Blog 18: Mystic Valley

It is often said that “of all the roads you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt!”. What nature can teach us, nobody can.. After having travelled a lot, in multiple countries, I have come to find that India is one of the most beautiful, culturally rich and historically oldest countries. The most amazing parts of India are the Himalayas!! They are beautiful and mystic.. !!! Umpteen stories of Kailash Parvat and Himalayan ranges talk about Lord Shiva, where he used to sit for “Tapasya”. Entire Himalayas was like his “home”.

Those who have visited Uttarakhand know for sure that the ranges are beautiful and are also very dangerous. It is not only the landslides, but also the steepness and difficulty level of trek that one has to do to reach Ghangaria or Hemkund or Valley of Flowers. The roads are well-made.. but still there are patches where you need courage, stamina and immense desire to reach the top. The weather is unpredictable and it rains quite heavily at any given time of the day. The heights are ~14000 feet, where the oxygen supply is rare and hence your lungs capacity has to be good.

This climb cannot be much practiced before going to mountains. This is because the combination of mountains, rains and cold weather with thin oxygen levels is hard to simulate. As one starts to climb, they go through a combination of steep climbs and deep descends, walking through the waterfalls, walking very narrow patches of valley edges, where its mountain on one side and deep valley on the other. It is thrilling, exciting, dangerous and scary.. all at the same time.!!

As a friendly advice, while travelling, it is very very important to go slow, stop in between and feel the mountains… feel the weather and experience what mountains are trying to tell you..it is precious because as they say, “Mountains change you. The sights change your perspective of life… permanently”!!

So let me share few of my amazing experiences in mountains, and I bet that these won’t be new for those who have been to Himalayas.. This is the first one I write here. More would follow in coming blogs.

On the way from Valley of Flowers to Ghangaria, it was raining heavily. It was a gruesome weather since it was equally cold. Oxygen was thin because we were at about 14,000 feet above the sea level, and it was hard to breathe. Most of us were just climbing all by themselves.

They were fighting their own stamina and their own fear. The fear was of slippery stones, difficult climbs and extremely narrow pathways paved between huge mountains and deep valley. I was one of them and I had no one ahead or behind me for atleast more than 500 feet or so. I was walking on my own. Normally the organisors allocate a guide to each group. But the guide accompanies the person who is slowest and hence I had no company, since I was quite ahead of the group. Walking in heavy rains, with snow-topped Himalayan ranges in the front, I came to a path which was extremely scary. It was through a ferocious water fall. These waters were falling from the steep mountain and into the deep valley. The path I had to travel was a narrow road, of which, on one side was this tall mountain and on other side was the valley in which water was falling. The road must be like half-feet wide, just bare enough to enable one single person walk. It was a road which almost felt like impossible for any human to cross. But since this was the only path seen, there was no doubt that I had to cross this road under that water fall. Initially I was okay. I had a stick in my hand and I just walked under those heavily pouring waters. I came half-way through and the fear surmounted.. I was frozen due to the “realization” of the circumstance. It was so scary that I just couldn’t move. I couldn’t go ahead nor turn back. It was impossible to go behind because if I had to turn around I had no courage to see those deep valley, with waters falling just pass me and mountains on the other side, just clipping any space around.. I could not move ahead due to the gripped-in fear. I literally froze and water was pouring on my head quite mercilessly. It must be like 15-20 seconds, which seemed too long and I took out my left hand to seek help. There was no one.. absolutely no one, which I had seen well before I started to take this road in the waterfall. In the right hand I had the stick and since it was towards the mountain cliff, I could not take out that hand. Other hand was towards the valley in which water was falling. With that half feet road, it was impossible for anyone to come and help. Still, I had to do something and hence, inadvertently and subconsciously I took out my left hand to seek help. I knew it was a useless attempt, but I just waved it a bit (almost like a helpless fool). In around few seconds I felt like my life was over. Nobody could help me move, and I had no courage to take step ahead. It must be like atleast 10-15 steps before I could land up in a safer part of the mountain. But it was in vain and I was stuck..

And a miracle happened… a very strong and cold hand held me. It took a grip of my left hand which I had taken out onto the valley side and which I was hoping to take help with. The hand was big, very strong and extremely cold. This was a huge support. The hand took a strong grip and almost dragged me through those 10-15 steps rapidly. It made me cross that dangerous zone and next I found myself out of the waterfall and out of that narrow path between valley and mountain. I immediately saw behind and saw that the path was behind me now and I was safe amidst the jungles on left side and the mountain, ofcourse, on the right side. It was a big relief. I collected my senses and tried to see the “person” who helped me. I saw the hand, a strong one with white tight sleeves till the wrist. The person rapidly went ahead of me. Running with high speed. In few seconds, he was not seen. Nowhere.. at all.. He had vanished, well.. almost.. The path was again empty. Not a single soul around. I was so happy and relieved to have crossed the very dangerous route, I continued my journey further..

While walking, I thought to myself.. where did this person come from? There was no one around me while I entered the waterfalls.. How could he ever catch my hand from the left side, where there was a deep valley? Was there any place there atall, for anyone to come in? And how could he drag me? For that he has to go ahead of me, from the left..!!

How is it that he ran so fast thereafter that I did not see him? Who was he? Rest of my entire journey I kept searching for someone similar. I found none… none at all. He came only for those few seconds to help me and landed me in safe location…

It is often said that one cannot plan a trip to mountains, especially the Himalayas. They say that you need to be invited to go there. And hence, if you go by invitation, you have to be taken care of. Somebody has to ensure your safety. Who ensures this safety and who encompasses entire Himalayas?

