Stories tagged India

Nov
04
2010

This goes double for you, kid: Do you know what they have to eat in Slytherin? Shape up, or you'll find out.
This goes double for you, kid: Do you know what they have to eat in Slytherin? Shape up, or you'll find out.Courtesy plainsight
Please, students, have a seat. Dinner will be served momentarily, but first I need your attention for a few words. Thank you.

Well well, my little wizketeers. You have been bad, very bad indeed.

I think you all know what it is I am referring to, but I will say it anyway: owl thievery is through the roof, and I’m inclined to think that many of you are nothing but stinking little owl thieves.

I know that some of you are from muggle families, and have only recently been introduced to the traditions of wizardry, but even you should know that owl stealing is one of the worst crimes of the wizarding world. Worse than sealing a goblin in an empty pumpkin juice cask and burying it in the woods. Do you understand?

Here: extend your right arm. Place your hand on the shoulder of the wizard or witch sitting to your right. Now remove your hand from their shoulder, and thrust your finger into their eye. Either eye will do. And, for those of you sitting at the extreme left of your row, I ask that you poke your own eyeballs as well.

How did you all like that? Well, that was nowhere near as bad as stealing an owl. Do you know who else was an owl thief? Voldemort. Also, Hitler. It was certainly the least of their crimes, but no one would disagree that it was indicative of their characters.

You see, owl populations have been shrinking on the Indian subcontinent. (And, for those of you who haven’t pursued geography outside of our more magic-based curriculum, India is a massive chunk of the Earth, which is the planet we live on.) India is tremendously rich in biodiversity, but its 30 or so species of native owls are disappearing thanks, in part, to the illegal sale of owls as pets.

Oh. Gosh. Where could those owls be going? What a mystery. Wait… By Godrick’s beard… Could they maybe, just maybe, be going to one place in the world you’re most likely to find spoiled children with pet owls, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry?!

It’s not as if you even take care of them. Believe me, I’ve pulled enough dead owls out of the toilet traps in this school to know.

And what’s worse is that you’re encouraging others to buy owls as well. I can—and believe me, I will—personally hunt down and punish each owl-owning student in this school, but there’s little I can do about the legions of muggle children you are inspiring to buy owls. The most I can hope for is that they all catch salmonella from careless pellet handling. But that does the owls little good, and all the while Indian ecosystems are becoming weaker and unbalanced, because top predators are being eliminated. Without creatures like owls to keep them in check, rodent populations will boom. They, in turn, can over-consume the plant life of an ecosystem and outcompete other animals.

But then, what would you all understand of ecology. Most of you can barely handle basic sums. Such is the drawback of the narrow focus of our school.

So I will make it simple for you: if I catch any of you with an owl, you will be transferred to Slytherin House. Have you ever seen Syltherin? Those kids are the worst. I’ve been in the Slytherin common room once, and I got some sort of fungus there. And if you already live in Slytherin, owl possession will earn you room and board in the forest. Does that sound fun? It’s not. The forest is like the Jersey Shore for elves. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, at least remember this: always keep an eye on your drink.

Well. I think you all have got the message now. Remember: I’m only stern with you because I care so much for you. You little poachers.

Now let’s eat!

Waterworks: How lucky we are: Clean water is not readily accessible for most of India's populations.  Finding a way to bring the life-giving stuff to Indians is half the purpose of the upcoming 2010 Acara challenge.  (The other half is bringing much-needed clean cooking fuel to India.)  Come check it out for yourself!
Waterworks: How lucky we are: Clean water is not readily accessible for most of India's populations. Finding a way to bring the life-giving stuff to Indians is half the purpose of the upcoming 2010 Acara challenge. (The other half is bringing much-needed clean cooking fuel to India.) Come check it out for yourself!Courtesy laszlo-photo (Flickr)

"So what?" C'mon, peeps! This is cool: eight teams from around the world are competing to launch businesses that will bring clean energy and water to India. Right here! In our backyard! You can watch the business plan presentations yourself this Monday, May 17th at the University of Minnesota's Institute on the Environment (Seminar Room 380, VoTech Building, 1954 Buford Avenue, St. Paul, MN). Check out the press release or Acara website for more details.

