Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Humans have become Taller, Fatter and Older in 100 Years – Study says.

Interesting research on how good food, clean environment can make man grow taller, longer and healthier. Two things that caught up with my eyes are that (1) any change in the body that happened in one generation (say, starvation due to lack of food), would continue to next few generations and it would take atleast 5 generations to wipe off that and (2) a set of food-cum- environment factors can increase the longevity. The first one reminds me of the karmic issues such as dosha or curse coming in a lineage that starts getting manifest in the off springs once after the causative karma has happened and continue atleast for  3 generations thereafter, unless correctives are done. The second reminds me of the long life, our ancestors in our country were supposed to have enjoyed. 'Jeevema sharadah shatam' was the prayer directed at the Sun! The Sun being the primary cause of all that happens on the earth, it is highly sophisticated knowledge that our ancestors have knocked the doors of this primary cause to get 100 years of life. Added to this is the disciplined life style and maintaining a balanced environment. It's no wonder they lived long and died peacefully. Similar research such as the present one must be done on ancient Indian living.

Having said this, I do have a doubt on the universality of this study. If good food alone matters, where does genetic component stand? It may be true that good food had increased life and body size, but that can not be the only criteria for height. For example the prominent sage who comes into my mind when I think of height is sage Agasthya! Definitely malnutrition was not the cause of his height.

There are reports of Denisovans of short stature who peopled earth some 30,000 years ago. The earth was more greener and cleaner and less peopled at that time. But they among others in other parts of the world had lived as short beings in comparison to others. So it must be something to do with their genetic map. The present day people may have been shorter for what they are originally due to malnutrition, wars and population explosion in the last few centuries. Perhaps they are getting into what they have to be originally with increase in better life style now.



Taller, Fatter, Older: How Humans Have Changed in 100 Years

By Agata Blaszczak-Boxe,
Live Science Contributor  
July 21, 2014 08:58am ET

Humans are getting taller; they're also fatter than ever and live longer than at any time in history. And all of these changes have occurred in the past 100 years, scientists say.

So is evolution via natural selection at play here? Not in the sense of actual genetic changes, as one century is not enough time for such changes to occur, according to researchers.

Most of the transformations that occur within such a short time period "are simply the developmental responses of organisms to changed conditions," such as differences in nutrition, food distribution, health care and hygiene practices, said Stephen Stearns, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Yale University. [10 Things That Make Humans Special]

But the origin of these changes may be much deeper and more complex than that, said Stearns, pointing to a study finding that British soldiers have shot up in height in the past century.

"Evolution has shaped the developmental program that can respond flexibly to changes in the environment," Stearns said. "So when you look at that change the British army recruits went through over about a 100-year period, that was shaped by the evolutionary past."

And though it may seem that natural selection does not affect humans the way it did thousands of years ago, such evolutionary mechanisms still play a role in shaping humans as a species, Stearns said.

"A big take-home point of all current studies of human evolution is that culture, particularly in the form of medicine, but also in the form of urbanization and technological support, clean air and clean water, is changing selection pressures on humans," Stearns told Live Science.
"When you look at what happens when the Taliban denies the polio vaccination in Pakistan, that is actually exerting a selection pressure that is different in Pakistan than we have in New York City," he said.

Here's a look at some of the major changes to humans that have occurred in the past century or so.

(Some) people have grown taller

A recent British study, published by the Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in Bonn, Germany, showed that young men in the United Kingdom have grown by 4 inches (10 centimeters) since the turn of the 20th century.
In the study of British recruits, the average height of British men, who had an average age of 20, was about 5 feet 6 inches (168 centimeters) at the turn of the century, whereas now they stand on average at about 5 feet 10 inches (178 cm). The increase can be attributed, most likely, to improved nutrition, health services and hygiene, said the researchers from the University of Essex in Colchester.

In a number of other developed countries, people have been growing taller, too, reaching the world's current greatest average height of 6 foot 1 inch (1.85 meters) in the Netherlands. Interestingly, Americans were the tallest people in the world by World War II, measuring 5.8 feet (1.77 meters), but by the end of the 20th century, they fell behind, and the average U.S. height has stagnated, according to a study by John M. Komlos, currently a visiting professor of economics at Duke University. [Why Did Humans Grow 4 Inches in 100 Years?]

And even in some of those countries where the average height has been rising, the increase has not been uniform. For instance, people from former East Germany are still catching up height-wise with former West Germans after years of communist rule, said Barry Bogin, a professor of biological anthropology at Loughborough University in the United Kingdom. And in some non-Western countries that have been plagued by war, disease and other serious problems, average height has decreased at one point in time or another. For instance, there was a decline in the mean height among blacks in South Africa between the end of the 19th century and 1970, Bogin wrote in one of his studies, published in the Nestle Nutrition Institute workshop series in 2013. He explained that the decline was likely related to the worsening of socio-economic conditions before and during apartheid.
"It shows you the power and the generation-after-generation effects of something bad that happened to your mother gets carried on to you and your children, and it takes about five generations to overcome just one generation of starvation, or epidemic illness, or something like that," Bogin told Live Science.

Unfortunately for those individuals, height seems to improve humans' quality of life and chances of survival. For instance, in the United States, taller people make more money on average, as they are perceived as "more intelligent and powerful," according to one such study published in 2009 in the Economic Record.

Everyone is getting fat

Since the 1970s, Bogin has been studying growth patterns of Maya children and their families living in Guatemala, Mexico, and the United States. When Maya people move to the United States, their kids born here are 4.5 inches (11.4 centimeters) taller than siblings born in Mexico or Guatemala. This likely results from the accessibility of more-nutritious food in the United States, for instance, through lunch programs at schools, as well as better health care, Bogin noted. The Maya kids are also less exposed to infectious diseases, which are less common in the United States than in the countries of the parents' origin. [7 Devastating Infectious Diseases Explained]
But this increase in height comes with a high price tag.

"Not only do these Maya kids begin to look more like Americans in height, but they become even super-Americanized in their weight, by becoming overweight," Bogin told Live Science.

"People are getting fatter everywhere in the world," he said. (In 2013, 29 percent of the world's population was considered overweight or obese, according to a study published May 29 in the journal The Lancet.)
Exactly why humans are getting fatter is currently a question of heated scientific debate. Some researchers point to the traditional argument of eating too much and exercising too little as the culprit, whereas others offer alternative explanations, including the role of genetics and viruses that have been linked to obesity. The issue of excessive weight and obesity gets even more complicated, as many studies have linked being fat with poverty, which goes against a popular association of obesity and wealth.

Interestingly, the Maya kids in Indiantown, Florida, on whom Bogin focused his studies, had the highest rates of being overweight and obese of all ethnic and racial groups in the area, including Mexican-Americans, African-Americans, Haitians and European-Americans. This may have something to do with epigenetics, or heritable changes that turn genes on and off but that are not caused by changes in the DNA sequence. For instance, the environment may have caused epigenetic changes to some ethnic groups that affect how the body stores excessive energy from food, Bogin said.
"There may be an expectation that since your mother suffered and your grandmother suffered, somehow this suffering gets passed on to the current generation of children, and they kind of expect that there is going to be bad times and there is not going to be enough food," he said. "So when there are good times, eat as much as you can, and the body should preferentially store the extra energy as fat."

This mechanism of fat storage driven by a history of malnutrition or starvation may be occurring in other poor populations in the world who are becoming overweight and obese, he said.

Earlier puberty

In many countries, children mature earlier these days. The age of menarche in the United States fell about 0.3 years per decade from the mid-1800s (when girls had their first menstrual period, on average, at age 17) until the 1960s, according to a 2003 study in the journal Endocrine Reviews, which also suggested better nutrition, health and economic conditions often play roles in lowering the age of menarche. Today the average age of menarche in U.S. girls is about 12.8 to 12.9 years, according to Bogin. The onset of puberty, however, is defined as the time when a girl's breasts start to develop. In the United States, it is 9.7 years for white girls, 8.8 years for black girls, 9.3 years for Hispanic girls and 9.7 years for Asian girls.
Studies have also pointed to a link between obesity and early puberty, as girls with higher body mass indexes (BMIs) are generally more likely to reach puberty at younger ages.

"The influence of BMI on the age of puberty is now greater than the impact of race and ethnicity," Dr. Frank Biro, a professor of pediatrics at Cincinnati Children's Hospital in Ohio, told Live Science in a 2013 interview.
And earlier puberty may have long-term health consequences, Biro said. For instance, studies have suggested that girls who mature earlier are more likely than those who mature later to develop high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes later in life.

There are also social consequences of earlier puberty; in some cultures, when a girl is biologically mature, she is also considered mature enough for marriage, Bogin noted. This may mean that she will not be able to continue her education or have a career once she does get married.

Therefore, the later a girl gets her first period, the better for her overall educational and life prospects. In fact, a Harvard study published in 2008 in the Journal of Political Economy showed that, in rural Bangladesh, where 70 percent of marriages occur within two years of menarche, each year that marriage is delayed corresponds to 0.22 additional year in school and 5.6 percent higher literacy.

Longevity and its bittersweet consequences

Humans are now living longer than ever, with average life expectancy across the globe shooting up from about 30 years old or so during the 20th century to about 70 years in 2012, according to the World Health Organization. The WHO predicts global life expectancy for women born in 2030 in places like the United States to soar to 85 years. The boost in life expectancy could be linked to significant advances in medicine, better sanitation and access to clean water, according to Bogin.

Although all of these factors have also greatly reduced mortality rates from infectious diseases, the deaths from degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's, heart disease and cancer have been on the rise, Stearns said. In other words, people are living longer and are dying from different diseases than they did in the past.

"An American baby born in the year 2000 can expect to live 77 years and will most likely die from cardiovascular disease or cancer," Bogin said. [The Top 10 Leading Causes of Death]
As is often the case with biological advantages that humans sometimes gain, old age also comes with trade-offs.

"As more of us live longer, then more and more of us are encountering a death which is protracted and undignified," Stearns said. "So there are costs to all of this wonderful advance."

Autoimmune diseases such as multiples sclerosis and type I diabetes have also become more common, according to Stearns. Some scientists think the surge in such diseases is related to improved hygiene — the same factor that has allowed people to get rid of many infectious diseases, said Joel Weinstock, chief of gastroenterology at Tufts University Medical Center in Massachusetts. When the body is not exposed to any, or very few, germs, the immune system can overreact to even benign bugs, the thinking goes.
"Our theory is that when we moved to this super-hygiene environment, which only occurred in the last 50 to 100 years, this led to immune disregulation," Weinstock told Live Science in a 2009 interview. "We're not saying that sanitation is not a good thing — we don't want people to jog up to riverbanks and get indiscriminately contaminated. But we might want to better understand what factors in hygiene are healthy and what are probably detrimental, to establish a new balance and hopefully have the best of both worlds."

What is next for the human species?

It is hard so say what is in store for humans, as technology is changing the world so quickly.

"There is some fear out there that an esoteric cabal of scientists in white coats is going to take over the future of evolution with genetic engineering," Stearns said. "Whether we want to or not, we have already changed our future course of evolution, and it is not being done by some small group of people who are thinking carefully and planning, it is being done as a byproduct of thousands of daily decisions that are implemented with technology and culture."

"And we don't really know where that is going," he said, adding that, "once you accept that culture [including medicine, technology, media and transportation] has become a really strong driving force in human evolution, that is — we don't know how to predict culture."

Follow Agata Blaszczak-Boxe on Twitter. Follow Live Science @livescienceFacebook Google+. Original article on Live Science.

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Friday, July 18, 2014

Why oppose “Sanskrit week” when parties have Sanskrit ‘Dravida’ in their names?

After the ban on Veshti, another issue that amuses me is the chorus against the proposed “Sanskrit week in CBSE schools. The loud voice  that is heard against this proposal is that of Vaiko – originally known as Gopala swamy – a Sanskrit name. 

Others joining the chorus are Ramadoss – again a Sanskrit name, Karunanidhi – needless to say how much Sanskrit is there in his name and Stalin – not even an Indian name - I wonder whether Stalin knows the meaning of his name! Vijaykanth – another Sanskrit name – is yet to be heard. But the amazing commonality among these politicians is that – barring Ramadoss – the names of their political parties bear a Sanskrit name ‘Dravida’ whose meaning no one knows! With so much Sanskrit in their own names and in the name of their party, why these persons make such a big noise about the proposed Sanskrit week?

The utility or not of something can be known only from the end users. The end users are the students of CBSE schools. Ask them what they think about this proposal. They would be only too happy to endorse it, as Sanskrit as taught in CBSE stream has many takers. It is the easiest to learn, less taxing in terms of size and content of the lessons and easy to score better compared to the labour put in for studying other language subjects. The Sanskrit week or Sanskrit mela or Sanskrit expo will make their learning easier.

Our ‘Dravida’ leaders are worried that Sanskrit would hurt ‘national integrity’. It is funny that  the self avowed guardians of Tamil have not known that Tamil is actually a language integrated with Sanskrit!!

Take for example the famous grammar work of the Sangam age, the Thol kappiyam. In this name, Kaapiyam is a Sanskrit word! It lays down grammar for literature. Grammar in Tamil is known as Ilakkanam and literature called as “Ilakkiyam”. Both Ilakkanam and Ilakkiyam are Tamilised Sanskrit words! How?

Simple rule is that no word starts with ‘la’ in Tamil. If such a word has to be taken in Tamil it will be given a prefix ‘e’. Ilakkiyam (literature) and Ilakkanam (grammar) are not indigenously Tamil words. 'Lakkiyam' is adopted as 'ilakkiyam' and 'lakkanam' is adopted as 'ilakkanam.

For Ilakkiyam, the root word is Sanskrit 'likh' meaning 'scratch" Check the Sanskrit root here:- https://archive.org/stream/rootsverbformspr00whitrich#page/146/mode/2up

It means scarification of or scratching bark. Writing started by scratching the tree barks. Therefore likh came to signify writing. From Likh > Likhya > Lekha > Lekhya. The word patram also is Sanskrit as Patram means leaf. Likita patram means written leaf. What we say as "paththiram" in Tamil for land dealings is derived from this word only.

In the word likh / lekh, it is likh/ lekh + ya = lakhya > ilakkiyam in Tamil.

In the word 'ilakkanam', the sanskrit root word is 'laksh'.
It is 'laksh' + Nam = lakshanam > lakkanam > ilakkanam.

Ilakkiyam from lekhya in sanskrit has similar meaning = writing
ilakkanam from lakshana in sanskrit has similar meaning = characteristics.

Thus the very basic terms for Tamil literature and grammar are derived from Sanskrit only. Let the ‘Dravida’ leaders such as Vaiko and Karunanidhi tell us in what way national integration was offended by these core and basic Sanskrit words in Tamil.

The writer of Tholkappiyam has given his credentials in the very first verse that he had been trained in Aindra vyakarana. His work was tested by the teacher of AdangOdu who was well versed in fours Vedas. The 9th century commentator Nacchinaarkiniyar would say that the 4 vedas told here are not the Rig etc Vedas. But then he does not give some Tamil Vedas either and only says the names of Sanskrit texts such as Taittriyam, Baudikam (Bavishyam?) Talavakara Shaka and Sama Veda. This is in conformity with the tradition that Veda Vyasa ordained that Sama veda be taught in the south. These four texts were taught around 10th century AD is known from the inscription of Kokkaru nanthadakkan.

