Thursday, December 30, 2004

100 years of annus mirabilis

In discussions about whether time travel will ever be possible, and if so why don't we see any time travellers from future, some people cite the anachronisms which have never been satisfactorily explained or just seem too incredible to have happened when they did.

One famous example is the "Baghdad Battery" (read the article if you don't know what it is.. it is fascinating!!). Then there are the incredible ancient feats of engineering and architecture (the Pyramids, the Sphinx, the Stonehenge and the Easter Island statues).

Then there were events in history (and prehistory) that seem to just have happened. (heard of Nazca lines?) Curious incidents.. just fate maybe.. but what if they are results of future travellers "flashing" their ancestors with knowledge far ahead of their time? People like Leonardo Da Vinci and Isaac Newton did some work that was so far ahead of their times that its a wonder no one suspected them to be in touch with future generations (or maybe aliens) at that time (then again, probably most people at the time weren't quite as much into things like time travel and extra-terrestrial intelligence as people today). Newton, especially, had one incredibly fruitful period of about a year when he discovered/invented more things than probably constituted all the cumulative knowledge of human beings till then. that was probably the original annus mirabilis. Between 1665 and 1666, Newton invented techniques of calculus, formulated his laws of motion and gravity and as good as pioneered the science of optics. A year unrivalled in history for its impact on our lives.

But clearly that was much more than 100 years ago. What I wished to write about was another such period. It still doesn't rival the Newton's magic year in its impact but that might just be as it is much more recent. Probably 200 years from now we'll know that its consequences were far more far-reaching than were realized in early 21st century. I am obviously talking about Einstein's miracle year - 1905. In that period of about a year he came up with 4-5 papers that changed the way we look at nature. Special Relativity is obviously the crowning achievement that everyone knows about. But there were other papers ranging from brownian motion to photoelectric effect that were just as important in forming the foundation of a new kind of physics which was so different from the physics of previous centuries that it spawned a whole new field for JEE coaches to tackle - modern physics.

An article has appeared on which inspired me to do this posting. Read it here if you want to, though its just a lay-man explanation of Einstein's work and as such nothing new to most people who read my blog. What I found interesting was a series of cartoons in the article. pasting them here for those who don't want to go to the article and scroll around. All pics courtesy

1) Einstein enters the jungle of physics in late 1800s.

2) What didn't make sense to others was made simpler and clearer by our then-young old man.

3) And then.... God played dice.

Monday, December 27, 2004

The Indonesian Tsunami Disaster.

Most of us know about the tsunami disaster by now. In case you don't (and even if you do but don't know enough details) you can look it up here.

I had only read about tsunamis but never really heard about it in news. I guess they are much more common than this but most of the time the warning systems ensure that the damage isn't much. In places that are prone to earthquakes and tsunamis, these warning systems are present since long but who'd have thought they would hit india and sri lanka! not that we haven't experienced earthquakes before (actually we've probably seen more than our fair share. I know some people here who have NEVER experienced even moderate quakes.) but I don't think there had been any tsunami disasters in india before this. Not in the historic period at least.

Its absolutely awe-inspiring how much energy a tsunami can carry. I guess the fact that an earthquake makes a gigantic amount of land move should be just as awe-inspiring, if not more, but somehow the idea of an ocean-wave moving at 300-400 miles per hour for thousands of miles and hitting thousnads of mile long shorelines is simply inconceivable for me. think of a water tank in a cube of each side 10m long and think of the force needed to push it at the speed of 300 miles per hour. now put 200,000 such tanks in a line and you reach close to a tsunamis awesome power. considering that these numbers aren't anywhere close to megatsunamis one begins to realize the sheer power of forces of nature. (I know its probably not appropriate to think about these things as anything but evil, but reading about these things I couldn't help thinking how much energy can be obtained from such sources for our purposes if only the technology for prediction and harnessing improves. I know it sounds almost impossible as of now, but what if it can be done sometime in future! THAT feat would be just as awe-inspiring as the quakes and tsunamis themselves).

