Monthly Archives: June 2013

Rooting Around for the Right Temperature

According to biologists, plant roots can seek out warm patches, in the soil. They have shown that roots can detect and respond to tiny changes in temperature.

They found that maize roots can detect a difference in temperature as small as 0.05 C degrees. This may sound impressive but according to biologists, it is nowhere close to being a world record. Previously it was shown temperature differences which are one-hundredth of this size could be detected by slime moulds.

In response to gravity roots grow usually grow straight down. The root bends towards the warm side if one side of the root is warmer in comparison to the other.

In order to bring difference in temperature, special aluminum block with two parallel channels running through it was constructed. By piping cold water through one channel and hot water through the other they were able to create a temperature gradient between the two. The researchers, attached agar, a jelly-like substance, to the metal between the channels to provide a surface for the roots to grow down.

It was found that maize roots are most sensitive to temperature differences at around 15 degree Celsius, which is a normal soil temperature for maize. At higher temperatures of around 32 degree Celsius the researchers found that the roots do not respond to temperature differences at all.

This shows that the response is important in nature. This is actually of considerable advantage. If roots went straight down, they would very quickly get out of the nutrient-rich zone. Instead roots which use this ability will stay in the warm, upper layer of soil, where nutrients are most plentiful.

The biologists do not know how roots detect temperature differences. All biological thermometers are still a mystery. Almost nothing is known about temperature sensing in any organism. It is clear that humans sense hot and cold, but on a molecular level it is not clear what they are using for a thermometer.

One idea is that temperature sensing might involve fats or lipids which are embedded in biological membranes. Cells could gauge the temperature by monitoring when particular lipids solidify or melt.

In the bacterium Escherichia coli, temperature sensing has been linked to a protein which is involved in detecting the concentration of a particular nutrient. E coli uses the protein to help direct its movement towards high concentrations of the nutrient and regions of optimal temperatures. Scientists do not know if other organisms do this.

A biologist suggests that the root’s thermometer might be in its apex. This is where roots sense both gravity and moisture and it is possible that the three root senses are linked.

No one knows if shoots can sense differences in temperature. But shoots will normally grow towards warmth anyway because they grow towards the light.

An Electronic Finger on the Pulse

Haemoglobin is the substance which carries oxygen in the blood. Saturated with oxygen, it has the bright red color of arterial blood and stripped of oxygen, the bluish color of venous blood. This color change is the key to pulse oximetry. Absorption of light is measured at two wavelengths, 660 nanometres (red light) and 940 nanometres (infrared light). The ration of these Absorption coefficients describes the proportion of saturated and desaturated haemoglobin.

Light emitting diodes (LEDs) provide high intensity light at the two selected wavelengths. Shown through a fingertip, the transmitted light is detected by a silicon photodiode. But early attempts at optical oximetry were confounded by the variable background absorption of light by the skin, pigments and tissues. Recalibration was required for every subject and at frequent intervals thereafter, making the device inconvenient and unreliable.

The breakthrough which led to the modern self-calibrating instrument was the observation that light transmitted through tissues has a small pulsatile element superimposed on the background intensity. Amplification of this pulsatile signal reveals the signature of the arterial pressure waveform and this component of absorption is found to depend only on arterial blood within the tissue. In contrast, venous blood flows steadily and contributes only to the static background absorption.

The silicon diode converts the transmitted light into electrical current, with DC and AC components corresponding to the static and pulsatile components of light transmission. Electronic signal processing separates out the AC component which contains information only about the color changes in the arterial blood.  The AC signal has a different amplitude at the two wavelengths and the ratio of these amplitudes predicts the degree of oxygen saturation of arterial blood.

Total light transmission varies greatly, depending on the thickness of a finger or pigmentation of the skin. The DC, or static transmission is measured at each wavelength and used as a scaling factor to correct the corresponding variation in amplitude of the pulsatile signal. Optimum performance of the photodiode is ensured by varying the brightness of the LEDs, so that the intensity of transmitted light falls within the dynamic range of the photodiode.

