Comrades marathon: Can I conquer ?

I recently came across this amazing Ultra marathon and have been unable to take my mind off it. I follow Bart Yasso on Twitter and got the first introduction there to this long endurance race. And a great first hand account of the race and its challenges by someone who completed it, is here at runnersworld. Remarkable !

My body is far from being ready to face 55 miles right now but I want to do this some day. In the next few years. Before the years wither and wane this body I carry around. 2011 might be the magic year and I’ll hopefully be able to conquer this distance. Time will tell …

Is common sense, sensible ?

Like always, searching through the archives, I stumbled upon an old post over at Crackled. And the reason hence, for this post …

What is interesting about the article is that, personally, I’ve been naive enough to assume every one of those 5 fallacies at one point or another. Every time, I think I’ve learnt and think that I can’t make the same mistakes again, but a slightly different situation always brings me back to the same coal pit, without even a hint of the downfall. And that is the beauty of nature, and why you and I, have to strive constantly to work towards training the mind to understand that fooling yourself, even for your own good, is dangerous.

But, what doesn’t kill you, only makes you stronger, eventually. And that is an axiom I do believe in strongly. And so we move on …

PS: I wanted to ask ‘Is common sense, common’ but considering that it is more of a cliche, I settled for the above title.

PI day 2009

And here it is again. The celebration of that beautiful number, the mathematical uniqueness that occurs in our life repeatedly, whether you realize it or not. This is PI day: Mar 14 (3.14).

Since I’ve been doing this the past few years, I’m not going to repeat all the fun facts about PI. But I will nevertheless give you some more interesting facts and links I found recently.

1) The Pi day Sudoku puzzle.

2) Things that equal Pi. Btw, the 360 blog has some really interesting posts and you should definitely subscribe to it.

3) Oh and of course, the recent appreciation of the reverent number even by politicians. Check this out.

4) And if you want to buy some swag for your PI day party, I suggest getting these beautiful PI shaped ice maker.

5) Update: Just found out that old Al’ was born on PI day. How fitting ?! Thanks to Neatorama for the piece of trivia.

Hmm.. Another year. Another day. Time is flying I tell you …

Sita Sings the Blues

If you haven’t heard about this, then take some time to watch `Sita Sings the Blues`. It is an animated feature film, written and directed by Nina Paley. After watching a few scenes, you will notice that it has primarily been done with just 2D CG effects only.

Of course, if you do not understand the background, it is based on an Indian epic `Ramayana`. The epic is the story of Rama, an Avatar to symbolize the perfect human, the perfect son, the perfect brother, the perfect king and follows his struggles with ethics and societal morals to do everything right. His wife Sita is another symbolism for the perfect wife who abides by her husband’s word and loves him immaterial of the inflictions and abuse she undergoes as a result of Rama’s pledge to uphold virtue. In simpler words, she is the epitome of womanliness emphasized throughout ancient Indian literature.

The movie though is based on this tale, is focused on the jazz music of Annette Hanshaw. And it has also been released under the Creative Commons share-alike license.

For those Indians who take offense to the depictions of Sita as a busty, gloomy woman, please relax and enjoy the animation and retelling of the epic tale with a different twist. Now grab some snacks, go to the site and enjoy.

Watch “Sita Sings the Blues” on Reel 13.

1) Official site
2) Wikipedia article

My job description: A layman’s breakup.

I saw a comprehensive ranking of 200 different jobs at which is kind of interesting.

I am disappointed that Nuclear engineering is rated at Rank 41 although what I feel is most certainly very different from the people who compiled the list. I am encouraged enormously since my work in the field requires me to be 1/3rd part Mathematician, 1/3rd part Nuclear engineer, 1/4th part Computational engineer and 1/12th part Physicist. And there you go: My job description.

Five mysteries of the universe.

Few of the things I care about in this endless pursuit of knowledge, as an individual on this earth … Concisely and very precisely thought out and written in simplicity:

1) Universe
2) Life
3) Death
4) Free Will
5) Sex

Michael Brooks on five mysteries of the universe.

Update: In a tangential topic, here are couple of things few others are worried, about the solar system: The Unknown Solar System.


