Over the last few centuries, we have gained a decent understanding of nature. However, every now and then, nature plays a surprising new card to stun and intrigue. One such new observation has led to the discovery of a new behaviour operating in crystalline materials.
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Aerosols are extremely small solid or liquid particles that remain suspended in air. Examples of such aerosols include dust, smoke and deodorant sprays. Apart from causing local air pollution, these particles reflect and absorb radiation from the sun and hence affect both local and global climate. A recent study published in the International Journal of Climatology has investigated how soot aerosols accumulating in other parts of Asia influence the Indian summer monsoon.
Researchers from the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, have developed a tiny gas sensor that can detect harmful gases like toluene and acetone, gases that we encounter in our daily lives. These sensors could replace the big, expensive instruments that are currently available in the market.
Science aspires, not merely to understand the beauty of nature, but to also be able to predict it. The earth and its atmosphere, and the sky beyond it, have always fascinated us. In spite of the scientific understanding achieved in the last two or three centuries, they remain sources of exquisite beauty and deep mystery. The intricate processes that affect weather patterns have perplexed humans across the ages. In an article published in the Journal of the Indian Institute of Science the well-known scientist Roddam Narasimha talks of earth system science as a “strong candidate for a visionary program for the 21st century”.
The Centre for Sustainable Technologies at the Indian Institute of Science has a strange roof that generates power. which produces more than 10 units (kWh) of electricity daily through the year. This can power four tubelights, four fans and a couple of computers daily. The secret of this lies in the solar-panel roof that besides harvesting sunlight also shelter the indoors.
A cross-continental study including over 2 million trees from about 4000 species has found that among the factors that affect how forest communities change over time, variation in environmental conditions like temperature, rainfall and fire is the most important. The study shows for the first time that forest communities respond to environmental variation over a decade or two; not over thousands of years as previously thought.
A novel battery using sodium compounds has been developed, which can potentially be used to provide electricity for grid-power storage in remote areas and renewable energy generators like solar cells and wind turbines. Though scientists have been trying to use sodium in batteries for some time, this is the first time they have been able to achieve an operating voltage as high as 3.8 V.
A new frog species where the male frog plasters eggs with mud to protect them from drying out and camouflage them from predators has been described from the Western Ghats of southern India. This is the first time such behaviour has been recorded from frogs, worldwide. A great run for frog lovers as we await the monsoon — this adds to the incredible biodiversity that our mountains harbour.
A fig is not just a fruit, but also a live nursery for insects. Starting off as a live nursery with more than 2000 flowers, called the “syconium”, it has then played host to thousands of tiny insects. These insects are more than just casual visitors — they play a tug of war with each other inside the fig, deciding between them how long it takes for the fig fruit to develop.