28 Letters

posted Apr 16, 2019, 8:13 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Apr 16, 2019, 8:13 AM ]

The Importance of Reading

Sir, How important is it for children to read from a very young age? How important is it to read to young children? Does it help to read to small children? Does it help with their vocabulary? Reading helps to develop a young child's brain, and in the first six years, children learn at a much faster pace than at any other time in their lives. Also, vital connections in the brain are made very early in life. Perhaps, we may not be giving this a serious thought.

Recently, a report in The Times of India (April 8, 2019) titled 'Read to your kids at bedtime, or they could face million-word gap' caught my attention. According to the report, "Young children whose parents read them five books a day enter kindergarten having heard about 1.4 million more words than kids who were never read to." This "million word gap" could be one key in explaining differences in vocabulary and reading development, said Jessica Logan, assistant professor at The Ohio State University, USA.


Nature's Pharmacy

Sir, Last week, I attended a symposium where the anti-cancer and anti-snake venom properties of a plant were presented. It was a three-year multidisciplinary study, and very thorough. Different parts of the plant were used — roots, leaves, stem, etc. and their component compounds were extracted, identified and separated. Then they tested their effect on cancer cells of different types (breast, lung, prostate) and compared the effect to currently used cancer treatments.

From that plant, a number of different compounds were identified, many having a marked therapeutic use in killing off cancer cells (not all for the same type of cancer, though). More importantly, while standard chemotherapy treatments kill healthy cells, the plant extracts did not harm the healthy cells, but selectively killed the cancer cells (they also reduced the damage caused by snake venom in a separate study).


Capturing a 'Black Hole'

Sir, Imagine trying to photograph an apple on the moon with your smartphone. It seems impossible! But that's what it was like for scientists trying to capture an image of a 'black hole' – a singularity that warps space, time, gravity, matter and energy into a super-dense, extremely hot entity, from which even light cannot exit!

However, an international team of more than 200 researchers unveiled the first-ever appearance of a black hole on Wednesday April 10, 2019. This was made possible through the 'Event Horizon Telescope', an array of eight ground-based radio telescopes forged through international collaboration.


Summer of 1971

Sir, A dozen odd journalists from mainstream Pakistani newspapers were flown from Karachi to Dhaka to get a first hand experience of the Pakistani Army's Operation Searchlight, aimed to curb the Bengali rebellion in East Pakistan. Mostly, the journalists where shown what the Army wanted them to see and report. They were given handouts to reproduce in their respective publications.

Most of the journalists did exactly that. One did not. His name was Anthony Mascarenhas, the assistant editor of THE MORNING NEWS , Karachi. He hailed from the micro-minority community of Konkani-speaking Goan Catholics of Karachi. Anthony was born in Belgaum, Karnataka in British India, and his parents had settled in Karachi where they continued to stay as Pakistanis after Partition. Anthony had a solid reputation of being a honest, hard-nosed Pakistani journalist. He was married to a Pakistani Goan Catholic, Yvonne from Karachi, and they had five children.


Easter Joy

Jesus came to earth,
To show us how to live,
How to put others first,
How to love and how to give.
Then He set about His work,
That God sent Him to do
He took our punishment on Himself
He made us clean and new.