NIT-T Report Two

Having survived the previous attempt by secret agents to capture me, I write this article to disclose more never before heard data.

Again, we begin at the hostel codenamed Diamond at the National Institute of Technology, Trichy. The place is a wide, two storeyed building; close to the other honourable first-year hostels Agate and Coral. At the hostel entrance, we find an armoured gate, which could withstand attacks from heavy gunfire and even Hellfire missiles. Despite the presence of this gate, there is little or no fencing surrounding the hostel, a minor vulnerability. It is also rumoured that the hostel contains considerabe quantities of plutonium, and even perhaps antimatter canisters left by experimenting researchers. However, despite the availability of such advanced compounds, I should also remark that drinkable dihydrogen monoxide (H2O) is a relative rarity in the hostel.

It would be injustice to ignore the bathrooms. Despite the hostel’s considerable population, each floor contains only 5 rooms for enjoying baths. After spending a good time in the queue, we finallly enter the bathroom. Some rooms even have broken holes in the doors, thus revealing the occupant inside. When the bucket is finally filled with water for the exciting bath, a young and avid chemist can research the process of sedimentation, or an avid physicist can research the scattering of light; for the water is actually a colloidal solution containing major amounts of dirt. Students of both categories may also contemplate the possibility of being captured and beaten if they spend too much time researching.

Finally, we enter the classes. All the classes take place at the LHC – the Lecture Hall Complex, although few know that the abbreviation is a codename for a secret Large Hadron Collider replica located underground.

OK OK, enough kidding around – I’ll cut the crap, I want to talk seriously about this one:

The lecturers are really not good. We have the subjects Physics, Chemistry, Maths, Humanities, Engineering Mechanics, Humanities, environmental engineering and engg. graphics; along with practicals. Not one teacher, from the above subjects impressed me. I mean, guys, this is NIT we’re talking about. Even the ones from school, or the IIT coaching centres were way better. To digress, the teachers simply seem to assign work to the students, merely repeat religiously what is given in some textbook and do not teach with gusto or engage the students in any way. Like, as if we’re just 10th grade students or something. We’re asked to take notes; not to express ideas. It is a one way monotonous digress from the teacher to student; never an exciting discussion. Above all, it seems to be about working and memorising, not much about thinking. Many teachers do not even speak proper English. Maybe all of it’s because we’re just first years or something (just?). Or maybe most of the things people learn here are from the library. Still, I expected captivating Carl Sagans; but I found thoughtless bureaucrats.

Thats all for now. Until next time, loads of love from graffiti. Got to go, feeling hungry…

NIT-T priority one dossier (CLASSIFIED)

So yes, I’m officially into Regional Entertainment Centre (REC), or Regional Engineering college…ahem, it’s the National Institute of Technology which has all these alais names used in code language in case our conversation is being tracked by Jason Bourne’s or James Bond’s enemies. Ahem, anyway…

Begin at the beginning: The hostel, also codenamed as Diamond (there are a couple of more hostels with similarly unguessable codenames such as Emerald, Agate, opal and so on). Probably because the college name starts with ‘National’, many of the guys from the humble first year hostel are from all over India; and some are apparently confused with the definition of national, since there are even people from Nepal, US etc etc., Thus it is no great universe-shattering surprise that I share a secret location in the Diamond hostel with a guy from Hazaribagh, Jabalpur and someone from some remote place in Andhra which I don’t even remember. Due to this reason, we all agreed to converse in the language of English, as suggested by my friends in the Illuminati.

Nanotechnology is apparently not well developed in the campus, since the whole NIT Trichy occupies a megnormous area of 800 acres or 3.24 sq. kilometres (if you are a fan of the metric system, as all intelligent guys are) probably one of the largest in the country, though rumors to build a particle accelerator larger than the LHC in NITT are quite rife (OK, if you believe all the stuff I wrote…..well, believe me: you are quite an innocent dude. Paradox?). Training begins in the campus tomorrow, where I’ll be studying Production Engineering (Due to the highly volatile nature of the information, what exactly we’ll be learning to produce has not yet been disclosed to me.) Hopefully, I may sit in the front bench of the class with an air of a seeker of knowledge, taking notes without perpetually hibernating.

