Fruit flies help scientists to win Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine

  • Fruit flies continue to help scientists again. This time they help Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W. Young to win The Nobel for their discoveries of molecular mechanisms controlling the circadian rhythm. A press release from The   Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institute has announced yesterday.

The Nobel committee summarized  the discovery thus:

“Life on Earth is adapted to the rotation of our planet. For many years we have known that living organisms, including humans, have an internal, biological clock that helps them anticipate and adapt to the regular rhythm of the day. But how does this clock actually work? Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W. Young were able to peek inside our biological clock and elucidate its inner workings. Their discoveries explain how plants, animals and humans adapt their biological rhythm so that it is synchronized with the Earth’s revolutions.”

They used fruit flies as a model organism and  isolated a gene that controls the normal daily biological rhythm.  Every cell in the flies’ body is a living  biochemical factory Believe it or not,  If the scientists are correct  this gene encodes a protein that accumulates in the cell during the night, and is then degraded during the day. This may very well be the case for humans.

Later, they identified additional protein components of this machinery, exposing the mechanism governing the self-sustaining clockwork inside the cell.

“We now recognize that biological clocks function by the same principles in cells of other multicellular organisms, including humans.” the release from Karolinska Institute clarified.

“With exquisite precision, our inner clock adapts our physiology to the dramatically different phases of the day. The clock regulates critical functions such as behavior, hormone levels, sleep, body temperature and metabolism. Our wellbeing is affected when there is a temporary mismatch between our external environment and this internal biological clock, for example when we travel across several time zones and experience “jet lag”. There are also indications that chronic misalignment between our lifestyle and the rhythm dictated by our inner timekeeper is associated with increased risk for various diseases.”, the release added

You can read the background information on developments which led to the discovery, how these Nobel Laureates discovered the gene, a list of their key publications and  brief life history of the Laureates at the following link:

https://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/2017/press.html

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Suffocation risk to children

Uninflated balloons and broken balloon pieces

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), of all children’s products, balloons are the leading cause of suffocation deaths. The commission warned parents and caregivers of young children about the suffocation hazard presented by un-inflated toy balloons and pieces of broken balloons. Balloons are  favorite items in birthday parties.

The Link:

https://www.cpsc.gov/PageFiles/122493/5087.pdf

Risk from Small hard sugar balls
On September 18, 2017, the BfR Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, issued a press release on the suffocation risk from small hard sugar balls.

The Link:

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2017-09/bfif-srf091817.php#
Both these releases are timely. If you carry out a google search with “suffocation risk” and “balloons” as key words, we get hundreds of accident reports. Careless handling
I AGREE NO ONE WANTS TO THINK OF SUCH GRUESOME ACCIDENTS, Since they occur regularly, we must know them and take precautions.

A blog in mumsnet.com listed ten things one must know about child safety

The link:
https://www.mumsnet.com/toddlers/10-things-you-need-to-know-about-child-safety

The list may not be complete!

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Dr. Homi Bhabha: a lover of trees, gardens, and flowers

On October 31, 2009, I published a PTI Feature titled “Dr. Homi Bhabha: a lover of trees, gardens, and flowers.”  I thought I must reproduce it now.

The inspiration came from a facebook post from Dr. Manoj Sharma in response to the following  news item I reproduced:

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2017-07/ifpa-pfn071817.php

The news revealed that paying farmers not to cut trees in Uganda helps fight climate change.

Dr. Sharma wrote that there is a plan to create highways to reach places of pilgrimage. He noted that it may cause the cutting down of deodar trees of hundreds of years of old.

Dr. Homi Bhabha’s love for trees is legendary. Please read the article:

PTI FEATURE  October 31, 2009

Dr. Homi Bhabha: a lover of trees, gardens, and flowers

By Dr. K.S.Parthasarathy

On October 30 this year Dr. Homi Bhabha’s birth centenary celebrations will conclude. I saw him only on a few occasions. Once I saw him getting down from his car, crossing the road and admonishing a man who was nonchalantly walking over a carefully laid out turf.

Bhabha spent a lot of time in Trombay. His contribution as a lover of trees, gardens, and flowers is legendary.

During June 1959, Dr. Bhabha spent two days in Cambridge in connection with the conferment of an honorary degree of Doctor of Science on him. On his return on July 2 he wrote thus to Nehru:

“I stayed in Cambridge at the Master’s Lodge in Trinity as the guest of Lord Adrian. This was evidently a particularly good year for roses. I have never seen the profusion of such roses, as was to be found in his garden at the back adjoining the river…I hope some of the scientific laboratories and establishments we are building today will have a beauty of their own, which will have its due effect on those who work there. I think both Trombay and the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research will be architecturally, and botanically beautiful when they are completed…”

Every pillar, every brick in the laboratories, every blade of grass in the lush green undulating landscape at Trombay, has a story to tell.

