Bharat Ratna Dr. Radhakrishnan was the first Vice President and second President of India. He was also the Chancellor of Delhi University and Vice Chancellor of other Universities. He was so humble that when students wanted to celebrate his birthday, he insisted that they should instead celebrate Teachers' Day. Teachers' day was hence first celebrated in India in 1962 on his birth anniversary (Sept 5), the year he became President. Interestingly, he took only 25% of his salary as President and donated the rest. Did you know Oxford University started Scholarships in his memory and Radhakrishnan Memorial Award too?
The word 'soft drinks' owes its origin to simple advertising. The makers of carbonated beverages were having a hard time marketing their product nationally because the names of these beverages varied from various places of the USA, these beverages were called 'pop' while in other parts it is called 'soda'. In England, soft drinks are called 'fizzy drinks'. In Ireland, they were called 'minerals'. They could not refer to their product in the generic sense on a global level. So, they choose the term 'soft drink'to be more or less a universal term.
Brown eggs are usually expensive as there is a difference in the hens that lay them. Brown eggs are laid by red-feathered chickens with red earlobes while white eggs are laid by white-feathered chickens. Red-feathered chickens are comparatively bigger and require more feed, for which they are expensive. There is no vast difference between white and brown eggs apart from their nutritional value. Brown eggs are rich in omega-3 content compared to the white ones. But, the protein and cholesterol content are almost equal in both of them. The different eggshell colour is caused by pigments that the hens produce.
Particles can't travel faster than the speed of light in vacuum, c = 299,792,458 m/s. However, the speed of light in water is about 75% of the speed of light in vacuum, and fast-moving particles can beat that speed. When a charged particle (like an electron) moves inside a transparent medium at a velocity greater than the phase velocity of light, then a part of the energy is emitted as Cherenkov radiation. It appears as a weak bluish-white glow. This phenomenon is similar to shock waves created when a supersonic aircraft moves faster than the speed of sound.
Putting aside String Theory, physicists believed quarks to be the fundamental particle, and called it 'The standard model'. Unfortunately, this model doesn’t explain why things have mass. Because of this, Peter Higgs, a theoretical physicist, suggested that something else is making the particles to have mass. His hypothesis, which consists of some complicated mathematics, suggests that another particle should exist that gives others mass, and thus the ‘Higgs boson- The God Particle' was born. Scientists are trying to find it in the debris left behind by smashing particles at the large hadron collider which is whopping 17 miles in circumference.
Goosebumps will show themselves whenever you feel cold or experience strong emotions such as fear, shock, anxiety. Goosebumps are actually a remnant of our hairy evolutionary past. In animals, hair standing on end creates an insulating effect. When an animal senses danger, the raised fur coat creates an impression of a bigger animal to scare away predators. Although we may have lost bulk of the hair, the internal wiring remains the same. Goosebumps are an automatic reaction of the nervous system. The nervous system activates them by contracting the piloerector muscle found at the base of every hair follicle.
According to the Ganesha Purana, Krauncha was a celestial musician-god. He was cursed by Muni Vamadeva and turned into a giant mouse. When Lord Ganesha was invited to Maharishi Parashar’s ashrama, then the giant mouse was destroying the ashrama. So, Ganesha unleashed one of his weapons which ended up looping around Krauncha’s neck and brought him to Ganesha’s feet. Krauncha asked for forgiveness and asked Ganesha to accept him as his vehicle. However, Krauncha couldn’t bear the weight of Lord Ganesha and requested him to become light-weight. Since then, the mouse became the vehicle of Lord Ganesha.
The lethality of poison is determined by its LD-50. The LD-50 of a substance is the amount, that on average will kill half of those exposed. A lot of guesswork is done as actual human trials cannot be done for obvious reasons. One of the world's most lethal poison could be found in your very own kitchen. It's known as Clostridium botulinum. This poison is normally encountered through ingestion of contaminated food like unpasteurised canned goods. It is colourless and odourless so you wouldn't know that you consumed the LD-50 until the paralysis sets in.
Did you know the original Indian Constitution was not printed?
The Indian constitution was handwritten in both Hindi and English. It was penned down by Prem Behari Narain Raizada using flowing italic style calligraphy. Each page was decorated by artists from Shantiniketan. This constitution was adopted on 26th November 1949 but it was fully commenced on 26th January 1950. In the original constitution, there were 395 Articles, 8 Schedules, 22 Parts and a Preamble. It took 2 years, 11 months and 18 days to be framed. Now, it has 465 articles, 12 Schedules and 25 Parts. Did you know it is the longest handwritten constitution in the world?
Chess is a complicated game. The computer program views it as a tree structure of all possible moves corresponding to every possible move of the opponent. But, this entire tree would consist of 10^120 board positions. Just as a comparison, the age of the universe from the Big Bang is only 10^26 nanoseconds. Hence, even powerful computers create only 10 to 20 moves into the future. An evaluation function might assign points to each chess piece depending on its value. The program then tries to maximise the total points on the board compared to the opponent to win the game.
The depiction of a witch riding a broomstick goes a long way back. Thanks to those cartoons and movies that scared the pants off us. But what's the origin of the association of broomsticks with witches? Well, the first G-rated answer to this is that back in those days brooms were a symbol of female domesticity. Women generally were responsible for raising children, cooking and upkeep of their homes. They always had their broomsticks as a constant companion. So, when people started claiming others as witches, brooms were thought of as the distinguished tool of the trade.
