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.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Phosphorus Crisis: A geo-strategic ticking time bomb

Phosphate mining
World is now facing the dread prospect of ‘peak phosphorus’ (the point at which the production capacity will peak before phosphate reserves gradually run out), just as we are warned of peak oil, peak coal, or peak uranium. Although, it is true that energy reserves (oil, coal, uranium) are depleting, they are not life-binding. Phosphorous, on the other hand, is crucial and elementary to all life on earth, without which human beings, animals and plants cannot survive. It is a vital nutrient element in the vigorous growth of plants, other than nitrogen and potassium. Nitrogen is readily available in the air that we breathe while there are surplus reserves of potassium to last for centuries. However, it is estimated that global supplies of phosphorus may start to run out by the end of this century. With the depleting resources, phosphorus prices will swing, thus raising additional supply concerns. Still, there are plenty of phosphate rocks available, but we must act now to conserve it, or it will be too late to revive our future agriculture.
Importance
Science fiction author and biochemist Isaac asimov once wrote, “Life can multiply until all the phosphorus is gone, and then there is an inexorable halt which nothing can prevent”. Human body requires a minimum consumption of 0.7 gms per day with their food to stay healthy. Phosphorus plays a key role in cell structuring and bone and teeth strength. Nerve cells, muscles and DNA molecules- all are dependent on the phosphate mineral. Also, in plants, it helps in enhancing leaf growth, yield, disease resistance, and overall health. In short, phosphorus is the building block of life.
Phosphorus Concentrated Resources
In fertilizers, phosphorus is the main ingredient in conjunction with nitrogen and potassium.  Phosphorus reserves are concentrated geographically. Morocco (main exporter, also known as, the Saudi Arabia of phosphorus), China, South Africa and U.S. are the four countries that control 80% of the world’s usable phosphate reserves and contribute approximately 2/3rd of the annual phosphorus production. This amount can suffice for about 30 years of global demand. Trade-wise, increasing dependency on these countries will only make things worse, resulting in wild swings in tariff and market disruptions
The Phosphorus Chain
Phosphorous is naturally present as phosphate ion in phosphorus rocks. It is an irreplaceable ingredient of life. Weathering releases it into the soil from where it is absorbed by plants. Phosphorus, then, enters the food chain and makes its way through every living being. An average human body contains 650 gms of phosphorus.
Phosphorous is reused approximately 800 times by marine organisms (after reaching water bodies through weathering and runoff) before sedimentation. After millions of years of tectonic uplift, it gets back to dry land.
Agricultural Blunders
Harvesting breaks the natural cycle as it removes phosphorus from the soil. In ancient farming, human and animal compost was used as fertilizers which were rich in phosphorus, in turn, replenishing the soil with phosphorus. Modern day fertilizers limit our ability to return the favor.
On the other hand, farming also promotes land erosion because of continuous tilling and crop terracing. This further worsens the situation, leaving the soil deprived of its vital nutrient.
The Lethal Side of Phosphorus
Huge toxic blue-green algae feeding
on phosphorus
Eutrophication (an influx of nutrients, often a byproduct of agricultural run-off and sewage discharge) from eroded soil and human and animal compost end up in lakes and oceans, where it promotes uncontrolled cynobacterial (or blue-green algae) and algal growth. After they die, the fossils get collected at the bottom and consume all the oxygen present, thus choking aquatic life. This results in death of fisheries creating “dead zones”. U.S. waters have the largest dead zones off the Mississippi delta.
 Solutions
There are ways to restoring balance to the phosphorus cycle.
·         Integrate Farming: Recycling of human and animal byproducts as fertilizers can be a good start to refurbishing phosphorus back into the cycle.
·         Seeking new sources: Mining companies should start finding other reserves and research new ways to extract the mineral.
·         Sewage sludge: Sewage sludge is a rich source of phosphorus and can be processed for making fertilizers.
·         Reduce Erosion: No-tilling and plowing practices helps to lower soil erosion, leaving more phosphorus available for the next harvest.
·         Innovative ways: Urine is an excellent source of phosphorus. Sweden has taken initiatives to use this source by making special urine-diverting toilets. These function by sending urine to storage tanks for phosphorous recovery.
However, nature also has a back-up plan for the depleting vital nutrient. Biologist Mohamed Hijri brings to light a microscopic mushroom (arbuscular micorrhizal fungi), which is present in soil and helps in making phosphorus readily available to plant roots by forming a symbiotic relationship.












