Friday, February 10, 2012

India tests modified version of Prithvi missile: Interceptor missile successful

By Syed Akbar
DRDO air defence missile AAD-05 has successfully hit ballistic missile and destroys the ballistic missile at a height of 15 km off the coast of Orissa near the wheelers island.

A modified Prithvi missile mimicking the ballistic missile was launched at 1010 hrs on Friday from ITR Chandipur. Radars located at deferent locations have tracked incoming ballistic missile. Interceptor missile was completely ready to take off at Wheelers Island.

Guidance computers have continuously computed the trajectory of ballistic missile and launched AAD-05 interceptor missile at a precisely calculated time. AAD-05 interceptor missile initially guided by the inertial navigation system with the target trajectory continuously updated by the radar, the on board guidance computer guided the AAD-05 interceptor missile towards the target missile.

The onboard radio frequency seeker identified the target missile and guided the AAD-05 interceptor missile close to the target missile and hit the target missile directly and destroyed it.  warhead also exploded and destroyed the target missile into pieces.

Radar and EOTS systems have tracked the missile and also recorded the fragments of target missile falling into the Bay of Bengal. It is one of the finest missions where the interceptor has hit the incoming ballistic missile directly and destroyed at a 15 km altitude. India has joined a very few advanced countries, who have these ballistic missile defence capabilities.

India is the fifth nation to have these capabilities in the world. The mission was carried out in the final deliverable user configuration mode.

Scientific advisor to Defence Minister Dr VK Saraswat reviewed the total configuration and mission and also witnessed the launch.  Avinash Chander, chief controller, R &D (MSS), and P Venugopalan, director DRDL, carried out the flight readiness review of both the target missile and interceptor missile.

DS Reddy, programme director air defence system, alongwith his team carried out all the preparations for the launch successfully. SP Dash director ITR, Dr SK Chaudhuri. Director, RCI, and Satish Kumar, director, SPIC,  and other top DRDO scientists were present during the mission. The mission was also witnessed by the senior officials of tri-services.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


 The giant black hole at the center of the Milky Way may
be vaporizing and devouring asteroids, which could explain the
frequent flares observed, according to astronomers using data from
NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory.

For several years Chandra has detected X-ray flares about once a day
from the supermassive black hole known as Sagittarius A*, or "Sgr A*"
for short. The flares last a few hours with brightness ranging from a
few times to nearly one hundred times that of the black hole's
regular output. The flares also have been seen in infrared data from
ESO's Very Large Telescope in Chile.

"People have had doubts about whether asteroids could form at all in
the harsh environment near a supermassive black hole," said Kastytis
Zubovas of the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom, and
lead author of the report appearing in the Monthly Notices of the
Royal Astronomical Society. "It's exciting because our study suggests
that a huge number of them are needed to produce these flares."

Zubovas and his colleagues suggest there is a cloud around Sgr A*
containing trillions of asteroids and comets, stripped from their
parent stars. Asteroids passing within about 100 million miles of the
black hole, roughly the distance between the Earth and the sun, would
be torn into pieces by the tidal forces from the black hole.

These fragments then would be vaporized by friction as they pass
through the hot, thin gas flowing onto Sgr A*, similar to a meteor
heating up and glowing as it falls through Earth's atmosphere. A
flare is produced and the remains of the asteroid are swallowed
eventually by the black hole.

"An asteroid's orbit can change if it ventures too close to a star or
planet near Sgr A*," said co-author Sergei Nayakshin, also of the
University of Leicester. "If it's thrown toward the black hole, it's

The authors estimate that it would take asteroids larger than about
six miles in radius to generate the flares observed by Chandra.
Meanwhile, Sgr A* also may be consuming smaller asteroids, but these
would be difficult to spot because the flares they generate would be

These results reasonably agree with models estimating of how many
asteroids are likely to be in this region, assuming that the number
around stars near Earth is similar to the number surrounding stars
near the center of the Milky Way.

"As a reality check, we worked out that a few trillion asteroids
should have been removed by the black hole over the 10-billion-year
lifetime of the galaxy," said co-author Sera Markoff of the
University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. "Only a small fraction of
the total would have been consumed, so the supply of asteroids would
hardly be depleted."

Planets thrown into orbits too close to Sgr A* also should be
disrupted by tidal forces, although this would happen much less
frequently than the disruption of asteroids, because planets are not
as common. Such a scenario may have been responsible for a previous
X-ray brightening of Sgr A* by about a factor of a million about a
century ago. While this event happened many decades before X-ray
telescopes existed, Chandra and other X-ray missions have seen
evidence of an X-ray "light echo" reflecting off nearby clouds,
providing a measure of the brightness and timing of the flare.

"This would be a sudden end to the planet's life, a much more dramatic
fate than the planets in our solar system ever will experience,"
Zubovas said.

Very long observations of Sgr A* will be made with Chandra later in
2012 that will give valuable new information about the frequency and
brightness of flares and should help to test the model proposed here
to explain them. This work could improve understanding about the
formation of asteroids and planets in the harsh environment of Sgr

NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., manages the
Chandra program for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.
The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory controls Chandra's science
and flight operations from Cambridge, Mass.

Dr Howard Gardner says Mahatma Gandhi has something to teach us

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Imagine students going to school with gene chips, which contain their entire genome, and asking teachers to analyse their genes and impart education that best suits their genetic make-up.

This genetic revolution can happen “within all of our lifetimes”, says Dr Howard Gardner, father of the theory of multiple intelligences. The day is not far off when young students will tell teachers “these are the genes that are inactive, these are the ones that are working – teach me effectively”.

Dr Gardner, one of the most influential educators of modern times, told this correspondent that his “more images of the future” include mega cities, machines that do thinking, carry out tasks, which used to be done by human beings, and virtual realities like “second life”. Elaborating on “second life”, he said people can learn lot of things through virtual reality like performing surgery, dissecting animals or learning to drive an aeroplane.

The Harvard University professor was in the city on Friday as part of his India tour aimed at reshaping the Indian education system, which he believes will need at least 50 years to be fully reformed. His visit to India is sponsored by iDiscoveri and Soma Educational Trust. Dr Gardner has revolutionized the concept of education and learning through his theory of multiple intelligences, which challenges the basic notion that there is only one standard kind of human intelligence.

According to him, there are at least eight intelligences including verbal-linguistic, logical-mathematical, visual-spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal and naturalist. Dr Gardner’s child-driven education links itself to the multiple intelligences theory. He argues that since there are different kinds of intelligences, different children learn differently. Thus, teachers should mould their teaching methods to suit the individual students. He argues that intelligence cannot be quantified and a person’s intelligence cannot be judged by the marks he or she gets in a traditional examination. “If a child is doing well, do not test him,” Gardner points out.

Gardner also identifies five kinds of minds that would need to characterise future human society for it to flourish and sustain. Of these ways of thinking and acting, three are related to intellect (disciplined, synthesizing and creative minds), while two emphasise character (respectful and ethical minds).

Referring to the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi, he said “Gandhi has something to teach us. He used intelligences to move people towards a good cause while Goebbels used them for the negative cause. Emphasizing the need for using intelligence for good purpose, he said “India, China and United States have a tremendous focus nowadays on test scores in doing better in comparison but perhaps not enough focus on what’s it all for, what kind of place we want to live in, what kind of people we want to be, what kind of a world do we want to live in”.

New revolution in organic light emitting diodes: Imagine lighting up your living room using just 1.5 volts of electricity

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Imagine lighting up your living room using just 1.5
volts of electricity or the windowpanes of your home generating enough
electricity to meet the power needs of your family. This is going to
be a reality soon thanks to the revolutionary research in luminescence
technology currently under development at the city-based Indian
Institute of Chemical Technology.

Scientists at the IICT have achieved an efficiency of 11 per cent and
research is on to improve the durability of the product to 10 years.
The technology is likely to be available for commercial use in the
next three years. There will be a saving of more than 50 per cent on
domestic electricity bills. It can also be used for lighting

“We had a target of achieving 10 per cent but we achieved 11 per cent
efficiency. The highest efficiency one can achieve is 33 per cent,
which is at present quite difficult. We are working to improve the
durability of the product to 10 years to make it more economical,”
said Dr L Giribabu, scientist at the IICT’s nanomaterials laboratory.

IICT is one of the few research bodies in the world to conduct
research on excitonic solar cells, dye-based solar cells and organic
based solar cells. The Central government has sanctioned about Rs 100
crore for research on luminescence technology, which can be used for
development of organic light emitting diodes (OLEDs). Excitonic solar
cells are a class of non-conventional solar cells based on organic and
nanostructured materials.

Dr Giribabu was speaking on the sidelines of the four-day 4th
international conference on luminescence and its applications,
organised by Rajiv Gandhi University of Knowledge Technologies, IICT,
Society for Information Display and Luminescence Society of India,
here on Tuesday. Around 350 experts in light technology from different
parts of the world are attending the event.

Prof K Somaiah of RGUKT said India has been in the forefront of
luminescence technology and scientists from around the world visit the
country to update their research knowledge. “Imagine painting your bed
with an OLED and it lights up your bed room. This technology is also
used in TV sets. A 52 inch TV can be folded up and hung on a wall
anywhere,” he added.

Luminescence and luminescent materials now increasingly find important
applications in display devices, radiation monitoring, lighting
devices, medical applications like detection of cancerous parts in
human body and drug delivery, solar radiation harvesters and infrared
lasers for military needs.

Only 111 beneficiaries per 100,000 BPL population utilise the Arogyasri scheme

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: The major benefits of Arogyasri notwithstanding, a
majority of patients from BPL families spend about Rs 3600 each
towards diagnostic tests, transport and other hospital incidentals.

Though there is a provision for pre-diagnostic tests, patients in many
cases spent money on the facility. Though the beneficiaries were
satisfied by the medical treatment, they were not happy with the way
health camps are conducted and information disseminated by officials
on the scheme. About 111 beneficiaries per 100,000 BPL population had
utilised the scheme. However, beneficiaries from the scheduled castes
(SCs) and scheduled tribes (STs) were significantly lower than their
proportions in the population, in a majority of the districts. The
beneficiaries did not find useful the health camps conducted by
hospitals to pick up patients in rural areas

The Indian Institute of Public Health, Hyderabad and Bhubaneswar
units, which conducted a rapid assessment of Rajiv Arogyasri Scheme,
have found that cardiac,
cancer and neurological interventions made up 65 per cent of all
treatments. Of the 350 and odd participating hospitals, 30 hospitals
located in six cities had undertaken more than 50 per cent of all
interventions. Incidentally, a majority of these hospitals are in and
around Hyderabad forcing patients to visit the State capital for

“If the facilities at primary health centres are improved, many health
complications can be avoided. For instance, if diabetes is diagnosed
at early stage and patients given proper medicine at the PHC level,
complications like kidney problems can be prevented. This will reduce
the over all expenditure on higher medical care under the scheme,”
said Dr Shridhar Kadam, assistant professor at IIPH, Bhubaneswar.

He told this correspondent that patients living in far off places had
to spend on transport and other incidentals and these could be avoided
if the scheme is fine-tuned and logistics strengthened. The IIPH teams
observed that with increasing distance to major cities, the
utilisation rate declined.

The teams analysed 89,699 treatments undertaken for 71,549
beneficiaries and conducted surveys in six randomly selected
districts. The study was sponsored by the State government. Another
study is currently underway to update the data obtained from the last

Nearly 60 per cent beneficiaries incurred a median out-of-pocket
expenditure of Rs 3600 with transport, medicine and pre-diagnostic
investigations being the major reasons. Thirteen per cent of
beneficiaries had no follow-up visit and 28 per cent had only one
follow up visit.

The evaluation has revealed that there is scope for the scheme to
improve strategic purchasing, quality of care, integration, continuous
audit and in-built evaluation, he said.
The IIPH has suggested developing more coherent, cohesive and
integrated health system with convergence of preventive, promotive and
curative services taking into account the wider determinants of health.

Natural colours obtained from dry leaves of neem (Azadirachta indica) and Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum) are used to dye fabrics made of protein like silk and wool, and cellulose like rayon and jute

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: In a significant research aimed at improving the
overall health of skin, Indian research teams have successfully used
medicinal plants like neem and Tulsi to dye fabrics to make them
bacteria- and germ-free.

Natural colours obtained from dry leaves of neem (Azadirachta indica)
and Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum) are used to dye fabrics made of protein
like silk and wool, and cellulose like rayon and jute. Neem and Tulsi
dyes not only gave fastness to the colour, but also kept microorganism
at bay, thus protecting the wearer from a variety of skin bacteria,
fungi and viruses.

Moreover, the colours obtained from these Indian medicinal plants are
non-toxic, eco-friendly and biologically compatible with the human
body, particularly the delicate skin. Patents have been applied for
the medicinal dyes.

A team of private researchers from Hyderabad used Tulsi leaves and
stem to dye fabric. The team found that the healing properties of
Tulsi are retained even in the garments. The dyes obtained from Tulsi
gave uniformity of colour, sheen and luster. The dyes showed
anti-microbial and anti-bacterial properties.

In another research, Rashi Agarwal and her team from the clothing and
textiles department of Pantnagar University tested colours obtained
from dry neem leaves in acidic, alkaline and aqueous media. The team
found that light colours are obtained at two per cent concentration of
neem leaves. At 5 per cent concentration, dark colours were obtained.

