Purpose of life

This blog post was originally posted on https://pradx.org/blog and was retrieved from the Wayback Machine here.

The purpose of my life is to harmonise Man and Nature.

Well, said like that it sounds pretty lame, eh? But, believe me or not, that statement took 5.5 years to put together. This is a pretty long post and if you want to miss it, feel free to. You would not be missing anything huge. Just some personal stuff.

I think writing this without a full fledged 5.5 year explanation would be leaving it in the air for the reader. So, here it is. Have a pitcher of water by all means. Settle down and start reading.

I was 18 when I started what can be called “The Pradx Project” with the aim of making me an athletic scholar. The name was inspired by the “Blair Witch Project”. The aim here was not to hunt down the Blair Witch, but to hunt down my inner most self and making it to do something – help me become an athletic scholar. 5.5 years down, I’m still fat and pretty a poor front benching student. 5.5 years down the line, one thing is pretty simple – The Pradx Project isn’t successful. There was one part of the project that worked pretty well – reading and writing. The writing section spewed many of the blog posts you read here (now you know why it’s pradx). The reading section was also a great trip starting out with Wodehouse and ending up with some pretty strong stuff.

Take a sip, relax.

Basically, Pradx Project was a self improvement project started by a simple half witted 18 year old. It did some cool things to me that I’m still committed to – reading, writing, SEDS, environment and education. But it ended up doing everything except improving me. The reason for this came to me like it always does during exams in December, 2008 – procrastination. In February 2009, I still have not gotten rid of that demon – procrastination. But, I’ve got lots of stuff in my brain (material) that I can now use in a variety of ways to help me and that way I think the 5.5 years is well spent.

I’m giving you some hope now. Relax. Want to take a sip?

Mom started me on this first. Push. Without starting there is nothing to work on. So, I started to get some very little work done from a sense of total procrastination. If you understand mechanical engineering, this was friction to the motion of the car of procrastination. The breaks have not been applied yet – the foot is going there towards the pedal. Reading and writing were the first agents that provided this friction from a sense of total procrastination. And perhaps, college. So, things look pretty gloomy right now, yeah? Well, its pretty hard to increase this friction without taking the foot and applying the brakes on procrastination and getting to work. This happened in a simple Tweet that Kirk sent me – (to paraphrase) no system would teach you discipline.

Now, drink a long gulp, the next paragraph is going to get long…

Discipline is a sore thumb for me. Krishnamurti and Osho got me worked up on how discipline was wreaking havoc on life. That thought process got on far enough to make me believe that discipline was a bad guy. But, then slowly I began to look at discipline that was being talked about in these lines and realised that they made more sense on external discipline – applied by some external agent (parents, peers, systems, God etc) and not a sense of internal discipline and planning that comes from within. Look at that internal discipline which gets automatically applied in any situation that helps you think it out, relax etc and you see that discipline was not such a bad nut you made him out to be after all. In fact, this ounce of discipline if applied at the beginning of the 5.5 years would have probably changed the 5.5 years entirely. Wow, cool discovery. Nudge it a little more and I found that this system (as spoken of in Zen etc) was already existent in me and I only had to be more aware of it and it automatically adjusted and worked for me. As Ray Bradbury puts it, you only have to get out of the way. Everyone was getting along really well until the I came in between.

Phew. Now, with all of that out of the way let’s get back to the Purpose of Life statement. Yeah, its only starting now.

This whole decade has been one of slowly rising environmental awareness. We’re looking at Nature and acknowledging that we’re not being fair on the Man-Nature relationships. We ought to give more to Nature than we’re taking from it. On the other hand, we’re also constantly improving Man to make him more biologically strong to work on the scarce environment. Hence, we’re working on both Man and Nature and the relationship is created by Engineering. If you have a trouble with that statement, sorry I’m not ready to debate it cause I already spent nearly five years on it and I’m moving on. Spend 5 years and think about it.

The harmonisation of Man-Nature relationship helps me to be fit, to be athletic, to be studious, to be funny, to be a good parent (I’m not yet married – darn I don’t even have a girlfriend yet – applications invitedfor the post of girlfriend), to be a scientist, to be a researcher or even to be a sportsperson. Again, think about it for 5 hours before commenting – I took 5.5 years. The idea is to optimise both Man and Nature as much as possible and when it reaches its optimum to jump to the next planet.