As a scientist and a researcher, it is difficult to write such a blog. But the experiences do not lie. It was bright daylight when this incidence happened and those who have been to Ghangaria or to Valley of Flowers would recollect such a location as well.. Such experiences make you more humble, change you forever and help you realize the irrelevant and artificial world in which we normally live. These experiences showcase your fragility and miniscule presence in this gigantic nature. It also tells us that there are different kinds of energies around us which we do not even know. We can only experience it.. but, for that, we have to be aware and we have to be receptive…

It is exactly for this reason, it is said that atleast one of the roads we choose in our life time, has to be a dirt road…!!

Blog 17 : Nataraja..

A scientifically inclined brain is normally not aligned with mythology. However, as one thinks deeper, many things makes sense.. lot of sense. I recently read a book entitled “7 secrets of Shiva” written beautifully by Devdutt Pattanaik. As I went through the chapters, I was quite mesmerized with many parts of this wonderful book, of which I was completely unaware. So I read it again.. and again.. maybe atleast 3 times. I felt a strong correlation of many things written therein with deep rooted scientific concepts. But it was difficult to seep-in, because the brain has been trained to do “conventional” science for a very long time. With an urge to help me focus and to see if whatever I was thinking has any true relevance in nature, I looked through Google. And I found out that Nataraja , which is Shiva’s form, is installed in CERN, which is located in Geneva!! CERN lies on the French / Swiss border in European Organization for Nuclear Research.

 The function of CERN facility is to keep a watch on large Hadron Collidor, which is a huge facility to study particle-particle interaction. This will help us understand the origin of Universe. This is one of the biggest and greatest scientific research centers in the world. And interestingly, it has a huge statue of Lord Shiva, as Nataraja, in its main corridor of scientific study laboratories. I was thrilled to know this!! Now, one may say that it must be gifted by India and that is how it happens to be there. However, I intend to think otherwise. I think that there must be a reason of this specific form of Lord Shiva to be getting installed at one of the largest research centers in the world. Let us try to understand it a bit more.

Taken From : httpswww.freepressjournal.inindiamaha-shivratri-2020-why-cern-has-a-statue-of-lord-shiva

 So again, like every other blog, we will see two concepts and connect them at the end.

Lord Shiva is worshipped as the destroyer and transformer of this world. There are many other attributes towards his profound presence, which include the explanation of Rattle drum, infinite pillar of Wisdom, his body smeared with Ash, Serpent in his neck, Tiger skin as his apparel and Ganga flowing from his head. Each has a significance attributed in Hindu mythology, which, ofcourse, we cannot cover in this small blog. However, Nataraja is a pose, which is unique. The pose of Nataraja is that from the TANDAV Dance, which he performs to demonstrate his might or power. It is an exhibition of creation, preservation and destruction, which depicts the deep understanding of our universe. It symbolizes many things, and the most important part of it is that: it symbolizes Change. It symbolizes flow of energy (the dance form) and a balance in this flow. It demonstrates that the universe is continuously changing, yet is stable. It is a phenomenon which is taking place deep within us, at the atomic level. It is also a picture of such similar things happening in each organic and inorganic matter in the universe. The birth of this world, its maintenance, its destruction and its re-creation are the acts of his dance. The Chakras behind him depicts the births and rebirths of living things, which is a belief in Hinduism. Everything gets symbolized in his final pose, which is Nataraja.

From modern physics and also from quantum physics we know that matter comprises of atoms and molecules. We know that electrons continuously move around the nucleus and this depicts energy flow. As these electrons are shared and bonds are formed, there is a shift in the flow of energy and it forms a new molecule. Such molecules are also stable, if they have followed the laws of physics and the rules in thermodynamics. Take example of Sodium and Chlorine atom. Both have electrons moving and both are independently stable. They exhibit a flow of energy and hence “life”. As they form a bond due to electron movement from Sodium to Chlorine, they form a salt. We know that such salts are used to create new materials, when they reduce complex materials to new materials (for example, synthesis of nanomaterials). In some sense, these new materials “gain existence” and basic sodium or chorine atom are “destroyed”. This is happening at subatomic level. In human body, systematically and rhythmically, cells are performing their duties, and are constantly created and destructed. The flow of energy in humans, at a microscopic level is a fine balance of creation and destruction. The same is true for animals and every other living being. As these changes occur, it is a kind of dance, and one can only witness it. One cannot control it. It is medically said that after every 7 years, each cell in our human body is replaced by a new cell..!!  Just as the body eventually dies, so is the energy transferred into a new being. Very similar to Chakras. The fixed right leg of Nataraja depicts the soul, which is immortal. The left leg represents nature, which is constantly changing and due to which energy is flowing. The balance of this universe, amidst this dynamic energy flow, is the stability and tranquility as is seen in Nataraja’s posture and facial expressions.

It is said that Lord Shiva danced the Universe into existence. In this particular sense, it cannot be a coincidence that he has installed himself at this CERN Centre, which is dedicated to study the evolution of this universe..!!

There are many other questions like meaninglessness in the life, concept of Fear, Heroes and Villains in our life which is answered scientifically in the literature. Unification of Arts, Culture and Science can be found in such literature, which I shall continue to unfold, as I understand better.

These are solely my thoughts, which are inspired from whatever I read. I am sure that there would be many dimensions to the same phenomenon or scientific discoveries, which would be very interesting to know. Therefore, if there are such similar or even contradicting thoughts, please do put them in the comments box.

