All posts by suvideator735

Hi there! I'm a fourth-year college student studying Physics. My dream is to become an astrophysicist, so that I may try and reach the mind of God by studying his brainchild, the universe!

ETERNITY OF THE IMMORTAL WIZARD

My dark opus: the tale of a wizard who discovers the secret to immortality (subtly, yet at the same time, deeply inspired by the hundreds of hours I spent playing the magnificent video game – The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim).
Enjoy …

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Fearing of death if ye all be,
Or seeking glory everlasting as thy destiny,
Then learn from the timeless story of he,
Who wrought the key to immortality,
And won the wide-world with wise wizardry!
But all is not what all can be,
And this be the tale of his eternity –

Hailing from humble home of three,
Child of clever ingenuity,
A gentle friend and erudite youth,
Initiate of science, one could tell,
For callow genius though harried and mocked,
Raged fiery ambition ’neath tender shell.

Humanity abjured, now solitary, recluse,
Of arcane research, execution profuse!
Unrelenting arbour driven irreversible state,
Linear trajectory set, calculation of fate.

And one day, at dead of night,
Arcane knowledge came to light
Crippling efforts were not in vain,
Vindication for his disdain:
“Now the world my work shall know,
To Immortal Wizard, all shall bow!”

Here we reach the beckoning brink,
When Wizard returns to human land
Hidden gears begin to clink,
In master wizard’s master plan –

One hundred years of history fade,
Immortal, a wizard of commerce and trade
Wealthiest patron to have ever been,
E’en ascetics devout wear jealous grin.

One hundred years more do part,
Immortal, a wizard of science and art
Revelations spouting night and noon,
Revolution! Revered as mankind’s boon.

One hundred years the clock-hands clank,
Immortal, a wizard with general’s rank
Mankind’s foes bear deadly fate,
Face of world now changing state.

One hundred years of conquests stacked,
Immortal, a wizard of political tact
King o’ world-united, with mankind’s laud,
rose, apotheosis to living man-god!

One hundred years of fruitful rule,
Pinnacle peak of human race
Harmonious hearts beat in bliss,
’Neath the Wizard’s immortal gaze.

Master plan complete sans fault,
Now hidden gears creak to a halt …
Think ends thus Wizard’s timeless story?
Here not ye the zephyrs portending worry …

Immortal Wizard sighed over throne,
all conquered, life now merely droned
“Nothing to do, nothing new!
Penta-centenarian exhausted brain,
Think fast, lest I go insane!”

On ominous day, a stroll through the park,
Saw on branch perched tiny lark
Zephyr portending past him did flow,
Paroxysm! Struck down with deadly blow!
Sparked in him a feeling new,
Colourless life shone in bright hue
Twisted amusement through him did flood,
Like wild beast that tastes human blood.

Wizard donned infernal grin,
Unleashing death, destruction, sin!
Tortured screams echoed in pain,
Pleasuring twisted, immortal brain
Flames of life fast lost their light,
In Wizard’s sick, disgusting blight
Wisps of souls, sundered, took flight,
Like smoke of candles blown at night
Immortal, mad eyes glowing bright,
As great achievements turned to shite!
Wizard, pale, spectral death-wight,
Laughed as the world died in his sight
As a cascading house o’ cards that might,
Fill a child with utter delight!

Once green paradise, now black ash,
Wizard prowled the wasted land –
“Nothing lives to kill anymore,
No destruction, no tortured soul
Nor can I restart, rebuild,
All I see is barren, black field
Madness again creeps up mine spine,
And only one thing comes to mind –
I wish to die by my own hand!”

Rueful, Wizard jumped off a cliff,
Immortal, all he found was grief
Unsettled, Wizard held his breath,
Immortal, he could not achieve death
Terrorized, Wizard virulent-poison drank,
Immortal, still death he could not outrank
Hysterical, Wizard stabbed heart with knife
Immortal, he could not take his life.

Panic-stricken, tormented, mad Wizard
cried “Mercy! Help! What have I done !?”
Nothing answered his lamenting shriek,
Words fading faint on land wasted, bleak
Madness crawled through flesh and bone,
Madness cloaked him like a dome
Glinting knife stabbed heart again,
Madness allayed by searing pain.

