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Discovering Holi, naturally

mumbai Updated: Mar 14, 2011 01:26 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

As the lights went off, everyone in the classroom gazed at the prism placed in the middle of the room and let out a collective “oooh” as they saw a rainbow reflected on the wall.

What makes the six colours of the rainbow? Are Holi colours harmful? Why is the sea blue? And other such questions were answered as a group of Ph.D students performed an array of experiments for students to explain the science of colour at a session of Chai and Why? on Sunday at Ruia College.

With Holi just around the corner, the hosts from Tata Institute of Fundamental Research explained scientific concepts in layman’s terms through quirky demonstrations. “It’s different from how they teach us science in school, through all these demonstrations. The sessions make science look cool,” said Pravallika Devarapalli, a Class 8 student.

After attending Chai and Why? sessions for two years now, Class 4 student Manan Chetan Dagli is so inspired by science that he wants to become an astronaut. “Today I learned how to make natural colours with flowers and vegetables,” said Dagli. “This Holi, I am going to make red colour from beetroot,” he added.

Dagli’s face gleamed with excitement as he watched the liquid concoction change its colour from blue to green. “Solid carbon dioxide, otherwise known as dry ice, neutralises the alkaline content of the indicator chemical, thus, changing its colour,” said associate professor Arnab Bhattacharya, founder of Chai and Why?

The hosts also delved into the practical use of these concepts. “Just as we can identify a fan waving a colourful Indian flag among thousands in a cricket stadium, bioluminescent protein generates its own colour so we can identify it among millions of cells. Scientists use it to study diseases such as cancer and malaria,” said co-host Suman Nag.

Chai and Why? sessions take place at 11am on the first and third Sunday of each month at Prithvi Theatre and Ruia College respectively.

Contact Arnab Bhattacharya for more details at arnab@tifr.res.in or 22782517.