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Monday, 24 July, 2017 - 07:59

A visit to a doctor for minor ailments may soon be a thing of the past, with rapid rise in medical technologies. Nowadays, a smartphone can help with disease diagnosis and contacting the relevant specialists from around the world, all from the comfort of one’s home. Mobile Healthcare or mHealth has been significantly advanced with the advent of Internet of Things, where sensors can feed live data to specialists, who can monitor patients from miles away. This rapid rise of mHealth has some worried about the security aspects of the software. These fears have been partially allayed by scientists from International Institute of Information Technology, University of  Kentucky and Indian Institute of Information Technology, who have been analyzing the security features of mHealth systems. The researchers analyzed the requirements, issues and threats. Next, based on the features supported, possible attacks and computation and communication costs, the researchers proposed a detailed plan to address the security concerns of these software.  They also take a critical view at the security measures to mhealth systems that have been proposed, while studying the strengths and weaknesses of the proposed security features. Finally, the researchers also identify some challenges which could arise while implementing some of the proposed security features. The study aims at securing the mHealth systems of the future, which are soon poised to become the hospitals of the future.

Section: Science, Technology, Health, Society Source: Link
Friday, 21 July, 2017 - 07:57

Ever since its emergence as a field of science in the 1980’s, Nanotechnology has seeped into every aspect of our lives. From embedded in toothpaste to materials space shuttles are made of, nanoparticles can be found on earth, on the surface and floating in the atmosphere. Accidentally consuming a few nanoparticles either while breathing or eating is all but unavoidable. But the effects of these nanoparticles on the human body haven’t yet been been fully understood. Now, scientists from CSIR-Indian Institute of Chemical Technology, Osmania University and Defence Metallurgical Research Laboratory are exploring the effects of one such nanoparticle –Tungsten Oxide. Tungsten oxide has gained popularity in recent times and is used as nanoparticles in developing biomedicine, cosmetics and electronics. By orally administering tungsten oxide to female Wiser rats, the scientists studied the individual’s genes to reveal the effect of the nanoparticles. The study showed an increase in DNA damage in rats that had been administered low doses of the substance, while higher doses showed significant changes in the serum and liver DNA. The study also revealed the highest concentration of nanoparticles to be in the liver and the least in the brain. Apart from exposing the harmful effects of nanoparticles, that has become a favorite among material engineers, the study also serves as a warning to the devastation overexposure of nanoparticles could cause.

Section: Science, Technology, Health, Society Source: Link
Thursday, 20 July, 2017 - 07:51

Children often are labelled as ‘gifted’ and ‘talented’ in our education system owing to their academic or extracurricular activities. But what does it mean to say a child is ‘gifted’ and how ‘special’ are they really? Is there a particular age at which they develop  the so called ‘giftedness’? If so, how should the teachers in the education system handle such students? A new study by Prof. Partha Pratim Roy from the South Point High School, Kolkata and University of Maryland College, USA, sheds some light on these questions. Drawing from his experience of teaching for more than 20 years and teaching 1500 high performing students, Prof. Roy suggests that ‘discovery teaching and learning’ can help not just in identifying the gifted minds but also in nurturing their abilities. The study also points out instances of how ‘ordinary’ students can turn creative to win accolades in prestigious science competitions by facilitating metacognitive abilities of the learners . Emphasising on the ‘gifted and talented’ in an education system, does not help the greater cause of education, but promotes elitism and racism in the system, argues the researcher.

Section: General, Science, Society Source: Link
Wednesday, 19 July, 2017 - 08:19

Nanotechnology is the study of objects whose size varies in the range of nanometers--that is a billion times smaller than a meter. Although humans have been known to use nanotechnology since the ninth century, its role became prominent with the rise of information technology, with most of our current technologies like the smart phones, satellites and rovers on mars, depending on nanotechnology. We have just started uncovering the properties of the different elements and molecules at this scale, giving rise to new technologies as we do. In the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, a team of researchers has been looking at the behavior of impurities in nanomaterials.. At the nanometer scale a single molecule of impurity could interact with several nanoparticles that form the material, thus affecting its efficiency. On the other hand, if we could control the behavior of the impurity within the material it could lead to new discoveries and spawn new technologies. The study shows that the position of the impurity during the formation of the nanomaterial decided the fate of the impurity, which could help in developing self purifying nanocrystals, where the impurities are expelled during the formation of the nano crystal. Or by controlling the position of the impurity, during the nanocrystal growth, new types of soft nano materials could be also designed. The study could be a stepping stone towards understanding and exploiting the role of impurities within nanomaterials.

Section: General, Science, Technology, Engineering, Society Source: Link
Tuesday, 18 July, 2017 - 12:31

Ever since Einstein’s theory predicted their existence, Black holes have captivated our imaginations. They are formed when sufficient mass collapses, whether through a supernova explosion or gravitational influence, to form a compact object, with gravity so high that not even light can escape its pull. Supermassive black holes are found at the center of most of the currently known galaxies and can weigh as much as a billion times more than our Sun. Black holes remain largely a mystery since we can’t see or detect them directly, but can only observe their influence on their neighbours. Now, a team of researchers from the University of Oslo, Raman Research Institute, Bangalore, and Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics,USA, are trying to uncover the secret origins of supermassive black holes. One of the most promising theories in recent times explaining the formation of supermassive black holes is the Direct Collapse Black Holes (DCBH), which are black holes formed when clouds of gasses accumulate and directly become a black hole without turning into a star first. The researchers  found that when the Cosmic Microwave Background radiation passed through a cloud of gases that was collapsing into a DCBH, the radiation was amplified. By detecting such amplified radiations coming from our cosmic neighborhood, it could point to the existence of a DCBH. If proved, such DCBHs could advance our understanding of black holes and provide insights into their formation, enabling us to detect these invisible galactic monsters.

