Saturday, January 15, 2011

Visiting Other Worlds! - Space Programs

Ancient astronomers saw faint points of light that seemed to move among the stars. These objects were called planets, and each one of them was given the   name of a god. In the 16th and 17th centuries, scientists came to recognize that the planets were physical bodies that revolved around the Sun. However, it was only recently, in the late 20th century, that technological advances permitted the direct study and the magnificent close-up photographs of the planets in the solar system.

The Planets
From the sightings by Galileo to the construction of space stations capable of sheltering humans, interest in revealing the mysteries of the planets has never ceased. Detailed studies of the rings of Saturn, the patches of ice at the poles of Mars, the exploration of various comets and asteroids, and the flybys of the great   moons of the major planets are among the most striking results of space exploration to date.

Mars in the Sights

There was a time when it was thought that Mars, our closest neighbor, harbored life. Perhaps for this reason it is the planet that has been most explored by  various spacecraft from the decade of the 1960s onward, and it is therefore the  one we know the best, apart from the Earth. Mariner 9 in 1971 and Vikings 1 and 2 in 1976 revealed the existence of valleys and immense volcanic mountains. In 2001 the United States launched the Mars Odyssey mission, which indicated that liquid water exists at great depths.

Mars Odyssey Mission
Named after 2001: A Space Odyssey, the probe was launched by NASA from Cape Canaveral on April 7, 2001. It entered into Martian orbit in October of the same year. The Mars Odyssey was designed for a number of functions, such as taking images in the visible and infrared spectrum, studying the chemical composition of the planet's surface, and investigating the existence of possible sources of heat.  One of its purposes was also to find traces of hydrogen and thus water on Mars.  Finally, the Mars Odyssey was used in support tasks for other Mars missions, acting as a radio-signal repeater between Earth and probes on the Martian surface.
Jupiter in Focus
The fifth planet of the solar system was visited by Pioneer 1 and 2, Voyager 1 and 2, and Cassini. However, the most significant visitor was Galileo, launched by NASA on Oct. 18, 1989. Galileo consisted of an orbiter and an atmospheric probe. After a long voyage, the atmospheric probe penetrated some 125 miles (200 km) into the atmosphere of Jupiter on Dec. 7, 1995, transmitting data about the atmosphere's chemical composition and Jupiter's meteorological activity. The orbiter continued sending information until it crashed into the gaseous giant on Sept. 21, 2003.

Galileo was designed to study the atmosphere of Jupiter, its satellites, and the magnetosphere of the planet. To get there, it did not use a direct path but had to perform an assisted trajectory, passing by Venus on Feb. 10, 1990. Then it flew by the Earth twice and arrived at Jupiter on Dec. 7, 1995. The probe succeeded in sending information of unprecedented quality with a low-gain antenna about the satellites of Jupiter, its moon Europa, and various examples of volcanic activity in its moon Io. It also contributed to the discovery of 21 new satellites around Jupiter. The mission was deactivated in 2003, and the vehicle was sent to crash into the planet. The purpose of this termination was to avoid future collision with its moon Europa that might have contaminated its ice; scientists believe that extraterrestrial microscopic life may have evolved on Europa.

A View of Saturn

The longedΩfor return to Saturn was the result of a scientific alliance between NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA). On Oct. 15, 1997, after a number of years of development, the fruit of this collaboration lifted off toward this enormous gas giant. The mission of Cassini, the mother ship, was the exploration of Saturn. It carried a smaller probe, Huygens that was to land on Saturn's largest moon, Titan, and transmits images and sounds from the surface. The Huygens probe accomplished this prodigious feat, demonstrating once again the capacity of humans to respond to the challenge of frontiers.
The trajectory of Cassini-Huygens was long and complicated, because it included strategic flybys of Venus (1998 and 1999), Earth (1999), and Jupiter (2000). Each one of these encounters was used to increase the craft's velocity and to send the spacecraft in the appropriate direction (a maneuver known as a gravity assist). Finally, and after almost seven years, traveling some 2.2 billion miles (3.5 billion km), the spacecraft arrived at its destination. It brought an end to the long wait since the last visit of a probe to Saturn—the 1981 flyby by Voyager 2.

