Archive for July, 2010

Egg came first or the chicken?

July 23, 2010 1 comment

The chicken or egg causality dilemma has been there with mankind for some time now.  The moot point here is not the term in itself but its actual usage.  There could be two interpretations – it could be either trying to find out the actual cause of a circular dependence or maybe it is really about whether the hen/chicken (Gallus gallus domesticus) came first or whether the egg from which it took birth came first.

Now, the first interpretation is pretty self intuitive as there could be many scenarios in daily life where we might have two events which could be plausible reasons of each other. It could be equally applicable to scientific theories or principles Van der Waals equation or Colebrook equation where one equation would be dependent on a certain parameter which could itself only be derived from the said equation.

Now, let’s take a look at the second interpretation.  I for one, all this while thought that no one was ACTUALLY bothered about the literal chicken or its egg and it dependency on each other. And I was least expecting that a team of researchers would actually go about finding the answer to this dilemma. I was pretty much baffled when I found this news article about two British researchers finding an answer to the age old problem. Let me summarize the research results for you.

“Scientists have long believed that a chicken eggshell protein called ovocledidin-17 (OC-17) must play some role in egg shell formation. The protein is found only in the mineral region of the egg (the hard part of the shell) and lab bench results showed that it appeared to influence the transformation of (CaCo3) into calcite crystals. The mechanism of this control remained unclear. How this process could be used to form an actual eggshell remained unclear.

Dr David Quigley from the Department of Physics and Centre for Scientific Computing, University of Warwick, said: “Metadynamics extends conventional molecular dynamics (MD) simulations and is particularly good at sampling transitions between disordered and ordered states of matter.”

Using these tools, the team was able to create simulations that showed exactly how the protein bound to amorphous calcium carbonate surface using two clusters of “arginine residues”, located on two loops of the protein and creating a literal chemical “clamp” to nano sized particles of calcium carbonate.”

With due respect to the researchers as well as my limited knowledge of biology (Indeed I took my last biology class way back in 1999 when I was in 10th standard), I would beg to differ. First things first – If the chicken is able to produce OC-17 , then we all know that even other birds have their very own eggs and there must be some protein even their eggs must be relying upon. So protein is not important. As a matter of fact, the protein is being produced in chicken’s body because of some natural processes which obviously the chicken is not in control of. Neither was it ancestor – Red Junglefowl (Gallus gallus). Here, let me touch upon my favorite topic – evolution.

Birds or aves evolved during Jurassic period from theropod dinosaurs and are the last living representatives of dinosaurs. And indeed the dinosaurs too gave birth through eggs. So lets change the topic to did the dinosaur come first or the egg? Here again, Dinosaur was not the first egg laying animal of course. Dinosaurs had evolved by about 230 million years ago, but before that the reptiles (the class to which superorder dinosauria belongs, 320-310 million years ago) also used to give eggs. Can we stop at reptiles then? Yes and No.

No because eggs are not a specialty of reptiles as reptiles evolved from earlier vertebrates like fish who also give eggs. In fact, it is said that all vertebrates (excepting mammals and marsupials) give eggs. Vertebrates are the set of animals (a subphylum of chordates to be precise) who are known distinctly by their backbones (could be cartilage also as in the case of shark).  But as far as I know, earlier invertebrates specially arthropods like crustaceans and insects also give birth through eggs. The time I am talking about is 540 million years ago.

Yes because reptiles are the first type of animals who came out with a calcium covered egg, i.e. the kind of egg which can be protected to some extent from the forces of nature and which can sustain the embryo life inside for a considerable period of time.

The poor chicken which is already carrying the burden of billions of people world over by becoming a part of their meal day in and day out is thus being thrusted upon with the extra responsibility of egg origins. Whereas the actual culprits are early reptiles.

So I would like to conclude by saying that the common man should not be mislead into believing that actually the chicken came first and stuff like that. I firmly believe though that the intention of the researchers was never to solve the egg chicken problem but to find out how to promote and control artificial forms of crystallization which would go a long way in bone formation and related research.

Categories: Paleontology/Biology

A Story

July 17, 2010 5 comments

Guys, for a change this time i am not posting a movie review. I would like to put up a short story  written by me sometime back – titled ‘Myself, Uma‘.

