Home Essay/Articles SPECIAL ARTICLES OF SCIENCE REPORTER MAGAZINE (JUNE)
SPECIAL ARTICLES OF SCIENCE REPORTER MAGAZINE (JUNE)
Saturday, 27 July 2013 10:06


GIST OF SCIENCE REPORTER

 

SUCCESS IN THE SKIES!

The year’s first and the country’s 101st space mission successfully put into orbit seven satellites riding atop ISRO’s PSLV rocket. On 25th February, the Indian Space Research Organisation launched its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) on its twenty-third  successful flight from the spaceport of Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh carrying with it the Indo-French satellite SARAL, The PSLV C20 also carried with it six foreign mini and micro satellites.

Rising towards the evening skies with a plume of white fumes, after a flight of 1 7 minutes 55 seconds, the PSLV safely stationed  the main payload, SARAL weighing 407 kg into an orbit very close to the intended orbit. The six auxiliary satellites were also successfully injected into their orbits. When reports last came In, all the six satellites had established contact with their respective Ground Stations and were said to be in good health. SARAL is an Indo-French joint venture. The satellite has been built by ISRO, while the French Space Agency CNES has contributed the ARGOS-3 and AltiKa payloads. SARAL is a 410-kg oceanographic satellite whose data will be useful for researchers besides having many practical applications like marine rneteoroloqv forecasting the state of the oceans, climate monitoring, continental ice studies, environmental monitoring, protection of biodiversity and improvement in maritime security.

While AltiKa, which is an innovating Ka-band altimeter system dedicated to accurate measurement of ocean surface topography, would help study the sea surface heights, the ARGOS-3 payload is a satellite-based data collection platform. Besides SARAL the other satellites successfully carried out into orbit by the PSLV are two micro-satellites UniBRITE and BRITE from Austria and AAUSAT3 from Denmark and STRaND- 1 from United Kingdom. There is also one microsatellite (NEOSSat) and one mini-satellite (SAPPHIRE) from Canada.

Canada’s SAPPHIRE is the Canadian military’s first satellite in space. It is a space-based electrooptical sensor that will track man-made space objects in high Earth orbit. It will try to make sure that none of the almost 20,000 orbiting pieces, including junk and orbiting satellites, collide with each other.

UniBRITE and BRITE from Austria have been developed in collaboration with the Institute of Communication Networks and Satellite Communications (IKS) at the Technical University of Graz (TUG), Institute for Astronomy of the University of Vienna.

AAUSAT3 is a micro satellite built and operated by students from Aalborg University in  Denmark. All design, implementation and manufacturing was carried out by students.

STRaND-1 is a 30 cm 3.5 kg mini satellite. At its heart is a Google Nexus One Smartphone with an Android operating system and highly advanced features that are integral to a satellite such as cameras, radio links, accelerometers and high performance computer processors. It is also loaded with a number of experimental Apps’. Designed to test commercial off-the-shelf technologies in space, STRaND-l is the first Smartphone-operated satellite in space.

PSLV, the trusted warhorse of ISRO, has proved its versatility ever since its first successful launch in 1994. It has launched 27 Indian satellites and 35 foreign satellites. It also launched India’s first spacecraft mission to moon, Chandrayaan-1, in 2008. Next, it is also scheduled to launch India’s first interplanetary mission, the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) spacecraft, by the end of this year.

OPEN SOURCE AND OPEN INNOVATION

Is it possible that solely by voluntary efforts, world-class software and products are produced and distributed with limited conditions and often at reasonable cost? Can goods and services be produced and offered for public benefit by coordinating the efforts of teams spread across the world without the intervention of state or big corporations?

