Friday, January 30, 2009

Diving Spider in the Air Bubble!

We have seen ‘Diving bell’ in school text books. It was used then to dive into water. Using its principle, a spider lives under water! It is the Diving Spider or the Water Spider (Argyroneta aquatica). This spider forms a bubble of air around itself when it is on the surface of water. Then it dives down into the water lying inside this bubble that is held by the hairs of its abdomen and legs. It gets its oxygen supply from the air inside this bubble. Occasionally it goes up to the surface of water to renew its air supply!
This spider is a wonder in Nature as it demonstrates to us a principle of diving in Physical science.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Prosopis Juliflora - Fuel Wood Wonder!

I was introduced to a tree in my early childhood by its thorn! The tree is Prosopis juliflora. Elders called its thorn as Crow’s thorn (‘Kakka mual’ in Tamil) and cautioned me not to get a prick on foot with it, as it will lead to a painful abscess. It was so named as crows collect these dried greyish black thorns from the grounds near the tree and use it to build their nests.
Prosopis juliflora (‘Veali Karuvealai’ in Tamil) is an evergreen tree thriving well in any soil and is drought resistant. It appears withered only when it rains, as it folds and closes all its leaves then! Its roots go deeper than other tree roots – up to 175 feet! After cutting down to its roots tip I found a tree pushing up its fresh shoot as if it is a new tree within a month – there had been lying a much bigger main root of that tree uncut! The tree is ubiquitous here in South India and other countries like Australia. But peculiarly it is not seen in North India! Its seeds germinate quickly after monsoon rains. So, to check its invasion in farm lands, it must be pulled out and dried in sunlight as soon as it appears above the ground.
Its main use now is as a fuel, either after drying or after turning into charcoal by burning partially in a mud covered heap of its twigs. It was used then as live fencing in farms in the past and hence its Tamil name. It is said that it was introduced into Tamil Nadu, South India with the efforts taken by Honorable K.Kamaraj then Chief Minister to boost the livelihood of poor people. Another use of it: its produce, the pods are eagerly eaten by goats, which are fed by their keepers to fatten them and get tasty flesh!
This tree that grows on wastelands and offers excellent fuel wood at no cost is a wonder tree in every aspect!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Co-trimoxazole, Medicine prolonging Life Span!

It is nice to see people move out of their houses for getting entertained, learning or earning. These are the people who feel themselves in a healthy state. Yet another group of people is there that feel not healthy. Doctors try to make this second group to shift out and move to the healthier group again. For that ‘repairing work’ the tools used here are the medicines! Out of these, one wonderful medicine helps people live longer, healthily, than their destined time: it is the Co-trimoxazole and these benefiting people are those living with HIV/AIDS infection (PLHA)!
This Co-trimoxazole tablet cures the disease,
Pneumonia caused by the fungus, Pneumocystis carinii (or P. jiroveci), and also prevents the same disease in them! It also cures diseases caused by other bacterial infections in them, and thus protects them from death or disabilities. Prescribing this tablet is not restricted to them only; it is used in other people also for curing intestinal infections, ear and urinary infections.Co-trimoxazole in itself is a combination of two medicines in one – Trimethoprim and Sulphamethoxazole. It belongs to the good old group of Sulpha drugs (so, it must be also avoided in people allergic to the members of this group – showing itchy skin rashes, mouth ulcers etc. after swallowing them).This Co-trimoxazole tablet that has emerged as a panacea to the special people (PLHA) is a wonder medicine creating a history in medical treatment of diseases!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Antlion snares your attention!

Smaller, shallow, round fine sand pits with dug sand heaped around are seen at spring and summer, here in India. As kids we used to drive ants into these pits and watch them being dragged down into the sand from the pits’ bottom! Is there some ‘monster’ inside the sand? No, no. It is our cowardly lurking lion – the Ant lion larva or Doodle bug (Myrmeleonidae, ‘Kunnaan’ in Tamil)! But it is cunningly trapping the ants that happen to step into these pits. These ants slide down the slope of the pit in loose fine sand to its bottom where our antlion grabs them sucks their juice and throws off their carcasses out of the pit! We used to fish out this ‘lion’ by simply inserting down into the bottom of the pit a thin stick, and taking out the stick when it grips it! These antlions are the larvae of the flying insect, Antlion lacewings (or Antlion, simply). The female of it lays an egg into the sand that hatches into the larva. This larva turns into a puba that develops in a cocoon of sand, deep down inside the sand, to fly out as adult fly when fully matured.

We sang a song as children over a sand pit of the antlion thus: “Kunnaan, Kunnaan, Kurr Kurr” - in Tamil! It is a wonder lion lurking inside its own snare itself!

Wonder in wonder: As I just finished writing this post an Antlion lacewings flew down into the room in reality! You see here its picture!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Wonders on Earth and the Sky!

From the sky, looking down on our Earth will be always a surprise for all of us! Winding rivers that merge with the bluish sea at their ends reflecting the images of Sun or the clouds on their surface, brownish mountains with their wavy ranges, greenish forests, cumulus clouds floating just below our level like a sea of clouds that conceal earth’s surface, dazzling large water bodies such as reservoirs, trains moving like caterpillars in the cities – all these passing slowly backwards are wonders provoking excitement in us as we watch them with awe on traveling in a Jet plane over the skies here in India!

From the Earth, looking up on the sky also brings wonder in our eyes! On 5th December 2008, there was a wonder on the evening sky: conjunction of the crescent Moon with the bright Venus and the Jupiter planets that resembled the present day Smiley, a smiling face having these planets as eyes and the crescent moon as its mouth! On 31st December 2008, again there was a conjunction of the crescent Moon with Venus that had moved out of the previous place of conjunction leaving the Jupiter far behind it!

As we have seen many wonders to move behind us one by one in the Golden Year, 2008, let us all see up to the sky and pray to the Almighty to make this year, 2009 also full of many such wonders!

Wish you all a Happy and Prosperous New Year!

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