The Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) satellite is scheduled to be launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on September 15.

NASA is launching a laser-armed satellite next month that will measure — in unprecedented detail — changes in the heights of Earth’s polar ice to understand what is causing ice sheets to melt fast. In recent years, contributions of melt from the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica alone have raised global sea level by more than a millimeter a year, accounting for approximately one-third of observed sea level rise, and the rate is increasing.

Called the Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2), the mission is scheduled to be launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on September 15, NASA said in a statement late on Thursday. ICESat-2 will measure the average annual elevation change of land ice covering Greenland and Antarctica to within the width of a pencil, capturing 60,000 measurements every second.

“The new observational technologies of ICESat-2 will advance our knowledge of how the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica contribute to sea level rise,” said Michael Freilich, Director of the Earth Science Division in NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.

Also Read: NASA launches two virtual reality apps: Allows users to take selfies in cosmic locations

ICESat-2 will improve upon NASA’s 15-year record of monitoring the change in polar ice heights. It started in 2003 with the first ICESat mission and continued in 2009 with NASA’s Operation IceBridge, an airborne research campaign that kept track of the accelerating rate of change. ICESat-2’s Advanced Topographic Laser Altimeter System (ATLAS) measures height by timing how long it takes individual light photons to travel from the spacecraft to Earth and back.

“ATLAS required us to develop new technologies to get the measurements needed by scientists to advance the research,” said Doug McLennan, ICESat-2 Project Manager. “That meant we had to engineer a satellite instrument that not only will collect incredibly precise data, but also will collect more than 250 times as many height measurements as its predecessor,” he added.

Also Read: NASA chief excited about prospects for exploiting water on Moon

ATLAS will fire 10,000 times each second, sending hundreds of trillions of photons to the ground in six beams of green light. With so many photons returning from multiple beams, ICESat-2 will get a much more detailed view of the ice surface than its predecessor. As it circles Earth from pole to pole, ICESat-2 will measure ice heights along the same path in the polar regions four times a year, providing seasonal and annual monitoring of ice elevation changes. Beyond the poles, ICESat-2 will also measure the height of ocean and land surfaces, including forests.

Courtesy - Indian Express


In the Southern Ocean region, carbon atoms move between rocks, rivers, plants, oceans and other sources in a planet-scale life cycle.

The open water nearest to the sea ice surrounding Antarctica releases significantly more carbon dioxide in winter than previously believed, showed a study conducted using an array of robotic floats. The robotic floats diving and drifting in the Southern Ocean around the southernmost continent made it possible to gather data during the peak of the Southern Hemisphere’s winter from a place that remains poorly studied, despite its role in regulating the global climate.

“These results came as a really big surprise, because previous studies found that the Southern Ocean was absorbing a lot of carbon dioxide,” said lead author Alison Gray, Assistant Professor at the University of Washington.

In the Southern Ocean region, carbon atoms move between rocks, rivers, plants, oceans and other sources in a planet-scale life cycle. It is also among the world’s most turbulent bodies of water, which makes obtaining data extremely difficult. According to the study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, the floating instruments collected the new observations. The instruments dive down to 1 km and float with the currents for nine days.

Next, they drop even farther, to 2 km, and then rise back to the surface while measuring water properties. After surfacing they beam their observations back to shore via satellite. Unlike more common Argo floats, which only measure ocean temperature and salinity, the robotic floats also monitor dissolved oxygen, nitrogen and pH — the relative acidity of water.

The study analysed data collected by 35 floats between 2014 and 2017. The team used the pH measurements to calculate the amount of dissolved carbon dioxide, and then uses that to figure out how strongly the water is absorbing or emitting carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.

Courtesy - Indian Express


Contrary to popular claim, e-cigarettes are not safe. According to a study, they may be safer in terms of the cancer risk, but they can damage immunity, disable lung cells and cause inflammation.

Vaping or smoking e-cigarettes has been found to be a harmful practice. According to a study, it can damage immunity, disable cells in the lungs and cause inflammation, a BBC report says. The study was led by professor David Thickett at the University of Birmingham and has been published online in the journal Thorax. Contrary to popular claim, e-cigarettes are not safe.

In order to arrive at the conclusion, researchers devised a mechanical device that mimicked vaping at the laboratory. Lung tissue samples provided by non-smokers were used to carry out the experiment. It was found that the vapour led to inflammation and damaged activity of alveolar macrophages — cells that aid in removing dust particles, allergens and bacteria. It was concluded that further research was needed to get a better understanding of the health impact of vaping as the study was carried out within the confines of the laboratory.

