Relativity and irony.

I once almost lost my cell phone. It was one of those days when I was having a good time when my cell phone probably fell out of my jacket during transit in a taxi. But a gentleman passenger, made sure I got the phone back. Kudos to him. But the horrors that went through my mind before I got a call from him were bad. Why you ask ? I have a lot of information apart from just contacts on my phone. And you could probably access all my mails, my twitter, facebook and what not from that mobile. What makes you stronger also makes you vulnerable. And that I found ironic.

But there was a recent event, that has completely made me depressed and lifeless, which you could compare against the above in terms of the anxiety. I (my house) got robbed over the weekend. They took my laptop, an external drive and some other random things. They left the TV. I would whole-heartedly exchange my TV, my bike, my books, my microwave and a few other things just to get my laptop back. Not for the laptop itself but for what it contains. It was my companion on so many days/nights, it helped me through some tough times at work, and it holds the key to most of what I’ve done in the past two years. It is heart breaking to know that it is all gone and the horrors return.

It would have been a consolation to at least have the external disk around, which contains all the back-ups of my work. But that is gone too. When you can’t even save anything in your own home for safe keeping, what can you depend on ? And being as attached to the work as I am, it only intensifies the pain. I am 3 months away from renewing my position and now I am behind on my schedule to finish 2 more papers. This might not have a happy ending.

At the end of the day, losing a laptop just hurts so much more than losing a phone. And that is relativity for the un-initiated. The beauty of physics is that the most purest of the theories are great philosophies too. And there I shall end this post. Still moping…

Thriving on the Precipice

It’s only on the brink that people find the will to change; only on the precipice that we evolve. This is our moment – don’t take it from us.
— The day the earth stood still

Another one of those things that is so right on the point. Its cliched to say ‘Necessity is the mother of invention’ but putting it in different words as above lends new meaning and purpose.

I’ve learnt that all best thoughts have already been said before. And that’s why I am proud to do my re-search. And it is why I thrive on great quotes. Kudos to the great minds before and after me.

Without that final edge, how mundanely bleak an occurrence this would be. And with or without an external change, it really is about time to rethink the possibilities…

Colbert Report nails it.

I was watching Colbert Report yesterday and he nailed the ‘Word of the day’ segment, targeting on the recent Christmas day bombing attack in Detroit. Here’s the video.

Colbert Report – January 5, 2010

If you are interested in getting to what I’ve got to say here, just move to 3.0 mins in to the video for “Night of terror: The crapification of American pant-scape”. Five minutes of that segment parodies on the recent reactions to the terror attack and what newscasters suggest we do to prevent further attacks.

Given that everyone here is scared even more because of the recent incident, the outcome of it in the news is just plainly retarded. I’ve watched enough segments lately about it but ‘Racial profiling’, ‘Religious targeting’ and plain disregard for rights in a country that hails itself as the greatest democratic nation seems much, to achieve what is necessary. My comments primarily stems from the fact that for 9 years since 9/11, Americans have been able to suppress any attack from bearing fruition and if anything, the recent incident is just a reminder that it took the terrorists this long to come back with a decent plan to break through the defenses.

The job is always easier for the attacker, whatever the cause, immaterial of the perspective since there is only one motive he needs to achieve. The preparation and tactics necessary to stop them is immense and it is important to keep the focus on what’s relevant and not to start waging wars on random nations again. Starting wars only makes America more of a pariah even if they can come up with thousand reasons to back it up. I abhor Gandhi’s non-violence movement and would have really liked to have given the British what they deserved for terrorizing the Indians with hundreds of years of oppression but my vision is clouded and for reasons I cannot understand, Ahimsa did work. May be a different approach might serve this nation better in the future. Of course, no one gives a shit about my opinion but this is just one man’s thought on a world in chaos.

