There are numerous species and subspecies of butterflies in India. However, many of them like the Andaman crow, the Malabar tree nymph, the Tamil lacewing and the aristocratic Emperor of India, are becoming rarer by the day. The state of Kerala is providing a sanctuary for these beautiful winged creatures, by opening a chain of butterfly parks. The Kerala Forest Research Institute (KFRI), has chalked out a plan to create butterfly parks, or gardens, in selected schools, and other significant spots. This exercise will have a two-pronged effect. Not only will people spend time in a beautiful park, away from the constant noise and pollution of the city, they will also be acquainted with these winged creatures, floating around them. These dedicated parks will be filled with plants that have been grown using organic methods, which will ensure that butterflies are not exposed to any toxins. Discussions are on with the Department of Education and Kerala Tourism to set up a string of butterfly parks, S Pradeep Kumar, the Director of KFRI said.”We have already set up 40 such parks in selected schools in Thrissur district. Discussions are going on now to create similar parks in more educational institutions across the state,” he said. The idea of butterfly parks in schools is one that can be implemented nationwide, if possible. Kumar has also indicated that these parks will play another role—that of monitoring the nearby environment. As butterflies are one of the most delicate creatures of our ecosystem, their presence is an indicator of the state of the environment of the area. KFRI recently set up a similar a butterfly park in the premises of Kanakakkunnu Palace in Thiruvananthapuram, as part of the ongoing “Vasantholsavam,” the annual flower show.”Talks are going on with the Tourism Department to sign a MoU to make this park a permanent facility. This also is an experiment to know whether butterflies will thrive in the heart of the bustling city,” he said. At present, KFRI has three butterfly gardens. One in its main campus at Peechi, another in the campus of the Teak Museum in Nilambur and one at the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation in Kalpetta in Wayanad district. Given that the parks are to be pollution and chemical free, butterfly populations will quite possibly thrive, and the city will get another space dedicated to greenery.
From children to senior citizens, 80 residents of a housing society in Mumbai came together to recreate a garden which was lost when a drainage channel flowing along the building compound was widened. Several areas in Mumbai are prone to floods post-monsoon. To reduce the flooding, the municipal government decided to widen sewage channels on Poisar River. Unfortunately, the garden located along the river has had to pay a heavy price due to desilting work and widening of channels and has lost close to 60 full-grown trees since 2014. The residents of Tirupati Towers in Kandivali observed this and decided to do something about it. They joined hands in December 2017, and have successfully recreated a garden measuring 10,000 sq. ft. along the river. Venkatraman Chandramouli, 70, resident and former Executive Director, Air India, spearheaded this initiative. He said, “The idea was to bring back the lost beauty of this garden and have a protected green space for our future generations. Planting trees along the banks of this polluted river not only reduces the stench but also helps reduce our carbon footprint as a housing society.” Subhajit Mukherjee, an environmentalist, helped the residents survey the area and give some valuable advice. The garden currently has 120 trees. Additionally, a 1,500 sq. ft. area is reserved as a kitchen garden, where vegetables such as brinjal, radish, ladyfinger, chillies, tomatoes, spinach etc., are being grown since 2015. The residents plan to plant another 300 trees in the compound. Pradeep Keshwani, who is a member of the managing committee in Tirupati Towers and president of NGO Citizens’ Right Protection Committee said, “Our efforts are aimed at protecting the biodiversity of this area, which was home to countless birds, butterflies, and squirrels. Their habitat was lost after trees were destroyed, but now they have automatically started returning, and the area will be restored completely within a few months.”