This concludes the secret dossier. By no means is this the last one on this topic…more are coming through; unless I get killed by the guys in black suits and cooling glasses who are currently following me for revealing top secret information.

Appendix:

Tomorrow evening is the solar eclipse between around 4:30 and 6:00 PM, with the maximum around at 5:00 PM. Don’t miss it, wonderful comrades!

Life 2.0 (beta version)

Whoa!!!

The only constantly appropriate state of the human mind, I realized, is surprise. I mean, is it already time to enter college? Gosh, I feet like I just left from kindergarten...sniff…sniff…

If you don’t know, I’ll be leaving for NIT Trichy hostel tomorrow, to study ….sniff…production engineering.  I don’t have a laptop, so I dunno how the  HELL I am gonna keep blogging – future strategising isn’t my strong point, you see. Maybe it is time to say good bye to the Good Night series after all! Oh wait. My aunty’s home is near NIT, so I can go there every week to access the Graffiti In My Heart headquarters, or maybe grab a future friend’s laptop, or go to the computer centre (if there is one). The point is ….your dear old graffiti would NEVAHH say goodbye to his readers (even if the no of readers could be counted with a single hand…sniff) yet.

So its time for a new life. Sure its gonna be fulla both good and bad stuff compared to the last one, but I’m pretty sure that the beta version will be replaced by a stable professional version fast. I’m packing all the stuff right now. Along with the usual toothpaste – brushes, clothes, cellphone, clothes, mattresses, stationery items and yet more clothes; I’ll be carrying some unusual stuff: A night sky chart, a poster of the Hubble space telescope, solar goggles (there is a total solar eclipse on July 22nd) and an abacus (I just learned how to use it, just need some practice). Oh, and a copy of Resnick – Halliday’s Fundamentals of Physics, the book which helped me to pass the AIEEE examinations in the first place. (many so-called guides for that entrance examination are just assorted crap. Irony: Fundamentals of Physics wasn’t designed with that purose in mind – as an AIEEE guide.)

Guess that’s it for now. If you still don’t believe that I will continue blogging, read this piece I wrote years ago in my previous blog (which is now mercifully lost in the blogosphere):

  • I believe that a blogger should express himself for what he really is, not what he wants himself to be.You don’t have to be ‘cool’ to write…
  • I would much rather respect a person who draws an ugly sketch and gets laughed for it than a person who doesn’t draw at all. Its the same with blogging.
  • I believe that there is no need to exaggerate or embellish stuff in life. Life is beautiful as it is.
  • A blog should uniquely represent one’s true perspectives, intentions and opinions, no matter how bizarre or uncommon.
  • I believe that blogging has its own ultimate rewards, no matter how pointless it may seem.

Now, do I sound like a quitter? DO I, PUNK? (holding the collar)

But…sniff…I really feel like I just left kindergarten!!!

40 Years On

LIGHTS!! I can’t stand them anymore! Why? Well, I went for eye-testing today (I wear specs), and if you have ever faced such a similarly hopeless situation, you might know that the monsters… ahem…doctors at the eye hospital put an acid some sort of liquid to dilate your pupils, so they could look inside for defects in your eye.  Larger pupils = much more light entering your eyes, and suddenly the whole world around me is bright – as if some curious monkey had grabbed the remote control of the universe and increased the brightness to 100%  (Yeah, I make an imaginative theoretical physicist, don’t I?) I mean, I couldn’t even stand the sight of something remotely white,  like a blank sheet of paper; forget staring at bright lights. I tried closing my eyes and opening them, only to find it worse than it already was.  Right now, I can’t even bear to look at the white background of this word processor, and had to reduce the brightness in the monitor!!

Anyway, this post is about something important as today is a special day. Obviously it is probably important for like 90% of the world’s young-adult population because Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is releasing today, but that ain’t what I am talking about. On July 16, 1969 throngs of people assembled on highways and beaches of Cape Canaveral, and even more people saw the momentous event on live television.  This event, you see, is equally as important as the Moon Landings, for the simple reason that the event in question IS the Moon Landings.

When somebody tells you the word “Saturn”, it conjures up many kinds of images: The ringed planet. If you’re well read, the Cassini spacecraft that went to explore it. If you’re not so well-read, the notion that Saturn somehow causes bad luck. But it is easy to forget the enormous Saturn V rocket, which will take the three Apollo 11 astronauts to orbit and beyond. Not the crowd I mentioned though. They probably will remember it for the rest of their lives, and tell their grandchildren about it.  The astronomer Kepler once remarked that the there would would one day be ships to the moon, filled with explorers who would not fear the vastness of space. Centuries after his death, Kepler’s dream seemed to be coming true.

