|Collage Of NewsWeek (68)|
Science News This Week:
1) New Species of Shark: Carolina Hammerhead:
Discovering a new species is, among biologists, akin to hitting a grand slam, and University of South Carolina ichthyologist Joe Quattro led a team that recently cleared the bases. In the journal Zootaxa, they describe a rare shark, the Carolina hammerhead, that had long eluded discovery because it is outwardly indistinguishable from the common scalloped hammerhead. Through its rarity, the new species, Sphyrna gilberti, underscores the fragility of shark diversity in the face of relentless human predation.
Quattro, a biology professor in USC's College of Arts and Sciences, didn't set out to discover a new cryptic species, let alone one found exclusively in saltwater. When he started as an assistant professor at USC in 1995, he was largely focused on fish in the freshwater rivers that flow through the state before emptying into the western Atlantic Ocean.He has wide interests that include conservation, genetic diversity and taxonomy. A driving force in his scientific curiosity is a desire to better understand evolution. As it turns out, South Carolina's four major river basins -- the Pee Dee, the Santee, the Edisto and the Savannah -- are a source of particularly rich ore for mining insight into evolutionary history.
Glacial influence had limits
Quattro grew up in Maryland, earned a doctorate at Rutgers University in New Jersey, and completed a post-doc at Stanford University. "New Jersey and Maryland, in particular, had huge glacial influences," said Quattro. "The areas where rivers now flow were covered with glaciers until 10,000 to 15,000 years ago, and as the glaciers receded the taxa followed them upstream."
In contrast, rivers south of Virginia were not covered with glaciers. "In other words, these rivers have been around for quite some time," Quattro said. "The Pee Dee and the Santee are two of the largest river systems on the East coast. And we just got curious -- how distinct are these rivers from one another?"Beginning with the pygmy sunfish, Quattro and colleagues examined the genetic makeup of fish species within the ancient freshwater drainage systems. They found the banded pygmy sunfish in all the South Carolina rivers -- in fact, this widespread species is found in nearly all the river systems of the U.S. southeastern and Gulf coasts, starting from the plains of North Carolina, around Florida, and all the way to and up the Mississippi River.
But two species are much rarer. The bluebarred pygmy sunfish is found only in the Savannah and Edisto systems. The Carolina pygmy sunfish is found only in the Santee and Pee Dee systems. Both species coexist with the common banded pygmy sunfish in these river systems, but are found nowhere else in the world.From an evolutionary standpoint, it's a noteworthy finding. These rare species are related to the widespread species, yet the details of the inter-relationships -- such as which predates the others and is thus an ancestral species -- still defy ready description. The fact that a rare and a common species are located together in an ancient river system is important information in the ongoing struggle to clearly define evolutionary history. In the past, scientists drew taxonomic charts almost solely on the basis of physical structure (morphology) and available fossils. The genetic data revolution of recent decades is helping redefine biology in a much more precise manner, but the process is still in the early going.
From the river to the sea
Quattro has been doing his part by slowly moving down the river systems to the ocean, collecting genetic data the whole way down. In the freshwater rivers, he has examined pygmy sunfishes, other sunfishes and basses. Closer to the sea, he has looked at short-nosed sturgeon, which spend most of their time in the estuary (where the river meets the ocean), but do venture up the river to spawn. And further downriver still, he has looked at shark pups.South Carolina is a well-known pupping ground for several species of sharks, including the hammerhead. The female hammerhead will birth her young at the ocean-side fringes of the estuary; the pups remain there for a year or so, growing, before moving out to the ocean to complete their life cycle.
In the process of looking at hammerheads, Quattro, his student William Driggers III and their colleagues quickly uncovered an anomaly. The scalloped hammerheads (Sphyrna lewini) that they were collecting had two different genetic signatures, in both the mitochondrial and nuclear genomes. Searching the literature, they found that Carter Gilbert, the renowned curator of the Florida Museum of Natural History from 1961 to 1998, had described an anomalous scalloped hammerhead in 1967 that had 10 fewer vertebrae than S. lewini. It had been caught near Charleston and, because the sample was in the National Museum of Natural History, the team was able to examine it morphologically and suggest that it constituted a cryptic species -- that is, one that is physically nearly indistinguishable from the more common species.After publishing the preliminary genetic evidence for the new, cryptic species in the journal Marine Biology in 2006, Quattro and colleagues followed up by making thorough measurements (of 54 cryptic individuals and 24 S. lewini) to fully describe in Zootaxa the new species, S. gilberti, named in Gilbert's honor. The difference in vertebrae, 10 fewer in the cryptic species, is the defining morphological difference.
Apart from the satisfaction of discovery, Quattro has established locations and genetic signatures for a number of closely related, yet distinct, species in South Carolina's rivers, estuaries and coastal waters. The results will go a long way in furthering efforts to accurately define taxonomy and evolutionary history for aquatic life.His team's work also demonstrates the rarity of the new species. "Outside of South Carolina, we've only seen five tissue samples of the cryptic species," Quattro said. "And that's out of three or four hundred specimens."Shark populations have greatly diminished over the past few decades. "The biomass of scalloped hammerheads off the coast of the eastern U.S. is less than 10 percent of what it was historically," Quattro said. "Here, we're showing that the scalloped hammerheads are actually two things. Since the cryptic species is much rarer than the lewini, God only knows what its population levels have dropped to."
2) Billions and billions of Earth-sized planets call Milky Way home:
Using Kepler data, astronomers estimate that a sizeable fraction of sunlike stars have possibly habitable planets The galaxy contains billions of potentially habitable Earth-sized planets, according to even the most conservative estimate drawing on data from NASA’s Kepler space telescope.Although a mechanical failure recently put the telescope out of commission (SN: 6/15/13, p. 10), Kepler’s census of planets orbiting roughly 170,000 stars is enabling astronomers to predict how common planets similar to Earth are across the galaxy.NASA's Kepler space telescope, now crippled and its four-year mission at an end, nevertheless provided enough data to answer its main research question: How many of the 200 billion stars in our galaxy have potentially habitable planets? Based on a statistical analysis of all the Kepler observations, University of California, Berkeley, and University of Hawaii, Manoa, astronomers now estimate that one in five stars like the sun have planets about the size of Earth and a surface temperature conducive to life.
Given that about 20 percent of stars are sun-like, the researchers say, that amounts to several tens of billions of potentially habitable, Earth-size planets in the Milky Way Galaxy."When you look up at the thousands of stars in the night sky, the nearest sun-like star with an Earth-size planet in its habitable zone is probably only 12 light years away and can be seen with the naked eye. That is amazing," said UC Berkeley graduate student Erik Petigura, who led the analysis of the Kepler data."It's been nearly 20 years since the discovery of the first extrasolar planet around a normal star. Since then, we have learned that most stars have planets of some size orbiting them, and that Earth-size planets are relatively common in close-in orbits that are too hot for life," said Andrew Howard, a former UC Berkeley post-doctoral fellow who is now on the faculty of the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii. "With this result, we've come home, in a sense, by showing that planets like our Earth are relatively common throughout the Milky Way Galaxy."Petigura, Howard and Geoffrey Marcy, UC Berkeley professor of astronomy, will publish their analysis and findings this week in the online early edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Earth-size may not mean habitable
"For NASA, this discovery is really important, because future missions will try to take an actual picture of a planet, and the size of the telescope they have to build depends on how close the nearest Earth-size planets are," Howard said. "An abundance of planets orbiting nearby stars simplifies such follow-up missions."The team cautioned that Earth-size planets in orbits about the size of Earth's are not necessarily hospitable to life, even if they reside in the habitable zone around a star where the temperature is not too hot and not too cold."Some may have thick atmospheres, making it so hot at the surface that DNA-like molecules would not survive. Others may have rocky surfaces that could harbor liquid water suitable for living organisms," Marcy said. "We don't know what range of planet types and their environments are suitable for life."Last week, however, Howard, Marcy and their colleagues provided hope that many such planets actually are rocky and could support liquid water. They reported that one Earth-size planet discovered by Kepler -- albeit, a planet with a likely temperature of 2,000 Kelvin, which is far too hot for life as we know it -- is the same density as Earth and most likely composed of rock and iron, like Earth."This gives us some confidence that when we look out into the habitable zone, the planets Erik is describing may be Earth-size, rocky planets," Howard said.
NASA launched the Kepler space telescope in 2009 to look for planets outside the solar system that cross in front of, or transit, their stars, which causes a slight diminution -- about one hundredth of 1 percent -- in the star's brightness. From among the 150,000 stars photographed every 30 minutes for four years, NASA's Kepler team reported more than 3,000 planet candidates. Many of these are much larger than Earth -- ranging from large planets with thick atmospheres, like Neptune, to gas giants like Jupiter -- or in orbits so close to their stars that they are roasted.To sort them out, Petigura and his colleagues are using the Keck telescopes in Hawaii to obtain spectra of as many stars as possible. This will help them determine each star's true brightness and calculate the diameter of each transiting planet, with an emphasis on Earth-diameter planets.Independently, Petigura, Howard and Marcy focused on the 42,000 stars that are like the sun or slightly cooler and smaller, and found 603 candidate planets orbiting them. Only 10 of these were Earth-size, that is, one to two times the diameter of Earth and orbiting their star at a distance where they are heated to lukewarm temperatures suitable for life. The team's definition of habitable is that a planet receives between four times and one-quarter the amount of light that Earth receives from the sun.
A census of extrasolar planets
What distinguishes the team's analysis from previous analyses of Kepler data is that they subjected Petigura's planet-finding algorithms to a battery of tests in order to measure how many habitable zone, Earth-size planets they missed. Petigura actually introduced fake planets into the Kepler data in order to determine which ones his software could detect and which it couldn't.
"What we're doing is taking a census of extrasolar planets, but we can't knock on every door. Only after injecting these fake planets and measuring how many we actually found could we really pin down the number of real planets that we missed," Petigura said.Accounting for missed planets, as well as the fact that only a small fraction of planets are oriented so that they cross in front of their host star as seen from Earth, allowed them to estimate that 22 percent of all sun-like stars in the galaxy have Earth-size planets in their habitable zones."The primary goal of the Kepler mission was to answer the question, 'When you look up in the night sky, what fraction of the stars that you see have Earth-size planets at lukewarm temperatures so that water would not be frozen into ice or vaporized into steam, but remain a liquid, because liquid water is now understood to be the prerequisite for life?'" Marcy said. "Until now, no one knew exactly how common potentially habitable planets were around sun-like stars in the galaxy."All of the potentially habitable planets found in the team's survey are around K stars, which are cooler and slightly smaller than the sun, Petigura said. But the researchers' analysis shows that the result for K stars can be extrapolated to G stars like the sun. Had Kepler survived for an extended mission, it would have obtained enough data to directly detect a handful of Earth-size planets in the habitable zones of G-type stars.
"If the stars in the Kepler field are representative of stars in the solar neighborhood, … then the nearest (Earth-size) planet is expected to orbit a star that is less than 12 light-years from Earth and can be seen by the unaided eye," the researchers wrote in their paper. "Future instrumentation to image and take spectra of these Earths need only observe a few dozen nearby stars to detect a sample of Earth-size planets residing in the habitable zones of their host stars."In January, the team reported a similar analysis of Kepler data for scorched planets that orbit close to their stars. The new, more complete analysis shows that "nature makes about as many planets in hospitable orbits as in close-in orbits," Howard said.
3) Fossil of largest known platypus discovered in Australia:
No living mammal is more peculiar than the platypus. It has a broad, duck-like bill, thick, otter-like fur, and webbed, beaver-like feet. The platypus lays eggs rather than gives birth to live young, its snout is covered with electroreceptors that detect underwater prey, and male platypuses have a venomous spur on their hind foot. Until recently, the fossil record indicated that the platypus lineage was unique, with only one species inhabiting Earth at any one time. This picture has changed with the publication of a new study in the latest issue of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology that describes a new, giant species of extinct platypus that was a side-branch of the platypus family tree. The new platypus species, named Obdurodon tharalkooschild, is based on a single tooth from the famous Riversleigh World Heritage Area of northwest Queensland. While many of Riversleigh's fossil deposits are now being radiometrically dated, the precise age of the particular deposit that produced this giant platypus is in doubt but is likely to be between 15 and 5 million years old."Monotremes (platypuses and echidnas) are the last remnant of an ancient radiation of mammals unique to the southern continents. A new platypus species, even one that is highly incomplete, is a very important aid in developing understanding about these fascinating mammals," said PhD candidate Rebecca Pian, lead author of the study.
Based on the size of tooth, it is estimated that this extinct species would have been nearly a meter (more than three feet) long, twice the size of the modern platypus. The bumps and ridges on the teeth also provide clues about what this species likely ate.
"Like other platypuses, it was probably a mostly aquatic mammal, and would have lived in and around the freshwater pools in the forests that covered the Riversleigh area millions of years ago," said Dr. Suzanne Hand of the University of New South Wales, a co-author of the study. "Obdurodon tharalkooschild was a very large platypus with well-developed teeth, and we think it probably fed not only on crayfish and other freshwater crustaceans, but also on small vertebrates including the lungfish, frogs, and small turtles that are preserved with it in the Two Tree Site fossil deposit."
The oldest platypus fossils come from 61 million-year-old rocks in southern South America. Younger platypus fossils are known from Australia in what is now the Simpson Desert. Before the discovery of Obdurodon tharalkooschild, these fossils suggested that platypuses became smaller and reduced the size of their teeth through time. The modern platypus completely lacks teeth as an adult and instead bears horny pads in its mouth. The name Obdurodon comes from the Greek for "lasting (obdurate) tooth" and was coined to distinguish extinct toothed platypuses from the essentially toothless modern species.
"Discovery of this new species was a shock to us because prior to this, the fossil record suggested that the evolutionary tree of platypuses was relatively linear one," said Dr. Michael Archer of the University of New South Wales, a co-author of the study. "Now we realize that there were unanticipated side branches on this tree, some of which became gigantic."The specific epithet of the new species, tharalkooschild, honors an Indigenous Australian creation story about the origin of the platypus. In the Dreamtime, Tharalkoo was a head-strong girl duck inclined to disobey her parents. Her parents warned her not to swim downriver because Bigoon the Water-rat would have his wicked way with her. Scoffing, she disobeyed her parents and was ravished by Bigoon. By the time Tharalkoo escaped and returned to her family, the other girl ducks were laying eggs, so she did the same. But instead of a fluffy little duckling emerging from her egg, her child was an amazing chimera that had the bill, webbed hind feet, and egg-laying habit of a duck, along with the fur and front feet of a rodent -- the first Platypus.
4) Fountain-of-youth gene repairs tissue damage in adults:
Young animals recover from tissue damage better than adults, and from Charles Darwin's time until now, scientists have puzzled over why this is the case. A study published by Cell Press November 7th in the journal Cell has revealed that an evolutionarily conserved gene called Lin28a, which is very active in embryos but not in adults, enhances tissue repair after injury when reactivated in adult mice. The findings open up new avenues for the treatment of injuries and degenerative diseases in adult humans. "It sounds like science fiction, but Lin28a could be part of a healing cocktail that gives adults the superior tissue repair seen in juvenile animals," says senior study author George Daley of Boston Children's Hospital and Harvard Medical School.