In 2014, a Youtube channel by the name ‘Miniature Space’ paved the way for a fanatical trend of miniature food to emerge in Japan. It entranced people with a series of videos capturing the makings of a variety of miniature meals and dishes prepared with tiny utensils. Ranging from edible works to models made of clay and plastic, today, miniature food is a phenomenon in itself with enthusiasts across the world taking the craft to a hyper-realistic accuracy that one can’t help but be fascinated with. There are higher chances of one coming across miniature sushi spreads, or pancakes and burgers on the Internet. But have you ever seen a miniature plate of chicken biriyani or appam stew? And wait, there are more. All of the above-showcased Indian dishes are the handiwork of Shilpa Mitha, a former sound engineer based in Chennai whose miniature food range Sueño Souvenir are nothing less of a visual treat to the eyes. Every single miniature piece is painstakingly crafted out of clay by Shilpa, a task in which she is assisted by her mother, who kneads and rolls the clay for the dishes. The story behind how the miniaturist in Shilpa came to being is in fact quite amusing. What had begun as an unlikely pursuit of making a pair of burger earrings for herself seven years ago opened the doors to a very interesting career. By the time, the first ever pair of burgers took shape in 2011, Shilpa was already hooked on to miniature food art and wanted to explore further. Though references to cuisines across the world were in plenty, she could hardly find anything on the diverse Indian platters. Thus miniature biriyanis, masala dosas, appam stew, paneer tikkas and dahi puri made a mouth-watering entry alongside burgers, macarons and calamari. With hands as creative and meticulous as Shilpa, one would wonder if clay modelling had been something that she had already known. “I was never into clay modelling. I used to enjoy these art classes in school, but that was all,” says Shilpa. Of every other thing that she could have chosen to create, it was her love for food that further propelled Shilpa towards food miniatures. “Food is colourful with a lot of ingredients. Each one has its own texture and shades, and they look different with different methods of cooking. The plate is the canvas, and the food is art! So why not try to turn them into pieces of art that last longer than your meal time?” she explains. Shortly after she began making fully-fledged food platters, she found great appreciation from friends and family members. This pushed her to make a Facebook page showcasing a variety of brilliantly handcrafted miniature Indian dishes. Since then it has been a hectic time for Shilpa, who left her profession to dedicate all of her time to making the miniature pieces. These may be small in appearance, but the effort that goes behind their making is definitely not an easy task. Shilpa works close to 15 hours a day, which includes even weekends. 2016 proved to be a great year for Shilpa when posts about her work became viral and more people from across the world started reaching out for her souvenirs! So how long does it take Shilpa to make one miniature dish on an average? “The easiest one would take around 30 minutes, and the difficult ones take close to five days. But it’s all a step-by-step process and can’t be done at once. I have to create the base first, followed by the plate and banana leaf. Then comes the cups and finally the food and condiments. Each component will be of a different colour and texture so I’ll have to work on them individually,” she describes. Shilpa finds great support from her family in her venture, which keeps her going. Calling real food her inspiration, she adds that if it looks pretty, then she definitely tries making a miniature of it.
A restaurant owner in Tokyo offers free meals to customers who can't afford to eat, but there's a catch: you have to work for it. Sekai Kobayashi, 33, runs Mirai Shokudo by herself. There is no staff other than her at the restaurant, which seats 12. Customers have the option of paying for food or earning a free meal by performing tasks such as serving dishes and cleaning tables and dishes. "Instead, we offer meals in return for 50 minutes of labor at the restaurant," Kobayashi said. "I use this system because I want to connect with hungry people who otherwise couldn't eat at restaurants because they don't have money." Kobayashi opened the restaurant two years ago aiming for "a place where everyone is welcome and everyone fits in." So far, Kobayashi says more than 500 people have opted to work for their meals.
