by
high-energy X-rays. Space aboard the Applied Physics Laboratory, Johns
satellite also will be available for Hopkins University and funded by NASA
instruments from scientists in other and Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3), jointly
countries. built by Brown University and Jet
The European Space Agency (ESA) Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) of NASA.
has agreed to support India’s plan to Chandrayan-1, scheduled during
send a probe to the Moon by providing 2007-2008, is India’s first unmanned
three science instruments for scientific mission to moon. The main
Chandrayan-1. They will be identical to objective is the investigation of the
SCIENCE 2 0 0 6

distribution of various minerals and RAdiation DOse Monitor (RADOM) from

chemical elements and high-resolution the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.
three-dimensional mapping of the entire The inclusion of US instruments on
lunar surface. ISRO’s Polar Satellite Chandrayan-1 would further strengthen
Launch Vehicle (PSLV), will launch the cooperation between India and USA
Chandrayan-1 into an earth orbit. in the field of space research which dates
Subsequently, the spacecraft’s own back to the very beginning of the Indian
propulsion system would be used to place space programme
it in a 100 km polar orbit around the (Source: ISRO Press Release)
The Indian payloads on board First custom-made bladders
Chandrayan-1 include: a Terrain transplanted
Mapping Camera (TMC), a Hyper
Spectral Imager (HySI), a High-Energy X- According to a research report at least
ray spectrometer (HEX), a Lunar Laser seven patients had received new
Ranging Instrument (LLRI) and a Moon bladders that have been engineered from
Impact Probe (MIP). a plug of tissue grown from their own,
The two US instruments, Mini SAR dysfunctional bladders. Researchers
and M3, were selected on the basis of claimed that such custom-made
merit out of 16 firm proposals from all bladders grown from patients’ own cells
over the world received in response to have been successfully transplanted and
ISRO’s announcement of opportunity. work, in some cases for years. Dr.
The main objective of Mini SAR is to detect Anthony Atala, Wake Forest University
water in the permanently shadowed areas in North Carolina, and the leader of the
of lunar Polar Regions. The objective of M3 research team opined that their research
is the characterisation and mapping of has shown that regenerative medicine
minerals on the lunar surface. techniques can be used to generate
In addition to NASA instruments, functional bladders that are durable.
three other instruments have already Patients given transplants of bladders
been selected by ISRO to be placed on made from their own cells, unlike those
board Chandrayan-1 from the European who are given organs transplants from
Space Agency. These are — Imaging X- either living or dead donors, would not
Ray Spectrometer (CIXS) from Rutherford need to take drugs to prevent organ
Appleton Laboratory, U.K., developed rejection.
with contribution from ISRO Satellite The patients were children and teens
Centre; Near Infra-Red Spectrometer aged 4 to 19 who had poor bladder
(SIR-2) from Max Planck Institute, function because of a congenital birth
Germany; and Sub keV Atom Reflecting defect that causes incomplete closure of
Analyser (SARA) from Swedish Institute the spine. According to Atala, a urinary
of Space Physics developed in surgeon and an expert in regenerative
collaboration with ISRO’s Vikram and stem cell science, their research
Sarabhai Space Centre — besides a suggests that regenerative medicine may

one day be a solution to the shortage of women in the highest versus the lowest
donor organs for those needing category of calcium intake from
transplants. supplements. Overall, the lowest risk of
diabetes was observed among women
Vitamin D and calcium may lower with the highest combined intakes of
diabetes risk calcium and Vitamin D compared with
those with the lowest.
Women with high intakes of Vitamin D
and calcium appear to have a lower risk (Source: Diabetes Care)
of developing type 2 diabetes, according
Viruses ‘trained’ to build tiny batteries
to a team of Boston-based researchers
led by Dr. Anastassios G. Pittas, of Researchers trying to make tiny
Tufts-New England Medical Centre. machines have turned to the power of
Dr. Anastassios G. Pittas and his nature, engineering a virus to attract
colleagues analysed the data collected on metals and then using it to build minute
83,779 women having no history of wires for microscopic batteries. The
diabetes, cardiovascular disease or resulting nanowires can be used in
cancer when they enrolled in the study. minuscule lithium ion battery as
Vitamin D and calcium intake from foods electrodes, which in turn would be used
and from supplements were evaluated to power very small machines.
every 2 to 4 years. A total of 4843 new An international team of
cases of diabetes were documented over researchers, led by a group at the
20 years of follow-up. Massachusetts Institute of Technology,
According to researchers the latest used the M13 virus, a simple and easily
guidelines set by the Institute of Medicine manipulated virus. They modified the
envisage that only 3 per cent of women M13 virus’ genes so that its outside layer,
in our cohort had adequate Vitamin D or coat, would bind with certain metal
intake, and only 24 per cent had ions. They then incubated the virus in a
adequate calcium intake. Total Vitamin cobalt chloride solution so that cobalt
D intake was not significantly associated oxide crystals mineralised uniformly
with type 2 diabetes, but there was a along its length.
difference when it came to Vitamin D Next a bit of gold was added to get
supplements. The team saw a 13 per the desired electrical effects.
cent lower risk of diabetes among women Viruses cannot reproduce on their own
in the highest versus the lowest category but must be grown in cells, in this case,
of Vitamin D intake from supplements. bacteria. Virus inject their genetic
Women with the highest total material and then the cells pump out
calcium intake had a 21 per cent lower their copies. According to researchers,
risk of diabetes than those with the viruses ultimately form orderly layers.
lowest intake. In this case, the source of The resulting nanowires worked as
calcium didn’t make much difference: positive electrodes for battery electrodes.
the risk was 18 per cent lower among The researchers hope to build batteries
SCIENCE 2 0 0 6