The more I read, the more I realize that scientific studies and their understandings are far far behind the knowledge this universe can offer..!! We continue to progress, though..!!

Blog 16 : Staying Relevant..

I was a bit free from my normal duty and was locked at home due to covid restrictions and work-from-home phase. Therefore, I saw this wonderful show on Amazon Prime Video, called as “One Mic Stand”. Popular young comedian-cum-writer, Sapan Verma is the host for this programme and the format of this event is to invite one celebrity to perform a stand-up comedy on a Live Stage for some time. Sapan will make the celebrity comfortable by giving him/her a mentor (who is also, of course, a well known comedian) and then put them on stage. The audiences are bubbling youngsters who would be out there to have some real fun.

The format was itself very good and I started this watch. And it was good..!! I could see popular faces here, from YouTube performers to music composers to Bollywood stars. They were very good and the programme was hilarious! However, the job of the entire creative team was quite easy because the celebrities were of similar professional domains. The only difficult part was their performance “Live”, which, with a good practice given by Sapan Verma, was done well.

Why should I write all this? Well, because one of the celebrities was comparatively out-of-box. And that was Dr. Shashi Tharoor. A politician by profession, highly learned person from Tufts University (Massachusetts) and of age of ~ 65! Quite a senior to do many things, but to perform at this Live Comedy Show. Sapan Verma was quite in tension, while he tried to rope him in and get him to agree to be a part of this series. I was amazed seeing the performance of Dr Tharoor!! His ability to reach out to the youngest of the audience and make him/her laugh was incredible. The millennial Lingos he used were just mind-boggling! The ability to connect to the audience kept me spell bound..!! And I was no different. Sapan Verma along with Kunal Kamra was equally zapped..!! The programme was a big hit. You should go watch it..! (https://youtu.be/LSwyY4ode0E)

Taken from:
https://www.opencolleges.edu.au/informed/features/how-to-make-learning-relevant/

Why was this so successful? It was because of the ability of Dr. Shashi Tharoor to remain “relevant” to the current generation of people. Be it the language, the style of performance, the slangs they use and ofcourse the Wit they like to listen to… everything! He was “in-sync” with the youngsters! And that too, at his age and stage of life! With the wisdom he brings due to his vast experience and high intellect, it became a powerful show, which no normal comedian can bring on.

“You cannot do today’s job with yesterdays methods and be in business tomorrow” is a very good quote. We can also say, “You cannot remain an interesting person for today’s generation using yesterday’s knowledge and past memories”. To remain relevant at any point of stage in life is very important. It can only come with Learning, Updating and Upgrading. Why do we become friends with few people who are about double our age (or even half the age)? That is because they have remained relevant to us. This can come with a constant urge to know more, develop skills, hobbies and be “student-like” in one corner of your persona.

Especially in our country, I find that vast percentage of elderly citizens who take pride in saying, “It was much better in my times”, “Hamare zamane mein..”, “I cannot use a credit card”, “My daughter/son do everything for me now”, “I am retired, you see. I have done enough. Now it is the turn of my children to pay-back”, “In my times, things were different”, “I don’t know how to use this cell phone! I don’t like it”, “I hate this loud music and senseless new movies”, “In my time, the singers were much better. New singers cannot sing”, “Now it is my time to look after grand-children”. These are signatures of mental retirement. These sentences bring an individual into “non-relevant” category, rapidly.

These pandemic times have taught us to read new things, develop new skills and hobbies, develop new friends, explore new people and connect to family. It is our duty to take care of our body as well as our brain. And brain needs re-assurance of its ability. This re-assurance is obtained from people around us. If we are relevant to the society and people around us, the feedback to the brain will be always positive. That happiness and positive energy will be a part of confidence we would wear in our persona. And then we would be likable, relevant and relatable to everyone around. It is a positive cycle.

So, next time if it feels like “How boring this person is..”, always remember that someone may also say the same for us..!! If we have to avoid this, Stay Relevant!! And that way you would also be “Staying Alive”!

Links:

https://www.primevideo.com/detail/0GUT4NOIVAFUW3YDBI2TSSHS35/ref=atv_dp_share_cu_r

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shashi_Tharoor

https://www.primevideo.com/storefront/home/ref=atv_nb_sf_hm

prime video

sapan verma : https://www.sapanverma.in/

Disclaimer: These are personal views of the author. They do not intend to harm the sentiments of anyone.

Blog 15: Simple, Cheaper yet Effective Communication – the 5G Technology

Conventional communication has seen a paradigm shift right from a simple circular-dialled and wired phone to a recent handy, stylish cell phone with 4G and 5G connectivity. What is this shift? Well, we do not try to understand history. But we will try to know the recent technology, using simple puzzles and short stories. And as usual, we will connect all the dots at the end of this blog.

1. Imagine that there is a huge storm and wind is blowing like crazy. You are out on the road and you are standing very near a tall building; versus, you are standing on the road which is plain (like a highway). Where, do you think, you will be hit more by the storm?

2. Imagine that you are lost in a forest and you are trying desperately to find the way out. There are your 50-odd friends and relatives who are also out to find you. None of you have electronic communication equipment. Will it be easy for you to track them by giving our loud calls to help them reach you? Or it would be easier for all those 50 people to make a chaos and try to find you?

3. Imagine that in the same storm mentioned above, there are pieces of small paper chits and loads of tin sheets, both subjected to blowing winds. Which of these would be able to scatter faster to larger distances?

