Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Topology, Thermodynamics and Hindu Gods..

I suppose it's time for a personal update. I've had a relatively busy week. I am glad to be back in the midst of things, and keeping busy. I definitely miss the 40 hours of research and one class. I just feel extended now over different things. I like being able to concentrate on a few things. A big hurdle that I passed was the Physics comprehensive test which is required to acquire a physics major. It consisted on two parts, first being mechanics and thermodynamics, and the second being electromagnetism and optics. I thought I had failed the second test but it turned out that I barely passed it. I was ready to take the second part again. Well, I guess I don't have to. All that's left is my Oral comprehensive test on Modern Physics.

Now, I am the RA at Kohawk village, as I took over Komal's job as she got upgraded. Living in Kohawk makes people feel anti-social, and reclusive. So, I decided to take a pro-active, pre-emptive strike against loneliness and boredom by camping out in the library as long as I could. I also use the time to download my shows as the internet is several times quicker than my room. So, I get studying done and download shows while being online and in touch with the rest of the world. I am studying more and doing a lot of homework. Almost like last semester. I remember spending a lot of time doing Inorganic homework. I guess that rubbed off on me. Except, I liked the one track concentration. There I was studying for that class and preparing for the GRE after work. Now, I am spread out amongst four classes, a possible senior thesis, resident assistantship, possible work study, and all the clubs. So, I'm as thin as carbon nanofibre strands. Well, not physically. But speaking about that, I need to start my exercise regime. I normally run for 2.5 miles and then work on weights. I remember losing a lot of pudge within a month and a half of that routine.

I suppose I could also talk about my classes. The class with the most potential is Hindu Gods and Goddesses. It's fun learning about my culture in more detail especially from an objective foreign point of view. There are a few things that were brought to my attention contrary to my prior belief. One of them was that European scholars believed the Indus Valley Civilization (IVC) was Dravidian (Indigenous Indian), while compared the Indian scholarly/historic view as IVC as Aryan. For obvious reason, Indian version of history is nationalistic in nature. So, I guess I don't know what to believe. Although to my defense, both theories are very contested. Apart from that, mythology thus far has been coherent to my knowledge. Right now, we are discussing the basic theories of myths. Many scholars postulate myths as truths rather than the literal meaning of a "false story" which was furthered by Plato. Anyway, myths have a critical place in our world as it bring forths stories edifying several morals and values. How many of you know that Hinduism has a trinity as well? The Creator (Brahma), The Preserver (Vishnu) and The Destroyer (Shiva) are our main deities with every other god as off shoots of the personalities and virtues of the Trifecta. Hinduism is not a religion any more. It has morphed into a lifestyle. It is hard to distinguish individual tenets of Hinduism as it is one of the most comprehensive and complex religions in the World. It has an extended base of holy scriptures, from which we notice that ancient Indians were proficient in science and philosophy. Another aspect I've observed is the amazing similarities between different ancient mythologies such as the Graeco-Roman myths of hierarchy of Gods, the concept of creation and renewal, along with the eventual destruction. It is fascinating to see how people in that time discerned the universal properties of creation and destruction.

Let me tell ya, taking Modern Algebra and Set Theory/Topology in the same semester is not fun because both deal extensively with sets. Those concepts aren't a part of my strengths in math. Modern has been fine because I am taking it by independent study. I guess I get to move at a quicker pace that the class would move because I can set my own pace. I have been doing an exercise per meeting, and I've gotten most of what I've been reading and working on. About Topology, that is just mind numbing. It is so incredibly abstract. I know for a fact that I will never use that branch of math in the future. But I need it for my math major. So, I'm forced to take it. We are learning about images, inverses, open-ness, one-one, and onto. That's the jargon used in set theory. And by equivalence, used in Topology.

Actually, I am practically done with my physics major. I'm done with respect to courses needed. So, thermodynamics was a course suggested by my advisor as indispensible for a graduate program in material science. So, I took it. Unfortunately, I don't find this branch of physics too exciting. Sigh. And we are about to dip into statistical thermodynamics. So, it's going to be a lot of integrals, partials, and maybe some math I've never seen!

