Case file: Investigating the murder of the blue-point oysters.

Natural Experiments Co. believes in hiring mavericks to solve complex landscape level problems that exceeds the capabilities of ordinary minds.  If you think small, do not bother to read beyond this point.

Advertisement notice:  Do you fancy yourself a Sherlock? Have you lived an unfulfilling life with no challenges?  Join us in our venture called “Natural experiments” where you can enjoy the frustration of not controlling multiple variables of a chaotic wilderness.


  • Requires a candidate who can visualize complex problems.
  • Someone who avoids thinking linearly (all seasoned laboratory scientists are therefore discouraged from applying)
  • Does not forget to carry extra food in the backpack during field trips

Our first investigation will be at a farm spread along the tributaries leading to a bay.

It has been brought to our attention that the local sea food industry has started to suffer due to reducing populations of blue-point oysters. You are hired to get to the bottom of this and find a solution.

Your first task will be to fish for oysters.  We strongly recommend that you stop by the general store at the duck farm that was recently established along the tributaries. Buy yourself a fishing hat.  In order to prevent suicidal thoughts that frequently make pit stops in a scientist’s mind, we encourage you to have a few side stories that have no connection with the actual investigation (such as buying a hat for sampling purposes) to make the experience worthwhile.

After painstakingly collecting dead oysters you observe keenly for anything out of the ordinary. You dissect them and see undigested green flagellates in their intestines, which makes you wonder what incapacitated these oysters from digesting the phytoplankton.

You decide to retreat into your lab to find out if the oyster has developed a disease that perhaps prevents proper functioning of an enzyme involved in digestion of its natural meal. The search for this elusive enzyme is all in vain.  You are playing the part of a dog chasing its own tail.

As you contemplate life and death, you stumble upon a few college students who are studying river ecosystems.  They are discussing how the primary producer species have changed from diatoms and dinoflagellates to small green flagellates.

You just found your lead so you postpone plans of suicide and shift focus to what enabled these small green flagellates, a minority group, to conquer the mighty Riverdom.  They seem like British explorers who had earlier exercised no control over the dominating local populations.  However due to some unknown event they started to thrive and colonize the region dwindling the power of the locals.

You reason out that there must be some factor/s largely contributing to the shift in population dynamics of phytoplankton.

A work station is set up at the duck farm to carry out several tests on river water.  Meanwhile you are oblivious to the fact that you are sitting on the linchpin; the duck farm.

After a few more years of frustration you finally submit your investigation report to Natural Experiments Co. It reads as follows:

Problem: Dinoflagellates and diatoms, the natural diet of oysters, use inorganic form of nitrogen (nitrates).  They toil day in and day out to convert this inaccessible form of nitrogen to an organic form that can be utilised as a source of energy. However after the establishment of the duck farm seven years ago, extensive fertilization of river water by duck manure led to increase in organic form of nitrogen. The low circulating rate in the bay exacerbated the situation. The small and lazier green flagellates exploited the rich organic resources flooding their home to outcompete the sincere workforce of dinoflagellates. Riverdom was never the same thereafter.

Solution:  Give me another ten years to search for one.


Holding On and Letting go

A song written by Haemoglobin – Adapted from Andrew Belle’s song, “In my veins.”

The link to the original song:

Holding O2 and Letting gO2    

Nothing goes as planned.
Everything will break.
O2 says goodbye
In its own special way.

All that you can bind on
And all that you can save
Will leave you in the tissues
But find you in the lungs.

Oh you’re in my veins
And I cannot get you out
Oh you’re all I taste
At times inside of my ring
Oh you diffuse away
Cause I am not what you found
Oh you’re in my veins
And I cannot get you out.

Everything will change.
Nothing stays the same.
And no reaction’s perfect.
Oh and no molecule’s to blame.

All that you can bind on
And all that you can save
Will leave you in the tissues
And find you in the lungs.

