Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

Water Divination

November 23, 2013

I joined a cousin in inspecting a land to be purchased. Well…not inspection but just to see that the land is physically present and not just on paper. A friend’s acquaintance owned the land. He knew the place and was taking us there in his jeep. We crossed the city limits and were on the highway for nearly 2 hrs when we took a diversion. The road was bumpy and so time slowed.  After an hour or so we were on a narrow road that went between fields and land that was not cultivated.  Our friend spotted a stone and a barren tract along side the road and identified that as the beginning of the land under consideration!


One view of the tract of land we visited. The branch rotated near the trees seen in the far end of this photograph.

We got down and walked along. In the distance and much nearer on our left were hillocks. Some trees and wild grass interspersed the land. The land was arable but the soil had little pieces of rock mixed in it.  Suddenly, our friend pulled out a branch from a nearby tree. The branch was Y-shaped. He held one arm of the branch in his left hand and the other in his right.  He now walked back a little distance, turned, and started walking towards us with the branch loosely held in his hands and the tip pointing outward. As he walked the branch started rotating in his hand! I couldn’t believe my eyes. If one were to rotate it manually/physically one would have to twist the wrists. It would be a tedious task if at all it was possible! I tried it. As a matter of fact he had not even gripped the arms of the branch. Each arm was light held in the circle/tubular cavity formed by the curving of the fingers in the palm; like when you hold a bicycle arm.  My cousin thought he would give try. He took the same branch and walked the same path.  The branch did not rotate but he felt it trying to wriggle in his palm as if to rotate. He was holding a bit too tight. The friend showed it again. I was skeptical. I took another Y-shaped branch from the tree and walked the same path. Nothing. No rotation. No feeling at all from the branch!  Apparently, it happens only with certain people. I don’t have it in me.

The incident stayed in mind until one day when I chanced upon theDSC_0088 book ‘Brihat Samhita’ by Varahamihira in the Ramakrishna Math library. Brihat Samhita is an ancient(~500 AD) encyclopaedic work in Sanskrit which covers various topics of human interest including architecture, medicine, physiology, zoology and other subjects.  The 54th chapter is entitled Dakargalam which means ‘the exploration of water springs’ or ‘water divination’.  There are about 125 Slokas (verses) describing the signs on land of water being present under ground. The depth to which one has to dig for water is also mentioned.  For instance, Sloka 8 says: in a waterless tract if there is a Jambu tree then water will be obtained at a depth of 10 cubits at a distance of 3 cubits to its north. It further describes what one is to expect on digging up to 5 cubits.

Several types of trees, rocks, presence of ant-hills and other such data have been connected to the depths at which water can be found even in desert regions. Simply incredible!  But, there was no mention of a Y-shaped branch, when held in a particular manner, rotating if there was water underground.  I had seen with my own eyes that the branch rotated in our friend’s hands at a moderate speed if not rapidly. And that too only in a particular patch of land. I wish I had taken a video. I looked up YouTube for videos on water divination. there are several where a person with a coconut placed on his palm walked on a tract of land. The coconut stood up where-ever there is water underground. But no video showing what I had seen. The YouTube links are:

The videos show that the coconut stood up on its own, but it is not clear if they dug  there and found water. Did you come across water divination using a branch of a tree? Let me know if you did.

For those interested in Brihat Samhita, the book is available online here.

Sanskrit and Plutonium

July 31, 2009

Everyone who remembers chemistry at school knows the periodic table. And has atleast heard of Mendeleev, the Russian chemist who came with the idea of arranging the elements in the form of table. His table had only those elements that were known at that time (1860’s). However, Mendeleev’s genius lay in the fact that he not only guessed that there were more elements to be discovered but also indicated their positions in the periodic table. It is important to note that Mendeleev arranged the elements in the periodic table based on their atomic mass. (The modern table is arranged based on atomic numbers) To name the new elements, that didn’t exist then, he borrowed some words from Sanskrit. Apparently. his friends Otto was teaching Sanskrit in St. Petersburgh Univ.. Thanx to his influence, Mendeleev got interested in Sanskrit and found a way of using it.  He learnt that Eka, Dvi, Tri meant one, two, three.  He named the missing element that had to be in the row after Boron as EkaBoron; meaning that this element should be one element after Boron.  Other missing elements named similarly were EkaAluminum, DviTellurium, TriManganese and many more.  These elements were later found and renamed as Gallium, Polonium, Rhenium, respectively. This and much more about Plutonium, Uranium, the atomic bomb,  and lots of science is described in an interesting way in the book ‘Plutonium, History of the worlds most dangerous element’ by  Jeremy Bernstein.

MS&T 2009- Do not register online!

June 24, 2009

One can register for MS&T 2009 conference online here.  However, when i filled in the registration form and the credit card details the website displays the message “authorisation error”. So I tried again and correcting any possible mistake in the address and the website displayed another error message. I did this 4 times. Two times with my credit card and two times with my friend’s credit card. And the website displayed one or the error message.
When we checked with the bank, we discovered that the money was transfered to MS&T all four times. And i did not get the registration confirmation mail. The website claims that one gets a confirmation mail once the payment is done.
This means that the following thingsa re wrong with the website:
1. The website does not recognise that the payment is made. And therefore does not send a confirmation mail.
2. The website (or the program behind it) can do multiple registrations on the same name. All four payments that i did are on the same name.