that range from the size of a grain of rice However, because they have the
up to the size of existing hearing-aid ability to transform themselves into
batteries. Each virus, and thus each various types of body cells, stem cells
wire, is only six nanometres — six have been thought to offer hope as a
billionths of a metre — in diameter, and means of regenerating diseased or
880 nanometres long. Earlier researchers injured tissues. In fact, neuroscientists
have previously used viruses to assemble have been experimenting with stem cell
semiconductor and magnetic nanowires. transplants in animals for several years,
but with mixed results.
Stem cells could boost stroke In the new study, Borlongan and his
recovery colleagues transplanted human bone
marrow cells into the brains of rats who
In rat studies, they also show promise had suffered strokes. In their study, the
against cerebral palsy. researchers avoided stem cells sourced
Researchers have claimed that they have from embryos or foetuses, which is still
successfully reduced the effects of stroke being debated on ethical and social
in rats by transplanting stem cells into grounds. Movement skills in the stroke-
the rodents’ brains. According to them afflicted rats improved by 25 per cent after
the treatment also seemed to help rats stem cell treatment, according to
fight a condition similar to human Borlongan. The improvement came even
cerebral palsy. However, as of now it though the treatment was given seven
cannot be guaranteed that the treatment days after a stroke. A 25 per cent
will work in humans. According to improvement could translate into
Cesario V. Borlongan, Associate significant changes in how human
Professor of Neurology at the Medical patients get around. Bedridden patients
College of Georgia in Augusta, a member may be able to use a wheelchair, and
of the research team the tests in people wheelchair-bound patients might move
could begin as early as next year. Even up to a walker, he said. Researchers
then the treatment is not expected to also observed about a 25 per cent
totally cure stroke or cerebral palsy, still, improvement in treated rats affected
it could help. with a condition equivalent to human
According to Borlongan, despite cerebral palsy. However, the researchers
decades of research, stroke remains only watched them for 14 days. Unlike
extremely common and very difficult to the rats in the stroke study, these
treat. Thousands of people suffer strokes rodents were injected with rat — not
each day, but only few could access to human — stem cells.
newer remedies such as tPA, a powerful
Beware of the telephone sets and
clot-busting drug. Cerebral palsy, a
computer keyboards!
disabling neurological disorder of
childhood, currently has no effective Textbooks often teach us that most of
treatment. the common infection — colds, flu,

diarrhoea — are transmitted environ- to arise due to the fact that usually
mentally either through the air, water or nobody cleans the desktop. It is,
personal contact including the surfaces therefore, perhaps not surprisingly, that
we touch. According to Charles Gerba, a teachers have the highest exposure to
microbiologist and clean water expert at bacteria and viruses, as has been found
the University of Arizona, people often by Gerba through his surveys.
under -rate sur faces they come in Accountants, bankers and doctors also
contact at their place of work, at home tend to have microbe-laden offices, while
or other places they visit. lawyers came out surprisingly clean in
Experts believe that telephones, the germ-count stakes.
computer keyboards and sinks are more A technique is followed to have an
potential sources of infection than the overall bacteria count for the general
doorknobs and elevator buttons. Based surveys. Swabs of each surface are sent
on dozens of surveys conducted on to Gerba’s lab, where these bacteria
bacteria and viruses in workplaces and cultures are done in a lab dish. The
homes, Gerba asserts that people are growth of whatever bacteria are present
usually cautious about the wrong can be used to estimate an overall load
things. According to him chances that of germs, including harmless E. coli
doorknobs could be potential sources of bacteria — which are found in the gut
infection are usually low as they are not and are an indicator of what scientists
moist. Therefore, one need not fear a delicately call “faecal contamination”.
doorknob too much. Some other bacteria usually present are
Germs do not stick where people Klebsiella pneumonia, Streptococcus,
believe they will as has been revealed by Salmonella and Staphylococcus aurous,
a recent informal survey. An analysis of some of which cause disease and some
the survey data by Gerba illustrates how of which do not. And where there are
microbes take advantage of bacteria, there can be viruses, which
misconceptions to propagate themselves. can stick onto a clean and dry surface
Two computer keyboards, for example, for days and to a wet surface for weeks.
were found to carry far more bacteria According to experts such knowledge
than an elevator button, the handles and may be particularly useful as the
button on the communal microwave oven pandemic of H5N1 avian influenza may
or the office water fountain. Gerba warns be a real threat in future. While the virus
that keyboards and telephones — currently infects birds almost
especially when they are shared — are exclusively, experts say it shows the
among the most germ-laden places in greatest potential of any virus in decades
home or offices. Keyboards seem to be to cause a human pandemic. If it begins
like a lunch table for germs as a lot of to spread, basic hygiene would be
studies have revealed that on an average essential to avoid infection.
these harbour 400 times more bacteria Gerba notes that people tend not to
than the average toilet seat. The main know where the most infectious places
reason for such a dismal picture seems are. For example, the bathrooms, toilet
SCIENCE 2 0 0 6

