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The aromatic and simple vanilla is actually quite an exotic flavour. It comes with its own history, and is perhaps one of the best discoveries. Vanilla is grown from a unique species of orchid that is native to South America. It was used by the Mayans and Aztecs in a drink that they mixed with cacao, the precursor to chocolate. It arrived in Europe after South America was conquered.
Vanilla did not attract much patronage immediately. It began rather humbly. Queen Elizabeth I was the first person to taste vanilla flavouring and took to its mild but pleasant taste. Prior to this, it was not well received. Since it is pollinated only by the native Melipona bee, Europeans were unable to study it and grow it themselves.
Vanilla beans hanging off a vine at a plantation in Idukki, Kerala Image source: wikimedia commons
One day, a young slave boy Edmond Albius developed what is now practiced as hand pollination. A stick is used to pry the male and female parts of the flower apart, and with a gentle flick of the thumb, it is pollinated. The bulb swells up immediately if the fertilisation is successful. If the process involves any extra force, the entire effort is in vain. The vanilla flowers remain open only for a day, and fall to the ground if not pollinated.
When the Europeans discovered this, vanilla was grown widely. Once the long vanilla bean grows to the required length, it is dried and fermented. This is when the vanilla aroma begins to develop. Vanilla became a much-loved flavour in European food, and today is the most used ingredient in baking.
Vanilla beans being cured and dried Image source: wikimedia commons
Since the production of vanilla is expensive and so laborious, scientists have discovered an alternative. They make a synthetic compound that has the same chain structure as vanilla, called vanillin, which can be created from petrochemicals, lignin, eugenol, and even the anal secretions of beavers. This synthetic vanillin smells and tastes the same as real vanilla and is much cheaper.
Despite protests from activists, vanillin is widely used in the food industry to ease consumer demands. The real vanilla bean takes an entire year to grow and ferment enough to be used as flavouring, and at that rate, it is impossible to meet the global demand.
Keywords: Vannila, Vannilin, Synthetic flavouring, Europe, South America
By- Khushi Bisht
The 23rd Headquarters Special Troops, also known as ‘The Ghost Army’ was the military deception force of the United States Army was formed on January 20, 1944. They were assigned an exclusive role of developing deceptions in order to divert the Nazi army’s attention away from the offensive. Anything the Germans heard or saw was indeed a hoax. It was a well-planned ruse, carried out by a small squad of American troops to divert the enemy’s attention.
These 1100 men were simply acting as two units of 30,000 army personnel, attempting to persuade the Germans that they would be invading across the river Rhine in one location, however, the actual mission would actually occur 10 miles away.
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Their goal was to confuse the enemy by using fake uniforms, arms, and sound effects in conjunction with specially built tanks that appeared realistic but were simply loaded with air. There were artists, actors, designers, and audio technicians who acted as decoys. Ellsworth Kelly, Bill Blass, Jack Masey, Arthur Singer, and Art Kane were among the artists who later went on to have very bright futures.
They built convoys of dummy tanks and vehicles out of lightweight and moveable items such as air-filled rubber and used these decoy structures, which were strengthened by bogus radio signals and special sound effects, to fool the Germans into believing the Allies were nearby.
The Ghost Army, which was divided into three units: radio, audio, and visual deception performed several operations between May 1944 and 1945, mostly near the front lines, saving countless American lives by using a mixture of artistic and scientific skills, with the primary intention of deceiving Nazi units about the location of Allied forces in Europe. These units were very diligent. They had no weapons to defend themselves, so any error in the plan would’ve been catastrophic.
The Ghost Army was one of the first recognized professional military forces formed primarily to deceive and manipulate the enemy. In July 1945, the Ghost Army returned to the United States, believing they would participate fully in the Japanese invasion. However, the unit was deactivated on September 15, 1945, after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as well as the Surrender of Japan.
This was, indeed, an unforgettable experience in a distant land during a world war. These men fought with a great deal of ingenuity and courage. The mission was kept top secret for decades that followed. It was in 1996 that the US government declassified the Ghost Army record. Their last mission, in the ultimate days of the war, was a vital battle in Germany with dozens of lives on the line, in which they used every tactic they could think of.
Travel and economic slowdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic have combined to put the brakes on shipping, seafloor exploration, and many other human activities in the ocean, creating a unique moment to begin a time-series study of the impacts of sound on marine life.
A community of scientists has identified more than 200 non-military ocean hydrophones worldwide and hopes to make the most of the unprecedented opportunity to pool their recorded data into the 2020 quiet ocean assessment and to help monitor the ocean soundscape long into the future.
