Friday, 25 December 2009

Solution to The Two Trains Puzzle

As promised I am going to post a solution to the two trains problem.
I restate the problem below:

Two trains are speeding towards each other on the same track both at a speed of 50 km/hr. At the instant they are 100 km apart Bumble Bee starts flying from the windscreen of the first train to the second train at a speed of 75 km/hr. When it reaches the windscreen of the second train it bounces back at the same speed to the other train. It continues repeating this cycle indefinitely. Determine the total. distance traveled by Bumble Bee until the instant it experiences an untimely death due to the catastrophic head on collision between these trains.

And now for the solution:

Here is a visualization of the problem:

And here is the solution:

First we take the instant the two trains are 100 km apart.
Bumble Bee will travel towards the second train and the second train will travel towards Bumble Bee for a time 't' until they meet. The distance travelled during this time must be 100 km.

75t +  50t = 100 
125t = 100
t = 4/5

Now Bumble Bee travels towards the other train but this time the trains are only 20 km apart. So:

75t + 50t = 20
125t = 20
t = 4/25

Now Bumble Bee again travels towards the other train. But this time the trains are only 4 km apart. So the time until they meet will be 4/125.

What I am trying to do is to find the total time Bumble Bee spends bouncing between the trains. If I have that figure I can multiply it by the speed of Bumble Bee and get the distance. If you glance at the time you can immediately comprehend that the time keeps reducing but does not become zero unless I repeat the process of finding the time an infinite number of times. Serendipitously there exists a method of finding the sum of all those times that is better than spending an infinite amount of time adding an infinite amount of numbers.

We can express the total time T as an Infinite Geometric Series.

T = 4/5 + 4/25 + 4/125 + .................... ad infinitum

T =

It takes only a moron to realize that this Infinite Geometric Series converges to 1. So the total amount of time Bumble Bee spends bouncing between the trains is 1 hour.

The total distance traveled is therefore 1 x 75 = 75 km      
And that is a truly beautiful result.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Winter Solstice

It is the day of the Winter solstice, the day on which the Earth is tilted as far away from the sun as possible. And so today at midday the sun would have been tilted away form normal by as much as 23.15 degrees at the equator..

Predictably the northern hemisphere will experience it's shortest duration of daylight today. Today was also the day I planned to recheck my calculation of the tilt of the Earth's axis. But alas! The weather is unaccommodating. Despite the fact that it was reasonably bright int he morning, just before noon, clouds started gathering ominously in the sky and any hopes of a measurement crashed.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Another Calculation

Today I decided to do another calculation of interest related to the Earth. 

I chose to calculate the speed of rotation of the Earth. I needed some reference point and therefore chose to calculate the speed of one point on the Equator. I considered  the day of the Equinox i.e the day on which the duration of daylight and night time would be exactly the same(12 hours). I imagined myself on a desert island in the sea which is located exactly on the equator. On the day of the Equinox the sun would travel 180 degrees from the west to the east. From this assumption I obtained a crucial figure: The angular velocity of the Earth. Since 180 degrees in pi radians the angular velocity would be pi/12 radians per hour.
The radius of the earth is 6367.5 km. The velocity of one point on the Equator would therefore be (pi/12) * (6367.5) = 1674.365 km/hr or 463.05766716974556587756670701464 m/s.

But that was easy I did not even have to make any physical measurements. I decided to make a very interesting calculation: The difference between the speed of my feet and the speed of the top of my head. I state the radius of the Earth in meters: 6367500 m. my height is 1.67 m. 
The speed of the top of my head is.  463.05778861......(I am not displaying all 32 digits in my calculator display but I use all the digits for my calculation.)
Subtracting the speeds I find that my head is 0.0001214458271179387663942735177012 m/s faster than my foot. So during the day my foot only travels   40008182.443466016891821763486064 m while my head travels 40008192.936385479881731179951293 m. Subtracting, I get that my head travels 10.5 meters more than my foot in one day!!

Now I apply Einstein's Relativistic equation for time dilation:

The relative speed between my head and  my foot or v is 0.0001214458271179387663942735177012 m/s.
c is the speed of light. Let t-zero be 1. 
I get t-v to be  1.0000000000000000000000000820529 seconds
This means that for every second that passes for my head 1.0000000000000000000000000820529 seconds pass for my foot.

The average life expectancy of the world is 65 years. If I live to be 65, my head will have lived a total of 2049840000 seconds while my foot will have lived a total of 2049840000.000000000000000168195316536 seconds.
This means that at the end of 65 years my foot will be older than my head by 1.7 * 10^-16 or  



I think you would agree that this is a truly astounding revelation.

My Latest Book Purchase

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

A Delightful Little Problem

Here is a tricky little puzzle:

Two trains are speeding towards each other on the same track both at a speed of 50 km/hr. At the instant they are 100 km apart Bumble Bee starts flying from the windscreen of the first train to the second train at a speed of 75 km/hr. When it reaches the windscreen of the second train it bounces back at the same speed to the other train. It continues repeating this cycle indefinitely. Determine the total. distance traveled by Bumble Bee until the instant it experiences an untimely death due to the catastrophic head on collision between these trains.

It shouldn't take more than five minutes and requires only a basic understanding of mathematics and a bit of logical reasoning. I invite the readers to try to solve this puzzle and post your solutions in the comments below.(A word of advice: Make sure YOU do the problem and please try to do yourself justice by abstaining from searching for a solution online.) I will be posting a solution to this problem in one of the following posts.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

A Few Clarifications.

In my entry before the last there was a lot going on behind the scenes which I didn't explain. For the benefit of my scientifically inclined readers I am going to explain the the chain of reasoning I went through to arrive at the final answer and why my answer was as accurate as it was. One of my friends had sent me an email with an inquiry of  how I reasoned it out. Here I present my reply. I hope it clears all doubts.

To do this calculation I had to make an assumption.

