Monday, September 05, 2005

me on rediff on new orleans

sept 2nd


Raghu. said...


The danger to Inida is unthinkable if something similar happens in Bangladesh. We should try to secure our borders before this happens. Already we have 2 crore illegal Bangladeshis in India. It will be a total disaster if we fail to act in anticipation.

By the way, how is Dr. Kak? Hope he and his family are safe.

san said...

Look at the New Orleans Disaster Map Wiki which someone has quickly put up on the web:

These types of innovations could be useful for handling such disasters anywhere in the world. Indians should learn from these things so that we could similarly apply them to Indian disaster relief efforts.

Scipionus said...

Hi, I'm the owner of
I wanted to let you know that it's very easy for us to take the site and create a new one centered on a different location. I certainly never wish any sort of tragedy on any part of the world that would require such a thing, but if it's needed, it's easy to do.

I've gotten a lot of interest about the site, so it wouldn't surprise me if someone out there creates a more powerful version of it; hopefully something that would immediately become available on major news sites and such, so that it's easier for people to find.


san said...

Hi Scip,

Firstly I want to commend you on your quick-witted and clever idea, and I've posted your weblink on various sites. Yes, you're right, in the Underdeveloped World where disasters (natural and man-made) tend to have more dire consequences, this type of mass-participation wiki tool could be great for rapid buildup of vital information. As we all see from Katrina, rapid response can be critical.

I hope people at Google or some major portal will get wind of your good idea, and try to build upon it. Suggestions I can think of:

-ability to append photographs onto the wiki entries (perhaps for cameraphone users), or at least append clickable weblinks to external photos/websites

-I didn't check to see if you've included any GPS support, but that might be useful when identifiable landmarks aren't so obvious

-since more people in the 3rd world have cellphones than internet-enabled PCs, if there could be some cellphone interoperability, perhaps via SMS-to-email, then this could be useful

I would also point out that your idea for map-based wiki could have excellent everyday commercial applications, and you should certainly consider pursuing it for profit as well. Real estate, garage sales, holiday events, computer dating, job sourcing -- I can only think of a few ideas off the cuff, but there have got to be piles of things that could be done better with your map-based wiki approach.

I know that someone already has a Googlemap hack for gas prices, but I don't think it's Wiki-based. You should try that too! Or what about hitchiker-driver linkups, or some kind of online car-pooling?

LOL, some people have even talked about the idea of voter-arbitrage for political empowerment, and a map-wiki could even do that.

As you know, Firefox and IE will both be releasing their new browsers with SVG support soon, and I'd imagine that this could be of further possible use to graphical wiki applications like yours (eg. SVG-embedded wiki?)

Once again, congratulations on a job well done. :)

Anonymous said...

Sewa International is carrying out relief operations in the Katrina affected regions of Lousiana and mississippi. To show that you and your community cares for the victims, please support the activities of Sewa International, at least by a donation, if not in kind in some way.

Please visit the links below for more info on the relief opeartions being conducted by sewa:

A good way to display our community's desire to bring normalcy to New Orleans would be to donate to SEWA. Please visit the above links for more details. Make this donation TODAY!!! Do this for America. Do this for the country you are living in and which has given you what you have today.

san said...

More on that 'hypersonic sound' device from American Technology Corp. Apparently, it's being deployed to New Orleans for possible 'crowd control' applications.,1282,68732,00.html?tw=wn_tophead_1

As you know, the device can send a tightly-focused ultrasonic beam across a long distance, which then turns into audible sound when it collides with a surface. This can be used to transmit audible communication over long distances, or perhaps even as a sonic weapon ('disruptor'?)

Might be interesting to mount such hypersonic projectors onto airships or even large drones (Global Hawk? Predator?) to patrol over populated conflict/disaster zones overseas. The aircraft might be able to relay instructions to people on the ground who don't have access to electronic communications because power is unavailable.

Another interesting project is the Giant Airship by worked on by DARPA:

Again, this kind of heavy-lift vehicle would be a good way for India to provide airlift transport to make better use of its manpower-abundant army. It too could be very useful in civil disaster situations. While it might require a lot of ground personnel to operate, it would be less expensive and low-tech compared to other heavy-lift solutions. Likewise, such an airship could function as a gigantic telecom relay platform to provide communication for remote areas.

New advances in materials science, such as the advent of carbon nanotube sheet material with unprecedentedly high strength could make it possible:

san said...

Gee, I was reading more about this heavy-lift airship stuff. Looks pretty impressive conceptually, at least:

I can imagine India making myriad uses of this. Ordinary everyday commercial freight transport, telecom services, disaster relief and emergency response services, law enforcement and civil order, rapid reaction forces, rural-to-urban commuting, airborne early warning defense, military transport for troops and vehicles.

India is a big country with a big population with big needs, therefore economies of scale make sense. Imagine what such a heavy payload capacity could do in fighting a raging forrest fire, or dropping supplies to disaster victims. Militarily, you could literally "bring the fort to the fight", or in a disaster bring the hospital to the victims. Or bring in lots of riot control troops when the riot is big. Tourism-wise, you could have a flying cruise ship or hotel. A stationary platform can do border surveillance, or even conventional police surveillance of urban environments.

Anonymous said...

Maybe India should lend their IAS officers to US to help out with New Orleans?

Indians can manage a festival of 30 million people. Not a single country in the world can manage a city of 5 million!

Punter10 - INSEAD July 05 said...


Another of your fantastic articles.. They all are opinionated, informed and with lots of perspective. Since I truly agree with the one who said that "perspective is worth 120 IQ points" ; keep the articles flowing

surya said...

New Orleans vs. aamchi Mumbai

>I couldnt' stop making this comparison..

inches of rain in new orleans due to hurricane katrina... 18
inches of rain in mumbai (July 27th).... 37.1

population of new orleans... 484,674
population of mumbai.... 12,622,500

deaths in new orleans within 48 hours of katrina...100
deaths in mumbai within 48hours of rain.. 37.

number of people to be evacuated in new orleans... entire city..wohh
number of people evacuated in mumbai...10,000

Cases of shooting and violence in new orleans...Countless
Cases of shooting and violence in mumbai.. NONE

Time taken for US army to reach new orleans... 48hours
Time taken for Indian army and navy to reach mumbai...12hours

status 48hours orleans is still waiting for relief, army and electricty
status 48hours later..mumbai is back on its feet and is business is as usual's most developed nation
India...third world country..

oopss...did i get the last fact wrong???

Looting is something that is there in their blood.

san said...

Here's another article on what India is doing to help:

I would point out in all fairness that it's the breach of the levees which brought in the flooding from the adjacent lake and river. Furthermore, New Orleans is below sea level, unlike Mumbai. Finally, a monsoon is not a hurricane -- just take a look at the hurricane damage suffered by Orissa, years back. It's not nice of us to gloat in somebody's dark hour.

Anonymous said...


Another brilliant article...keep'em comin'.

I am sorry to digress here, but I came across something that I am sure all of us would like to hear your views on. Apparently, Saudi Arabia is razing a 1400 year old house of Mohammad to make way for a parking lot, but not a peep is heard from the Islamic world. The only guy who talked about this and drew comparison with the post-Babri riots is Irfan Hussain:

Could you please write on exposing this hypocrisy?

Anonymous said...

OK, here's the link to husain's article:

surya said...


I dint want to laugh at someone in their misery. My point was abt "looting". Even at the time of devastating Orissa and Andhra flood times..u vent seen any kind of looting by armed thugs. In the wake of recent tsunami also, the only looters were mealy mouthed "evangelists". Doesnt this reflect the "character" of a country??

Anonymous said...

The International Association for Human Values IAHV - the service organization of the Art of Living is doing a lot of Trauma relief work in Houston.

IAHV is an international NGO in
special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations

Please help by donating.

Donations are welcome at