Monday, February 28, 2011

When aliens contacted Jodie Foster

Ever since my laptop crashed, I have been watching movies in Netflix regularly on my phone . I for one want to get involved in my movie. And since that sense of involvement one gets while watching on a phone is quite less I watch one movie over a period of days. 

The previous two days I watched the movie Contact, a 1997 film starring Jodie Foster based on a book written by Carl Sagan, an astronomer. This movie deals with conflict between technological advances and religious faith when scientists working on SETI (Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence) receive radio signals broadcasted from Vega, fifth brightest star we can see from Earth. Embedded in the radio signals are engineering plans to build a complex device beyond human capability that can transport a single person from Earth to Vega using a wormhole mechanism, a hypothetical mathematical explanation that allows matter to travel in space-time instantaneously. Dr. Ellie Arroway, played by Jodie Foster, who heads the SETI team takes the responsibility to travel in that device and to interpret humanity's first contact with alien intelligence.

Jodie Foster from the film Contact. In the background is VLA Radio Telescope in New Mexico, an array of 27 independent radio telescopes whose combined power can be used to pick up radio signals from stars. Radio signals are least effected by Earth's atmosphere and hence these telescopes can be installed on Earth without worrying about the loss of signals.
Having read the Space and Astronomy sections in "The New Book of Popular Science - Vol I" very recently, my fascination for these telescopes (my haiku on Hubble Space Telescope) and outer space has no bounds. I was pleasantly surprised with the 3 minute graphics of outer space in the beginning of the movie. I was thrilled to see VLA radio telescope in Mexico live in action in the movie. And using the first video signal ever transmitted into air, Hitler's speech at Berlin Olympics in the 1930s, as the message from aliens, rather Vegans, is smart. Since the star Vega is about 25 light years away from Earth, any electromagnetic signal would take nearly 50 years to go reach that star and come back to Earth. 

I wish I were into astronomy, except for that unexplainable phobia I used to have  as a kid towards celestial bodies. May be I should visit some observatory or space related museum to make sure if I still have that phobia! Do we have a name for this kind of phobia?

Friday, February 25, 2011

Bring out the chef in you with Google!

For all you people like me who stay away from home and crave for delicious home cooked food every time you eat the food you cooked, here is some help. What was mastered by our mommies and grand mas through intuition in dishing out wonders, was turned by us - the new generation - into calculated numbers and instructed portions of ingredients. And Google, which is under an oath to follow the quote "Make hay while the sun shines" and which makes the best of the information available to them, is here to help us out in making lip smacking food ourselves with their Google Recipe View.

Searching recipes for Mirchi Pakora using Google Recipe View. You can filter out the results based on cooking time and ingredients.
Recipe View, as they say in their official blog, is based on Rich Snippets feature Google introduced a couple of years earlier for webmasters. And it allows users like me to search recipes based on ingredients and cooking time. Isn't that cool?

But after a brief beta testing using Indian recipe search terms made me think that Google needs to work a little more in organizing the data they have. While writing a recipe for mirchi pakoras, people might use "green chillies" or "green peppers" or "hari mirch" in the list of ingredients required. And Google's engine must be very smart in identifying that all these mean the same. And it should be able to list out all the recipes when an appropriate search string for recipe is given by users. This is the reason why they have given out certain instructions to the writers of recipes, which in the long run would help them in improving this feature.

And a note to all you super cooks out there who help us all the time by posting your recipes online. If you want to make the best out of this and want their Recipe View to feature the recipes you posted on your site, please optimize your posts on recipes by following the instructions here and here. By following their instructions, you are helping us as well in making your recipes available to us in a better way.

So, what's stopping you? Start using Google Recipe View and bring out the chef in you!

Friday, February 18, 2011

What does this cricket world cup mean to you?

"Cricket is an Indian game accidentally discovered by the English." - Ashis Nandy
Google Logo for Cricket World Cup 2011. Doesn't the player in the doodle look like Sachin?

Beginning today, millions of people in India and around the world will be glued to their idiot boxes cheering their favorite teams. With cricket being one of the religions in India, world cup acts like a platform where in Indians come out of their cocoons and share a unique bond, unlike IPL where they take a dig at each other. And, the world cup fever only builds up more with the opening ceremony being a grand success.

This cricket world cup means different things to different people.
  • To youngsters using social networks, it means a lot of spam with cricket related apps on facebook, and endless feeds on match and score details on twitter.
  • To TV showrooms in India, it means lots of visitors outside their shops.
  • To a corporate manager, it means decrease in the productivity of his/her subordinates.
  • To a corporate employee, it means a reason to leave early in the evening to catch up with a cricket match.
  • To bloggers, it means lot more topics to blog about.
  • To people in movie business, it means off season.
  • To news channels, it means no need to worry about their breaking news ticker tapes.
  • To Sachin's fans, it means a reason to win the world cup.
  • To any Indian, it means a topic to initiate a conversation.
  • To my mom, it means an interruption to her in watching her favorite TV serials.
  • And to me, it's nostalgia

What does it mean to you?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Google Chrome for Blogging

We all know how the web browser from Google, Chrome, achieved huge popularity with in a very short span of its release. Chrome's popularity can be attributed to its light weight and speed apart from its friendly bookmarking feature and task manager capabilities. Now, Chrome has extended its capabilities further by introducing a Web store for apps (add-ons from third party).

Couple of days ago I have written a guest post at Latest Tech Tips maintained by Harshad, a technology blogger and Java developer. Please find my post below.

Google Chrome Apps For A Better Blogging Experience

It talks about how these apps can be used to make your blogging experience a better one. Go ahead and explore the app store.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Great Wall of India

A couple of weeks ago, an American national representing the company who sponsored our project at work asked me where in India I was from. Later on, he was telling me how he knew about the hatred between North Indians and South Indians. My response was "What!?!" He was telling me that people in India from North and South hated each other as much as they hated people from Pakistan. That was the first time I heard something like that!

But a quick search on the Internet about this issue gave me a much detailed insight. And yes, there is some coldness and indifference between the people from these two regions. They don't go well with each other for due to a variety of reasons like the Aryan and Dravidian divide, or the comparatively fair skin vs. dark skin or the food habits or languages they speak. We were those proud kids when we first learned of secular and diverse India during our primary and secondary school. I wonder what happened to all that cultural diversity lessons we learned. I wonder why we resort to silly reasons and superficial standards to judge and look down upon each other.

India from Google Maps at various zoom levels

In my version of Google Maps, I could not find a wall between North and South of India at any of its zoom levels. Does your version have that wall, that divide? I guess not! It's all in your minds and hearts.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Celestial spyhole

Mysteries unfold

Celestial grandeur revealed
Spyhole to heaven

A view of Orion Nebula from Hubble Telescope. Ever after this telescope was launched into Earth's orbit on April 1990, enormous number of secrets of our universe were unraveled. And the telescope still continues to serve diligently discovering unknown facts to the mankind everyday. Image Source:

Written for Haiku Heights.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

I Dare To Dream

The Great Indian Robbers!
Do you worry if some one stole Rs. 200 from you? Probably you would not as much as when Rs. 2000 was robbed from you. Now, if you have not worried enough when you heard of 2G Spectrum scam then let me tell you that you need to worry. According to reports, the estimated loss due to this single scam is Rs. 1.76 Lakh Crores which approximates to Rs 1760 per every person in India's 1 billion population. If you start looking into other scams that have happened recently, then there is every reason for you to worry. An estimated 63 Lakh crores of Indian money sits in all the Swiss banks. There is no way we could ask these people to not rob the poor, because not even the animals were spared in this country.

The Give and Take Principle
During my college days, I often came across people who wanted to rag their juniors only because they were ragged by their seniors. When I go to a government office, I would have to deal with a bitter employee because he was treated with bitterness by his superior. A mother-in-law would want to make up for her bad experiences by treating her daughter-in-law in the same way. And this ill behavior only increases as it goes down the chain, because at every point one wants to feel good by venting out more than what one had experienced. Same is the case with our politicians. If the politicians pay Rs. 100 asking you to cast vote for them, they only expect to take back Rs 1000 or more from you after they win. 

Political Party Co. Pvt. Ltd.
Starting a political party is a profitable venture in this country. With nepotism having its strongest roots in Indian political scenario, politics is now a family-owned family-run venture mostly. And, like any other business there is competition in this as well. Be it at the central level or the state level, most of the ruling party's time is invested in devising methods to retain the power for a better future for their children, who would eventually be the politician of the next generation. So when your hard earned money is taken away and stashed in Swiss banks by politicians now, their children would increase their family assests by taking from your children. After all that is what BS Yeddyurappa said "I have done what my predecessors did".

Gifts for being Honest
It was Shanmughan Manjunath and Satyendra Dubey earlier, and this time only the name changed. Yashwant Sonawane was murdered for doing his job honestly. The unexplained deaths and murders of Right To Information activists and corruption whistleblowers only reasserts the fact that being honest in this country has its own risks. And how difficult will it be to find an honest person in any government organization? Very easy, the one who is termed outlier by his/her colleagues, who had most number of transfers and who is the most constrained economically. What would you tell your children when they read the newspapers and ask you if honesty is the best policy?

I hate what is happening and yet I love my country. Despite all this, I dare to dream of a corruption free India. Do you dare to dream? To make our dream come true, this time we cannot wait for a savior to lead the march. We cannot even trust any butterfly effect so that an instance in a far away land can trigger the movement here. We are by ourselves. Let us together fight against our common enemy "corruption" and make India a better place.
India Against Corruption
Also, do read what Zephyr has to say. 
This post has been selected by BlogAdda under "Spicy Saturday Picks".