What is a pictopedia?

A pictopedia is a pictorial encyclopedia that aims at making learning fun. With pages full of interesting pictures and interesting information, these innovatively curated books are designed to ignite wonder and curiosity.

Our club announced on the notice board about a week ago for volunteers to make presentations on "A Book that Liked Very Much" in its regular meetings. We were surprised by the huge response, and we selected a student from the eighth class who wanted to speak on pictopedia. As this was totally a new area, we thought many of us would benefit from his input. The following report sums up some of the key ideas he presented.

He began his presentation, "When I was randomly running my eyes over the books on a shelf in a bookshop which was labelled children's literature, I found the expression pictopedia, with the title. What About....Great Personalities? I am familiar with encyclopedias but not this, and hence out of curiosity I flipped through the book. As it was a slender one with only 50 pages and priced at just Rs.150, I asked my father to buy it for me."

This made us realise how visiting libraries and bookshops, rather than merely surfing the net could enable us to identify interesting titles.

As he had brought the book with him, he quoted a few lines from the preface and blurb to emphasise the purpose of this publication: The coinage pictopedia.

indicates a pictorial encyclopaedia...It is meant for young readers who want to open their eyes in wonder to see the world as they see it for the first time; it is also meant for the adult who wishes to recollect what is lost in the corners of the memory.... Making learning fun is the sole aim of the pictopeda' series." Going through the book, he said, he found it useful to whoever wanted to know and recall some of the important details of the personalities included in it.

After reading out the names of a few personalities from the content page, namely, aristotle. Thomas Alva Edison. William Shakespeare, Napoleon, zakir hussain, Archimedes, and osho (Rajaneesh), he pointed out that there are 45 personalities included in the book. For each of them, one page was allocated to cover the most significant details - unlike the usual encyclopedias, it gave only the vital information of a personality in about 100 words. To illustrate it, he read out the details of Nelson Mandela and drew our attention to the details such as his birth, the position he held, his education, the years he spent in prison, and his status as a world leader. These factual descriptions gave us a comprehensive view of his personality, instead of being cluttered with too many details leading to confusion and often forgetting them. The page on Mandela also carried two other features, viz., a large circle highlighting his most distinguishing deeds- half of his salary was donated to the welfare of poor children and the other. Did you Know? which in the form of bullets mentioned the awards and the honours he had received. Along with these, two of his pictures were placed to concretise the portrayal. The same format was observed for all the personalities dealt with

The most noteworthy aspect of the book was the selection of personalities, chosen from different periods multiple walks of life and who excelled in their fields: the timeline chosen extended from the ancient time to the present, for instance, from Aristotle of 384 BC to Aryabhatta of 476 AD to Sachin Tendulkar and to A. R. Rahman, including a large number of the contemporary personalities. Further, they were identified from various fields such as politics, philosophy, technology, painting to films, sports, writers, and music and there were at least four of them representing a particular domain, the range of areas covered brought added value to the book.

Reading about any personality, he observed, took a maximum of five minutes which helped to absorb almost all the details. He proudly mentioned that after becoming familiar with these celebrities, he had turned out to be a popular conversationalist as he was able to refer to them on appropriate occasions while interacting with his friends.

The series, What About is published by navneet Education Limited, based in Mumbai and they have brought out several interesting titles. He concluded by acknowledging the claim made in the blurb of the book that the attractive pictures and unique presentation made the book worthy of possession by any.

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Fiternational Coffee Day is more than just a celebration of a popular beverage its a global recognition of the diverse calluns, economies, and sustainability efforts assodant with coffee. This day serves as a reminder of the millions of individuals who work tirelessly to bring coffee from hean to cup. As we raise a toast to this belowe drink on Cictober 1 lets also take a moment to appreciate the traditions ad compitens that male caffee a symbol of connection and community ammoud the world.

While many countries observe national coffee days at different times of the year, the International Coffee Organization (ICO) officially declared October 1st as International Coffee Day in 2015. The ICO, which comprises 77 member states, dedicated the day to celebrating coffee's diversity, quality, and the millions of people involved in its production and trade.

The day is a wonderful opportunity to enjoy a cup of joe and celebrate with fellow connoisseurs worldwide. The choice of October 1st as the date for this celebration was not arbitrary. It was chosen to coincide with the start of the coffee harvesting season in many coffee-producing countries, Since its inception, this annual event has grown in popularity and significance, highlighting coffee's global reach and influence.

