Alpha’s musings

Chasing cars…by Snow Patrol

If I lay here
If I just lay here
Would you lie with me and just forget the world?

I don’t quite know
How to say
How I feel

Those three words
Are said too much
They’re not enough

If I lay here
If I just lay here
Would you lie with me and just forget the world?

Forget what we’re told
Before we get too old
Show me a garden that’s bursting into life

Let’s waste time
Chasing cars
Around our heads

I need your grace
To remind me
To find my own

If I lay here
If I just lay here
Would you lie with me and just forget the world?

Forget what we’re told
Before we get too old
Show me a garden that’s bursting into life

All that I am
All that I ever was
Is here in your perfect eyes, they’re all I can see

I don’t know where
Confused about how as well
Just know that these things will never change for us at all

If I lay here
If I just lay here
Would you lie with me and just forget the world?

 

Sirius… by Alpha

Millions of distant stars in the sky
All of them in the unending dark
Little pin points of light
What really makes that spark ?

Vast are their sizes
A great giant ball of gas is the star
They dot our sky as if neighbors
But far far away they really are

I look around and see the same
Just so many faces around
Every nook every corner is filled
But of togetherness, there is little sound

They shine ever so brightly
Never seem to fade away
Though they must be dying I guess
With nobody to share a light ray

I gaze out and see Sirius, big and small
With perfect harmony they dance
One I wish to see and feel
I wait patiently to get that chance

 

Learning without Borders !

Wanted to go beyond your monotonous regular studies and explore something new ? Ever wanted to learn from the best minds in the business ? Earlier for an average student, this was just a pipedream.Now it is no longer so. For the last two years or so, winds of change have been blowing across the educational landscape. These changes are promising to radically redefine the very concept of education. And definitely for the better. Welcome to the world of MOOCs!MOOCs (Massive open online courses) are slowly becoming the toast of students who are always eager to venture beyond their traditional subjects. Psychology?  World History? Songwriting ? Astronomy ? You name a topic of interest and chances are that you will find a course on it. The leading venture in this area is the California based venture “Coursera”.
Being a regular ‘Courserian’ for some time now, I wanna talk about the points that make it such an amazing experience.1) Global student community.
Every course has students from all over the world. This results in engaging discussions on the course forums. Students get a global perspective on the subject they are learning.
2) The quizzes and the assignments. 
Wait a minute, how can quizzes and assignments be enjoyable ? Aren’t there enough of them in our daily studies ? Yes, but these are not just your normal ‘copy from some reference book’ type of assignments. They are inventive and force the student to think about the subject content.

3) Finally the Professors! 

 From Mumbai University profs to ones from Stanford, UPenn, Duke, Colombia and Caltech. Quite a big leap, isn’t it? Facts can be gained by reading books too. But these profs make the learning process so vibrant that the student gets completely hooked to it ! Hell, you can even get to video chat with them !

MOOCs have their flaws. They can’t match the direct interaction that a classroom course provides. But MOOCs have greatly widened the reach of quality learning.

Learning Astronomy from a string theorist from Duke ? Terrific, I say !

The history of space exploration brings to mind groundbreaking events like the launch of USSR’s Sputnik satellite, the Apollo missions to the moon, NASA’s space shuttle program and the International Space Station.  But there is another spacecraft which has redefined the frontiers of space exploration and in a unique way – The interstellar mission spacecraft Voyager 1, designed to study the giant outer planets and then venture into the vastness of space beyond our Solar system.

More than 35 years after its launch, on March 20, 2013 it was announced that Voyager- 1 had entered an undiscovered region outside the heliosphere and that there was a good possibility it had become the first ever human made object to cross the boundaries of our solar system. This heralds an epic moment in the annals of human endeavor. This is where the true significance of the Voyager comes into play.

The Voyager is not only a vehicle for scientific exploration but it also has a very unique cultural component to it. NASA decided to include a “Golden Record” which is essentially a group of phonograph records which include sounds and music symbolizing our human race. The records contain a mélange of sounds ranging from natural ones like those made by wind, surf, thunder and human ones like Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, Chinese music, greetings in 50+ human languages and also a non human language – the cry of a humpback whale!

Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan, the creative directors of the record, called it a “Noah’s Ark”.  Druyan said that Voyager was a statement that we are not content to remain mere observers but want to be citizens of the cosmos. The Voyager is expected to retain radio communication with Earth till about 2020. After that, as the Voyager continues its epic journey into the vast environs of interstellar space, the prospect of the golden record carrying our legacy indeed induces goose bumps.

Billions of years on, the Sun will have ballooned into a red giant and reduced our planet to charred ashes. But somewhere in the deep expanse of space, these sounds will continue to spread the message of an ancient civilization which once flourished on a distant planet !

“Why did you want to come to America ?”
“In America, I get an equal chance to win. And whether or not you hire me Jim, I am going to win.”This “fucking good answer” by Changez Khan, the young Pakistani from Lahore, sets up what turns out to be a riveting tale full of intrigue and conflicting emotions. Yes, Mira Nair’s ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’ is quite a unique take on the impact that 9/11 has had on the Muslim world.Changez is a modern Muslim youngster; he harbors the great American Dream – Going to the United States and becoming a success on the famous Wall Street. Always a bright student, Changez graduates from Princeton and joins Underwood Samson, a consulting firm, as a financial analyst.His life is perfect. He is doing great in his job and he finds a loving girlfriend, Erica. But then, as you might have guessed, 9/11 happens. That’s where the movie sets itself apart. Keeping aside the normal portrayal of a brutal ‘West-against-every-Muslim’ scenario, this rendition takes a much more subtle and a balanced approach.The emphasis is not on the violence; but on the more realistic emotional turmoil of a man who once says “I am a lover of America”, but now has to possibly pick a side between a flourishing career and a growing sense of attachment to his motherland and religious community.All the actors deliver great performances, the film is nicely paced and the direction is top class. This is one offbeat movie that I would definitely recommend. Your two hours will be well spent.
How did the Universe begin ? Why are we here ? What place do we hold in this apparently infinite expanse of stars and galaxies ? Is this Universe born out of Nature’s laws or is it lorded upon by a benevolent Creator ?  I am sure that these questions have tickled some part of our minds, at least once if not daily. These are the questions which Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow have attempted to answer in this brilliant book, “The Grand Design”.  Far from being a Physics textbook which is often considered laborious and theoretical, this work tries to open up the fascinating world of Modern Physics in a language which would be understood by every curious reader irrespective of his/her prior scientific background.Most of the physics (and science in general ) taught to us from school days is concerned with describing “How” does a thing work or “What” causes a particular phenomenon to happen in nature. But we rarely are given answers to the often more pertinent questions mentioned above. Those answers are often left to philosophical musings.But with their rather dramatic opening statement of “Philosophy is dead”, the Authors try to explain that Science now has the expertise to answer these questions.The authors have based their argument upon the three major pillars of modern physics- Quantum Mechanics, General theory of relativity and the String theory. The initial few chapters of the book takes us on a dizzying ride through the basics of these three captivating but equally perplexing theories. Once we get some idea about them, the chapters henceforth tell us about how the intertwining of these principles, when applied to the early stages of the universe, give us the concept of “Multi-verse”  or the Multiple Universe theory. The Multi-verse theory says that there can be other universes, equally impressive in size, where conditions might be quite different, right down to different physical laws or different numbers of dimensions of space.  This realization, that there can be many more universes like the one which we witness, can answer the question of how it is not a ‘miracle’ that the conditions in our cosmos are so perfect for life forms like us.The most impressive part of the book is that it doesn’t use even a single Mathematical equation to explain such challenging concepts. That makes the book a very enjoyable read, even for a person for whom numbers are not a great source of joy. Instead Messrs. Hawking and Mlodinow use simple everyday examples and unexpected snippets of humour to engage us. There are some stretches in the book where we really get the feel of why Mr. Hawking is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a lifetime member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Professor of Mathematics at University of Cambridge for 20 years and why most of us are not; but such moments are far and few in between as compared to his earlier bestseller “The Brief History of Time”.  Overall from my point of view, it’s a very fine attempt at revealing the startling discoveries that are altering mankind’s understanding of the universe. As the back cover of the book says,” The Grand Design is a book that will inform -and provoke – like no other”.

 

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