As the countdown commenced, excitement rose. At 13:32 UTC, the Rocket came to life. In a wave of roaring energy, it rose slowly and 12 minutes later they were on orbit. Four days later, on July 20th, the lunar module Eagle separated and descended into Mare Tranquilitatus. The rest, as they say, is history. Neil Armstrong said the famous words “Houston, Tranquility base here. The Eagle has landed.” A flustered Mission control responded: “Roger, Twank…Tranquility, we copy you on the ground. You got a bunch of guys about to turn blue here. We’re breathing again. Thanks a lot!” It was not long after when Neil spoke his next famous words after he set foot on the intensely white (Aaarrgghh….I can’t even stand the thought of that! I hate white now!) lunar landscape. These words I hope I need not mention.

It is hard not to compare these two pictures , the first one showing the footprint of the early caveman, probably just after inventing fire preserved acrooss the centuries; and the next of a modern man, to show how far we’ve come. Or rather, how far we have gone.

Today, it is 40 years since the event, and NASA and the rest of the world are celebrating it. Things have changed, technology has improved and trends had appeared and disappeared many times since then. But very few have walked on the Moon since Apollo 11. The last of the manned missions to earth’s only natural satellite ended on 1972. Why were there none after that?

No one quite believed that men would possibly reach for the moon when John F. Kennedy made the promise of doing that. However, when it did happen, the disbelief turned to hope. People hoped that by the turn of the millennium, men would have established a colony on the moon, explored Mars and be on their way to Jupiter. The turn of the millennium had come and gone, but none of the predictions had come true.

Thus it is with a bit of something like shame we contemplate the event of 1969. NASA plans on going back to the moon with a new program within dozen years or more, but we know more about the moon than we do about the depths of our own oceans.

Sooner or later, it’s time to look beyond…So its only all the best wishes for all the world’s space administrations. And I would also like to wish the people who claim the whole Apollo 11 program was a hoax to eat centipedes, die of asphyxiation, stare at the sun after getting their pupils dilated – preferably with a telescope (an appealing notion eh?), drown in a pond of Hippopotamus excrement and to generally go to hell. 😀

I’m signing off now, my eyes are still watering from the brightness. I just turned off the tubelight. Ahhh, the beauty of darkness….

Edit: Should have suspected it form the start. The Boston Globe’s big picture section has come up with more wow-inducing, jaw droppin, spine tingling and generally awesome pictures of the Apollo mission. If you don’t see it, I wish you share the fate of the Moon hoaxers.

Electromagnetism rocks!

This place could bring out the twelve-year old in you.

It was an apartment near the heart of Coimbatore; where each room was filled not with occupants and their household items, but shopkeepers selling various technical and industrial goods; and I was in one of these…shop-rooms. Outside the lone window, a passenger train occasionally roared past, setting the window-glass clanging and resonating. But the outside world hardly mattered now.

Here, in this shop were loads of curious things. Solar goggles to view sunspots and eclipses. Squat and ornate microscopes. Black binoculars, their lenses shimmering.  Various science experimental kits of your choice – barometer making kit, optics kit, aeroplane modelling ones, and more. A couple of rolled-up posters, partially revealing awe-inspiring Hubble pictures.  Most of all, large gleaming telescopes that could zoom you across the universe to the glorious rings of Saturn or the  island universe of Andromeda. I had been to this place once before, two years ago now, to buy my first refractor. And now it already felt more familiar and homelier than home itself.

It is hard  to become a twelve year old again, to re-learn all the things you had once learned at school with fresh vigour. Well, if you ever had wanted to do that, you had come to the right place. Smiling like someone who had just got a hundred birthday gifts, I returned home with a good electromagnetism kit.

It’s great fun actually, there is loads of science behind the whole thing; and I could hardly have waited more to buy the kit and blog about it. If you hate to be reminded of your school textbooks, that is fine. But I hate memorising a fat physics book as much as you probably do. With our present messed-up education, it is hard to convince people that they are not actually doing science unless they are getting their hands dirty with hands-on experimenting. Anyway, here are some stuff done with the kit.

