In 1948, celebrated physicist and Nobel laureate, Richard Feynman introduced what came to be called Feynman diagrams. These were a pictorial representation of mathematical equations and served as a powerful tool in understanding and visualizing complex interactions between sub-atomic particles like protons and electrons. But this simplistic tool could not handle complex problems, where particles underwent many interactions, but instead produced incomprehensible and confounding answers, like infinities.
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Technology has revolutionised medicine in the past century. We now have imaging methodologies like X-rays, Computed Tomography (CT) scans and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) allowing us a look inside the body without cutting it open. Nanotechnology seems poised to write the next chapter of this revolution, with various applications in biomedical imaging, diagnosis and effective treatment of diseases. In yet another advancement in this direction, an interdisciplinary team of scientists from Materials Engineering Department and Department of Microbiology and Cell Biology at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore, have synthesised iron nanoparticles without any oxide cover that could be used to enhance the sensitivity of MRI by producing images with better contrast. They have also demonstrated the potential application of this research in the targeted delivery of medicines and other biological molecules to specific organs in the body.
This year’s National Science Day, celebrated to commemorate the discovery of Dr. C V Raman’s ‘Raman Effect’, is themed around ‘Science and Technology for Specially Abled Persons’. One billion people, or 15% of the world’s population, experience some form of disability today, and the prevalence of disability is highest in developing countries like India. A report by World Bank estimates that about 110-190 million of them experience significant disabilities. ‘Persons with disabilities’ or PwDs include those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which may hinder their full and effective participation in the society.
ISRO hit a century of sorts with its launch of 104 satellites in one go. This has been a world record and everyone is proud of ISRO for what it has achieved. Have you wondered what enabled this scientific and technological achievement? Much of the ground work happened at Indian Institute of Science in primarily three scientific and engineering departments - aerospace, materials and electrical communication engineering. Aerospace Engineering helped in building and launching the satellites. Materials Engineering, then Metallurgy helped in arriving at the right composites, alloys and materials for the outer cover for launch vehicles and satellites that helped them to weather extreme conditions. The Electrical Communication Engineering Department helped with the technology to control and communicate with the satellites. It is interesting to note that all three were established during 1940s and before India became independent in 1947. In many ways from the science and technology to building capacity, IISc has been playing a key role.
India celebrates National Science Day today in memory of the day when Nobel Laureate Sir C V Raman discovered a fundamental principle of light, which was named the “Raman Effect.” It is the day to celebrate the spirit of science - the same spirit, with which Dr. Raman pursued his research and believed in his words - “the essence of scientific spirit is to look behind and beyond…”
Scientists have unearthed a natural biochemical entity from our own body, called microRNAs that could soon become a coveted tool in our disease-fighting arsenal. With the dawn of the genomic era, our fight against major diseases is increasingly getting channelized towards acquiring a fresh perspective of disease metabolism and consequently devising newer molecular strategies to combat these diseases. MicroRNAs (or miRNA) are one such new kid on the block, which have completely changed our perspective towards designing disease therapeutics. MicroRNAs are tiny RNA molecules that were once thought to be a waste product of our protein-producing machinery. Made of the same building blocks as our DNA, these pygmy RNA molecules could very well be the answer to curing diseases like cancer, diabetes, viral infections, genetic defects & many other metabolic disorders.
When the European Space Agency (ESA) released a catalogue containing precise positions and brightnesses of 1142 million stars of the Milky Way on September 14, 2016, it was a treasure trove of information for astronomers. Gaia, a space-based telescope launched on December 19, 2013 by the ESA, is on its mission to study the evolution of our galaxy. As of today, it is observing approximately one billion celestial bodies including stars, planets, comets, asteroids and quasars in the Milky Way, building the most accurate three-dimensional map of our galaxy we have till now. A billion celestial bodies make just one percent of our galaxy’s population – a scale unimaginable by most of us. Nevertheless, the tremendous data generated by Gaia will be used for determining the positions and motions of stars (astrometry), measuring the colours of the stars (photometry) and measuring the radial velocity (spectroscopy) and studying the constituents of stars.
Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) is a condition that affects the small intestine and found in those that suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome with diarrhea. Today, absence of an accurate diagnostic method prevents early detection and treatment of this condition. Scientists at the SN Bose National Centre for Basic Sciences and Dr. Sujit Chaudhuri from AMRI Hospital, Kolkata, have now developed an improvised accurate diagnostic method that proposes to measure the amount of hydrogen sulphide gas in a patient’s breath. Due to increased bacterial activity in the small intestine, hydrogen sulphide is produced in larger quantities in patients suffering from SIBO. This research hopes to help in early detection and treatment of SIBO, thus guaranteeing a better quality of life for those with IBS and diarrhea.
Detecting leakage of hydrgoen gas has been a major challenge in using hydrogen as fuel for many applications. This is now made easier by a new study by researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee. They have used nanotechnology based silicon carbide ‘cauliflowers’ to develop a simple, robust, and cost-effective sensor that can detect hydrogen gas at high temperatures and small quantities. This research is a small step that can make using clean and green hydrogen gas as fuel, replacing conventional fossil fuels.
A new research has elevated self-learning to a whole new level by developing an intelligent “judge” who can predict the expertise of a Bharatnatyam dancer. Prof. Dinesh Babu Jayagopi and his team at the International Institute of Information Technology, Bangalore, have designed Machine Learning based software that predicts a dancer’s expertise by observing his/her poses and expressions during a dance performance. Such a software can also be used to automatically tag videos and analyse its contents in a video database like YouTube, thus simplifying video search.