This content is published at

So here goes  –>

2 JAN 2005,   Makkasan Railway Station , Bangkok :

The sound of an approaching train must have woken me up. It was as if I had woken up from a long dream. I was seated on a bench and when I opened my eyes, I could barely recognize the surroundings – totally new faces, new people, a whole new country. How did I reach this place? Rather, my first question was – “Where am I?”. A person – a young man in his late twenties, alighted from the train. I went up to him and asked him, “Which station is this?” He asked me politely, “Khaaw Thoht”. “Poor Guy”, I thought, “Doesn’t know English”. This time round I started indicating with my hands – “What ….place ….is….this…..?”. Silence. I repeated. Again Silence. Then he gave me a smile and told me in clear English, “Oh! For a moment I failed to understand that you are speaking in English. It might be your accent. This is Makkasan Station. Where do you want to go? This train will take you to Bangkok Station.”

Bangkok? It was my turn to remain silent now. For sure, there was no Bangkok Station in India.

“You mean, Bangkok, Thailand?”, I confirmed.

“Yes” was the reply.

“How did I land up in Thailand?”, I thought, ”By the way, what is my name?”

I didn’t remember my name. I was in a state of total shock. I didn’t know what to do.

I desperately started fishing out the contents of my hand-bag, one-by-one, studying each one of them in detail. Finally I came across my identity card. Uma Powar. I had found my name. But still I knew nothing about myself. I checked up the inbox of my cellphone. There were many messages from Nikki. “Nikki must be my best friend!”, I thought. I immediately called up Nikki.

“Hello, is that Nikki”, I asked, sounding a bit circumspect.

“Uma!! Thank God! At last you called. We were all very worried for you. Your family is waiting for your call. We have even contacted the Indian embassy in Thailand.”

“So listen, Nikki, I have lost my memory and currently the only thing I know about myself is my name. I don’t know how it happened. Please tell me how I landed up in Bangkok”

“You have become victim to Tsunami that occurred on 26 December. You had gone to Thailand for pursuing formal education in Fashion Designing. As far as I remember you were planning to visit Phuket on 26th December. Then on that fateful day, you were stuck by Tsunami. I’ll right away call your family and inform them about you”.

“By the way, what are my parents’ names and if I have any siblings, what are their names?”

“Your father Mr. Murali Prasad Powar passed away 5 years back. Your mother’s name is Sarla Powar and your sister is Kamini – 5 years younger to you. Your date of birth is 5th Feb 1983.”

“Thanks a lot Nikki. See you soon”.

I called up my family and told them everything was alright. Nikki had already told my mom that I had called her up. But luckily enough, she had not said anything about my amnesia.

I went to the Indian embassy in Thailand. Since I had lost my Visa, Passport etc, all these were remade without any hassles. Since we were all tsunami victims, neither the Thailand nor the Indian government wanted to complicate things.

A week later I reported to Bangkok’s Fashion School. I made new friends there and started my life anew. I always used to top the weekly tests and my professors always made special mention of all my assignments.

Three months later in April, I came to know that I was pregnant. Immediately I called up Nikki to ask if I was going around with someone before leaving the country.

“You had a steady relationship with a guy – Ricky. Just before you left India, both of you called off the relationship.”

“What about him? Where is he now?”

“He is married to one of his distant cousins”

“Nikki, I am pregnant”

“Better call up your mom and tell her everything”

That is exactly what I did. But my Mom could not stand this. She straightaway disowned me. She asked me never to talk to her and slammed the phone.The doctor gave me an option to abort the child. But I was determined to go ahead with the delivery. The child would give me a reason to smile.

Then in August, my daughter was born. I named her Kajal. After years of separation, my mother had mellowed down.  Finally, she called up one day and asked me for forgiveness. She was really growing impatient to see Kajal. I promised her that I would pay her a visit the very next month.

January 8, 2007: I reached my home in Mayur Vihar. The nameplate outside read – Powars. I started knocking impatiently. A lady in her early 50s – probably my mom, opened the door. She stared blankly at me. Mom failed to recognize me. When I told her that I am Uma, she refused to accept.

When I told my mom what had happened that day and how I had called up Nikki from the cellphone, all of us got a clear picture of what had happened. I was not Uma Powar. But somehow I had got Uma’s Identity card and belongings. I could even handle my career in fashion designing with great ease.

The truth was harsh but strangely enough, it was still the truth.

Now the question remains – what happened to Uma? And who am I? I still don’t know my origin, my birth place. I just know that I lost my memory. Going further, I don’t know who the father of my child Kajal is. Did I have a husband who fell pray to tsunami, or, is he still alive. Or is it that someone took advantage of my unconsciousness. I don’t know the answer of any of these questions. The only thing I know is that I have a loving husband, Stanley who accepted me as Uma Powar– no matter who I am. Today I am a successful fashion designer – Uma Yeoh living happily with my husband and two kids – Kajal Powar and Kiah Yeoh.

