What tool is used for accurate measurement?

Accurate measurements are made with the help of various measuring tools. Let's look at a few of them today

  • Glucometer

A glucometer or glucose meter is a medical device that is used to determine the concentration of glucose in the blood. The device is available in user-friendly forms like small hand-held devices or paper strips. People with diabetes often keep this device with them at home to regularly monitor their blood glucose/sugar levels.

  • Depth finder

Also called the echo sounder, this device is used on ships to determine the depth of water. The device uses reflected sound from the bottom of the water body to calculate the depth. It sends sound waves from the water surface and detects the reflected wave from the bottom (the echo). From the knowledge of the speed of sound in water and the time taken by the sound for the round trip, the distance travelled can be calculated and thus the depth.

The same device is used to detect underwater objects. Fishermen use it to detect the presence of big fish in the water.

  • Speedometer

A speedometer measures the speed of a moving vehicle and displays the speed for easy reference while the vehicle is in movement. The device displays the current speed in kilometres per hour on the vehicle's instrument dashboard. These days all cars are factory fitted with common device, but in the early 1900s, it was an expensive option.

  • Sound level meter

This device measures the intensity of noise/sound. The instrument is basically a microphone that picks up sound and converts it into an electrical signal which can be measured by a meter that is calibrated to read the sound level in decibels (a unit to measure sound intensity). If the decibel level of zero is the average threshold of hearing, then 120 decibels represents extremely loud sound that is painful to the human ear. Sound level meters are used frequently in some work places to provide sound information relating to prevention of deafness from excessive noise.

  • Light meter (photography)

This device is used to measure the amount of light that is ideal for use in photography. It is an excellent tool for photographers because it can accurately determine how much exposure is required for a photograph. This information can help the photographer to decide the correct camera shutter speed for the best exposure in certain lighting situations.

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What are the meaning, origin and usage of word ‘Stymie’?

(Pronounced stai.mee)

Meaning: As a verb, "stymie" means to hinder the progress of or to stop someone from doing something. As a noun, the term means a situation presenting such difficulties as to deter any attempt to deal with it.

Origin: Of uncertain origin, it perhaps came from the Scottish "stymie" meaning "person who cannot see well." The word "stymie" entered English in the 19th Century as a noun referring to a golfing situation in which one players ball lies between another ball and the hole on the green, thereby blocking the line of play. Later, it came to be used as a verb in the present sense and also in non-golf contexts.

Usage: Faced with financial constraints, the company is putting a stymie on spending.

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What are the meaning, origin and usage of word ‘Inaugural’?

(pronounced i.naw.gruhl)

Meaning: The word inaugural marks the beginning of an institution, activity, or period of office.

Origin: In use since the 1680s, the word is derived from French inaugural, which has been around since the 17th Century. The French word is from inaugurer "to inaugurate”, which is from Latin inaugurare, of the same meaning. The noun meaning "an inaugural address" has been in use from 1832.

Following a spike in usage from the 1850s to the 1900s, the usage of the word has remained fairly even.

Usage: The inaugural Women's Premier League auction saw some of the top international women players end up with fat pay cheques.

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What are the meaning, origin and usage of word ‘Zucchetto’?

(Pronounced tsuk.ket.to.)

Meaning: This noun refers to a Roman Catholic cleric’s skullcap with different colours for different ranks - black for a priest, purple for a bishop, red for a cardinal, and white for the Pope.

Origin: This word has its origin in the Italian word zucca, meaning gourd, head, in reference to its shape. This is, in turn, from Late Latin cucutia, meaning gourd, probably from Latin cucurbita, meaning pumpkin or squash.

Example: The wind swept away the Pope's zucchetto.

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What are the meaning, origin and usage of word ‘Gamut’?

Pronounced as: ga-muht

Meaning: A noun, "gamut" means an entire range or series

Origin: Its origin is considered to be a contraction of "gamma ut', a Latin expression in the Middle Ages for "the full range of notes in music," Its first known was in the 15th Century.

Usage: When it was time to perform for the first time on stage, she experienced an entire gamut of emotions.

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Jobs literary figures once held

Delve into the lives of renowned literary figures who faced the pivotal choice of either retaining their day jobs or leaving them behind to embrace their true passion for the written word. Read on to discover how some of them drew inspiration from their jobs, seamlessly integrating their work experiences into their literary masterpieces.

Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie, the beloved 'Queen of crime, has left an indelible mark on the genre of detective fiction. However, it may surprise you to learn that prior to her literary success, the English author worked as a pharmacist's assistant until the conclusion of World War I. In 1914, when the U.K entered into war with Germany, Christie promptly joined the Voluntary Aid Detachment, dedicating the next four years to caring for injured soldiers at a military hospital. It was during this period that she drew upon her pharmaceutical knowledge, particularly in the realm of poisons, to craft her debut novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles. Christie's involvement in the pharmacy profession was not limited to World War I, as she resumed her duties during World War II, amassing countless hours of invaluable work. Her experiences as a wartime pharmacist undoubtedly honed her ability to "imagine worst-case scenarios, gruesome deaths, and pharmaceutical murder”. Kathryn Harkup says in her book, A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie.

Harper Lee

Harper Lee, the renowned American novelist, revolutionised literary history in 1960 with her groundbreaking work, To Kill a Mockingbird, fearlessly bringing the issue of racial injustice to the forefront. Prior to this transformative moment, Lee supported herself as an airline ticketing agent while embarking on a quest for a writing career after leaving law school. Despite her demanding day job with Eastern Airlines and British Overseas Airways Corporation. Lee tenaciously pursued her passion by crafting articles and short stories in her spare time. In a fortunate turn of events in 1956, fate smiled upon her. Through her childhood friend-turned-writer Truman Capote, Lee crossed paths with the esteemed American Broadway composer Michael Brown. Remarkably, during the joyous Christmas holidays, Brown gifted her an extraordinary present-a whole year’s worth of wages-along with a heartfelt message. This granted her the freedom to devote all her time to writing. A mere twelve months later, Lee presented her agent with the initial draft of To Kill a Mockingbird, setting the stage for her exceptional literary career.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is renowned worldwide as the visionary behind Sherlock Holmes, one of English literature's most iconic fictional characters. However, his contributions extend far beyond being the pioneer of modern detective literature. In 1881, Doyle earned his Bachelor of Medicine and Master of Surgery qualifications from Edinburgh, followed by an M.D. in 1885 upon completing his thesis. During his tenure as a general practitioner, he dedicated particular attention to ophthalmology (diagnosis and medical treatment of the eyes), studying the field in Vienna and working alongside renowned ophthalmologists in Paris. Upon returning to London, he established an ophthalmological practice near Harley Street. It was during his time as a medical student that Doyle was profoundly influenced by his professor. Dr Joseph Bell, whose exceptional ability to observe the minutest details about a patient's condition served as the inspiration for Sherlock Holmes, the ultimate master of deductive reasoning. In 1891, Doyle experienced a severe influenza-induced health crisis, which prompted him to reevaluate his life's priorities. Merely a year later, the first collection of 12 stories featuring the adventures of Sherlock Holmes was published.

T.S. Eliot

T.S. Eliot, the distinguished recipient of the 1948 Nobel Prize in Literature, stands tall as one of the most influential American poets of the 20th Century. Remarkably, Eliot sustained himself through various roles as a teacher, banker, and editor throughout his life. Since poetry remained his true passion, he pursued it during his spare moments. From 1917 to 1925, Eliot worked in the foreign transactions department at Lloyd's Bank, dedicating his days to the financial realm. However, in 1921, following a nervous breakdown, he took a break from his banking career and completed his magnum opus. The Waste Land, which was edited by his friend and fellow American poet, Ezra Pound. Pound, along with a collective of writers, established Bel Esprit, a fund aimed at financially supporting Eliot's transition to full-time writing. Despite Pound's success in gamering pledges from several subscribers, Eliot refused to accept the money and remained resolute in retaining his day job. Nonetheless, The Liverpool Post, Chicago Daily Tribune, and the New York Tribune mistakenly reported that Eliot had accepted the funds while maintaining his position at the bank. Eliot expressed his disagreement, prompting the newspapers to publish retractions. In 1925, Eliot eventually parted ways with Lloyds, embarking on a new path as an editor at a publishing house.