Bhagat Singh shot John Saunders, a 21-year-old police officer, several times in Lahore. Then, he had to escape to Calcutta with his friends. Two days after the incident, Sukhdev summoned Durgawati Devi for help. Police were then looking for a bearded Sikh. So, Singh shaved his beard, trimmed his hair and put on an western attire with a ‘hat’. Even Devi could not recognise him at first. Together, they boarded a train where Devi carried her own infant and pretended to be Singh’s wife. Rajguru pretended to be their servant. Chandrashekhar Azad also sat in another compartment, dressed as a saint and escaped.
Pitcher plants have prey trapping mechanism and are known as carnivorous plants. The leaves get modified into a pitfall trap which helps in grabbing insects and other small organisms. The rim of the pitcher is slippery and possess nectar which attracts the insects. The plant has waxy scales with circular folds inward to ensure that the insect cannot climb out. Gradually the insect body gets dissolved in the pitcher. These plants naturally grow in soil which lack minerals or if the soil is too acidic.
As the legend goes, sage Durvasa had asked Lord Krishna to apply 'Payasam' (kheer) all over his body. He cursed Lord Krishna for not applying 'Payasam' on his feet. Gandhari also cursed Lord Krishna for deliberately not stopping the Battle of Kurukshetra that caused the death of her sons. When Krishna was meditating underneath a tree, a hunter - Jara mistook Krishna for a deer and shot an arrow that proved fatal for Lord Krishna. Interestingly, Jara is said to be an incarnation of Bali, who was killed unfairly by Lord Rama (the previous incarnation of Lord Krishna).
The popcorn seed or kernel consists of a semi-permeable shell (called pericarp), sufficient water content and starch. These three components work together to make popcorns pop when heated. When we heat the popcorn kernels, the water inside it converts into steam and starts to expand, and the starch inside it turns into a gel-like substance. The steam, being enclosed within the shell, cannot go out. When the shell can no longer withstand the pressure, the kernel explodes - POP - releasing the steam and the gel. When this gel comes in contact with air, it rapidly solidifies forming fluffy popcorn.
Lord Krishna always loved homemade butter churned by his mother, Yashoda. Also, his childhood friends were poor, who starved for food. So, Krishna mischievously took butter from different houses. The 'Gopis' were, however, fond of Krishna's stealing of butter. Devotees prayed to Krishna and longed to offer butter as their token of love. This way 'Lord Krishna' engaged them to keep thinking of him. Thus, he is known as Makhan Chor. Since then, Dahi-Handi ritual is celebrated, where devotees climb on each other to break the Dahi-Handi.
Which Indian soldier survived nearly 20 bullets in the Kargil War?
Three bunkers of Tiger Hill, captured by Pakistan, were located in a 1000 feet high snow-covered cliff. 18 Indian grenadiers led voluntarily by ‘Yogendra Singh Yadav PVC’ went. As Yadav climbed, he installed ropes. In half-way, enemies fired at them. Despite taking three bullets in the throat and shoulder, he climbed the remaining 60 feet and entered the first bunker. He killed four enemies with grenades, enabling his team to climb. Yadav and two soldiers attacked the second bunker, killing four Pakistani soldiers in hand-to-hand fights. He survived nearly 20 bullets and grenade cuts, winning over the ‘Tiger Hill’.
Rovers are one of the several different types of spacecraft sent to Mars. A rover can drive around different areas, studying different chemicals, rocks, and soil, which may also give us evidence for extraterrestrial life. Until now, NASA has sent four rovers - Sojourner, Spirit, Opportunity, and Curiosity. These rovers come equipped with toolkits which are used to study precisely different things. Rovers derive their power from the solar panels attached to them. The new Perseverance Rover launched on 30 July 2020, is expected to reach the Jezero crater on Mars on 18 February 2021.
They lose their tail to defend themselves from predators. When a lizard detaches its tail, the tail whips around and wiggles on the ground.Sometimes the tail keeps moving for half-an-hour as the nerves are active and are still communicating with each other. This behaviour helps to distract the predator. When the new tail grows back, it is a bit different from the earlier one. The new tail is made of cartilage, so it takes time to regrow. Some squirrels also lose their tail, but their tails don't grow back again.
There are various stories behind the celebration of the Raksha Bandhan. One of the famous stories is of Lord Krishna and Draupadi. Once, Lord Krishna hurt his finger during a war. Seeing this, Draupadi tore a strip of her saree and tied around his wounded finger. Lord Krishna valued her sisterly love and promised to repay his gratitude in future. Years later, when Karauvas attempted Drapaudi's 'Vastraharan' (disrobing), then Lord Krishna protected her dignity with his divine powers. Another story is of Alexander's wife, who tied rakhi to King Puru to refrain him from the war against Alexander.
A village found in Kerela named Kodinhi continues to be a mystery to researchers. This village has the largest number of twins in Asia and holds a Guiness World Record. The national average of twins is not more than 9 in 1000 births. But in Kodinhi, the number is as high as 45 in 1000 births. This rate of birth is increasing every year. Besides twins, triplets and quadruplets are also found. Researchers are trying to identify this unique reason by taking soil and water samples of Kodinhi.
The Northern Lights are most visible in the night from the belt which connects Central Alaska, Canada, the southern tip of Greenland, Iceland and the Northern parts of Scandinavia. The sun produces solar winds consisting of a large amount of erupted gas that is hurled out into space. The particles of the solar wind get deflected by the earth's magnetosphere towards the poles. These high-speed beams of particles collide with the Nitrogen and Oxygen atoms in the earth's atmosphere and excite them to the state that they start emitting colourful dazzling lights. This phenomenon is called the aurora borealis.
