Thursday, January 31, 2013

Farthest Galaxy Discovered is 13.4 Billion Light Years Away

OK, here's my effort at explaining the conundrum I have been mulling over.

For this, let us first read two articles:


A few thoughts strung together to explain my predicament/ conundrum:

The universe exploded into being 13.7 billion years ago.

400 million yrs later, the entire  universe must have been a far smaller place than it is now - since it has been expanding exponentially since. 
Let me call that point 'K', which was 400 million years after the Big Bang.

The farthest galaxy recently discovered - they call it  MAC0647JD -  was a mere 600 light years wide. It was a dwarf galaxy back then. So let's from this moment call it mini MAC. 

It is expected that since then it may have combined with other galaxies or expanded or whatever to form a larger whole (just as our Milky Way in its journey from ancient history may have done).

Taking the raisin example of the loaf of bread (in the other link I sent), it means our Milky Way galaxy ancestor (in whatever form it was) was pretty close in space to mini-MAC 400 million years after the Big Bang.

In other words, the light of miniMAC reached our ancestral galaxy taking a period of time, as per the distance between them (so - if they were 400 million light years apart, the light of miniMAC reached our ancestral galaxy in another 400 million years - point here is that  the light was as the mini-MAC looked at point K.

What I cannot understand is how can we (same ancestral galaxy now morphed after another 12 plus billion years later) continue to see the same K. It technically means that if there was an eye in our ancestor (billions of years ago), it would have seen the same mini MAC as it was in point K, and the Milky Way now sees the very same K.

 It means that as the Milky Way ancestor has journeyed through the universe, we have continued to see miniMAC the same as in period K over billions of years. Which is ridiculous.

It also means that for all you know, we are also watching miniMAC as it has become a few billion years later, elsewhere in the sky - ALL AT THE SAME TIME!

I was trawling the net trying to resolve this conundrum, when I came upon this Khan Academy site 

- where there is a reply that resonates with the same thought, and I copy it here: 

This is the whole magic of this theory. It is possible (in theory), that an insignificant distant newborn star, some 4.5 billion light years away, is actually our own Sun as it was 4.5 billion years ago when it came to be. We just would not be able to recognize it, because it and everything around it would look different at that area of spacetime.

Then of course the spin off ideas are truly fascinating - for it means there are actually far fewer galaxies in the sky than we think there are. Many are avatars of each other.

This in a nutshell is my conundrum. Illumination, anyone out there??

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Kolaveri Di - Signifying Everything

Published in

Why this Kolaveri Di?  14 million hits on 3rd December 2011 and counting...
The funny thing about a viral is that – like news, it is time-bound, and after the initial buzz, fizzles so completely that you later wonder what it was about. 
Kolaveri is relatable by all – and yet not quite one's own lingo. Most of it is understood yet leaves something incomplete to the Indian imagination.
Tamil is the not-quite-other 'other' to the rest of India. A Dravidian language spoken in the Southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, Tamil, and its brethren Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada form the  base of  the regional film industry. With a glancing acquaintance with Northern India's Bollywood, the two worlds rarely come together or collide. They could belong to different planets – going by the stars, sets, stories, music and fans.
Until Kolaveri Di.
The seamless social network  and the vast Indian demographic dividend of the 65% less-than-35-years youth segment have finally made out with one another, cutting across regions. 
In the Indian world mediated as it is by twenty two official languages, Kolaveri uses 'only English' – in Tamil. And this is the patois spoken in more urban homes today. Where the  nouns and adjectives, in English, are strung together by the grammatical 'if’, ‘but’, ‘the’, ‘and’ and ‘is' in the tongue spoken by the parents. ‘Windanu shudda kar de’ (‘shut the window’ – in Punjabi), ‘Moonu-white-u’ (‘the moon is white’  - in Tamil), ‘Bread-e butter dao’  (‘give me buttered bread’ – in Bengali) is what the nextgen feels totally at home in. 
Kolaveri sublimates and air-conditions the stereotypical broken heart, moon, holy cow, white girl with black heart – in Tamlish, and hits the sweet spot at multiple points. Why has this Kolaveri Kolaveri Kolaveri diexploded as an anthem of a cynical youth-gen fed 24/7 through dozens of channels and the internet on an over abundant supply of  West and East – Lady Gaga, Bieber, Antabella, and the now jaded Rahman, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, Pritam, and worse, Punjabi Bollywood?
Dhanush has given multiple interviews in the last few days expressing surprise at the song's success because he says he is not actually a singer (he is a Tamil film actor and son-in-law of the Tamil super-god-star Rajnikanth). My dad, a Hindustani classical musician, laughs this off. After I got him to hear Kolaveri, (he enjoyed it), he said do not underestimate a South Indian's command over 'sur' (melody) and 'taal' (rhythm). One more of those wonderful beliefs we all live with, north of the Sahyadris. 
The entire filming of the video is as if in the studio – right out of the reality show genre. The expression on the face of the music cast is poker-faced and vacant, not unlike the faces of the artists, waiting in the wings to go on stage of a  highly theatrical and impassioned drama.
For now, let us leave the ensemble reveling in the encore.  
Pa pa pa ppan,  pa pa pa ppan, pa pa ppan ppan pa pa ppan
© Piyul Mukherjee 2011