Oh you’re in my veins
And I cannot get you out
Oh you’re all I taste
At times inside of my ring
Oh you diffuse away
Cause I am not what you found
Oh you’re in my veins
And I cannot get you out.
No I cannot get you out.
I cannot get you.
Oh no I cannot get you out.
Oh I cannot get you.

Everything is red
It’s more than you can take.
When you catch a glimpse of O2
Breathing, breathing down those lungs
Those lungs, oh those lungs

Oh you’re in my veins
And I cannot get you out
Oh you’re all I taste
At times inside of my ring
Oh you diffuse away
Cause I am not what you found
Oh you’re in my veins
And I cannot get you out.



Communicating A Thought thoughtfully

Unlike my previous pieces, this will be a personal story.

The reason I write this blog is very simple.

I like to study myself.  Call it selfish, but I think I can only be of service to someone else if I know myself.  Writing is a way by which I try to do that. The key word in that sentence being, ‘try.’

I try to discern between what I know and what I do not know.

I fail a lot.

In fact I have been struggling for over a month with a particular concept and how to write it in the simplest way possible.  This is clearly reflected in the lack of recent posts on my blog.  I saved a disappointing ‘draft 18’ today and decided to write this piece instead.

But other than writing I want to do a lot of things.

In fact I have a long list.

You could say I am one of those hopeless romantics who still fondly remembers some of their foolish childhood dreams.  Truth be told, I do not like to openly admit some of them.

But at the top of my list, I want to be an educator one day. I got a glimpse of it this summer and I would like to share my experience.

Working as a teaching assistant for ASSET Summer program 2017 has taught me a lot of small but crucial things; which I will conveniently leave out here.  I want to make this as short as possible.

I learnt, the hard way of course, that for a one hour class you would have spent six hours planning, one minute is enough to change course when a child decides to ask a question that threatens to deviate from the main discussion.

Mental note to keep yourself calm; the child is simply curious and does not know he or she has just disturbed your entire plan.  This experience made me reflect on my own school days and how some of my own questions would have thrown the teachers off guard.  I found myself developing greater respect for them.

Indeed the art of pulling them back to the intended discussion but letting them freely explore their curiosity at the same time is something I hope to learn over time.  I failed ardently at achieving this for the brief time I facilitated classroom discussions.

I made a lot of mistakes due to my naivety and inexperience in teaching.  To top it all, my natural tendencies to doubt my methods and my own knowledge did not help the entire process.  My kids were nice enough to bear with it.

I thank them for that.

I would also like to thank the “Class of Digital Storytelling” for sharing their insights on my poem.  You made something so mediocre seem so beautiful with so many different perspectives. I will always be grateful for that.

The most important ‘thank you’ would be to Utpal Chattopadhyay for giving direction to my thoughts and for addressing the trivial doubts I had.  You treated me like an intellectual equal; an extremely humble gesture on your part.

You also taught a chronic self-doubter like me to muster a little confidence in my own abilities.

I will always remember what you told me in the end.

“I have the utmost respect for women in my life who have tolerated me.”

I was too stunned to react at that moment.  You must know I value respect more than any other virtue.   Coming from you it was a deeply emotional moment for me.

So thank you again; Utpal, my class of “Evolution of Scientific Thought” and everyone in ASSET, especially the TAs, for making my summer of 2017 so memorable in and out of class. I learnt a little from each one of you.

What would be my key take-away from this experience?

The title says it all.

If only they could talk…

From the ongoing series of ‘A Song of Blood and Air’.

Part 1 of the series:

Part 2:

Title borrowed from a book written by Herriot.

This is a stolen transcript from a secret monthly meeting held at an unknown location in the ancient city of Chemidom; ruled by Lord Oxygen.

The purpose of the meetings are to review the intel Homo sapiens have gathered on different citizens of Chemidom city after which the committee assesses risks and comes up with strategies to tackle any imminent danger. 

