What makes a documentary?

Documentaries are a realistic portrayal of life events based on facts, are regarded as 'historical records, and often utilised for educating viewers on certain critical areas. The documentary ‘An Inconvenient’ Truth deserves a special mention for portraying the deadly effects of global warming to caution people.

The entire world is fascinated with films, and the advent of social media has made it easy for anyone with a smartphone to create videos and upload them to the Internet, so much so that reels and short videos have become a rage today. Our teacher deliberately took a detour to talk about films in order to drive home to us the distinction between feature films and documentary films; we were under the impression that ‘film' referred only to the feature film.

Adding to our confusion was the expression 'cinema' which referred to three things-film, filmmaking, and the building wherein films are screened. She pointed out, "All these are used interchangeably now, and people understand it depending upon the context. Films, more than anything else, truly globalised the world even before the concept of globalisation was known widely."

At the initial stages, she mentioned, the term ‘film' referred only to a motion picture which has taken various forms now, such as short films, indie films, art films, experimental or avant-garde films, commercial films, animated films, and documentary films. One feature that is common to all, except the last category, is that they have a storyline and are mostly enacted by professionals. But documentaries are made by anyone with an imaginative bent of mind, with or without a budget. Documentaries are always a realistic portrayal of life events based on facts, are regarded as 'historical records, and often utilised for educating viewers on certain critical areas.

Although documentaries are based on factual details, they share certain similarities with feature films: writing a script (based on serious research into a subject), developing an interesting narrative around it, involving real people, shooting, and editing. Documentaries also, like feature films, should offer an interesting experience to audiences, otherwise they would fall flat.

Documentaries deal with a wide-ranging aspect of people's lives - cultural, social, psychological, economic, racial, gender, poverty, illiteracy, homelessness, other concerns, such as technology, plastics, pollution, education, addiction, parenting, sports, and anything else that would capture people's attention. They also lay emphasis on instructing people and persuading them to take some kind of action; not merely entertaining people as feature films often do. Some of the top-grossing documentaries made so far have dealt with themes such as gun violence, the healthcare industry, and events such as behind-the-scenes preparation for Michael Jackson's 50th concert and the aftermath of the 9/11 attack-exemplifying their vast canvas.

An Inconvenient Truth, among all, deserves a special mention - Al Gore, former Vice-President of the U.S., portrayed the deadly effects of global warming to caution people. He emerged as a global crusader and conscientised people across the globe; till then activists were merely talking about it in a muffled voice. The full text of this documentary has been archived on the Internet and those interested in making documentaries can get a feel of it.

Finally she said, sometimes documentaries are confused with reportage but there is a distinction: reportage is described as reporting of news by journalists for television, radio, or newspaper. In reportage, text is important, which is supported by images, but for documentaries both are of equal significance to narrate a story.

We imagined that only feature films have theatrical releases, but in recent times, she pointed out, documentaries also have such releases but not many get released. Besides, several awards have been instituted for the category of documentaries as a way of recognition, like feature films, in different countries, including Academy Awards in the U.S. popularly known as the Oscars, European Film Awards, and Hot Docs Audience Awards in Canada.

Happy making documentaries/ videos / reels! she wished us as she wrapped up her speech.

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The story of an American icon

A Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Harper Lee gave us one of the finest pieces in English literature, “To Kill a Mockingbird". The novel which became a cult classic of modern American literature came out in 1960 during the Civil Rights Movement and is considered an exposé of racial prejudices that existed in the southern states of the U.S. Let's read up on the author whose birth anniversary falls in April.

"Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird," is an oft-quoted line straight out of Harper Lee's much-acclaimed novel 'To Kill a Mockingbird".

With Mockingbird, Lee gave us one of the finest pieces in English literature. The 1960 novel which became a cult classic of modern American literature came out during the civil rights movement and is considered an exposé of the racial prejudices that existed then in the southern states of the U.S.

This coming-of-age story is themed on social equality and is also a critique of the racist culture that was prevalent in America. The novel is narrated by a young girl, Jean Louise ("Scout') Finch. Finch is the daughter of white lawyer Atticus Finch. Set in the fictitious rural town of Maycomb, Alabama, during the early 1930s, the novel has Atticus Finch fighting for justice and representing a black man for a crime against a white woman. It addresses how racial prejudices come into play as the family of Attticus gets targeted. The book's message and the moral stance taken by Finch are relevant even today.