If these sound too unbelievable or utopian, think again. How about Linux? Apache - a widely used server software - is an open source software similar to Linux. Both Linux and Apache are products of open source development. Open Source models have gone beyond software and are in use in biotechnology and drug discovery development. The origins of open source can be traced to the Free Software movement initiated by hackers, of whom Richard Stallman became a cult figure. The free Software movement was for development of Software and its free distribution for users to develop it further, modify and distribute as the user wishes. The Free Software is for freedom of programmers. That means freedom from restrictions by commercial firms, no restrictions on account of intellectual property rights are considered as important goals in the free Software movement. In general, while open source projects are based on a project or addressing a problem, open innovation projects are based in firms or in consortiums. The firm takes the lead in open innovation as it feels that need for it while open source projects are initiated by programmers who organize themselves as teams and identify coordinators to facilitate smooth functioning. Most of the open source programmers do it on a voluntary basis but some firms employ them for this purpose. Often Software and products are protected by intellectual property rights that provide exclusive rights to the inventor or licensee. In most countries, Software is protected by copyright while in some it can be protected by copyright and patent both. In case of open source approach, the objective is to enhance the freedom than to restrict it. But intellectual property rights are needed; if the innovation is not protected by them anybody can free ride and appropriate it and also try to obtain intellectual property rights by making slight changes.

The open source approach to overcome this problem is to develop a license that enables sharing without bringing in proprietary norms to restrict development and Sharing. The General Public License or the licenses derived from it are used for this purpose. The basic dictum is share what you have created with others on the terms with which you have received the contribution of others; don’t block further innovation by securing rights that prevent further innovation.

OPEN SOFTWARE VS FREE SOFTWARE

Open Source approach is different from free software approach in many ways. The important one is open source approach is not averse to commercialization of software. But the objective of the open source approach is to strike a balance between proprietary software development approach, which severely restricts users’ rights, and the free software approach, which is averse to commercialization.

Open Source approach is based on a simple and profound fact that when thousand brains try to do something or solve a puzzle the outcome would be better than one brain could do. As Eric Raymond puts it:

While organizations employ thousands of persons and have systems of coordination the incentive there is monetary and other benefits, where as in open source software it is almost voluntary effort and many do it for the pleasure in finding solutions to challenges, to prove their talent and thereby gain reputation and recognition or for the sheer pleasure in programming. Open Source software development is organized in terms of teams and the developing an application/software will involve many teams that are spread across different time zones and continents. These teams achieve unparalleled productivity thanks to modularity.

But how is this enforced? GPL is a legally binding license and its validity is upheld by courts. GPL is based on copyright but as it applies copyright in a unique way, it is called as copy left! Open Innovation is based on the simple fact that however big an organization may be, it may not have all the skills and capabilities to address all its problems. Some of the best minds and resources are outside the organization. Open Innovation was conceptualized by Chesesbrough, according to whom, ‘’At its root Open Innovation assumes that useful knowledge. is widely distributed, and that even most capable R&D organizations must identify, connect to, and leverage external knowledge sources as a core process of innovation.”

Models of Open Innovation

Advances in production and distribution of knowledge and collaborative possibilities made available by developments in informatics and communication technologies have facilitated open innovation. For organizations, using Open Innovation is a pragmatic solution when there is a need to tap knowledge and resources that are essential to solve a problem or pursue an objective are available only outside the organization.

Here too the idea is no problem is big if sufficient numbers of persons or teams try to solve it. An organization can announce a prize amount for anyone who can find a solution by throwing open the challenge. This is a simple model of open innovation. There are many examples for this including the DST sponsored one in India and Innocentive.

But in most cases open innovation is organized through networks or consortiums or through collaborative projects. This is all the   more relevant when the resource or knowledge has to be shared so that different organizations can pursue their objectives collaboratively and still benefit from it. Organizations come together and evolve norms for sharing knowledge and materials. This entails joining hands for collaborative knowledge production in cases where joint benefits outweigh the costs and no organization can benefit if each organization tries to block access to others.

For instance, by forming a consortium, organizations can share knowledge produced by each other among themselves and also develop rules regarding seeking intellectual property rights. Access can be limited to members and rules for sharing can be enforced. Such collaborative consortiums and networks have proliferated in the last decade particularly in health genomics and biopharmaceuticals. A third party (say government agency) can bring together the organizations to develop such collaboration and manage it.

The vexing question of intellectual property rights is handled in both open source and open innovation in many ways. While both models of innovation are not against intellectual property rights, IPRs are designed with the objectives of furthering innovation and sharing the products of collaboration than to use it to block further development and monopolize rights.

