Daily Archives: March 9, 2013

Devi Saraswati

Course of Sarasvati river through Thar desert

Course of Sarasvati river through Thar desert (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

She is the wife of Brahma and considered as the patron of arts, music and letters. As often in Indian mythology, She is also associated with the river of the same name which once flowed through modern Haryana of North India and is mentioned repeatedly in Vedic literature. The river is now non-existent of thought of as flowing invisibly. It meets the two other great rivers Ganges and Yamuna at Prayag or Allahabad.

According to PTI news of May 9, 2006, ONGC the largest of Petroleum Exploration and Production Company of India decided to launch the digging of wells for producing water from the underground source of river Saraswati in Rajasthan and help solve the water scarcity problems and also to discover the route of the river.

Under the project, ONGC in collaboration with government agency Water and Power Consultancy Services (WAPCOS) would dig many wells in Jaisalmar, Barmer and Bikaner districts that will aid its search for water of the river, believed to have originated in the Thar desert and disappeared into present day Pakistan.

The Goddess is depicted as a beautiful fair young woman, often with a Veena or Indian lute and book in her hand and attended by a Swan.Traditionally considered as the inventor of Sanskrit language. She is much revered by students, musicians and writers.

Devi Lakshmi

Lakshmi means fortune. She is the wife of Vishnu and is often called Shri. She is the goddess associated with good luck and temporal blessing. Although she is considered coexistent with Vishnu, she appeared in full glory at the churning of primeval ocean. Thus ocean is considered her father.

She is usually portrayed as a woman of mature beauty, seated on a lotus, with a lotus in her hand and attended by two elephants who sprinkle water on her from their trunks. She is believed to incarnate herself as the wife of incarnation of Vishnu, thus worshiped as Sita, the spouse of Rama, as Rukmani or Radha being the chief queen and favorite of Krishna of his youth.

Stomatal Index and Level of Carbondioxide in Atmosphere

There was a time when things started rolling on with advent of photosynthesis by cyano-bacteria or green algae which began preparing its food from carbon dioxide and water which were the only substances available in plenty. They paved the way for introduction of oxygen into the atmosphere and for beginning of life dependent on oxygen.

In fact, both the products made by photosynthesis namely sugar and oxygen are used by animals including humans for sustaining their life. We animals are thus the species who learned to make use of the leg work of others to their own advantage. Of course, in today’s world, human beings who do this are termed smarter than the others.

So what the plants and algae used for making their food is being recycled back to the atmosphere in the form of green house gases. Plants use CO2 and H2O and took energy from the Sun to convert these to sugars and animals extract that energy from the food synthesized by plants and algae and return the CO2 and H2O back to the atmosphere.

CO2 is in fact one of the end products of burning the fossil fuels like coal and petroleum which are the preserved forms of energy of Sun due to being buried away from the reach of oxygen. Since all industrial activities use extensively these fuels, levels of CO2 are rising in the atmosphere to alarming levels.

Trees breathe the CO2 through the stomatal pores present in their leaves. They also lose the water through these pores during the day. They are smart enough to adjust the size of their leaves so as to optimize the intake of CO2 and loss of H2O for proper growth.

One such tree was born in 1948 in a isolated place on the edge of a pit 30 kilometers from Dutch city called Eindhoven. By 1990 it was a big majestic tree as most of the Birch family trees are. Scientists from the laboratory of Paleo-botany and Palynology named it fondly “Big Betty”.

During each autumn, the tree will shed a carpet of dry leaves into the pit. So layer after layer is deposited inside the pit. But scientists noticed a peculiar thing about the leave size. Each year the leave size began becoming smaller thus reducing the stomatal index. This was due to the fact that as levels of CO2 rose, the tree needed fewer number of stomata to inhale the same quantity as required and thus avoided the undue loss of moisture from the leaves. In fact when the levels of CO2 were plotted against the stomatal indices of leaves over these years, they matched the patterns of levels of CO2 variations. So the stomatal index was used to calibrate and interpolate the results to guess the levels of CO2 in the past.

Antoine Laurent Lavoisier: Father of Modern Chemistry

Antoine Lavoisier, son of a wealthy lawyer,  was a social climber, tax collector and widely held to be the founder of modern chemistry. He was born in 1743 and was put to guillotine in 1794 on the charges of selling the adulterated tobacco which was a luxury and was very costly. It came from colonies in South America established by Europeans and employed black people as captives.

Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier and His Wife (Marie-...

He discovered oxygen gas and named it so. Joseph Priestly, English scientist had also discovered this gas but named it “dephlogisticated air“. Both knew that the gas was closely associated with combustion in or around 1774. Priestly even demonstrated the synthesis of the gas by heating the mercury oxide with focused sun rays before Lavoisier when the former was a guest of the latter’s family on a tour to France. After some time of this event, Lavoisier also synthesized oxygen by an entirely different method.

He also demonstrated that water which was considered an element to be made of two elements oxygen and hydrogen. He devised a very brilliant method to split the water into

Chem ical ex pe ri ments in In tro duc tion to...

Chem ical ex pe ri ments in In tro duc tion to Chem istry (Seimi Kaisō). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

its forming elements. The water was boiled and steam was passed through a coiled pipe made of iron. The box containing the coil was joined to another pipe which was dipped into the water at other end.The steam reacted with iron forming oxide thus subtracting the oxygen from water. Another component, namely Hydrogen, went out and bubbled through water and was collected by displacement above water.

Similarly he showed that air which again was considered an element was in fact a mixture of gases.

He is credited with starting the nomenclature of the elements known during his time. He even put the heat also among the elements list. He is thus responsible for initiating the process of documentation of chemsitry.

His another great achievement was what is now known as Stochiometry in chemistry. It is in a way is conservation of mass. He decomposed the salts of known weight and weighed the products and found that total amount remains the same. This audit of the mass has been responsible for the discovery of new compounds and elements and research chemists regularly make use of the this technique to pinpoint the missing mass.

Such a great scientist met with a very sad end. He was hanged when he was barely 50 years old.

India in Middle Times

After Harsha, who ascended to throne in 606 and was the great king. He was man of great energy and great gifts. After his death, the whole of north India was ruled by rivaling local dynasties. There was a confusion all around. Not a single ruler was there who could unite the warring factions. After his death, usurper Arunashva seized Kanyakubja. He attacked Wang Hsuan tse who came with a small detachment of troops as a help from Chinese emperor to Harsha. Wang escaped and gathered an army from Assam, Tibet & Nepal and captured Arunashva and took him to China as a captive.

After this Bhaskaravarman of Assam extended his rule westwards and occupied Magadha in the process. Meanwhile 2nd Gupta dynasty with Adityasena as the king revived in latter half of 7th century, Yashovarman established his empire at Kanyakubja. In the following two centuries, two great dynasties, the Palas of Bihar & Bengal and Gurjara-Pratihara of Kanyakubja divided the hegemony of North India.

Dharmapala marks the apogee of Pala dynasty. After hid death, his successor Devpala was still an important king and had contacts with king Sailendra of Sumatra and Palas became patrons of Buddhism. They also introduced Buddhism to Tibet.

After Palas, Gurjara-Pratihara were most powerful kings of North India. They successfully resisted the Arabs who had already occupied Sind. Their two notable kings Mihir Bhoj and Mahendrapala pushed back the Palas and were the overlords up to Bengal in the East. Rastrakutas continually harassed them and temporarily succeeded in occupation of Kanyakubja in 916. These raids weakened the Pratiharas and turned their attention away from gathering trouble in the west. After this in 10th century they lost their power and many feudatories formed