More to Explore-
Cordell, Dana. “Urine diversion and reuse in Australia: A homeless paradigm or sustainable solution for the future?” Masters Thesis Link√∂ping University, Sweden, 2006.

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Crop production levels and fertilizer use Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome: 1981.

Foster, John and Magdoff, Fred. “Liebig, Marx, and the depletion of soil fertility: relevance for today's agriculture - German chemist Justus von Liebig; Karl Marx” Monthly Review 1998.

Vaccari, David A. “Phosphorus Famine: The Threat to Our Food Supply”Scientific American (2009).

Phosphate Rock Statistics and Information. Available at http://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/commodity/phosphate_rock/mcs-2013-phosp.pdf




Sunday, February 23, 2014

Solid Waste Disposal in South Carolina

The state of South Carolina is in the south-east region of the USA, bordering North Carolina and Georgia as well as having Atlantic Ocean to its east, with its capital being Columbia.  

The Solid Waste Reduction and Recycling office of South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) has the responsibility of managing the state’s solid waste.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Photosynthesis- Earth's Life Support System

Photosynthesis is a biological reaction that utilizes energy of the sunlight and converts it into high energy electrons. These electrons are consumed in the two reaction phases that finally generate sugar (chemical energy) with the help of chlorophyll (a green pigment) present in leaves. 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

A Sweet Killer: Is Fructose in processed foods secretly plotting your demise?


Processed food, also known as Convenience food is the most talked about topic amongst health experts. It is commercially prepared food for our convenience. Ready-to eat frozen foods, soft drinks, fruit juices, sports drinks, packaged foods, breads and cheese spreads are a few examples of how such foods have become part of our day-to-day life. However, processed foods are active culprits for causing obesity, diabetes, kidney failure, fatty liver and high blood pressure. Determining the composition of processed foods helps to get a better understanding of its harmful long-term effects on health and why they are best avoided (or consume with caution).

Artificial Sweeteners in Processed Foods

Processed foods are highly laden with sugars in all its myriad of forms ( including high-fructose corn syrup, honey, maple syrup, etc). However, fructose is the deadliest form of sugar in comparison to glucose and sucrose.

Why is Fructose Harmful?

Fructose is a simple sugar that is readily available in diets, in the form of free monosaccharide (hexose), as a disaccharide ( sucrose) and as a polysaccharide (fructan). Also, it is far more sweeter than glucose or sucrose. Fructose is widely used as a sweetener and for maintaining the stability and freezing point depression of many processed foods.

Fructose is naturally present in honey, fruits, table sugar and corn syrup. There is a massive increase in consumption of these sweeteners worldwide, which has dramatically increased the intake of fructose all the more. To further make it worse, processed food is devoid of the healthy fiber- content, thus bringing it down on the nutritive value.


In the early 1970’s, food manufacturers noticed that it was far cheaper to use corn syrup as a sweetener rather than sucrose. However, they did not realize that high fructose corn syrup( HFCS) is metabolically more risky than sucrose due to its chemical form. Unlike table sugar, fructose in corn syrup gets easily absorbed by liver because it is not bound together with glucose.

Effects of Fructose on Health

Studies in animals have shown that fructose can induce most features of the metabolic syndrome, including insulin resistance, elevated triglycerides, abdominal obesity, elevated blood pressure, inflammation, oxidative stress, endothelial dysfunction, kidney injury, and fatty liver.

Fructose and obesity
 HFCS is used extensively in many items including soft-drinks, lemonades, cookies, jam, jellies and baked goods worldwide. This high intake of HFCS has led to epidemic of obesity as well as its cardio-metabolic complications (decreased HDL, increased LDL, elevated triglycerides, elevated blood sugar and high blood pressure).

Fructose and liver
Experiments shows that continuous high intake of fructose results in increased lipid deposition in liver and muscles. Uric acid is produced when fructose is metabolized in liver, which in turn, utilizes nitric oxide. Nitric oxide plays a pivotal role in vascular function. Because of the decreased levels of nitric oxide, smooth muscle cells start contracting resulting in high blood pressure and potentially damaging the kidneys.

Fructose and cancer
Pancreatic tumor cells, if fed by both glucose and fructose consume more fructose to proliferate and divide (Cancer Research, 2010). Increased use of high-fructose corn syrup (through various processed foods) for a long time-span enhances susceptibility towards cancer.