For those who are able and willing to contribute to the Indian Prime Minister's relief fund can contribute through cash/cheque, credit card, or direct bank transfer.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

While I was sleeping...

The world changed. at 4am today, the world did not know that Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince is scheduled to release on July 16, 2005. And now, it does.. :)

My blog runs the risk of changing into just a Harry Potter fanpage (hasn't it already?) but I can't really resist pointing out that Warner Bros. released yesterday two pix from the fourth movie. You can see them here and here. Courtesy mugglenet of course. The first is obviously the dressing-up for Yule Ball. And the second is just before the first task, in the champions' tent. (oops! did I just put in a spoiler for someone who hasn't read book 4?? well, maybe not. these two lines don't tell much, do they?)

Monday, December 20, 2004

JKR is so cool!!!!

:) she didn't make us wait till christmas!! about half an hour ago, her site was updated with 6 riddles. I was one of the first to solve them and get the message. Book 6 is complete!! and the date will be announced by the publishers within next 24 hours(ok, about 23 now). don't forget, you read it here first! :) its still not on any news sites.. :)

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

I know my christmas gift!!!

I know that not many of my readers are big Harry Potter fans. Which means I shouldn't bore anyone with so many posts about HP. But... it also means that any news about HP that I'm giving here is not likely to be known to them already which is one strong reason in favour of making these postings.. :) so....

anyway, this is for all HP fans out there.... There is a verrry good chance that JKR is going to announce the release date of book 6 (HP and the Half Blood Prince). And what better day to do it than on christmas? So, many people believe that it would be her christmas present to her readers. Now, don't blame me if all this turns out to be wrong as neither JKR nor her publishing team have said anything of the sort. In fact, their representatives have gone so far as to say that these rumours are pure speculation. However, its not same as saying that these rumours are wrong, is it? :)

Anyway, its not as if the rumours are just plain, baseless wishful thinking. There have been several signs suggesting that book 6 should release sometime in summer 2005. (There is a case of releasing it in fall or winter to increase interest in the next movie which will release in november' 05, but summer is a much better time for readers. And even if the book release is scheduled for fall 2005, the signs for the announcement of the date are very strong right now). Some of the signs were things that JKR lets slip (willingly, I am sure) every now and then. Like her being sure that there will not be any baby-related delay in completion of book 6 and the baby being due sometime in spring 2005. Like her reading 20 chapters of the book overnight before updating her site next morning (this was sometime in october, IIRC). But all those things are still in the "speculation" zone and I probably won't have made this posting if not for the strongest sign yet which appeared today!! The welcome note on her official site has been tinkered today. It said "where I can announce I've finished book six... and no, that's not going to happen very soon." till yesterday but has been changed to "where I can announce I've finished book seven... and no, that's not going to happen very soon."!!! The least this means is that book six is no longer in the "not going to happen very soon" category. But, considering that most of us fans were already speculating about a christmas announcement this is a HUGE sign!! I only hope this doesn't turn out to be a hoax engineered by some hacker.. :(

Christmas can't come soon enough.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Newsweek's top (and bottom) 10

Newsweek has come up with its lists of 10 best and worst movies of 2004. And it made me realize that I still have to see a lot of good movies that came out this year. That has been mainly because most of them have released during last month or so and haven't reached Rochester yet. Out of the "10 best" list I have seen just 3 (Sideways, The Manchurian Candidate, and Prisoner of Azkaban) and even though all of them were good movies, I wouldn't have put them above some other movies that I saw this year. Sideways probably would have made my list but not TMC and PoA (assuming, of course, that the other seven that I haven't seen yet really DO deserve to be in the list). Kill Bill-2 would definitely have made it above these two. So would Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. And maybe even The Incredibles (ok... probably not above PoA but definitely above TMC. that might just be because I have seen the original of TMC and the new version suffers in comparison). And then there was The Motorcycle Diaries, that superb spanish movie.

