Have you ever admired red skies or criticised early morning haze? Atmospheric aerosols, tiny solid or liquid particles suspended in air, also called Particulate Matter (PM), are responsible for the myriad hues created by the evening sky. Not just that, aerosols impact the global climate and play a role in ozone depletion. These particles generally range from about a nanometre to ten micrometre in size and are either directly emitted or formed by the conversion of a gas to particles.
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How cool would it be if we could switch living cells in our bodies on and off just like all our gadgets and appliances? Well, science has made it possible, thanks to all the researchers who thought of this ingenious idea and also made it work. The science of optogenetics uses ‘light’ to play around with and manipulate living cells in tissues, specifically the nerve cells aka neurons in our brains.
Imagine you come home to your city and find no one! While it isn’t very probable in human societies, a similar phenomenon called colony collapse disorder is often found in honeybees. Here, worker bees mysteriously start disappearing from their hives, and that leaves no one to do the housekeeping, nursing and foraging. Hence, the honey bee colonies start collapsing.
I can’t swim. Imagine that you can’t either. Also, imagine that you fall into this big body of water. You are drowning. The water is slowly filling into your lungs. They say it can take from minutes to hours. But, who are ‘they’? ‘They’, who you can see and hear and are on the banks of that big body of water. ‘They’ are standing on the hard surface, while you are trying to grab onto something, or find a footrest somewhere. However, you can’t because you’re drowning, and you don’t want to. Perhaps, ‘they’ also don’t want you to die.
Have you ever chanced upon a tiny spider in your garden, or perhaps on the wall of an old building, that swiftly jumped away as soon as you noticed it? Chances are that you spotted a spider of the Salticidae family. Jumping spiders, as they are commonly termed, are known for their leaping abilities, active hunting behaviour and impressive vision. It is hard to imagine that these wee arachnids have evolved a complex system of signalling using colours.
We are often told that bacteria are dangerous, cause notorious infections and that we need to keep them away. While there is a bit of truth in that, did you know your gut has a plethora of these ‘friendly’ microbes? Yes, our gastrointestinal tract is home to many microorganisms forming an ecosystem called the gut microbiome. They help the digestion process and also contribute to our happiness and other moods!
Our blood, the elixir of life, is an incredible mixture of cells and proteins. While the red blood cells, also called erythrocytes, carry oxygen to different parts of our body, the white blood cells help us defend ourselves against invading pathogens. Then there are platelets, which are cell fragments, which aid in clotting of our blood among other things. All these cells are suspended in the blood serum—a storehouse of vital proteins and electrolytes needed by our body.
Astronomer Carl Sagan once said, “Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” Little did we know that this “something”, for the field of tissue engineering, would be a little spinach leaf!
Haven’t we all read about how our ‘genes’ make up who we are— many traits like the colours of our hair and how we look depends on the genes. However, where exactly are these genes? They are in the coiled ‘chromosomes’ found in our DNA. So where exactly in the chromosomes are these genes that decide our height or our eye colour? Well, you then have to zoom the gene locus—the exact physical address of the gene on the chromosome.