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Bengaluru Monday, 5 March, 2018 - 07:14

The forest owlet (Heteroglaux blewitti), an owl endemic to the forests of Central India, has been the centre of a century-old debate among ornithologists. Its classification into the particular genera is at the stem of this debate. Now, a new study by researchers, involving genetic analysis of the owl’s genome, may put an end to this debate forever.

Scientists have always classified the forest owlets under one of the three genera -- Athene, Heteroglaux and Glaucidium, for various reasons. So far, no genetic analysis had been carried out to aid the classification process and settle the debate. The study, carried out by researchers from the Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology & Natural History, Manipal Academy of Higher Education, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research- Tirupati, Wildlife Research and Conservation Society, Loyola University, USA and the National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore, suggest that it should be Athene, based on the genetic analysis carried out for the first time.

The researchers explored 3 hypotheses, each of which classifies the forest owlet into separate genera. The current classification of the forest owlet, which puts it into the genera Heteroglaux,  was based on a study from 2013 that involved the bird’s body structure and bones. An earlier study of 1999, based on the tail flicking behavior displayed by the bird, has argued to classify the bird either into Athene or Glaucidium genera. In 1975, yet another study had hypothesized that the forest owlet and the spotted owlet (Athene brama) together form a subgenus Heteroglaux, nested within Athene, but provided no specific reason for the same.

“The current classification of H. blewitti in a monotypic genus Heteroglaux claimed by Rasmussen & Collar (2013) is based solely on an assessment of morphological and osteological characteristics without phylogenetic data. This classification needs further scrutiny by incorporating phylogenetic information”, opine the researchers.

In this study, the researchers have used phylogenetic analysis --  tracing a relationship between species based on the similarities in their genetic and/or physical characteristics -- to identify which of these hypotheses would hold true. At the end of a such an analysis, the results will be ‘evolutionary trees’ that show how closely a species is related to other species and the common ancestor from which they evolved.

For the study, the researchers collected genetic data from not only the forest owlet, but also from other closely related species of owl, like the spotted owlet and the jungle owlet. To compare the genetic histories further, they also collected samples from species of owls from Madagascar and other not-so-closely related species from India. They examined the DNA from the mitochondria, which is an organelle in the cell, and the DNA in the nucleus, for the study.

The results showed that the evolutionary tree, obtained from the mitochondrial genetic evidence, points out that the forest owlet is a sister to the Eurasian Athene clade, whereas in the evolutionary tree from the nuclear DNA, it was sister to Athene from Madagascar and the Americas. “Based on our results, we propose that Heteroglaux is treated as a synonym of Athene, identifying Heteroglaux blewitti as Athene [Heteroglaux] blewitti.”, say the researchers in their study published in the journal PLOS ONE.

So, the next time someone says ‘what’s in a name?’, turns out, it could be a century-old debate!

Section: General, Science, Ecology, News Source: Link
Delhi Thursday, 1 March, 2018 - 15:23

Tuberculosis(TB) has claimed 1.8 million human lives globally according to World Health Organization, in 2015. Despite Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine, the only available vaccine for TB, currently one-third of the world is latently infected with TB due to the incompetence of BCG in adults against Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacteria responsible for TB.

Researchers from University of Delhi developed a booster DNA vaccine expressing antigen-- Hsp-X or α-crystallin, a protein expressed by the bacteria, and tested it on animal models. Here, the vaccine was seen to reduce the load of infectious bacteria in lungs and spleen, consequently reducing antigen load and pathological damage. But the performance of the DNA vaccine in humans was not as promising as it was in the animal models.

To overcome this, the team developed a recombinant virus expressing M. tuberculosis antigen, α-crystallin. Here the antigen basically stimulates the body’s immune system to recognize it as a threat, destroy it and have a memory of it, destroying any of the microorganisms associated with the agent that it may encounter in the future. The protein was cloned in a plasmid transfer vector (pSC65.gfp.acr.DR) which was transfected into Modified Vaccinia Ankara (MVA), the protein delivery vehicle used in this study. Plasmids are DNA molecules within a cell that can replicate independently from the DNA in the chromosome. After screening and purification, the efficacy of the recombinant rMVA.acr viruses was assessed by boosting BCG vaccinated guinea pigs with rMVA.acr and was checked for bacterial load in the lungs and other pathological changes.

As the dose and route of administration has determining effect on efficacy of the vaccine, various routes such as intradermal, intramuscular and intranasal was checked for a range of dosages. It was found that the vaccine provides better protection via intradermal and intramuscular routes, while and intranasal vaccination did not enhance the protection. The efficacy of the vaccine was also checked by increasing the bacterial load.

“Further evaluation of the vaccines is required to understand the long term protection efficiency of the vaccine in guinea pigs” say the researchers about the future direction of their work.

Section: General, Science, Technology, Health, News Source: Link
Chennai Thursday, 1 March, 2018 - 08:16

Kolkata, the city of joy, is one of the densely populated cities in India. Situated on the banks of the Hooghly River, in the Indo-Gangetic plain, the city is home an estimated 14.1 million people. But, like most cities in India, the city of joy has a big worry -- depleting groundwater. Data from the Kolkata Municipal Corporation report of 2007 shows a fall in groundwater from 11m to 7m between the years 1958 to 2003. Now, an alarming study shows that this depletion could slowly sink the city due to land subsidence.

Land subsidence or the vertical lowering of the earth is a result of compaction of aquifers -- a reduction in the porosity of the underground sediments due to compaction of confining layer above the aquifer due to over extraction of groundwater. That is the over extraction lead to reduction in water pressure resulting in downward movement of water from the clay layer present above. This results in compaction of upper clay layer and hence the land subsidence, causing serious damage to buildings, roads and other infrastructure.

