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Sunday, 24 April 2011

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Educating schoolchildren about aviation

The importance of teaching aviation to school children and introducing an aviation degree into the university curriculam was highlighted by the Minister of Civil Aviation, Minister Priyankara Jayasekera recently.

He said that as there was a severe dearth in experts in the field today, the time has come to pave the way to produce more experts in the industry by introducing the subject to the younger generation.

The Minister said that he has already forwarded the proposal to introduce a degree on aviation at the universities to the Minister of Higher Education S.B Dissanayake with the aim of educating the students as early as possible.

Referring to the Ministry's newly launched website 'Guwansara' Minister Jayaratne said the objective of launching the website was to familiarise students on travel and aviation.

He added that there will be a great demand for more professionals in the future as the Government has taken measures to upgrade the existing airports in various ways such as by improving runways to facilitate the landing of all types of international aircraft. Steps have also been taken to open a second international airport at Maththala to increase the number of flights and destinations,he said.

The Minister pointed that once the aviation degree is introduced students could serve the country's aviation industry after they obtained a degree at the university .

He said that the education authorities should focus special attention on educating schoolchildren on aviation because they would be called upon to play a key role in the industry in the future as experts.


Beware of drinking bottled soft drinks exposed to strong sunlight

With three child deaths already reported in just two months-February and April,following the consumption of bottled soft drinks, the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) has warned the public to be cautious especially when consuming soft drinks exposed to sunlight.

The Chief Medical officer of the CMC ,Dr.Pradeep Kariyawasam has highlighted the risk factor in drinking bottled soft drinks that have been kept out on the pavements outside of shops by some vendors,exposed to the strong sun.According to him there is a possibility of harmful chemical substances forming in these soft drinks when the exposed bottles react to the sunlight.

This could lead to health hazards which could be even fatal especially for young children.

He said that it is against the Food Act to leave food exposed to the elements and stern action would be taken against vendors who violate the act in the future.

Children need to be cautious about the type of drinks they buy to quench their thirst as some of the drinks available in the market today,especially in wayside boutiques may not be up to required standards.


Beetle foot pads may inspire novel artificial adhesives

The arrays of fine adhesive hairs or 'setae' on the foot pads of many insects, lizards and spiders give them the ability to climb almost any natural surface. Research by James Bullock and Walter Federle from the University of Cambridge in England found that the different forces required to peel away these adhesive hairs from surfaces are what allows beetles to adhere to diverse surfaces, thereby reducing the risk of detachment.

Their study, published in the Nature of Science, reports the first adhesive force measurements from single microscopic setae in a live animal.The adhesive hairs on the feet of leaf beetles are known to take three distinct shapes; pointed, flat (spatula-tipped) and disk-like. They are arranged in specific patterns across the beetle's feet, indicating different biological functions for each hair type.

Given their small size (only 1/200th of a millimeter across), there existed no way to determine their individual properties. Bullock and Federle therefore devised a method for measuring the processes of stickiness of each hair using a fine glass cantilever. By observing the deflection of the cantilever through a microscope, the force needed to detach each hair was calculated.

Results in male beetles showed that the disk-like hairs adhered with the highest force, followed by spatula-tipped and then pointed hairs.

Disk-like hairs were also stiffer than either flat or pointed hairs, likely providing stability to the pad.

Bullock and Federle suggest that it is these disk-like hairs in particular which allow male beetles to achieve strong adhesion on smooth surfaces.

Before these natural structures can be replicated as synthetic adhesives, a better understanding of their detailed function is needed.

The authors conclude, "The question of how forces in natural adhesive systems run from the single-hair to the whole-animal level is a central, unresolved problem. Its understanding will be a prerequisite for the design of bio-inspired synthetic adhesives.


Promoting dental health through art


Two drawings from the Under 5 and Under 8 years categories

With the objective of promoting dental health care among children the doctor-in- charge of the Maharagama Oral Health Institute, Dr. Prasanna Jayasekera had organised a special art programme for children under 10 years who come to the institute for treatment, with the assistance of a veteran art teacher, Lalith Gunathilaka.Art therapy is the method used at the institute not only to eliminate the fears of children who come there for dental care, but also to educate and train them on good dental care habits.

Nearly 400 children below 10 had participated in this programme and the best 150 drawings had been exhibited at the institute recently. All the participants were rewarded with gifts and certificates.

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