Vani’s Musings

Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

It is said often, that Ignorance is bliss. While it pays to be wise about many things in the world, it’s also equally true that half knowledge is dangerous.


I was watching a quiz show on one of the Kannada Channels on TV, and one of the questions involved completing a proverb. It went something like this “ A person with half knowledge makes a great noise about himself.”


I recollect an incident where such half knowledge made me worry about myself needlessly and give more attention to myself than necessary. It’s quite an embarrassment in hindsight; but I wish to still share it.


It was 2 years ago, around the time of Krishna Janmashtami, that I suddenly started experiencing a curious burning sensation in my palms.


I ignored it for quite a while, thinking that I was probably hallucinating about the whole thing, but it refused to go away, and only got worse day by day, ultimately one such time came when I could not ignore it any longer. I was unsure about seeing a doctor for this, and felt that since I had the Internet at my command, I would try to find out more about what was causing this peculiar problem. And so, I googled this. I came across several sites that gave me lot of possible reasons for this, and the most common feature or explanation on most of the sites was that this could be a symptom of Diabetes. Genetically I am a high-risk candidate for this condition and so I felt that probably Diabetes was making a presence in my life too.


I needed to find out if Diabetes had set in, and for that I needed to take a blood test. Again, I didn’t get the courage to see a doctor to get a requisition for a blood test. I was starting to worry about how I’d tell my parents if I really was diabetic and how I’d manage with it the rest of my life.


It took me another week or so to get the courage to go ahead and take the test.

We have a glucometer at home that is used by my mom and uncle to check their blood sugar levels from time to time, and I decided that I’d take the blood test at home.


It was the day before Janmashtami, and all the elders were in the kitchen preparing for the festival, and so I felt it was the right time for me to face the demon. I took the test and waited for a whole agonizing minute for the result to show up. Believe me, that was the longest minute of my life.


The result came; my random blood sugar level was some 69 or 70. Now I was again not sure whether this was an ok value. I then took a very fast decision to call dad’s cousin who is a doctor at NIMHANS, to check if everything was all right.


The first thing she told me when I told her the whole story was, “There’s nothing wrong with you physically; mentally I’m not sure, you can drop in anytime to verify.”

Then she went on to assure me that what I experienced was caused more often by simple calcium deficiency than anything else and that I had to drink a glass of milk every day to bring up the calcium.


The relief I experienced at this is something I cannot describe in words. But the only good thing about the whole episode was that it made me aware of what I was eating, how I needed to change my lifestyle and how I was wrongly analyzing information.


Have any of you experienced anything like this? Do write in.









They bore into your head. They won’t let go. There’s no known cure. Earworms can attack almost anyone at almost any time.

No, it’s not an invasion of jungle insects. It’s worse. Earworms are those songs, jingles, and tunes that get stuck inside your head.  

The term earworm is the literal English translation of the German word ohrwurm . An earworm is also sometimes called a sticky tune or a cognitive itch. In Portuguese, it is called chiclete de ouvido, or ear chewing gum. 

A study showed that musicians and those with compulsive tendencies are the most afflicted. The two are not necessarily mutually exclusive, though the act of repetition — in popular songs on the radio and on the rehearsal floor for musicians — plays a role. 

When people battle their earworms, nearly two-thirds of the time they try to use another tune to dislodge the one that’s stuck. About half the time people simply try to distract themselves from hearing the stuck song. More than a third of the time people with songs stuck in their heads try talking with someone about it. And 14% of the time, people try to complete the song in their heads in an effort to get it to end.

I am one such victim of earworms..any catchy tune heard more than once, and it goes into the deep end of the mind, to be played and replayed in mental continuum. 

 Earworms that bother me the most are: 

Ø       Who Let the Dogs Out – By Baha Men

 Ø       We Will Rock You – By Queen

Ø       Pardesi Pardesi Jana Nahin – Raja Hindustani

Ø       Sochna Kya Jo bhi Hoga Dekha Jaayega – Ghaayal

 Ø       BeLLi Rathadali Soorya Tanda Kirana  – Indra Dhanush (Am not sure of the title of the movie)

 Ø       Nimbuda – Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam

Ø       Anisuthide Yaako Indu  – Mungaaru MaLe (Though I love this song, I cant get rid of it  )

 Ø       Mandakiniye – Hudugaata (I heard it twice, and it’s already stuck… )

Ø       Kyunkii Saas Bhi Kabhee Bahuu thiii – The Title Jingle

Ø       A Hundred Miles – By Hedy West

Ø       Oh Susannah – By James Taylor

Ø       Smile – By Michael Jackson

Ø       Worry about you – by IVY

 I dread listening to these songs now…they seem to replay on and on and on in my mind.