Thickett said, “I don’t believe e-cigarettes are more harmful than ordinary cigarettes. But we should have a cautious scepticism that they are as safe as we are being led to believe. They are safer in terms of cancer risk – but if you vape for 20 or 30 years, it can cause chronic obstructive pulmonary disease,” Thickett was quoted saying, according to a report in The Sun.

Public Health England, however, considers vaping safer than traditional cigarettes. It believed that e-cigarettes can help one overcome the habit of smoking and should be allowed on prescription.


Courtesy - Indian Express

Eating broccoli, kale and cabbage can help in reducing the risk of bowel cancer. According to research, an anti-cancer chemical known as Indole-3-carbinol is produced when the vegetable is digested.

Eating vegetables has always been considered a healthy practice but now, there seems to be more reasons than one to include them in your diet. It has been discovered that vegetables like broccoli, kale and cabbage can help in reducing the risk of bowel cancer.

Benefits of the coniferous vegetable was deduced by a team of researchers at Francis Crick Institute, London. According to a report in BBC, they found that anti-cancer chemicals are produced when the vegetable is digested. The group was basically trying to find how eating vegetables can change the lining of the intestines.

According to them, a chemical known as Indole-3-carbinol is produced when you chew these vegetables. Acid in the stomach leads to changes in the chemical later and also helps in controlling the stem cells that generate bowel lining. “Make sure they’re not overcooked, no soggy broccoli,” said Dr Gitta Stockinger.

Much like the skin, the surface of the bowels also constantly regenerates. The process takes four to five days. However, it needs to be kept in check and controlled as it can lead to gut inflammation or cancer. The work that was published in Immunity revealed that the chemicals found in the coniferous vegetables are important in the process.

Courtesy - Indian Express



Traces of glyphosate, an active chemical ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup weed killer, was found in two among the 45 products that were made with oats. For the uninitiated, glyphosate is carcinogenic.


A report by Environmental Working Group (EWG) has stated that several of America’s popular breakfast food come with a “hefty dose of the weed-killing poison” as quoted by a report in CNN. Traces of glyphosate, an active chemical ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer, was found in two among the 45 products that were made with oats. It was also reported that in 31 of the samples, the glyphosate level was more than what is believed to be healthy for children.


Some of those products included Back to Nature Classic Granola, Quaker Dinosaur Egg Instant Oats, Cheerios Toasted Whole Grain Oat Cereal, Lucky Charms, Quaker Steel Cut Oats and Kellog’s Nutrigrain Strawberry Breakfast Bars, Nature Valley Granola Protein Oats ‘n Honey, Great Value Original Instant Oatmeal. This, however, does not mean that they are violating the limit as decided by the Environmental Protection Agency.


“I grew up eating Cheerios and Quaker Oats long before they were tainted with glyphosate,” said EWG President Ken Cook as quoted in a report in KARE 11. “No one wants to eat a weed killer for breakfast, and no one should have to do so,” he added. There is also a plan to intimate and petition the EPA (United States Environmental Protection Agency) to stop using glyphosate.


Monsanto, in a statement provided to CBS News, has defended the results and said, “even at the highest level reported… an adult would have to eat 118 pounds of the food item every day for the rest of their life in order to reach the EPA’s limit” for glyphosate residues.


However, glyphosate has been identified as carcinogenic by the France-based International Agency for Research on Cancer. It is also listed by California as a chemical that can cause cancer.




Polypharmacy: It means when a person takes five or more prescription medicines in a day. It may help control various health issues, but taking them together can cause more harm than good.

Popping multiple pills every day to manage a multitude of health conditions is a reality for many people in the country. While the disease itself is a big problem, taking various medicines that may react with each other and cause adverse effects is even more worrisome.

Medically recognised as “Polypharmacy”, it means when a person takes five or more prescription medicines in a day. While the medication may help control various health issues, taking them together can cause more harm than good, says Dr Sushila Kataria, Internal Medicine, Medanta. “It is often ‘doctor driven’ where one single patient ends up seeing multiple physicians and specialists, all of whom prescribe a different medication,” Kataria adds.

It is particularly prominent in the elderly population, who take drugs for long-term conditions like diabetes, arthritis, blood pressure, along with medicines for immediate cures to aches, fever and digestive problems.

