The Gist of Science Reporter: March 2016

The Gist of Science Reporter: March 2016

Chennai Paying the Price of Flawed Development

Chennai has been living through a nightmare for the past few days. Battered by torrential rains and swamped by swirning masses of water that had nowhere to go, the city and its adjoining areas virtrually hardship to its citizens.

While world leadres were debating in paris on new ways and methodologies to control global warming lesst it lead to rising sea levels and drowining cities, was chennai dispalying to the world a “flash-forward” of the times to comes? Was chennai’s misery on account of climate change? Well, the unprecedented rains could have been due to El nino, which could be a manifestation of climate change.

But more than that a blind run for development at all costs is extacting a heavy cost now. Chennai is situated colse to the cost, in a low laying area that is flat, with many areas just at the sea leval making drainage a challenge even under normal circumstances. So, in a place like chennai if development is pursued with little or no cognisance of the hydrology it is a sure invitation to disasters of this kind.

Under a development overdrive for quite some time, planners and developers have sacificed several natural landmarks for artificial structures. According to the National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM), the city once had a network a about 650 water bodies including big lakes, ponds and storage tanks where rainwater could find temporary refuge before it drained into the ocean. Today, there are only 27 left. And those water bodies that have managed to survive have been drastically emassulated.

The NIDM study also points to the highly altered land use pattern in chennai. It says in some aras “almost 99% of the green cover has been replaced by non-vegetative development”. “As s result , the water – holding capactiy of the city’s surface has gone down drastrically,” the study adds.

The few remaining water storage havens are also heavily choked due to massive infrastructure development happening in and around the city. Chennai’s new airport is built on the floodplains of the River Adyar. An IT corridor and a knowledge corridor consisting of engineering college have been constructed on water bodies. Residential complexes and automobile and telecom SEZs are builton important drainage course and catchments. The natural tendency of water flow has not been taken into account before construction of expressways and bypass rods.

Rampant encroachment of river beds for construction and an increasing population leading to generation of waste & filth and silt & sewage of unmanageble proportion has reduced chennai’s Cooum River into a stringking sewer and sapped the ability of the Adyar River to carry flood water. With hardly any unobstructed channels for the water to get out, the city has no other option than to droun under its own water.

If this is how most cities are being developed throughout the country one can only wait for more such disasters to strike. The chennai floods have claimed almost 450 lives at the last count. Is this the price we want to pay for unplaneed and unscientific development?

World’s Smallest Winged Insect

HAVE you ever seen an insect that is smaller than single –celled organisms? This insect can fly and do all physiological activites like other insects. It is not visible to our naked eyes. Because of their minute size, they are seldom noticed by humans.

This insects is nothing but fairy kikiki huno, first discovered in hawaii island by J. Huber and J. Beardsley in the year 2000. This insect has also been found in Trinidad, costa Rica, Australia and Argentina.

This insect belongs to Order Hymenoptera, super family Chalcidoidea and family Mymaridae. It measures 0.5 to 1.0 mm in body length. It has a long antenna, which is club-shaped in the female and thread-like in the male. The wings of the insect possess long bristles. It lays eggs on other insect eggs. It is used for biological pest control for various crop pests.

A few months ago when entomologists laid an insect trap in Yercaud, in Tamil Nadu they were surprised to find the world’s smalllest flying insect kikiki hunai!

Wolf Prizes in Science (2015)

THE Wolf Prize is an international award conferred to outstanding living scientists and artists “irrespective of nationality, race, colour, region, sex or political viesw ….. for achievements in the interest of mankind and friendly relations among peoples. “

In 2015, eight scientists were awarded for their contributions in their respective fields. The wolf awardees include prof. D. Bjorken of Stanford University (USA) and prof. Robert P. Krisher of Harvard University (USA) in Physics, James G. Arthur of University of Toronto (Canada) in Mathematics, Prof. John Kappler & prof. Philippa Marrack from National Jewish Health (Colorado) and Prof. Jeffrey Ravetch of Rockefeller Univierstiy (New York) in Medicine and Prof. Linda J. Saif of the Ohio State University (USA) in Agriculture.

Prof. Bjorken and Prof. Krishner won the Wolf Prize in Physics (2015) for their Fundamental contributions towards understanding the struture of the universe at the very smallest and at the very longest sizes. While the former won it for predicting scaling in deep inelastic scattering, leading to indentification of nucleon’s pointlike constituents, the later won it for forging the path to supernova cosmology through his observations and insights.
James G. Arthur has been honoured with the Wolf Prize in Mathematics fo his monumental work on the trace formulae and his fundamental contribution to the theory of automorphic representation of reductive groups.
The Wolf Prize in Medicine 2015 has been shared among the three immunologists, half of which has been gone to Prof. Jeffrery Revetch and other half to Prof. John Kappler and Prof. Philipa Marrack. They have been honored for their major contributions to the understanding of the key antigen-specific molecules, the T-cell recpetor for antigen and antibodies and how antibody molecues, documented the importance of diverse receptors for the constants “Fc” part of antibody molecules and cloned many of these receptors for the immunoglobulin Fc region.

The Wolf Prize in Agriculture has gone to Prof. Saif, a virologist and immunologist, for here discoveries fo novel enteric and respiratory viruses of food in animals and humans. These discoveries have led to the enhancement of fundamental knowledge of the gut-mammary immunologic axis and have provided a new way to design vaccines and vaccination strategies. Saif has also discovered new paradigms of the complex way the immune system protects animals against intestinal infections.

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