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Monday, December 28, 2015

DNA - Superstorage

DNA the fundamental building blocks of life comprised of the following four nucleotides Adenine(A),Guanine(G),Cytosine(C) and Thiamine(T). As shown in the figure below DNA's structure is like a spiral staircase. One vertical end of the staircase is a sequence of the above four nucleotides.

Each step of this spiral staircase comprises of a bond between A-T or G-C. Hence the other vertical end of the DNA comprises of the corresponding nucleotides. So if there is A in one end of the step, there would be T at other end of the step. If there is G at one end of the step, there would be C at the other end of the step.

The structure is pretty simple to understand.

Now digital data comprises of a sequence of 0s and 1s. It exists like 01001100001011100.... . Now in places of 0s and 1s if we replace the digital data with with the above nucleotides by coding A=00,C=01,G=10,T=11 ; then we get a sequence of DNA. Of course we can produce the other helix by associating A to C (vice - versa) and G to T(vice versa).

Now a recent research has shown that a gram of DNA can store 455 exabytes of data.
(1exabyte =270 bytes). All the data that is there in the internet is much less than 455 exabytes. So we can actually store all the data of the world in a small test tube containing around one gram of DNA. 

The researchers have also come out with a a way to preserve the data for a long period of time taking inspiration from the way nature preserved dinosaur's DNA information for millions of years.

From this research it is clear that in the future DNA can be a potential supercompact storage medium(although it is not clear how fast we will be able to access the data.) . We have many grammes of DNA in our bodies, this shows that the amount of data in our bodies exceeds the amount of data we have in the world. 

More information about this research can be found from the following link

Friday, December 18, 2015

Green Energy Awareness

One of the most wonderful thing to see around is the public awareness regarding ecology today as compared to the past. Most educated people are excited with the prospect of what solar energy and other green energies have to offer.

The city of Delhi, where the number of private vehicles has increased exponentially is going through a huge air pollution problem. Delhi now is one of the most polluted cities in the world. Living in Delhi has become a health hazard for many because of this. To counter the pollution problem the Delhi Government has decided to halve the number of private cars on the road.

Delhi Government plans to allow only odd numbered vehicles on one day and even number vehicles on the other, for six days a week. An exception has been made for single women driving cars. On Sunday all vehicles are allowed to ply on the road. Most people in Delhi believe that this move by the Delhi Government will cause problems in transportation. But majority of Delhites agree that this move is absolutely necessary for their and their family's health.

The major pollutant in Delhi is vehicular pollution hence halving the number of cars on the roads will reduce air pollution to a certain extent. This ruling gives an opportunity to many car pooling companies and they are now offering car pooling services. There are people who have decided to share their cars while commuting to office.

Delhi air pollution statistics are so alarming that the Supreme Court of India has taken note and has passed an order to stop registration of diesel cars in Delhi. The Delhi government is also planning to run extra buses during the period when the odd even formula is in place. Also vehicles going to other states will be diverted from Delhi.

The ultimate solution of car pollution is to avoid the use of fossil fuels. In India we already have battery operated e-rickshaws plying on the roads. They emit zero pollutants as compared to auto-rickshaws that run on petrol or diesel. Again petrol or diesel auto rickshaws are doped with kerosene which produces a big amount of harmful smoke. 

In India, Mahindra Reva produces electric car, it has recently launched the four-seater version of the car. The four seater version of the car is a hybrid version that gives a mileage of 116 kmpl. Such hybrid cars and electric cars like the ones produced by Tesla motors are surely the future of cars. We need cars like that badly. They would not only help cut down emissions but also save India a lot of money, when it comes to importing oil from Gulf countries. 

As I have mentioned earlier in this blog, the global renewable energy innovation is at its peak. It has forced the prices of oil to come down. Solar, Wind and Tidal energy are so promising that in the future the cost of energy produced from these sources can be potentially cheaper than the price we pay today for fossil fuel energy. The greatest advantage will be that we will get energy without any pollution whatsoever. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Low Oil Prices Globall - the reason

Around two years ago, the price of Crude Oil Globally was well above $114. However in the last 18 months or so the global oil prices have come down significantly and for the last many months the price of oil has been hovering around $40. Although, if you live in India you won't have felt the impact since the Indian government did not reduce the prices of petrol(gasoline) and diesel proportionately.

Now the question obviously rises, What is the cause of the drop in oil prices? Many say Russia started attacking Ukraine, so the western economies wanted to bring Russia down and convinced OPEC to boost production of oil that brought down the prices of oil. 