As for the movies I haven't seen, all of them have been on my "must watch" list for some time. The only reason I haven't seen Before Sunset (#2 on newsweek list) yet is because I havent been able to find its prequel - Before Sunrise - and I dont want to see the sequel before the prequel. Million Dollar Baby, Kinsey, and Bad Education will open at Rochester in a couple of weeks. And The Aviator is obviously going to open nationwide next weekend. So I should be done with them within another month. :) This is also true for A Very Long Engagement which finds itself on the "worst 10" list of newsweek. Maybe it IS that bad but I'd still watch it if only because of the wonderful cinematography and Audrey Tautou.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

an aborted attempt at swades' review...

here is that aborted post.... no real reason for posting it now except that I can't make myself delete it....


ok people.. here goes.. back after more than a month, and that too without any cajoling by anybody (ok, jaanu had posted some comments regarding this, but that was some days ago.. )

Over the last month, there have been many things that almost convinced me to come out of my hibernation and make another post but I successfully resisted the urge. :) Not today though!! the last straw, so to speak, is the music release of Swades. The songs were released yesterday and I now have all of them with me. A brief first-impressions review follows along with maybe some reference of those other exciting things (or maybe I'll post about them separately.. let's see...)

Last releases of ARR were Yuva/Aayidha Ezhuthu and New. That was around 6-7 months ago and most of us Rahman fans have been waiting with bated breath for the barrage of superb music that inevitably follows such silent phases as far as rahman is concerned. During this time Choreography released with one ARR composition played by Vanessa Mae but that was about the only respite we got from the insipid non-rahman songs of last 6 months (now now.. I know thats not quite right... there were some good songs too... mostly Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy albums and one Veer-Zaara that came out last week.. but one needs to say such things to show the extent of one's devotion :)) ) . Most of our time was spent speculating which one of his soon-to-be-released albums will come first. Kisna, Swades, Netaji and Rivermoon were all probable candidates but Swades beat the others to it. The downside is that it came out too close to Veer-Zaara which is obviously destined to be a blockbuster because the Yash-Chopra publicity machine will not stop at anything less than that. Even mediocre songs from that stable seem to do pretty well, and Veer-Zaara seems to be pretty good. Still, I was hopeful that Swades would be publicized well enough for the music to catch on. Alas! it doesnt look like happening. The promos were extremely dull. Lacked even a hint of the sheen that one associates with an A-class movie. I guess that might be because they wanted to get the rustic look. Still, Lagaan also had that rustic look and its promos were as exciting as they get. The only good thing about Swades promos was the music and the credits. But I don't think that goes too far in creating a buzz, at least in the early stages. So, all this means is that quite a few people might miss out on enjoying Swades' music which is really unfortunate because it really doesn't deserve this. Its pretty good actually, and I haven't even listened to all the songs enough times yet!!!


back after ages!!!

i have no idea how long I'll be able to continue it this time. But lets see... I intend to do regular posts now.. maybe shorter in length than earlier... maybe they'll be more about personal issues than general posts like earlier.. I don't know.. lets see...

right now I am listening to Kisna's songs... the music released just two days ago and I have listened to most of the songs 3-4 times and the first impression is "its good but nothing great. not a patch on Taal". maybe it will grow after a few more hearings.. There are some really good songs but there are one or two pretty ordinary songs that pull the album down. Needless to say, these ordinary songs are Darbar's. :) anyway, his "Woh Kisna Hai" and "Kaahe Ujaadi Meri Neend" are very good. and "Chilman Uthhegi Naheen" and "Aham Brahmaasmi" aren't bad either. So its not as if Darbar did poorly and ARR did great. its just some of Darbar's situational songs that are simply too ordinary.

anyway, I should post this one now. Otherwise it might end up as my last attempt at getting back to blogging. I had decided to write a review of Swades but was just able to write a brief introduction. Never got down to complete that review. I guess I'll post that incomplete review/introduction too after this.