  • 2 December 2011 at 1:56 pm
    Priya says:
    I really like this song. I have heard it at least 1000 times.
  • 1 December 2011 at 11:15 pm
    Malcolm Evans says:
    I’m getting mega-enthusiastic feedback about this piece and the link from all over. What a great song. Nothing like this musically and lyrically in UK since everybody over the age of 3 was singing ‘Crazy’ by Gnarls Barkley one summer 5 or 6 years ago. Dear semionauts, please share the music that’s currently getting under people’s skin and into their brains and bodies wherever you are. And give us some of the story as Piyul has done with such poise and fun and brilliance here!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

It's All About the Looks, Silly

What do ZNMD and our obsession about Hina Khar have in common?

Apart from the bag worth lakhs of rupees that is - ?

Both celebrate the pinnacle position of our consumption economy. What Santosh Desai calls the importance of the trivial overriding the significant, in our lives. Our readiness to embrace the culture of consumption. Where glamour has translated into presumed effectiveness.

India-Pakistan - koi problems hi nahi hai bhai. All simulated by those Delhi-Isloo types.

The movie celebrates how cool it is to be rich and inward gazing and the media frenzy on Khar represents that everything can be - and is - and should be, a spectacle.

The world is no longer about delayed gratification. The new prevailing mood is 'relayed gratification' - in the name of adventure sports or attires or shoes.

Once upon a time, the youth of the seventies had the Angry Young Man created in part by Javed Akhtar: A Rebel With a Cause. Amitabh Bachchan

By the turn of the century and along the line came Rakesh Mehra's Rang De Basanti - Rebels without a Cause. Yet youth in search of goals in life.

By the time the next decade has come around, the Akhtar nextgen has put their finger as unerringly as their dad did, on the shooting pulse of the youth: Rebels Without a Pause.

Unending self-centred live-in-own-bubble gratification. Of simulating dangers - for the world inhabited has no real dangers in any case, to then face them squarely.
Aa Bail Mujhe Maar is legit motto of the Indian demographic dividend.
Human relationships or any other global causes - eh, whatcha talking about??

There were two tantalizing angles left dangling. Hrithik and Farhan start out in an uneasy awkwardness over a woman in the past, who is no longer in the picture. Is in fact irrelevant to their lives. A delicious irony in the fractures left behind - but in keeping with the true spirit of the times, the intriguing depths of such a relationship between the guys is not dwelled on at all.

As in the times, we skim thru life. It's as if the media is telling me: Don't be so hyper, learn to enjoy life. Problem kaheko khada kar rahe ho? Enjoy the movie na... Splurge on the multiplex, chill with a soda, sit back in your designer wear.

Firangis (Spaniards bichare whoa re thrilled we will now line up as tourists in their land) are now grist to the games of our over-confident and brash Indian selves, and the jokes played on unsuspecting bystanders is the new benchmark of being funny.
A son in search of a biological father, has no compunctions of starting off a potent and short-lived relationship with the dad, riding on the back of a failed joke that brings them to the police station. It's just one more non-place to pass through, in life, which parents will take care of, kind of like Manu Sharma - the chap who shot Jessica.

When Farhan wants to call 'Salman', his friends ask him 'But why would he help us'?
Well-asked, well noted by screenplay writer Farhan. Talk of the singularity of rich brats' lives: the thought of strangers helping out is unthinkable - in lives spent chasing the next rainbow. The rest of the planet's inhabitants are mere props on the stage, when they are not the thoughtless butt of jokes that is.

Live life in this moment alone is the credo that has chased the makers of the film to their later publicity tour. While in the NDTV studio in the weekend the movie released, even before the director or the lead stars got any comment in edgeways, the channel cut them off rudely and dramatically. Because tabloid king 'Murdoch had just been attacked'. As it turned out, by a clown with shaving foam.