Stephen King

Renowned for his spine-chilling and hair-raising novels such as The Shining, It and Carrie. American author Stephen King has reigned supreme in the horror genre for over five decades. His gripping tales have not only captivated readers but also found immense success on the silver screen, becoming blockbuster hits. As a young boy, King stumbled upon a treasure trove of fantasy-horror fiction books that once belonged to his father, igniting his passion for writing. By the tender age of seven, he had already embarked on his own storytelling journey. However, as he pursued his dream, King faced the need to support himself through various odd jobs. He toiled as a janitor, manned gas pumps, and even worked at an industrial laundry facility, all while persistently crafting and submitting short stories for publication. This striking career transition vividly illustrates that one's current occupation does not determine their lifelong path. Instead, any job can serve as a stepping stone to something greater, as King's remarkable journey exemplifies.

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What celebrities wrote book for children?

How can a writer's success be defined? If a writer can get a child hooked on their book from an early age, then we can assume that the writer has been successful. And then there are celebrities who took to writing children's fiction, attempting to connect with them. We take a look at some of these famous personalities.

What does one do after winning a gold medal at Paralympic games?  Well, if you were Ellie Robinson, you would write a children's book! It may not be the dream of many athletes to move away from the glam and glitter of the sports arena to that of the literary world. But that was just what Ellie Robinson did. And her debut novel "Gold Medal Mysteries: Thief on the Track" which was released recently has already received good reviews. The multi-medal-winning British swimmer retired from swimming after the Tokyo Paralympics in 2021. Now the athlete is dabbling in writing and her studies. She blends her love for history and sport in the book. According to the athlete, the book is all about personal development and life lessons, which the characters learn as the story progresses. Let's read up on other personalities who came up with children's books!

Paul McCartney

Most of us know Paul McCartney as the world famous rock superstar. But did you know that the former Beatle singer also wrote a book for children? Titled "Hey Grandude", the name Grandude being based on a nickname given to McCartney by one of his grandchildren, the book follows the adventures of a retired hippie who takes his grandkids on a wondrous journey. It is the relationship that McCartney shared with his grandkids that inspired him to create the book. While the title may make Beatle fans think of "Hey Jude", the book follows the fictional family as they take off on adventures, all thanks to the magic compass that the Grandude has which will let them travel anywhere! Another book he wrote for kids in Grandude's Green Submarine.

Whoopi Goldberg

Actress-comedian Whoopi Goldberg has carved herself a career in the entertainment industry. But children might know her best as the author of the "Sugar Plum Ballerinas" series. It is the first book of the Academy Award winner which revolves around a school of ballet. The setting is the "Nutcracker School of Ballet in Harlem where aspiring ballerinas learn to do the plié, and chassé turns. The protagonist is Alexandrea Petrakova Johnson, who is forced to join the school and leave her friends behind all because of her mother who wants her to be a ballerina. Soon she is chosen to be the Sugar Plum Fairy in the school recital and has a massive task at hand to tackle the challenges and perform. Apart from the books in the "Sugar Plum Ballerinas" series, "Alice" is another book written by the author for children.

Frank Lampard

How about reading a story that blends magic and football? When England footballer Frank Lampard turned to write fiction, he chose to bring in two of his favourite elements, the sport of football and history. And he chose to write for children. His first children's book "Frankie's Magic Football" followed the adventures of Frankie, a school boy and his friends who love football. The story delves not just into football but also offers nuggets of wisdom and life lessons. He touches upon themes such as fairplay, bravery, goals and so on in his book. The collection that follows Frankie's journey includes a plethora of books such as "Frankie vs The Pirate Pillagers", "Frankie vs The Rowdy Romans", "Frankie vs The Cowboy's Crew” and so on.

Serena Williams

Serena Williams revolutionised sports. Her style of play, talent and determination has turned her into a legend in women's tennis. But do you know what else makes her even more intriguing? The fact that she chose to write a book for children, a book centred around a little girl who starts to trust and believe in herself with the help of her doll "Qai Qai". William's first book "The Adventures of Qai Qai" was released in 2022. Qai Qai is inspired by William's daughter Olympia's doll. Williams had earlier mentioned how reading out a story was an important part of their (Williams and daughter) bedtime routine.

Tom Fletcher

Talk about musicians-turned-writers and you have many. While some have tried their hand at fiction, some have attempted to write children's books. Among them, musician Tom Fletcher has truly carved a niche for himself in the children's book category. Apart from being the lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist of the English pop rock band "McFly". Fletcher is into penning books for children. With the book "Christmasaurus", he made a giant splash in the literary world and slowly became one of the UK's most popular children's authors. His book “The Creakers" turned out to be a number-one bestseller. He is also noted for his bestselling picture books such as "There's a Monster in Your Book". "There's an Elf in Your Book", and "There's a Dragon in Your Book". The book he wrote with his bandmate titled "The Dinosaur That Pooped" sold over a million copies. His books have been translated into more than 30 languages.

