Photosynthesis- Earth's Life Support System

According to the geological history, photosynthesis is thought have occurred roughly 3.5 billion years ago.

Dead Zone

Death of fisheries due to uncontrolled algal growth leads to 'dead zones'. U.S. waters have the largest dead zones off the Mississippi delta.

Gingko: a not-so-safe herbal medicine for Epilepsy

Scientific evidences show that G. biloba may increase the risk of seizures in people with epilepsy.

The Science behind weight loss

You can add 20-plus great years to your life by making simple lifestyle changes.

Dealing with public toddler tantrumms

Tips which will help you lower down the frequency of such mortifying episodes.

Monday, December 30, 2013

New York vehicle safety requirements

Different rules and regulations for vehicles are practiced and implemented in all the corners of the globe. These regulations not only ensure safety of the car owner, but also of other drivers on the road. A car or a light-weight motor vehicle must meet all these standards, by law, before they can run on the public road. Each and every vehicle in the New York state should pass the safety inspection test that is conducted yearly. If the vehicle is bought outside the New York state, a maximum of ten days are allowed before it can be inspected and licensed. The inspection should be done by a certified motor vehicle inspector in a licensed inspection station.

New York vehicle state safety rules
Brakes and tires
Brakes and tires of the vehicle are important for the safety of the owner and other drivers on the road. Therefore, thorough inspection is required to check proper functioning of these vehicle components. Tires should have sufficient tread that provide additional friction against slippery roads, especially in rain and snow. Brakes (including disks, drums and rotors) should be in good working order. The vehicle inspector might also remove one (or more) tires to get a clear view of the brake pads. Brake pads should be sufficiently thick and smooth and the inspector might also test drive your vehicle to ensure that the brakes apply quickly and safely.

All the lights of the vehicle (that include both high and low beam headlights, brake lights, backup lights, turn signals and license plate light) must be mounted correctly and should be functioning properly. Any broken, cracked or fused bulb should be changed before the vehicle can be certified safe for driving.

A mandatory inspection of the vehicle glass (windshield glass and mirrors) is required to check for any break or crack in the glass. Vehicle inspector may also use a digital meter for checking visible light transmission (VLT) in case of tinted window glasses. VLT of the vehicle should in compliance with state’s standards for visible light transmission.

Other items
Several other components of the vehicle should also be examined during an inspection. These include check engine indicator, horn, steering, shocks, seatbelt, chassis as well as windshield, frame, torsion and wheel fasteners. All these vehicle parts should be intact and working properly.

Fees and policies
There are certain policies and fees related to the inspection process. An inspector should remove the last inspection sticker from the vehicle before starting the inspection. A new sticker cannot be issued if the vehicle fails to clear the inspection test. Also, the latest inspection sticker must be displayed either on the license plate or in a particular position on the windshield. Normally, the safety inspection fee is 10 dollars. If the owner runs the vehicle on the road without the safety inspection sticker, or after the vehicle registration has expired, a fine can be issued. The fine may vary 25 dollars to 100 dollars, depending on the days since expiry.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Qualification requirements of a Neurologist

Neurologists are medical professionals who are specialists in the field of diagnosing and treating conditions that affect the central nervous system (which includes the brain and spinal cord) and the peripheral nervous system (which includes the nerves, nerve roots and muscles). They perform neurological tests on different parts of the nervous system and often examine the muscle movement, reflexes, sensation and other cognitive abilities, in order to properly diagnose and treat related disorders. In order to become specialists of the nervous system, medical practitioners need to undergo extensive training after completing their medical school (which includes internships, residency requirements and acquiring requisite licenses and certifications).

Qualifications to become a Neurologist
To become a neurologist, the applicant must complete four years of medical school followed by extensive neurological residency program, must have an unrestricted state license to practice medicine and also successfully pass both the written tests of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology( ABPN) or by the American Board of Medical Specialties( ABPS).

Medical School
A medical student must first concentrate on becoming a medical doctor or a doctor of osteopathy, by completing an undergraduate programme plus a medical degree of four years. Potential neurologists should also complete a three-year neurology residency and another year of internship (with minimum of eight months of internal medicine).

After internship, the medical doctor must complete a residency requirement of three years. Residency programmes must be certified by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). These programmes help in providing exposure to hospital and ambulatory care settings, educational conferences and research trainings. After completion of the residency training, neurologists may join a sub-specialty fellowship program specializing in movement disorders, stroke and dementia.
Further, physicians interested in child neurology have three options for completion of their initial residency – one year in internal medicine followed by one year in pediatrics; two years in pediatrics residency; or one year in research and one year in pediatrics.

Board Certification
After completion of residency program, medical doctors seek for state medical licensure as well as board certification from ABPN (member of ABMS). Only physicians who have a high degree of skill in the field of neurology are certified. Before getting board certification, a doctor must complete three years of residency in neurology or pediatrics, must possess a medical license and clear both written and oral exams of the ABPN.

Certification from the American board has to be renewed from time to time. Also, the doctor should have demonstrated good ethical standards have been an active member of the American or Canadian Osteopathic Associations for at least two years.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Metal Fabrication tips

Industrial fabrication refers to metal making and processing, for the purposes of manufacturing a variety of appliances and structures. Metal fabrication involves various activities such as blacksmithing, sheet working, sawing, filing, hammering, welding, soldering, cutting, drawing, forming or machining the metal. Metal fabrication may also be done on precious metals such as gold and silver, for the purpose of manufacturing jewelry.

Metal Working Tips

A few tips that can be followed while metal working – to ensure that complicated layouts can be completed comfortably and accurately; are discussed below.

The first thing that should be ensured is to have a stable platform or work-bench that is big enough to support the layout and the operations (that are to be performed on the metal). This could ideally be made of a thick plywood framework to support the layout, while also giving an option to provide storage space if required.

