Can reforestation alone save the Earth?

Trees are huge carbon sinks. They saok up the carbon. Planting trees will help mitigate the climate change and cool the planet to some extent. But that has to be combined with a dedicated effort to reduce carbon emission. Reforestation combined with the reduction of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide (CO2), is the need of the hour. It is these gases that warm the earth, leading to climate change which we have been witnessing in many forms such as the melting of ice sheets, rising of sea levels, wildfires, floods, droughts and other natural calamities. So the carbon emissions need to be reduced by nations, on an industrial scale as well as individual level.

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Wodehouse: The master of comedy

With a comical plot, ludicrous scenarios, and eccentric characters. Wodehouse scripted a world around the social atmosphere of the late Edwardian era, poking fun at the English upper class Let's take a look at the writer whose birth anniversary falls this month.

It is like an escape into a land of comedy. Nothing wrong could happen to you here. English writer P.G. Wodehouse's literary world is all about entertainment. Pick any of his books and you are assured of a good laugh riot.

It is easy to get lost in the whimsical world of the upper-class English, and delight in the often absurd and funny scenarios that take on a wacky, idiosyncratic turn as the plot progresses. His is a comic tradition that continues to remain unsurpassed, taking you on a humorous journey.

One of the greatest 20th-century writers of humour, Wodehouse created a new realm of comedy through his books. With a highly evolving, comical plot, ludicrous scenarios, and eccentric characters, Wodehouse scripted a world around the social atmosphere of the late Edwardian era, poking fun at the English upper class.

Early years

Sir Pelham Grenville Wodehouse was born on October 15, 1881 in Guildford, Surrey, England. Educated in Dulwich College,

London, Wodehouse took up a bank job. His career started at the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank.

But he soon quit it and turned his attention to writing. He became a freelance journalist and short story writer. He later became a humour columnist at the London Globe (1902). He also wrote for many other publications. In the same year, he published his first novel "The Pothunters."

When Wodehouse was made a prisoner

During the war, in 1940, he was captured in France by German forces. He was in a German internment camp for a year where he kept writing.

Whilst being a prisoner, he agreed to be part of a series of talks on German radio. Little did he know that he was playing right into the Nazi propaganda machine.

The broadcasts were a humorous take on his experiences as a prisoner in which he also made fun of his captors. But these broadcasts didn't go down well with the politicians and journalists in Britain.

There were accusations of treason. Later, he went back to America and continued his writing journey. He never returned to his homeland. He received a knighthood in 1975,

The comical riot

It all started with Something Fresh (1915), his comic debut. There he introduced the Emsworth family. It is the first instalment of the Blandings Castle series. The eccentric Lord Emsworth and his prize-winning pig the Empress of Blandings, along with a legion of relatives and impostors take you on a comical riot in the Blandings Castle series.

Among the other characters he created, the most loved are the duo Bertie Wooster and Jeeves. They first made their debut in the story Extricating Young Gussie (1915). Jeeves, the inimitable "gentleman's gentleman" of the young bachelor Bertie, is perhaps the valet everyone would love to have at home. He saves the day always and gets Bertie out of every bizarre situation he puts himself in.

Musical journey

It was not just fiction Wodehouse was a master at. He wrote scripts and song lyrics for composers. A novelist, short-story writer, lyricist, and playwright. Wodehouse donned many caps. He wrote more than 90 books, over 20 film scripts and also collaborated on plays and musical comedies. He is often regarded as one of the pioneers of the American musical.

‘Sunset at Blandings’ was his last and unfinished novel. Wodehouse died at the age of 93 on February 14, 1975, in Southampton, N.Y.

Wodehouse loved dogs

In Pekes, hounds and mutts I have known, an article he wrote as an introduction to 'Son of Bitch', a book of photographs by Elliott Erwitt, Wodehouse talks about the many dogs he has had the company of. The first dog he had, Sammy, a French bulldog, was given to him by his colleague. The article ends with his musings about dogs and humour. Here is a peek into how entertaining Wodehouse can be: 'My own opinion is that some have and some don't. Dachshunds have, but not St Bernards and Great Danes. Apparently a dog has to be small to be fond of a joke. You never find an Irish wolfhound trying to be a stand-up comic.'

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What are dwarf galaxies?

