Archive for December, 2015

Science events that shaped 2015

December 22, 2015 Leave a comment

The year 2015 saw some interesting events in the field of Science

plutoCRISPR-mechanismsolar impulse  2quantum spookinessparis

  1. Flyby of Pluto
    Pluto grabbed the spotlight when the New Horizons spacecraft flew past it on 14 July. The world revealed itself as a geological wonderland of ice mountains, nitrogen glaciers and smooth, frigid plains. The sheer complexity of Pluto’s surface astounded planetary scientists, including prinicipal investigator Alan Stern, and raised major questions about what could be fuelling the geological activity that created it. 

    2. CRISPR Gene-editing
    In April, scientists in China reported use of the technique to edit non-viable human embryos, which spurred researchers and bioethicists to debate in editorials and meetings whether the technology should ever be used in human embryos, even for basic research. The debate culminated in the International Summit on Human Gene Editing in early December in Washington DC, which brought together nearly 500 ethicists, scientists and legal experts from more than 20 countries. The organizers wrapped up the event with a statement: the tools are not yet ready to be used to edit the genomes of human embryos intended for pregnancy. But they did not call for an outright ban of this work for basic research.

  3.  Quantum Spookiness

Physicists celebrated the 100th anniversary of Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity in November with special conferences, books and collections of his papers. Einstein also made headlines in August when physicists presented the most convincing proof yet that two objects, such as subatomic particles, could be linked, or ‘entangled’. This would allow one particle to influence the behaviour of another, even if the two are widely separated. Researchers showed that they could produce a robust entanglement between two electrons placed 1.3 kilometres from each other.

Einstein famously despised this phenomenon, which he called ‘spooky action at a distance’, because it seemingly broke the universal rule that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light. Despite Einstein’s misgivings, the approach could one day be used to build a highly secure quantum Internet that is immune to hackers.

4. Solar Impulse 2

This revolutionary single-seater aircraft made of carbon fiber has a 72 meter wingspan (larger than that of the Boeing 747-8I) for a weight of just 2,300 Kg, equivalent to that of a car. The 17,000 solar cells built into the wing supply four electric motors (17.5 CV each) with renewable energy.

During the day, the solar cells recharge lithium batteries weighing 633 Kg (2077 lbs.) which allow the aircraft to fly at night and therefore to have virtually unlimited autonomy.

Despite the hard work of the Solar Impulse team to repair the batteries which overheated in the record breaking oceanic flight from Nagoya to Hawaii, the solar powered airplane of Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg will stay in Hawaii until early spring 2016.

The two pilots associated with this project to demonstrate the potential of cleantechs are  Bertrand Piccard, psychiatrist and explorer with his avant-gardist vision, and André Borschberg, engineer and entrepreneur with his managerial experience.

5. Signing of Climate accord – Paris 2015

The world got serious this year about climate change. With the United Nations climate summit in Paris looming in December, both industrialized and developing nations pledged for the first time to control or reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions

The meeting, which took place under heightened security because of the Paris terrorist attacks in November, yielded a landmark agreement on 12 December 2015 that was approved by 195 countries. It commits most countries to reduce emissions and keep warming to ‘well below’ 2 °C. Nations will assess their progress in 2018 and must revisit their climate pledges every five years starting in 2020.

(Stories: Courtesy – Nature)

Categories: Books

Yeh Hai Mumbai Meri Jaan!

December 9, 2015 1 comment

Do businesses thrive best in chaotic conditions?  Does adversity bring out the best in us?

The stories of the Mumbai dabbawallahs is now well known and even being studied in MBA courses around the world.  It is amazing and mind-boggling how such a system works with clockwork efficiency without the need for advanced technology.
Daily on the streets of Mumbai 5000 dabbawallahs deliver home-cooked meals to 200,000 working people all over the city.  A simple colour-code serves as an ID system to identify the destination and recipient and boxes with the same colour code make it to the same trolley.  This has been going on for 100 years and in 1998 Forbes Global magazine awarded them a Six Sigma for efficiency.  The system works on strong teamwork, time-management and simplicity.

Asia’s largest slum lies right in the middle of India’s financial capital Mumbai.  A never-ending stretch of narrow dirty lanes, open sewers and cramped huts is home to more than a million people. Amidst this poverty are several thriving small-scale businesses producing embroidered garments, export quality leather goods, pottery and plastic.

These products are made in tiny manufacturing units spread across the slum and sold to domestic and international markets.  The annual business turnover here is estimated to be more than $650m a year.

The Mumbai local

It is also called the lifeline of Mumbai.  As many as 6.1 million passengers travel on the Mumbai local daily.
Yet, it is amazing that these trying circumstances can bring out the best in people.  In a train where people are literally packed like sardines, the community spirit is nowhere so evident as in a Mumbai local. Some good habits which are ingrained in the passengers are:

Giving up seat to fellow passenger and taking turns to sit down
Helping to keep briefcase on the upper rack during office rush hours
Playing card games to have a good time.
Singing Bollywood songs & bhajans
Cutting vegetables for dinner (ladies compartment)

The above examples show how team-spirit, resilience and a jest for life make living in Mumbai a dream for the locals and a nightmare for visitors.







Categories: Books
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