25 April 2015


One hundred meters or almost 328 ft underground, there lies a tunnel. The largest and the one of the most powerful machines ever to have been built by man, the Large Hadron Collider(LHC) is a 27km ( 17 miles) long circular tunnel in Europe, crossing the border between France and Switzerland at 4 points, but most of it within France.

 It was built by CERN or the European Organization for Nuclear Research. Sounds familiar? That’s right; Dan Brown based his bestseller ‘Angels and Demons’ on a controversy heavily involving the production of antimatter (geek alert!) and the faiths of the Christian church.

 Anyway, now that we know that CERN is the biggest, badass-est research organization there is, let’s talk about the awesomeness of the LHC. What is it supposed to do? The purpose of LHC is to increase our knowledge of the universe. There are hopes that it will help answer some fundamental questions about physics, gravity, quantum mechanics and general relativity.

LHC went live in 2008. For those noobs out there, the LHC is responsible for smashing together teeny tiny particles in the speed of light. Comprendo? Let me explain further. It is basically a particle accelerator with superconducting magnets to boost the energy of the particles along the way. Inside the tunnel, two high energy particle beams travel almost at the speed of light in opposite directions and are made to collide. The events on collision are what scientists study so minutely. What has it already done? There has been a question that has confounded scientists for century. What is it that creates matter? Or what is the one ingredient that holds the universe together? One can phrase this question in many ways since we’ve realized, there isn’t a missing key. There are many missing keys. Imagine a map with lots of holes in it. This theory is further explained in Stephen Hawking’s ‘A Brief History of Time’ (Read it, it’s a great book!) LHC concentrates a lot of effort into determining the existence of exotic particles, dark matter (dark matter is a kind of matter which cannot be seen by telescopes but accounts for most of space).
  • In 2009, LHC successfully performed 284 collisions in the ALICE detector which yielded new data about proton-proton collisions.
  • In 2011, LHC successfully created the quark-gluon plasma (the densest matter besides black holes). It’s a big deal guys, coz black holes are scary!
But the main purpose is much more exciting. It involves the infamous Higg’s Boson Particle, also dubbed as the ‘God’s Particle’. What’s the big hullabaloo over this? It is supposed to give mass to all other particles, thereby proving to be the reason for all existence. Now, it’s hypothetical and there has been a 40 year long search for this elusive little guy since detecting Higgs Boson is very very hard. 

 On July 4, 2012, they announced a discovery of a new particle which was suspected to be a Higgs Boson.In March 2013, the particle was proven to behave, interact and decay the way predicted by the Standard Model of Particle Physics. It also has zero spin and positive parity, the two most fundamental properties of the Higgs Boson. To scientists, it was the biggest discovery in centuries. Groundbreaking, earth shattering. To have more than 40 years of research finally bear fruit, it’s equivalent to having Christmas every day :D So unless contradicting data is found, we can be now be reasonable assured that the ‘God’s Particle’ has been found. LHC has served a great role in the history of civilization and will continue to do so, as these particles are tested and further amazing discoveries are made. Here’s a weird tit-bit The LHC has seen a lot of opposition. Many stated that the cost of constructing and operating the LHC is not worth it. But the weirdest was the claim that LHC could result to the end of the world. Move over crazy volcanoes and gigantic tsunamis and the shifting of tectonic plates, Armageddon will finally be brought about by a 17 miles long tunnel. Odd, right? There’s even a website called: http://hasthelargehadroncolliderdestroyedtheworldyet.com/


So, what do you think of the Large Hadron Collider? Do you think it has exciting prospects? Or should we stop spending so much money and give up the quest to unlock the mysteries of the universe? Let me know your thoughts, opinions and suggestions in the comment boxes below!  

17 April 2015

Natural beauty: Story of the Aurora

As shown in movies and images from satellites, Earth appears to be a blue ball floating around in space. Is that the final reality?
 Ever thought of what it would be like to paint a rubber ball with various colours? What the ball will look like? Now imagine painting the surface of the earth with coloured streaks, and how this will appear to the satellites.
A glimpse of what it will look like :
Yes this is what is called brilliance, this is what is called the Aurora Borealis or commonly referred to as “Northern lights”


·        These occur at the geomagnetic poles in a band known as auroral zone, which stretches between 10° and 20° from the poles with a typical width of 3° to 6° wide (in latitude) at all local times, most clearly visible in the dark.
·        Auroral zone- a ring-shaped region with a radius of approximately 2500 km around the Earth's magnetic pole. It was hardly ever seen near the geographic pole, which is about 2000 km away from the magnetic pole.
·        Magnetic midnight is the time of day when the North or South Magnetic Pole is exactly in between the sun and an observer on earth's surface. This is best time for observing auroras. Because Earth's magnetic poles do not coincide with its geographical poles—the angle between Earth's rotation axis and magnetic axis is about 11°–magnetic midnight differs from conventional midnight. In most of the United States, magnetic midnight occurs about an hour earlier