I just hope I'm alive at the end of this semester.

Tags: Life

[Listening to: I'm Not Sleeping - Counting Crows - Recovering The Satellites (4:57)]

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Meet the funniest Indian I've ever heard

Meet Russell Peters. An Indian living in Canada. He is incredibly funny and has plenty of race based humor. You should absolutely watch it and tell me what you think. I laughed so hard that I cried and clutched my stomach as it started to spasm.

This streams as well and is 45 minutes long.

Tags: Videos

[Listening to: Time After Time - Eva Cassidy - Smallville OST (3:58)]

Friday, January 27, 2006

Cool Visa commercials from around the world

Visa commercial w/ Zhang ZiYi

Visa commercial w/Catherine Zeta-Jones

Visa commercial with Pierce Brosnan (Bond). I've seen this one before.

Tags: Videos

[Listening to: Brothers On A Hotel Bed - Death Cab For Cutie - Plans (4:31)]

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Noa feat Khaled - Imagine

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I love this version of John Lennon's Imagine. I think the arabic part is Imagine too..

Known in Israel by her given name Achinoam Nini, Noa is Israel's leading international concert and recording artist.

Link: Noa's official website

Tags: Music

[Listening to: Dr. Bones - Cherry Poppin' Daddies - Zoot Suit Riot (3:34)]

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

If I had an audio siggy..

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an audio signature clip generated by iSTM

Tags: Music

The Nerd? Geek? or Dork? Test

Pure Nerd
78 % Nerd, 26% Geek, 26% Dork

For The Record:

A Nerd is someone who is passionate about learning/being smart/academia.
A Geek is someone who is passionate about some particular area or subject, often an obscure or difficult one.
A Dork is someone who has difficulty with common social expectations/interactions.
You scored better than half in Nerd, earning you the title of: Pure Nerd.

The times, they are a-changing. It used to be that being exceptionally smart led to being unpopular, which would ultimately lead to picking up all of the traits and tendences associated with the "dork." No-longer. Being smart isn't as socially crippling as it once was, and even more so as you get older: eventually being a Pure Nerd will likely be replaced with the following label: Purely Successful.


My test tracked 3 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:

You scored higher than 91% on nerdiness
You scored higher than 29% on geekosity
You scored higher than 34% on dork points


Tags: Blog Finds

[Listening to: Pantry Queen - Kara's Flowers - Fourth World (3:45)]

All rise to the Indian national anthem!

This is the Indian national anthem. I remember singing this every Saturday at school during the assembly. It would give me goose bumps and it still does. This 6 minute featurette showcases some of the greatest musical talents from India.

Tags: Random

[Listening to: This is everything - Tegan and Sara - Under Feet Like Ours (3:08)]

Monday, January 23, 2006

Ever wondered what driving behind a 747 would be like?

Well, here is your chance. Take a look at this 3.40 minute clip from BBC's Top Gear. Utterly fascinating!

Tags: Random

[Listening to: Wildflower - Sheryl Crow - Wildflower (3:57)]

Sunday, January 22, 2006

So, ever wondered what a game of cricket looks like?

This is a game of cricket between arch rivals India and Pakistan. It's on Google Video, so you should be able to watch it by streaming. Enjoy.

This is just 30 mins long. It's highlights of the game.

Tags: Random

[Listening to: Hands - Chantal Kreviazuk - Under These Rocks And Stones [UK] (4:32)]

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Picture grid of my most favorite people

Tags: Pictures Posted by Picasa

Closing the chapter at Oak Ridge

I uploaded the last bunch of pictures from Oak Ridge. Now, it's officially over.

The pictures can be viewed at Joy's Odds N Ends

Tags: Pictures

[Listening to: Find The Colour - Feeder - Comfort In Sound (3:57)]

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Pandora: Created by the Music Genome Project

Q: What is Pandora?