PI day again

Whatdya know ?! Its PI day again. I remember posting on this day, last year about the same event and now, here we are again ! And in case you didn’t know, today is also the birthday of ‘Dr. Einstein’ of the E=mc2 fame 😉
Here’s a tribute to this magic number, π:


  • Biblical References: I Kings 7:23 II Chronicles 4:2
    In Kings, it states, “And he made a molten sea, ten cubits from one brim to the other: it was round all about, and a line of thirty cubits did compass it about.”
  • In 240 B.C, Archimedes of Syracuse, Sicily (287 – 212 BC) did the first theoretical calculation of . He used methods similar to the ones used by Euclid by inscribing a regular polygon inside a circle. He started with a hexagon and then polygons of 12, 24, 48, and finally 96 sides. He also used one of Euclid’s theorems to develop a numerical method for calculating the perimeter of the polygons. Archimedes obtained the approximation 223/71 < π < 22/7.
  • 150 A.D. Ptolemy found π to be approximately 377/120 (or 3.1416)
  • 480 A.D. In China, pi was found to be approximately equal to 355/113 or 3.1415929 …
  • 1150 Bhaskara (a Hindu) gave 3927/1250 as an accurate value of π
  • 1579 Viete used polygons having 393,216 sides to evaluate π correct to 9 places
  • 1610 Van Ceulen used 2^62 sides to compute π to 35 decimal places
  • 1949 ENIAC (first modern computer) spent 70 hours to compute π to 2,037 places
  • In September 2002, π was computed to 1,240,000,000,000 decimal places by Professor Yasumasa Kanada at the University of Tokyo. It took over 400 hours on a Hitachi Supercomputer.

Facts and interesting stuff:

  • All the digits of Pi can never be fully known.
  • William Jones, a self-taught English mathematician born in Wales, is the one who selected the Greek letter π for the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter in 1706.
  • Thirty divided by ten gives a value of 3. However, it is interesting to note that the word circumference happens to be spelled with an extra letter. Since in Hebrew all letters are also numbers, if we take the ratio of the value for the word as it is written (111) to the normal spelled word (106) we get the number 1.047169811… If you multiply this number by 3 you get 3.141509434… An amazingly close approximation to π!
  • The 1983 Guinness Book of World Records lists Rajan Mahadevan from India as having recited 31,811 places of pi from memory !
  • PI poem by Lorreen Pelletier: The number of letters in each line corresponds to a digit in the number &#960, up to 35 decimal places.
  • The value of π can be computed using the fibonacci sequence ! Link.
  • How do you prove that the π exists ?? Here’s an interesting theory.
  • Can you decipher the digits of π using a Sanskrit sloka ? Here’s a demonstration. Interesting read !
  • Here’s π to 1000 digits:
    3. 14159 26535 89793 23846 26433 83279 50288 41971 69399 37510 58209 74944 59230 78164 06286 20899 86280 34825 34211 70679 82148 08651 32823 06647 09384 46095 50582 23172 53594 08128 48111 74502 84102 70193 85211 05559 64462 29489 54930 38196 44288 10975 66593 34461 28475 64823 37867 83165 27120 19091 45648 56692 34603 48610 45432 66482 13393 60726 02491 41273 72458 70066 06315 58817 48815 20920 96282 92540 91715 36436 78925 90360 01133 05305 48820 46652 13841 46951 94151 16094 33057 27036 57595 91953 09218 61173 81932 61179 31051 18548 07446 23799 62749 56735 18857 52724 89122 79381 83011 94912 98336 73362 44065 66430 86021 39494 63952 24737 19070 21798 60943 70277 05392 17176 29317 67523 84674 81846 76694 05132 00056 81271 45263 56082 77857 71342 75778 96091 73637 17872 14684 40901 22495 34301 46549 58537 10507 92279 68925 89235 42019 95611 21290 21960 86403 44181 59813 62977 47713 09960 51870 72113 49999 99837 29780 49951 05973 17328 16096 31859 50244 59455 34690 83026 42522 30825 33446 85035 26193 11881 71010 00313 78387 52886 58753 32083 81420 61717 76691 47303 59825 34904 28755 46873 11595 62863 88235 37875 93751 95778 18577 80532 17122 68066 13001 92787 66111 95909 21642 01989 …
  • Here’s a palindrome for you : “I prefer PI” !!
  • e raised to the i*pi power equals -1 (e is the base of the natural logarithm and i is the imaginary number which is the sqare root of -1)

Alternate π addendum:

The life of PI – Here PI is an Indian guy’s name who gets stranded in the sea for more than 250 days. Its a good read although it has nothing to do with the π we are dealing with here. Just thought that might be an interesting trivia !
PI – The movie starts with the line “When I was a little kid, my mother told me not to stare into the sun, so when I was six I did…”. Now with a line like that, how could i not watch it ! I’d recommend this movie to anyone who’s a little perceptive and frankly, a bit obsessed on math or anything for that matter. I watched the movie and loved it but few of my friends hated me for recommending the movie. So, there you go. But seriously, if you get some time, and are a math fan, watch it !