Toward Venus and Pluto

The New Horizons mission, launched by NASA in January 2006, is a voyage that will carry the spacecraft to the limits of the solar system and beyond. The most important goal of the voyage is to visit Pluto, a dwarf planet (a designation made in 2006 by the International Astronomical Union). The ship flew past Jupiter to gain enough speed to get to Pluto in the year 2015. It will have six months to make observations of Pluto, after which it will continue its voyage toward the region of the solar system known as the Kuiper belt.

New Horizons Mission
An unmanned space mission by NASA whose destination is to explore Pluto and the Kuiper belt. The probe was launched from Cape Canaveral on Jan. 19, 2006. It flew past Jupiter in February 2007 to take advantage of the planet's gravity and increase its speed. It will arrive at Pluto on July 14, 2015. Finally, the probe will fly by one or more objects in the Kuiper belt. The principal objectives of the mission are to study the form and structure of Pluto and its satellite Charon, analyze the variability of the temperature on Pluto's surface, look for additional satellites around Pluto, and obtain high-resolution images. The power source for the spacecraft is a radioisotope thermoelectric generator.

The Venus Express Mission
Venus is a little smaller than the Earth and has a dense atmosphere. Because it is located at slightly more than 67 million miles (108 million km) from the Sun, it receives almost twice the solar energy as the surface of the Earth. The
Venus Express is the first mission of the European Space Agency to Venus. The scientific aims include studying in detail the atmosphere, the plasma medium, the surface of the planet, and surface-atmosphere interactions. It was launched from the Baikonur cosmodrome on Nov. 9, 2005. The mission will last two Venus days, some 500 terrestrial days. The spacecraft entered into orbit on April 11, 2006.

Closer to the Sun

The space probe Ulysses was launched from the space shuttle on Oct. 6, 1990. It completed its first orbit around the Sun in 1997 and since then has carried out one of the most in-depth studies ever about our star. The probe's orbits allow it to study the heliosphere at all latitudes, from the equator to the poles, in both the northern and southern hemispheres of the Sun. The joint NASA and ESA mission is the first to orbit around the poles of the Sun. It orbits the Sun at 10 miles per second (15.4 km/s).

 - Surya Chaitanya

Friday, January 14, 2011

The End of the Dinosaurs - Cretaceous and Paleogene periods

The End of the Dinosaurs

Dinosaurs reigned over the Earth until about 65 million years ago. All of a sudden they died out because of a drastic change in the conditions that made their life possible. The most reasonable hypothesis for this change attributes it to the collision of a large asteroid or comet with the Earth. The resulting fire devastated all of what today are the North and South American continents. The impact raised huge dust clouds that remained suspended in the air for months, darkening the planet. At the same time, sulfur, chlorine, and nitrogen was mixed into dense clouds, causing killing acid rains.

More Theories About the “K-T Boundary”

The period between the Cretaceous and Paleogene periods, known as the “K-T boundary,” marks the end of the era of the dinosaurs. Although the impact theory is widely accepted, other theories suggest that there was a great change in climate that caused dinosaurs to become extinct very slowly as the shallow seas withdrew from solid land. According to the defenders of these theories, the dinosaurs were being reduced in variety and number throughout a period that lasted millions of years. The large meteorite of Chicxulub, according to this hypothesis, would have fallen some 300 thousand years before the end of the Cretaceous Period. It has also been hypothesized that mammals proliferated before the extinction and fed on reptile eggs, or that the plants  eaten by the large sauropods succumbed to diseases.

Profound Evidence

In the Mexican town of Chicxulub, on the Yucatán Peninsula, there is a depression 62 miles (100 km) in  diameter that is attributed to the impact of a meteorite about 65 million years ago. The layers of rock that  make up the soil support this theory and make it possible to see what occurred before and after the impact.  

Volcanic Eruptions 

Another theory relates the massive extinction with the appearance of prolonged volcanic eruptions on Earth  that emitted asphyxiating gases and darkened the skies with dust. Thousands of cubic miles of volcanic rock  found on a plateau in DeccanIndia, support this theory. 

