2015 November | Think Science India

Monthly Archives: November 2015

TSI – Essay Contest Winners

Congratulations to all the participants of the TSI Essay Contest – Oct 2015

Great to see the creativity flowing amongst the readers of TSI.

Our readers wished to invent everything from the teleportation aid to an emotion control device , from a mind reader to a device that would punish anyone who wasted water.The pros and cons of science and technology were also discussed by students in their essays in interesting ways.

TSI thanks its readers for the delightful response to the essay contest.The winning entries will be published in the Nov ’15 to Feb ’16 editions of TSI.

Stay tuned…



TSI Essay Contest winning entry – Teleportation and You


Every time I get to watch Star trek or devour a page or two of HG WELL’s charismatic Sci-Fi Novels, it seems as though I have been sucked into a brand new universe where humans behaved like sub atomic particle, zipping –zapping, replicating, combining, teleporting and doing chores at the speed of light, where science and Fiction co-exist peacefully.

Science has been this area of education which has always intrigued me. Science is everywhere, you can understand it, you can feel it and most importantly, you can use it to make life a lot easier. Being more precise, PHYSICS, the most fundamental reasoning behind the functioning of every single object in this universe – Minute as a quark, humongous as a black hole. (to save your time and precious WHITE PAPER, allow me to time warp into the future and reach the point of discussion where i would have finally reached ,but sluggishly, gradually , tasting every morsel of the Scientific temper boiling within me!) But one isolated blemish in scientific fabric, that being so ferocious and hard hitting on this beautiful brain! At the same time, the intriguing and DANGEROUSELY attractive world of Quantum Mechanics that opens up our path to the fictional elements of science, including TELEPORTATION, that for years, has been considered   a fragment of human imagination.

When I grow up to become a scientist , maybe I won’t be able to teleport people but at least , I can guarantee a thunderous start up to this new division of science. Teleportation is usually considered vanishing of Super heroes on earth and reappearance on some other bizarre location in the vast outer space. (the primary STAR TREK definition) But there is more to it in science; Teleportation refers to travelling large distances yet not LITERALLY covering that distance manually! In simpler words, if you are on earth and wish to reach the Moon, by approximately you will have to travel 3, 84,400km by a Space ship, but what if you get to reach the moon never having to travel the great expanse of space in between!   And my friend that is what H.G. Wells called … TELEPORTATION. This can be achieved by usage of a segment of Quantum mechanics , the so called QUANTUM ENTANGLEMENT ’ which hilariously enough had been called ‘ spooky Action At A Distance’ by the great Albert Einstein after a   lifelong debate with Neils Bohr who seemingly had the better of it, with a studier scientific argument. Precisely ‘entanglement’ refers to a physical phenomenon that occurs when pairs or groups of particles are generated or interact in ways such that the quantum state of each particle cannot be described independently—instead, a quantum state may be given for the system as a whole. Demonstrating with a example , Let’s say you have two rotating circles with six to eight colored sectors ( Alternate colors of Red and Blue ) , the first one being placed at your home and the other on some useless Asteroid floating in the Andromeda galaxy. You rotate the circle at your home and let’s assume it halts at a blue colored sector, then without any doubt you can say that the other circle which had been entangled (Quantum) will halt at a red colored sector. And my dear reader, a group of scientist has already been successful in Teleporting a particle 3 meter apart from its initial position with 100% accuracy, though this is the very first brick in this tower of scientific advancement. It has laid down a strong base for futuristic theory to rely upon.

Teleporting human will be the biggest challenge and I wish to achieve it by building a Teleporting arena (similar to that in Star trek) that can make human movement a lot easier, cheaper and convenient. This arena shall consist of Teleporting tubes that can increase and breakdown the human bodies in to a clump of atoms, which further shall be entangled with atoms, placed in a similar tube far away. All the information, including genetic data shall be replicated on the atoms placed in destination tube and the process shall continue the other way round and lo! We will find our self at a desired destination in negligible time! Though, we will have to lose our previous atoms, the original ones that our body was made up off but anyway it does not really matter because it is the genetic information of our body that really defines us as HUMANS, our intelligence …. Our capability.



Gaurav Pati

Standard -Class-IX-F

Delhi Public School,

Vasant Kunj,

New Delhi-110070

Microsatellite Markers for genetic variability – study on India goat species

Thesis article pic 1

India has a great diversity in domestic livestock and poultry genetic resources. Economically important species of livestock and a large number of breeds / strains within each of these species exist. Among domesticated livestock species, there are over 30 breeds of cattle, 10 breeds of buffalo, 42 of sheep, 20 of goats, 8 of camel, 7 of horses and 18 of indigenous poultry.