When Patsy Smith first found Peg the duck without his leg, she feared that he would never walk again. Thanks to the ingenuity of a few eighth graders, however, the fowl is waddling better than ever. Smith of Meredith, Arkansas discovered the 8-month-old Indian runner duck after a turtle had apparently bitten off his foot. As Peg grew older, his leg became more and more irritated from the injury. That’s when Matthew Cook, Darshan Patel, and Abby Simmons of Armorel High School heard about Peg’s dilemma and volunteered to help. Using a 3D printer at the school’s environmental and spatial technology lab, the eighth graders got to work making a replacement appendage for the unfortunate bird. Though it took 30 different attempts, the students finally printed the perfect “Peg Leg”. (WATCH Peg’s leg in action below)
When a city bus suddenly caught on fire last Wednesday, nearby pedestrians wasted no time in rushing to the rescue of those caught on board. The Yibing City bus, which was in the Sichuan Province, suddenly caught fire and trapped an elderly passenger inside. Onlookers immediately broke the windows and started attacking the blaze with water and fire extinguishers. One local shop owner was seen on CCTV footage rushing onto the bus and pulling the passenger to safety outside the bus. Within two minutes, the crowd had extinguished the fire. Thanks to the quick actions of the spectators, there were no casualties from the blaze. “Everyone would do the same as what I did under such circumstances. If I were trapped on the bus, other people will do the same thing to save me. It’s normal,” said heroic shop owner Pan Haifeng. (WATCH the video below)
A chemistry professor in Florida has just found a way to trigger the process of photosynthesis in a synthetic material, turning greenhouse gases into clean air and producing energy all at the same time. The process has great potential for creating a technology that could significantly reduce greenhouse gases linked to climate change, while also creating a clean way to produce energy. “This work is a breakthrough,” said UCF Assistant Professor Fernando Uribe-Romo. “Tailoring materials that will absorb a specific color of light is very difficult from the scientific point of view, but from the societal point of view we are contributing to the development of a technology that can help reduce greenhouse gases.” Uribe-Romo and his team of students created a way to trigger a chemical reaction in a synthetic material called metal-organic frameworks (MOF) that breaks down carbon dioxide into harmless organic materials. Think of it as an artificial photosynthesis process similar to the way plants convert carbon dioxide (CO2) and sunlight into food. But instead of producing food, Uribe-Romo’s method produces solar fuel. It’s something scientists around the world have been pursuing for years, but the challenge has been to find a way for visible light to trigger the chemical transformation. Ultraviolet rays have enough energy to allow the reaction in common materials such as titanium dioxide, but UVs make up only about 4% of the light Earth receives from the sun. The visible range – the violet to red wavelengths – represent the majority of the sun’s rays, but there are few materials that pick up these light colors to create the chemical reaction that transforms CO2 into fuel. Researchers have tried it with a variety of materials, but the ones that can absorb visible light tend to be rare and expensive materials such as platinum, rhenium and iridium that make the process cost-prohibitive. Uribe-Romo used titanium, a common nontoxic metal, and added organic molecules that act as light-harvesting antennae to see if that configuration would work. The light harvesting antenna molecules, called N-alkyl-2-aminoterephthalates, can be designed to absorb specific colors of light when incorporated in the MOF. In this case he synchronized it for the color blue. His team assembled a blue LED photoreactor to test out the hypothesis. Measured amounts of carbon dioxide were slowly fed into the photoreactor – a glowing blue cylinder that looks like a tanning bed – to see if the reaction would occur. The glowing blue light came from strips of LED lights inside the chamber of the cylinder and mimic the sun’s blue wavelength. It worked and the chemical reaction transformed the CO2 into two reduced forms of carbon, formate and formamides (two kinds of solar fuel) – all while cleaning the air. “The goal is to continue to fine-tune the approach so we can create greater amounts of reduced carbon so it is more efficient,” Uribe-Romo said. He wants to see if the other wavelengths of visible light may also trigger the reaction with adjustments to the synthetic material. If it works, the process could be a significant way to help reduce greenhouse gases. “The idea would be to set up stations that capture large amounts of CO2, like next to a power plant. The gas would be sucked into the station, go through the process and recycle the greenhouse gases while producing energy that would be put back into the power plant.” Perhaps someday homeowners could purchase rooftop shingles made of the material, which would clean the air in their neighborhood while producing energy that could be used to power their homes. “That would take new technology and infrastructure to happen,” Uribe-Romo said. “But it may be possible.”
