ISRO on Social Media Misrepresentations

Note: I wrote this on my earlier blog hosted as https://parallelspirals.wordpress.com. I recovered the text from the WayBack Machine. This post appeared on December 17, 2013 as per the permalink. I’m trying to collect here again all my old writings spread on various blogs.

Update: ISRO posted this on their Facebook page earlier on Tuesday which seems to imply that they’re planning to expand their presence on Facebook and Twitter. If true, these fake profiles seem to have done more for public outreach than India’s space enthusiasts have achieved thus far. Kudos to the people behind the fake profiles!

I have congratulated ISRO’s social media presence with respect to the Mars Orbiter Mission. Their official page is linked to from the ISRO website. This press release tells me that ISRO is yet to understand social media much like many Indians, myself included.

There have been a multitude of unofficial ISRO accounts on the agency as well as it’s various missions, ostensibly trying to ape similar efforts by NASA. These may be well meaning individuals trying to inform the world about ISRO through a channel it is not present on using information from ISRO press releases and news stories. I myself did this when Chandrayaan 1 launched in 2008.

The critical difference, in my opinion, is being open about the fact that the account or the page is not an official ISRO page. I did so on my Chandrayaan 1 representation.

I think one does not go after these people with a legal notice. At least, not until one has sent them a warning.

GSLV on Wikipedia

Note: I wrote this on my earlier blog hosted as http://parallelspirals.wordpress.com/. I recovered the text from the WayBack Machine. This post appeared on December 13, 2013 as per the permalink. I’m trying to collect here again all my old writings spread on various blogs.

I began contributing to Wikipedia in 2007 with the idea of improving coverage of Indian space sciences on Wikipedia. I began working on the articles related to the astronomical observatories. This also fell in line with the space popularization work I was involved in at Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS) India chapter. In 2009, I also began editing general interest articles on Wikipedia.

It was only yesterday, after a break of nearly a year or more, that I got back to editing on Wikipedia. I worked on the article of India’s Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle or GSLV. The upcoming launch has me nervous and had me interested in the history of the GSLV. I looked to Wikipedia as my first port of call and was frankly, disappointed at the shape in which I found the article. So, I rolled up my sleeves and began working on the article, in true Wikipedian style.

The history of the GSLV is as interesting as the vehicle itself. It was designed specifically to carry the INSAT class of satellites which weighed in at 2 to 2.5 tons. The Project was started in 1990 as the PSLV took shape and was beginning to move towards a development flight in 1993 to reduce reliance on the US’ Delta and European Ariane launch vehicles which are expensive options. Reading up, there seems to have been confusion on how to proceed with the tricky cryogenic third stage of the vehicle. Both US and Europe refused to share the technology and India had to go to the crumbling Soviet Union for help. US and Europe refused help pointing to the fact that India had not signed the Missile Technology Control Regime. I guess they also tried to offer the technology if India became part of the regime. The Soviet Glavkosmos offered to transfer technology to India in 1991. Following the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia could not stand up to US pressure on falling in line with the MTCR. It finally have India just 7 cryogenic stages and 1 ground mock up instead of 5 stages and transfer of technology. I am happy that India did not become part of MTCR despite immense pressure and need for cryogenic technology. Scientists at ISRO began work on India’s own cryogenic technology in 1994 called the Cryogenic Upper Stage Project.

Even the 7 cryogenic stages Russia supplied to ISRO held surprise for ISRO. The stage was heavier and there were interface problems. The engine was also not proven on any flight. It took ISRO about 6-7 years to get the stage to fly at all. Hence you see the first flight of the GSLV in 2001.

Scientists working on the Cryogenic Project were also part of what is now called the ISRO Spy Case. The scientist has alleged that the Case was put together at the behest of foreign interests that were trying to scuttle Indian efforts at building a cryogenic engine.

Although the learning curve on the GSLV has been huge, I think it will help India build a vehicle that is as versatile as the PSLV is today.

Book Review: Revolution Highway by Dilip Simeon

Note: I wrote this on my earlier blog hosted as https://parallelspirals.wordpress.com. I recovered the text from the WayBack Machine. This post appeared on June 25, 2013 as per the permalink. I’m trying to collect here again all my old writings spread on various blogs.