The two LEDs are strobed so that the photodiode measures red, infrared and ambient light in turn, in a cycle repeated many hundred of times during each pulse. Ambient light levels can then be subtracted from the measurements of transmitted light.

Operating theatres are full of electrical equipment that produces high levels of electromagnetic interference. In addition, artifacts may be produced by movement by the patient (such as shivering) or flickering lights. The best pulse oximeters employ sophisticated algorithms for the detection and rejection of artifact and also generate warning messages such as probe off patient or pulse signal small.

The net result is an instrument of remarkable accuracy which gives continuous non-invasive measurement of arterial oxygen saturation in a wide variety of clinical settings.

The Role of A Teacher in A Student’s Life

“Those who educate children well are more to be honored than parents, for these only gave life, those the art of living well.” Aristotle

The quality of the personality of a person affects the well being of his own, as well as, that of his family, organisation and state. The development of a successful personality becomes the responsibility of an individual and last but the least of the teachers. A teacher is very indispensible in the building years in a student’s life; thereby affecting the overall development of a child. The teacher must be of highest possible quality and also dedicated to the growth and development of the student.

A lot of research has been conducted on the role of education in improving the choice and quality of lives, improving social and economic productivity, and initiating the process of empowerment.
Traditionally, school education acquired immense importance in the post-Independence period and with the consequent expansion of the system, the role of the school teacher also underwent a significant transformation.

Whether it’s the movie “Black” that shows how a teacher helped a physically challenged child to not only develop into a young lady, but finally also find her purpose in life. Or the subtle “Taare Zameen Par” that so correctly shows how one encouraging teacher can be the difference between a talented young boy finding himself or not. Even the more recently released “Stanley Ka Dabba” teaches how children can flourish or wither, depending on how their teachers respond to them and their ideas. Take for instance to “Professor Duggal”, in “Do Dooni Char” who was an ordinary middle class mathematics professor, but yet set an example of integrity and honesty, such that his students thought him as an idol long after passing out of his class.

The role of a teacher in the early years is that of a guide who shows them new paths. A guide who keeps them safe by walking beside them thereby also helps them to explore the world around them. A teacher becomes like a partner in a child’s learning experience, and is a person who encourages them to find their own answers and discover people, environment, situations that they come across. Teachers help student explore special interests or talents, which can have a great impact on their future development.

Children often look to their teachers as role models, and the qualities that a teacher demonstrates through their own behavior can affect a child later in life. Even the way a teacher communicates and expresses him/her can be a big influence on a child’s behavior. This is also a stage, when teachers can be firm with their students, by setting boundaries for them; on what is acceptable behavior and what should not be done. Children in their school environment with the help of teachers learn values such as obedience, punctuality, culture, perseverance and morality.
The student teacher relationship is that of nurturance, trust, guidance, and encouragement, and as a child grows into a young adult, a teacher also becomes a friend and confidant for the student. In order to have quality teachers, management of the school needs to pay special attention to their selection, development, and approach towards teaching the teacher act as role model of an ideal personality. He should bear good moral conduct. Teachers bring enthusiasm and varied teaching and assessment approaches to the classroom, addressing individual students’ needs and ensuring sound learning opportunities for every student.

“Teachers can be a living example to their students. Not that teachers should look for students to idealize them. One who is worth idealising does not care whether others idealize them or not. Everyone needs to see that you not only teach human values but you live them. It is unavoidable sometimes you will be idealized — it is better for children to have a role model, or goal, because then the worshipful quality in them can dawn.”  ― Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

― Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

The need for E health

These days E health care has become the buzz word. This term is comparatively new in the industry of healthcare. Before the year 1999 this term was not in use to this extent. E health does not just confine itself to procuring medicines on the internet but anything and everything that could connect internet to medicine. The use of the terms e health was first found in the industry and largely by the marketing experts rather that by the academic experts. The term was an extension of other terms like the e business, e commerce, etc. There was so much of hype around the newly found terms of e commerce that e health had to be introduced in the health care industry. This was done in order to match steps with the trends in the business world. Intel came up with a comprehensive definition of E health, defining it as a rigorous endeavour by pioneers in health care and technology intensive industries to make use of the benefits available through union of the Internet and health care.

