Archive | June 2014

Niagara Falls (2009)

Just a 121 km car, bus train ride away from Toronto, Niagara Falls is one of the most sublimely beautiful landmarks I’ve had the pleasure of seeing. Niagara is actually a collective name for three separate water falls located on the Niagara River–Horseshoe Falls, American Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls. Together, they form the largest flow rate of any waterfall on Earth, and Horseshoe Falls (the largest of the three) is the most powerful waterfall on the continent.

When I arrived by Amtrak, the first thing I noticed was the sheer enormity of it. At its peak, 160,000 meters cubed of water falls over Niagara’s crest line every minute, and boy can you feel it. Not only is it a sight to behold, the roar is deafening. Yet is a peaceful and calming roar in that it’s impossible to hear yourself think, and all you can do is take in the sensations.

I went in the summer time, when the current is the strongest. The water is a verdant green colour due to the water’s erosive force constantly dissolving rocks and salt from the riverbed. I couldn’t help but stay until after dark, when they turn on floodlights, giving the falls a spooky quality. I was also lucky enough to ride the Maid of the Mist boat cruise, which takes you right up into the rapids, as well as the Whirlpool Aero Car, a cable car which takes you over the Niagara whirlpool.

 

There’s plenty to do there that I didn’t get a chance to, like visiting Queen Victoria Park, standing on the observation deck of Skylon Tower, are hiking the Niagara River Trail. But I definitely plan on returning some day soon!

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Edge Of Tomorrow Review

bhaskar chanda eotEdge Of Tomorrow – High concept thrillers are difficult to pull off. The fresher and more inventive the concept is, the more intelligent the screenwriter and director have to be in order to separate the wheat from the chaff. You can’t have glaring plot holes but you also can’t get caught up in trying to explain them a way when you have a story to tell. Lastly, you need stars who can ground the action with realism, emotional depth, and humor. In Edge Of Tomorrow, an alien race called Mimics have taken over Europe. Lt. Col. Bill Cage, played by Tom Cruise, is reluctantly thrust into combat and is promptly killed, whereupon he finds himself stuck in a never-ending time loop. Cage is forced him to relive this suicide mission again and again until Special Forces warrior Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) explains to him the mysterious source of this power, and endeavors to train him to use it to mankind’s advantage. Edge Of Tomorrow succeeds because of the intelligence and care of its makers. Like 2012′s Looper, which matches EOT in its tone, and Groundhog Day, which matches the film in its device, Edge Of Tomorrow is a solidly smart, if not brilliant, new take on what a sci-fi action movie can be. Penned by a three-man team of Jez and John-Henry Butterworth (Fair Game, The Last Legion, Birthday Girl) and Christopher McQuarrie (The Uual Suspects, Valkyrie, The Tourist, Jack Reacher), the script crackles and pops along at a no nonsense pace under Doug Liman’s (The Bourne Identity, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Jumper) capable directing. The performances by Cruise and Blunt are first rate, as are the supporting performances by Bill Paxton and Brendan Gleeson. I highly recommend this movie to anyone looking for something a cut above the standard Hollywood fare. 4.5/5 stars.

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A Beginners Guide to Stem Cells

For anyone visiting this site who doesn’t have a basic knowledge of what stem cell research is about, here’s a brief fact sheet that will help clarify things a bit.

bhaskar chanda stem cell 101What are stem cells?

Stem cells are a class of undifferentiated biological cells that have the ability to differentiate into specialized cell types and eventually divide to create more stem cells. There are generally two types: embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells.

What are embryonic stem cells?

The stem cells come from four to five-day-old human embryos in the blastocyst development phase. Most of these embryos have been created in IVF clinics, where a number of eggs are fertilized but only one has actually been used.

What are adult stem cells?

Also called somatic stem cells, these exist throughout the human body long after embryonic development and can be found in various organs and types of tissue, including the brain, the bone marrow, skin, skeletal muscles, blood and blood vessels, and the liver, where they remain undifferentiated until activated by a disease or some type of tissue damage.

What are iPS cells?

Induced pluripotent stem cells are somatic cells that have been genetically reverted to an embryonic state. They can be used to develop new drugs and model difficult diseases.

Why are stem cells useful?

