Thursday, December 11, 2008

Looking into the sky

I recently bought a pair of Celestron 15X70 Astronomy binoculars. Prior to this, I had been contemplating on getting a telescope and peering the deep space objects but I deliberately shelved the idea as I considered myself a rookie and not eligible for such sophisticated gadgets! My enthusiasm on studying the night sky had started when I was in Clemson. Being a student then, going to JCPenney was considered luxury, let alone buying binoculars! But once I got a job, telescope was on the list of things I planned to buy for myself, which I later scaled down to hand-held binos

Then one Friday, I happened to visit the roof top telescope at the Boston science museum after having read about it and known that on that day, they will be focusing our ringed planet Saturn! As it was my first ever view through a telescope, I was totally awestruck at the beauty of looking at the planet and it's rings. Though I could barely make out the rings with such a big scope, I was nonetheless intrigued by the sheer beauty of what I saw and was raring to pursue my hobby further. 

On the day I got my binos, I was all excited like a kid on its first birthday. I had by then gone through a lot of websites and books on reading the night sky but none of them came handy when I first walked out of my house, as first the night sky was obscured by my city lights (light pollution technically) and second, as it was my first adventure, I was least bothered about figuring out the sky!

I was immensely enjoying the fact that I can see things 15 times as big or as close as I can with my bare eyes and I tell you what –this made a huge difference. I would randomly pick an area in the sky with my naked eyes and then focus my binos on the same spot to see what else I can see. Well, ‘awesome’ would be an understatement because what initially looked like a barren patch in the sky turned to be studded with tiny shiny stars through my binos. So I continued doing this for about 10 minutes when I came across this hazy patch of stars. First when I looked, I thought my binos were not powerful enough to distinguish probably a double star but as I kept staring at it I realized that what I had seen only in books and magazines I was looking through my bare eyes then – for real. I could barely control my excitement as I almost shouted aloud GALAXY – yes it was our Messier object M31 – the Andromeda galaxy. I was amazed, astounded, exhilarated and what not. Next thing I did, I brought Priya down and showed her what we had known only from our 12th std physics Astronomy chapter (9th chapter I guess) as our nearest galaxy. How I wished we had been shown back then in school and how good an experience it would have been! Talk about mugging...

After that eventful night, I have been able to go out only once more because of incessant rain and periodic snow showers here. But I felt I was getting closer to familiarizing the sky and I should say I love each and every bit of it!

A thought struck me while I was doing all this. Think about the time when humans first became intelligent enough to start reading the sky. Think of how dark and starry the nights would have been – no lights to worry about no light pollution whatsoever. I wish there would be a night when our planet blacks out (nasty thought but still J) so that we could relive the times of our ancestors viewing with our bare eyes the stars, planets, galaxies, clusters, nebulae, dwarf planets, comets – WOAAW!  If you ask me what I would most expect to see – It would be the belt of stars making our milkyway (pic above) - man I am dying to see it one day !

Lastly people ridicule astrology as baseless science. But if you think about the fact that back in old days there was always an open unobstructed view of the night sky with their beautiful and endearing formations and sights it seems more natural then not for people to decode the movements, make it mathematical and predict the future – yet another wow J 

Time for some technical stuff: 

My binos have a 15 x magnification and 70mm diameter aperture for capturing light. In binocular terms this means a basic astronomy binos through which you can pretty much make out the planets (Saturn looks elliptical because of its rings and you cannot obviously distinguish its rings with this), moon craters for sure and probably a load of deep space objects like galaxies, nebulae. I purchased it from for 70 bucks but I should say its worth it.

Websites: has a decent java applet to view the night sky from different cities across the world.

But googling will help you find loads of information about astronomy, night skies, getting the right pair of binos and so on.  Any questions I am more than willing to help


