Gear Up For Yoda Like Lightsaber With Real Beams

Loved to fast forward to the lightsaber duel portion of the film in the Star War franchise? Well, US researchers have figured out a way to create a lightsaber that can be seen with the naked eye. Let’s see how they did it. Meanwhile, May the force be with you!

Crux of the Matter

Brigham Young University’s holography group has found a way to create lightsabers – green for Yoda and red for Vader – with actual luminous beams.

The team created virtual stick figures that walk in thin air. They showed the interaction between their virtual images and humans in the film.

A student placed a finger in the middle of the display and the same stick finger walked along and jumped off that finger.

This is not like the movies, where the lightsabers or the photon torpedoes never really existed in physical space. These are real, and if you look at them from any angle, you will see them existing in that space.

Dan Smalley, professor at BYU

3 years ago they had created optical trap displays by trapping a single particle in the air with a laser beam. The particle moved around and left behind a laser-illuminated path that floats in mid-air.


Dennis Gabor, a Hungarian-British physicist, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1971 “for his invention and development of the holographic method”. The recording medium for early holograms were silver halide photographic emulsions. Read More

Why Is Gain Of Function Research Making News Amidst The Pandemic?

Why Is Gain Of Function Research Making News Amidst The Pandemic?

Since the onset of Covid-19 pandemic, the scientific community is debating regarding the transparency of virus research. This is specifically regarding the federally funded research that involves making pathogens more deadly or more transmissible for research purposes. But is it worth it if it can risk the public health in case it escapes the lab environment? How do we make it more ethical? Let’s first understand the basics of Gain of Function research for this.

Crux of the Matter

What Is Gain Of Function?
GoF is a study that involves creation of pathogens with additional functionalities than occur in nature. This could even lead to creation of pathogens that are more transmissible and deadlier.

Why Would We Do That?
It is performed to understand the way in which a pathogen adapts to environmental pressures. This allows disease control measures to be better planned, and potential vaccines to be explored. Also research on bio-weapons and vaccines is carried out in case a malicious entity weaponises such pathogens.

Controversy With GoF
In 2012, a team worked on a paper, Airborne Transmission of Influenza A/H5N1 Virus Between Ferrets for genetically modifying H5V1 virus by creating a strain that was airborne in ferrets. This demonstrated that it was possible for the avian influenza virus to become transmissible in air and that the strain was sensitive to certain antiviral drugs.

Research Stopped
 The possibility of an accidental or intentional malicious release of such a virus caused the US to halt funding for GoF research relating to influenza, SARS, or MERS in 2014.

Research Restarted
In 2017, National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity concluded that very few such experiments posed a risk to public safety. So the ban was lifted and White House developed an ethical analysis white paper.

What’s In The White Paper

Transparency In Research
In such analysis, expert-panel members are not publicly available, nor are its reviews of study proposals.

We’re not trying to say the policy is wrong, we’re trying to say the policy is ambiguous

Marc Lipsitch, Harvard epidermiologist

Unknown Origins Of Covid-19
There have been theories about Covid-19 causing SARS-CoV-2 emerging as a result of Gain of Function research. That’s because the pandemic started in December 2019 in Wuhan, China, which also houses the Wuhan Institute of Virology, that conducts research on bat coronaviruses. Till date, we don’t know if Covid-19 originated in the wild or in the lab.

  • The word Pathogenic came into existence in 1852 and the word Pathogen was derived from ‘Pathogenic’ during the 1880s. In Greek, the word Pathogenic means “origin of suffering“.
  • Antonie van Leeuwenhoek invented the first microscope in the 1600s. It was a single lens microscope made with a very small glass ball lens. With the help of that microscope he then rediscovered the red blood cells and Spermatozoa.
  • Fungi’s medicinal significance was discovered in 1928 by Scottish bacteriologist Alexander Fleming. Fungi can also be eaten; for example, certain mushrooms, morels, and truffles are considered epicurean delicacies, and mycoproteins (fungal proteins) obtained from the mycelia of some fungi are used to produce high-protein foods.

Indian Startup Detects Early Stage Cancer With A Blood Test

Indian Startup Detects Early Stage Cancer With A Blood Test

A specialised molecular diagnostic startup, Tzar Labs along with Mumbai-based Epigeneres Biotechnology, has made a breakthrough in early-detection of cancer. Let’s see how they did this by using just a simple blood test on the given subjects.

Crux of the Matter

What Is Its Accuracy?

The discovery enables the detection of early stage cancer and the stage of the disease from a simple blood test with virtually 100% accuracy.

As per Tzar

Has A Trial Been Done?
Yes. A clinical study on detecting cancer of 1000 subjects has been conducted and a peer-reviewed paper by the startup Tzar has been published in Stem Cell Reviews and Reports (SCRR).

How Did They Do It?
The tech can detect organ-level RNA mutations directly from the blood. They researched on marker genes and found the key indicators of cancerous conditions at the molecular level.

What Is The Test Called?
The test is called the HrC test.

We can also safely rule out the risk of cancer for the following year if your HrC marker falls in the safe zone. We envisage a world where one needs to do the HrC test once a year, and we will catch cancer either at stage 1 or prior.

Ashish Tripathi, CEO of Tzar

How Deadly Is Cancer?
The disease accounts for one in every six deaths worldwide, as per the American Cancer Society. It kills more people every year than HIV-AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined.

What Are The Numbers?
In 2017, an estimated 17 million cases of cancer were diagnosed, and 9.5 million people died of the disease. By 2040, the figures are expected to reach 27.5 million new cases and 16.3 million cancer deaths.

Leading Cancer Case Types In India

Indian States With Highest Cancer Prevalence

  • Mumbai-based nanotech scientist Vinay Kumar Tripathi and his family are majority shareholders in both companies. Tripathi’s youngest son is the best-selling author Amish Tripathi, best known for the series Shiva Trilogy. 
  • James P. Allison and Tasuku Honjo won the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine “for their discovery of cancer therapy by inhibition of negative immune regulation”. Their work was around cancer immunotherapy, which has been used as an alternative for surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.
  • The Indian Cancer Research Centre was established in 1952. It then got combined with The Tata Memorial Hospital which is now more popularly known as the Tata Memorial Centre.

Where Can We Expect India’s First Lithium Refinery?

Where Can We Expect India’s First Lithium Refinery?

For its lithium battery needs, India was relying on imports from China, Hong Kong, and Vietnam over the years. So India’s discovery of local lithium deposits in Karnataka has stirred considerable interest this year. Let’s see the progress on the plans of India for the very first lithium refinery, and how it will help us level up in the EV game.

Crux of the Matter

Lithium Deposits Found
The government announced this year that lithium deposits worth 1,600 tonnes were found in Mandya district, Karnataka.

What Does DAE Say?

Unless a proper technology/method is available to profitably extract lithium from its ore, the real benefit of exploration may not be there.

As per Department of Atomic Energy release

Who Is Working On A Local Refinery?
In May 2020, Manikaran Power Limited had announced the launch of a feasibility study, with the help of Australia’s Neometals Limited. To set up a lithium hydroxide refinery in India, they wanted a capacity of 20,000 tonnes per annum, lithium carbonate equivalent.

How Will It Benefit Us?
Manikaran’s director, Jasmeet Singh Kalsi, had said that the proposed lithium refinery would help develop domestic manufacturing capabilities for lithium-ion batteries. This will strengthen India’s push for electric-vehicle manufacturing.

Where Will The Plant Be Set Up?
Gujarat is the tentative location. The state offers advantages like the availability of chemical reagents, gas, good port and road connectivity, and availability of basic infrastructure for the project’s operation.

What’s Next?
The power trading company has reached out to Government agencies for specific support, like Capital Subsidies, Duty exemptions on imported materials, and Tax Breaks to be at par with other global lithium processors.

  • Akira Yoshino created a prototype of the Lithium-ion battery in 1985.  Eventually, Sony along with the Asahi Kasei team led by Yoshio Nishi developed the commercial Li-ion battery in 1991.
  • Lithium is the lightest metal. It is one of the most reactive elements due to its unstable state.
  • Lithium salts are commonly used for psychiatric medications. They are used to treat bipolar disorders and major depressive disorders.

Understanding Plasma Donation

Understanding Plasma Donation

With the second wave of Covid-19 looming upon us, the demand for the plasma of recovered patients has also gone up tremendously. However, many people still have inhibitions about donating plasma. Let’s understand some basics of plasma donation.

Crux of the Matter

What’s A Plasma?
It is a yellow coloured component that is 55% of your blood. Labs separate plasma from blood with special devices called plasma tubes via centrifugation.

Does It Contain Antibodies?
Yes. When your body has fought an infection, the antibodies produced are stored in the plasma. So if you have contracted SARS-COV-2 virus that causes COVID, then fighting antibodies will be present in your plasma.

How Is It Helpful For A Covid Patient?
The plasma taken from a person who has recovered from a disease is called convalescent plasma. Scientists state that injecting a Covid patient with convalescent plasma, from someone who has already recovered from COVID, can help the patient heal faster.

When Is It Most Needed?
Plasma transfusion should be done within 5-7 days of contracting COVID, to help patients with mild to moderate infection. However, it can’t help critical patients on ventilators.

So When Can You Donate?
Donating while you are Covid positive isn’t a good idea as enough antibodies haven’t been generated to kill the virus.  As per FDA, the best time to donate is about 2 weeks after you have completely recovered.

What If The Donor Gets Vaccinated ?
Well, the regulations in India state that a person cannot donate blood for 28 days after getting the Covid vaccine. Thus, blood banks have appealed to 18 to 44 year olds to donate blood before getting the vaccine.

Will The Donor Get Re-Infected With Covid?
With or without donating blood, your antibodies decrease over time. But on contracting Covid again, your body is able to respond and reproduce antibodies within a couple of hours. Infact, many people have donated blood 7-8 times.

Do’s And Don’ts While Donating Plasma:

  • Always carry a hard copy of the Covid-19 negative report within 4 months of the day of donation & your Aadhar Card.
  • Donate only after 14 days of a Covid-19 positive report if the person is asymptomatic or after 14 days of symptom resolution if the person is symptomatic.
  • Women who have ever been pregnant cannot donate Covid-19 convalescent plasma.
  • Person who has received Covid-19 vaccination will not be able to donate plasma for 28 days from the date of vaccination.
  • A person cannot donate if he/she gets rejected for the lack of adequate antibodies in the blood.

  • The protein which gives red colour to the blood is called Haemoglobin (Hb). Present in the red blood cells, it is the iron-containing oxygen-transport metalloprotein.
  • Almost 7% of the human body weight is blood.
  • Blood of octopuses is blue in colour.