Let's go back to the powerful quote. The setting of the story is during Christmas when Atticus Finch gives air rifles as gifts to his children Jem and Scout In the book, this is the first time that the title is alluded to. He is sure that the children may not shoot at tin cans but might aim at birds. He requests them not to shoot at mockingbirds. That's because a mockingbird is a songbird and does no harm, it is said. It represents something pure and innocent that shouldn't be hurt or punished. This lends a symbolic meaning to book.

The idea resonates across the book as mockingbirds are used to allude to the two characters in the book viz. Boo Radley and Tom Robinson.

Early years

Known as Nelle, Harper Lee was born in the Alabama town of Monroeville. She was the youngest of four children born to Amasa Coleman Lee and his wife Frances Cunningham Finch Lee. Her father, who was a former newspaper editor, practised as a lawyer and served in the state legislature. Growing up, Lee was more of a tomboy and was close with her schoolmate and neighbour, the young Truman Capote, who would also grow up to be a writer.

After Lee graduated from high school in Monroeville, she enrolled at Huntingdon College and then pursued a law degree at the University of Alabama. Once here, she wrote for several student publications. She then went to Oxford University as an exchange student for a year.

On returning from Oxford, she realised that her career was in writing and not in law, and dropped out. Lee later moved to New York in 1950 and took up the job of a reservation clerk.

Lee as a writer

In the late 1950s, she devoted her time to writing. In fact, a Christmas present changed the trajectory of her life. In 1956, her friends gifted her a year’s salary as Christmas present with a note asking Lee to write whatever she pleased. Come 1959 and Lee had completed "To Kill a Mockingbird".

The novel was published in 1960 and instantly became a hit. The book also fetched her Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1961 and still remains a bestseller. Lee was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2007.

The book has sold more than 40 million copies worldwide. It was adapted to the screen, became a part of the educational curriculum, and was widely celebrated. But soon after its success, Lee retreated from public life and became a recluse. She turned down interviews and biographers. She moved from New York back to Monroeville, her hometown.

Always a mystery

Lee is also one of the most mysterious writers, with not much known about her personal or literary journeys. After her book made a giant splash on the literary scene, not much was known about her writing and it left people waiting for her second book. And when it was widely understood that she may not publish another, her first novel was considered a fluke.

There were even theories that the novel was written by her dear writer friend Truman Capote. But decades after "To Kill a Mockingbird" was published, a manuscript was found by her lawyer.

A sequel

"Go Set a Watchman" is considered either a sequel to 'To Kill a Mockingbird" or a rough draft of it. It chronicles the homecoming of Jean Louise Finch, to a place fraught with racial tension. The book gives a dark shade to Atticus.

The unedited manuscript of "Go Set a Watchman" was discovered in a safe deposit box by the author's lawyer and was released in 2015. However, the book was a let-down to some of the fans of Mockingbird, because it revealed the prejudices and weaknesses of Atticus.

Lee died in her sleep at the age of 89 in 2016.

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Why is it important to stay hydrated in the summer heat?

It is imperative to ensure good hydration in the summer to make up for the sweat loss. This is more so when you are outdoor playing. Low water intake can pose challenges such as creation of extra heat in the body leading to acidity, constipation, and dehydration.

 "Staying hydrated is important not just for children but for all age groups. It ensures normal fluid and electrolyte balance which helps to keep you active and going all day long," says Dr. Arjun Verma, Consultant Paediatrics and Neonatal, Artemis Hospital, Jaipur.

Elevated temperatures and heat waves increase sweating, leading to immediate loss of sodium and water from the body. Hence electrolytes are taken. However, the downside here is if there is an increased intake of sodium, you may experience hypernatremia (a condition wherein the sodium in the body is high). Symptoms of hypernatremia include decreased activity, lethargy, fainting, palpitation, headache and migraine. So, we need to avoid electrolyte disturbances which may lead to mild to severe symptoms mentioned above, he says.

Preparing ORS at home

Dehydration should not be taken lightly. If you feel you are dehydrated, tell your parent to take you to the hospital. "In case of dehydration, homemade ORS (oral rehydration solution) or commercial preparations can be taken en route to the hospital. ORS can be prepared at home by dissolving 1 tablespoon of salt in one litre of water and taken in sips," says Dr. Parimala. V. Thirumalesh.

Hydration keeps the skin replenished, glowing and supple and helps the kidney function well. It can also help relieve constipation.