In case of Open Source, GPL or its derivatives are used for this purpose. In open innovation approach, organizations allow patenting the contributions but also ensure that securing intellectual property rights does not harm the interests of other organizations in the consortium or network. Such an arrangement can include a norm that all organizations will not seek intellectual property right protection to data per se and/or will share their data with others on terms that are mutually beneficial in cases where upstream discovery cannot result in commercial products or costs upstream competition are exorbitant.

These approaches have resulted in interesting arrangements for sharing resources. One such arrangement is creation of a “commons”. In regular parlance, we think that resource in a commons is free for all with no strings attached. It can thus be exploited by all and it will be ruined. This understanding was made popular by the famous essay of Hardin on the Tragedy of Commons. But as the Nobel Laureate Elinor Ostrom and others have showed in several cases, communities can collectively and sustainably manage common resources and the tragedy of commons is only one of the possible scenarios.

Collective management and development of commons makes possible not only drawing upon the commons but also contributing to it. Today there are many Commons and methods that facilitate sharing therein. In 2005, a Patent Commons was created by open Source Development Laboratories for furthering Open Source Software development. This Commons facilitates access to patents on some conditions. Not all users need to be contributors or vice versa.


GENERAL PUBLIC LICENSE

General Public License (GPL) or its derivatives are widely used in Free/Open Source Software development and distribution. The GNU GPL was originally written by Richard Stallman of the Free Software Foundation for GNU Project. It assures end users the freedom to use, share/copy, study and modify software.

GPL uses “CopyLeft” so that teh freesoms are conserved whenever the software is distributed, irrespective of changes or additions. A copyleft license mandates that derived software can be distributed only on the same license terms. The GPL mandmates that a distributor may not impoe “further restrictions on the rights granted by the GPL”.

Adhering to Copyleft principle ensures that the work of the programmers who contributed to Linux Kernel development would not be misappropriated and would be available freely. Linux Kernel is made available under GPL. Some software is made available under multiple license, with GPL or its derivatives being one oof them. GPL Version 3 was released in 2007.

The further development of Open Source Software development benefits companies that use Open Source Software or develop them. For example, IBM uses Open Source Software in some of its products and any further development of that software benefits IBM as IBM can access that software without investing on its own. Supporting Open Source Software and such Commons helps IBM to further its business objectives.

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) based in Geneva has promoted Eco-Patent Commons, In this Commons, access to patented technologies in energy and environment sector is provided to any firm or individual under some conditions so that these technologies can be used for developing innovations in finding solutions to global climate change.

In agricultural biotechnology, CAMBIA. An organization based in Australia, has used the Open Source model in sharing technology in agricultural biotechnology. Janet Hope, an Australian researcher, has examined the relevance of open source in biotechnology in her book Biobazaar: The Open Source Revolution and Biotechnology. I have developed a BioLinux Model as an alternative model in plant varieties and seeds, based on open source, and also, in conjunction with participatory plant breeding.

An open source approach has been discussed as a suitable model for drug discovery and development. CSIR’s Open Source Drug Discovery (OSDD) Project is an important initiative in this regard. OSDD is coordinated by CSIR and the contributors who can be anywhere in the world, ranging from students and amateur scientists to top ranking experts. Web-based sharing of results and data and mechanisms to facilitate collaboration and help in problem identification and solving them have made this project a pioneer in this field. If OSDD succeeds in finding affordable and effective drugs for TB that would truly be a remarkable solution to a global health problem.

Innovations from both Open Source and Open Innovation can be made more accessible by licensing mechanisms, patent pools, use of clearing houses and other mechanisms. Patent pools are mechanisms to share patents. Product development is facilitated by mutual sharing of patents particularly when the necessary technology is covered by many patents and are held by multiple firms. These are used in electronics and health sector.