Some time back, I had acquired the habit of writing down reviews of the book that I had recently read. The practice lost steam as I got caught up in the desire to read more. Writing a review gives pause for consideration for a book that has passed through one’s life. It is with these thoughts that I pick up the practice again.

A membership with the British Library in Mumbai gave me access to this book called Revolution Highway. It is written by labour historian Dilip Simeon. The book is a work of fiction that considers the 1960s and the 1970s India and the rush of ideas and idealism that flowed through India at the time. The time witnessed the sprouting of the Naxalite movement in the extreme left of the political spectrum and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in the extreme right of the political spectrum. The book concentrates on the revolution that the Naxalite movement bred, the brief belief in the Revolution followed by disillusionment.

I read the book in a unique juncture in my life as well. It was a moment when I heard of the left movement within Bombay in the early 1960s and 1970s. I too went through a phase of disillusionment and have now emerged with a more balanced viewpoint of politics than what I had earlier.

Given this back drop, I found the book a fascinating read. It gives one an insightful reading of the history of the Indian Left given the world situation. It provides and reveals aspects of India’s own revolutionaries and how they get intertwined with the Revolutionaries who struggled in the pre-Independence era. Other than the world histories it has several asides that seem to stand alone and do not fully integrate with the story line. They seem like stand alone pieces of non-fiction inserted into a work of fiction. It provides some very insightful critique of the Left struggle. I especially enjoyed the criticisms leveled at the Left by Rathin, a character in the book. The interspersed bits of world history might have served as a better back drop if they were briefer.

 

M H Chalmers’ Walks

This post originally appeared on http://pradx.posterous.com on December 25, 2011. Found the post using the Wayback Machine.

While exploring the website of the Geographical Society of India – I found these gems in what is written as the history of the Geographical Society. An English gentleman, M H Chalmers, then an employee of the East Indian Railways gave three talks on what he titles as “walks”. I do not know if he means them literally or not, but these were given to the Calcutta Geographical Society back in 1934.

They are:

  • “A Walking Tour from India to England” by M. H. Chalmers on January 13, 1934
  • “A Walking Tour through Kashmir and Middle Tibet” by M. H. Chalmers on April 9, 1934
  • “A March through the Sacred Shrines of the Himalayas” by M. H. Chalmers on 21 April 1934

I would love to read a copy of these talks or see some of illustrated pictures that Chalmers showed off at these talks. Even more, I would love to meet others in the area around Bharuch in Gujarat who love to share such stories. Perhaps you can do something similar in your town too?

Vertical Urbanism

This was originally posted on my blog http://pradx.posterous.com on December 25, 2011. Found this post on the Wayback Machine.

For the last few days, I have been hunting for two things – various clubs/hang outs/societies related to Geography and how I can become a professional geographer. In my search, I found out this beauty of a website that speaks about the geography of flyovers and walkways of Mumbai. The website is an effort to document these features by Andrew Harris of the Urban Labs at the University College London.

It contains lots of photographs and sound recordings from various parts of the city.

Don 2

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

It was a quick decision made a little after we boarded the company bus heading to Bharuch. We would watch Don 2. The back rows of the cinema hall was booked and the cinema house had taken the opportunity to hike ticket prices. We got a middle row seats for 9.45 pm show. We managed a dosa before the show by way of something to eat. As the show began, we found more colleagues from work.

Watching a movie here is an interesting experience. People are not inhibitted from whistling, passing comments loudly or clapping. Quite different from the sophisticated cinema goers to the multiplex in a city like Mumbai. But, here it’s sort of in a good way and it adds to the experience rather than subtract from it. I think if you watch a movie with opinionated Indians, you have to bear with some of their opinions as well.

The movie itself, despite the reviews I heard was very good. It was awesome. The storyline kept rolling, there was an element of mystery involved and in the end, the jigsaw puzzle is solved for us. The camera work really added in keeping that element of mystery while trying to find out how the hero managed to pull it off at all. The director (I like Farhan Akthar’s movies and believe in the auteur theory of cinema) does do us a service by not trying to force song and dance sequences where they do not fit in. I enjoyed the car chases (though not up to Hollywood quality) and the action sequences in the filmas well. The only bit of criticism that I can offer for the movie was its lacklustre sound track and that there seem to coincidentally seem too many Indians in Germany.