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Understanding trivia

CATS HAVE NINE LIVES by D Balasubramanian Publisher: Publications and -Information Directorate, New Delhi Price: Rs 50

By Rita Anand
Published: Wednesday 30 November 1994

-- (Credit: Rustam Vania)FOR a human, a fall from a 6-storey building means death. But a cat can coolly jump down and walk away: a freefalling cat is a light and compactly made animal. Endowed with 4 legs, flexible joints and an efficient vestibular system, cats are designed to take mishaps in their stride. Elephants, like humans, have no such luck. A minor stumble could result in a broken leg.

So, "Cats have nine lives," writes Balasubramanian. Written in an easy-to-read style, punctuated with anecdotes and stories, the book is easy on the mind, too.

The Indian with a roving eye for the West can rest assured that money and the good life out there does-not imply immortality. Studies reveal that heart disease is related to diabetes and strikes 19 per cent of Indians in Trinidad. Its incidence among Africans is lower. Among Indian women in South Africa admitted as coronary heart disease cases, 81 per cent were diabetic and 70 per cent were overweight. M S Jacobson of the Long Island Jewish Medical Centre in New York concluded in a study that the chief criminal was ghee. But further studies on diet, metabolism and genetics would be needed to arrive at definite conclusions.

For the occasional tippler, Balasubramanian brings some cheer. Moderat alcohol consumption is good your body and soul, he Says moderate dose of alcohol increases the level Of HDL, a class of proteins in the body; by as much as 17 per cent. This helps to clear 'bad" cholesterol and reduces heart disease by 40 per cent. Balasubramanian recommends 56 drinks a week. But moderation is the key. Heavy drinking would reverse this trend and result in other diseases.

Don't try any monkey business with chimpanzees and baboons. Primatologist Hans Kummer of Switzerland reports that baboons practise deception and that chimps can actually make tools. And the next time you drop off to sleep out of sheer boredom, blame it on your ultradian rhythm. Balasubramanian mulls over the link between bathtubs, apple trees and creativity. If Archimedes and Newton could make use of them, then why not our homegrown scientists? But to communicate with our scientists, it will be necessary for us to learn Scinglish. This is the English used by scientists. From Queen's English to the jargon mouthed by computer whizkids is a long hop. "Joots" in computer lingo means to "jump out of the system" and before you start jootsing to that one, try this, molecular biologists French press & late log culture, take the super density gradient, centrifuge it, do a denaturing page run and find the 24 KD that nick translates. But this is not gibberish it's Scinglish.

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