Space Cataclysm 

Every 67 million years, the Solar System crosses through the plane of the Milky Way. At those times some  stars in the Milky Way can cause comets to escape from the Oort cloud and enter the inner Solar System. It  is possible that one of these bodies could have impacted the Earth.  

 - Surya Chaitanya

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Wonders of India

Taj Mahal:

The Taj Mahal is considered the finest example of Mughal architecture, a style that combines elements from Persian, Ottoman, Indian, and Islamic architectural styles. In 1983, the Taj Mahal became a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was cited as "the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world's heritage." 

The Wonder of India for "Peace and Harmony" : The Golden Temple 

The Golden Temple is located in Amritsar, Punjab. The door panes are decorated with artistic style. It opens on to the bridge that leads to the main building of Sri Harmandir Sahib. It is 202 feet in length and 21 feet in width. Its architecture represents a unique harmony between the Muslims and the Hindu architecture. The fourth Guru of Sikhism, [Guru Ram Das], excavated a tank in 1577 which subsequently became known as Amritsar (meaning: Pool of the Nectar of Immortality), giving its name to the city that grew around it. In due course, a Sikh edifice, Harmandir Sahib ( Temple of God), was constructed in the middle of this tank which became the supreme centre of Sikhism. The Golden Temple or Darbar Sahib, is the most sacred temple for Sikhs. It is a symbol of the magnificence and strength of the Sikh people all over the world. 
The Spiritual Wonder of India : Tawang Monastery

Located at an elevation of 10,000 feet in Tawang Town in Arunachal Pradesh. The assembly hall has a 8.3 m high Golden Buddha statue. Is 3 storeys high, occupies an area of 140 sq mt and houses 65 residential buildings. The kakaling (entrance gate) is a large hut shaped structure made of stone. Founded by Merak Lama Lodre Gyatso in 1681. The Tawang Monastery is of the Gelugpa sect of Buddhist and is the largest centre for Buddhist cultural studies. Tawang Monastery is the largest Buddhist monastery in India. Houses the Parkhang Library containing 400 year old Kangyur manuscripts.

7 Wonders of India

1. Khajuraho : 

Khajuraho is a village in Madhya Pradesh, located in Chhatarpur District, about 620 kilometers southeast of Delhi.
• The Khajuraho temples adhere to a northern Indian shikhara temple style and often to a Panchayatana plan or layout.
• Kandariya Mahadeva, comprises eighty-four shikharas, the main being 116 feet from the ground level.
• The Khajuraho temples were built over a span of a hundred years, from 950A.D. to 1050A.D. They were rediscovered during the late 19th century. 
• Khajuraho has the largest group of medieval Hindu and Jain temples, famous for their everyday life sculpture. 

2. Dholavira Site :

• Located in Kutch district
• All its buildings are almost exclusively built out of brick.
• The ancient site at Dholavira, is flanked by two storm water channels; the Mansar in the north, and the Manhar in the south.
• Reservoirs are cut through stones vertically. They are about 7 meter deep and 79 meter long.
• The site was occupied from about 2900 BC for about a millennium, declining slowly after about 2100 BC, briefly abandoned and then reoccupied, finally by villagers among its ruins, until about 1450.
• A sign board with ten huge Indus signs found on the floor of a room at the North Gate was probably originally displayed above the gateway.

3. Meenakshi Temple :

• Located in the second largest city of Tamil Nadu i.e Madurai.
• The temple complex is within a high-walled enclosure, at the core of which are the two sanctums for Meenakshi and Sundareshwara, surrounded by a number of smaller shrines and grand pillared halls.
• The original temple was built by Kulasekara Pandya, but the credit for making the temple as splendid as it is today goes to the Nayaks.
• The Nayaks ruled Madurai from the 16th to the 18th century and left a majestic imprint of their rule in the Meenakshi - Sundareswarar Temple.
• The enormous temple complex is dedicated to Shiva, known as
Sundareshvara and his consort Parvatior Meenakshi.
• According to legend Madurai is the actual site where the wedding between Shiva and Meenakshi took place. 