Tissue repair is more robust in juveniles than in adults throughout the evolutionary spectrum of organisms, from insects and amphibians to fish and mammals. The molecular causes of this phenomenon have been elusive, but Daley and his collaborators speculated that the Lin28a protein could play a role because it regulates growth and development in juveniles, but its levels decline with age.
To test whether this protein might influence tissue repair in adults, Daley and his team reactivated the Lin28a gene in adult mice. Lin28a enhanced hair regrowth in these mice after they were shaved, and promoted tissue repair in their ears and digits after injury. The protein also stimulated cell proliferation and migration, which are critical for tissue repair. Lin28a achieved all of these effects by increasing the production of several metabolic enzymes and enhancing metabolic processes that are normally more active in embryos.
"We were surprised that what was previously believed to be a mundane cellular 'housekeeping' function would be so important for tissue repair," says study author Shyh-Chang Ng of Harvard Medical School. "One of our experiments showed that bypassing Lin28a and directly activating mitochondrial metabolism with a small-molecule compound also had the effect of enhancing wound healing, suggesting that it could be possible to use drugs to promote tissue repair in humans."
5) Scientists Identify Clue to Regrowing Nerve Cells:
Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have identified a chain reaction that triggers the regrowth of some damaged nerve cell branches, a discovery that one day may help improve treatments for nerve injuries that can cause loss of sensation or paralysis. The scientists also showed that nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord are missing a link in this chain reaction. The link, a protein called HDAC5, may help explain why these cells are unlikely to regrow lost branches on their own. The new research suggests that activating HDAC5 in the central nervous system may turn on regeneration of nerve cell branches in this region, where injuries often cause lasting paralysis.
"We knew several genes that contribute to the regrowth of these nerve cell branches, which are called axons, but until now we didn't know what activated the expression of these genes and, hence, the repair process," said senior author Valeria Cavalli, PhD, assistant professor of neurobiology. "This puts us a step closer to one day being able to develop treatments that enhance axon regrowth."The research appears Nov. 7 in the journal Cell.
Axons are the branches of nerve cells that send messages. They typically are much longer and more vulnerable to injury than dendrites, the branches that receive messages.In the peripheral nervous system -- the network of nerve cells outside the brain and spinal column -- cells sometimes naturally regenerate damaged axons. But in the central nervous system, composed of the brain and spinal cord, injured nerve cells typically do not replace lost axons.Working with peripheral nervous system cells grown in the laboratory, Yongcheol Cho, PhD, a postdoctoral research associate in Cavalli's laboratory, severed the cells' axons. He and his colleagues learned that this causes a surge of calcium to travel backward along the axon to the body of the cell. The surge is the first step in a series of reactions that activate axon repair mechanisms.In peripheral nerve cells, one of the most important steps in this chain reaction is the release of a protein, HDAC5, from the cell nucleus, the central compartment where DNA is kept. The researchers learned that after leaving the nucleus, HDAC5 turns on a number of genes involved in the regrowth process. HDAC5 also travels to the site of the injury to assist in the creation of microtubules, rigid tubes that act as support structures for the cell and help establish the structure of the replacement axon.When the researchers genetically modified the HDAC5 gene to keep its protein trapped in the nuclei of peripheral nerve cells, axons did not regenerate in cell cultures. The scientists also showed they could encourage axon regrowth in cell cultures and in animals by dosing the cells with drugs that made it easier for HDAC5 to leave the nucleus.
When the scientists looked for the same chain reaction in central nervous system cells, they found that HDAC5 never left the nuclei of the cells and did not travel to the site of the injury. They believe that failure to get this essential player out of the nucleus may be one of the most important reasons why central nervous system cells do not regenerate axons."This gives us the hope that if we can find ways to manipulate this system in brain and spinal cord neurons, we can help the cells of the central nervous system regrow lost branches," Cavalli said. "We're working on that now."Cavalli also is collaborating with Susan Mackinnon, MD, the Sydney M. Shoenberg Jr. and Robert H. Shoenberg Professor of Surgery, chief of the Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery and a pioneer in peripheral nerve transplants. The two are investigating whether HDAC5 or other components of the chain reaction can be used to help restore sensory functions in nerve grafts.
6) Why ISRO's Mars mission,launching next week, is the cheapest:
The Indian space agency's Mars Mission, launching next week, is the cheapest by any nation to the red planet. And there are attributes unique to ISRO that enable it to practise frugal engineering at the cutting edge time and again.
To understand the spirit of India's Mars mission, it is useful to look first at the country's moon mission in 2008.The Chandrayaan-I project, as it is known, was announced in 2003, by the then-prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, in 2003. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) had partners, the Europeans and Americans, who had their own experiments to f ly in Chandrayaan. Some of them were puzzled by ISRO's style of working. They were just 18 months away from the launch date, and ISRO was only beginning to cut metal. One of the foreign partners had then asked ISRO managers: "Are you serious?"
The spacecraft f lew as planned in November 2008, operated for 312 days, and achieved most of its objectives. ISRO's partners, pleased that their instruments were working fine, tacitly acknowledged the value of the organisation's minimalist approach. "The told us after the launch," says M Annadurai, project manager of Chandrayaan, "that this was the Indian style of working". It was a tested method in ISRO, perfected over decades, and it is now being used to maximum effect in Mangalyaan: save time, money and human efforts through careful planning.You could call it frugal engineering applied to space. Mangalyaan was formally approved only in August 2012, and ISRO had started work on the structure three months before the formal approval. The satellite was finished this August.NASA's MAVEN, a Mars mission nearly identical to Mangalyaan and to be flown on November 18, had taken at least five years of work and $679 million in costs. If the Mangalyaan launch is successful, ISRO would have done it in 18 months, with $69 million. "Our speed of execution and low costs are the result of careful planning," says Annadurai. Small Resources, Big Ambitions
When ISRO was set up in the 1960s, moon and Mars missions were not on the agenda, even in the faraway future. "We do not have the fantasy of competing with the economically advanced nations in the exploration of the moon or the planets or manned space-flight," its founder Vikram Sarabhai had famously said. Space technology was purely for the benefit of the society.
With such clear objectives, and working in a period when India was very poor, ISRO's leaders developed a style that produced maximum benefits with the minimum of effort."Frugal engineering comes naturally to Indians," says National Research Professor RA Mashelkar, "which is why India delivers more than any other country per dollar of R&D investment." Mashelkar, along with management theorist CK Prahlad, wrote a landmark paper on frugal engineering in the Harvard Business Review three years ago.
According to Mashelkar, Indians learned this technique because of the environment. "Indians grow up in scarcity, but also have high aspirations. These two conditions create a powerful combination," he says. ISRO's ambitions were high, but money was scarce.So, for two decades, ISRO created some of the best examples of frugal engineering in India.
In the 21st century, when the world tries hard for low-cost access to space, other nations are looking at ISRO with interest and trying to use some of the principles it had perfected. ISRO is also becoming an important collaborator for NASA and Europe.
After NASA, ESA and the likes, India is poised to enter the race for supremacy in the race to unravel the mysteries of the Red Planet Mars which would now see new faces rise on the Martian horizon - faces from India.
The first mission of India to Mars would takeoff from the launch pad at Sriharitkota, located on an island off India's eastern coast.