First of all, I had to assume that the earth is tilted as far as possible away from the sun. Since It is December Which is winter time in the northern hemisphere, this is a pretty good approximation. But I couldn't be sure. However something else partially cancels this effect(namely, the latitude of my position).

I reasoned that since it was only the 8th of December, the earth could not have reached this maximum position(In actual fact, maximum is reached on December 22). So the angle that I calculate must be smaller than 23.45 degrees. I the checked the location of the city I stay in and I found out that it was on the 5 degree North latitude. So I reasoned that even if the angle would be smaller this smaller angle I get would be larger than the original tilt by five degrees (Since I'm 5 degrees above the equator). So if the earth was not at this maximum position, my angle would be made larger by roughly 5 degrees and my answer would therefore be closer to the correct answer.

And most importantly I made this calculation at exactly 12 noon, a time when the sun should have been directly above my head making an angle of 90 degrees. If I made the calculation at this time, then any deviation suffered by the sun from normal must be the tilt of the earth.

So I have taken into account the Latitude (5 degrees greater), and the time of the day. I do not need to worry about the longitude because all places on the same longitude will experience midday at exactly the same time. I think that covers everything.

Friday, 11 December 2009

If Zero by Zero were defined....

If zero by zero were defined a whole lot of crazy things would start to happen.
 Just as an example I quote this section of Wikipedia.

With the following assumptions:
0\times 1 &= 0 \\
0\times 2 &= 0.
The following must be true:
0\times 1 = 0\times 2.\,
Dividing by zero gives:
\textstyle \frac{0}{0}\times 1 = \frac{0}{0}\times 2.
Simplified, yields:
1 = 2.\,
The fallacy is the implicit assumption that dividing by 0 is a legitimate operation with 0/0 = 1.
Although most people would probably recognize the above "proof" as fallacious, the same argument can be presented in a way that makes it harder to spot the error. For example, consider the following equations:
 (x-x)x &= 0 = x^2-x^2 \\
 (x-x)x &= (x-x)(x+x)
Dividing by x − x gives:
x = x+x\,
and dividing by x gives:
1 = 2.\,
Therefore it would  be possible to prove that 1 = 2 and 2=3. In fact it would be within our capability to prove that any number in the number system is equal to any other number. If this were true then everything would be exactly the the same.It is therefore obvious that division by zero is undefined. If zero by zero were defined all the buildings and bridges would tumble and crumble. All calculations would be rendered useless. You wouldn't be able to tell the difference between an elephant and an ant. If zero by zero were defined, there would be no difference between you and me, no difference between big and small, no difference between hot and cold. The universe would be astoundingly uniform. There would be no stars or galaxies or beautiful nebulae. No black holes, no Quasars, no interstellar dust. The universe would be just one big boring entity.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

The Tilt of the Earth's Axis

We are all aware of the fact that the Earth's axis is tilted from the normal. This tilt is the cause of the seasons.  Today , to relieve myself of boredom I decided to calculate this tilt of the Earth's axis using a very tall lamp post and its shadow both of which could be observed from my bedroom window.
                                                                             The Tilt
I started with the shadow. I measured the length of the shadow using my normal 6.5 inch (15 cm) ruler. It recorded a length of 3.5 cm. Careful to hold my head so that it's spatial co-ordinates remain reasonably constant I measured the height of the lamp post. I knew that all angles on the triangle I constructed(See illustration below) would be exactly the same as those in the triangle formed by the original lamp post and shadow because I was working with similar triangles.

 So I did the math.
Theta would be the arctan of (8/3.5). 
θ = 66.4°

The angle of tilt (φ):
φ = 90 - 66.4°
φ = 23.6°

The actual angle of tilt of the Earth's axis is 23.45°. The error in my calculation is therefore 0.6% which is absolutely fantastic. 

And that is the story of how I measured the angle at which the Earth's axis tilts away from the normal.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

The Magic Square

I took a break from revision today after noon by constructing a 19 x 19 magic square. It turned out to be the most beautiful thing I created by hand. Behold!

It has numbers from 1 to 361 and it took exactly 20 minutes to build. That was better than I had expected. After all, I had to fill up the matrix so that each row column and diagonal gave a sum of  3439.
If you refuse to believe it I invite you to download the picture, enlarge it and utilize a calculator (or your brain) calculate the sum.

Friday, 6 November 2009

The World is Full of the Mentally Retarded - the Proof

Dear Mr Raj,
After reading your poem "The world is full of the mentally retarded." I embarked on a long and arduous journey to gather adequate proof of this obvious statement. Naturally I turned to that vast and increasingly ubiquitous encyclopaedia of of knowledge called the internet. However after weeks of sifting through megabytes of data I found proof in the unlikeliest of places.

I request all who are reading this to take of your hats and bow down low in the honour of my HOME


And I mean it. Literally. I did not have to travel any further for definitive, irrefutable, indisputable proof. The great Google was kind enough to catalog the millions of searches and analyse the data to create a list of intelligent(?) predictions whenever you type in a search term. This compilation of global search data proved to be invaluable.

So I proceeded to type in some search terms to see what the world was interested in. What Google revealed was an infinitely shocking list of disturbing search terms that seemed to immediately explain the ubiquitous presence of mental retardation in today's world.
The "why is... " queries were examined. Feast your eyes upon the result.

This is indeed a sorry state of affairs. According to statistics when millions of people go to Google and phrase a query beginning with "How to.." a majority of them wish know the mechanics of a tie. Of all the things in the world! A tie! #2 and #3 would probably explain why the population curve for humans is not sigmoid like so

Sigmoid Population Curve

but exponential like so

Exponential Population Curve
#4 and #5 are basically the same question. And I am reasonably confident that this is statistical proof of an increase in the quantity of anorexic people in the world.

Google clearly illustrates with disturbing accuracy the alarming trends shown by our population. But that wasn't proof enough for me. I needed data which scrubbed away the even tiniest shadow of doubts. And believe it or not I found it on the Great Google.

