Archive for July, 2009

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English and Social Science

July 31, 2009
She had not always wanted to become a teacher. When she was young she wanted to become so many things – Astronaut, Doctor, Miss Universe and what not! But as she grew up, the other options looked less enticing. Partly because of the skill sets required and partly because of the time that need to be invested in them. Like everyone else, she too chose this profession by elimination – the technique of analysing all the possible options and rejecting them one by one.

Not that she was not happy with her job, as this was like any other job in this world having its share of fun, learning, politics and helplessness. The last one – helplessness was bothering her the most. Especially when there was no one to help with her helplessness!

Like any other teacher, she too had to counsel the kids who failed in their exams, or did very badly. Generally she was the person who was in-charge, in these counselling sessions. The kids spoke very less or did not speak at all! She used all the techniques – advising, suggesting, threatening and everything else except reasoning. And her helplessness was evident when one of the kids used it.

“You have scored good marks in Maths and English. Why not score like that in Social Science? Is anything wrong with the teaching or you don’t like the subject?”

“I don’t want to memorize stuff like others. I think it is too boring, and at the end of the day defeats the purpose of learning”

“Who said you need to memorize everything? Understand what you are reading, put it down in points, remember that and write it in your exams”

“Remembering all the points in the exact order is called memorizing”

“You are just giving an excuse to justify your laziness”

“Laziness comes when I want to do something, but don’t do it. Here, I don’t even want to touch the books except on the day before exams”

“That is the point. If you had started learning earlier, you would have scored better. Good that you said it from your own mouth”

“I agree that if I had started to memorize earlier, I would have scored marks. But I don’t want to get in to the habit of memorizing things. It is a very bad habit to develop”

“If you go on speaking like this, then all your friends will pass out and get good jobs in big software companies. You would feel for all this, then”

“One correction. All my friends will get jobs in big BPO companies. You cannot have people memorize stuff and expect them to program computers. Coding is a different ball game all together. It’s more about syntax and logic than about memorizing all the lines of a computer program. You might pass an exam like that but never become a good software engineer by memorizing code. Most of the software companies are in to outsourcing simpler jobs anyway, so that should not bother them. In fact, BPO companies would love to hire such ‘talents’ who have been doing nothing but memorizing all their lives”

What could a teacher say to that? She always wondered why the kids never shared her enthusiasm for the subject. History, Geography, Civics, Economics were all interesting even to her at this age, and sheย  spent a lot of time reading informative material outside her syllabus to satisfy her curiosity. It was about learning new things, and that was what the students were expected to do at this age. At least, that’s all they had to do!

“There is no point in just complaining. You ought to come up with some solution to problems, that’s more important”

“Simple. Have you seen the English syllabus? Have you noticed that in English, there are more extrapolative questions asked in the examination, than descriptive ones? Even if someone memorizes the whole book in English, they cannot score marks in the examination because, the questions even in prose, are like what would you have done if you were in that character’s position in that story. You need very good understanding of that character in that story to answer that question. Extrapolative questions not only test your understanding of the situation and the story, but indirectly test your ability to express your thoughts/opinions in the language. Forget prose, take the grammatical questions. They give a sentence and ask the students to indicate what is wrong with that sentence, if at all there is anything wrong. They don’t ask us to memorize and re-produce all the grammatical types and rules in the examination. But to indicate what is wrong in a sentence for example, you need to know the rules and have a sufficient working knowledge in the language, anyway”

“How can that be applied to Social Science”

“If you are testing the students in History, for example, Instead of asking them to describe Aurangzeb’s war of succession, which implies that the students are expected to reproduce what is there in the text book, ask them to analyse the situation. Analyse the way in which Aurangzeb came to power by killing his brothers and imprisoning his father – whether it was right or wrong, whether he had any other options in the political scenario at that time, strategic blunders done by his brothers or just a question like what would you have done if you were in Aurangzeb’s place. To answer such questions, which are essentially out of the syllabus, the students need to have a good understanding of the syllabus. And their understanding of the subject is tested in this case, than their ability to reproduce whole or part of the text books. And wouldn’t it suffice to refer that Aurangzeb’s war of succession happened in the mid-seventeenth century, than expecting the students to remember the exact dates like 1658?”

Though she found the reasoning a bit interesting, she thought it was too impractical an idea to be implemented, and she was helpless about it anyway. So she thought there was no point in encouraging this attitude, though it was right. All that the teachers, parents and the students themselves were interested were marks. No one seemed to be bothered how they get them, as long as they do. So she told the most ‘practical’ thing that can be said by a teacher in that situation.

“You people are fit to be in LKG or UKG only. You people need to be shown pictures along with the names in order to make you understand even simple things. I don’t want to listen to any more excuses. Now off to your class, and I don’t want you to fail once again for philosophical reasons. Is that clear?”

Destination Infinity

PS: Ok, since Vimmuuu has found out, I need to clarify: The last sentence (highlighted in bold) is true and I was told as much by my Engg. college professor, not in school. I used to fail in almost all the local unit tests conducted by my college except for a few of my favorite subjects, but I never once failed in the University exams – I think they liked my hand writing ๐Ÿ™‚ย  But the context was totally different, and as you might expect I did not speak so much, but said some thing like I can’t study (memorize) a subject that I didn’t understand. This post was to avenge that incident. I know it is silly, but…ย  ๐Ÿ˜€

You can read more such articles in the Concepts and Ideas section of this blog.

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Virus

July 27, 2009


This is a work of Science Fiction.

The atom was hitherto considered as the basic element of everything. We know that every atom consists of a nucleus at the centre and electrons around it.

Look at where micro-biology has grown today. It has found applications even in pharmacy! It all started with antibiotics, but today we can deform certain disease causing cells by changing their chemical composition en-masse. What researchers have successfully done, is inject certain self sustained artificially intelligent viruses on certain electrons which would slowly destroy the electron by creating a huge imbalance. So, when certain electrons are destroyed in that manner, the chemical composition changes permanently and the disease causing cells are no longer harmful.

The journey towards such a path was definitely arduous. Initially we injected a slightly bigger virus in to the electron and hoped that they would dominate by sheer numbers and size, and destroy the electron. Dominate, they did but the electrons were not destroyed. The viruses adapted to the environment and started contributing to the equilibrium of the electrons. So, we removed them totally and developed a new kind of virus based on the experience gained in the previous attempt and injected them on these electrons. The main change that we did was to reduce their size but increase the levels of their artificial intelligence quotient. When we did that, these viruses seemed to develop a kind of superiority complex and huge inflated ego’s which is accompanied by a tendency to dominate even at the cost of destroying the natural elements that support life structures. And these viruses multiply fast and hence consume more resources than that are actually required, creating a perfect imbalance. It is actually not the quantity, but the quality – team work and the ability of each virus to cause considerable destruction to the electron, that is working the magic for us. We might just have a winner this time, and the initial reports coming in are highly encouraging.

We enabled every successive generation of these viruses to evolve in to meaner creatures through the self adaptive artificial intelligence algorithms that evolve with time to enable our mission to be conducted successfully. These viruses are on a different time scales – which means that whatever appears as a few seconds to us, appears as thousands of years to them!

It is interesting to note that these artificial intelligence enabled viruses have developed languages to communicate with each other! Initially we named them Code-Y type viruses but they seem to call themselves as human beings. Since that is an amusing name, we renamed our project as ‘Code-Humans’. And yes, you might also be interested to know that they are calling the Code-X type viruses, which we sent earlier as Dinosaurs!

But there is one thing our scientific community is perplexed about: The discovery of humans that their basic building blocks are also atoms – with a nucleus at the centre and electrons around them. Have you noticed – the planets (including the one that we live on) revolving around a star is very similar to the electrons revolving around the nucleus? Could it be then, that we ourselves are inside the atoms of some higher creatures/ objects, like what these human beings actually are? We don’t have any conclusive answers about that question, and our Scientific community is busy theorizing and wondering at the complexity of everything!

Destination Infinity

Agent Smith in the movie Matrix:

I’d like to share a revelation that Iโ€™ve had during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species, and I realised that humans are not actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment; but you humans do not. Instead you multiply, and multiply, until every resource is consumed. The only way for you to survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern… a virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer on this planet, you are a plague, and we… are the cure.

In the rare event of you liking this story, you should also check out a similar science fiction that I wrote before a long time: Robot. And for more general short stories, you could visit the Short Stories (Fiction) section of this blog.

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Search for Extra-terrestrial Intelligence – SETI

July 20, 2009

Cygnus Star Cloud

Cygnus Star Cloud

Photo Courtesy: http://celestialwonders.com/widefield/CygnusStarCloud_20061020.html (Image may be copyrighted by them, hence do not use for commercial purposes)

“Either we are totally alone in this universe. Or we are not. Both the possibilities are equally staggering”

Consider this: It’s been about 4.6 billion years since the formation of earth. The first micro-organisms were formed about 500 million years after that. The dinosaurs were extinct before 65 million years ago and the ancestor of human beings (homo sapiens) called Australopitheans came to existence about 5-6 million years ago. We have been studying the properties of radio waves (like light, sound and other communication waves etc) only for the last 100 years.

In this background, how difficult would it be to search for extra terrestrial organisms that are intelligent enough to transmit radio waves (Or laser beams), in the planets surrounding the stars in neighbouring galaxies? That’s one of the activities of an organization called SETI – Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence, which has contributing members and scientists from across the world and multiple observatories to conduct the research from. They use radio telescopes (which are either like a big dish antenna – largest being about 305 meters in diameters) or they use an array of smaller antenna systems and a central control unit to assimilate the data collected by these array of antennas.

The challenge facing such a research initiative is enormous – First, they need a lot of funding (Right now, they are partially funded by NASA and individuals like Allen, who is a Co-Founder of Microsoft), second they need to integrate cutting edge technology in various fields like optical lenses, radio astronomy, molecular biology, information systems and a lot more. The third – probability of finding out a radio wave communication from a distant galaxy may be very near to 0%, if at all they use the same ways of transmitting signals like us. There is only one consolation: The electro-magnetic spectrum, which comprehensively represents all the type of waves that we know of(light, etc.) can be completely scanned by the technology available today in a wide range of frequencies (comprehensive, as far as we know). And some of them do travel long distances.

Speaking of distances, to get a view of the universe that we know, consider this: The Sun is just one of the four billion stars (that we know), and the nearest star (Other than Sun) is 4.2 Light Years away. Make no mistake in reading it – If we travel at the speed of light (3 x 10 power 8 meters/sec), then we would take 4.2 years to reach our nearest star. With the current maximum speeds available (Even with Super Sonic Jet planes and space crafts), it would take thousands of years for us to physically reach there or send a space mission to these places. And our nearest galaxy is 2.5 million light years from us! There are thousands of such galaxies, as far as 200 – 300 light years.

To add to all those woes, a man called Albert Einstein has calculated that the speed of light is the fastest (or the best speed) that any particle could hope to travel. All the waves (Including light) travel in that speed. If that assumption is true, we may never be able to reach certain galaxies even if sufficient technology is developed in future. By the way, the light we see from the stars in the night were actually sent from the stars before many years but we are able to see them only now, as the light has to travel incredibly long distances to reach us!

Complicating things further is our ignorance of planets that surround the solar system – Though Mars and certain moons (Like Titan, one of the moons in Saturn) do seem to contain some favourable conditions for life (At least extinct life or micro-organic life), we have not been able to verify it till date. The farthest that a man made object has ever travelled is about 106 times as far as the Sun (By a satellite called Voyager 1) and the sun’s rays take just 8 minutes to reach earth!

But there are considerable advances made in the field of radio-astronomy. The light/radio waves from a planet, if detected, could be used to construct a spectrum that would tell what type of atmosphere a planet has, and some other vital information about the conditions of the planet, which could be used to determine if a planet in far away galaxy has a possibility of creating/ sustaining life. In fact, about 350 planets have been discovered orbiting far away stars.

One related piece of information is the launch of Kepler Spacecraft (March 2009) by NASA which seeks to observe and analyse light waves (Using CCD cells) from a galaxy called Cygnus (which has a large density of stars) and hence more probability of a planet coming in between the star and the spacecraft, for it to observe from an area in space, with out being blocked by the sun. The above picture is the star cloud of this Cygnus galaxy.

Whether they are able to detect extra terrestrial intelligence in a distant planet or not, their initiatives fuel the growth and development of cutting edge technologies that find applications in a lot of fields on earth!

You could visit the ‘Non-Fiction’ section of this blog, for similar articles.

Destination Infinity

You could also help the initiatives of SETI by participating in the SETI@home project.

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I asked for…

July 14, 2009

If you are short of time, just read the highlighted lines (In bold) below:

I asked for…

Loneliness with silence…
A world without war…
Blood that is young and Fast…
A heart without secrets…
A relationship that does not prick life…
One drop of pure water…
Words that don’t hurt…
Live according to ones age…
Clouds without thunder…
Lust that doesn’t spoil the youth…

Love that is wide…
Affection without evil intentions…
Snowflakes in the tip of grass…
A bed in the tip of a flower…
Eyes that sleep in the morning…
Fingers that caress through the hair…
Skin that can get drenched in the rain…
The song of a blue(black) Koel…
Lush green grass to roll over…
A moon which we can touch and sleep…
Flying fish that can be caught…
Sleep that can forget misery…
Pleasant dreams that give aroma to sleep…
One dawn for the whole world…
Flowers that can live for ages…
Similar thoughts for all the people…
A language for the birds…
Uniform rains throughout the world…
A river for every place…
A sky filled with full moon…
Heaven while still living…
Thoughts that are uplifting…
Poetry like the burning fire…
Realization that is beyond tears…
A vision that is beyond lust…
Freedom in the flowing winds…
Wings like that of a sparrow…
Rain to fall on the fore-head…
River to wet the toes…
A lesson that is worth learning…
The sky that is there for the birds…
A friendship without being betrayed…
Wealth that doesn’t bring shivers…
A full day inside a flower…
Enjoying the music of the rain…
Taking bath in a river on moon…
To feel the smell of sandal…
To fall like a shadow…
To cry like the rain…
Unity to live within me…
Lips that always smile…
A sun like the snow flakes…
Snow flakes like the sun…
The sword of Raja Raja Cholan (A Tamil King)…
The pen of Thiruvalluvar (A Tamil poet)…
The words of the Poet Bharathiyar (A Tamil Poet)…
The arrows of Parthiban (?)
The flute of Lord Krishna…
The parrot of Goddess Madurai Meenakshi…
Food that is earned through hard work…
Affection to taste with the food…
Purity like the rain…
Humbleness of the grass…
Bravery of the storm…
Shoulders that can stand the lightning…
A Heart that can take a bad name…
Power that can brave betrayal…
Patience that is not lost…
A heart that listens to the mind…
The force that can die at will…
Eyes that recognize cheats…
Legs that can walk through time…
Failures that are small…
A wound that can heal fast…

Faces that are not covered…
A smile that is not false…

Mother’s milk when I was crawling…
Some toys when I was young…
Books when I was five…
A pen to be my sixth finger…
Empathy instead of money…
Mother’s lap instead of a pillow…
Living like a parrot in a cage…
The littlest Love…

But I never got anything that I asked… (Obviously ๐Ÿ™‚ )

Ok, I am not asking all these things. Ajith Kumar is asking all these things in a Tamil song, which is given below. If you have come this far ๐Ÿ˜€ then listen to the below song as well, nice one…

You could visit the ‘Poems’ section of this blog, to read similar articles.

Destination Infinity

PS: Vishesh, I tried to beat your poem length at least on a translated poem… But it was not possible ๐Ÿ˜€


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General Theory of Beauty

July 11, 2009


I have developed a theory (based on my observation alone, and there is absolutely no scientific method applied to develop it) on the topic – Beauty. Do you remember this song from Kaho Naa Pyar hai – ‘Chaand Sitare….‘? One line in that goes like : ‘Hai roop mein itna saadapan, to kitna sundar hoga mann?’! which roughly translates to ‘If the person is so beautiful, how beautiful would his/her mind be?’ This set me thinking… Is physical beauty directly proportional to beauty of the mind? I know this is quite subjective (to the definition of beauty of the mind, not the physical beauty – where we more or less have a consensus), but still I propose my General Theory of Beauty:

The beauty of the mind [Is inversely proportional to] Physical beauty.
Note: This theory applies only to beautiful people and there is no converse of it like Lesser beautiful people having a lot of beauty in their minds, etc.

Slightly more explanatory version: When a person is very very beautiful (there is no need to discriminate based on gender, it applies to both men and women) then they develop a SUPREME EGO and think that AS they are very very BEAUTIFUL, they are some sort of BLESSED and SPECIAL creatures SPECIALLY sent on this EARTH and BECAUSE of their BEAUTY, they are ABOVE all LESSER MORTALS (read: lesser beautiful people). And since they develop that SUPREME EGO, the beauty of their mind becomes lesser and lesser. Of course, there may be exceptions.

Wait, It’s not yet over:ย  Replace Beautiful with Rich, Highly educated, Powerful etc, and the theory still holds. That’s why I am calling it the General Theory and not just Theory!

So, what do you people think of it ๐Ÿ™‚ ?

Destination Infinity


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We want more 50 Rupee Notes

July 7, 2009


“Gold gets dug out of the ground in Africa, or some place. Then we melt it down, dig another hole, bury it again and pay people to stand around guarding it. It has no utility. Anyone watching from Mars would be scratching their head” – Warren Buffett.

Macro economics has always confused me. Once in my 9th Standard, I asked the only question (from me) to my strict economics teacher (who appeared quite intelligent to me) : “Why don’t we just keep printing more and more money to pay off debts to foreign countries and stop collecting taxes ?” The whole class was stunned! I knew I had hit the nail in the coffin, and the seemingly very intelligent economics teacher didn’t have the answer. She replied “Stop thinking too much on macro-economic subjects”. That was escapism for sure, but I took her advice ๐Ÿ™‚

Flash Forward.

I am still not comfortable on macro economic subjects like dollar value appreciation, stock market being bullish, the Budget presented by the FM with so much fan fare etc. But when it comes to simple economic things that affect the common man (Read: Macro economic ignorant man) like me, I just cannot ignore it!

I am talking about the non-availability of 50 Rupee notes in circulation in the market. I mean I need to almost think twice before giving the 50 Rupee notes to any shop, thinking I might run out of them when I need change! Some times I have even been refused certain articles, for the non-availability of 50 rupee notes, both with the shop keeper and myself. So, I wanted to know who was responsible for this. Fortunately, now we have Google.

It seems the Reserve Bank of India is responsible for deciding how many notes to print and I read the following in their official website : (You can click on that link if you want to know what are the unique features of original currency notes and how to distinguish them from the duplicate ones) “The Reserve Bank estimates the quantity of bank notes that are likely to be needed denomination wise and accordingly places indent….”

I don’t know what methods they use to “estimate the quantity of bank note denominations” that are needed in the market, but they are quite off the target when it comes to estimating the requirement of the number of 50 Rupee notes, I think.

In the same website, I found this: “However, Rs. 5 was re-introduced in 2001 to supplement the gap between the demand and supply of coins in this denomination” – Bang on. That was good work, and I appreciate the minting of 5 Rupee coins instead of 5 Rupee notes which gets easily torn. When they were able to identify that correctly, why not print more 50 Rupee notes too? We want more 50 Rupee Notes!

So, I went to the “Contact Us” portion of their website and filled up the coloums, and pressed the Submit button. I thought I may not get a response but well it doesn’t even take my request! Try for yourself, and let me know if it is accepting the filled up online form.

And if you are still wondering about why a Government cannot simply print more and more currency notes to pay external debts and stop collecting taxes, this article provides a good answer to it!!

Destination Infinity

To read similar articles, you could visit the Concepts and Ideas section of this Blog.