Due to various reasons some livestock breeds are in immediate danger of loss and it is estimated that 1500 of the breeds of the world’s domestic animal species are now at high risk of extinction. Recognizing the importance of indigenous animal genetic resources, there is a need to conserve them for making their utilization in future.

The goats are important species of livestock for India as they contribute greatly to the agrarian economy, especially in areas where crop and dairy farming are not economical, and play an important role in the livelihood of a large proportion of small and marginal farmers and landless laborers.

Most of the breeds of goats are very well adapted to the harsh climate, long migration, and lack of vegetation and drinking water. There has been little effort to conserve and further improve the native breeds.


Need of Characterizing Goat Genetic Diversity: –

The plethora of unique indigenous goat germplasm has not been fully characterized and explored. At present very few genes controlling economically important traits of goat have been identified and even the mapping of the genes is a long way from fully understanding their structure and function. Since we cannot characterize the differences between the goat breeds in terms of economically ( growth, milk) important genes, therefore general genetic variability is the most suitable criteria for identifying the breeds for genetic uniqueness. Genetic Characterization is the first step in the conservation programme, as it will help in breed prioritization.


Global Strategy on Animal Genetic Diversity:-

Keeping in view the sharp decline in biodiversity and then urgency to characterize the indigenous germplasm of different countries, Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO, 1996) of the United Nations has proposed an integrated programme for the global management of genetic resources including cattle using microsatellite methodology for breeding characterization.


What are Microsatellites:- 

  • Microsatellites are markers that contain repetitive sequence composed of di-, tri-, or tetra- nucleotides.
  • Microsatellites are also known as simple sequence repeats(SSRs), Short tandem repeats(STRs) and sequence tagged Microsatellite repeats(STMRs)
  • The number of repeats may vary from one person to other, i.e. polymorphic and follow mendelian inheritance.
  • Microsatellites in different individual are not just the same or a different, they can differ by just a few repeats units.
  • The reasons of Microsatellite popularity as genetic marker are that their high mutation rate makes them highly polymorphic, and they are relatively dense in the genomes of many organisms.
  • Due to their high level of polymorphism, microsatellites are informative marker that can be used for many population genetic purposes, ranging from individual level to closely related species.
  • They can used to estimate effective population size (Allen et al.,1995), and to gain insight in to the degree of population substructure including both the amount of migration between subpopulations and genetic relationship among the various subpopulation


Occurance and distribution of Microsatellites:

A striking feature of the eukaryotes genome is that the coding sequences constitute only about 5 to 10 percent in the mammals, of the total genome. The apparently non- functional DNA is either the single copy DNA or the competitive DNA.The repetitive elements may be interspersed in the genome or may occur as tandem repeats. Tandem repeats consist of the same sequence repeated thousands or millions of times in tandem, thus forming discrete blocks of DNA. Interspersed repeats on the other hand consist of specific sequences dispersed around the genome but not forming tandem repeated blocks. In mammals, two major groups of the interspersed repetitive element can be recognized: the short interspersed elements (SINEs) and the long interspersed elements (LINEs). (Schmid and jelinek, 1982; Rogers 1983; Singer et al 1987). Both types of element are proposed to have originated by the reverse flow of information by retro position.

The tandem repeats are broadly refers to as the satellite type of DNA. The satellite type is further classified as satellite, telomeric, minisatellite, and microsatellite DNA. Satellite often has a repeats unit consisting of hundreds or even thousands of nucleotide.

Litt and Luty(1989) introduced the term microsatellite to characterize the simple sequence repeats amplified by PCR as a new kind of polymorphic marker. These are tandemly repeated motifs of 1-5 nucleotides that are densely and evenly distributed through out the genome and often exhibit substantial variation in the number of repeats. They occur at a frequency of one SSR per 10kb DNA and numbering to a total of 50,000- 100,000 in the mammalian genome and follow Mendelian co-dominance Inheritance. The most common Microsatellites in mammals are







Application of Microsatellite in caprines

  • Genetic Characterization.
  • Linkage analysis and gene mapping
  • Individual identification of parentage testing


Study : Genetic Variabilty in Goats

Genetic variability in a small local goat population from the south of Italy were evaluated and compared with some international breeds. DNA polymorphism at microsatellite marker BMS2508 in four goat breed were studied by Ouyang xuxiang et al(2005) in order to obtain molecular markers for multiple embryos on goat.

