by Shalini V – A long time ago ago now, when I was in 9th grade, we moved to our new house. My sister and I were super excited, but then came the real task – unpacking things and organizing. So we all were set to get things done. Then came the problem. We had some old and worn out furniture…

A hungry stomach ಎಲ್ಲಾ ಹೊಟ್ಟೆಗಾಗಿ

by Geetha GT – Cannibalism is the practice of ingestion of whole or body parts of members of the same species as nourishment. ಸಜಾತಿಭಕ್ಷಕತೆ ಒಂದು ರೀತಿಯ ವಿಚಿತ್ರ ವರ್ತನೆ. ಇಲ್ಲಿ ತಮ್ಮ ಪೋಷಣೆಗಾಗಿ ಒಂದು ಜೀವಿಯು ಅದೇ ಜಾತಿಯ ಇನ್ನೊಂದು ಜೀವಿಯನ್ನು ಪೂರ್ತಿಯಾಗಿ ಅಥವಾ ದೇಹದ ಭಾಗಗಳನ್ನು ಭಕ್ಷಿಸುವುದಾಗಿದೆ. Sexual cannibalism  exists mainly in spiders and other invertebrates where the female  kills and consumes her less fortunate partner,…

Let’s Talk

EDITOR’S NOTE: We often think of the sciences as objective and unemotional fields, but the stress and uncertainty of being in research means that mental health issues are common. More than 40% of postgraduate researchers face some form of depression or stress-related problem, as do many students. If you or someone you know needs advice, help, or simply an ear to…

Best Poster Award!

Congratulations to Srishti Batra for winning Best Poster Award at this year’s Annual Talks! The NICE group is so proud of you!  Here are a few highlights from the meeting:

Love birds and their wingmen in lab coats

by Aditi  – When scientists turn into wingmen/wing-women, they get results, period. #ScientistsDoItBetter Everyone needs help in love sometimes; even if they are literally named love birds. A team of Dutch and Chinese scientists recently helped out their less fortunate feathered subjects in finding love. The scientists were interested to find out if problem solving could indeed win the male Budgerigars any…

The Worth of Science: Employing the Scout Rule

By Shannon – I was a Girl Scout. In the “pre-Interwebs” era of my childhood, Scouts were a great way to educate and entertain children, particularly in rural areas like mine where other activities might not be available. One of the main activities of scouting is going to camps – especially in the summer. There, we learned what is now…

Astronaut Fuel


by Pavan Kaushik – Since my childhood, outer space has fascinated me. Like every other kid, I wanted to be an astronaut too. This all started with one of my first experiences with space, an episode of a Tom and Jerry cartoon show. That episode revolved around outer space and had a scene on rocket science food. Tom adds a drop of “rocket science” liquid on a tiny tablet and it magically results in a 12 course grand meal in an instant. Yes, it was naïve of me to believe that that was possible.

But now in retrospect, as I embark on a 48 hour train journey, this magical food is going to be my staple source of nutrition. You obviously can’t make crockery appear out of thin air, but the idea of making a balanced meal by just adding a magical liquid to a tiny mass has been a shared idea across numerous civilizations of humankind for millennia.

I just added a “magical liquid” to a fiery-red, sand-like powder. Within minutes, the sand mixture transforms into a crumbly mixture of awesomeness. The Kannada folks call it ಗೊಜ್ಜು ಅವಲಕ್ಕಿ/ಹುಳಿ ಅವಲಕ್ಕಿ/ gojju avalakki/huLi avalakki. It loosely translates to a sour, spicy, sweet stew of flattened rice flakes. Avalakki or flattened rice flakes are made by cooking, flattening, and dehydrating rice grains. This process cooks the rice grain and creates innumerable empty cavities. The dehydration step prevents spoilage and increases shelf life. The moment you add the “magical liquid” of water, the flake is rehydrated as the water fills up all the cavities and fluffs it up. The final result is a fully cooked rice grain within minutes with no actual cooking involved.

To make gojju avalakki, you dry roast chillies, tamarind and some local spices and grind it along with jaggery to a powder. To this, one can add oggarane/ಒಗ್ಗರಣೆ (hot oil infusion) which often contains legumes, peanuts etc which adds micronutrients, fat and protein. Adding crumbled rice flakes balances the meal with starch. This meal is almost ready to eat, all it lacks is water. After adding water, the entire spice mix springs up to life to make a sumptuous meal.

Aval nanchudu of Kerala cuisine is a sweeter cousin of gojju avalakki. Rice flakes are mixed with jaggery, coconut, bananas and local spices to make a completely different meal from the same theme. Dahi Poha is the Bihari cousin which uses fresh spices, and caramelized onions. When you use pressed oats and barley along with nuts and milk, you end up with the famous Swiss muesli.

Despite the diverse cuisines we have in this world, humankind has converged onto a similar theme of converting local grains into precooked flakes and mixing them with everything nice that’s locally available to make a fantastic balanced meal that can be made in an instant just like rocket science food.