What You May Not Know About Chocolate

Photo by Charisse Kenion on Unsplash

It began with my mother sending me an email with a video on how chocolate is made. I watched the interesting video, and fascinated, I did some more research and here is what I learned.

History of Chocolate

Cocoa beans were first found in central America 5,000 years ago. It is believed that the Olmecs from Mexico were the first to use cocoa. They used it to make a hot and spicy drink, which is quite similar to hot chocolate.

Then the Olmecs passed chocolate on to the central Americans called the Mayans. The Mayans not only drank the spicy drink of the Olmecs, but also consumed it during religious ceremonies and before making big financial transactions.

Though chocolate was very important to the Mayans, it was available to the rich and poor alike.

Once the Aztecs took over Mexico, they started using chocolate as currency, and it was considered more precious than gold. They believed it was a gift from the gods.

While the Aztecs continued to rule, Christopher Columbus crashed into one of their ships full of cocoa beans and and brought them home to Spain. Once chocolate got to Spain, they started making hot chocolate as we make it now.

In the 1500’s other European countries such as France started exploring central America and also discovered cocoa beans. Soon, chocolate was all over Europe.

In Europe, chocolate was only for the rich and wealthy. It was in 1828 that a new way to use cocoa beans came up. A Dutch chemist named Coenraad Johannes van Houten found that if chocolate was mixed with some alkaline salts and then powdered it would be easier to mix with water. The Europeans called this ‘Dutch Cocoa’. And that is how cocoa powder was invented.

After Dutch cocoa, chocolate was made cheeper and available to almost anyone who wanted it.

Chocolate first came to the thirteen colonies in America when a Spanish trade-ship came to Florida in 1641. Soon after that, in 1682, the first chocolate house was opened there. By 1773 chocolate was all over North America.

In 1876, a chocolatier named Daniel Peter added dried milk powder to chocolate making milk chocolate. After a little help from a friend Hennri Nestle the two of them got milk chocolate into the market. But Daniel’s milk chocolate was very hard. So in year 1879 chocolatier Rudolf Lindt managed to make chocolate so it could melt in your mouth.

Soldiers were paid in chocolate during the Revolutionary Wars. Also, during World War II, soldiers who fought were offered chocolate as rations.

Growing and Fermenting Cocoa in Current Times

Growing

Cocoa cannot grow in farms. It needs the rain-forest climate and trees to be able to grow properly. This is because the pollinators of the cocoa flower are dust-speck size midges that only live and breed in rain-forests. Cocoa flowers can only be pollinated during the day.

The midges aren’t very good at pollinating the cocoa flowers, and total successfully pollinated blossoms are less than one in twenty. To increase the number of pollinated flowers, the farmers use minuscule paintbrushes to pollinate them.

Fermenting

The fruits of the successfully pollinated flowers are opened and the beans are collected. They are wrapped in banana leaves and then kept in boxes. It needs to be dark in the box, so that the bacteria and fungi can thrive.

First in the process, yeast fungi start eating away at the beans. As they do this, the ethanol level rises, until all the bacteria and fungi die out. Only Lactobacillus and Azotobacter which are two types of bacteria, thrive in the new environment. The cocoa is left for 6 days to ferment.

If chocolate is made from under-fermented beans, then it will look gray and taste sour.

Making Chocolate

Chocolate is made at a chocolate factory.

To start the process, the good beans are separated from the stems, broken or open beans. The good beans are taken and roasted for 20mis at 250o. This process kills the bacteria in the beans and makes them easier to break. Once they are roasted, the beans are broken. The shells are thrown away and the nibs are removed. The nibs are put into a machine that separates the cocoa butter from the cocoa solids.

To make dark chocolate and milk chocolate the cocoa solids and a few other ingredients are put together. The difference between dark and milk chocolate is that milk chocolate has more sugar and milk than dark chocolate. But white chocolate is made with the cocoa butter, milk and sugar but not the cocoa solids.

Fun Facts About Chocolate

  • The biggest chocolate in the world weighed about 12,000pounds.
  • Chocolate is made in over 600 different flavors
  • It takes 400 beans to make 1 pound of chocolate.
  • It took 8 years to come up with a recipe for chocolate.
  • Dark chocolate contains heart healthy antioxidants.
  • There is a type of cocoa bean which is red in colour and tastes like wild berries. It is used to make a type of chocolate called Ruby Chocolate.

You can also download the article as book in PDF format by clicking on the download button below.

Maps of the World

It began with my mother and I watching a TV show called The West Wing. In one of the episodes they mention the Mercator and the Gall – Peter map projections which I am going to discuss.