The answers to all these puzzle questions are simple. You would be hit more by the storm if you are standing on the highway road. You would be able to find the way out if “You” call out. Smaller pieces would be able to go in any nook-and-corner of the surroundings, as compared to the larger tin sheets.

These intuitive answers were quite non-intuitive in conventional communication electronics, unless someone started thinking out-of-the-box.

Conventionally, we have antenna in the cellular networks which take care of limited number of subscribers in their own region. Normally there are lesser antennas and more subscribers in a given region and the signals flow in all directions and try to catch your phone and offer connectivity. They face problems to reach people behind huge buildings and behind small hills. They travel with limited range, trying to manage the concept of cellular networks. In handling connectivity, they give rise to complicated antenna structures, higher bandwidths and more repeaters in between. Expensive components are required to handle these systems.

Welcome to 4G and 5G Technology and welcome to Massive MIMO / Adaptive Beam forming / SDMA technology. In this, small, cheap, low-power antenna units are used in array forms. Imagine a stack of 8 such structures arranged vertically. They all send out signals with a small delay (phase difference) with-respect-to each other. The idea is to use very small packet of information (like those tiny pieces of paper) and transmit it in air. They would reach the receiver, rather quickly, and a beam formation will happen, (like a constructive interference) to make the beam more focused at the receiver cellphone. The signal will hit the person on the highway much faster and with higher impact (just as the person hit by a storm on the highway). However, if the user is standing behind a building, even though the small bits will make the signal reach to his cellphone, the signal may be weak (just the way in which he will be less-hit by the storm). In that case, instead to one vertical array of antenna, researchers and technologists have devised an array of antennas like 64 elements with 64 trans-receivers, which create a 3-Dimensional beam of signal, which will be able to reach every nook-and-corner of the space around, including the place behind tall buildings. Hence the signal reaches everywhere; which is the beauty of new M-MIMO (Massive – Multiple input multiple output) technology.

Taken from :
https5g.co.ukguideswhat-is-massive-mimo-technology

Let us say that you enter a new network, say because your travel from one city to another. How would you be recognised? Conventionally, the antenna in that cellular region will trace you by sending signals which are called as “pilot” signals. But in the MIMO technology, your phone will send pilot signal and get identified in the network (just like the person lost in the forest). The technology is just reverse.

This is just opposite to the earlier approach towards communication technology. Earlier complicated electronic equipments, especially trans-receivers were used for far-reaching signals. Now cheaper, low-power electronic components are used in array form to get more directed energy using 3D beam formation technology. Smaller regions in space are used (through higher frequency) and polarization and time-delay techniques are used for better and stronger coverage.

Taken from:
https://www.edn.com/realizing-5g-new-radio-massive-mimo-systems/

Sprint Massive MIMO and Erricson are good examples of companies implementing 5G and above, using the frequency in the range of 24.5 GHz to 52.6 GHz, bipolar antenna arrays with base stations kept about 100 m apart in urban setups. Cisco estimates that by end of 2020 – as 5G rolls out to a mainstream audience – there will be 5.5 billion mobile users around the world, each consuming 20GB of data per month.

Following points are interesting in this new technology:

1. Number of antennas are much higher than number of users!

2. The technology uses cheaper and low-power antennas as compared to earlier ones.

3. Your cell phone sends signal to get introduced in the network (and not vice-versa), which is opposite to roaming technology earlier.

4. Space division is achieved using beam formation, which is an excellent solution after consuming Time-Division and Frequency-Division.

Where there is a will, there is a way..!! And nature does this all the time..!! Simplest example is photosynthesis using small leaves which work as solar cells. They are much cheaper, easily replaceable and are in abundance. Our antennas are doing the same..!!

We have tried to mimic nature… but we had to go through a large energy-intensive cycle of communication evolution before we “realized” how nature does it, just naturally..!!

Blog 14 : Learning from Bacteria

“The opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself” – Sun Tzu

Last few months made us aware of Viruses. We all, those who do not belong to the biology-related fields, suddenly, sometime in February 2020 got ourselves informed that viruses can create havoc..!! It brought entire human race to its knees and we are still crawling and struggling to get up and walk!

To most of us, viruses are known, but not understood. As I tried to dig a bit more on these microscopic creatures, I realised that we are not the only ones who have to “deal with” these. There are other prokaryotes, like bacteria, fungi and so on, who have their own struggle to combat Viruses.

This article is an attempt to link these viruses to the recent Nobel Prize winners for Chemistry for 2020.

So, humans learn from the nature and nature is full of organisms, who we think, in-some-sense, inferior. However, that’s not true. They are already doing funny (and intelligent) things which we can only understand if we observe them carefully. Well, like human-beings, the microorganisms also have their safety ensured through their own defence mechanisms. Microorganisms could be bacteria, viruses, fungi, algae and so on. Just like humans, bacteria are also susceptible to viruses. Viruses can attack the bacteria and eventually destroy them and take total control over their systems.

So, how do bacteria handle these attacks? They use their own genetic manipulation to do this. Let us see few essential biological terms here. Biologically, each individual is different because everybody has a unique DNA. In the fields of molecular biology and genetics, a genome is the genetic material of an organism. It consists of DNA (or RNA).  DNA is the molecule that is the hereditary material in all living cells. Genes are made of DNA, and so is the genome itself.