“The fact that patients will have to take multiple drugs is inevitable,” says Dr Tarun Sahni, senior consultant, Internal Medicine, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals. However, the advantages far outweigh the challenges, if the treatment is structured. “Sometimes the patients take counter drugs for issues like common cold and they have no idea that the drug might interfere with their ongoing medication, leading to adverse reactions.”

Sometimes the medicines can also enhance or reduce the efficacy of each other. One drug might interfere with the functioning of the other and reduce its effective time, and vice versa.

Here are some precautions that patients can take to minimise the risk of Polypharmacy:

Know your health conditions: It is important that every person is aware of their health condition. If there are multiple health issues, keeping a handy notebook might help.

Try and have a central physician: This doctor can oversee all medication, offer comprehensive advice and if necessary even coordinate with specific doctors and specialists.

Keep notes of all medications: Patients need to not just keep track of their drugs but on every visit to the doctor, they must cross check if the medication needs to continue. Whenever a new condition develops, the doctor must be told about all the medication being taken, including supplements.

Ask your doctor everything: Ask the doctor about the drugs being prescribed, the possible side effects and the most adverse reactions that could happen. That will help everyone understand what to expect.

Discuss diets: Often drugs react with certain foods and supplements being consumed. Therefore, the doctor must be told of dietary patterns so that they make the right recommendations and dosages.

Don’t dismiss anything as old-age: A lot of people often dismiss certain reactions by putting them in the “age-related” tag. For example, certain drugs cause drowsiness and fatigue, which more often than not is dismissed as a sign of growing old.

Follow instructions: This is especially important because many people want to stop their medication as soon as they feel better. It is extremely important to follow the doctor’s advice regarding dosage and timings.

Keep track of all reactions: No matter how small it might seem, recording every reaction is important in ensuring the drug is not causing some long-term side effect.

Similar drugs: Senior citizens need to be extra alert to drugs that look or sound alike. Very often, similar sounding drugs are consumed and can cause stress in the body.


Courtesy - Indian Express


Many years ago, I started researching India’s surviving women freedom fighters. I traced a group of women — Savitri Ramakishen, Sarla Sharma, Subhadra Khosla and Vijay Chauhan — who had raised the tricolour inside the Lahore Women’s jail on August 9, 1942. This heroic act of courage had gone completely unrecorded. Was it that in the aftermath of Partition many such stories have gone unrecorded, or is it that the contribution women make is bound to remain unacknowledged?

Then I met Momota Mehta, a member of the Indian National Army (INA)’s Rani of Jhansi regiment — the first all-women’s military regiment of the world — at her home in New Delhi. She recalled, “I was 16 years old when I heard him (Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose) say, ‘Tum mujhe khoon do, main tumhe azaadi doonga’. I was spellbound and I joined him.” Her account of the military training, night marches and her admiration for Netaji and her commander, Janaky Thevar, who took over the leadership of the Rani of Jhansi regiment from Lakshmi Sahgal in Myanmar, was mesmerising.

This propelled my journey in 2004 to Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Burma (now Myanmar), where I recorded oral testimonies of ordinary people who joined the INA and performed extraordinary acts of courage for the freedom of India. Yet, they remain unrecognised.

At her home in Kuala Lumpur, I met Thevar, who had rescued wounded soldiers when the British bombed the Red Cross hospital in Rangoon. She recalled the 21-day trek through the forests of Burma, along with Netaji, to get the women back to their homes safely, as the INA retreated.

I drove across the length and breadth of Malaysia and met Kannusamy in Prai. When I asked him why he had fought for the freedom of India, not ever having set foot on its soil, he retorted, “It’s a funny question to ask an Indian! Once an Indian, always an Indian.”

Gandhi Nathan was tall with a polished, gentlemanly demeanour. He had been handpicked by Bose to train in Japan along with 20 others. His account of his arrest, incarceration in a prison in Hong Kong, and the voyage back accompanied by abuse and deprivation was illuminating. However, he couldn’t find a foothold in India nor admission to the Indian Military Academy so he returned to Malaysia. “I never regretted joining the freedom struggle,” he said with pride.

Liberty, without fraternity: Lieutenant Perumal of the INA (R), who is a person without a country, at the fomer INA headquarters in Yangon. (Photo: Sagari Chhabra)

When the British reoccupied Malaya, the INA freedom fighters had hidden their identity. However, most of them were found out and interrogated. Some were put under house arrest and others received different kinds of punishment. Surely, we in free India could honour these surviving freedom fighters and give them a pension or some allowance?