Though Coffee's birthplace is considered to be Kefa in Ethiopia, by the 15th century it was placed under cultivation in Arabia. Its popularity grew amongst the Arabs, and became the quintessence of cultural bonding, via the coffeehouse. By the 16th and 17th centuries, coffee slowly got its entry into European countries, which started flourishing by the 17th century across Britain, the British colonies in America, and continental Europe. Before the 17th century ended, Yemen's southern province was the only source of coffee in the world. However, due to the beverage's rising popularity, the plant quickly spread to Java and other islands in the Indonesian archipelago during the 17th century, and to the Americas during the 18th century.

In 1825, coffee cultivation was initiated in the Hawaiian Islands. During the 20th century, the highest amount of coffee production was focused in Brazil. Coffee is cultivated in regions near the equator, commonly referred to as the bean belt. Due to their favorable equatorial climates that make them ideal for coffee production, countries like Brazil, Columbia, Ethiopia, Indonesia, and Vietnam, spread across three continents, are considered coffee capitals.

Brazil stands out as the world's primary exporter of coffee beans, accounting for 45% of all coffee bean exports globally. On the other hand, the US tops the list as the world's largest importer of coffee. Finland is considered the coffee capital of the world, though it doesn't produce any, due to its long-standing relationship with coffee, dating back to the 19th century when the country was under Russian rule. After gaining independence in 1917, Finland embraced Western customs and traditions. In contrast to Russia's preference for tea, Finns opted to challenge the norm and consume coffee instead.


When it comes to coffee, the type of bean used plays a big role in determining the flavour. For a coffee aficionado or someone who is beginning to explore the specialities of coffee, knowing the differences between types of coffee beans can help in finding the perfect brew to suit the taste.

Growing coffee beans is a complex process that requires significant effort. Unlike crops like corn or soybeans that can be rotated annually, coffee plants can take up to five years to produce fruit and around ten years before they're ready for commercial harvesting. However, once they begin producing, they can continue to do so for up to 30 years, so choosing the right type of plant is crucial for planters. There are two main types of coffee plants that provide the world's coffee supply: Coffea arabica and C. canephora. Arabica coffee is known for its mild, flavourful, and aromatic qualities, while Robusta coffee, which comes from the main variety of C. canephora, has a less complex taste.

The Arabica bean is flatter and more elongated, but also more fragile and vulnerable to pests. It requires a cool subtropical climate and grows at higher elevations of 2,000-6,500 feet.

Arabica coffee needs a lot of moisture and specific shade requirements. Arabica plants are currently grown in over 50 equatorial countries, and the beans' taste and aroma differ significantly between nations and regions. It is commonly produced in Latin America, eastern Africa, Asia, and Arabia.

On the other hand, Robusta coffee has a rounder, more convex bean and is hardier. It can grow at lower altitudes from sea level to 2,000 feet.

Robusta coffee is cheaper to produce and has twice the caffeine content of Arabica. It is often used in commercial coffee brands, ie, the instant coffee that is less expensive. Major producers of Robusta coffee are Western and Central Africa, Southeast Asia, and Brazil.

Liberica and Excelsa are the less preferred coffee beans which were in existence earlier. Liberica coffee beans are rare and have a unique "woody" taste. They became popular when a plant disease called "coffee rust' wiped out Arabica plants worldwide. The Philippines were the first to harvest Liberica, but when they declared independence, the U.S. imposed sanctions, causing the beans to almost disappear from markets.

Excelsa is the newest type of coffee bean and is mostly grown in Southeast Asia. It has a fruity, tart flavour and combines the attributes of both light and dark roast coffees.

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What is a bento?

A bento is a lunchbox or tiffin box that is uniquely Japanese. It typically consists of a container with multiple compartments for different kinds of food such as rice, vegetables, meat, sauces, etc. A true bento has food that is home-cooked and most importantly, attractively presented.

Bento is thought to have first become popular during the Edo Period (1600-1867). Elaborately decorated lacquer food containers were brought to the theatre and other leisure outings such as picnics. In fact, bento became a symbol of wealth and status.

