Sunday, 31 January 2016

Could Volcanos in India have Actually Killed the Dinosaurs?

An artist’s perspective of the impact that may have offed the dinosaurs. (Image: NASA)
The demise of the dinosaurs is the stuff of middle school science classes: everybody knows that a massive meteorite crashed into the Yucatan Peninsula, setting off a series of calamities. Tsunamis rocked back and forth across the oceans, a scalding cloud of dust and ash shot outward from the impact site, and secondary impacts from the initial ejecta ignited forest fires far from ground zero.
None of this was good news for the charismatic megafauna roaming the planet 66 million years ago, but it might not have been the only existential threat on the horizon. Halfway around the world, prodigious volcanic eruptions were forming the Deccan Traps in modern-day western India. Over tens of thousands of years, trillions of cubic meters of lava burst onto the Earth’s surface, ultimately covering 1.5 million square kilometers (an area nearly half the size of India) with thick layers of basalt. More dangerous than the molten rock itself was the cocktail of noxious gases that would have accompanied the explosions. Sulfurous fumes were lofted high into the atmosphere, leading to rapid global climate change.

While the scientific consensus still places most of the blame for the Cretaceous-Paleogene mass extinction on the meteorite, the extensive volcanism likely played a critical role. And now, it seems like the two deadly forces might actually be linked. Paul Renne, the Director of the Berkeley Geochronology Center, led a recently published study that used high-resolution argon isotope dating techniques to zoom in on the precise timing of the Indian volcanism. In an earlier study, Renne and colleagues showed that global climate was already changing drastically by the time the Chicxulub crater formed, and that the Deccan eruptions began hundreds of thousands of years earlier.
But they may have gone into overdrive with the impact. The team of geologists found evidence suggesting “that the Chicxulub impact initiated a substantial acceleration of Deccan volcanism within ~50 thousand years,” the blink of an eye in geologic time. They propose that, as the meteorite burrowed into the Earth’s crust, seismic waves propagated outward and downward through the planet, ultimately reconfiguring the magma conduits that fed the volcanoes on the Indian subcontinent.

This re-plumbing theoretically could just as easily have constricted the magma flow and shut the volcanic complex off, but it had the opposite effect. After the impact-induced “state shift,” roughly 70% of Traps’ total volume of basalt was erupted, and with it, the gases that absorbed incoming sunlight. Renne also measured trace element compositions that revealed a consistent depth of rock melting both before and after the floodgates were opened, parrying a critique that bigger eruptions were due to a thinning overlying plate rather than a shock-wave induced re-configuration of the volcanoes’ conduits.

The notion that supercharged volcanism played a key role in offing the dinosaurs is no historical anomaly: all other major mass extinctions coincide with large volcanic deposits. So while the Deccan traps may already have been well on their way to causing a similar die-off, the Chicxulub meteorite caused the perfect storm that changed the face of biology forever.

Taken from: (written by Jeffrey Marlow)

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Poetry - Daisy Town

I saw a cluster of stars above my head
Making a constellation of the book I read
Then I saw, far ahead
A herd of horses, just like on the cover of my bed.
Two were black, the others brown, heading straight to Daisy Town.
Oh, dear! Oh, my!
The horses will munch on the daisies like pie
They will discover the berry bushes
So delicious the berries will be, I think the blame is on me.
Oh, my! Oh dear!
Tell yourself; be calm, no need to fear
But for Mr. Chop’s crops, the end is near.
Okay, think fast! Use your skill, round them up
Gather your courage do not erupt
You need a lasso and a fence
If you do this, you’ll sure get some pence.
You are lightning, you are thunder
You are the greatest god of wonder.
So do it, come on! 3, 2, 1…
Snap, creek, neigh, eek (bug), sigh, pull, stretch, get in
There y’all, yee-ha – at last.
Mr. Chop’s crops are safe
I won a medal, a gold one full of pebbles
But wait! Argh, man. This was all a dream.
Anoushka A., grade 7

Saturday, 23 January 2016

What is the best way to answer a student who says, "Why are we learning this? We are never going to use geometry or Shakespeare in the real world"?

I stumbled upon this brilliant response to the above question at, a website and an app that let you quench your curiosity by reading an array of interesting responses to the sea of questions on pretty much any topic.  This response was written by one of the major contributors on topic of education on Quora with 40 years of experience in teaching with leadership positions.

Richard Muller, Prof Physics, UC Berkeley, author "The Instant Physicist"

I was watching an interview with a well-known actress a few years ago. She was opposing  nuclear power, and made some statements about the aftermath of 3-Mile Island. After she went on for a while, the interviewer pointed out that she got many of her facts wrong. She was indignant.  "This is not about facts," she said. "It's about feelings!"

Many, maybe most people have a similar approach to life. There is a marvelous description of this attitude in the wonderful book, Uncommon Sense by Alan Cromer. Most of the world makes decisions based on feelings, not taking into account thoughtful analysis. Yet nothing conflicts with good decision making as much as giving in to this instinct.
In my mind, Shakespeare and Geometry teach the most essential lessons needed for a productive and successful life. Properly taught, they teach you to think, to take in the evidence, to analyze, and to deduce. My favorite Shakespeare course was taught by Prof. Hugh Richmond at Berkeley; I went to all the lectures (as an auditor) and did the readings while I was a graduate student earning my Ph.D. in physics at Berkeley, but this course was very important to me. Whenever I see Prof. Richmond, I thank him yet again for this course. No course gave me more insight into human behavior. Or about writing and persuasion -- Shakespeare's methods for convincing us of his insights.
Think of Antony's great speech, "Friends, Romans, Countrymen ..." and how he brings a hostile crowd to his own point of view. In what other course would you learn how to do that? Is that a skill that will prove useful in your future life?  Let me ask that differently.  Is there any more important skill?
And it is not just the way that Antony does it. It is the very fact that he does it. Recognize that, and you become aware of an aspect of life that you don't get in a physics or engineering course.
About writing.... Shakespeare sets the standard, not in flowery language, but in vivid language, language that makes you understand what it is that Shakespeare wanted you to understand.  That's why you need to read (or better yet -- watch) the originals, not the short study guides designed to give you the plot and help you with a pop quiz.
Think of what we learn about life and love from Much Ado About Nothing, about how two people who hate each other can change and feel deep and true love towards each other. I can go on and on, and if you had a good Shakespeare course, so can you. Many of the great books are comparably good; I particularly love the Russian novels, especially War and Peace. But I sometimes just sink into Moby Dick and read it again.

Geometry is the class that teaches us about logical thinking, about what it means to draw a conclusion, about the meaning of truth and how we can test it to see if it is correct or false. Most reality cannot be reduced to simple theorems in the way we do for geometry, but a study of that subject shows us that at least some truths really do exist; some speculation is definitely false, and with careful thought and analysis, you can (at least sometimes) tell the difference.

Of course, there is a limited amount you can learn from these courses. They are really meant to trigger a lifelong learning, of logic, of literature, of books and plays, of fact-based knowledge and knowledge of people and persuasion, a lifelong learning that informs and educates. Stick with it for a few decades and you will understand and be able to control and influence much of the world around you.

If the actress I was referring to had studied geometry, maybe she wouldn't have been so cavalier about whether facts matter; if she had studied Shakespeare, maybe she wouldn't have been so cavalier about total trust in the guidance of feelings.

If you are older, and feel that you don't understand the world; if you feel powerless and cheated out of life, it just may be because you didn't study Shakespeare or Geometry when you were younger, or because you just got through them, instead of getting into them.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Pre-Teens & Adoloscence Workshops for students of Grades 5-9

We had the ‘Pre-Teens’ & ‘Adolescence’ Workshops for grades 5-9. They were a part of the interactive sessions where they learnt different aspects of growing up and how to appreciate ourselves and also others.

The session was conducted by Ms.Afshan, supported by Ms.Asra from ‘Ripples – Centre for Enhanced Learning’. More details about the Lead Trainer and her initiative:

‘Ripples - Center for Enhanced Learning’ is a place devoted to the transformation and growth of an individual beyond set barriers. It caters to the needs of the ‘Learning Community’- students, teachers and parents. It challenges and addresses conventional ways of looking at ‘Learning’. All their programmes assist and guide individuals towards discovering new dimensions of learning. Ripples is the sole Authorized Training Center for Pearson Clinical and Talent Assessment (PCTA) in Andhra Pradesh. Ripples’ team was one of the top 11 teams selected at all India level for Indian School of Business’ (ISB) 5th idiya Challenge-Social Venture Competition. They were part of one week bootcamp at ISB’s Hyderabad campus.

Ms.Afshan Jabeen: She is a Professional Counselor, Academic Consultant, Trainer and Dyslexia Specialist. She has been active in the field of education for over a decade. She heads Ripples-Center for Enhanced Learning, a place where she brings new dimensions to learning. She has spoken on various aspects of education for over a decade in International Conferences, Workshops and Educational Outreach Programmes. She has been successfully running, one of its kind dyslexia teacher training programme, ‘Knowledge to Knowing’ She is also Pearson's certified, Master Trainer for Cogmed Coach Training. In 2014, she completed an e-course titled ‘Social Entrepreneurship’ authorized by Wharton, University of Pennsylvania with distinction.