As their name suggests, dwarf galaxies are smaller galaxies. In contrast to a normal galaxy that comprises hundreds of billions of stars, a dwarf galaxy would contain just about a few billion stars. These dwarf galaxies orbit larger galaxies after their formation.

Formation of dwarf galaxies

The dwarf galaxies are created when two galaxies collide, fromed from the material and dark matter coming out of the galaxies that collided.

Following these collisions, while a significant portion of the gas, dust and stars emitted gets reincorporated into the galaxy created after the collision, some can lead to the formation of dwarf galaxies which then orbit around the galaxy. They are also formed by the gravitational forces existing during the creation of these larger galaxies.

Why are dwarf galaxies crucial

Scientists consider the dwarf galaxies critical as they could help gain insight into the early stages of the formation of galaxies and stars. According to scientists, our galaxy has about 14 satellite dwarf galaxies orbiting it.

Studies are being carried out on these dwarf galaxies as it would give us clues regarding the evolution of the galaxies. By studying the motion of the stars in these galaxies, we would also get to know more about dark matter and how it is distributed in the galaxies.

It is difficult to spot dwarf galaxies as they are less bright when compared to larger galaxies. A large number of them can be spotted in galaxy clusters or as a companion to larger galaxies.

Shapes of dwarf galaxies

The dwarf galaxies take several shapes. The dwarf elliptical galaxies are quite similar to normal elliptical galaxies.

Then there are dwarf spheroidal galaxies which are more spherical in shape and smaller when compared to the former.

Then we have the irregular dwarf galaxies. They do not have a distinct structure and are rich in gas.

One of the closest dwarf galaxies to the Milky Way is the Sagittarius Dwarf Spheroidal Galaxy.

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Is a missing moon responsible for Saturn's rings and tilt?

Now known to host at least 83 moons, researchers propose that Saturn at one point must have had at least one more satellite, which they call Chrysalis

While all four gas giants - Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune - have rings, Saturn is the most popular ringed-planet. Swirling around Saturn's equator, these rings indicate clearly that the planet is spinning at a tilt relative to the plane in which it orbits the sun.

For a long time, astronomers have suspected that this tilt is the result of Saturn's interactions with neighbouring Neptune. A new modelling study by astronomers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). however, suggests that while the two planets may have been in sync before, Saturn has since escaped Neptune's pull.

Call it Chrysalis

 In a study appearing in Science in September, the MIT team

posits that a missing moon might be responsible for this planetary realignment. Now known to host at least 83 moons, Saturn at one point must have had at least one more satellite that the researchers call Chrysalis.

The team estimates that after orbiting Saturn for several billion years, Chrysalis became unstable about 160 million years ago, coming too close to Saturn in the process. As the proposed satellite was long dormant before suddenly becoming active - just like a butterfly's chrysalis - the researchers gave it the name Chrysalis.

The resulting encounter pulled the satellite apart and the loss of the moon was enough for Saturn to escape

Neptune's grasp and leave it with its current tilt. Additionally, the researchers suggest that while most of Chrysalis' shattered body may have impacted Saturn, a fraction of its fragments could have remained suspended in orbit. These could then have broken into small icy chunks to form the planet's standout rings.

Explains two mysteries

The missing moon hypothesis, the researchers believe, could thus explain two mysteries pertaining to Saturn's system. While one of these is Saturn's present-day tilt, the other one is the age of its rings.

The rings are estimated to be about 100 million years old. very much younger than the planet itself. If the rings were indeed formed from fragments of Chrysalis, then the story fits perfectly.

Cassini's inputs

The team of researchers arrived at this hypothesis by modelling the interior of Saturn. They identified a distribution of mass that matched the gravitational field that was observed by the Cassini spacecraft in its final phases. What they found indicated that Saturn is no longer in sync with Neptune, paving the way for researching various hypotheses, before arriving at their final result. The lead author of the study says that it is "a pretty good story, but like any other result, it will have to be examined by others".

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What is historical fiction?

As the name suggests, it's a fictionalised version of history. But, as Booker-winning British author Hilary Mantel's famous trilogy shows, such novels have the power to ignite reader interest in history

"Award-winning British author Hilary Mantel dies at 70" announced media all over the world in September. Not all writers are fortunate enough to get such a global coverage but as she had the distinction of being the first woman writer to win the Booker Prize twice and popularise the genre of historical fiction, she was accorded such a high recognition. To honour her and to familiarise us with her work, our English teacher organised a presentation in the morning assembly. It is a practice in our school to focus on such significant moments.