(Courtesy : httpswww.scienceabc.compure-sciencesdifference-bacteria-vs-virus.html)

The viruses, who are the invaders (on say, bacteria), are known as “phages”. They attach to the surface of bacterial cells, inject their genetic material, and use the cells’ enzymes to multiply while destroying their hosts. To defend against a phage attack, bacteria have evolved a variety of immune systems. One of these immune systems, known as CRISPR-Cas, when encounters a enemy (phage), the system creates a ‘memory’ of the invader by capturing a small snippet of the enemy’s genetic material. The pieces of phage DNA are copied into small molecules known as CRISPR RNAs, which then combine with one or more Cas proteins to form a group called a Cas complex. This complex patrols the inside of the cell, carrying the CRISPR RNA for comparison; exactly in the way a detective uses a fingerprint to identify a criminal. Once a match is found, the Cas proteins chop up the invading genetic material and destroy the phage.

(Courtesy: httpswww.genengnews.comcommentarya-dual-gene-therapy-and-gene-editing-platform) Abstract luminous DNA molecule.

This technology of bacteria is being studied by humans for a long time. The technology which is then so developed is called as CRISPR Gene Editing technology. CRISPR stands for “Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats”, a term that describes a family of nucleic acid sequences that were discovered in archaea and bacteria in the 1990s containing copies of virus genes. While studying this, it appeared that somehow these organisms had stolen genes out of viruses. So, in short, bacteria, as evolved, has virus RNA as a part of its identity..!

Technologically, this ability to identify specific DNA sequences with precision and break them apart was quickly recognised as a perfect tool for editing genes. A protein called Cas9 can be used in conjunction with engineered CRISPR sequences to hunt down codes and slice them (like a molecular scalpel), allowing geneticists to cut out a target gene, either to remove it or replace it with a new sequence. So it is literally Cut-Copy-Paste and Replace!

CRISPR-based technology has been applied to a variety of tasks in the past decade, from removing genes responsible for diseases, to destroying drug resistant superbugs, to creating molecular recording devices. Cancer screening, Metabolic engineering and manufacturing of high-value compounds are few other important applications.

This was the fundamental base on which two women scientists won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry, this year. The 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was jointly awarded to French microbiologist, geneticist, and biochemist Emmanuelle Charpentier and American biochemist Jennifer A. Doudna for their work on the development of CRISPR-Cas9, a cutting edge, novel method for genome editing.

 

Charpentier worked on the bacteria Streptococcus pyogenes, which causes around 700 million skin infections in humans each year. While working on this pathogen in the late 2000s, she noticed that the bacteria contained a previously undiscovered molecule called tracrRNA, which was found to be a part of the bacteria’s ancient immune system, the CRISPR-Cas system. Her findings were published in 2011.

Doudna, an expert on ribonucleic acid (RNA) and x-ray crystallography of ribozymes, an RNA enzyme that catalyses a chemical reaction, started work on CRISPR, independently, in 2009. In 2011, she met Charpentier at a conference in Puerto Rico, following which they began to work on CRISPR-Cas together. They recreated the bacteria’s genetic scissors in a test tube and were eventually able to reprogram the entire CRISPR-Cas9 system so that it could be controlled and be used to cut any DNA molecule at a specific site on the genetic sequence, thus fundamentally altering the genetic code of the organism.

Their work has initiated radical leaps in the field of biomedical research. It has been used to modify the genomes of three cancer patients to reprogram the immune system to fight off cancer cells in February this year, with no side effects so far. It has also explored to eliminate HIV from infected cells and is being used to reverse congenital blindness, combat diseases such as Huntington’s as well as chronic pain.

I leave this blog with two thoughts to ponder on:

1. Bacteria have found a solution for its survival by “incorporating” virus signature in itself. Can we then say bacteria as a “Bacteria” or a “Virus”? Is there an identity crisis here? Well, can we talk of humans on similar lines? Time will tell as to how far genetic engineering will take us.

2. We thought that we invented cut-copy-paste technology. But look at bacteria, which we always considered as the simplest form of microscopic organism. It has been using this technology to modify itself, for so long! We are just learning and re-creating it!

Blog 13: Choose to be a story of Ashlee Vance or Kangana Ranaut…a Vazeer or a Pawn? ?

I am reading this book by Ashlee Vance, which is on Elon Musk (I already wrote a blog on this https://sangeetakale.blog/2020/07/15/blog-12-cutting-the-cult-of-beautiful-people/). Simultaneously, we got to hear news on the suicide of popular Bollywood Actor, Sushant Singh Rajput and the controversial interview given by Ms. Kangana Ranaut, a popular and successful Bollywood actress, to Arnab Goswami (Republic TV News Anchor and Journalist). She spoke about Nepotism in Bollywood and people falling prey to this so-called Bollywood Mafia; with Sushant being the victim of this. Now you may think, what has these two reads got to do with each other?

Well, let me talk mostly on the experts of the contents of the book by Ashlee Vance. We will connect the dots of above paragraph automatically..!

courtesy: https://medium.com/@airatmaninravi/what-is-self-realization-7702eaab42b1

Solar City is one of the Enterprise of Elon Musk, which deals with Solar Energy. This is in addition to his ventures such as Space X and Tesla Motors. Solar City manufactures solar panels for green power generation. It has more than 6 Billion US Dollar business in the country. Each of Elon Musk’s enterprise is interconnected:

1. Tesla Motors makes Battery Packs. Solar City sells them to the companies and customers.

2. Solar City sells Charging Stations with Solar Panels to Tesla Motors to provide free recharging to Tesla cars, all over the country.

3. Owners of Model “S” of Tesla Motors are keen to invest on domestic solar panels from Solar City, to follow the “Musk Lifestyle”!!

4. Tesla Motors and Space X help each-other with their know-how in materials and manufacturing; for example materials like alloys, welding-free composites, and light-weight materials and so on.