The legacy of Dr. Bhabha is jealously guarded and preserved by his successors. During November 20 and 21, 2008, the Board of Research in Nuclear Sciences (BRNS), Department of Atomic Energy organized the Homi Bhabha Centenary National Symposium on Landscaping for Sustainable Development, jointly with the Bougainvillea Society of India, Indian Agricultural Research Institute. It was the first time that the Landscape and Cosmetic Maintenance Section, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) took the lead in organizing such a symposium. It provided an occasion for stocktaking by the delegates from BARC.

The old timers knew how Dr. Bhabha nurtured the gardens at the then Atomic Energy Establishment (AEET), Trombay. Shri N D Sharma, Controller, BARC reminded the audience that Dr. Bhabha, a great lover of flora and fauna created 2000 acres of space in Trombay.

“Dr. Bhabha’s love for nature was evident from the fact that in 1958, he set up a garden committee to develop and preserve the biodiversity of the region”, Shri Sharma revealed a not so well known historical detail.

“Due to the forest cover on BARC hills, the temperature drops leading to lesser energy requirements for air conditioners. Presently BARC has 100 acres of landscaped gardens”, Shri Sharma said.

Dr. Rakesh Tuli, Director, National Botanical Research Institute, Lucknow, who inaugurated the symposium referred to the landscape in Anushaktinagar, Trombay as an oasis.

“This vast expanse is dotted with a large number of trees which are oxygen generators and the lungs of our society’, he said.The credit for developing the terrain in Trombay into its present state goes to Dr. Bhabha and his farsightedness.

Shri Chintamani Deshmukh, in his short and eminently readable biography of Bhabha, traced Bhabha’s family background which instilled in him the love of trees, flowers, and gardens right from his childhood.

“His initiation into this field, too, took place in the family library and with frequent

family trips to Bangalore, the garden city of India and, as in other areas of interests, he

cultivated it into a comprehensive viewpoint, with aesthetic, artistic, technical,

environmental and historical elements fused together seamlessly” Deshmukh wrote.

Deshmukh noted that he visited gardens wherever he went and made sketches and took photographs. According to the author, the French and the English gardens of the 18th century and the Mughal Gardens in India were his favorites. He was also well versed in the Italian, Japanese and Persian gardens.

“For him, landscaping was not a luxury, and he held that the garden was an  of site development in any establishment. He considered landscaping, the choice of plant material and its positioning a matter of artistic composition. Bhabha was particularly fond of the Palace Gardens of Versailles in France, where the beauty of Nature was tamed and controlled by the skillful hands of the French artists”, Deshmukh said

Bhabha could not tolerate cutting down trees as an inevitable fallout of development. Deshmukh revealed that he went out of his way to save trees, even going to the extent of changing plans. He transplanted many full-grown peepuls, banyan and Barringtonia trees where the new buildings were to come up. Expenses did not deter him.

“In AEET, the road alignment was changed to save a 100-year-old mango tree. In the new TIFR campus, a rain tree stood in the way of the approach road. It was not possible to change the road alignment, so the tree was transplanted elsewhere on the campus” Deshmukh observed.

He transplanted many full-grown peepuls, banyan and Barringtonia trees from locations in which the new buildings were to come up.

Deshmukh found out that he even went to the extent of saving trees which were to be cut down during road-widening activity of the municipal corporation.

“Bhabha started the era of transplanting big trees in our country” Deshmukh quoted S. D. Vaidya, formerly Superintendent, Parks and Gardens (and later Head, Landscape Architecture Section), AEET.

In the words of Vaidya, “His sensitive mind perceived the trees as living sculptures, giving a character of their own to the place where they stood ungrudgingly for generations”.

According to Deshmukh, Bhabha pioneered rose cultivation in Mumbai.

“It was believed impossible to grow roses in Mumbai. But with Bhabha’s initiative, AEET started to grow roses and in 1960, there were as many as 750 named varieties growing successfully in the Rose Garden.  No wonder Bhabha played a prominent role in the ‘Citizens’ Committee for Beautiful Bombay.”  Deshmukh quoted   Vaidya.

Unfortunately, unprecedented rain and consequent floods in Trombay damaged the rose garden.

Dr.  B P Pal formerly Director General, Indian Council of Agriculture, developed a variety of white roses aptly called Dr. Homi Bhabha Roses (one of 40, Dr. Pal created).

Dr. Homi Bhabha set high standards in every one of his activities. His successors have to try relentlessly to achieve them.

