Super User

Super User

Indoor air in Delhi is not fit to breathe and the elderly and children who spend a lot of time in offices and homes are the worst sufferers, a survey has found.

As per the survey, conducted by Artemis Hospitals as part of Clean Air India Movement (CLAIM), there is a correlation between indoor air quality and lung health of the people.

Due to unhealthy indoor air quality, about 34 per cent of people have one or the other airway disease and 47 per cent showed symptoms of respiratory diseases.

Eighty-two per cent of offices and houses surveyed have unhealthy air quality, according to the survey.

"Generally, we give more importance to outdoor air quality but we should be aware of both outdoor and indoor air pollution. Considering the amount of time people spend breathing indoor air, it is important to keep a check on indoor air quality.

"We hope the survey results will help initiate and channelise the discussions on the issue and draw meaningful conclusions," said Dr Himanshu Garg, Head of the Department of Respiratory and Critical Care, Artemis Hospitals.

The survey was conducted on 1,500 people across Delhi, Gurgaon and Noida, having mean age of 39 years.

"Since we spend more time indoors, the risk associated with indoor air is more. Women and children are most vulnerable...," said Dr Raj Kumar, Head of the Department of Respiratory Allergy and Applied Immunology, Vallabhbhai Patel Chest Institute.

Founder of Clean Air India Movement Vijay Kannan said "we all should plant more trees to reduce pollution."  




Courtesy – Deccan Herald

The ancient underwater remains of a long lost Greek city were actually created by a naturally occurring phenomenon, and not man-made, a new study has found.

When underwater divers discovered what looked like paved floors, courtyards and colonnades, they thought they had found the ruins of a long-forgotten civilisation that perished when tidal waves hit the shores of the Greek holiday island Zakynthos.
But new research uncovered that the site was created by a natural geological phenomenon that took place in the Pliocene era -- up to five million years ago.

"The site was discovered by snorkelers and first thought to be an ancient city port, lost to the sea. There were what superficially looked like circular column bases, and paved floors. But mysteriously no other signs of life - such as pottery," said Julian Andrews from University of East Anglia (UEA) in the UK.

Researchers from UEA and University of Athens in Greece investigated in detail the mineral content and texture of the underwater formation in minute detail, using microscopy, X-ray and stable isotope techniques.

Courtesy – Deccan Herald

"We investigated the site, which is between two and five metres under water, and found that it is actually a natural geologically occurring phenomenon," said Andrews.
"The disk and doughnut morphology, which looked a bit like circular column bases, is typical of mineralisation at hydrocarbon seeps - seen both in modern seafloor and palaeo settings," he said.

"We found that the linear distribution of these doughnut shaped concretions is likely the result of a sub-surface fault which has not fully ruptured the surface of the sea bed. The fault allowed gases, particularly methane, to escape from depth," he added.

Microbes in the sediment use the carbon in methane as fuel. Microbe-driven oxidation of the methane then changes the chemistry of the sediment forming a kind of natural cement, known to geologists as concretion, researchers said.

"In this case the cement was an unusual mineral called dolomite which rarely forms in seawater, but can be quite common in microbe-rich sediments," said Andrews.

"These concretions were then exhumed by erosion to be exposed on the seabed today. This kind of phenomenon is quite rare in shallow waters. Most similar discoveries tend to be many hundreds and often thousands of meters deep underwater," he said.

"These features are proof of natural methane seeping out of rock from hydrocarbon reservoirs. The same thing happens in the North Sea, and it is also similar to the effects of fracking, when humans essentially speed up or enhance the phenomena," he added. The findings were published in the journal Marine and Petroleum Geology.

Obese people who avoid undertaking a weight-loss surgery are at a greater risk of dying than those who take it, a new study suggests.

Christina Persson from University of Gothenburg in Sweden and colleagues studied 48,693 obese patient, aged 18-74 years.

Out of those patients, 22,581 underwent bariatric surgery (gastric bypass 92.8 per cent) while 26,112 obese patients did not undergo surgery.

The mortality rate was higher in the non-surgical group (4.21 per cent) compared to the surgical group (1.1 percent). This means there were 7.7 vs 2.1 deaths per 1000 people per year, researchers said.

Mean follow-up time for the surgical group was 5.4 years and 5.5 for the non-surgical group.

