Posts Tagged ‘Planetwatch’

Bheja Fry!!!

May 18, 2010 Leave a comment

Meet any one on the street (if you can find any) and the conversation inevitably kicks off every time on the same note. HEAT! This summer, and it has only begun, it feels like living inside a Wok. Yesterday’s maximum recorded temperature was 47.6 degrees, enough to ignite your hair. You don’t have to colour it brunette anymore. Take a walk at noon and a crimson flame will erupt on your head. Spontaneous combustion!!!

You see, it all began with Carbon. That miserable molecule, free or in the company of Oxygen (that thing we breathe), it hangs around and blocks all these sun rays on their way back, the slow moving infrared rays, just blocks them all. We don’t like this policing, we would rather let go these desperate infrareds, they are not communists, are they? But Carbon; Carbon just don’t let them off so easily. As if that is not enough, what does the atmosphere do when we pour a wee bit more Carbon into it? Why doesn’t it just sneeze and send it all away, vamoose, out into the empty universe. It doesn’t do that. Soft-pedaling when it comes to Carbon, that’s what atmosphere does. Of course, I don’t want to blatantly accuse it. There is gravity to contend with, I agree. If only God hadn’t created gravity, if only Newton hadn’t discovered it. Then atmosphere could have sneezed and got it all out of the system. But, nope, we are stuck with all that Carbon, whirling right round our heads and poking into our noses. Happy, free, emancipated Carbon, that infidel, hanging around and trapping all that poor, innocent infrared radiation and heating up the atmosphere and making us run our air conditioners round the clock, piling up the electricity bill and making lives miserable. Screw Carbon. Dammit. I’d like to declare a Fatwa on it.

But, hey, coming to think of it, I’m made of Carbon. Right from an amoeba to this pinnacle of evolution, this supreme being, this I, me and Myself – made of Carbon. Hic!!, Humbug. Didn’t evolution have any sense? Was it blind? Couldn’t it have foreseen it all? What was God doing with all that omniscience and omnipotence? Couldn’t IT have seen it all coming and made some contingency plans? It is time someone knocked some sense into God and this whole rigmarole of creation. If only we were a zirconium based life form, we could have done away with Carbon and all this mess. But we are bonded with Carbon, for better or worse. Oh, we can control Carbon emission, but then you would ask; can we stop breathing, can we stop our cars, our air conditioners, our factories, our….You must be joking.

Our government, can’t it do something? It is for the people, by the people, of the people, isn’t it. Can’t it enforce some law or something, legislate all those infrareds out of Carbon’s sinister custody? Or maybe they can travel cattle class, reduce “Phoren travel”, save forests and cut emissions. Or maybe capture all that Carbon and throw them in jail, kinda sequestrate? That was on the cards, wasn’t it? Instead the government is planning to send more Carbon up in the air by constructing almost 300,000 MW of coal powered plants within the next few years. Can’t blame the government. Their hands are tied. We, the people, the vote bank, are clamouring for power, more and more of it. We need it to support our lifestyle, our consumption, our comfort. So what can the government do? It just goes and pretends to appease us. If people want power, pile it on high, election is round the corner! Does it mean that we are to blame? I don’t like blame games, let me make that loud and clear. Blame it on nature, blame it on devil, blame it on Carbon, but leave me out of it. I do my daily prayers, perform the Puja, visit the temple, do my pilgrimage, worship a million Gods, feed the cows, vote in every election, hoot for Sachin – what more can you ask for? Don’t ever try to sully my reputation. Carbon or no Carbon, my honour, that is impeccable. I’ll never let you fiddle with it. The sky will split asunder and oceans shall rise up and swallow you. Don’t you dare?