4. Nalanda University : 

• Located 55 miles from Patna in Bihar.
• Nalanda was the largest residential centre of learning in the world with a 9 storied library.
• The monasteries are built in old Kushan architectural style, in a row of cells around a courtyard.
• It was the Buddhist center of learning from 427 to 1197 CE partly under the Pala Empire.
• It is believed that Buddha visited Nalanda during his last tour through Magadha, and it was there that Sariputta uttered his lion`s roar, affirming his faith in the Buddha.
University of Nalanda was established in 450 CE under the patronage of the Gupta emperors, notably Kumara Gupta.
• Nava Nalanda Mahavihara is devoted to the study and research in Pali Literature and Buddhism.

5. Sun Temple, Konark :

• Situated at a distance from the famous religious and tourist centre of Puri (35 Km.) and the capital city of Bhubaneswar (65 Km).

• The entire temple was designed in the shape of a colossal
chariot with seven horses and twenty four wheels, each about 10 feet in diameter, with a set of spokes and elaborate carvings.

6. Jaiselmer Fort :

• It is situated in Jaisalmer city in Rajasthan.
• The fort stands admist the golden stretches of the great Thar Desert, on Trikuta Hill and had been the scene of many battles.
• It is also known as the "Golden Fort".
• It is built of sandstone and is one of the largest forts in Rajasthan.
• It was built in 1156 AD by the Bhati Rajput ruler Rawal Jaisal, from where it derives it name.
• At one point of time the entire population of Jaisalmer used to live within the fort; but with the increase in the population, people was forced to move out and find shelter under the foot of the Trikuta Hill.
• The main attractions inside the fort are: Raj Mahal (Royal palace), Jain temples, Laxminath temple, 4 massive gateways, Merchant Havelis.

7. Red Fort : 

• Located in Chandni Chowk, Delhi.
• Thick red sandstone walls, bulging with turrets and bastions, have withstood the vagaries of time and nature.
• The wall is 2.5 km long and the height varies from 16 meters on the river side to 33 meters towards the city.
• Diwan-e-am is the large pavilion which was used for public imperial audiences.
• Diwan-e-khas is the decorated hall which was used for ministerial and court gatherings.
• The Red Fort and the city of Shahjahanabad was constructed by the Emperor Shah Jahan in 1639 A.D.
• Every year on Independence Day (15th August) the Prime Minister
of India hoists the national flag and addresses the nation, from the ramparts of Red fort.

- - Surya Chaitanya

Albert Einstein - Short Biography

                                                                  Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein was born in Ulm, Germany on March 14, 1879. As a child, Einstein revealed an extraordinary curiosity for understanding the mysteries of science (started only at age 10/11). A typical child (only to his socio-economic class — educated middle class), Einstein took music lessons, playing both the violin and piano — a passion that followed him into adulthood. Moving first to Italy and then to Switzerland, the young prodigy graduated from high-school in 1896.
In 1905, while working as a patent clerk in Bern, Switzerland, Einstein had what came to be known as his "Annus Mirabilis" — or "miracle year". It was during this time that the young physicist obtained his Doctorate degree and published four of his most influential research papers, including the Special Theory of Relativity. In that, the now world famous equation "e = mc2" unlocked mysteries of the Universe theretofore unknown.
Ten years later, in 1915, Einstein completed his General Theory of Relativity and in 1921 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics (iconic status cemented in 1919 when Arthur Eddington's expedition confirmed Albert Einstein's prediction). It also launched him to international superstardom and his name became a household word synonymous with genius all over the world.
Einstein emigrated to the United States in the autumn of 1933 and took up residence in Princeton, New Jersey and a professorship at the prestigious Institute for Advanced Study.
Today, the practical applications of Einstein's theories include the development of the television, remote control devices, automatic door openers, lasers, and DVD-players. Recognized as TIME magazine's "Person of the Century" in 1999, Einstein's intellect, coupled his strong passion for social justice and dedication to pacifism, left the world with infinite knowledge and pioneering moral leadership.
To view Einstein's clips CLICK HERE
 - Surya Chaitanya

