If you think about a Tyrannosaurus Rex, are you struck with images of cute fluffy babies or a huge, meat-eating dinosaur?
The majority would say the latter, but research suggests that T. Rex babies may have been covered in feathers at birth, so maybe they’re not as scary as we all thought.
One person who couldn’t agree more and is fascinated, rather than scared, by the prehistoric creatures is Pritvik Sinhadc.
After speaking with the Delhi-born Dubai resident, I could say I’ve become a bit of a know-it-all myself when it comes to the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods.
For instance, did you know the pigment left in some feathered fossils can reveal the colour of a dinosaur, or that most dinosaurs were vegetarians?
Sinhadc’s many accolades on paper would impress even the most senior of academics, but at just nine-years-old, he’s far from the aging professor many picture in their head.
“It’s safe to say I’m not your average nine-year-old. Most other children like watching TV or playing computer games, but I don’t. I love reading and doing experiments in my mini lab,” he tells Khaleej Times, adding that his “passion is research”.
Named Science Ambassador for the British Science association, and with several awards under his belt including the Megastar Science CREST Award, Sinhadc is a far cry from your average bike-riding, cartoon-watching school child.
As the world’s youngest author on palaeontology — penning his first book at just six — this whiz kid does not let age get in the way of his passion and could challenge even the most-experienced of palaeontologists with his vast knowledge of all things dinosaur.
“By studying the fossils of feathered dinosaurs, you can figure out what colour they were because of the pigment left inside the feather. For instance, the microraptor was red and blue.”
Sinhadc’s love for fossils, and what they once were, started at an early age.
“I’ve always loved dinosaurs from as far back as I can remember. My aim now is to try and recreate a species like the dinosaurs, and I know it’s possible.”
By combining the DNA of a saltwater crocodile with that of a large bird like an ostrich, Sinhadc says the outcome will be very similar to the make-up of a dinosaur.
“It’s not been achieved yet, but palaeontologists and scientists are working on it as we speak. I have even contacted some of the scientists and they said there is a chance I can work with them at some point in the future,” an enthusiastic and confident Sinhadc tells Khaleej Times.
Cleaning up his act
Regularly taking to the stage to deliver proposals for sustainability projects, as well as lectures on palaeontology, the Dubai British School student is now on a campaign to tackle climate change and champion renewable energies.
Now in the process of finishing his third book, The Impact of Radioactive and Nuclear Waste on Marine and Land Species — following on from When Dinosaurs Roamed the Earth, and Rare Dinosaurs — Sinhadc recently wowed an audience of environmentalists, professors, academicians, and scientists about the possibilities of using green algae to clean-up radioactive waste.
Asked about the proposal, Sinhadc says it’s a two-way initiative.
“The possibilities are endless. We can use green algae to treat radioactive wastewater so it can be utilised for everyday uses like watering and cleaning after purification,” he says.
“Scientists have already found that by combining wastewater with algae, a ‘doubly green’ biodiesel can be produced. The algae neutralises water pathogens as they feed and eat out carbon dioxide to produce fuel.”
The Year 5 student believes promoting the benefits of green algae clean-up will help educate the younger generations on the importance of water conservation, while at the same time limiting the effects of radioactive waste on land and marine life.
“The worst effect is when animals eat irradiated plants or smaller animals. That’s when the radiation moves up the food chain.”
With the per capita consumption of water in the UAE twice that of the global average, Sinhadc’s proposal could be the stepping stone the UAE is looking for in terms of becoming more efficient in the use of water resources.
He says if the point is pushed, it will help spur on the behavioural change needed in terms of less water usage, and it will promote more environment-friendly alternatives to disposing of nuclear or radioactive waste.
Referring to four Abu Dhabi nuclear reactor plants that are to go up between 2017 and 2020, Sinhadc says the UAE Cabinet must first determine the long-term disposal of the spent nuclear fuel.
“The nuclear reactors will be using radioactive fuel. I believe they need something long term and I think green algae is a great alternative,” he says, adding that freshwater green algae can remove Strontium 90 from radioactive wastewater, which can help aid future efforts to clean up radioactive waste.
Sinhadc says although there is a lack of research facilities in palaeontology, herpetology and nuclear science in the region, he believes the UAE, particularly Dubai, will soon become a hub for this type of research, and he hopes its progression within this sector means he can carry on his scientific pursuits in the country, without having to look elsewhere.
With support from his school, his teachers and the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), Sinhadc has now successfully proposed his ideas about nuclear clean-ups to some of the industry’s most influential heads; so what’s next for the ambitious student?
“My next big research project involves reptiles. They have fantastic re-growth. If their tail drops off, they can grow a new one back in a matter of weeks.”
He says this could revolutionise healthcare and eradicate the need for human prosthetics.
“I want to try and combine lizard DNA with specific strands of human DNA. That way we can start trying to re-grow lost or amputated limbs. This is a real possibility and I’m confident it will happen in my lifetime,” he says.
So whether you consider yourself an avid environmentalist, or dinosaur expert, a quick chat with this nine-year-old whiz kid will surely leave you wanting to bury your head in the books for a bit of extra swatting-up.