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Monday, November 30, 2015

Mind, Brain, Perception and Illusion

The brain is the hardware, the mind is the real software. Now the brain is connected to different organs like eyes, ears, nose, tongue and also neurons from the brain are spread across the entire body, right up to the tip of the skin.

Now lets take the example of eye, the structure of eye is interesting. It comprises of lens and a focusing screen called the retina, the eye also has pupil that controls the amount of light entering the eye. 

The lens of our eye is a convex lens, if you have ever used a convex lens to focus light coming from a great distance on a wall, you would have seen the image that forms on the wall would be upside down. 

The same happens with the human eye. The retina is directly connected to a part of the brain that sends the signals of the image to the part of the brain that processes this signals and creates the image in our mind. This also implies that by altering the light entering the brain we can actually create a false impression of reality. The world that we see in front of us is in our mind. 

Similarly ear, our eardrums vibrate to the various frequencies that reaches it(the medium of sound waves being air) and within a certain range our brain is able to perceive the sound. What reaches the brain is the nerve signal generated due tot he the vibration of the eardrum and it is processed in the brain and then we realize that we are hearing a sound. 

Similar phenomenon happens with the nose and tongue as well which leads to the sense of smell and taste respectively. The system is similar to your computer. 

The camera is essentially the input device that sends the the data, it is converted to digital form and the corresponding image or sound is generated and then displayed on the monitor. 

Now imagine someone puts a colored glass in front of the camera. What you will see is that the images that are shown on the monitor are of different color as compared to the original. 

If someone uses a monocular in front of the camera. The image that we will get will give wrong information about the depth of the object from the camera. They would appear way more closer than they actually are. We see the example of this in cricket broadcasts, don't we, we can even see the gum a batsman is chewing even the the camera is over a 120 metres away. 

Light bends around a massive body this is well known and established fact, since we know by Einstein's General Theory of Relativity that the mass wraps the space around itself so space around a mass is curved. So the stars that we see in the may well be located in a different position. The light waves coming from them might have bent around a black hole.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Electronics development

Something very commonly observed with electronics manufacturing is that when it is done on a large scale, the price per product comes down drastically. In 2002 a mobile phone with a monophonic ringtone and black screen, that can only be used for sending sms and making calls would have costs someone Rs 5000 or more. Those phones are completely obsolete now, today even camera phones are available at below Rs 1000. 

The reason is that electronics equipments are all about some well fabricated silicon chips, metals, glass and plastics. The machines and the processes to build them are expensive. However when the manufacturing is done on a large scale the price per product comes down. That is why you find electronic equipments getting cheaper and cheaper. 

You can look at the examples of micro SD cards, in 2006 a 250 Mb micro SD card would have cost you Rs 500, but today a 16 Gigabyte micro SD card will cost you around Rs 325. 

Electronics gadgets are all about human intelligence applied to materials. Particularly semiconductors like silicon, germanium and in the future we will have electronics made out of carbon nanotubes . The major cost component of the electronic devices is the Research and Development involved in developing the product. That is why the microprocessors of computers are so expensive in spite of the fact the material in the microprocessors are nothing but plastics,silicon, germanium and metals.  

When it comes to electronics it is not about the materials but the function of the device, like incase of microprocessors what matters is  how many floating point operations(flops) it execute in one second. 

One more thing observable in case of electronic devices is that the initial products are invariably bigger in size than the later products. As time goes on the products become smaller and more affordable.
We have all seen that in case of computers, radio sets and music players.   

Once upon a time computers were so big that they would fill the entire room, require huge amounts of electricity but as technology developed, computers became exponentially faster, smaller, cheaper and today it consumes a fraction of the amount of energy as compared to the computers of the 50s or 60s.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

ISROs Aditya L1

To study the Sun , ISRO planned an expedition called Aditya 1, but after the success of Chandrayaan and Mars Orbiter Mission, ISRO upgraded the mission, the mission will now be called Aditya L1.