taps and their doors. Bathroom sinks, Prograf.) is often administered to patients
however, are another source of infection receiving transplants to prevent organ
as they are usually high in bacterial rejection. Derivatives of the drug are also
counts because they have everything commonly used in the treatment of auto
bacteria like. It’s wet, it’s moist. In a home immune diseases. FK506 inhibits T-cell
we usually find more E. coli in a sink than activation by binding to members of the
a toilet. Usually, public urinals are FK506-binding protein (FKBP) family.
usually the dirtiest. All taps, door and Interestingly, FK506, and several
flush handles and even walls’ surfaces molecules with similar structures, also
may be laden with bacteria. demonstrate neuroprotective and
neuroregenerative effects in a wide range
German scientists synthesise a new
of animal models mimicking Parkinson’s
disease, dementia, stroke, and nerve
According to a research paper that damage.
appeared in the Journal of Biological Gunter Fischer and his colleagues
Chemistry — an American Society for have now determined that neuro
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology protective FK506 derivatives specifically
journal — Gunter Fischer and his target a receptor called FKBP38.
colleagues at the Max-Planck Research According to Fischer high FKBP38
Unit for Enzymology of Protein Folding in activity in neuronal cells trigger
Germany have succeeded in mechanisms leading to programmed cell
synthesising a new compound that death. Inhibition of FKBP38 make cells
dramatically decreases the damage to more predisposed to survive. The
neurons in rats demonstrating stroke scientists also synthesised a molecule
symptoms. that specifically inhibits FKBP38 and
Brain strokes area is the leading administered it to rats that were
cause of death world over and also the experiencing stroke symptoms. Fischer
most common cause of adult disability. and his colleagues found that their
An ischemic stroke occurs when a compound protected the rats’ neurons
cerebral vessel occludes, obstructing and also caused neural stem cell
blood flow to a portion of the brain. proliferation and neuronal differen-
Currently, there is only one approved tiation. Animals with symptoms of
stroke therapy, tissue plasminogen disabilities, similar to those due to
activator, which targets the thrombus strokes, also showed improvement when
within the blood vessel. Because of the they were given the synthetic drug. These
lack of available stroke treatments, results suggest potential therapeutic
neuroprotective agents have also application specific FKBP38 inhibitors in
generated as much interest as the treatment of neuro degeneration
thrombolytic therapies. following stroke and a number of other
The immuno suppressive drug diseases.
FK506 (also known as Tacrolimus or (Source: http://www.asbmb.org)

Triple discovery hints at extra-solar asteroid belt, the rubble left over from the
planets building of planets from dust and gassy
debris that clump together through
A team of astronomers had found three gravitational attraction.
enticing Neptune-sized planets orbiting It may be too far fetched, according
a distant star. The three planets were to researchers, to suggest that these
found after a two-year monitoring of the planets contain life or the conditions for
star using a 3.6m telescope at the it, and it would be ludicrous anyway to
European Southern Observatory (ESO) think of them as a potential home away
in La Silla, Chile. The discovery may from home, given that our puny chemical
prove to be a further step towards the rockets and their passengers could never
goal of finding another Earth. More than reach there. But it shows that with
170 planets outside our own Solar system patient searching and the right tools,
have been spotted in the past decade or astronomers can uncover ever-smaller
so. But almost all of them have been exoplanets in ever-wider orbits from their
gaseous Jupiter-sized giants that move star, which may one day lead to finding
around their star at a close range. Their copies of Earth.
atmosphere would be too hot and too According to Michel Mayor, a member
dense to have liquid water, an essential of the research team who is also from the
ingredient for life as we know it. Geneva Observatory, the planetary
A team led by Christophe Lovis from system around HD 69830 clearly
the Geneva Observatory in Switzerland represents a Rosetta stone in our
located a smaller planetary system understanding of how planets form. He
orbiting the star HD 69830. The star is was referring to the stone that opened
41 light years from Earth in the Puppis the way to understanding the
constellation and is about four-fifths the hieroglyphics of ancient Egypt. No doubt
mass of our Sun. The three planets are it will help us better understand the
quite large, being 10, 12 and 18 times huge diversity we have observed since
larger in mass than the Earth. That the first extrasolar planet was found 11
makes them about the size of our years ago, asserts Mayor.
Neptune, although a lot smaller than
(Source: NASA News)
Jupiter, the biggest planet in our Solar
System, and they appear to be solid
A forward step in fusion research
planets too, made of rock, not gas.
The two innermost planets are A fusion reactor in which controlled
probably so close to HD 69830 that they fusion reaction could be made use to
would be blisteringly hot, but the produce huge amount of energy has been
outermost one lies in what planet experts a long cherished dream of physicists. In
call the “Goldilocks zone” — a comfortable a fusion reactor, very high speed
distance where water could exist as a particles are made to collide together to
liquid. Another discovery is that HD form a charged gas called a plasma. This
69830 also hosts, like our Sun, an plasma is contained inside a doughnut-
SCIENCE 2 0 0 6