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They aim for a total of 500 hydrophones capturing the signals of whales and other marine life while assessing the racket levels of human activity.
Combined with other sea life monitoring tools and methods such as animal tagging, the work will help reveal the extent to which noise in “the Anthropocene seas” impacts ocean species.
Sound travels far in the ocean, and a hydrophone can pick up low-frequency signals from hundreds, even thousands of kilometers away. The highest concentrations of non-military hydrophones are along the North American coasts — Atlantic, Pacific, and the Arctic — Hawaii, Europe, and Antarctica, with some scattered through the Asia-Pacific region.
For over a century, navies have used sound to reveal submarines and underwater mines and for other national security purposes. Marine animals likewise use sound and natural sonar to navigate and communicate across the ocean.
But the effects of human-generated ocean sounds on marine life remain poorly understood.
“Measuring variability and change in ambient, or background, ocean sound over time forms the basis for characterizing marine soundscapes,” says collaborator Peter L. Tyack, Professor of Marine Mammal Biology at the University of St Andrews, Scotland.
“Assessing the risks of underwater sound for marine life requires understanding what sound levels cause harmful effects and wherein the ocean vulnerable animals may be exposed to sound exceeding these levels. Sparse, sporadic deployment of hydrophones and obstacles to integrating the measurements that are made have narrowly limited what we confidently know.”
In 2011, concerned experts began developing the International Quiet Ocean Experiment (IQOE), launched in 2015 with the International Quiet Ocean Experiment Science Plan. Among their goals: create a time series of measurements of ambient sound in many ocean locations to reveal variability and changes in intensity and other properties of sound at a range of frequencies.
The plan also included designating 2022 “the Year of the Quiet Ocean”.
Due to Covid-19, however, “the oceans are unlikely to be as quiet as during April 2020 for many decades to come,” says project originator Jesse Ausubel, Director of the Program for the Human Environment at The Rockefeller University.
“The Covid-19 pandemic provided an unanticipated event that reduced sound levels more than we dreamed possible based on voluntary sound reductions. IQOE will consider 2020 the Year of the Quiet Ocean and is focusing project resources to encourage the study of changes in sound levels and effects on organisms that occurred in 2020, based on observations from hundreds of hydrophones deployed by the worldwide ocean acoustics community in 2019-2021.”
With IQOE encouragement, the number of civilian hydrophones operating in North America, Europe, and elsewhere for research and operational purposes has increased dramatically. With these, IQOE and the ocean sound research community can shed needed light on humans’ influences on marine life and ecosystems.
The existing hydrophone network covers shallow coastal and shelf areas most influenced by local changes in human activity. It also includes deep stations that can measure the effects of low-frequency sound sources over large open ocean areas. (IANS/KB)
Contrary to the common belief, researchers have found that men and women might experience similar rates of anxiety due to job insecurity.
As more people work temporary gigs with little protection or fear layoffs in an unstable economy, job insecurity is on the rise. These stresses understandably contribute to poor mental health and feelings of anxiety.
But given gender disparities in the workforce – women are more likely to work temporary jobs and receive lower pay – researchers were curious whether job insecurity affected men and women differently.
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“Public health consequences of job insecurity need to be seriously considered, given that recent changes due to Covid-19 crisis, are likely to result in a higher prevalence of workers, both males and females, feeling threatened by involuntary job loss,” said study researchers from the University of Milano-Bicocca in Italy.
The study, published in the journal Frontiers in Sociology, analysed data from the European Working Conditions Survey, looking at results from 2005, 2010 and 2015.
The survey asked people to what extent they thought they might lose their job in the next six months and whether they had experienced anxiety over the last 12 months.
The study found that, in Europe, men and women actually reacted to job insecurity fairly similarly. Female workers reported similar rates of anxiety due to an insecure job to their male counterparts.
Want to read more in Hindi? Checkout: कश्मीरी पंडितों को जल्द न्याय मिलना चाहिए- जीकेपीडी
This may be due to trends towards gender egalitarianism in Europe.
But while women and men might be affected at similar rates, the researchers said that job insecurity is very much still a real concern.
In order to analyse whether the threat of job insecurity was more pronounced in certain European countries due to socioeconomic, cultural, or political variables, the team used multilevel modelling analyses.
They found few cross-national differences in their results, meaning the relationship between job insecurity and anxiety did not vary between countries.
“The study was limited by the fact that all data were self-reported and taken at a single time point, so cause-and-effect cannot be determined,”
the researchers wrote.
The findings have practical implications for both policymakers and employers and suggest that generous and more effective active labour market programmes are needed in order to address perceived job insecurity and its associated mental health challenges. (IANS)