To Gluten or Not To Gluten

By Anupum Pant

With every aisle in the supermarket mentioning “gluten free” at least 3 times, I was very curious to know what gluten really is, and if it really makes any sense to go for gluten free foods, or not. Like always, I didn’t just believe what was being seeded in my mind (that gluten free is a healthier food choice). This is what I’ve found after a simple online search. Thanks to the ASAPscience channel of Youtube.

Gluten is a combination of two proteins Gliadin and Glutanin. Hence the name, Gluten. It’s just protein. Gluten is like a binder, something that makes your bread spongy and makes food chewy.

Moreover, there’s no evidence that gluten is bad for you. Nor does it have any great advantages too. It’s just a part of a normal diet, which comes naturally with grains like wheat, barley and rye.

In fact, to bind gluten free foods artificially more fat and sugar is added. Which makes foods containing gluten a better choice actually.

Gluten is of course bad for people with the Celiac disease in which case, the affected people aren’t able to eat Gluten. But Celiac disease doesn’t affect most of us.

So, the supermarket evangelism mentioning “gluten free”, seeding the idea that gluten free food is healthier, is mostly out of confusion in this area – that it is bad for people with Celiac disease, not for normal people like you and me.

A very small percentage of us (people not having the Celiac disease) are also sensitive to gluten. Still, major part of the population falls out of both these categories.

So, unlike what supermarkets want us to believe, gluten free food isn’t automatically a healthier choice. In fact, it can be a worse choice in some cases where, to substitute the natural gluten protein, more fat and sugar is added artificially into foods.

Yes, Light Can Push Physical Objects

By Anupum Pant

Tim is a 71-year-old eccentric who has been collecting interesting toys for 50 years now. Today he has a collection of around 250,000 absurd toys in suitcases, labeled and stacked in a room from the floor to the ceiling. He shows them off in a Youtube channel regularly. I almost never miss any of his toys. Usually most the toys he displays amaze you, but do not blow off your mind. The last one did.

Before this, I had not known that light can push or move a physical object. So, I decided to investigate a bit.

The Extraordinary Toy

In his last video, he showed off a beautiful glass bulb mounted on a wooden stand, that he says has been made by some German company. The bulb has a very good vacuüm (not complete vacuüm, just enough to not create unnecessary drag for the vanes) and encloses a fan-like structure that starts rotating when a bright light is switched on near it. Some people call it the light mill – like the wind mill moves with the wind, this one moves when photons hit it. If give enough time, the mill can accelerate to really good speeds (at thousands of rounds per minute). Watch the video below. [Video]

Theories on how a radiometer really works

The device, a special kind of radiometer, was invented around 140 years back in the year 1873, by Victorian experimenter Sir William Crookes to measure the radiant energy of heat or light. It has four vanes mounted at the edge of four stiff wires to make a fan, each of which has a black side and a silvered side. All of this is enclosed in a bulb which is evacuated enough to not cause drag due to air. In complete vacuüm the vanes move in an opposite direction, but that experiment is really difficult to recreate!

  1. When light is turned on, the fan moves in a way that makes it look as if light is pushing away the black colored side. The theory of photons pushing the black side was accepted initially. But soon a problem was seen with the theory. If light is absorbed at the blackened side and reflected at the silvered side, the fan should be moving in the opposite direction.
  2. Then came in the other explanation which explained that the heated black side due to absorbed radiation rarefied the air near the black side and hence caused the gas to rush in and push that side. The greater the heat, the more this back side would get pushed and it would spin faster. Later even this theory was proved to be wrong. But, Britannica, till date decides to go with this explanation – to some extent this theory goes in the right direction, you will see why…
  3. One more theory claimed that the heat evaporated the impurities on the black side, whose force made it spin.

How the radiometer really works?

The correct explanation was given by a  prominent Anglo-Irish innovator, Osbourne Reynolds. He explained it by mentioning a porous plate, where the air inside the holes would flow from the colder sides to the warmer side (obviously) and make the vanes spin in the opposite direction. He called it “Thermal Transpiration” – makes sense and is easy to understand. But the vanes here are not porous. So…

He said that “Thermal Transpiration” in the vanes takes place at the edge of the vanes and not the faces. Think of edges as small pores, he said.

Due to a temperature gradient formed, the air starts moving along the surface from colder to the warmer side through the edges. The net pressure difference around the vane is created which pushes it in a direction that is away from warmer air and towards the colder air – makes sense for the apparatus.

This is the reason, if it is cooled, it moves in the opposite direction.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Train Wheels are Not as Simple as They Seem

By Anupum Pant

I’m pretty sure not many of you know this about train wheels, neither did I.

Look at the picture and answer this: What do you think keeps a train moving on the track? or Which part of the wheel do you think it is that keeps the train from careening away from the track at turns?
Applying general logic, I thought that flanges at the end of the wheels  kept a train from going off rails at a turn. Turns out, I was wrong!

In fact, flanges at the end of the wheels are just a safety mechanism to keep the train on its track only if the main mechanism fails. And what is that main mechanism?

The problem with cornersTrain wheels are conical in shape. That means they have a varying diameter at different points of contact. Now, suppose the track turns right. The train’s left wheels now have to travel more than the right wheels because at the turn the track on the left is longer.

So how do the left wheels travels more than the right wheels without a differential?
Since the wheels are conical in shape, the whole wheel-set shifts a bit to the left, if the track curves right. Now the point of contact of the left wheel is at a larger diameter of the cone. While the smaller wheel Correction from the toptouches at a point where the diameter of the wheel is lesser. Therefore, if the left wheel now makes one circle it travels further than the right wheels and the train moves along the curve smoothly.

The whole beauty of this system is that the amount of shift of the wheel-set happens automatically, makes the train move on turns smoothly and keeps the train on track.

Look at how you can try this at home using 2 plastic cups and 2 similar pipes. [Experiment]

If I couldn’t explain it properly, probably the best physics teacher ever – Richard Feynman – will explain it to you better. [Video]

Enhanced by Zemanta