Categories
Status Updates

Trip to Kerala

We’re going on vacation to Kerala. We’re leaving on May 11 and will be back on May 30. Will continue to update the blog and add pictures when I get near an internet connection.

Categories
Status Updates

Weather – Renewables – Space

I’m in a period of re-definition. I’m re-defining what are my core goals and what are my add-on goals. I am a guy with various interests and I’m as passionate about one as the other. This makes things interesting when trying to make a career choice. The three things on top of my mind right now are – weather, renewables and space. Writing has slipped in and out of this. Whatever I do, I want to be able to do all of these and much more in my time.

Categories
science

Chai and Why: Origami and Mathematics

Chai and Why? is a public outreach effort of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR). Today I went to the session on “Origami and Mathematics”. This begins a series of Chai and Why? concentrated on children during the vacation season.

Today’s talk was by Vijay Arolkar and Mimansa Vahia. Before the talk, Sanjana Kapoor turned up and announced the Prithvi Theater’s Summer Workshop and the idea of having Prithvi Theater and its partners do special activities for kids during the summer. She even hung around till a few minutes into the talk.

Vijay Arolkar began the talk. He introduced his guru Prof. Natarajan who then introduced this group – Origami Mitra which met twice a month at Dadar. Few of its members were also present in the audience. Arolkar is a member of the TIFR’s Low Temperature Facility. His talk was filled with demonstrations that vowed the audience by some innovative techniques of forming basic shapes and models.

Mimansa Vahia, a PhD student in the Maths department at TIFR, took over and spoke about the axioms of origami and providing a strong theoretical basis for origami which enabled its application in mathematics. The example that stood and that got repeated throughout the day was the trisection of an angle which was made possible by origami.

The areas of application held more interest for me. Origami has formed the basis for several interesting applications like packing airbags, crumple zones in cars, camera lens, self folding sheets, folding of solar panels on a spacecraft, fitting space telescopes into compact launch vehicles etc. Origami has made available ways of packing airbags once certain parameters about its usage is known. It has been used to determine crumple zones in cars, places where the cars can fail on impact while causing minimum injury to its passengers. Its application has also enabled multiple camera lens to be replaced by a single lens having diamond shaped crystals arranged in a fashion that enables multiple reflections of the light passing through giving it the same effect that multiple optical lens do. This arrangement was arrived at using origami though the original one uses crystals. This enables camera lens miniaturisation and has been found in 2010. Self folding sheets are sheets which fold in certain ways on the passage of electric currents. The Miura fold is what has been used in the solar panels of spacecrafts.

This was followed by a hands-on paper folding experience in which we made a paper box, a fan, a speaking penguin and a toppling toy. We got to bring these home (although they didn’t let us keep the TIFR folder on which we built these models) and I even showed my brother how to make a toppling toy for himself.

A paper box made from A4 size paper. Image Credit: Pradeep Mohandas

A fan. Credit: Pradeep Mohandas


A Talking Penguin. Image Credit: Pradeep Mohandas
Toppling Toy. Image Credit: Pradeep Mohandas

This was my first experience in a hands-on workshop at Chai and Why? and I must say that it was fun. I was folding paper after a very very long time and unlike my school experience of crafts, I had a lot of fun. I hope I can attend a few meetings with Origami Mitra and re-ignite my dead crafty characteristics.

I will unfortunately miss the next two sessions of Chai and Why? called  Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star since I’ll be in Kerala.

[While looking for links, I found that the Origami article on Wikipedia has some fun links to explore and also the webpage of Robert Lang whose name continuously popped up along with a picture of him with a 5m telescope. Also many of the spacecrafts have a page where you can get instructions of how to build their paper models. HobbySpace is a good place to start in this regard.]

Categories
Travel

Visit to Shirdi

The last time I had been to Shirdi was as a 9 year old. I don’t remember much about that place and when my friend Pranav mentioned that he had plans to go there, I decided to join him. This was last Sunday. The plan was to leave on Friday night, reach there on Saturday morning, have an audience at Shirdi with Sai Baba and then head to Shani Shingnapur and then return back to Mumbai on Saturday night.

Pranav and I met at the private bus hub near Diamond Garden, Chembur to board the bus. The Dolphin Volvo bus arrived and boarded the bus and we departed at 10.45 pm. At 1.30 pm we arrived at our first stop and I woke up after trying to sleep. There were seat bugs (for want of a better name). My elbows were swollen with seat bug bite and it seemed that it was a general experience among passengers and not a particular experience with me. After a general patting down, I had a bite-less night.

We reached Shirdi at 5.55 am and we got a room that allowed us to bathe and change for Rs. 60. It was the top of someone’s home which was being lent for a daily or for bathing purposes. Since Shirdi is a holy place, it is general practice to be bathed and fresh. The room and bathroom were clean and also had a provision for hot water. The hot water was flowing through a plastic pipe generally used for electric purposes – which concerned me a bit but I used cold water.

Pranav led the way to the samadhi. There is as usual a very long line. The early hour and some smart maneuvering meant that we could make some time and only had to wait for about an hour and a half. The serpentine line went through a hall, down a flight of steps, up another flight of steps and suddenly we were inside the samadhi. When you reach in, the first thing that strikes you is how Hindu the place is for someone who had practised both Hinduism and Islam. Second was the amount of gold the place had for the man who believed in simplicity. We then went to some adjoining centers which were places where Sai Baba stayed, prayed, cooked etc. We then went to the shrine of a person who worked with Sai Baba and began the search for a jeep that would take us to Shani Shingnapur.

It is an interesting experience to discuss travel plans sitting inside a temple. We planned here on whether to go to Shani Shingnapur after breakfast or not. The decision was to head to Shani Shingnapur, a temple dedicated to Shani, the god Saturn, without breakfast. Pranav had been going on about this temple since the day we decided to head to Shirdi. He told me about the idea behind wearing orange clothes and a wet body while entering the temple and had even suggested I carry my orange clothes with me. He then helpfully pointed out that the orange clothes were available there on rent.

Pranav described the experience in the jeep best by comparing it with NASCAR. We joked that the drivers were more of an expert in reminding people about God than a priest in the temple. Pranav got the jolt of his life when the jeep passed in front of the temple. People wearing ordinary clothes were walking into the temple. A passenger in the front seat seemed equally jolted and asked about it to the driver. The driver explained that the Government thought it was a waste of time for devotees to be following rituals and decided to do away with it. So it was that we visited the temple without Pranav’s “orange clothes and wet body”.

The temple here is much simpler. The God is represented by a black rock on which devotees offer mustard oil which is poured on the rock. Some brought small plastic packets of oil, some small plastic bottles of oil and some even brought a cannister of oil! At the exit, we found a medical camp being conducted by the doctors from Ahmednagar Govt. Civil Hospital. This was my first round of blood donation. After a round of weight checks and jotting down personal details I was asked to press a “Squeeze-me” ball for about 5 mins to drive out a packet of blood. For my squeezing, I got a certificate, a unique identification number and a medal.

I felt a bit tired on the way back where I and Pranav had to be squeezed in with an older gentleman from Kolkata. On return to Shirdi, we had lunch (a much needed one) and took our bus back to Mumbai. This bus too suffered with lack of passengers. Efforts to revive passenger count by waiting for a hour and a half at Nashik failed and so the bus left following an internal revolt by passengers. We reached Mumbai an hour later than we would have.