Time stamp: illegible…

Lord Oxygen:  Sheriff Nitrogen, as you know, patrols relentlessly to keep our kingdom safe. In his recent evening patrol he has brought back a scroll.  Professor Carbon confirms that one of his own kind, Mr. Graphite was exploited to write it by the wretched Homo sapiens. I want all of you to go through it carefully and tell me what you think.


Metal Sodium was peeved by the contents of the scroll.  She was one of the wisest element in the kingdom.

Metal Sodium:  Homo sapiens are utterly foolish.  Is this how they define us?  Look at this chart.  There is no creativity in it.  How would anyone appreciate what we are made of and how we interact with one another in our Kingdom?

An elusive element: Is it not better that they have not yet understood us?  We have a fighting chance in this war against them.

Metal Sodium:  That is true but sometimes I wish they knew more and appreciated us without exploiting us.  Take a look at this.  They have defined oxidation as loss of electrons and reduction as gain of electrons.

The entire committee drew a long breath in when they heard this.  There was a long silence.

On the other hand, Lord Oxygen responded with a smirk.  His Lordship was proud that Homo sapiens coined the reaction using his name.

‘Poor Fluorine,’ everyone else thought but no one said it out loud in fear of Lord Oxygen’s wrath.

Fluorine was better at grabbing electrons than Lord Oxygen but unlike the Lord, he lacked self-control.

“Henceforth, I declare by law that we call it oxidation too, like these nincompoop Homo sapiens,” announced Lord Oxygen.

Metal Iron was the first one to raise his objections.  He reminded the committee that they knew better than to follow the ways of the Homo sapiens.

Metal Iron:  Let me narrate our Kingdom’s oldest lore where we define oxidation better than these nincompoops.

A passionate electron grabber meets a highly spiritual electron donor. After several encounters and missed opportunities instead of giving up they keep bouncing back.  They do not have much in common. Some of them can lead solitary lives for eternity.  However when they do hit it off, they calm each other down and form a stable relationship.

*At this point the human with the stolen transcript laughs and confirms whether he is indeed reading about oxidation/reduction, not an astrological chart.  He turns to another page and finds a chart signed by Mr. Graphite and his exotic Dyes.  The red coloured arrow was used to show an increase in the passionate nature of the element and blue was used to show increase in spiritual awakening.*

Inkedbleh _LI

Graphite & Dye Co. LTD.

The committee agreed on not including other missing elements in case Homo sapiens steal it and realize there are more elements than they thought they knew.

Author’s Note: This piece has no form or structure.  It is a product of absurd imagination with no future prospects for its creator.

Numbers, shapes and the idea of 16,777,216.

I like the number 24.  It seems like a very reliable number, doesn’t it?  You can build a rectangle, a square or even a triangle with it.

Rectangular wall – 2 towers with 12 coins each.

Square wall- 4 towers with 6 coins each.

Triangular wall – 3 towers with 8 coins each.

24 seems like the smallest number that could make a good defensive wall against any enemy. 12 seems like a poor defense and 36 seems too big a number to gather at a short notice during an invasion.

Nevertheless, 36 is a fascinating number; a tall hexagon making its appearance for the first time (the shorter version of which you see in 24 and 12). It may not make sense to you as to why I do not consider 30 as a tall hexagon; you can decide for yourself by building one with the coins you have.

During odd moments of apparent boredom, I try to play with 24. On another note, I have never understood how people get bored.  There are so many places the mind can wander during silent moments.