5. Solar City, Tesla Motors and Space X are unified verticals to develop technologies in Solar, Automobiles and Aerospace Industry.

Now just see the following facts:

1. Elon Musk has entered as an Entrepreneur, in the most bureaucratic sectors in the world – Energy, Automobile and Aerospace.

2. Companies like Intel, Walgreens, Wall Mart, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Mercedes Benz, Toyota were in direct competition with a tiny company like that of Elon. These companies have deep pockets and strong political connections which can easily dismiss such small enterprise. They must have ridiculed Elon Musk several times and seen him as an annoying and a pretty foolish person.

3. It is very easy to realise that these huge companies can make life of a young, South-African entrepreneur really miserable and we all would agree that they would be very good at this..!!

It was more than 12 years of toiling work, that in 2012, Elon Musk emerged to be a real threat to all his competitors. Not only he had huge technological breakthroughs, he also has huge star-power which washed over all the bureaucracy of majority of big companies in the United States.

courtesy: 669a306016bc130875d5e55bdf788073

Today, he has a Space X factory in Los Angeles, Rocket Testing facility in Central Texas, Space Board setups in South Texas. He has factories in California and Florida, with Tesla Factory in Silicon Valley. For Solar City’s Battery Factory, there was bidding among various states of USA, which was finally won by Nevada by giving Solar City an incentive of 1.4 Billion Dollars!!! He earned all this and is now a super celebrity of the world, and still as a “Entrepreneur”.

I am sure; all of you must have guessed why I wrote all this and mentioned Sushant Singh Rajput or Kangana Ranaut at the start. These actors entered Bollywood from remote villages and cities in India and tried to do their best in this industry. Nepotism is everywhere. It is a part of every profession and each and every new-comer will face it. Ofcourse, if you are a son/daughter of “biggies” it is going to be different (well.. mostly), but it does exist. Therefore, one has two choices:

1. We blame the system and the flaws, favoritism, nepotism, bureaucracy and so on, and brood over it. Express it and get ourselves anxious, angry, and depressed and end our life or affect our career, which eventually will ruin you as an individual. The loss of your creativity is also a loss to the society.

2. OR you face it, persistently focus on the aim and work towards it, become extremely self-reliant, confident and a successful personality; which nobody can ignore. The way in which multiple Elon enterprises work together, in the same way, a herd of like-minded people can help and grow together.

The choice is ours.

There are other similar stories of how United States stood up in the Telecom Market when Steve Jobs brought the iPhone in the US market, which was completely dominated earlier by Chinese, Korean and Japanese telecom market. There would be many such stories.

Suicides and blame-games are never a solution to anything. The suicide stories are indeed sad, but finally, no one, except the victim, is at the loss. Standing up on your own merit and making a statement for yourself is the best solution. Actors like Akshay Kumar, Tapasee Pannu are good examples. In academics, everybody cannot be in Harvard or MIT or Cambridge… or work at IITs in India. But somebody’s work can make his/her own Institution as proud as Harvard or Cambridge..!! Someone can become an Institution by him/herself!!!! And when it is in the mind, it can become a reality..!!!

(The thoughts expressed here are of my own. I do not mean to harm the sentiments of any person / organisation) 

Blog 12: Cutting the cult of “Beautiful People”!!

Specific Technologies have a monopoly. The Monopoly brings bureaucracy. Bureaucracy thrives on limited information. And Limited information results from limited knowledge. And finally, limited knowledge is an outcome of inferior/rudimentary technologies..!! Bring it all together and one can say, Monopoly results into rudimentary technology.

How does one assimilate this? Well, take example of space technologies. For years and decades together, space missions, rocket launching, satellite missions have been a monopoly of the Government. NASA in the US and ISRO in India are excellent examples. They have done commendable jobs by launching space vehicles up in the space for various applications such as for communication, navigation, and surveillance, weather-forecast and so on.

In the US, giant companies like Boeing and Lockheed-Martin supply essential technologies for NASA explorations such as engines, chassis, and electronics and so on. I call these as “Beautiful People”. That’s because they are privileged. There is no competition.  They have their own ways of doing things, which may not be optimum. But since they have monopoly, there are mostly no questions asked. They take technologies from countries like Russia, especially for engine designs. Therefore, Russians are also a part of this “Cult of beautiful people”.  For a technology which would cost “X” amount, these would charge “10X”..!! For a time “T” to complete a job and launch a space ship, they would take “10T”!! And while all this goes on for decades, common person like you-and-me think of all this as “Rocket Science”.. err.. literally..!!

courtesy:
https://whatwillmatter.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/AA-Courage-cat-in-fornt-of-dogs.png

“HOW” to break this Cult and “WHY” to break this Cult? Well, the reason is that everything should come to humanity and a common man. Why should space missions be only to understand the Universe? Why shouldn’t it be available like a “space safari” or a “holiday to Moon” or “MARS”? If this has to happen, the cult has to be broken. And it is not easy. Because one has to do several things:

1. Have Indigenous technologies – So that entire range of components is manufactured in-house. Things become very cheap. 2. Improvise the technologies – Coming out of rudimentary control systems and poor electronics to savvy, digitally-controlled, lightweight and miniaturized mechanical assemblies. 3. Recyclable and Re-usable Rocket technologies – If a Rocket which launches the satellites in space are able to come back for the next payload satellite to be taken (just like a train comes to carry new passengers back to the same destination), cost cutting would be huge. It becomes a consumer product then.

Falcon 9 look is Flashy, the feel is Savvy, the technology is Sexy and the performance is Efficacious!!!.

