Tuesday, October 30, 2018

India's Only Active Volcano Erupts Again

India's only active volcano, on a small island in the Andaman & Nicobars, is once again erupting:

Twitter India Policy Head Deletes Tweet Showing Her Bias

Twitter's India policy chief Mahima Kaul deleted a tweet of hers which showed her anti-Modi bias:


Angela Merkel Steps Down As Party Chief, Won't Run in 2021

Angela Merkel announced that she was stepping down as the head of her Christian Democratic Union party, and will serve out the remainder of her term as Chancellor until 2021, when she will leave political office.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Quick notes: Digital tax, Train-18...

  • Britain’s new “digital services tax”: The new tax is expected to raise an additional £400m a year by targeting tech giants such as Facebook, Google, and Amazon... India was the first country to implement such a tax.

  • Facebook, Google Face Billions in New Taxes Across Asia, Latin America: Inspired by EU proposals to impose a tax based on revenue of tech companies rather than their profit, South Korea, India and at least seven other Asian-Pacific countries are exploring new taxes. Mexico, Chile and other Latin American countries too are contemplating new taxes aimed at boosting receipts from foreign tech firms. Such taxes are separate from corporate income taxes many companies already pay.

  • India's 1st Engine-Less Train Said To Be Faster Than Shatabdi: Driven by a self-propulsion module sans a separate locomotive, Train 18 will cut travel time by 15% compared to the Shatabdi.

  • Aircraft-like pressurised coaches for world's highest track in Leh:  The 465-km strategically significant line to be built at a cost of Rs 83,360 crore, will see railways' first pressurised coaches which are currently used only in the Quinghay-Tibet Railway Line.

  • HAL: Outright purchase of Rafales without local manufacture would end up in an enormous life cycle cost which may drain out the exchequer.

  • Letting Sunlight Indoors Kills Disease-Causing Bacteria:  Lit rooms had about half the viable bacteria (those that are able to grow), compared with dark rooms. Rooms that were exposed only to UV light had just slightly less viable bacteria than ones exposed to daylight.

  • Paper Airplane Designs: A database of paper airplanes with easy to follow folding instructions.

  • e-scooter: Ford is the next company to join the electric scooter craze.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Pak to Send Astronaut to Space in 2022

Following India's announcement of its human spaceflight program, Pakistan has now announced that it will send up astronaut(s) to space in 2022 with China's assistance:


"CMSA" is China Manned Space Agency 
"SUPARCO" is Pakistan's Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission




Since Pak PM Imran Khan will be visiting China from November 3-5, perhaps this joint space mission was one of the deals that get arranged in advance of such visits, so that these things can be announced at the time of the visit itself.

A recent Spacedaily article talked about China's increasing international cooperation on space:

China announced in May that it would welcome all member states of the United Nations to cooperate in and jointly utilize its future space station, which is expected to be built around 2022
"The China Space Station (CSS) belongs not only to China, but also to the world," said Shi Zhongjun, China's Ambassador to UN and other international organizations in Vienna. 
"Through the vehicle of the CSS, we would like to build a model of sincere mutual beneficial cooperation among countries in the peaceful exploration and use of outer space." 
Guided by the idea of a shared future for mankind, the CSS will be a home that is inclusive and open, a home of peace and good will, and a home of cooperation for mutual benefit, he said.

I'm wondering if this 2022 China-facilitated spaceflight for Pak astronaut(s) could involve a a mission to visit China's upcoming space station, which is expected to be in operation by that time. Given that our maiden spaceflight won't involve a grand space station, perhaps China and Pak have found a way to upstage us.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Quick notes: Best CEOs, Data localization...

  • The Best-Performing CEOs, 2018: For the second year in a row, the best-performing CEOs in the world were more likely to have an engineering degree than an MBA. Yet another reason to consider urging your kids to go into engineering.

  • US wants to "prohibit" data localization: Major American IT companies are up in arms against the latest Indian directive.