I think it is apt to end my thought with a quote:

“Fighting terrorism is like being a goalkeeper. You can make a hundred brilliant saves but the only shot that people remember is the one that gets past you.”
– Paul Wilkinson

U.N. calls for nuclear disarmament

Finally, someone said it out loud and is getting everyone riled up on the idea of a world without nuclear weapons. Here’s the article. This is one of those things that might alleviate a lot of concerns for people in the proliferation policy realm but I think it is ineffective and serves a moot point on giving us a false sense of security that the world is safer, even if all the nukes are disarmed.

Why you ask ? Because we are humans. And unlearning physics that is a simple extension of a much more helpful application, i.e., the generation of power from reactors, is quite hard. In fact to quote from the article,

Chinese President Hu Jintao made clear that Beijing had no plans to scrap its nuclear arsenal.

“We will continue to keep our nuclear capabilities at the minimum level required for national security, and make efforts to advance the international disarmament process,” Hu said.

If every country that already has nukes takes a similar stance, and by suggesting arbitrarily that “we will keep our nuclear capabilities at the minimum level required for national security”, there is still reason for countries that want to get in to building nukes to get a nuclear status and respect from fear. And yes, I’m talking about North Korea, Iran and may be Brazil specifically.

But we strive, and that is probably a good thing. At least, we are heading in the right direction…

A.Q. Khan on Pakistan’s Nuclear Program

I just came across a very interesting and revealing interview with A.Q. Khan who was on house arrest till early February this year for his involvement in organizing one of history’s worst nuclear scandals. The transcript of the interview is available over here and is worth the time in gaining insight on the dynamics, timelines and even the budget involved for Pakistan’s nuclear program.

[Malik] When did you come to believe that now you had the weapons-grade uranium?

[Khan] In Kahuta, we achieved 60 percent result in our enrichment program; it was a
very difficult task though. We faced a lot of challenges in the ensuing stages but
successfully managed to overcome them, and we had achieved 90 percent result in the
//enrichment// program by the early 1983.

[Malik] So when was the bomb ready?

[Khan] It was ready by 1984. I wrote a letter to Gen Zia on 10 December 1984, telling
him that the weapon was ready and that we could detonate it on a notice of one week.

[Malik] Why did you not decide to test that device as soon as it was ready?

[Khan] We were allying with the United States in the Afghan war. The aid was coming.
We asked Gen Zia and his team to go ahead with the test, but they said they could not
conduct the test as it would have serious repercussions. They argued that, since the
United States had to overlook our nuclear program due to our support in the Afghan
war, it was an opportunity for us to further develop the program. They said the tests
could be conducted any time later.

Even though there is no value in pointing fingers at anybody, it is horrifying that repercussions of the US involvement in the Afghan region is still coming back to bite everyone, US included, in diabolical ways. Read the rest of the transcript to get a better perspective on things.

Link to the transcript in PDF via Secrecy News.

Revisiting Three Mile Island

An enlightening post that revisits some of the mistakes that caused the TMI accident, on the 30th anniversary of the mishap. I have heard some of the details from couple of professors on Nuclear Reactor Safety and they have always claimed it TMI to be an ‘accident gone right’ because there was absolutely minimal radiation exposure to the environment and pales in comparison to Chernobyl where the whole thing was a shitty mess.

I especially like Bob’s extrapolation on the current state of affairs:

The folks at TMI did not really know how to manage the technology of a nuclear power plant, and that led to a huge mess. The same thing has now happened to our economy. Congress changed the banking and mortgage lending rules without regard to their purpose. Many firms bought derivative securities without the slightest thought to the math behind them or the risk they were incurring. Nuclear power plants run on a chain reaction process of atomic decay. Our government and investment community created a chain reaction of economic decay.

Anyway, since it is the 30th anniversary of TMI, I figured that it would be wise to educate the one or two readers following my site. So here, read up.

Three Mile Island Memories.

Also, if you feel like reading more in-depth, check out the TMI fact-sheet at the NRC website TMI Fact sheet

Note to self: Got to watch ‘The China Syndrome’ soon. I keep reading about it over and over to the extent that it is annoying the hell out of me…

China moving forward with AP1000 reactors

This is good news. I know that the NRC in the USA are already working on getting site licenses approved for the AP1000 reactors and this is a welcome move that should spark more interest in this Westinghouse design.

