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Science on a platter

MAKE IT CLOUD NINE Bal Phondke Publisher: Publications & Information Directorate, India Price: Rs 50

By Rita Anand
Published: Thursday 31 March 1994

-- DID you know that the best remedy for jet lag is sunshine? Or that female athletes can outrun males in a marathon? And, if your teenage son drives his mobike at breakneck speed, blame it on an enzyme that regulates brain chemicals. These are not based on hearsay but on Make it Cloud Nine, a popular science book meant for the uninitiated.

In the book, Phondke combines wisdom with wise-cracks and his reader-friendly approach explains scientific facts without becoming boring. The book tells us that scientists worry about the ozone hole because even a 7 per cent decrease would increase ultraviolet radiation by 15 per cent, which would threaten bio-molecules - the very basis of life. It also informs us about the little known fact that ground level ozone, a component of smog and haze, can cause debilitating changes in our lungs.

We also come to know that a close bond exists between sleep and memory. If a person is allowed a good night's sleep, his visual memory improves. The brain uses the time a person is asleep to build neural circuits to consolidate knowledge acquired earlier.
Fat is fertile The book is a mine of interesting facts. For instance, slim may be sexy but fat is fertile because fatty adipose tissues store sex hormones and this influences the amount and potency of the female hormone oestrogen circulating in the blood. Phondke also tries to find out whether intelligence is inherited and concludes that it might be possible. The real difficulty, according to him, ties in isolating the cultural and genetic influences.

Going by Phondke, one wonders why a man can't be more like a woman - he claims women are biologically more fit, with lower cholesterol levels and stronger chromosomes.

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