Motto of the second decade of the twenty first century: pleasure seeking is legit. Enjoying money is my own prerogative - am no Gandhi to think of anything else and come on, give me a break, this is my life.
All those Motorcycle Diaries road trip and all - first of all, dunno what you are talking about. This face on my T shirt? Oh that's Che, some chap who became an icon not quite sure why. But he sure makes a cool icon - bought it for 100 dollars.

There is a phrase academics have for this: it's called Late Capitalism. In which we puppets dance to the tune of the market. The ultimate aim, for all of us is to be covered in the intellectual People magazine and live life in 3D on P3.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Greenathon Success Equals State Failure

My mom wants to buy a few solar lanterns and take it with her when she next goes back to Kamarpukur, the village where she runs a preparatory free tuitions school for some rural children in West Bengal.

She's asked me to buy it from NDTV's Greenathon and give it to her.

Except that it doesn't quite work that way.

What we are asked to do is to donate money and they will go provide the lanterns at villages of their choice. Apparently 200 villages covered so far. Even that - not the entire village, I expect - just a few homes in each.

And this is how the individualized world of a liberalized economy operates.

We stop questioning why the state - the central government that is - has not ensured electricity to the masses nearly 65 yrs after independence, and more than 20 years after reaching a 'galloping GDP' trajectory.

We learn to take pride in our individual feel and do good moments, and brush thoughts of factors such as 0.033% aside. That is what 200 villages actually represents in a country of 600,000 villages. When calculated as number of households, the percentage will plunge further.

As the media celebrates and self-congratulates, will someone stop and question why the state is under no pressure, no answerability whatsoever to make a true scaleable difference? When and how has it abdicated so completely that it can now rest comfortably allowing 'civil society' to feel it is doing fine?

And, simultaneously, we need to ponder this: what sort of a mirror are we putting up around us in society, that we are unable to judge criminal indifference of the policy makers? It is akin to the well-heeled (non-voting) elite family that sponsors their driver's children's education, and believes it has done more than enough for the nation.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Please listen very carefully to Jerry, folks!

You know when the virulent (and utterly gleeful) media goes to town interviewing profs, politicians and students in the wake of the Jairam Ramesh interview (quote: "IITs are surviving because of their students. There is hardly any worthwhile research from our IITs. The faculty in the IIT is not world class. It is the students in IITs who are world class. So the IITs and IIMs are excellent because of the quality of students not because of quality of research or faculty,"), who all then very piously rebutted:

a) how wonderful the teaching is
b) if Fortune 500 companies are choosing the best students, can they be wrong
one can understand their quick-fix answer making for the all important sound-bites necessary in the 24/7 world of today.

Let us go back and look at what Jerry has said. He has questioned the RESEARCH at these places.
(If he is raising questions on the faculty, yes, we need to question the amount of time the faculty is being allowed to do research as versus teaching, so it is all about research ultimately)

Relatively speaking, there must be some reason for IITs never to be rated in the top 100 of the top 500 educational institutes rankings, no?
In fact, to all purposes IITs are slipping. Why??

I am neither agreeing nor disagreeing. Just pointing this out. (For I am not sure what greatness Harvard et al are doing, by being at the top of the heap - I kind of liked the knuckle-rapping JK Rowling did at the august institution a few years back. Where she instigates them to use their privileges to bring about change amongst the under-privileged (which very few do - Fortune 500 is far more beckoning for all of us

Talking about IIMs. Imagine this: for preparing folks for a business career, here are our top institutes who are ready to take FRESHIES straight from the IITs/ universities, whereas every top univ in the world (not to speak of common sense) know that students who have at least 4 to 6 years work experience are in a far better position to appreciate, understand and then use the knowledge being imparted at these places.

So if we stop comparing, and take a look at the research in absolute terms: yes, for sure there are pathbreaking initiatives. CTARA here in Powai is one. Center for technology Alternatives for Rural India.

To give Jerry the benefit of the doubt, perhaps what he is trying to indicate is that the research being undertaken is not at all enough for the challenges a nation of 1.2 billion is facing. Where IITians and IIMites have access to the infrastructure, have the brains, but then have not mixed it up in a way that augurs a better world.
Or that a lot of these initiatives do not get converted into actionable plans on the ground, and remain 'clouds of dust raised in the lecture rooms'.

And by the way, getting taken in Fortune 500 companies on fancy salaries is not what research that he is questioning is about.

Thank God for some voices in our ministries that continue to raise debates. Now whether the end result will be productive or just fizzle out into tu tu main mains remains to be seen. I hope and pray he does not backtrack now!