Oh, well, did you say renewable energy? Government has ambitious plans for that too. But only on paper. January; this January, in its boundless enthusiasm the government revealed to the asinine public, yes, you, me, to us all, a plan, mind you, a PLAN!!! to build solar power plants, 20000 MW of it, by 2022. Long term planning you see. Since it is a plan, and since plans are not as evolved as we are, they are still languishing in sheaf’s of paper, waiting for the distinguished and enlightened minister, whenever he/ she/ it has time to spare from the arduous schedule of personal aggrandizement, waiting for this minister to put a signature, and thus bring it to life, so that it can pull itself out of paper and transform into Photovoltaics etcetera and stare at the sun and soak its rays and turn into electricity and connect to grid and flow into our living rooms and pubs and theatres and shopping malls and office complexes… All that is possible, and probable and yes, of course all that costs money. But we, the proletariat, we the larger public, are we willing to pay up? Nope, that is totally unacceptable. It doesn’t cut ice, you see. Power should be free. It is God’s gift. Thank you Volta, thank you Faraday, thank you Lord God, but we don’t want to pay. We don’t mind pilfering it, but we don’t like to pay for it. Who in their right mind would want to pay extra for solar power, this daily benediction of Sun god, this manna from the sky; it should be free, free, free like freeware. Hey, can’t some geek crack the code and supply it for free, we like it FREE….

Only the air conditioner manufacturers seem to have a correct vision of the future. Off late they have begun rating the a/c’s to work at 60 deg C. If that is any indication, we are gonna have it, full and square. In the face, right hook, left hook, full punch. Knock Out!!! And we are gonna be sizzled, fried, charred!! And return to Carbon!!! BELCH ON, WORLD!!!

Read the previous post – Carbon – The Kernel of Life

Categories: Planetwatch

Breath of life….

April 30, 2010 Leave a comment

Checkout the Breathing Earth Simulation for some scary statistics on CO2 emissions, birth and death rates of countries around the world.

Categories: Planetwatch

Our Beliefs, Their Lives – Superstitious Carnage

March 25, 2010 Leave a comment

There are times when I doubt if I live in 21st century. Despite advances in science, technology and medicine, irrational notions hold remarkable sway over us. Shark fin, rhino horn, vulture brain, leopard paws – so goes the list of items which we still believe to have miraculous, medicinal or aphrodisiacal powers. Even though scientific research has busted these claims, large number of people still rely on them.

Recently I visited Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta. They had a fabulous section on sharks. A huge collection of shark teeth and jaws were on display (the shark’s body is made of cartilaginous skeleton). In one gallery the frozen exhibit showed a Mako shark attacking a Blue Fin Tuna. Several sections were devoted to facts about shark attacks. Contrary to popular belief, the number of unprovoked shark attacks on humans are few. The general behaviour of all species of shark bore no resemblance to the bloodthirsty, vengeful ones portrayed in ‘Jaws‘. After the visit, I developed a new found respect for this apex predator whose beauty, power and elegance was simply astounding. Sadly, sharks are being decimated worldwide. Destruction of habitat and irresponsible fishing apart, the most significant contributor to killing of sharks is the demand for shark fin. Sharks are caught, their dorsal and pectoral fins cut off and left to drown and bleed to death, just so that a chosen few can drink expensive shark-fin soup, basking in the glory of conspicuous consumption. With the rising affluence in China, demand for this aphrodisiacal ambrosia has gone up thereby endangering the survival of many shark species. The fact that shark fin is just tough, rubbery, tasteless cartilage is masked by the mesmerizing power of superstition.

Another case in point is Rhinoceros horn. Rhinos are hunted in Africa, India and southeast Asia for their horn which is simply a hard clump of keratin. The astronomical price of Rhino horn in international market has lead to heavy poaching in recent years. In several countries such as China and Vietnam, the horns are used in traditional medicine for curing fever. The medicinal effects of Rhino horn are far from proven, but the power of superstition continue to kill Rhinos nonetheless, driving them to extinction.

While Shark fin and Rhino horn are the most conspicuous instances, examples of the threat posed by superstitious beliefs to flora and fauna abound. In South Africa, Muti medicine practitioners kill vultures to extract their brains. They hope that consumption of vulture brains would enhance their clairvoyant powers. Snow leopards, a critically endangered species, are killed for their hide and bones which find use in traditional medicine.

The cruelty and utter meaninglessness of the destruction wrought by these blind beliefs are appalling. However, stemming from ignorance and rooted in tradition, such superstitions are difficult to eradicate. One can only hope that someday reason would triumph over ignorant faith.

Categories: Planetwatch