Hell in brain, sands of time drain,
Glinting knife stabs heart again,
Screaming pain, sands of time drain,
Glinting knife stabs heart again,
Insanity’s reign, sands of time drain,
Glinting knife stabs heart again,
Again, and again,
and again,
and again …..

Fearing of death if ye all be,
Or seeking glory everlasting as thy destiny,
Then learn from the timeless story of he,
Who wrought the key to immortality,
And drowned in the abyss of insanity!
For all is not what all can be,
And this be the tale of his eternity ……

~S.R.R

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The Nature of Nature’s Study

What really is ‘science’? What is its nature? Why does it work? Why is it useful? What is the nature of ‘reality’? Does science offer the absolute version of reality? In this article, I offer my views/insights and generally accepted explanations to these questions. Note that I use the word ‘explanations’ not ‘answers’, because nobody who has ever lived or who is currently alive knows the true nature of reality, but all the accumulated pool of human knowledge, at the least, allows us to make certain comments about these questions.  It is good to reflect and gain insight into what we do know and what we don’t know; what is, and what isn’t; what can be and what simply cannot be. If you are confused by my seemingly arbitrary banter, generated more through an intuitive analysis of the summary of this article rather than logical reasoning, please read on and let us formulate a fresh, clear chain of reasoning from the very beginning:

 

Human beings have the ability of ‘cognition’, which means that we can observe events occurring in the world around us, and discern patterns in those events. Over the course of human history, we have been observing events around us, studying nature, and noting down the patterns which we observe in those events. What separates us humans from other living beings are our superior brains, which have given us the ability to store information extra-somatically (i.e. outside our genes and bodies); to transfer information to other humans; and to learn information from other humans (via communication). Hence, in this sense, human knowledge can be thought of as an independent ‘entity’, ever-growing through the efforts of all humans who exist, cognize, learn, store and transfer information. Although a single human may perish, but the ‘entity’ of human knowledge survives and evolves as long as other humans exist. Thus, this entity of human knowledge has managed to evolve exponentially over the past centuries. The experience/knowledge gained by other living creatures, meanwhile, gets wiped out continuously with the death of the creature, not having been transferred or stored anywhere, and the process starts all over again with each new progeny. Moreover, other creatures do not have the ability to comprehend and analyse knowledge as we humans do. This is because other living beings lack precisely the mental prowess which derives from the superior brains that humans possess. This gargantuan accumulation of human knowledge or “data” of natural events, is the first step towards science as we know it.

Furthermore, the superior brains of humans have the ability to “reason”. This means that we are exceptionally good at analyzing and finding patterns in observed data via logical reasoning. Also, the more data you are given, the more you can generalize those patterns, meaning that merely a few general patterns can then be used to explain a large number of phenomena in nature. Even if two phenomena initially appear to be entirely separate, unrelated events, there may exist a single underlying pattern that can explain both, simultaneously. A prime example of this would be the following two observations: “things fall to the ground when dropped from a height” and “the Moon goes around the Earth”. To a person without knowledge (like all the humans of the past), the two events would appear to be quite unrelated. But now, it is common knowledge that they can both, in fact, be explained by the same general and universal phenomenon of gravity.

Here begins “science” as we know it: Humans, tapping into the ever-present, ever-growing pool of “data”, have come to realize that the patterns observed in nature can be generalized into merely a handful of “Laws of Nature” better known in the modern scientific tongue as “The Laws of Physics” that have the potential to explain literally “everything” (indeed, today it is possible to explain *almost* all of the *currently known* natural phenomena through merely four fundamental forces of nature – Gravity, Electromagnetism, the Strong Nuclear Force, and the Weak Nuclear Force).

We can digress here for a moment and observe how intricately and infinitely intertwined the nature of science and reality is with the nature of human consciousness and human evolution. Evolution preferred to give humans big brains, precisely because that allowed us to deduce the laws of nature, and utilize those laws to enslave nature for serving our needs and desires, ensuring our survival. Dear reader, I urge you to take a moment and ponder all the objects in your immediate vicinity. Chances are that most of them have been designed by humans, using the knowledge and the laws of nature accumulated over time, to make nature serve your needs, making your life a jolly jaunt and a piece of cake compared to the difficult life that, say, a deer (a comparatively ignorant creature, unable to deduce or use the laws of nature to benefit itself) must lead in the wild. But I digress too much – we shall pick up where we left off.

