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Friday, January 13, 2012

World's largest telescope by China and India

China and India have catapulted to the forefront of astronomy research with their decision to join as partners in building a Hawaii telescope, which will be the world's largest. 

China and India will pay a share of the construction cost, expected to top USD 1 billion, for the telescope at the summit of Mauna Kea volcano. They will also have a share of the observation time. 

"This will represent a quantum leap for the Chinese community," Shude Mao, professor of astrophysics at National Astronomical Observatories of China, said in a telephone interview yesterday from Waikoloa on the Big Island, where he was attending a meeting of the telescope's scientific advisory committee. 

The Thirty Meter Telescope's segmented primary mirror, which will be nearly 100 feet or 30 meters long, will give it nine times the light-collecting area of the largest optical telescopes in use today. Its images will also be three times sharper. 

G C Anupama, professor at the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, said the largest telescope in India has a 2-meter (6.5-feet) mirror, though India is currently building one that will be 4 meters (13 feet). 

"So it's a huge jump for us from 4-meter to 30-meter," Anupama said in a telephone interview on the sidelines of the advisory committee's meeting. "It definitely will take Indian astronomy to greater heights." 

The telescope, known as TMT, will be able to observe planets that orbit stars other than the sun and enable astronomers to watch new planets and stars being formed. 

The University of California system, the California Institute of Technology and the Association of Canadian Universities for Research in Astronomy founded the telescope, which is expected to be finished by 2018. 

China joined as an observer in 2009, followed by India the next year. Both are now partners, with representatives on the TMT board. Japan, which has its own large telescope at Mauna Kea, the 8.3-meter Subaru, is also a partner. 

TMT may not hold the title of world's largest for long, however, as a partnership of European countries plans to build the European Extremely Large Telescope, which would have a 42-meter, or 138-foot, mirror.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Tulsi-based medicine by Indian scientists

From grandma's home remedies for cough, cold and other ailments, 'tulsi' ( Indian Basil) is now being tested by Indian scientists for treating people exposed to harmful radiations and initial tests have shown some positive results. 

Scientists at the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) have developed a tulsi-based herbal medicine for treating people exposed to radiations. The medicine is already in the second phase of trials. 

According to scientists, tulsi has anti-oxidant properties and can repair cells damaged by exposure to radiation. 

"Tulsi-based medicine is already in second phase of clinical trials. It has to undergo some more trials before it is finalised and goes for commercial production. Animal trials have also been conducted and their results were quite encouraging," DRDO's chief controller (R&D) W Selvamurthy told reporters. 

Selvamurthy was speaking at the 99th edition of the Indian Science Congress held here. 

Besides tulsi, sea-buckthorn and podophyllum hexandrum were other herbs chosen to develop medicines to not just treat those effected by nuclear radiations but also as a precaution for those going for rescue work in radiation-affected areas. 

Selvamurthy said it is for the first time in the world that tusli is being used for treating harmful effects of exposure to radiation. 

The same medicine can be used for treating humans and animals exposed to radiation. The cost of this project is around Rs 7 crore. 

"The medicines used for treating radiation-related ailments are very toxic in nature. These herbal medicines would change the way radiation treatment takes place as they would be quite safe," he added. 

Listing out other innovations by the research organisation, Selvamurthy said a special Aloe Vera based anti-frostbite cream - Alocal - has been developed for soldiers deployed at higher altitudes. The medicine prevents frostbite and five lakh jars of that cream have already been supplied to the armed forces. 

Scientists have also developed several other herbal medicines, some especially for the Indian Army. 

"We have developed a special herbal drink for army personnel posted at high altitude areas. This drink is made from 15 herbs and it will help the soldiers in acclimatising fast to those tough weather conditions," Selvamurthy said. 

While the frostbite cream is already in the market, the herbal drink is in the testing phase and will be commercialised soon.