Pattern material, if made with newspaper or cardboard, will not only be less costly but can also help save time in the preparation. This however will only be useful if pattern reuse is not required, and may even feel a little flimsy. But if the worker is not an expert, it is still advisable to prepare such patterns, lest expensive sheet metals may get wasted.

Pencil sharpener is a cheap yet critical tool to have, as a sharp transfer pencil is an absolute must for ensuring that thick lines do not ruin the transfer from the pattern to the metal.

A similar tip applies to metal scratch awls, as they can loose their sharpness with use. A good mill file will however ensure that the awl does not become dull. Further, having awls of different lengths, diameters and degrees of roundness, will also help in creating design indents easily.

If working on the metal in a wet and humid area, rust can be a real problem. It is therefore advisable to always keep the shears dipped in oil.

Further, workers should also use leather gloves while handling metal sheets. This will not only ensure that the oil coating does not grease the hands or cause rashes or irritation, but also that the hands are not cut by the sharp edges.

That said, a first aid kit (including bandages, cotton and anti-septic) should always be kept handy.

Finally, it is always advisable to repeatedly use the tape and be absolutely certain of the measures, before cutting the metal or trimming the finished product.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Medicinal uses of Passion flower

Passion flower (Passiflora), also known as passion vines, apricot vine or maypop, belongs to a large genus of more than 400 species of flowering plants. They are mostly perennial climbing vines, while some species are shrubs and herbaceous. Native of south-eastern parts of America, the plant has herbaceous shoots with strong woody stem. The aerial parts (flowers, leaves, and stems) of Passiflora plant are known for medicinal properties. According to folk remedies, the flower is considered to have a calming effect and its fresh or dried leaves are used in tea before bed to assist in sleeping. It also contains some potent chemicals and therefore a correct dosage should be administered, as it may interact unexpectedly with certain drugs and cause serious effects.

Medicinal Uses of Passion flower

General body
Passion flower is popularly used as a mild sedative, anxiolytic (anxiety-relieving) and hypnotic. It also has analgesic properties and herbalists use the plant for treating physiological disorders like seizures and hysteria. Scientists are performing trials to confirm the influence of passion flower on the levels of a gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) found in the brain. It is believed that GABA helps in relaxation by lowering the activity of some brain cells.

Nervous System
Passion flower is traditionally one of the best herbal remedy available for various types of nervous manifestations. Unlike other tranquilizers, this plant exercises sedation without posing any side effects (like creating depression). This is because of the action of flavonoids present in the aerial parts of the plant.
Insomnia, anxiety and depression
The flower exhibits stress-relieving effects. It calms and relaxes the nerves of the body and helps in sleeping. Intake of dried plant in water helps in cases of vertigo or dizziness caused by alterations of the nerves. It is safe for children as well as adults and can also be used for a prolonged period without any contraindications. Passiflora plant is useful in treating patients that are suffering from emotional problems and for people who have a tendency to be sad or depressed.
Passion flower is an excellent painkiller, especially when the pain is related with the problems of the nervous system.
Infusions of passion flower or passiflora dyes should be administered if the spasms are involuntary and are because of the stress on the nervous system. Also, passion flower is used for treating intestinal spasms of nervous character and for fighting menstrual cramps.
Circulatory System
Passion flower can potentially decrease arterial hypertension by reducing the arterial pressure. However, it should not be taken more than the prescribed dose to avoid any toxic effects.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Medical Waste treatment methods

Medical waste, also called as clinical waste, normally refers to the waste generated from healthcare premises as a result of healthcare activities that includes a vast range of materials such as needles, blood, chemicals, syringes, body parts, medical instruments as well as radioactive substances. Lack of medical waste disposal management poses risk of infections and diseases to the public and community and also pollutes the environment. Therefore, it is very important to practice proper clinical waste treatment measures at the point of generation and dispose them safely.

Different methods of medical waste treatment-
There are a number of methods available to treat medical waste and render the waste less hazardous and non-infectious.
An incinerator is a device in which waste deposits are burned under controlled conditions to oxidize carbon and hydrogen present in waste into ash, flu gases, particulates and heat (this heat is used to produce electricity).

Steam sterilization
Steam sterilizer, also known as autoclave is commonly used medical waste treatment method for decontaminating waste. Unlike other sterilization methods, steam sterilization is a cheap and economical method. In this method, the medical waste is kept in a specialized sealed chamber and exposed to steam at a particular temperature and pressure for a specified duration. Steam sterilization is an excellent alternative to incineration and also helps to diminish the cost of disposing untreated medical waste.

Gas sterilization
Gas sterilization is a rarely used method to treat medical waste. In this, medical waste is put in an evacuated air-tight chamber and treated with a sterilizing agent (such as ethylene oxide or formaldehyde). The gas comes in contact of the waste, penetrates and kills the harmful infectious agents.

Chemical disinfection with grinding
The method involves grinding of the medical waste before exposing to a liquid chemical disinfectant (such as chlorine bleach). Grinding of the waste ensures sufficient exposure of the chemical agent to all the portions of the waste and also helps in easy disposal of the residues. The resulting liquids are dropped into the sewer system while the solid residues are disposed in the landfills.

Thermal inactivation
Normally, thermal inactivation method is used for treating large volumes of liquid waste and involves heating of waste to temperatures at which infectious agents get killed. The chamber is preheated to a particular temperature and the waste is held in it for a specified duration and then released.

Irradiation involves sterilizing waste by exposing medical waste to a cobalt source. Cobalt gives out gamma radiations that destroy all microbes present in the waste.

Microwave treatment
Microwave has recently been introduced in US to disinfect waste. The waste is first shredded before mixing it with water and then internally heated to neutralize all the biologicals.

Grinding and shredding
This method aids in converting medical waste into a more uniform mixture that can be handled easily.

Compaction is often used to reduce the waste volume and helps to compress waste to adjust more waste in the same space.