Effects of dehydration

When you play outside while dehydrated you can face serious problems. Some of the serious effects of dehydration are seizures, low blood volume, swelling of the brain and even kidney problems. You will know you are dehydrated when there is little or no urine output in a 12-hour period, when you have dry mouth and when your eyes are sunken in. "The signs of dehydration are increased thirst, irritability, tiredness, sunken eyes, loss of skin turgor or elasticity. Normally, if you pinch the skin and release, the skin gets back to shape within 2 seconds. If dehydrated, it takes a longer time which is called loss of skin turgor," says Dr. Parimala V. Thirumalesh, Senior Consultant, Neonatology and Paediatrics, Aster CMI Hospital, Bangalore.

"Children under 3 years of age need 4 cups of water a day which is roughly a litre. Older children need to drink 7-8 glasses of water," says Dr. Parimala V. Thirumalesh. To prevent dehydration, develop a habit of drinking water regularly, she adds.

"Roughly, the 2 litres of water per day can include water every 4 hours (morning at least 2 glasses of water on an empty stomach), home-prepared fruit juices, coconut water if available (this will do wonders to your hydration), milk shakes, etc.." says Dr. Arjun Verma.

To prevent dehydration, avoid too much of outdoor sports or roaming in the sun, apply sunscreen lotion before stepping out, ensure at least 2 litres of water intake per day, always keep a water bottle in your bag when you go out for fun or study, and wear light coloured clothes, he says.

Hydrating refreshments

Here are some liquid refreshments that will not only quench your thirst but also keep you healthy.

Smoothies are an interesting variant of the plain, boring milk. Packed with nutrients, protein, vitamins and antioxidants, they help you kick-start your day with vigour. Take them along with your breakfast or evening snacks.

*Buttermilk is an all-weather drink that aids in digestion. Thirst quenching and inexpensive, this drink is easy to prepare at home.

*Apart from being a low calorie beverage, coconut water is packed with a lot of nutrients, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

Aam Panna is a refreshing drink made of raw mango that is sweetened with jaggery or sugarcane juice.

*Slices of cucumber can be added to a jar of lemon water and taken.

Tips to follow in summer

*Drink a glass of water before play. Avoid too much of outdoor sports.

*Take water breaks at 30-minute intervals.

Apply sunscreen lotion before stepping out.

*Wear loose-fitting and light coloured clothes.

Eat hydrating foods such as watermelon, grapes and orange.

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What are the interesting facts about Croatia?

Croatia is located in the northwestern part of the Balkan peninsula. The country declared its independence from Yugoslavia in 1991. However, it faced four years of war and a decade of authoritarian nationalism under President Franjo Tudjman.


Historically, Croatia was a bridge connecting the central European and Mediterranean worlds.

The first Croats settled here around 500 AD. From 1868 till the end of World War II, it was ruled by Hungary and then it became a part of Yugoslavia.

In the early 1990s, Communism collapsed in eastern Europe. While being part of Yugoslavia, different ethnic groups in the Croatian region began to fight for power and independence.

After Croatia declared its independence in 1991, a civil war began between the Croatians and Serbians. The war came to an end with the signing of the Dayton Agreement in December 1995.

After the fall of Communism in Croatia, the government converted the economy from the Yugoslav system of socialist self-management to market-oriented capitalism.


The country is small, crescent-shaped, and geographically diverse. It has low mountains and highlands near the Adriatic coastline.

There are flat plains near the Hungarian border. Near the mountainous regions, winters are snowy and the summers are mild. The coastal areas have hot, sunny summers and mild winters. The highest mountain here is Dinara, located in the central mountain belt.

Flora and fauna

Due to the country's diverse geography, the flora and fauna are also varied. While on the Dalmatian coast, grapes and olives are grown, Istria is covered with firs, and Slavonia has oak forests.

The country has wolves, bears, hares, foxes, boars, wildcats, and mouflons (wild sheep). The sea life in the Adriatic includes several coral reefs, and underwater caves serve as habitats.


There are several ethnic groups in the country. Croats are the largest ethnic group. Serbs are the largest minority group though their population decreased after the 1990s war of independence.

The other populations include Bosnian Muslims, Hungarians, Italians, and Slovenes as well as some Albanians, Austrians, Bulgarians, Czechs, Germans, and other nationalities.

The diversity in population has influenced its cuisine. Along the coast, fish is served with blitva, which is a Swiss chard mixed with potatoes and garlic in olive oil.