With a budget of £62m, the unmanned "Mangalayan" orbiter mission would circle the earth, gradually increasing in velocity until booster rockets are fired, setting the craft on route for a 300-day journey to Mars.he orbiter would arrive in the orbit of the Red planet on September 21 next year from where it would carry out a series of scientific investigations over a period of four months.
The orbiter would be carrying equipment to enable it to perform five main scientific experiments.Incidentally, for a poverty driven country like India to undertake such a cost-intensive project has raised, eyebrows have been raised especially when NASA itself had to put its Mars projects on the back-burner due to financial constraints.However, experts behind India's mission to Mars insist the project is purely driven by science.Of course, another school of thought is there is intense national pride involved and a fierce desire to beat China to become the fourth successful Mars mission, after the US, Russia and European Space Agency.
Incidentally, the dreams of China to conquer Mars failed in November 2011 - China had sent a small craft into the orbit of Mars, hitching a ride on the Russian Phobus-Grunt mission but, the orbiter fell back to earth within two months.
7) Paleontologist Presents Origin of Life Theory
Sankar Chatterjee presents what he calls the "Holy Grail of science" to Geological Society of America.
It has baffled humans for millennia: how did life begin on planet Earth? Now, new research from a Texas Tech University paleontologist suggests it may have rained from the skies and started in the bowels of hell.Sankar Chatterjee, Horn Professor of Geosciences and curator of paleontology at the Museum of Texas Tech University believes he has found the answer by connecting theories on chemical evolution with evidence related to our planet’s early geology.
“This is bigger than finding any dinosaur,” Chatterjee said. “This is what we’ve all searched for – the Holy Grail of science.”
Thanks to regular and heavy comet and meteorite bombardment of Earth’s surface during its formative years 4 billion years ago, the large craters left behind not only contained water and the basic chemical building blocks for life, but also became the perfect crucible to concentrate and cook these chemicals to create the first simple organisms.
He will present his findings Oct. 30 during the 125th Anniversary Annual Meeting of the Geological Society of America in Denver.
As well as discovering how ancient animals flew, Chatterjee discovered the Shiva Meteorite Crater, which was created by a 25-mile-wide meteorite that struck off the coast of India. This research concluded this giant meteorite wreaked havoc simultaneously with the Chicxulub meteorite strike near Mexico, finishing the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.
Ironically, Chatterjee’s latest research suggests meteorites can be givers of life as well as takers. He said that meteor and comet strikes likely brought the ingredients and created the right conditions for life on our planet. By studying three sites containing the world’s oldest fossils, he believes he knows how the first single-celled organisms formed in hydrothermal crater basins.“When the Earth formed some 4.5 billion years ago, it was a sterile planet inhospitable to living organisms,” Chatterjee said. “It was a seething cauldron of erupting volcanoes, raining meteors and hot, noxious gasses. One billion years later, it was a placid, watery planet teeming with microbial life – the ancestors to all living things.”
Recipe for Living
As the basins filled, volcanically driven geothermal vents heated the water and created convection. The result was constant water movement, creating a thick primordial soup.
“For may years, the debate on the origins of life centered on the chemical evolution of living cells from organic molecules by natural processes. Chatterjee said life began in four steps of increasing complexity – cosmic, geological, chemical and biological.
In the cosmic stage, a still-forming Earth and our solar system took a daily pounding from rocky asteroids and icy comets between 4.1 to 3.8 billion years ago. Plate tectonics, wind and water have hidden evidence of this early onslaught on our planet, but ancient craters on the surfaces of Mars, Venus, Mercury and our moon show just how heavy the meteorite showers once were.
Larger meteorites that created impact basins of about 350 miles in diameter inadvertently became the perfect crucibles, he said. These meteorites also punched through the Earth’s crust, creating volcanically driven geothermal vents. Also, they brought the basic building blocks of life that could be concentrated and polymerized in the crater basins.
After studying the environments of the oldest fossil-containing rocks on Earth in Greenland, Australia and South Africa, Chatterjee said these could be remnants of ancient craters and may be the very spots where life began in deep, dark and hot environments.
Because of Earth’s perfect proximity to the sun, the comets that crashed here melted into water and filled these basins with water and more ingredients. This gave rise to the geological stage. As these basins filled, geothermal venting heated the water and created convection, causing the water to move constantly and create a thick primordial soup.“The geological stage provides special dark, hot, and isolated environments of the crater basins with the hydrothermal vent systems that served as incubators for life,” he said. “Segregation and concentration of organic molecules by convective currents took place here, something like the kinds we find on the ocean floor, but still very different. It was a bizarre and isolated world that would seem like a vision of hell with the foul smells of hydrogen sulfide, methane, nitric oxide and steam that provided life-sustaining energy.”
Then began the chemical stage, Chatterjee said. The heat churning the water inside the craters mixed chemicals together and caused simple compounds to grow into larger, more complex ones.
Protecting Important Information
Most likely, pores and crevices on the crater basins acted as scaffolds for concentrations of simple RNA and protein molecules, he said. Unlike a popular theory that believes RNA came first and proteins followed, Chatterjee believes RNA and proteins emerged simultaneously and were encapsulated and protected from the environment.“The dual origin of the ‘RNA/protein’ world is more plausible in the vent environments than the popular ‘RNA world,’” he said. “RNA molecules are very unstable. In vent environments, they would decompose quickly. Some catalysts, such as simple proteins, were necessary for primitive RNA to replicate and metabolize. On the other hand, amino acids, from which proteins are made, are easier to make than RNA components.”
The question remains how loose RNA and protein material floating in this soup protected itself in a membrane. Chatterjee believes University of California professor David Deamer’s hypothesis that membranous material existed in the primordial soup. Deamer isolated fatty acid vesicles from the Murchison meteorite that fell in 1969 in Australia. The cosmic fatty bubbles extracted from the meteorite mimic cell membranes.
“Meteorites brought this fatty lipid material to early Earth,” Chatterjee said. “This fatty lipid material floated on top of the water surface of crater basins but moved to the bottom by convection currents. At some point in this process during the course of millions of years, this fatty membrane could have encapsulated simple RNA and proteins together like a soap bubble. The RNA and protein molecules begin interacting and communicating. Eventually RNA gave way to DNA – a much more stable compound – and with the development of the genetic code, the first cells divided.”
The final stage – the biological stage represents the origin of replicating cells as they began to store, process and transmit genetic information to their daughter cells, Chatterjee said. Infinite combinations took place, and countless numbers must have failed to function before the secret of replication was broken and the proper selection occurred.
“These self-sustaining first cells were capable of Darwinian evolution,” he said. “The emergence of the first cells on the early Earth was the culmination of a long history of prior chemical, geological and cosmic processes.”
Chatterjee also believes that modern RNA-viruses and protein-rich prions that cause deadly diseases probably represent the evolutionary legacy of primitive RNA and protein molecules. They may be the oldest cellular particles that predated the first cellular life. Once cellular life evolved, RNA-viruses and prions became redundant, but survived as parasites on the living cells.
The problem with theories on the origins of life is that they don’t propose any experiments that lead to the emergence of cells, Chatterjee said. However, he suggested an experiment to recreate the ancient prebiotic world and support or refute his theory.
“If future experiments with membrane-bound RNA viruses and prions result in the creation of a synthetic protocell, it may reflect the plausible pathways for the emergence of life on early Earth,” he said.
Movie Release This Week:
|Movie Release This Week|
1) Thor: The Dark World:
Marvel’s "Thor: The Dark World" continues the big-screen adventures of Thor, the Mighty Avenger, as he battles to save Earth and all the Nine Realms from a shadowy enemy that predates the universe itself. In the aftermath of Marvel’s "Thor" and "Marvel’s The Avengers," Thor fights to restore order across the cosmos...but an ancient race led by the vengeful Malekith returns to plunge the universe back into darkness. Faced with an enemy that even Odin and Asgard cannot withstand, Thor must embark on his most perilous and personal journey yet, one that will reunite him with Jane Foster and force him to sacrifice everything to save us all.