Prepare yourself for this one. The author asserts that he shall in no way be responsible for any damages incurred by the reader. (Includes injuries due to falling off chair, jumping so high with surprise that the jumper's head is crushed against the ceiling, jumping and following a parabolic path through the air and window into your nearest neighbour's dog kennel/cactus plantation.. et cetera, et cetera et ce...) It is also advisable that those with a history of heart attacks and/or have cardiac pace makers and/or have had heart surgery(bypass, angioplasty etc.) do not view the following image.


Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Miscellaneous Comment

Do you know why most of the jokes are made at the expense of either the very dumb or the very clever?

The dumb incapable of realizing that they are being made fun of and the very clever people are clever enough to be able to ignore any jokes made at their expense.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

A Library

A library is a unique location and despite the numerous visits I've made to various libraries across Asia the environment of one never ceases to inspire in me a sense of wonder.

Of all the fixtures in a library, the people are the most interesting. If on takes time to look around, the variety of people will immediately catch his/her attention. They range from young studious students to aged venerable looking octogenarians all wearing expressions of great seriousness and concentration. They roam down aisles enclosed on either side by towering bookshelves seemingly undaunted by the horrendous volume of information that surrounded them.

The most striking feature of all is the ease with which these people maintain an almost deafening silence. Even those who are naturally lively and boisterous seem to adopt the demeanor of a distinguished scholar upon entering a library. They show not the slightest indication of suppressing large volumes of their youthful energy.

Observing people who are trying to communicate within the exquisitely peaceful environment of a library is truly a fascinating experience. Such people can be seen huddled closely around some small circular table trying to read each others lips or whispering in hushed tones. There are also people who are so adept at the art of silent communication that they seemed to be able to convey paragraphs of information with a series of curt nods and swift, jerky hand gestures; rendering all spoken languages useless. It is fortunate that they master these skills quickly for making a noise in the library - even a small one - is an experience that embarrassing beyond what words can describe. I once saw a 25 year old college student perhaps alien to the strict rules imposed inside a library make this unfortunate mistake. The noise which was a spoken word just above a whisper made everyone in the vicinity glare at the poor soul for several seconds. It is a wonder that he did not melt into a puddle at that very instant.

The person who is the most interesting to watch of course is the head librarian. He sits on his wooden throne perusing some obscure text with a severe, stern expression worn so often that it was carved on his face like the smile on Mona Lisa's face. Occasionally he shifts in his position perhaps to extract another sheaf of papers from the gargantuan piles surrounding him or to adjust the pair of spectacles perched firmly and almost comically on his crooked nose. The overall effect is rather unnerving.

Observing human behaviour is always interesting, but observing how even the most boisterous and vibrant of people can so abruptly transform into such serious and silent characters is an experience that is both singular and indelible. Even if one is visits a library for the thousandth time, he will not be able to resist spending at least a quarter of an hour simply observing the people around him.

Friday, 2 October 2009


Truth is ever to be found in the simplicity, and not in the multiplicity and confusion of things.

Isaac Newton

Sunday, 16 August 2009

The Beauty Within

It is undeniable that nature is beautiful. Rainbows, Auroras, Lightning, Waterfalls...... and on goes the list. I have on many occassions experienced this beauty for myself but only recently have I realised that all this beauty that I experienced was just on the surface. I was missing out on a lot of things. When I looked at a rainbow I only saw the colours and the pleasing pattern in which they arranged themselves.

Over the holidays I read extensively on electricity and magnetism. In the process I learnt a lot about some natural phenomena that I never gave much thought about.

Lightning is one example. I now know exactly how lightning is formed in the clouds - not just about the charge on the clouds and all that but the nitty-gritty details. I then realised that the experiences of the people without this knowledge are limited. They don't see the true beauty, the beauty within.

Another example is the rainbow. From now on whenever I see a rainbow I will always verify that the colour red is indeed on the outer side of the rainbow and blue on the inner. I will always compare the section of sky inside the rainbow and the sky outside and confirm that the inside is always brighter than the outside. I will not be able to resist looking for the secondary bow outside the first one and observe that the colour sequence is inverted as compared to the brighter innner bow. It is a disease for which there is no cure. And of course I will always know that the light is very strongly polarized. I will then walk away from this experience enriched and enlightened knowing that I have experienced the beauty within the rainbow, the invisible beauty that very few have experienced.
Ah the joy of learning Physics!

Thursday, 13 August 2009


The world's largest particle accelerator ot the CERN is due to reusme operation in november this year.
The LHC (Large Hadron Collider) was shut down soon after it's first test run in the september of 2008 due to a technical problem. One of the superconducting magnets which control the path of the particle beam had a small problem. Fantastic amounts of current flow throuogh these superconductors and when this current encountered a small resistance it produced an extremely large amount of heat damaging a section of the LHC and other superconducting magnets nearby.

These magnets have been repaired and the tests are almost complete. The LHC will only start off with particle beams of lower energies (3,5 TeV).

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Perseid Meteor Shower

The Earth is entering a stream of particles emitted by the Comet Swift-Tuttle. You can expect metoer showers to light up the skies on August 11 and 12.

What causes meteor showers?

A meteor shower (some of which are known as "meteor storms" or "meteor outbursts") is a celestial event in which a number of meteors are observed to radiate from one point in thenight sky. These meteors are caused by streams of cosmic debris called meteoroids entering Earth's atmosphere at extremely high speed on parallel trajectories. Most are smaller than a grain of sand, so almost all meteoroids disintegrate and never hit the Earth's surface. Fragments which do contact Earth's surface are called meteorites.

Friday, 1 May 2009

Ode on a Grecian Urn - By John Keats.

The poem really made me think. We all perceive beauty in different ways. I saw that in class yesterday. But what in reality is beauty? Does it exist because we exist to observe it? Or does it have an existence independent of an observer? Is there something which has a 'Universal Beauty' to it such that all things percieve it as beautiful?