Water on the Moon

by Anonymous on Sep. 28th, 2009

The lunar surface: The Sea of Rains (lower plain) and Sea of Cold (upper plain) on the Moon's surface. Early astronomers may not have been completely wrong thinking the Moon's mare were oceans of water.
The lunar surface: The Sea of Rains (lower plain) and Sea of Cold (upper plain) on the Moon's surface. Early astronomers may not have been completely wrong thinking the Moon's mare were oceans of water.Courtesy NASA
Three separate sources have confirmed finding water on our Moon, according to a report in the journal Science. Although the Moon is still much dryer than any desert on Earth, the possibility of extracting water from the lunar surface could provide astronauts with a source of drinking water and fuel.

Jun
07
2009

Nano housing
Nano housingCourtesy chappie

First a $2000 car, next $7,800 housing

TATA, the manufacturing company that is selling the world's cheapest car, is now planning to provide thousands of affordable housing units for people living in India. While not affordable to India's poor or even lower middle class, these apartment units are within reach by India's middle class who make between six and ten thousand dollars a year.

Only 218 sq. ft.

The living units are tiny but built within living communities that include its own garden, post office, meeting hall, schools, and hospital. The smallest units will be 218 square feet. The largest units would be about 373 square feet. Click this link to see floor plans.

An integrated township ecosystem

TATA Housing Development Company Ltd. is engineering a community and neighborhood concept with its first development near Mumbai named Shubh Griha. Their website proudly lists components included within Shubh Griha complex:

  • Community spaces for socio-religious gatherings
  • Rain Water Harvesting
  • Balanced mix of buildings and open spaces – best quality lighting & ventilation for all apartments
  • Large vegetated area to ensure fresh environment for living
  • Vermiculture – to make eco-friendly natural fertilizer
  • Neighborhood Retail spaces, specified Hawkers zones
  • Recreational facilities

Click this link for more news about TATA's housing

Source: Business Week

Mar
24
2009

Tata Nano: solution or pollution?

Just like Ford's Model-T, Tata motor's Nano will make owning an automobile possible for several hundred million families. Use this link to Wired Magazine to learn more about India's 50-MPG Tata Nano.

Test driving the Tata Nano

Huge demand the $2000 Tata Nano

Demand for the Tata Nano is so high the company is using a lottery system to select the first 100,000 lucky owners.

At the moment, the Nano will be offered only overseas, but the company insists a version could be headed to North America in three years. Wired

Will the Tata Nano lead to $5 gas?

If hundreds of millions of poor families can now afford to drive a car, won't that demand raise the price of gas? Millions of new automobile users will surely emit additional carbon dioxide into the world's atmosphere.

The Nano supposedly emits 30 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer, well below the 160 g/km average of Europe's cars and far less than the 130 g/km standard the European Union will adopt in 2012. Wired (click link to learn more)

What impact will the Nano car have?

Nano - the wonder car: Available March 23, 2009
Nano - the wonder car: Available March 23, 2009Courtesy SanDev

Tata's Nano car on sale

The ultra cheap ($2050) Nano car hits the market in India tomorrow. It is 10.2 feet (3.1 meters) long, has one windshield wiper, a 623cc rear engine, and a diminutive trunk. Newsvine

India has landed an unmanned probe on the Moon. It's the first probe to land on the Moon since 1976, and is expected to explore the lunar surface for two years.

Oct
15
2008

A goral goat: Nice trick, goat, but we saw through it. Feeling a little sheepish now, huh?
A goral goat: Nice trick, goat, but we saw through it. Feeling a little sheepish now, huh?Courtesy Opencage
Do y’all remember that exhilarating and frightening moment in late July when some fresh “Yeti” hair was found? Oh, come on—you remember. Think back. You probably had some bowel spasms. I posted about it.

If you’re not into checking out links, the basic story was this: a man in a heavily forested region of northeast India had collected some strange hairs from an area where there had been several sightings in the last few days of a large, Bigfoot-like creature. The hairs couldn’t immediately be identified, but they looked a little like the “yeti hair” collected by Sir Edmund Hilary on his famous yeti hunt (I’m using quotation marks there because the “yeti” hair came from a “deer” and Hilary probably knew it). So the hairs were sent to a lab for DNA testing.

And the results are in.

It was a goat. Not a huge, hairy man-beast. Not a jovial, crook-legged goat-boy. A Himalayan Gray Goral (goat).

