Tag Archives: featured

realigned atoms

It’s atoms around us, isn’t it? Everything is. All things around us are an alignment of atoms in a designated format. People, cultures, mountains, lakes, planets, stars come and go because the atoms decide to align themselves in another manner. Continuing this I want to present four different meditations on this topic

betelgeuse

In response to one of my previous posts (link) where I had asked where will you be 427 years from now, I received a very interesting answer. SK told me he knew where he would be in 427 years from now. He said he’d be a star.

It is true, right ? From another planet, the Sun ofcourse looks but just another star. All human bodies will eventually remain in the gravitational pull of the Sun and they’ll be part of this star too.

I am convinced by the sheer arithmetic of the Drake equation and that means that I believe in intelligent life outside of our planet. If you’re unconvinced, try the exercise here (link).

metamorphosis, past-life regression and memory

I was thinking of situations where memory continues past boundaries you’d not normally imagine.

1. A bunch of caterpillars in an experiment were given a mild electric shock along with a particular scent. The caterpillars learnt to stay away from that smell soon. When they went in to metamorphosis and emerged as butterflies who had an aversion to the same scent (link). This occurs despite the caterpillar completely transforming first into a gooey, liquid mass of genetic fluid before it takes the shape of a butterfly. Something makes it remember. The alignment of atoms carries out in a very specific way so as to not lose this information. I don’t believe this is accidental though, it is a very planned, specific and accurate way of transformation.
2. You’d have heard of people who remember stuff from their previous lives. There is in fact a very tacky TV series on that topic I once saw. When you think of the human bodies as atoms too, it it not all that hard to imagine some memory moving on to the next re-alignment of atoms. This is not going to happen accidentally but there just might be some way for this to happen without us fully understanding it (yet). 
I’d like to believe so.
3. Things have properties. Magnets attract iron. Water stays liquid between 0 and 100 degrees Celsius, Helium is heavier than Hydrogen, they attract each other and so on. I’d like to think of these properties as embedded within the specific alignment of the atoms in that object. If it wasn’t so, how else would a magnet *know* to attract iron or water know to remain liquid ?

groundhog day, the movie

Bill Murray wakes up the next day in exactly the same situation on each day – over and over again. He talks to his friends and the people around him and they don’t seem to know the difference because to them it is just another day, February the 2nd. However to Bill Murray it is the February 2nd that is the day after February 2nd.
See I’d like to think that he remembers something from the previous day that the other characters around him don’t. That’s that basis of his becoming a piano master, an ice sculptor and learn all about the people in that town.
He is the only one who carries over this memory from the previous day while others don’t.

xkcd

Finally I want to share this beautiful cartoon on xkcd. Profound.

xkcd_lego

The ‘S’ in Sports mode

Many cars with automatic gear boxes have an S position. This is commonly referred to as the Sports mode and drivers are told their car would become more well, sporty. In other cars like the Honda it is marketed as a way to help you tow a trailer or to overtake another car quickly.

Sporty probably means to some of you that the car will accelerate faster. That is not true. The top speed or the acceleration of the car is whatever it was in the normal D mode. No laws of physics change by putting the gearbox into S.

What happens actually is that the rpm at which the engine operates is bumped up (usually by 1000 rpm). What this does is:

a) the car delivers greater torque
Movements become jerkier, epecially at lower gears. And since more power is delivered in a short period of time, you feel it is *sporty*.

b) consumes more fuel

If you didn’t use S and instead stuck to D for everything:

a) The top speed at which the car can operate does not change and you can achieve that by continuing to accelerate anyway

b) You can still achieve the jerky acceleration of S mode by just pressing the acceleration pedal harder, more earnestly.

That’s all.

Resilience /1

I like to think that Resilience is more a function of attitude than skill. This definition allows room for nurture to make a person rather than just leaving to nature (or the DNA you are born with). Of course, I acknowledge that many people whom we call resilient are naturally so. They, due to their bringing up or life experiences present a particular attitude to life’s challenges. But it hardly means it isn’t learn-able.

See: Resilience is the ability to continue when you’re in the dumps. It is a conviction so strong that it sounds irrational to others.

I think it stems from the underlying belief that the current (low) moment is just a small detour in the much longer journey of life. I learnt in a Radiolab episode once of a tribe that has exceptional navigational skills. Their language has a few hundred terms to refer to the cardinal directions. Think of a word for slightly east of north, another word for slightly *more* east of north. Get the drift ? They did an experiment where they blindfolded one of them inside a closed room and revolved them quite a few times and asked them which direction their nose pointed to. They were simply too accurate ! Turns out in their minds they always have a map with themselves as a dot on it. It helps them re-anchor whenever they are lost. And people who’ve lived with them and learnt their language also start doing the same.

It is learnable, you see – the ability to view the larger story with the current time as a marker on it, guiding you to the larger goal.

More important to everyday life, you can make some of your own practise assignments that will help you behave more resilient.

I like to think so.

The story that Betelgeuse will tell

I got curious about stars when I could first see a lot of them in the sky. This happened when I lived away from  Delhi for the first time. We urban sissies hardly see 20 stars on a good cloudless night while at least 100 are visible at a good star viewing site within the circle you can make with your thumb and index finger.

Star gazing is the most humbling hobby. Every time I walk at night when I can see some stars, I can’t help noticing the familiar ones. They’ve remained there as I have changed cities, grown up, gone through the ups and downs of life. Most of these stars are so far away that what we observe today is where the star was tens, hundreds or thousands of years ago.

In the northern hemisphere (where most people live anyway), you can’t miss Orion that looks like this in citylight:orion-city

 

In rural areas, it might look like this:
orion-2

 

The shape and the star names are in this image:
orion-full

 

I like to think of stars as witness to our world, and they actually see what our world was like back then and even now! Consider the top left star on Orion,  Betelgeuse – which is pretty bright and is slightly red-ish. It is 427 light years away. That star, when you see it today was at that spot back in 1587. In that time, Delhi looked *very* different. It was when Akbar was the 45 year old ruler of pretty much most of what is India and Pakistan today.

Think about what Betelgeuse will tell a future generation about you in 2441 AD, 427 years from now.

What do you think will remain of you then ?

A better infrastructure ?

I found something weird during a visit through the road toll collection booth at Moradabad when I passed through it last week.  The image below shows two circles that are two consecutive toll collection points that charge the exact amount (Rs. 15/-). I passed through both and was subjected to two queues, a kilometer apart. 20140317-170850.jpg

I couldn’t help but wonder and the most likely explanation in my mind was that highway toll collection was assigned to two different companies who managed different parts of the highway and since there was no simple way to allocate funds collected in one place (trust issues), it was probably their solution to setup two points for collection.

I was wrong though since on asking I found out that a number of vehicles go to  alternate destinations south on the two roads marked there. Those vehicles who go through the entire toll road pass through two toll collection points and thereby paying the full toll (Rs. 30/-).

This method leaves a majority of people have to wait at two queues wasting double the time required in toll collection. I hated it instantly and also set out to think of how it could be done better in the first place.

I thought I had a very decent solution but I now know it is wrong and I understand the reason for the current solution to exist. It is not optimal and is doubly bad for the majority, but man honestly I don’t have a better solution. (Note: I have made some assumptions listed at the bottom of this post – those are valid for the context here so do read them).

So at this stage I invite you to give a better solution if you have any.

My original (but now rejected) solution is below: Red ones ask for Rs. 15/-, Blue ones ask for Rs. 30/-

20140317-174323.jpg

 

Assumptions:

–  automatic toll deduction through a transponder won’t work because you need compliance from a large set of cars that are from another state. 

– license plate recognition won’t work. You’d have towait for maybe another ten years till every car here has a machine readable number plate (States like Delhi have already started making them mandatory)

– A system where vehicles punch out an ‘entry’ ticket and that is used to calculate and charge toll at the exit points won’t work either. There will be an arbitration opportunity most likely exploited by some enterprising businessman who will sell lower toll fees entry cards to the incoming vehicles. Governance: Let’s not even think of solving that in this frame. 

On running

running shoes

I started to take running seriously when I turned 30. And while I have been an occasional runner since childhood I have learnt more about this sport in the past five years than in the rest of my life.  So in this post I’ll try to put out what I know and also what I don’t. Hopefully this will help those of you who are starting on running.

My mentor in this sport is Harsh Mehta, whom I first met in Finland. He taught me a couple of things that are the core constitution of all I follow now.

Continue reading On running

What are you made of?

There is always someone out there who can do what you do – a bit better even. Here is an example.

How long do you think you can hold your breath? With some practice, I have been able to do it for 1 minute 30 seconds. Once, I might have touched 2 minutes. I am proud of that –- it took me a lot of practice. But as I said, there is so much more out there!

Diving in deep water is done with oxygen cylinders attached to the back of divers. As the divers descend, due to the increased pressure under water, their tissues absorb more nitrogen than they would on the surface. During ascent, the excess nitrogen is expelled and if the diver comes up too soon, nitrogen bubbles could form in blood vessels. This might cause excess pressure on blood vessels and internal organs, causing extreme nausea, passing out or even death. Therefore, all divers who dive below a certain depth must come up at a strictly governed pace. Continue reading What are you made of?