Keywords- medical waste, waste, treatment

Friday, December 20, 2013

Liquidated damage

‘Liquidated damage’ (sometimes also called ‘liquidated and ascertained damage’) is the amount that two entities entering into a contract mutually agree upon and designate as payable in the form of compensation to the injured party by the afflicting party, in the event of some damage or loss occurring to the injured party (examples of which could be delayed performance or an unacceptable quality of deliverable).

Purpose of assigning ‘liquidated damage’

Having a ‘liquidated damage’ clause in an agreement is particularly useful if the financial implication arising out of the future damage cannot be accurately ascertained in advance. Having a ‘liquidated damage’ clause in such instances can then help avoid the hassle of estimating damage, if such an event to actually occur in the future.

Conditions when ‘liquidated damage’ clause can be enforced

More specifically, for a ‘liquidated damage’ clause in an agreement to be upheld and become enforceable, a few conditions have to be necessarily met.

Firstly, at the time when this clause is invoked, the amount designated as liquidated damage should approximately be the same as the actual loss that is incurred by the injured party. This is because the law provides for equitable justice, and any ‘liquidated damage’ clause in an agreement cannot tantamount to unjustifiable benefit and enrichment of any party.

Secondly, as mentioned above, if the loss that is likely to occur from a potentially damaging future scenario is fairly uncertain at the time of entering into the contract, having a ‘liquidated damage’ clause will help both parties avoid undertaking an elaborate impact assessment and financial implication of such an event, were it to actually occur.

However, if the financial loss even at the time of actual damage cannot be fairly ascertained, then it is subject to contingency and is instead referred to as un-liquidated damage.

Difference between ‘liquidated damage’ and ‘penalty’ clause

As stated earlier, ‘liquidated damage’ cannot be awarded to the injured party, if it is likely to benefit from its enforcement more than the loss that has been incurred in financial terms. If that were done, then the purpose of this payout will not be to compensate for the loss incurred by injured party but rather to punish the afflicting party for a breach of the agreed terms in the contract. This however falls under the purview of the ‘penalty’ clause and not the ‘liquidated damage’ clause, in legal terms.

Exceptions when ‘liquidated damage’ cannot be awarded

Apart from the above case, when awarding ‘liquidated damage’ will tantamount to unjustified financial gain for the injured party or severely penalize the afflicting party, this clause is further not enforceable under the ‘Doctrine of Concurrent Delay’ –  that is, when the clause of delay or loss can be attributed to the acts of both the contracting parties.

Industries where a ‘liquidated damage’ clause is commonly applied

Two industries where the ‘liquidated damage’ clause is most commonly applied is the financial services industry and the construction industry.

Keywords- Liquidated damage, clause, loss, party

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Types of laboratory apparatus and their functions

Science laboratories have a lot of apparatus that are used to aid various experiments. Typical apparatus in a particular laboratory may however vary, based on whether it is physics, chemistry, biology or any other type of lab.

Types of Apparatus used in Laboratories and their Functions

Electric Apparatus
Voltmeters measure voltage differentials across electrical circuits. Potentiometers are used to control the power supplied to electronic instruments. Ammeters measure electric current. Multimeters combine various such functions in one apparatus. Electroscope can measure the amount of electric charge on a body. Resistors (or resistance box) provide electric resistance in a circuit. Capacitors are passive components (pair of conductors separated by a dielectric) and can store energy in a circuit. Induction coils are a version of an electric transformer used to produce pulses of high voltage current from a low voltage supply of direct current.

Glass Apparatus
Beakers are containers used for measuring liquid while burettes measure the volume of a solution. Test tubes can hold smaller amounts of the liquid and may also be used to perform small scale experiments. Graduated cylinders and pipettes can measure liquid volume (typically, with 0.1 ml accuracy), while pipettes are also equipped to control liquid flow and help in transferring measured volumes between containers. Condensers collect vaporized liquid when it liquefies during distillation. Funnel (of glass or plastic) are used for transferring liquids between containers without spilling, but may also be used for filtering (if filter paper is also used). Volumetric flasks facilitate measurement of exact liquid volumes or help in preparation of solutions with accurate dilutions.

Other Apparatus
Wash bottles dispense distilled water in small measurable volumes. Watch glasses can be used for a variety of purposes, such as holding small samples, as beaker covers or as evaporating dishes. Clay triangles are wire-frames with porcelain on it, and are used to support crucibles (used to heat small quantity of solid to extremely high temperatures). Burners provide flame and heat. Wire gauzes are put over burners, and ensure that the flame uniformly heats the solution. Forceps can hold small objects, while tongs hold larger ones. Weight balance is used to measure the weight of objects. pH meters measure acidity (or basicity of solutions). Ring stands, clamps and test-tube holders are used for supporting laboratory apparatus.

Centrifuge is used to separate various materials in solution that are of varying density. Tapes, micrometers, screw gauge and calipers are instruments for measuring length. Compass helps in determining the direction. Stop clocks measure time (in milliseconds). Scientific calculators are also used for calculation purposes. Barometers measure atmospheric pressure. Microscopes are used in magnifying and observing objects that are too small to be viewed by the naked eye. Lasers are also used in laboratories for producing electromagnetic radiation.

Temperatures can be measured using thermometers. A variety of thermometers are used in laboratories such as mercury, red spirit or infrared thermometers (specifically used for high temperature measurements).

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Labor law in Masachusetts

Labor laws are constituted to protect employee rights, compensation and benefits as well as to ensure a fair, transparent and level playing field for employers. Additionally, they protect employees against unfair termination or discrimination on any basis. Massachusetts specifically provides organizations with such a regulatory guideline on labor welfare, so as to ensure a stable and healthy relationship between employees and employers.

Labor Wage Laws
The Massachusetts’ ‘Minimum Fair Wage Law’ and the Federal ‘Fair Labor Standards Act’ are complementary regulations on employee wages, hours worked and overtime. In cases where both state and federal laws are applicable, the one that stipulates higher standards is followed. As of 2008, MFWL sets minimum wages levels at $8.00 per hour (not applicable on tipped employees). Further, employees working in excess of 40 hours per week are generally paid at a minimum 1.5 times the standard rate.

