Of airplanes and such

Four flights in 4 days can you leave you dazed. It certainly left me staggering for some unpretentious attitude, nevertheless. Indian flights define the hallmark of ostentatiously caring for their ‘guests’ while they don’t really give a rat’s ass all the while.

I must admit I’ve secretly cherished ideas of owning an airline that says “Those of you who know how to strap a seat belt on don’t deserve to fly. For the others anyway, it really doesn’t matter. Unless we crash, of course. Tray tables don’t have to be closed, seats don’t have to be brought forward, and least of all, you can keep the damn window shades down the way you want. All we care is you pay a huge service tax on the small fee we’re supposed to charge you. Ogling at air-hostesses is permitted. That’s why we choose the good-looking ones, silly. And no – we don’t stock junky magazines marketing over-priced caps, spoons and  how-to-survive-an-air-crash guides. Lastly, yes – the food is stale and we know you like it yet. We’ll try and engage the landing gear on time while you can keep praying there’s a river under you. Bye – and don’t fly Kingfisher anyway.”

While the usual rants are one thing, air hostesses and male aircraft nannies calling themselves flight executives is wholly another irritant. Really, what’s with christening them Pinki, Nena, Mintu and Tina? And I swear – Pinki, my air-hostess on a flight to Delhi two months ago had suddenly transformed into Goldie this evening on my flight from Mumbai to Bangalore!

Here’s maybe how some of these sick carriers could cure themselves – cut out the shit and fly us back home.

P.S : I did Google the window shade thingy. Here’s a funda page that I don’t wholly believe, though – http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=212335

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The joy of knowing

Few books get down to fundamentals and these are books that are written by authors that really love understanding those fundamentals. I strongly maintained that FM White was far beyond reckoning in presenting basic fluid mechanics. Till I read Kundu. 

And this description of viscosity simply sent me overboard! Kundu takes the flow over a flat plate and discusses the diffusivity theory. Just note how the “equivalent” simply swoops in to present the truest description, thus far, of viscosity! This was precisely why I began discussing viscosity with this article in my FM class last year. 

Next, consider the effect of velocity gradient du/dy (Figure 1.3). It is clear that
the macroscopic fluid velocity u will tend to become uniform due to the random
motion of the molecules, because of intermolecular collisions and the consequent
exchange of molecular momentum. Imagine two railroad trains traveling on parallcl

Next, consider the effect of velocity gradient du/dy. It is clear that the macroscopic fluid velocity u will tend to become uniform due to the random motion of the molecules, because of intermolecular collisions and the consequent exchange of molecular momentum. Imagine two railroad trains traveling on parallcl tracks at different speeds, and workers shoveling coal from one train to the other. On the avcrage, the impact of particles of coal going horn the slower to the faster train will tend to slow down the faster trajn, and similarly the coal going from the faster to the slower train will Lend to speed up the latter. The net effect is a tendency to equalize the speeds of the two trains. An analogous process takes place in the fluid flow problem. The velocity distlribution here tends toward the dashed linc (forget the dashed line thingy), which can be dcscribed by saying that the x-momentum (determined by its “concentration” u) is being transferred downward. Such a momentum flux is equivalent to the existence of a shear stress in the fluid, just as the drag cxperienced by the two trains results from the momentum exchangc through the transfer or coal particles. Thc fluid above AB tends to push the fluid underneath forward, whereas the fluid below AB tends to drag the uppcr fluid backward.

Now that’s viscosity for you! Whoa! Bravo, Kundu!

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The Break

It all began that fateful day as I waited in the porch of the department of mechanical engineering at IISc. It was after an hour of dreary waiting that The Vysyan strode into the entrance hall of the department carrying a smug expression that I’ve now learned to associate with being The Vysyan. My academic career suddenly decided to dump my instincts and tag along with The Vysyan’s. 

True – those two months at IISc were remarkable – what with Kaka and Ragu appearing side-by-side. At the end of a summer filled with “Yoo suk doode”s  (Kaka style) and “Hoopla!”s, I was gloriously inducted, thanks to The Vysyan, into an Engineer committee mishappenly headed by The PenNerd.

My CFD performance gave me the first doubts with Kadoli (bless his soul again) awarding me an AA (obviously). I quickly went on to working once again under Ragu the following summer. Another hit.

My GRE performance really set me thinking. Others quickly followed – my SOP, fascination for PennState, university lists, TOEFL, a teaching assistantship (we taught the same class), joint-convenership of the same Engineer committee. It was hence with great consternation that I sought to know from The Vysyan when he received his first admit. And thus began the wait for January 17th, 19:30 hours. 

January 17th, 19:30 hours has passed. I haven’t yet received my first admit. DAMN THE BLOODY COINCIDENCES!

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Ahem…

Yeah, I can hear you saying “At last!”. It’s about time I wrote something here to keep this blog alive. So here goes…

The last week, Tux and me spent a considerable portion of the IC Engine class discussing electromagnetic waves. I was trying to understand why the interaction between electromagnetic waves and matter must depend as heavily as it does on particle size. As I tried to reconcile the idea of visible radiation striking off suspended milk particles presenting the white colour that is “milky white”, Tux said, “Dude, let’s do it step by step. ” We began analysing how moving my hand actually produced an electromagnetic wave. We quicly moved on to the refractive index and how it presented the accumulated effect of individual reflections off and diffractions around atoms.

Here, Tux presented his funda-of-the-session: “Dude, look at the power of abstraction. Does Balaji Rao have to worry about electrons clattering around inside PCBs when he’s hacking at the speed of light?” I had to agree. At least the second point Tux presented was true. 