Gradually, bento boxes came to be regarded as expressions of a mother’s love for her child. In the 2000s, it turned into a fierce mommy contest with the appearance of ‘character bento' known as chara-ben- lunches made to look like pandas, teddy bears or even real people! A whole industry sprang up to churn out cute containers, food picks and other food tools to facilitate the making of chara-ben.

Today, there is enormous pressure even on working mothers, to send kids to school with beautiful bento. Celebrities known as ‘mama talent’ have hundreds of thousands of followers who share their bento on social media.

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What is Reverse psychology?

Have you heard of the expressions reverse psychology", “reverse auction", "reverse brainstorming” or reverse mentoring”? What do they mean? Come on, let’s find out.

Reverse psychology

Reverse psychology is a technique by which one can get the other person to do what one wants by asking him to do just the opposite. For instance, a mother can ask her child to remain indoors when she actually wants the child to play outdoors. The naturally resistant child will surely go out to play. This manipulative method generally works with many people, but excessively sharp children or adults can sense the truth, especially if there are repeated instances.

This technique is used in treatment of patients. Agreeing with the patient rather than advising him against a particular unacceptable behaviour can actually dissuade the person from doing what he wants. This 'anti-suggestion’, pretending to agree puts the situation or the person's thinking in a new perspective.

For example a school girl who is extremely troublesome in school is brought to a doctor. After listening to what she does in school the doctor says. "If I were you I would do more. Try more tantrums. It will be fun. “Then the girl will start trying to heed the doctor’s advice but in the process lose interest in her odd behaviour.

Reverse auction

In a regular auction, the buyers compete with one another, quoting higher and higher prices for a product. In a reverse auction, the buyer puts up a request for a product or service. Sellers then place bids for the amount they want. The sellers underbid each other and at the end of the auction, the seller bidding for the lowest amount wins. Reverse auctions work when there are multiple sellers connecting with a buyer. They are more common online.

Reverse brainstorming

The method of reverse brainstorming is used in commercial fields. A company that wants a product assessment and is looking to find ways to improve it can throw negative questions at the customer. For example, what is the worst thing about this product? Or what would you suggest to make this product fail? A light-hearted session may lead to amazing insights into the product and ways of improving it at the same time winning customer's faith.

Reverse mentoring

Reverse mentoring is a method adopted in companies where old executives are paired with young employees so that they (older executives) can be guided on new technology, current trends and social media. This kind of mentoring has also been found to close the generation gap and create a cordial atmosphere, ruling out conflicts.

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What is a stress ball?

A malleable toy. it helps strengthen the muscles of the hand and wrist.

 A stress ball is a small malleable toy that is squeezed in the hand to relieve stress and muscle tension it can also be used as a physical therapy tool that helps strengthen the muscles of the hand and wrist.

There are different types of stress balls, depending on the materials used to make them. In the U.S., the most common variety is the beanbag type, while in Australia, the foam type is used. The most popular design of the foam stress ball is the bright yellow-coloured smiley, giving it a cheerful appearance.

Many companies gift stress balls to their employees and clients. They can easily be used in an office, giving your hands a good workout. They also give a welcome break to those who are constantly typing.

When we're stressed, our body releases cortisol, a hormone. This leads to constriction of blood vessels, making it difficult to get enough oxygen and it also impairs circulation. This in turn causes physical fatigue. Pressing and releasing a stress ball helps the muscles to dilate and improves oxygen and blood circulation. Endorphins, hormones which minimise cortisol and improve your overall mood, are also secreted.

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What is the purpose of earwax?

Earwax which is scientifically referred to as cerumen, protects the ear. How? Read on to find out..

Earwax is vital to the problem-free working of the ears. It is produced by two glands present in the skin of the outer ear canal; the sebaceous glands and apocrine sweat glands. The former exude sebum, an oily substance, which mixes with the secretions of the apocrine glands to make earwax. The scientific name for earwax is cerumen.

Earwax collects the dead skin cells, loose hair follicles and dust that accumulate inside the ear. The ear canal is convoluted, so this waxy debris requires the help of unique migrating cells in the ear to be pushed out. These cells move continuously from the inside of the canal to the outside. They push along the earwax assisted by the natural movements of our jaws when we speak, eat, sneeze and cough. The earwax keeps the canal smooth and prevents harmful microbes from entering the ear. It is also mildly acidic so it holds bacteria and fungi at bay. Earwax discourages small insects from using the ear canal as a suitable dwelling!

