Wednesday, 3 October 2007

TMB mode

What units do we think in terms of ? Theres this problem always of what units to remember disatnce and time in. when we were kids, we probably could get away with thinking in terms of metres and seconds. now the mind is exposed to lengths like AU (distance to sun) or light year. So also for time. I try hard to remember the age of the universe. It is some odd 13 billion years. And I am not the least upset that I forget this figure all the time. If only someone had told me abt wht 'billion' means as a child , and that too in context of time !
The point is that there is a multitude of range of space and time.
The question I get is how do people remember times and distances. I assume each one has a 'default' unit that he/she thinks in.
for example, we in India I think have been over-exposed to something called 'lakh'. In Europe you relaise that no-one would realise what you are referring to when you say lakh. lakh is this all-importatnt figure that people measure their salaries in in India. wonder if that is the reason its so widely known. perhaps with time as the salaries reach seven-figure mark, million would become a household term.
Thats the point - Million. I think the right way to look at things is from Thousand-Million-Billion (TMB mode I wll say) perspective. Each progressively going up by thousand. 3 zeroes each time. At least when reading scientific literature, I think its useful to be in TMB mode.
And particularly not bad when you think that putting the max. of these under '1' yields 'nano', which is the buzz word these days.

Sunday, 30 September 2007

The Standard Model

Its been some days (or maybe years) now that I have been intersted in following Quantum mechanics and the like. Though not much is understood, it still excites me to read about it. just the fact that it is something that is not understood is fascinating enough.
Over time, I have come to believe that the Standard Model is what is accepted by all. Atleast thats my current understanding. And it is a fascinating prospect to hear that scientists are close to nailing the final bits to prove the reality of standard model. the Higgs boson. Wow if found, it will mean that much is understood about how the universe began and where its headed.
Its truly a tantalising prospect and all eyes will be on CERN, Geneva to see what comes out. Isnt it truly the most amazing experiment ever performed. Thrills me a lot.

Friday, 14 September 2007

Stars

Well for some time I was thinking of blogging but being me was procastinating it for a long time .. until today ...
A clear september night sky .. a couple of books on subramanyam chandrashekhar still fresh in mind .. and here I am gazing out of my bedroom window. Its 2 am in the middle of a cool night. Could it get easier or better ..
A peep outside and I see the constellation 'cygnus'. They call it the northern cross or swan flying southwards or whatever .. all I see is the cross - the 3 stars going across and then theres Deneb right above the middle one .. Vega is there to the north of cygnus 45 deg below the intersection of the cross. Albireo, the bottommost star of the cross quite faint .. and then Altair on the other side completing the summer triangle.
I am at a loss of words - to see the summer triangle which I have been wishing to see all this time and now its there at a glance outside the window. kudos to Deneb-Vega-Altair ! Now I wish to make the most of this opportunity. so here goes ...
to the north of vega I see the 2 bright stars of Draco. this is where draco begins. going high up in the sky it winds down again. Ursa major is prominent further down towards north. all the stars in draco are accounted for !
the northern part of cygnus is pretty crowded with stars.
And now Cepheus debugged ! I first madea chart of what I saw and then looked at how cepheus is supposed to be .. and need I say it is humbling to see the resemblence .. I will go down now to have a better look at the sky. let us see how far my luck extends.
From the east, Orion is clearly up. Betelgeuse, the red giant at a corner and lo above it is the red planet mars. This helps me to spot Auriga ! crystal clear.
Castor and pollux of gemini have also made themselves visible on the east.
Capella in auriga and algol in perseus are now going to be the fixed points for further exploration.
Triangulum, Andromeda, Pegasus - it all seems pretty straightforward now. Either that or I am half-asleep.
Aldebaran so majestically forms an equilateral triangle with mars and gamma orion (bellatrix).
Aldebaran gives away taurus. And the triangulum gives away aries.
Sirius so bright, its not bothered by the street light.
And below gemini should be procyon of canis minor.
well thats as much for today. With the artificial lights of planes landing at heathrow taking over. Its 5 am and time to sign off !