I am sure, by now everybody has guessed it..!! Yes, I am talking about SpaceX technologies and the person who has Cut the Cult is Mr. Elon Musk! SpaceX has developed completely indigenous technology to launch its FALCON-series of rockets and launchers. They have developed Dragon Capsules which use solar panels, highly efficient and light-weight single sheet composites with technologies for higher stability, better solar-power efficiency and intelligent algorithms sitting on MEMS-based electronics. The look is Flashy, the feel is Savvy, the technology is Sexy and the performance is Efficacious!!!. Everything is just opposite to that developed and held by the cult of beautiful people..!!

Let me give some examples here –

1. The average cost of Boeing’s Starliner would be $90 million per astronaut, compared with $55 million a seat on SpaceX’s Dragon.

2. With entire technologies made from within SpaceX, 60% of the space revenue of the world is collected by the US.

3. Russia charges 70 Million USD, to the US, per person, to International Space Station, which is extremely expensive.

4. With re-usable rockets, the SpaceX will be able to bring these technologies much cheaper and they intend to have atleast 20 launches per year. They also dream of having an interim space-base, where the rockets would be available immediately after they complete one “trip” to space and are ready to go next, with a new Dragon.

People could think of Mars mission, space safaris more often, just because someone has tried to cut the cult of beautiful people, who had a monopoly of technologies and which were working with extremely slow pace.

SpaceX is Elon Musk. He thinks differently, is extremely sharp, a task-master, and is very courageous!! Cutting through the giants like Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Orbital Sciences and winning over NASA slots and bids is not easy. Bringing the technologies to a cheaper level with smarter, more advanced, and digital-friendly level has to be a dream first, and then a reality..!!

They say that earlier, if there was some flaw in a rocket launching system, which was realized during the launch, NASA would cancel the entire launch and would take atleast 30 days to recover the flaw and schedule a new launch. But with FALCON series, there is a story that SpaceX engineers discovered a flaw and they quickly changed the software online and the corrected the same and the launch was delayed only by 30 mins..!!

That’s the power of dream.. !!

“Cutting the Cult” stories are many.. For me, the best one is of Elon Musk.

To achieve something that is phenomenal, one needs to be a “General of Army” and not the “CEO of a company”..!!

Next time you hear the song of Ed Sheeran, “Beautiful People”, surely you will remember Elon Musk and (hopefully) this blog..!!

(These are my personal thoughts, which are not intended to harm anyone, nor any organization)

Blog 11: Out of this Quarantine…

We all have been in this lock-down status, sitting at home for around 40 days now… And if this blog of mine sounds a bit shaky, blame it on the quarantine period..!! Psychiatrists say that it is perfect to be a little “crazy” in such periods!!! I read a wonderful Billionaire quote:

If you don’t come out of this quarantine with:

-A new skill

– Your side hustle started

-More knowledge

You never lacked time, you lacked discipline

This quote has made me write this blog.

I always had a very busy life. Since my age of 21, I have been working. I completed my Master’s and got a job in Fergusson College. I did my PhD along with this job. Got married, have a lovely daughter, did post-doc in the USA, shifted to DRDO and continuing .. continuously. It has been more than 30 years of continuous work, with absolutely no gap… I recall that when delivered my daughter, I went for a day in my laboratory, even from the hospital (I never knew that it was forbidden!!).

Being a professional at fairly good level, and struggling to be the best in my own domain, I did earn good applauds and rewards. However, lately, maybe in past 3-4 years I had been continuously thinking that I need a change..

What was this “change”? I didn’t know… I had a pool of friends, with whom, whenever I used to chat, I would say this…

Maybe, more travel?? Well, for my work I travel a lot…. in country and abroad… for meetings conferences… big deal…!! But maybe a travel with no agenda, I was meaning?? I don’t know..

Maybe, more chat time??? Well, lately, I do miss meaningful conversations… Well, due to my current position in my Institute, I meet so many people… big deal, again…!! But maybe the connect is missing… I would love a very few friends with whom I could talk on same frequency.. and share experiences… maybe with those belonging to different walks of life…

Maybe, my own enterprise, my own company..?? Well, I have been doing innovative research projects for so long. I keep writing papers, publish in peer-reviewed international journals.. big deal, again…!!  But maybe, I wish to do something which will give me a pleasure of “creation” and offering it to the Society which needs it…

And, as it is said, when you want something absolutely and genuinely, you will get it..

I never wanted the time to come by my side, the way it did… I never wanted to invite a virus in the world to stop the world for this petty desire of mine… But it came anyways, and I was left with time.. due to lockdown.. Now time was going slow… pushing me to something I wanted for ages..!!

It did not click me first. I went busy completing the work which was pending. Unfinished papers, project proposal writing, meetings with students, faculty colleagues and such things. But I soon realized that this is my Dream Time.. I should explore NOW…

Well, I couldn’t travel… but I could plan one… only for myself.. a “Solo” one…

I am not obliged to talk to many now… I could talk to only those who give me pleasure of company.. very very few… and I could get a wonderful connections.. !!! They were already there, but realization came NOW..!!

I always wanted to plan for my own enterprise… and I could plan wonderfully… the plan is clearer now…

I learnt to take care of myself.. good food and health, I could invest more time and carve out a plan… thanks to my wonderful instructor and a genuine friend..

I could concentrate on the current pandemic conditions and using the learning’s through my profession, along with my wonderful colleagues and students, I could frame a wonderful proposal to help the needy, in India.. That was so satisfying..

