An output called research

Published: Thursday 15 January 2009

An output called research

-- Science, too, travels elsewhere

Those who swear by Dwalpment often swear, in the same breath, by Science. The latter, they swear, is a package deal--a revolution, objectivity, attitude, gadgetry, experiment, wizardry, techne, bigotry--inseparably patent to the former (see now see why Syngenta did not accept the iaastd assessment, or the us, Canada and Australia?).

Very difficult, relatively speaking, in such a charged atmosphere, to place research that shows peanut shells--crunched open by millions of Indians in winter, often unthinkingly littered--can remove copper from industrial effluent.

Quite illuminating, to change the subject, and find researchers Bidisha Majumdar of Jadavpur University and Bishwapati Mandal of Kalyani University, both of Kolkata, say, sanguine paddy cultivation adds, per hectare, about 5.5 tonnes of organic carbon to soil.Said Mandal, "The amount of carbon lost as methane is lower than the carbon left." Majumdar said paddy fixes carbon in soil because the water that submerges the fields prevents carbon from oixidising; also aquatic plants add 0.7 tonnes per hectare of carbon to the soil annually through good old photosynthesis.

India swears by DDT to contain the sand fly, vector of kala-azar. A group of researchers have suggested making the soil acidic could control the vector. This could be done using the powdered form of a weed called Mexican prickly poppy (Argemone mexicana).

Solar cooker use is limited because of shortcomings related to cooking time-and a very basic problem of cooking dinner. Two professors at Jodhpur claim they have an improved design that addresses the problems. Their work was published in the March 2008 issue of Renewable Energy (Vol 33, No 3).

Biogas plants don't function well when ambient temperatures are low like in the hills. Madurai Kamraj University scientists found using a preconditioned tank made of plastic and not cement maintains the temperature.
Big bang goes ye olde accusation of the Western world that paddy field emissions from big, developing countries like India are more responsible for global warming than their poor factory emissions, relatively speaking.

Big bang also goes the industrial argument that GM cotton is more profitable than non-Bt varieties. It's the opposite, say researchers in US-based Georgia University's College of Agriculture and Environment Science. For more details, read the February 2008 issue of Agronomy Journal; more to the point, pray these bright ones get jobs.

In just one year (2008), researchers have tried to redesign ship ballast so that dangerous invasives do not get exported elsewhere, made a fuel-cell that can operate in humid conditions, developed hard disk drive Pergamum, found a new language family in the Andaman Islands, realized the brain senses smell, developed a system to predict landslides, come up with a mechanism that cuts down harmful emissions when plastic is incinerated, and discovered a weed effective against the fly that transmits the dreaded kala-azar disease to humans.

Digesting hair and parthenium
Vermitechnology wants more detailing. Whereas human hair takes hundreds of years to decompose (causing barbers and wig-makers equal pain), in 2004, researchers led by R K Kohli of the Centre for Environment at Punjab University found a method to convert it into manure.

Place, as base, decomposable matter such as wheat husk, bamboo leaves and sawdust. Place on it a mixture of cow dung and hair. Top it with more cow dung. Make a dough out of the whole, keep it in the shade (21-31C), let earthworms loose into it. In two months, you will get compost. This way of making compost also tames, with a bit of tweaking Kohli's team has mastered, the seed production of parthenium; the weed degrades in 40 days.

Any takers?
A lot of intelligent, environmentally-conscious research dies a natural death, in the developed world as well as the developing, because it finds no support. A group of Australians and Chinese researchers, for instance, are looking for industrial partners to scale up their find. Upon heating, cheaply available titanium dioxide (common ingredient of sunscreens) and caustic soda (every brick of soap has it) form a ceramic that can clean up wastewater containing radioactive material. Read Advanced Materials, Vol 20, for details. Its application is shattering, relatively speaking imagine this ceramic removing radioactive ions from the wastewater of nuclear reactors and mines; then imagine it as the keystone to the promotion of nuclear energy, from the developed world to the developing, as a way to mitigate climate change.

Down to Earth

Archimedes didn't say that. But he was an ancient. This exclamation has punctuated the history of scientific endeavour itself. Let it lead to endeavours 2009 on. For at least one reason these Dwalpment Romans, they are crazy; they simply have no idea what Science is capable of.

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