2) The Book Thief:
Based on the beloved bestselling book, The Book Thief tells the inspirational story of a spirited and courageous young girl who transforms the lives of everyone around her when she is sent to live with a new family in World War II Germany.
3) The Broken Circle Breakdown:
Elise (Veerle Baetens) and Didier (Johan Heldenbergh) fall in love at first sight. She has her own tattoo shop and he plays the banjo in a bluegrass band. They bond over their shared enthusiasm for American music and culture, and dive headfirst into a sweeping romance that plays out on and off stage — but when an unexpected tragedy hits their new family, everything they know and love is tested. An intensely moving portrait of a relationship from beginning to end, propelled by a soundtrack of foot-stomping bluegrass, The Broken Circle Breakdown is a romantic melodrama of the highest order.
4) Best Man Down:
When their obnoxious and over-served best man, Lumpy (Labine) unexpectedly dies at their destination wedding in Phoenix, bride and groom Kristin (Weixler) and Scott (Long) are forced to cancel their honeymoon and fly home to the snowy Midwest to arrange for his funeral. But when they arrive they realize that there was a lot more to their friend than met the eye.
5) The Motel Life:
The Motel Life explores the intense bond between two brothers living on the fringes of Reno, Nevada. They grew up depending on each other and their big imaginations to escape the challenges of their transient life. When one of the brothers is involved in a fatal accident, it forces both of them to choose between running or facing reality. It is a story of brotherhood, shared dreams and the redemptive power of hope.
Political News This Week:
1) Nuclear-capable Agni-I missile successfully test-fired:
India on Friday successfully test-fired its indigenously developed nuclear-capable Agni-I ballistic missile with a strike range of 700 km from a test range off Odisha coast as part of a user trial by the army.
The surface-to-surface, single-stage missile, powered by solid propellants, was test-fired from a mobile launcher at 9.33 am from launch pad-4 of the Integrated Test Range at Wheeler Island, about 100 km from Balsore."The test-fire of the ballistic missile was fully successful," ITR Director M V K V Prasad said."Agni-I missile was launched by the Strategic Forces Command," he said, adding the Defence Research and Development Organisation developed medium-range ballistic missile from the production lot was launched as part of regular training exercise by the armed forces.The Agni-I missile has a specialised navigation system, which ensures it reaches the target with a high degree of accuracy and precision, he said.
Weighing 12 tonnes, the 15-metre-long Agni-I, which can carry payloads up to 1000 kg, has already been inducted into the Indian Army.Agni-I was developed by advanced systems laboratory, the premier missile development laboratory of the DRDO in collaboration with the Defence Research Development Laboratory and Research Centre Imarat and integrated by Bharat Dynamics Limited, Hyderabad.The last trial of the sophisticated Agni-I missile was successfully carried out on December 12, 2012 from the same base.
2) Exclusive! Who is ISI's Honey Bee in New Delhi?:
The ISI's Indian mole Honey Bee helped plan the November 26, 2008, Mumbai terror attacks and there were 10 locals who provided logistical support to David Headley, Adrian Levy tells Rediff.com's Sheela Bhatt in an exclusive interview.
In their sensational book on the 26/11 terror attacks on Mumbai, The Siege: The Attack On The Taj, authors Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark have claimed that an Indian citizen was a mole for the Inter Services Intelligence, Pakistan's external intelligence agency, and passed on information to it that helped mount the audacious terror attacks on Mumbai on November 26, 2008.
Adrian Levy says the Indian government has not tried hard enough to find the ISI mole in the New Delhi establishment.Levy, in an exclusive interview to Rediff.com, said he tried hard to detect the identity of this Indian mole, but he is yet to succeed. The authors have dubbed the Indian ISI mole 'Honey Bee' in their book.They claim that Major Iqbal of the ISI, who was David Coelman Headley's handler in Pakistan, organised a condensed version of the Pakistan army's two-year training course on surveillance and counter-intelligence.The course was prepared on the basis of the Indian Army's training manual supplied by the Indian mole to the ISI.
Headley, the mastermind behind the Mumbai terror attacks, along with the Lashkar-e-Tayiba, successfully mounted the attack that killed 166 people and wounded hundreds more.In a sensational claim, the authors write that 'Major Iqbal' had given Headley what is described as 'classic Indian files'. Iqbal boasted that he had obtained these files from the Indian police and army, which 'revealed their training and limitations.'Levy believes that while the ISI's source in India is unlikely to be from the army, it could be someone from the Indian security establishment other than the army.Iqbal boasted that they had 'a super agent' at work in New Delhi who was known as Honey Bee.In addition to Honey Bee, Levy also claims there were people in Mumbai codenamed 'chuhas' (mice) who supplemented information and added to the details Headley provided to the Lashkar to plan the terror attacks in Mumbai."The LeT claims there were 10 collaborators working in Mumbai," says Levy.The Ram Pradhan Commission of Inquiry, set up to probe the terror attacks, failed in its duty when it did not examine the 'local element,' Levy added. "The Pakistan side told me there exists Honey Bee and chuhas. The Indian side should have established their identity."Levy and Scott-Clark travelled to ten countries on four continents and met hundreds of people to write the book. Levy says they are very sure of their information even though they have not been able to establish the identity of the ISI mole in India.
Unfortunately, in their book, the authors have not been able to establish the actual identities of either 'Abu Qahafa' or 'Major Iqbal', the shadowy ISI handlers behind the terror attacks. The latter played a big role in recruiting the Lashkar's chuhas in India, says Levy.What then Mumbai police commissioner Abdul Gafoor told the media in 2008 about the local involvement in the terror attacks is correct, Levy added.Before Headley started his journey to Mumbai to find a landing site for the terrorists, Levy claims that Major Iqbal gave him a bundle of counterfeit Indian rupees and revealed that Honey Bee, the ISI's Indian mole, had told him that Machchimar Nagar, a fishing colony in Cuffe Parade in south Mumbai, could be the landing site for their anti-India mission.The spot was apparently suggested by the Indian mole as it does not have much of security, and Major Iqbal asked Headley to check it out.The claim about the existence of the Indian mole Honey Bee, if true, is obviously serious. However, the authors have not offered much evidence about the alleged Indian mole.It is the Indian manual provided by Honey Bee that became the basis for training Ajmal Kasab and the nine other terrorists who accompanied him to Mumbai almost five years ago. Also, the suggestion of the potential landing spot, one of the crucial pieces of information for the terror attack, came from Honey Bee.
Levy is still hopeful that Honey Bee's identity will be revealed one day.
3) Prince Charles, wife enjoy Garhwali feast; BJP leaders stay away:
Prince Charles and his wife Camilla Parker Bowles, who are visiting Uttarakhand, relished the Garhwali dishes served to them at a banquet organised by Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna on Thursday night.The royal couple was offered mouth-watering dishes like Jhangore ki Kheer, Gahath ki Dal and Manduwe Ki Roti. They were all praise for the items on the menu, sources said.
"They did not just praise the dishes, but even asked a chef how they were made and with what ingredients," a hotel source said.
The British royals also interacted with people present in the hotel and asked Members of Legislative Assembly -- representing constituencies affected by the recent calamity -- how people were coping with the after-effects of the tragedy.The royal couple began their extensive nine-day India tour with Uttarakhand on November 6.Meanwhile, senior Bharatiya Janata Party leaders stayed away from the banquet, saying it was "unnecessary" to organise such an event in the wake of the calamity.