Other animals also produce earwax and some, like the blue whale, never throw it out. Scientists discovered a plug of earwax the size of a banana in a blue whale. When it was analysed, it was found to contain 16 different environmental pollutants, such as pesticides.

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What is arsenic?

Millions of people all over the world are affected by the contamination of groundwater with arsenic. Most of them live in South Asian countries such as Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Nepal and Vietnam.

 A study in 2017 revealed that over 60 million Pakistanis who live in the Indus River Valley are at risk from arsenic poisoning their drinking water.

Arsenic is a chemical element that has no odour or taste, making it difficult for a lay person to detect. Trace quantities of arsenic are essential in the human diet, but is dangerous in large amounts. Long-term exposure can lead to skin lesions, cancer, developmental defects, heart disease and diabetes.

While 10 mcg per litre is the safe limit recommended by WHO, in the Indus Valley, the concentration exceeded 200 mcg in many places!

Arsenic occurs naturally in the Earth's crust, but it stays locked in the rocks and sediment. When people draw too much water from underground aquifers, it causes the water tables to drop drastically. The water deep down is often tainted by arsenic.

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What are parabens?

Did you know exposure to parabens from a number of personal care products could contribute to many health problems?

Parabens are synthetic compounds used as preservatives in many pharmaceutical, cosmetic and make-up products such as moisturizers, shampoos, toothpastes and deodorants. They stop the growth of fungus, bacteria and other harmful pathogens. They were first commercialised in the 1950s.

Individual products usually have small amounts of parabens within safe limits. But these days, many people use a lot of personal care products. Public health advocates worry that cumulative exposure to parabens from a number of different products could lead to an increase in the amount of these chemicals in our bodies, beyond safe limits, contributing to many health problems. Parabens can penetrate the skin and have been linked to skin imitation, reproductive neurological and immunological problems. A major health concern is that parabens disrupt hormone function, an effect which is linked to heightened risk of breast cancer.

The European Union (EU) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have prohibited the use of five types of parabens in cosmetic products.

But in countries like the U.S. and India, no such law exists. However, consumers in these countries can exercise other options. Several natural and organic cosmetic companies have found alternatives to parabens in beauty products. Some companies have even created preservative-free products which have a shorter shelf life than conventional products.

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Do you know what bees ‘eat’?

When we think of pollen, what we associate the most with it are perhaps pollination and bees. And, rightly so! All three are so deeply interconnected and without bees, there will be no pollination in so many plants across the world that our ecosystems will collapse, leaving human survival in question. But did you know that bees actually do more with pollen than just help in pollination? Come, let’s find out what it is.

It is common knowledge that food does more than just help end hunger. It provides us with vital nutrition to keep our body functioning. This is no different for any creature, including the honey bees. Just like humans, the "honey bee’s basic nutritional requirements are similar to those of humans; namely, they need proteins (amino acids), carbohydrates (sugars), minerals, fats/lipids (fatty acids), vitamins, and water. In order to meet their nutritional requirements, honey bees collect nectar, pollen, and water”. While honey bees collect water from any number of sources-from ponds and leaky taps to bird baths, they are dependent on flowers for both nectar and pollen. Nectar, which bees convert to honey, is their main source of carbohydrates. Without nectar, honey bees will perish in a matter of days. And pollen is the primary source of protein, which both adult and young honey bees require.

A honey bee, covered in millions of tiny hairs on its body, has pollen stuck to it when it visits flowers. It gathers the pollen and deposits it with a bit of its saliva and nectar into a tiny basket found on each of its back legs. When the baskets are full, the honey bee flies back to its hive and leaves the pollen- now called bee bread-in one of the open cells where it becomes food to other bees, particularly the young ones. This helps in their growth and development.

Did you know?

Different plant species produce different kinds of pollen. “Some plants may produce an abundance of pollen, but the pollen may be of poor quality, whereas others may produce very little but high quality pollen." Apart from this, even the content of the pollen-such as water, starch, lipids, etc.-varies. Which is to say, "all pollens are NOT equally nutritious to the bees".

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Is there a difference between normal fears and phobias? How can phobias be overcome?

