Let’s go to space

Just today I read a National Geographic article about Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson trying to get to space and whether they should instead be spending their billions in saving Earth like Bill Gates seems to be doing. I imagine there is a sizeable chunk of people who feel going to space is meaningless. Being from India, a country with space ambitions but where hundreds of millions live in poverty, it’s a question that gets asked everytime there is a satellite launch. How do you save the earth then, or even the people? The Gates foundation does some remarkable work in purification of water, preservation of agricultural lands, medicine, women’s empowerment etc. Most people can see their work and instantly recognize the value. I can see why they do not see the same value in going to space, historically some of our greatest achievements in space have been pretty useless – or have they? Continue reading Let’s go to space


Megashark – A Mega SHAM! – A blow to shark conservation

Sharkweek just ended. Finally managed to see the Megalodon episode. I was extremely curious since it was so widely panned. Being from a science background and an avid fan of marine biology, I wanted to see how bad it was. I realized from the trailers that it was going to be absolute bollocks! but I was not prepared for this. The Moon-landing conspiracy is better designed than this. What the heck! Nessi is better designed than this. Everything they showed was pure BS. Every claim they made was full of holes. This idea had more holes than a tea-strainer. Scientists who do not exist in real life? Scientists who do exist but their schools are not shown just their department is shown? I have lost faith in the three “experts” that were shown on the show. They deserve to be banished from the scientific community after this farce. The photos do not match up to the accounts, heck! the dramatization does not match up to the accounts.

I have spent a lot of my childhood seeing Discovery Channel and while I understand Discovery is not a declared scientific organization like National Geographic , they still do have a responsibility towards their younger audience. Adults can clearly see that this is pure BS and they do, the widespread uproar suggests so, but Discovery Channel is also seen by young impressionable children. I am terrified of sharks. They are the one fear I have, that I know of, but I also know that my fear is irrational. Sharks are not out to hunt humans. All the interactions are misunderstandings on the shark’s part and encroachment of their territory by us on our part. I was terrified of them in my childhood and I still am but if tomorrow someone comes up to me and asks me to help with Shark conservation, then I will do my best. I am afraid of them but now I am more afraid of Discovery Channel.

It would appear that Discovery Channel has been exemplary in creating works of SH*T lately. I also found out about the “Mermaid” shows and watched them. I am not sure if anyone in Discovery network is ever going to read this, but from this moment on Discovery Channel is NOT a education channel, its NOT ONLY an entertainment channel, but I now consider it to be a criminal organization. Its crime? It has betrayed my trust in them, it has dealt a blow if nothing else to shark conservation and will be responsible in part for every shark that dies from humans from now on. How can they claim an actor for a scientist? How can they say that he is a marine biologist? How does putting a tiny 1 sec disclaimer make it acceptable? How can they show an ordinary video of a shark swimming by and then “calculate” its dimensions to be 60+ ft? Do they even know what 60 ft looks like? The claimed witness photo by the SA spotter is so downright a blatant lie that I cannot even believe they thought it would be believable in any context. The Brazilian rescue footage does not even tally with whatever they made the poor guy claim. I am not a student of marine biology but even I can tear the whole episode apart from pure logic. And don’t even get me started on the excellent “scientific” conclusions that the “marine biologist”s and presumed “experts” got to in the last dramatization.

I am now actively going to ask the people I know to stop watching any channel from the Discovery network for any remote scientific sense. I can only wish that Steve Irwin is not turning in his premature grave, for if he witnessed this attack on shark conservation then I cannot imagine how hurt he would have been. If you want to see a FAR FAR more accurate documentary on Megalodon then watch this documentary from National Geographic (which still remains a scientific organization for me).

Talking to a Nobel Laureate

I am talking about Dr. John Mather. The 2006 Nobel Prize winner in Physics for his work in the Cosmic Microwave Radiation Background. It is remarkable because his work has been a fundamental backstory of much of the current research into the Big Bang or the early Universe. Currently he is the primary researcher working on the next generation telescope ( the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope ) – the James Web Space Telescope. Continue reading Talking to a Nobel Laureate

Why not to write about Feynman in the SOP?

            I wrote about Richard Feynman a few days back. It must have been pretty clear that I am very impressed by Feynman. He has had a huge impact on my life. I have loved reading about his pranks and adventures like most do, but I have also loved reading and hearing his lectures unlike many who just like to read the funny stories and think his lectures have no content. I have listened to his messenger lectures and I think must have inspired many into taking up physics. What more can you ask from a teacher. A teacher is there to guide and quite obviously that seems to work for his students as many have gone on the record saying he was one of the best teachers ever.

            I am presently applying for graduate studies in US universities and one thing that I was told by many, was not to include Richard Feynman in my SOP. They say it makes my application look like normal. Maybe that true, but removing Feynman from my life would take away one of the fundamental reasons why I love physics so much. I love its intricacies and yet the beauty that lies in simple laws take my breadth away. I have always liked Physics but I learned to love physics from Feynman. I once read this on a website . The author said that you need to have a better reason to go to graduate school than Feynman. I think he’s wrong. What are teachers for? why are the documentary films made on science and scientists? I think it is to inspire people to follow something. No common child begins by magical attraction to something, he is not born loving physics, or any other subject for that matter. Even Feynman was inducted into physics and questioning physical events by his father. His father served as his inspiration to love physics.

Continue reading Why not to write about Feynman in the SOP?

The Sagan Series – Part 1

The Sagan Series is a series of videos commissioned by NASA and created by Reid Gower. They talk of the challenges facing Man in reaching the space and looks back on the path we have taken and talks of the present situation. They are brilliant not only in the presentation but also in the pictures used. The BBC pictures used are all HD and the videos in all the HD glory are strikingly beautiful.

The first video “The Frontier is Everywhere” talks of the frontier of challenges facing humans and that has faced us in the many generation we have passed. When we used to be hunters and foragers it was very easy to discover new things, the frontier was everywhere. Today we seem to be asking the question whether we should venture into space and question whether we are capable enough. “We who cannot even put our own planetary home in order, riven with rivalries and hatred, are we to venture into space” begs a moment of thought, indeed we have a lot of troubles on earth, why should we go looking for more outside, why spend so much on space when so many are dying of hunger and dying in the hands of terrorists. We are an adaptable species and we will change, we are changing now. “By the time we are ready to settle the nearest planetary systems we would have changed. Time would have changed us, our necessities and even our hatred of each other would have changed us. It will not be we who go to the stars, it will be a species very much like us, but with more of our strengths and fewer of our weaknesses, more confident, far-seeing, capable and prudent. Despite our failings, despite our fallibilities we humans are capable of greatness.” – This is my favorite line in the entire video. It gives you hope and courage to do what’s necessary knowing that in the end, the fate is not for us to decide. We are great and need not question our abilities, we only need to sort out our priorities.

The videos are must see. I will be writing about the emotions that the videos instill in me in the future but for now, you should go see the videos.

The Magic of Feynman

Quintessential FeynmanFeynman BongosThe Feynman Way

Richard Feynman was a genius. No, not in my words but in the words of Hans Bethe, himself a Nobel laureate in Physics. He called Feynman a magician. He said “There are two types of genius. Ordinary geniuses do great things, but they leave you room to believe that you could do the same if only you worked hard enough. Then there are magicians, and you can have no idea how they do it. Feynman was a magician.” Richard P. Feynman can easily be counted among the most influential scientists, most important personalities of the 21st century, and indeed one of the best teachers ever to have graced the human race. Maybe the reader can already ascertain my fascination with Feynman. (Which in no small part also extends to the fact that I was born the very same year he died)

I used to be apprehensive about a science career and so very easily conformed to my parents wishes to become an engineer. (I only kind of had two choices – doctor or engineer). Thankfully during my second year in undergraduate school, one night I was bored (which used to happen a lot during the initial years) and decided to trawl through the vast collection of e-books that I had collected previously. By pure chance I settled on a curiously titled book called “Surely you are joking Mr. Feynman: Adventures of a curious character”. The title seemed odd and the name Feynman stood out, I had heard it before although I had no recollection as to where. I was just looking to kill time, but as I read on about radios and resorts, of MIT and Princeton, I was hooked. I didn’t stop reading till next afternoon ( I did go to the bathroom and had the meals), I even dropped class. It was incredible, how a person could have so much fun in his life and yet find enough time to significantly alter how a subject is perceived. Continue reading The Magic of Feynman