Fructose and type 2 diabetes
Diets rich in fructose suppresses insulin stimulation which, in turn, excites the hunger hormone (ghrelin) and inhibits the satiety hormone (leptin). This leads to binge eating and insulin resistance, finally developing into diabetes.

Fructose and ethanol (alcohol)
Metabolism of fructose and ethanol is quite similar. The toxic effects of ethanol is multitude, including the non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Because of this similarity, fructose is often referred to as “alcohol without the buzz”

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Cellular Respiration in Plants

Cellular respiration, also referred to as oxidative metabolism, is a set of important metabolic reactions in which biochemical energy, derived from nutrients, is converted into useful energy (exergonic reaction), thereby releasing waste products. The energy is released in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). This energy is then utilized for driving other processes including photosynthesis and transportation of molecules across cell membranes. Cellular respiration is also a catabolic reaction, in the sense that it facilitates the oxidation of one molecule while reducing the other. There are four primary stages of cellular respiration in plants: glycolysis, transition reaction, Krebs cycle, and electron transport chain (ETC).


Glycolysis in plants
 Glycolysis

ATP
Glycolysis is the first stage of cellular respiration in plants and takes place in the cytosol of the cell. It involves breakdown of glucose molecules (derived from carbohydrate) into molecules of pyruvate which continue to the Kreb’s cycle. Glycolysis can proceed even in the absence of oxygen. During the process, there is a net gain of 2 ATP molecules as well as 2 water molecules and 2 NADH molecules are also released as the end product.


Transition Reaction

Transition reaction, also referred to as pyruvate decarboxylation is an important intermediary step in the process of cellular respiration as it forms a connecting link between the metabolic pathways of glycolysis and Kreb’s cycle. In this phase, pyruvate from glycolysis gets decarboxylated and reacts with Coenzyme A to form Acetyl CoA.
Pyruvate decarboxylation in Plants




Kreb's cycle


Kreb's Cycle

It is also known as Citric acid cycle or the tricarboxylic acid cycle. Kreb’s cycle is a series of 8 steps which oxidize Acetyl CoA to CO2 while NAD gets reduced to NADH (it is further used in the ETC to liberate ATP). This cycle takes place in the mitochondrial matrix in the presence of oxygen. For complete oxidation of one glucose molecule, 2 molecules of acetyl coA should enter the Kreb’s cycle to release 4 CO2, 6 NADH, 2 ATP and 2 FADH2 molecules (another type of energy-rich molecules).



ETC in Plants
Electron Transport Chain (ETC)

ETC or oxidative phosphorylation is the last stage of cellular respiration in plants. Most of the energy is released by the electron transport chain (remaining 32-34 ATP molecules). ETC takes place in the inner membrane of mitochondria and comprises of a chain of electron-carrying proteins. Electrons are thus transferred from one protein to the other, until they reach the final electron acceptor, oxygen. Protons are also added to oxygen leading to the formation of water, but no ATP. ATP is produced by a proton motive force which is a source of stored potential energy. This potential energy (chemiosmotic potential) is generated as a result of gradient that is formed when the protons (hydrogen) move across the biological membrane. Therefore, ETC triggers a gradient that helps in the formation of ATP (this process is known as chemiosmosis).





Monday, February 10, 2014

Is Diatomaceous Earth Dangerous?


Diatomaceous Earth (also called fossil shell flour or diatomite, after the biological genesis of this material and also has the German name of kieselgur, meaning a flint from the water sediment) is a material found in sedimentary rocks. It occurs naturally in sea-beds (Saltwater DE) or dried floors of lakes and rivers (Freshwater DE), and is a soft material rich in silica that easily crumbles into a powdery form. Diatomite primarily comprises of the fossils of hard-shelled algae or one-celled plants (phytoplankton) and has multiple industrial and household uses.

Properties of Diatomaceous Earth

The chemical name of Diatomaceous Earth is ‘Diatomaceous silica’ and its chemical formula is SiO2.nH2O.  SiO2 is 86.30% by weight, while other compounds present as Al2O3 (4.50%), Fe2O3 (1.57%) and CaO (1.43%).
Its dry density is in the range of 9.0 and 13.0 pounds per cubic feet, is typically off-white in color, and a pH value between 7 to 10. Particle size of diatomite is generally finer than 45 microns, and can be as low as microns.

Uses of Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous Earth has many applications. Absorbing nitroglycerine in diatomite makes it more stable, and this mixture is very commonly known as dynamite. Since it has high porosity and contains microscopically small hollow particles, it is very commonly used as a filtering medium in swimming pools, water treatment plants and fish tanks. Further, this fine powder structure can absorb lipids from the waxy outer layer of insects and is therefore also used as a pesticide and in agriculture.  Diatomite is also a commonly used abrasive, and given its low conductivity, as an insulator as well.

Is Diatomaceous Earth Dangerous?

Diatomaceous Earth has high absorbing property and can dry out hands and skin, because of which it should not be handled without gloves or appropriate cover for protection.
Certain varieties of diatomite (particularly the flux-calcined form) have higher concentrations of sharp-edged crystalline silica, which can result in severe respiratory problems and silicosis, and even cancer of the lungs, if a person gets exposed to it without wearing a dust mask. As a result, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration Department of the United States (OSHA) even regulates the level of crystalline silica that can be present in the dust particulate.
Even with small exposure, it can result in the irritation of the eye and skin.
Certain algae found in the coastal waters, and which constitute the diatomite, have resulted in severe pollution, and a few species also known to produce domoic acid (which is a nerve poison that can quickly causes death to many fauna, if ingested).





Neonatal Seizures

Neonatal seizures, also known as neonatal convulsions, is the most prominent (and the most horrific) neurological dysfunction in the neonatal period (first 28 days of life in a full term baby). The susceptibility of developing neonatal seizures is quite high during this period, particularly within the first week from birth. One of the predominant reason of these seizures at such an early age is the still- developing brain that enhances excitation and curbs inhibition.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Hydrogen as a Fuel





Hydrogen combines with oxygen to produce water, and releases a n immense amount of energy in this process. Therefore, it is now being considered as an alternative source of fuel. It is also arguably considered a clean source of energy, as its combustion does not produce any green-house gas or hazardous material.

Use of Hydrogen Fuel Cells to produce electricity


Fuel cells (or batteries) are used to generate electricity from hydrogen. While smaller batteries are used for running electric cars, larger cells find application in electrification of remote areas with no power lines. Although having high electric generation efficiencies, these cells are however quite expensive and as a result are not viable for large setups such as power plants. Still, they are used in emergency or critical situations such as hospitals. Additionally, smaller portable hydrogen fuel cells are also used in laptops, mobile devices and military applications.




Hydrogen as fuel for Vehicles

Hydrogen as a fuel for driving vehicles is becoming popular. In US alone, there are 200 to 300 different variants of hydrogen powered automobiles, although hybrid variants (which can switch between using hydrogen and fossil fuel as a source of energy) are more practical to use currently. Very few of the hydrogen powered vehicles however directly use hydrogen as a fuel but are instead powered by electric motors and need to store hydrogen and subsequently convert it into electricity. 




Scarcity of Hydrogen Re-fuelling Stations

Hydrogen powered vehicles also pose a re-fuelling challenge, as only a limited number of them are presently operational. It is a peculiar problem to have, as fewer stations means lesser vehicles running on hydrogen fuel given their unpopularity, which in turn makes such stations even more unviable to operate financially. This therefore is a key issue that needs to be addressed.




Viability of Hydrogen as a green fuel

Even though using hydrogen as an alternative fuel appears to be environmentally friendly on first look (as burning it produces no pollutants and green house-gases), a closer analysis of the hydrogen fuel lifecycle suggests otherwise. Since hydrogen does not occur naturally, it has to be extracted from electrolysis of water or oxidising methane, which are respectively high energy consuming processes or produce high amounts of carbon-di-oxide. Further, conservation of energy principle tells us that subsequent use of hydrogen fuel can only produce as much energy as has been used in its production. Further, since hydrogen gas has low density, large energy is also wasted in liquefying it. Therefore, in totality, it is not a green a source of energy presently. 


However, since hydrogen burns to produce water that in turn is used to produce hydrogen, there are theoretical possibilities that with better designed closed-loop efficient systems in the near future, viability of using of hydrogen as fuel can be greatly enhanced. Further, innovative ways of hydrogen storage (such as reacting it with xenon to produce a solid) are also being devised.







Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Apoptosis and acute renal failure



Acute Renal Failure (ARF), now referred to as acute kidney injury (AKI) is defined as the abrupt and rapid breakdown of renal filtration function. It primarily occurs when waste products and minerals of the urine start accumulating in the blood. ARF is usually marked by an increase in the serum creatinine concentration. If untreated, effects can be drastic, resulting in permanent kidney damage, seizures, coma or even death. Apoptosis or programmed cell death (cell suicide), is a process in which cell death occurs in response to a variety of stimulus in a controlled regulated manner.

Acute Renal Failure

Acute renal failure is the sudden loss in renal filtration resulting in accumulation of uremic toxins in the blood. This condition develops when the kidneys are not able to filter (or excrete) balanced amounts of nitrogenous wastes in the urine. Characteristic symptoms of ARF are vomiting, anorexia, nausea and edema. Diagnosis is made on the renal function tests including serum creatinine. Treatment of the disease is mainly focused on the cause of the condition and may also include management of fluid and electrolyte as well as dialysis (in severe conditions).
Several disorders develop in the course of the disease. In approximately all cases, levels of urea and creatinine in the blood increase, resulting in disorders related to fluid and electrolyte imbalance. Serious disorders that develop along with acute renal failure include hyperkalemia and pulmonary edema.

Apoptosis

Apoptosis is a part of any normal process of growth and development in multi-celled organisms. Also known as cell suicide, apoptosis includes controlled cell death triggered by a variety of stimulus. This differentiates apoptosis from another type of cell death called necrosis (in which cell death is not regulated, leading to other potentially serious health problems). The stimulus can be in the form of signals ordering the cells to undergo apoptosis or intrinsic signals that are a result of cellular stress (due to radiation or chemical exposure or viral infection). Retarded growth or oxidative stress can also trigger cellular stress. Also, intrinsic signals that cause apoptosis normally involve mitochondria.

Apoptosis in Acute Renal Failure

The renal tubular cells already injured as a result of ischemic and toxic acute renal failure, die by apoptosis. Apoptosis includes increased cell shrinkage along with breaking up and condensation of the nuclear chromatin. Fragmentation of the apoptotic cells leads to the formation of apoptotic bodies (plasma membrane-bound vesicles). These bodies are quickly phagocytosed by adjoining epithelial cells and macrophages.
Post-acute renal failure, apoptosis of the renal tubular cells adds to the tubular cell loss and dysfunction. Medical interventions that protect or enhance tubular cell apoptosis also play an active role in reducing renal dysfunction and promoting recovery after ARF.

Potential causes of Apoptosis in Acute renal failure

* Lack of Renal growth factors
* Tumor necrosis
* Oxidant stress injury
* Loss of cell-cell and cell- matrix interactions
* Ischemia, anoxia, hypoxia
* Lack of survival factors
* Cytotoxic factors



Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Medicinal Importance of Ficus exasperata

Ficus exasperata Tree
Ficus exasperata or Vahl belongs to the family Moraceae and is known by many local names such as sandpaper (leaf) tree or the white fig tree. The terrestrial arborescent shrub or tree is approximately 20 meters tall. It is one of the most useful plants of West Tropical Africa and is found in several other countries like Ethiopia and southern parts of the Arabian Peninsula and India. Ficus exasperata prefers the deep jungles of evergreen and secondary forest habitats. The whole plant has several medicinal uses and is extensively used for treating many diseases in African traditional medicine.

Medicinal uses of Ficus exasperata

Ficus exasperata has high medicinal importance as it is used for the treatment of various ailments and diseases. The plant has high concentrations of alkaloids, tannins and flavonoids. While the stem of Ficus exasperata is rich in alkaloids and tannins, the leaves have higher proportions of saponins, flavonoids and cyanogenic glycosides.

Sap

The sap of F. exasperata is sticky, amber colored, non-milky and viscid. It is primarily used for the treatment of eye ailments (such as sores and infections), general healing and stomach problems. The stem sap of F. exasperata is applied locally for treating warts. In Ghana, the sap is also used in blood clotting.

Bark

The bark of F. exasperata is smooth and is whitish-grey in color. It is an excellent abortifacient and is used in various medicinal purposes. The bark is boiled and the liquid is used to enhance quick and easy expulsion of the after-birth in humans and cows. Also, the scrapings of the bark help to stimulate and anoint the body. In various other countries, the bark is used to treat leprous sores, hemorrhoids and debility.

Root

The root of F. exasperata is used both alone and in conjunction with root and leaf. It finds its use in the treatment of respiratory disorders (such as asthma and dyspnea) and other venereal disorders.

Leaf

Leaves of F. exasperata are rough, stiff, leathery in texture and ovate-elliptical in shape. The leaf extract of the plant is used in medication for managing arterial blood pressure (hypertension), arthritis, epilepsy, rheumatism, bleeding, intestinal pain, colics chest complications and wounds as well as for ringworms. The leaves are also used to treat various livestock diseases. Experiments show that the aqueous leaf extract of F. exasperata has several pathological effects: anti-inflammatory, anti-ulcerogenic, anti-nociceptive and anti-pyretic effects. Also, ethanolic extract of the leaves of F. exasperata has anti-oxidative properties that enhance its tolerance level against arthritis.







AIDS Awareness


HIV (abbreviation for Human Immuno-Deficiency Virus) causes infection to the immune system, leading to impairment of this essential human function that fights disease and infection. AIDS (abbreviation for Acquired Immuno-Deficiency Syndrome) refers to advanced stages of HIV, and is a term jointly coined by US-CDCP (United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and EuroHIV (European Centre for the Epidemiological Monitoring of AIDS). Opportunistic infections are those infections that happen because of weak immunity. When 20 or more such infections happen, it is considered as a case of AIDS.

Transmission and Spread of HIV/AIDS

HIV/AIDS can get transmitted through unprotected sexual intercourse, transfusion of contaminated blood, as well as sharing contaminated needles or syringes. A mother can also transmit the disease to her new-born during pregnancy, childbirth or breast-feeding.
Time between acquiring the HIV virus and developing AIDS can significantly vary widely among people. In the worst case, if HIV is not treated at all, majority of infected patients develop HIV-related illnesses in a span of 5-10 years, but it can also be as long as 10–15 years or even longer. Further, ART (antiretroviral therapy) can slow the disease progression even more, as it decreases the viral load in the infected person.

Prevention and Treatment of HIV/AIDS

There is not known treatment of HIV/AIDS, till date. However, awareness of one’s HIV status still has advantages, as it gives the person an opportunity to take necessary steps towards accessing treatment, care and support, with the possibility of increasing longevity by multiple years. Additionally, this can also be helpful in preventing the spread of disease to others.
TB (Tuberculosis) is a common disease, leading to death amongst HIV-infected people. It is the primary cause of death amongst AIDS-infected patients in Africa, and is also a leading cause of death worldwide.
Male circumcision may reduce the risk of HIV but is not absolutely effective, and can actually increase the risk, if wounds have not healed properly. However, even if male circumcision cannot replace other effective HIV prevention strategies, it is worth considering.
Use of quality male and female condoms is the only assured way of preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS, as well as other STDs (sexually transmitted diseases). Further, a female condom is the only female-controlled contraceptive barrier method currently available.
Antiretroviral drugs are also used in HIV treatment and prevention, as they can stall or slow the spread of HIV, by decelerating further multiplication of the virus. As of 2008, about 4 million people (mostly in low- and middle-income countries) have been administered this drug.

AIDS awareness Initiatives

AIDS has been one of the most researched and talked about disease in recent years, with huge amounts or money and media coverage being given to it. Various AIDS awareness and care initiatives have started in many countries, at government, private and not-for-profit levels. The UN and WHO also have a special focus on the disease.




Monday, February 3, 2014

Superfund Act

Superfund is a federal law of the United States created to clean the deserted hazardous waste areas or sites. This program was designed by Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) in 1980 with the purpose of cleaning hazardous substances that may pose threat to both public health and the environment. Also, the law entitles the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to analyze and order the parties to clean the threatened areas or clean the site itself in absence of the responsible party.

History

Congress executed the Superfund act for the first time during the disaster at the Love Canal in New York, in which the Love Canal residents suffered severely with chronic effects such as leukemia and birth defects. This was because the city was made on hazardous industrial and chemical dumping site and episodes of heavy rains leached all the chemicals from the soil into the community. On 17 October, 1986, Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA) was formed, that amended CERCLA and increased the spectrum of Superfund Act. These broad changes also helped increase the fund to $9.3 billion.

