From IIT-M, nano-scale device to detect big explosives.

 Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, (IIT-M) have developed a novel device that can visually detect even a single molecule of TNT used in the making of powerful explosives.

Apart from national security, this ultra-sensitive and highly selective detection method will have applications in early identification of diseases and in radiation prevention, the IIT researchers claim.

Chemistry professor Thalappil Pradeep and his students Ammu Mathew and P.R. Sajanlal reporated the principle behind this device in the online issue of the leading chemistry journal Angewandte Chemie on Aug 22. They are now building the device that may be put to practical use soon.

The science behind this explosive detector is rather involved and difficult to explain. In simple terms, the detector works somewhat like an alert traffic cop who spots a violator by simply looking at the traffic signal. In other words, if the suspected sample being tested is clean, the detector gives off a red glow on being irradiated with light of a particular wavelength. But if the sample contains the explosive TNT (trinitrotoluene), the signal changes to green

This dramatic change from red to green that can be observed with a fluorescence microscope has been demonstrated by the IIT team to take place in the presence of even just one molecule of TNT — a lower limit that has not been achieved by any detector so far.

Pradeep heads IIT’s nanoscience centre and naturally the TNT sensor that his team has developed uses a combination of gold and silver nano-particles, which are particles of extremely small dimensions. The entire detector system is just four millionths of a metre in size and its distinct star shape is of particular advantage because it is easy to unmistakably identify the colour change under the microscope, says Pradeep.

According to the scientists, their novel approach ‘can be considered a single-particle, single-molecule detection technique which is probably the ultimate in ultra-trace sensitivity’.

The researchers have demonstrated that they can also detect extremely low levels of mercury – an environmental contaminant — using the same sensor strategy. They say the concept could also be used for the detection of very low concentration of other substances by incorporating appropriate molecules called ‘ligands’ on their sensor thereby opening up applications in catalysis, bio-imaging and other areas.

Source: MSN

Super trawlers and bycatch: the true story.

As the super trawler Margiris steams towards Australia’s shores, a series of concerns have been raised. One is the impact on marine life, like dolphins and seals, that invariably are caught in the vessel’s enormous nets. Although according to the operators, this issue has been solved. So has it?

This week, Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke added his voice to the concerns about the unwanted bycatch that the Margiris may scoop up while taking 18 million kilogrammes of fish out of Australian waters. He has a point. The risk for bycatch is a very real one on these big trawlers.

When I was on board Greenpeace vessel MY Arctic Sunrise earlier this year, campaigning against the plundering of African waters by super trawlers like the Margiris, we regularly came across large herds of dolphins playfully chasing schools of fish. Images similar to these posted on the Daily Telegraph were a common sight. Often this joyful experience was overshadowed by the image of a trawler in the background chasing after the same fish as the dolphins do. You do not need to be a rocket scientist to understand that these trawlers accidentally scoop up these dolphins when fishing.

The evidence of bycatch is not only anecdotal. Scientists have been doing extensive research on this issue specifically focusing on Dutch super trawlers like the Margiris for 4 years, which has been published in a peer reviewed journal . These scientists have also come up with devices to mitigate bycatch, such as exit hatches in nets. The research showed that these devices can be effective for certain species, but certainly not for all of them, and they are definitely unable to prevent all unwanted bycatch. No dolphin was, for example, released by these devices. Scientists argue that because of claustrophobia, dolphins do not use the exit that was offered to them.

Installing these escape tools for bycatch comes with an operational cost. Their functionality results in a lower catch. An operator therefore has to find a balance in how much catch he is prepared to give up to save the lives of dolphins and seals.

This research was produced in 2006. The owners of the Margiris, Parlevliet and Van der Plas have had plenty of time to have these bycatch devices fully operational and optimised by now. Yet no follow up research has been conducted on the effectiveness of exit tools, and the company is unwilling to give us any information about their use.