[ I made some minor editorial changes in the text]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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An open letter to Shri Achuthandan written in 2006

I am presently in Kerala for the past few days. Lack of rains  and lack of any type of help at home are the two not so new elements we face now. In 2006, in one of my earlier visits we saw that Shri V S Achuthanandan took charge as the new Chief Minister of the State. I decided to publish an open letter to him. I chose to publish it in The New Indian Express. In fact after sending it, I had a brief telephonic discussion with Shri George Abraham, the Editor of the daily. The daily did not use it.

Certain unique developments in Kerala troubled any visitor to the State. On October 4, 2005 I referred to some of it in a letter to the editor of The Tribune. You may access it as:

The Tribune October 4, 200

Guidelines needed on campus polls

The editorial “Campus elections” (Sept 21) reminds me of the campus election scene in Maharajas College, Ernakulam, during 1958-63. There were enough political distractions to destroy the career of even hard working students.

Accompanied by my father, I entered the campus for the first time. We had our first shock. Half a dozen students showered notices on us. It was a part of the election propaganda. Different political parties supported them.

Students agitated successfully against the increase in bus fare from six paisa to 10 paisa. Many students became leaders because of this One anna samaram. Hostels were hotbed of politics. But none enrolled as “permanent” students to continue their political activities.

My contemporaries, Mr A.K. Antony and Mr Vayalar Ravi, have made their mark in politics. Now campus politics is taking its toll. There must be guidelines to control this activity. Enough is enough.

— Dr K.S. PARTHASARATHY, Mumbai

 

 

Some conditions have changed in the State. Others remained. I am reproducing the letter below.

AN OPEN LETTER TO SHRI V S ACHUTHANANDAN

Dr K.S.Parthasarathy*

Dear sir,

I was exhilarated to hear that  a person like you from very humble beginnings, took over as the chief minister of Kerala. I attribute your success to your spartan life style, hard work and dedication to the cause of the under-privileged and above all your no nonsense and brutally frank attitude against moral turpitude and corruption.

I have no political affiliations. I work in Mumbai. I retired after 41 years of service, 21 years in the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre and rest in the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board. After retirement, the Department of Atomic Energy offered me Raja Ramanna fellowship

Two unconnected items inspired me to send this open letter to you; campus politics and behaviour of head load workers. My views on them may be very different from yours. But I request you to consider them impartially on their merit.

I  was born in to a middle class family. I  studied in Maharajas College Ernakulam because of the admirable will of my father and the munificence of a relative..

In 1958, as we entered the college campus for the first time, we had our first shock. Half a dozen students showered notices on us. It was a part of the election propaganda. Different political parties supported them.  My father extracted a promise that I shall never enter politics.

He knew my overwhelming propensities to extra curricular activities! I never missed a chance to attend public meetings. I loved to speak. I was secretary of the school literary and debating society  for many years.

Students agitated successfully against the increase in bus fare from six paisa to 10 paisa. Many students became leaders because of this “One anna samaram”. Hostels were hotbed of politics. But, as in northern States, none enrolled as “permanent” students to continue their political activities.

My contemporaries, Mr A.K. Antony and Mr Vayalar Ravi, have made their mark in politics. T.V.R.Shenoy and K.M Roy went into journalism. I do not know whether any one discontinued their studies because of political activities. We may never know that.

I was shocked to hear that mindless violence due to uncontrolled political activities had snuffed out the life of a few students, some of them from the middle class families

I believe that campus politics is taking its toll. There must be guidelines to control this activity. Enough is enough. That brings me to the first point. You know that the  Supreme Court had set up the Lingdoh Committee to examine and consider all aspects relating to the conduct of student elections, such as aspects affecting the academic atmosphere in educational institutions including, but not limited to, indiscipline and divisions on the basis of political beliefs and such other avoidable considerations.

The Committee may submit its recommendations shortly. I request you to act on the recommendations impartially, and courageously whatever may be your political views.

Recently, I have been to Kerala. I never believed that the head load workers extract their pound of flesh in every “head load work” in every village without doing any work!. The instance in point involved, the transport of  a few unproductive cocoanut trees which were bought by a broker at the rate of Rs 10 per metre .

The total amount involved Rs 2000/- The buyer employed six men to cut the trees and to load them on to a lorry. As soon as the loading operation was over, two head load workers appeared from no where; there were some whispering discussions; the broker told me later that he paid Rs 350/- to them as is the practice to “avoid complications”. This criminal extortion is worse than naked thuggery.

I do not grudge paying the workers handsomely their dues; but what is revolting is that they collect the money and do no work.

On May 13, this year a leading Malayalam daily reported that three head load workers were suspended for demanding  and claiming Rs 15,000/- as “Nokku Koolie” from Shri P.Vijayan  who owns a firm in H.M.T. Industrial Estate at Kalamassery. He used a crane on a holiday to unload some machinery imported from Switzerland.

The report also contained a warning from the city police commissioner that he will take strict action against those who violate the existing provisions.  Police did take action on such complaints at Mattanchery. Notwithstanding that, the practice prevailed in Kalamassery. I understand that it prevails in every village and town.

