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Shaw: India needs to up its game in Science and Technology

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Bengaluru: Biocon chairperson Kiran Mazumdar Shaw stated on Tuesday that India continues to be a sub-optimal country when it comes to investing in the science and technology sector.

Biocon Limited is an Indian bio-pharmaceutical company based in Bangalore, India headed by Indian entrepreneur Kiran Mazumdar Shaw. Shaw was awarded the Othmer Gold Medal for her outstanding contributions to the progress of science and chemistry in 2014.

“Amongst all the countries who invest in science and technology, we are at a sub-optimal level,” said Shaw at Bangalore India Bio.

Referring to South Korea, which is leading investments in science and technology, she said: “I think India needs to basically up its game in science and technology through greater investments.”

She requested the government to increase science and technology investments as it is the future of India.

According to the Biocon chairperson, India needs to invest $5 billion in biotechnology to achieve the target of growing the sector to $100 billion by 2025.

“Today biotechnology is a $11 billion sector, growing at a compounded annual growth rate of 20 percent. We also are aspiring to be a $100 billion sector by 2025,” she said.

Addressing the 16th edition of Bangalore India Bio, Union Science and Technology Minister Harsh Vardhan said: “A lot has been achieved in this field in the last 30 years. Bangalore is not only the hub of bio-tech, it is also the destination of all scientists in India. It is the science hub for India.”

He said the government allotted Rs 10,000 to support entrepreneurs and startups in biotechnology.

Scheduled from February 9-11, Bangalore India Bio will cover a spectrum of activities which include an international trade show, keynote talks and multi-track conferences among others.

As many as 25 sessions featuring 110 speakers will deliberate on topics like making tomorrow’s medicine, oncology and precision medicine, rare diseases and orphan drugs, agribiotechnology, synthetic bio-fuels and others. (IANS)

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Bakelite: The Revolutionary Invention of Leo Baekeland

Today marks the 108th anniversary of the day when bakelite was first patented.

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Leo Hendrik Baekeland (1863- 1944)

Bakelite! Ah, the pioneering invention that defined the modern plastic industry. The plastic which had once been the primary substance of manufactured everyday items which now line up the boastful shelves of antiquity collectors: chokers, lockets, fine jewelleries and watches, furniture and radios…

This is in remembrance of the pioneer of modern plastic- bakelite- and of the man behind this revolutionary invention.

In what would probably have been his late forties, Leo Hendrik Baekeland had a goal in his mind: to find a replacement for shellac. Made from the shells of Asian female lac beatles, shellac had its uses as a colourant, food glaze and wood finish. Chemists had already identified natural resins like shellac as polymers and had started experiments to form synthetic polymers. Encouraged by these advances, Baekeland began his own experiments by first combining phenol and formaldehyde to create a soluble shellac. He called it “Novolak”. Unfortunately, this first phenol- formaldehyde combination fluttered away without a trace, never finding popularity. However, it did leave Baekeland with valuable experience.

It was the second attempt that set the boulder rolling! This time Baekeland chose precision. Initiating a controlled reaction between phenol and formaldehyde, the Belgian chemist found himself witnessing the birth of the plastic he had so long waited for.

About a hundred- and eight years ago on this very day, Leo Hendrik Baekeland patented the first thermosetting plastic- bakelite!

invention of bakelite
The Bakelizer was a steam pressure vessel used to produce commercial quantities of Bakelite since 1909. Photo from Chemical Heritage Foundation in wikimedia commons.

The Belgian’s invention was an instant success. Bakelite took the plastic industries of the world by storm, finding its use in more than a thousand of items and accessories. From jewellery and fashion equipments including the choker, bakelite earrings and lockets to kitchenware like bakelite handles, knobs and utensils, the revolutionary new plastic went on to find crucial uses in the radio and automobile industries, which during that age were undergoing rapid growth.

Picture of a bakelite radio at the Bakelite Museum, Somerset, UK. Photo from wikimedia commons

However, the fame that bakelite had earned was not destined to last long. With the synthesis of new plastic formulas after the end of the Second World War, the demand for bakelite began to diminish. New plastics like ABS and Lexan began surfacing across the industrial world to overthrow the reign of Leo Baekeland’s groundbreaking invention.

A little over a hundred years on though, bakelite still shines on! Besides being a collector’s item in the modern world, it still exists in brotherhood with the likes of aluminium and steel to fill catalogues and portals that sell quality kitchenware to the masses. Clearly, it never left. It was an invention which had been wrought out by Baekeland; a pioneer which was here to stay.

 

– Twitter Handle: @QuillnQuire

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Oldest recorded solar eclipse occurred 3,200 years ago

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Solar eclipse

Cambridge University researchers have pinpointed the date of what could be the oldest solar eclipse yet recorded. The event, which occurred on October 30, 1207 BC, is mentioned in the Bible, and could help historians to date Egyptian pharaohs.

“Solar eclipses are often used as a fixed point to date events in the ancient world,” said Professor Colin Humphreys from University of Cambridge’s Department of Materials Science & Metallurgy.

