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The Beginning of The Universe

As we all know, the universe started from a Big Bang about 13.7 billion years ago. The Big Bang theory states that the universe started from a “singularity”, a point where space and time came into existence. This point of origin was hot and dense. Theoretically time came into existence at 5.39 * 10^-44 seconds, which is known as the Planck’s Time: the smallest unit at which time can exist. At the Planck’s time all four fundamental forces (gravity, strong force, weak force and electromagnetic force) were combined into one unified force.

Between 10^–43 seconds to 10^–36 seconds gravity separated from the unified force and this released energy. Furthermore, the strong nuclear force separated from the unified force between 10^–36 seconds to 10^–32 seconds and this triggered for the universe to go under an exponential expansion known as cosmic inflation. The following image illustrates the expansion of the


This image illustrates the expansion of the universe from a singularity. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Moreover, the electromagnetic and weak forces are separated at 10^-12 seconds. The separation of the four fundamental forces released a lot of energy. The following image illustrates the separation of the four forces.

Four forces

One strong unified force is separated into four fundamental forces at the given times and temperatures. Source: Wikimedia Commons

The energy released form the four forces was converted to matter (Energy=mc^2 where m is mass and c is speed of light) and antimatter. Matter and antimatter was continuously created and through collisions being destroyed. At the end there was a small excess of matter over antimatter.

Then the temperatures were cooled and matter stopped being produced. The universe became a thick dense fog consisting of mostly hydrogen and some helium and lithium.

The universe is expanding even today. The most important proof for the expansion of the universe is that distant galaxies are moving away for us. The only thing expanding is space itself, the space between us and other galaxies is increasing.

The following video complements what I have stated.YouTube Preview Image

Naqsh Fatima Bhangu


“Turbocharged” Photosynthesis – Wait what?!

Plants convert the sun’s energy into food. Source: Wikipedia Commons

Photosynthesis is a process that plants and other living organisms use to convert carbon dioxide, water and light energy into food. Sounds pretty amazing, right? But that’s only the start.  Photosynthesis single-handedly supplies all the organic compounds and nearly all the energy that is needed for life on Earth. Simply put, without photosynthesis we would not be alive today. In recent years, a question that has often been asked is whether photosynthesis can be tweaked such that the process becomes faster and more efficient.

-Click here for all the intricate details of photosynthesis! Also, the process is illustrated nicely in this short animated film:

YouTube Preview Image


Micrograph of a cyanobacterial species; Synechococcus elongatus. Source: L.A. Sherman and D.M. Sherman, Purdue University

Crucial to photosynthesis is an enzyme called Rubisco. This enzyme is required in the conversion of carbon dioxide to sugar. However, the Rubisco found in plants is inefficient. And so, a team of American and British biologists came up with the idea to “borrow” genes for Rubisco from a cyanobacterial species, called Synechococcus elongates, and genetically engineer them into plants. Formerly known as blue-green algae, cyanobacteria specialize in photosynthesis. Consequently, researchers claim that by meddling with Rubisco in crops, photosynthesis can increase in efficiency by up to 60%.


In the aforementioned experiment, published in Nature, the team of researchers transferred bacterial genes and proteins, including Rubisco, into the tobacco plant, Nicotiana tabacum. As a result, this new hybrid plant could convert carbon dioxide to sugar faster than normal strains of the tobacco plant. When asked how her team of scientists was able to accomplish this feat where other teams had failed before, biochemist Maureen Hanson at Cornell University pointed to the fact that her team also transferrd additional proteins to assist the foreign Rubisco.


A bacterial enzyme was delivered to a sample of Tobacco Plant; Nicotiana tabacum. Source: Rothamsted Research

With crop production technology being a hot field of research, the implications of this study are immensely important. While human population continues to increase at staggeringly fast rates, there are continuously more mouths to feed. “Hacked photosynthesis” may be one way to alleviate the looming problem.

You may be wondering… when will these super-efficient plants be in crop fields near you? Not as soon as you might think. While turbocharged photosynthesis works great in theory, in reality there are a few setbacks. One issue is that cyanobacterial Rubisco has a tendency to react with oxygen. Bacteria deal with this problem by incorporating a protective capsule, called a carboxysome, to ward off oxygen. However, plants lack this defensive shell and so the tobacco plant with bacterial Rubisco wastes significant amounts of energy. Naturally, scientists are currently working on ways for plants to create structures resembling bacterial carboxysomes.


‘Turbo’ photosynthesis could redefine the way we farm crops. Source: Flickr commons, Uploader: Appe Plan

All in all, while the process of turbocharged photosynthesis has yet to be perfected, this scientific finding is a great leap in the direction of higher-yielding and faster-growing crops.

-Imran Mitha