  • Sabarimala: Deities & Judges

  • Early Time Restricted Feeding (eTRF): Merely restricting the number of hours you ate and moving to an earlier eating schedule, produced huge benefits even in the same person eating the same meals. Mean insulin levels dropped significantly, and insulin resistance dropped as well. Even more remarkable was that even after the washout period of seven weeks, the eTRF group maintained lower insulin levels at baseline. The benefits were maintained even after stopping the time restriction. Blood pressure dropped as well.

  • Slaughter-free "clean" meat: "We make meat just out of meat. You just don't need to kill the animal,"

  • Forgoing booze: We're taught from an early age that drinking is cool and glamorous. We have to learn for ourselves that it's not.

  • Native American Prayer:

    Great Spirit,
    Give us hearts to understand
    Never to take from creation's beauty more than we give,
    Never to destroy want only for the furtherance of greed,
    Never to deny to give our hands for the building of earth's beauty,
    Never to take from her what we cannot use.

    Give us hearts to understand
    That to destroy earth's music is to create confusion,
    That to wreck her appearance is to blind us to beauty,
    That to callously pollute her fragrance is to make a house of stench,
    That as we care for her she will care for us.

    Give us hearts to understand
    We have forgotten who we are.
    We have sought only our own security.
    We have exploited simply for our own ends.
    We have distorted our knowledge.
    We have abused our power.

    Great Spirit,
    Whose dry lands thirst,
    Help us to find the way to refresh your lands.

    Great Spirit, Whose waters are choked with debris and pollution,
    Help us to find the way to cleanse your waters.

    Great Spirit,
    Whose beautiful earth grows ugly with misuse,
    Help us to find the way to restore beauty to your handiwork.

    Great Spirit,
    Whose creatures are being destroyed,
    Help us to find a way to replenish them

    Great Spirit, whose gifts to us are being lost in selfishness and corruption,
    Help us to find the way to restore our humanity.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Fictional Movie Dramatization of Mangalyaan Mission

Johnnie Walker, the whisky company, has sponsored a purely fictional dramatization of the Mangalyaan Mars mission:

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

ISRO to Build Visitors Complex at Sriharikota

Plans are underway for a large Visitors Complex to be built adjacent to the Sriharikota High Altitude Range as part of the Satish Dhawan Space Centre.



SDSC SHAR, the Space Port of India provides the world class launch base infrastructure for integration and launching of Indian Satellites and Foreign customer Satellites. In an endeavour to facilitate the General Public to witness the launches and also to generate greater awareness about its space programmes which are beneficial to all sections of the society it is proposed to establish a Visitors’ Complex at Sriharikota.

2. The Broad Vision for Visitors’ Complex is:

a) To accommodate maximum number of visitors without affecting the launch campaign activities.
b) Showcasing the activities of ISRO and SDSC SHAR in a concise manner.
c) Preserving and renovating the heritage structures of SDSC SHAR during the transformation from an Island to Space Port of India. This will also enable memories of great contributions during the early stages of Space Programme of India.
d) This complex shall be aimed to ignite the young minds towards the scientific oriented research activities by live demos of Solar system, Universe, significant achievements of Indian and International Space Programme and applications of space technology etc.
e) The facilities of visitor’s complex shall be sufficient to accommodate two million visitors per annum.

3. About Visitor’s Complex:

The proposed Visitor Complex is configured to receive 1.5 million visitor per annum. That would be approximately 5000 visitor per day and on the launch day it will offer 10,000 public to witness the launch. Considering the above targeted visitors, the facilities inside the Visitor Complex are configured with sufficient parking space and other essential amenities such as restrooms, space shops, restaurants, ATMs, medical & first aid facilities.

The Visitor Complex will tell the story of ISRO and Indian Space Programme by hosting the many world class facilities and experiences. It maintains the large collection of historic launch vehicles and satellites. The museum features many exhibition galleries, displaying hundreds of artefacts including ISRO central, engines, rockets, on board components, hall of fame, future of human spacewalk, early space exploration, International space arena, etc.

Since, the exhibits and attractions will be added/improved time to time, the Visitor Complex master plan and facilities are configured to easy expandable type. Forecasting these needs and requirement an area of 450m x 550m (approx.) is proposed for the Visitor Complex.

All the vehicles shall be parked outside the theme park, no vehicles shall be allowed inside the Visitor Complex. The proposed theme and operations of the Visitor Complex is divided into three zones. Zone-1 focuses on the launch vehicle garden, exhibitions halls, simulations, theme concepts, launch view gallery, hall of fame, space theatre, future of human, etc., which will be open for all the days. Zone-2, is a bus tour, which will focus on the heritage of Indian Space Programme involving the guided tour of visitors to SLV, ASLV and SRC complex. The Zone-3 is also a bus tour to visit operational launch pads. Zone-2 and Zone-3 are guided tours and no personal vehicle is allowed inside the Visitor Complex. Hop-off services are provide at ASLV, SLV  & Sounding Rocket Complex. There is no drop off and/or pickup from launch complex, these facilities shall be shown from bus itself.

The present scope of the architectural consultancy is limited to Zone-1 only, which includes the following.

The major facilities at Zone–1 are:

a) Information Centre & Entrance Security Screening: Visitors will be guided to the main entrance, where they will follow the security procedures and safety regulations. Entrance plaza will consist of ticketing booth, security screening, cafeteria, souvenir shops, food courts, and information center. At the main entrance there will also be a resting lounge and restrooms for people who wish to refresh or stay back and wait for their group(s) to return.

b) Launch view gallery: The Space Port of India, naturally attracts the visitors to witness the launch activities and cheer for the pride of our Nation. At present, there are no appropriate facilities for accommodating more number of visitors to view the launch at Sriharikota. Hence, launch view gallery to accommodate 10,000 visitors is proposed in a semicircular frustum shape, which would enable the visitors to have the clear view of the Launchpad area. The Auditorium will be equipped with large display and speakers to showcase all the ongoing activities and news. During the non-launch period –lectures, interactive sessions and children space activities will be organized.

c) Rocket Garden: All the 1:1 ratio of beautiful ISRO launch vehicles –Sounding Rocket, SLV, ASLV, PSLV, GSLV, Mk-III will be realised with a provision to go inside. Lawns will be developed along with photo points. Fountain will be realised at the middle of the rocket garden.

d) Space Museum: Space Museum provides a tell-tale account of the Indian Space Programme from its infancy. The story of the Indian Space Programme is unfurled in six sections, comprising of history, education, technology, applications, global and the future.

The museum will be divided into the following subjective areas: The history of Indian Space programme development and accumulated numerous achievements shall be showcased. The past, present and future of ISRO will be depicted with space transportation systems and satellite programme. Future of Indian Space programme, Mission planning, Rocket engines and its working principles, Human spaceflight, various ISRO Centre activities on Space science & solar system exploration and development fundamental space research & development will be displayed.

The space transportation system gives an overview of ISRO’s launch vehicles showcasing the actual engines used for flight qualification testing and scaled working models and other major components of launch vehicle such as casings, heat shield, onboard computers/electronics, etc.

As part of this pavilion, application of satellite technology for communications, disaster management and earth observation will be highlighted. Further, an overview of the GTO mission and its achievement of communication satellite and positioning satellites including the test model of the NAVIC will be realised. In similar lines, an overview of the SSO mission and its achievement of earth observation satellites including a test model of IRS will be realised.

In order to bring the awareness in the cutting edge R&D in space, space science and solar system exploration pavilion will be realised which highlight the space science, Lunar missions, Mars mission, Astrosat mission and Aditya mission including a test model.

As part of fundamental research and development Physics laboratory, new challenges of space utilisation will be brought out by displaying the real equipment used for spacecraft. Rocket technology with virtual experience of launch vehicle travel and Human space flight  with virtual experience will be realised in this section. The journey to Mars –virtual experience along with long range space observatory will be available. Hall of Fame –Posters & Exhibits of International Space, Future of Human –extra vehicular activities, InterPlanetary missions, Galaxy, etc will be shown thematically.

e) Children Activity: Virtual Interview with eminent personalities/experts like Chairman, ISRO and Centre Directors based on the selected topic. Working models and virtual themes explaining, orbiting the earth, exploring the universe, built your own rocket, built your own satellites and in space satellite operations.

