What my blog will not be about

Note: I wrote this on my earlier blog hosted as http://parallelspirals.blogspot.com/. I recovered the text from the WayBack Machine. This post appeared on Ocober 12, 2006 as per the timestamp. I’m trying to collect here again all my old writings spread on various blogs.

[blog was written over many days and songs]
1. Will not be about one subject
2. Will not have a fixed theme (for non-WordPress guys n gals: the layout)
3. Will not be political (except content [sometimes] in the sidebar)
4. Will not be easy to find
5. Will not be number one on WordPress.com (won’t mind if it happens though)
6. Will not be about celebrities
7. Will not be about tech
8. Will not always be about what I like (hey, you gotta give the other side a chance)
9. Will not be about money
10.  Will not always follow the above written objections or happenings (hey, rules are meant to be broken)

listening to: (in alphabetical order)
Intimacy – The Corrs
Irresistable – The Corrs
It’s Like that – Mariah Carey
Lifting me – The Corrs
Mea Culpa – Enigma
No Frontiers – The Corrs (great song)
Old Hag – The Corrs (great instru)
Rebel Heart – The Corrs (best instru)
Parachutes – Coldplay
finally finished that post….ha!

Why not in India?

I emailed Rashmi Bansal, then editor of Just Another Magazine or JAM on August 9, 2006 requesting her to publish this article on JAM. She replied saying a part of this will be published in JAM with the article posted on the website. I think neither happened. Hence, posting here.

When we read foriegn technical journals available in our college library, students often think, when will we reach that stage? The thought is even shared by some Professors. While others think that engineering education is enough of a burden for students without adding the additional burden of innovation and enterpreunership. Engineering education in India is a fixed subject each semester and there is absolutely no flexibility of choosing some subjects of your own. This is because classrooms are constant and teachers have to circulate from classroom to class room to go to each class. An attempt to give the description of engineering education is a little overwhelming, but that’s the basic. 

Within this framework too, there are students who manage to develop their own projects and also do well academically. Doing well academically implies getting a good job and sufficiently good salary, the primary reason for choosing engineering. Students do not choose, or atleast the majority of the students do not choose engineering because they like it. They choose it because it is the easiest path to getting money and lots of it. After four years of hardwork and a little industrial experience you’re ready to face the big bad world. We cannot blame the students for the desire for money. That desire arises because of the need to support their  family as their parents age and are unable to do work or retire. This leaves most of the other branches open with empty seats and poor quality of students (the majority of them atleast). Engineering and Medicene are the most sought after branches of education. 

Why dont things like a project of building rockets or a student-run newspaper happen in India? What stops them from taking a step further and actually going ahead and building rockets or starting their own magazines? Learn and Earn are the only two principle objectives of the student in India. If you think that we lack ideas, I shall give you a few. Let’s see how many people can do this in India, with all the obstacles of education, examination and bureaucracy. 

Idea 1: Start a student-run newspaper, circulated initially within campus and then extended to other colleges without a central command at any of the college. How do you think online open source projects work? Some thing like that. Available for free online on a website. You can take a copy, print it and post it on your college notice board, with permission of course. Cover all the topics that you need to cover. Advertise by word of mouth. Just look at the number of students in Mumbai. I think there are enough writers to contribute say a 10 page newsletter. 

Idea 2: This one is for the engineering colleges. How about a rocket making competition? Make rockets that touch a certain height. Ask the Government where we can launch them and have the competition somewhere safe. It doesn’t have to go to space. A height of say 10 meters or whatever is safe. 

Idea 3: Most of us go to coffee shops right. Why not a student run coffee house chain? This will help students of home science and integrate with students who do management. This is a basic concept. Anything to do with management and a thing useful for student goes well with us. Recruit the famous wada pav wallas of your area and make your concept better. You know the streets and you know the people who make certain things well, you have it done don’t you? 

That’s just three ideas for starters and in three areas that I can remember – mass communication, engineering and management. You can think of tons more. Student projects and initiatives are encouraged across the globe. So, why doesn’t it happen in India? We ask that question, say that’s life in India and move on. Well, we got to atleast make a start on something so that future generation of students are able to hone their skills that assures that the future of the country remains bright. We can’t just hope that among the millions of engineers atleast one another Narayan Murthy comes up with another Infosys, we gotta believe that 10 Narayan Murthys with 10 Infosys comes up within the next 15 years. Target 30 for the next 30 years and so on. Beat our targets year after year. 

Is anyone of you ready to take the challenge? We have IIT-Bombay right here in Mumbai. Why don’t they organise a rocket competion? Why don’t we have flea markets in college festivals. College students are the ones who like to buy stuff cheap. I mean mostly. So, college festivals would be a good place to trade and bargain. Management students can research then, on how well that works and give us some figures. The ideas are endless but the commitment and desire to do the job is what it takes at the end of the day. Do you have it in you to atleast implement the three ideas stated above?

Ancient Indian Astronomers

Note: I wrote this on my earlier blog hosted as https://pradeepnair.wordpress.com. I recovered the text from here which is also something I ran. This post appeared on April 1, 2006 as per the permalink. I’m trying to collect here again all my old writings spread on various blogs.

History has not yet caught up with the investigation of the works done by the scholars of Ancient India. In this article, I would like to give you a brief idea of the work of some of the great astronomers of ancient India. Before beginning, let me tell you that these men were mostly into several fields at the same time. So, the same person may have dealt in varied subjects like astronomy,mathematics, philosophy etc. at the same time.

We begin this journey covering the works of ancient astronomers with Aryabhata.

Aryabhata was one of the revolutionaries in science whose work, the Aryabhatiya was almost forgotten. Aryabhata is regarded as the greatest mathematician-astronomer of India. It was with this honour that India’s first satellite was named after him.

Aryabhatta was born in 476 A.D. He wrote his first work, Aryabhatiya in 499 A.D. at the age of 23. The Aryabhatiya deals with both mathematics and astronomy and is divided into four parts: Gitikapada (preliminaries), Ganitapada (mathematics), Kalakriyapada (reckoning of time) and Golapada (astronomy).

Aryabhata (476 – 550 A.D.) believed that the earth rotated on its axis and the stars were fixed in space.  He goes on to say that the apparent rotation of the heavens was due to the fact that the earth revolved around its axis.  According to him the period of one rotation of the earth is 23 hours 56 mn 4.1s while the modern value is 23 hours 56 mn 4.091s.  His accuracy regarding this is amazing. To justify this point, he stated:

“Just as a man in a boat moving forward sees the stationery objects (on either
side of the river) as moving backward, just so are the stationery stars seen
by people at Lanka (on the equator), as moving exactly towards the west.”

Aryabhata was among the first astronomers to make an attempt at measuring the Earth’s circumference. Aryabhata accurately calculated the Earth’s circumference as 24,835 miles, which was only 0.2% smaller than the actual value of 24,902 miles.

Another of Aryabhatta’s work, Aryabhatiya-Siddhanta, is only known through references to it another books.Among his most notable contributions to modern astronomy are: the explanation and computation of solar and lunar eclipses, the expounding of the heliocentric model of the solar system and the computation of the length of earth’s revolution around the sun.

We now go ahead in chronological order to the other great astronomers of ancient India beginning with Varahmihira (505 – 587 AD). He worked as one of the Navratnas or nine gems in the court of Chandragupta Vikramaditya. His book Panchasiddhantika (The Five Astronomical Canons), written in 575 AD gives us information about older Indian texts which are now lost. The work is a treatise on mathematical astronomy.

Next,we come to, Brahmagupta (598-668 AD). He wrote two texts – Brahmasphutasiddhanta in 628 and the Khandakhadyaka in 665. Some of his important contributions are: methods for calculations of the motions and places of various planets, their rising and setting, conjunctions, and the calculations of eclipses of the sun and the moon.

Sripati(1019 – 1066 AD) was an Indian astronomer and mathematician, author of Dhikotidakarana (written in 1039 AD) a work on solar and lunar eclipses. He also wrote the Druvamanasa in 1056 AD for calculating planetary longitudes, eclipses and planetary transits. He also wrote a majr work on astronomy titled Siddhantasekhara and an incomplete mathematical treatise Ganitatilaka.

Next, we take a look at Bhaskara (1114 – 1185). His main works are Lilavati, Bijaganti and Siddhanta Shiromani. He worked on the following subjects: mean longigtudes of the planets, true longitudes of the planets, the three problems of diurnal rotation, syzygies, lunar and solar eclipses,latitudes of the planets, risings and settings, the moon’s crescent, conjunctions of planets with each other and the conjunctions of planets with the fixed stars, the paths of the sun and the moon. He is also credited with the near accurate calculation of the sidereal earth as 365.2588 days. The modern accepted measurement is 365.2596 days, an error of just one minute. He also wrote about the first visibility of the planets,astronomical instruments, problems of astronomical calculations and the seasons.

Here we end the great journey that began with Aryabhatta and ended with Bhaskara. I hope you can respect that the work that these great astronomers have done at so early a time. Their work was lost before being found. Theories are being discussed that the Arabs translated this work in Kerala and then made it available to the Europeans in the 15th century which introduced them to the works of calculus. This is only a theory and has not yet been proved.Studies on this matter continues till this date. There is also work on the translation of some of the major works into English and Hindi. But, the true beauty of these works can be recognized only when read in the language in which they were written –  Sanskrit.