Outer Space provides this huge laboratory to check out Nature which you can look at through a microscope or through a telescope. Since, I really can’t stand up to long names, I prefer to look through telescopes than microscopes. Does that explain my interest in astronomy. A new love is radio astronomy where I hear the heartbeat of the Universe (a whole new world!). So, that’s how I’m checking out Nature.

Energy is a simple and temporary hack for minimising the use of resources created for us by Nature. Think about it.

Primary Education is a way to work on the Man. It’s the best place to work on the future batch of Man-Nature harmonisers, isn’t it?

Banning online satellite imagery services to combat terrorism

This article originally appeared on my blog http://pradx.wordpress.com. I recovered the post using Wayback Machine.

PIL has been filed against providing free online satellite imagery in India. I really do not understand how this is going to help without beefing up security on the ground. A few points for your consideration:

1. How many such services will you ban? Google Earth is perhaps the most famous. Besides, these are embedded in several websites which can be used to get the information wanted. Besides that such services are provided by WikimapiaYahoo! and Microsoft. Have a great time blocking all these sites.

2. If you ban it in India, can’t they access it from any other country? As far as media reports go, terrorists weren’t trained in India, so I’m pretty sure they won’t access the internet from here. They can easily access the site from another country, take a print out and do what they came here to do, while people who use such services are major losers.

3. Google Earth has been used not only by researchers and scientists but also in class rooms and communities to fight several issues against the Government.

4. All publicly released satellite imagery generally tend to be 1-4 years old. Is that really useful? The maps for my place look totally different today than as seen on Google Maps/Earth.

5. If such services are so useful to terrorists, why hasn’t the Police taken steps to use them for their benefit. (I know this is not really a valid point for or against the ban, but merely a thought that came to me as I typed this)

Technology is always a double edged sword that can cut either way. These are most of the objections I can immediately think of for not banning services such as Google Earth. If you can think of others, please do leave them in the comments. Thanks

India goes to the Moon!

This article originally appeared on my blog http://pradx.wordpress.com. I recovered the post using Wayback Machine.

:)

Yeah! It is yesterday’s news and you might be wondering what I have been doing for so long when the greatest news in the Indian space programme was breaking. Well, I was busy being Chandrayaan1 on Twitter

This is not connected in any way to ISRO – although I do email them the questions that I get here. I haven’t told that many people what I have been doing either. I have tried my best – please do have a look and comment!

Well, to summarize all the news – India’s first space craft to the Moon has successfully reached lunar orbit and is now circling the moon in a 100 kms circular polar orbit, doing the orbit in an awesome 2 hours.  Two on board instruments – RADOM and TMC have been switched on and are working. TMC is a camera that is taking images of the moon while the RADOM is a radiation sampler.

Tonight at around 10 pm, Chandrayaan 1 will drop the MIP (Moon Impact Probe) onto the surface of the moon. It has flags painted on four sides and will be the FIRST INDIAN OBJECT ON THE MOON! This drop will show that India can drop a probe/lander/rover onto the lunar surface the next time we come to the Moon!

Chandrayaan 1 on Twitter

This article originally appeared on my blog http://pradx.wordpress.com. I recovered the post using Wayback Machine.

I tried tweeting as Chandrayaan1 on Twitter. Please do look at the feed and share your thoughts. I should have organised this a bit much more and announced it before the launch. But its never too late. This is the unofficial feed.

Also, if you were in a big group when you watched the launch, please do send me the name of your group and where you watched the launch from, and I shall be happy to add it to the Chandrayaan 1 feed.

How can youth be more proactive in helping shape our space programme?

This article originally appeared on my blog http://pradx.wordpress.com. I recovered the post using Wayback Machine.

Bijal Thakore, recently on the Planetary Society board, asked people: How can youth be more proactive in helping shape our space programs? This is not really an exact reply to that question but is a first general hit in that direction. Let’s see where the thought process goes.

  1. Outreach is a good place to start and learn things that you don’t know about. It’s also a good way to show people in space missions/projects etc. how passionate you are on a subject or in a field. I believe that is the extent to which outreach can be pushed. It gives you a sense of recognition for your passion.
  2. The second thing to get involved – specially students is to understand their own country’s space policy. Organisations like SEDS, Planetary Society etc. can bring this closer to the people by breaking down such policy into things which today’s youth can understand and offer implications of these actions on them.
  3. The third thing is to get involved in projects. Projects are much better way to understand the complexities that a space scientist faces during his design and fabrication. Taking part in a project is also a good excuse for an educational institution to develop their own infrastructure. But it does take a lot of effort and hard work, but it’s fun.
  4. The fourth thing is events. These are the best platforms to showcase what you have done in your sphere of interest. It is also a place to make the public involved in your activities and even if just for a moment, to share the thrill that members of organisations get to have daily. This is also a place where organisations grow with people wanting to have the thrill for the rest of the year and possibly, rest of their life time.

All in all, this is not a complete roadmap to changing around a space programme into a direction where timelines can crushed to get things done faster. This is just enough to get a swell of ground support so that what you do matters to people with power and money to get your work done.

People behind Chandrayaan-1

On Chandrayaan I’s coverage on NDTV there are exclusive interviews with the scientists and technicians who have made the various online instruments on board Chandrayaan I.

  1. Dr. Mylswamy Annadurai – He’s the Project Director of Chandrayaan I. There was a small note about him in the Times of India. He said designing Chandrayaan 1 was like writing lyrics for a set tune. He’s also from a district next door to my home town. He’s from near Pollachi, Coimbatore.
  2. J A Kamlakar – an expert on LASERS. His instrument on board Chandrayaan I will help measure height variation on the moon’s surface.
  3. Dr. Manuel Grande – Principal Investigator CIXS ( Chandrayaan I Xray Sepctrometer). Doug Ellison made an animation on this instrument.
  4. Dr. Urs Mall – SIR 2 (Near Infra Red Spectrometer)
  5. Dr. Stas Barabash – SARA

I’m sure that the names indicate to you the international team that has instruments on board the Chandrayaan I. It is a special feeling to have your instruments on board a space craft and to see it fly and I hope every one of you gets an opportunity to have that experience. The last rant doesn’t mean that the technology and people behind Chandrayaan 1 isn’t cool, just that it would be a lot cooler if they shared some of their thoughts with us.

The specialised NDTV page on Chandrayaan is here.

Celebrate World Space Week

Note: I wrote this on my earlier blog hosted as https://pradx.wordpress.com. I recovered the text from the WayBack Machine. This post appeared on October 4, 2008 as per the permalink. I’m trying to collect here again all my old writings spread on various blogs.

Want to celebrate world space week?

1. Learn about your country’s space agency.
2. Talk about it to as many people as possible.
3. Write, paint, click or record your experiences.

For example, if you’re from INDIA, go to Wikipedia or search on the web to learn more about India’s space agency – ISRO. Talk to people about the SITE experiment, Edusat or Chandrayaan. Celebrate space!

imagiLOGUES – Day 2

Note: I wrote this on my earlier blog hosted as https://pradx.wordpress.com. I recovered the text from the WayBack Machine. This post appeared on October 1, 2008 as per the permalink. I’m trying to collect here again all my old writings spread on various blogs.

It’s been a long day. I was walking around in the market place when I saw the amazing innovation that this country could produce. Small motorized water boats that run around in a bowl of water, many pocketed transparent purses, innovative ways of arranging fruits and vegetables. And still, people believe that we are not progressing.

I talked to a Rajesh Dora who runs a school for blind children. He told me about how people come there, look at the boys and girls studying there with pity, talk to them about their suffering and they go away happy that they have done their part. I tell him that I can’t promise more than that, myself. For some reason he remains quiet. The Government supports the venture generously and he gets enough donations to run the school properly. I get his email address and offer him the link to my blog.

He makes a request asking if I could guide the kids around the space museum. I oblige. I spend about 3 hours there looking through the books that they used to feel and talking to them about what they want to be.

Blind children in Helix are supported by the Government since three hundred years. It’s one of the rear gifts of the Dora dynasty who had a vast wealth which they invested in social causes through a series of foundations and committees. Even our national space programme is funded partly by one such foundation.

The Foundation does great work to publish books on space science for students interested in becoming a part of the space organisation. There is even a plan that the Sohrab Foundation has proposed to send a blind man in a space mission. Last I knew they were talking about it with the Human Space Complex.

After this, I go into the outskirts of Sohrab on a municipal bus. They’re using a positioning system on board to trace their route and enabling passengers to recognise their stops. There is even a voice system on board to tell the stop in the local language and English.

After a twenty minute ride, I get to the Horsborg Centre for Development Studies. I am scheduled to meet young Anjali Dora. She’s Rajesh’s wife and is heading the centre here which also comes under the Dora Foundation. The books that I saw in Rajesh’s office are from here. The centre is unique in that it has undertaken the project of voicing over and making visuals of the several historic documents. I’m here to review how our long distance education module is working. We take a hot cup of coffee and some buiscuits in her office.

She’s the one who gave me the idea of this road trip. We met before through this blog and I offered her the chance of setting up a distance education institute on campus through the Centre I work in to enable her to transmit her videos to schools which require special courses without local expertise being available. She jumped at the idea and after our first meeting talked about a road trip she had taken along with Rajesh through all the Dora foundation centres. I’m not doing the same. Although, these two stops have been Dora Foundation centres.

I reviewed the progress of the module, sent emails back to office with several requests and got back on the road. As I upload this via satellite link, I’m travelling north to Louisville, my second stop.

(IMAGILOGUES – these are imaginary travelogues. People, places, mentioned are all imaginary. IF you happen to be from the same place or have the same name, let me assure that I didn’t mean to use it and that it was purely co-incidental.) 

imagiLOGUES – Day 1

Note: I wrote this on my earlier blog hosted as https://pradx.wordpress.com. I recovered the text from the WayBack Machine. This post appeared on September 22, 2008 as per the permalink. I’m trying to collect here again all my old writings spread on various blogs.

As per the plan, I have reached Horsborg. This was where in the 23rd century BC, William of Horsborg had the dream of a united Helix.

I downloaded several historical references and have the benefit of opposing in views and theories of Horsborg. It is only while going to Horsborg and I am going this prejudiced for a town.

I gave a talk on various special kinds of propulsion engines at the local engineering college today. They also have seem to have inaugurated the Rocketry Club today. It’s lovely to see the enthusiasm for rocketry and space sciences in the country today. After advancing them on some points of law, I went to the Helix Archives. Helix Archives is really the home in which William’s grandfather lived. They moved out of this house in the year of William’s rise to Presidency.

William was an intelligent man. I loved some of the ideas that he tried to implement in his twenty three year old rule stint as President. He conquered nearly 106 kingdoms – showed each of these Kings that in unity there was strength and reinforced this belief with his rule. Helix functioned as an alliance more than as a republic.

My motel is an old fort that was converted in 1643 to a hotel to hold meetings etc. Technically, it was on the southern border of the Kingdom of Horsborg. Till 1640, it was used by military captains to practice their campaigns and train new troops. From 1704, it has been housing several statesman, scientists, engineers etc. To walk through the same corridor has been a cool experience.

Before drafting this post I just read that Helix has just launched Horsborg-7. All the best to Dr. Kumar and his team. This was also done in collaboration with Sohrab’s School of Engineering at which I and Dr. Kumar were classmates. Great going! This is the second education and space industry collaboration in the country. I hope to see more.

(imagiLOGUES are a bunch of imaginary travelogues that I am writing while traveling across my imaginary nation of Helix.)

Caring for your jobs

Note: I wrote this on my earlier blog hosted as https://pradx.wordpress.com. I recovered the text from the WayBack Machine. This post appeared on September 17, 2008 as per the permalink. I’m trying to collect here again all my old writings spread on various blogs.

Global meltdown, job cuts and dipping of interest in jobs seems to be the flavour of the season. Accordingly, I’m bunking college today due to sickness.

September 15 was engineer’s day. It is celebrated to mark the birthday of the great Statesman-Engineer from India, Sir M. Visvesvarayya among whose many achievements was the first hydroelectric project in Asia at Jog Falls.

On the occasion, we reactivated the Mechanical Engineering Students Association (MESA) in our college. As the first speaker, we got Dr. Parameshwaran (an erstwhile dean, Faculty of Technology, MU). He’s a great, old school speaker to have who gave his speech without many of the modern aids (no ppts, no computers or even paper in hand) that a speaker normally uses.

He talked to us about caring for our work – “Even if you are a sweeper at a railway level crossing, work so that your railway crossing is the cleanest in the world.” Visvesvarayya said that and he quoted it during his talk.

With so much stress paid on effectiveness and efficiency in jobs today, I think that we miss this subtle force – caring. I think, once a person cares about his work, effectiveness and efficiency usually follow.