f) The Space Theatre: Visitors will have the chance to see the universe from close quarters. The experience will be much more than merely seeing the stars in the sky in a planetarium. This will be an ultra-modern hemispherical domed Space Theatre which promises an amazing voyage of discoveries in universe to the visitors. Experience the launch in a real world scenario with a simulation of vibration and sound. It will also show a 15 Mins film of Rocket launch from Sriharikota with physical effects and visuals from the satellite camera clearing the Earth atmosphere and entering space. The film starts from the MCC launch countdown showing all the delegates and scientists witnessing the launch and ends at MCC after a successful launch. Planned capacity of the Space Theatre will be 2x250 persons. Apart from this scientific fiction documentaries will be screened.


The Visitor Complex will be visited by huge public and will become the scientific destination in future. Keeping this into consideration, the following features will be considered while building planning and design. 

Green building concept, capable of being remodeled to suit new exhibits or special events like National seminars/festivals. Restaurants and Shops will be modular type and will be provided at all the facilities. Sufficient rest rooms, waiting halls and seating arrangement will be provided. Special feature shall be for children activity. Personnel movement & shows will be addressed in such a way that no stagnation of crowd inside the complex. Limited accommodation will be provided at the entrance plaza of the Complex.

The facilities of the proposed Visitor Complex is capable to handle 5000 visitors per day. Ample parking space will be provided for car parking area. No personnel vehicles shall be allowed inside the Visitor Complex. The following security & safety arrangements are considered.

The entire area from Gate-I to Visitor Complex and to Heritage zone shall be covered with CCTV and Intrusion detection system.
- Airport type security arrangements will be adopted at the entrance plaza.
- Reception help desk/Information cell.
- Baggage drop point -Other than hand baggage no baggage is allowed inside the Visitor Complex.
- Check for proper identity at the entry followed by Baggage scanning & frisking.
- Enter into the main lobby area for ticketing.
- First Aid Centres/Emergency medical services shall be provided.
- Emergency exits, meeting point, FDA and Firefighting systems shall be part of building design & plan as per the standard codes of practice

So to summarize, this large Visitors Complex will consist of 3 major zones:

Zone-1 will be the area shown in the illustration above. It will have a "rocket garden" featuring life size models of major ISRO launch vehicles. There will also be a space museum featuring the past, present and future of ISRO activities. There will also be a space theatre, which will double as a planetarium and also show space-related movie content. There will also be restaurants, shops, and some accommodations. The most amazing thing there will be the huge launch view gallery, which will permit thousands of people to directly watch the actual rocket launches live.
Zone-2 will be ISRO's old defunct heritage launch site for the old SLV & ASLV launchers, which will be accessible by tour bus, for people to get off and walk around.
Zone-3 refers to ISRO's currently active launch facilities, which tour buses will travel through without stopping or letting people out.

It seems this Visitors Complex will likely be completed before or by the 2022 target date for the first Human Spaceflight launch.

I'll tell you what - let's all meet up there in person to watch that first manned launch together. ☺

Friday, October 12, 2018

Quick notes: Netflix addiction, Drone risk...

  • Indian millenials are turning to Vipassana: “Excessive exposure to technology, which is leaving kids more confused than focused, has become the bane of our lives.”

  • Obsession with streaming services: A clinic in Bengaluru is treating its first case of Netflix addiction. Improving connectivity has made binge-watching the norm in both small towns and big cities.

  • Rise of the vernacular: YouTube scouts for more Indian content creators as local languages trend. "Roughly 95% of the content consumed is in native Indian languages and that is something we hadn’t seen earlier. Back in 2014, it was all Hindi and English".

  • Risk in the Sky? This is what happens when a drone hits the wing of an airplane 

  • Demise of IC engine: Israel plans to end internal combustion car sales by 2030. Court bans diesel cars in parts of Berlin.  How IC engines will die out in Eurasia.

  • Vitamin D: If you are an office worker, get your Vitamin D level checked. If you are an office worker in India, get your Vitamin D level checked as soon as possible. If you are an office worker from India working in a cold country, get your Vitamin D level checked today. Most likely you’ll be Vitamin D deficient. A study in India found that 80% of the urban population and 70% of the rural population is Vitamin D deficient.