When I was in Mauritania tracking and confronting the Margiris and other super trawlers in March this year, I had several discussions with super trawler crew about the bycatch issue.   They all said there is no problem. They could not ‘however’ forward me research to prove it. And when I asked them to go onboard so they could show me how they prevent bycatch, I wasn’t permitted. You would expect a company would be proud to show how they solve the problem of bycatch in order to get critics off their back. Apparently they are not. Or would the real reason be that they have not yet solved the problem like they say they have?

It will be up to Tony Burke to find out the real truth before accepting this super trawler ruining Australian ecosystems.
No super trawlers. Not here. Not anywhere.


Source: Greenpeace International



London landmarks welcome the Paralympic Flame.


London landmarks

Antony Eames was one of the five Torchbearer team members who carried the Flame past the Shree Swaminaryan Mandir Temple, Brent Europe’s first traditional Hindu temple. Antony was nominated for his courage and determination in overcoming the many challenges that he faced after being diagnosed with Long QT Syndrome (Sudden Death Syndrome).

Lucy Priest was one of the Torchbearers who carried the Flame across the famous Abbey Road crossing, the iconic pedestrian crossing outside Abbey Road recording station that appeared on the front of one of The Beatles albums. Lucy worked as a nurse until she was registered blind in 2001. She managed to overcome this life changing moment and went on to train as a counsellor.

At the ‘home of cricket’, Lords Cricket Ground, a team of five members of the UK’s first blind women’s cricket team carried the Flame into the famous ground, which will play host to the Paralympic Archery competition.

The Flame also paid a visit to some of the residents of London Zoo, as the team of Torchbearers carrying it at that time posed by the penguin enclosure for a photo.

A team from Torchbearers from Chelsea FC’s pan-disability squad, nominated by London 2012 Organising Committe chair, Seb Coe carried the Flame to Westminster Abbey.

A team of Torchbearers including Dame Tannie Grey Thompson carried the Paralympic Flame through famous London landmark Trafalgar Square.

Tower Bridge will also be visited by the Paralympic Flame where it was then be carried through to City Hall.

Marking the start of the Games

A team of Torchbearers including Dame Tannie Grey Thompson carried the Paralympic Flame through Trafalgar Square.

The Flame will make its final public visit at the Community Live Site at Stratford Park, Newham, before making its way to the Olympic Park where it will enter the Stadium and light the Cauldron, marking the start of the Paralympic Games.

The Flame will stay alight throughout the period of the Games, until it is extinguished during the Closing Ceremony, marking the end of the London 2012 Paralympic Games.


‘Penis-head’ fish discovered in Vietnam.

A preserved specimen of Phallostethus cuulong, a new species of fish with a penis on its head that has been identified in the Mekong delta in Vietnam. Researchers said Wednesday that Phallostethus cuulong is the newest member of the Phallostethidae family—small fish found in Southeast Asian waters that are distinguished primarily by the positioning of the male sexual organ. A new species of fish with a penis on its head has been identified in the Mekong Delta in Vietnam, researchers said on Wednesday. Ads by Google Pregnancy – Everything you wanted to know what to do during pregnancy. – Phallostethus cuulong is the newest member of the Phallostethidae family—small fish found in Southeast Asian waters that are distinguished primarily by the positioning of the male sexual organ. Male phallostethids have a copulatory organ, termed the priapium, under the throat for holding or clasping onto females and fertilising their eggs internally, according to conservationists. “We have scientifically identified a new penis-head fish in Vietnam,” researcher Tran Dac Dinh from Can Tho University told AFP. The fish was known to Vietnamese people in the Mekong Delta but had not been described scientifically before a team identified the species last year, he said. 

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Join us for a NASA Social to Welcome Space Shuttle Endeavour to California.

NASA will host an event for 40 of its social media followers on Sept. 19-20 at the agency’s Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base. The NASA Social will welcome space shuttle Endeavour to Southern California, where Imager is expected to arrive at Dryden on Sept. 19 and depart Sept. 20 for Los Angeles International Airport, where it will remain in a hangar until its transfer in October to a permanent home at the California Science Center. 