Ten bogus frights of the past that shocked the world

Bird flu  

Bird flu has overshadowed the year 2005. The abominable virus claimed many bird lives in South East Asia before heading across Europe to Russia and Ukraine. However, the more scientists and officials talk about the deadly threat, the less credible it looks to people. Some people believe there is no such thing as bird flu. They think the whole story stemmed from the fights over the world market between the poultry producers. Others blame the pharmaceutical companies that are keen to spread panic and therefore make us buy more medicines. Which story should we believe in? Does the bird flu really exist? Does it pose a threat to humans? Did other threats of the worldwide proportions materialize?

It did not take long to tackle the problem; doctors found a pathogen and a vector – coronovirus and a palm cat, a viverrine animal normally used for food in China. However, the urgent measures could not stop another myth from spreading far and wide. The myth said that the SARS problem was made up to lower China’s economic growth and disrupt the exceedingly profitable tourist industry in South East Asia.

Academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences Lev Sandakhchiyev:

“Discovering a new more dangerous type of previously unknown coronavirus in the patients was direct evidence of a real threat. The ‘spinning’ of that epidemic stressed the importance of international cooperation. Many people did realize that humankind was destined to face new or recurrent infectious diseases. Therefore, a system of global and domestic monitoring is highly required.”

Spent nuclear fuel

Following a heated debate in 2001, the Russian president signed into law the bill on storage and reutilization of spent nuclear fuel from foreign nuclear power spent nuclear fuelplants. Specialists were unanimous while explaining to their opponents that spent nuclear fuel was not just the waste material from the nuclear industry. According to them, it is a high-tech product that can be used for extracting raw materials and energy. Despite potentially huge profits Russia could make (one ton of spent nuclear fuel costs $1 million; total estimated amount of spent nuclear fuel is 200 thousand tons), environmentalists have been relentless in their opposition to the new law.

Nikolai Shingarev, Director of the Information Center of the Federal Agency on Nuclear Energy:

“No spent nuclear fuel is being brought into Russia despite the law. We will probably sign the first contract under the new legislation for a small consignment of spent nuclear fuel from a research reactor in Uzbekistan. Today Russia is receiving nuclear waste from the nuclear plants built in the Soviet era in Ukraine ($370 thousand per 1 ton) and Bulgaria ($600 thousand per one ton). Reutilization waste materials will be stored in Russia only if the governments OKs the storage and only if fuel had been originally produced in Russia. 75% of revenues will be allocated for environmental programs and the remaining 25% will make part of local budgets.”

10 myths of the past, which never materialized

Steam-driven locomotive: serious scientists were asserting that cows would stop bearing offspring and produce milk at the sight of a locomotive. They also clamed that air would be squeezed out of train carriages at 20 km per hour and passengers will suffocate as a result.

Robot: intelligent machines will shake off dependence and take command of the world; humans would submit to the power of the machines.

Spacecraft: spacecraft were making holes in the atmosphere during the takeoff; the earth’s protective anti-radiation layer of the atmosphere will be eventually destroyed and thus the earth will be exposed to dangerous space particles.

Microwave oven: fried sausages can irradiate in the dark; radiation from food cooked in the oven will pile up in the human body and cause cancer.

Cell phone: radiation emitted by a cell phone receiver can affect the brain by liquefying it. Paradoxically, a cell phone phobia could not stop the massive spread of cellular communications all over the world.

Vaccination: the danger of vaccination is one of the longstanding fears in the world; the first objectors appeared shortly after the first vaccination campaign launched by Dr. Edward Jenner in 1796; many objected to vaccination in Russia at the end of the 1990s.

Environmental pollution: some people feared that the civilization would come to end by 2020 due to sky-high levels of industrial and communal pollution which should result in a lack of oxygen and poisonous evaporation.

Asbestos: Micro particles of asbestos cause lung cancer. Asbestos was produced in Canada and the USSR. Canadian asbestos companies went bankrupt following an anti-asbestos propaganda campaign instigated by the competitors. Russia’s asbestos makers have survived the bad times. The incidence rate of cancer in the town of Asbest does not exceed an average national incidence rate of cancer.

Global warming: industrial emissions of carbon dioxide cause the greenhouse effect that leads to overheating of the earth’s surface. Consequently, polar ice will melt away causing the global ocean level rise by one meter.

Ozone holes: Freon used in refrigerators and deodorants will destroy the ozone layer of the atmosphere, which protects Earth against the harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation. As a result, the number of cancer and other deadly diseases will grow.


18 Tricks to Teach Your Body

I saw this article just now and seems pretty interesting. It describes some simple tips that can be used when you are faced with situations like ‘supersonic hearing’, ‘clearing stuffed nose’, ‘overcoming nervousness’, ‘breathing underwater’ etc …

And what’s more cool is that all these tricks are based on scientific facts ! Awesome. Gotta give some of this a shot soon.