Pandora is a music discovery service designed to help you find and enjoy music that you'll love. It's powered by the Music Genome Project, the most comprehensive analysis of music ever undertaken. Just tell us one of your favorite songs or artists and we'll launch a streaming station to explore that part of the music universe.

It's free. It's intelligent. It's versatile and tons of fun.

You should definitely try it out.

Tags: Music

[Listening to: Flowers In December - Soundtrack - Wicker Park (5:05)]

First day of class

All my classes are Tuesday-Thursday and last 90 minutes! I have Hindu Gods and Goddesses at 9.30 am, Set Theory and Topology at 2 pm, immediately followed by Thermodynamics at 3.30 pm. At that point today, I was completely wiped. Sigh. I guess I'll be using Monday-Wednesday-Friday for homework and getting knicknacks done as I will have no energy to study productively on Tuesday and Thursday.

I also need to get motivated to unpack and decorate my room. I'm sure I'll have a surge to do it sometime soon.

Falling asleep at midnight and waking at 7 am is working well so far. Gotta see if I can keep it up. For example, I feel awfully tired and midly drowsy now. I have to stay a little longer, and see if my tv show downloads get done or not. Internet in my room is slower than dialup! I have to ask why the 14 new T1 lines weren't installed. I would gladly pay a little extra for faster internet.

Now, I going to see if I want to finish more Modern Algebra homework or not. I don't know if I have the patience.

I'll leave you with a picture of fuschia sky I took at Oak Ridge, TN last year (click for a larger 1024 pixel image).

Tags: Life, Pictures

[Listening to: Rest In Pieces - Saliva - One Tree Hill - Enhanced Soundtrack Season 1 (3:46)]

Monday, January 16, 2006

Death penalty: Are we still barbarians?!

I had a discussion with Jessi recently about the death penalty. We found a site on the death penalty and its statistics. It seems that lethal injection is the execution method of choice, with alternatives if the death row inmate so chooses (Methods of Execution). Nebraska only executes by electrocution. Ouch. Burnt flesh. I remember watching Green Mile, and it was pretty horrific. There have been botched execution attempts as the prisoners needed multiple jolts to be killed. From the website, I noticed that lethal injection didn't have a 100% quick kill ratel either. Here is a site with Botched Executions since 1982. Scroll down to the recent ones. You would have thought they would have a fool-proof execution method by now. That's not even the point.

For a forgiving religion, Christianity certainly makes a lot of exceptions. I've been given Genesis 9:6 (Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man) as an example. The current reasoning goes as "Eye for an Eye". What the hell?! Are we freaking barbarians? I don't know how "civilized" executions are. The same people who raise a storm about public executions in countries like Saudi Arabia, still condone executions in the US. What a friggin' double standard.

People who support the death penalty use economics to counter life with no parole. They don't want their tax payer's money to be funding the survival of a murderer. It's free food, free room, and free room to exercize. The prisoners are akin to animals in the zoo minus spectators. I guess it's a valid argument, and it would seem economically favorable to execute the prisoners versus keeping him alive till they die a natural death. However, I have also been informed that it takes a decent amount of money for the process of execution. I need to verify that. Here is the website about the costs of death penalty.

Would starvation be a method of execution? Slow, painful. So, solitary confinement, without food. That's inhumane, right? Inhumane compared to a quick death? How much of money would be spent in that chain of events?

Now to realistic alternative that I am not averse to. Brainwashing, cognitive reprogramming, psychological reconditioning. I don't know if we have technology to achieve that, but couldn't a brutal person be made docile and useful by reprogramming? So, instead of execution, just change the person and put them to constructive use. Who knows, the diabolical genius could be a genius in other fronts too.. What's future?

Anyway, what do you guys think?