In this study, researchers from the Anna University, Chennai, used a microwave-based remote sensing technique to assess changes in Kolkata’s land subsidence for the years 2003, 2007 and 2011. “The remote sensing technique allows the detection and monitoring of ground settlements, by generating velocity maps of the underground deformation with high accuracy upto the millimeter”, explains Dr. Elango, Professor at Anna University, and one of the authors of the study.

Land subsidence can be measured using other techniques including measuring aquifer compaction, using global positioning system (GPS) measurements, or the pressure of the groundwater in the aquifers. However, they are not very accurate. The Differential Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) Interferometry (D-InSAR) technique, used in this study, measures the topographic changes with high precision. This technique is also used in studying landslides and glaciers.

In the D-InSAR technique, two images of the same portion of the Earth’s surface obtained from the radar kept in polar orbiting satellites are processed. The difference between the two are then analysed to detect changes in the land surface. “Since the radar satellites pass over the same area once every 11, or 35 days, it is possible to detect and monitor morphological changes to the land surface variations with this frequency. Conventional methods of surveying are time consuming, and can be done only at selected points and not on a regional level”, says Dr. Elango.

The results of the study pointed at high land subsidence in northern and central part of the city, ranging from 12-18 mm per year. The researchers observed that the land in the city had sunk further, from 48mm in 2003-2007, to 56mm in 2011. These results call for an immediate action on groundwater management in growing urban areas to prevent further sinking of land in the years to come.

Section: General, Science, Society, Deep-dive Source:
Bengaluru Wednesday, 28 February, 2018 - 12:55

The 28th of February every year is celebrated across the country as ‘National Science Day’ to commemorate the discovery of ‘Raman effect’ by Sir C V Raman. About 90 years ago, Sir Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman, had a ‘eureka moment’ when he discovered how light scattered when it travelled in a transparent medium. After two years, this discovery won India her first Nobel Prize in Physics, for a work that was carried out entirely in India.

Celebrating the spirit of science has always been the essence of National Science Day. This year, the theme is ‘Science and Technology for the future’. Here is a list of such innovations in the recent past that have the potential to impact our future in many ways. Though not an exhaustive list, this may help you appreciate Indian science and scientists behind these endeavours.  

1. From waste to wealth: India’s first biomass to ethanol plant
Agriculture is our wealth, contributing to 20% of our GDP. What if we added more wealth with agricultural waste? Years of toil from scientists at the Institute of Chemical Technology (ICT), Mumbai, has now resulted in India’s first indigenous technology to produce ethanol from plant biomass on a commercial scale. With this technology, 10 tonnes biomass can be converted to 3000 litres of ethanol in one day! Soon, 3 crore litres of ethanol is expected to produced per year to meet national demands.

2. The best ever cancer gene inhibitor
Scientists all over the world are fighting cancer with all the grit and determination in their own ways. A few of these efforts in India are truly path breaking, and one at the Indian Institute of Science stands out. The researchers at IISc have designed and synthesised a new drug called ‘Disarib’ that can kill cancer cells overproducing a protein called BCL2, which suppresses programmed cell death. Disarib works against a range of cancers –leukaemia, lymphoma, breast cancer, ovarian cancer and colon cancer, better than the current best BCL2 inhibitor in the world.

3. Saraswati - A supercluster discovered by our super scientists
The year 2017 was big for Indian astronomers for two things -- one, the Nobel Prize for the discovery of Gravitational Waves that had some contribution from our scientists, and two, was the discovery of a supercluster of galaxies. Named Saraswati, after the Indian goddess of music, art and knowledge, the supercluster is estimated to contain billions of stars, planets, gases, dark matter and other bodies. In addition, this would also help astronomers understand much about the composition of our universe and its mysterious past.

4. Electricity from landfills may power your homes
The mounting problem of landfills filling up our city suburbs and polluting our lakes and rivers may soon be a thing of past, going by a breakthrough research at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay. The researchers have used landfill leachate -- a dark liquid that comes out of all the waste by leaching through it, to produce electricity using bacterial action, and power microbial fuel cells. They have been successful in generating a maximum voltage of 1.29V, which is more than twice the amount ever produced using such techniques.

5. Improved Samba Mahsuri -- Diabetic friendly, disease resistant rice
Rice is a cherished staple for most Indians, which is partly blamed for the surge in the number of diabetics in the country. But, there is some sweet news. Scientists at the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, along with those at the Indian Institute of Rice Research, have now developed a derivative of the popular variety of rice Samba Mahsuri. This improved samba mahsuri has a glycemic index (GI) less than 50, is resistant to the deadly bacterial blight disease,  matures 7-10 days earlier than Samba Mahsuri, has improved yield and is tolerant to water lodging. So, stick on to your love for rice!

6. Sniffing crop pests before they attack
Crop losses to pest attacks need no introduction. A variety of pests invade a range of crops, resulting in reduced yields and massive losses for farmers. Pesticides are no good either as they harm the environment. In a breakthrough research, scientists from the Indian Institute of Science have designed a micrometer-sized sensor that can detect the sex hormones of two crop pests - Helicoverpa armigera (Hubner) and Scirphophaga incertuals (Walker), much before the infestation starts, helping farmers take any preventive measures.

7. Oneer -- Safe drinking water for all
It is well known that India’s water is in crisis. Pollution has made our river waters unusable and availability of safe drinking water is a huge challenge. To address this, scientists at the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research - Indian Institute of Toxicology Research (CSIR-IITR) have devised a new water purifier that can provide safe drinking water at 1 paisa per litre. Named Oneer, the water purifier can purify water contaminated with microbes including E. coli,  and is cost effective without the need for maintenance.