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Biography of Thomas Alva Edison

One of the most famous and prolific inventors of all time, Thomas Alva Edison exerted a tremendous influence on modern life, contributing inventions such as the incandescent light bulb, the phonograph, and the motion picture camera, as well as improving the telegraph and telephone. In his 84 years, he acquired an astounding 1,093 patents. Aside from being an inventor, Edison also managed to become a successful manufacturer and businessman, marketing his inventions to the public. A myriad of business liaisons, partnerships, and corporations filled Edison's life, and legal battles over various patents and corporations were continuous. The following is only a brief sketch of an enormously active and complex life full of projects often occurring simultaneously. Several excellent biographies are readily available in local libraries to those who wish to learn more about the particulars of his life and many business ventures.

Edison's Early Years 

Thomas A. Edison's forebears lived in New Jersey until their loyalty to the British crown during the American Revolution drove them to Nova Scotia, Canada. From there, later generations relocated to Ontario and fought the Americans in the War of 1812. Edison's mother, Nancy Elliott, was originally from New York until her family moved to Vienna, Canada, where she met Sam Edison, Jr., whom she later married. When Sam became involved in an unsuccessful insurrection in Ontario in the 1830s, he was forced to flee to the United States and in 1839 they made their home in Milan, Ohio.
Thomas Alva Edison was born to Sam and Nancy on February 11, 1847, in Milan, Ohio. Known as "Al" in his youth, Edison was the youngest of seven children, four of whom survived to adulthood. Edison tended to be in poor health when young.
To seek a better fortune, Sam Edison moved the family to Port Huron, Michigan, in 1854, where he worked in the lumber business.
Edison was a poor student. When a schoolmaster called Edison "addled," his furious mother took him out of the school and proceeded to teach him at home. Edison said many years later, "My mother was the making of me. She was so true, so sure of me, and I felt I had some one to live for, some one I must not disappoint." At an early age, he showed a fascination for mechanical things and for chemical experiments.
In 1859, Edison took a job selling newspapers and candy on the Grand Trunk Railroad to Detroit. In the baggage car, he set up a laboratory for his chemistry experiments and a printing press, where he started the Grand Trunk Herald, the first newspaper published on a train. An accidental fire forced him to stop his experiments on board.
Around the age of twelve, Edison lost almost all his hearing. There are several theories as to what caused his hearing loss. Some attribute it to the aftereffects of scarlet fever which he had as a child. Others blame it on a conductor boxing his ears after Edison caused a fire in the baggage car, an incident which Edison claimed never happened. Edison himself blamed it on an incident in which he was grabbed by his ears and lifted to a train. He did not let his disability discourage him, however, and often treated it as an asset, since it made it easier for him to concentrate on his experiments and research. Undoubtedly, though, his deafness made him more solitary and shy in dealings with others.

Telegraph Work 

In 1862, Edison rescued a three-year-old from a track where a boxcar was about to roll into him. The grateful father, J.U. MacKenzie, taught Edison railroad telegraphy as a reward. That winter, he took a job as a telegraph operator in Port Huron. In the meantime, he continued his scientific experiments on the side. Between 1863 and 1867, Edison migrated from city to city in the United States taking available telegraph jobs.
In 1868 Edison moved to Boston where he worked in the Western Union office and worked even more on his inventions. In January 1869 Edison resigned his job, intending to devote himself fulltime to inventing things. His first invention to receive a patent was the electric vote recorder, in June 1869. Daunted by politicians' reluctance to use the machine, he decided that in the future he would not waste time inventing things that no one wanted.
Edison moved to New York City in the middle of 1869. A friend, Franklin L. Pope, allowed Edison to sleep in a room at Samuel Laws' Gold Indicator Company where he was employed. When Edison managed to fix a broken machine there, he was hired to manage and improve the printer machines.