The overall mortality decreased by 57 per cent in the surgery group compared with the non-surgical group, researchers said.

The most common cause of death in the non-surgical group was cardiovascular disease, followed by cancer.

In the surgical obese patients, the most common cause of death was external causes of mortality (such as accidents and suicide), followed by cardiovascular disease and cancer, researchers said.

Although accidents and suicide were the main causes of death in the surgical group, the incidence of death from these causes was still lower than in the non-surgical group, they said.

"This population-based cohort observational study indicates that the overall all-cause mortality is considerably lower among obese individuals who undergo bariatric surgery compared to non-surgical obese individuals, and the differences lies mainly in cardiovascular disease and cancer," researchers said.

Courtesy – Deccan Herald

A NASA astronaut will enter the first human-rated expandable module deployed in space to investigate the potential challenges and benefits of such habitats for deep space exploration and commercial low-Earth orbit applications.

Jeff Williams' entry on Monday will mark the beginning of a two-year data collection process.
He will take an air sample, place caps on the now closed ascent vent valves, install ducting to assist in Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM's) air circulation, retrieve deployment data sensors and manually open the tanks used for pressurisation to ensure all of the air has been released, a NASA statement said.

Jeff will then install sensors over the following two days that will be used for the project's primary task of gathering data on how an expandable habitat performs in the thermal environment of space, and how it reacts to radiation, micrometeoroids and orbital debris.

During BEAM's test period, the module typically will be closed off to the rest of the space station. Astronauts will enter the module three to four times each year to collect temperature, pressure and radiation data, and to assess its structural condition, NASA said.

After two years of monitoring, the current plan is to jettison the BEAM from the space station to burn up on re-entry into Earth's atmosphere.

Expandable habitats are designed to take up less room when being launched but provide greater volume for living and working in space once expanded, NASA said.

This first test of an expandable module will allow scientists to gauge how well the habitat performs and specifically, how well it protects against solar radiation, space debris and the temperature extremes of space.
Launched on April 8 aboard a SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, the BEAM was attached to the International Space Station's Tranquility module about a week later, NASA said.

Courtesy – Deccan Herald


A long lost British Second World War submarine that vanished 73 years ago has been found with 71 dead bodies of crew off the coast of Italy.

The 1,290 tonne vessel was found by a diving team at a depth of 100 metres, close to the island of Tavolara, off the northeast coast of Sardinia.

The submarine vanished without a trace around Janaury 2, 1943 and is believed was hit by a mine in the Gulf of Olbia.

"Immediately I thought of the destiny of the men who met their deaths down there. It was a fate shared by so many men, submariners in particular, fighting on all both sides of the conflict," diving team leader Massimo Domenico Bordone told Italian media.

The submarine had left Malta on December 28, 1942 for its first mission to destroy two Italian battleships when they lay anchor at the port of La Maddalena.

But after sending a signal on December 31 the vessel disappeared without a trace. Military officials assumed the submarine had been sunk, 'Daily Express' reported.
The wreck was found in excellent condition with only a small amount of damage from the explosion.

"It looks like she probably went down with air sealed inside, meaning the crew eventually died of oxygen deprivation. It's important to have the utmost respect for wrecks in cases like this," Bordone said.

The Royal Navy said it expects the wreck to be treated with respect while they work to confirm the identity of the submarine.

"We are examining our records to determine whether or not this is a Royal Navy submarine," a Royal Navy spokesperson said.

Courtesy – Deccan Herald

Scientists, including      zMM one of Indian-origin, have discovered a new way of triggering cell death, a finding that may lead to drugs for treating cancer and autoimmune diseases.

Programmed cell death, also called apoptosis, is a natural process that removes unwanted cells from the body. Failure of apoptosis can allow cancer cells to grow unchecked or immune cells to inappropriately attack the body.

The protein known as Bak is central to apoptosis. In healthy cells Bak sits in an inert state but when a cell receives a signal to die, Bak transforms into a killer protein that destroys the cell.

Researchers from Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Australia and colleagues have discovered a novel way of directly activating Bak to trigger cell death.

The researchers, including Sweta Iyer, discovered that an antibody they had produced to study Bak actually bound to the Bak protein and triggered its activation.

"We were excited when we realised we had found an entirely new way of activating Bak," said Ruth Kluck, from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute. She hopes to use this discovery to develop drugs that promote cell death.