1

Iron filings sprinkled over a sheet of paper, below which there is a ring shaped magnet.  The filings get attracted, and arrange themselves along the direction of the magnetic lines of force.

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Same as above, but with two ring shaped magnets below the paper. The two magnets have unlike poles facing toward you…so it is North-South or South-North.

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This pattern is formed using the ring magnet by placing the neutral, curved face beneath the paper; with the north and south poles to the left and right. This is also the pattern you would get with a bar magnet.

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The two magnets with opposite poles facing each other, with iron filings between them in a bottle; revealing three dimensional magnetic lines of force. You could almost see the magnets trying to get to each other, almost like they were parted lovers or something.

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Once, it was thought that electricity and magnetism were separate things. This changed forever when in the early 1800s a guy named Oersted noticed that a compass needle when placed near a piece of current carrying wire showed a deflection. Later, others like Ampere, Faraday and Maxwell would investigate the intimate relationship between current and magnetism. Here, the circuit has a battery and a tightly wound coil of copper wire, called a solenoid. From what I remember after reading Resnick-Halliday’s Fundamentals of Physics a year or so ago, the coil creates a magnetic field along its axis whenever a current passes through it, making the compass needle deflect along that direction.  In short, we have just made our first electromagnet. Still don’t believe that the coil is now a magnet? Get a load of this:

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We see our helpful iron filings again. Recognise the pattern formed here? Duh…! It is basically no different form the pattern due to a bar magnet. The strength of the electromagnet of course, depends on the strength of the current passing through it; and the north-south polarity depends on the direction of the current.

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Now we see Mr. Solenoid again, with a compass below it and two ring magnets with opposite poles facing each other to the side. So what’s up with this decorative arrangement? Basically, in a crudest way possible, we have made a galvanometer – a device for measuring current. How? The solenoid creates a magnetic field along its axis. The ring magnets create another magnetic field along the left-right direction, perpendicular to the previous. The compass needle does a sort of compromise, and comes to rest in an intermediate position between both fields; leaning a bit more to the stronger of the two fields. Thus, if there were no current, the needle comes to rest in along the field of the Ring magnets, toward the 0 degree mark on the compass. For larger and larger currents, the needle comes to rest along the direction of the coil, toward the 90 degree mark. The deflection is a kind of measure of current. Crude, but effective.

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Combining all the concepts above, we could make a DC motor, a device for converting electricity into action. Here, we have something similar to the solenoid (here it is called an armature) that is able to move round an axis; which is surrounded by a magnetic field. When there is a current in the armature, it becomes an elecromagnet and comes to rest along the field caused by the surrounding magnets. The trick here is to reverse the direction of current when this happens (to interchange the magnet’s polarity), so that the poor armature is forced to move further to come to rest in the opposite direction, only to find that the current has been reversed yet again when it had achieved this…and so on….the armature keeps moving till the current runs out. Of course, there is no big deal in changing the whole thing to a DC generator – just remove the battery to a galvanometer or some device which requires electricity; and spin the armature manually…the galvanometer shows the deflection.

Did I ever tell you that…electromagnetism rocks?

Thats it for now. All my thanks are to Skypoint, the place where I bought my first telescope and regained…my lost childhood.  If you ever happen to visit Coimbatore, try to pay the place a visit. ( address/phone no?) It is not everyday that you come across a shop dedicated to science.

Good Night – Part 3: Observation Room

This is Part 3 of a sci-fi series in this blog known as  “Good Night”. Part 1 and part 2 are below this post. Sorry about the delay, guys! (If anybody actually missed reading the series, of course.)


They … should have sent…a poet, thought Pete.

Though the view was something he had seen countless number of times, or at least more times than any of the crew in the ship; it never failed to amaze him. Out there, beyond the glass were innumerable points of nebulous light, not twinkling, like those on Earth; but shining consistently, as though strong and sure. But the thing which quite stopped his breathing was the faint band of misty light that stretched across the large window in both directions.

In Latin, this band of light was known as the Via Lactea.

The Hindus called it the Akash Ganga. The Ganges of the Sky.

The Chinese called it the Silver River.

To astronomers, and the rest of the world, it was simply known as the Milky Way.