Later, I  read the Kerala loading and unloading(regulation of wages and restrictions of unlawful practices)Act, 2002. I realized that this comprehensive law is violated with impunity. Sir, you must make it unambiguously clear that this law will be enforced strictly.  I did not find anything unfair in this piece of legislation.

[ Dr. K.S.Parthasarathy is former Secretary, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board]

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Now “Nokkukuli” may not be a serious issue. Political violence including even  murders continue in some parts of Kerala. Not a welcome sign!

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Washington Examiner reviews the upsides and downsides of eliminating paper currency

Recently, the Washington Examiner columnist Mr. Kevin Cochrane in an eminently readable article reviewed the upsides and downsides in eliminating paper currency (WE, March 9). He reveals that Kublai Khan who invaded China introduced paper money, started a postal system besides spreading disease in that country.  According to Wikipedia, Kublai Khan established the Yuan dynasty in 1271. The dynasty ruled over present-day Mongolia, China, Korea, and some adjacent areas; he assumed the role of Emperor of China; he was the grandson of Genghis Khan.

Cochrane recalls that it took the Chinese “a few hundred years to overcome the Mongol hordes, build a wall to keep them out, and abolish currency in the early Ming Dynasty”.

“But now, almost 500 years later, the rest of the world is catching up with those Chinese emperors” Cochrane said.

He discovers that now “there is an effort gaining momentum to limit, or even abolish, physical money” He concedes that there are “some very positive upsides and also some very disturbing downsides just like most disruptive events in history – gunpowder, the steam engine, music videos – but this time the ledger of pluses and minuses is a little more difficult to balance”.

Cochrane describes many reasons for abandoning paper currency:

He says that the Chinese abandoned paper money because of inflation though Governments today say they want it eliminated because of crime.

“India recently required its 1.2 billion people to surrender all of their largest notes for smaller bills, effectively eliminating more than 80 percent of the currency in circulation” he refers to demonetization in India.

Cochrane quotes the Indian prime minister as saying that the action was to stop counterfeiting. Cochrane concludes that there was another more subtle reason behind the move – taxes. Mr Cochrane  did not list  all the reasons for demonetization advanced by the Indian Prime Minister.

Please see the full text of Prime Minister’s talk  published by the Wall Street Journal (Accessed on March 13, 2017):

http://blogs.wsj.com/indiarealtime/2016/11/08/full-text-of-indian-prime-minister-narendra-modis-speech-on-replacing-largest-rupee-notes/

Mr Cochrane characterizes tax evasion as “India’s national sport”. He claims that the USA does not have this problem “because less than 15 percent of all transactions statewide are completed in cash, and those only average about $21”.

If you can eliminate cash, transactions will be traceable making it easy for levying income tax.

Cochrane gives an interesting difficulty in cash transactions:

“A million dollars in $100 dollar bills weighs only 20 pounds, but the same amount in $10 dollar bills weighs more than 200 pounds and requires an Olympic weight-lifter to carry it. Having only small bills purportedly moderates or even ends illegal undertakings.”

You may, if you so desire, read Mr. Cochrane’s article at:

http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/the-upsides-and-downsides-to-eliminating-paper-currency/article/2616688

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Unnatural deaths in atomic energy: new wine in an old bottle!

On December 4, 2016, SundayGuardianLive published a report titled “Atomic energy department saw 70 unnatural deaths in eight years “. This news story is similar to a report which appeared in The Times of India in Sept 2014. It is a typical example of new wine in old bottle.

Here is the link to the article in SundayGuardianLive:

http://www.sundayguardianlive.com/investigation/7559-atomic-energy-department-saw-70-unnatural-deaths-eight-years

Responding to the TOI report of Sept 2014 , I wrote an article in Rediff.com  concluding that “overall, data and its analysis used in the reports prove that members of staff of DAE, like others, are prone to cancer and suicides! No more, no less! The sensational reports have the potential to do infinite damage to our nation’s nuclear energy programme and create unwanted fear.”

The Department of Atomic Energy responded promptly to the TOI article.

The Link: http://dae.nic.in/?q=node/775

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Carbon footprint of your sofa, Festival meal

 

Recently, the Scientific American journal reported that  normally the atmospheric level of carbon dioxide is at its minimum in September. However, in September this year, it has peaked at 400 parts per million (ppm). The journal quoted scientists as saying that it may not go below this level ever.Rising levels of carbon dioxide, the most important greenhouse gas is of great concern even at the  individual  level. I thought it is interesting to look at the topic afresh. I wrote an article on it in The Wire.

dinner

 

Here it is:

http://thewire.in/82871/carbon-footprint-thanksgiving-kerala/

 

 

 

 

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