Let’s start with the the Mercator projection.

The Mercator Map Projection


By Strebe from Wikipedia

The Mercator Map Projection was invented by Gerardus Mercator from Germany in the year 1569. Around that time, Europe was trading by sea to many other far away countries by ship. So, The map’s original purpose was for navigation. By having almost no distortion in shape it was perfect for such uses. Nowadays map navigation is uncommon, but softwares such as Google maps, Bing etc, use the Mercator projection. The Mercator Map Projection is a cylindrical projection about 202 by 124 cm.

In the 1500’s this was the only map using magnetic directions, and the first map ever in which the top was North, bottom was South, right was East and left was West.

Though many people thought and still think Mercator’s map is the most realistic and convenient projection, there still are problems with it.

The Mercator Map Projection shrinks territories close to the equator in comparison to those further away from the equator. Most people relate size with importance. Since many countries close to the Equator were less technologically developed than those further away, this representation added to their disadvantage.

For example the map shows Africa and Greenland the same size though in reality Africa is 14 times larger than Greenland.

The Mercator Map Projection cuts off the the last bit of the southern hemisphere to center Europe giving it more importance.

Now let’s discuss the Gall -Peters map projection.

The Gall – Peters Map Projection

By Strebe from Wikipedia

The Gall – Peters Map projection was invented by Arno Peters a German filmmaker, and described by James Gall from, in year 1855, and it was first used in year 1986. The map is a cylindrical projection, about 202 by 124 cm.

Peters’ main goal was for all the territories to get their fair amount of land on the map. This is one of the few successful maps where, the ratio of the areas of all the territories are accurate, while, also being suitable for navigation.

Inspite of The Peters Map Projection showing right proportions of the area of each country it distorts the shape of the land. Peters chosen projection distorts the land near the poles the most.

Even though Peters believed all countries should be ‘area correct’, he chose 45oN/S to have undistorted shape for his map. This choice results in America and Europe being the territories least distorted in shape.

Conclusions

Even if we continue using the Mercator map for navigation and on online maps, we must use Peters’ map for teaching students in schools and collages. Inspite of the Peters map’s shape distortion, it is important that students are taught it, as the importance of size will influence them even more than it would influence an adult. That is why the Peters map is now used to teach students in some parts of the United States America and in the United Kingdom, and it is the goal of the UNESCO to get it to other nations.

The Mercator map should not be the official world map as it distorting of sizes modifies people’s ideas, thoughts and beliefs in the wrong way.

No map is perfect. Mercator gets the perfect shape but badly distorts sizes, while Peter gets the sizes right but the shape and scale are distorted.

US Election and Voting Rules

It started out with me and my mom watching this year’s United States presidential election results. I had never monitored an election before, and I needed a lot of help to understand what was going on. So, my mother had to explain.

Then she suggested that I should write an article on how the election works. So here goes.

Rules to vote

To vote in the US presidential election first, one must have US citizenship and second, one must be 18 or over.

How to vote

The day which the election is held is always the Tuesday after the first Monday in November. The election is held every 4 years.

There are 3 different ways to vote in the election.

  • The first way is in-person voting. In this case, one goes to the polling booth and casts their ballot by putting a mark next to the candidate they want. At some polling stations this is done on a touch screen, but in most it is done with a paper and pen.
  • The next way one can cast ballots is through mail. One has one envelope in which they write their name, address etc. Then they insert a second envelope which has the ballot inside it.
  • The last way is for one to apply for an absentee ballot online, after giving a reason for doing so.
Ballots and polling centres

Vote counting

There are different ways to count the different types of ballots. The in person ballots are scanned and recorded after everyone has voted and left. The process starts when you leave. One’s ballot is scanned and stored on a memory card by a machine.

The memory card is then sent to the people counting the votes. They add your vote to the appropriate candidate.

For mailed ballots the counting process is different. One person scans the information in the first envelope of all the ballots, a second scans the ballots in the second envelope, and finally a third person records the votes for the secret ballot system to work.

When one fills an absentee ballot online one’s vote is directly sent to the counting offices. Here too, first a person records the voter’s information and then someone else records the vote.

Electoral Votes

Whichever candidate gets more votes in a particular state, also gets all the electoral votes of that particular state, except for in Maine and Nebraska, where the electoral votes are split just as they are won. Higher the population of the state, higher the number of electoral votes. Electoral votes rather than popular votes decide the winner. There are total 538 electoral votes in the US presidential election. Whichever candidate gets 270 or more electoral votes, wins the election.