This will be a multiple payload mission instead of the previously planned single payload mission. 

This are the objectives and expected payloads of the mission taken from a reliable link :-
Objectives ::

1. To study the Coronal Mass Ejection (CME)
CME is a massive burst of gas and magnetic field arising from the solar corona and being released into the solar wind.

2. To study the crucial physical parameters for space weather such as the coronal magnetic field structures, evolution of the coronal magnetic field etc.

Payloads ::
Similar to MOM (Mars Orbiter Mission) it will carry multiple payloads for better solar data collection. Expected payloads in Aditya-L1 mission:

1. Solar Ultraviolet Image Telescope (SUIT): 
To observe the whole solar disc for solar storms which impact atmosphere on the earth.

2. Visible Emission Line Coronagraph (VELC):
To study the diagnostic parameters of solar corona dynamics and origin of CMEs.

3. Solar Low Energy X-ray Spectrometer (SoLEXS):
To monitor the X-ray flares for studying the heating mechanism of the solar corona.

4. High Energy L1 Orbiting X-ray Spectrometer (HEL1OS): 
To study explosive energy release, acceleration and transport of electrons using fast timing measurements and high resolution spectral studies.

5. Aditya Solar Wind Particle Experiment (ASPEX):
To study the variation of solar wind properties as well as its distribution and spectral characteristics.

6. Plasma Analyser Package for Aditya (PAPA)
To understand the composition of solar wind and its energy distribution.

 In the original mission the plan was to place the satellite in a Low Earth Orbit(LEO), however in the upgraded mission, the satellite is supposed to be placed at Lagrangian point L1. 

Now comes the question what is Lagrangian L1 point. For the system of Earth and the Sun, the Lagrangian point will be 1.5 million kilometers away from the earth, towards the sun(in such a way that the sun, L1 point and the earth will be in one straight line.), at L1 point the orbital period of the object around the sun will be equal to the orbital period of the earth. 

Originally the mission was scheduled to be launched in 2015-2016 period. However the upgraded mission will be launched in 2017-2018.

The original cost of the mission was supposed to be ₹500 million. However the upgraded mission will cost around ₹1000 million or a little more. That's less than ₹1 per Indian.

An update:- 21/12/2015

Aditya L1's launch has been deferred to  2019-2020, the budget has been increased to ₹3780 million. It will be carrying 7 payloads.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Books and E-books

Reading is said to be the best hobby a man can have. Books are an excellent source of information and knowledge. After the invention of printing press, paper books became cheaper and more accessible to the people of Europe, as a result many of them were able to read The Bible and other works of Aristotle, Socrates and many other scholars directly and that started the Renaissance over there. It must have kicked off the scientific curiosity among young students since they now had access to all known scientific principles and know how of the time. So books have had great influence in the advancement of mankind. 

Now how is a book made? It is made from paper. How do we make paper? What is required to make paper? Wood pulp. To get wood pulp we have to cut down trees and that's where the problem starts. Current population of the world is 6 billion plus. To manage the paper requirement of the entire world, one has to cut down millions of trees. For a world that is already going through a grave problem of deforestation and global warming, this is bad. 

But in technology we find solutions to our problems and also get lots of extra advantages as well. Today people have access to tablets, smart phones, laptops and desktop computers. Digital versions of books, better known as e-books can easily be read through any of the four mediums. Desktop screen maybe uncomfortable for reading books, since one has to look forward instead of looking down. However with tablets and smart phones, one easily keep them in any position and read the content. 

E-books gives plenty of advantages. With traditional paper books one has go through an entire process of printing the books and then getting them transported to the desired location, with e-books just creating one digital copy is more than enough. Just upload a digital copy of your book in pdf, epub or any other format and it can be downloaded by anyone, living in any part of the world, through the Internet. 

Earlier people had to visit libraries to read books. Now they can simply download the books at the click of a button. School and collage libraries had to stack multiple copies of essential books, this takes up lots of space, however with digital books there is virtually no space requirement. 