Provisions

There are two types of provisions made by CERCLA in order to clean the threatened site-
Removal: These types of actions typically target localized releases that need immediate attention. Removal actions can be either emergency, time- critical and non-time critical.
Remedy: These types of actions target those releases that may take longer to clean than removal actions. However, the remedial actions are permanent and minimize the risks involved. These actions can only be performed at the listed sites (National Priorities List) on the EPA.

Procedures

After the potentially hazardous site is identified, an initial assessment is conducted under EPA. The inspection contains all the information of the site including reviews, visual inspections, field sampling and interviews. Further, a Hazard Ranking System (HRS) is developed to analyze the CERCLA statues of the field. An intensive assessment of the field (Remedial Investigation/Feasibility study (RI/FS)) is done if the HRS is high to determine the extent of contamination and threats. A consent plan is then made and presented for approval by public. Upon selection of the plan, remedial action is performed.

Implementation

There are approximately 1,270 hazardous sites listed on the National Priority List as-of-date. Also, over a span of 5 years, funding of $1.6 billion is generated and the tax goes to the tax fund. This tax fund is utilized in cleaning up of the threatened waste areas.

Reform

In 1986, an attempt to reform the Superfund legislation led to the formation of the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA). SARA helped to increase funding that was utilized for further studies and development of new technologies. An attempt to further improve the Superfund act was proposed by Clinton administration in 1994. However, it could not be implemented by severe opposition by the Republic.


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Zinc Plating


Zinc, which has a distinctive bluish-white tinge and a brilliant shine, is one of the most extensively used metals in the surface finishing industry.

Zinc plating provides a soft and anti-corrosive covering around the substrate, preventing
oxidation of the substrate (metal that is to be guarded) by forming a protective anti-corrosive barrier around it. Unlike other metal plating techniques, it actually shields the object by acting as a sacrificial coating that prolongs the life of the basis metal, which – when exposed – gets effected before the object and therefore prevents its corrosion. It is also known as electroplating or galvanization.

What makes it particularly popular commercially is the fact that it is not only very effective but also amongst the most affordable forms of plating.

Zinc Plating is also done in combination with other metals like nickel, cobalt and tin for zinc plating. Zinc plating is however most widely used commercially for plating iron and steel, but is also used to protect finished products – ranging from structural steelwork for buildings and bridges, to nuts, bolts, screws, strips, sheets, wires and tubes.

Commercial Uses of Zinc Plating

Automobiles

Zinc plating technology has been used in the automotive industry for a long time across Japan, Europe and USA. It primarily uses zinc-nickel coatings for most of its products. The plated end products may finally be used in passenger car and light truck power steering components, air conditioning, hydraulic brake components and, in general, for most under-the-hood components.

Electrical Transmission

Many zinc plating processes have been extensively used for heavy electrical transmission components.

Metal parts or structures that are used in engineering products or for the purpose of providing linkages and anchorage, and therefore having a propensity to be excessively exposed to natural elements or oxidation or chemical corrosion, are ideal candidates for zinc plating. Good examples of such cases would be nuts and bolts, ship anchors or cleats, or for that matter, any metal fixtures that spend majority of their productive life on the highways or the high seas. Zinc plating on such objects gives additional protection by providing a highly resistant anti-corrosive film, thus increasing their longevity.

Another popular use of zinc plating is in the coaxial TV cable connector, which is assembled within the aluminum hosing. These connectors are used both indoors and outdoors. Alkaline zinc-nickel plating used here is actually also an environmentally safer substitute.

Fasteners

This is another industry which heavily depends on plating. Traditionally, cadmium has been used for plating, but it is not environment friendly and it’s anti corrosion property breaks down when exposed to heat. This has therefore given way to zinc plating as a much better option. Plating fasteners in zinc- nickel plating is therefore now a fast- growing industry.

Defence




Zinc plating is also finding its due place in manufacturing of tanks and armored personnel carriers, with additional research going on in this area so as to find new avenues of its application.


Definition of Plant Cloning

Plant cloning has been in practice since ages. It is an ancient form that allows the gardener to produce desired genetically identical plant from its parent plant. The resulting clone will have all the characteristics of the parent plant including growth habit, resistance towards various diseases, color of the flower, shape of the fruit as well as total yield of the plant. Also, the complete cloning process becomes easier with the asexual ability of the plants to replicate or multiply themselves. 

