Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Sachin Tendulkar makes a point to Dinesh Karthik after wrapping up the match

Sachin Tendulkar makes a point to Dinesh Karthik after wrapping up the match

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Who is Mr. Cricket ?

Yesterdays incident at Cuttack when Dinesh Kartik hit a stupid six and denied tendulkar a chance to score his 89th century brought many thoughts to mind  -
Did tendulkar advice Kartik to play freely ?  Did Kartik feel pressurised to score at a slow rate to allow tendular a century ? How must tendulkar be feeling ?

I think to me the answer is clear - Tendulkar, is not only a brilliant cricketer, he is also a role-model for cricket itself. He is upholding the standards of the game by rating an indian victory much higher than individual records.

In summary, I think he advised a budding cricketer call Mr. Dinesh Kartik to play each ball on its merit - a loose ball with 6 written over it - dispatch it to where it belongs. And in the process Mr. Tendulkar has given us a lesson on what is 'cricket' !

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Climate Change

The BBC Website on the Copenhagen Summit 2009 (United Nations Climate Change Conference) provides links to lot of interesting data and news videos:

Where countries stand on Copenhagen

An animated journey through the Earth's climate history

Impact of climate change - including a report on the receding himalayan glaciers

The key effects of climate change

For a more rigorous analysis of whats going on with our climate, check the IPCC (intergovernmental panel on climate change) website and their assessment reports.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

some more inspiration ...

25 Nov. (venue: Seminar room, ISVR, Southampton)
a) Dr Ben Thornber: Ben was here to present his work on large-eddy simulations of shock-induced turbulent mixing. Ben is an exciting young guy. His enthusiasm seeemed to rub off on the audience. He focussed more on fundamental numerical techniques in his talk - especially relating the numerical dissipation in finite difference simulations to entropy generation in some sense. what attracted me is the feasibility of using accurate finite difference methods for magneto hydrodynamic simulations of supernovae. Ben is  very jovial person too and I spoke to him at length about Cranfield university, where he is based as a Research Fellow in the Fluid Mechanics and Computational Science group. Cranfield is a post-graduate university for science, technology, engineering and management. Ben is based in the Department of Aerospace sciences, which is composed of a few hand-picked PhD and post-docs. Cranfield emerged out of the College of Aeronautics, created in 1946 and based at the RAF station in Cranfield, Bedfordshire. It started as a training ground for amateur pilots in the hampshire and solent area. This story dates back to the days when the solent area was thriving with aircraft manufacturers - especially the setups at hamble and southampton. Those were times when R. J. Mitchell must have been busy designing the spitfire. Out of this emerged the need to form a research-based setup for the aircraft industry which now runs itself under the guise of 'Cranfield University'. Ben invited me to meet him at Cranfield, where my dear friend Aditya (the one from Imperial) is going to be undertaking his post-doctoral study. So now I have two close friends in Cranfield :)

27 Nov. (venue: Lecture Theatre A, Nuffield Theatre)
b) Pedro Ferreira: Pedro is another young fellow with lofty ambitions. Pedro is a Professor of Astrophysics at University of Oxford. He was here to present his work on "Testing the Dark Energy Hypothesis". His work is to question - for one, the 'general theory of relativity' ? - for another, the 'cosmological principle' ?- for yet another, he questions whether the Universe is indeed flat ? - for yet yet another, he questions if the Universe might be empty after all ? Could SNAP, BAORSD, WGL, Integrated S-W effect, Planck answer these cosmic riddles ? It was probably one of the first talks I attended where it seemed that neither speaker nor audience didnt really care for a missing '-' sign (in the equations) here and there. Among the many famous works that he reffered to in his talk, was self-reference to his work in review currently for the Science magazine where he points out the problem of missing mass in Einsteins theory of gravity. I was also happy to find my friend and cosmology lecturer pasquale questioning the speaker at the talk. Among all the questioning, I think, Pedro brought sanity to the atmosphere by putting the following quote at the bottom of his conclusions - "No. You 're not thinking, you are just being logical." - Niels Bohr.

29 Nov. (venue: The Private Rooms, 51 Buckingham Gate)
c) Ranjit Sondhi: The chief guest for the IITLC annual lunch event is also a Commander of the order of the British Empire (CBE) besides being on the board of governors of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). The lunch event is only the second IITLC event I have turned up, nearly a year and half after the Picnic 2008 at Watford park. This time, instead of IITian friends, I have family as company - my cousin Prachi, who, by some heavenly coincidence also happens to be an IIT Kharagpur alumnus herself :). And by some cosmic conspiracy, we happen to bump into Prof. Ajit Shenoi, who besides heading the Fluid-Structure interactions group in the School of Engineering Sciences (my school :) at Southampton, also happens to be an IIT Kharagpur alumnus. Prachi and Ajit, by virtue of their umbilical connections to IIT Kharagpur revelled in talks of the Patel hostel and the like, which is greek talk for any non IIT Kharagpur-ian. Having checked the location of the venue on google maps - my biggest worry before the event was the attire - just in case the Queen peered out of the glass windows of Buckingham palace next door. However I was lucky to have found a old gift-wrapped 'peter england' among my possessions. Combined with a suit, which I presumably had last worn in my brothers wedding 3 years back, I had transformed myself from rags to riches in a matter of minutes. In fact I am suspecting my attire was so impressive that me, along with Prachi, landed up getting the voluntary job of door-keepers - to welcome confused (ironically, the location of the 'Private Rooms' is hard to find) and drenched (it was a typical british day) IITians.
One of the perks of being a door-keeper is the opportunity to interact with more people. Speaking to one of the better halves of the IITians (who were busy parking their vehicles) gave me the first clues about the forceful speech to come - the lady told me - "I have been here for 30 years - and yet I dont feel like I belong here". मैंने पुछा - क्या आप पंजाब से है ? - और उन्होंने कहा - हाँ जी.