8. Tales of the stone tools in Attirampakkam
In a recent discovery that might retell the story of human migration from Africa to India, paleontologists at the Sharma Centre for Heritage Education, along with others, have unearthed 7000 stone tools that are between 3,85,000 to 1,72,000 years old, belonging to the middle palaeolithic period. This finding contradicts the previously accepted theory that ancient Homo sapiens migrated to India from Africa some 1,25,000 years ago and revises that date to more than 60,000 years earlier than thought before.

9. Nanorobots help us live healthy
Nanotechnology has immense potential to change our lives. A revolutionary idea in nanotechnology has been the development of ‘nanorobots’ -- nanometer sized robots that can be controlled. Researchers at the Indian Institute of Science are working on making such nanorobots that could be controlled by light and magnetic fields. These nanomotors can be inserted into human body and can be used to deliver drugs at targeted sites to treat cancer. In addition, these nanomotors can also measure the physical parameters of blood and other body fluids.

10. Indian scientists develop world’s thinnest nano sheets
Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology, Gandhinagar, have designed the world’s thinnest nanosheets that can be used in next-generation batteries to ultraviolet absorbing films. These nanosheets are made of boron atoms arranged in the shape of a honeycomb, similar to graphene.

Section: General, Science, News Source:
Bengaluru Wednesday, 28 February, 2018 - 08:38

Lately, we have been flooded with discoveries of exotic phenomena in the other wordly bodies of our solar system, be it the icy moons of Jupiter and Saturn or our next door planetary neighbor, Mars. But, how much do we really know about our own planet, especially when it comes to the processes occurring deep inside it?

Getting an inside view

The deepest borehole into the Earth goes down to only about 12 kms. Between the Earth’s surface and the core lie impenetrable and highly heterogeneous rocks whose properties are largely unknown. So how do we know what is going on inside the Earth? A part of our knowledge about the Earth’s interior comes from studying the surface rocks that had been dredged from the deep Earth by some tectonic activity--earthquakes, volcanoes, mountain building, etc. Another way of learning about the interior comes from studying the behavior of rocks in laboratory experiments under high pressure and temperature conditions that occur within the Earth. A rapidly progressing field today is Geodynamical modeling, which provides a third way of unraveling the secrets of the deep Earth.  Seismic tomography, which uses the same technique as CT scans in medical imaging, can provide three dimensional images of the structure of the Earth’s interior. Information from these images, when fed into computational models that simulate the Earth’s internal processes, provides us with predictions that can be compared with observations and measurements on the surface of the Earth. A perfect match between the model predictions and observations would imply that our models of the deep Earth are correct. However, lack of knowledge about the properties of the highly heterogeneous rocks, especially at high pressure and temperature conditions that exist in the deep Earth, makes it difficult to come up with an accurate picture of the interior.

However, the advent of more and more powerful computers and cutting edge technology is changing that. We have come to know that the Earth is not just a simple layer cake structure as we previously used to think; there’s a lot more going on. We have learnt that the rocks that we see around us, which seem to be hard and cold and indestructible, behave like fluid over millions of years. They sink and rise and flow, and in the process split apart continents, build mountains and form ocean basins.

As a solid Earth geophysicist, I am interested in understanding these deep Earth processes and how those affect what we see around us. The term “Solid Earth” encompasses multidisciplinary research on the structure and composition of the Earth from the surface to the core. The goal is to understand what control do interior processes have on shaping the Earth’s surface. My research uses laws of physics to address questions like why do plates move? How do mountains form? How do earthquakes occur? How are oceans created?

A vision of the future

In the last decade, we have made tremendous progress in understanding the deep Earth processes and how those affect what we experience on the surface, including earthquakes. However, every year, we lose hundreds of lives because of earthquakes. We understand the physics behind earthquakes and our knowledge so far has enabled us to know which regions are prone to them, but not how to predict them. The best we can do is making long term forecasting and mitigating potential hazard. A better understanding of the Earth’s internal processes, about how rocks behave under stress, could one day help us in considerably narrowing the time window for an earthquake forecast and save lives and properties.

In recent years, we have come to know that the phenomenon of “plate tectonics”, the process by which the blocks in the Earth’s outer brittle layer drift apart, collide and move past each other, has been crucial in making this planet habitable, thus leading to the birth of life. In our recent forays into other planets and planetary bodies of the solar system, we are learning that plate tectonics might have been active in the past on some of those. As our quest for Earth-like planets in the Universe goes on, could we link plate tectonics to one of the crucial processes that makes a planet habitable, and perhaps narrow down our search for planets that are livable?

As we discover more and more about this planet that we call home, we are often filled with wonder. Relating that sense of wonder to our day-to-day lives is not always straightforward. But, in a world rife with problems, starting from climate change to conflicts due to scarcity of resources, solution to a lot of them will lie in how we utilize that knowledge and that sense of wonder in an effort to find a way out of those problems.

Dr. Attreyee Ghosh is a solid earth geophysicist at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, interested in the dynamics of the lithosphere and the mantle. She works on how deep mantle flow interacts with the lithosphere causing surface deformation. Her group at the Computational Geodynamics lab in IISc are using numerical models to quantify this interaction and to address many more challenging problems about the solid Earth. She can be reached at

Section: General, Science, Technology, Op-ed, Featured Source:
Mumbai Tuesday, 27 February, 2018 - 14:21

Study shows how crystallisation can be used to shape materials

Thin elastic sheets such as leaves and petals are ubiquitous in nature. As they grow, they do not remain perfectly flat, but instead curl and show various deformities. This is because it requires more energy to stretch the leaf or petal flat, than to bend it. For most materials, such as metal sheets for automobiles, these are undesirable properties. But it turns out that several applications require properties that are the result of such deformed structures. In a study published in the journal Nature Communications, researchers from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IITB) and the Raman Research Institute (RRI) have investigated how materials undergo such deformations, and how they can be controlled to manufacture materials with the desired properties.