Tags: Opinion

[Listening to: Rock Star Land - Yellowcard - Yellowcard (4:45)]

Friday, January 13, 2006

News @ Nature.com: Desktop fusion is back on the table

Link to the article: Desktop fusion is back on the table

So, do you know what cold fusion is? Okay, if you don't, I'll give you the concept in a nutshell. Now, as you know, the sun is powered by nuclear fusion. That takes millions of degrees to sustain. That is a little hard to emulate on Earth. Therefore, for a viable fusion based energy source, cold fusion would be wonderful, if it ever became a reality. By cold, it means colder that the million degrees of the sun, to a few thousand or tens of thousands of degrees. Something more manageable. For fusion on Earth, a laser called Shiva is employed. That creates the temperature needed to begin the fusion source. Oh, I almost forgot. Nuclear fusion is self sustaining. That means, once started, it runs itself thereby making more energy than it took to start.

So far, cold fusion has been a scientific myth propogated by movies such as Chain Reaction. There have been several claims to fame but every single one turned out fake. So, could this claim be true?

Here is the method in question in highly simplified language:

Blast a liquid with waves of ultrasound and tiny bubbles of gas are created, which release a burst of heat and light when they implode. The core of the bubble reaches 15,000 �C, hot enough to wrench molecules apart. Physicists have even suggested that the intense conditions of this sonoluminescence could fuse atomic nuclei together, in the same process that keeps our Sun running.

I'm waiting with bated breath for the final review of this project after publication. That means wait to see if their research can be reproduced, or meet a fiery end with the Scientific Method.

Tags: Science

[Listening to: Save Me - Sister Hazel - Fortress (4:02)]

Thursday, January 12, 2006

The transatlantic underwater railroad tunnel: An investment nightmare

I know that Discovery probably featured the possibility of this engineering marvel a few years ago. However, it was brought to my attention only a few days back. I was fascinated by the implications of this railroad tunnel. A travel time of 52 minutes from New York City to London is stupendous. It's five times faster than the Late super-sonic Concorde. A thousand passengers traveling in utmost comfort, at a mind blowing speed of 5000 mph. The kick that this project would create will be great for engineering and science in general because new technologies have to be invented and old ones streamlined for such a dangerous endeavor. It would be great for our world because it would need global alliances for a project of this scale. Investment-wise think International Space Station, but on earth. Actually, underwater. Across the most tumultuous water body on the planet.

Okay. Now to the reasons why I think a transatlantic railroad system is unnecessary.

For one, it calls for an investment in the range of tens of TRILLIONS of dollars. Amm. Now, do you see any country being able to invest even a trillion dollars to the project with the current economic levels. Do you think US can invest so much, with Iraq and tax cuts draining the countrys resources and Treasury? I certainly dont see the UK putting that much of money in. Or any other country. When people suggest Japan, yeah, it hasgot a lot of money. But how many know that Japans economy has been in a slump for the past decade. The amount of money speculated is just too much. The International Space Station has been hampered by similar money flow issues. So, it is way behind on the construction schedule. Sad, thats an investment which is good for the future.

Second, hypersonic flight has been a success. Granted it was military, but it is being streamlined for commercial flights. We dont need a railroad. We can make the same time by air. Well, not now, but in the very near future.Investing in something that is bound to become obsolete is like companies that were investing in DSL while clearly the future lies with optical lines. Google was extremely smart in this case, when it bought all those old fiber optic lines from communication companies at rock-bottom prices. But Google and its investments is another discussion all together.

Probably the most important negating factor in the present world is Terrorism. Unless we rid the world of malevolent entities, every major engineering investment has a potential hazard. Okay, maybe on US soil, engineering feats like mile-high skyscrapers are safe but in international waters, it isnt. You must know how easy it would be blow up the tunnel in open water, especially if it is 3200 mile long target. Talk about backlash it would receive. The Concorde was junked after only a few accidents. Well, yeah, it was money draining endeavor but still a step in the future. Do you think people would want to travel with such potential hazards? Before people mention that flights are equally at danger. I dont think so. Planes are not a static target. A tunnel is. So the danger of mishaps grows exponentially.

Yeah, I am going to into science where I need people to think about the future and progress. But I am a pragmatist.