"There is great interest in developing drugs that trigger Bak activation to treat diseases such as cancer where apoptosis has gone awry," she said.

"This discovery gives us a new starting point for developing therapies that directly activate Bak and cause cell death," she said.

The researchers used information about Bak's 3D structure to find out precisely how the antibody activated Bak.

"It is well known that Bak can be activated by a class of proteins called 'BH3-only proteins' that bind to a groove on Bak. We were surprised to find that despite our antibody binding to a completely different site on Bak, it could still trigger activation," Kluck said.

Drugs that target this new activation site could be useful in combination with other therapies that promote cell death by mimicking the BH3-only proteins.

"The advantage of our antibody is that it can't be 'mopped up' and neutralised by pro-survival proteins in the cell, potentially reducing the chance of drug resistance occurring," Kluck said.

The researchers are now working with collaborators to develop their antibody into a drug that can access Bak inside cells.

The findings were published in the journal Nature Communications.

Courtesy – Deccan Herald

Scientists have found a record of the most recent Martian ice age in the red planet's north polar ice cap that ended about 400,000 years ago, by using radar data from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO).

The new results agree with previous models that indicate a glacial period ended about 400,000 years ago, as well as predictions about how much ice would have been accumulated at the poles since then.

A seasonal cover of carbon dioxide ice and snow is observed to advance and retreat over the poles during the Martian year.

During summertime in the planet's north, the remaining northern polar cap is all water ice; the southern cap is water ice as well, but remains covered by a relatively thin layer of carbon dioxide ice even in southern summertime.

Mars also undergoes variations in its tilt and the shape of its orbit over hundreds of thousands of years. These changes cause shifts in the planet's climate and ice ages.

Scientists used data from MRO's Shallow Subsurface Radar (SHARAD) to produce images called radargrams that are like vertical slices though the layers of ice and dust that comprise the Martian polar ice deposits.

For the new study, researchers analysed hundreds of such images to look for variations in the layer properties.

They identified a boundary in the ice that extends across the entire north polar cap. Above the boundary, the layers accumulated very quickly and uniformly, compared with the layers below them.

"The layers in the upper few hundred meters display features that indicate a period of erosion, followed by a period of rapid accumulation that is still occurring today," said Isaac Smith, who led the work while at Southwest Research Institute in the US.

Martian ice age occurs when - as a result of the planet's increased tilt - its poles become warmer than lower latitudes.

During these periods, the polar caps retreat and water vapour migrates towards the equator, forming ground ice and glaciers at mid-latitudes.

As the warm polar period ends, polar ice begins accumulating again, while ice is lost from mid-latitudes.

An increase in polar ice following a mid-latitude ice age is also expected from climate models that show how ice moves around based on Mars' orbital properties, especially its tilt.

These models predict the last Martian ice age ended about 400,000 years ago. Models suggest that since then, the polar deposits would have thickened by about 300 metres.

The upper unit reaches a maximum thickness of 320 metres across the polar cap. That is essentially the same as model predictions made by other researchers in 2003 and 2007.

"This suggests that we have indeed identified the record of the most recent Martian glacial period and the regrowth of the polar ice since then," said Smith, who is now at the Planetary Science Institute in the US.

The study was published in the journal Science.

Courtesy – Deccan Herald

Nearly one trillion species could be living on Earth, yet 99.999 per cent of them remain undiscovered, according to the largest-ever analysis of microbial data.

Researchers combined microbial, plant and animal community datasets from government, academic and citizen science sources, resulting in the largest compilation of its kind.

These data represent over 5.6 million microscopic and non-microscopic species from 35,000 locations across all the world's oceans and continents, except Antarctica.

"Estimating the number of species on Earth is among the great challenges in biology," said Kenneth J Locey, a postdoctoral fellow at Indiana University in the US.

"Our study combines the largest available datasets with ecological models and new ecological rules for how biodiversity relates to abundance. This gave us a new and rigorous estimate for the number of microbial species on Earth," said Locey.

"Until recently, we've lacked the tools to truly estimate the number of microbial species in the natural environment," he said.

"Many earlier attempts to estimate the number of species on Earth simply ignored microorganisms or were informed by older datasets that were based on biased techniques or questionable extrapolations," said Jay T Lennon, associate professor at the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences' Department of Biology.

