Tagged: India

Powering desalination with the sun — in India and New Mexico


Natasha WrightPhoto/Bryce Vickmark

When graduate student Natasha Wright began her PhD program in mechanical engineering, she had no idea how to remove salt from groundwater to make it more palatable, nor had she ever been to India, where this is an ongoing need.

Now, three years and six trips to India later, this is the sole focus of her work.

Wright joined the lab of Amos Winter, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering, in 2012. The lab was just getting established, and the aim of Wright’s project was vague at first: Work on water treatment in India, with a possible focus on filtering biological contaminants from groundwater to make it safe to drink.

There are already a number of filters on the market that can do this, and during her second trip to India, Wright interviewed a number of villagers, finding that many of them weren’t using these filters. She became skeptical of how useful it would be to develop yet another device like this.

Although the available filters made water safe to drink, they did nothing to mitigate its saltiness — so the villagers’ drinking water tasted bad and eroded pots and pans, providing little motivation to use these filters. In reviewing the list of questions she had prepared for her interviews with locals, Wright noticed that there were no questions about the water’s salty taste…

Almost 60 percent of India has groundwater that’s noticeably salty, so later, after returning to MIT, Wright began designing an electrodialysis desalination system, which uses a difference in electric potential to pull salt out of water.

This type of desalination system has been around since the 1950s, but is typically only used municipally, to justify its costs. Wright’s project aims to build a system that’s scaled for a village of 5,000 people and still cost-effective…

Wright’s solution offers an alternative to grid power: She’s designed a village-scale desalination system that runs on solar power. Since her system is powered by the sun, operational and maintenance costs are fairly minimal: The system requires an occasional cartridge filter change, and that’s it.

The system is also equipped to treat the biological contaminants that Wright initially thought she’d be treating, using ultraviolet light. The end result is safe drinking water that also tastes good

Although Wright’s work is currently focused on rural villages in India, she sees many uses for the technology in the United States as well. In isolated areas, such as the ranches in New Mexico where she tested her system at full scale, poor access to water pipelines often leads to a heavy reliance on well water. But some ranchers find that even their livestock won’t tolerate the saltiness of this water.

“It’s useful to install a small-scale desalination system where people are so spread out that it’s more costly to pump in water from a municipal plant,” she says. “That’s true in India and that’s also true in the U.S.”

It’s certainly true in downstate New Mexico. We have beaucoup brackish fossil water in great quantities. Not being used for much of anything, now.

Thanks, Om

Google OOPS! of the month

top-10-criminals-search

Internet giant Google has apologised after Indian PM Narendra Modi’s photos started appearing in the image search results for “Top 10 criminals”.

“We apologise for any confusion or misunderstanding this has caused,” a Google statement said.

Mr Modi figures prominently in the search alongside images of terrorists, murderers and dictators.

Other world leaders on the list include former US president George Bush and Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi.

Other prominent Indians who come up in the search include Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, lawyer Ram Jethmalani, fugitive underworld don Dawood Ibrahim and Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt who is serving a jail term in connection with deadly blasts in Mumbai in 1993.

“These results trouble us and are not reflective of the opinions of Google,” the company said in its statement released on Wednesday night…

The internet firm said the result was due to a British daily which had published an image of Mr Modi with erroneous metadata.

Cripes. Then, they can’t even blame the NSA.

Second day out, Solar Impulse 2 breaks own world distance record


Click to enlargeSetting forth from Muscat to Ahmedabad

The Solar Impulse 2 solar-powered airplane may have only just begun its attempt at a round-the-world flight, but it’s already broken a world record. By traveling from Muscat, Oman to Ahmedabad, India, it broke the Solar Impulse team’s previous record for longest solar-powered straight distance flight between predeclared waypoints.

The 1,468-km Muscat to Ahmedabad flight was the second leg of the planned 5-month journey, which began this Monday in Abu Dhabi. Pilot Bertrand Piccard took the aircraft to an altitude of 8,534 meters and maintained a ground speed of about 185 km/h, landing in Ahmedabad this Tuesday at 11:25pm. He was in the air for a total of 13 hours and 20 minutes.

This latest record-breaking flight also reportedly marks the first time that a solar-powered aircraft has flown in Asia…

The team plans to spend the next four days in Ahmedabad before heading for Varanasi, India.