Youth Employment Laws
Massachusetts labor law stipulates that organizations cannot employ anyone below 18 years, without a work permit (they may still not work more than 18 hours per week). Further, no child less than 14 years can work, while 14 or 15 years old minors cannot work beyond 7 pm during school days, and 9 pm during vacation. Post 8 pm, minors can only work under supervision and with adequate security.

Workers’ Compensation Insurance Laws
Massachusetts labor law directs employers to provide workers with compensation insurance (to give protection to them and their dependents), if there is serious injury or death while working. Even through the responsibility to prove that this accident occurred while on job is on the employee, the employer still needs to cover medical expenses till litigation concludes.

Massachusetts Blue Law
‘Blue Law’ lays out wage guidelines for businesses that operate on Sundays or holidays. It also provides guidance on application of permits to operate during holidays. Additionally, employers cannot mandate employees to work on Sundays, nor can they use that pretext for penalizing or terminating the employment contract.

Family Medical Leave Act
‘Family Medical Leave Act’ is a federal law that directs employers to provide a maximum of 12 weeks of unpaid leave to employees in case of maternity or adoption, to provide support to her spouse or child during illness, or when the employee herself is ill to the extent that prevents her from working.

In Massachusetts, employees who have worked at least 1,250 hours in proceeding 12 months (but not necessarily continuously) are only eligible for above coverage. Further, all public agencies as well as any business that have 50 or more employees working in any given 75 miles radius, have to provide the benefits enumerated under FMLA.

Occupational Safety and Health Act
‘Occupational Safety and Health Act’ is a federal act that sets workplace safety regulations, wherein every citizen is entitled to know about materials that she may be exposed to in workplace; their potential harmful effects and preventive measures that are taken. This is a federal act, which applies to the state of Massachusetts as well.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


Hygrometers are instruments that measure the humidity (amount of moisture content) present in air or gas. Hygrometers consists of two mercury thermometers, one of which has a wet base (to measure wet-bulb temperature) while the other one has a dry base.

Genesis of Hygrometers
The first basic hygrometer was invented in 1400s by Leonardo da Vinci. However, a more practical hygrometer was built by Francesco Folli in 1664. British chemist and meteorologist, Sir John Frederic Daniell made the dew point hygrometer in 1820. It was used with cold water and the temperature (or dew point) of the vessel was recorded to measure humidity.

How do Hygrometers work?
At a particular temperature and velocity, the cooling effect of air is directly related to humidity. This phenomenon is used in hygrometers. When air is circulated on the wet bulb thermometer, it will show a lower temperature (as compared to the dry bulb thermometer). The differential in these two readings is then translated to percent humidity, using established charts.

Calibration of Hygrometers
Precise calibration of the thermometers is critical to ensuring that the measurement of humidity is also accurate. Additionally, thermometers need to be protected from any radiant heat as well as a good airflow has to be maintained over the wet bulb. Further, for accurately measuring humidity when the air temperature is below the freezing point, temperature is actually raised by heating the air (since the vapor content remained unchanged even when the air is heated).

Different types of Hygrometers
There are several types of hygrometers used by meteorologists. The simplest and best known form of hygrometer is “psychrometer”. It is uses the principle of evaporation to determine humidity. Rapid rotation of both the thermometers and blowing air over the bulbs reduces the temperature of the wet bulb. This temperature difference between the thermometers is used to calculate the moisture content in the air.

An electronic hygrometer deploys electronic means of recording the information, using capacitors or resistors for the purpose. The capacitive sensors can detect the presence (and quantum) of water, by passing an electric current and measuring the change in capacitance caused by the presence of water. Alternatively, resistive sensors use a polymer membrane whose conductivity changes, based on the amount of water that is present.

Other hygrometers include gravimetric hygrometers (primarily used for calibration and setting national standards), and hair tension hygrometers use human or animal hair under tension.

Application of Hygrometers
Hygrometers are used in greenhouses, industrial setups that are sensitive to vapor content (example being paints, food and beverages and pharmaceutical), saunas, humidors, museums and residences, primarily for the purpose of measuring and controlling humidity.

Monday, December 16, 2013

HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) Red Flags Rule

HIPAA (abbreviation for ‘Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act’) Red Flags Rule fights against patient identity theft. The HIPAA red flags rule covers all ‘creditors’ (defined as any unit that postpones payments for services on a regular basis, or arranges for extending the credit, or a healthcare provider that is involved in helping patients get credit from some other source, but excluding those healthcare entities that need payment before or at the time of the service as well as a physician who receives credit card payments) and aims at protecting what are referred to as ‘covered accounts’ (defined as the consumer account that allows multiple transactions or payments, including all the accounts that the healthcare organization uses or maintains for the patients are covered accounts). Further, in the interest of patients, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) came out with a set of regulations on May 1, 2009. This FTC red flags rule is in addition to the HIPAA privacy and security rules and guidelines.

HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) Red Flags Rule
The HIPAA Red Flags Rule is aimed at financial institutions and creditors that process and accept third-party payments or insurance or allow or provide payment plans to patients. Adherence and compliance to the HIPAA red flags rule can be achieved through a four step process, as is outlined below.
                                                                                                                                                                    Identify Red Flags of Identity Theft
The first step is to identify and mark out scenarios of potential identity theft that occur in normal business. With this objective, the Red Flag Rule ensures protection of identity theft by requiring healthcare providers to create, detect and follow prevention and management policies pertaining to this. As per this rule, all the billing and payment practices followed by healthcare providers must be reviewed and should surpass the Red Flags Rule. It should also be confirmed if the activities of the organization falls under the two main categories of the rule - ‘creditor’ and ‘covered account’.

Detect Red Flags in Routine Business
Doctors and physicians are advised to examine and thoroughly check atleast three documents that are available on the HIPAA site, (namely [1] identity theft red flags, [2] address discrepancies under the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003, and [3] fighting fraud with the red flags rule). These documents help in determining their responsibilities in compliance with the red flag rules.