Goat Data

Genetic structure and phylogeny status of Chaidamu goat population were studied by Zhang Xifeng et al (2005) using simple random Samplings. Genetic structure was analyzed by five aspects and phylogeny status was also investigated. The results indicated that

  1. The average phenotypic heterozygosity degree of coat colour and morphological character were 0.3419 and 0.5207respectively.
  2. Polymorphous blood albumin existed in six loci and the average loci heterozygosity was 0.2584
  3. Polymorphism existed in marker gene by DNA- RAPD

All these indicated that Chaidamu goat is a domestic Goat with less intensively selected breeds.

Dinesh Kumar et al (2005) studied the genetic variation and management of Marwari goat. Genetic variation at 25 microsatellite loci, population structure and genetic bottleneck hypothesis were examined in Marwari goat in arid region of Rajasthan(India). The average polymorphism between the studied loci and the expected gene diversity in the population were 1.295 and 0.623±0.041 respectively.The population was observed to be significantly differentiated into groups and showed a fairly high level of inbreeding and global heterozygote deficit.

Thesis article pic 2

Pic: Kalahari red goat

A genetic profile of the Kalahari red goat from South Africa was studied by Kotze.A et al (2004). The erosion of Kalahari Goat with red boer goat is a major concern among breeders. Eighteen Microsatellite markers were applied to investigate the genetic diversity of the breed and to set up a molecular inventory.

Genetic variation of the three commercial and three indigenous goat populations in South Africa was studied by Visser C et al (2004) by using ten microsatellite marker.

Jandurova O M et al (2004) analyzed microsatellite variation in two breeds of goat, White short haired(WSH) and Brown short haired (BSH). Three markers originated from cattle, three from goat, and three from sheep within these seven loci- Allele frequency, Heterozygosity (H) Polymorphism information Content (PIC) and Genetic distance (D) were calculated. Both breed exhibited relatively high level of heterozygosity.

Genetic diversity of sub Saharan African goat was assessed using 19 Microsatellite marker studied by Chenyambuga SW et al in 2004 breeds were sampled from eastern Africa (Massai, kigezil, Mubende) and western Africa ( Dwarf, Maure) and European breeds (Grizons , Stripped) and a middle breed were also included. It was concluded that the relationship of sub- Saharan African goat breeds were accordingly to their geographical location implying that the goat of eastern Africa, west and south Africa are generally distinct within each sub region, goat population could be differentiated according to morphological characteristics.

These are some example of researches done on finding goat genetic diversity. In the next episode we will see the research done on finding genetic diversity in Attapady goat by using 25 Microsatellite markers and its comparison with Mahasana Goat.

Author : Savita Bubna,Asst Editor TSI


Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis and is seen especially in old age. Sometimes it is also called degenerative joint disease. People with osteoarthritis usually have joint pain and stiffness. Unlike other forms of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, Osteoarthritis affects only joint functions. Although Osteoarthritis becomes more common with age, younger people can also develop it, usually as a result of joint injury, a joint malformation, or a genetic defect in a joint cartilage. Both men and women can have the disease. Before age 45, more men than women have osteoarthritis; though it is more common in women. It is also more likely to occur in people who are overweight and in those who do jobs that stress a particular joint. Osteoarthritis most often affects the knees, and hips. It can also affect the hands (at the end of the figures and thumbs), and spine (neck and lower back). With severe osteoarthritis, the cartilage wears away. Spurs grow out from the edge of the bone, and synovial fluid accumulates. Altogether, the joint feels stiff and sour.

Osteoarthritis-Pic 1


Pic: Normal Joint Vs Joint of Osteoarthritis

The Warning Sign of Osteoarthritis:

  • Stiffness in a joint after getting out of bed or sitting for a long time.
  • Swelling in one or more joints
  • Crunching feeling or the sound of bone rubbing on bone.


  1. Diagnosis:


Clinical History:

The doctor begins by asking the patient to describe the symptoms, and when and how the conditions started as well as how the symptoms have changed over time. Accurate answers to these questions can help the doctor make a diagnosis and understand the impact of the disease has done to his life.

Physical Examination:

The doctor will check the patient’s reflexes and general health, including muscle strength. The doctor will also examine the bothersome joints and observe the patient’s ability to walk, bend, and carry out activities of daily leaving.


X-rays can help the doctor to determine the effect of the arthritis a person has and how much joint damage has been done.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI):

It provides high resolution, computerized images of internal tissues.


  1. Role of Osteoarthritis Treatment:
  • To control pain.
  • To improve joint function
  • To maintain normal body weight
  • To achieve a healthy lifestyle


  1. Treatment Approaches to Osteoarthritis:
  • Exercise
  • Weight Control.
  • Rest and relief from stress on joints.


  • Excersice:

Research shows that exercise is one of the best treatments for osteoarthritis. Exercise can improve mood and outlook, decreases pain, increases flexibility, strengthen the heart and improve blood flow, maintain weight and promote general physical fitness. Exercise is also inexpensive, and if done incorrectly has few negative side effects. The amount and form of exercise prescribed will depend on which joints are involved, how stable the joints are, and whether a joint replacement has been done. Walking, swimming and water aerobics are few popular types of exercise for people with osteoarthritis.

  • Strengthening Exercise:

This exercise strengthens muscles that support joints affected by arthritis. They can be performed with weights or with exercise bands, inexpensive device that adds resistance.

  • Aerobic Activities:

These are exercises, such as brick walking, or low- impact aerobics, that gets your heart pumping and keep your lungs and circulatory system in shape.

  • Range- of -motion activities: This keeps your joints flexible.
  • Balance and agility exercise: This helps you maintain daily living skills. Ask your Physiotherapist what exercise is best for you. Ask for guidelines on exercising when a joint is sore or if swelling is present.


  • Weight Control:

Osteoarthritis patients who are overweight or obese should try to lose weight. Weight lose can reduce stress on weight-bearing joints, and increase mobility. A firm decision can help you develop healthy eating habits. A healthy diets and regular exercise help reduce weight.


  • Rest and relief from stress on joints: Treatment plans include regularly scheduled rest. Patient must learn to recognize the body’s signal, and know when to stop or slow down. This will prevent the pain caused by overreaction. Although pain can make it difficult to sleep, getting proper sleep is important for managing arthritis pain. If you have trouble sleeping, you may find the relaxation techniques. Some people find relief from special footwear and insoles that can reduce pain and improve walking or from using canes to take pressure off painful joints. They may use splints or braces to provide extra support for joints and \or keep them in proper position during sleep or activity. Splints should be used only for limited period of time because joints and muscles need to be exercised to prevent stiffness and weakness. If you need a splint and occupational Therapist or doctor can help you get a properly fitted one.


  1. Physiotherapy: People with osteoarthritis may find many new ways to relief pain. Below are some examples-
  • Heat and cold: Heat or cold (or a combination of the two) can be useful for joint pains. Heat can be applied in the number of different ways-

With warm towels, Hot packs or a warm bath or shower to increase blood flow and ease pain and stiffness. In some cases, cold packs(bags of ice or frozen vegetables wrapped in a towel) , which reduce inflammation, can relieve a pain or numb the sore area.(check with a doctor or physical therapist to find out if heat or cold is the best treatment)

  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS): TENS is technique that uses a small electronic devise to direct mild electric pulses to nerves endings that lie beneath the skin in the painful area. TENS may relieve some arthritis pain. It seems to work by blocking pain messages to the brain and by modifying pain perception.
  • Massage: In this pain relief approach a massage therapist will lightly stroke and/or knead the painful muscles. This may increase blood flow and bring warmth to a stressed area. However, arthritis stressed joints are sensitive, so the therapist must be familiar with the problems of the disease.


Dr Mahesh Salunkhe.

Consultant Orthopedic surgeon, Asha hospital, Mumbai.


A visit to Weikfield’s Mushroom farm

This month we visit Weikfield’s Button mushroom farm located near the city of Pune to know more about its cultivation process on commercial scale.

1 Mushroom


Button mushrooms belong to plant sub kingdom fungi.The scientific name of button mushrooms is Agaricus bisporus.They belong to sub group agaricales and group basidiomycetes.

Fruiting bodies of these fungi are termed mushrooms. They are white in color and the shape resembles a button, hence they are called button mushrooms.

Button mushrooms are rich in proteins minerals and vitamins. Button mushrooms are amongst the few vegetables where naturally occurring vitamin D is present.

They contain antioxidants too.

Cultivation process of mushrooms

Being saprophytic in nature, the mushroom mycelium cannot synthesize its own food .It requires a selective nutrient rich substrate from which it can derive and utilize water and nutrients for its growth.

This substrate is prepared by partial degradation of carbon and nitrogen rich materials .The process of degradation is called composting and nutrient rich partially degraded substrate is called compost.

2 Mushroom pile formation

Pic: Pile formation

Mushroom compost is made from cereal wastes like wheat straw, paddy straw and poultry waste. These wastes are otherwise burned or land filled and may be an environmental challenge.

Formulation is prepared based on nitrogen and carbon contents of the substrates. Dry straw ingredients are thoroughly mixed before initiation of composting process .Composting is initiated by adding water to the straw.