shaped chamber called a tokamak by edge, which stops the fluxes from
powerful magnetic coils. In the various forming. The experiments were
designs of tokamaks developed so far in conducted at the General Atomics’ DIII-
different parts of the world, none has D National Fusion Facility, a tokamak in
achieved a self-sustaining fusion event San Diego. Nuclear fusion is the process
for longer than about five seconds, and which enables the Sun to radiate energy.
that too at a cost of using up far more In the case of our star, hydrogen atoms
energy than was yielded. are forced together to produce helium.
In 2005, a consortium of countries On Earth, the fusion would take place in
has signed a deal to build the a reactor fuelled by two isotopes of
International Thermonuclear Experi- hydrogen — deuterium and tritium —
mental Reactor (ITER) in southern with helium the waste product.
France, which could serve as a test bed Deuterium is present in seawater, which
for an eventual commercial design. makes it a virtually limitless resource.
However, experts associated with Tritium would be derived from irradiating
designing ITER are faced with many the plentiful element lithium in the fusion
challenges. One of them is a phenomenon vessel. Initially very high temperature,
called edge localised modes, or ELMs. of the order of 10 8 oC, is needed to
These are sudden fluxes or eddy in the kickstart the fusion process, which then
outer edge of the plasma that erode the could be sustained by tiny amounts of
tokamak’s inner wall — a highly fuel pellets.
expensive metal skin that absorbs ITER is designed to be a test bed of
neutrons emitted from the plasma. fusion technologies, with a construction
Erosion means that the wall has to be period of about 10 years and an
replaced more often, which thus adds operational lifespan of 20 years. The
hugely to costs. Eroded particles also partners of the project are the European
have a big impact on the plasma Union (EU), the United States, Japan,
performance, diminishing the amount of Russia, China, India and South Korea.
energy it can deliver. If ITER works, a prototype commercial
Physicists working in the United reactor will be built, and if that works,
States believe they have cracked the fusion technology will be rolled out
problem facing man-made nuclear across the world. Other problems facing
fusion, touted as the cheap, safe, clean fusion technology include the challenge
and almost limitless energy source of the of creating self-sustaining plasma and
future. According to a team of efficiently containing the plasma so that
researchers led by Todd Evans of General charged particles do not leak out.
Atomics, California, the problematic
ELMs can be controlled cleverly. They Cosmic telescopes!
found that a small resonant magnetic
field, derived from special coils located Researchers have evolved yet another
inside a reactor vessel, creates “chaotic” innovative technique to peep deeper into
magnetic interference on the plasma the mysteries of the universe. A research

team led by a Johns Hopkins University from barely detectable to as many as 50

astronomer have used massive clusters or 100 times normal size, depending on
of galaxies as “cosmic telescopes”. What the location of the galaxy and the
they have found may be infant galaxies distribution of mass within the cluster.
born in the first billion years after the The clusters are, in effect, giant cosmic
beginning of the universe. According to telescopes that allow astronomers to find
Holland Ford, a professor in the Henry and study distant galaxies that otherwise
A. Rowland Department of Physics and would be too faint to study.
Astronomy at the university’s Krieger Astronomers want to know when the
School of Arts and Sciences, if these first galaxies formed, how large and how
findings are confirmed, the extra bright galaxies are at birth, and how
magnification provided by these galaxies grow into large mature galaxies
gargantuan natural telescopes would like our home Milky Way galaxy. The
give astronomers their best-ever view of research team is searching for infant
galaxies as they formed in the early galaxies that are less than a billion years
universe, more than 12 billion years ago. old by comparing images of strongly
Holland Ford is the head of the Hubble lensing clusters taken by the Hubble
Space Telescope’s Advanced Camera for Space Telescope with images of the same
Surveys Science Team, which also clusters taken by the Magellan, the Very
includes researchers from the Space Large Telescopes (VLT) and Gemini
Telescope Science Institute, PUC in Chile, telescopes. The infant galaxies are so far
and other universities around the world. away their light is almost or entirely
Announcing the team’s results Ford redshifted to wavelengths that cannot be
said that their team’s spectroscopic detected with Hubble’s Advanced Camera
observations were made possible by for Surveys, but can be detected with
gravitational lenses, the bending of light infrared detectors on the world’s largest
caused by gravity’s warping of space in telescopes.
the presence of such massive objects as Using this technique, the research
clusters of galaxies. Explaining the basic team has searched for infant galaxies
idea of gravitational lenses Ford recalled behind 14 lensing clusters. If longer
that one of Einstein’s most startling spectroscopic observations of the three
predictions was that a gravitation field brightest candidate galaxies confirm that
can be thought of as a distortion of space they are indeed in the early universe,
and time. Gavitational lensing by these galaxies will provide astronomers
massive clusters of galaxies that have their clearest view yet of the youngest
about 1 million billion times more mass galaxies ever seen.
than the sun provide one of the most (Source: Science Daily online)
striking confirmations of Einstein’s
prediction. 60-year-old Plutonium questions
Ford asserts that our view of distant resolved
galaxies behind a cluster can be
magnified by amounts that could vary Scientists have claimed to solve a
SCIENCE 2 0 0 6