Many people seemed to find nature beautiful. I suppose that fact is irrefutable. But in my opinion what is truly beautiful is mathematics. It intricately and subtly connects everything in this universe. I think all mathemetics is abundant in beauty but if told to choose just one thing in it that I find beautiful I always go for Euler's Equation

e=cos π + i sin π

This I think is a unique fromula because it manages to relate five fundamental numbers into one elegant equation.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

This is a Story...

This is a story from the 17th Century.
It was a fine morning in the city of Greece. The town square was packed with people. Three people were about to be executed on the guillotine; a priest, a lawyer and a Theoretical Physicist. The priest was to go first. He was made to place his head in position and then asked if he had any last words. He said “Yes, yes, I do! I want everyone here to know that I am innocent. I believe in God and am sure that he will not let me die.” And so the blade of the guillotine was lifted up and the rope was let go. To everyone’s amazement the blade stopped just inches above the priest’s neck. The priest was set free.
It was now the Lawyer’s turn. He too was asked to position his head correctly and if he had any last words. He said “I do not believe in God, but Justice shall save me.” And so the blade was lifted again and again, the rope was let go. And again the blade stopped just inches above the lawyer’s neck. The lawyer too was set free.
And now it was the Physicist’s turn. Like before he too was asked if he had any last words. And he said “I don’t believe in God and I am not familiar with the workings of Justice but I do believe in Science. And if you look up” he continued “you will see that the rope has a knot which gets stuck in the pulley as it comes down. If you remove the knot, the guillotine will work properly again.”
And that, my dear friends was the end of the Physicist.

I heard this told by Michio Kaku, one of my favourite physicists. 

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Free Will Does NOT Exist.

Mr Raj, this is in reply to your comment on my previous blogpost. The reply was so long that I thought it would be better to put it in a separate blogpost instead

But no matter what decisions we make it is a result of electrical impulses in our brains. And these electrical impulses are a result of the movement of Sodium+ ions in our brain. Irrespective of how we make our decision we still can't make the Sodium+ ion move in a way that defies the laws of physics. When you choose to marry someone the "love" you feel corresponds to specific areas of the brain firing electrical impulses. By using Newtonian Mechanics slightly modified with General Relativity and the Principles of Quantum Mechanics we can calculate the fate of all the Sodium ions that created the electrical impulses. That is the theory put in its simplest form. If we ant to count the external factors, we take into consideration the events that happen around us. For example, choosing a career. It is a few specific events in a person's life that leads a person to choose a career. Other factors include mental ability, opportunities and finances. Mental abilities are completely determined by the size and health of specific sections in the brain which consists of atoms whose fate can be determined. Opportunities are determined by the state of the economy and other factors which are affected by the import/export of goods and specific economic events. All these events include matter which is made up of atoms whose fate can be predicted. Finances mean money and other assets which can be liquidated into cash thus helping you to get some education thus helping you to choose the desired career. Since money and assets are made up of matter they contain atoms whose fate can be predicted. As for events in a person's life those events are a direct result of interaction between matter particles (if the event involves you father telling you something his mouth is affecting the air molecules to move which carries the sound to your ears which make your eardrums move causing electrical impulses in your brain causing a decision/opinion to be formed.) I could also explain with appropriate detail how any other factors affect the decision making process. Give me any event ant I'll explain it. As difficult as it may seem to believe, all events ARE predetermined by the laws of physics. The notion that we are free to act as we wish is an Illusion. In fact we are forced to act as though free will existed by the Laws of Physics. Because, In theory we can map every single movement of each and every particle in the universe right from it's creation about 380000 years after the Big Bang up to it's destruction(Whenever that is). If we can do that in the atomic level it follows that we can do that in the macroscopic level. The only reason that we haven't done this yet is because as the size of the system we are dealing gets larger, the number of equations which we deal with gets larger and larger. So to predict the fate of a system as large as the human body we would nee computers with at least a hundred (or more) times the computing speed of today's computers. According to Moore's law (Which states that power of computers doubles approximately every 18 months. And it has stood wonderfully till now) that will take another 50-100 years. But stepping stones to the creation of such 'quantum computers' of immense power have already been laid. Scientists have used the power of 7 atoms vibrating exactly in phase with each other to calculate that 5 x 7 = 35. Although this is simple, we may see exceedingly complex quantum computers as the years advance.

Friday, 10 April 2009

Free Will - Does it Really Exist?

 "To Newton and Einstein, the notion of free will, the notion that we are masters of our own destiny was an illusion. The commonsense notion of reality, that concrete objects that we touch are real and exist in definite states, Einstein called "objective reality." He most clearly presented his position as follows:

I am a determinist, compelled to act as though free will existed, because if I wish to live in a civilized society, I must act responsibly. I know philosophically a murderer is not responsible for his crimes, but I prefer not to take tea with him. My career has been determined by various forces over which I have no control, primarily those mysterious glands in which nature prepares the very essence of life. Henry Ford may call it his Inner Voice, Socrates referred to it as his daemon: each man explains in his own way the fact that the human will is not free . . . Everything is determined . . . by forces over which we have no control . . . for the insect as well as for the star. Human beings, vegetables or cosmic dust, we all dance to a mysterious time, intoned in the distance by an invisible player." - From: "Parallel Worlds", by Michio Kaku

The above statement may seem more related to the concept of God than Science, but scientifically speaking, this statement holds good. Because, theoretically, if we calculate the fate of every particle in a human body taking into account all the forces acting on it we are effectively predicting the fate of that person! The problem is, that the number of forces acting on one particle alone are so numerous that we would need a computer with computing ability millennium ahead of the current level to calculate the fate of a system as large as a human body.

This theory however leads to a most startling conclusion. It implies that the fate of every single particle in the world is predetermined and can be predicted right up to it's destruction. Effectively this means that all events that happen in this world, from the motion of stars and galaxies right down to the beat of a butterfly's wing and your neighbour picking his nose was predetermined by the Laws of Physics at the time of the Big Bang! 