In Singapore, I met Bhagyalakshmi Davies, who had joined the Rani of Jhansi regiment for a unique reason — to escape getting married. She said with candour, “My stepmother wanted to marry me off and I thought it was better to die for a cause than to get married to a man I may not like.”

It was in Myanmar that I had some heart-wrenching encounters. Despite my landlord, who made it his business to keep me under his surveillance — the military was in power — I managed to meet some amazing freedom fighters, by giving him the slip.

I met Perumal in Rangoon. He had a quiet air of dignity and spoke in a mixture of Hindi and English. “I was born in Rangoon in the Kambe area in 1928… I joined the struggle hamare desh ke vaaste, azadi ke vaaste.” Then he joined the INA’s propaganda department and then the Azad Hind bank to collect donations. After the Japanese lost the war, he was captured by the British and kept in the Rangoon jail. But he is not a citizen of Myanmar or for that matter any country at all. Neither are his children or grandchildren citizens. They reside there thanks to a Foreigners’ Registration Certificate which has to be renewed every year. They have to seek permission if they wish to travel even within Myanmar.

I asked him whether he wished to become a citizen of India but he said he wished to stay on in Myanmar, where his children and eight grandchildren reside. I asked him if he had written to India for a pension. He replied, “Yes, I have. But I get nothing. I am a citizen of no country,” and a shadow crossed his face.

He was not alone; I met Chinnaya living in a shanty: blind, poverty-stricken but still singing the INA songs. He too was not a citizen of any country. He was born in Tamil Nadu and came to Burma with his parents. “My job was to carry the injured to the hospital,” he recalled. As I saw his rank poverty I was grateful that he could not see the tears of shame that flowed down my cheeks at the government of free India being both blind and oblivious to his existence.

I met at least a score of such stoic freedom fighters, who do not get a single rupee as pension or honoranium. These are indeed strange times; India has failed to pay a humble pension to just a handful of our surviving freedom fighters in southeast Asia.

When a journalist friend was visiting Rangoon last week, I gave him Perumal’s address. To my delight, he found Perumal still alive, although now 90 years old and still awaiting his Myanmar citizenship and some pension as a freedom fighter.

Sagari Chhabra is an author and filmmaker.

Courtesy - Indian Express

Experiencing feelings of depression, anxiety or irritability following what is otherwise a satisfactory intercourse, is termed as ‘Postcoital Dysphoria’. Read on to know more.

The obsession with sex and everything related to it is a cause of concern. While sex addiction has become easier to talk about behind closed doors, during therapy sessions, post-sex blues are yet to be identified as a problem, at least on a larger scale. Probably, because most people are not aware of it themselves. Feeling sad, depressed and finding yourself in tears after sex is a real health issue and there is a term for it: ‘Postcoital Dysphoria’.

Recently, a study estimating the prevalence of PCD in men was published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy. The Australian research team surveyed more than 1,200 men with an online questionnaire and found that almost 41% men experienced PCD at some point and 20% felt it in the last four weeks. As many as 4% said they had PCD on a regular basis. “Results indicate that the male experience of the resolution phase may be far more varied, complex, and nuanced than previously thought,” the authors wrote.

It usually lasts up to two hours post-coitus and may cause the person experiencing it to avoid or become abusive towards their partner(s). “The reasons for Postcoital Dysphoria may vary – from a person’s attitude towards sex, relationship with the partner, prevalent social and cultural factors.

“Anxiety over being susceptible to Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD), etc”, says Dr Kedar Tilwe, a psychiatrist, sexologist and geriatric psychiatrist at Hiranandani Hospital, Vashi – A Fortis Network Hospital.

Postcoital Dysphoria occurs despite enjoying a satisfactory sexual intercourse. However, it is more frequent following casual or clandestine relationships. One needs to understand their feelings and experiences, as well as re-examine their beliefs, attitudes and expectations towards intercourse.

“It is important to remember that Postcoital Dysphoria is more emotional than physiological. However, if it persists for a longer time, formal therapy may help. In clinical practice this is a fairly common presentation. It can occur in both sexes, however it seems to be more prevalent amongst men”, Dr Tilwe adds.

Courtesy - Indian Express

With a gravity boost from the sun, the Parker will attain a top speed of 430,000 mph, about 120 miles a second, at its closest approach of only 3.8 million miles, becoming the fastest human-made object to hurtle through the solar system

NASA successfully launched a spacecraft toward the sun on Sunday, hoping to increase scientific understanding of how our star works. The Parker Solar Probe’s departure promises to set a plethora of records, including speediest spacecraft, highest velocity while leaving Earth and closest solar approach. It will also mark the first robotic visit to a uniquely hostile environment: the unstable atmosphere of a giant ball of perpetual nuclear fusion.