The country's literary history dates back to about 1100. The first book in the Croatian language was Hrvoje's Missal, a liturgical text printed in 1483.

UNESCO has included several sites on its World Heritage List, such as the old city of Dubrovnik and Split, which contains the ruins of the palace of Roman emperor Diocletian.

Sports in Croatis dates back to the Roman times (medieval knights' tournaments). The organised sport began in the country in late 19th Century, when the first sports associations were founded. In 1874, Hrvatski Sokol (Croatian Falcon) was founded. It soon became the largest organisation in the country promoting modern gymnastics and other branches of sports such as cycling, fencing, equestrianism, athletics, skating, tennis, etc.


By early 2003, Slovenia became the second former Yugoslav republic to have applied for membership in the European Union (EU). On July 1, 2013, the country became the 28th member state of the EU.

The President is elected by a popular vote to a five-year term. However, his role is mainly ceremonial. Though the President appoints the Prime Minister, the parliament approves the nomination.

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How can I invest in our planet?

Earth Day, celebrated each year on April 22, just went by. With "Invest in Our Planet” as the theme, the focus is on engaging governments, institutions, businesses, and people across the world to do their part. And, this includes dedicating time, resources, and energy to solving the climate crisis. What role can we play in this? Here's what!

Population, a concern

While there are many factors impacting the condition of our planet, one significant aspect is our population. According to the recent UN world population dashboard, India has surpassed China to become the world's most populous nation with 142.86 crore people as against China's 142.57 crore. When a country's population increases, one of its most important benefits is the potential for economic growth. But a spike in population also has negative environmental implications. When the number of people in a country increases, it becomes more difficult to reduce carbon and methane emissions. Not just that, more number of people means more space required for living and more mouths to feed. This could translate to forests being cut down-for meeting both housing and farming needs. When forests go, habitats do too, and along with them the flora and fauna of the region. Apart from food and housing, people's necessities, comforts, and luxuries also use up natural resources - more the number, faster the depletion of resources. A growing population also leads to a higher amount of pollution - in air, water, and land. This pollution affects not just humans but also animals and plants. In a world already grappling with climate change, population increase too adversely affects our environment.

What can we do?

Individual efforts can be as fruitful as collective ones. There's so much we can do alone and as a community to be invested in the planet we call home. Here's a glimpse into a few ways in which we can be kinder to the Earth

• Plant native saplings in your neighbourhood

• Make conscious efforts to reduce the use of plastic

• Take a pledge to choose a sustainable lifestyle

• Plan regular awareness campaigns on local environmental issues

• Conduct river and beach clean-up programmes

• Invite environmentalists and conservationists for talks

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How do cell phones work?

Also do you know why mobile phones are called cellular phones? Read on to find out...

A cellular phone is similar to a radio. However cell phones allow you to speak and listen at the same time because two separate frequencies are used to transmit and receive signals.

Cellular phones are also similar to cordless phones, which use a pair of frequencies for communication between the base unit and the handset. In the case of cellular phones, the base unit is located a much greater distance away from the mobile phone and is also capable of handling communications with several mobile units at a time.

Within a city, the phone company divides the area into small units called cells. It is for this reason that mobile phones are called cellular phones. In each cell, a tower is installed which has a radio transmitter and receiver, which is capable of communicating with several phones at a time. Each of these cells has a radius of about a couple of kilometres.

When one starts a telephone conversation, the mobile unit will communicate with the base unit in the cell that is nearest. This is similar to the operation of a cordless phone. If you are close to the base unit within a cell, the signal strength will be sufficient to carry on a conversation comfortably. However as one moves away from the base unit, the signal strength will reduce. The base unit senses this reduction in signal strength. Simultaneously, the adjoining cell detects that the signal strength from your phone is increasing and therefore you are moving closer to it. When the signal to the second cell becomes greater than that from the first cell, the conversation automatically switches to the second cell.

In addition every cell phone company will have one central office, which handles communication between the cell phones and ordinary landlines.

For good communication over an entire city, it is important to have a large number of cells, which overlap slightly. This will ensure that there is coverage at all points of the city and also that the communication is uniform. A larger number of cells allow the use of lower power transmitters, and results in less interference.

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How do hearing aids work?

A hearing aid, which consists of a microphone, amplifier, and speaker, makes sound louder for the user.

A hearing aid is a small electronic or digital medical device designed to help people who are hard of hearing. It makes sound louder for the user.