“Different colours were obtained from neem leaves and their fastness
test showed that neem leaves can be used successfully for dyeing,” she

Neem contains a tannin compound that helps in improving the depth and
fastness properties of the medicinal dye. Since the colour goes deep
into the yarn, there will be no colour bleeding. The medicinal
properties remain in the fabric and keep the skin in a healthy
condition, preventing attacks by bacteria and fungi. The fabric also
retains the healing properties of neem.

The price of industrialistion: Heavy pollution in Patancheru causes respiratory problems

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Residents of highly industrialized Patancheru area
of the city silently suffer from a variety of respiratory problems
including chronic pulmonary disease, tightness in the chest and
morning cough.

A team of researchers from Osmania University College for Women
selected Patancheru to study the problem of respiratory diseases among
the residents, as the locality is known for high levels of industrial
pollution. Patancheru had grabbed the attention of environment
scientists around the world for its notoriously high levels of
industrial pollutants. Both air and water quality in the area fails
the ambient environment quality tests.

As part of the study, the team comprising Anusha C Pawar, Jithender
Kumar Naik and Anitha Kumari conducted a cross sectional survey of
about 500 residents of Patancheru. They observed health issues related
to air pollution like morning cough and tightness in the chest. The
results were presented before an international gathering of eminent
scientists at the Indian Science Congress held at Bhubaneswar recently.

According to the city research team, indoor and outdoor air pollution
is one of the most serious environmental and public health problems in
industrial zones. The epidemiological evidences establish an
association between exposure to ambient air pollutants and various
health effects such as respiratory symptoms or impaired
cardio-pulmonary function and premature mortalities.

The team found that the air pollutant concentrations are relatively
high in densely populated congested locations and more prominent at
industrialised zones. An odds ratio of 1.68 was found in case of
chronic pulmonary diseases, 1.78 in case of tightness in the chest and
1.81 in case of morning cough, indicating that air pollution is the
cause of the problem. An odds ratio greater than 1 implies a more
likely link between the cause (pollution) and effect (disease or its

“The study indicates that the air pollution and respiratory problems
among the residents are high. From public health point of view, it is
important to control the possible risk on the health status of the
residents. By considering the fact that the residents are more
sensitive to the contaminating effects of the pollutants, regulatory
authorities should take up this aspect seriously,” they suggested.

siRNA technology to arrest growth of cancers

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: An Indo-US team has developed a new medical
technology that helps in arresting the growth and spread of cancers
through a simple injection. It is safe and has no side effects unlike
in radiation or chemotherapy. The tumour stops growing within 45 days
of receiving the injection.

The technology, based on gene therapy, has been successfully
demonstrated in animal models for cancers of the brain. The Indian
members of the team are now working on breast cancer since India has
one of the highest incidences of breast cancer in the world.

“Our gene therapy is based on siRNA (small interfering ribonucleic
acid). Once siRNA is introduced into the body of a cancer patient
through an intravenous injection, it starts showing results within 45
days. The other alternative is to inject the siRNA into the tumour
directly. Both the methods worked in animals. Currently we are in
phase III trials, and once we receive the necessary approval, we will
take up human trials,” said Dr Ramarao Malla, a member of the Indo-US
team that worked on brain cancers in the USA.

Dr Rama Rao, who conducted research on brain cancers while he was with
the University of Illinois, USA, is currently working on gene therapy
for breast cancer in India at the department of biochemistry, Gitam
University, Visakhapatnam. “As part of our gene therapy strategy we
have used siRNA since it targets two key proteins, uPAR (urokinase
type plasminogen activator receptor) and cathepsin B, in brain cancer.
These proteins are responsible for the growth of tumours both in the
brain and in the breast. Thus, the same strategy works for breast
cancer too,” Dr Ramarao pointed out, adding that the team is further
researching whether the proteins are involved in other cancers too.

In animal models, a single dose injection prevented the growth and
metastasis (spread to neighbouring tissues). Once the human trials
begin, the exact dosage will emerge, he added. This technology has
helped in arresting the progression of brain cancer by as much as 85
per cent compared to radiation treatment.

Breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer and the leading
cause of cancer death among women, accounting for 23 per cent of the
total cancer cases and 14 per cent of the cancer deaths worldwide.
Breast cancer is now also the leading cause of cancer death among
women in India, a shift from the previous decade during which the most
common cause of cancer death was cervical cancer.

The research will also hold promise for the treatment of prostate
cancer, the leading cancer in men, comprising 17 per cent of the total
new cancer cases and 23 per cent of the total cancer deaths, Dr Rama
Rao said.