Friday, March 2, 2012

Interesting/Insane Facts

1. 11% of Greece's homeless population have a university degree.
2. Studies suggest easily distracted people are more creative.
3. Gamophobia is the fear or marriage, relationships or commitment.
4. The sweet scent that lingers after a rainfall is called "petrichor."
5. The average human sheds about 40 pounds of skin in their lifetime.
6. 50% of all emotional affairs become sexual affairs.
7. A tiger's tongue is so rough it can lick the paint off of a building.
8. It costs 3 cents to make a $1 bill.
9. Mosquito repellents don't repel, they hide you. The spray blocks the mosquito's sensors so they don't know you are there.
10. Being unmarried can shorten a man's life by ten years  - NOT SURE ABOUT THIS :).

Good Day

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Questioning Einstein's Theory - better check your tools

Past six months have seen hope, excitement, and disappointment - the full circle. An experiment purporting to show that subatomic particles can travel faster than light has scientists' heads spinning. Theses particles called Neutrinos have been reported to travel (made to travel from Italy to Geneva) 60 nanoseconds  faster than light — an apparent breach of the cosmic speed limit set down by Albert Einstein more than a century ago. Einstein's theory of relativity incorporates his crucial idea that the speed of light—about 186,000 miles a second—is a barrier that can't realistically be breached. In the famous equation E=mc² that equates mass with the energy contained within it. If particles go faster than light, things become troublesome.
Put things in perspective, here is a comparison of speeds of different objects.

Fastest Plane
Space Shuttle
768 mph
13,000 mph
17,600 mph
671 million mph
Time to circle the earth
32 hours
2 hours
90 minutes
0.134 seconds
Neutrinos are particles with almost no mass and no charge, and they can pass through ordinary matter unaffected. At any given moment, billions harmlessly stream through a person's body.The result may have turned out to be a leap into a science fiction territory where particles theoretically travel backward in time. 
However, it now turns out that a flawed cable could have been responsible for garbling the result - BUMMER.

CERN - the European Organization for Nuclear Research now says it had identified two possible effects that could have affected the interpretation of the data. One relates to a device known as an oscillator that plays a role in synchronizing clocks at the Swiss and Italian ends. If the oscillator was wrongly calibrated, that would mean the neutrinos had actually traveled slower than light, and all would be right with the world. A separate—and more troublesome—glitch may have occurred in a fiber-optic cable that brings a Global Positioning System, or GPS, signal to a master clock.
This is the beauty of science where one day you find that you have discovered answer to one of the most fascinating problems and later it is proved that the study needs to be checked. objective and so transparent esp when it comes to studies that have the potential to change century old facts.
The most funny part of this story was a statement  by Prof. Khalili, who said "There's a small part of me that's disappointed that I won't have to" consume underwear on TV, said Prof. Al-Khalili, a well-known broadcaster in the U.K. "The public humiliation would have been a small price to pay for a revolution in physics" if the CERN results were confirmed.
Note: He actually promised that if this was true he will eat his underwear in public.

Till then, hats off Mr. Einstein, you still rule the roost !!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Oh.....the woes of english language.....

One of the qualities, which you develop as a scientist, is to write papers that are concise, clear, and coherent. Paying attention to all the issues like tense, punctuation, flow and so on. Writing my first scientific paper was a great learning experience, my boss pointed out the mistakes and helped me write a very structured draft, where the entire story made a logical sense. One of the things I learned from this was that vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a machine should have no unnecessary parts. No wonder why Shakespeare said "Brevity is the soul of the wit". Inspired by my boss's writing style I asked him - How did you learn to write so well and how can I improve my writing skills? And his reply was - Read the book Elements of Style by Strunk and White. 

I wasted no time in getting the book and discovered that it was written 90 years ago and many of the common mistakes that people make have been pointed out in the book. So here begins my journey to be a great writer. One of my favorite sections in the book is - misused words and expressions. Here are a few I was always confused about, but not anymore  - courtesy of Strunk and White.

1. That and Which: That is defining, or restrictive pronoun. Which is non defining, or nonrestrictive. Moreover, when writing a restrictive clause, introduce it with the word "that" and no - comma. While writing a non - restrictive clause, introduce it with "which" and insert commas around the clause.

For eg.: The painting that was hanging in the living room was stolen
Means - there is only one painting in the room and it was stolen. However, if there were several paintings in the room this use would be incorrect.

The lawn mower, which is broken, is in the garage.
Means - there are many mowers in the garage but I am referring to the broken one.

2. Secondly, thirdly, etc: Do not prettify numbers with - ly. Instead prefer second, third, and so on. 

3. Etc. : In formal writing use of etc = bad writing. An item important enough to call for etc. is probably important enough to be named. For other type of writing use the phrases like - and the rest, and so forth. 

4. Data: Like strata, phenomena, and media, data is plural and is best used with plural verb. The word, however, is slowly gaining acceptance as a singular. 

For eg - The data is misleading.
The data are misleading.
Both the above formats are accepted now. 

5. Among and Between: Use among when more than 2 things or person are involved. When more than 2 are involved but each is considered individually, between is preferred.

For eg - The money was divided among the 4 players.
An agreement between the six heirs. 

6. Thanking you in advance: I had it one of my emails as a signature and now I feel stupid about it. Why?
It means that "It will not be worth my while to write you again." Use phrases like - "I shall be obliged" or "will you please".

I will keep posting other interesting english language usage, but it is a good idea for you get a copy of The Elements of Style.


Sunday, February 26, 2012

Nothing worthwhile can be achieved without.....

Long hiatus and the this one is overdue. Sometimes life throws a curve ball and we can respond in 2 ways - either get overwhelmed and be clueless or take it head - on. For me, it was state - 1 for a few days and then eventually moved on to state - 2. Won't go into the details of the my situations as I believe these are a part of everyone's life - at one point or the other. But the most amazing observation/realization was the potential of this great instrument called Mind. Surprised by its activities (at times 180 degrees opposite) I have been wondering how to make it more efficient and effective. To reach a state which most of us aspire for but only a handful make it. Struggling and debating about all these I picked up Nietzsche' s Genealogy of Morals and whatever that was going on inside me in a fuzzy manner was aptly put in words by him. The essay is too ling to be written and expounded here but here is a summary - 

Without acquiring a bad conscience, without learning to be profoundly dissatisfied with ourselves, we cannot envisage higher norms, a new state of being, self perfection. Without ascetic ideals, without self control and cruel self discipline, we cannot self mastery that everyone praises and admires. But to settle down with a nagging bad conscience, to remain an ascetic and mortify oneself, is to fall short of Nietzsche's "Dionysian" vision".

So true, so harsh - but that is the reality for most of us or at-least me......