Three former BJP chief ministers -- B C Khanduri, Bhagat Singh Koshiyari and Ramesh Pokhariyal Nishank -- besides Leader of Opposition in the state assembly Ajay Bhatt, state BJP chief Tirath Singh Rawat and party Member of Parliament Tarun Vijay were invited to the banquet.All of them decided not to attend the event in view of the recent calamity in the state.State BJP chief Rawat said, "The party is thankful to the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall for their visit to Uttarakhand. But in a state where people are yet to recover from the effects of the colossal tragedy, a simpler function with less pomp could have been held in their honour."He said, "We feel that organising a lavish royal banquet in such a time could have been avoided."The state BJP chief said the party leaders' decision not to attend the lavish feast was out of sympathy with the people of the state who have suffered so much in the recent calamity in Uttarakhand.
4) Maldives geared up for tomorrow's presidential polls:
Maldives on Friday affirmed that the controversy-ridden presidential polls set for Saturday will go ahead in order to avert a constitutional crisis."Maldives is all geared for elections on Saturday," said Masood Imad, the spokesman for Maldivian President Mohammed Waheed.Saturday's polls will be Maldives' third attempt to elect a president in as many months. The country needs to have a new president in place by November 11 when the current presidential term ends."The arrangements are in place for the election on Saturday and if no one crosses the 50 per cent mark, there will be a runoff vote on Sunday," the spokeswoman for the Elections Commission said.She said authorities were ready to conduct voting across the archipelago as well as a few foreign capitals where Maldivians live, including New Delhi. The electorate is just under 240,000.
The Elections Commission had earlier scheduled a runoff on November 16, but brought it forward to November 10 to avoid a constitutional crisis."Both Elections Commission and agents of the three candidates have agreed to reschedule the runoff date. President hopes for smooth and fair elections," Imad told PTI on Thursday.A government spokesman said everything was ready for Saturday’s ballot and all three parties in the running had agreed on the voters' rolls.An election official said two of the three parties, which had scuttled the October 19 vote, have given a thumbs-up for the ballot.
Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldivian Democratic Party won the first round of election on September 7, which was annulled by the Supreme Court which said the voters' list contained ineligible names. Nasheed got 45.45 per cent of the votes in that round, forcing a run-off.The Supreme Court, however, ordered fresh polls. Police blocked the re-vote on October 19 at the eleventh hour, plunging the country into a fresh crisis.Nasheed's main challenger is Abdulla Yameen of Progressive Party of Maldives, the half brother of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who was the President of Maldives from 1978 to 2008.The third candidate is business and resort tycoon Qasim Ibrahim of the Jumhooree Party."We will defeat those who brought about a coup through the vote. God willing, we will win this election in one round. We will take the Maldives to safe shores," said front-runner Nasheed at the last rally before tomorrow's polls."Saturday is an opportunity to use that power to save this state, this Maldives. Vote for me, god willing, we will make Maldives upright again. We will give you the dignified life you want," he was quoted by news portal Minivan as saying.
The Maldives is rich in natural resources and Maldivians deserve a lot more than they currently have, Nasheed said.Incumbent President Waheed withdrew from the race after coming last in September's balloting.He issued a statement earlier in the week saying it was "a very crucial period" for the country, which would face "many challenges" if a new president is not chosen by Monday.The political scene in Maldives has been in a state of flux since the country's first democratically elected President, Nasheed, resigned under duress in February 2012. He was succeeded by Vice-President Waheed.
5) Chhattisgarh polls phase 1 in numbers:
6) Militants kill 2 BSF jawans in Meghalaya:
Militants on Friday shot dead two BSF personnel at a remote border outpost along Indo-Bangladesh border in Meghalaya's South West Khasi Hills district.Heavily-armed militants raided Ketakona Border Outpost in Bagli area, nearly 140 km from Shillong in Borsora police station at around 10.30 am, killing two border personnel on the spot, the police said.The attack came close on the heels of militants attacking a police vehicle in neighbouring South Garo Hills district on Tuesday killing five policemen.Meanwhile, the BSF, which is manning the Indo-Bangladesh border in the state, stated that a huge arms consignment was seized last night in South Garo Hills.
A 9 mm carbine machine, one 7.65 mm Italian-make Barreta pistol, one China-make 7.65 mm pistol, all with ammunition, wireless set with signal booster, two mobile phones, sports shoes and other items were seized from the Angratoli reserve forest in the district, a BSF spokesperson said.While no one was arrested in last night’s midnight operation, the BSF said the arms were meant for tribal militants operating in the state.Meghalaya shares a 443-km border with Bangladesh, part of which is still unfenced and hence porous coupled with bad terrain areas which are difficult to man.These unfenced pockets are the prime areas for infiltrators in the form of illegal immigrants, smugglers and many a times militants.
7) Parl sub-committee on JK migrants asks govt to implement PM's package:
The parliamentary sub-committee on the rehabilitation of Jammu and Kashmir Pandit migrants has urged the state government to take concrete steps to implement prime minister’s package for the rehabilitation and welfare of the Kashmiri migrants in the state.
The parliamentary sub-committee on Home Affairs, constituted to look into the implementation of 137th Report on the Rehabilitation of Jammu and Kashmir Migrants, which concluded its 3-day visit to the state on Thursday, had interactive meeting with the senior officers of the administration and reviewed the PM’s relief package for the migrants in winter capital Jammu.
The committee shared the feedback which it gathered during its visits to various migrant camps in Kashmir and Jammu and urged the state government to tone up the machinery and take all necessary steps to improve the facilities in these camps, according to an official statement.The sub-committee, headed by Bharatiya Janata Party MP Rajiv Pratap Rudy, urged the officers to pay special attention to improve the basic conditions of the migrant camps, like medicare, electricity, drinking water, sanitation, security, education, repair of flats and disbursement of timely relief, which were prominently highlighted by the migrants during the visits of the committee.The committee also asked for expeditious completion of under construction accommodation for the migrant employees in the Valley.The committee asked the officers to create an environment to maintain constant liaison with the migrants in various camps to address their problems expeditiously.Rudy maintained that the committee has been mandated to assess the ground situation with regard to the problems of the migrants living in various relief camps and implementation of PM’s package for their rehabilitation.
They expressed sympathies with the inmates of camps and assured them that the committee will recommend everything possible for improving their living conditions and other welfare.The committee appreciated the courage and spirit of the Kashmiri migrants who are living in pitiable conditions, the statement added.
8) Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was poisoned to death in 2004 with radioactive polonium,
his widow Suha said on Wednesday after receiving the results of Swiss forensic tests on her husband's corpse."We are revealing a real crime, a political assassination," she told Reuters in Paris.
A team of experts, including from Lausanne University Hospital's Institute of Radiation Physics, opened Arafat's grave in the West Bank city of Ramallah last November, and took samples from his body to seek evidence of alleged poisoning. "This has confirmed all our doubts," said Suha Arafat after the Swiss forensic team handed over its report to her lawyers and Palestinian officials in Geneva on Tuesday. "It is scientifically proved that he didn't die a natural death and we have scientific proof that this man was killed."
She did not accuse any country or person, and acknowledged that the historic leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization had many enemies, although she noted that Israel had branded him an obstacle to peace.
She told Reuters the polonium must have been administered by someone "in his close circle" because experts had told her the poison would have been put in his coffee, tea or water.
"I'm so angry at what happened and I feel that I'm mourning him all over again. This was an act by cowards."
