Science is Murky Fun

There is a Park near my house, a lovely park with a Pond in the middle.  Once my 10 year old found a turtle there - in the park, near the benches, not in the Pond.  He rushed home to find a shoe box to house the turtle and while he was consulting on how to hand off this turtle to the Beach Conservation group (my insistence), a lady from the neighbourhood, taking care of stray cats and dogs took him off our hands.

 My head continued to buzz with the idea that these were Olive Ridley turtles, a whole kilometer inland, traveling in the wrong direction instead of going out into the open sea.  I had been on one Turtle Walk, where we direct the confused, newly-hatched turtles, who think the city lights are the horizon they should be heading towards, towards the actual horizon.  I once spotted Olive Ridley in IIT Madras campus, 7 km from the beach!

I was also all warm and fuzzy about my 10 year old's presence of mind, setting up a rescue kit when bigger boys were just standing around yakking or poking the turtle to get a reaction out of him.

A month after this I was showing my 2 year old the algae and fish of various size in the pond.  The lady who takes care of the park had introduced flora and fauna back into the pond in her 6 months on the job. She walked over and warned me about letting my son trample the plants around the pond (which he hadn't) and her concern that less well-behaved boys will take it as a sign that the Pond is approachable and throw things into it.  I complimented her on the fish in the pond and she revealed she had actually introduced turtle(s?) into the pond and the Cat probably got them!!!

I guess I should have remembered Gau did not go on the turtle walk and he had no idea about the specific star markings on the Olive Ridley's back :)  Still, I am glad we kind of helped a turtle escape the narrow, crowded confines of our little pond. And hopefully the cats he meets in his new home don't have a taste for turtle.

Science is a bit like that Pond, murky.  You make assumptions and even prove them acceptably and days/weeks/years later you uncover another fact which basically washed away the foundation of your theory.  I came across today's pick in Nature via Slate.

There was a firmly held and "proven" belief that you eat less than you need, you will live longer  I have actually met someone in the US who prescribed to this theory, eating perhaps 1200 calories a day.  I looked at her stretched skin, prominent bones and extreme control at mealtime and wondered why one would want to live long this way.  This was actually backed by scientific research on Rhesus Monkeys in Wisconcin.  Then the National Institute of Aging in the US started a study with a control group fed normally and monkeys fed 30% less.  There wasn't any discernible differences in longevity between the two groups!

Turns out, the newer study fed both the groups a healthier diet, based on whole grains and low sugar unlike the Wisconsin group which was fed a highly refined sugary diet.  So while the new diet showed the low cal monkeys had better glucose/cardiovascular/lipid profiles, they did not live any longer than the other group.

Eating healthy might just add more life to your years rather than years to your life.  What more could anyone possibly want?

I was attending a fascinating lecture on Oxygen Therapy for MI by Dr Periannan Kuppuswamy.  The gist of the lecture is Oxygen Cycling at 95% has been shown to attentuate MI progression.  In Mice.  They had the protein to DNA link to explain the possible mechanism why this was so.  But the professor also said, unlike Physics or Chemisty, Biology is murky.  You throw a stone into a pond and something happens.  Everytime.  But this may not be directly because of the stone, it may have set off a chain of, unobserved, unexpected actions which eventually give you the expected outcome.  So Murky.  But Fun to explore.

Another lesson from all this is, procrastination is divine.  If I start proving my theory late, I give someone else the opportunity to disprove it before I even get started!  Effective Productivity. :)  That is why, I am 6 days late starting on my papers and final coding for my project.  I will keep updating my progress.

I was in and out of the kitchen in 1 hour today.

Today's breakfast/lunch menu:

Karamani Kaara Kuzhambu
Avarakkai Poriyal
Leftover Rasam
Tomato Salsa-Chutney
Kodu Millet Rice.

At some point, I will post  Meenakshi Ammal recipe for the Kaara Kuzhambu.

10 - 12 shallots
200g baby eggplants
1/4 - 1 cup red karamani, fried dry, cleaned, cooked until soft
1 lemon sized ball of tamarind
1/2 cup coconut
1 tsp jeera
1 tsp fennel
1 tsp pepper
1 cinnamon stick
4 cloves
2 tsp sambhar powder

1 tsp mustard
1 tsp jeera
1 tsp urad dal
1 spring curry leaves

Coriander to garnish
  1. Soak the tamarind in 1 cup hot water, cool, squeeze out juice
  2. Fry the coconut on medium heat in a preferably earthen wok.
  3. As the coconut loses moisture, add the cinnamon and cloves
  4. Add jeera, pepper and fennel
  5. When the coconut is reddish, take the wok off the heat and let it cool.  Then grind to a fine paste along with the sambhar powder.
  6. Slice the brinjal, peel and chop the shallots
  7. Heat Oil, add mustard and jeera.  
  8. When it pops, add urad dal and curry leaf sprig.
  9. Add the onions and saute until translucent
  10. Add the sliced brinjal and fry.
  11. Add the tamarind water and let it come to a boil.
  12. Add the ground paste, karamani, salt and lower heat to a medium low
  13. Cook 8 - 10 minutes until the gravy thickens a bit.
  14. Take off the stove and garnish with coriander leaves.

Quick Cooking Tips:
  1. Most kaara kuzhambu recipes asks you to fry Coconut, Some masala items (Cinnamom, Clove, Fennel, Poppy seeds) and Some ingredients going into making Sambhar powder (Coriander, Red Chilli, Chana Daal, Urad Daal). Each item seperately.  My solution is, frying the coconut on a earthen pot at low flame, adding the masala items to this when coconut is close to acquiring a reddish colour.  Then grind this mixture to a paste along with Sambhar powder and follow the reminder of the recipe. 

  2. If your stove is busy when you are ready to make the tomato chutney de riguer.  Make a salsa.  grind the raw tomatoes, raw onions, raw green chillies, raw curry leaves.  Then make a tadka of mustard, cumin, urad dal in a small wok, pour in the salsa and let is simmer for 5 - 10 minutes until the raw smell fades.

  3. Pressure Cook Avarakkai (broad beans) without any water, covered, along with the soaked dal.  Saves power and time.


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