We may be afraid of many things in life? But is there a difference between normal fears and phobias? How can phobias be overcome? Let's find out...

Is there something that scares you? Maybe you are scared of being alone in the dark or of heights. It could be a spider that induces fear in you, or maybe a snake? These are among the most common fears.

What are phobias?

It is normal to have fears. But there is a difference between normal fear and phobias. In the case of phobias, the fear may be excessive. It is normal to feel scared when you see a big dog coming your way and barking and snarling at you. However, a person with a phobia of dogs may feel terrified and be very distressed when he sees any dogs, even one that is friendly. He may avoid any place where he is likely to find dogs. For instance, he may avoid going to a friend's house just because the friend owns a dog and may therefore end up missing out on social events, or he may avoid streets where there are many street dogs and take longer or more inconvenient routes to get to his destination.

How do phobias develop?

There isn't one single answer, but researchers have come up with some explanations. Some say that certain fears, such as the fear of snakes or spiders, may be inherited from our ancestors. Our ancestors needed to be careful around these creatures in order to protect themselves, and those who were able to show an appropriate fear response and avoided these situations, were more likely to survive. Over generations, humans may have developed an inborn tendency to fear some things more than others. Some researchers, however, say that these fears are not inborn but rather, leant. Like ‘the burnt child who dreads the fire’, if our previous experiences with an object or a particular situation have been bad, we get scared of that object or situation thereafter if you have been bitten by a dog or know someone who has been bitten by a dog, you may be more likely to start feeling scared of dogs. We also tend to fear things our parents or friends are scared of.

How can one overcome phobias?

The answer lies in this basic idea- the more you avoid something you are scared of, the fewer opportunities you have of learning that it is actually not as scary as you imagine it to be, and hence, your fear will remain strong. However, if you expose yourself to the thing you are scared of, you will get more opportunities to learn that it is actually not as dangerous as you believe it is, and that will help to reduce the fear. For someone with a phobia of dogs, a psychologist may first teach some exercises to help him relax. Then, in a safe environment, he will expose the person to the least feared stimulus, for instance, a picture of a dog, and teach the person to do those relaxation exercises while looking at the same. Slowly, he may expose the person to the sound of a dog barking. Then he may take him to watch a dog in a kennel. After that he may take him to see a friendly unchained dog but from a distance, and as the person learns to relax in these progressively more scary situations, he or she will reach a point where he/she may be comfortable even petting a dog.

Watching others who are unafraid of the situation may help to reduce your own fears. For instance, watching your friends petting dogs and playing with them, may make you feel less scared and more willing to play with the dogs as well.

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Is glass a solid or an exceptionally slow-moving liquid?

Artists have worked wonders with glass ever since its discovery. A look at glass art...

Is glass a solid or an exceptionally slow-moving liquid? While scientists have not been able to figure that out, artists have worked wonders with glass ever since it was discovered in 3500 BC in Mesopotamia. Glass is an incredibly versatile substance to work with. Its ability to withstand extreme temperatures, resistance to chemical reactions and transparency make it ideal for use as vessels and window panes and also enables artists to give free rein to their creativity as they fashion beautiful objets d'art.

Artworks created from glass can be categorised into three types:

Glass art - large modem glass sculptures, usually displayed in public spaces. For example. "The Sun" created by American glass sculptor Dale Chihuly.

Art glass - small decorative pieces, designed especially for display at home (not for daily use) such as crystal ware from reputed brands.

Studio glass - sculptures or three-dimensional artworks. These include beautiful works of art like stained glass and Murano glass.

Gothic churches of Europe take pride in their lustrous stained glass windows. Each window was carefully crafted by piecing together small bits of coloured glass to form an intricate mosaic, be it a biblical scene or simply a geometric pattern. The glass pieces were held in place by soldered metal strips. The rose windows of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris are spectacular examples of this art form.

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How does the internet connect across continents?

It connects through a vast undersea network of fibre optic cables across countries and continents.

 Fibre optic cables lie submerged on the ocean floor across the Earth. These cables allow us to quickly send our emails and videos, and connect our browsers to places in far-away lands.

To put it simply, when we open an Australian website in Mumbai our PC sends a signal through the submarine cable to the web server that is hosting that website and then receives the data of the website in return over the same cable.