In some cases governments mandate development of such pools so that the country can benefit from technological advancements. The pool mandated by government of USA to share aircraft technology is a classic example. In licensing, there are licenses like Humanitarian Use Licensing that mandates sharing of further innovations and licenses derived from GPL. Clearing Houses bring together technology developers and users and facilitate exchange of technology and help both to share technology for mutual benefit. Thus combining Open Source and Open Innovation models with these mechanisms can facilitate access, and help in innovating further.

While there are many merits in both open source and open innovation approaches, they ore yet to be proven as viable solutions in many sectors. Open Source has proved that it is a viable option in software sector but replicating that in other sectors, particularly where access to materials is necessary, remains a challenge. Today some of these problems are addressed through open access databases, open source programs and software in different fields and by developing pools or shared resources. To sum up, Open Source and Open Innovation exemplify the power of collaboration and sharing and provide alternative models for innovation.


HILKA HAVEN FOR BIRDS

The largest lagoon along the east coast of India, Chilika is a unique assemblage of marine, brackish and fresh water ecosystem with estuarine characters. Fifty-two rivers and rivulets drain into the Chilika. This lake, which is the largest in the subcontinent, varies in its extent in the dry and wet seasons between about 560 and 1100 square kilometres and is about 32 kilometres wide at its broadest.

It has been formed due to the silting action of the Mahanadi River, which drains into the northern end of the lake, and the northerly currents in the Bay of Bengal, which have formed a sandbar along the eastern shore leading to the formation of a shallow lagoon. Spread over the Puri, Khurda and Ganjam districts of Odisha, Chilika is the largest coastal lagoon in Asia.

Chilika Lake is the largest wintering ground for migratory birds in the Indian subcontinent. Considered as one of the hotspots of biodiversity, the Chilika shelters a number of endangered species listed in the IUCN red list of threatened species, and is also a designated Ramsar site, that is, a wetland of International Importance.

Its part freshwater and part saltwater character, very high productivity and the presence of a variety of habitats in and around the lake allow the proliferation of an amazing number of species. The fauna’ of this water body includes fishes and several varieties of prawns, crabs and oysters. Endangered Irrawaddy Dolphins are the other attraction. It shelters the largest population of these dolphins. A few amphibians and reptiles including water snakes are also seen.

The rich fishery resources of the lagoon sustain the livelihood of more than 0.15 million fisher folk who live in and around the lagoon. The total number of fish species in Chilika is reported to be 225. Along with a variety of phytoplankton, algae and aquatic plants, the lagoon also supports over 720 species of non-aquatic plants and a rich diversity of fauna. This list includes a number of rare, threatened and endangered species, including the Barakudia limbless skink.

Chilika is also one of the terminuses on the migratory flyways and some of the largest congregations of aquatic birds in India can be seen here, particularly in winter. It is the wintering ground for more than one million migratory birds. Flocks of migratory waterfowl arrive from as far as the Caspian Sea, Lake Baikal, Aral Sea, remote parts of Russia, Kirghiz steppes of Mongolia, Central and South East Asia, Ladakh and the Himalayas. The species of birds that flock to the Chilika include flamingos, Great- crested grebes, shovellers, pintails, gadwalls, coots, teals, pochards, geese, Peregrine falcon, Sea eagle, sandpiper, herons, and many others.

The year 2002 was a landmark year in the recognition of conservation efforts at the Chilika Lake. Chilika was taken out of the Montreux Record, which was “a record of Ramsar sites where changes in ecological character have occurred, are occurring or are likely to occur”. Due to the improved conditions of the lake, Chilika Lake is the first Ramsar site in Asia to be removed from the Montreux record.

In 2002, the Ramsar Wetland Conservation Award was presented to the Chilika Development Authority for “outstanding achievements in the field of restoration and wise use of wetlands and effective participation of local communities in these activities”.

The Indira Gandhi Paryavaran Puruskar was also awarded to the Chilika Development Authority in the same year for the outstanding contribution of conservation and restoration of the Chilika lake ecosystem.


MICROPHONES

The word “microphone” comes from the Greek words “micro”, meaning mall, and “phone” meaning voice. This word first appeared in a dictionary in 1683, where it was defined as “an instrument by which small sounds are intensified”. Microphones convert sound waves into electrical voltages. They were first used with early telephones, and then radio transmitters.