The internet created a new opportunities, as well as, challenges in the traditional healthcare set up. It was required and quite appropriate to involve the internet in the health care sector, largely because no other sector was unaffected by the internet fever. The e health care system would take care of the problems of healthcare that cropped up due to distance, availability of expertise, procurement of specific medicines, checking of reports and diagnostics. However, internet created further challenges for the e healthcare sector. These new challenges were:

  • The subjectivity in the capability of the consumers to be able to interact with the systems.( business to consumer)
  • Better chances for transmission from one institution to another (business to business).
  • Better scope and chances for consumers to communicate with each other hence more awareness (Consumer to consumer).

In the academic environment E health can have a slightly distinct definition. In the initial times it was stated by the academicians that E health should remain confined to the business and the marketing perspective of healthcare and not step into the diagnosis and consultation arena. However, it has been long that e heath care has stepped into the scientific literature of the industry. With its wide penetration and constant changes it is very difficult to pin down a comprehensive definition of e health care. It is certainly the need of the IT dependent world. However, the environment is largely dynamic and constantly moving, making it difficult to pin down one specific definition.

Neutrino Astrophysics

For twenty years a team of dedicated researchers has been searching for neutrinos from the heart of the Sun. Their detector is a tank of cleaning fluid, the size of an Olympic swimming pool, buried deep beneath the ground in a mine. And they have found little more than one-quarter of the numbers of neutrino events that theory predicts.

Bahcall is the theorist who made the calculations of how many solar neutrinos ought to be detectable on Earth and helped back in the 1960s, to create the new branch of the astronomy now known as neutrino astrophysics.

Neutrino astrophysics seems to stand on the threshold of an explosive development of new instruments and techniques. The observations made by the detector have been confirmed by an experiment, which detects less than half the number of solar neutrinos required by standard theory and several new kinds of experiment to detect neutrinos from the Sun and further away in space are now planned or under construction. And, of course, form many people neutrino astrophysics really came of age when detectors around the world recorded the arrival of a burst of neutrinos from a supernova.

What makes neutrino astrophysics worthwhile is the very property of neutrinos that makes them so difficult. Neutrinos are extraordinarily reluctant to interact with matter at all, which means that neutrinos produced in the heart of the Sun travel impeded through the material of the Sun itself and pass in huge numbers through the Earth and everything on it. If a few of those neutrinos can be captured, and their properties investigated, they provide a window opening directly onto the heart of the Sun.

Everything is known about the conditions inside the Sun, apart from the information provided by neutrinos, comes from the observations of the surface of the star, interpreted using our best theories of the structure of hot balls of gas. Until the neutrino observations were made, astrophysicists were confident that their models of stellar structure really were a good guide to what went on inside stars. Now they cannot be so sure.

The simplest explanation of the deficiency in the number of neutrinos found is that those models are wrong. Basic physics tells how hot the Sun should be in its heart and how rapidly the nuclear reactions that keep it hot are taking place. Neutrino astrophysics implies that the central temperature is about 10 per cent lower than the standard theory predicts, or that neutrinos are produced less profusely than they should be according to our understanding of the electroweak interaction.

The discrepancy sounds small, but it is much greater than the uncertainty involved in the calculations. The bottom line is that either there is no understanding how stars work as well as it is being thought it did, or there is no understanding of nuclear physics.

Bahcall covers all this background with explanations of how stars work and the standard theoretical model of the Sun. He reviews the nonstandard solar models which offer several more or less desperate remedies to reduce the temperature of the solar core, and he delves into the possibility that neutrinos may change their spots en route from the Sun, oscillating at different frequencies, some of which cannot be detected.

Bahcall emphasizes that whatever is the correct solution to the solar neutrino problem, it is unlikely to be a trivial error. If the cause of the discrepancy is that the neutrino fluxes from the standard solar model have been calculated in correctly, then the identification of this astrophysical error will probably have important consequences for the theory of stellar evolution and therefore for many branches of astronomy. If new electroweak physics is the correct explanation, then scientists who have helped to establish the solar neutrino problem will have been fortunate in discovering something fundamental about microscopic physics while attempting to test a basic macroscopic theory, stellar evolution.