Section: General, Science, Technology Source: Link
Monday, 17 July, 2017 - 07:26

Since ancient times, India has had a rich culture of metallurgy as evidenced in the archeological finds from Indian Iron age. The vessels and ornaments found from this period show skilled metallurgy and craftsmanship in smelting metal. Now, Prof. Sharada Srinivasan, a Professor at the National Institute of Advanced Studies, has been studying these ancient traditions and skills in working with metal. Since many of the metallurgical traditions have been orally translated over generations and never written down, not much is understood about these ancient metal workers. Studying metal that was used during the Indian Iron Age, the author finds use of specialized metals and alloys like beta high tin bronze and zinc implying skilled workers having knowledge of the different metals and their properties. The author also traced down metallurgists who, to this day, follow traditional forms of metallurgy, which could teach us a lot about the way our ancestors worked with metals. Kammalar tribe of Kerala was still found using traditional practices of high tin bronze vessel making. Kurumba tribe in Nilgiris are still found skillfully extracting gold, following their traditional methods. The author also found evidence for early use of zinc from the Zawar region of Rajasthan. The paper looks at these exceptional skills that our ancestors possessed, something that has been lost over the generations.

Section: General, Science, Society Source: Link
Friday, 14 July, 2017 - 10:55

Uric acid is a compound made of carbon, nitrogen and oxygen, and is one of the components in urine. High amounts of uric acid in the blood could lead to many debilitating medical conditions such as diabetes and gout. However, detecting the compound in living cells without damaging the cells can be quite a challenge. Now, scientists from Visva- Bharati Santiniketan, West Bengal, Indian Institute of Engineering, Science and Technology, Howrah and University of Calcutta, Kolkata have devised a novel way of detecting uric acid without disrupting the cell. Using a compound called Naphthyridine, the researchers have devised a probe that can react to the presence of Uric Acid. Naphthyridine is known to exhibit fluorescence in the presence of uric acid, a property that has been exploited to build the probe. The new device is able to detect very low concentrations of uric acid in water and other serum, thus making it suitable for use in medical applications.

Section: General, Science, Engineering, Health, Society Source: Link
Thursday, 13 July, 2017 - 07:24

Bamboo is one of the most easily identifiable grasses, with people readily recognizing the long, smooth tube shaped trunks. It is also one of the most widely used grass with several implements being made using bamboo, like ladders, chairs and even entire houses. In the scientific community, however, there is confusion, largely due to the lack of data about various aspects like ecology and distribution, of these grasses. Two genera specifically, namely Thamnocalamus Munro and Fargesia Franchet emend Yi  have often been used synonymously by researchers, despite being different genus. The confusion largely arises since the two genus look remarkably similar, and the research proving them to be different species was found to have inconsistent data. Now, researchers from Sichuan Agricultural University and Motilal Nehru National Institute of Technology have decided to settle the debate. Studying 19 species between the two genera, researchers used Artificial Neural Networks, a computer system that is based on the human brain, and morphological data. The researchers found significant differences between species from the two genera, thus finally settling the debate and showing that Thamnocalamus and Fargesia are different genera.

Section: General, Science Source: Link
Wednesday, 12 July, 2017 - 11:36

Zirconium is a hard and ductile metal with high resistance to corrosion and low absorption of thermal neutrons, like the ones produced in a nuclear reactor, making them extremely useful as cladding for fuel rods in nuclear reactors. Zr-1Nb is an alloy of Zirconium and Niobium, which is one of the common alloys used as cladding. Processing of Zr-1Nb usually takes place in two phases to get the right microstructure of the alloy and perform optimally as a cladding agent. Thus, it becomes important to know the behavior of the alloy in each of the phases, to best assess its quality. Current methods followed to determine the behavior however, do not take the two phases into consideration, affecting the final result of the test. Scientists from Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee and Bhabha Atomic Research Center, Mumbai have now developed a novel method to test the behavior of the alloy in the two phases to ensure the needed properties. They have also developed a processing map to efficiently process Zr-1Nb alloys with minimal defects.   

Section: General, Science, Technology Source: Link
Monday, 10 July, 2017 - 22:26

Isoprene is a naturally produced organic compound, produced by plants. It is a colourless volatile liquid produced by many plants and is the main component of natural rubber. Although the role of isoprene as a pollutant is yet to be confirmed, it has been shown that in the presence of high amounts of nitric oxides, isoprene can lead to the formation of lower atmosphere ozone, which is considered as a leading air pollutant in many countries. The effect of isoprene on aerosols is also contended, with some researchers claiming that it could increase the amount of aerosols, leading to pollution. Researchers at Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi have now used another natural product- wood charcoal as a bio-filter to eliminate isoprene. Their study shows wood charcoal and nutrient-enriched wood charcoal, which is wood charcoal that is inoculated with the bacterial species Pseudomonas was more than 90% efficient at removing isoprenes when used as a bio-filter. Although the effects of isoprenes on the atmosphere are yet to be confirmed, the study shows that we can be sure of controlling the compound if it turns out to be a threat to our atmosphere.

Section: General, Science, Society Source: Link