3 Mushroom Tunnel composting

Pic: Tunnel composting

The process of water addition is called prewetting. The wet straw is mixed with the poultry waste .Then this mass,now called compost, is flipped and piled. Ample water is added to the compost to maintain the required moisture for composting .Microbial activity starts in the presence of the water, nutrients and oxygen.

Then this compost is filled in the chambers provided with forced draft aeration system. Ambient air is supplied to compost to keep aerobic conditions .Under aerobic conditions microbes degrade the complex substances.A lignocellulose mass is produced.Due to microbial activity, ammonification starts .This is an exothermic reaction and generates a lot of heat. Then this compost is placed in another chamber that has air recirculation systems .Here the compost is first pasteurized at 60 deg cel and then conditioned at 48 deg cel. During this stage actinomycetes synthesize proteins which are further utilized by mushroom mycelium.

After this compost is cooled to 25 deg cel.

4 Mushroom compost ready

Pic: Compost ready for spawn mix post pasteurization and conditioning

To this compost, spawn is added .Spawn is mycelia of mushrooms grown on millet /wheat grains under sterile conditions in a separate place called as spawn lab. Spawn acts as seeds of mushrooms and are in the form of thread like structures called as mycelia.

Spawn mixed compost is filled in bags and is transported to cultivation houses called growing rooms . Growing rooms are insulated structures with climate control system and provision of air handling with supply of chilled water.

Racks are fabricated in the growing rooms to accommodate the spawn mixed compost bags. Racks are multilayered to use aerial space for cultivation.

5 Mushroom bagging of spawn

Pic: Bagging of spawn mixed compost

Mushroom mycelia start germinating from spawn and penetrate the compost .This mycelium colonization is called spawn run.

In this stage, the compost temperature is maintained at 25 deg cel with high humidity and carbon di oxide levels. It takes 15 days to complete spawn run.

At the end of this stage, bags turn white with complete colonization of mushroom mycelium which is white in color.

Then these bags undergo the next process of cultivation called Case Run.

On 15th day of spawn run bags are opened and on the surface of the compost a layer of specially prepared material called casing soil is applied. Casing soil is prepared by mixing river clay with coco peat, which is a byproduct of the coir industry .The main function of casing soil is retention of water and provision of physical support to mushroom fruit bodies.

The casing soil is steam pasteurized to kill any probable pathogens of mushrooms. During case run, mycelium from compost grows into casing layer and comes to its top. This process takes 5 to7 days.

During this stage casing layer is watered to maintain high moisture.

During case run, compost temperature is maintained at 27deg cel with high humidity and carbon di oxide levels.

Once the mycelium reaches surface of the casing layer, the next process of cultivation-Flushing, is initiated. During this stage, the climate in the room is altered to change vegetative stage to fruiting stage. This is done to induce fruiting of mushrooms.Air temperature is dropped, followed by compost to 20 deg cel. Carbon dioxide is dropped to 1000ppm.

This change triggers the fruit body formation. Initially,very small fruiting bodies are formed.They are called pins. These pins gradually grows and attain a bigger size. Bigger sized fruiting bodies are called mushrooms. During this stage high humidity is maintained.

When the pins attain pea size ample watering is done on the surface.

6 Mushroom pins of pea size

Pic: Pins of pea size 9th day after flushing

This helps in maintaining moist conditions in the casing layer. Mushrooms absorb nutrients from compost and water from casing layer and compost.

When the fruiting bodies attain a diameter of 35mm, they are harvested as mushrooms. During harvesting, a cool climate is maintained with low carbon dioxide level (18 deg cel temperature and 1000 ppm carbon dioxide)

Mushroom Cover Story-3

Pic: Ready for harvesting

The mushrooms are handpicked by giving a twist.The bottom portion called root is cut and discarded. The remaining portion which consists of a round top portion called cap fand the cylindrical longer portion called stem constitutes a mushroom which is then ready for consumption.

7 Mushroom harvesting

Pic: Harvesting

The handpicked mushrooms are placed is specially designed containers of Food grade pannets of plastic and poly bags.

8 Mushroom ready for packing

Pic: Packing of handpicked mushrooms

Then these harvested mushrooms are transported to packing section where they are weighed and packed by closing adhesive strips.

Batch number and date of packing is printed on the packs so that consumers understand its age.

Mushrooms are perishable and have a limited shelf life of 5 days.

They need to be stored refrigerated at temperatures from 2 to 8 deg cel.

Shelf life of mushrooms can be enhanced by canning it.Canning involves blanching, brine filing and retorting.

Pictures and Article : Weikfield Foods Pvt Ltd (Eco Valley Mushrooms)

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