Another advantage with digital books is that one can adjust the size of the letters(fonts) depending on the eyesight of the reader. Again if one wants, he/she can use a text to speech software to hear the books. So people without vision can actually hear a book being read with the help of a speech to text software. 

Since cost of paper,printing, transportation and storing books are eliminated, ebooks are normally much cheaper than paper books. With ebooks now no one has to wait in library for days to get a copy of their favourite book for reading. 

Many times people have complained that kids are turning away from reading because of computers, cable television and other digital gadgets. The problem that is created by technology has its solution in technology itself. With Ebooks one can carry a library, in fact many libraries in just one single micro SD card. Today people no longer have to depend on libraries for books. 

Sunday, November 15, 2015


Israel and Japan are examples of two prosperous countries that have very little in terms of natural resources, but in spite of that they have progressed tremendously in the fields of science and technology. Israel in particular, Israel is essentially a desert with a population of mere 8.3 million people, half the population of Delhi.

However its achievements in the fields of Science and Technology is really impressive, it has a high concentration of scientists and engineers as compared to the population. The percentage of scientific articles published out of Israel is 10 times higher than global average, when you take the population into consideration.

Israel is essentially a man made oasis in the middle of a desert. The country gets very little rain, but lots of sunlight. Israel has intelligently tapped into this resource. Israel leads the Global Cleantech Innovation Index. Israel is the world's largest per capita user of solar water heaters at home.

The Drip Irrigation System was developed by Simcha Blass and his son Yesayahu in Israel. The drip irrigation system has been vital for Israel since it gets very little rain. By using technologies like drip irrigation, green house shading, climate control, irrigation, fertigation, greenhouse water recycling and biological control of plant disease and insects. Israel has been able to achieve excellent production of food, it is not only self sufficient in food but it also exports agricultural products to other countries.

Israels are world leaders in arms research and produce some of the most advanced military equipments in the world. India imports the Heron Military Drones and many other military equipments from Israel. Israel is advanced in medicine and pharma sectors as well. For a small nation Israel has produced quite a few Nobel laureates in the fields of science.

In spite of being a very small nation devoid of any real natural resources, Israel has come a long way and it has become an example of excellence in the fields of science and technology. A tiny nation surrounded by hostile neighbourhood, but by the power of its know how in science it is able to beat them down. India and other nations should learn from Israel. 

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Laughter - a natural medicine and energy booster.

Laughter is said to be the best medicine, indeed it is. We know very well that laughter keeps us healthy and happy. There are studies after studies done that show this. Laughter releases  endorphins that gives an overall sense of well being and it even relives pain temporarily.

Laughter is a an excellent medicine for the heart, which keeps it healthy by improving the function of the blood vessels, blood flows more freely thus preventing heart attacks and heart failures. It is a well known fact that laughter helps to eliminate stress, anxiety, even pain.

Being in a happy state of mind is very important to stay healthy. Having a good sense of humor helps a person to be in very good state of physical and mental health. One thinks better and does his work well.

A good sense of humor helps in making friends and having good camaraderie at workplace. Millions of people go to laughter clubs just to have a hale and hearty laugh so that it keeps them happy and healthy. 

In today's world huge number of people suffer from stress and stress related illness. Stress leads to production of Cortisol in the body it is a chemical that leads to heart disease. Research has shown that laughter reduces cortisol levels in the body, thus reducing the chances of heart attacks, heart failures and other heart illnesses. 

Laughter increases the production of antibodies in bloodstream and saliva thus boosting the immune system. This antibodies would kill harmful bacterias and other parasites. Research has shown that laughter also helps in reducing skin ailments, people suffering from eczema have reported better complexions when they had been constantly shown funny movies for a long period of time. 

We all know from our personal experience that laughter is a natural energy booster. Many cancer treatment centres have incorporated laughter therapy to keep their patients in a positive frame of mind. Being in a positive frame of mind is important for success in every sphere of life. 

So make it a point to laugh a lot, share jokes with your family,friends and colleagues and watch funny movies. 

Low Cost Internet Access

In today's world it is very important for people to have access to the Internet. Unfortunately today 2/3rd of the world or more than 4 billion people don't have access to Internet. A major portion of the population of the developing world does not have access to the Internet. Even people living in many cities of the developing world don't have access to the Internet, the reason is that they can't afford to have a connection.

Internet should be considered a basic human right and it should be provided freely by the governments. As we all know that Google Loons will soon launch its loons Internet project in Indonesia and Sri Lanka. Google Loons has improved its processes and technology since  it first started, the speed has also gone up to 4G levels of 10 Mbps.

Another way of providing cheap Internet service to the people is by using light itself. We already have the Li-Fi technology to transmit wireless data by simply using an LED light. But this idea is no expanded over a wide area. In the below video it is shown how data can be sent by using an off the shelf LED lamp and an off the shelf small solar panel.

The solar panel itself acts as the receiver of data. The Light from the LED lamp lead to a generation of current in the circuit made with the solar panel. As we know digital data is all about 0s and 1s, so there would be a constant variance in the intensity of light, which would result in variance in the voltage of the solar panel circuit. This lower and higher data would encode for 0 and 1 respectively.

The change in the intensity of light would vary depending on the input data. This change would be very very fast for the human eye to realize. Speeds up to 50 Mbps have been already achieved. In the very near future, using this technology, LED streetlights can be used to transmit free wireless Internet data.

In this TED video, a particle demonstration of this technology has been shown with a live demonstration to the audience. This light based wireless Internet system would considerably reduce the cost of Internet access. Thus it would make it possible for governments to provide unlimited and fast Internet across to all their citizens. 

Access to Internet will change lives of billions of people across the world and researchers are constantly working on technologies that make Internet access cheaper, faster and better. 

Monday, November 2, 2015

A set of TED videos on inventions that made expensive things very very cheap.

One of the main targets of technological innovation is to make unaffordable things affordable. Here are certain innovations that made products significantly cheaper do find some time to watch them. 

I decided to share them since in case I post it on social media, the links are likely to be lost.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

How to make children(and adults) love Science

What is science? It is search of man about the physical world. How everything in nature works? What are the various laws that govern various physical phenomenon like motion, gravity etc. As human beings one thing is common among all of us "curiosity". It is our curiosity to know and understand nature that helps us learn. This inbuilt curiosity in humans have led to the development of science. Scientific knowledge in humans has gone up manifold since humans first discovered fire and the rate of increase in this knowledge is also going up. 

It is science that has propelled the growth of technology. After all technology is implementation of various scientific principles in physical systems. Without science you won't have any technology. When invented the wheel and understood that a circular object like the one shown in the picture below will move the fastest. He built carts, the later on he built chariots. He was able to harness the circular motion of the wheel to create pottery. Chariots and carts made his life easier, carts made transportation and travel faster and pots helped him to store water. Hence he did not have to visit the river, pond or any other source of water when he was thirsty. 

The simple examples given in the above two paragraphs show how important science and technology are to our lives today. However a big number of people in the world stay away from science in general and mathematics in particular. It is all because of the way in which this subjects are taught in schools and collages. 

In schools normally when the fear of maths is encountered when algebra is taught to the kids and in high schools a good proportion of students develop some hatred or fear towards physics. However the reality is both maths and physics are beautiful subjects once you begin to understand them. The real culprit of this fear psychosis is the methodology of teaching this subjects, forced homework and so on. 

Children are gifted with natural imagination and all of us know that children love to play. Now the way in which science and even maths should be taught to children, should be in form of some play or game, that would help to create interest towards science in the minds of kids. 

Recently I have come across this beautiful TED video, that shows how one can make  kids fall in love with science and not only that, you will see in this video how kids' imagination is being harnessed to create useful products. Do watch this video you will definitely love it.

The more we are able to make kids love science and technology, the more scientists and inventors we will get in the future.