Method


The method of making a cutting of the desired plant for cloning is relatively easy-
* Firstly, select the stem or branch of the parent plant that has 2-3 sets of leaves.
* Leave 2 sets of nodes above the cut. Remove the larger leaves from the stem as they will be difficult to manage by a stem without roots.
* Dip the base of the cutting into a cloning gel (like Olivia’s) to prevent embolism.
* Place the cutting into the growing medium with at least half inch of the cutting below the growing surface.

Factors influencing proper growth of the cutting


Parent stock- The condition of the plant at the time of cutting is vital to plant cloning. Good quality mother plant produces better yielding and disease resistant clones as compared to stressed out plants. Also, the mother plant should be kept in vegetative state and replaced every year as cuttings from younger plants root easier than those which are a few years older.

Growing medium- Planters should chose those growing mediums that are allow free entry of oxygen and also retain less water.

Rooting hormone- For easy rooters, Olivia’s cloning gel should be used. Clonex should be used as a rooting medium for cuttings that are difficult to root.

Water quality- Water quality is often ignored during plant cloning. Water must contain required minerals for cuttings during the rooting process. pH of the water should be balanced (6-6.3).

Temperature- The ideal temperature range for cuttings is 72 degree Fahrenheit- 80 degree Fahrenheit.

Humidity- The ideal humidity range for cuttings is 70-80%. Low humidity will fasten the process of transpiration from young cuttings than they can absorb from the growing medium.

Light- Fluorescent light is best suited for cuttings as it is a soft light and has the right balance of red and blue spectrum.

CO2- CO2 is required by the leaves of the cutting as they absorb it and along with water, converts it into sugars.

Aeration- Roots require dissolved oxygen for proper growth of the cutting.

Cloning Machines


Some of the available cloning machines in market are Power Cloner by American Agritech, EZ clone by EZ clone and Clone Machine by American Agritech.

Advantages and Disadvantages


The major advantage of plant cloning over multiplication via seeds is that the gardener knows the type of plant they will get as a result of this cloning. However, plant cloning restricts the diversity of the plant, making it prone to various pests and diseases.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Infrared Thermometers


Thermometers that tell the temperature by measuring radiation from an object are called infrared thermometers. These thermometers have a lens that focuses the infrared energy on to a device that converts it into an electrical signal and passes it on to a display panel, which has been calibrated to show the measurement in temperature units. Key advantage of such thermometers is their ability to measure temperature without coming in contact with the object, as radiation energy can be measured from a distance. This is particularly useful in situations where it may not be possible to measure temperature using conduction techniques, such as in industrial applications with very high temperatures or in complex mechanical assemblies with no direct accessibility.

Uses of infrared thermometers

Applications in and around the house

Infrared thermometers can help assess the quality of insulation in construction works such as walls, pipes and windows. They can also be used to ascertain room temperatures or thermostat settings in heating and cooling systems. In greenhouses and outdoor gardens, they may be used to inspect the soil temperatures.

In the kitchen, infrared thermometers can be used to check pantry, refrigerator and freezer temperatures. While cooking food, they can be used for verification of cooking and serving temperatures as well. Another use of these thermometers can be to accurately measure temperatures during preparation and storage stages of wine and beer making, as these processes are temperature sensitive.

Infrared thermometers can also be useful while inspecting problems in household electrical or mechanical appliances. By measuring temperatures of typical heating points and ascertaining abnormal sources of heating, a quick diagnosis can be made.
Infrared thermometers can also find uses in pursuing hobbies such as photography, as developing of prints requires a control over the ambiance temperature.

Applications in automotive and transportation industry


Engine and exhaust troubleshooting in automobiles can be effectively carried out using infrared thermometers. For instance, low compression and ignition problems can be identified by scanning the manifold temperature. Incorrect fuel/air mixture leads to inefficient combustion, which can be determined by measuring the temperature of exhaust system components.

Diagnostics of cooling systems, radiators, climate control sensors and other devices that operate on temperature gradient can be carried out using infrared thermometers. Similarly, in brake system of automobiles, very high temperatures of rotors, drums or bearings indicate excessive wear and can be measured using an infrared thermometer.

Applications in electrical and electronics industry


In electrical devices and components such as connectors, motors, bearings, transformers and batteries, any abnormal heating is indicative of malfunctioning. Since infrared thermometers measure the surface temperature of an object from a distance, they can be extremely useful in preventive maintenance operations, while also ensuring that they are carried out in a safe manner.