Contingent Election

If there a tie between two or more candidates, there is a contingent election. Then the congressmen from the house elect the winner from the tied candidates.

Recount

But sometimes when one of the candidates wins by a very small margin there is a recount. That means that they count the votes again to make sure that they counted the votes correctly the first time. There are 2 ways to do the recounts.

The first one is called machine counting. In machine counting, machines are used to count votes that were casted on the election day. There are three types of machines used to count the votes. Details can be found here.

The second way to recount is called manual counting. In manual counting, people count the votes. In manual counting, verification papers for each vote are required.

Term Limits

A person can stay president for a limited amount of time. This is called a term limit. A term ends after 4 years and then presidential elections are conducted. A person can serve as president for at most two terms.

Structure of the Periodic Table

Order of energy levels

In Atomic Levels, it was explained that each of of the each of orbitals have a different amount of energy and the electrons hate energy.

That causes the electrons to have a certain order of filling the orbitals from lowest energy to highest energy. The order in which the orbitals fill up is 1s, 2s, 2p, 3s, 3p, 4s, 3d, 4p, 5s, 4d, 5p, 6s, 4f, 5d, 6p, 7s, 5f, 6d and lastly 7p.

But there are two exceptions, namely Lanthanum and Actinium which I will explain in detail later.

The periodic table

Schematic representation of the periodic table

So let us understand how the periodic table is constructed. The electrons fill up the energy levels in increasing order. The periodic table is constructed by the ascending order of amount of energy.

Now we will learn about the periodic table row by row.

The first row has elements with n=1 corresponding to the innermost orbit. The maximum value l can take is n-1 so for this orbit l must be 0 and the l=0 orbital is called the s orbital. Since m takes values -l to l with l=0, m can take only a single value which is zero. So the only address available to electrons in the n=1 orbit is |n=1,l=0,m=0>. Since the electrons hate each other each such address can accommodate at most 2 electrons of opposite spin. So the n=1 shell can only hold up to 2 electrons. That is why the first row of the periodic table has only 2 elements, namely hydrogen and helium with 1 and 2 electrons respectively.

The second row has elements with n=2 corresponding to the second orbit. The maximum value of l is 1. So m can take all the values from -1 to 1. There are now 2 orbitals s,p. The value of the p orbital has l=1. This row has 8 elements. The first element of this row lithium and the last element is Neon.

The third row has has elements with n=3 l = 0,1. But n =3 also allows for l to take the value 2. The l=2 elements are transferred to the fourth row (I will explain this later). Coming back to this row, the orbitals are s and p. So the maximum value of l is 1. So, m can take values -1 to 1. Just as in the row above, this row also has 8 elements. The first element of this row is Sodium and the last is Argon.

The fourth row includes, elements with outermost shell n = 3 and outermost shell n =4. Going back to the energy levels graph, we see that the 4s has less energy than the 3d. Since the electrons hate energy they fill the 4s orbital before the 3d orbital so in the periodic table the 3d elements are are placed after the 4s ones and before the 4p ones. Elements of the 4f and 4d do not belong to this row. The first element of this row potassium and the last is Krypton.

It the 5th row 4d elements come after the 5s ones just like 3d elements come after the 4s ones in the 4th row. So this row has 5s, 4d and 5p elements. The first element of this row is Rubidium with 37 electrons and the last one is Xenon with 54 electrons.

In the 6th row, we first have the 2, 6s elements. Then we have the first 5d element Lanthanum . After that come all the 14, 4f lanthanides that are represented by a symbol in the image above. The complete list is given separately at the bottom of the periodic table. After that come the remaining 5d elements followed by the 6p ones. The first element of this row is Cesium with 55 electrons and Radon with 86 electrons.

In the 7th row first come the 7s elements. After that we have the first 6d element which is Actinium. Following Actinium come the 14, 5f actinides represented by two symbols. The list is at the bottom of the periodic table. Next come the rest of the 6d elements followed by the by the 7p ones. The first element of this row is Francium with 87 electrons and the last one is Oganesson with 118 electrons.

The π Project

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

It all started with me doing long division, and Mama asked me to calculate 22/7, which is the commonly used approximation for π. So I did, and here is what I got:

Calculating π using long division

Then I looked up the known value of π on google and found that it was 3.14159265359, and I wasn’t happy with the approximation. So I asked Mama how to calculate π more accurately.

I was learning programming in python with Papa. So she suggested I write a program that calculates π.

π is a number that can be calculated using the Monte Carlo method. Now I will demonstrate.