These are two stones worn on the breastplates by high priests in ancient times to predict good and bad omens. The breastplates were tied around the neck with golden chains and ornamented with 12 shiny gem-stones, resembling the names of the 12 tribes of Israel. Urim implied 'guilty' while Thummim implied 'innocent'; hence these divine stones were used to judge sinners. In the book Alchemist, it was Melchizedek who gives it to Santiago as the fortune-telling stones so that he can use it during his journey to the pyramids.
Gold mining is profitable only if the cost of mining is less than its profit. Thus, the two most gold buyers - India and China, do not mine but import gold. Due to lockdown, the imports have been shut and the demand for gold has reduced. Economics says that when demand for a commodity decreases, it's price decreases. But why are gold prices increasing? The US and Europe are heavily investing in 'Exchange Traded Funds' which include gold too. This increased the demand and hence the price of gold. The momentum can even increase if the demand bounces back in India and China.
Rapid Antigen Test detects the presence of viral nucleoproteins (antigens) expressed by COVID-19 virus in the nasal swab sample within 20 mins. The swab is processed with reagents to disrupt the particles of the virus and expose the antigens. If the target antigen is present in sufficient concentration, it will bind to the antibodies fixed in the test strip and produce coloured lines confirming the presence of COVID-19. However, this test can detect less than 60% of all positive cases. Therefore, if the rapid antigen test result is not positive, it has to be followed by the slower RT-PCR test.
Friendship day is celebrated in various countries of the world. On 20th July 1958, Paraguay, first it was proposed as international friendship day by Dr Ramon Artemio Bracho. Later, The World Friendship Crusade Foundation celebrated it on 30 July, which promotes humanity and fellowship regardless of any caste and creed. But In India, Singapore, Malaysia and UAE it is celebrated on the first Sunday of August every year. Traditionally, gifts, bands and cards are exchanged between youngsters on this friendship day. The friendship bands are popular in India and some parts of South America.
What are the different sleep stages and how does the cycle work?
The three sleep stages are - Rapid Eye Movement (REM) Sleep, Deep Sleep and Light Sleep. Light and deep sleep are about 20% while REM is 50% of the night. You stay awake for the remaining 10%. Every sleep cycle ends with REM, the stage where you dream and the body paralyses itself as a defence mechanism. However, sleep talking and walking are not dreams but part of your deep sleep. This stage is mostly in the first half of the night. It induces immunity and growth hormones and is the most important part of the cycle. Never wake up a person from deep sleep.
Shanghai Maglev, the fastest train, reaches a whopping operational speed of 430 km/hour. The word maglev comes from 'magnet' and 'levitation'. The train doesn't run on wheels on tracks but floats over a magnetized coil running along the track, called a guideway. The maglev track allows the train to float with repelling magnets. A constantly alternating polarity of the magnetized coils creates a unique magnetic field in front of the train to pull the vehicle forward, and another magnetic field behind the train adds more forward thrust. The aerodynamic design and lack of friction help Maglev trains reach such high speeds.
Which machine from 1936 is as powerful as a modern day supercomputer?
In 1936, Alan Turing developed an abstract machine called the Turing Machine. It has an infinite memory tape to only read and write data. In the Turing Thesis, he proposed that his machine could do anything that can be done by any computer. In fact, any computation done by mechanical means can be performed by a Turing Machine. Even for the most complex algorithms, there exists a corresponding Turing machine algorithm. Till today, no one could prove or deny him. Since we never proved him wrong, we started believing he is right. The global challenge is to create a problem that the machine cannot solve.
World's hottest pepper is continuously changing as new varieties are either created or discovered. As of, Carolina reaper is the worlds hottest pepper. It is a crossbred between a Ghost pepper and a Red Habanero which is insanely hot. Another, Naga Viper, is an extremely rare hybrid pepper. Then comes the Moruga Scorpion, a formidable pepper, which was recently discovered in the lands of Moruga. Until 2007, Ghost pepper was the hottest pepper mostly grown in North East India. Due to their extremely hot pungency, these chillies are not advisable for peoples consumption.
Kopi luwak is the most expensive coffee in the world produced mainly in Indonesia, East Timor, the Philipines, Vietnam, Thailand and Ethiopia. The coffee cherries are partially digested and defecated by an Asian palm civet cat. The coffee cherries are subjected to acidic, enzymatic and fermentation treatment as they pass through a civet's intestine. The limited supply with its high demand and unique method of production makes it much more valuable in the market. The annual Kopi luwak production is less than 150 kg, and the retail price of 1 kg of this coffee is about $700.
The mainstream advertising had always focussed on models and actresses who look perfect. Dove designed their retail outlets with two doors - average and beautiful. Very few people went in through the entry designated for beautiful women. This market research showed that only 4% of the women considered themselves as beautiful at that time. Dove started ‘Real Beauty’ marketing campaign featuring real women which conveyed that real-world women are more beautiful than they think they are. It became very relatable and worked as a miracle booster for their self-confidence. Gradually, women started walking in through the ‘beautiful’ door.
It is the aquatic eight-legged 'Tardigrade' which is microscopic and can survive an apocalypse or mass extinctions. Hence, they belong to the category of animals called extremophiles. They exhibit a survival strategy called cryptobiosis, where they can become dormant until conditions improve. They can live without food and water for up to 30 years, tolerate extreme temperatures and even survive in the vacuum of space. They contain a unique protein known as Dsup (damage suppressor) that protects their DNA from harmful radiations. They have survived for 600 million years, preceding dinosaurs by about 400 million years.
The cuckoo bird portrays a perfect example of egg mimicry. Egg mimicry is a process where the host depends on other species to raise its young. Cuckoo bird uses the crow's nest. In this way, they spare themselves the effort of building nests and raising their young ones. Once the young ones get hatched, they remove the host egg one by one within their hatching days. Cuckoo chicks are then desperately fed by their unwitting foster parents assuming it to be their own young ones. This behaviour has been witnessed in fish and insects also.
