Marie Curie

Marie Curie is the shining example of Grit and Patience. She is an example of unerring in her enquiry and never afraid of hard work.

She was born in Warsaw Poland which was under the control of Russia at that time. She left Warsaw for Cracow which was under Austria then. From there she went to France for higher studies and settled there.

Marie Curie is considered the Greatest Scientist. She set a shining example for generations of scientists.

Marie Curie

She and her whole family was the family of illustrious scientists.

It is 110 years since Marie Curie became the first person ever to win two Nobel prizes. Marie and her husband Pierre pioneered the study of radioactivity and discovered two new elements, Radium and Polonium. The name Polonium was given as an honour to mark the country Poland her bith place.

The couple shared the Nobel Prize for the radioactivity work with Henry Becqerel who discovered the X-rays. Curie and her husband established the technique to isolate the radioactive elements from ore.


The pair had to process 8000 kg of pitch-blend minerals under horrific conditions to extract tiny amounts( 0.1 gm) of radium!!!!!!!


Their daughter, Irene, also won a Nobel prize in chemistry, and Marie is remembered in the names of universities, institutes, charities and the element curium.

Mass of Higgs Boson predicted by Homer Simpson!!!!!

Homer Simpson seems to have discovered the equation to calculate the weight of the elusive God Particle, Higgs Boson as back as a decade

Many of the episodes of the cult show “The Simpsons” are laced with mathematics. It is said the many people involved in the making of this show are mathematicians

In one such episode called “The Wizard of Terrace” in 1998, Homer Simpson turns into a mathematician and is shown pondering over a equation in front of the blackboard.

The equation is written as shown in the picture below.

If you put the values of all the constants in the equation, you come up with the mass as 13.8169×10-25 kilograms.

The latest value as reported in the respected magazine is of the order of 10-25 kilograms which is remarkably close to the value derived from the formula.

So is it a coincidence or something else? The observation was made by science author and presenter Simon Singh in his forthcoming book.

Benzene: The Dream of Kekule:

Continuing the subject of dreams, it is pertinent to mention that lucid dreams had helped many to make great discoveries and inventions. Since my subject is chemistry, I will touch upon one such famous dream which laid the foundation for understanding the structure and chemistry of  aromatic compounds.

As every one versed with chemistry knows, the benzene is the starting compound of aromatic compounds. Its structure was derived by Kukule’. His full name was Friedrich August Kekulé von Stradonitz.

Kekule

Benzene was analyzed to have 6 carbon and 6 hydrogen atoms. Existing formula of all the organic compounds did not fit into the structure of benzene and explain its strange properties.

Kukule’ was working on this problem but could not find its solution. Totally engrossed, he fell into a sleep in front of fireplace. He has a dream of the atoms which he described in his own words as follows:

“...I was sitting writing on my textbook, but the work did not progress; my thoughts were elsewhere. I turned my chair to the fire and dozed. Again the atoms were gamboling before my eyes. This time the smaller groups kept modestly in the background. My mental eye, rendered more acute by the repeated visions of the kind, could now distinguish larger structures of manifold conformation; long rows sometimes more closely fitted together all twining and twisting in snake-like motion. But look! What was that? One of the snakes had seized hold of its own tail, and the form whirled mockingly before my eyes. As if by a flash of lightning I awoke; and this time also I spent the rest of the night in working out the consequences of the hypothesis.”

So the snake he saw holding its own tail in its mouth was the the circular structure or closed ring structure of benzene. He immediately woke up and worked out his dream on the paper and by morning he had discovered the chemical structure of benzene.

From the chemical point, the formula of benzene is C6H6. Kekule proposed the following structure to explain the number of substitution compounds which have been synthesized  using this structure.

Still there were problems in explaining the two different compounds obtained when hydrogen atoms on adjacent carbons were substituted with two different radicals like Chloride, Nitrate, Iodide or CxHy. This is called ortho disubstituion. That is to say that C6H4XY will form two different ortho isomers depending  on whethere substitution has taken place C-C bond or C=C bond.  But such isomers have never been found. Kekule tried to explain this by saying that single and double bonds oscillate and thus become identical. Dr. Linus Pauling later on proposed resonance phenomenon, in which there are no purely single and double bonds but something in between and thus all C-C bonds are equivalent.

This has been conformed by UV analysis which shows all C-C bonds of equal strength and indistinguishable. This is like the Hindu God Shiva when He assumed ardhnarishwar or androgynous form to show that both male and female forms coexist in the body. The final outcome depends upon which of these dominate at a given time.

In the end of a lecture explaining the discovery of benzene, he said

“Let us learn to dream!”

Energy Saving Dye

Scientists at Oregon State University have developed a blue pigment. Mas Subramanian and his students have this to their credit. The dye is environmentally friendly and nontoxic. It is called YInMn Blue.