Moreover Tholkappiyam starts with the word ‘vada- venkatam’ where ‘vada’ means north. Always the first letter is very important and had carried much weightage. The use of the word for North was in conformity with starting anything auspicious as North signifies auspicious ness, so says the 9th century commentator Nacchinaarkkiniyar. 

The next word in Tholkappiyam is ‘then kumari’ - Southern Kumari. Kumeru stands for southern direction and from that Kumari had been derived. In other words, the word Kumari or Kumari-khandam that Tamils often speak proudly of is actually a derivation of Sanskrit Kumeru. Its counterpart is Sumeru – of what is now known as Sumeria – the part of land that neo-Tamils are eager to associate their origins with, least knowing that their association with Kumeru or Kumari puts them somewhere in the southern hemisphere and not in North and definitely not in Sumeria, Elam or even Egypt – a fantasy that Karunanidhi got painted in the Anna library he built, as the origin of Tamils.

There is a crucial verse 102 in the chapter[i] on origin of letters (Pirappiyal) where Tholkappiyar concludes that the origin of letters as sounds had been told by him but to know the core formation of those letters inside the body along with the maatra of these letters, it is ideal to refer to the Vedas! This shows that Tamil and Sanskrit grammar had been complementary to each other. Tradition is that the grammar of both these languages was given by Lord Shiva simultaneously. The Shiva factor may be dismissed as a myth by researchers but what cannot be denied is this tradition actually shows a shared birth or connection between Tamil and Sanskrit in grammar and vocabulary.

Valmiki as Ratnakar was asked to recite “mara” the Tamil word for tree as Maram, and it gave him the effect of Rama naama. The presence of divinity in both these languages is known from this incident. Read here to know more on the co-existence of these two languages in the remote past when Sita conversed with Hanuman in Manushya bhasha. 

There are many words of Sanskrit origin found in Tholkappiyam and it is even desirable to refer to Tholkappiyam to know the inner meaning of those Sanskrit words. Prominent example is the word ‘pinda’. Tamils would claim that its root is in Tamil and not in Sanskrit and justify it by saying that ‘piNditthu vaippathaal athu piNdam’. Tholkappiyam gives a different meaning which is a derivation of Hindu philosophy. It says Pindam is that which has 3 components! (Porul adhikaram – Seyyul Iyal -165). Physical, vital and mental or Bhu, Bhuvah and Svah are the three components. Not just the food or a mass of cell - anything that has three components is a Pindam, according to this sutra of Tholkappiyam, By this Agastheeyam, the oldest grammar book of Tamil is Pindam, so says the commentator as it has three chapters. In the similar vein, Tholkappiyam is a Pindam. Thirukkural is a Pindam. It is terrific concept that would unveil many secrets of Hindu Thought.

Similarly the word, Mantra. It is a Sanskrit word but used in Tamil also. Sanskrit scholars may give many interpretations and meanings for that word. Most common meaning is ‘that which protects one who says it’. Tholkappiyam gives a detailed meaning for it which goes into the root of how a mantra becomes capable of protecting one. Refer  sutra 171 in Seyyul Iyal in Porul Adhikaram. Let me give a rough translation of it. It says that a secret word given as a promise or order by a person of fulfilled knowledge becomes a mantra. Such a mantra recited repeatedly by a faithful one with the requisite discipline protects him.
The same word mantra has had many applications in Tamil kingdoms. One well known example is Mantra- chuRRam – the protective ring of Mantra people (ministers and advisors) around the king. When they were away from him, the Pandyan King Nedum Chezhiyan fell into the trap of the goldsmith and ordered the killing of Kovalan which eventually led to the ruination of himself and of  his country (Silappadhikaram).