Thursday, 9 April 2009

The Strange World of Quantum Physics - Heisenberg's uncertainty Priciple.

A few days ago, I came across a very interesting effect of Heisenberg's Uncertianty Principle.
The theory states that it is impossible to know simultaneously with an infinte degree of accuracy both the position and velocity of a particle. In a very beautiful and exquisite way the diffraction pattern one observes in light is one of the proofs of this theory. 
Imagine that we are shining a light through a large slit so that there is a beam of light falling on a screen.
Now imagine that we are slowly making the slit smaller and smaller. The iwdth of the beam will get smaller ans smaller. But afte a certain point Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle comes into action. since we know the position of the light  beam with greater and greater accuracy, we will know the velocity and therefore the momentum with lesser and lesser accuracy(Since P=mv). This results in the beam of light widening out and displaying a diffraction pattern as follows:

A Limerick

There was once a young man from Trinity,
Who took the square root of infinity,
The number of digits,
Gave him the fidgits,
So he dropped math and took up Divinity.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

My Most Recent Book Purchase

Michio Kaku, the author is a renowned Theoretical Physicist who frequently appears in the Discovery science channel. 

Friday, 27 March 2009

Debate: Stem-Cell Research Should Be Banned

The 27th of March 2009 will go down in history as the day in which Ipoh International School flattened STAR school in a debate on the topic: Stem Cell Research should be banned. 

Here is an interesting article you might want to read:

Stem Cells Heal a Broken Heart

Sixteen-year-old Dimitri Bonnville had already been accidentally shot in the heart with a nail gun while doing home repair, undergone open-heart surgery and suffered a massive heart attack, when doctors told his parents he needed a heart transplant.

The doctors did offer an alternative: Bonnville could become the first human to receive experimental stem-cell therapy to revive his damaged heart tissue. They went ahead with the procedure, the results of which could turn the stem-cell debate on its head.

Doctors at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan, used a procedure that, if successful, could eliminate some of the controversy surrounding the medical use of embryonic stem cells, as well as the practice of therapeutic cloning.

"We're very excited because we think that there's already been substantial recovery of cardiac function," said William O'Neill, Beaumont's chief of cardiology, regarding Bonnville's progress.

The teenager's therapy began Feb. 17 with a four-day regimen of a drug that stimulated the production of stem cells in his blood. On Feb. 21, doctors harvested Bonnville's stem cells. Using a heart catheter, they transplanted the stem cells into the artery that supplies blood to the front of the heart.

He was discharged about a week later and is now recuperating at home. His doctors say they have never seen a recovery like his.

"We did cardiac MRI studies and we found that basically the entire front wall of his heart was dead (before the procedure)," O'Neill said. "Many other patients we have observed like this have never seen any improvement."

The stem cells -- master cells that can grow into almost any type of tissue in the body -- used to treat Bonnville were taken from his own blood, which eliminated the possibility of rejection by his immune system.

Many scientists believe that embryonic stem cells -- usually taken from 4-day-old embryos that are often obtained from leftover stores at in-vitro fertilization clinics -- are the most powerful and flexible of all the cells.

On Aug. 9, 2001, President Bush declared that scientists who receive federal research funds could work only with the 60 or so embryonic stem-cell lines that had been created before that day. In reality, however, the number of usable lines turned out to be fewer than 10.

However, the Beaumont procedure doesn't require embryonic stem cells at all, because the necessary cells were taken from Bonnville's own blood. The experimental therapy also eliminates the need for another intensely debated technique: therapeutic cloning.

The assumption that therapeutic cloning is key to the success of embryonic stem-cell therapies (none of which has yet been shown to work) has permeated both the stem-cell and cloning debates.

By creating a cloned embryo of a patient and extracting stem cells from it, scientists believe they might get around the body's tendency to reject new cells as an immune response.

Since Bonnville's own cells were used in the procedure, rejection isn't a concern, O'Neill said.

"They're his own cells, highly concentrated, and we put them into the damaged area," he said. "We wouldn't anticipate anything different than we would normally."

Other studies have suggested that simply injecting stem cells into a damaged area might be enough to instigate tissue repair. But most of the work has been done with younger stem cells taken from embryos or aborted fetuses.

This appears to be the first piece of evidence that stem cells taken from someone as old as 16 have differentiated so effectively. Still, O'Neill says he's not sure the results could be duplicated in older people.

"We know that based on age, older people have less recovery of heart function," he said. "It's very possible this is age-dependent."

Other researchers said the results look promising, but that it will take time to determine whether the treatment is a success.

"I think it's extremely hopeful," said Dr. Neil Theise, a stem-cell researcher at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York.

Dr. Sam Dudley, a cardiologist at Emory University in Atlanta who is also involved in stem-cell research, said that even if Bonnville continues to improve, it may be hard to know whether it was thanks to the therapy, and, if so, how it worked.

"I think this is a wonderful thing that they did," Dudley said. "We have to (proceed) judiciously because we need to know a little bit more what we're doing."

The fact that Dimitri Bonnville didn't have any appealing alternatives to the stem-cell therapy made the decision to go with an experimental treatment easy, his father said.

"We felt that he just had really limited options," Craig Bonnville said. "We heard the doctors talk about it, and they offered a chance as long as it was approved through their hospital to have it done. And we felt that was a very low-risk, high-reward scenario for Dimitri, especially being 16 years old."

Beaumont doctors said they hope soon to begin clinical trials of their stem-cell technique. 