An alumnus of our school, currently studying Engineering, was invited to talk to us as he was known to have read her writings widely. What follows is some ideas from his presentation.

He started off by saying that though there were several kinds of fiction such as adventure novels, horror novels, utopian novels, and sci-fi, he was always fascinated by historical novels for two reasons: "One, they narrate stories based on a historical figure, and second, readers can acquaint themselves with many facets of life of that period."

Having underscored the benefits of reading historical fiction, he moved on to inform us that Mantel was a prolific writer-published 12 novels, two collections of short stories, and a huge number of articles and essays, but it was the trilogy centered around Thomas Cromwell that brought her fame. She chose to fictionalise the life of Cromwell, a fascinating historical figure of the 16th Century, who was chief minister to King Henry VIII but ordered by the same king to be beheaded on the charges of treason. He, thus, tasted the glory of power, and on the other hand, suffered the humiliation meant for a criminal. She chose to present such an intriguing character interestingly.

Cromwell was the case of ‘rags to riches’, he pointed out. Cromwell was the son of a blacksmith but worked his way to become the most trusted advisor to the king. It happened at a time when such happening was considered inconceivable as what mattered most was the =family fame to be in the royal court. The writer, obviously, identified a character, which would arouse the curiosity of any reader and to trace his unlikely rise and fall.

Wolf Hall (2009), the first of the trilogy, portrayed Cromwell's rise from his 'low' parentage to becoming the wealthiest and the most influential person in King Henry VIII's court. By contriving to annul King's first marriage with Katherine, and enabling him to marry Anne Boleyn, he earned the king's trust. Later, he managed to bring in a legislation, despite the opposition, to ensure the succession of Anne's children to the throne.

The second of the trilogy. Bring up the Bodies (2012) was a continuation of the first. As the king found Anne, his second wife, argumentative and irksome, he decided to separate and marry Jane Seymour. Cromwell schemed his way to get Anne arrested on the charges of cheating on the king, and he encircled a few others who stood in his way and got them executed along with her. Thus, he was delineated as an ambitious, unscrupulous, and corrupt politician who was bent upon achieving what he desired at any cost.

The alumnus told us that he was yet to read the last one, The Mirror and the Light published in 2020. But from the reviews he got to know that it was about the last four years of Cromwell's life, and was curious to read it.

Commenting on the writer’s style, he highlighted that although she was dealing with the past, she preferred to employ the present tense to create a sense of contemporaneity to her readers. And her frequent use of dialogues gave an image of observing the characters talking to each other alive. He concluded stating, "After reading the first novel, I felt an urge to know about the Tudor history. So historical novels could ignite reader interest in history but it's not a must to understand them." He suggested that we must read her trilogy to appreciate historical novels.

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Why is it important to increase forest cover?

When we speak about increasing forest cover, the main reason for doing so is perhaps that it takes in carbon, and so will help in tackling climate change. But, that's not the only thing forests do. Their benefits are interconnected in a way it can help humankind as a whole live well. Let's take a closer look at some of the ways in which they help us

Cooling effect

Keeping tropical forests standing provides a 50% greater impact on lowering global temperatures than can be accounted for simply through their carbon-absorbing abilities, according to a new report by the World Resources Institute (WRI), a think tank.

Stands of trees, for instance, provide "evapotranspiration" - the process by which water is released from the soil into the atmosphere to fall as rain. Such additional cooling impacts must be integrated into governments climate policies to fully reflect what forests do for the planet, the report said.

Food and water security

Forests help to maintain stable rainfall patterns and local temperatures, which are vital for food and water security, according to the WRI report.

 The Brazilian Amazon, for example, the report said, helps to maintain vital rainfall in several other countries, affecting agricultural production as far as Argentina. As deforestation turns parts of the world's largest tropical rainforest into dry savannah, scientists are concerned that the Amazon is edging towards a tipping point beyond which it might never recover.