A hearing aid basically consists of three parts- a microphone, amplifier, and speaker. The microphone collects the sounds from the user's environment and converts the sound waves into electrical (or digital) signals. The amplifier magnifies the power of the signals and then sends them to the inner ear through a speaker.

Those with a hearing disability have damaged hair cells in the inner ear. The surviving hair cells detect the sound vibrations magnified by the hearing aid and transmit them to the brain. However, if the hair cells are too damaged, then a hearing aid may be ineffective.

Hearing aids are available in various styles. The most common ones known as behind-the-ear (BTE) aids, consist of plastic cases worn behind the ear, which contain the electronic parts. The cases are connected with a narrow tube to the earmold which is inserted inside the ear. Smaller hearing aids in the form of earmolds that fit in snugly inside the ear are almost invisible to others like in-the-ear (ITE), in-the-canal (ITC) and completely-in-canal (CIC) aids.

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What’s the great Attractor?

In the depths of the cosmic ocean, there is a strange force that keeps pulling our galaxy towards it. And inevitably, whatever is near our Milky Way, including nearby galaxies, are being drawn towards this unknown force.

But for the longest time, we couldn't understand what was the cause of this force or what lay here as this portion of the universe where the attraction is being felt is hidden from our view all thanks to our own galaxy. The force that is pulling the Milky Way lies in the direction of the constellation Centaurus. And the Milky Way's disk blocks out our view here.

This region, which we can't look through (with telescopes) from our galaxy, has been called the Zone of Avoidance. And the Great Attractor sits right here, at this 20% of the universe that's shielded from us.

The only way to get a glimpse of this area is by using X-rays and infrared light.

It was in the 1970s that the Great Attractor was first discovered. It happened when astronomers made detailed maps of the Cosmic Microwave Background (that is, the light left over from the early universe). It was observed that one side of the Milky Way was warmer than the other.

This indicated that the galaxy was vigorously moving through space. The speed was observed to be about 370 miles per second (600 km/s). While astronomers could measure the high speed at which the galaxy was moving, they couldn't explain its cause or origin.

The Great Attractor is a region of great mass that exerts an immense gravitational pull on our galaxy and surrounding galaxies. It is estimated to have a diameter of about 300 million light-years. It is estimated to be between 150 and 250 million light years away from Earth.

It sits at the centre of a local Supercluster known as the Laniakea Supercluster.

In short, the Great Attractor is the gravitational centre of the Laniakea Supercluster which consists of our galaxy and 100,000 others.

It is not a celestial body, but rather a point in the universe where everything gets attracted to.

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Who was one of the first true historians?

Herodotus, a renowned writer from Ancient Greece during the 5th Century BC, embarked on a monumental project in ‘The Histories’. This literary work aimed to document actual historical events, such as the lives of monarchs, significant battles, and geographical landscapes. It also compiled fascinating stories of giant gold-digging ants, a raging king who commanded the sea to be whipped 300 times, and a dolphin that heroically saved a renowned poet from drowning. Although some of the details in Herodotus's text may not be entirely accurate, ‘The Histories’ revolutionised the recording of the past and earned Herodotus the title "father of history", as hailed by the Roman orator and writer Marcus Tullius Cicero.

Getting to the root of the problem

Historical recordings before Herodotus's seminal work were often mere lists of events without any explanation or attempt to understand the underlying causes, with everything attributed to the will of the gods. However, Herodotus sought a more rational and comprehensive understanding of the past. He pioneered a novel approach by examining events from multiple perspectives to understand the reasons that led to them.

The Histories

Herodotus, a Greek born in the Persian-ruled city of Halicarnassus, grew up during a tumultuous period of wars between the Greeks and Persians. Fascinated by the subject, he embarked on a mission to learn all he could about it. ‘The Histories’ opens with the line "Herodotus of Halicarnassus here displays his inquires". His inquiry into the Persian Wars is one of the most significant and well-known aspects of this historical work.

In ‘The Histories’, Herodotus explored the political and cultural differences between the Greeks and Persians and provided valuable insights into the mindset and motivations of both sides. He recorded the internal debates of the Persian courts alongside tales of Egyptian flying snakes. This approach to research was called "autopsy", meaning seeing for oneself, and it allowed Herodotus to become the first writer to examine the past based on the different types of evidence he collected. He evaluated eyewitness accounts, rumours, and traditions before using his reasoning to draw conclusions about what had occurred.