The ensuing discussion was quite illuminating. As science progressed over the years, brilliant minds like Dalton to Einstein have dug into the very basis of matter, identifying the atom, then the nucleus, the electrons, then quarks, bosons, muons and gluons. But names are merely that – names. What scientists have merely been able to do is provide names to particles that grow increasingly smaller and elusive to the eye. We’ve progressively understood matter as a collection of the newly christened particle. But does the end to this identification of the specific seem in sight?

We could probably spend the rest of time doing the same, till we reached the ultimate substratum that unites matter all over. Upon reaching which, we might simply be at a loss for a name. Come to think of it, doesn’t this seem akin to Advaita? Is this the Supreme Material that unites the individual soul and God? It now seems like it’s been abstraction the other way round all this while! Think about it.

(I introduce to you my companion Tux, who prefers to be called Balaji Rao in non-Open circles)

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September the fifth

Today’s Op-ed page in The Hindu carries a reflective article on teachers in India. Significant, as India observes the day as a tribute to its teacher-president Dr. Radhakrishnan. You can read the article here.

One of my chums here at college observed “KV, your students are gonna pelt stones at you for screwing them in the test”. The associated paranoia inspired this post. (Yes, I am afraid). A startling 26% of the sophomore fluid mechanics class I teach here ended up scoring a zero in my test this week. The feedback that accompanied the test heightened the paranoia that set in while the test was in progress.

The experience, though, is instructive. Motivation, that bolsters education from right under, is of primordial importance to the teacher. The Indian teacher faces a severe paucity of the same. As Dr. Batra rightly observes, the true spirit of Teachers’ Day lies in understanding how the teacher perceives the need of the student and actually accoutring the teacher with the knowledge. The warts exist, though. As in any system.

Yet, the idea of serving the teacher is certainly abysmal, perhaps anti-social too. Students have grown to relate to the pedagogue and no more relish change (or even conceptual tests like the one I set). The focus needs to shift from tranferring information to transferring ideas. The shift is dialectical. It is bound to inspire the teacher and instruct the student. Dr. Balakrishnan nicely writes in The Feynman Lectures on Physics,

Gentle reader, do you know what the ‘model answer’ is? “The application of quantum mechanics are : (1) the hydrogen atom, (2) the rigid rotator, (3) the harmonic oscillator, (4) the particle in a box, and (5) the uncertainty principle” (!) Why these five and no others? Because it’s a five-mark question, of course!

Think about it.

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Living is nice

Randy Pausch died this morning. The widely known ‘last-lecture’ Carnegie Mellon professor shot to fame after his famous and very-well-received “The Last Lecture” that was later published too. I too was mailed a video clip of the last lecture. Truth be said, I hadn’t heard of the guy and I barely viewed a minute of the 76 minute lecture. I have no idea what the lecture meant, to whomsoever it was directed. It was, to me, another last-chance-glory seeking exercise that Americans commonly find pleasure in doing.

I read on Google news of his demise this morning. The news prompted me to visit his homepage. This changed things. It might probably have been the predisposition towards an academician or merely the approval of simplicity. Whatever. It spoke a message – a simple and nice one.

Randy was an enthusiastic sufferer of a terminal disease. That’s what changes things. And that’s the message his webpage spoke too. It was the spirit in him that perhaps made living the last days of his life as normal, probably exciting too, as possible. He writes “I am very psyched I got them to put “Carnegie Mellon” on the cover!”, regarding his book release. It was clear how much he valued the simple joys that generally make life liveable.

His update page spoke volumes- better ones. It would be a travesty for me to speak anymore of it. Read for yorself:

In the last month, I’ve received a number of professional awards. I would be disingenuous if I didn’t admit that I don’t feel these are really deserved; after all, there’s the “give the dying guy an award” factor. However, they all reflect favorably on Carnegie Mellon and I accept them all gratefully. As they say, “Dying is a good career move.” 🙂

There’s nothing more to embellish the fact that the way we take things that come our way is crucial to a fecund existence. RIP.

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Christening my blog

It’s been a year since I decided to relax my non-archetype ideals and blog. It was (surprisingly) my lab-mate Aneesh’s blog (Whimsical Musings) that kinda inspired me. But the acclivity of the path that finally resulted in this post was enormous, as I shall currently make clear.

The ordeal began with naming the blog. As I spent the long atrophic hours at IISc, Bangalore last year trying to figure out why I wasn’t actually doing anything (aha! there’s my next post), I decided to invest the time in christening my blog. The initial ideas originated from some of the blogs I’d been forced to read some time before, though none of them really struck a chord.

The search for a name for my blog continued well into my fifth semester that merely produced ridiculous ideas like “I don’t know anything, sir” (Bless Kadoli’s soul). The sixth semester did produce some strong contenders with my IISc prof’s ‘Hoopla!’ topping the list. None of them, sadly enough, really made it till the end. And, at long last, as my browser struggled to connect to blogspot.com, I resigned to precisely what I was thinking and named my blog just that. (Of course, as Benjamin Franklin observed, “We must not in the course of public life expect immediate approbation and immediate grateful acknowledgment of our services”. Courtesy- Barron’s.)

The christening was merely one stage of the ordeal (that I eventually left unfinished). Something that I never really comprehended till I actually began writing this post was what to write. And after months of perusing innumerable blogs ranging from “The Last Paradox” to “McDreamy’s World“, I reasoned that something as ridiculously useless as the one I’m writing will still do and be accepted and read, probably avidly too, just like you, for one.

And for those of you who actually read my blogspot blog, yes- this is the same content. Please comment again.

And here it is.. TADA! My first (WordPress) post. And, that’s all it takes. A long holiday and no work to do. And a lil’ suggestion that WordPress is cooler than blogspot. Splendid.

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