Category Archives: Personality

Chemistry Behind Cleopatra’s Beauty Products

Everyone has heard about Cleopatra. She is said to be most charming seductress and willy woman who became the queen of Egypt. She was very conscious of her looks and knew the value of being beautiful and always looking young and alluring. It was Cleopatra, who popularized skin care treatments in her book titled “Cleopatra Gynaeciarum Libri”. There, she recorded recipes for making cosmetics and perfumed ointments. She was so interested in spa treatments and perfumes that her lover, Mark Antony, gave her the gift of a spa and perfume factory that had been built by Herod the Great at the south end of the Dead Sea.

Although Egyptians may not be knowing the chemistry behind the ingredients used in the spa treatments but still to date many ingredients used at that time are in use but in the synthetic forms. Synthetic ingredients have low manufacturing cost and avoid lots of labor involved in extracting these from natural sources which only a royal person can afford. For example, Indole is a organic compound present in the jasmine flowers as well as the feces of crocodiles and other animals. In high concentrations, this has a repulsing odor but at very concentrations it exudes fragrance. If you extract the chemical from the Jasmine flowers, you require millions of flowers for obtaining 1 Kg of oil costing approximately $10000. So these days synthetic oil is prepared from Indole and other ingredients at a low cost. Cleopatra used the excrement of crocodiles to clean and embellish her complexion.

She bathed in the milk of Ass to keep her skin soft and supple. This milk has an important ingredient Lactic acid which being an alpha hydroxy acid breaks down the dead cells of the skin. Even today’s many skin care products contain lactic acid. Cleopatra painted her eyes with green and black pigments to protect her eyes from those ever-present flies and to enhance her appearance. On special occasions, she may have added glitter made from crushed beetle shells mixed with her eye paint. And she would have cleaned her teeth with natron, a natural form of baking soda, and freshened her breath with spearmint.

Egypt is an hot country and there is lots of perspiration which imparts body odors. So for Cleopatra, perfumes were important not just for masking the smells of skin treatments but to cover offensive body odors. Cleopatra would have carried small containers of her perfumed ointments and powdered perfumes that she would have reapplied several times a day to keep her complexion looking fresh and her skin sweet smelling. Chemists have reconstructed a number of ancient perfumes using Cleopatra’s own recipes and analysis of perfume residues found in jars from Cleopatra’s spa. They discovered that Cleopatra favored perfumed ointments made from Moringa oil or horseradish oil (Moringa pterygosperma or M. aptera). Those ointments would have disappeared into her skin quickly and left no greasy feeling behind. Moringa oil is still used in Persian perfumes today, and chemists at L’Oreal have recreated ancient Egyptian perfumes using Moringa oil.

Cleft Chin!!!

I was doing a crossword. One of the clues was was “the chin by which Kirk Douglas was known”

It turned out that one cannot describe the famous Hollywood’s he-man Kirk Douglas without mentioning his dimpled chin called cleft chin.

He died in February 2020 at the age of 103. In one of the obituaries, the writer wrote “The cleft chin made him a star and his intense piercing eyes made him an actor”

Born to a ragpicker father of Russian descent, he ruled the Hollywood for 60 years as an actor and a producer.

Memories in the Brain

Human beings always tend to recall the past incidents in their lives to compare with the present events. Since birth, the events become memories and are lodged into the brain. In which manner do the memories lodge inside our brains ?. Are they stacked one over another like sedimentary seams ?

But that may not be the case because retrieval of the deepest buried memories shall be very difficult. Are they scattered in different places in the brain. This way retrieval may be easier. Brain might be the most complex structure to delineate although like most of our other body parts we least bother about how these all work.

Charles Dickens Forever

More than two centuries have elapsed since Charles Dickens was born. A towering figure among the English fiction authors. Man goes away but his creative output never dies. There must be hardly any english reader who have not read the his works.
Though I read many of his books but the most moving to me personally is “David Copperfield”, in which narrates the heart rending story of the boy David Copperfield, whose real father dies before his birth, whose mother remarries another person in the hope of economic stability. The stepfather treats the boy in manners which are very brutal. It is just the beginning. Ultimately an Aunt from his father’s side finds him and takes him under her shelter.

Some Quotes from the book……

“My meaning simply is, that whatever I have tried to do in life, I have tried with all my heart to do well; that whatever I have devoted myself to, I have devoted myself to completely; that in great aims and in small, I have always been thoroughly in earnest.”

“Procrastination is the thief of time, collar him.”

“Never,” said my aunt, “be mean in anything; never be false; never be cruel. Avoid those three vices, Trot, and I can always be hopeful of you.”

1905: Annus Mirabilis of Albert Einstein 

Annus mirabilis is a Latin phrase that means “wonderful year”, “miraculous year” or “amazing year”. This term was originally used to refer to the year 1666, and today is used to refer to several years during which events of major importance are remembered.