The auroras, surrounding the magnetic pole occur when highly charged electrons from the solar wind interact with elements in the earth's atmosphere. Solar winds stream away from the sun at speeds of about 1 million miles per hour; hit the electrons in the earth’s upper atmosphere and generate coloured patterns ( At altitudes from 20 to 200 miles above the earth’s surface the atmosphere contains oxygen and nitrogen atoms)
The colour of the aurora depends on which atom is struck by these electrons, and the altitude of the meeting.
·         Green - oxygen, up to 150 miles in altitude
·         Red - oxygen, above 150 miles in altitude
·         Blue - nitrogen, up to 60 miles in altitude
·         Purple/violet - nitrogen, above 60 miles in altitude

All of the magnetic and electrical forces react with one another in constantly shifting combinations. These shifts and flows can be seen as the auroras "dance," moving along with the atmospheric currents that can reach 20,000,000 amperes at 50,000 volts ( a 100000 times more than what is required at our homes! ) 


So much significance, so many movies with the same name; must be something important, think about it?
·         Northern Lights (1978 film)
·         Northern Lights (1997 film)
·         Northern Light (film), a 2006 Dutch film
·         The Golden Compass (film), a 2007 film adaption of the 1995 Philip Pullman novel
·         Northern Lights (2009 film),


Other planets observed to witness auroras are :
·        Both Jupiter and Saturn have magnetic fields much stronger than Earth's and both have extensive radiation belts. Auroras have been observed on both, most clearly with the Hubble Space Telescope.

·        Uranus and Neptune have also been observed to have auroras.
·        These auroras have also been observed on Venus and Mars. Because Venus has no intrinsic (planetary) magnetic field, Venusian auroras appear as bright and diffuse patches of varying shape and intensity, sometimes distributed across the full planetary disc. Venusian auroras are produced by the impact of electrons originating from the solar wind and precipitating in the night-side atmosphere. 

6 April 2015

Medical miracles.. fetus-in-fetu

An expecting mother does what not to give birth to a healthy, beautiful baby. Every parent wants a child that would grow up to be extraordinarily talented, well mannered and what not? Expecting mothers eat healthy food, drink protein and nutrients rich fluids all day, to welcome the little bundle of joy with open arms. What if 9 months of all that nurturing results into something miraculous? There are a lot of medical miracles which can’t be explained by doctors all around the one, and this is one of them.
When a mother is expecting twins and when suddenly one of the twins disappears from the ultrasound, doesn’t necessarily have to mean it was a miscarriage.


·        In early ages the kids were considered to be a curse when their unborn twin just vanished from the abdomen of the mother. Question is where did it go?
·        Even termed as miracles sometimes, these kids were a challenge to deal with. It was considered to be a tumour living inside the body of this child. In this age of scientific development, this is no more considered a miracle; instead it’s a developmental abnormality.


Women giving birth to pregnant children, yes, you read it right; your eyes aren’t fooling you. Women giving birth to pregnant children are being talked about in this article.
Question is how is that even possible?
There are no concrete answers in the field of medicine to answer this, but this is what is believed to have happened- two possible theories for this:
§  When a lady conceives, during the early stages of monozygotic twin pregnancy, in which both foetuses share a common placenta, one fetus wraps around and envelops the other. The enveloped twin becomes a parasite, in that his or her survival depends on the survival of his or her host twin, by drawing on the host twin's blood supply. And the parasitic twin develops without a brain (anencephalic) and lacks some internal organs and hence is unable to survive on it’s own. The host twin feeds the enveloped twin for the nutrients received over a single umbilical cord, he or she usually dies before birth.

§  It may be a highly differentiated form of dermoid cyst or a matured “teratoma”- a tumour with tissue or organ components resembling to normal derivatives of more than one germ layer. A teratoma will contain no organs but rather one or more tissues normally found in organs such as the brain, liver, and lung; teratomas have been reported to contain hair, teeth, bone and, very rarely, more complex organs or processes such as eyes, torso, and hands, feet, or other limbs.


§  A 36-year-old farmer had the embryo of his twin brother removed in the town of Nagpur, India, in 2006. The man asked for medical help only after his swollen belly hampered his breathing. Doctors were certain that the man had a gigantic tumor in his belly. However, they found fragments of human genitalia, hairs, limbs and jaws in the patient and finally removed a weird underdeveloped creature having legs and arms with long nails.
§  In 2002, Indian doctors found a fetus in the body of a six-month-old boy. The dead fetus, which surgeons removed from the boy, weighed one kilo, whereas the boy himself weighed 6.5 kilos.
§  In November, 2010, a baby girl born in Hong Kong was found to have two 8-10 week old fetuses in her abdomen, originally thought to be tumors. They were removed by surgery. Reported by the Hong Kong Medical Journal in February 2015. 

The anomalous phenomenon is known as fetus in fetu. Such incidents are extremely rare: an embryo inside an embryo may appear once in 500,000 pregnancies. The phenomenon always occurs at an early stage of pregnancy. As a rule, the fetuses die in mother’s womb.


·         The comedy/horror film Basket Case centers on a man's murderous parasitic brother.
·         In the comedy series The Office (U.S. TV series) Dwight attributes his strength to the dead fetus he absorbed at birth.
·         In the comedy series Community (TV series), Chang states that he consumed his twin sibling's fetus in utero.
·         In the medical TV drama series Grey's Anatomy ("We Gotta Get Out of this Place"), a man becomes emotionally attached to his "brother".

This is one of those developmental abnormalities in a child which cannot be prevented; they can only be cured-if the child is born alive- through operation. All we can do is hope for a good day, and a healthy child.