NASA Social guests will have a rare opportunity to see the landing and departure of Endeavour as it rides piggyback on NASA’s 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft. Participants also will speak with experts, tour shuttle support vehicles and other NASA aircraft, and interact with fellow NASA social media followers, space enthusiasts and members of NASA’s social media team. 

During the two-day event, NASA Social participants will have the opportunity to:

  • View the landing and departure of Endeavour as it rides piggyback on NASA’s 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft
  • Tour shuttle support vehicles and other NASA aircraft
  • Interact with fellow NASA social media followers, space enthusiasts and members of NASA’s social media team.
  • View and take photographs of Endeavour as it lands, stages and departs for Los Angeles

What is a NASA Social?
A NASA Social is an informal meeting of people who use social networking sites such as TwitterFacebook and Google+. Participants at this event will be provided a unique in-person experience at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base that they are encouraged to share with others through their favorite social networks.

How do I register?
NASA Social registration opens at noon EDT Tuesday, Aug. 28, and closes at noon EDT Thursday, Aug. 30. NASA will randomly select participants from online registrations. NASA will accept 40 participants, with 20 others on a wait list. Registration is for one person, aged 18 and over only, and is non-transferable. Because this event takes place at a facility with restricted areas, registration is limited to U.S. citizens. 

Do I need to have a social media account to register?
Yes. This event is designed for active social media users who follow NASA missions on Twitter (@NASA@NASASocial,@NASADryden, etc.), Facebook (NASANASA Dryden) or Google+ (NASA). The goal of NASA Social is to allow people who interact with each other via social networks to meet in person and discuss space exploration.

Users on all social networks are encouraged to use the hashtag #NASASocial. Updates and information about the event will be shared on Twitter via @NASASocial and via posts to Facebook and Google+.

What are the registration requirements?
Registration indicates your intent to travel to NASA Dryden and attend the event in person. The Center is a tenant of Edwards Air Force Base, which is located on the western edge of the Mojave Desert and about 90 miles north of Los Angeles. You are responsible for your own expenses for travel, accommodations, food and other amenities. 

Some events and participants scheduled to appear at the event are subject to change without notice. NASA is not responsible for loss or damage incurred as a result of attending. NASA is not responsible for loss or damage incurred if the event is cancelled with limited or no notice. Please plan accordingly. Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base is a government facility. Those who are selected will need to complete an additional registration step to receive clearance to enter secure areas. Upon arrival, you will be asked to show a government-issued identification with a photo that matches the name provided on the registration. Those without proper identification cannot be admitted. All registrants must be at least 18 years old. 

Can I register if I am not a U.S. citizen?
No, the Endeavour NASA Social cannot accept registrations from non-U.S. citizens. 

Does my registration include a guest?
Because of space limitations, you may not bring a guest. Each registration provides a place for one person only (you) and is non-transferable. Each individual wishing to attend must register separately. 

What if I cannot come to the event?
If you cannot come to California to attend in person, you should not register for this NASA Social. You can follow the conversation using the #NASASocial and #OV105 hashtags on Twitter. NASA will broadcast a portion of the NASA Social. 

If you cannot make this NASA Social, don’t despair; NASA is planning others in the near future at various locations. Check back on for updates. 

When will I know if I am selected?
After registrations have been received and processed, an email with confirmation information and additional instructions will be sent to those selected and those on the waitlist. We expect to send notifications on or around Thursday, Sept. 6. 

If you do not make the registration list for this NASA Social, you can still participate in the conversation online. 

Does registration for and/or attendance at the NASA Social qualify me for media accreditation? Your NASA Social registration and/or attendance do not qualify you for news media credentials at any NASA field center, now or in the future.

Register Now ›

Have a question not answered here? Need more information? Help is available by sending an email to

For information about NASA Dryden, visit:

For more information on space shuttle Endeavour, visit:

Source: NASA