Saturday, 18 April 2015

An innovation challenge

Here's an "innovation challenge" that I believe is very relevant:

To save crops in drought situations, one needs to get water to the affected areas. There are potential solutions to this problem and its perhaps more of a (non)implementation  issue today. So let's put that aside for now.

Consider the converse situation, however: Saving crops when there is excess or untimely rainfall or hailstones coming down. This, I believe, requires a technological innovation.

Can this be done? If so, how? What might be some of the short term options that can be implemented say from next year itself? And long term options that may perhaps take a few years to deploy but are better/more economical.

This might be something cool to work on, get it patented and see it through to deployment. This might also be one heck of a final year project for Civil Engineering students :)!


Note: I don't think the real challenge in the above scenario is deploying roofs/shelter in quick time. One can potentially think of solutions to that part. Rather, the challenge, in my opinion, lies in the following questions: How would one take away all that water coming down from the skies and do so fast enough? Where would one take it? What would one do with it? Store it? Or take it all the way to larger water bodies such as rivers or seas/oceans? How?


From what it seems like to me, we are quite possibly talking about the need for a pretty large scale and a very very well thought out solution! Good luck :).

Subsidized education at IITs : Some thoughts

So here's a little back of the envelope calculation that might help spark off a debate that I believe is relevant.

Apparently the Government of India subsidizes undergraduate education at the IITs by about Rs. 2.5 Lakh per student per year. That's Rs. 10 Lakh per student for the four year program. There are 16 IITs right now. Plus a few more are opening up soon. If we assume that about 10,000 UG students are absorbed across all IITs put together every year, we are talking about a subsidy of about Rs. 1000 Crores per batch! If we extrapolate this to the next twenty batches of students, we are talking about a subsidy of about Rs. 20,000 Crores (and that's not accounting for interest etc.) in subsidy for just the under graduate program of just 20 institutes in a country of 1.2 billion with a severe poverty situation.

What makes the situation more damning is that about 80 - 90 % (in my estimate) of these students are quite possibly neither interested in science and technology nor keen on putting their shoulders to the proverbial wheel for the country. Some argue that the subsidies get paid back (perhaps several times over) when the beneficiaries of the same rake in their heaps of moolah and pay taxes. That's hardly a valid argument since the whole point of establishing institutes of technology is to create technological manpower that will take the country technologically forward. Else all this money could very well be invested in high return business enterprises directly in the first place!

In my view, this entire model needs to be scrapped. Subsidy at this level of education needs to be tied to a commitment to work for the science & technology sector within the country for a certain number of years. This period of commitment can perhaps be deferred if someone wants to study further and get a Masters / PhD / some post-doc experience. But eventually invoked be it must.

One benefit such a move would likely bring is only and only those people who wish to be scientists and engineers will come study at these institutes. Which is the whole point of having them.

[Note: The above calculation does not account for the real estate locked aside for these institutes. At about 500 acres of land per IIT, we are talking about 10,000 acres for 20 of them. I'm no real estate expert but do know that that's some serious money right there.]

Friday, 17 April 2015

Om

Here's a way to calm your mind that you might want to try out:

Sit in a comfortable position. Cross legged is perhaps preferable as it is really stable. I suppose you could sit in a chair too, but ensure stability of posture. Maybe a chair with arms to keep you from swinging either way.

Ensure that your spine is as straight as possible and you are relaxed overall.

Close your eyes and take a few gentle deep breaths to start. Then take a slow deep breath in and exhale via a long drawn out Om sound (say about 2/3rd on O and 1/3rd on mmmm). Repeat this about 100 times. [A tip on counting Oms is included below.]

Try and do this as mindfully as you can. If your mind tries to prompt you to think about this or that just say "later buddy" and come back to your inbreath and Om.

After about 100 Oms just sit still for about ten to fifteen minutes and calmly observe your body and mind. If thoughts arise, just let them go. The trick is to not engage with them. Instead, just observe them, take a few deep breaths, let go and be silent and still. When you feel nice, peaceful and quietly consolidated, open your eyes, gently get up and take this peace into the rest of your day. See if the quality of your mind improves as your repeat this exercise a few times over a couple of days.

A tip on counting out the 100 Oms: The tip, base and the two lines on the inside of any finger/thumb makes it a count of 4. Just go across these 4 marks for all the five fingers of your hand as you chant out your Oms and you have counted out 20. Repeat this 5 times and that's 100. You can use the fingers of the other hand to count through these 5 repetitions of 20 Oms.

Notes:

1) Personally, I like to think of Om as a sound rather than a religious symbol and believe that chanting it harmonizes the body from the torso up to the head. That's the basis of me trying this out and I seem to have derived benefit from it. Hope it brings you some good too.

2) I recommend meditating on a light stomach. Before a meal is best. Or wait for an hour or so after a meal. One usually feels a bit lethargic and somewhat heavy just after eating and that may dampen the quality of meditation.