The travel through the tunnel is also important… it helps you conquer your fears.. Our tunnel is made by us.. use it now… because time is by your side.!!

People say that if you are in a dark tunnel, remember that there is light at the end of the tunnel….

Well, it is true… but more vivid fact is also this that,

 The travel through the tunnel is also important… it helps you conquer your fears.. Gets you accustomed to that temporary darkness.. so that, as you come out of the tunnel, your vision is clearer… because you have “Lived” through the tunnel, and not just waited for it to “pass”…!!!

Our tunnel is made by us.. use it now… because time is by your side.!!

Blog 10 – Two Stories : Confluence of school of thoughts

“Science knows no boundaries.. a philosophical thought of one could become a clue or inspiration to another, generating big discoveries”!!

Our brain works in a funny way. It actually fires in random.. and in that sense, each one of us is born creative..!  The conventional education, on the other hand, does not give freedom for such random navigation of our thoughts. It captures it in compartments.. of science, commerce, engineer, finance, accounts and so on… Therefore, I have always felt that too much of training makes your brain so compartmentalized that it refuses to listen and understand the knowledge generated in another compartment.

by John Kay,print,1785

But discoveries do not happen in such compartments at all… Therefore, I guess, not everybody can be a scientist… in order to generate that capacity, looking outside our own compartment is essential… It is a clue, which can fire neurons in different ways and generate un-imaginable perspectives, evolving path-breaking discoveries.

Let me tell you 2 different stories today. These are independent stories, but are phenomenally linked together…. which will, hopefully, generate the flavor of what I have said here.

Story 1: Take 1: Year 1687. Issac Newton came up with his very popular Laws of Motion. He made these laws in the time frame when mathematics was highly deterministic. Every mathematical equation will have a unique solution, was considered as the “only” fact. His laws became very popular and they fitted with extreme accuracy for any object, be it a cannon ball or a cricket ball in movement on this planet earth. His laws dominated the scientific arena for more than 200 years..!!! till Heisenberg and Einstein arrived on the universal stage. Well, how was Einstein inspired to do what he did… ??

Let me continue story 1, after a small break… while I tell you Story 2…

Story 2: Year 1744. Two clergymen named Alexender Webster and Robert Wallace used to work in Scotland to serve the church priests and the Scottish King. The wealthy Scottish King and the priests were worried about the fact that how their wives would be taken care, after their demise. They were concerned over the fact that after they die, their wives may not have the kind of life they were having at present. They were looking for solution then, when Webster and Wallace started thinking on the possible solutions. They started their thought process to imagine as to what would be the average age of each priest or a King, what would be the average age at which they would die and how long would the wives live, after their demise, on an average. Further, how many such priests would be there, for whom they should make a model. They found out that there is sufficient data recorded by few people (Edmond Halley – Table of mortality, in Germany), on the birth and death of few noted personalities, which they retrieved (In today’s language, it was their “big data”). They were unable to solve the puzzle with the deterministic mathematical model. Therefore, they invited Prof Colin Maclaurin from Edinburgh University, UK, to help them with calculations. Prof. Colin sat together with Wallace and Webster to determine the amount of money each priest to shell out, per year, till they die, to ensure that their wives get handsome sum till they die (or they re-marry). They generated the concept of Insurance and Pension, in doing these calculations… A new domain of Mathematics was born, called as Statistics…!! The concept of probability came into existence and the Insurance and pension plans worked so well for these clergymen that the probability theory was almost 100% hit!! They offered that if a priest pays 6 Pounds per year, till they live, they could offer a handsome sum or 25 Pounds per year to their wives, as their pension, after they die..!! It was awesome solution… for the priests, and then to the public, at large.

Insurance and Pension plans were floated world-wide. Two clergymen were responsible to enhance the domain of deterministic mathematics to probabilistic statistics..!!!!

Now we enter Story 1 again, after 200 years..!!

Story 1 – Take 2: Year 1904 – People had started thinking that the Newton’s Laws of motion did not fit well for the subatomic particles. Albert Einstein, along with few other noted Physicists were thinking over the Laws of motion, propagation of wave, differences between wave and a particle, and explanation of motion of subatomic particles. Now these guys looked into the other “compartment” of Statistics which was evolved by now. They used the concept of probability. Wave particle duality was proposed by Werner Heisenberg around this time. Quantum mechanics was born..! In quantum mechanics, events produced by the interaction of subatomic particles happen in jumps (quantum leaps), with a probability rather than definite outcomes. This concept of probability used by these scientists was an outcome of the Insurance policies which Scottish priests had demanded..!!

If Heisenberg, Max Planck and Albert Einstein would have not looked “over” their compartment of Physics and Chemistry, and peep inside the compartment of Scottish Clergymen and their developed Insurance and Pension models, they would have never thought of the explanation of waves and special theories of relativity, and the movement of sub-atomic particles.

The Universe unfolded itself to reveal its model of “possibilities”…

Issac Newton, Werner Heisenberg, Max Planck, Albert Einstein, Alexender Webster or Robert Wallace were mere instruments of nature, to reveal its story …!!

And it took a long journey of human kind, of over 220 years to reveal few facts…!!! As we take a leap towards Quantum Computing, in 2020, are we making a new beginning to reveal yet another untold story of this Universe… waiting to unfold??? Well, we don’t know… Humans have to wait and see…. See outside their own compartments, using their raw brain… and maybe imagination. Let the creativity get some mental space and fresh ideas would nourish!!

(The stories are an inspiration from the Novel “Sapiens” by Yuval Noah Harari)