A Book That Filters 4 Years of Drinkable Water

By Anupum Pant

I’ve written a lot about water in the past. No wonder drinking water is such a precious commodity. Still, not many have access to clean water. About a 7th of the whole world’s population don’t have clean water to drink. Every year about 3.4 Million people die out of water borne diseases.

A group of people who go by the name WaterisLife are putting in everything to change that. By working with a group of scientists from Carnegie Mellon and the University of Virginia, they have been able to come up with a novel idea that could change this. They call it the drinkable book. 

Drinkable book is a book full of cards that have been coated with silver nanoparticles. These cards bear the ability to filter dirty water and reduce the count of bacteria in it by about 99.9%. It can kill the bacteria that causes diseases like cholera, typhoid and E. coli., producing drinkable water that is as pure as tap water used in the US. Each page of this book can filter about 30 days of drinkable water. In fact, each page contains the instructions to filter water properly too. The whole book can provide 4 years of potable water. Definitely a boon to the developing countries.

Conan The Bacterium – The World’s Most Toughest Bacterium

By Anupum Pant

I have been a big fan of Tardigrades and the Radiotrophic fungi since the day I found out about them. I’m a fan mostly because these are the kind of creatures that can survive in very different (extreme) kind of settings. For instance, Tardigrades can waddle through the vacuüm of space without getting harmed! (more in the links above).

These are Extremophiles – creatures that can survive extreme heat, cold, dehydration, acidity, or radiation. But Extremophiles have their own abilities and specialties. That means, if they are able to survive one kind of harsh condition, say extreme heat, there is a fat chance that the same organism will have the ability to survive other harsh conditions too. That is not the case with the bacteria we see today…

The badass bacteria beats Tardigrades.

A bacteria that goes by the name Deinococcus Radiodurans enters. It is the king of Extremophiles. Or, you can call it a Polyextremophile (reason below). So, to my list of the most badass creatures, I’m happy to announce that I’m adding a new creature – Conan the Bacterium or Deinococcus Radiodurans (DR).
(If you don’t get it, it is a bacteria nicknamed after the badass barbarian warrior movie – Conan the Barbarian – not after the funny guy on TV – Conan.)

This bacterium is so tough that it is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as “the world’s toughest bacterium”.

What can it survive? Now what makes it better than Tardigrades or any other known creatures out there, is its ability to withstand all of the extreme conditions at the same time – Polyextremophile. So, if you decide to put it through all of these conditions at the same time –

Vacuum + Zero humidity + 85 degrees C temperature + 500,000 rads of radiation

– it will survive. The most amazing part – it will survive all of it easily. To give you an idea how much 500,000 rads of radiation is, human beings would get cooked (or charred) to death within seconds if they get exposed to that amount of radiation! Yet Conan the bacterium takes it all as if it was nothing, and can still go up to 1,500,000 rads. At those levels, even the molecular structure of glass begins to break down!

Habitat: No one knows where this bacterium belongs naturally. It is found anywhere and everywhere. You might find it in elephant’s dung or in the polar areas of the earth where the environment of earth closely resemble that of Mars.

DNA repair with a twist: Like most other bacteria, DR can repair its own DNA after damage due to extreme amounts of radiation. But, even here, it manages to stand out from the masses (other bacteria). Other bacteria like E.Coli can’t survive, more than two or three major DNA breaks. However, DR can keep on bringing its broken DNA to the original state over and over. And every time, it can stitch back its completely blown DNA bits, in a matter of few hours. There is still a lot to learn about how it manages to do this.

However, the mechanism it uses is certainly different and better from the way other bacteria do it. It doesn’t seem to have any DNA repair genes like other bacteria. And yet it is able to make complete repairs in the DNA with the help of a certain protein.

Data storage: In the future, if we ever wish to make extremely robust storage devices, we could probably learn to store data in this bacteria’s DNA. And then we might never lose data even in the case of a nuclear apocalypse.

[Source 1] [Source 2] [Source 3]

The Red Rain of Kerala

By Anupum Pant

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In the year 2001, between 25th July and 25th September, people from the Indian state of Kerela (Kottayam and Idukki districts) experienced a bizarre oddity – The Red Rain of Kerala. Sporadic heavy downpours of mysteriously colored water left the people of Kerala dazed. More recently, red rains were also seen in parts of Sri Lanka between 15th November and 27th December, 2012.

Yellow, Black and Green rains have also been reported several times since 1896.

Red Rain of Kerala – Studies

A study conducted in India showed that the rain was colored because these raindrops contained millions of spherical and oval red particles which had an internal structure. These things looked like biological cells. Initially, when scientists weren’t able to confirm the existence of DNA (a fact which has baffled scientists) in them, in spite of an internal structure present in the cells, some started claiming that the origin of these red particles was extraterrestrial, possibly, coming from an exploded meteor.

Later the mystery was solved, the presence of DNA was confirmed and a study, destroying popular media claims, concluded that the red rain of Kerala had been colored due to airborne spores originating from a type of algae. There was nothing alien about it.

The unusual color of the rain was due to the presence of a unicellular micro-organism belonging to Kingdom Protista, of the Phylum Euglenozoa, known as Trachelomonas. Trachelomonas was the main cause of reddish downpours in other regions of the world as well.

[Source: The Red Rain of Kerala]