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What are some incredible tales of women who dared to enter the man's world disguised as men?

Here are some incredible tales of women who dared to enter the man's world disguised as men!

Today, women are making a mark in various fields all over the world. But until as late as the 19th Century they had to struggle to get education even in the progressive western countries. However, many spirited women of the 18th and 19th Century donned men's attire and set out to achieve what was denied to them simply because they belonged to the fairer sex. Some disguised themselves as soldiers while some, bitten by the wanderlust, set sail as sailors or cabin boys. Some concealed their feminine identity to earn a living - women were either not allowed to do certain jobs or were paid less.

Jeanne Baret

French woman Jeanne Baret was the first woman to circumnavigate the globe albeit in a man’s disguise.

Jeanne had a deep knowledge of plants, especially their medicinal properties. In 1766, she accompanied botanist Philibert Commerson on a French naval expedition by disguising herself as his young male assistant.

Over the next two years, the duo collected thousands of plant samples from across the world. Baret faced untold hardships on the ship but remained undaunted and focused on her research. She is credited with introducing the colourful bougainvillea vine to the western world. The vine was named after the commander of the ship.

Upon her return, Baret received recognition as a naturalist and the French government granted her a pension.

Deborah Sampson

Many courageous women masqueraded as men to join the army during the American Revolutionary War in the late 18th Century. The trend continued hundred years later as women were still barred from the battleground.

Deborah Sampson was the first American lady to don a soldier’s uniform. Deborah came from a very humble background and had to work hard from early childhood. At 21, she enlisted in the army by carefully transforming herself into Robert Shurtleff, her tall frame and years of hard labour helping in her disguise. After she was sent to the war front, the church excommunicated her on the strong suspicion that she was a man!

Deborah was injured several times but she would bravely tend to her own wounds to protect her identity. Eventually, the doctor treating her for fever discovered her secret and Deborah was honourably discharged from the army. Deborah had to fight a long public battle with the American establishment to get a decent pension.

Deborah Sampson was the first American lady to don a soldier's uniform and went by the name Robert Shurtleff.

James Barry

The incredible life story of Dr James Barry was probably the best kept secret of the 19th Century. James Barry was born Margaret Ann Bulkley in 1792 in Ireland. Young Margaret was encouraged by her progressive uncles and mother to take up the overwhelming challenge of studying medicine at the Edinburgh University. So Margaret became James Barry and sailed to Edinburgh with her mother.

After graduation, James Barry joined the British Army and retired after 40 years as a top-ranking medical officer. Dr Barry was an outstanding doctor with fine surgical skills who became the first British doctor to perform a successful Caesarean section long before the advent of antiseptics and anaesthetics.

Dr Barry served in various British colonies throughout the world including India carrying out revolutionary work for the welfare of soldiers, and inmates of lunatic asylums. Barry's work on hygiene and preventive medicine paved the way for new methods in treatment.

Dr Barry's death left everyone stunned, for it was only then that everybody including her closest colleagues realised her true identity.

Margaret Ann Bulkley who lived as Dr Barry all her life was the first British doctor to perform a successful Caesarean section long before the advent of antiseptics and anaesthetics.

Hannah Snell

Hannah was born in 1723 in England. Though she hailed from a family of soldiers and military officers, little did anyone imagine that Hannah would become a soldier one day and fight battles! When Hannah's husband deserted her a few months after marriage, she borrowed her brother-in-law's suit, assumed his name James Grey and joined the Royal Marines in search of her husband.

Throughout her career as a soldier, Hannah was wounded 11 times but managed to conceal her identity. She revealed her secret only after returning to England. She was honourably discharged and even granted a pension.

Throughout her career as a soldier, Hannah Snell was wounded 11 times but managed to conceal her identity.

Billy Tipton

Billy Tipton was a well-known American jazz musician and saxophonist of the 1930s. It was only in 1989 when Billy died that the musician's identify was revealed - Billy was actually a woman named Dorothy Tipton! Dorothy began dressing as a man in order to get an opportunity to perform in jazz bands and the disguise lasted a lifetime.

Dorothy began dressing as a man in order to get an opportunity to perform in jazz bands and the disguise lasted a lifetime.