Whenever I visit India, I make it a point to pay a visit to Sarla Powar – my mother, the mother who lost her daughter but found another in me.

Disclaimer  : The above story is a work of fiction and the characters including the character names in the story are all fictitious. Any resemblance in name etc to any person living or dead is a matter of sheer coincidence.

Don’t think of the …….

July 17, 2010 4 comments

What would be your instantaneous reaction if I tell you ‘Don’t think of the elephant’? Of course, you would start thinking about one and thus I have planted a thought  in your mind. This inception of thought is the basic idea behind the movie INCEPTION. In the last post, I mentioned about this movie and you could say this is a continuation to that post, in a way….

Rarely do you see multiplex audiences clapping for a movie. But that is the kind of effect Christopher Nolan has on his fans.  It happened last time (Mumbai crowd), while watching Dark Knight when the whole crowd was simply stunned at seeing the Batmobile turn into a Batpod .  And it happened last night too, (this time in Kolkata crowd), when the crowd clapped once and only once – and that was during the last (but not the least) scene of the film. While some of them might have clapped for the movie, or for the scene itself, or for the ‘INCEPTION’ of the concept of the movie in Nolan’s brain , am sure there were some of them who were applauding for themselves that they allowed themselves to be treated and tricked and deceived yet another time. Yes, I am talking about a group of die-hard Nolan fans whose size has been on the rise for some time now. They would rate Nolan as their Numero Uno director. Believe me they would not like to hear a single negative comment about any of his movies, defending and justifying every single twist and every single scene. How do I know? Obviously, because I am one of them.

The above said being true, once you set such high standards for a film and a director, it is very easy to be let down. You need to raise the bar each and every time you make a movie and believe me, Nolan doesn’t let you down.  To begin with, the main theme of the film, that of sharing dream space and sharing a mind space through technology has now become a very standard theme. I feel these films should be classified as a new genre altogether (Read my previous post).  So if you are coming out with such themes, you need to have something extraordinary in terms of story and concept to make it a refreshing experience for the viewer.

Without revealing much of the story, the plot goes something like this….. Dom Cobb (Leonardo Di Caprio) is an extractor who specializes in extracting ideas by getting into others’ dreams. But this time round he is asked by Saito (Ken Watanabe) to do something different. And for this task, he comes out with a team, some his old friends and some recruited newly. The major part of the film is how they go about doing this task. Also as another subplot, Cobb has his wife Mal (Marion Cotillard) coming in his dreams again and again often to the point that he loses control of the situation.

It is not the first time that Chris Nolan has come out with such mind blowing action sequences. We saw a bit of it in BATMAN BEGINS and of course a lot of it in DARK KNIGHT. While these two were more of action hero movies, this is the first time I am seeing Nolan blending lots of action with an extremely tricky and sensitive story line. And as far as cinematography is concerned, it is almost first of its kind. Walter Pfister has really done a great job. Nolan has depended on him for all his movies since memento and the man has already picked up three academy award nominations, all three for Nolan’s films – Batman Begins, Dark Knight and the Prestige. Talking about Prestige’s cinematography – it was excellent with all the magical tricks and scientific touch. But the movie didn’t require any of the high speed action which we seen in INCEPTION.

The screenplay – am sure that the screenplay demanded infinite revisions and corrections. The plots were so closely interlinked and every bit of detail, along with its scientific reasoning had to be taken care of. The background score by Hans Zimmer was simply awesome and blended well with the scenes.

Talking about the cast, Leonardo, needless to say, has put up a stupendous performance.  But frankly speaking, his role wasn’t that demanding. Of the rest of the cast, all the team members had done a decent job, but special mention about Joseph Gordon-Levitt ( of 500 days of summer fame) who had a decent screen presence, considering he was acting along with some of the industry biggies like Leo and Watanabe. Too bad Michael Caine did not get any substantial role in the film. Ellen Page (Of Juno fame) has also done a pretty decent job.

But the one who stole the show completely was Marion Cotillard. Her role was very demanding and she had to emote anger, repentence, sadness and vengeance almost at the same time and she did it with panache.  Interestingly, I found her character’s name quite intriguing – Mal. Mal is a prefix we associate with a negative connotation – as in malware, malfunctioning etc.

Talking about computer programming and coding, I found this interesting connect between Nolan’s movies and Software programming. Most of his earlier films resembled multi threading while this involve multiple nested loops.

That’s it for now, please do  watch the movie and enjoy the experience. And believe me; you would love being ‘Nolan’ised.

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