Saturday, 21 March 2009

The Music of Numbers

Something that I discovered a few days ago just proved that mathematics and nature are closely and inseparably entwined with each other. 
It all started when I developed an interest for a certain sequence called the Fibonacci Sequence. I'd been fiddling around with it for quite some time when on March the 7th one brilliant idea struck me as I was waking up in the morning. Why not relate the sequence to the musical notes  A B C D E F and G? I immediately grabbed a piece of paper and wrote down the first few numbers of the Fibonacci sequence and started working out their corresponding musical notes. After working out the first 5 notes, I asked my brother to play them on the keyboard for me.  Astonishingly, the sequence did not create noise as I had expected but recognizable music! You can imagine my surprise; and I don't even know anything about music other than the 7 notes.  
I then proceeded to work out the rest of the sequence and six others as well, but in all of them the notes after the first five did not sound very much like music to me. 
A few days later, I told my good friend ECYL about the music sequence just to see if the music I created had any substance in it. I had yet another surprise when she told me that the whole sequence of notes represents an entire recognisable music sequence. In other words, I had made music with math. 
The very next day I ran a few searches on Google to see whether anybody had discovered the sequence before me. I felt quite elated after 1 hour of searching revealed nothing alike. I was beginning to think I had made a really big discovery, but I was wrong. After a few well worded searches in Google Scholar, I unearthed a long lost research paper on Fibonacci Pitch Sets written by someone called Casey Mongoven. 
I was a bit disappointed at first, but then I realized the implications of what had just happened. I had actually discovered something a university scholar had all by myself! It just proves that I have the right mindset for research. 
So I am now searching for another topic to research on.  

Saturday, 14 March 2009

I Repeat:

Recently a few students (Who are NOT from my class) expressed their surprise at my apparent lack of friends. Most of the students in the school have their own circle of friends and during recess; they divide themselves up into their ‘clicks.’ It seems to be the most popular way of socializing. These people asked me why I don’t have any friends yet as I usually walk around the school campus, do my Prefect’s duties and go to the library alone. They seemed to be even more surprised at the fact that it has been two years since I came to the school. Usually a new student takes no more than a few days to worm their way into one of these ‘clicks’. 

I have answered this question once, but I shall do so again for the benefit of certain people.

Everyone has a unique identity. If a person has a lot of friends, he needs to have the kind of personality that can please people with different personalities. These are the people with the so-called “Golden Formula” for friendship. But these kind of people are very rare because as we know, nature is very sparing with her gifts. Most of the people who have large circles of friends change their personality to make friends. I have seen people so desperate to make friends that they always hang around others like puppies on a leash trying to pick up a few pointers. Once they find out what kind of personality appeals to the general crowd, they put on a disguise complete with a mask. They channel their personalities through layers of mental filters only bringing out what is needed to ‘fit in’ and sometimes adding to their behaviour to get what they want.  

Dear readers, don’t you think that this is ridiculous? I’d prefer solitude to living under an eternal shroud for the sake of human companionship. You are blocking your true nature for the sake of socializing. To some people this may seem like nothing as I have heard people who claim “I thrive on socializing.” What these people have to remember is that the friends whom you gain through this behaviour ‘reformatting’ are definitely NOT true friends. They are in love with your clothes (figuratively speaking) and not your character. They don’t like you for what you really are. The moment you show your true colours, they are ready to sever all ties they had with you because there will be others waiting to replace you. Others who can wear their shroud and display social behaviour better than you can. Do you really need friends like those? And do you know how insulting it is for those friends of yours who really do respect you for who you are? Your real friends?

I on the other hand, am not interested in masquerading under a false identity. I want to preserve my original nature as far as possible. I only need friends who respect me for what I really am. They are people who I can call real friends (Namely: ECYL, LKS, LHZ and SSK). 

I know I have explained this before but I do so again, just to show you all how strongly I feel about this. Thank you all for reading.

Note: I hope this post was read by those people who asked me this question.

Friday, 13 March 2009

A Few Photographs I Took From My Apartment Building


A few days ago someone criticized me for reading "childish" books like the three I just displayed two posts previously. 
I think that reading is a person's personal choice and that there is no age restriction for it. As long as a person is not reading books that contain material meant for higher ages, he is at complete liberty to read any book he wants. And  Eoin Colfer's books are NOT shallow and childish. In fact they contain a lot of science. Especially the Artemis Fowl series. I have gained quite a bit of knowledge from Colfer's books. Maybe you think they are shallow because you do not understand them? Or maybe because of your prejudice against Science?
It is my personal opinion that Colfer's books are very interesting. And besides,  you have no right to be telling me what kind of books I read. You may like 'serious' books about politics and The Knights Templar but I don't. I am a man of science. And I don't limit myself against books below my age limit. I would read any of Enid Blyton's books if I had them. The notion that you should only read books of your own age is completely silly. 
You say that we should not be conformists, but it is you who is conforming now by reading 'mature' books that you say people of your age should read. Your peers may read such books. You look at them and think they look very 'serious' and 'mature' when they read "President Bush's Actions after 9/11" or "Post World war economy". Therefore you read the same kind of books to make yourself look mature. You are conforming with your peers. 
Anybody can read children's books. That does not make them any less mature. 

Monday, 9 March 2009

Saturday, 28 February 2009

The Curious Sequence

A few days ago during my mathematical investigations, I discovered something of an anomaly. 

A normal Arithmetic or Geometric progression can be accurately represented by a formula which can be used to find the (n)th term of that progression. In this particular situation, I was working on the Fibonacci Sequence in which each term is the  sum of the previous two numbers.

1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89 .......................................

Now I thought it was a normal geometric progression and applied the formula to find out the (n)th term. First I divided successive terms to find a definite ratio between the numbers. To my surprise, there was none. I then tried to find the formula  thinking that it was an arithmetic progression. I tried to find the difference between the terms, and to my utter surprise found that each time I tried to find the constant difference between, a new Fibonacci Sequence is formed. Amazing, isn't it? 