Bravo! It’s like early days in flight all over again. Including the bit about breaking your own records.

Indian civil servant sacked after 24-years sick leave!

Spock will fix it
WWSD?

The Indian government has sacked a civil servant who went on leave in 1990 and never came back to work.

Urban development minister M Venkaiah Naidu said a case of “wilful absence” had been proved against electrical engineer AK Verma.

Mr Verma had been under investigation since 1992, but had refused to co-operate, the minister said.

Correspondents say absenteeism is a pervasive problem in government-run offices in India.

Mr Naidu said in a statement that Mr Verma joined the Central Public Works Department in 1980.

He had risen to the rank of executive engineer by 1990, when he went on leave.

An inquiry was set up in 1992, but formal proceedings to dismiss him were not begun until 2007…It took a further seven years for the department to reach a decision and dismiss him.

It is not clear whether he was paid during his time off.

A report in 2012 labelled India’s government machinery the worst in Asia.

Schools have also faced problems, with teachers failing to turn up for work in huge numbers…Last August, a state school in Madhya Pradesh sacked a teacher who had been absent for 23 years of her 24-year career.

Between caste system remnants and leftovers from the British colonial bureaucracy, I think India has further to go to be economically reclassified as Developing rather than a Third World nation.

When it comes to investing any tiny portion of my meagre fixed income in the BRIC nations – the only parts that get my attention are China and Brazil.

Hindu Right proceeds with rewriting Indian textbooks

You cannot blame Bhavana Vaja, 12, for telling you that the first aeroplane was invented during the mythical Dvapara Yuga, when the Hindu God Ram flew from Sri Lanka to Ayodhya in India with his wife Sita and brother Laxman in a Pushpaka Vimana – a swan­-shaped chariot of flowers.

By claiming that they familiarise students with India’s ancient heritage, some books printed by the education department of western Gujarat state teach children that aeroplanes existed in India since Lord Ram’s era. And that is just a sample of how religious content is included in science, history, environment, and mathematics books…

The Gujarat government has introduced nine new books this academic year for classes 1 to 12. These books, written by Hindu nationalist ideologues, have been delivered to 42,000 elementary schools across the state free of cost.

Eight out of the nine books have been penned by Dina Nath Batra, founder of the Hindu nationalist organisation, Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti. Batra was responsible for forcing Pengiun India Publishers to withdraw all copies of Wendy Doniger’s book The Hindus in February this year.

Enthused by its success, Batra went on to force two other publishers – Aleph and Orient Blackswan – to withdraw books that he deemed “hurtful to Hindu religious sentiments“.

Good thing we have intellectual freedom here in the United States. We don’t have to confront theocrats like this more often than, say, once or twice a week. :)

Taking a leaf from Batra’s book, India’s prime minister and former chief minister of Gujarat state, Narendra Modi, last week said that genetic science existed in ancient India.

In fact, Modi wrote a foreword in Batra’s books saying his “inspirational literature will inspire students and teachers”…

There is already some talk of changing the school and college curriculum at the national level.

In Indian political context, “saffronisation” is used to refer to the policies of right-wing Hindu nationalist organisations, which, according to critics, are divisive. The term refers to the saffron-coloured robes worn by Hindu sages.

Barely four days after India’s new right-wing government was sworn in this May, Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani, a former TV actress, issued her first statement saying the Vedas, the Upanishads and other ancient Hindu texts should be introduced in the classrooms.

Consequently, in July, a consultative body called The Bharatiya Shiksha Neeti Ayog (Indian Education Policy Commission) was constituted by the Hindu nationalist organisation, RSS and is mandated “to study the present education system and suggest corrective steps to make it Bharat-centric.” Bharat is the Hindi word for India.

And so it goes. In nation-states led and controlled by politicians whose ideology is infused with the supposed benefits of theocracy, school books and laws begin to be distorted a little at a time until the intellectual freedom of thought, speech and education we take for granted as modern standards – are made subservient to religion. Whether it be India, Turkey – or Texas.

India is first Asian nation to reach Mars orbit

India became the first Asian nation to reach the Red Planet when its indigenously made unmanned spacecraft entered the orbit of Mars on Wednesday — and the first nation in the world to successfully reach Mars on its first attempt.

The spacecraft called “Mangalyaan,” or “Mars-craft” in Hindi, which was launched last November, slowed down just enough to reach orbit early Wednesday, securing India a place in the elite global space club of Martian explorers…

The official Twitter account of NASA’s Curiosity Rover — which has been on the Martian surface since Aug. 6, 2012 — tweeted, “Namaste, @MarsOrbiter! Congratulations to @ISRO and India’s first interplanetary mission upon achieving Mars orbit.”

To which MOM’s Twitter account replied, “Howdy @MarsCuriosity ? Keep in touch. I’ll be around…”

Over the next six months, India’s Mangalyaan will study the mineral composition on Mars and also look for the presence of methane, a chemical key to life on Earth.

India has launched 75 satellites since 1975, and its space program has over the years worked on collecting weather data, predicting natural disasters, feeding television and radio stations and also teaching children in remote villages without schools.

“We have seen the report and congratulate India on the Mars satellite entering the orbit successfully,” Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying told a media briefing…This is pride of India and Pride of Asia and also is a landmark progress in humankind’s exploration of outer space. So we congratulate India on that,” she said.

Questions of economics and priorities will be asked – properly – but, congratulations are in order more than anything else. Another standard of modern society achieved by an Asian nation.

An old-timey sci-fi geek like me has to be thrilled.

Thanks, Mike

Row over cow settled by DNA tests


The cow in question

A woman in the southern Indian state of Kerala is set to win a court battle to keep a cow after DNA tests proved it belongs to her, her lawyer says…The woman, TS Sashilekha, had been accused by her neighbour Geetha of stealing the animal.

The acrimonious dispute even saw the cow in question appear in court.

It is thought to be the first time an ownership battle over an animal has been decided by DNA tests in India, where Hindus consider cows to be holy.

The legal battle between the two women began last year when Geetha claimed that a cow in her herd was the mother of the disputed animal…But DNA tests ordered by the court did not match, meaning that Sashilekha will get to keep the cow.

…N Chandra Babu, lawyer for Sashilekha, told the BBC, “It is a rare case and possibly the first of its kind in history. Perhaps this is the first time a DNA test was held on a cow to find out its real owner.”

After the disputed cow was produced in court, Sashilekha was allowed to keep it in her possession – but only after paying 45,000 rupees in securities.

I understand why the court would ask the eventual victor to provide security presumably covering the value of the cow. Hopefully, returned without charges. Another good reason why she is suing the accuser for costs and compensation.

BRICS nations found bank to rival Western-dominated World Bank and IMF

The so-called BRICS countries agreed to form an international development bank with aspirations to challenge the dominance of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa said Tuesday that the New Development Bank will start with $50 billion in capital and $100 billion as a currency reserve fund for liquidity crises…

Still, the BRICS bank, which could add more member nations, represents a bid to expand the influence of the BRICS emerging markets and act as a counterbalance to institutions run by the U.S. and other developed nations…

As developing countries began playing a larger role in the world economy, their leaders repeatedly complained that they have not been given correspondingly larger voices in international financial institutions such as the World Bank and the IMF, both based in Washington. The U.S. typically appoints the World Bank president, and European countries appoint the IMF chief.

“International governance structures designed within a different power configuration show increasingly evident signs of losing legitimacy and effectiveness,” said the official statement signed by the BRICS leaders, who met in Fortaleza, Brazil, on Tuesday. “We believe the BRICS are an important force for incremental change and reform of current institutions toward more representative and equitable governance.”

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chinese President Xi Jinping and South African President Jacob Zuma hammered out some of the final details before signing the agreement Tuesday.

Among the terms are that the bank will be in Shanghai, its first president will be from India, and the first chair of the board of directors will be from Brazil…

Analysts expect that other countries – like Indonesia, Mexico or Turkey – will join the bank over time. Certainly, they and their neighbors have no shortage of conflicts with restrictions important to the fiscal bears directing the IMF or the World Bank.

I doubt anyone expects either of the banks under the thumb of the US [and to a lesser extent, the EU] to modernize, to actively support the developing nations in any goal beyond being a source of cheap labor, raw materials, for Western corporations.