The researchers took rod shaped viruses that come together by themselves into a monolayer, the technical term for a thin sheet only as thick as a single unit (in this case about 1 micron). Initially, the rods are free to move anywhere within this monolayer, constituting what is known as a ‘colloidal membrane’. Reducing the temperature causes the monolayer to solidify into a crystalline structure. But rather than forming a smooth and flat surface, the monolayer forms a rough, curved surface. This happens when the basic units (virus in this case)  are chiral i.e. the object is distinguishable from its mirror image, like our hand---we can differentiate between which is left and which is right when placed next to a mirror.

“Our work is fundamental in nature and deals with assembly principles involved for making monolayers of aligned nanorods”, says Dr. Prerna Sharma from IISc who led the team that carried out the experimental work. Another team, led by Dr. Anirban Sain from IITB, carried out the theoretical modelling that helped understand and interpret part of the experimental results.

Interestingly, the researchers found that the roughness and the curvature of the surface formed by crystallisation can also be tuned to the desired extent. These two factors depend on the number of nucleation sites i.e. locations at which the colloidal membrane begins to solidify. “We were not directly controlling the number of nucleation centres as such. But larger colloidal membranes tend to have larger number of nucleation centres. Another way to achieve some control on the number of nucleation centers is to change the degree of supercooling, that is, how much we cool the fluid membranes below the crystallization temperature,” says Dr. Sharma.

To help understand and interpret the experimental result, Dr. Sain’s research group at IITB carried out a computer simulation of this system. They created a two-dimensional model of rod like molecules arranged into a layer and let them interact with each other. They found that a uniform arrangement of rods is unstable, and were able to successfully explain what Dr. Sharma’s team found from the experiments. “We can reproduce the specific pattern of the structures that form during solidification of the membrane,” says Dr. Sain.

This research is of scientific interest for the study of the transition of materials from fluid to crystals. In addition, it has potential technological applications in assembling nanorods (extremely small objects of molecular scale that are used in nanotechnology) into layers with desired properties.  “Nanorod array geometry is very popular in devices like solar cells and LEDs (light emitting diodes) and therefore our work has some indirect long-term bearing in these areas,” says Dr. Sharma, adding a cautionary note that there is as yet “no direct impact of our work on solar cells.”

Section: General, Science, Technology, Deep-dive Source:
Mumbai Sunday, 25 February, 2018 - 20:30

“Honesty is the best policy - when there is money in it”, quipped Mark Twain.

Though the abilities of computers have increased exponentially, recognising sarcastic commentary such as “being awake at 4am with a headache is fun”, still remains a challenge. Unlike humans, who use visual and physical cues like rolling of eyes to detect sarcasm, computers have to rely only on text. For the past decade, linguistic studies have accelerated enhancements in computational irony.

Researchers at IIT Bombay and Monash University, have compiled advancements in this field in their new paper.

One of the main observations of the paper is how information can be curated from online sources, specifically, Twitter and Amazon reviews. For instance, often tweets are annotated with sarcasm-indicative hashtags such as #sarcasm, #sarcastic and #not, allowing researchers to create labelled datasets. Several salient features including semantic similarity, readability and sentiment flips were derived from tweets for classification.  Experiments have also been performed in Chinese, Hindi and Indonesian.

The authors also stress the importance of context in sarcasm evaluation. “I love solving math problems all weekend”, may not be sarcastic to a student who loves math, but may be sarcastic to many others. Contexts can also be associated with authors’ historical sentiments, by looking at past tweets or by investigating conversations that the sentence was a part of.

Asking computers to identify human sentiments of anger, sadness and joy, is commonplace. Often, companies spend millions harnessing sentiment analysis, to understand customer likes and dislikes. Several political campaigns have also used it successfully, to engage better with supporters.

Discovering sarcastic patterns was an early trend in this field. It is postulated that, sarcasm occurs due to a contrast between positive verbs indicating negative situations. “Just got off a wonderful 12 hour flight sitting next to a crying baby”, contain implicit sentiment phrases, allowing scientists to extract patterns.

Using several approaches ranging from Rule-based methods to Support Vector Machines, accuracy values close to 94% have been reported.

In spite of annotation and skewness issues that plague sarcasm detection, the field has come a far way from its humble origins a decade back.

Section: General, Science, Technology, News Source:
Bengaluru Friday, 23 February, 2018 - 16:59

Erik Solenheim, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme visited Center for Ecological Sciences at Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru to deliver a talk about the interface of science and policy.

In his talk titled ‘Science Policy Interface: Insights and ideas for a changing world’ Mr. Solenheim spoke about the three main environmental challenges of we face today namely; climate change, pollution and loss of biodiversity.

He opened the talk with the success of the Montreal agreement and how it came about.  “In 1987 the world came together to sign the Montreal agreement. To me, that is the best international agreement. It is one of the only agreements where every nation that signed did exactly what they promised to do... It all started with science, when a number of Mexican and American scientists started ringing the alarm bells about the ozone hole over Antartica” he remarked.

The Montreal agreement was indeed a success story, where scientists and citizens came together to demand policy changes from the government, in order to solve environmental problem. According to Mr. Solenheim, this is an important lesson for today’s citizens, who need to be informed about the problems we face today and influence the policy makers.