  • Many women writers of the 19th century published their work under a male pseudonym as a woman's work was not taken seriously those days. Notable examples are Mary Ann Evans alias George Eliot and the Bronte sisters - Emily. Charlotte and Ann each of whom had a male pen name.
  • English journalist Dorothy Lawrence wanted to cover the WWI as a reporter. But was unable to get a posting on the front because of her gender. So, she connived with two soldiers, forged documents, smuggled a uniform and managed to join the army as Dennis Smith But the stress of working at the warfront proved too much for her and she gave herself up within a week. Her story is now part of an exhibition on women at war in the Imperial War Museum in London.

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Unique defence mechanisms in animals

Our planet is indeed a wonderland with zillions of creatures inhabiting it, each having its own unique way of adapting to its habitat. Among these, there are some creatures that have developed some bizarre defence mechanisms. Let's read up on some of these animal species.


Imagine ribs that you can use as poisonous spikes. The iberian ribbed newt is capable of pushing its ribs outside its skin when attacked. These form spikes which the newt uses to defend itself. The animal does this by moving its ribs away from the spine and increasing their angle by 50 degrees. The tips of the ribs then stick outside the animal's body, like a set of spines. At the same time, the newt is capable of producing a poisonous milky substance on its body surface. This coupled with its protruding ribs acts as its stinging tool.


The golden poison frog is one of the most toxic animals on Earth. It is known for its vibrant colours and the potent poison produced by its skin. While its bright colour is itself a warning sign to predators, the frog takes its defence one notch higher by producing toxins such as steroidal alkaloids batrachotoxin, homobatrachotoxin, and batrachotoxin A. These compounds can cause arrhythmias, fibrillation, and cardiac failure in humans.


Here is a lizard that shoots blood from its eyes. When under threat, the Texas horned lizard sprays out pressurised blood from the corners of its eyes at its attacker. In biology, this is called autohaemorrhaging or reflex bleeding. The animal resorts to this when all its other defences such as camouflage fail. This is carried out by the lizard by rupturing its own sinus membranes.


While the most common defence mechanism is to display vibrant colours to ward off predators, there are some animals that use their bioluminescence as a warning. A genus of millipedes that is endemic to California called the Motyxia uses its bioluminescence to warn off predators. But the most unusual ability this creature possesses is that it can produce and ooze cyanide from the pores on its body. The cyanide is toxic for the predators of this species such as rodents, centipedes, and beetles.


Imagine a defence strategy that kills your predator but you end up getting the raw deal as well. These are the ants that will destroy themselves to defend their colony when under attack. These exploding ants are called the Malaysian ants. Whenever their nest is invaded, they will "blow" up (rupture) their abdomens. The ants have poison glands that get burst when they flex their body, releasing the poisonous substance onto their predator. This can either kill the enemy or incapacitate it.


Meet the "Wolverine" in the wild. When threatened, this frog can crack its own finger bones and pierce them through its skin. These are then used as claws. On one end of the bone, there is a muscle that the frog can use to contract and thereby break a fragment of bone and push it outwards.

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Indonesia: the nation of 17,500 islands

The world's largest island complex, which has been inhabited for about 1.7 million years, is now home to more than 300 different ethnic groups

Ranu Joardar

Indonesia is an archipelago comprising the Greater Sunda Islands of Sumatra (Sumatera), Java (Jawa), the southern extent of Borneo (Kalimantan), and Celebes (Sulawesi); the Lesser Sunda Islands (Nusa Tenggara) of Bali and a chain of islands that runs eastward through Timor, the Moluccas (Maluku) between Celebes and the island of New Guinea; and the western extent of New Guinea (generally known as Papua).

Indonesia is the largest and most populous country in Southeast Asia. The country is one of the founding members of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which aims to accelerate economic growth, social progress, and cultural development and promote peace and security in Southeast Asia.


Formerly known as the Dutch East Indies or the Netherlands East Indies, the name ‘Indonesia’ was used as early as 1884 by a German geographer. It is believed that the name has derived from the Greek word 'indos', meaning 'India', and 'nesos', meaning 'island'.

While records of foreign trade begin only in the early centuries, it is widely believed that people from the Indonesian archipelago were sailing to other parts of Asia much earlier. According to Roman historian Pliny the Elder's encyclopaedic scientific work Natural History, the Indonesians used to trade with the east coast of Africa in the 1st Century AD.