Monday, 9 February 2009

An Incident

The previous Friday after returning home from school, I inadvertently forgot to remove my Kingston Data Traveller from my uniform pocket. Unfortunately I only realized this two days later when I required it to retrieve my one of the files inside. 100% sure that its circuits would have been completely destroyed during the wash cycle I retrieved it from the trousers and fitted it into the USB port of my computer. You can imagine my surprise when its indicator LED started blinking and autostarted as though it had never even come into contact with water. Imagine! After 1 whole wash cycle! I am quite sure that the manual of the data traveller did not mention resistance to water. Perhaps Kingston thought it might add this feature as an extra precaution. 

Friday, 6 February 2009

The Recipe

The previous week I concocted a cake recipe for my English assignment. I was about to do what all other's would do: copy and paste the essentials from the internet and add their own touch. Then an idea struck me. I decided to do it impromptu, and just write down what came to my head. This was the the result.

1.Combine the butter, water, sugar, cocoa powder and chocolate together in a medium sized saucepan. 

2. Place over gentle heat. Bring to the boil whilst stirring. You need to stir until everything has dissolved to stop the mix from burning. After stirring 7 times clockwise, add 12 ml of pure honey of the finest quality. Continue stirring anti-clockwise for 13 minutes. Be careful that the mix does not boil over. Simmer gently for 5 minutes. After the third minute add three drops of vanilla essence and sandalwood extract.

3. Remove from the heat. Cover with a lid and leave to cool to room temperature. Heat the mixture gently again. Using a thermometer to measure the temperature, follow the next step while trying to keep the temperature constant at 37°C/98.6°F.  

4. Whisk in gently the flour and sodium bicarbonate into the liquid. Whisk 144 times. All lumps should have dissolved into the batter now. The batter should have achieved the viscosity of a mixture of corn-flour, soy-bean, sun-flower and olive oils.  

5. Pour batter into the prepared baking pan. Remember the baking pan must be lined with linseed oil mixed with unsalted butter. The batter should level naturally in 30 seconds. Tap the tin on the kitchen bench 8 times to remove any large air bubbles. 

6. Bake in a preheated oven set at 169.975oC (337.955°F) for 88 minutes. The top of the cake will crack and display a poison ivy pattern. Don’t worry the cracks will settle and be hidden when you turn the cake out of the tin. But Internal fissures will form, dividing the internal into three layers. This will not collapse as the mix is quite rigid. 

7. Remove from the oven. Leave in bright sunlight or a UV-Lamp for 11.5 minutes. The cake must display a colour of light brown tinged with golden patches.

8. During the 11.5 minutes melt 35 bars of 350g Toblerone chocolates in a vessel big enough to hold the cake but of small enough width to make the chocolate liquid level above the cake. Use a thermometer to keep the solution at 50°C. Gently drop the cake into the mix. It should sink completely within 45 seconds. 

9. To add to the flavor heat until the chocolate starts bubbling and within 5 minutes, add essence of strawberry and a teaspoon of Asafoetida powder. After 5 minutes the cake will have completely absorbed the chocolate and will sit in the container with a 0.8 mm covering of chocolate on the surface and two 1.3 cm layers inside.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

The The Three Mysterious Lights

Just a few minutes ago at around 10:50 pm I was standing in the balcony of my apartment feeling the cool breeze caress my face. I looked up to see if I could identify a few of the stars that appeared in the sky as today was one of those rare nights on which the sky is not cloudy. A few seconds later I spotted two red lights above the tree-tops. I stood there staring at the lights wondering what they were when another light apperared forming a 'V' shape vaguely reminiscent of migrating birds. The lights were moving too slowly for the possibility of them being aeroplanes. The stayed in the air for about 5 minutes before they slowly faded out of view. I am still speculating on what those lights actually were. Weather balloons, maybe? 

Friday, 30 January 2009

The Beauty of Mathematics

"To those who do not know mathematics it is difficult to get across a real feeling as to the beauty, the deepest beauty, of nature ... If you want to learn about nature, to appreciate nature, it is necessary to understand the language that she speaks in"
-Richard Feynman

"Mathematics is the unshaken Foundation of Sciences, and the plentiful Fountain of Advantage to human affairs."
-Isaac Barrow

As those above rightly put it, nowhere is the beauty of mathematics more evident than in a mathematical equation. 

The most incomprehensible thing about this world is the fact that it is comprehensible. Take life for example. Life exists due to chemical reactions and processes of extreme complexity, the perfect properties of elements. Take the behaviour of an object as it falls towards the earth; the behaviour of objects as the near the speed of light, the wave-particle duality of matter and radiation. All of these and many more display complexity of mountainous proportions. Yet with the scientific method, all these concepts can be broken down and expressed completely in terms of a concise group of facts and a beautiful mathematical equation. 

Whenever we talk about math only numbers come into the mind of most people. What these people don't realize is the fact that there is much more to mathematics than just numbers. The connections beetween numbers and nature is subtle and mind-blowing. Take the ratio of phi, which is approximately equal to 1.6180339887.

The occurence of this ratio in nature is too frequent to be ignored. The ratio has been found to be expressed in the arrangement of leaves on tree branches and the veins in the leaves. The ratio has also been found in the skeletons of animals and the branchings of their veins and nerves,  the proportions of chemical compounds and the geometry of crystals, even. The Golden Ratio is seen to be operating as a universal law.

Many such mathematical constants exist in this world, such as:

  • Pi= ~3.142
  • The Universal Gravitational Constant= 6.67 x 10^-11
  • e=2.718 

et cetera, et cetera....

The existance of such constants and the subtle connections they have with each other leads me to believe that this universe and mathematics are deeply interconnected. 

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

The Parasite

Like the trap of a forest spider,Like the treacherous patch of quicksand,The dangerous lure of the parasite,
Draws in victims,
Slowly but surely,

The parasite waits, like a crouching tiger,
In the guise of an innocent flower,
That masks the venomous serpent,
Coiled, ready to strike.

The trap is sprung, unwittingly perhaps,
But the parasite has gained a foothold,
Too late it is, to realize,
All that glitters is not gold.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

The Definition of Life

For years, scientists have tried to accurately and properly define life. They have been anything but successful. The definitions that are generally used are based on what life on Earth looks like.