Arafat signed the 1993 Oslo interim peace accords with Israel and led a subsequent uprising after the failure of talks in 2000 on a comprehensive agreement.Allegations of foul play surfaced immediately. Arafat had foes among his own people, but many Palestinians pointed the finger at Israel, which had besieged him in his Ramallah headquarters for the final two and a half years of his life."President Arafat passed away as a victim of an organized terrorist assassination perpetrated by a state, that is Israel, which was looking to get rid of him," Wasel Abu Yousef, member of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said in a statement on Wednesday."The publishing of the results by the Swiss institute confirms his poisoning by polonium and this means that Israel carried it out."The Israeli government has denied any role in his death, noting that he was 75 years old and had an unhealthy lifestyle."This is more soap opera than science, it is the latest episode in the soap in which Suha opposes Arafat's successors," Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said.
Investigations into his demise amounted to "a highly superficial attempt to determine a cause of death."An investigation by the Qatar-based Al Jazeera television news channel first reported last year that traces of polonium-210 were found on personal effects of Arafat given to his widow by the French military hospital where he died.That led French prosecutors to open an investigation for suspected murder in August 2012 at the request of Suha Arafat. Forensic experts from Switzerland, Russia and France all took samples from his corpse for testing after the Palestinian Authority agreed to open his mausoleum.
Sports News This Week:
1) Mohammed Shami shines as India inflict innings defeat on West Indies:
Debutant Mohammed Shami produced a devastating spell of reverse swing to return with a dream match haul of nine wickets as India spanked West Indies by an innings and 51 runs in the first cricket Test and take a 1-0 lead in the two-match series here today.Ravichandran Ashwin also made it a memorable day by cracking his second Test century and then chipped in with three wickets as the hosts bundled out the visitors for a paltry 168 in the second innings to clinch the match with two days to spare.
Rohit Sharma, too, made his Test debut special, cracking a magnificent 177 in the first of the two-match series which is also retiring legend Sachin Tendulkar's last outing in international cricket.Apart from Sharma, the star of the match was undoubtedly Shami who claimed 5/47 in the second innings and returned impressive match figures of 9 for 118 at the Eden Gardens.shami's effort is the second best by an Indian on debut after Narendra Hirwani's 16/136 against the same opponents in Chennai way back in 1988.Earlier, Sharma missed out on a double century on debut by 23 runs while Ashwin slammed his second Test ton in a record 280-run stand for the seventh wicket as India extended their lead to a mammoth 219 runs before being bowled out for 453.
Starting their second innings with a huge deficit, West Indies were bundled out for just 168, with off-spinner Ashwin (3/46) providing Shami the support at the other end.Sharma slammed an exquisite 177 off 301 balls with the help of 23 fours and a six, while Ashwin made his runs off 210 balls, hitting 11 fours.Making his debut at his home ground, Bengal pacer Shami, who took 4/71 in the first innings, utilised the conditions to maximum effect as he rocked the West Indies batting line-up with his lethal reverse swinging deliveries that skidded in sharply.
2) Mind games before board game:
Press conferences, especially around the time of a World Championship game, are exercises in exchanging platitudes. Before the event starts, the players are too cautious and during the course of the games they are too preoccupied to add anything new. On Thursday, when Viswanathan Anand and Magnus Carlsen addressed the media together for the first time ahead of their championship match, large parts of it proceeded according to the script, with the FIDE officials hogging the mike for longer stretches than the players did. However, a few minutes into the interaction, there was a short period where Anand caught both the journalists and Carlsen off-guard.
Anand was asked about playing the final in Chennai, and he began in fairly prosaic manner. "I am very happy the World Championship is happening in my home town, I want to thank the honourable chief minister. I am a bit excited to play in my home city. I look forward to the match starting and getting on with it," he said.
Now, the FIDE press officer fed Carlsen the same loosener. "Well, I am also happy to be here," said Carlsen, with a slight bob of his head, and sat back with a grin. The officer, who had clearly expected a lengthier response, compensated by letting the FIDE officials (the president and a vice president) ramble on for a bit. Then, the floor was thrown open for questions and the first journalist to grab hold of the mike was rather ambitious. He asked Anand who his seconds for the match were.
Dropping a bombshell
For the fans of a sport that is closely bound to logic and reasoning, the period leading up to a championship match gives them an opportunity to indulge in some perverse speculation. But even this is done in a characteristically structured (read nerdy) manner. A list is made of players who aren't participating in tournaments during the champion and the contender's training period. This list is then whittled down on the basis of compatibility — whether the potential second's areas of expertise, age, nationality and so on would make him less or more appealing to work with. Weeks after the match is over, and sometimes never, a kind of in-depth, behind-the-scenes interview with the players reveals the identity of these mysterious characters.
3) Sachin Tendulkar's mastery in the late '90s gave others time to find their feet:
Long before the internet and very long before cell phones were available in India, there was Sachin Tendulkar. And he was playing cricket for India. You need to state it starkly to realise the eras he has traversed and his longevity in an era where burnout is common. And so to pick a phase that stood out is difficult and dangerous because he appealed to cricket lovers in different ways at different times.
There was the utter romance of the phase from 1988-1992. It was an era of curiosity because we knew he was good but we didn't possess the imagination to make a projection of just how good he could be. Honestly, it was that. Not one of us could have had the courage to look this far into the future. But it was a wonderful phase; it was like scientists learning something new about a phenomenon. He was 15!
Children are mugging up on directive principles of state policy and trying to get their head around electronic configurations when he was dreaming of playing Ambrose, Walsh, Bishop and Marshall!
The centuries in Sydney and Perth changed that. From now, it was no longer curiosity, it was a phase of discovery. You had found gas but you didn't know how much the well contained. And so each time Tendulkar went out to bat, you looked closely to see if you could get clues; to see if there was a new challenge overcome, indeed even to see if attacks were vanquished and challenges nullified. The little gem in Chennai in 1993 against England was one of those. It was a century so comfortably achieved that you didn't know what to make of it.And once he had started to open the batting in limited overs internationals, he was to take that aspect of batting to another level.And that is why 1996 onwards was the blossoming. I try telling that to young cricket lovers today; that for all their adulation of Tendulkar, if they are younger than twenty, they haven't even seen the most glorious era of his batsmanship. Before T20, before all the fiddling with playing conditions to try and make everyone into a batsman, he had a strike rate of over a hundred over an entire season where he made almost two thousand runs.
It was a phase where he played the defining innings of his career. It was also a phase before Dravid, Ganguly and Laxman established themselves as world class batsmen, before Sehwag appeared on the horizon and after Azharuddin had finished playing his best cricket.That was when Tendulkar was destroying bowling and taking batsmanship to another level. That was when we knew that a batsman to carry forward the legacy of Sunil Gavaskar had been sighted.
And as Rahul Dravid said recently, it was a phase where, by taking all the attention towards himself, he allowed the rest to find their feet in international cricket. It wasn't as if he planned it that way but his breathtaking batting gave the others the opportunity to develop their craft, the time to make mistakes and learn.
4) Roger Federer back on track with victory over Richard Gasquet:
A razor-sharp Roger Federer got back to winning ways at the ATP World Tour Finals with a 6-4 6-3 defeat of Frenchman Richard Gasquet on Thursday to keep alive his last-four chances.
Under pressure after losing to favourite Novak Djokovic in his opening Group B match, the six-times former champion looked much more like his old, majestic self.There were some nerves at the end when Gasquet saved five match points but Federer wrapped up victory and will face Juan Martin del Potro on Saturday with high hopes."Richard has an incredible playing style and is a dangerous shot-maker," Federer, who qualified for the year-ending showdown for the 12th consecutive year, said on court."There was pressure today after losing my first one. It was a big win for me and I hope now to keep it up against Juan Martin."