As his influence and power expanded, Herodotus's writing and the idea of history spread across the Mediterranean. As the first legitimate historian, Herodotus was not without flaws and faced criticism, both during and after his lifetime, from those who doubted the accuracy of his stories. However, contemporary evidence has shed light on some of his seemingly incredible claims. For example, there is a species of marmot in The Himalayas that spreads gold dust while digging. The ancient Persian word for marmot closely resembled the word for ant, so the historian may have fallen victim to a translation error. All in all, Herodotus fared quite well for someone who was writing in an entirely new style.

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What are the characteristics of slugs and snails?

You may have seen a snail on a plant or near a river. You are likely to have seen a slug in your backyard. Irrespective of where you find them or how large or small they are, snails and slugs have something spectacular in common - moving - ever so slowly. Why is that so? Come, let's find out.

Snails and their relative slugs (without shells) are molluscs, and it is said that there are 2,40,000 of these species across the world, including in oceans. And they all move slowly. Here's something to give you an idea of how slow they really are - in a snail race, the fastest on record sped at nearly .09 km per hour!

Apparently, there are at least three reasons for their slowness: "how they move, what they eat and what eats them". These molluscs do not have feet like humans do. They have "a band of muscle that runs along the underside of their body and is covered in sticky mucus". When these muscles contract, they send small waves across the creature's body. "These waves compress the mucus on the bottom of the foot into a slippery liquid", helping the snail or slug glide or climb. It's an unusual way of moving, and takes time. Plus, like predators, they don't have to run after their food. Here's what they eat-"most slugs and snails eat plants, decaying matter or marine animals, like sponges", which stay in one place. So snails and slugs don't really have to hurry, worrying if their food will escape. And, they certainly don't have to hurry to escape predators themselves. While snails are usually protected by their shells, slugs escape the attention of other creatures due to the colour of their body - greys and browns that help them "blend in well with their surroundings". Further, land "slugs are covered with a sticky mucus", which is "so gooey that it can gum up the mouths of predators and make it hard to chew". Last heard, the slime is not very tasty and certainly not worth the effort just to end up with a gummed up mouth! As for sea slugs, they come in bright colours, bearing "nasty-tasting poisons", which predators are aware enough to keep off.

Slow they could be, but snails and slugs contribute immensely to the health of their ecosystems. They feed on seeds and young plants, keeping the growth of certain plant species in check. "By eating decaying matter, they help recycle nutrients that growing plants can use. And despite their best efforts, snails and slugs do often become food for other animals."

So, the next time you see a snail or a slug ambling by, you know what the best thing to do is - just let them be!

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What is the role of NCPCR?

The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) was established in 2005, following the Commissions for Protection of Child Rights Act, 2005. However, it became operational in March 2007. It works under the aegis of the Ministry of Women and Child Development. The organisation was established to protect and promote child rights.

The commission is presided over by a chairperson, who has done outstanding work in promoting the welfare of children. Besides, there are six members, of which two are women well-versed in child welfare. The members are appointed by the Central government.

Monitor implementation

The Commission is empowered to monitor the proper and effective implementation of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012; Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015; and Right to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009.

It is responsible for ensuring that the laws and administrative systems conform to the vision of the rights of the child as stated in India's Constitution as well as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which India ratified in 1992.

The organisation reviews existing policies and programmes on child rights and makes recommendations for their effective implementation.

It also looks into issues related to children in need of special care and protection, such as children in distress, disadvantaged children, children in conflict with the law, juveniles without families, and children of prisoners. It examines factors that affect the rights of children via terrorism, communal violence, riots, natural disaster, domestic violence, HIV/AIDS, trafficking, maltreatment, torture and exploitation, pornography and prostitution, and recommend appropriate remedial measures. NCPCR is responsible for inspecting juvenile custodial homes and institutions meant for children that are under the control of the Central government or any State government or any other authority.

In the last couple of years, the NCPCR has complained against political parties for "misusing" children as "political tools" for campaigns.

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What are OPEC and OPEC+?

Some of the world's biggest oil producers are cutting back. A group of OPEC+ countries, led by Saudi Arabia, recently announced a surprise output cut of one million barrels a day. But do you know what OPEC and OPEC+ are? Or what the production cut implies? Let's find out.

Oil giants

The Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is an intergovernmental organisation that produces oil. It was created at the Baghdad Conference in Iraq in September 1960, by Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela. Its establishment took place against a background of great change in the world with extensive decolonisation and the rise of many independent nations.