A buffer against natural disasters

Another benefit that forests provide is their ability to act as a buffer against natural disasters, which have become increasingly common due to climate change. Tree canopies can intercept rainfall and slow it down in a storm, allowing up to 30% of the water to evaporate into the atmosphere without reaching the ground, according to Britain's Woodland Trust charity. In fact, some cities are using urban forests to become more resilient to flooding, as trees provide more permeable land to absorb rainwater.

Also, across the world's equatorial regions, mangrove forests not only store significant carbon but provide a defence against coastal erosion and storm surges

Global biodiversity

Another vital contribution of forests is their impact on biodiversity, with such ecosystems home to more than half of the world's land-based animal and plant species. As well as protecting nature, forests can provide a range of benefits to people, from forest foods to medicines. Especially in tropical regions, deforestation has been linked to increased outbreaks of infectious diseases, in particularly as animals come into closer contact with people. According to a recent analysis by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the world's wildlife populations have declined by more than two-thirds since 1970, with deforestation a major driver.

Sustainable living

Deforestation leads directly to increases in local temperatures, exposing people and crops to heat stress, WRI said.

These local temperature extremes are a particular threat in the tropics for small-scale farmers, agricultural workers, indigenous people, and other local communities. Indigenous communities in particular rely on forests for their way of life. Research shows that they are also the best people to conserve these areas, leading to calls to put more in the hands of frontline communities.


• Forests are the largest carbon sinks on land - they remove about 7.6 billion metric tonnes of CO2 each year from the atmosphere.

• In the Amazon, more than 10,000 species are at risk of extinction due to the clearing of rainforest for uses such as cattle ranching and soy farming.

• In the Amazon basin, a 2021 report by the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) showed that deforestation rates are up to 50% lower in indigenous peoples' forest lands than in other areas.

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How did Japan's Hayabusa spacecraft collect samples from an asteroid?

Scientists study meteorites for clues about the origin of Earth and the solar system because most meteorites are bits of asteroids that have fallen to Earth, and asteroids are believed to be leftover material from the time the solar system formed.

In 2005, for the first time ever, scientists scooped up rock samples directly from an asteroid using a spacecraft built especially for that purpose. The name of the spacecraft was Hayabusa. It was a robotic spacecraft developed by the Japan Space Exploration Agency (JAXA).

Hayabusa (Japanese for falcon') was launched on May 9, 2003, and arrived in the vicinity of the asteroid Itokawa in mid-September 2005. In November 2005, it landed on the asteroid and collected samples in the form of tiny grains of rock which it brought back to Earth on June 13, 2010. Hayabusa was the first spacecraft to land and take off from an asteroid.

In December 2014, Japan launched another spacecraft Hayabusa 2 to study the near-Earth asteroid Ryugu and to bring back samples of rock not only from its surface but also from deeper below the surface. Hayabusa 2 reached Ryugu in June 2018.

In September 2018, the spacecraft landed two rovers on the asteroid. They were the first rovers ever to move on an asteroid. They moved with a hopping movement instead of rolling around on wheels. The rovers are designed to take pictures of the landscape and measure the temperatures on the asteroid.

Hayabusa 2 left the asteroid in November-December 2019 and delivered a small capsule that contained the rock and dust samples when it was 220,000 km from the Earth's atmosphere. The capsule safely landed in the South Australian outback in December 2020.

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Is Earth the only planet that supports life?

Discovery about an Earth-like planet orbiting an M dwarf could imply that planets orbiting the most common star may be uninhabitable.

Is Earth the only planet that supports life? This is one of the many questions for which we don't have an answer yet. In a universe filled with countless stars and innumerable planets, our quest for life on a planet other than our own continues.

A new discovery could serve as a signpost and maybe even dramatically narrow our search for life on other planets. The discovery, explained in the Astrophysical Journal Letters in October by researchers from the University of California - Riverside, reveals that an Earth-like planet orbiting an M dwarf appears to have no atmosphere at all.

Most common type of star M dwarfs or red dwarfs are the most common type of star in the universe. This discovery could therefore imply that a large number of planets orbiting these stars may also lack atmospheres, and will therefore likely not support life.

The planet named GJ 1252b is slightly larger than our Earth, but is much closer to its star, an M dwarf, than the Earth is to the sun. On a single day on Earth, this planet orbits its star twice.