Using a combination of the biblical text and an ancient Egyptian text, the researchers were able to refine the dates of the Egyptian pharaohs, in particular, the dates of the reign of Ramesses the Great, according to the study published in the journal Astronomy & Geophysics.

The biblical text in question comes from the Old Testament book of Joshua and has puzzled biblical scholars for centuries.

It records that after Joshua led the people of Israel into Canaan, a region of the ancient Near East that covered modern-day Israel and Palestine – he prayed: “Sun, stand still at Gibeon, and Moon, in the Valley of Aijalon. And the Sun stood still, and the Moon stopped until the nation took vengeance on their enemies.”

“If these words are describing a real observation, then a major astronomical event was taking place – the question for us to figure out is what the text actually means,” Humphreys said.

“Modern English translations, which follow the King James translation of 1611, usually interpret this text to mean that the Sun and Moon stopped moving,” Humphreys said.

“But going back to the original Hebrew text, we determined that an alternative meaning could be that the Sun and Moon just stopped doing what they normally do: they stopped shining. In this context, the Hebrew words could be referring to a solar eclipse, when the Moon passes between the earth and the Sun, and the Sun appears to stop shining,” Humphreys said.

This interpretation is supported by the fact that the Hebrew word translated ‘stand still’ has the same root as a Babylonian word used in ancient astronomical texts to describe eclipses, he added.

Independent evidence that the Israelites were in Canaan between 1500 and 1050 BC can be found in the Merneptah Stele, an Egyptian text dating from the reign of the Pharaoh Merneptah, son of the well-known Ramesses the Great, the study said.

The large granite block, held in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, says that it was carved in the fifth year of Merneptah’s reign and mentions a campaign in Canaan in which he defeated the people of Israel.

Earlier historians had used these two texts to try to date the possible eclipse, but were not successful as they were only looking at total eclipses, in which the disc of the Sun appears to be completely covered by the moon as the moon passes directly between the earth and the sun.

What the earlier historians failed to consider was that it was instead an annular eclipse, in which the Moon passes directly in front of the Sun, but is too far away to cover the disc completely, the researchers said.

In the ancient world, the same word was used for both total and annular eclipses.

The researchers developed a new eclipse code, which takes into account variations in the Earth’s rotation over time.

From their calculations, they determined that the only annular eclipse visible from Canaan between 1500 and 1050 BC was on 30 October 1207 BC, in the afternoon.

If their arguments are accepted, it would not only be the oldest solar eclipse yet recorded, it would also enable researchers to date the reigns of Ramesses the Great and his son Merneptah to within a year.

Using these new calculations, the researchers determined that Ramesses the Great reigned from 1276-1210 BC, with a precision of plus or minus one year.(IANS)

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Baby Survives 123 Days in Brain Dead Mother’s Womb in Portugal: Science Attached to Music and our Brains

The baby in the womb of the brain dead mother can be delivered if the body is kept alive or functioning

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The findings if a new study by MIT researchers could offer a possible way to reduce the risk of autism.
  • A baby can still make it to the world after the mother has been pronounced brain dead
  • To keep the body functioning requires continuous medical support
  • Essential hormones and nutrients must be supplied to the body of the brain dead mother

New Delhi, July 28, 2017: Twins in the womb of a brain-dead mother making it to the world, sounds no less than a miracle. A case in which the body of the mother was kept alive as a ‘living incubator’ and after 123 days, 2 babies were born in Lisbon, Portugal, confirms its possibility.

Sandra was pronounced brain dead after a heart attack. She was at that time 17 weeks pregnant, and it was presumed that the baby had also died. However, when the doctors in the intensive care unit, detected signs of life, they decided to consult the family on whether to keep Sandra’s body functioning, in an attempt to deliver the baby alive.

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“Following the opinion of the ethics committee and clinical management of that hospital, and a concerted decision by the mother’s family and the paternal family of the child, it was agreed to maintain the pregnancy up to 32 weeks in order to ensure the viability of the foetus,” a statement by the hospital, mentioned The Telegraph report.

ALSO READ: ‘Science Fiction’ Cancer Therapy helps to fight people with deadly Brain Tumors: Study

Sandra’s body was supplied essential hormones through tubes, which were also used to feed her and keep her breathing. The staff members and doctors at Lisbon’s San Jose Hospital used to sing songs to the unborn babies and touch the belly of the dead mother which happened to have worked wonders.

In a more recent case, in Brazil, a brain dead mother successfully gave birth to twins after the doctor managed to keep her alive for 123 days. The case tops any other reported instances of fetuses surviving in the womb of the brain dead mother.

Frankielen da Silva Zampoli Padilha, 21, died during pregnancy in October last year after suffering a stroke. In February, this year, her twins arrived in this world. Frankielen’s body was also kept alive to save her unborn children.

The procedure of bringing the unborn in the womb of a brain dead mother, to the world, is indeed complicated. Maintaining pressure, oxygenation, continuous nutrition, hormonal balance etc, requires the continuous support of medication. The blood pressure, blood flow needs to be constantly scrutinized as well.

But this, after all, can be considered as a mother’s last gift to her child!

-prepared by Samiksha Goel of NewsGram. Twitter @goel_samiksha