Headquartered in Vienna, Austria, the OPEC cartel is responsible for fixing the price of oil on the world market and managing supply. This is to avoid fluctuations in oil price that might affect the economies of oil producing and purchasing countries.


OPEC is made up of 13 of the world's major oil-exporting countries-Algeria, Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, the Republic of Congo, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela.

OPEC+ is, as the name suggests, OPEC plus other oil producing countries such as Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Brunei, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Mexico, Oman, Russia, South Sudan, and Sudan. In other words, OPEC+ is a group of 23 oil-exporting countries which meets regularly to decide how much crude oil to sell on the world market. In 2016, when oil prices were low, OPEC joined these 10 oil producers to create OPEC+ to have greater control over the global crude oil market. These countries together produce about 40% of the world's crude oil.

Implication of the cut

Recently, a group of OPEC+ countries announced a surprise output cut of one million barrels a day in a bid to boost oil prices and support market stability. Russia, also part of OPEC+, said it was extending a previously announced unilateral cut of 5,00,000 barrels a day until the end of 2023.

The cut which will come into force from May this year is in addition to the cut of two million barrels a day announced in October 2022 which resulted in a 5% rise in oil prices globally. Recent crises in the banking sector in the US and Switzerland have raised concerns about the possibility of a recession in the near future, which might lead to a decline in demand for oil.

As for the background, demand for oil dropped drastically during the COVID pandemic. Hence OPEC countries decided to cut down production to prevent a supply glut. Besides there was a price war going on between Russia and Saudi Arabia, leading to a slump in oil prices. However, the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 pushed up oil prices raising concerns that the Western sanctions against Moscow could lead to an oil shortage. Following this, many countries stopped buying Russian oil in a bid to make its invasion unsustainable. The wealthy G-7 countries have also imposed a price cap on Russia's oil exports to keep the country's oil revenues low. Russia is now exporting more crude to India and China.

The idea behind cutting production seems to be to boost demand by lowering supplies. It is needless to say that this energy crisis is driving up global inflation.

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What is a planet beyond our solar system called?

A planet beyond our own solar system is referred to as an exoplanet. While most exoplanets orbit other stars, there are also free-floating exoplanets, called rogue planets, that are not tethered to any star and orbit the galactic centre.

"Blind" surveys

Traditionally, ground-based means have been employed to detect exoplanets. Astronomers use "blind" surveys to look for stars in the sky with the potential for housing giant planets, which can then be directly imaged from Earth based on the stars age and distance. This technique, however, has a very low yield, meaning that exoplanets are detected very infrequently. Astronomers have developed a new technique to detect exoplanets whose portraits can be taken using large ground-based telescopes on Earth. They have tasted success with this method and the result is the direct image of a Jupiter-like gas giant - HIP 99770 b-132.8 light years away in the Cygnus constellation. The study behind this success was published in the journal Science in April.

Combining astrometry and direct imaging

HIP 99770 b is the first exoplanet detected by combining astrometry and direct imaging. While two observatories on Hawaii Island did the direct imaging, the astrometry- responsible for measuring the position and motion of HIP 99770 b's home star - came from Gaia space observatory and its predecessor Hipparcos.

Precision astrometry is the method of detecting the movement of stars. This allows researchers to identify those stars that are tugged at by the gravitational pull of an unseen companion like a planet. A picture of the star systems that are close enough is then captured to directly image.

The detection of HIP 99770 b serves as proof of a concept developed by an international research team. They were also able to determine that this exoplanet is 14-16 times the mass of Jupiter and orbits a star that is almost twice as massive as our sun. It receives a similar amount of light as Jupiter as its host star is far more luminous than the sun. The team characterised the nature of HIP 99770 b's atmosphere and showed that the planet's atmosphere has signs of water and carbon monoxide.

This new method of searching for exoplanets is believed to be a major improvement to the existing, traditional method of "blind" surveys. The researchers also hope that this new approach would lead to further advances that eventually lead to the discovery of an Earth-twin around a nearby star.

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When was mendelevium discovered?

The discovery of mendelevium was announced at the end of April in 1955. It was described by one of its discoverers as "one of the most dramatic in the sequence of syntheses of transuranium elements".

The search for new elements is something that scientists have been doing for hundreds of years. Once Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev organised the elements known at his time according to a repeating, or periodic (and hence the name periodic table), system in the 1860s, the search became a little easier.