Because these cells are undifferentiated and can be induced into becoming a particular cell type, this technology offers the hope of a renewable source for replacement cells to treat diseases, disorders, and conditions as diverse as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, heart disease, spinal cord injury, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, burns, stroke, dramatic brain injury, and cancer.

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Exercise vs Pills | The true fountain of youth

Its your life; its your choice!

Contrary to the popular believe that drug invention and intervention has defectively increased mortality of human life, a recent study by Huseyin Naci, John P A Ioannidis and Co. suggests that exercise is as effective as drug therapy in the secondary prevention of coronary heart disease, rehabilitation after stroke, care of heart failure, and prevention of diabetes – combined together as the major cause of human mortality. This fascinating study, published by a  group consisting of researchers from  London School of Economics, Stanford University School of Medicine and Harvard Medical School, combines data from over 300,000 participants in 305 randomized controlled trials.

Implications | One: the evidence base for exercise in chronic disease is woefully lacking and skewed in favor of drug-based approaches. Two: even the limited available evidence indicates that exercise is often at least as effective as drugs at preventing death from the most common killer diseases. This meta-epidemiological review is the first to compare the mortality benefits of exercise and drug interventions. This comprehensive look at the existing body of evidence highlights the need to perform randomised trials on the comparative effectiveness of exercise and drug interventions. Given the scarcity of financial resources to fund future trials of exercise interventions, one option would be to require such evidence from pharmaceutical companies that are under increasing pressure to perform active-comparator trials for market entry. For example, regulators should consider requiring pharmaceutical sponsors of new drugs to include exercise interventions as an active comparator arm in drug trials. In cases where drug options provide only modest benefit, patients deserve to understand the relative impact that physical activity might have on their condition.

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Bhaskar Chanda | Toronto 2014 Reading List | 1 of 14

A-Life-Decoded-My-Genome-Venter-J-Craig-9780143114185

A LIFE DECODE | Of all the scientific achievements of the past century, perhaps none can match the deciphering of the human genetic code, both for its technical brilliance and for its implications for our future. In A Life Decoded, J. Craig Venter traces his rise from an uninspired student to one of the most fascinating and controversial figures in science today. Here, Venter relates the unparalleled drama of the quest to decode the human genome – a goal he predicted he could achieve years earlier and more cheaply than the government-sponsored Human Genome Project, and one that he fulfilled in 2001. A thrilling story of detection, A Life Decoded is also a revealing, and often troubling, look at how science is practiced today.

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How To Train Your Dragon 2

 

How To Train Your Dragon 2 | We are in an uncharted territory where a sequel is a triumph over the original. DreamWorks and director Dean DeBlois’ has a set a new standard of  how to do a sequel right. Not only How To Train Your Dragon 2 has successfully incorporated all the best-selling parts of its prequel but it has also made inroads into new “awe-territories” (both literally and figuratively). This clearly shows that the animated followup doesn’t take its franchise lightly, and is ready to take its world-building to the next level.

In addition, the 3D view is something worth cherishing in this movie. It is a testament that when 3D is incorporated “properly” into story telling it can creates wonder – breaths life into landscapes and engages audience into virtual reality. These features have also made sure How To Train Your Dragon 2 taps into its rich franchise potential. Peter Degbruge has aptly proclaimed How To Train Your Dragon 2 to be “Braver than the ‘Brave’, more fun than ‘Frozen’. The mother of all animated sequels has arrived – all kinds of record in the history of animated movies are about to tumble! 4.5/5.0 stars

 

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Xmen: Days of Future Past Review

bhaskar chanda toronto xmenOne of the most awaited movie of the year 2014 – Xmen: Days of Future Past (DOFP) has lived up to its expectation rather has surpassed most critics imagination – it surely did mine. A visually stunning movie, with a spectacular story line and great cinematography.

If the job of a director is to make it utterly difficult for the fans to pick the best movie of an action blockbuster series, then Bryan Singer did an excellent job. If money is sole measure of success, I cant think of any other action series that would surpass xmen at $2.6 billion. That’s around $300 million per movie; however, with number running in the favor of the current DOFP it is expected to break $600million mark! Though with few more blockbusters realizing soon such as How To Train Your Dragon 2 (June 17) and Transformers (June 27) that number may fall short. So catch a glimpse of this movie while the craze last, or wait for it to be released on DVD. In a nutshell, its worth every penny you’re going to spend on this movie! 4.5/5 stars.

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