The celebration of Birthdays

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Birthdays are great. They give everyone a chance to feel special and see how much those people around them love them. A birthday without a cake is so incomplete. But when did this tradition of celebrating birthdays start? Where was the first cake baked? And why do we blow candles? Want to know these answers?  Let’s dive into it….

It was probably the Egyptians who made the first cakes. Cakes were also made by ancient Greeks. Although at that time cakes were not much different from breads. The only difference was that the cakes were sweeter.

It was in the 15th century that the bakeries in Germany created a new tradition by introducing one layered cake for the first time. This marked the beginning of the modern day cakes. During 17th century the contemporary birthday cakes got introduced. These came in elaborated form and design like multilayered, icing and other decorations that gave these birthday cakes a more refreshing look.

However at that time cakes were only available to the richer section of the society. It was only after the industrial revolution, that these cakes became accessible to the lower class as well.

So, now that we know about the origin of cakes lets learn about the celebration of birthdays. Birthdays were celebrated in ancient Greece and Rome. They celebrated the birthday of emperors and great buildings. The common people did not celebrate birthdays at that time. Some historic records say that the modern birthday celebration of children began in Germany in the 18th century. They called it ‘Kinderfest’.But what about the candle that we put on a birthday cake? Where did this tradition originate from?

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To be honest the exact origin is unknown. There are multiple theories which try to explain the origin and significance of blowing candles.    The early Greeks had the tradition of lighting the candles to honour the birth of Goddess Artemis. Lit candles were believed to represent the glow of the moon and the smoke was believed to carry prayers to the Gods.

Candles were also given on cakes in the German birthday celebrations known as ‘kinderfests’. They were meant to fight the evil spirits lurking around. In fact it is this concept of protecting the person from evil spirits that had led to the celebration of birthdays. This is the reason why family members and friends surround the birthday person and try making the person happy, protecting the person from evil spirits. I know that the story is superstitious but the outcome is really sweet right?

It’s just not birthdays, cakes have become an essential part of every happy occasion that we celebrate today and there is a reason behind it.  Eating a piece of cake can actually increase the level of serotonin in our body which makes us feel happier. So it’s quite logical to have cakes on happy occasions but do you know, a research says that blowing a candle on a cake can increase the microbial content on the cake even by 14 times and is definitely not a good thing to do.

Birthdays have evolved a lot through time but the one thing that has remained constant is the amount of fun that it brings with it. So keep celebrating birthdays, keep eating cakes and fill each other’s life with love and joy.

Why does rain smell so good

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We all the love the smell of rain, right? It is so popular that there is a separate word for it, ‘Petrichor’. The word petrichor was first used by two Australian scientists Isabel bear and Richard Thomas in 1964. Some of you might have a vague idea that this smell is produced by some kind of bacteria. That’s kind of true but is it just some rain loving bacteria or is there something more to it? Let’s dive into it.

Australian scientists Isabel Bear and Richard Thomas did many experiments in the early 1960s to find out the reason why rain smells. They observed a yellow coloured oil, present on the soil and on the surface of many rocks during the later part of the dry season. They soon discovered that this yellow coloured volatile oil is actually produced by some plants during the dry spell. It consists of mainly palmitic acid and stearic acid and other smaller compounds. These molecules are further broken down into smaller molecules like esters and these small molecules are the ones which give rain its typical odour. They called it Petrichor.

During the same time another discovery came up that showed that a type of bacteria called the Actinomycetes which are commonly found in soil synthesise a compound called Geosmin during the dry spell. Geosmin is the same compound that gives beetroot its typical earthly flavour and it was said that geosmin is also responsible for the smell of rain.

So the smell of rain that we enjoy so much is actually caused by these two things, Geosmin and the volatile oils from plants. Now the question that arises is, if all of these compounds are produced in the dry season then why don’t we get the smell in the dry season itself and what exactly is the role of rain in this entire phenomenon?

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It was not until 2015 that a research from MIT gave us the answer to this question and showed us how this works. As the rain drops touch the earth surface they form small bubbles. The bubbles contain water from the raindrop and these chemical compounds from the soil. These bubbles give rise to small aerosols. These aerosols then travel through air and finally reach our noses to make us fall in love with rainy days.