Mitigate and Limit the Damage
On spotting these red flags, it is important to prevent subsequent theft of the information pertaining to patient’s identity, as well as mitigate any further damage. Proper checks and measures should be instituted (including having standard operating procedures, relevant escalation points and effective alternative strategies) to guard against operational and reputation risks.

Raise Awareness in Staff
Finally, staff should be up-to-date with the changing dynamics and risks of identity theft. Training and awareness programmes should therefore be regularly conducted, so as to ensure that all members are updated and informed about the Red Flags rule, and how to handle such situations.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Health effects of Natural Gas leakage

Natural gas is a fossil fuel (formed when layers of buried plants and animals were exposed to pressure and heat for thousands of years) and is primarily composed of methane. Methane is a highly flammable compound. In its purest form, natural gas is colorless and odorless. Although, gas companies add a tinge of warning smell to it that helps in detecting any gas leakage. It is extensively used as fuel in vehicles and for various commercial, residential and industrial purposes. Exposure to natural gas through gas leaks can be quite dangerous, may lead to explosions, pose health risks and can even be fatal. These small gas leaks accumulate over a period of time and add significant amount of pollutants that stresses the immune system and other body functions. Gas leaks can cause serious harm to plants, thus affecting the environmental ecosystem.

Health problems related to natural gas leak
The major health effect of natural gas leakage (or exposure to methane) is asphyxiation. It is a serious health condition where the body is not able to get sufficient oxygen supply, which may lead to loss of consciousness, brain damage, and death. People with high chemical sensitivity are more susceptible to this disease.

Combustion (or burning) of natural gas releases large amounts of water vapor, giving way to growth of moulds, mites, viruses and bacteria, and helps these particulates and volatile organic compounds to pass through the respiratory system deep into the lungs and body. Also, natural gas is lighter than air and therefore rises up, concentrating nearer to the head. Associated narcotic symptoms like pneumonia, nausea, vomiting, irregular breathing, memory loss, fatigue, sinus and headache are also reported because of exposure to natural gas leak in lower concentrations. Some other side effects include flatulence, diarrhea, constipation, depression, itching in genitals and pain in hands and legs.

Methanethiol (methyl mercaptan) or Ethanethiol (ethyl mercapton) is the odorant that is intentionally added by gas companies to the natural gas to detect its leakage. When inhaled in sufficient amounts, ethanethiol causes physiological effects such as dizziness, headache, vomiting, shivering, fever and unconciousness.

Natural gas may also contain contaminants like PCBs, benzene, toluene and radon (Radon is present in natural gas in its original state). Benzene and toluene are present in the gas we inhale during gas leaks and pose serious health threats. PCBs, benzene and radon are carcinogenic (cancer-causing) while toluene may cause reproductive harm. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Health effects of Incinerators

An incinerator is a device or unit that is made up of heavy, well protected materials that prevent extreme amounts of heat to escape into the external environment. The heat trapped within the furnace helps efficient and effective burning of the trash. The main purpose of an incinerator is to reduce all kinds of waste deposits into ash, flu gases, particulates and heat (this heat is used to produce electricity). These emissions contain pollutants and therefore should be regulated before passing into the atmosphere. However, incineration in some countries does not include cleaning of emissions to remove hazardous substances before combustion. These inadequate gas cleaning and combustion process control practices pose health threat to the plant workers and the local public as well as the surrounding environment.

Health effects of Incinerators

Emissions that are a result of waste treatment by incinerators include persistent, toxic and bio-accumulative substances such as particulate matters, dioxins and heavy metals (like lead, arsenic and cadmium)

Particulate matter (PM)
Particulate matter is a complex mixture of both inorganic and organic particulates trapped in the air. They may be present in solid, liquid or both forms and is the primary disease- causing incinerator emission. PM is associated with high rates of lung cancer incidences as well as increase in the mortality rate (especially related to heart diseases). These fine particulates carry other toxins that are adsorbed to them and enter the respiratory tract. Increase in the concentrations of PM increases the emergency visits to the hospital. Also, particulates pose severe risk of respiratory death in infants under the age of one year. It hampers the development of lung function, aggravates asthma and causes bronchitis in children.

Air pollutants such as dioxins that come out from the incinerator are very persistent and settle on the vegetation, soil and oceans surrounding the furnace and thereby enter the food chain. The food might travel not only to the local markets but may also disperse over greater distances. Thus, both the nearby as well as the distant populations get affected by these pollutants. Short term exposure of humans to high levels of dioxin lead to respiratory problems whereas long term exposure results in impairment of the immune system, nervous system, reproductive functions and endocrine system.

Heavy metals
Incineration emits some heavy metals that cause a range of serious harmful health effects. Over a period of time, these heavy toxins accumulate in the body of humans. Childhood problems such as autism, allergies, dyslexia, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), impulsive behavior, lowered IQ levels as well as learning problems are found in children exposed to heavy metal emissions. In adults, dementia, violent attitude and depression are found. Heavy metals such as nickel, cadmium, beryllium and chromium increase the risk of lung cancer.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Effects of Potassium Chloride on Skin Health