question about the nature of plutonium gallium stabilises the machinable cubic
that has remained a mystery ever since structure to room temperature. Through
the first nuclear device was detonated. a series of calculations, Moore and his
It is known that plutonium behaves like Livermore colleagues, Per Söderlind and
no other element in nature. The bonding Adam Schwartz, and David Laughlin of
of its electrons causes its crystal Carnegie Mellon University have
structure to be uneven, similar to a produced these results. The team next
mineral, and the nucleus is unstable, proposes to test their calculations in the
causing the metal to spontaneously laboratory.
decay over time and damage the
surrounding metal lattice. First batches New heart tissue grown in rats
of the plutonium metal used in that
Australian doctors have successfully
device were too brittle due to the mineral-
grown new beating heart tissue in rats
like structure of its crystal. In order to
in a process that they claim could be
make the metal machinable, the high-
used for people someday. The researchers
temperature, high-symmetry cubic
say the heart tissue developed by them
structure of plutonium needed to be
beats spontaneously with its own rhythm
retained at room temperature. In the first
and could be used to repair heart attack
nuclear device scientists achieved this
damage and other life-threatening
by adding a small amount of gallium.
ailments. They say it is the first step to
According to Kevin Moore, a staff
creating organs to replace diseased and
scientist in the Materials Science and
injured body parts.
Technology Division at Lawrence
According to Dr. Wayne Morrison,
Livermore National Laboratory, U.S.A.
who led a team of scientists from the
there was never a clear explanation as
Bernard O’Brien Institute of
to why gallium stabilised the ductile
Microsurgery this is a major
cubic structure over the low-symmetry
breakthrough for Australian medical
mineral-like structure; they just did it
science. Though it may still be too early
and it worked. For the first time,
to put it in practice, but nevertheless it
researchers have determined why
opens up the possibilities of growing
gallium works. In pure plutonium, the
living tissue: taking the patient’s cells
bonds between Pu atoms are very
and growing inside their own body living
uneven, causing the metals high
tissue that can be used to repair their
propensity to adopt a low-symmetry
own organs. The ground-breaking tissue-
structure. However, when a gallium atom
engineering technique uses a subject’s
is put in the plutonium lattice, it causes
own heart cells to grow new tissue in a
the bonds to become more uniform and
special chamber implanted in the
thus leads to the high-symmetry cubic
subject’s own body, which eliminates the
structure. Gallium evens out the
risk of tissue rejection.
plutonium bonds, asserts Moore. The
calculations strongly illuminate why (Source: Science Daily)

Magnetic thrust: fields force matter that wind. Therefore, magnetic pressure
into black holes really was the only viable means
remaining, according to Miller.
New observations confirm that magnetic
Such pressure could upset the gas
fields provide a final galactic push
disc’s orbit in two ways. The magnetic
needed to plunge cosmic matter into a
fields could push the wind outward like
black hole. The observations come from
a spring, or the force of the spinning disk
a system in the Milky Way called GRO
could fling the wind away from the disk’s
J1655-40, which consists of a black hole
centre. Either disruption of the disc’s
and a normal star. Gas from the star is
orbit would cause some matter to spiral
pulled toward the black hole, where it
downward. Though most astrophysicists
forms what’s called an accretion disk.
expected magnetic fields to play a role in
Angular momentum keeps the disc
black holes, the finding of the
revolving around the black hole instead
researchers is an important evidence to
of falling into it. Until now, scientists
support that view because it is for the
weren’t sure whether magnetic fields,
first time there is a clear evidence for
radiation pressure, or heat alter the orbit
wind coming off an accretion disc.
and trigger that fall.
According to Miller their finding could
Unless something knocked them off
help astrophysicists understand the
course, the gases in the disk would
“complex give-and-take between galaxies
continue to circle the black hole forever.
and black holes.
“To get matter in toward the black hole,
we have to change the orbits in the disk,” (Source: Science News Online)
says study leader Jon Miller
Using NASA’s Chandra satellite New finding about E Coli could help
observatory, Miller of the University of contain infections
Michigan in Ann Arbor, U.S.A. and his Researchers at UT Southwestern
team collected data on X- rays emitted Medical Center, USA have discovered a
from the J1655 system. They found that new receptor in a strain of Escherichia
the X- rays came from a wind blowing coli (E coli) that can be blocked to avert
from the disk, so some force must propel infection. The finding might help in
the wind past the black hole’s developing better therapies to treat
gravitational pull. After simulating the bacterial infections resulting from food
wind on a computer, the researchers poisoning, diarrhea or plague. The
conclude that only magnetic fields could receptor, known as QseC, is used by a
create such a force. The team had ruled diarrhea-causing strain of E coli to
out a wind fuelled by heat from the core receive signals from human flora and
of the disc or by pressure from radiation hormones in the intestine and express
blasting out of the disk. A heat-driven virulence genes to initiate infection.
wind would have been hotter than the In a study researchers have
one that the researchers observed, and described how they used phentolamine,
radiation pressure is too weak to drive an alpha blocker drug used to treat
SCIENCE 2 0 0 6