  1. You can pay attention to the way you breathe which might lead you to notice a pattern but you may also wonder if such a pattern does exist in the absence of your attention or if it is induced by it. Then you get horrified because you realize that you will never know if a pattern exists or not unless someone else observes but can you trust someone else’s observation?
  2. You are alone in your room on a hot summer afternoon and the fan is on. It makes a distinct uniform sound as the blades move.  Some people call this noise.  Is it really noise?  You reason out that uniform sound of any kind cannot be called noise. The latter is a form of sound that serves as a source of annoyance.  If sound is uniform in the sense that it does not increase or decrease in intensity over time and is well within permissible levels, our mind can treat it like silence.  That way you can focus on one thing without getting distracted. Let me justify this by including a personal experience.  You are sitting in your balcony reading a book and you realize it is raining only when it switches from a drizzle to somewhat heavier downpour.  Your mind dwells on it for a few seconds but the realization that it is raining has not completely sunk it.  Once again you are jolted back into reality when it turns into a heavy downpour. This is when you realize that it is indeed raining.  Your mother is disappointed to see that you did not remove the clothes that were hung outside to dry. She blames it on your absent-mindedness but can you really call it that?  I would rather call it single-mindedness.
  3. Once I decided to work out 2 raised to 24 while I was waiting for food at a restaurant. I started with 2^5;32; 64;  128;  (125*2=250+6=256);  500+121000+242000+484000+96;   (200-8)+8000=8192;   (400-16)+16000 which is easier done if I take 100-16 = 84 then make it 384 after which it becomes 16,384. 350*2 is 700 which is added to 34*2(3*2=6 and 4*2=8) to make it 768 and finally 32,768.

1500 + (18*2) is 1536 where 536 is added to 65000 to make it 65,536.  You then move on to 131000 + 72 which is 131072 and from there you move to 260,000 + 2144 which is 262, 144.  By this time you know that it is easier to find solutions whereby you can just magically stitch the numbers together.

When I was new at playing with numbers I would approach 65,536 in a different way.  32,768 to 65,536 would have been 64000+1400+100+36 but over time you tend to skip steps because you become familiar with numbers.  They are no longer strangers to you so when you encounter a 768 you know it needs to become a 1500 and a 36.

Moving on from 262, 144 you encounter 520,000 and 4288 = 524,288.  This is what I meant by magically stitching numbers by first coming up with two numbers, such as 520,000 and 4288 and then knocking out the zeros.  In this case four zeros have been replaced by 4288 to make it 524,288. Congratulations. You just stitched two numbers. 

It is getting exciting because I am close to the number I have been waiting for.


Since 24 is easy to deal with, 524 000 becomes 1,048,000. I encounter 24 again because I have to double 12 (300-288) and then do 600 – 24 = 576; 1,048,576.  My mind is racing at this moment because I just finished that sum faster than any step before; since 24 is the most familiar number to me.

I use a multiple of 24 in the next step since I have to subtract 48 from 200 and add it to 1000 to make it 1,152(double of 576) and I add 2,097,000 to 152; arriving at 2,097,152.

Using a multiple of 24 in the next step would be senseless because I do not want to subtract 96 (i.e. 48*2) from 400 and reach 304.  I could instead do (150*2+4) and reach 304 which I can add to 4,194,000 to get 4,194,304.  In the next step I do 400 – 12 which is 388; hence 8,388,608.  One more step is left to reach 2 raised to 24.


I can use 24 again.

I can do 800-24 (double each number of my previous subtraction of 400-12 to get 776 but since I am dealing with 608 I need to arrange the numbers as follows: 777 and 216 instead of 776 and 1216 (608*2).  This gives me 16,000,000+777,000+216 = 16,777,216.

Needless to say, I had a cold lunch that day.



Estimating 2,000,000,000 BO

From the ongoing series, ‘A song of Blood and Air.’

BO stands for Before Oxygen.

Let there be light; and there was light.

Let there be abundant highly reduced organic compounds in the menu under “hot oceanic soup” for the hungry prokaryotic cells; and there it was.

Let these compounds deplete slowly as a punishment for developing metabolic laziness in these cells.

How dare they stick to such simple pathways for energy production?

Life is about rising to the occasion and evolving from tough times.

Hence the menu started becoming less appetizing; the hot soup getting thinner with time.

But these prokaryotes fought hard and smart against the tide.

Some of them emerged out of the darkness into the light.