A variety of mechanical techniques can be used in building microphones. The two most commonly encountered in recording studios are the magneto-dynamic and the variable condenser designs.

The first microphone was a telephone transmitter, developed almost simultaneously by Elisha Gray and Alexander Graham Bell in 1876. This transmitter had a black funnel-shaped mouthpiece, at the base of which was a stretched membrane diaphragm. A metal pin through the center of the diaphragm extended down into the metal cup below.

The cup contained a dilute acid. An ohmmeter between the cup and the pin showed a fixed resistance. Any movement of the diaphragm moved the pin up and down in the liquid and the resistance would vary accordingly. If wires from the pin and cup were connected in series with a battery and telephone receiver, any talk directed into the mouthpiece would produce articulate speech in the receiver.

With the telephone business picking up around 1877, several other experiments were made with microphones. After the magneto type, the next improved transmitter to be put into use was Edison’s lampblack carbon unit, another variable-resistance design. It was more sensitive and reliable, needing adjustment only occasionally. The next innovation in transmitter design was by Henry Hunnings of England who used granules of coke between the diaphragm and a metal back plate. This design originated in 1878 and was patented in 1879. This transmitter was very efficient and could carry more current than its competitors at that time.

In 1886, Edison improved this type of transmitter by designing a small button-type container and using processed anthracite granules. In 1892, A.C. White improved upon this button by using a polished carbon block as a rear plate and a similar block n front against a mica disc, and with the carbon granules in between. Due to the flexibility of the mica disc, it worked like a piston. This button, mounted firmly in the transmitter housing, gave the industry its first reliable transmitter. Known as the Whit “solid-back” type, it was used from 1892 until about 1925.

When wireless telegraphy was invented in 1895, in addition to telephony the microphone found another job-sending speech over radio waves. Back in 1879 and 1881 respectively, Edison and Dolbear introduced condenser transmitters. They were not practical at the time for telephone use but now they were reintroduced with the search for high-power microphones. Between 1900 and 1915, J. Berliner made a high-current carbon microphone that was aircooled by a fan mounted under the microphone. Blondell and Chambers had developed flame microphones in 1902 and 1910. In this design, spark rods in an oscillating circuit adjusted just short of sparking. A flame is adjusted to reach up to the gap. As one spoke into the mouthpiece, the diaphragm vibrated and altered the pressure of the gas supply, causing the flame to change its length. This varied the resistance between the gap points, and sparking occurred in response to its movements.

Around 1915, Western Electric supplied simple “loud speaking outfit”, for very small paging applications and chauffeur-driven cars. After World War I, the radio industry grew by leaps and bounds.

The populace was introduced to “public-address systems” (or sound-reinforcement systems as we know them today). The early radio station used the candlestick telephone for a microphone. With the receiver off-hook, the speaker was on the air. As time passed, the receiver was removed, along with the hook switch and contacts, leaving the microphone “on” at all times. In this case the volume and on-off functions were controlled by the engineer. In some cases the short mouthpiece was replaced with a brass megaphone six inches long. This allowed the announcer or performer to work at greater distances from the microphone.

An unusual microphone produced by Westinghouse was the “Hushaphone” for noisy areas. The radio studio became busy at times with one or two people preparing for a programme. The announcer could talk into this microphone and it would not pick up anything in the background.

Until ribbon types came on the scene, microphones were omni-directional in their pickup patterns. This means they picked up sound from all directions. The ribbon microphones were bidirectional. They picked up sounds equally from front and rear, but little from the sides, top or bottom. Next came the “shotgun” or “rifle” microphone, which was used for long-distance pickups. Dr. James West received a patent, along with Gerhard Sessler, for the electro acoustic transducer, an electrets microphone, which offered greater reliability, higher precision, lower cost and smaller size. The electret microphone revolutionized the microphone industry, with almost one billion manufactured each year. West and Sessler were inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1999. Today you have tie-clip microphones, ear-cummicrophones and minute wireless microphones with a large range that we often fail to even notice.



Last Updated on Saturday, 27 July 2013 10:11
 

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