hypertension, to successfully impede the QseC receptor and occupies the

signalling to the receptor. Without such pocket that the receptor would use to
signals, bacteria then pass blindly recognise the host epinephrine and nor-
through the digestive tract without epinephrine signals — thus blocking the
infecting cells. According to Dr. Vanessa QseC receptor from sensing the signals
Sperandio, Assistant Professor of and preventing it from being able to
Microbiology at UT Southwestern, U.S.A. express its virulence genes in cells. Dr.
and a member of the research team this Sperandio opined that this knowledge
receptor is found in many pathogens, so could lead to further understanding of
they could use this knowledge to design the signalling processes between
specific antagonists to block bacterial microbes and humans and to the
infections. development of novel treatments of
Prior research by Dr. Sperandio bacterial infections with antagonists to
found that when a person ingests the these signals.
more virulent enterohemorrhagic E coli, New therapies are important
or EHEC — which is usually transmitted because treating some bacterial
through contaminated food such as raw infections with conventional antibiotics
meat — it travels peacefully through the can cause the release of more toxins and
digestive tract until reaching the may worsen disease outcome. The
intestine. There, however, chemicals importance of the research findings can
produced by the friendly gastrointestinal be magnified manifold because of the
microbial flora and the human hormones QseC receptor’s existence in other types
epinephrine and nor-epinephrine alert of bacteria. These include Shigella,
the bacteria to its location. This cellular which causes dysentery; Salmonella,
cross talk triggers a cascade of genetic which causes food poisoning and
activations prompting EHEC to colonize gastroenteritis; and Yersinia, which
and translocate toxins into cells, altering causes bubonic plague. All of them are
the makeup of the cells and robbing the infectious diseases that afflict thousands
body of nutrients. An infected person of people each year worldwide.
may develop bloody diarrhoea or even Researchers are of the opinion that
haemolytic uremic syndrome, which can overuse of antibiotics has led bacteria to
cause death in immune-weakened develop resistance to antibiotics, so a
people, the elderly and young children. novel type of therapy is needed.
The new study identifies QseC as the (Source: Sciencedaily)
specific receptor by which EHEC senses
the signals. When the receptor binds to NASA Satellite positioning software
signalling molecules, the bacterium can may aid in Tsunami warnings
infect cells. Researchers tested the
capacity of adrenergic antagonists, drugs University scientists using Global
such as alpha and beta blockers, to Positioning System (GPS) software
disrupt the receptor’s sensing ability. developed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion
They found that phentolamine binds to Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., have

shown that GPS can determine, within a few thousand kilometres of a quake.
minutes, whether an earthquake is big From these data, scientists can calculate
enough to generate an ocean-wide how far the stations moved because of
tsunami. This NASA-funded technology the quake. They can then derive an
can be used to provide faster tsunami earthquake model and the quake’s true
warnings. size, called its ‘moment magnitude.’ This
A team led by Dr. Geoffrey Blewitt of magnitude is directly related to a quake’s
the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology potential for generating tsunamis.
and Seismological Laboratory, University As illustrated by the magnitude 9.2-
of Nevada, Reno, demonstrated that a 9.3 Sumatra quake of December 2004,
large quake’s true size can be determined current scientific methods have difficulty
within 15 minutes using GPS data. This in quickly determining moment
is much faster than is possible with magnitude for very large quakes. That
methods employed at present. Tsunami quake was first estimated at 8.0 using
warning is a race against time asserts seismological techniques designed for
Dr. Seth Stein, Department of Geological rapid analysis. Because these
Sciences, Northwestern University, and techniques derive estimates from the
a member of the researcher team. first seismic waves they record, they tend
Tsunamis travel at jet speed, so warning to underestimate quakes larger than
centres must accurately decide, within about 8.5. That is the approximate size
minutes, whether to issue alerts. This needed to generate major ocean-wide
has to be done fast enough for the tsunamis. The initial estimate was the
warning to be distributed to authorities primary reason warning centres in the
in impacted areas so they can implement Pacific significantly underestimated the
response plans. Together with earthquake’s tsunami potential.
seismometer and ocean buoy data, GPS The potential of GPS to contribute to
adds another tool that can improve tsunami warning became apparent after
future tsunami danger assessments. the Sumatra earthquake. GPS
However, the first level of alert for large measurements showed that quake
earthquakes would always need moved the ground permanently more
seismology and ocean buoys to actually than 1 centimetre as far away as India,
sense the tsunami waves. The advantage about 2,000 kilometres away from the
of including GPS in warning systems is epicentre. The researchers hypothesised
that it would facilitate to quickly assess that if GPS data could be analysed
how much the ocean floor has moved, so rapidly and accurately, it could be
that this information can directly set possible to quickly indicate the
tsunami models into motion. earthquake’s true size and tsunami
The new method, called GPS potential.
displacement, works by measuring the To test the feasibility of their
time radio signals from GPS satellites approach, the scientists used NASA’s
arrive at ground stations located within satellite positioning data processing
SCIENCE 2 0 0 6