Earlier communication satellites were used to transmit data, but since optical fibres are capable of transmitting large volumes of data at a much faster speed, submarine cables have come to be used instead in most cases. Submarine cables now account for more than 99 per cent of all international communications.

The first submarine communications cables were laid in the 1850s to send telegraphs. Modern cables use optical fibre technology to carry digital data. There is a massive network of submarine fibre optic cables that connects a large portion of the continents except Antarctica.

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Do identical twins have the same fingerprints?

And how are our fingerprints determined? Read on to know the answers

Identical twins form when a single fertilized egg splits into two. Therefore they have the same genetic make-up and their DNA pattern is indistinguishable. Their fingerprints have similar patterns of whorls and ridges, but there are slight differences.

This is because genetics is not the sole determining factor in the development of fingerprints. Fingerprints are determined by the interaction of an individual's genes with the environment in the womb and factors such as nutrition, position in the womb and the growth rate of the fingers. No two persons can have the same fingerprints.

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What are some interesting facts about mangoes?

Though the summer season is almost over, the love for mangoes is not. Recently, the world's most expensive mango Miyazaki was showcased in the seventh edition of three-day-long mango festival in West Bengal Let us discover some interesting facts about mangoes.


Mango, a member of the cashew family, is native to southern Asia, especially Myanmar and Assam. However, today numerous varieties of mangoes are grown in various parts of the world such as Africa Apple mango, Kent mango, Tommy mango, and Ngowe mango, are different varieties of Kenyan mango.

Though the tree is evergreen, the finer varieties of mangoes are grown in a well-marked dry season. The mango trees begin to blossom in the months of March and April. Its scientific name is ‘Mangifera indica.’

Often nicknamed the 'king of fruits’, the name is likely to have been derived from the Malayalam ‘manna’, which the Portuguese adopted as manga when they came to Kerala in 1498 for the spice trade.

It is said that legendary Chinese traveller Hiuen Tsang had carried back stories about the uniqueness of the fruit. There are numerous folk tales around the mango According to one such folk tale, a royal courtesan in the kingdom of Vaishali was named Amrapali because she was found under a mango tree as a baby

Traditional significance

It is an indicator of national happiness and fulfilment Mentions of mangoes can be found in the ‘Puranas’ and epics such as ‘The Ramayana’ and ‘The Mahabharata’

During religious ceremonies mango leaves are hung by a string. It is said that the mango tree provided shade and solace to Gautam Buddha on one of his spiritual journeys.

Nutritional benefit

Mangoes help improve immunity and play an important role in digestion. They are low in calories and are the best choice when reducing calorific intake. They are rich in vitamins A, C and D.

The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has three outstanding centres involved in mango research: the Central Institute for Subtropical Horticulture at Lucknow, the Indian Institute of Horticultural Research at Bengaluru, and the Fruit Research Station at Sangareddy in Telangana.

Story of Alphonso

The Alphonso mango derives its name from Afonso de Albuquerque, a Portuguese military expert who led Portuguese invasions into India in the 1600s. The Portuguese helped in introducing varieties of mangoes in India such as Alphonso. The Alphonso was introduced to the Konkan region in Maharashtra, Gujarat, and parts of south India

It is said that the fruit was shipped for the first time to London for the Queen's coronation in 1953 from Mumbai's legendary Crawford Market.

Today, the fruit is exported to several countries, including Britain and the United States. Among the best and most expensive of Alphonso are said to grow on a small Natwarlal plantation in Ratnagiri, and are hand-harvested.

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Does owls have eyeballs?

Owls don't have eyeballs. They have eye tubes or cylinders, rod-shaped eyes that do not move in their sockets as eyeballs do. Instead, owls have to move their bodies or heads in order to look around. Since moving their torsos would likely make noise that would alert their prey to their presence, owls have evolved to have necks that can spin up to 270° essentially silently.

But why favour neck-spinning over the seemingly simple eye ball-spinning method of looking around? Well, night vision requires large corneas that allow for light to be collected effectively even in the dark, which is why most nocturnal animals (like the slow loris or tarsier) have huge eyes. But owls have small skulls, so their big eyes couldn’t expand out. They instead developed into the rod shape of today’s owls. They aren’t alone though: some deep-sea fish (like the anglerfish) also have rod-shaped eyes for seeing in the dark. 

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