Thursday, January 31, 2008

The India Impact

Submarine cables in the Mediterranean have been damaged and this has adversely affected India the most. Work in the office came to a standstill today and though I was busy venting my frustration, I was rejoicing within! Reminds me of my childhood when a power-cut at night would send ripples of ecstasy through me, though I wore a very contradictory visage!

I haven't changed much in all these years.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Call

Never have I been so saddened by a telephone call. I'm the culprit and nothing can attenuate my guilt. This must be an inflexion in my life.

I'm being too incoherent and need a blog-break.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Sorry

I apologise from the bottom of my heart.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The most ambitious scientific experiment of all time: The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN.

This has me all agog! Dad keenly followed the developments and kept telling me about them.

 

I'm picking the following article from Labreporter.

 

Deep beneath the ground in Geneva, thousands of scientists from all over the world are working together to build the biggest, most complicated machine in the world. It's part of the most ambitious scientific experiment of all time: The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN. These films reveal the scientific questions at the heart of the experiment and what scientists hope to achieve once the machine is switched on later this year.

Big Bang V2.0

Dr Brian Cox takes us on a tour of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Geneva - the biggest, most complicated machine ever built. It’s costing millions of pounds and has thousands of scientists from around the world waiting to use it as part of the biggest scientific experiment ever attempted. Once switched on, it will allow scientists to recreate the conditions that existed in the first moments after the Big Bang. The film also features Brian and other CERN scientists explaining what results they hope will emerge from the most exciting scientific experiment of our time.

 

Sizing things up

One of science's greatest achievements is to have accurately measured everything from the width of the universe to the diameter of a quark. This film features an animated zoom in from the universe to the heart of a hydrogen atom and reveals how things at both ends of the scale are connected by their common origin in the Big Bang. Dr Tara Shears explains that although there are scientists who study the very big things (cosmologists) and scientists who study the very small things (particle physicists), they are all waiting for the results of one experiment - The Large Hadron Collider at CERN.

 

The Mystery of the Missing Mass

Like antimatter, Dark Matter is a favourite with science fiction writers. But unlike antimatter, scientists believe that there are huge quantities of dark matter in our universe. In fact, they think that most of the mass in the universe is made up of something we can't see. In this film, Dr Tara Shears explains why scientists are convinced Dark Matter exists and how a new experiment called the Large Hadron Collider might finally tell us exactly what this mysterious missing mass is made of.

 

Hunting for the Higgs

Over the last 100 years or so, physicists have developed a theory called "The Standard Model" which says that pretty much everything in the universe can be described in terms of just 12 fundamental particles. However, the theory also predicts the existence of one more particle, the Higgs Boson, which has never been seen. In this film. Dr Tara Shears enlists the help of students from the University of Liverpool to explain what the Higgs Boson is and why scientists are building the biggest, most complicated experiment in history to prove it exists.

Listen to Prof David Miller read his prize winning analogy for the Higgs Boson by downloading the MP3 here .

 

The Matter with Antimatter

Thanks to Star Trek and other science fiction, most of us are familiar with the notion of antimatter – a “mirror-version” of the matter that makes up the world around us. Many science fiction writers have used the fact that matter and anti-matter explode when they come into contact to conjure up exotic-sounding ways of powering super-fast space ships or blowing things up. There’s usually an abundant supply of anti-matter in these stories but, in the real world, only minute amounts of antimatter have been seen in cosmic rays or created in particle accelerators.

Equal amounts of matter and antimatter were created at the birth of the universe but our universe seems to be made almost entirely from matter. In this film, Dr Tara Shears explains why this is one of the greatest mysteries in science and how it might be solved by the biggest experiment in history.

 

B is for Beauty

Imagine how limited our knowledge of biology would be without the microscope or how little we would know about stars without telescopes. From humble electrical meters to biological imaging machines, scientific instruments are at the heart of scientific discovery. Most of the time, scientists take these instruments for granted, treating them as “black boxes” which simply measure, magnify, separate, isolate, capture or illuminate the thing they’re really interested in. In the usual course of research, there’s no need to remember that someone had to invent and build the first microscope, telescope, ammeter, brain scanner or DNA sequencing machine. But scientists who want to do an experiment which no-one has ever done before, look at things which no-one has ever seen before or measure things which no-one has ever quantified before, are often forced to turn instrument maker.

Dr Tara Shears is one of thousands of scientists around the world helping to build the biggest, most expensive, most complicated scientific instrument in history – The Large Hadron Collider or LHC, a machine that will smash protons together at near light speed and allow scientists to “look’ at things that have not been “seen’ since the Big Bang. Tara is a member Particle Physics Group at the University of Liverpool, which is constructing components that will detect "beauty" quarks created by the collision of protons in the LHC. These detectors will help the LHCb experiment to identify tiny differences between matter b-quarks and antimatter ones.

Thanks to Star Trek and Dan Brown’s Angels & Demons, most of us are familiar with the notion of antimatter – a “mirror-version” of the matter that makes up the world around us. Many science fiction writers have used the fact that matter and anti-matter explode whe ways of powering super-fast space ships or blowing things up. There’s usually an abundant supply of anti-matter in these stories but in the real world, it can only be created in particle accelerators and then only in absolutely minute amounts. Hopefully the LHC will provide enough of it to allow scientists like Tara a chance to try and better understand the differences between the two types of matter.

Tara explains “particle physics deals with what the universe is made of and how things behave to make the universe look the way it does. One of the great mysteries that remains is why the universe went from being made of equal quantities of matter and antimatter to being one made entirely of matter”. The key to answering this question is to look at the tiny differences between matter and antimatter particles. The “beauty” quark is particularly good for probing this question because b-quarks and anti-b-quarks behave “more differently” than other particles and their antimatter counterparts.

Tara and the LHCb-Liverpool Group are responsible for providing the modules for the “vertex locator” or VELO. This is a silicon based detector that will let the scientists precisely track the movement of the b-quarks for the duration of their brief lives; within trillionths of a second the b-quarks will decay into other particles. The detectors being built at Liverpool will allow scientists to reconstruct the position of the b-quarks in 3D and pinpoint crucial differences between matter and antimatter. This, they hope, will reveal unknown truths about the nature of the universe.

Tara splits her time as an experimental physicist between helping to build the detectors and devising methods to understand the data they will produce. “I’m not an expert on detectors so I mainly help with testing components for the detectors”. She talks passionately about her work; “it’s such a seductive idea to me - to be able to look deep into the heart of matter and pick it apart like ‘pass the parcel’ just to see what it is made of”. She credits her teachers for her love of Physics, “it’s something that captivated me when I was about 15. I had a really good teacher at school, Mr Winders, who taught me how to think about problems, to solve them logically. I also had tutors all the way through university, and when doing my PhD, who really inspired me”.

Tara continues the tradition of inspiring young people with her outreach work – she regularly gives public talks and devotes a lot of time to helping the public understand particle physics. One question can be guaranteed to turn up any time she talks about her work: “is it worth spending all this money on a science experiment?” Tara explains “one way to answer this is to tell people about the technological spin-offs that have come out of particle physics experiments like this one, for example, the web was developed at CERN and PET scanners are a direct spin-off from particle detectors. But for me personally, this experiment is about the extension of human knowledge. It’s about pushing back our horizons and seeing as far as we can into the heart of matter. And for me, that’s priceless”.

Interview with Richard Dawkins

Liz Green show, BBC Radio Leeds

Click here for more information.

Godless Writer

I usually don't have the patience nor the time to go through entire Indian editorials. But this article was outstanding for the manner in which the writer elucidates his reconciliation of a godless existence with the demise of a doting grandparent.

 

I had been meaning to write something like this for a long time, ever since Dad's demise. Somehow, I could never marshal the congregated feelings efficaciously to warrant a textual transcription. I hope I'm worthy enough someday to write a eulogy befitting him.

 

Addendum: I dreamed of Dad last night. I hugged him tight.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Filler for the day

Nothing 2 write

This in spite

Of an afternoon fright

And mutton delight

Friday, January 25, 2008

An alarm and a clock

U_no_hu forced me to meet the office doctor today. I protested but she struck back with such vengeance that I had to acquiesce.

 

The doctor very persuasively said something that effectively suggested digging into me from down under (not to be confused with Australia/New Zealand) and cobbling me up. Doctors are a breed just waiting to lunge at you and outrage your modesty at the slightest provocation simply to satiate some innate sadist desire. They're hell bent upon tampering with as many of your internal organs as possible, as if in covert competition with the rest of the medical fraternity.

 

It took me all of my worldly and wordly tactics (strengthened recently by WebMD) to ward off the evil spirit. I promised to take a laxative instead, a far less intrusive and more humane alternative.

 

Earlier during the day, I discovered a very cute and useful site. I set the alarm for 4pm, but was away at the time conferring with a colleague. Someone who sits next to me phoned to inform of a strange noise (that just wouldn't shut up!) emanating from my computer! I realized what must have happened and dashed for my workstation to quell the noise. It was fun.

 

Time to crank a prank?!

;-)

Addendum: I hope my backlash against the doctor or medical fraternity isn't taken seriously. It was just a joke. I'm seriously petrified of doctors though!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

I bleed...

& I'm not being metaphorical.

Mantu leaves for home

Believe it or not, it's been 2 years since he was home the last time!

April Fool in Jan

I may be an information junkie but when it comes to news I can use, I'm no good. I wasn't aware of the strike being called off last night and instead of boarding the regular office shuttle this morning, rode pillion. Mani took his own sweet time (not that I'm complaining) and we reached office post 10am...the latest I've ever been.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Arduous return-trip

Thanks to my unfamiliarity with the bus routes, my return-trip from office wasn't a very pleasant one. Being illiterate to the vernacular added to my woes as shuttles mentioning their destinations couldn't aid me either.

 

Mustering enough courage to force myself into a flooding bus after waiting at the stop for over 30 minutes, I asked for a ticket from the conductor...only to learn that I had guessed the wrong bus, and it would ply only up to Silk Board. Damn!

 

I decided not to try my luck again at SB and instead chose the pacific luxury of trudging all the way back home...a good 1-hr away. I looked battered by the time I reached my destination, the lower ends of my trousers were heavily soiled and my shoes looked like having survived multiple blasts in a minefield.

 

The strike continues and my despondency ascends.

OpenID Slideshow

Sunday, January 20, 2008

CNN Podcast

image

Tried a CNN Podcast today. Nice except for the long wait and US centric news.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Bonhomie

Hi Donkey !Donkey watching	  Nature / Animals

I wish I had a pet...even a donkey would suffice. Animals are so much better than people.

Bobby Fischer passes away

/. informs me of Bobby Fischer's death. BF was very controversial and had gained a considerable amount of notoriety for being a maverick to-the-hilt and making anti-American and anti-Semitic statements. It's amazing how a brilliant mind that could analyse the 64 squares so well would be so bilious in his disposition towards an entire nation or community.

 

Consulting Wikipedia threw some familiar terms that I had almost begun to forget...terms like Ruy Lupez, King's Indian Defence and the Nimzo-Indian Defence. I could never understand what made them so special!

 

Goodbye, Fisher. If conscience indeed survives death (I don't believe it), I hope you're happy.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Big Crunch

logo for OpenIDThis sounds like a wish that I never even had the courage to imagine.

 

Yahoo! will soon be supporting OpenID, a distributed login system. Signing into different sites - each with a different username and password - will be a thing of the past when more players enter the fray. Already, industry bigwigs have begun inching towards it and it's only a matter of time before we'll be relieved of taxing our memory with redundant identities.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Precious snaps

telco1

Telco colony in Jamshedpur was inaugurated in 1953.

telco

Pre 1954 - A view of the auto plant coming up at Jamshedpur.

Image:Tatamilestone 1.jpg

Tata Motors launches its first truck in collaboration with Mercedez Benz in 1954.

first bonus

Telco's First Bonus

Click here for more information.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Hanuman @ Twilight

Pongal kept most office goers off the roads today and we reached our destination in the morning in a record 23 mins. The return trip was even sweeter and served to accentuate just how clogged Bangalore usually remains.

 

I managed to recognize, in the twilight, the giant idol being constructed for over 2 years off Sarjapura Rd as Hanuman. He was discovered blessing all the dwarfed concrete dwellings strewn around. I just wish he could afford some space in the vicinity to amble across.

Tasmin Little does her bit

Tasmin has made available some great solo violin classical recordings for all to freely download and enjoy.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Hall of Dame

Sreya tied the knot on 24th Nov, 2007.

One of the sweetest persons I've ever met, I wish her

A Happily Wedded Life.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

India Today, Yahoo! India News & NewsGator

image

Few would contest the view that India Today is India's most popular and best weekly newsmagazine. I've been a devotee since childhood but discontinued being its patron since long -when my interests swayed towards the more esoteric.

I was pleasantly surprised today to discover its online avatar going free (it was a paid service formerly). What's more, they've even got an eMagazine - an online facsimile of its ubiquitous print magazine.

 

image

Yahoo! India News has recently had a much-needed facelift and is now in tune with its international counterpart, the most popular web-based news source in the world. I'm consequently switching to the desi version as my main news source - its blend of Indian and international coverage is just what the doctor ordered!

 

image

NewsGator has generated a lot of buzz recently since making all its RSS desktop and online clients free. The major problem, as I see it, is its lack of support for synchronization with Google Reader - a real dampener.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Geek Week

This has been a week full of tech activities.

image

I became an OpenOffice user and tried some cranky tools to keep it in sync with Google Docs; my external hard disk (Seagate, 320GB) arrived via courier (courtesy eBay), following which I transferred my media files to it; SQL queries at work made me suffer from a bout of insanity; and I installed the Krugle plugin (I highly recommend it) for Eclipse.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Sick

I've a severe headache and a mounting temperature.

OpenOffice

image

I've been missing Microsoft Office on Andromeda and decided to give in to the call of the Open Source camp. OpenOffice.org seems a viable alternative prima facie.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

They fade away...almost

Dad bought our Agfa camera when I was born. It had an external flash that fascinated me. What I loved most was the standby indicator that continued to glow after the flash was charged for a 'flash' and disconnected from the power supply. How on earth could the indicator keep glowing for so long without any battery or external supply of electrons?

It's another matter that the glow would gradually begin to dim after some time until it disappeared completely. Learning the concept of capacitors and how the flash actually worked demystified things somewhat.

I guess there are some parallels between how the glow gradually fades and memory gradually fails. My memory is a mix of mute snapshots and short videos from the past...the sum of which tells me who I am. The memory footprints aren't necessarily spectacular, indeed most of them are mundane that the brain decided to archive for no apparent reason.

Like when an aunt visiting us in Jamshedpur had to make do with a chair without a backrest at the round dining table. I loved the prospect of her leaning back only to discover that there was no support. In fact, she even pretended to suffer the 'ignominy' just to appease my imagination. I remember my ringing laughter.

Or arranging an issue of TARGET in an in-wall shelf before Dad could snap me and didi for bhai-phota. The snap vividly captured the Gorilla face gracing the cover.

Or my two neighbouring friends and I hanging out at the parallel bars and discussing the entry of TV into our lives. Dad had just bought a B&W Telerama and we couldn't contain our excitement at the whole world being thrown open through its miracle screen. Anil was the most excited and I tried to dissuade him from visiting my home (he was my next-door neighbour) for yet another glimpse (or was it the first?). When that failed, I relented and all of us went to my home together.

Or Dolly didi playing a game of carom against didi or Manoj dada commenting about a sticker on my pencil-box. Or Dad and I scouring the market in futility for a particular type of tiffin-box that I had seen with a classmate and developed a fancy for. Or the rustling leaves shyly peeping through the drawing-room window as the slender branches of the Eucalyptus swayed and drooped, coaxed by the breeze. Or us assembling in the verandah during many a load-shedding and being entranced as the glittering Moon painted the landscape in silver and the buildings cast dark silhouettes.

As time goes by, however, many of these memories will be relinquished, many will gradually distort and eventually falter, but some will survive. It's amazing how we remember some of the most trivial things without ever choosing to do so.

Discovery

Katie Melua

This is what she did to the hyperactive Sam!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

First

From collectables to cars, buy and sell all kinds of items on eBay Made my 1st eBay purchase.

Work Respite

Our first work-day of 2008 was a welcome respite from the routine.

 

The good thing about networks is that they sometimes don't work. I spent the day hoping the network wouldn't be up and running...& my prayers were largely answered. It was only towards the end of the day that the system was back to usual.

 

I excused myself to an early (read that 1800hrs) exit from office.