To see the Milky Way from the polluted skies of Earth is quite impossible, unless you are away from the lights of the city; where the stretch of milky whiteness could be discerned. In space, it is easily apparent to the eye –  Pete could imagine the Milky Way as some sort of meticulously crafted three dimensional image, suspended in glass.  As he watched form the window, his eyes gradually adjusting to the darkness, even more things became visible. Just to the front of him shone the constellation of the archer, Sagittarius; in the direction of which lay the burning center of the galaxy – albeit obscured and bisected by a distant lane of gas and dust. Near the constellation, he could see the open cluster, simply known as M7 – a dense collection of thousands of stars; which looked like a live snapshot of swarming fireflies. Or like pieces of shining jewels when viewed through water. He even thought he could see a tiny, oval patch of dim light, which was actually the Lagoon Nebula; a colourful river of collapsing molecules and star formation.

This, was a view of the grandest scale of things. As he watched, he had a faint sensation of a tingling in his spine. His hands loosened as his muscles grew tired. A plethora of conflicting emotions washed over him…the first one was the sharpest and most terrifying. As there was no “up” or “down” since the gravity-loss, it took little imagination to shift his perspectives. His mind fixed on the easiest interpretation of the surroundings – the feeling that the slice of outer space in the window was “below”, and that he could easily “fall” into the infinite abyss of the sky was all too predominant, and it felt overwhelmingly dizzying. Imagine, he thought, the gap below growing larger until space itself would engulf your whole…

He involuntarily tightened his grip on the rails, although he knew that such a thing could never happen. Next, the window to the outside was completely invisible and transparent – this fact sure did make him feel open in an otherwise completely closed spaceship, but he still knew that he was in a closed world, separated from the harsh vacuum outside by the strong glass. Thus, he was visited by feelings of both liberation and confinement in the same instant.

Pete closed his eyes and paused to clear the mess in his brain. The pink after-images of the stars still shone beneath his eyelids.

“You know, I felt the same about this place as I think you do,” said a voice behind him.

Of rainbows and reforms

The time has come to talk of many things, but mostly it is of rainbows and reforms. To be precise, the reform that homosexuality had just been legalized in India today.

You’ve probably heard of the gay pride marches two days ago, which took place (as far as I know) in Chennai and Delhi; to speak out against the soon to be repealed Article 377, which criminalises homosexuality. I was frankly surprised that such a movement took so long to arrive home in India – it is high time that people to come to terms with reality.  The response was mostly good, but it was a bit astonishing to see that several letters to editor in the Hindu responded quite discouragingly. The very first of these said removing the law would lead to dire consequences, such as leading to child abuse and a decay of morality and values, an erosion of ethics, and that it would mean giving undue freedom to minorities without responsibility and accountability.  Now, I could easily have blown my top off while reading this, asking exactly which century and location the sender of that letter came from (medieval Europe being the top contender). Instead of doing that, let me just tell you the facts. You don’t actually have a lot of choice if you happen to be – forgive me for using such a term, queerly oriented, as much as you have the choice to be a boy or a girl before you were born. Thus, punishing a gay would be quite as silly as, say, punishing someone for being born a girl.

Another burgeoning misconception evident from the letter is that such reforms may lead to an increase in child abuse. However, the truth is far from it – gay love has as much to do with child abuse as “ordinary” love in everyday affairs. Neither is it, as one religious head had already portrayed with added effect, another negating influenced of new-fangled Western culture. It is quite conceivable that homosexuality itself had taken root quite a long time ago in India,with legislation prohibiting it and an active movement being stillborn. For instance, several statues (warning: I would rather that you not see the images in that link :D) in Indian temples depict images that are, if not explicitly gay, at least an expression of same-sex intimacy. Last I heard, India was still a part of the “East”. The statues were later defaced and removed by a “cleansing” campaign that rewrote Indian history.

At the heart of it all lies the myth that the whole thing is against the law of nature. Au contraire, several animals and bird show such same sex preferences. Now, I am no evolutionary biologist, but this might be because of the selective advantage offered by such traits that show a balancing effect on animal population. In which case, India sure needs a hell of a lot of homos.

Meanwhile, the flag of the rainbow, which is chosen universally for the “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender” movement, flutters in the wind of change; reminding us that hues may change, but humanity does not.