The probe lifted off at 3:31 a.m. Eastern time from Cape Canaveral, Florida, aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket sporting a rare third stage, giving it extra oomph to boost the payload into an interplanetary trajectory. The launch speed of 43,000 miles per hour (69,000 kilometers per hour) was expected to be the fastest of any previous launch because of the pace required to set a course directly to the sun.

The probe failed to launch in its original Saturday slot after missing a 45-minute window, NASA said.

“We always say that luck has absolutely nothing to do with this business, but I will take all that I can get,” ULA Chief Executive Officer Tory Bruno said in an interview Friday. The alliance is a joint venture of Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp.

With a gravity boost from the sun, the Parker will attain a top speed of 430,000 mph, about 120 miles a second, at its closest approach of only 3.8 million miles, becoming the fastest human-made object to hurtle through the solar system. The probe will investigate two key questions about solar physics: How does the solar wind start and attain speeds of as much as 1.8 million mph? And why is the sun’s surface, at 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit (5,500 Celsius), just a tiny fraction of the million-plus degree corona?

“We’ll be going where no spacecraft has dared go before — within the corona of a star,” said project scientist Nicky Fox of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab in Laurel, Maryland, which designed the probe and manages the mission.

The Parker will make 24 orbits of the sun over almost seven years, using Venus to help slow down and reduce its orbital distance to the sun. Parker’s first approach, at 15 million miles, is expected on Nov. 1. So far, the Helios 2 spacecraft has made the closest approach, which flew within 27 million miles in 1976. The probe will fly close enough to observe solar winds, assess their speed and study the formation of high-energy solar particles, which are associated with flares that can wreak havoc on Earth.

Cooling Off

Four suites of instruments will measure the sun’s magnetic field, solar-wind speed and the density and temperature of wind particles. The devices are protected from 2,550-degree heat by a 4.5-inch (11.4-centimeter) carbon-composite shield that will keep the equipment at a cozy 85 degrees during the journey. The $1.5 billion probe is named after Eugene Parker, 91, a University of Chicago physicist who theorized in 1958 that the sun creates a solar wind — a notion that his peers found ridiculous until 1962, when the National Aeronautic and Space Administration’s Mariner 2 mission to Venus confirmed the theory.

Courtesy - Indian Express

According to a report in BBC, studying these social mixing patterns will help to shed light on understanding the way infectious disease are contracted and then help in planning vaccinations accordingly.

Blame it on the films or the stereotypes surrounding it, girls are generally believed to form more close-knit groups as compared to boys. But a recent study debunks this and goes on to state the exact opposite. The study has deduced that boys generally have the same six friends over a period of six months while things are not this constant for girls. According to a report in BBC, studying these social mixing patterns will help to shed light on understanding the way infectious disease are contracted and then help in planning vaccinations accordingly.

Published in a scientific journal Plos One, the study was led by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and was partnered with the University of Cambridge. Complex mathematical models were used by the scientists to understand how a disease spreads in a group. Findings of the study will be helpful in ascertaining how contagious diseases spread and the measures that can be taken to restrict that.

Around 460 students from year seven across different UK secondary schools and from varied socioeconomic classes were asked to name six children they spent most of their time with, during January and June in the year 2015.

Showing boys are potentially more cliquey than girls, perhaps going against gender stereotypes, and that popular child remain popular over time, is an interesting social insight – but for mathematical modellers, this type of information is also extremely valuable. Understanding age-specific social mixing patterns is vital for studying outbreaks of infectious diseases like flu and measles, which can spread rapidly, particularly among children,” author of the study Dr Adam Kucharski said.

“Mathematical models that predict the spread of infectious diseases are now an essential part of public health decisions for the introduction of new vaccines,” he added.

“Kids are a very important part of looking at how diseases spread. Previous studies have only looked at how children mix over one day, so with this study we wanted to see how it changed over time. It would also be good to extend the study over a longer period to see how friendship groups changed over the years,” Dr Clare Wenham, another author of the study said.

“It has been observed that boys’ friendships are more stable and girls’ are more volatile. As a result, girls might feel more pressure to have ‘just in case’ friends in case they fall out with their best friend and they feel more social pressure to be friendly with people that aren’t really their friends than boys. All this leads to a larger, more changeable group,” Dr Terri Apter.


Courtesy - Indian Express



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