"Until now, we haven't known whether aspects of biodiversity scale with something as simple as the abundance of organisms," Locey added.

"As it turns out, the relationships are not only simple but powerful, resulting in the estimate of upwards of one trillion species," he said.

The results also suggest that identifying every microbial species on Earth is an almost unimaginably huge challenge.

The Earth Microbiome Project - a global multidisciplinary project to identify microscope organisms - has so far catalogued less than 10 million species.

"Of those catalogued species, only about 10,000 have ever been grown in a lab, and fewer than 100,000 have classified sequences," Lennon said.

"Our results show that this leaves 100,000 times more microorganisms awaiting discovery - and 100 million to be fully explored. Microbial biodiversity, it appears, is greater than ever imagined," said Lennon.

The research was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Courtesy – Deccan Herald


 India is home to four of the five cities in the world with the worst air pollution, the World Health Organization said on Thursday.

But while WHO experts acknowledge India faces a "huge challenge", many countries are so bad that they have no monitoring system and cannot be included in its ranking.

The dirtiest air was recorded at Zabol in Iran, which suffers from months of dust storms in the summer, and which clocked a so-called PM2.5 measure of 217. The next four were all Indian: Gwalior, Allahabad, Patna and Raipur.

India's capital New Delhi was the survey's ninth worst city, measured by the amount of particulate matter under 2.5 micrograms found in every cubic metre of air, with an annual average PM2.5 measurement of 122.

Tiny particulate matter can cause lung cancer, strokes and heart disease over the long term, as well as triggering symptoms such as heart attacks that kill more rapidly. The WHO says more than 7 million premature deaths occur every year due to air pollution, 3 million of them due to outdoor air quality.

New Delhi was ranked worst in 2014 with a PM2.5 reading of 153. It has since tried to tackle its toxic air by limiting the use of private cars on the road for short periods.

Maria Neira, head of public health, environmental and social determinants of health at the WHO, praised India's government for developing a national plan to deal with the problem when others have been unable to.

"Probably some of the worst cities that are the most polluted ones in the world are not included in our list, just because they are so bad that they do not even have a good system of monitoring of air quality, so it's unfair to compare or give a rank," she said.

Common causes of air pollution include too many cars, especially diesel-fuelled vehicles, the heating and cooling of big buildings, waste management, agriculture and the use of coal or diesel generators for power.

On average, pollution levels worsened by 8 percent between 2008 and 2013, although most cities in rich countries improved the state of their air over the same period.

The WHO data, a survey of 3,000 urban areas, shows only 2 percent of cities in poorer countries have air quality that meets WHO standards, while 44 percent of richer cities do.

The WHO database has almost doubled in size since 2014, and the trend towards more transparency translated into more action to deal with the problem, Neira said.

However, there was still very sparse data on Africa, she said.

Courtesy – Deccan Herald

Scientists have made a 3D map of 3,000 galaxies 13 billion light years from Earth, and found that Einstein's general theory of relativity is valid even far into the universe.

Since it was discovered in the late 1990s that the universe is expanding at an accelerated rate, scientists have been trying to explain why.

The mysterious dark energy could be driving acceleration, or Einstein's theory of general relativity, which says gravity warps space and time, could be breaking down.

To test Einstein's theory, researchers including those from the Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics (Kavli IPMU) and University of Tokyo in Japan, used data on more than 3,000 distant galaxies to analyse their velocities and clustering.

Their results indicate that even far into the universe, general relativity is valid, giving further support that the expansion of the universe could be explained by a cosmological constant, as proposed by Einstein in his theory of general relativity.

"We tested the theory of general relativity further than anyone else ever has. It's a privilege to be able to publish our results 100 years after Einstein proposed his theory," said Teppei Okumura, Project Researcher at Kavli IPMU.

"Having started this project 12 years ago it gives me great pleasure to finally see this result come out," said Karl Glazebrook, Professor at Swinburne University of Technology.

No one has been able to analyse galaxies more than 10 billion light years away, but the team managed to break this barrier thanks to the FMOS (Fibre Multi-Object Spectrograph) on the Subaru Telescope, which can analyse galaxies 12.4 to 14.7 billion light years away.

Courtesy - Deccan Herald

Page 10 of 19