  1. We will begin with drawing a circle.
  2. Then we have to take this circle and draw a square around it.
  3. Now find the area of the circle of radius.
  4. It is π r2.
  5. Now find the area of the square.
  6. It should be 4 r2.
  7. Now imagine that you randomly drop a few quadrillion grains of sand on the circle and the square.
  8. What are the chances that the sand particles fell in the circle.
  9. Give each grain an address.
  10. Now make two columns one with grains in the circle and one with grains that are not in the circle.
  11. Next divide the grains inside by the total number of grains.
  12. Then the answer is π/4.
  13. Lastly, to get π, we multiply the fraction, four times.

Now I will explain how to check if a point lies inside or outside the circle.

We draw a unit circle on an x y plane so that the center of the circle is at the origin of the plane. Next, we draw a square around the circle as shown in the figure below.

Unit circle in a square

Every point plane can be marked exactly with the two known coordinates of the xy plane. For example, the square’s corners each are at the points:

Top right:(1,1)

Top left:(-1,1)

Bottom right:(1, -1)

Bottom left:(-1,-1)

The unit circle touches the square at 4 points namely: (-1,1), (1,0), (0,1), (-1,-1)

We find the radius of the circle. We figure the answer out by x2 + y2 = r. And since r is is one r2 is also one.

The area of the unit circle is π cm2.

Next we have to find the area of the square. So we have to multiply 2 cm2 by 2 cm2 . So when these two numbers are multiplied they equal 4cm2.

After that, we consider dropping particles in the square. Then we find where in the square the particles are by noting the coordinates. For them to be in the square the x and y coordinates of the points have to anywhere between -1 and 1.

But for the circle there is yet another condition, x2 + y2 <=1.

Going back to points 11,12 and 13 we calculate π.

With the help of my father and mother, I wrote a short program in python 3 that calculates π using this method. Here is the code.

from random import uniform
import sys
for x in range (10, 90, 5):
    circle = 0
    j = int(10 ** (x / 10))
    for i in range(j):
        x = uniform(-1, 1)
        y = uniform(-1,1)
        if x*x + y*y <= 1:
            circle += 1

    print(f'{j} {4*circle/i}')
    sys.stdout.flush()

I ran the program with increasing total number of points in powers of ten. And I saw the greater total number of points the more accurate your answer is when compared to the known value of π.

Now I will show you a plot chart on how close the program I wrote got to the actual value of π in each power of ten with numbers in between from 1000 to 10000000.

Pi value calculated by Monte Carlo method. X axis corresponds to number of points used in Monte Carlo calculation and Y axis shows value of pi obtained. Green line is known value of pi.

This is a fun video, where pi is calculated using the Monte Carlo method but instead of using a computer program to figure out where the random points go, Physics Girl uses darts.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians

Percy Jackson and the Olympians

Book Details

Author: Rick Riordan

Age: 8+

Price: Rs 1299 for kindle edition and MRP is Rs 250 on paperback

Pages: 1696

Purchase link: Paperback boxed set

About The Series

The Percy Jackson and the Olympians series is about the Greek Gods moving to America because it is the modern heart of western civilization.

We cannot see the gods or where they stay due to the power of The Mist. It makes us see only or exactly what we expect or want to see.

So in some cases when gods come down to earth using the mist we normally see them as mortals just like us. Sometimes the god on earth falls in love with a human and they have a kid.

These kids are called half-bloods. They are always haunted by monsters. Most of the time they are fighting for their lives and do not enjoy it.

Most of the Ancient Greek monsters do not have super great eyesight, but still most of the time they find half-bloods to attack, due to half-bloods carrying a scent they dangerously carry along with them continuously.

Under rare circumstances do half-bloods reach Camp Half-blood. It is a safe haven for all half-bloods. This camp is where they are trained to survive.

Half-bloods do not stay at the camp all the time. They have to go for quests as and when prophecies are issued by the oracle.

These books are mostly about a half-blood named Percy Jackson, his friend Annabeth Chase, Grover Underwood the satyr and various other half-bloods fighting against some dangerous ancient Greek monsters.

Everyone at the camp is worried about the presence of spies or dangerous enemies among them. Read the book to find out more!

Why I Liked The Books

My favourite part of the books was the way Rick Riordan made things not to scary, and even when something dangerous happens he adds something really funny, so I did not freak out. The other thing I liked was, often he really surprised me.

I liked the camp director Dinosyus because he would pretend to never remember anyone’s name. He’d just alter it a bit so it looked like he was bad at handling the camp.

My favourite character was Percy’s cyclops half-brother Tyson, because he was always funny and a bit cute compared to everyone else in the books. He was usually very excited and loved Percy a ton. He was very curious too.