A 15-year-old from Gujarat has given enough reason to displease other engineering students struggling to finish a four-year course. He has managed to complete it in one year! A student of Gujarat Technological University, Nirbhay Thacker has become the youngest student in his university to earn a degree. The degree will be conferred to him on January 12 by Gujarat CM Vijay Rupani. So, how did he do it? Nirbhay, who completed his electrical engineering from SAL Institute of Technology and Engineering Research, did it by following a rigorous regimen. “Every 40-50 days, I would appear for my semester examinations. I used to study for six hours and through meticulous planning managed to finish around 4,000 pages of six subjects in those 50 days. Each semester was the same,” he said. He had an overall CGPA of 8.23 A special exam was conducted for him by GTU. Navin Sheth, VC of GTU told the publication that the external examiners and experts who examined Nirbhay found him to be brilliant. He added that they would give him a special merit certificate on the day of convocation. That’s not all of Nirbhay’s accomplishments. He also completed class 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12 in one year. And he won’t stop here. His plan is to complete three more courses in the same manner. He might even get to pursue his PhD at the age of 16 if things go as planned. Currently, he is working on a project with help from IIT-Gandhinagar. It is a ‘Superconducting synchronous machine’, which will be used for fighter electric plane and submarine. This project could open an opportunity for him to pursue his PhD. After he was termed as being ‘weak’ by his teachers in KG, Nirbhay’s father, Dhawal Thacker, who is an electrical engineer himself, took it upon himself to change that. He ensured Nirbhay didn’t study out of the fear for marks but instead concentrated on listening, visualising, and finding applications of concepts. This is how he became the child prodigy that he is today.
Over the years we have come across various stories of change that has been made possible because of the efforts put in by students. Here is another one! The students of Vaikkom Muhammad Basheer Memorial Govt. Vocational Higher Secondary in Thalayolaparambu launched a mission which they have aptly titled ‘Kitchen garden for Mother’ to cultivate organic vegetables. The students went to houses near their school and set up a vegetable garden, as part of a project under the National Service Scheme. They have set up vegetable gardens in over 100 houses under the project so far. Another student-led initiative, called ‘Skip a Meal’, was started by Arpan Roy that feeds about 1,300 people every week. It all started when he and a group of volunteers at TISS Tuljapur campus decided to skip a meal and distribute it to the hungry in and around the college campus. From that very first drive in 2012, they have now shared more than over 53,000 meals across three states in the country. Another initiative, which was driven by students, was the brainchild of Sukruth Krishna Kumar (Class 12) and Suprith Krishna Kumar (Class 9) from The International School Bangalore (TISB) and Tarun Kumar Reddy (Class 12) from Canadian International School. They have helped about 150 families (approximately 500 individuals) in Hegganahalli get access to clean drinking water. Here’s to more such social initiatives by students. If you know of any such initiatives, do write to us.
When the Government of India banned the circulation of old Rs.500 and 1000 notes in November 2016, numerous reports surfaced of sacks full of these old demonetised notes being burnt. ‘What use could these demonetised notes even have?’ one may wonder. But the inmates at Chennai’s Puzhal Central Prison have just the right answer! Here’s how they decided to give these old currency notes a new lease of life and purpose. These inmates serving life sentence are converting shredded demonetized notes into stationery for the state government and its agencies to use. The first step in the manual process of converting these shredded notes into government file pads is to turn the shredded notes into pulp. This pulp is then poured into a die-mould where it solidifies and turns into hard pads. These hard pads are then cut out according to the required size. The inmates then paste coloured paper onto them for covers. Once the covers are pasted, the inmates tag the files with ‘urgent’ or ‘ordinary’ markings. Apart from demonetised currency notes, many of the file pads also are also made using special hard pads from Khadi. These file pads are used in government offices are therefore a variation of the semi-corrugated hard pad, with red cloth used to bind its corners. Everyday a special team of 25-30 inmates manufacture over 1,000 such holders at Puzhal Central Jail. They work for 25 days a month to make these file pads and earn a wage ranging between Rs 160 and Rs 200 for eight hours of work a day. The variation in payment depends on the skillset of each inmate. The RBI has offered the Central Jail over 70 tons of shredded notes, of which over 1.5 tons have been used to make these file holders. Even though other jails including Vellore, Salem and Madurai make such holders, Puzhal is the only prison to make the file pads out of old currency notes. The prison authorities are considering a proposal to upgrade the handmade stationery unit into a semi-automated facility to enhance the productivity. Stationery making is not the only thing the Central jails in Tamil Nadu are popular for. Many of them also have set up units that produce shoe polish, soap and leather accessories.