Potassium Chloride (KCl) is a metal-halide salt containing both potassium and chlorine. Like all other salts, it is crystalline in nature. When in its pure state, potassium chloride is colorless (or white) and odorless. Potassium chloride is sometimes also referred to as “muriate (hydrochloride) of potash”, especially when used as a fertilizer. It is naturally present in minerals, sylvites and carnallites. It can also be extracted from salt water. Majority of potassium chloride is used in manufacturing fertilizers, as well as in scientific applications (formation of chemicals), medicines, food processing and as a substitute for table salt (sodium chloride).
Health effects of Potassium Chloride when exposed to skin
Potassium chloride is medically used for curing hypokalemia (a condition of low potassium concentration in the blood) and other associated symptoms. Gastrointestinal disturbances and cardiac arrest are some serious side effects of potassium chloride.
According to Schüssler (Book: “The Twelve Tissue Remedies of Schussler”), potash is chemically related to fibrin. New brain cells are formed in the presence of potassium chloride. This chemical compound is present in many parts of the body including muscles, blood cells, nervous system as well as intercellular fluids.
However, an overdose of the compound can be fatal and this property has led to its usage in lethal injections, including termination of pregnancy (abortion).
Although, potassium chloride is used in many vital functions of the body, if in excess, it can be dangerous and may even lead to death. When the salt comes in contact with skin, especially wet or moist skin, it can produce rashes, itching or hives (hives are raised, itchy, red blisters on the surface of the skin), swelling of the mouth, face and lips , as well as a whitish-grey coating at the base of the tongue.
If the epidermal cells release potassium chloride molecules as a result of skin irritation, fibrin is thrown out as white exudations that convert into dried, scaly eruptions. In case of severe skin rash, if the irritation extends to the tissues underneath the epidermis, both the serum and fibrin are affected, and the skin involved will also exude out as blisters. Affected tissues can again be restored by proper administration of potassium chloride.
Safety Measures
Potassium chloride, when it comes in direct contact with the skin, causes flour-like scaling of the skin and swelling. First-aid measures include removing of any susceptive contaminated clothing and washing and cleaning of affected skin with water and soap for at least fifteen minutes. If the symptoms still persist or the irritation develops further, immediate medical attention is advised.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Grades & Properties of Steel

Different grades of steel have been developed and classified over years, based on their chemical composition and physical properties by a number of standard development organizations such as SAE steel grades, British standards, International Organization for Standardization, German steel grades, Japan steel grades and UNS. The chemical composition of steel is a key characteristic as it determines the corrosion-resisting ability of the alloy, its physical and chemical properties as well as the microstructural balance. Steel is gaining popularity because of its versatility and it can completely be recycled. It is used in the manufacturing of various appliances and products ranging from medicine to buildings to cookware.
Grading and properties of steel
There are various ways in which grading of steel is done – based on their physical and chemical properties, on the carbon content present or on the classification system used.
Grading by mechanical properties
In general, steel grading falls into categorizations based on their mechanical properties and corrosion resistance, as described below-
  • Chemical Composition of steel, such as carbon type, low alloy type and stainless steel type
  • Manufacturing Methods - including open hearth, electric furnace or basic oxygen process
  • Finishing process (hot rolled or cold rolled products)
  • Shape of the product - bar, sheet or strip
  • Deoxidation process
  • Microstructural phase - which may include different steel grades such as ferritic (contains 30% chromium with a crystal structure called ferritic), austenitic (consists of 0.15% carbon and 16% chromium), duplex (mix of austenite and ferrite) and martensitic (mixture of 1% carbon and 18% chromium)
  • Heat treatment such as annealing, quenching and tempering
The most widely used grades of steel are ferritic Types 409 and 430 and the austentic Types 304 and 316.
Grading by percentage of carbon
Strength of the steel that is determined by the percentage of carbon present, as it decides the hardness of steel. Therefore, the higher the percentage of carbon content, the harder the steel and lower its ductility.
Steel grades are divided into three main categories based on their carbon content - low carbon steel grades, middle carbon steel grades and high carbon steel grades.
Grading type by organization
Sometimes, steel grading can vary according to different grading organizations. According to European standards of classification, steel grades are divided into following categories-
  • Alloy steel grades
  • Non-alloy steel grades
  • Stainless steel grades
  • Tool steel grades
  • Steel grades for sheet and strip and
  • Steel grades for electric sheet and strip
Appropriate steel grade can be selected by closely evaluating its corrosion resisting ability in the given environment and also by monitoring its mechanical properties.

Monday, December 9, 2013


Geophysics- physics of Earth- is the study of Earth processes by quantitative integration of its physical properties. Geophysicists use this geophysical data in academics to observe various tectonic plate motions and internal structure of the Earth through a combination of experiments, remote imaging direct observation and computational and theoretical modeling. The theories and techniques involved in geophysics are also used extensively in the field of planetary sciences.

Geophysics is a relatively young science. The term geophysics was used for the first time by Frobel as “geophysik” (1834) in Germany. It evolved into a distinct branch only in the 19th century where it appeared in scientific writings. Discoveries like cosmic rays, the core and mantle of Earth and seafloor spreading in the 20th century illustrated the maturation and evolution of geophysical sciences.

Geodesy- is the science concerned with the measurement of size, shape and gravitational field of Earth. This information is used in numerous applications such as civil engineering and navigation.
Seismology- Geophysics is applied in the study of core of the Earth by analyzing seismic waves (elastic waves). Irregularities in the Earth’s core can easily be mapped with the help of supercomputers. Shallow seismology is also used for environmental characterization of the subsurface.
Geomagnetism- Is the study of the Earth’s magnetic field. It is also associated with paleomagnetism (measurement of orientation of magnetic field of the Earth over the geological past).
Mathematical Geophysics- is the use of mathematical methods and techniques for finding solution to geophysical problems.
Geophysical surveying- includes archeological geophysics, exploration and engineering geophysics.

Related disciplines
Global Geophysics- Includes the study of earthquakes and volcanoes (volcanology), Earth’s magnetic field, oceanography, glaciology and hydrology (study of water on earth) and atmospheric sciences.
Geological and Geophysical engineering- Includes application of geophysics to engineering designs such as construction of highways, bridges and dams as well as archeological artifacts and unexplored ordinances.
Exploration Geophysics- Includes the study of rocks, minerals and natural resources with the help of shallow seismology (petrophysics and mineralogy).

 Generally, a geophysicist works in collaboration with geologists or engineers. Their primary responsibility is to study, explore or construct the environment. For this, geophysicists use various instruments for qualitative analysis of physical properties such as density, radioactivity and magnetic and electric fields. They also find natural resources like oil, natural gas reservoirs and precious metals (gold and silver). Career avenues in geophysics include seismology, climatology, mining geophysics, marine geophysics and petroleum geophysics.