On November 3rd 1957, the Soviets launched the first-ever living creature to space. It was Laika - the space dog. Picked from the streets of Moscow, Laika was a small and calm dog. The mission was a guaranteed suicide mission as there was no technology to de-orbit her back to Earth. The Russians sent her on the Sputnik-2 spacecraft. The main aim was to see how long a living creature could survive on Earth’s orbit. Unfortunately, the cooling system inside the spacecraft failed; and the temperature increased, which Laika couldn’t withstand. Laika paved the way for other cosmonauts with her life.
Harry Potter series is one of the best-selling book series of all time selling more than 500 million copies despite being banned due to religious conflicts in America. Characters in this book drew inspiration from events in the author's everyday life. Harry Potter shares JK Rowling's birthday. She liked to invent unusual names for the characters. The names of the Houses of Hogwarts were created on the back of an aeroplane's sick bag. After her mother died, she suffered from depression. That's how she portrayed Harry Potter's dementors character as creepy creatures that feed on human emotion.
Donald Duck is the most loved and famous cartoon character of all times. Walt Disney was inspired by a voice actor who recites songs in his angry and agitated duck voice. This duck voice created the Donald Duck character that was more negative than Mickey Mouse. More interestingly Donald Duck has a middle name- Donald “Fauntleroy” Duck. He is the only Disney character who has an official middle name. Donald wears a sailor’s hat and a shirt with a red bow because ducks are similar to sailors as they both stay and work in water.
The twin paradox is an interesting thought experiment involving two identical twins, one of whom moves through space in a high-speed spaceship (86.6% of the speed of light) returns and finds her twin who stayed on earth has aged more. For the twin travelling in the spaceship, her biological processes like heartbeats and her rate of ageing will also slow down. The very perception of time will change. The faster you move through space, the slower you move through time compared to an unmoving observer. This phenomenon of slowing down of time is known as 'time dilation'.
Cheese is the most stolen food in the world, and it has a higher propensity of being stolen than chocolates or alcohol. Interestingly, over 4% of all the total cheese made globally gets shoplifted. Well, cheese is valuable, always in high demand, and available in small and mobile formats that are easy to conceal. It is a lucrative business opportunity as there exists a large black market for stolen cheese, where stolen cheese is sold to restaurants. Most retailers have recently started using security tags on cheese to prevent it from getting stolen.
Wasabi is a plant species belonging to the same family as horseradish and mustard. It mostly grows along the stream beds in mountain river valleys of Japan. Its limited cultivation and unavailability outside Japan make it expensive. Wasabi is grated, dried and made into a paste. It is available in toothpaste-like tubes and used extensively in sushi preparation. "Wasabi-mame" is a crunchy snack made from legumes that are roasted, dried and coated with wasabi powder. It has a sharp and spicy taste. Due to its intense aroma, wasabi vapour is used to create a smoke alarm for deaf people.
According to Indian mythology, once Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu started arguing about their powers. During this heated discussion, an elongated pillar flared up in front of them. They decided to find the starting point and ending point of the pillar. Lord Brahma turned into a swan and flew up to find the tip, while Lord Vishnu turned into a boar and started digging the roots. The tip and bottom of this column were never-ending. They both lost, and Lord Shiva appeared in front of them. They understood the depth of Shiva’s power.
We know that loss of sleep makes people ill-tempered and depressed. A recent study showed that less sleep is better than longer periods of interrupted sleep for our positive mood. The experiment concluded that interrupted sleep lacked slow-wave sleep, which is associated with the reduction in positive mood. In interrupted sleep, any interruptions can break into our sleep cycle unpredictably at random times, thereby disturbing the regular sleep pattern. However, if we wake up at the end of each sleep cycle, the impact on our mood won't be that adverse.
According to Einstein’s general theory of relativity, when an object moves faster, its mass increases and length decreases. As an object approaches the speed of light, its mass would become infinite and length nearly zero - an impossibility. So, an infinite amount of energy would be required to speed up the object to the speed of light. Light is composed of massless photons, which possess natural energy as they travel in waves. This makes it possible for light to reach a speed of 299,792,458 m/s in vacuum. Paradoxically, the Universe expands at speeds greater than the speed of light.
An upside-down structure of Medusa found in the Basilica Cistern of Istanbul is of mysterious origin. Medusa was the only mortal among the three Gorgon sisters - depicted in Greek mythology as a winged female monster with living venomous snakes in the place of hair. Goddess Athena cursed her for breaking the vow of celibacy in Athena's Temple when the sea God Poseidon fell in love with her. Athena transformed Medusa’s hair into serpents that made her look so terrible to behold that it would turn onlookers into stone.
The number 666 doesn't really have any remarkable mathematical purpose, but rather means a name. The name of the coming Antichrist. Giving a number to a name is called 'gematria', a Greek practice of adding up the letters in someone's name. Although it's quite easy to take a name and turn it into a number, it is much harder to do the reverse. Many historians consider the Roman Emperor Nero to be the “antichrist” of Revelation 13 because the total of his name is 666 and also because he inflicted Antichrist-like horror upon the Christians of the first century.
A perfect number is a positive integer that is equal to the sum of its positive divisors, excluding the number itself. The smallest perfect number is 6, which can be expressed as the sum of its divisors 1, 2 and 3 (excluding 6). The next perfect numbers are 28, 496, 8128, etc. Perfect numbers are pretty rare. Even in the 21st century, we have discovered only 51 perfect numbers so far. The largest perfect number known to us has 49,724,095 digits. There are two unsolved mysteries: Are there an infinite number of perfect numbers? Is there an odd perfect number?