Although the Montreal agreement faced immense opposition from businesses and elected officials, who believed that any action to protect the ozone, could affect the American way of life, the agreement was signed. Today, many climate change sceptics make similar arguments and even go on to say that a shift from fossil fuels could affect businesses, employment and development. But instead, early trends show the renewable energy market creating jobs and a shift to renewable energy sources actually reducing cost for major businesses.

Technological solutions can also come to the aid to solve the problem of pollution believes Mr. Solenheim. “In some Indian cities, like Delhi, burning agricultural waste is causing pollution. If that can be turned into economic opportunities, by making biofuel and energy out of the waste, it can solve the environment problem and provide economic opportunities” he remarks.

The loss of biodiversity, Mr. Solenheim believes, is one of the most important and difficult environmental challenges, as there are not many technological solutions that are applicable. Instead he urges the citizens to involve in conservation efforts. With the right incentives and policies, citizens can be employed to protect biodiversity from poachers and loss of habitat, he opines.

“Citizens need to mobilize, politicians need to regulate the markets, businesses need to find solutions using technology and scientists need to stand up and fight for the right policies. Science needs to be the basis for political decisions, especially the ones regarding environment” concludes Mr. Solenheim is the way forward for making right policy decisions.

Section: General, Science, Policy, News, Events Source:
Bengaluru Friday, 23 February, 2018 - 11:57

Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Hon’ble Union Minister of Science and Technology, Environment, Forest and Climate Change and Earth Sciences visited Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru to inaugurate the supercritical carbon dioxide Brayton cycle test loop facility. He was welcomed by Prof. Anurag Kumar, Director IISc, Prof. G Rangarajan, Divisional Chairman, Interdisciplinary Research, Prof. Pradip Dutta, Chairperson, Interdisciplinary Centre for Energy Research, and V. Rajarajan, Registrar, IISc.

‘Supercritical’ describes a state of carbon above its critical temperature and pressure (31 Degree Celsius and 73 atmospheres). Under these conditions, the CO2 gas is twice as dense as steam, resulting in a high power density.  This allows power to be draws from the gas by a turbine ten times smaller than its steam equivalent, with significant improvement in the efficiency.

The first of its kind in India, laboratory scale supercritical carbon dioxide test loop was developed at the Interdisciplinary Center for Energy Research, IISc as part of the Solar Energy Research Institute for India and the United States (SERIIUS). The test loop is designed to generate necessary data for future development of scaled up supercritical CO2 power plants.

Speaking at the inaugural event, Dr. Harsh Vardhan expressed his pleasure at the way science and technology has been progressing in the country, with state of the art facilities like the Supercritical CO2 test loop. At the same time, he also urged the scientists and students present to apply their knowledge for the betterment of society. “We are doing excellent fundamental research, but at the back of our minds, we need to know the problem of the country and especially the problems of the people. Research needs to be people-centric. Scientist should see that the research that they do is actually having a perceptible and measurable impact on the society” he opined.

After his inaugural address, Dr. Harsh Vardhan engaged in a interactive session, answering questions from the students and faculty present at the event.

Following this, V Rajarajan delivered the vote of thanks, thanking the dignitaries and audience for attending the event, and thanking all the researchers and supporters for the successful launch of the supercritical CO2 test loop.

Section: General, Science, Technology, Events Source:
Bengaluru Friday, 23 February, 2018 - 09:30

ಗೆದ್ದಲು ಅಂದರೆ ಸಾಮಾನ್ಯವಾಗಿ ಎಲ್ಲರೂ ಪೀಠೋಪಕರಣ, ಬಾಗಿಲು ಕಿಟಕಿಗಳನ್ನು ಹಾಳುಗೆಡವುವ ಕೀಟ ಎಂದುಕೊಳ್ಳಬಹುದೇನೋ. ಆದರೆ, ಕೆಲವು ಬಗೆಯ ಗೆದ್ದಲುಗಳಿಗೆ ಸಿಗಬೇಕಾದ ಮೆಚ್ಚುಗೆ ಸಿಕ್ಕಿಲ್ಲ ಎಂಬುದು ಸತ್ಯ. ಏಕೆ ಗೊತ್ತೇ? ಅವು ಭೂಮಿಯ ಮೇಲಿನ ಮೊದಲ 'ರೈತರು' ಎಂಬುದು ಸಂಶೋಧನೆಯೊಂದರಿಂದ ಕಂಡುಬಂದಿದೆ; ಕೆಲವು ಬಗೆಯ ಗೆದ್ದಲುಗಳು, ತಮ್ಮದೇ ಆದ ಆಹಾರವನ್ನು ಬೆಳೆಯುತ್ತವೆಯಂತೆ! ಅವುಗಳ ತೋಟಗಳು ನಮ್ಮ ತೋಟಗಳಂತೆ ಇರುವುದಿಲ್ಲ ನಿಜ; ಆದರೆ ಆಹಾರಕ್ಕಾಗಿ ತಮ್ಮ ಗೂಡುಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ವಿವಿಧ ಬಗೆಯ ಶಿಲೀಂಧ್ರಗಳನ್ನು ಬೆಳೆಯುತ್ತವೆ. ಪ್ರತಿಯಾಗಿ, ಆ ಶಿಲೀಂಧ್ರಗಳ ಬೆಳವಣಿಗೆಗೆ ಸಹಾಯವಾಗಲೆಂದೇ ಹಲವು ಪದಾರ್ಥಗಳನ್ನು ಪೂರೈಕೆ ಮಾಡುತ್ತಾ ಪರಸ್ಪರ ಸಂಬಂಧವನ್ನು ಸುಲಲಿತಾಗಿ ನಿರ್ವಹಿಸುತ್ತವೆ.