software to analyse data from 38 GPS tempted to think that little progress has
stations located at varying distances been made. However, this assertion may
from the Sumatra quake’s epicentre. The not be correct. While the ozone hole over
software pinpoints a station’s precise Antarctica continues to open wide, the
location to within 7 millimetres. Only data ozone layer around the rest of the planet
that were available within 15 minutes of seems to be shrinking. For the last 9
the earthquake were used. Results years, worldwide ozone has remained
indicated most of the permanent ground roughly constant, halting the decline
displacements occurred within a few first noticed in the 1980s.
minutes of the arrival of the first seismic The question is why? Is the Montreal
waves. The analysis done by researchers Protocol responsible? Or is some other
inferred an earthquake model and a process at work? It’s a complicated
moment magnitude of 9.0, very near the question. CFCs are not the only things
earthquake’s final calculated size. that can influence the ozone layer;
sunspots, volcanoes and weather also
(Source: NASA News)
play a role. Ultraviolet rays from
sunspots boost the ozone layer, while
Good news and a puzzle
sulphurous gases emitted by some
Ozone layer on the upper strata of the volcanoes can weaken it. Cold air in the
Earth’s atmosphere plays a vital role in stratosphere can either weaken or boost
protecting life on the surface from the the ozone layer, depending on altitude
harmful glare of the sun’s strongest and latitude. These processes and others
ultraviolet rays, which can cause skin have been presented in a review by a
cancer and other maladies. In the 1980s, group of researchers from NASA and
when scientists noticed that manmade some universities in U.S.A. According to
chemicals in the atmosphere were researchers, they measured ozone
destroying this layer, it is not surprising concentrations at different altitudes
that people all over the world were using satellites, balloons and
alarmed. Governments quickly enacted instruments on the ground. Then they
an international treaty, called the compared their measurements with
Montreal Protocol, to ban ozone- computer predictions of ozone recovery.
destroying gases such as CFCs then The calculations also took into account
found in aerosol cans and air the known behaviour of the sunspot
conditioners. cycle, seasonal changes in the ozone
Today, almost 20 years later, reports layer, and Quasi-Biennial Oscillations,
continue of large ozone holes opening a type of stratospheric wind pattern
over Antarctica, allowing dangerous UV known to affect ozone.
rays through to Earth’s surface. Indeed, What researchers have found is both
the 2005 ozone hole was one of the biggest good news and also a puzzle. The good
ever, spanning 24 million sq km in area, news: In the upper stratosphere (above
nearly the size of North America. roughly 18 km), ozone recovery can be
Listening to this news, one might be explained almost entirely by CFC

reductions. The Montreal Protocol seems public attention. But Chodas and other
to be working at such heights, according experts have been monitoring it, which
to researchers. The puzzle: In the lower according to him is a very curious object.
stratosphere (between 10 and 18 km) Most near-Earth asteroids, when
ozone has recovered even better than they approach Earth, simply fly by. They
changes in CFCs alone would predict. come and they go, occasionally making
Something else must be affecting the news around the date of closest
trend at these lower altitudes. The approach. This Asteroid since named
“something else” could be atmospheric 2003 YN107 is different: It came and it
wind patterns. This is because the winds stayed. Astronomers believe that 2003
are known to carry ozone from the YN107 is one of a whole population of
equator to higher latitudes where it is near-Earth asteroids that don’t just fly
destroyed. Changing wind patterns affect by Earth. They pause and corkscrew in
the balance of ozone and could be our vicinity for years before moving along.
boosting the recovery below 18 km. This These asteroids are called Earth Co-
explanation seems to offer the best fit to orbital Asteroids or “co-orbitals” for short.
the computer model of the researchers. Essentially, they share Earth’s orbit,
However, other sources of natural or going around the Sun in almost exactly
manmade variability may yet prove to be one year. Occasionally a co-orbital
the cause of the lower-stratosphere’s catches up to Earth from behind, or vice
bonus ozone. Whatever be the real cause, versa, and the dance begins: The
if the trend continues, the global ozone asteroid, while still orbiting the sun,
layer should be restored to 1980 levels slowly corkscrews around our planet,
sometimes between 2030 and 2070. By which in other words means that their
then even the Antarctic ozone hole might orbit as seen from the earth appears like
close — for good. a corkscrew.
These asteroids, however, are not
(Source: NASA News)
truly captured by Earth’s gravity, notes
Corkscrew Asteroid Chodas. But from our point of view, it
looks like we have a new moon.
Believe it or not the Earth has a “second Astronomers know of at least four small
moon” for early seven years. It is actually asteroids that can do this trick: 2003
an Asteroid, only 20 metre in size, which YN107, 2002 AA29, 2004 GU9 and 2001
has been going around our planet once GO2. There may be more as Chodas
a year. The asteroid is too small to see believes the list will grow as asteroid
with the unaided eye — but it is there. surveys improve in sky coverage and
According to Paul Chodas of NASA’s sensitivity. At the moment, only two co-
Near Earth Object Program at JPL, the orbitals are actually nearby: 2003 YN107
Asteroid arrived in 1999 and it’s been and 2004 GU9. The others are scattered
corkscrewing around Earth ever since. around Earth’s orbit.
Because the asteroid is so small and 2004 GU9 is perhaps the most
poses no threat, it has attracted little interesting. It is about 200 metre in size,
SCIENCE 2 0 0 6

which is relatively large compared to forever. In about 60 years 2003 YN107

other such asteroids. And according to will lap Earth again, resuming its role
latest calculations it has been looping as a temporary, corkscrewing moonlet.
around Earth for 500 years—and may In due course, other coorbitals will do the
continue looping for another 500. It’s in same.
a remarkably stable “orbit.” Each encounter is an opportunity for
Right now, however, researchers are study—and possibly profit. Even the most
paying more attention to 2003 YN107 for powerful telescopes cannot see much of
one simple reason: it’s about to leave the these tiny asteroids; they’re just specks
earth’s orbit. The asteroid’s corkscrew in the eyepiece. However, Chodas is
path is likely to come within 3.4 million optimistic that one day, when the space
km of Earth sometime in June 2006, program is more advanced it might be
when it will be slightly closer than usual. possible to visit, explore the moonlets and
Earth’s gravity will then give the asteroid tap their resources and then they would
the push it needs to leave. This would not be just an object of curiosity as they
give astronomers a rare chance to are today.
observe the asteroids moving out of the (Source: NASA NEWS on line)
earth’s orbit. However, it won’t be gone (Compiled and edited by: R. Joshi)