Benefits of Geophysics
The work of a Geophysicist involves numerous equipments and methods that are non-invasive and non-damaging to the environment. Their instruments aid them to study past the surface of the area without destroying or affecting the environment. However, some drilling is required during the process of sampling and exploration.

Keywords- Geophysics, geophysicist, Earth, science


Friday, December 6, 2013

Garnishment Laws in Virginia

Garnishment, in legal terms, refers to the attachment of a part of an individual’s wages by her employer (under the court’s decree) for the purposes of making repayments to a creditor, on behalf of that individual. It is also sometimes referred to as wage garnishment. The practice of wage garnishment as a means of legal redress, for potentially delinquent or default cases, can be traced back to roman times. Apart from a bad loan, other instances that can make an individual eligible for garnishment is when she fails to pay federal or state fines, and for situations such as providing for child support.

Garnishment Laws in Virginia

While US has federal guidelines related to employment and wages (under the aegis of the United States Department of Labor) for wage garnishment, which are applicable in all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories and possessions. All companies have to necessarily honor any wage garnishment orders, which are typically issued by family courts, state agencies or IRS.

Further, Individual states may choose to change or adapt these laws to a certain extent, so as to make them more appropriate to their socio-economic context. If the state’s garnishment law stipulates a different amount from the federal law, then the law resulting in the smaller amount being garnished will prevail. The state of Virginia also has its own wages garnishment laws.

Garnishment law will stipulate a maximum amount that can be deducted from an employee’s salary; and it will also prevent the employer from discharging the employee if her wages are garnished. However, federal law does not rule out the option of discharging if the employee’s wage is garnished to two or three different creditors.

Any voluntary decisions (and without a court order) of the debtor to have deductions from her weekly wages, is however not construed as garnishment.

Specifically, the law stipulates that the maximum amount of an individual’s weekly earnings that can be attached towards garnishment should be less of 25% of earnings or the amount by which it exceeded thirty times the minimum wage.

For the purpose of wage calculation, disposable income should be considered instead of gross wage, i.e., the nett pay received by the employee after making all legal deductions, taxes, state unemployment insurance, or employee retirement related investments. However, if the employee is making any voluntary or charitable contributions, union dues, personal insurance premiums, savings or optional retirement plans, etc., then those will note be taken into considerations. Further, the law also stipulates the absolute maximum amount that can be garnished in a time-frame be limited. This is irrespective of any wage garnishment.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Transmission Electron Microscope (TEM)

Transmission electron microscopes are laboratory equipments that facilitate observation of objects that are otherwise too small to be viewed by a normal microscope (as well as the naked eye) -- of the order of 2.5Å (Å, or angstrom, is one ten-billionth of a meter). These microscopes operate on the same basic concept as a light microscope with the only difference being that they use an electron beam instead of light.

How does a Transmission electron Microscope work?

When an electron beam is passed through a very thin slice of the specimen, it interacts with the atoms of the specimen. This results in the scattering of electrons (technically referred to as diffraction of the electron wave) – since electrons have both particle and wave nature, when the electron beam hits the specimen, some electrons are not only get reflected or change their trajectory, but the resulting wave of the electron beam is also altered. This can be mapped as an image using magnification and focusing techniques and observed on a fluorescent screen. The only limitation of this technique is the need for extremely thin observation samples that can aid the required electron transmission.

Functions of a Transmission Electron Microscope

Studying of Material Microstructure

Transmission electron microscopes are used to study the fine structural characteristics that can only be observed at large magnification levels and therefore need a high resolution capability. Morphology information of materials, their microstructure as well as their crystal structure can be studied using this technique, since they facilitate in characterizing the microstructure of materials, since they have a high spatial resolution (it is the number of pixel points per unit length that can be independently observed under magnification – it is a property of the material composition and structure and not the imaging instrument).

Fractural Analysis of Materials

Transmission electron microscope can also help scientists, geologists, forensic experts and civil engineers in structural analysis of fractures that can occur in various materials (such as rock, steel or concrete), by helping observe their fine structure. The mechanical properties of such materials such as ductility, brittleness, inter-granularity, and fatigue induced fractures can be studied by imaging the micro-fractographic patterns (patterns formed in the material’s microstructure as a result of fracture) of such materials.

Viral Diagnosis

A transmission electron microscope is also used in the medical profession to classify viruses according to their genome structure, morphological features and protein composition. Viruses cannot be seen with normal microscopes, as a result of which diagnosis is extremely difficult (because of lack of appropriate pathology or tests). TEM is however a useful instrument for observing them, given their high resolution capability. TEM has therefore become an extremely useful medical tool for studying infected lesions, biopsies, and excreta and has proved to be effective in providing quick ante-mortem and post-mortem diagnoses.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Flood prevention methods

Flood can be defined as an overflow of a water-body (such as a river, lake or sea), which may result in the submersion of the nearby low land. This can happen because of a variety of reasons, such as heavy rainfall, melting snow, tsunamis, as well as structural failure of water containing and controlling bodies (such as dams, levees, canals or artificial lakes). A flood can cause human and livestock casualties; destroy crops and forest cover; as well as damage private property & civic infrastructure, besides having an indirect impact due to contamination of drinking water, epidemics and food scarcity – all of which can stall economic growth.

Flood Prevention Methods

As a result of the huge impact that floods can have, situations that could potentially lead to such a natural disaster should be carefully monitored and controlled, while also instituting disaster management measures and taking appropriate mitigation measures, so as to limit the damage. Therefore, all the requisite checks and measures that can aid in flood monitoring and warning, as well as prevention in certain cases, are of utmost importance.

Structural Measures to Prevent Floods

A civil structure that acts as barricades to the overflowing water is an important flood prevention mechanism. This can be achieved by having levees and dams across water-bodies.