Tags: Science, Opinion

[Listening to: Holiday - The Get Up Kids - Something To Write Home About (3:29)]

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Final week update at Oak Ridge

I spent most of the week at Panera's and office working on my paper and poster presentation. The poster turned out well. I was proud of myself. And the paper was just a recap of what I had done at work. My mentor didn't want me to submit my poster or paper for publication as he didn't want any of the results becoming public. It's okay because he needs to finish working on it so that other people can not steal the idea. This is how a lot of scientific research works. Oh, along with working on the paper, I probably had the most amount of decaffeinated Colombian coffee I've ever had. About 3-4 cups every time!

My poster session went well except for my group hoarding my poster. They never left! They just stood there talking about my results and the work I did. Hehe. And we had our final social event as the program had invited the whole intern group for dinner. It was a ton of fun and we even got paper awards. I was "Curious George" for always having questions during seminars. Actually, it's true. I was perpetually inquisitive ;).

And then we finally come to the fun part of the week. My last week with Jenn. I think we were together if we weren't working . We worked on our stuff at Panera after work or went dancing or ate out. It was our best week of dancing too. She is the best dancer I've experienced when it came to slower music. She gets very close and intimate which makes it ton of fun to dance with her. We went to Preservation Pub on monday (finally!), and we drank some beer and got to dance to the live band that was playing. We were able to make fun breaks too. That was so cool! And then wednesday too. We went to the free social dance after the lessons and stayed till they stopped playing music. Let me tell ya, people were watching. Jenn's a very lively, and sexy dancer. She liked getting really close, and use her hips. At times, the gyrations were the best part. She is really the best with slow, more sensous music. And of course, something that began our friendship. The endless hours of intellectual stimulation. We talked till late into the night. Every night. On the average, I would get home around 3 am. One night, I got home at 7 am. I've never discussed current affairs, and our world in general with anyone to this extent.

It was a great way to end this wonderful experience. I credit Jenn to making this semester far better than I ever imagined.

Working at ORNL might have sealed the deal for getting into graduate school. I have more research experience walking into grad school that most undergrads. Yay!

Tags: Life

[Listening to: Ten Minutes - The Get Up Kids - Something To Write Home About (3:12)]

Friday, January 06, 2006

Science and ethics independent?

I've been reading Richard Feynman's "The meaning of it all: thoughts of a citizen-scientist" and had a few thoughts on one of his arguments. He says that
science and moral questions are independent
and I agree to his theoritical arguments. However, I don't think that is a luxury a scientist can afford in our world. The consequences of the science should be considered, as plenty of its applications are morally dubious. An ever popular example, is either cloning or the development of weapons of mass destruction. I am against the latter as its cons outweigh its pros. How can a scientist sleep at night knowing that his work is being used to kill people? I know I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I knew that. To this Feynman said,
Well, how do you know you don't want people killed? You see, at the end you must have some ultimate judgement.
It was very weird reading that statement, as he offered no further clarification. Cold, wouldn't you say?

While cloning can be very useful for the future, when we exhaust or out-strip a lot of our resources such as crops. It can even come in great use in medicine as people wouldn't have to wait to get replacement organs. But then you also have the recent S. Korean stem cell debacle where the scientist was involved in unethical practices. Ethics and science should be bound. Or else, new nightmares can be created without constraints. Scary!

What do you guys think of this great scientist's thoughts?

Here is the cover (click for the link):

Tags: Science, Opinion

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Yahoo! Answers

So, I found this nifty little Beta that was hidden in a corner on Yahoo's main pages. It's great once we sift through the stupid questions. Interesting community concept.

Yahoo! Answers

Disclaimer: Must have a Yahoo! ID to post and answer questions. Viewing Q&A does NOT require an ID.

Tags: Internet

Monday, January 02, 2006

A sweaty, humid night

This place is so incredibly muggy! I hate being sticky. Anyway, I've made some progress on the graduate applications. I have sent in Stanford's and Vanderbilt's grad apps. I have to call UPenn and PSU to figure out what's wrong with their online applications.

2 down. 6 to go.

Have to send GRE scores to UPenn, Maryland, Brown, and NC State.

Applying to graduate schools is an expensive affair!

I am applying to the nanomaterials research division of materials science/engineering.

Tags: Life