child mortality rates

Watch: How physics helped save millions of premature babies

When a different branch of science came to the help of the medical one.


Only a few decades ago, premature babies born more than six weeks earlier than expected were dying at an alarmingly high rate – within a few days, sometimes within hours.

Nobody was sure why, until a mysterious ailment was discovered. It became known as the Respiratory Distress Syndrome (RDS). Tens of thousands of babies succumbed to this every year in America alone.

It turned out to simply be a basic physics problem (video above).

The root of the problem can be traced back to tiny air sacs in the lungs called alveoli, which exchange carbon dioxide for oxygen. Healthy babies have no problems here, and their alveoli are like tiny mini-inflated balloons.

But things get tricky for premature babies, and their lungs have to deal with collapsed alveoli, causing them to suffocate.

Enter physics. When we blow up a balloon, toughest part is getting the process started. LaPlace’s Law dictates that the curvier a stretched surface is, the harder it’ll squeeze the fluids inside. If you take two balloons and blow them up differently, connecting them with a straw, the smaller balloon will squeeze much harder and even blow some of its air into the other balloon.

Human lungs have the same set-up, except that healthy people don’t face trouble and their alveoli stay properly inflated, balancing the pressure between air sacs. Premature infants, however, have lungs that aren’t as developed and are unable to cope.

Doctors eventually found a way out by pumping air continuously into the babies’ lungs, preventing collapse with the help of a device called the CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure). Things have greatly improved now, and since the invention of the device, it has been estimated that more than two million babies with RDS have been saved all over the globe.

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Watch Ruchir's journey: A story that captures the impact of accessible technology

Accessible technology has the potential to change lives.

“Technology can be a great leveller”, affirms Ruchir Falodia, Social Media Manager, TATA CLiQ. Out of the many qualities that define Ruchir as a person, one that stands out is that he is an autodidact – a self-taught coder and lover of technology.

Ruchir’s story is one that humanises technology - it has always played the role of a supportive friend who would look beyond his visual impairment. A top ranker through school and college, Ruchir would scan course books and convert them to a format which could be read out to him (in the absence of e-books for school). He also developed a lot of his work ethos on the philosophy of Open Source software, having contributed to various open source projects. The access provided by Open Source, where users could take a source code, modify it and distribute their own versions of the program, attracted him because of the even footing it gave everyone.

That is why I like being in programming. Nobody cares if you are in a wheelchair. Whatever be your physical disability, you are equal with every other developer. If your code works, good. If it doesn’t, you’ll be told so.

— Ruchir.

Motivated by the objectivity that technology provided, Ruchir made it his career. Despite having earned degree in computer engineering and an MBA, friends and family feared his visual impairment would prove difficult to overcome in a work setting. But Ruchir, who doesn’t like quotas or the ‘special’ tag he is often labelled with, used technology to prove that differently abled persons can work on an equal footing.

As he delved deeper into the tech space, Ruchir realised that he sought to explore the human side of technology. A fan of Agatha Christie and other crime novels, he wanted to express himself through storytelling and steered his career towards branding and marketing – which he sees as another way to tell stories.

Ruchir, then, migrated to Mumbai for the next phase in his career. It was in the Maximum City that his belief in technology being the great leveller was reinforced. “The city’s infrastructure is a challenging one, Uber helped me navigate the city” says Ruchir. By using the VoiceOver features, Ruchir could call an Uber wherever he was and move around easily. He reached out to Uber to see if together they could spread the message of accessible technology. This partnership resulted in a video that captures the essence of Ruchir’s story: The World in Voices.


It was important for Ruchir to get rid of the sympathetic lens through which others saw him. His story serves as a message of reassurance to other differently abled persons and abolishes some of the fears, doubts and prejudices present in families, friends, employers or colleagues.

To know more about Ruchir’s journey, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Uber and not by the Scroll editorial team.