Plus & Minus

“A weekly column: Plus&Minus will be published in Hindustan Times, Jaipur Live. This will speak to the ordinary reader on contemporary economic issues in a simple format”.

    Science Offers a Ray of Hope
    Hindustan Times Jaipur Live, September 28, 2009

By Pradeep S Mehta

First of all a Happy Dusshera to all readers from me! Considering the festival season, rather than write about current affairs, today I will speak about three science and technology stories, which were reported last week, that can change how the future will evolve for mankind.


The world has been struggling for over 25 years with finding a cure for AIDS, but efforts have not been successful. Fortunately, an experimental vaccine has for the first time cut the risk of infection in a ‘breakthrough’ against the deadly epidemic. The success was reported from Bangkok, Thaliand, which was once considered as the one of the most AIDS-infected countries in the world, due to the commercial sex industry there.

Reportedly, the vaccine, developed by the US Army and Thailand’s ministry of public health, has reduced the chances of being infected by almost a third. The experiment was carried out on 16,000 volunteers. The test vaccine was a combination of two older drugs that had not been successful in reducing infection on their own. Researchers are now evaluating as to how the combination worked. Commercialisation will take time, but a new hope has been generated to be able to control the mortal disease.


A futuristic American scientist, Ray Kurzwell, has predicted that man could become immortal in as little as twenty years time through the use of nanotechnology and better understanding of human body mechanism.

“I and many other scientists now believe that in around 20 years we will have the means to reprogramme our bodies’ stone-age software so we can halt, then reverse, ageing. Then nanotechnology can let us live forever” writes Kurzwell in The Sun.

Nanotechnology is the study of control of matter on an atomic and molecular scale, dealing with structures of the size of 100 nanometers or smaller. It has the potential to create many new materials and devices with wide ranging applications, such as in medicine, electronics and energy production. Being a frontier area of research and development, it does raise some concerns about the toxictiy and environmental impact, including doomsday scenarios.

Among other such areas of new developments, genetically modified food too has many supporters and detractors.

But whatever may happen in terms of a human being achieving immortality, and if it really happens, it will raise large number of questions of morality and governance. Even if we reconcile to the moral issues, such as the incremental acceptance of cloning, the issues of governance will be mind boggling. Imagine having a dictator or whatever forever.


India’s unmanned mission to Moon has confirmed the existence of water. It is not as if there are lakes or ponds or puddles of water but the presence of molecules of water and hydroxyl (hydrogen and oxygen) that interact with molecules of rock and dust on the top surface of the moon, but in areas around the poles. This discovery will be further researched by the Americans which will crash a large space craft on the moon which will try and detect water.

This discovery opens up the possibility of finding life forms on the moon among other endeavours. For one human beings can be settled there in colonies. However, like the work going on in our own Antarctica continent, it will be divided among all powers which can stake a claim by sending their own manned spacecrafts.

These three stories tell us that the human race is alive, kicking and evolving.

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