Russia has been severely affected due to the drop in oil prices. Rouble has lost lot of value, at the moment it is half of its peak value. Russian economy does depend a lot on crude oil exports. Russia has some of the largest reserves of crude oil in the world. 

However there is one more significant factor that has to be taken into consideration. Globally renewable and green energy technology is developing fast. The prices of solar power is almost at par with conventional energy and tremendous amount of research is being done globally on harnessing the power of the sun. Solar cells are getting cheaper and more efficient. Even cloudy nations like Germany are leaders when it comes to utilization of solar power. 

Secondly, researchers are also working on technologies to create petroleum from coal at a low price. The technology already exists for decades but it is becoming more and more economical now. 

Cars run on petrol(gasoline) or diesel. Research on electric cars have been done since the time of Thomas Alva Edison. However only now the electric cars manufactured by Tesla motors has become a rage in West. Even in countries like India, we have Mahindra Reva manufacturing electric cars. Again the running cost of electric cars, both Tesla and Mahindra Reva is very low as compared to conventional fuel cars. The maintenance cost of electric vehicles is also comparatively low. 

All the above mentioned facts are serious threat to the future demand of crude oil. Add to that USA which once was an oil importing nation, today exports oil. Hence globally the oil prices have come down and as long as the world focuses on green energy, the oil prices will stay down. 

The burning of fossil fuel is responsible for global warming and pollution in cities, rivers and seas. So the consumption of fossil fuel has to minimized for the sake of humanity. There is enough green energy that nature provides us, we just have to tap into them, to live a cleaner, greener, happier and healthier life. 

Sunday, December 6, 2015

An Urban Farm

I recently came across this video on the Internet that shows how a family of four is growing not only its own food but also is selling it. Their farm is just one tenth of an acre but using their knowledge they are able to organically grow 6000 lbs of food every year. 

Not only do they produce food for themselves but they produce enough to make a profit of $20,000 each year with which they are able to by stuff that they are not able to produce. Its a wonderful example of how people can become self reliant in terms of food even in modern times. 

Their farm is in California where water is in short supply so they are using ancient methods of irrigation. Their home is green they mostly use electricity from solar cells. Then they get free supply of used oils from local restaurants to whom they supply their produce. With that used oil they make bio diesel which they use in their cars. 

Watching this video I can't help thinking that the farmers in India can learn a lot from this family. 

Do watch the video. 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015


First of all lets consider the example of matchstick or a lighter. You rub your matchstick against the rough surface of the matchbox to ignite it. The head of a matchstick comprises of chemicals that catches fire when subject to high amount of heat. The heat is generated because of the friction originating due to the rubbing of the match head over the rough surface of the matchbox. The surface is purposefully made rough so as to maximise friction. 

Similarly in case of a cigarette lighter, friction of the roller with a piece of metal results in sparks that ignite the fuel.

A wheel rolls on the surface of the road because of friction. Although it must be noted that a wheel is actually designed to minimise friction. It is very difficult to move a body with a flat surface because as the surface area in contact with the road increases, the amount of friction encountered by a body on its motion also increases.

It won't be possible for us to walk without friction. It is because of the friction between our feet and the surface of the road that we are able to stand steadily on a road.

Before the invention of matches the ancient humans used to light fire by rubbing two flint stones against each other. In America, which back then was cutoff from the civilized world, the American natives used to light fire using a bow and a wooden spindle by making it spin against a wooden surface. Again friction played a major part in lighting fire. 

Friction has negative effect as well. Friction between different parts of a machine increases the temperature of the machine and because of that there is wear and tear in different parts of the machine. To overcome this different parts of the machines are oiled from time to time.

In vehicles grease is used to minimise friction between different components. At high temperatures graphite is used as a lubricant and it does the function of minimizing friction between moving parts. The major reason of using graphite in place of oil at height temperatures is that at high temperatures oil may catch fire, but graphite wont. 

Writing on paper is possible because of friction. It is the friction between the paper and pencil that leads to deposition of a layer of graphite over the area from which the pencil passes. If you pour oil over a piece of paper and then if you try to write on it you won't be able to do so since oil would significantly reduce the amount of friction between the paper and pencil/pen.

Mountain climbers when they climb on mountains with lots of snow wear shoes with metal spikes. The metal spikes help them to get a better grip over the surface, since a surface with lot of snow will offer very little friction because of which a person climbing a mountain may slide.

Thus the phenomena of friction is very important and we must use our intelligence to make best use of it.