Maria Sibylla was born in Germany in 1647. She combined art and science to become one of the great Scientific Illustrator and Entomologist of all times. Maria was particularly interested in caterpillars and butterflies. At that time, most people thought insects were disgusting and not worth of study. But Maria, at a young age, started collecting insects to learn how they behaved. She painted the different life stages of insects. The "Metamorphosis of the Insects of Suriname" was published in 1705 and became a hit all over Europe. Maria’s detailed illustrations amaze people to this day.
Mother spiders make the ultimate sacrifice for their young ones. Not just mothers, but other female spiders also go to extreme lengths to save the colony's young ones. After the eggs hatch, the mother and the other female spiders begin producing a nourishing fluid, which consumes almost all their resources. In the end, the female spiders start to liquefy. The off-springs will finally crawl onto the depleted mother and start eating her. This process is known as 'matriphagy' and is an effective means of survival for these species. It is a rare behaviour found in some spiders, insects and some nematodes.
Plants require sunlight to make their food, but they also need protection from its harmful rays. If plants are exposed to harsh ultraviolet radiations daily, then it may cause damage to the plant DNA. Plants can make their chemical sunscreen, which protects plants from harmful solar radiation (sunburn) and allows them to carry on photosynthesis. These natural sunscreens protect the plants much in the same way that sunscreen lotions protect the human skin from the dangerous effects of ultraviolet light exposures.
Wireless charging works by transferring energy from the charger to a receiver on the back of the device via electromagnetic induction, which discovered by Michael Farraday in 1831. Charging pads work on the principle that a time-varying magnetic field induces a current in a coil. There are three types of wireless charging: tightly-coupled inductive, loosely-coupled resonant and uncoupled charging. Charging pads that are in usage today use the first two methods. The third method promises the possibility of contact-less wireless charging in the future. It can work just like a wifi network and charge all our devices.
Helium is an inert gas and is used to inflate blimps and balloons. For a Helium-filled balloon to rise in the atmosphere, it must be lighter than the weight of the volume of air displaced by it. This phenomenon is called buoyancy. Gravity pulls the heavier air displaced by the balloon towards the Earth, and hence the Helium balloon goes up. In the absence of gravity, there would be no specific direction for the balloon to move. As the balloon ascends, the pressure of the surrounding air decreases and the Helium inside expands. Finally, the Helium balloon bursts.
The golden ratio is a special irrational number which is approximately equal to 1.618, denoted by the Greek letter 'phi'. Aesthetic art forms such as the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Mona Lisa, the Parthenon of Athens feature this ratio. It appears in famous logos of Apple, Pepsi and Twitter. 'Rule of thirds' in photography stems from this ratio of beauty. This divine ratio occurs in nature - the human body, in plants, the DNA of organisms and so on. For example, the length of our face divided by its breadth gives us the golden ratio. Mathematically, phi^2 = phi +1.
Every virus evolves to target a particular species. So, after the initial evolution, the virus tends to jump from the host to a target species. When the virus passes to the new host (a process called zoonosis), it often causes more severe diseases. Because viruses and their initial hosts have evolved together, the initial host has had time to build up resistance. However, the new host species might not have evolved the ability to tackle the virus. Thus, if humans come in contact with animals bearing the virus, humans may develop deadly diseases, while those animals are themselves less affected.
Sphinx is a monster with the head of a human and body of a lion. Once, the Sphinx encountered Oedipus and asked, "Which creature has four feet at dawn, two feet in the afternoon, and three feet at dusk?” He answered, “Man, who crawls on all fours as a baby, walks on two as an adult, and when old needs a walking stick.” The Sphinx asked the next riddle, "There are two sisters; one gives birth to the other, who in turn gives birth to the first. Who are they?" Oedipus replied, "Day and night”. Being defeated, the Sphinx killed herself.
Dolphins are mammals. Unlike us, their breathing is a voluntary process, which means that dolphins only breathe when their blowholes are out of the water, and it's safe to do so. If they enter deep sleep, they might not be able to know when to breathe. So, they have developed a couple of ways to handle sleeping. When a dolphin sleeps, only half of its brain goes to sleep at any one time; the other half of the brain stays awake and takes care of its breathing. Interestingly, dolphins sleep with one eye open.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa, located in Pisa, Italy has seven bells inside it – each representing one note of the musical major scale. It had started tilting when the third story was being built in 1178 due to the soft soil which could not support the tower’s weight. Remedial work between 1993 and 2001 reduced the tilt from 5.5 to 3.97 degrees. It has survived major earthquakes because of the dynamic soil-structure interaction that prevents the tower from resonating with earthquake ground motion. The same soft soil that brought the tower to the verge of collapse has helped it survive.
Do you know the first computer programmer was a woman?
Ada Lovelace, born in 1815, grew up loving numbers and became a wonderful mathematician. In 1834, Charles Babbage invented a computer called the 'Analytical Engine' which could not be built due to lack of finance. Lovelace was asked to translate Babbage's transcribed lecture on his machine from French to English. Surprisingly, she understood the machine better than Babbage and her translated notes were three times longer. She wrote a program to calculate Bernoulli numbers (using loops) and understood that machines can produce music, graphics and much more. She died at the age of 36, never knowing that the programmable Analytical Engine worked in 2002.
Lying makes the heart race, drives up the blood pressure, and makes people sweat. The polygraph uses these physiological changes to detect lies. The machine needs to baseline the vitals, and hence it needs to be calibrated with some “control” questions. The polygraph compares these reactions to those of the relevant questions. A simple way to beat the lie-detector is to induce stress while answering the control questions and keeping calm while answering the relevant ones. Biting the tongue, imagining a fall from a building, or trying to solve a difficult math problem can distort the baseline vitals.