ಆದರೆ ನಮ್ಮ ಕೃಷಿಯಂತೆಯೇ ಗೆದ್ದಲುಗಳು ಮಾಡುವ ಕೃಷಿಯಲ್ಲೂ ಕಳೆಗಳ ಕಾಟ ತಪ್ಪಿದ್ದಲ್ಲ. ಹಾಗಾದರೆ, ಗೆದ್ದಲುಗಳು ಈ ಕಳೆಗಳ ಸಮಸ್ಯೆಯಿಂದ ಹೇಗೆ ಮುಕ್ತಿ ಪಡೆಯುತ್ತವೆ? ನಮ್ಮಂತೆ ಕೀಟನಾಶಕಗಳ ಬಳಕೆ ಅಲ್ಲೂ ಇದೆಯೇ ಎಂದು ಹುಬ್ಬೇರಿಸುತ್ತೀರಾ? ಇಂತಹಾ ಸವಾಲುಗಳ ಬೆನ್ನಟ್ಟಿ ಹೊರಟವರು ಬೆಂಗಳೂರಿನ ಭಾರತೀಯ ವಿಜ್ಞಾನ ಸಂಸ್ಥೆಯ ಸಂಶೋಧಕರು ಮತ್ತು ಫ್ರಾನ್ಸ್ ದೇಶದ 'ಎಕೊಲೆ ನ್ಯಾಶನಲೆ ಸುಪಿಯೆರೆರ್ ಡಿ ಚಿಮೆ ಡೆ ಮಾಂಟ್ಪೆಲ್ಲಿಯರ್'ನ ಸಂಶೋಧಕರು. 'ಜರ್ನಲ್ ಆಫ್ ಕೆಮಿಕಲ್ ಇಕಾಲಜಿ' ಎಂಬ ನಿಯತಕಾಲಿಕೆಯಲ್ಲಿ ಪ್ರಕಟವಾದ ಇವರ  ಹೊಸ ಸಂಶೋಧನೆಯ ಪ್ರಕಾರ, ಕೃಷಿಕ ಗೆದ್ದಲುಗಳು, ತಾವು ಆಹಾರವಾಗಿ ಬಳಕೆ ಮಾಡಲು ಸೂಕ್ತವಾದ ಶಿಲೀಂಧ್ರಗಳು ಮತ್ತು ಅನಗತ್ಯ ಕಳೆ/ಅಪಾಯಕಾರಿ ಶಿಲೀಂಧ್ರಗಳ ನಡುವೆ ಸ್ಪಷ್ಟವಾಗಿ ವ್ಯತ್ಯಾಸ ಗುರುತಿಸಬಲ್ಲವು. ಹೀಗೆ ವ್ಯತ್ಯಾಸ ಗುರುತಿಸುವುದು ಹೇಗೆ ಗೊತ್ತೇ? ಆ ಶಿಲೀಂಧ್ರಗಳ ವಾಸನೆಯನ್ನು ಆಘ್ರಾಣಿಸುವುದರ ಮೂಲಕವಂತೆ!

ಈ ಸಂಶೋಧನೆಯ ಪ್ರಕಾರ, ಸಂಶೋಧಕರು 'ಓಡಾಂಟೊಟೆರ್ಮಸ್ ಒಬೆಸಸ್' ಎಂಬ ಗೆದ್ದಲು ಪ್ರಭೇದದ ಮೇಲೆ ಅಧ್ಯಯನ ನಡೆಸಿದರು; ಈ ಗೆದ್ದಲನ್ನು, ಎರಡು ರೀತಿಯ ಶಿಲೀಂಧ್ರಗಳನ್ನು ಹೊಂದಿರುವ ಜೀವಕೋಶ ಪೂರಕ ಕೃಷಿಕೆಯೊಳಗೆ ಪರಿಚಯಿಸಿದರು. ಅಂದರೆ ಸೂಕ್ಷ್ಮಾಣುಜೀವಿಗಳನ್ನು ಬೆಳೆಸಲು ಬಳಸುವ ಅಗತ್ಯ ಪೋಷಕಾಂಶಗಳನ್ನು ಒದಗಿಸುವ ಮಾಧ್ಯಮದಲ್ಲಿ 'ಟರ್ಮಿಟೊಮೈಸಸ್' ಮತ್ತು'ಸುಡೊಕ್ಸಿಲೈರಿಯಾ' ಎಂಬ ಎರಡು ಶಿಲೀಂಧ್ರಗಳನ್ನು ಬೆಳೆಸಿ, ಅಲ್ಲಿ ಈ ಗೆದ್ದಲನ್ನು ಇರಿಸಿದರು. ಇಲ್ಲಿ ಬಳಸಲಾದ 'ಟರ್ಮಿಟೊಮೈಸಸ್' ಎಂಬ ಶಿಲೀಂಧ್ರವು ಕೃಷಿಕ ಗೆದ್ದಲುಗಳು ಸಾಮಾನ್ಯವಾಗಿ ಆಹಾರಕ್ಕೆ ಬೆಳೆಸುವ ಶಿಲೀಂಧ್ರವಾಗಿದ್ದು, 'ಸುಡೊಕ್ಸಿಲೈರಿಯಾ' ಎಂಬುದು ಕಳೆ ಶಿಲೀಂಧ್ರವಾಗಿದೆ; ಈ 'ಕೃಷಿಕೆ'ಯೊಳಗೆ ಬಂದ ತಕ್ಷಣ ಕಾರ್ಯಪ್ರವೃತ್ತರಾದ ಗೆದ್ದಲುಗಳು, 'ಕೃಷಿಕೆ'ಯೊಳಗೆ ಪೋಷಕಾಂಶ ನೀಡಲು ಬಳಸಲಾದ 'ಆಗಾರ್' ಮಾಧ್ಯಮವನ್ನು ಅಗೆಯಲು ಪ್ರಾರಂಭಿಸಿದವು. 'ಅಗಾರ್'ಅನ್ನು ಅಗೆದು ಮೊಗೆದು ಒಂದೆಡೆ ಪೇರಿಸಿ 'ಬೋಲಸ್' ಎಂದು ಕರೆಯಲ್ಪಡುವ ರಾಶಿ ಸೃಷ್ಟಿಸಿದವು; ಭಾರತೀಯ ವಿಜ್ಞಾನ ಸಂಸ್ಥೆಯ ಪ್ರೊಫೆಸರ್ ರೆನೀ ಬೊರ್ಜಸ್ ಅವರ ಪ್ರಕಾರ, ಈ ಗೆದ್ದಲುಗಳು ಮಣ್ಣಿನ ಮಾಧ್ಯಮವನ್ನೂ ಇದೇ ರೀತಿ ಬಳಸುತ್ತವೆ ಮತ್ತು 'ಬೋಲಸ್' ರಾಶಿಯನ್ನು ತಮಗೆ ಬೇಡದ ಕಳೆ ಶಿಲೀಂಧ್ರಗಳ ಮೇಲೆ ಹೆಚ್ಚೆಚ್ಚು ಪೇರಿಸಿ, ಅವುಗಳನ್ನು ಹೂತುಹಾಕುತ್ತವೆ. ಇಲ್ಲೂ ಸಂಶೋಧಕರು ಗಮನಿಸಿದ ಪ್ರಕಾರ, ಕಳೆ  ಶಿಲೀಂಧ್ರವಾದ 'ಸುಡೊಕ್ಸಿಲೈರಿಯಾ' ಮೇಲೆ ಹೆಚ್ಚೆಚ್ಚು 'ಅಗಾರ್'ನ ರಾಶಿ ಪೇರಿಸಿ ಹೂತು ಹಾಕುವ ಪ್ರಯತ್ನ ಮಾಡಿದವು ಮತ್ತು 'ಟರ್ಮಿಟೊಮೈಸಸ್' ಶಿಲೀಂಧ್ರದ ಮೇಲೆ ಕನಿಷ್ಠ ಪ್ರಮಾಣದ 'ಬೋಲಾಸ್' ಪೇರಿಸಿದವು.

