Category: science

Assessing Time, Qualitatively

The Panchang is India’s traditional calendar system. It is named because it has five limbs or aspects. These five are associated one each to the five Maha-Bhutas (great metaphors). Karana – Earth metaphor Thithi – Water metaphor Vara – Fire metaphor Nakshatra – Air metaphor Yoga – Space metaphor Farmers until the advent of fertilizer based agriculture consulted the Karana tables of the Panchang to gain a timing advantages from nature. Karana’s association with the Earth metaphor is apt because of the agronomy association. Thithi being a division of the lunar cycle, affects water bodies on the planet. Oceanic high and low tides can be predicted using the Thithi tables. Celebrations were timed to coincide with the Thithi table to help the human mind drop its habitual barriers and merge with the festivities. Water is an apt metaphor for mental tension becoming diffused. The seven days of the week or Vara are named after seven significant luminaries in the sky who in

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Only 5? How about the rest on the Periodic Table of Elements?

Vedic Sciences convey complex ideas through metaphors. Universe is called Pra-Pancha (made of up of  five Maha-bhutas). European scholars translated the word Bhuta into “element” because of their familiarity with a Greek concept. There is no direct equivalent to the word Bhuta as it conveys a concept much deeper than the word elements does. The word “element” today is identified with the periodic table of elements. Therefore the continued use of this word devalues the usefulness of the Vedic model of the universe. How about the phrase “the great metaphor” to grasp the concepts which the word  Maha-bhuta intends to convey? Space is the first of the five great metaphors. Space itself remains quiescent unless some movement shows up in it. According to the modern theories on cosmology, big bang was the first movement in space. A common analogy for the calm space is the deep sky. Sky appears still as long as there are no movements in atmospheric air. Air is the second great

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Fly Clocks and the Flickering TVs of the Dogs

Pic Credit – CNN Money All vertebrates and insects have a clock within their brain, their nervous system. Scientists attribute this clock to our sense of the passage of time. Human perception of time, slow or fast, may be tied to this internal mechanism. This internal mechanism is closely tied to the metabolic rate of the living entity. Time appears to go very fast for a youth than for an old person. Metabolic rate slows as a person ages. Now scientists are zoning into a property of this internal clock mechanism which enables the brain to ignore flickering light and view it as a steady source of illumination (Article in The Guardian). A dog’s metabolic rate is much faster than that of a human. Dogs brain can detect higher frequency flicker than human brain. The entire mechanism of television transmission and reception is designed to cheat the human brain into thinking that movements on the screen are smooth which in

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Selfish Brain – Selfless service

A team of scientists from the University of Zurich recently conducted an interesting experiment that identified the area of brain related to selfish attitudes. These researchers found an increased amount of grey matter between an altruistic person’s temporal and parietal lobes of brain compared to a normal person’s. Also the brain of a person who is more selfish shows brain wave activities when asked to share something they possess with a new person. This activity was seen in the part of the brain behind a person’s ears. Perhaps these brain waves correspond to a “why should I?” attitude arising in a person’s head. The same area shows reduced activity to the extent a person is altruistic.In other words, this area shows activity when the level of sacrifice nears the altruism level of a person. Earlier in 2010, a team of researchers in MIT had also conducted an experiment and identified a “morality compass“, also in the area behind the right

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Wolf to Dog : Evoluntion towards Vegetarianism?

The January issue of Nature carries a paper pointing out three genes that distinguish dogs from wolves in their ability to digest starch. The evolution of dogs from wolves is thought to have occurred when the species became domesticated. This presupposes that human settlements had increased dependence on agricultural produce during the evolutionary. Scientists don’t understand what caused the switch either.  It is interesting to understand the phenomenon of carbohydrates digesting into glucose which fuel every cell in the body. Starch digestion takes place in three stages. The first stage takes place in the presence of an enzyme called alpha amylase. In a dog, this amylase protein is present in its intestine. However in a human, this enzyme is present in the Saliva in the mouth. This salivary enzyme is also called Ptyalin. Chewing food well is important as Ptyalin does not act well in the acidic environment in the stomach. A pancreatic enzyme takes over the action in the

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Darwin Vs New discoveries – epigenetics

An eighteenth century french naturalist, Jean-baptiste Lamarck’s theory of evolution was different from what Darwin had proposed. His theory provided room for learnt behavior from being passed onto off springs. His opponents discredited his theory through a simplistic experiment of chopping the tails of rats to prove the point that learned traits are not passed to off springs. As Darwinism triumphed Lamarkism was pushed to the background. New discoveries in the field of genetics is showing that environment during early phase of development contributes to switching of genes. New discoveries are also showing that some parts of learnt traits may not be totally erased when a new embryo cell is formed by an egg and a sperm. Study of population going through severe stress has shown that their anxiety responses may be showing up in off springs. Specific observations have been made in case of pregnant women traumatized through world trade center bombing, abused children growing up with anxiety and

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A piece of Zirconium – Beginning of Life on Earth

Geologists say that the planet earth formed about 4.5-4.6 billion years ago. Geo-chemists recently analyzed a piece of Zirconium, almost as old, inside a hard rock in hilly western Australia. Zirconium is a crystal. During the formation it accumulates less on more Titanium atoms based on the temperature. Geochemists Watson and Thomson are almost certain, based on the levels of Titanium, that this particular crystal formed at temperatures around 680 degrees Celsius. Scientists also know that these crystals form in the presence of water. This discovery is exciting because it hints at surface water being there on earth right from the beginning! All scientists agree that the presence of water is a good sign of life. Prior to this discovery life on planet earth  is understood to have formed some 3.5 billion years ago. Cyanobacteria are considered to be one of the earliest life forms on earth. The creation of life on earth has so far been thought to be

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Four degrees warmer

The recent Global Climate Submit ended Dec 11th. Doha being the 18th global climate summit suggests that the chance for “early” action has already been missed. The failure has been due to each side in the rich poor divide has wanted the other to act! The World Bank commissioned the report, prepared by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Climate Analytics, to better understand the potential impact on development of a 4 degree warmer world. Most scientists agree that the world is leading to a 4 degree rise in temperature by the end of the century if no action is taken.The report from World Bank paints a grim scenario –  inundation of coastal cities (think New York); risks for food production that could lead to more malnutrition; unprecedented heat waves; severe droughts and floods; more high-intensity tropical cyclones; and irreversible loss of biodiversity. While all nations will be affected, the distribution of impacts is likely to be tilted against poor countries and poor

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How many types of living organisms are there?

It is not simple to understand how complex mathematical models and the pace of discoveries of not only species, but of higher classifications such as family could be used by scientists to come up with the estimate of 8.8 million species as the residents of this planet. But I can completely understand the statement of the researcher Boris Worm, a biology professor at Canada’s Dalhousie University who co-authored the study “We are really fairly ignorant of the complexity and colorfulness of this amazing planet, We need to expose more people to those wonders. It really makes you feel differently about this place we inhabit.” The pace of  modern life leaves very little time to contemplate on such wonders. One can feel let down by the modern lifestyle and therefore romanticize about a future when the world will live with the liesure to be amazed by the beauty of the planet. But, in reality, letting the feeling of wonder arise even just for a few moments when we encounter these news on the internet or other media can be

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