Thinking of Silappadhikaram, the word Adhikaram in this name is a Sanskrit word. Even Thiruvalluvar termed his chapters as Adhikaras! In what way our “Dravida” politicians are greater than Thiruvalluvar in his love for Tamil or concern for national, nay, global integration? 

Thiruvalluvar in his first verse wrote down words “Adhi - Bhagavan” which are Sanskrit words. How did these words enter Tamil if not Tamil is an already integrated language with Sanskrit?

Think of the famous 5 Kaappiyaas of Tamil known as “Aim perum Kaappiyam” . They are Silappadhikaram, Manimegalai, Jeevaka Chinthamani, Valaiyaapathi and Kundala kesi.  All these are Sanskrit names! How did this happen if Sanskrit was not part of Tamil and Tamil culture?

The so-called integration had happened long ago. A north Indian and a Sanskrit sage Agasthya who taught a winning formula to Rama in Sanskrit (Adhitya Hrudhaya) wrote the first grammar work for Tamil.

A north Indian and a Sanskrit scholar by name Thrunadhoomagni, born in the lineage of Jamadagni wrote Tholkappiyam, the last grammar work for Tamil which is still with us now. The integration of North and south and of Tamil and Sanskrit had happened at that time itself. The integration had withstood the test of time. 

Only those who don’t know that, are still clinging on to an irrelevant –to- Tamil name such as ‘Dravida’ and are crying wolf for the sake of somehow ‘integrating’ themselves with the political arena of Tamilnadu.

தொல்காப்பியர் கூறும் அந்தச் சூத்திரம்,
பிறப்பியல் 102.

எல்லா வெழுத்தும் வெளிப்படக் கிளந்து
சொல்லிய பள்ளி யெழுதரு வளியிற்
பிறப்பொடு விடுவழி யுறழ்ச்சி வாரத்
தகத்தெழு வளியிசை யரிறப நாடி
யளபிற் கோட லந்தணர் மறைத்தே
யஃதிவ ணுவலா தெழுந்துபுறத் திசைக்கு
மெய்தெரி வளியிசை யளவுநுவன் றிசினே.

இதன் பொருள்:

எல்லா வெழுத்துங் கிளந்து வெளிப்பட - ஆசிரியன்
எல்லாவெழுத்துக்களும் பிறக்குமாறு முந்துநூற்கண்ணே கூறி வெளிப்படுக்கையினாலே,

சொல்லிய பள்ளி பிறப்பொடு விடுவழி - யானும்
அவ்வாறே கூறிய எண்வகை நிலத்தும் பிறக்கின்ற பிறப்போடே அவ் வெழுத்துக்களைக் கூறுமிடத்து,

எழுதரு வளியின் உறழ்ச்சிவாரத்தின் அளபு
கோடல் - யான் கூறியவாறு அன்றி உந்தியில் தோன்றுங் காற்றினது திரிதருங் கூற்றின்கண்ணே மாத்திரை கூறிக் கோடலும்,

அகத்து எழு வளியிசை அரில் தப நாடிக் கோடல் - மூலாதாரத்தில் எழுகின்ற காற்றினோசையைக்குற்றமற நாடிக் கோடலும்,

அந்தணர் மறைத்தே - பார்ப்பாரது வேதத்து உளதே ;

அந்நிலைமை ஆண்டு உணர்க, அஃது இவண் நுவலாது
- அங்ஙனம் கோடலை ஈண்டுக் கூறலாகாமையின் இந் நூற்கட் கூறாதே,

எழுந்து புறத்து இசைக்கும் - உந்தியிற்றோன்றிப் புறத்தே புலப்பட்டு ஒலிக்கும்,

மெய் தெரி வளியிசை அளவு நுவன்றிசினே - பொருடெரியுங் காற்றினது துணிவிற்கே யான் மாத்திரை கூறினேன்;

மாத்திரையை உணர்க என்றவாறு.