Friday, June 13, 2008

The greatest presentation

Let me start with probing the pic on the left.
'The PHC TEAM' - I am sure all 4 of us involved would laugh our hearts out whenever we think/read/say/hear PHC - it was an helluva funny experience.
Back in CEG, it was end of our 2nd year. We were given an in-plant training assignment following which, we had to make a presentation about the training.
Well, I dont remember how it happened, but we ended up in a group with multi-dimensional personalities (Me, Arun, Dushy, and Kumar).
So using Dushy's 'influence', we got a chance to train at a Hyundai subsidiary called PHC (I even forgot the expansion).
Day 1 - Being little apprehensive about going to a company for the first time, myself and arun were dressed in formals and were early to college on the first day. The plan was to meet up and go the company by Dushy's car. I am an early raiser and a little over punctual. So I pulled arun out of his house and came early only to realize that kumar (then Just In Time Kumar) was 'only' an hour late. To beat that, clad in formals with sports shoes was Dushy (reminded me of my school PT master and goondas in Rajini films) and 2 hours late.
So we had to rush to the place near Shri perambadhur and by the time we settled out our formalities, it was noon.
I dont remember doing anything useful that day. We just roamed around the place looking at all the machines around and in fact I took down some notes thinking it would help with our forthcoming presentation (only you have to wait till you know what happened :) ). Nothing much and else happened. We returned back home by around 5 PM I guess.
Starting from Day 2, Dushy and Kumar were a little more late than usual. So arun and I would be whiling away time at our canteen when these guys will end up around 11 AM (we were supposed to be there at 12 PM dude !).
Starting from day 2, our learning curve steepened, we were very punctual for our meals (some one had more chappathis than whats allowed, someone held their plate like a boat saddle :D), were extremely regular in mid day teas/butter milk and humble in exiting the place even before the clock ticked 4.
Kumar had then got accustomed to analyzing the girls working in one of the departments. We never learnt anything except that meals at these places are subsidized, PHC's Korean head sits in shitting position in front of the main door to smoke beedi and how to laugh aloud right in front of the person when hes trying to explain something.

Well the final day came and our training was over !! What the heck, we dint even know what our presentation should be. And realizing we bunch of bozos dint move our butts to learn even a single thing about PHC, our certificates were aptly titled 'IMPLANT TRAINING CERTIFICATE'. I wonder if kumar had implanted someone.. :D

Now for the presentation part...

It was a crunch situation. We ended up realizing that we had to present the very next day. As usual as ever we 4 of us were late in the evening, peering into dushys comp for possible clues for what to write. Since we dint have any notes written, our ideas had to come out of the less used imaginative side of the brain. We cant write the food was good, kumar found the girls amazing, the korean guy smokes beedi while shitting at the front door and so on..

good things happen once in a while, amazing things happen once in a bluemoon but extra-ordinarily brilliant ideas that will be spoken for generations to come can only happen once in a life time and thats only when intelligent guys like us would sit together and brain-storm..

we actually ended up deciding to have our own little pictures (mug shots you might call) in the slides we would present. The idea got extended from just one picture of us on the first slide to all the slides filled up only with our pics, as we dint have enough information to show even after enlarging the font to 20 or 22, and we thought our humble looking pavam faces would earn 'keen' interest from the judges and the audience alike. And on top 0f all we all were in one mind thinking this was one amazing idea. Only time had to answer that.

How to take have our pics? We (arun, kumar and myself) were done with few little lines we had to include and dushy comfortably said he would add his lines later along with nice ppt animation and music (new to office products you see).

we brain-stormed, brain-stormed and alas found that bulbs were starting to light up on top of our heads.. as we were budding professionals, we also thought our pics should be professional enough.. if you see your old passport size photos, you would realize that the photographer would use a green cloth as the background. So in that situation, we ended up selecting dushy' clean white dhoti to be our pic background (you can see that above!).

so our plan was that, 2 of us would hold the dhoti, 1 will sit in front of the webcam and the other will click on the webcam. Atleast we cleaned our faces before clicking but I cant forget dushy wanting to retake after he realized he dint have his deo on on his first take!!. And as usual, we added one more name to the endless list of Kumar's names - 'Kona' kumar - evident from the pic above :) Our mood will be well reflected in the pic above. Beneath the layer of professional photographic pose, you should be able to find us carrying the smirk trying to showcase our imaginative talent in bringing out something different :).. Along with us was dushy's dhoti blaring all across the presentation... hahahha I cant help but laugh..

once the photo session was over (70% of our presentation preparation time), we pushed the final task to dushy - to add his lines, music and animation.. (like inaugural IPL)!.

Presentation day-
Next day morning, probably first day in our college lives when we were in formals. All tucked up, neat and ready to present. We dint have a look at what dushy had added as music but I did my own blunder part by enlarging the pics on the slides even more especially aruns :P.

