Sunny side up

In 2008, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) announced Aditya-1, India's first solar mission to study the Sun. This ambitious endeavour, with various indigenously-developed instruments on board, holds much promise for our scientific community as they expect to unravel the mysteries of our closest star, the Sun. Now renamed as Aditya L1, the data from the instruments on board are expected to be a treasure-trove of information on the dynamic processes on the Sun's surface and its atmosph
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What influences coronaviruses’ survival on different surfaces?

Researchers find how temperature, humidity and properties of different surfaces influence the evaporation rates of respiratory droplets infected with COVID-19. Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic struck the world, there is a frenzy of guidelines advocating us to go ‘contactless’. We are urged to use masks, maintain distance from others and avoid touching anything while stepping out. This respiratory illness, caused by a kind of coronavirus, is thought to spread through respiratory droplets of infe

A hardware neuron to help ‘brain-like’ computers solve difficult problems

Researchers develop a powerful stochastic neuron, like those in our brain, using random access memory to aid breakthroughs in artificial intelligence In 2013, Amazon, the world’s biggest online retailer, announced its Amazon PrimeAir service, where drones, flying to your doorstep, would deliver your package in under 30 minutes of ordering. Fascinating? If reports are true, this service could be only a few months away. Advances in machine learning technologies have made innovations like automate

Getting more with less: Study proposes the design of an optimum quantum circuit

Nature is an enigma; an ensemble of complex structures and functions come together to form a variety of mesmerising artefacts, including life. Richard Feynman, the well-known American Nobel Laureate and physicist, famously said—"Nature isn't classical, dammit, and if you want to make a simulation of nature, you'd better make it quantum mechanical, and by golly it's a wonderful problem, because it doesn't look so easy". In 1982, he proposed that the workings of nature can be simulated with comput

Up close with Arrokoth: New Horizons details the structure and origins of a Kuiper Belt Object

In January 2006, NASA launched the New Horizons space probe to explore the horizons of the Solar System and know what’s beyond all the planets. The space probe sailed about 5.9 billion kilometres for almost a decade, with state-of-the-art instruments on board, before it met Pluto, a now downgraded ‘dwarf planet’. Three and a half years later and still gliding, it encountered ‘2014 MU69’—the farthest object in the Solar System ever to be visited by a spacecraft. Today, this oddly named object has

Cars, trains, buses or foot—How does Mumbai choose to go to a mall?

If you live in Mumbai, the humidity in the air is quick to make you all sweaty and stinky. With clothes dripping in sweat and without the comfort of an air-conditioned car, going shopping is the last thing you want to do. With bustling shopping malls mushrooming around the city, how would one go to a mall? Do people prefer driving their cars to be presentable at their destinations, or are there other modes? In a recent study, researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IIT Bombay),

Snapped! Here is the first photograph of a black hole

Haven’t we all heard about Black holes—those ‘monstrous’ structures in our Universe that swallow up everything within their reach, including light? Until now, how exactly a black hole looked has been a bit of a mystery, since no telescope had ever taken a picture of these gigantic structures, and their images were only limited by our creativity. Is a black hole, black and a hole? Although the image resembles this description—a ring of fire wrapping a dark central region—there's so much more to t

Looking up and down for answers

Prof Rohini M Godbole and Prof Sharada Srinivasan, two Bengaluru-based scientists, are among those conferred with the prestigious Padma Shri award announced on January 25, 2019, by the Government of India. Rohini Godbole is a professor at the Centre for High Energy Physics, Indian Institute of Science (IISc), and Sharada Srinivasan is a professor at the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS). Prof Rohini is a particle physicist best known for her work on sparticles and supersymmetry theo

A made-in-India transistor that can make India’s IoT technology a reality

The transistor, a semiconductor device used to boost or switch electronic signals, is a widely used component in almost every electronic device, big and small. In fact, it is often considered as one of the greatest inventions of the 20th century. As electronic devices become sophisticated, and find new applications, different types of transistors are being designed and developed to suit those applications. Among them is the Bipolar Junction Transistor (BJT), a transistor that uses both electron

The missing mass -- what is causing a geoid low in the Indian Ocean?

The Earth’s interior is still a mystery to us. While we have sent missions to probe the outer reaches of our Solar system, the deepest boreholes on Earth go down to only a few kilometres. The only way to learn what’s going on deep inside our planet, in the core and the mantle, is by indirect methods. Many of us might have seen those beautiful pictures of our round, blue planet taken from space, but did you know that our planet actually looks like a bumpy potato? It has its own share of deformat

Himalayan origins of the mystic river Saraswati

The monotonous expanse of the Great Rann of Kachchh in the Thar Desert is filled with seasonal salt marshes interspersed with vast mudflats that are dry during summer and are swamped during the summer monsoon and winter. Within this harsh, landlocked, shallow, marine basin lies buried a treasure trove of information about the Bronze Age Harappan civilization and the enigma of the Saraswati – a long lost river. The curious case of the Saraswati has intrigued many philosophers, poets, scholars an

India’s Astrosat detects coronal explosion on Proxima Centauri along with Chandra and Hubble Space Telescope

Aliens and extra-terrestrial life (life forms outside our Earth), is a continuous quest for humankind and numerous space missions have been launched to look for life. We have probes scouting for life in the nearest asteroid up until the farthest planet in our Solar System and beyond, and now scientists say ‘cool dwarfs’ stars are our best bet in finding clues about that elusive life. A ‘cool dwarf’ is a stellar object with a temperature of about 3000 °C or less (the temperature of our Sun, for

This twin-pit toilet could help save India’s groundwater from contamination

October 2, 2019 — the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi — is the deadline India has set for itself to eliminate open defecation in the country. To realise this goal, the government has allocated Rs 9,000 crore under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan for construction of new toilets and for repair of dysfunctional ones. According to the Swachhta Status Report of 2015, more than half of India’s rural population (52.1%) defecates in the open, posing a major public health and sanitation problem. Wi

Mission to Saturn

The sci-fi blockbuster Oblivion gave us a glimpse of life in 2077 on Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, after the Earth was devastated by an extraterrestrial attack. But how far from reality is this? Going by Cassini-Huygens’ findings, perhaps it’s not too far! Cassini-Huygens is the first unmanned spacecraft to orbit Saturn, a spectacular ringed planet in our Solar System. Launched on October 15, 1997, it set out to discover the planet and its satellites, up-close. In its 20 long years, the spacecra