Friday, June 27, 2008

SECOND BIRTHDAY Special Show: 'Strider-Man'

Today it is the second birthday of this blog, Natural Scientific and Medical Wonders! Today a wonder insect appears here: ‘Water Strider.’ It walks on the top of water! It gets the help of surface tension for this feat. Its feet are specially adapted for it with nano level structures. It is said that it makes for itself air cushions to stay afloat. I have seen these water striders fly towards fluorescent lamps, hop on the grounds and take to floating if they come across a pool of water. The point of their foot contact with water shows a dimple on the water surface. They are also called by other names such as Water bugs, Water skaters and Water scooters! Aptly I have likened (linked) this insect with Siddhars and the Basilisk lizard in one of the previous posts.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Enhancing Hero turns Mango into a Villain

This y
ear the seasonal mangoes are attractively golden yellow. There is a continuous flow of mango baskets in the markets. And there is no storage delays to ripen the fruits in the godowns. The credits for these go to Calcium Carbide. This chemical 'stone' placed within the baskets of mangoes ripen them in one hour, whereas the normal process of storing with hay takes four days! It makes the mangoes 'inviting' to taste. But these mangoes with white coating and small black spots on their skins make their consumer suffer with vomiting, dysentery,dizziness, mouth ulcers and a host of other illnesses. Moreover the quality and taste are diminished in them. These problems are caused by the Acetylene gas released from the Calcium Carbide. In its place another chemical, Ethylene is suggested for a harmless ripening. But the safer natural ripening on the trees by the sun is the best one.
In other aspects this Calcium Carbide is already a wonder chemical that is used in the production of plastics, and in the welding industry!

Related contents: India Garden

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Perseverance in a Nesting Bird

Mynah is one of the common birds of Tamil Nadu, India. (Sometimes its nestling are kept as pets). It selects its nesting site and defends it like anything. It is said that mynahs build two nests, one for brooding by the female and the other for roosting by the male! I see each year in April or May that a pair of mynahs builds nest(s) in my house – inside the hole of window that is fitted with exhaust fan. They are not tired of their nest building: each time I clear the nesting material from their nesting site they send an irritant and angry call and fly away. But on the very next day morning I find fresh nesting material plugged in the hole! They have repeated their building work silently in the early morning itself.

A very bad but persevering wonder bird!

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Belt Stars of the Heavens

Orderly objects attract all of us, especially if they are seen among the disorderly things. Such objects are also seen on the night sky. They are the ‘Belt Stars’ of the Orion constellation (The Belt of the Hunter). They are three in numbers, and are peculiarly arranged one after the other in a slanting manner as though they are in a line. They are Mintaka, Alnilam and Alnitaka. If they are joined by an imaginary line and that extended further leads us to another bright star Sirius in the South East of Orion (the Dog Star)! They are also seen enclosed in an (imaginary) square with bright stars in its corners such as Betelgeuse and Rigel. These all stars make up the Gemini zodiac (Mithuna raasi). They can be easily identified in winter as they are in the eastern sky at convenient hours. They were used in ancient times in navigation to find out the directions at seas.

From my childhood memories: I remember my mother saying to me, pointing to these three stars, that they are called ‘Water pots - on stand - stars’ (‘Thaunni chaal natchathiram’ in Tamil)!

Thanks to my mom who inspired me with astronomy by showing these wonder stars!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A Medicinal Tree affected by a Bug

This year since March the neem trees all over Tamil Nadu (India) have a peculiar gloomy appearance unusually. They show dried up batches of brownish shoots on the canopy. Many people believe that this change is due to the wrath of the Goddess Mariamman who is said to reside on the neem tree. Others reason it for the unusual rainfall that occurred in February this year. But I say that it is due to Nature’s selection that has promoted a bug’s proliferation! Yes, the neem trees are affected by a bug called as Tea mosquito bug (Helopeltis antonii). This bug sucks out the sap of the tree tissues. Then the affected leaves become curled and dried up. This pest has been identified in neem trees by a ‘Pest surveillance programme '. (It is said that this pest usually attacks only Tea, Cashew or Coca). The application of “Non-chemical pest management’ can control this pest: removal of the affected parts and also the parts having the laid up eggs. A wonder nature of the neem tree is that its own (Neem) seed extract can kill these bugs! There are also natural enemies to these bugs – Weaver ants.

The neem tree is a wonder tree as it has wonder medicines for all, including for itself!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

A Boating Insect

A peculiar insect has been named as ‘Water boatman.’ (Sigara striata). It does not row a boat for carrying others; but itself moves like a ‘living boat’ that has automated oars! I have seen it lying still on water surface. It floats on water. It also swims on the water surface or dives into the pond, using its legs like oars. Its hind legs are shaped like oars – specially adapted! It is purely a vegetarian that feeds only on aquatic plants and algae. It is really a ‘wonder live boat’!

Monday, June 2, 2008

The Flying Wonder since the Ages

At my younger age the most attractive fly was the Dragonfly. The darting fly will be flying low at a level with my height then, inducing me to catch it. The gang of my friends attempted to catch them live by their wings pierced in the thorns of the Prosopis juliflora tree twig, by using it like a swatter! While flying the dragonfly hovers in a fixed spot and then darts out to fly away. These movements attract the attention of all towards it. We believed as young that its head having the large eyes will be turned into sapphire when buried inside the earth! I have seen them fly over and near the water bodies, occasionally touching the water surface with their tail ends.

I had wondered earlier in my childhood about the shabby thin and fragile ‘skeletons’ of some insects that were standing upright like Sphinx on the banks of water tanks of Rice Mill (tanks used for soaking the paddy before parboiling it over fire). As I grew up academically, I understood what it is: these structures were that of the nymphs of Dragonfly! The undrained water in the tank after its use had served as the breeding place for the dragonflies. After hatching out from the eggs that are laid in the water, these aquatic nymphs feed voraciously on tadpoles and fish. When they have grown up, they climb to the bank and moult into adults, that fly away leaving these ‘skeletons’ near the water line.

Each year the arrival of North East monsoon is heralded by the dragonflies darting low here and there. I have seen many beautiful varieties of dragonflies too: reddish slender ones having membranous wings sitting on weeds and those slimmer than a needle moving like a ‘flying line’!

Now I feel that I could not stop writing about this wonder fly. So, I stop here with this and I shall write more wonders about it in my newer posts!

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