The Indonesian written and oral sources suggest that the origins of kingdoms along the coasts of the Java Sea were related to the success of local heroes in using foreign trading treasure to their advantage.


Indonesia comprises about 17,500 islands, of which more than 7,000 are uninhabited. The Equator crosses Sumatra at its centre.

The remains of Homo erectus (originally known as Pithecanthropus or Java man) have revealed that the Java island was already inhabited about 1.7 million years ago, the time when most of the western archipelago was linked by land bridges. These bridges submerged about 6,000 years ago due to rapid postglacial rise in sea level.

Most of the Indonesian islands are densely forested volcanic mountains in the interior that slope down to coastal plains covered with thick alluvial swamps. These swamps dissolve into shallow seas and coral reefs. Underneath this surface is the junction of three major sections of the Earth's crust.

Flora and fauna

The vegetation in Indonesia is similar to that of the Philippines, Malaysia, and Papua New Guinea. It is home to about 40,000 species of flowering plants, including 5,000 species of orchids and Rafflesiaceae (the world's largest flower).

There are over 3,000 tree species such as durian, sandalwood, and costly timber varieties such as teak and ironwood.

Here, mangrove forests can be seen in salty or brackish water along muddy shores. Most mangrove swamps are along the shallow seas in eastern Sumatra, southern Kalimantan, and the southeastern segment of western New Guinea.

Some of the islands of the archipelago are home to endemic species such as the Javanese peacock, Sumatran drongo, proboscis monkey in Kalimantan, and babirusa and tamarau in Celebes.

Most of the Javanese rhinoceroses can only be found on the western tip of Java. This species is one of the world's most highly protected forms of wildlife. Another such endangered species is the orangutan. They are native to Borneo and Sumatra. To save the population from capture and slaughter, several orangutan rehabilitation centres and programmes have been established. These organisations also train orangutans who have been held captive to return to the wild.


Indonesia has been the middle point of two population groups - Asians in the west and Melanesians (indigenous peoples of Pacific Islands known as Melanesia) in the east.

Though the majority of the population is related to those from eastern Asia, there has been an influx of and mixing with Arabs, Indians, and Europeans in past centuries.

The eastern islands are dominated by people of Melanesian origin.

The country has more than 300 different ethnic groups, resulting in twice as many distinct languages and most of the major world religions.

Meanwhile, Bali, whose local religious practices are influenced by both Hinduism and Buddhism, has customs that are different from that of other parts of Indonesia.

About half of the country's population lives in rural areas. Java, Madura, and Bali have a systemised rural structure that is based most on wet-rice cultivation (cultivating rice by planting on dry land then transferring the seedlings to a flooded field, and draining the field before harvesting).

Indonesia's five largest cities are Jakarta, Surabaya, Bandung, Bekasi, and Medan. They are considered metropolitan areas as they have the most number of government, financial, and business offices.


After the Japanese invasion (1942-45) during World War II, statesman Sukarno declared Indonesia's independence in 1945 (though the Netherlands retained a large portion of the region).

However, the struggle for independence continued till 1949 when the Dutch officially recognised Indonesian Sovereignty. Sukarno became the country's first President in 1949.

Till 2002, both the President and the Prime Minister were elected for a period of five years by the People's Consultative Assembly. Since 2004, both leaders are being directly elected.

On August 8, 1967, five leaders - the Foreign Ministers of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand- established the ASEAN.

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Who invented the Trachtenberg system of mathematics?

A system of speed mathematics, it was developed by Jakow Trachtenberg when he spent long years at a concentration camp during WWII

The Trachtenberg system is a system of speed arithmetic. With this system, you can do multiplication, division, addition, subtraction and square root operations very quickly and without a calculator. Multiplication and division can be done without the use of multiplication tables. In order to learn this system, all that you need is the ability to count.

This system was developed by Jakow Trachtenberg (1888-1953), a Russian Jewish mathematician and engineer. Trachtenberg developed his unique system of mathematics when he spent long years at a concentration camp during World War II. He was surrounded by violence, disease and death. But he escaped into a world of his own-a world of numbers, logic and order. He visualised gigantic numbers to be added and he tried calculating mentally. He invented a fool-proof method that would make it possible for even a child to add thousands of numbers together without ever adding a number higher than eleven! He scribbled his theories on whatever bit of paper he could lay his hands on - wrapping paper, old envelopes. German worksheets, etc.

In 1944, he and his wife escaped to Switzerland. There, he perfected his mathematics system.

The first students to whom Trachtenberg taught his system were children especially those who were doing poorly in studies. The results were heartening and successful.

In 1950, he founded the Mathematical Institute in Zurich, where both children and adults were taught the system. The system has been thoroughly tested in Switzerland and is found to increase the self-confidence and general aptitude to study, as the students develop outstanding arithmetic abilities.

It is a fool-proof method that would make it possible for even a child to add thousands of numbers together without ever adding a number higher than eleven.

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Which place is known as the ‘Cradle of Humankind’?

It is a complex of dolomite caves in South Africa where fossils of early plants, animals and hominids have been found. Read on to know more about the caves where human life originated

About 50 km from Johannesburg in South Africa lies a complex of dolomite caves from where the fossilised remains of a number of early plants, animals and hominids have been found. The cluster of about three dozen caves, of which the Sterkfontein caves are the most famous, are together named the 'Cradle of Humankind'. They boast over 850 hominid fossils, one of the world's richest and oldest concentrations of such remains. The site was declared a World Heritage Site in 1999.

The caves offer a window to the past, throwing light on how our ancestors evolved. In 1947, paleontologist Robert Broom found an almost complete skull of a female Australopithecus Africanus, nicknamed 'Mrs Ples', dating back 2.8 million years, at Sterkfontein.

More recently in 1997, Ronald Clarke discovered 'Little Foot, an almost complete hominin skeleton, estimated to be about 3.5 million years old.

Sustained excavation activities since 1966 have so far yielded an impressive 500 hominid specimens from the caves. The hominid remains corroborated the scientific view that the first humans lived in Africa. The fossil evidence has led scientists to believe that early human lineage separated from the apes in Africa about 5-6 million years ago.

The fossil remains from Broom's excavations are housed in the Transvaal Museum in Pretoria while the finds from 1966 onwards are housed at the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.

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What is fossil water?

Fossil water is the ancient freshwater that got trapped underground in huge reservoirs or aquifers. This water may have been locked in for over thousands of years and remain undisturbed. It can be found across the globe, be it in arid, semi-arid, humid regions, or even regions of permafrost.

Ever heard of fossil water? You may be aware of fossils. So going by the terminology of fossils, does fossil water mean that the water is really old?

Well, fossil water or petrowater or paleowater is the water that is trapped among the rocks underneath for millennia. It is the ancient freshwater that got trapped underground in a huge reservoirs or aquifer (a geological formation comprising an underground layer of porous rocks where water can be stored) in an undisturbed space.

One aquifer in Libya, has been carbon-dated to 40,000 years ago. It has only been a few decades since we started accessing fossil aquifers. In water-deprived areas and dry climates, these have become sources of water.

Presently, billions across the world are dependent on water from fossil aquifers for drinking as well as irrigation purposes.

Location and formation

Fossil water can be found across the globe, be it in arid, semi-arid, humid regions, or even regions of permafrost. An example of fossil water would be the Nubian Sandstone Aquifer System which is the biggest fossil aquifer in the world.

How and when did fossil water form? Fossil water formed during the last glacial ice age. Water got collected from melting ice and prehistoric lakes, as it seeped into the subterranean layers of rocks and sand in old aquifers.

As time went by, these got filled with sediment and thus got isolated, thereby sealing off the water from Earth's surface. They remained there, unaffected and undisturbed for tens of thousands of years. But we don't know how much of this water exists.

How sustainable is fossil water

Fossil water is trapped in layers of impermeable rocks and clay. As such they cannot absorb precipitation. So once depleted, they cannot be replenished easily.

Further, some pockets of fossil water are located in deserts and cannot be replenished due to the absence of enough annual precipitation. For instance, consider the Ogallala aquifer. Once it is fully mined, it is said that it would take over 6,000 years to replenish it.

Future of fossil water

The old groundwater is becoming an option in some water-strapped nations. If we continue extracting fossil water mindlessly, then the area's water table goes down permanently.

As this water is non-renewable, there is always a risk of these aquifers going dry. Meanwhile, if it remains unaffected by human activities, then it can remain in equilibrium.

But can you drink ancient groundwater? Since this water has been around for thousands of years, like anything that has been around for millennia, this water would taste different too. Natural chemicals also get leached into it. They can be salty and contain contaminants such as iron and manganese. They need to be treated to be used for drinking purposes.

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