Presentation started.. dushy was the first to present.. i was the one who was clicking on the mouse to move over to the next slide. what happened was dushy had included the title of each slide after the contents in the animation sequence, so he ended up not knowing what he was talking about. He would just read out loud from the slide on the screen and glare at me furiously thinking that I did something to prevent the title to come up first. After all the clicks done and full slide loaded, the title would come slowly.. neither the audience, nor dushy or us knew wat he was talking about (as if others knew :))important point here is that our new concept of presentation with pics did cause few ripples among the audience. Since the contents of dushys pages were enough to cover the whole screen, we were forced to make his screen appearance small or none at all.

Next came our hero arun. He started explaining as usual. you must first look at his pic on the screen. his contents were sparse so I had to enlarge his pic in lot of slides and in one particular slide I switched the sequence without knowing and it ended up with his 80% of the screen size pic coming on the screen with the MS PPT clapping background music. THAT WAS HILARIOUS! believe me

arun started laughing while presenting and I couldnt hold my stomach. The whole crowd was ripped apart. We were making fools of ourselves but at the same time had a good comedy material for a professional college presentation.

arun's was followed by mine and kumars. since the audience caught the major chunk of laughter in the first part, there was nothing much in the second part except for our funny images and even more funnier background music..

saving for the last.. came our conclusion slide.. it would read 'a presentation' followed by our flying names and pics and it would start the clapping sound.. self appreciating presentation :D

finally our presentation was over. have you ever heard of a situation when people end up laughing their hearts out at a college in-plant training presentation?????.. well we had done that. this was an achievement in fact.

Our efforts faced its consequences, we had to cajole our tutor a lot to give a B :). Whatever, thats one of the most amazing incidents happened in my life. All 4 of us would never forget each of the tiny titbits for years to come..


Sunday, February 3, 2008

Do we think about the Cosmos?

How many times would we have thought about whats outside our world? I wonder if some of us would even realize that we are living in just a small speck of dust found in an infinitely large expanding universe. I always think that we have evolved to be entangled within a web of humanly complex activities unable to reach outside and foolishly limiting our envelope of knowledge by what we think as important to our daily needs. I dont want to mull over in detail, but the core idea is that we live our daily lives for things created by humans, i.e something very artificial and totally unrelated to nature like money, savings, jobs, cars everything.

I asked this question "How many times have you ever thought about the origin of universe" to my col friends Arun, Param and Kumar when on a trip back to NJ. I in fact was named "mokka" Manoj for asking this and lot of other questions :). I received mixed reactions but bottom line is not much at all. My point is we dont really understand whats happening! Do we understand big bang? Do we know that our universe according to recent theories can have more than 4 dimensions? Or do we know that its been stated around 100 years ago itself that our space-time is curved? Nopes.. sadly we dont.

So as we take away some part of our time for spirutuality, religion, meditation or worship, I would like to ask people to think about our cosmos. Probably, when you walk outside your house or look out through the window, try to observe how beautiful the stars are or why is that we see the same face of the moon or whats behind a supernova explosion or a asteroid shower n sooo on...

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Whats behind the name?

'Probability collapses' is a phrase often used in Quantum mechanics. Though I know nothing much about quantum mechanics, I have been trying for quite some time to understand it on my own (its a bit too much I know)...

In simple terms, it means that whenever an observation is made, from measuring the spin of an electron to see if the cat is dead or alive in Schroedingers thought experiment ('s_cat), there are underlying probabilities that govern the outcome of the experiment or an observation.

When we use the pendulum to measure 'g' (credit to Priya :)) or we try to prove that the angle of incidence is equal to angle of reflection in a simple light experiment, there are an infinite results possible. However, depending on the measuring parameters, certain answers take precedence and 'probability collapses' to the one we measure and is consistent through the number of experiments you conduct.

I was pretty much astonished by this fact and gave me a jolt when I was reading this book 'Quantum Electro Dynamics (QED)' by none other than Richard Feynman . It was an absorbing master piece and gave unleveled insights into understanding of the basic laws of nature..

So thats the reason behind the name

Friday, January 18, 2008

First Blog

This is my first blog.. literally new to bloggers world.. right now i find myself 'usefully' doing lotta things which I thought would be good to share.. and gain more understanding..