1 Tahrcountry Musings: January 2010

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Eat Your Greens – Grandmas Advice is Very Relevant

Peanuts are an excellent source of protein. But eating peanuts and peanut butter may expose you to Aflatoxin, a carcinogen. Scientists from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have discovered that eating leafy greens is an excellent way to neutralize the potential Aflatoxin.

Lawrence Livermore researchers Graham Bench and Ken Turteltaub found that giving a small dose of chlorophyll (Chla) or chlorophyllin (CHL) found in green leafy vegetables could reverse the effects of aflatoxin poisoning.

Aflatoxin is a naturally occurring carcinogenic mycotoxin that is associated with the growth of two types of mold: Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus. Food and food crops most prone to aflatoxin contamination include corn and corn products, cottonseed, peanuts and peanut products, tree nuts and milk.

The team initially gave each of three volunteers a small dose of carbon 14 labeled aflatoxin (less than the amount that would be found in a peanut butter sandwich.) In subsequent experiments the patients were given a small amount of Chla or CHL concomitantly with the same dose of carbon 14 labeled aflatoxin. The Chla and CHL treatment each significantly reduced aflatoxin absorption and bioavailability.

The research, which is co-funded by the National Institutes of Health’s National Resource for Biomedical Accelerator Mass Spectrometry, appeared in the December issue of the journal, Cancer Prevention Research.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

My Friend Rajiv and Carnivorous Plants

The other day I was talking to my friend Rajiv from Calicut. Rajiv is an electronics engineer by profession but crazy about wildlife and nature conservation.
 Rajiv had just returned from hiking in Munnar areas and our conversation veered towards carnivorous plants. The carnivorous plant we have in High Ranges, Drocera peltata, traps tiny insects. It is locally known as Kosuvetty. Translated in to English it means the plant that traps mosquitoes. Rajiv wanted to know whether there are plants that can trap small animals. When I told him about the Nepenthes attenboroughii that can trap a rat he was surprised. He told me that many people are not aware of it and requested me to put the details on my blog. So here it goes.
 Nepenthes attenboroughii was discovered in 2007 by Alastair Robinson, Stewart McPherson and Volker Heinrich in the central Philippines and is large enough to catch a rat. The plant was formally described only in 2009 and is named after naturalist and broadcaster David Attenborough. The plant preys on insects and animals that fall into its gaping maw.
 Nepenthes attenboroughii occur only on the summit of one mountain in Palawan, Philippines.
 Nepenthes rajah, the only species of pitcher plant bigger than N. attenboroughii, has been known to digest rodents since the British naturalist Spencer St John discovered a drowned rat in a specimen in Borneo in 1862.
 The formal description of Nepenthes attenboroughii was published as;
 Robinson A.S., A.S. Fleischmann, S.R. McPherson, V.B. Heinrich, E.P. Gironella & C.Q. Peña, 2009. "A spectacular new species of Nepenthes L. (Nepenthaceae) pitcher plant from central Palawan, Philippines", Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 159(2): 195202.

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Retaliation of the Fig Trees When Fig Wasps Don't Service Them

Mysteries of nature are always a source of wonder. Reading about figs and fig wasps made me realize that we have only scratched the surface in our endeavour to solve the mysteries of nature. We are yet to fathom lot of facts from the abysmal ocean.
 It is a known fact that Fig wasps lay their eggs inside the fruit where the wasp larvae can safely develop, and in return, the wasps pollinate the figs. But here is the surprise. Scientists have discovered that when a wasp lays its eggs but fails to pollinate the fig, the trees get even by dropping those figs to the ground, killing the baby wasps inside.
 The researchers of this fascinating study are Charlotte Jandér, a Cornell graduate student in neurobiology and behavior, who conducted the study as a Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute predoctoral fellow and Edward Allen Herre, a staff scientist at the Smithsonian institute in Panama.
 Details of the research appears online on Jan. 13 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Cambridge University’s compilation of top 50 books on sustainability