My favourite books were The Sea of Monsters and The Titan’s Curse.

Another thing I thought was funny is almost every year or so Percy would get kicked out of school almost as if it was his goal to do so. Sometimes the reasons he got expelled were hilarious.

Atomic Levels

Public domain image from Wikipedia

Energy Levels and Angular Momentum

Electrons orbit the nucleus at different distances from the nucleus much like the planets orbit the sun in the solar system. Each orbit corresponds to a different energy level and can accommodate a certain maximum number of electrons. The electrons hate energy, so they want the least of it as possible. Because the inner most orbit has the lowest energy and the next has more,the electrons first fill the inner most orbit called the first orbit. The energy level symbol is n. n takes values 1, 2, 3 etc.

The energy of the electron also depends on the angular momentum. The angular momentum symbol is l. The maximum value l can have for any particular n level is n-1. So for a particular value of n, l assume values from 0 to n -1.

l orbitals are labeled as the letters s,p,d. They can each hold a maximum number of electrons.

The angular momentum has different possible orientations labeled by m. For a particular value of l, m takes the values -l to l in steps of 1. For example if l = 2, m = -2, -1, 0, 1, 2

Each value of m accommodates at most two electrons, one of each spin type. The two types of spins are the up spin and the down spin.

For example let’s look at the distribution of electrons in the carbon atom.

By adding all the electrons that can fit in all the m orbitals for a particular n level we get the maximum number of electrons in the particular n level, which is equal to n*n*2. Like in the second level we have n = 2. We see that 2*2*2 is equal to eight therefore the second level can hold a maximum of electrons which is eight.

The Teeny-Tiny Atom

Atoms are the smallest bit of an element that have its chemical proprieties. They are made of 3 smaller particles which are called protons, neutrons and electrons.

The protons have a positive charge and weigh 1 amu, while the electrons have negative charge and are approximately 2000 times lighter than a proton. Also the neutrons have no charge and also weigh 1 amu.

The protons and the neutrons bind forming the nucleus located in the center of the atom. At atom is about a 100,00 times bigger than its nucleus. Atoms are mostly empty space.

Each of the electrons orbit the nucleus. The number of electrons orbiting the nucleus is the atomic number. Every element has a different atomic number.

Number of protons and the number of electrons must be the same, or atoms would be charged particles.

Atoms may have many isotopes. Isotopes differ in the number of neutrons but have the same number of protons and electrons. That means the atomic number is the same for all isotopes. Stable isotopes are not radioactive.

Across The Line

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Book Details

Author: Nayanika Mahtani

Age:8+

Price: 156.94 for kindle edition and MRP is Rs 250 on paperback

Pages: 230

Purchase link: Kindle edition, Paperback

About the book

Across The Line by Naynika Mahtani is about 3 generations of two families and how strongly they feel about the partition between India and Pakistan. Most of it is set in 2008 but some is set in 1947.

1947

1947 in Rawalpindi. Toshi Sahni and her younger brother were playing, when a bunch of unexpected rioters were on a rampage. Toshi and her grandparents manage to escape on to a train to India, but they don’t find either her brother or her parents.

1947 in New Delhi. Here there are as many riots too. The Haidars were big landlords in Delhi. But they had to leave this great life behind when they were forced to move to Pakistan.

2008

Jai is Toshi’s grandson. His mother was going to work in London, so Jai decided to visit her. At the very same time Innaya Haidar is going to play cricket, also in London. At the beginning they do not get along at all. Read the book to find out more about their interactions and families.

Why I Liked The Book

I liked the book because it had many people’s perspective and how they felt about the partition.

Even though partition is not a very pleasant subject, the book didn’t freak me out as much as the real topic.

My favorite character is Jai. I like him because he is troubled by bullies but he tackles them very well. He likes food and is good at ordering like me.

I thought it was cute that Innaya’s grandmother called her kishmish

Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland

Author: Lewis Carroll

Price: Rs. 151 on amazon

Age:
7 to 10 years

Pages:
240

About the book:

Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, is about 7 year old Alice following a white rabbit into a rabbit-hole and landing into a fantasy world which she knows nothing about. She is desperate to escape, but she does not know how to do so. Will she escape? How shall she do so? Read the book to find out.

Why I liked the book:

I liked the the Cheshire cat best of all the characters he is logical and funny. He is safe from anyone attacking him because he can disappear and appear at will.

I would recommend this book, because it has many funny conversations between Alice and over-logical and quirky characters of Wonderland.

What I did not like about the book:

I did not like the character of the caterpillar. I think he was a bit nasty and bitter.