Should Del Potro lose to defending champion Djokovic in Thursday's late match, Federer's meeting with the Argentine would effectively become a straight shoot-out for a semi-final spot - a scenario Federer said he would prefer."That would certainly make things clearer, otherwise the arithmetic gets complicated like it did here in 2009 when nobody knew who was going through."Despite losing the opening six points of the match, 17-times grand-slam champion Federer quickly found his stride and forged ahead with the first break in the third game when Gasquet misfired a forehand into the net.Treating the large Swiss contingent in the sell-out crowd to some silky drop shots and his usual array of flowing passes, the 32-year-old world number seven toyed with Gasquet at times yet lost his focus when the Frenchman hit back to level at 4-4.Gasquet was quickly put back in his place as Federer broke again to lead 5-4 and served out the set.
5) After Sachin 'e' Tendulkar, it's 'Mr' Anjali Tendulkar at Eden Gardens:
After having made a goof-up in spelling Sachin Tendulkar's name, the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) were in for another embarrasment today when they addressed the batting legend's wife as "Mr" Anjali in the welcome message on the giant electronic scoreboard.The CAB's second goof-up came in as many days when the giant display at the High Court end kept on flashing Welcome "Mr Anjali Tendulkar and Master Arjun Tendulkar" during the lunch break on the opening day of the first cricket Test between India and West Indies.As Anjali along with son Arjun got into the President's box around the lunch break, the giant screen flashed the wrong message and it was only after a few minutes that the mistake was realised and corrected, but by then the damage was done.The CAB, which had already drawn flak for its over-enthusiastic preparations for Tendulkar's 199th Test, had yesterday misspelt the senior batsman's name as "Sachine" in a giant billboard.The CAB had then put the entire blame on a private agency. The CAB, however, apologised for the goof-up.
"It's really unfortunate that something or other is happening everyday. We're helpless now as it's being looked after by a private agency."However, we're committed to take action against the agency after the match gets over. We apologise for the inconvenience it caused," an apologetic CAB joint secretary Subir Ganguly said today.Yesterday India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, immediately after entering the press conference, had pointed out CAB's mistake of misspelling the iconic batsman's name.
"Pehle ye batao Sachin ki naam ki spelling galat kisne likhi? Yeh bahut bada... (First tell me who misspelt Sachin's name, It's a big mistake," was what Dhoni had to say about the billboard that had mentioned: "Celebrating Sachine Tendulkar's 199th Test match".The CAB treasurer Biswarup Dey in turn had criticised Dhoni for making an issue out of the spelling mistake."He could have told us about the mistake. But it's not in the interest of captain to see to this," Dey had said.
While 80 school children wearing T-shirts with Tendulkar's image and 199 written on the back lined up till the dressing room to greet him when he disembarked the team bus, Tendulkar remained calm and went about the routine in a casual manner.
6) Barcelona and Atletico Madrid sail into last 16:
Barcelona and Atletico Madrid led a Spanish Armada into the Champions League last 16 with home wins on Wednesday and in-form Aaron Ramsey steadied Arsenal's boat with a battling win against rocky Borussia Dortmund.
Barca met seven-times winners AC Milan at the Nou Camp but the stock of the faltering Italians has fallen so much that even an average display from the hosts sealed a 3-1 success in Group H, Lionel Messi scoring a penalty and a cheeky third.La Liga rivals Atletico put on a better display in their 4-0 cruise past Group G whipping boys Austria Vienna to glide into the knockout stages after four wins from four with two matches to spare.Miranda grabbed Atletico's opener after 11 minutes before Raul Garcia rose athletically to head home the second, with Filipe Luis making it three for this term's potential surprise packages on halftime.Diego Costa missed a penalty but added a fourth goal on 82 minutes as Diego Simeone's men made sure of top spot and equalled their biggest Champions League win in reaching the knockout stages for the first time since 2008/09.
"We knew it was very important to win today because of the result between Zenit and Porto. The team was great today and we deserved to reach the round of 16," the forward told reporters.Zenit St Petersburg stayed as favourites to take second place and qualify after Hulk scored the equaliser but also missed a spot kick in a 1-1 home draw with his former side Porto.Arsenal grabbed swift revenge for last month's home loss to Dortmund by snatching a 1-0 win at last term's runners-up, Ramsey's 62nd-minute header the latest in his purple patch of goals to leave Juergen Klopp's third-placed side suddenly fretting.Wales midfielder Ramsey, castigated by many Arsenal fans last season for a series of toothless displays, netted his 11th goal of the season when he nodded in after good work by Mesut Ozil and Olivier Giroud.
Book Of This Week:
The Rise of Birds: 225 Million Years of Evolution: by Dr. Sankar Chatterjee (Author):
Dinosaurs are so popular that we often neglect their flying relatives that are still among us. Birds, the true "living dinosaurs," deserve considerable respect as successful vertebrates that have evolved, adapted, and survived over a period of 225 million years. The Rise of Birds is the first detailed, illustrated, and comprehensive review of the fossil record of birds in a modern phylogenetic context. Distinguished paleontologist Sankar Chatterjee provides a clear and exciting chronology documenting the long odyssey of birds since Protoavis -- which may have taken to the air some 75 million years before the widely known "first bird," Archaeopterix.
Throughout The Rise of Birds, Chatterjee offers a wealth of fascinating details from the colorful history of birds past and present. Among them: • Some intelligent theropods such as dromaeosaurs were arboreal and could climb trees with their swivel wrist joint and stiff tail. They were capable of parachuting and gliding from tree to ground.
• The discovery of downy theropod dinosaurs from China indicates that upper jaw mobility, not feathers, is the most distinctive characteristic of birds.
• Most birds were wiped out 65 million years ago, along with the dinosaurs, by large meteoritic impacts. However, few lineages of birds rebounded from this catastrophe and underwent an explosive evolution.
The Rise of Birds discusses the significance of all the many recently discovered bird and possible bird fossils, from Europe to China to Latin America. Chatterjee outlines the varying theories of how animal flight developed, and he explains, in terms of comparative anatomy, what makes a bird a bird. The book covers some of the greatest events in avian development: their emergence in the Triassic pangean world, their flight refinement and global diversification during the continental breakup of the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, their sudden decline at the end-Cretaceous extinction, their rebound and explosive radiation dur-ing the Cenozoic era, and finally their destiny with us.Beautifully illustrated by Michael W. Nickell, this book will be of interest to a broad range of readers, including vertebrate paleontologists, ornithologists, and amateur naturalists, including birders.
Dr. Sankar Chatterjee (Author)
Sankar Chatterjee is a paleontologist, and is the Paul W. Horn Professor of Geosciences at Texas Tech University and Curator of Paleontology at the Museum of Texas Tech University. He earned his Ph. D. from the University of Calcutta in 1970 and was a Post-doctoral Fellow at the Smithsonian Institution from 1977-1978.
Dr. Chatterjee's has focused on the origin, evolution, functional anatomy, and systematics of Mesozoic vertebrates, including basal archosaurs, dinosaurs, pterosaurs, and birds.
He has researched Late Triassic reptiles in India, such as phytosaurs, rhynchosaurs, and prolacertiformes. He is best known for his work on vertebrates recovered in the 1980s from the Post Quarry in the Late Triassic Cooper Canyon Formation (Dockum Group) of West Texas. The material includes the large rauisuchian Postosuchus, which was named for the nearby town of Post. It also included controversial specimens Chatterjee identified as being avian (Protoavis). The identification of these specimens as avian would push back the origin of birds by at least 75 million years