Albert Einstein singlehandedly added 1905 as another Annus Mirabilis. In this year, his creativity peaked and he made the revolutionary scientific discoveries. He was just 26 years old. During that year he did:

{
March: Proved that the light consists of photons thus proving the quantum nature of the light.

May: Proved the existence of the atom.

June: Special Theory of Relativity, which forced the laws of motion by another great physicist Newton as the corollary with the objects moving at lower speeds.

November: The most conscise and beautiful equation relating mass and energy. Proving that mass and energy are two names of the same thing. That enormous amounts of energy are condensed to make small amounts of mass. In other words, enormous amounts of energy are contained in the mass.

E=mc2

And after that he became a superstar

}

Richest Person on Each Continent

  1. Jeff Bezos: $92.6 billion, technology, North America
  2. Jorge Paulo Leman: $30.8 billion, Food and beverage, South America
  3. Amancio Ortega: $77.8 billion, fashion,real estate, investment… Europe
  4. Aliko Dangote: $13.7 billion, cement, sugar, flour,salt,. … Africa
  5. Mukesh Ambani: $41.9 billion, Oil & Gas, Asia
  6. Gina Rinehart, $16.6 billion, Mining, Oceania

Odour Chemicals in Armpit 

Human Armpit cavity provides an ideal environment for growth of bacteria. The intensity of bacteria in the armpits is mind boggling. In fact, it is reported that there are a million bacteria per square centimeter. Not only are their population so high, there are so many different types of them. They produce chemicals by breaking down the precursor chemicals present in sweat which cause the stinking smell. The odours are so embarrassing to people that millions of dollars industry of deodorants thrives due to this.

This means that in addition to ideal temperature and lodging facilities like folds of skin and hair, the armpits secretions must be supplying them with chemicals they depend upon to extract energy for survival.

Armpits contain sweat chemicals. When these chemicals are broken down into other compounds by bacteria many of these end products give of very obnoxious smells. Bacteria produce sulphur containing compounds which give off nauseating onion like smell. Then there are compounds which are degraded into organic acids. One of the acids gives the “cumin like smell” while another acid gives odour similar to the one which comes from the goats.

Then they produce pheromones which are the chemicals that attracts the opposite gender person. Two possible pheromones are Androstenol (alcohol) which smells like “musk” and other is Androstenone. (ketone) which smells differently to different persons.

Two low molecular weight acids namely iso-valeric and we’ll known acetic acid are also produced. The first one gives cheesy, sweaty foot smell and other as is commonly known  as the vinegar smell.

These chemicals are produced by bacteria using different enzyme reaction routes..

The details of the odour chemicals and their precursors, enzyme and bacteria responsible for these are given in this article..

Nobel Prize Controversies 

Nobel Prizes for this year are on. Already the prize for medicine has already been announced to William C. Campbell, Satoshi Ōmura, Youyou Tu on nature based medicines. Prizes in other categories will be announced one by one.

There had been times when Controversies arose over the prizes. Following is the list of some controversial prizes.

  1. Literature prize to Aleksandr Solzhenitzyn in 1970. Solzhenitzyn is well known for highlighting the plight of political prisoners sent to labor camps in Siberia. The communist regime of the then USSR had declared the prize as a provocation and he was not allowed to receive the prize. He received the prize after 4 years after he migrated to USA.

  2. Peace prize to Henry kissinger and Le Duc Tho, in 1973 is considered as the most controversial. Two members resigned from committee in protest

  3. Economics prize to Milton Friedman in 1076 for his work on free markets. His association with Chilean dictator Pinochet irked the protesters.

  4. When Barack Obama received peace prize in 2009. He was less than a year in office. Judges noticed even Obama was not too enthusiastic about it.

  5. Medicine prize to Jules Hoffman, Bruce Beutler, Ralph Steinman in 2011. This prize would have been uncontroversial except for the fact that Steinman had died a few days earlier the prize was announced. Controversial point was that it cannot be given posthumously and commitee made the exception saying they were not aware of his death.

And Nobel Prize for Mahatma Gandhi that never was. There is hardly anyone in the world who doesn’t know his contribution towards non violence. In fact he was the founder of this movement. He was nominated 5 times for the but never won. This again may be due to pressure from the powerful nation. The Nobel committee has since realized the biggest blunder they have committed. His non violence movement has in fact become guiding star for people such as Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela. 

In 1989 when peace prize was given to Dalai lama the chairman of committee paid rich tributes to Gandhi.

Desires unfullfilled due to religious bigotry 

Guru Nanak, the first Guru and founder of Sikh religion, had two constant companions namely Bala and Mardana. Mardana played Rabab while Guru sang. He was a Muslim. Guru preached to the world love, compassion, and communal harmony. He also enlightened the people about the falsehood spread by some religious groups both Muslims and Hindus. It was all based on solid logic and illustrated through simple examples.

Mardana playing Rabab (illustration)

The future generations of Mardana remained attached to the succeeding Gurus of Sikhs. Of them was Bhai Ghulam Mohammad Chand, who lived in Lahore Pakistan and breathed his last on 29th April 2015 after illness.