This might be a disappointment for the Bigfoot enthusiasts of India’s Garo Hills region (although they insist that the creature is still out there, even if it isn’t leaving its own hair around), but, in its own way, it’s an interesting discovery. The goral was never thought to roam that far south in India—it was believed to only live in the Himalayas, at elevations above 1,000 meters.

So, while we haven’t uncovered indisputable genetic evidence of a South Asian ape-man, our time on the cryptocouch hasn’t been a total waste—we’ve come out with a more practical (if less spectacular) discovery about a mundane animal.

In search of poppy plants: How much heroin does it take to get an elephant high, anyway?
In search of poppy plants: How much heroin does it take to get an elephant high, anyway?Courtesy Kjrajesh
So you think you have a bad job? How would you like to run a drug rehab unit for elephants? Here's the story of how an elephant addicted to heroin has gone clean after three years of rehab. That's a lot of methadone to be shooting into some pretty tough skin.

Aug
14
2008

"He wouldn't make a mouthful": said William, who had already had a fine supper, "not when he was skinned and boned."
"He wouldn't make a mouthful": said William, who had already had a fine supper, "not when he was skinned and boned."Courtesy Radha Blossom
Hey, everybody! Remember yesterday?

I sure don’t. The last thing I remember is TGIF programming, and feeling really angry about something (it wasn’t the TV I was upset with, that much I know), and the next thing I’m aware of is waking up under the sink…in the yard! It was my yard, but not my sink. Weird.

Anyway, the last week is a little blurry, to say the least. What happened in this week? I only have a few clues to go on: new tattoos (did I get my own name tattooed on me, or the name of someone else called JGordon?), a new t-shirt (it smells like burned hair, and it says “Try me, Lincoln!”), and some Science Buzz blog entries.

Bloody noses? Bigfoot? I thought this was supposed to be a science blog! I was clearly out of my gourd—there’s not a test tube or a lab coat to be seen in those posts.

And then there’s the kangaroo meat post. I might have been on to something there: it’s about the environment, and animals, and Paul Hogan. Whatever was going on in my head, I seem to have momentarily surfaced near enough to lucidity to string several paragraphs of real words together. Words about eating animals and environmental impact. And stuff.

Wherever I was (geographically) yesterday, I like where I was going (mentally), and I have decided to pursue that train of thought.

The word, then, is “patal-bageri.” I mean “words.” Words.

The Indian state of Bihar, unwilling to be out-crazied by Australia, may be pursuing a new meat industry of its own: rat, or “patal-bageri.”

Like the Aussies, the welfare ministry of this state is hoping to kill two birds with one stone (except one of the birds will actually be a rat, and they probably won’t use a stone—maybe a hammer instead). Hunting rats would reduce the amount of grain lost to the rodents (naturally) as well as provide a cheap and plentiful supply of meat. Rat meat.

The minister of welfare has pointed out that the Musahar caste, of which there are 2.4 million members, have traditionally eaten rats for a very long time (“Musahar” roughly translates to “rat eaters” in Hindi), hunting them in their rice fields. If the Musuhars—one of the poorest castes in the country—can eat rats, says the minister, why can’t everybody else?

Someone got to this rat already!: Nuts.
Someone got to this rat already!: Nuts.Courtesy erik langner
The ministry plans to set up rat meat stalls in rural fairs, to give people a taste of the protein-rich meat, and hopes to eventually have “rat meat centers” in urban areas. The Musahars could be engaged to start rat farms, hopefully empowering them socially and economically (I have a feeling, though, that some people might still look down on rat farmers).

The eating of rats obviously has kind of a stigma to it, but it’s certainly not unheard of—in cultures that don’t specifically forbid eating them (Islam and Judaism, for instance, have strict taboos against consuming rat meat), rats may be eaten as a crisis food, or regularly with other bush meats. Cane rats make up fully half of the locally produced meat in Ghana (check out this picture of a soon to be delicious cane rat).

I might eat rat meat, but it’s good that I don’t have to eat rat meat (it’s nice to have control over that decision). Should anyone be unable to wait for the patal-bageri industry to arrive on American shores, however, here are some recipes for rats (and mice):

Something Thai

Rat and mouse recipes

And some more