We have suffered enough from this long famine. After long deliberations we have unanimously agreed that the Sun is our best bet as it will not forsake us. There is no doubt that making our own food will involve working hard but we need to continue our Strain Name.  Henceforth we shall carry out photosynthesis,” proclaimed Head Chef Purple Green.

Billions of years ago, tiny chefs had started doing something we have never been able to replicate till date.  Making sugar from light.

Millions of years ago, we started engaging ourselves in something we still shamelessly do. Stealing ready made sugar.

What makes sugar; reduced organic compounds so valuable?

Organic compounds are substances with carbon and hydrogen, oftentimes oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus, sulphur, halogens and some metals making special appearances.

The textbook definition of reduction that all of you will undoubtedly know is that greater the number of hydrogen atoms associated to carbon greater the extent of reduction.

It still does not answer why these compounds are energetically valuable.

Head Chef Purple Green is certainly not stupid.  There is a reason why sugar was anointed as the Chosen One.

Picture a a cloud of bonding electrons between carbon and hydrogen. Either carbon is selfish with the electrons when hydrogen atoms are around it or hydrogen atoms are pushovers.  The latter seems more likely. On the other hand Carbon is not selfish when Lord Oxygen is around. They willingly let Lord Oxygen romance with the electrons; literally redefining the phrase romance in the ‘air’.

However some beg to differ and maintain that carbon is very selfish and instead, coerced by Lord Oxygen, into spending lesser time with the electrons.

Whatever the love saga may be, we benefit from carbon’s apparent selfishness around hydrogen atoms.  A denser electron cloud around carbon has lower entropy than a more dispersed cloud and hence reduced forms of carbon are high energy molecules.

If you have lost your way because I used the word entropy, you can refer to an article I wrote a few months back titled, “To know or not to know, that is the question.”

At some point I should stop typing. Your highly evolved nervous system should be able to figure out what Head Chef Purple Green figured out a billennium ago.

Without a doubt, the Award of  ‘Chef of the Billenium’ goes to: Head Chef Purple Green and Head Chef Cyano.

Next part in the ongoing series:

The Iron Throne

Dedicated to Dear Haemoglobin,

Without you, I would not possess the higher cognitive functions that enable me to write this piece in the first place.  Instead, I would probably be under the lens of a mad etymologist; a tiny and ‘cold’ insect. Instead, here I am, typing my way through life because of a small protein like you that requires nothing more than one breath as a time from me.

You are the sole reason for my existence. I promise, I did not borrow that line from a soppy love song.

Once upon a time, when earth was inhabited by single celled organisms with no other form of life to keep them company, there emerged a ruler among them. Lord Oxygen. It took millions of years for Oxygen to overthrow the previously established ‘harsher’ regiments and emerge as the supreme Lord of all of the Earth. It took the same duration of time for his bacterial subjects and other newer and more ‘progressive’ citizens of his land to take a liking towards him. His story is quite an intriguing one; from the iron prison to the iron throne.

When he first emerged, there was widespread panic in the bacterial population. After long deliberations of how to ‘neutralize’ his toxic presence a decision was taken. Clover shaped iron cages were to be manufactured to imprison Oxygen on the run. Anyone who sensed his presence would immediately be granted the authority to lock him up.

Soon, however, things started changing. The citizens of the Land decided they could make use of their captor instead of ‘rusting’ him away in an iron prison.  If they could control his every move, it would aid in the betterment of life on Earth. The animal ‘Kingdoms’ and the realm would flourish under his protection.

Thus it was declared that Oxygen would, henceforth, be on probation. His every move would be controlled and monitored closely.

This was the first of the many ‘bloody’ battles Oxygen won in his accession to the Iron Throne; his release.

What happened next?  How did Oxygen, one of low birth, manage to seize the Iron throne?

Filled with deceit, escapades and necessary mistakes this tale is no short on drama.

To know more, wait for the next post of this ongoing series, ‘A song of blood and air.’

Author’s final note; I will make sure I post before I die.

Next part in the series: