When the first light rain falls on the parched soil surface after dry spell of weather, the soil releases an fragrant aroma which is like magic to humans. This magical aroma has been described by many writers. So much for the feeling and aroma. But what is actually happening to create this magic.
Scientists have a explanation for it. Two Australian scientists in 1964 coined the term “PETRICHOR” for it. The word is made by shortening the two words “PETRA” meaning “ROCK” and “ICHOR” the fluid which flows in the veins of gods.
In fact soil which is mainly clay has many chemical compounds which are released by many tiny plants trapped in its lattice. These are volatile oils predominately stearic acid and palmitic acids which are fatty acids with long chain carbon structure with acid group on one end and methyl group on the other.
Also there is a chemical called “GEOSMIN” released by a soil bacteria called “ACTINOMYCETES”. Geosmin is a organic cyclic compounds with sweet smell and human nose can detect its smell down to 5 parts per trillion concentration in the air.
If the rains are accompanied by lightening and thunder, oxygen and nitrogen molecules in the air are broken down to oxygen and nitrogen radicals and recombine to form NITROUS OXIDE and OZONE. Ozone also contributes to the aroma.
So in nutshell the substances which are responsible for the aromatic earthy smell are vegetable volatile oils, geosmin and ozone.
When the rain water seeps through the soil, it enters the lattice spaces and displaces these substances out. The smells are stronger when rain is not heavy.
Note: These images are taken from Wikipedia.
The term halcyon days usually refers to the past times in one’s life when there a calm, happiness or successful period.
The term derives from the Latin word Alcyone who in mythology was daughter of Aeolus and wife of Ceyx. Her husband died during his shipwreck. The grief stricken Alcyone threw herself into the sea. After that both were transformed into halcyon birds identified as Kingfishers. For example the biological name of the white throated kingfisher is Halcyon smyrnensis.
When the birds made their floating nest on the sea, Aeolus restrained his winds and their was a period of calm of 14 days at the winter solstice, so that the eggs hatch into chicks and become birds.
The word halcyon comes from “Hals” meaning “sea or salty” and “kyon” meaning “to conceive” meaning to conceive in sea.
White throated kingfisher is a very beautiful bird. It is quite common in our area. Although going by its name, it is mainly a fish eater but it has modified its eating habits. It can catch insects, small rodents and lizards. That is why it can be found sitting on trees in the fields away from the water bodies.
Here are some pictures taken by me.
One day I was going for early morning walk in the woods. It was all quite and only sounds you heard were that of birds. Most of the trees are old and dry in the jungle. As I was walking, I heard the pecking of the dry wood. On zeroing on the source of the pecking, I saw a very small object almost resembling the color of the wood, creeping along the branch of a tree. It was pecking the bark with its beak. Meet the Brown Capped Pygmy Woodpecker.
As the name suggests it is pygmy. It just is 13 cm in size and weighs 13–17 grams. Today I saw a dry tree where a Chestnut shouldered Petronia was sitting and making sounds. As I neared for taking its photographs, I noticed the woodpecker also there. There was a standoff between them. On close observation, I noticed two holes in the tree and understood that whole tiff between them was to occupy the holes. It seemed though that woodpecker family occupied it earlier.
I could take some pictures.
DNA decoding is a powerful technique. It is a molecular level investigation tool about the life. It has helped the life scientists to say with confidence that at the molecular level, all life is identical to 99.9%. The remaining 0.1 % is all which is responsible for the vivid diversity of life.
According to one report, Neanderthals, our distant cousins, used natural drugs to alleviate the pain and diseases. 50000 years ago, they were depending on the natural cures. The ancient fossil of jaw had been studied genetically and it has been found that genetic material collected from the plaque of teeth belonged to oral bacteria and leaf pieces of medicinal compounds.
They have found methanobrevibactor which indicates abscess. These bacteria damage the teeth and cause severe pain.
Also DNA material belonging to the bacteria Enterocytozoon bieneusi. These are intestinal bacteria and cause diarrhoea.
Populus trichocarpa Popolar tree pieces which contain salicylic acid which is an ingredient of aspirin the pain killer. It would have been effective against the pain in abscess.
Penicillium rubens are food fungus and source of medical penicillin. This natural antibiotic would have been effective against gut parasites.
Most of the material has been published in the Times of India newspaper.
There are always pros and cons in the use of many things. Like drinking water. How much is optimum? There are so many answers to it. Some say one should drink 8 glass daily while some say that body itself will tell you when you need to have water. But one thing has been established beyond doubt that drinking water is good for health.
Similarly, there are many schools of thought about Smartphones. Now there are some theories about how to keep our smartphone in good health.
Following are Seven observations which are nowadays considered myths.
- Task killers help speed up the smartphone.
- Overcharging damages the phone battery. (Except heating the machine if kept covered)
- Only use charger that comes with it.
- More megapixels translate into better quality images and videos.
- Multi core processor smartphones are faster.
- Scratch guards are necessary to avoid scratches on screen.
- Android phones are packed with viruses and malawares
It is a very small sized bird. It is immediately noticed by its greenish yellow colour plumage with its whitish breast. But most prominent feature is the white rim around its eyes. The bird is widespread in Asia. Both sexes are alike in appearance.
It is very timid and restless bird. It mostly resides in the thick branches where it hides itself. It eats insects which are deposited on the leaves. It also eat the nectar of some flowers.
It is either hiding in the shade of branches or is so restless that it takes great patience to take good photographs. Only when it comes in open momentarily for few seconds is the your chance to take good pics.
There is a bush in the herbal park in Panchkula, which has its leaves covered with insects larvae and deposits. These birds gorge themselves on these insects and it was here, I could manage to take some good pictures.
Indian Roller or Neelkanth is a beautiful bird. It is seen here in the north india from summer and till winters. Usually one can spot the bird sitting on the transmission lines passing over the fields or on the top of trees like mangoes.
It sits at one place for a long periods of time. It swoops down to catch insects like beetles or grasshoppers. It is not easily scared when you take pictures.
The bird is about 26–27 cm long. It is similar in appearance to European rollers which are also here during summer. The difference is that breast is brownish and not blue as in the European Roller. The crown and vent are blue. The primaries are deep purplish blue with a band of pale blue. The tail is sky blue with a terminal band of Prussian blue and the central feathers are dull green. The neck and throat are purplish lilac with white shaft streaks. The bare patch around the eye is ochre in colour. The three forward toes are united at the base. Rollers have a long and compressed bill with a curved upper edge and a hooked tip. The nostril is long and exposed and there are long rictal bristles at the base of the bill.
The bird is associated with Lord Shiva in Hindu mythology and is considered to be a good omen if it is seen on Dusshehra or Diwali.
General morphology of a bird is given below
During my visits to the fields or open areas near my residence, I have come across this bird many times and have taken quite a few pictures.