However recently scientists have been forced to find a new definition for life. Life on Earth is carbon based. Carbon displays one very special property. It can catenate. Catenation is the property of an atom by which it can form  long chains by varying the number of electrons that are shared in their covalent bonds. This enables carbon to  combine with hydrogen and oxygen to form organic moleculed with extremely complex structures. 

According to scientists, there is another compond which could possibly serve as a base for life: Silicon. With an atomic mass of 28; an atomic number of 14, scientists say that Silicon based life forms could develop given the right circumstances. But it would be life in slow-motion. Silicon forms stronger bonds with other atoms and the reactions that take place could be so sloe that we might not even recognise it as life if we saw it.

Another interesting thing is that computer viruses also display some of the characteristics of life. They can replicate themselves and move from PC to PC through the internet. They use up memory on a computer chip to 'live'. This might strike some people as going a bit too far with imagination but the theory certainly has a logical side to it. We define life as we do becuse we are used to seing living, breathing creatures on earth. But the first step to discover Extra-Terrestrial life is to broaden our perspective. What a pity it would be if we discovered a planet with ET and failed to recognise it.

But is there really anyone out there? The question remains......   

The James Webb Space Telescope

Given Below is an artist's impression of The JWST

 The James Webb Space telescope is a space observatory which 'sees' in the infra-red spectrum. It is to be the successor of the famous Hubble Space Telescope. It is an  international collaboration between NASA, the Canadian Space Agency  and the European Space Agency. The Collaboration is led by NASA.

The launch of this telescope is scheduled in 2013. Light based telescopes can see very far into the universe, provided they are pwerful enough. But their range of vision is limited by interstellar dust and clouds of gas. Being able to see in the infra-red spectrum is a big advantage to astronomers. Infra-red radiation, unlike light is able to pass through these clouds of dust and gas and will enable the telescope to obtain photographs of greater detail and clarity. 

The JWST will be placed in one of the special Lagrange points. At this point, the JWST will orbit the Sun with the Earth and Moon behind it at all times. This is to reduce infra-red radiation interference from the sun. The telescope also has a shield which shields it effectively from any radiation coming from the Sun and keeps it at a constant temperature of around 40 Kelvin(-233.15 degrees C). This is to ensure that the telescope's own IR radiation does not interfere with the sensitive instruments. The time taken for the orbit will be one year(Same as that of Earth). 

The telescope is expected to stay in service for atleast five years.

King Richard III

This is the book I will be using in my Literature classes. Usually I am unable to decipher Shakespeare's unique combination of prose and verse. 

Either this book is written in a style different compared to his other books or my vocabulary has increased in the 1 year that has passed without me reading any of Shakespeare's works, because I find King Richard III Much easier to understand than any of his other works. Of course I have read the abridged versions of his books, but I prefer unabridged versions of books because the editors usually add in their own interpretations and analyses of the story which can leave the reader with the wrong impression of the writer.



Wednesday, 14 January 2009

The Time Paradox

Whenever the talk of time travel occurs, a phenomena that is sure to be the topic of discussion in the trusty time paradox. A time paradox is explained by the most common example: the "Grandfather Paradox". In this paradox you go back in time to kill your own grandfather and hence you wouldn't exist in the future and so you wouldn't have been able to go and kill your grandfather........(The sentence runs off as much as the effect does.). This explanation was invented to explain some of the concepts of time travel that we did not quite understand.

In my opinion the time paradox does not exist. We cannot change the past. If in the future I go back to change the past in some way, then we are already feeling the repercussions of my actions. If I go back I've already been back. This leads to the one definite statement: We cannot change our past or present, we can only change our future. But however if we do an action in the past which affects my going back to the past then we go into another parallel universe in which the results of our actions can happen. 

That is another implication of time travel. It implies that there are many millions of parallel universes in which the many million possibilities of that could happen, happen. In the case of the grandfather paradox the person who kills his grandfather is transported to another universe in which this twisted reality can happen. At least that is my understanding.

There are many methods of time travel that exist only in theory.On very radical theory is the transport of information through wormholes or space shortcuts. Any objects with mass cannot travel faster than light or at the speed of light. So they cannot travel through wormholes unharmed. The idea is to send streams of information through this wormhole to beam ourselves to the past. We convert ourselves into a stream of information that the time tunnel will reconstruct into our bodies at the end. According to theory information cannot be destroyed as it travels through the time tunnel or wormhole.

Another method involves using circular beams of high energy lasers to bend the space-time fabric. According to Einstein, sapce and time are closely related, interwoven and interlocked like a fabric. If space is bent enough it will warp time with it allowing us to slow down or speed up time.

The world of science is interesting indeed....

Monday, 12 January 2009

Time Travel

There is a long lasting debate on the subject of time travel. Is it possible? The truth is, no one is very sure. The most common arguement against it is the principle of mass and time dilation. According to Einsteins well known Theory of Relativity as an object approches the speed of light, in addition to its relative time get slower, its mass tends towards infinity. It is represented by the equation M = m/((1-(v^2)/(c^2)))^0.5, where v is the speed of the object(m/s), c is the speed of light(299792458 m/s), m is the rest mass of the object and M is the imcreased mass of the object.

It is obvoius from the equation that as the speed of the object approaches c M tends to m/0 which is infinite. However this is not the only way to warp space and time as some Physicists have discovered. Einsteind said that space and time are closely related. It is something like a fabric in fact closely interwoven. So if in any way we are able to bend or warp space we would also be creating a loop which could lead to the past or the future. A Physicist called Ronald Mallett is investigating the possibility of warping sapce-time withe the help of high energy lasers. He hopes to experiment on subatomic particles with very little lifespans. If the time machine works it could manifest itself in the lengthening of the lifespan of the particle by beaming the particle into the future.

The possiblities of time travel may be just beyond our reach.............