During the next period of his life, Edison became involved in multiple projects and partnerships dealing with the telegraph. In October 1869, Edison formed with Franklin L. Pope and James Ashley the organization Pope, Edison and Co. They advertised themselves as electrical engineers and constructors of electrical devices. Edison received several patents for improvements to the telegraph. The partnership merged with the Gold and Stock Telegraph Co. in 1870. Edison also established the Newark Telegraph Works in Newark, NJ, with William Unger to manufacture stock printers. He formed the American Telegraph Works to work on developing an automatic telegraph later in the year. In 1874 he began to work on a multiplex telegraphic system for Western Union, ultimately developing a quadruplex telegraph, which could send two messages simultaneously in both directions. When Edison sold his patent rights to the quadruplex to the rival Atlantic & Pacific Telegraph Co., a series of court battles followed in which Western Union won. Besides other telegraph inventions, he also developed an electric pen in 1875.
His personal life during this period also brought much change. Edison's mother died in 1871, and later that year, he married a former employee, Mary Stilwell, on Christmas Day. While Edison clearly loved his wife, their relationship was fraught with difficulties, primarily his preoccupation with work and her constant illnesses. Edison would often sleep in the lab and spent much of his time with his male colleagues. Nevertheless, their first child, Marion, was born in February 1873, followed by a son, Thomas, Jr., born on January 1876. Edison nicknamed the two "Dot" and "Dash," referring to telegraphic terms. A third child, William Leslie was born in October 1878.
Edison opened a new laboratory in Menlo Park, NJ, in 1876. This site later become known as an "invention factory," since they worked on several different inventions at any given time there. Edison would conduct numerous experiments to find answers to problems. He said, "I never quit until I get what I'm after. Negative results are just what I'm after. They are just as valuable to me as positive results." Edison liked to work long hours and expected much from his employees.

In 1877, Edison worked on a telephone transmitter that greatly improved on Alexander Graham Bell's work with the telephone. His transmitter made it possible for voices to be transmitted at higer volume and with greater clarity over standard telephone lines.
Edison's experiments with the telephone and the telegraph led to his invention of the phonograph in 1877. It occurred to him that sound could be recorded as indentations on a rapidly-moving piece of paper. He eventually formulated a machine with a tinfoil-coated cylinder and a diaphragm and needle. When Edison spoke the words "Mary had a little lamb" into the mouthpiece, to his amazement the machine played the phrase back to him. The Edison Speaking Phonograph Company was established early in 1878 to market the machine, but the initial novelty value of the phonograph wore off, and Edison turned his attention elsewhere.

Edison focused on the electric light system in 1878, setting aside the phonograph for almost a decade. With the backing of financiers, The Edison Electric Light Co. was formed on November 15 to carry out experiments with electric lights and to control any patents resulting from them. In return for handing over his patents to the company, Edison received a large share of stock. Work continued into 1879, as the lab attempted not only to devise an incandescent bulb, but an entire electrical lighting system that could be supported in a city. A filament of carbonized thread proved to be the key to a long-lasting light bulb. Lamps were put in the laboratory, and many journeyed out to Menlo Park to see the new discovery. A special public exhibition at the lab was given for a multitude of amazed visitors on New Year's Eve.

Edison set up an electric light factory in East Newark in 1881, and then the following year moved his family and himself to New York and set up a laboratory there.
In order to prove its viability, the first commercial electric light system was installed on Pearl Street in the financial district of Lower Manhattan in 1882, bordering City Hall and two newspapers. Initially, only four hundred lamps were lit; a year later, there were 513 customers using 10,300 lamps.Edison formed several companies to manufacture and operate the apparatus needed for the electrical lighting system: the Edison Electric Illuminating Company of New York, the Edison Machine Works, the Edison Electric Tube Company, and the Edison Lamp Works. This lighting system was also taken abroad to the Paris Lighting Exposition in 1881, the Crystal Palace in London in 1882, the coronation of the czar in Moscow, and led to the establishment of companies in several European countries.

The success of Edison's lighting system could not deter his competitors from developing their own, different methods. One result was a battle between the proponents of DC current, led by Edison, and AC current, led by George Westinghouse. Both sides attacked the limitations of each system. Edison, in particular, pointed to the use of AC current for electrocution as proof of its danger. DC current could not travel over as long a system as AC, but the AC generators were not as efficient as the ones for DC. By 1889,