Have you ever noticed that a light drizzle after a dry spell produces a much stronger smell that a heavy rain. That’s because a lighter rain produces higher number of these aerosols, as a result causing more aerosols to reach our noses.

Almost every human being loves the smell of rain. Some scientists believe that our affection towards this scent has actually come from our ancestors who relied on rain for their survival. Perfume companies have also used this scent in many products. In fact one of the first perfumes that smelled like rain was produced in India and it was called ‘Mitti Attar’. A lot of things about the smell of rain are yet unknown and we hope to find those answers soon. Until then stay curious and enjoy petrichor.       

Check out this video to know more

The starting of YouTube

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We all are familiar with the story of Facebook getting started in a Harvard dorm. But do you know how the online video sharing site YouTube got started? Do you know that one of the main motivation behind the starting of YouTube was a wardrobe malfunction!!!Sounds interesting right? Well yeah it is.

Youtube was originally founded by Steve Chen, Chad Hurley and Jawed Karim, three early employees of PayPal (Online Payment Company) where they worked along with people like Elon Musk (CEO of SpaceX).The founders originally wanted to start youtube as a dating site where people could upload videos about themselves and their dating preferences. The idea failed to gain much interest and didn’t work out. However the concept of uploading videos at an online platform was excellent and that stood out.

Years later co founder Jawed Karim said that the infamous wardrobe malfunction of Janet Jackson at the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show somehow influenced the starting of YouTube. The founders wanted to watch that video but couldn’t find it online. They understood how difficult it was to find a video of that incident or maybe a video of the Indian Ocean tsunami that was happening at that time. They realized that the internet needed a platform where people would be able to share their videos easily and this was what led to the start of the company.

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YouTube was officially launched on December 15, 2005. Within a year the site was receiving more that 100 million video views per day. On November 2006 Google acquired youtube for 1.6 billion dollars. A year later advertising was introduced into the videos. The sharing of the revenues earned from advertising with the content creator interested many creators to upload high quality videos on YouTube and this marked the beginning of a new era.

YouTube is one of the most visited websites till date with almost 30 million visitors per day. Almost 5 billion videos are watched everyday on YouTube but have you ever wondered what the first video to be uploaded on YouTube was?

The first ever video on Youtube was uploaded by co founder Jawed Karim on April 24, 2005. It is a 19 second video named ‘Me at the zoo’ and can still be viewed on Youtube. So just go and check it out right now.

The first video to be uploaded on youtube

How permanent tattoos work

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Tattoos might have become trendy in the last few decades but the practice of having decorative skin markings started way back in 6000BC .

But have you ever wondered how these tattoos last lifelong even though we shed almost a million skin cells per day?

The simplest explanation would be that the ink penetrates to the dermis layer that is a layer beneath the epidermal layer from where the dead cells shed off. Apparently it may look as if tattoos are just ink saturated skin cells but the reality is a little more complicated.

It is actually the immune system of our body that makes tattoos permanent and the existence of such an art form possible.

The tattoo artist pierces a hole in the recipient’s skin and the ink is drawn down into the dermis by capillary action. Our body however recognises it to be a wound and starts its immune response. Special cells of our immune system known as macrophages start engulfing the foreign particles (the ink globules).Some of these ink particles are also engulfed by the skin fibroblasts. Most of these macrophage cells containing ink remain in that place for long time unable to clear them due to the large size of the ink globules. As a result the ink particles remain in that location making the tattoo permanent. But what happens when these cells die?

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A study says that when these immune cells die they release the ink particles in the dermis just like the time we got the tattoo. Those ink particles are then again engulfed by new macrophages and the cycle continues. However after a few years the tattoo starts fading away due to gradual degradation of the ink particles.

The process of removal of tattoo by using laser beam works in a similar way. The laser beam breaks the large ink globules into smaller fragments which are then cleared by macrophages. The process however is painful, depends on the colour of the ink and can even lead to other complications. Removing a tattoo is actually more difficult than getting one. So take a moment to think… before you ink!!!        

Check out this video to know more