The chief guests' mesmerising 15-minute talk revolved around the 'role of identity'. He emphasised on preserving ones identity - whish is a sum of his/her experiences - againgst the odds and challenges posed by an increasingly flat, global social order. I think the essence of his speech was captured in an anecdote he narrated about -

d) A 10-yr old school-girl somewhere in Birmingham - When asked by the speaker above - "Who she was?". She replied - "When I am with white friends, I am black. When Afro-carribean friends join us, I am an Asian. When Asians join us, I am an Indian. When I am with Indian people, I am a punjabi. And When I am with my Punjabi family and friends, I become a school-girl again."

3rd Dec. (venue: Lecture Theatre A, Physics and Astronomy building, University of Southampton)
e) David & David: David Payne and David Smith were the presenters at the annual University of Southampton nobel lecture. This lecture, organised by the Physics society, is an annual ritual in the first week of December - keeping in mind the nobel lectures in Stockholm in the second week of December. The nobel prize in Physics this year has been awarded for two revolutionary optical techniques which have revolutionized our daily lives - and makes this communication possible !!.
In the first half of this inspiring lecture, Prof. Payne talked about his personal contributions to the research of optical fibers. It was exciting to hear about work he and his colleagues did at University of Southampton, following the work of Kapany and Co. at Imperial College London. His presentation included videos from the 1960s - in which he himself looked more like Elvis than David :) - showing a young researcher, Charlie (the nobel prize recipient in physics this year) working on improving transmission propeties of fibers at Standard Telecommunication Laboratories (STL), Harlow, UK. Through his one-hour talk, he tracked the improvement in purity of the glass used for fibers from the 1950s to the prsent work at the Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC), which he leads. It is interesting and exciting to note that exactly 100 years ago, Marconi and Braun were awarded the Nobel prize "in recognition of their contributions to the development of wireless telegraphy". Today wireless technology combined with a fiber optic backbone pervades the cyber-space and makes all communication possible. Among the many projects ORC is undertaking, Prof. Payne highlighted the collaboration with Trans-Africa development company to install 8 to 14 terabit Fiber Optic Cable capable of handling Voice, Data and Video and allowing for the overall distribution of Wireless Networks in each country.
In the second half, Prof. Smith from Physics and astronomy, armed with a camera, a detector and a oscilloscope, and a telescope, gave a practical demonstraton of Charged Coupled Devices (CCDs). Titled "Seeing in the dark", his talk threw light on the fundamentals of metal oxide semiconductors (MOS). The name of the game he pointed out - is to quantify number of electrons coming from a source - or something like that. Being a mechanical engineer, I could relate to a contraption, he showed on one of his slides (and which he almost ended up manufacturing!) - an array of buckets capturing the deluge of electrons - and feeding their collection to a common conveyer for further quantification. His talk covered the historical developments from Raman spectroscopy to the present day use of X-rays for detecting dental caries. It was intersting to not some figues - while a (normal/average) human eye can see a 50W light bulb 26 km away, a CCD ca seethe same bulb placed 490000 km away (or almost 1/10th of the way to moon). His talk included fascinating pictures - including a 11.3-min exposure photograph from the Hubble space telescope. The development of the nano-photonics group at southampton means that we can expect switches working on 'light only' in the future - As Prof. Smith put it - "The future is bright".

Two Roads ...

Last couple of weeks have seen life being breathed into two major research facilities - one computational (supposed to make sense of experimental data) - other experimental (supposed to make sense of theoretical data). Put together, they demonstrate the scintillating synergy between theory, experiments and computations - the three corner-stones of modern research.

We at University of Southampton are now proud owners of the 74th fastest supercomputer in the world and the fastest university-owned supercomputer in England. The new facility nicknamed 'IRIDIS-3' on campus will help researchers at Southampton to perform calculations that they ever dreamed of. Hopefully, researchers on campus would now dare to dream even more and push the frontiers of research at Southampton.

For a small matter, the world is now in possesion of its' highest energy particle accelerator - the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). The first physics at the LHC is expected in 2010 and might lead to a change in our understanding of our universe ...

Standing on the edge of the woods, a pondering researcher wonders .... about The Road Not Taken ...