28 March 2011

Death of Lavoisier

In our school chemistry classes we all heard about Lavoisier, the father of modern chemistry. At the same time, we heard about French revolution in our history classes. But how many of us were told about the relation between Lavoisier and French revolution? Lavoisier was guillotined (a French method of capital punishment by cutting one's head) at the height of French revolution!
Despite being a scientist, Lavoisier was a member of many aristocratic councils and it was through these political activities he found funding for his research. He also had a Law degree although he never practiced as a lawyer. At the height of revolution, politically termed 'The Reign of Terror', Lavoisier was branded a traitor by the revolutionaries. He was accused of selling watered down tobacco. He had also pleaded for other foreign scientists like Joseph Lagrange when the foreign-born people were being stripped of their possessions and freedom. Jean-Paul Marat, a young man whom Lavoisier had dismissed and who became a leading revolutionary later also took a good part in accusing Lavoisier.
Lavoisier was tried, convicted and guillotined on May 8, 1794 in Paris. The speech given by Lagrange after his death had this famous statement, "It took them only an instant to cut off his head, but France may not produce another such head in a century."

26 March 2011


Have you ever heard this word 'philematology'? It is the science (or art) of kissing! On hearing this, some of us may frown(in front of others), some may look shy, some may look naughty. But how many of us knows that kissing is not as simple a thing as it seems?
Several studies show that kissing is the second most popular method for showing intimacy(First place goes to holding hands). Technically speaking, "A kiss is the act of pressing one's lips against the lips or other body parts of another or of an object." Although the meaning and the way of doing it varies widely among various cultures, it is being observed as a common attribute of all human beings, even in the primitives of Africa and Australia.
Dr. Christopher Nyrop(1680-1733) studied about kisses in detail and authored a book The Kiss and its History'. He identified many types of kisses, although many of them overlaps in nature. Adolecence kissing is common in many cultures which is just a harmless growing up custom. Sexual or romantic kiss is another popular type which in itself varies in nature in different cultures. Kiss of affection is another popular type which is far deeper and more lasting than romantic kiss. It is not just among parents and children, but also among memebers of the same family as brothers and sisters. Kissing is also observed as a ritual in some cultures. E.g. ancient warriors used to kiss their swords before going to a battle. Kissing becomes a part of religious belief when you kiss the floor of a temple or the hand of The Pope. There are many other types like kiss of peace, kiss of respect, kiss of friendship etc that are observed in various parts of world.The licking and grooming behavior shown by cats, birds, birds etc are also considered as a form of kissing.

Biology also has some interesting things to tell about kissing. It says, kissing is a complex behavior that requires significant muscular coordination involving a total of 34 facial muscles and 112 postural muscles! Kissing has been studied in a controlled experiment and the result indicates that increasing the frequency of kissing in marital and cohabiting relationships results in a reduction of perceived stress, an increase in relationship satisfaction, and a lowering of cholesterol levels!

Now that I told you this much about kissing, it is not fair to avoid this warning. In India, public display of affection is a criminal offense under Section 294 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 with a punishment of imprisonment of up to three months, or a fine, or both. So beware!

24 March 2011

Galileo Didn't Invent Telescope

Most of us know Galileo as the inventor of telescope. But actually it was not Galileo who made the first telescope. History says that Hans Lippershey, a Dutch lensmaker made the first refracting optical instrument called telescope. There are also many stories that how he came up with its idea. One among them says, he happened to witness two children playing with lenses and talking how they could make far objects appear closer. There are also rumors that he stole this idea from his apprentices. Anyway, now Lippershey is considered as the inventor of telescope. Galileo introduced a lot of improvements to the instrument and he also own the credit of utilizing telescope for valuable astronomical observations.