Planning and Policies

The resolve to eradicate poverty has been a major plank of our national objectives and economic policies, and planning has been frequently thought of as a deliberate measure to achieve that objective. Earlier our economic system generated, perpetuated and aggravated poverty through its normal operations. Planning and economic policies in general have professedly aimed to counter the natural tendencies of the system.

There is a gap between what the plans profess to achieve and what they, in fact, achieve, the gap between promises and performance. A plan is usually developed in an arithmetic mould and hence consists of sets of numbers, of growth rates, sector targets, investment allocation, capital output ratios and the like. A plan is not merely a diagnostic study or an expression of hope; it must be primarily an instrument of action. The arithmetic of plans-the quantification of objectives and resource requirements-has too often been equated with the whole of planning. Planning must deal with the larger social and institutional conditions, it is more so when planning is viewed as an instrument of social transformation.

If a plan is an instrument of action, it must be approached and studied primarily from the perspective of implementation and only secondarily from the point of view of the exercises involved in plan formulation. A plan must be defined as a set of policies to be implemented and looked at the entire process from the point of view implementation.

The implementation of plan rests ultimately with the primary units of a system. Others may decide, order or induce, but the job is done by primary units. The primary units perform substantive functions, whereas other units perform functions of coordination. Planning in a complex economy implies that there are other than primary units in the system. These other units can be referred to as policy-makers. Hence, the planning process involves two sets of units or agents. These agents must also have means of communication between them. The communication between the agents must consist of passing on information, but it also must have measures whereby the agents can influence each other. The communication network may be referred to as the Information and Control Mechanism.

In terms of the execution of the plan the implementing units are certainly more important than policy making units. However, in terms of the operation of the system, those who make policies stand on higher levels as they send down orders to the implementing units.

The planning process is essentially a two-way traffic. This is the only way to make sure that a plan is sufficiently earthed. In the absence of links with the primary units the planning process degenerates into isolated exercises.

The policy-making unit is not so close to practical problems and if there are many primary units whose reports are to be comprehended, and if decisions are to be made coordinating the activities of all the units and for the entire system, then the reports have to be edited and analysed. The language of the policy-making unit, therefore, will be largely in analysed categories, aggregated and value terms, for instance. The language of the policy-making unit is understood by the primary units and vice versa. This is important for communication. The language of the policy-making unit will have to be decoded substantially in the process of the dialogue between the two. Ideally, a plan is formulated and implemented through such a continuous dialogue. A plan which is meant for implementation must take into account the views of the implementing units while it is being formulated.

Riddance from Naive Attitudes

Naivety is a kind of faulty thinking which is common in people who tend to be losers in life. By its very nature, naivety is never evident to the naive themselves yet so obvious to those who aren’t that they have difficulty in understanding it. There are several subjects about which people are extremely naive and which almost invariably bring them discomfort, misfortune and needless pain.

It is often said that all power corrupts. It is for this reason that some people refuse to seek power. They are therefore content to be followers. Acquiring power, they believe would force them to be cruel and greedy. It cannot be denied this could happen.

If the pursuit of power is shunned, it leaves a vacuum for the ruthless to fill, and abuse of power inevitably follows. Therefore, if there is a strong moral cause then it should be pursued.

Out of a sense of humility and inadequacy it might be protested that one does not have the ability to manage power that one would find such a responsibility overwhelming.

Consider why some people seek power in the first place. They feel inadequate and wish to mask these inadequacies by seeking greatness, as reflected by money, power and status, to strike down their inner doubts about their own worth.

Self-interested people take leadership with a grain of salt. They maintain a healthy degree of caution and scepticism about people who want power so much. But at the same time they are not afraid of taking power for themselves. They know that the most wrenched among us are the most powerless: minorities, children and prisoners, for example. In order to get the most out of life it is most important to have some degree of control: it is the self-negligent who give up that control to others.

Do not take pride in the fact that one is meek. It is better to be strong and use power kindly, than to be meek and depend upon kindly power.

Dynamics of Development and Village Economy

The systematic understanding of poverty calls for an examination of how poverty emerged in the past, what perpetuates it, and how it continues to emerge today? These questions are related to the structure of the system, its working, and the interaction between the two. The system produces not only poverty; it produces growth as well. It pushes some towards and below the poverty line; it pulls others into prosperity and affluence. It makes it impossible for the many to have their limited needs satisfied; it caters to the growing wants of the few. This is the dynamics of development which explains both poverty and growth, and it is this process that needs to be analysed and understood. It is through the interaction of the want-based and the need-based economies that the process is to be approached.

The outstanding feature of any economy is the self-subsisting and self-perpetuating character of its typical unit, the village. Earlier Villages functioned as little worlds of their own. The only outside authority they acknowledged was that of some local prince ling who in turn might be subordinate to distant overlord. The chief sign of submission to that authority was the payment each year of a share of village crops.

Within the villages, social and economic relationships were governed by customary patterns and conventions of great antiquity. The cattle were tended and soil was tilled by peasants. The village itself consumed most of the food stuffs and other raw materials it produced. Its needs for handicrafts were satisfied by the families of craftsmen associated with the village. This made the village economically independent of the outside world except for a few necessities. The share of the village crops which went to the local magnate and moved from him in a diminishing stream upward to the highest political overlord sustained the structure of government and provided subsistence for the urban population.

While the village economy itself was self-subsisting, there was a high level of interdependence among the primary units i.e. the households. Some households concentrated on farming, producing enough for their needs and some surplus which was shared among a vast array of functionaries who performed services which were considered to be necessary.

A share of the village crops went to the local magnate and moved from him in a diminishing stream upward o the highest political overlord. From the economic point of view this fact is significant. In the first place, it shows that the village economy was more than self-sustaining. It yielded a net surplus which was appropriated by those who had no functional relationship with the working of the economy, save that of appropriating its surplus. These groups may be referred to as rentiers.

Between the claims on the producer – within the village economy itself and between the members of the village economy and the almost endless chain of rentiers – were customarily determined, there was a considerable amount of inequality within the system. But it was qualitatively different from the inequality that is to be seen around today. In the first place, the inequality was not dependent on the ownership of property, as it is now, but was based on a system of social sanction that governed the distribution of the produce. Secondly, because the level of production itself was low and the manner of utilization of the surplus was also of a special kind, the inequality was not augmented through the production process.

Declining Corporate Loyalty

If loyalty is being faithful to an individual, an organisation, a reason, a tradition, institution or product, then there is some amount of disloyalty in the workplace that has taken a new dimension in the recent times. Corporate employees were of the opinion that their employers would reward their loyalty and good work with job security, generous benefits, and pay increases. In response to global competition, unfriendly takeovers, leveraged buyouts, organisations began to discard conventional policies on job security, seniority, and compensation.

Maximum full-time workers even if not looking for a new opportunity would leave their current position if a better job is offered. Few studies show that approximately 20 to 50 per cent employees quit every year because of escalating salaries. Whatever the actual figures convey, few employees are actually feeling disconnected from their work. Reasons for the same are: the wave of recession, during which organisations laid off huge numbers of their employees with little consideration for loyalty or length of their service; a doing away of benefits, advanced training and promotions for only those who remain with the organisation; and a generation of young employees between the age group of 25 to 40 who had a different set of expectations about their careers, including the need to carry their own brand. These changes have resulted in a sharp decline in employee loyalty.

Employers attitude toward their employees have changed to a considerable degree. The employees are seen as short term resource of the organisation.

The reason for declining of loyalty can be found in the following reasons:

  • employees have started networking, not for fun sake but because they fear loss of their jobs.
  • employees are not taking too many risks in the organisation, and because of this  factor of not bringing too much innovation may negatively hurt both employees’ career avenues and companies’ growth and objectives.

Therefore many employers have started thinking that employee loyalty is dead. The obvious question that arises is that if it is actually dead or surviving on life support system?