Over time, humans have also realized one more thing (heads up because it gets quite self-referential by this time, the complexity being a marker of the evolution of human knowledge): By the process of observation, analysis and learning, we have been able to figure out and perfect the most efficient and “proper” way of observation, analysis and learning. It is known as “The Scientific Method”

 

The Scientific Method

What is the most effective or “proper” way of doing science? Let us go step by step:

First, you need to make some observations of nature, and gather some initial data (hey, you need to start somewhere …)

Next, you must use your cranial skills to find a pattern in the data (something you’re naturally good at, in fact, as a human being). Hence, you must make a hypothesis to explain the observed data; a possible “law” that governs the pattern observed in the data. But this is not the end – your hypothesis will be subject to continuous scrutiny by more data (or by other hypotheses that are able to deduce and generalize more patterns and explain the observed data better; but let’s keep it simple for now).

You must now use your hypothesis to make predictions i.e. “extrapolate” your data (not literally mathematically, or maybe even so) according to the “law” that you have deduced, and then go back outside into the field of nature to check if your predictions agree with observations and experiments.

If they do, then well done! You now have a “theory” or “model” of reality which you can use to explain the “law” or “pattern” which you observed in the data. If, however, experiments don’t agree with your model, you’re undeniably wrong and you must correct/modify your model, or simply come up with a new one.

Note that when I use words like “data”, “patterns”, “law”, “theory”, “model”, “experiments”, “observations” etc., I am not invoking merely abstract or qualitative concepts. In order to do proper science, these have to be well defined ‘quantitative’ concepts which are written, analysed, and communicated in the language of science, which is the language of any logical reasoning viz. “Mathematics“. Don’t worry, though: for the purpose of this review, the English language will suffice …

But is this the end of the Scientific Method algorithm? Never. This rather tedious process must be repeated over and over again, presumably forever. Science, thus, is a continuous process …. Why? Because we do not yet know reality in its entirety and we have no way of knowing if, at any given time, we have enough data to encompass the entire reality.

It is like exploring a vast ocean in a small boat. You do not know exactly how vast the ocean is, but only that it is indeed quite vast, presumably much like the nature of our world’s reality. To find out how vast it is, you must keep rowing till you’ve explored exactly all of it. The only catch is that you’ll never know whether you’ve explored all of it until you actually do. Hence, in science, we need to continuously explore and observe nature more and more, to get more and more data, all the time continuously testing our theories, repeating the steps of The Scientific Method, and improving our version of reality, in the hope that when (or if?) one day we reach the end of the ocean, we’ll know that we have finally covered it all. There may not even be an end to the ocean’s vastness, in which case we would have to row forever. But as the hopefully curious creatures that we are, in the meanwhile, we must keep rowing.

If a model/theory agrees with experiments/observations for a long time, then it is deemed as a “good” or “reliable” theory/model of nature (although that doesn’t mean that we should stop doubting if it’ll ever fail one day and will have to be modified or scrapped entirely in the wake of new, conflicting observations). An excellent example of this, once again, happens to be gravity. Newton’s Theory of Gravity was considered a “good” and “reliable” theory of nature (as per everything that I have mentioned in the previous lines) until the advent of new technology and better observational capabilities allowed us to acquire new data (like the precession of planet Mercury’s orbit, for instance) which could not be explained by Newton’s theory. This meant that Newton’s theory was not an entirely correct version of the reality of how gravity works (although it is a good approximation, and works well for many scenarios). This theory was later replaced by Albert Einstein’s masterpiece: The General Theory of Relativity (GTR, for short). And for the past 100 years, it has emerged flawlessly victorious over every piece of observational data and experiment that has been thrown at it. Thus, GTR is the currently accepted “good” and “reliable” theory of gravity. As always, you can never stop doubting whether new evidence might come up, leading to the requirement of a better theory of gravity.

Science is therefore, “a self-correcting, self-improving method of investigation”.

This summarizes the work of a scientist and why science is useful – BUT, there is a subtle point that must be considered … It is the devil that hides in the details:

 

The Nature of Reality

Since I have brought it up previously, l shall once again use Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity (GTR) to illustrate this extremely nasty and oblivious topic.  GTR is a model which describes how gravity works. In a scandalously short review, you can say that GTR declares the three dimensions of space and one dimension of time to exist as a single, four-dimensional “fabric” spanning the entire universe called ‘spacetime’. Any object with ‘mass’ distorts this “fabric” of spacetime, much like how a ball placed on a stretched rubber sheet curves or distorts it. And in Einstein’s own words “Mass tells spacetime how to curve, and spacetime tells the mass how to move”. In conclusion, this ‘curving’ of spacetime is experienced as gravity.

But I ask you to wonder – although this model perfectly agrees with all observational data, does it actually present the true mechanism of gravity? A famous analogy of the nature of reality goes as follows:

To us, reality is like a clock. You’re allowed to observe the ticking of its hands as much as you like, and come up with a theory of how its internal mechanism might be, which enables it to tick the way that it does …. But, you’re not allowed to open the clock, to gaze inside and to check if your model’s version of reality was indeed the version of the true reality. For all you know, both your version of reality and the true version of reality may be capable of producing the same results that you have observed. Indeed, this means that one’s version or “model” of reality is relative, and it is merely a tool that allows you to explain the events around you, and there’s always the chance that a “higher” version of reality exists, of which your version is merely a subset. And you may never know if you have indeed reached the “highest” version of reality, or if there even is a “highest level”. There might even be an infinite number or “higher levels” of reality. But in order to maintain good mental health, we assume that there is indeed an end which culminates in an “ultimate reality” and that we’re getting there, slowly but surely … And when we do reach it, we will know that it is the final truth.

This discussion doesn’t leave us with any useful information about the true nature of reality, but hey, at least, we have some constraints deduced from logical reasoning (yeah science!).

In conclusion, science doesn’t merely run on logic and clockwork, but is also permeated by the human emotions of imagination, curiosity, hope and determination. Science isn’t simply a subject of profession (as opposed to ‘commerce’ or ‘arts’), which absent minded people with high intellect and no social life tend to pursue. The nature of science is the nature of nature’s study, it is the search for the ultimate reality and it is also the nature of the human condition.

Suvrat Rao

GUIDING LIGHT

~arT hints a raGa~

A lass, fair was her hue,
A dear friend, who once I knew
Her voice was a gentle coo,
Her eyes were kind and gentle too.

As children in uniforms blue,
With neck tie and black shoe,
Exams and homework to do,
Teachers, friends and class-rooms,
It was great fun, you know it’s true,
We also managed to ace school!

A budding friendship we had cast,
But alas, it was not to last
Estranged by a fork, sharp,
Two paths of life it did part
Young of mind and young of heart,
With hopes and dreams of science and art,
On our journeys we did depart,
And then we had strayed far apart.

Now life began to get dark,
No longer a walk in the park
Melancholia got in the way,
And brought me right into her sway
In the darkness I ran around,
But guiding light could not be found.

Till one day, in month of May,
I heard a little whisper ‘Hey!
I say, do come this way,
I will show you the light of day!’

So I followed the whisper true,
And it led me straight to you
Drifted hearts, from the past,
had met again to be recast
In that moment I did realize,
And uttered in great surprise:
‘You are that guiding light,
Which fills my heart and makes it bright!’

Time has passed and now I’m here,
A better person than long ere
A lot has happened since that day,
Long ago in month of May
Not every whisper need be true,
Like one once led me straight to you
But life always finds a way,
Like an arcanely-scripted theatre play.

Yet, I ponder a future new,
Where whispers are always true,
Where I would still be with you,
And get to hear your gentle coo.
But my friend, who once I knew,
That is just my wishful cue.

I now belay, no more delay,
I hope we meet again, someday …
I’m off to find the guiding light,
Which fills my life and makes it bright …

-S.R.R

Winter Project

I did a winter internship in the December of 2016 at the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bangalore under Prof. Dipankar Banerjee, who specializes in Solar Physics. The topic I worked on was most interesting  — “Estimating the arrival times of Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) using a Drag-Based Model (DBM)”.  This was indeed an awesome experience for me and I gained a lot of knowledge and experience, not limited to just Solar Physics.

A Coronal Mass Ejection (CME), is a large eruption of plasma and magnetic field from the Sun. It can contain a mass larger than 1013 kg, achieve a speed of several thousand kilometers per second and may span several tens of degrees of heliographic latitude and/or longitude. CMEs often (but not always) accompany Solar Flares, which are high-energy, broad-spectrum bursts of electromagnetic radiation from the Sun.  The frequency of CMEs depends on the Solar Cycle, with occurrences of a couple per day during the solar maxima, and only one per couple of days during the solar minima. CMEs may erupt from any region of the corona but are more often associated with lower latitude regions, particularly near solar minimum. Only a small percentage of CMEs are directed toward the Earth, and are called Halo-CMEs or Partial Halo-CMEs, due to their halo-like appearance around the Sun as seen from instruments on Earth. CMEs can travel large distances (covering the entire Heliospheric region). Far away from the Sun, CMEs are conventionally called ICMEs (Inter-planetary CMEs).

The estimation of the arrival times of CMEs is an important issue as Earth-bound CMEs i.e. Halo-CMEs have a direct, measurable impact on human activities.  Since CMEs are composed of plasma (high energy charged particles and magnetic fields), when they reach the Earth, CMEs can cause geomagnetic storms in the Earth’s magnetosphere, and the injection and interaction of charged particles with the Earth’s atmosphere. Also, associated with CMEs are Solar Flares, which are comprised of high energy radiation (X-Rays etc.). Hence, apart from producing beautiful Aurorae near the poles, Halo-CMEs can also have a lot of negative impacts on human activities, such as:

  1. Interference of telecommunication through phone lines and satellites.
    2. Increase in radiation exposure to high-altitude and/or high-latitude aircraft fliers and astronauts.
    3. Increase in atmospheric drag on orbiting spacecraft, thereby reducing orbit speed (potential crash landing).
    4. Interference in spacecraft circuitry.
    5. Damage to spacecraft hardware (e.g. solar cells).
    6. Interference/damage to ground-based micro – and nano-circuitry.
    7. Unexpected current generation in power-lines, resulting in power station damage.

It is therefore essential to be able to predict the arrival of Halo-CMEs so that accurate measures can be taken to deal with the above possibilities.

The details of my work can be found in this draft report which I am attaching here:

IIAP Winter Project Report

 

On the simplicity of things

So, I was watching an episode from this TV series where the father of the protagonist tells him how “most things in life are simple” and this appears to give the father an aura of wisdom. Later, I came across several quotes by famous people, of the likes of Confucius – “Life is simple but we insist on making it complicated” and Einstein – “If you can’t explain something simply, you don’t understand it enough”.  You hear stories about people who give up everything and deliberately choose to lead simple lives, and when you read quotes like those mentioned above, in books, or on the internet, you feel a sense of respect and awe, the kind of feeling that most generic quotes are associated with. It hits home, and you feel that simplicity is a universal truth and an ideal way of life. As I lay pondering this, something about it irked me, and I thought “But why? Does everything have to be simple?”

It was then that I realized where this respect for simplicity comes from. Although the attitude itself is not negative in nature (on the contrary, it is quite a positive state of mind), this is the truth behind it: Humans appreciate simplicity because the human ego attains satisfaction when it considers the human mind to be competent enough to understand and control the world around it. The appreciation of simplicity is therefore nothing but a consequence of flattering the human ego. This perspective that the nature of reality is ‘simple’ couldn’t, in my humble opinion, be further from the truth. Consider this:

Take an uncooked spaghetti stick and bend it till it breaks. As a potential connoisseur of ‘simplicity’, what would you expect from this simple event taking place in the simple life of a simple observer? Simple — the spaghetti stick should break into two pieces, right? Never. It almost always breaks into three or more pieces. And the reason behind it is complicated enough that several research papers have been published on the topic. Even famous scientists of the likes of Richard Feynman have worked on this problem. And remember that these scientists are people who strive to find a ‘simple’ solution to such problems.

You merely have to look inside yourself to realize that life is not nearly simple enough. You, reader, as a human being are made up of trillions of atoms. Each atom has the most complicated physics working behind it. Together, these atoms interact to create a being like you and me with a not-so-simple property called consciousness, which allows us to study our own body components. We are literally an atom’s means of studying itself. Think this is simple enough to explain? Even a single cell of our body has the most complicated biochemical processes going on inside. We learn about cell biology in textbooks where each little aspect of the cell is separately explained in neat little chapters. Each chapter, when studied of itself, seems simple. But these books fail to include a paragraph at the end urging the reader to understand that the millions of details in the book that you just read, all work simultaneously inside a single cell. And one cell is just one building block of one body, in a world where there is still 13.6 billion light-years worth of space full of physical structures waiting to be understood and explained. And all that still comprises only the ‘observable’ universe. When you zoom out to view the big picture, it’s not so simple anymore, is it?

Now, I have nothing against simplicity. There is beauty in simplicity, and truly, as Da Vinci puts it, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”. It is the best feeling in the world when you find simple solutions to complicated problems. But it is a logical fallacy to extrapolate this rare phenomenon and apply it to the whole universe. String theorists are mocked when they make models of reality involving 21 dimensions. Well, on what basis, may I ask? Because a 21-dimension reality is too complicated? I’m not aware of any ‘Universal Law of Simplicity’; and if that indeed is reality, then so be it. Only experiments/observations can prove or disprove that. The subconscious craving for simplicity to satisfy the ego cannot change the nature of reality, simple or complex. My high-school physics teacher once said that he liked Newton’s Second Law (F=ma) more than Einstein’s famous (E=mc2) because it was ‘simple’. Well, I daresay, little does he realize the beauty of the latter, even if it is complicated to understand. Einstein, in his Special Theory of Relativity, started with the simple fact of the constancy of the speed of light and ended up proving that mass and energy are the same thing. There is a reason why his name is associated with genius, and living behind the false veil of ‘simplicity’ will never let you appreciate the beauty of complicated reality. It is paradoxical to think that Einstein himself said that “If you can’t explain something simply, you don’t understand it enough” … well, try explaining the General Theory of Relativity to a six-year old simply, Prof. Einstein! I counter with his own quote – “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

The biggest problem I have with this issue, really, is the aura of fake wisdom and appeal that seems to emanate from quotes like “Life is simple …” etc. which you may find being uttered by famous wise old men, or on the caption of someone’s cover photo on social media. It is not most pious to lead a ‘simple life’ and perish, when you have the potential to lead a not-so-simple life, dream big, and strive to possibly contribute in some way to the betterment of humanity. It is only on retrospection that one realizes that all the literal bull-shit in the world isn’t enough to balance the pretentious fallacy of a statement like “Life is simple …”, on an imaginary weighing scale. Do you like to think that life is simple? Think again, cause you know nothing, Jon Snow …

I would like to end with a quote by Stephen Hawking that, unlike others, actually reflects the truth and doesn’t just appear to sound wise – “The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge”

~SRR

The Gambler’s Trolley Dilemma

img_1528

Take a look at the problem in the image above (courtesy of ‘Trolley problem memes’, Facebook).  Such problems are quite wellI known ethical dilemmas which offer the reader with a moral choice of saving one person’s life at the cost of risking others’ lives. There have been huge ethical debates about the best solution to such a dilemma. Here, I present my own take on the situation.

The motivation for solving such unrealistic problems comes from the fact that they target the guilt-factor of the reader and create a false image that it is in the power of the reader to save everyone, when in fact, by following only the options mentioned in the problem, one cannot ascertain the safety of all victims. It depends on chance. So, let us take full advantage of known facts, logic, physics and the benefit of doubt to circumvent this problem and beat the makers at their own game. Of course, I won’t make over-the-top assumptions /benefits of doubt, but will keep them at par with the level of improbable stuff that the author of this problem assumed while creating it, which sounds fair.

Obvious assumption in favor of the problem: You don’t have enough time to do anything but switch the tracks.

Obvious assumption #2: Physics works …

Not-so-obvious assumption #3: This poorly drawn diagram is not drawn to scale and in reality, the turns will be less curved, longer and more spaced out, being at least wider than the size of the trolley. All arguments against this assumption are denied by the benefit of doubt.

Fact #1: The problem explicitly mentions and shows a “trolley”, also known as a tram, which is known to have a max speed of 60kmph or 16.66 m/s (courtsey of Prof. Google). That’s less than twice of Usain Bolt’s running speed, and can also be achieved by a cyclist. So clearly the trolley is not a high speed vehicle.

Fact #2 on railroad-switching taken verbatim from Wikipedia: “Reversing the points under a moving train will almost always derail the train.”

Observation: If you search for train derailment videos on YouTube, or if you play Train Simulator, you’ll find that slow moving trains get derailed in the direction of the railway fault, fall over and stop after just a few meters. Many a times they don’t even topple over, they just skid for a few meters and come to a halt in an awkward position.

Common-sense logical deduction: No legit railroad will ever lead to this kind of a  ridiculous switching point. Hence we can safely assume that the only realistic scenario is one where the setup was built by an evil psycho who is probably addicted to the Saw movie series. He/she probably kidnapped at most 6 people and wants to play this game with you. The trolley is most likely fully empty or is being driven by the villain (which is good, as you’ll see in a moment). It is reasonable to assume that the villain never considered filling up the trolley full of people because from his POV, what’s the point? Also, it is difficult to kidnap so many people. All arguments against this assumption are denied by the benefit of doubt.

Solution: So all you have to do is pull the lever when the trolley is on the switching point junction. This will cause the trolley to get derailed, fall over somewhere between the tracks and stop before it reaches anybody. Hopefully if it were being driven by the psycho, he/she will get a good beating.

Optional move that makes you look awesome: Flip on your shades and walk away like a boss …

-S.R.R

My Second Summer Project

With the end of my second-year at college, I spent the summer attending a  camp on Radio Astronomy, called CHERA 2016 (Camp for Hands-on Experience in Radio Astronomy). This has been one of the best experiences of my life, and I feel really grateful to have been a part of it.

CHERA 2016 was organized by a collaboration between the faculty of NCRA Pune and RRI
Bangalore, headed by Prof. Desh (Avinash Deshpande), which took place at RAC  (Radio Astronomy Center), Ooty, India. Participants were taught topics from a range of fields including  (radio) astronomy, cosmology, statistics, programming (with Python/Anaconda), instrumentation, signal processing etc. relevant/required for collecting and analyzing real astronomical data using the Ooty Radio Telescope (ORT), in numerous experiments and demonstrations which are listed below:

1) Slewing across the radio point-source ‘Virgo-A’ to estimate the beam width of ORT;
2) Using known astronomical calibrators to calibrate ORT and to estimate its G/T-Sys value and sensitivity;
3) Learning to operate the ORT and using it to track and gather data from the pulsar B1642-03 ;
4) Estimating the radiation pattern of a half-wave dipole antenna by changing the angle between the transmitter and receiver;
5) Generating a one-dimensional radio profile of the Sun using aperture synthesis;
6) Tracking the Vela pulsar and analyzing the data obtained to find its dynamic
spectrum, dispersion measure, dispersion delay, time period and distance from Earth;
7) Estimating the length of a co-axial cable using a signal generator, oscilloscope and a T-junction, in an open-circuit condition;
8) Observing the Lunar Occultation of a radio source by the moon;
9) Observing Inter Planetary Scintillations;
10) Measuring the correlation of two partially correlated signals.

With this, I will be ready to tackle project SWAN, an idea headed by Prof. Desh, wherein an array network of radio antenna tiles would be distributed to various institutes across India, to perform radio interferometry on a massive scale (in layman terms, that is the equivalent of having an India-sized radio telescope when it comes to resolving power.)

A draft report of the work I did at CHERA 2016 can be found here:

CHERA 2016 Draft Report

 

-S.R.R