M. A. S. Subramanian

This is good news, because many inorganic blues are toxic or cause cancer, such as Prussian blue, cobalt blue, or ultramarine blue.

Dye

There is yet another property this dye possesses. It reflects light from sunlight especially in the infrared (heat) part of the spectrum. It is about 40% higher in reflectivity than most blue colors. This could prove to be ideal for paints used on cars, roofs, and other applications where keeping cool is desirable.

This will help in reducing the amount of energy consumption in cooling the vehicles as lesser air conditioning wil be required because it will reflect away much of the heat from the falling light. Because the paint is reflecting much of the energy, it tends to last longer as it is not broken down by the absorbed energy.

The compound was discovered by chance in the laboratory when a student heated a sample of manganese oxide (which is black) to 2,000 degree F. When it came out of the oven, it had been transformed into a bright blue color.

Subsequent analysis showed the compound had a trigonal bipyramidal structure—the shape of two pyramids pointing in opposite directions and joined at a triangular base. The central manganese atom is surrounded by five oxygen atoms. But other compounds—yttrium oxide and indium oxide—are required to stabilize the blue crystals.
Another application wil be paint the roof tops with this dye and save much energy.

Of all the predators Man is super predator!!!

Darwin, the father of evolution, had postulated that the species evolve constantly to adjust to the changing environment and climatic changes but this change is gradual in nature and takes place over thousands of years. But man is proving him wrong.

Being an expert killer backed by technical advanced equipment, man is bringing rapid changes which are perceptible within much shorter time. Man is super predator and its peculiar hunting preferences are forcing many species particularly of fish and large sized land animals to evolve at a rapid pace than the nature would have done.

There are stories of attacks by sharks on people venturing into sea and of being killed by lions or other carnivorous animals but they fade away when compared to the man. Scientists at the Victoria university at British Columbia in Canada who are studying the changes and the harm being brought upon the fauna by the man has termed the man as “Super Predator

In general the man hunts the largest of the animals. For examples adults of lions and tigers to flaunt them as the trophies of their valour and skill as opposed to the hunting animals who generally go far the weakest and younger prey.

Thus the man depletes the mature “reproduction capital” instead of the “reproductive interest” of the hunted species. For example, fish is caught in the nets and nets are so constructed as to retain the larger fish and filter out the smaller ones.

This is causing the the fish to mate early and produce the smaller broods. The size is diminishing. This is because the fish is also evolving techniques to survive and producing fish of smaller varieties which can pass through the larger net openings.

Man has hunted the sea creatures 14 times more than the sea predators and 9 times more than the land animals. Man is going for the bigger animals like sharks, tuna fish and marlin. This is changing the ecosystem at a much faster pace than nature.

Over Killing of the land predators has resulted in the increase of herbivore population. This increase is putting pressure on many resources and robbing the food from insects and birds which we cherish. And also resulting in producing the disease prone herbivorous animals.

Coconut Plant: Kalpavriksha

Coconut grow in the coastal areas. In India, whole of the coast is dotted with coconut trees. Kerala tops the list in coconut plantations. Known as Coconut in English, Narikela in Sanskrit & Nariyal in Hindi, coconuts can grow to between 15 and 30 m tall in plantations. Their trunks are ringed with scars where old leaves have fallen. The top of the trunk is crowned with a rosette of leaves.

Fruits are called coconuts. They are oval and covered with a smooth skin which can be bright green, brilliant orange or ivory coloured. Below the skin is a thick fibrous layer which is used for coir. The next layer is the shell of the seed with the three characteristic ‘eyes’.

The coconut finds so many uses. The shell may be used to make charcoal which is used in the water filters for absorbing the coloring contaminants.  The inside of the shell is lined with a white, edible layer called the meat. This is used to make chemicals, and medicinal products. The fluid inside the seed cavity is known as coconut water. This fluid contains many minerals and is taken as such to rejuvenate the body. It is recommended in case of dehydration caused by diarrhea. It has a cooling effect and removes the body heat in summers. When seeds germinate, the new shoot sprouts from one of the eyes. Due to so many uses, in India it has been called the ‘tree of heaven’ or ‘Kalpavriksha‘.

In India, it has great spiritual value. The three ‘eyes’ of the coconut represent the three eyes of the great god Shiva. An earthen pot or pitcher, called a purnakumbha is filled with water and mango leaves and a coconut is placed on top. This purnakumbha is used in the ritual of worship and adoration of the gods, called puja. It is placed as a substitute for the deity or by the side of the deity. The purnakumbha literally means a ‘full pot’ in Sanskrit. It represents Mother Earth, the water the giver of life, the leaves life itself, and the coconut divine consciousness.