Although he died with one unfulfilled desire. It was to recite kirtan in the Golden Temple at Amritsar. His request in 2008  was declined by Shiromani Gurudwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) on the grounds that he was not a Sikh who was not baptized a rule that was enacted in 1947.

He has performed Kirtans in many Gurudwaras both in Pakistan and abroad. He was the sixth generation of Bhai Sadha and Bhai Madha, who sang during the lifetimes of ninth and tenth Guru Teg Bahadur and Guru Gobind Singh.

His father Bhai Sunder Giani was one of the last rababis to perform in Darbar Sahib (Golden Temple) before 1947. Navtej Kaur Purewal, deputy director, South Asia Institute, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London also sponsored Ghulam Mohammad’s historic visit to the UK in 2011 and also wrote a research paper on the History of the Rababi Tradition of Shabad Kirtan.

Born in Rajasansi village near Amritsar in 1927, Bhai Ghulam Mohammad had migrated to Pakistan.

bhai chand

Bhai Ghulam Mohammad Chand

England-based Punjabi writer Amarjit Chandan, said, “Bhai Ghulam virtually died the day he was not allowed to perform kirtan in Darbar Sahib in 2008 for not being an `Amritdhari’. They didn’t know his forefather Bhai Mardana was not one either. But he was Baba Nanak’s true and first Sikh, his lifelong companion and rababi.“

Such was the pain that he carried after the refusal to perform kirtan in the Darbar Sahib that in an interview with Purewal in 2011, he said, “Who bothered to ask whether we were Gursikh (baptized Sikhs) in those days (in the days of Gurus)? Were my ancestors Gursikhs? Did they wear the `dastaar’ (turban) and show the signs of being a Sikh? No. But that never stopped them from having a passion for music and their work… Those people (the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee that manage gurdwaras in Punjab) have a short vision…“

You can listen to his shabad kirtan from the youtube links below

Bhini Rainarie

 Aawal Alla Noor Upaye

Songs of Kuldeep Manak: Fragrance of Punjabi Soil

In Punjab and Rajasthan, folk singers belong to mostly Muslim religion. First example is of Mardana the disciple of Guru Nanak who played the Rabab when Guru sang the praises of the God. He along with Bala were constant companions of the Guru and accompanied him on his sojourns far and wide. The tradition continued and many of the famous singers in Punjab claim to be the descendants of Mardana. Also they have become so attached to Sikhism that from their outlook supporting the turban and beard, no one distinguish them from being the Sikhs.

Among these folk singers was Kuldeep Manak who hailed from Jalal village in the Bathinda district. He was born in 1951 and died in 2011. His father and forefathers were singers who sang in the Gurudwaras. His original name was Latif Mohammad which he later changed to Kuldeep Singh Manak. He supported the turban. For about 30 years from the age of 17, he was undoubtedly the king of folk in Punjab. Like when Sun shines, the stars fade away, other singers did not stand anywhere near in comparison except Surinder Shinda.

His voice was like the jangling of silver coins-pure and rustic. Bathinda borders Rajasthan and is a very dry and dusty place. There are frequent sand storms in the evening after the intense heat in the day time. The wind howls in the alleys and sand covers many things. One of the lyricists described his voice like the wind blowing during the storm-raw and hitting straight your heart. Since he sang the subjects related to folk stories and religion, he was immensely popular in the countryside. People were crazy about his songs. He sang a genre of folk music called Kalian and was called the Badshah of Kalian.

His songs cover so many popular and even unheard of Quissas-the stories of valor and love-which include Heer Ranjha, Laila Majnu, Mirza Sahiban, Kima Malki, Sassi Punnu as the love stories, Banda Singh Bahadur, Dulla Bhatti the Muslim Rajput who drove Akbar to such a desperation that he had to shift his base from Agra to Punjab to quell the Dulla, Jaimal Phatta-two Hindu Rajputs who refused to give their daughter to Akbar in marriage just like the parents of Jodha Bai did, Jagga Daku the Robinhood of Punjab and the death of Kehar Singh by his mother in law and brother in laws for the greed of money.

Further, his songs based on the religious stories like Sarwan of Ramayana who carried his blind parents from place to place for pilgrimage and was killed by an arrow from Raja Dashrath the father of Lord Rama, Pooran bhagat who was thrown in a well on the orders of his father King Salwan on the false charges made by King’s young wife Loona, subsequent rescue of Pooran by Guru Gorakhnath and his becoming a saint, then Raja Rasalu who was Pooran’s step brother born to the same Loona with the blessings of Pooran. The songs are replete with such stories.

The credit for his fame also goes to lyricist Dev Threekawala. The duo had a great rapport and churned out all this famous stuff. The winning quality of his songs was very simple and rustic language which tugged at the strings of the hearts of the simple village folks.

He was buried after death according to Muslim traditions. There were reports in the media that his wife who belongs to Sikh community tried to excavate his grave and to perform last rites in Hindu tradition but was prevented by the villagers.