It is believed that if an employer shows his employees where exactly the organisation is heading, the efforts required to reach there, and the way they would contribute to success of not only the organisation but also employee success, keep complete transparency, then employers can experience a different and new kind of employee loyalty. All it is required is complete faith and effort on both the employer’s and employee’s part.

Challenges of Pursuing A PHD Degree

“A dissertation is an unpredictable process,” as it can “involve uncertainty, ambiguity, and unexpected events.” Huizenga School’s 2006 Dissertation Guidelines.

Everybody needs some stimulation for continued happiness in life. One way could be intellectual stimulation which could very well be provided by the perusal of a doctorate degree. A doctorate program can certainly fulfil one’s desire for knowledge as well as assist the scholar with the understanding that a few gaps in existing literature could be filled and contribute new research to the research fraternity as to the world.

In one’s journey of academics, fulfilment of a doctorate degree is one of the highest honours. In the context of academic degrees, the term “philosophy” does not refer solely to the field of philosophy, but is used in a broader sense in accordance with its original Greek meaning, which is “love of wisdom”. It is simultaneously not easy to follow this love of wisdom. There are many challenges while accomplishing this high degree of honour. One reason failing to achieve or facing troubles is the time requirement, the rigorous and focused research process, passing the comprehensive examinations, a publication requirement, and successfully finishing the journal of the dissertation. Another biggest challenge for a dissertation study is to keep it focused and simple.

It is certainly not a predictable journey as it involves lot of hassles and troubles and a process in which a candidate tends to loose motivation midway. There are two important elements required to successfully complete the doctoral programme: one to chalk out effectively the requirements for the comprehensive exam and dissertation process so that researchers can start their work with an appropriate supervisor in the early stage of their research process.

There is a growing need for professionally and academically qualified teachers as the world of academia is growing by leaps and bounds. Students entering the competitive world select a university for a few reasons and one significant reason is to have people who could impart knowledge and also assess student’s learning in the most desirable way. To put in simple words, responsibility of teachers is to create and validate knowledge. Educators create knowledge through research and publications, and they validate knowledge through continuous assessment of student learning and achievements. Assessment works as a tool to help measure the knowledge acquired by the students of an academic programme.

There are a lot of doubts in the minds of the researchers before pursuing the doctoral programme as PhD is supposed to be a major scientific work in a scholar’s life. The researcher tends to put up a few queries to him/herself and to the supervisors as well to clear one’s doubt regarding the following:

  • Why should the particular topic be researched?
  • What significance the topic would carry?
  • How would I balance a PhD programme, family, and/or work?
  • The fear of not having free time to enjoy life if the tedious task of a doctoral degree is pursued?
  • Who would benefit from this research?
  • What study has already been undertaken before in the similar domain?
  • Who are the key (important) researchers in this field?
  • Will be my life be uprooted if I take up this doctoral programme?
  • What is the contribution that these researchers have made?
  • What are the conclusions of key researchers concerning the topic?
  • Whether I would feel lost and overwhelmed with the idea of picking a topic. How would I determine a dissertation topic?
  • How will the research follow or complement key researchers’ work?
  • How will the research expand or add to the “body of knowledge”?
  • What are the potential “real world” applications of this research?
  • What do I do (with the literature review) if I am interested in a dissertation topic that is a new area/or uncharted territory?
  • What established theory, model, methodology, and survey instrument will be used to provide a sound analytical approach?
  • How feasible is working full-time and completing a doctoral program in a reasonable amount of time?
  • Who is to be sampled, what is the sample size, and what is the expected return rate?
  • Is there any way of completing a Ph.D. without having to do independent research?
  • How would I stay motivated and not leave work midway through out all the stages of a perusal of the degree.

These fears and apprehensions could be well handled by the supervisor and people who have already gone through these stages in order to face the challenges more smoothly and successfully complete the doctoral degree.

However, the attempt is not to change the world but to contribute something significant to the world. Therefore, it is advisable to keep the focus of the dissertation narrow, time-bounded, and under one’s given limited available resources. The student should make sure that the survey implementation and data gathering are feasible to be undertaken. After all, it is not easy to add a doctor to your name.