In South Asia, coconuts are named Sriphala or fruit of the Gods and symbolize complete usefulness, selfless service, prosperity and generosity. The palms are believed to be the embodiment of the ancient Indian concept of kalpavriksha, or the tree which grants all wishes. It plays an essential role in many religious and social functions in South Asia.

Coconut is an integral ingredient of South Indian cuisine. It is used in one form or another in the food. It is used to make chutneys, thickened with milk and sugar to make delicious sweets. It is milk is used in many fish preparations. Its oil is used for cooking and hair dressing.

By any means tenable or Untenable

Thermodynamics is the most important branch of the science dealing with the energy, work and conversions of one form of energy into other forms.

It cuts across many branches of the courses like physics, chemistry and engineering. All the students in these streams have to come face to face with this subject.

Its laws have become so perfect that they can be bound into mathematical equations. First law of thermodynamics is concerning the conservation of energy. 

Suppose there are two systems which are having energies A & B. If they are connected, then the energy of the resultant system shall be A+B.

But there is a catch. This law does not impose any restrictions on the donors and recipients of the energy. For example, we can heat the water by extracting (suppose we are having such an extracting machine) heat from the ice.

After all the total has to remain constant and sum of the energies of two systems. But the common experience is contrary to this. Heat always flow from higher temperature to lower temperature.

To address this difficulty, second law of thermodynamics was proposed. This takes into account the natural phenomena. Another thermodynamic function called “Entropy” was formulated. This is the measure of randomness of the system. All the systems in nature tends towards chaos or randomness.

Nature Works on Molecular Level

Human beings are trying to shrink the data storage space. In fact, technology is making exponential strides in this field. Only within the last decade, we have graduated from spooled data storage to blue ray DVD to solid state storage devices which can hold many layer of data.

Solid State Storage

Not only it is matter of storage, but very fast retrieval of the data that is taking place. Look at Google Search, it fetches so many webpages within milli seconds. But still, the efforts are on to still go to more more and micro sizes.

When we read, our imagination begins to conjure the physical attributes. For example, if the story is talking about an encounter of someone with a tiger, our mind starts enacting the fuzzy scene. So the writings contain the cues packed in a small space.

Rest is done by our imagination. Visual aids go one step further and eliminate the need for imagination and thus force on our mind the scene as conjured by the maker of the visual. Otherwise from written story, everyone will come out with their own scene based on their experiences.

That is why original creativity is going down with these advancements. We are flooded with so much information that we do not require to think ourselves. Now the focus is on the intelligent choice from among the so many choices available.

In the olden times, the Kings usually erected pillars or tablets in their kingdoms. These usually exalted some great victories and virtues of the Kings. Some of them went further and put religious sermons on the display. It is another matter that most of the populace at that was illiterate. Examples are pillars erected in India by Asoka the Great.

Ashoka Pillar at Vaishali

Similarly, there is the Prism of Sennacherib inscribed in about 700 BC, describes in characters of the Assyrian language some historical events during the reign of King Sennacherib. This king of Assyria, fought so many battles. The Prism contains about 20,000 characters, weighs about 50 kg, and has survived almost intact for about 2700 years. It is great wonder.

Prism of Sennacherib

But now compare our feats with nature. A single DNA molecule of the bacterium E-coli contains all the encoded information necessary to specify the cell’s structure and functions. No storage devise made by us even remotely come close to it.

Bacterial DNA

The bacterial DNA contains about 4.6 million characters (nucleotides) and weighs less than 1/10000000000 grams only. Other remarkable property of it is that it has undergone only relatively minor changes during the past several million years.

But nature never boasts. It does not care whether we praise it or criticize it when we are not happy. It is just like God Shiva who is never angry with anyone and who is attached unnecessarily to anything.

Bootstrapping the Life

God’s creations are not comprehensive. His ways are an enigma for us to understand. Even a tiny event taking place in the nature is beyond our understanding. How the life is sparked in the body made of flesh. I think many times that if we assemble all the organs into a human body, can it come to life by itself?

An analogy can be drawn from the modern day computers. A computer is assembled from the hardware like CPU, mother board, storage media, multimedia. Even after assembling the hardware, it is just a lifeless piece without any use until it is booted.

Booting involves a small program called “Bootstrap” which makes the machine to come to life and starts the vital functions like loading the operating system which readies the computer for doing useful work.

Similarly, there must be something, some spark of energy which the God must be infusing in the lifeless body and bringing it into the action. The body becomes ready for performing various functions.

A computer can be rebooted if there is some hitch in the programs. This can occur so many times in the life of a computer. But in case of living beings since the time of booting till the end of life, this happens only once.

It is rightly said that there are dissolves in the reel life but the real life goes on.

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.

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 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 also 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 chemistry.

His another great achievement was what is now known as Stoichiometry 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.