In order to find out if this planet lacks an atmosphere, astronomers measured infrared radiation from the planet as its light was during a secondary eclipse. In a secondary eclipse, the planet passes behind the star, and hence the planet's light along with the light reflected from its star are blocked.

Scorching temperatures

The radiation revealed the planet's daytime temperatures to be of the order of 2,242 degrees Fahrenheit. This, along with assumed low surface pressure, led the astronomers to believe that GJ 1252b lacks an atmosphere.

The researchers concluded that the planet will not be able to hold on to an atmosphere, even if it had tremendous amounts of carbon dioxide, which traps heat. Even if an atmosphere builds up initially, it would taper off and erode away eventually.

With M dwarf stars having more flares, the likelihood of planets surrounding them closely holding onto their atmospheres goes down further. The lack of atmosphere means that life as we know it is unlikely to flourish.

In Earth’s  solar neighbourhood, there are about 5,000 stars and most of them are M dwarfs. If planets surrounding them can be ruled -out entirely in the search for life based on this discovery, that would leave roughly around 1,000 stars similar to the sun that could be habitable.

For now, however, these can't be ruled out entirely. Nor can we rule out the possibility of a planet far enough away from an M dwarf star such that it retains its atmosphere. We need more research and results as we continue to embark on our search for life elsewhere.

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What are brown dwarfs?

Brown dwarfs are also known as failed stars. Why? Find out

Brown dwarfs are celestial objects that are too large to be called planets and too small to be called stars. They have. a mass less than 0.075 that of the sun, which is around 75 times the mass of Jupiter. Like stars, brown dwarfs are believed to form from a collapsing cloud of gas and dust. But as the cloud collapses, it does not form an object dense enough at its core to trigger a nuclear fusion. In the case of a star, hydrogen is converted into helium by nuclear fusion. This is what fuels a star and causes it to shine. Brown dwarfs, on the other hand, are not massive enough to ignite fusion. Hence, they are also called ‘failed stars’.

Dimmer and cooler than stars, brown dwarfs are elusive and hard to find. Infrared sky surveys and other techniques have, however, helped scientists detect hundreds of them.

They are believed to be as common as stars in the Universe. Some of them are companions to stars and many are isolated objects.

First discovered in 1995, brown dwarfs were hypothesized in 1963 by American astronomer Shiv Kumar. Despite their name, brown dwarfs are not brown. They appear from deep red to magenta, depending on their temperature.

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Nushu: world's only secret language curated by women

Originating in China's Jiangyong province in the 19th Century as a code of defiance against social gender inequality, Nishu (Chinese for women's writing) is considered to be the world's only writing system that is created and used exclusively by women.

Once upon a time...

In Ancient and Imperial China a set of moral principles called the Three Obidiences dictated the entirety of a woman's existence. Schools and education were privileges reserved for men while ignorance was seen as a womanly virtue. These unfair stringent rules and social ideals forced women to come up with a new language to tell their stories, comfort each other, sing out their sorrows and express admiration. This was how Nushu the world's only writing script curated and used exclusively by women came into being, Passed down through generations from mothers to daughters, Nushu is based on phonograms (where each character represents a sound). Besides communication, women also embroidered this script onto handkerchiefs, belts, shoes and fans hiding their secrets in decorative patterns.

The earliest record of Nushu

The earliest known artefact with the script on it is a bronze coin from the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom (1851-1864) unearthed in Nanjing, the capital of Jiangsu province. The characters etched in Nüshu on the coin translate to "all the women in the world are members of the same family".

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What is reverse engineering?

From fighter aircraft and missiles to cars, there are many examples of products made by reverse engineering.

Reverse engineering is the process by which a product is dismantled to find out how it works so that a duplicate can be made or it can be improved upon. It is done for commercial purposes. It tries to deduce details of product design and manufacture in the absence of complete documentation. It is also used in military or commercial espionage. The rival's or the enemy's prototype is stolen and disassembled to collect sensitive data so that a similar product can be made or countermeasures taken. During World War II, British and American forces found that German cans were sturdy and had an excellent design. They used reverse engineering to copy the design and produce similar cans. They came to be known as Jerry cans. From fighter aircraft and missiles to cars, there are many examples of products made by reverse engineering.

Reverse engineering is also used for software analysis. It is done to study the source code of a program if it is lost, or with a view to improving the program. It is also done to fix a bug or a virus.

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