I have basically paid $1980 as against $495. I hope to get the money back. I have written to the webmaster and the TMS contact, who is on vacation and has asked me to write to another contact.
I have got no replies as yet (its nearly 24 hours now).
Will post more on this as and when i get the response from the organisers.

29th June

Its 6 days that i have sent mails. No reply. I tried calling the phone numbers given on the website. I had to leave a voice message on two numbers. No response. After my first attempt on subsequent attempts i could not even reach the numbers!

Today i faxed to the number given on the registration form.  I hope to get a response.

29th June-Night

I received a mail and also called up the person who had mailed me. They do not have my name among the registered persons. Which means the money is deducted by not by the organisers! However, i was asked to provide credit card number! and credit card statement showing that the payment was done.

30th June

I received a very clear mail from the organisers mentioning that they did have a report of me attempting to register a number of times (8 times). However, they have not deducted any amount from my credit card. Apparently, they declined all my transactions.

What a relief!

Now it remains to see why the credit card account still shows that the transactions were made.

Dont copy my presentation please!

June 9, 2009

I found it quite odd when i saw people (scientists young and old) capturing every slide of the presentation.  I have not seen any object to that.

Finally, someone seems to have taken notice. Here is a notice from the organisers of an upcoming conference. It declares that everything presented in a conference is a copyright of the organisers and cannot be audio or video recorded.  While it is good that now the audience will be restricted to listening,  whether the organisers should have the copyright for a presentation is debatable.

Ayurvedic medicine… scientific?

May 19, 2009

Well, i was sure that it was; most of it should be or could be proved. But today in a discussion with a colleague here from Iran (who is a doctor) i was not able to give examples of scientific papers published on Ayurvedic medicine. Ofcourse, when u know it works u dont bother to check if it was published in a scientific journal. I was sure atleast some would have been published but one never bothered to check. Well today i had too …
I googled for ‘journal of ayurveda’ and found this site…its an online International journal of ayurveda research.  The articles are yet to be available online but looks promising.

Here is an article in Nature journal about an energy-boosting drug which is traditionally known as arogyapacha.

Here is a news item in Nature journal mentioning that the Indian Govt. launched a scheme (in 1987) to place traditional medicine on a scientific basis.  

Here is an article in Phytotherapy Research on ayurveda in central nervous system disorders.

Here is a whole lot of indian journals (some international) on ayurveda specifically.

A journal by Kerala Ayurveda.

Here is an article in Nature Immunology that talks about the history of medicine in India ever since it acquired a rational approach in 1000 BCE.

Here is an article in Nature which talks about the anti-cholestrol drug developed from myrrh tree.

Here is an article on drugs for cardiovascular disorders.

Here is an article in Journal of Neuroscience on the treatment for Parkinsons disease based on Ayurveda.

And a whole bunch (~450) of articles for the key word Ayurveda in scholarly article search engine pubmed.

I also found something that was cautionary and published in the journal of the american medical association. This entire issue is about how many of the ayurvedic medicines actually have unacceptable amounts of toxic metals!

Well…now atleast i have convinced myself there is a lot of effort going on to provide scientific basis for ayurvedic medicine.

Its in my genes, what can i do about it?

May 8, 2009

Well, you can… a lot!
Just the other day i had posted on a scientific article in Nature journal about how a large number of indians (south asian) are succeptible to heart attack even if they had a perfectly healthy diet. And yes, it was shown that this was because they had it in their genes. Apparently, it is a gene mutation specific to south asians that is responsible.
But today, i saw this video on Edge, where Prof. Dean Ornish (UCSF) and author (Spectrum) spoke about his research on how gene expression itself can be changed by changing life style.
His words: “Recently, my colleagues and I have conducted research in areas as diverse as the effects of comprehensive lifestyle changes on telomeres, gene expression, coronary heart disease, and prostate cancer.

In terms of heart disease, we were able to show, for the first time, that it could be reversed by changing lifestyle, and these improvements occurred much more quickly than had once been thought possible. Usually within hours, and almost always within days to weeks, your heart can receive more blood flow. As a result, we found over a 90 percent reduction in the frequency of angina or chest pain. ”
For more details and lots of videos showing scientifically stimulating discussions on a whole range of topics visit

DST secretary in Nature Materials

May 7, 2009

I wanted to look up on publishing in Nature Materials. On opening the website i found this, surprisingly, interview with T. Ramasami, the DST (Dept of Science and Tech) secretary of India. His answer to the question “what prompted you to go back to india?” is interesting (and thoughtful). Read it here.

Couldn’t figure out in 200 years

April 21, 2009

The previous week i was introduced to a senior neuroanatomist from Switserland. My friend introduced him as a pioneer in his field. He was quick to mention that it was a happenstance because back in his days no one noticed his work. Infact it was rejected in a reputed journal. Then he asked me about my work. I mentioned to him that i work on steel. To which he remarked that the last he checked it was nearly 200 years that steel research had begun. And then in good humour, “you couldn’t figure it out in 200 years”,… “its a positive sign for neuroscientists…they have just begun”
To my surprise, he was aware of the asian swords and their persian connection.

%d bloggers like this: