Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Patterns in the Sky

Found this picture in the album taken on a visit to the Colosseum at Rome, Italy in December 2007.

Yes, it is a flock of birds swarming in the sky . Flocks of birds try to eliminate wind drag as much as possible when they travel through the air. The twisting and whirling that birds do changes the way the air moves over and under their wings, and therefore has an effect on how well the birds move through it. It is noticed that there is no leader in this sequence of movement - it's a collective effort. The same is noticed with fish, bees and ants. Out of the collective effort of the birds emerges a pattern.

Wiki's definition of emergence: In philosophy, systems theory and science, emergence is the way complex systems and patterns arise out of a multiplicity of relatively simple interactions. Emergence is central to the theories of integrative levels and of complex systems.

Cu, PostDoc Fellow, Fondazione Bruno Kessler, got me interested in this through his seminar. An intersting example he showed was about the traffic movement at junctions in India without the traffic lights. :)

The concept today is applied in the world of business and people management. In computer science, this area of research is called Swarm Intelligence and is being applied extensively in the area of robotics and networks. Man learning from nature.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Saina creating history

Ace woman shuttler Saina Nehwal on Sunday scripted history by becoming the first Indian to win a Super Series tournament after she clinched the Indonesian Open title in Jakarta.

Congrats Saina.

Looking 10 years younger

It is demoralizing and partly insulting to be treated like a kid by a person who is behaving like one. It is difficult when you cannot get your point across, not because of lack of knowledge, not because of the lack of experience, but just because you don't look like you have it. A person looking younger than their age would definitely ask: "Is it my fault that I don't look my age ?"

Last week when my cousin spoke to me about how no one took her seriously, how her looks defined the way people treated her, I thought...... I have heard that before.

Why is it that we attach so much importance to appearances ? Why is it that our behaviour and attitude towards a person changes when we know their age and experience. Why is it that we want to look youthful but would treat someone who looks young at face value ? Is "appearance" the definition of a person ?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Whither justice

The opening scene of the movie, "Flash of Genius", speaks of ethics in engineering. An issue, that is hardly discussed in the Indian system of education. Be it engineering or the arts, today's environment makes it all the more important for individuals to understand what is ethical and what is not.

The movie, besides inspiring was painful. Yes, it was a David Vs Goliath fight. That the legal system can be used by corporations to extend a trial for years before the case is taken up is true in most judicial systems across the world. For the corporation, it might be one more case, but it means the end of life for an individual. Of course, we can admire Robert Kearns for what he did, for the legacy he left for future generations, but we cannot forget the cost he paid. Was it fair ? To him and his family that the judicial system works in such a way that on all counts it deters a person from contesting a case in court. The movie shows exactly what happens to a person, though strong, optimistic and determined. That way, the movie shows beautifully the lacuna in the system

The Indian legal system is an example. With over 2.6 crore cases pending in the courts, there is no surety that a person going to court will see the end in his/her lifetime. The advantage therefore is for corporations, for the rich and the mighty who have the money and the resources to run the case. It is also advantageous for the criminal, because by the time the case is taken up in court, most probably, the defendent and well as witnesses may have moved over to the other world. Also, for corporations, it is not personal. It is a job. For the person on the other side, it is his life. Isn't this so unfair ?

"Better late than never" is a line ill-fitting the judicial system. If to get justice, a person has to wait 10-20 years, like the Delhi theatre fire tragedy, or there must be a public outcry as in the Jessica Lal case, where is justice then. The wait and the running around of the courts, not to speak of the drain of health and resources, and harassment in many cases is worse punishment. Which makes me feel many a time, that the judicial system is an illusion, a farce, for there is no justice in the real sense of the word.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Fond Reminiscences - Crisscross

When I saw a plane, leaving a streak in the clear sky, it reminded me of Trento. The first few days left me dazed and amazed. The first day, especially, I used to jump, thinking that the planes above had every chance of crashing even though I knew that they would be separated by a safe distance.

Picture taken at the Piazza Duomo, Trento.

(Thanks to Rohin for the picture.)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

May Flies

This is the time of the year when one sees the May Flies. They come in huge colonies especially after a rain. But, it is a sad scene to see. One sees them in the evening hovering around the tube lights. They shed their wings and then they die. All of them. In hundreds.

Every time I see this phenomena, I am left wondering about their life. Philosophically, we can say it represents that life is short and it is to be lived well. But then, did they know that their life is to be so short. If they knew, would they have come out at all. What was their life like till they flew out of their nests. Would they have done something different if they knew that their life was so short ?

Non animal lovers would tell me that they do not have the sense to think on such lines. I believe otherwise. Their wings lie all over, covering the floor. A small gust of wind makes them rise and fly all around. Yes, now it is trash but just a few hours before, they belonged to someone, they had the power of flight.

Again, no answers, just questions ?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Hartal in Kerala

Our drive back from Calicut to Coimbatore was eventful. Sunday we were told that the hartal on Monday has been revoked. So, we started off a little late (7:30 a.m.) rather than at 5:00 if there were to be a hartal. Anyways, after uneventful driving clicking pictures and stopping by to enjoy the countryside, we met with our first blockade after Malapuram. Trouble was brewing as we could see from far, and there was a long line of vehicles not being allowed to move. Having to catch a train at 4:30 p.m. we thought we would have enough time in the world. Then came the information from the bus drivers that there were many such blocks all the way to Palakkad. People told us it would be dangerous to go anywhere near trouble and we having TN registration didn't want to take a chance at all.

We got the information from people around that there is another route by which we can clear the block and move on. Wondering how to go about it, and asking people for directions we met two people on a two-wheeler asking us where we wanted to go. On hearing that we had to touch Palakkad, they asked us to follow them and that they would show us the way. They took us through winding roads, for nearly fifteen minutes and more, stopping by to say hello to people on the way, leaving us wondering where we were going to. Then we were reminded of the good samaritans who on our earlier trips had helped us and how we should trust them based on our experiences before. And lo, they got us out on the highway again where we cleared the block. We thanked them adding them on to the list of people who we will remember for a long long time and whose help we have to return just by being like them when the opportunity came.

We crossed two more blocks, especially the third one which took us through bad roads which Arun, if not for the Indica would not have taken. The country side in Kerala is one of extreme beauty, enthralling and captivating at once. Oh! how one would love to retire to such a place. Finally, when we got through Mundur, which people said would be a bottleneck(thankfully and luckily, it wasn't), we were left thinking what an experience it had been; this to be uneventful journey, turned eventful by the hartal and more so by people who provided us information and by those who helped us by showing routes we couldn't have known even if we had a map.

So, to Kerala's hartals through which we saw the best of her people, goes this blog. Few pictures taken on the ride through all the tension. A picture of Arun talking to the bus drivers as well as the five vehicles that took the roads on the third blockade can be seen.