Friday, November 28, 2008

Flying Termites of the Monsoon Season

In villages, here in Tamilnadu of India, people, especially children are sportive in collecting Flying Termites (Alates or Swarmers and ‘Eiesal’ in Tamil). They sing a song to threaten them, and blow air into the opening to their nest present underground! The song contains the following message: “There is snake inside the nest of these flying termites! Won’t they rush out vacating the nest?” As the flying termites come out by themselves (!), one by one, from their underground colony, they are collected in a tiny basket! One can hear these songs of the children in villages after each North East monsoon shower: at these times these creatures swarm around the places. In a few hours they shed their brown membranous wings, and then they are seen in the vicinity running one after the other in pairs. These flying termites are the reproductive forms of the Termites. They, the kings and queens from the termite colony come out of their nest, fly in air, mate with each other and settle down somewhere else inside the ground to establish their own termite colony!

Ok. What the children do with the collected flying termites? In the early part of 19th century they simply put them on the top of the ‘Hurricane lantern,’ roasted and then relished. Elders used to roast them with fried Bengal gram (Chick pea), onion and puffed rice to make a snack for the rainy season! Now the flying termites are consumed as a side dish by the pregnant women for their high mineral contents. Their content has a good taste like that of yellowish butter and is a nutritious delicacy to all. These flying delicacies are wonderful and delicate insects indeed!

Friday, November 21, 2008

HAM and Mobile Phone Communications

In 1980s I used to tune into both foreign and native radio stations in Short Wave Bands with enthusiasm. I was able to hear the latest news broadcasts before they appear late in the daily news papers. One day while I was combing through the radio bands (SWL), I heard a radio station that was a different one from others. It had a man speaking to another man, and not to the listeners! The words repeated in the end of a conversation were: ‘roger, roger’! In response to this the other man spoke to him next. I was surprised, and understood later that they were the hobbyists, ‘HAMs’ (Amateur Radio Operators) conversing in 40 Meter band! The person’s station name (Call Sign) is VU2TX. Yes, HAMs use and speak in a lot of coded words as they also send such coded messages in Morse code (CW) – like we send now Abbreviated Text Messages in SMS! Their conversations are easy to understand if you listen to them carefully and repeatedly. You can also go through the text books prescribed for appearing for Amateur Station Operator License Examination, for referring to their coded words. (Getting through this exam entitles the candidate to get the license and speak to other HAMs all over the world!).

There are millions of HAMs throughout the world rendering services such as developing communication devices, experimenting on gadgets, helping in emergencies and disaster management through this hobby! Actually the present day’s Mobile communication devices (Phone and Signal towers) are simply the modified form of Hand held transceivers and Repeaters used by the HAMs since 1990s! HAMs’ communication networks are also the forerunners of the present day Word, Voice and Video chats of the internet, as also of the Social Community Networks such as Orkut, Myspace etc.!
We should not forget our wonder HAMs and their hobby, as they are still around us without seeking any publicity, and doing their good services. And we must be always in gratitude to them as they have provided the basis of our present day communication boom and boon worldwide!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Veins - Playing on by Emptying!

Veins are the tubes that conduct the used blood to the heart. They are superficial unlike the arteries and they can be seen prominently bulging out from below the skin in lean persons. The greenish tubes seen on the skin of the fair colored persons are actually these veins and are not the 'nerves' as many mistake them to be. They carry the blood from the distal parts of the limbs up towards the heart. They have valves in them that permit the flow of blood towards heart only but not backwards! To see this action of veins do the following:

You can place a finger tip on a distal portion in a stretch of a vein and press it down gently to block the flow of blood in it.

Then with another finger tip pressing down on it next to the previously fixed pressing finger, move over the length of the vein pushing up the blood in it (emptying) proximally.

Next take out this second pressing down finger tip. Now you shall see the previously prominent vein as an empty, dry, flat and green streak! The emptied blood does not flow back as a valve in the vein prevents it!
Now if you release the pressure by the first applied finger tip, blood from the distal part of the vein will flow forwards and fill it up making it prominent once again!
It is a
wonder action of the vein valves that helps to circulate the blood inside our body properly!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Shooting Stars - Meteors in Leonid Showers!

In our younger years of age, we used to gaze at the night sky and count the stars that appear, move and disappear – ‘
Shooting Stars.’ While doing so, friends advised that one should immediately look at a green tree if he sees a shooting star; otherwise it might cause his death!

In 1998 November, there was news in dailies about ‘Leonid Showers.’ So, we all went to look upon the skies after midnight at about 01.30 am. The date was 18th. You can read my jotting on my diary on that date:

“At night (1.30 am to 3.30 am) we all saw the meteors on the clear sky about one or two at a time in a gap of about 10 minutes from 2.15 am to 3.30 am”

As we waited with patience, there were these continued appearances of these shooting stars (or the Meteors) in showers. It appeared as if fireworks were lit and displayed in the sky at the Deepavali
Day, here in India! An amazingly spectacular heavenly sight!

Meteoroids’ are the smaller separated parts from the Asteroids belt of stones that revolve around the Sun. When they come near our Earth, they are attracted and sucked into its atmosphere; but they catch fire and become visible as ‘Meteors.’ As they do so they get vaporized or fall down to the ground as ‘Meteorites.’ (It is believed that one large such of meteorites hit the Earth in Mexico and caused the extinction of Dinosaurs). But the Meteor showers of Leonid occur when our Earth passes through the dust particles left out by the comet Tempel-Tuttle.
Did these meteor showers come only in 1998? No, no! They appear each and every year around mid- November! So, you can witness this celestial event this year also in the
Constellation of Leo. I wish you all have this wonderful experience! You can contact me for sharing your own rendezvous with these meteors or meteorites.

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