This was because the gaps in Mendeleev's periodic table pointed to elements that weren't known yet. The properties of these elements, however, could be predicted based on their place in the table and the neighbours around them, thereby making it easier to discover new elements. Mendeleev's table has since been expanded, to make space for other new elements.

One of those new elements discovered was element number 101, named mendelevium after. Mendeleev. American Nobel Prize winner Glenn Seaborg, who was one of the discoverers of the element, wrote that the discovery of mendelevium was "one of the most dramatic in the sequence of syntheses of transuranium elements", in a chapter co-written by him for The New Chemistry. Additionally, he also wrote in that chapter that "It was the first case in which a new element was produced and identified one atom at a time."

Begins with a bang

Ivy Mike, the first thermonuclear device, was dropped for testing on the Eniwetok Atoll in the Pacific Ocean in 1952, sending a radioactive cloud into the air, from which samples were collected. The lab reports suggested that two new elements-elements 99 (einsteinium) and 100 (fermium) - were discovered from the debris. The discoveries came at a time when there was a race to discover new elements. The leading researchers of the U.S. involved in this race were camped at the Radiation Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley, under the direction of physicist Ernest Lawrence A team of scientists which included Albert Ghiorso, Stanley Thompson, Bernard Harvey, Gregory Choppin, and Seaborg, came up with a plan to produce element 101 using a billion atoms of einsteinium-253 that were formed in a reactor.

The idea was to spread the atoms of einsteinium onto a thin gold foil. As its half-life was about three weeks, the researchers effectively had a week to perform their experiments after receiving it. Based on Ghiorso's calculations, they were aware that only about one atom of the new element 101 would be produced for every three hours the gold foil was bombarded with alpha particles.

Race against time

As the experiment would yield only a very small amount of the new element, the scientists set up a second gold foil behind the first to catch the atoms. It was a race against time as well as the half-life of element 101 was expected to be a few hours only.

With the Radiation Laboratory atop a hill and the cyclotron at its base, there really was a mad rush to get the samples to the lab on time. The samples "were collected in a test tube, which I took and then jumped in a car driven by Ghiorso", is how Choppin put it in his own words.

On the night of the discovery, the target was irradiated in three-hour intervals for a total of nine hours. By 4 AM on February 19, 1955, they had recorded five decay events characteristic of element 101 and eight from element 100, fermium. With conclusive evidence of element 101's existence, Choppin mentions that "We left Seaborg a note on the successful identification of Z =101 and went home to sleep on our success."

At the end of April 1955, the discovery of element 101 was announced to the world. The university's press release stated that "The atoms of the new element may have been the rarest units of matter that have existed on earth for nearly 5 billion years... The 17 atoms of the new element all decayed, of course, and the 'new' element is for the present extinct once again."

Cold War era

As element 101 marked the beginning of the second hundred elements of the periodic table, the scientists wanted to name it after Mendeleev, the man behind the periodic table.

Despite the discovery happening during the Cold War era, Seaborg was able to pull enough strings to convince the U.S. government to accept the proposal to name the element after a Russian scientist. The International Union of Pure & Applied Chemistry approved the name mendelevium and the scientists published their discovery in the June 1955 issue of Physical Review Letters.

While only small quantities of mendelevium have ever been produced, more stable isotopes of the element have since been made. The most stable version known as of now has a half-life of over one-and-a-half months, allowing for better opportunities to further study heavy elements and their properties.

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Here's how to write emails

Emails have become a powerful tool since this is an era with need for instant communication. Emails can be used for both formal and informal communication. Here are a few tips on how to write them.

While writing an email, it is important to have an appropriate subject line, which states the topic and purpose. It conveys in just a couple of words or a phrase what the mail is about. Greeting - and closing- should be courteous. The content should contain short sentences and must be to the point. The font should be readable, and paragraphs should be small for easy reading. The email ends with the sender’s name. Formal mails additionally contain details such as designation, organisation address, contact number, etc.

Emails should be edited and proofread before being sent.

Sample of a formal email

Subject: Reservation of room at your hotel

Dear manager.

I am writing to make a reservation at your hotel for the next weekend. I require a double room for a family of three.

Kindly confirm my booking at the earliest

Yours faithfully


Sample of an informal email

Subject: Visiting Bengaluru


 I am really happy to tell you that I will be visiting Bengaluru next weekend. My parents and I are coming there to attend a close relatives wedding on Saturday. I will be visiting you on Sunday. We could meet our friends and have an outing together. I am sure we will have a great time.

Looking forward to meeting you.

Best wishes,


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