Flood forecasting and warning can also play a crucial role in ensuring timely action to prevent flood, or limiting the impact of such floods if they do occur. Typical forecasting measures will include actively monitoring the water-level, or closely observing metrological patterns so as to predict unusual weather conditions that can potentially cause floods.

Adaptation of Flood Prone Areas

Since floods are a reality of nature that cannot always be done away with, people need to also adapt to living with such natural hazards, while becoming sensitive to the fact that unscrupulous development (resulting in depletion of forest cover, encroachment of banks and river-sides) severely increases the likelihood of the occurrence of such events.

Other problems related to flooding (such as disruption of the sewage network, landslides, erosion, pollution, widespread epidemics and stalling of all forms of transport) also require proactive measures, if the impact is to be minimized. Therefore, any flood management initiative needs to focus on preventing such occurrences where possible, while ensuring that alternatives are made easily available otherwise.

Concerted Human Action

Human population also needs to take more affirmative action, when it comes to preparing for natural disasters such as floods. Any flood prevention strategy should be targeted at the whole river basin or catchment area, and encourage a collaborative action plan (even trans-national measures, where required) to better manage water, land and other resources that can get affected by floods. A coordinated action over the long term and on a sustained basis is more likely to result in the best defense mechanism against such natural disasters.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Federal Grants for Women

A grant is a financial assistance from any federal agency of USA, given to a beneficiary (individual or organization) for the purpose of supporting or stimulating a specific activity of the recipient, which will benefit the community or help in the upliftment of the entity receiving this grant. As a distinction, grants by private not-for-profit organizations or foundations are referred to as charities.
Federal grants for women
There are 26 federal agencies in USA and they offer grants in various categories. Grants could be unrestrictive or may specify a purpose, a sectoral theme or a recipient profile. A further point to note is that the eligibility criterion for many of these grants does not necessarily require American citizenship (for individuals) or incorporation (for organizations), but entities from around the world can be potential beneficiaries as long as they satisfy the objective criteria for which the grant is being given.
Of the over 1,000 available federal grants, many specifically target women, and are aimed at helping women with specific needs or those belonging to certain geographies. Some of these federal grants are briefly discussed below.
Office of Public Health and Science gives a maximum of four awards, with a minimum $300,000 grant amount, for initiating pilot programs that develop cross-generational HIV/AIDS education approaches to women at risk or those who are living in HIV/AIDS affected families.
The U.S. Agency for International Development has a $300,000-$500,000 grant, for supporting creative and timely responses that aim to reduce or condone certain traditional practices promoting gender-based violence. These grants are available for Africa, Asia and the Near East.
The Employment and Training Administration has three grants for community-based organizations, with the objective of assisting them in implementing innovative projects focussed on enhancing the learning and development of women apprentices in the construction industry (through improved recruitment, selection, training, employment and retention processes). The maximum grant amount available is $300,000.
Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs has grants aimed at addressing women's economic empowerment, fostering their political participation or helping resist violence against them. A minimum of three such awards are available, with each grant for a maximum amount of $ 150,000.
Small Business Administration gives a maximum $150,000 funding for the purpose of starting new, community-based women's business centers that provide business skills training, technical assistance and support to small businesses of women entrepreneurs. This funding specifically focuses on socially or economically disadvantaged women and 80 such awards are available.
Administration on Aging has one grant of $240,000 that is awarded to any comprehensive program that aims to assist women in their retirement planning.
National Institutes of Health gives a $200,000 award for research focussed on women's mental health and gender differences therein.
Office of Public Health and Science has four $100,000 grants for programmes targeting women living in Puerto Rico or the Vrigin Islands, and affected by HIV/AIDS.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Factors affecting the conductivity of water

Electrical conductivity is the property of water to conduct electricity from an area of high electric field to an area of low electric field, with the help of dissolved ions that act as conductors. An ion is an atom that is freed from an element and carries either a positive charge or a negative charge. Although metals are far more effective conductors, water also has the ability to conduct electricity. There are several factors that affect the electrical conductivity of water, such as TDS (Total Dissolved Solids, or concentration of salts in water), mineral purity and temperature of water.

Factors that affect the conductivity of water

Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) / Salinity

Salt water conducts electricity much effectively and more readily than pure water. Since dissolved ions enhance salinity as well as increase conductivity, it is routinely used to calculate electrical conductivity. Salts ions that usually cause salinity are sulphates, carbonates, chlorides, potassium, sodium, calcium and magnesium. Electrical conductivity will change with the kind of water source – groundwater, runoff water, water drained from agricultural fields and rainfall. Therefore, sub-factors such as geology, soil, land use and flow of water (conductivity increases as water flow decreases) also affect the salinity of water, thus influencing electrical conductivity.

Mineral purity

The electrical conductivity of pure water is low, but it can be greatly increased by soluble impurities that will ionize in water (such as common salt). Pure water consists of one oxygen and two hydrogen atoms. The oxygen atoms share covalent bonding (with their outermost electron shells) with the two hydrogen atoms, completing their octet of outermost shell. Therefore, one oxygen atom can bond covalently with two dihydrogen molecules (two bonded hydrogen molecules). Electricity travels easily and readily through materials having atoms that form an ionic bond. Oxygen atoms in the water molecule pull the electrons strongly, thereby developing a negative charge. The dihydrogen forms a positive charge, thus resulting into negligible transfer of electric flow. If minerals as impurities are added in water, the ionic bonds conduct electricity and the electrolytic conductivity of water increases.


Electrical conductivity in water invariably increases with an increase in temperature, as opposed to metals. Warm water is less viscous and has greater electronic movement, thus allowing free flow of electric current. It is generally expressed as a relative change per degree Celsius, at a particular temperature. Small variation or difference in temperature reports a marked difference in conductivity and therefore, readings are normally referenced to 25C. Generally, conductivity increases by about 2% for every degree rise in temperature (range being 1 to 3 %).