  • Indra Nooyi's Advice: Ms Nooyi said that her mother's advice to "leave the crown in the garage" holds true.  "Do not bring it in. If your husband wants to bring his crown in, that's just fine. That's crown. But don't take your crown in," she said, adding that some people may "hate" her for making such a remark.  "If you want to stay married, if you want to be a daughter, wife, mother, unfortunately the crown stays in the car. Somebody has got to play the role of getting everybody together," she said.

  • Boston Dynamics: Parkour Atlas.

  • Big Cola and pollution: Whose plastic waste most pollutes our environment?

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Quick notes: Drone future, ShareChat...

  • Rather than Rafale, think of drones: How far the jetfighters remain in action is anyone's guess. There are ground-to-air missiles with en route course correction. We can ignore them at our own peril. The drones raid in swarms. Stealth aircraft with swarms of drones are already in the offing. Pilotless aircraft and LASER canons are on the drawing boards.

  • Sorry Facebook: Indian politicians are flocking to an unlikely “no English” social network, ShareChat, a fast-growing, indigenous social network. Unlike most of the popular social networks in India, this Android-based platform supports 14 Indian languages. It, pointedly, does not support English.

  • Bengaluru set to go the Amsterdam way: Bicycle sharing system may take off soon.

  • Socialization of losses: Whopping Rs 1 lakh crore NPAs in power sector; banks staring at 40%-60% haircut.. India’s NPAs have surged to about Rs 8 lakh crore.

  • Python convert: This year’s Nobel Prize in economics was awarded to a Python convert. Instead of using Mathematica, Romer used Python—the most popular language for data science and statistics.

  • Swami Sivananda explains about the importance of spirituality in the life of a woman:

  • The placebo effect: What they weren't told was that they would all get placebos, capsules containing nothing but ground rice. "Just because a placebo contains no active chemicals, does not mean the effects of taking it are not real. The average person thinks that placebo is something that's a lie or some fakery, something where the person has been tricked and it isn't real. But science has told us, particularly over the last two decades, that it is something that is very real, it's something that we can see played out in our physiology and neurochemistry."

  • China Makes A Big Play In Silicon Valley: The Chinese govt has been forming global partnerships with Western think tanks, recruiting key talent at networking events sponsored by the Chinese govt and working with U.S. universities."I'd say they're very systematic, very long term in their approach and very well-funded".. Instead of buying an existing U.S. business, these Chinese tech giants come to the U.S. and build new companies from the ground up, in what's known as "greenfield" investments. They hire away a lot of U.S. employees who might otherwise work for American businesses.

  • Tata Group history is also the history of Indian industry: “Even though he was at the helm of the Tata Group for 53 years, J.R.D never owned a personal plane. The house he stayed in was not his own; it was rented. He operated through empowering people.”

  • Churchill's "magnanimity": "As a matter of fact the grain he took away from Bengal was NOT NEEDED by the allied forces (and largely rotted) but he took it anyway to punish Bengal for having supported Gandhi. Millions died. It was a bumper crop year"

Sunday, October 07, 2018

Movie: Trump @ War

Steve Bannon's movie "Trump @ War" is being shown on the internet:

Even with Bannon kicked out of the Whitehouse, he may at least make his mark as the Michael Moore of the American Right.

Hagiography aside, the situation as depicted is not so different from the challenges that India faces from its assortment of Left-nuts, Naxals, Tukde-Tukde gang, etc. However, perhaps the level of our response may be of a different order. They have Trump, we have Modi. They have Hillary, we have Sonia. They have Tea Party, we have RSS. They have Fox, we have Republic TV. It may be useful to make comparisons, in order to extract useful lessons.

US Senate Votes 50-48 To Approve Brett Kavanaugh

The US Senate voted to confirm Trump's nominee Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, resulting in a major political victory for Trump, while tilting the power of the Supreme Court towards Conservatives.

Friday, October 05, 2018

China Used Tiny Chip in Hack That Infiltrated Amazon, Apple and Other Companies

Faiz Shakir, ACLU's Director Supports Guilt-by-Association, Opposes Presumption-of-Innocence

Faiz Shakir, the director of the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) is now touting new positions such as guilt-by-association and the abandonment of the presumption-of-innocence, and providing a newer and more Islamized standard of mob justice:

As the Left continue to infiltrate and corrode various institutions by playing games of Identity Politics in the name of social justice, various Muslims are of course happily hitching a ride with them. Just another Lal-Salaam from the Red-Green axis.

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Quick notes: Silk road, Meatable...

  • Chinese debt trap: Pakistan cuts Chinese 'Silk Road' project by $2 bn due to debt concerns. 'Pakistan is a poor country that cannot afford huge burden of the loans'. 

  • 'Intrusion Truth,' the mysterious group doxing Chinese hackers: China has hacked its way to other nation’s manufacturing secrets for years, ransacking military fighter jet schematics and information on solar power, among other industrial treasures. “Until recently, China has been winning—it has acted with impunity, stealing data using commercial hackers that it pays and tasks but later claims are criminals. The use of commercial hackers is a deliberate attempt to circumvent the statements that China has made committing to stop this illegal activity”.

  • Meatable: A new lab-grown meat startup may have overcome a key barrier to making meat without slaughter

  • Mazda rotary range extender: Combining a small rotary-engine range extender with electric power could help overcome some of the rotary's challenges by using electric power to handle high loads and by maintaining a steady rpm from the rotary.

  • Micro Nuclear Reactors: Small and micro reactors could revitalize the nuclear sector

  • The Four Friends: Learn Sanskrit with subtitles

  • CK Nayudu: One of India's greatest cricketers and one of a handful to have played in six decades. In 1956-57, aged 62, he scored 52 in his last innings for Uttar Pradesh; earlier in the season he made 84 against Rajasthan, striking Vinoo Mankad for two sixes.

  • Indians are now travelling for Instagram: Domestic Indian tourism climbed 39% between 2016 and 2017, and international travel spiked 60%. Around 25 million Indians take trips abroad every year. This may cross 50 million in two years

  • Balancing the 5 Prana-Vayus: Exhalations and inhalations are connected to a vast inner system of energy, a latticework of activities all woven around the central hub of the breath.

  • "Open, moderate Islam": Saudi Arabia Embraces Yoga In Move Towards 'Moderation' 

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

'Southasia Expert' Christine Fair Blows Up on Twitter

Christine Fair - yes, that Christine Fair, the "Southasia scholar" at Georgetown University in Washington, DC - has just tweeted out the following on Twitter, earning an account ban:


She's referring to conservative US Supreme Court nominee Bret Kavanaugh, who is being subjected to a new version of L'Affaire Dreyfuss, thanks to cut-throat partisan political fighting.

During the Obama presidency, Democrats controlling the Senate were so eager to get their own judges onto the Supreme Court that they dropped the threshold of Senate approval from two-thirds down to 51%. The Democrats merrily disregarded warnings that the tables could be turned on them if the Republicans achieved a majority in the Senate, instead stubbornly choosing to push the new 51% threshold to get both of their nominees onto the court.

Now, with Republicans having that thin majority in the Senate, and Trump nominating the conservative Judge Kavanaugh for Supreme Court bench, the Democrats are thrashing, flailing and snarling to keep from being hoisted by their own petard - hysterically making last-minute accusations of Kavanaugh being a rapist, then a gang-rapist, alcoholic, etc, etc - basically making any inflammatory, incendiary charges to derail his nomination, while inflaming gender issues in the process.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham was so appalled by the Democrat inquisition against the judge, that he lashed out during the hearings:

Lindsey Graham was giving his own version of Emil Zola's "J'Accuse" outcry. Strange that the wise, sage Professor Christine Fair has now reacted against Lindsey Graham by suddenly issuing her own shrill retort.

At least the next time any white males deride Indians as a bunch of rapists, we can now remind them of how they feel when one of their own is unfairly tarred for political slander purposes.

Monday, October 01, 2018