The first Chapter ‘Orientation’

Book Review described the struggles of Dr. Kalam’s
boyhood and youth, bringing alive
everyday life in a small town in South
Wings of Fire India named Rameswaram, and the
A.P.J. ABDUL KALAM with ARUN TIWARI inspirational roles of educators. Dr.
Publisher: Universities Press (India) Ltd Kalam’s dream to become an Air Force
3-5-819, Hyderguda, pilot, got frustrated and he had to
Hyderabad - 500 029, pp. 179, Rs. 200. contend with the job of Senior Scientific
Assistant at the Directorate of Technical
India has made great strides in space, Development & Production [DTD&P (Air)]
nuclear power and, above all, missile of the Ministry of Defence. Later, he was
technology. Indeed Agni, Prithvi, Akash, selected as a rocket engineer by the
Trishul and Nag have become household Indian Committee of Space Research
names in India and at the same time have (INCOSPAR). This chapter also narrates
contributed to raising the nation to the Dr. Kalam’s efforts to design and develop
level of a missile power of international a hovercraft christened Nandi which,
reckoning. The man behind missile however, did not finally materialise.
technology, aptly called the ‘missile man’, The Chapter ‘Creation’ is mainly
is none other than our honourable about the contribution of Dr. Kalam at
President, Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. Born Indian Space Research Organisation
in 1931, the son of a little educated boat- (ISRO). He was made the Project Manager
owner in Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu, Dr. of the Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV)
Kalam had an unparalleled career as a Programme. However, the first
defence scientist, culminating in the experimental flight trial of SLV-3 on 10
highest civilian award of India – the August 1979 met with failure. This
Bharat Ratna. However, Dr. Kalam rose greatly disappointed Dr. Kalam. But,
to the position he is enjoying today by he was not to be cowed down and, on 18
dint of his personal and professional July 1980, SLV-3 was successfully
struggles. An account of Dr. Kalam’s life launched.
can, therefore, be inspiring and The third Chapter ‘Propitiation’
motivating to youth, particularly those highlights Dr. Kalam’s role at Defence
belonging to the unprivileged section of Research and Development Laboratory
the society. (DRDL) in the development of missiles
The book under review is an under India’s prestigious Integrated
autobiography of Dr. Kalam written by Guided Missile Development
Arun Tiwari through a long series Programme (IGMDP). The last Chapter
of sittings with the former. It is divided ‘Contemplation’ summarises some ideas
into four major chapters titled of Dr. Kalam concerning technology, its
Orientation, Creation, Propitiation and management and the philosophy behind
Contemplation. Technology Management.
SCIENCE 2 0 0 6

The book under review is in essence and women. Are you able to manage the
a story of a scientist who, time and stresses you encounter in your life? The
again, was tested by failures and difference between an energetic and a
setbacks but was finally crowned with confused person is the difference in the
success and fame. As has been rightly way their minds handle their
remarked in the book, one ‘need not be experiences. Man needs his difficulties
disheartened about life. Problems are a because thay are necessary to enjoy
part of life. Suffering is the essence of success.
success.’ In this context it is worth
quoting the following lines appearing in Then, how are the following words from
the book: a struggling Dr. Kalam of yesteryears:
God has not promised So far, I had believed that the sky was
Skies always blue, the limit, but now it appeared that the
Flower-strewn pathways limits were much closer. There are
All our life through; boundaries that dictate life: you can only
God has not promised lift so much weight; you can only learn
Sun without rain, so fast; you can only work so hard; you
Joy without sorrow can only go so far.!
Peace without pain. Also, reflecting on the title are the
following lines in the book:
However, solace is also assured in terms
of the following lines: Let the latent fire in the heart of every
Indian acquire Wings, and the glory of
But God has promised
Strength for the day, this great country light up the sky.
Rest for the labour The book ends with the following hope
Light for the day. and prayer:
There are words of wisdom scattered here I earnestly hope and pray that the
and there in the book. It will be development ... will eventually make our
worthwhile quoting the following lines: country strong and prosperous, a
Happiness, satisfaction, and success in “developed” nation.
life depend on making the right choices, There are many inspiring anecdotes
the winning choices. There are forces in in the book, too. Certainly, a must-read
life working for you and against you. One not only for youth but for readers of all
must distinguish the beneficial forces age and also those belonging to various
from the malevolent ones and choose cross-sections of the society.
correctly between them.
The following lines may also prove to be P.K. MUKHERJEE
rewarding reading indeed:
43, Deshbandhu Society
Total commitment is the common 15, Patparganj
denominator among all successful men Delhi 110 092.