ಈ ನಿಟ್ಟಿನಲ್ಲಿ ಹೆಚ್ಚಿನ ತಿಳುವಳಿಕೆ ಪಡೆಯುವ ಸಲುವಾಗಿ, ಸಂಶೋಧಕರು ಈ ಕೃಷಿಕ ಗೆದ್ದಲುಗಳಿಗೆ ಹೆಚ್ಚಿನ ಸವಾಲನ್ನು ಒಡ್ಡಿದರು; ಪೂರ್ತಿ ಕತ್ತಲೆಯ ಪರಿಸರದಲ್ಲಿ ಶಿಲೀಂಧ್ರಗಳೆರಡಕ್ಕೂ ಭೌತಿಕ ಪ್ರವೇಶವನ್ನು ನಿರ್ಬಂಧಿಸಿ, ಪರೀಕ್ಷೆ ನಡೆಸಿದರು. ಗೆದ್ದಲು ಗೂಡಿನ ಒಳಾಂಗಣವನ್ನು ಅನುಕರಿಸಲು ಈ ವಾತಾವರಣ ಅವಶ್ಯಕವಾಗಿತ್ತು. ಈಗ ಗೆದ್ದಲುಗಳಿಗೆ ಶಿಲೀಂಧ್ರಗಳು ಕಾಣುವುದಿಲ್ಲವಾದ್ದರಿಂದ ಇದು ಕೇವಲ ಘ್ರಾಣ ಪರೀಕ್ಷೆಯಾಗಿತ್ತು; ಆಗ ಉತ್ಸಾಹೀ ಸಂಶೋಧಕರ ಉತ್ಸಾಹವನ್ನು ಮತ್ತಷ್ಟು ಹೆಚ್ಚಿಸುವ ಅಚ್ಚರಿದಾಯಕ ಫಲಿತಾಂಶ ಹೊರಬಿತ್ತು; ಕೇವಲ ವಾಸನೆಯ ಆಧಾರದ ಮೇಲೆ ಗೆದ್ದಲುಗಳು ಎರಡೂ ಶಿಲೀಂಧ್ರಗಳ ನಡುವೆ ವ್ಯತ್ಯಾಸ ಗುರುತಿಸಿ, ಕಳೆ ಶಿಲೀಂಧ್ರವನ್ನು ಹೆಚ್ಚು ಆಳಕ್ಕೆ ಹೂತು ಹಾಕುವ ತಮ್ಮ ಎಂದಿನ ಕಾರ್ಯವನ್ನು ಮುಂದುವರೆಸಿದ್ದವು!