A virus such as COVID-19 can spread like wildfire when no one is immune to the virus. When a fraction of the population becomes immune through natural exposure to the virus or vaccination, the spread slows down. Herd immunity is a state where immune individuals will protect non-immune individuals from the virus by slowing it down. Herd immunity depends on the reproductive rate of the virus (R0), which is the average number of people that an infected person could spread the virus. Herd immunity happens when (R0 - 1)/R0 fraction of the population becomes immune to the virus.
Mayflies are aquatic insects with the shortest lifespan of about 24 hours. Actually, they consume algae in the larval stage for 1-2 years to emerge as winged adults. After they shed their larval shells, they have only 24 hours to take to the air, find a mate, breed and die. Adult mayflies don’t have functional mouth and don’t eat. They emerge in summer months in large numbers and are hence known as ‘mayflies’. Mayflies can only survive in clean water environments. The presence or absence of Mayfly larvae is an important indicator of water pollution.
Quarks are one of the most fundamental units of matter. They are the smallest thing in the universe. They are bound together by strong force carried by hypothetical particles called gluons and form ‘hadrons’ such as pions, neutrons and protons. Quarks sometimes pair with anti-quarks, which are identical to quarks but with some opposite nature. The evidence for their existence came from a series of inelastic electron-neutron scattering experiments carried out at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Centre. Until now, six types of quarks have been discovered: up, down, strange, charm, top, and bottom.
Pigeons were used for sending messages because they could fly over 1600 miles at 60 miles per hour. A particular breed of pigeons called "homing pigeons" is especially suited for carrying messages. Pigeon post was widely used by the military, newspapers, and stockbrokers. Pigeons were transported by land over long distances in cages and attached with messages. Because of their natural homing abilities, they could fly back to their homes with the piece of parchment. Scientists believe that pigeons follow the Earth's magnetic field for guidance. Recent research shows that pigeons might be able to use low-frequency infra-sounds to find their way home.
Tortoises are entirely land creatures. They are a type of turtle that lives on land but are not equipped for living in water. Unlike turtles, who are omnivores, tortoises are vegetarians. The latter have shells that are large dome-shaped and are heavier than turtles, whose shells are mostly flat and streamlined. Tortoises have limbs with short bent legs that are designed for tucking around on land. But turtles have webbed feet with long claws. So, all tortoises are turtles but not all turtles are tortoises.
In Portuguese, 'Dodo' means 'stupid'. Dutch explorers discovered this bird when they took possession of the 'Mauritius' island in the 16th Century. Dodos weighed up to 23 kgs, and because of their heaviness, they could neither fly nor run fast. Dodos became easy prey not only for animals but also for humans. Ship rats and other animals brought by the Dutch sailors ruthlessly ate Dodo eggs and also outcompeted the birds for food. Within a century, Dodos became extinct. The metaphor 'As dead as Dodo' is now used in the English language to mean something obsolete or something not relevant anymore.
What is the longest religiously burning lamp in the world?
In 1528 (1450 Saka), Guru Madhavdeva lit an earthen lamp in a Vaishnavite monastery in Jorhat, Assam - 'Dhekiakhowa Bor Namghar'. Since then, the flame has kept burning continuously without interruption. People religiously refuel the lamp to continue its saga. The lamp also set a national record for burning for the longest duration - around 500 years and can enter the Guinness Book of World Records as well. Interestingly, Guru Madhavdeva once took shelter for the night in the hut of an old woman who served him with a fern 'Dhekia'. Pleased by the taste, he built a monastery there and gave her the responsibility of the historic lamp.
What is the largest living structure on the Earth?
The Great Barrier Reef in Australia is the world’s largest coral reef comprising of over 3000 individual reef systems. It is known for its breath-taking beauty and is called one of the seven natural wonders in the world. Spanning over 2300 km, it is larger than the Great Wall of China and is the only living structure that is visible from space. It is one of the richest and most complex natural ecosystems and is inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage. Rising water temperatures, water pollution, severe cyclones, and starfish outbreaks have weakened the reef’s resilience and threatened its very existence.
Suppose, you pass by one of your favourite restaurants. You get a personalised message that they have a special buffet at a special price for you. You get shocked. How do they know that you are passing by? Well, this is done by using a location-based technology called geo-fencing. A geo-fence is a virtual perimeter that can be drawn on a map around any physical location. Wifi networks, GPS, network signals, or bluetooth are used to locate users entering a geo-fence. This information is used for engaging with customers or for business intelligence. Insights can be generated by geo-fencing a competitor’s location too.
Sea sponges are one of the simplest organisms and belong to the phylum Porifera meaning 'pore-bearer'. They are multicellular organisms without any nervous system, brain or heart. They have bodies full of pores and channels, allowing water to circulate through them. Though they can't move, they are considered aquatic animals and not plants. This is because they lack cell walls and cannot produce food through photosynthesis. They capture tiny microbes and planktons from the surroundings. They are one of the most primitive organisms on earth with fossils dating more than 635 Million years ago.
During the smallpox outbreak in the 18th century, people used to huff powders made of smallpox scabs or insert pus into their skin. They hoped that they would only get a milder version of smallpox and become immune. However, these methods were not full-proof. People still suffered from full-blown smallpox. Edward Jenner, a scientist, realised that milkmaids hardly ever got smallpox. He discovered that milkmaids were routinely exposed to a similar yet milder kind of disease called cowpox. So, Jenner inoculated a boy with cowpox; and, to his surprise, the boy became immune to smallpox too. Thus, vaccination came into existence.
Honeybees sting when they sense a threat to the hive as a defensive mechanism. However, it stings only when it feels a physical threat while foraging. When it stings, it dies. It cannot pull its barbed stingers back as it gets stuck in the victim's skin. Thus, it leaves a part of its digestive tract, nerves and muscles along with the stinger. This massive abdominal rupture kills the bee. The worker bees that die by stinging don't reproduce. They defend their reproducing relatives inside the hive. So, this sacrifice does make sense from an evolutionary perspective.
Netflix began as an online movie rental company in 1997 with a pay-per-rental policy. There was no late fee; but a customer could rent a new movie only after returning the previous DVD. In 1999, Netflix offered unlimited DVD rentals for a monthly subscription fee. Netflix introduced its video-streaming service in 2007. It identified the inefficiency in the TV market - episodes were aired only on fixed time-slots with long wait times. Netflix innovated the concept of flexible 'binge-watching' increasing viewership fast. People could watch what they want whenever they want to. Curated content, personalised recommendations and original content kindled Netflix's growth.
Barbarik. The grandson of Bheem and son of Ghatotkach had three magical arrows given by the Gods that could erase an entire race in a minute. He promised his Guru that he will always fight for the losing party in a war. Lord Krishna understood Barbarik’s invincible power. The team where he is not present will be the losing party. Thus, he would paradoxically oscillate between both sides. First, he will fight for Pandavas, kill all Kauravas and then kill all Pandavas! So, Krishna asked for his 'head' to stop him, else he would have killed everyone in the Mahabharta to keep his promise.
Ever wondered about the trails left behind by jets? These trails are basically called condensation trails called contrails. When jet fuel is burned, one of the products of combustion is water in vapour form. The temperature at 37,000 feet above the ground is below -40°C. So when water vapour exits the high temperature exhausts, it comes in contact with the very cold atmosphere and undergo rapid condensation. These water droplets soon turn into ice and thus we see contrails left behind. We see them some distance apart from the engine because condensation takes a slight amount of time.
Some new born birds or animals follow the first object they see. This is called 'imprinting' and it explains why some birds and animals behave exactly the way they do. They learn to recognise and mimic the actions of the first thing they see which is mostly their mother. The young ones have an instinct of following moving objects and learns from experience what object to follow. This is how young ones stay safe close to their mother and follow her everywhere. Did you know that birds can also imprint humans? So first impression is sometimes the last impression.
Yes. Tomato ketchup in the 1830s was sold as a medicine. A man, Dr. John Cook Bennett proposed that ketchup can be used as a drug for curing ailments like jaundice, diarrhea and indigestion. People readily accepted his idea and it soon became a huge market. Even 'tomato pills' were sold! The market was so competitive that it ultimately crashed in two decades. Thus, we got introduced to tomato ketchup in a completely different way. Do you know an average American eats 71 pounds of ketchup per year?
Lockdown times! What’s more easier to cook than our very own #MeriWaliMaggi? When Maggi was banned due to high levels of Monosodium Glutamate (MSG), it’s market share fell to an all-time low of 10.9% in Nov 2015. However, Maggi soon regained its market share to 57% by Aug, 2016. Nestle harped on positive word-of-mouth publicity through "We Miss You Maggi" campaigns even as they recalled 38,000 tonnes of stock from the shelves. Also, it worked on on-ground activations in smaller towns rebuilding trust amongst their consumers. Nestle gradually diversified their risk by introducing new categories in India.
Pulse candy generated a revenue of ₹100 Crores in the first 8 months. And in 2 years, it touched ₹300 crores with just ‘Word of Mouth’ publicity beating giants like ‘Oreo’. Priced at ₹1, Pulse candy was an instant hit because of its raw mango flavour and a unique powder filled core of salt and spices. It mimicked the traditional way of eating mangoes in India. They leveraged the brand name of successful mouth sweetener ‘Pass Pass’ on the wrapper to build the trust factor. Attractive packaging and availability in every nook and corner made this candy a sensational success.
The Mughals ruled for nearly 330 years, the Mauryas nearly 137 years and the Guptas nearly 230 years. But, the Ahoms ruled for 598 years and defeated the mighty Mughals 17 times. When the Mughals captured Guwahati, it was later recovered by Lachit Borphukan. In 1671, in the Battle of Saraighat, the Ahom army was grossly outnumbered against the Mughals. Lachit Borphukan, the Ahom commander-in-chief, got a wall for fortification erected within a single night. This strategy forced the Mughals into naval warfare on the Brahmaputra river where the Ahoms had a competitive advantage. The Ahoms won this decisive battle.
Onions belong to the Allium Family and produce tasty bulbs in the first year of its life-cycle to store energy. To stop predators from eating the bulb, it has a defence mechanism for its survival. Onions release a volatile chemical called propanethial S-oxide, which is also known as lachrymatory factor (LF). When onions are chopped, the cells within them are broken and release this eye-stinging volatile chemical. It quickly evaporates and reaches the eyes producing a small amount of acid. Reflexive tears well up as our defence mechanism to remove this pesky irritant from the eyes.
Voyager 1 - a space probe launched by NASA is the farthest artificial object from the Earth. Till now it has travelled a total distance of 17.9 Billion kilometres since its launch from Florida on 5th Sep 1977. Light takes around 16 hours to travel from the probe to us. The probe is still moving with a velocity of 17,087 m/s (38,200 mph or 61,400 km/h). Most of its scientific equipment have already been shut down due to lack of power. In a few years, it will no longer be able to power its remaining equipment.
Although stars have a constant brightness, we see them twinkle. This is because of the earth’s atmosphere. Light from the distant stars acts as a point source and passes through various layers of the atmosphere differing in temperatures and densities. Each of the boundaries between these layers refracts the light bending it in a slightly different direction every moment. This makes stars twinkle. Interestingly, planets don’t twinkle that much as they are much closer. The light bouncing off from planets are in the form of a disc and not a single point like the distant stars. This averages out the twinkling effect.
Yes. Blind people can have dreams too. The subconscious mind starts functioning in our sleep and they are not an exception. However, the amount of visual dreams depend on what age they lost their sight. But people who are born blind mostly dream the same way as us with the other senses - touch, smell, hearing and taste. They do not have visual dreams. Not just humans, but do you know animals have dreams too? They dream about their day to day life, like grazing, hunting and surviving.
Visha Kanyas (Poison Damsels) is first mentioned in Arthashastra written by Chanakya, an adviser and prime minister to the first Mauryan Emperor Chandragupta (340–293 BC). ‘Viṣakanyā’ also appears in Sanskrit literature as a type of assassin used by kings to kill their enemies. As per these stories, young girls were raised on a carefully crafted diet of poison and antidote from an early age. This technique is known as mithridatism. Many of these girls would die during ‘training’ but those who managed to survive become immune to various toxins. They would eventually become human weapons with extremely poisonous bodily fluids.
In Melbourne, turbulent weather changes that occur within an hour can drive you nuts! This is because of its unique geographical position. Australia is separated from Antarctica only by ocean and hence cold air flows in unhindered into Melbourne. The hot desert wind from Central Australia strikes the mountain ranges on the West and East Australia. This concentrates the hot wind to blow either towards or away from Melbourne. When hot air blows towards Melbourne, we get heatwaves of over 40°C. The intersection of hot desert winds and cold Antarctica air creates ‘Four Seasons in a Day’ in Melbourne.
Gravitational attraction causes a large amount of interstellar gas (mostly Hydrogen) to collapse in on itself. This causes the atoms to collide at great speeds generating enormous heat. This heat causes the Hydrogen atoms to merge while colliding, forming Helium atoms. The fusion of Hydrogen into Helium releases massive heat and light which makes the stars shine. This additional heat creates enough pressure of the gas to balance the gravitational force that prevents the star from collapsing. The whole process takes more than 10 Mn Years. Thus, a star is born.
Do you know why we say cheers with 'clunk' sound of the glasses? Do you know the reason behind that? We do this when we are celebrating some occasion or having a good time. So when we drink, we can 'see' the drink, 'smell' the drink, 'touch' the drink, 'taste' the drink. The only sense organ that doesn't come in the picture is the ear and hence the clunk sound so that we can 'hear' the sound and the happy occasion is now a culmination of all the five senses.
In the battle of Kurukshetra, after the death of Bheeshma, Drona was the commander-in-chief of the Kauravas and is a quite fearless leader. His only weakness is his son Aswathama. So Krishna comes up with a plan to get rid of Drona. Bheem kills an elephant called Aswathama and the next day in the battle, Yudhisthira yells Aswathama Hatha Kunjaraha. He actually says the words 'Aswathama Hatha' in a loud voice and 'Kunjaraha' in a low volume that Drona couldn't hear. What that means is an elephant called Aswathama is murdered. Not knowing that Drona is distracted and that is when he gets killed.
Saudi Aramco – Yes, you heard it right. According to Fortune magazine, the multinational petroleum and natural gas company headquartered in Saudi Arabia with an annual Net Income of $110 billion is the most profitable in the world. It is followed by Apple, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, Samsung Electronics, and China Construction bank in the same order. While Apple makes a profit of $1,888 per second, Saudi Aramco makes a profit of $3,519 per second.
The bodies of electric eels have electric organs that are made up of electrolytes. These organs are lined up and stacked allowing them the ability to store power, much like small batteries inside a torch. Hence, each cell adds to a potential difference and a current of ions can flow through them. Electric eels, with their electric ability can communicate, navigate and stun their preys. They can discharge upto 860 volts and one ampere of current.
Jellyfish aren’t really fish but gelatinous zooplankton; composed of 95% water. The remaining 5% is structural proteins, muscles and nerve cells. They are made of a jelly-like material 'Mesoglea'. They got no brain, heart, bones or blood. They came 500 million years back, primitive to even dinosaurs. Some are even bioluminescent, producing their own light. Heard of Box jellyfish? The most venomous marine animals in the world! A type of jellyfish, Turritopsis Dohrnii is the only animal in the world that can reverse its lifecycle and hence called immortal.
According to the World Happiness Report released by the United Nations on March 20, 2020, Finland has been ranked as the happiest country in the world for the third consecutive year followed by Denmark and Switzerland. Ranked at 144, India occupied the bottom ten spots of the report. The World Happiness Report is a survey which grades countries using the Gallup World poll and other factors such as levels of GDP, life expectancy, generosity, social support, freedom and corruption income.
Colliding particles of water vapour and ice inside clouds create electrical charges. Heavier negative charged particles sink to the bottom of the cloud and positively charged particles accumulate at the top. When these electrical fields become large enough, a giant spark of electric discharge is created. This causes lightning. Most lightning occurs between clouds but a few occur between clouds and the earth. A flash of lightning contains up to 1 billion volts of electricity and can heat the surrounding air to temperatures 5 times hotter than the sun’s surface.
Sunlight is made of different colours of light which have different wavelengths. The atmosphere of the earth is composed of very small molecules of Nitrogen, Oxygen, Water Vapour, Carbon Dioxide, Argon and traces of other gases. These molecules scatter the shorter and higher-energy wavelengths of light more efficiently than other wavelengths. Though violet light is scattered more than blue light, our eyes respond more strongly to blue light and hence the sky appears blue.