I was fascinated to read in Guardian.UK, the list of top 50 green books selected by Cambridge University.
University of Cambridge's programme for sustainability came up with the list of top 50 'green' books. The university requested its alumni of around 2,000 senior leaders from around the world who have participated in its sustainability programmes over the past decade or more, to list some of their favourite "sustainability" books. Out came a list of the most influential and thought-provoking books of all time.
Have a look at the list
The full list (in alphabetical order)
Banker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the battle Against World Poverty, by Muhammad Yunus1999
Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature, by Janine Benyus, 2003
Blueprint for a Green Economy: by David Pearce, Anil Markandya and Edward B. Barbier, 1989
Business as Unusual: My Entrepreneurial Journey, Profits and Principles, by Anita Roddick, 2005
Cannibals with Forks: The Triple Bottom Line of 21st Century Business, by John Elkington, 1999
Capitalism as if the World Matters, by Jonathon Porritt, 2005
Capitalism at the Crossroads: Aligning Business, Earth, and Humanity, by Stuart Hart, 2005
Changing Course: A Global Business Perspective on Development and the Environment, by Stephan Schmidheiny and WBCSD, 1992
The Chaos Point: The World at the Crossroads, by Ervin Laszlo, 2006
The Civil Corporation: The New Economy of Corporate Citizenship, by Simon Zadek, 2001
Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive, by Jared Diamond, 2005
The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power, by Joel Bakan, 2005
Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things by William McDonough and Michael Braungart, 2002
The Dream of Earth, by Thomas Berry, 1990
Development as Freedom, by Amartya Sen, 2000
The Ecology of Commerce: A Declaration of Sustainability, by Paul Hawken, 1994
The Economics of Climate Change: The Stern Review, by Nicholas Stern, 2007
The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time, by Jeffrey Sachs, 2005.
Factor Four: Doubling Wealth, Halving Resources Use-A Report to the Club of Rome, by Ernst Von Weizsäcker, 1998
False Dawn: The Delusions of Global Capitalism, by John Gray, 2002
Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side on the All-American Meal, by Eric Schlosser, 2005
A Fate Worse than Debt: The World Financial Crisis and the Poor, by Susan George, 1990
For The Common Good: Redirecting the Economy toward Community, the Environment and a Sustainable Future, by Herman Daly and John Cobb, 1989
Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty through Profits, by C.K. Prahalad, 2004
Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth, by James Lovelock, 2000
Globalization and its Discontents, by Joseph Stiglitz, 2002
Heat: How to Stop the Planet from Burning, by George Monbiot, 2006
Human-Scale Development: Conception, Application and Further Reflections, by Manfred Max-Neef, 1991
The Hungry Spirit: Beyond Capitalism: The Quest for Purpose in the Modern World, by Charles Handy, 1999
An Inconvenient Truth: The Planetary Emergency of Global Warming and What We Can Do About It, by Al Gore, 2006
The Limits to Growth, by Donella H. Meadows, Dennis L. Meadows and Jorgen Randers, 1972
Maverick: The Success Story Behind the World's Most Unusual Workplace, by Ricardo Semler, 1993
The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else, by Hernando De Soto, 2000
Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution, by Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins and L. Hunter Lovins, 2000
No Logo: No Space, No Choice, No Jobs, by Naomi Klein, 2002
Open Society: Reforming Global Capitalism, by George Soros, 2000
Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth, by Buckminster Fuller, 1969
Our Common Future, by The World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987
The Population Bomb, by Paul Ehrlich, 1969
Presence: An Explanation of Profound Change in People, Organizations and Society, by Peter Senge, C. Otto Scharmer, Joseph Jaworski and Betty Sue Flowers, 2005
The River Runs Black: The Environmental Challenge to China's Future, by Elizabeth C. Economy, 2004
Sand County Almanac, by Aldo Leopold, 1949
Silent Spring, by Rachel Carson, 1962
The Skeptical Environmentalist, by Bjorn Lomborg, 2001
Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered, by E.F. Schumacher, 1973
Staying Alive: Women, Ecology and Development, by Vandana Shiva, 1989
The Turning Point: Science Society and the Rising Culture, by Fritjof Capra, 1984
Unsafe At Any Speed: The Designed-in Dangers of the American Automobile, by Ralph Nader, 1965
When Corporations Rule the World, by David Korten, 2001
When the Rivers Run Dry: What Happens When Our Water Runs Out? by Fred Pearce, 2006

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Gecko inspired microelectronics

The Gecko sticks to the smooth of surfaces via strong van der Waals force between its millions of hairs. This has inspired researchers at Rice University to come up with a way to transfer forests of strongly aligned, single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs) from one surface to any other surface in a matter of minutes.
 The template used to grow the nanotubes, with its catalyst particles still intact, can be used repeatedly to grow more nanotubes. Researcher Cary Pint says it is akin to inking a rubber stamp. Researchers hope to develop sensors, highly efficient solar panels and electronic components with the new technique. This could be scaled up easily, for embedding nanotube circuitry into electronic devices.
 Details of the research appear in the online version of the journal ACS Nano. 
# Van der Waals' forces are forces that exist between molecules of the same substance and are quite different from the forces that make up the molecule. The forces are named after the Dutch physicist Johannes van der Waals.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Some More Mangrove Pictures from Uthaman

Which wall is better?The one on the left(Masonry structure), costs lakhs where as the one on the right(Mangrove) costs a few thousand. A mangrove regeneration area on the bank of Eranholi river near Thalassery)

Sad story - Mangroves are felled at Valapatanam in the name of development

Development at the cost of mangrove – A Govt aided prawn farm at Eranholi

A fish farm of ADAK at Eranholi. Another sad example of lopsided development