ಹಾಗಾದರೆ, ಈ ಶಿಲೀಂಧ್ರಗಳ ವಾಸನೆಯ ನಡುವೆ ರಾಸಾಯನಿಕವಾಗಿ ನಿಜವಾಗಲೂ ವ್ಯತ್ಯಾಸವಿದೆಯೇ ಎಂದು ತಿಳಿಯಲು ತಮ್ಮ ಅಧ್ಯಯನವನ್ನು ಆ ದಿಕ್ಕಿನೆಡೆ ತಿರುಗಿಸಿದರು; 'ಸೂಡೊಕ್ಸಿಲೈರಿಯಾ' ಮತ್ತು 'ಟರ್ಮಿಟಮೈಸೆಸ್'ನ ವಾಸನೆಯ ಪ್ರೊಫೈಲ್ಗಳನ್ನು ಹೋಲಿಕೆ ಮಾಡಿದಾಗ 'ಅರಿಸ್ಟಾಲೀನ್' ಮತ್ತು 'ವೈರಿಡಿಫ್ಲೋರಲ್'ನಂತಹ 'ಸೆಸ್ಕ್ವಿಟರ್ಪೆನ್' ಸಂಯುಕ್ತಗಳು ವಿಶೇಷವಾಗಿ ಕಳೆ ಶಿಲೀಂಧ್ರದಲ್ಲಿ ಮಾತ್ರ ಇದ್ದದ್ದು ಕಂಡುಬಂದಿದೆ ಮತ್ತು ವಾಸನೆಯ ವ್ಯತ್ಯಾಸಕ್ಕೆ ಕಾರಣ ಇವೇ ರಾಸಾಯನಿಕಗಳು ಎಂದು ಖಾತ್ರಿಯಾಗಿದೆ.

ಮತ್ತೊಂದು ಪ್ರಯೋಗದಲ್ಲಿ, ಸಂಶೋಧಕರು 'ಸೂಡೋಕ್ಸಿಲ್ಯಾರಿಯಾ' ಮತ್ತು ಒಂದು ಖಾಲಿ ಪ್ಲಗ್ಗನ್ನು ಬಳಸುತ್ತಾರೆ. ಅಂದರೆ, ಇಲ್ಲಿ ಕಳೆ ಶಿಲೀಂಧ್ರದ ಜೊತೆಗೆ ಆಹಾರ ಬೆಳೆ ಶಿಲೀಂಧ್ರವನ್ನು ಬಳಸಲಾಗಿಲ್ಲ; ಆಗಲೂ ಕಳೆ ಶಿಲೀಂಧ್ರವನ್ನು ಇನ್ನಿಲ್ಲವಾಗಿಸುವ ಸಲುವಾಗಿ, ಅವುಗಳನ್ನು ಸಮಾಧಿ ಮಾಡುವ ಪ್ರಕ್ರಿಯೆಯನ್ನು ಗೆದ್ದಲುಗಳು ಬಿಡಲಿಲ್ಲ.

ಆದರೂ, ತಮಗೆ ಬೇಡವಾದ ಕಳೆ ಶಿಲೀಂಧ್ರಗಳ ಮೇಲೆ 'ಬೋಲಸ್' ಅಥವಾ ಮಣ್ಣನ್ನು ಪೇರಿಸುವ ಗೆದ್ದಲುಗಳು, ತಮಗೆ ಬೇಕಾದ ಆಹಾರ ಬೆಳೆ ಶಿಲೀಂಧ್ರಗಳ ಮೇಲೆ ಮಣ್ಣನ್ನು ಅಥವಾ 'ಬೋಲಸ್'ಅನ್ನು ಪೇರಿಸುವ ಅವಶ್ಯಕತೆ ಏನಿದೆ? ಅವುಗಳನ್ನುಇರುವ ಹಾಗೆಯೇ ಬೆಳೆಯಲು ಬಿಡಬಹುದಲ್ಲ, ಇದರ ಹಿಂದಿನ ಕಾರಣವೇನು ಎಂದು ಯೋಚಿಸಿದ ಸಂಶೋಧಕರು, ಅಧ್ಯಯನದ ನಂತರ ಕಂಡುಕೊಂಡ ಸತ್ಯ ಮತ್ತಷ್ಟು ಅಚ್ಚರಿದಾಯಕ. ಕೃಷಿಕ ಗೆದ್ದಲುಗಳು, ಆಹಾರ ಬೆಳೆ ಶಿಲೀಂಧ್ರಗಳ ಮೇಲೆ ಮಣ್ಣು ಅಥವಾ 'ಬೋಲಸ್'ಅನ್ನು ಪೇರಿಸುವಾಗ ಜೊತೆಯಲ್ಲೇ ಕಳೆ ಶಿಲೀಂಧ್ರಗಳಿಂದ ಇವುಗಳನ್ನು ಕಾಪಾಡಲು ಬೇಕಾದ ಔಷಧಿಯುಕ್ತ ಲಾಲಾರಸವನ್ನೂ ಸ್ರವಿಸುತ್ತವೆಯಂತೆ! ಹಾಗಾಗಿ ಕಳೆ ಶಿಲೀಂಧ್ರಗಳಿಂದ ಆಗಬಹುದಾದ ಅಪಾಯವನ್ನು ತಪ್ಪಿಸುವ ಕ್ರಮ ಇದು ಎಂದು ಕಂಡುಬಂದಿದೆ

ಯಾವುದೇ ಬಗೆಯ ವ್ಯವಸಾಯದಲ್ಲಿ ಕೀಟನಾಶಕಗಳ ವಿವೇಚನಾರಹಿತ ಬಳಕೆ ಸಾರ್ವತ್ರಿಕ ಸಮಸ್ಯೆಯಾಗಿದೆ. ಇದಕ್ಕೆ ಪರಿಹಾರ ಹುಡುಕಲು ನಾವು, ಕಳೆಗಳನ್ನು ನಿಯಂತ್ರಿಸುವ ಕಲೆಯನ್ನು ಕರತಲಾಮಲಕ ಮಾಡಿಕೊಂಡಿರುವ ಈ ಕೃಷಿಕ ಗೆದ್ದಲುಗಳಿಂದ ಹೊಳಹುಗಳನ್ನು ಪಡೆಯಬಹುದೇನೋ!

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