Have you also been affected similarly? Please share your experiences with earworms and their ilk.

 An eclipse (Greek verb: ekleipô, “to vanish”, though it derives from the prefix ‘ex-‘, “away from”, and Greek ‘leipein’, “to leave”) is an astronomical event that occurs when one celestial object moves into the shadow of another. The term is most often used to describe either a solar eclipse, when the Moon’s shadow crosses Earth’s surface, or a lunar eclipse, when the Moon moves into the shadow of Earth.

The phase known as New Moon cannot actually be seen because the illuminated side of the Moon is then pointed away from Earth. The rest of the phases are familiar to all of us as the Moon cycles through them month after month. As a matter of fact, the word month is derived from the Moon’s 29.5-day period.When the Moon is Full, it rises at sunset and is visible all night long. At the end of the night, the Full Moon sets just as the Sun rises. None of the Moon’s other phases have this unique characteristic. It happens because the Moon is directly opposite the Sun in the sky when the Moon is Full. Full Moon also has special significance with regard to eclipses. 

An eclipse of the Moon (or lunar eclipse) can only occur at Full Moon, and only if the Moon passes through some portion of the Earth’s shadow. The shadow is actually composed of two cone-shaped components, one nested inside the other. The outer or penumbral shadow is a zone where the Earth blocks part but not all of the Sun’s rays from reaching the Moon. In contrast, the inner or umbral shadow is a region where the Earth blocks all direct sunlight from reaching the Moon.

Astronomers recognize three basic types of lunar eclipses:

 1. Penumbral Lunar Eclipse

·         The Moon passes through Earth’s penumbral shadow.

·         These events are of only academic interest since they are subtle and quite difficult to observe.

2. Partial Lunar Eclipse

 ·         A portion of the Moon passes through Earth’s umbral shadow.

 ·         These events are easy to see, even with the unaided eye.

3. Total Lunar Eclipse

 ·         The entire Moon passes through Earth’s umbral shadow.

·         These events are quite striking for the vibrant range of colors the Moon can take on during the total phase (i.e. – totality).

The Moon’s orbit around Earth is actually tipped about 5 degrees to Earth’s orbit around the Sun. This means that the Moon spends most of the time either above or below the plane of Earth’s orbit. And the plane of Earth’s orbit around the Sun is important because Earth’s shadows lie exactly in the same plane. During Full Moon, our natural satellite usually passes above or below Earth’s shadows and misses them entirely. No eclipse takes place. But two to four times each year, the Moon passes through some portion of the Earth’s penumbral or umbral shadows and one of the above three types of eclipses occurs.

 When an eclipse of the Moon takes place, everyone on the night side of Earth can see it. About 35% of all eclipses are of the penumbral type, which are very difficult to detect, even with a telescope. Another 30% are partial eclipses, which are easy to see with the unaided eye. The final 35% or so are total eclipses, and these are quite extraordinary events to behold.

During a total lunar eclipse, the Earth blocks the Sun’s light from reaching the Moon. Astronauts on the Moon would then see the Earth eclipsing the Sun. (They would see a bright red ring around the Earth as they watched all the sunrises and sunsets happening simultaneously around the world) While the Moon remains completely within Earth’s umbral shadow, indirect sunlight still manages to reach and illuminate it. However, this sunlight must first pass deep through the Earth’s atmosphere, which filters out most of the blue colored light. The remaining light is a deep red or orange in color and is much dimmer than pure white sunlight. Earth’s atmosphere also bends or refracts some of this light so that a small fraction of it can reach and illuminate the Moon.

 All total eclipses start with a penumbral followed by a partial eclipse, and end with a partial followed by a penumbral eclipse (the total eclipse is sandwiched in the middle). The penumbral phases of the eclipse are quite difficult to see, even with a telescope. However, partial and total eclipses are easy to observe, even with the naked eye.

Observing Lunar Eclipses

Unlike solar eclipses, lunar eclipses are completely safe to watch. There is no need for any kind of protective filters. It isn’t even necessary to use a telescope. It can be watched with the naked eye, a set of binoculars may improve the image.Amateur astronomers can actually make some useful observations during total eclipses. It’s impossible to predict exactly how dark the Moon will appear during totality. The color can also vary from dark gray or brown, through a range of shades of red and bright orange. The color and brightness depend on the amount of dust in Earth’s atmosphere during the eclipse.

 Tomorrow, 4th March, a Total Lunar Eclispse, will occur, and will be visible throughout India. Weather permitting, we shall be able to watch and enjoy this magic moment of nature.