There are also several more designs apparently being planned for construction in China, in the near future. An excerpt from World-Nuclear-News:

The AP1000 is to be one of two designs built en-masse in China. The other is the CPR-1000, itself derived from French reactors imported for the Daya Bay nuclear power plant in the 1980s. China has a range of power reactors including Candu-6s from Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd and VVER-1000s from AtomStroyExport. Two Areva EPRs are planned, as are two more VVER-1000s.

China Fires up Construction of the First of Many AP1000 nuclear reactors.

Another greek contribution.

Archimedes, the original physicist and mathematician, was apparently responsible for coming up with the fundamental ideas for calculus. Although it might be safe to say that neither Newton nor Leibnitz actually knew this, they have to forego the privelege to having stumbled onto the thought first.

Here are more details from TheLongNow blog.

Why we kiss

I recently read an article on the Scientific American on “Why we kiss” and it is interestingly controversial. Fortunately, it does address some of the common questions I’ve heard before and hence, this might be interesting enough to read on a sunday afternoon.

One of the first questions that is answered is “Why do we do it ?”

Excerpt from the article:

Whatever else is going on when we kiss, our evolutionary history is embedded within this tender, tempestuous act. In the 1960s British zoologist and author Desmond Morris first proposed that kissing might have evolved from the practice in which primate mothers chewed food for their young and then fed them mouth-to-mouth, lips puckered. Chimpanzees feed in this manner, so our hominid ancestors probably did, too. Pressing outturned lips against lips may have then later developed as a way to comfort hungry children when food was scarce and, in time, to express love and affection in general. The human species might eventually have taken these proto-parental kisses down other roads until we came up with the more passionate varieties we have today.

Well, that makes a lot of sense. I believe that a lot of the actions we perform are deeply influenced by what animals did out of survival which later became acts of luxuries and a part of social behavior itself. So I’ll leave this at that.

Another interesting quote from he article is as follows:

“Kissing,” said evolutionary psychologist Gordon G. Gallup of the University at Albany, State University of New York, “involves a very complicated exchange of information—olfactory information, tactile information and postural types of adjustments that may tap into underlying evolved and unconscious mechanisms that enable people to make determinations … about the degree to which they are genetically incompatible.” Kissing may even reveal the extent to which a partner is willing to commit to raising children, a central issue in long-term relationships and crucial to the survival of our species.

There are few other interesting tidbits of information about how human sensory organs behave and the reactions of the brain during a kiss. Useless, but fascinating nonetheless.

Well anyway, at the end of the day, it really does not matter what these studies come up with for results. Since perceptions are averaged over thousands of people and there is a high probability that me or you do not perceive like any of them or the person you kiss, all you can do is read it and move on 🙂

Toshiba builds 100x smaller Micro Nuclear Reactor : A hoax

It is interesting enough following through the new developments in the nuclear industry with innovative GEN4 reactors sprouting out concepts little explored before. But then again, there is nothing like a hoax that seems very genuine from one of the biggest heads in the nuclear industry. Here’s an excerpt.

A blog called Next Energy News leaks a story about Toshiba building a “Micro Nuclear Reactor” that would be nothing short of a miracle.

The 200 kilowatt Toshiba designed reactor is engineered to be fail-safe and totally automatic and will not overheat. Unlike traditional nuclear reactors the new micro reactor uses no control rods to initiate the reaction. The new revolutionary technology uses reservoirs of liquid lithium-6, an isotope that is effective at absorbing neutrons. The Lithium-6 reservoirs are connected to a vertical tube that fits into the reactor core. The whole whole process is self sustaining and can last for up to 40 years, producing electricity for only 5 cents per kilowatt hour, about half the cost of grid energy.

via Gadgets-Weblog

Sad that this news was a hoax but in reality, if such a design were to be made in a feasible manner, this could be wonderful in lieu of the growing concerns on global warming and move towards greener energy. Well, it still would create new problems in the nuclear non-proliferation regime but lets deal with this one step at a time.