Thursday, June 23, 2005

Hazaron Khwahishe aiseen

There have been very few Indian films , if any, which go into or even touch upon the subject of Emergency in India during late 1970s. Numerous movies have been-and continue to be made-about the pre-independence India, about 3 wars India fought after independence even about Terrorism in Punjab & Kashmir. However, the dark period of late 70s has continued to be taboo in Indian Cinema. Finally, a filmmaker has come up with a brilliant movie covering that period of India's contemporary history. Sudhir Mishra's "Hazaron Khwashishe Aiseen" is a superb movie which dwelves into Naxalite movement of 70s with the emergency making an apperance as a backdrop. The movie chronicles the lives of 3 main protagonists Siddharth, Vikram and Gita from their days in St. Stephens College in Delhi to the life changing transformations they undergo during the course of the movie. The movie is a triumph in all respects. Performances are first rate, story is fascinating & screenplay is outstanding. Even though the movie has a political movement as a backdrop, there is never a dull moment and for sheer enetertainment value too, it is pretty good. Overall, the best movie of the year from the staple of Hindi Cinema . Hope they make more such gems in future.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Fabric of the Cosmos- A fulfilling experience

Here is something I did not know before I started reading Brian Greene's 'Fabric of the Cosmos'.

(i) Time is not absolute. It is relative, your clock (even the body clock) runs depending on how fast you are moving. Thus, faster you travel slower you age! If you can tavel at the speed of light you will never age! (So you can safely throw away your Botox injections)

(ii) Time at moon moves faster than time at earth, because moon has smaller gravity. So, if you ever have a choice to live on moon, don't, you will live longer.

(iii) The actions you take "now" can effect what happened billions of years ago, light years away from earth or so it seems!

(iv) Universe at scales billions of times smaller than a centimeter, behaves in fundamentally different way to what we experience in our day to day lives. For example, particles at those small sizes(like electrons or protons) seemingly have no definite position or speed , in fact, they don't have a definite anything. The reality at those scales is subsumed in a cloud of uncertainty.

(v) Universe probably started out as a lump of matter weighing a meagre 20 pounds!! That lump of matter gave rise to billions of galaxies and billions of stars in each one of them. The universe at Big-Bang did not weigh more than Brian Greene's dog!

(vi) Gravity can create waves in the fabric of space & time. These gravitational waves can stretch or compress space around you and yourself. Thus, we may get flatten or ballooned if a strong enough gravitaional waves from a distant supernova happens to pass by. Not a great way to get in 'shape':)

Well, Thanks to Greene that era of darkness is over and finally there is light;). Now, I know all that I mentioned above and a lot more.

Brian Greene's wonderful book takes us to a journey called 'Man's understanding of the Nature'. During this journey, we encounter startling discoveries which forever changed the way we (or at least the physicists) look at the universe. All along this journey, Greene is carefully holding our hands, making sure we don't get lost trying to understand the daunting complexities of nature. He is a very kind & gentle explicator, explaining the concepts in a colloquial language with liberal use of metaphors and analogies. His enthusiasm for Physics shines through every page of the book. However, even with a guide as good as Greene, this journey is not an easy one to undertake. Some of the concepts (like Entanglement in Quantum Physics) are so counterintuitive and cause such an upheaval to our intuition towards the world that it takes a great deal of faith, provided in no small measure by staggeringly accurate experiments, to believe in those. However, it does help to know that even as great a scientist as Einstein had a lot of trouble accepting the notions of reality as envisaged in Quantum Theory (Infact, he never accepted Quantum Theory as it is ) .

There are many places in the book where one can't help but get deeply intrigued. For example, during the discussion on the Flow of Time, Greene seems to assert that time does not pass by, it just seems to! Every moment in time is frozen for ever, every moment in time exists as it is, nothing is past & nothing is future, everything just is. This smacks of the concept of Fate, a design which is already in place and all we do is just live through that design without changing it (matrix, anyone!). To me, this was deeply intriguing . It looks like believers in Fate have finally found scientific evidence for their beliefs! However, Greene is kind enough not to thrust his opinions to reader's face, and points out alternative viewpoints & more elaborate explanations at such controversial (and other) junctures.

The book ends with delightful discussions on topics which are more like Science Fiction than Science. Greene dwelves into the topics of Teleportation and Time-Travel. It is encouraging to know that theoretical physics has not ruled out time-travel, yet. So, as of know traveling to the past (traveling to the future is possible, thanks to special relativity) is still a possibility, albeit a highly unlikely one, but if you are thinking that this will give rise to mind-bending paradoxes then think again. The past you may be able to travel will exist in a universe different to what you currently reside in. So, nobody can go to the past and erase you(ala terminator) because that past will take place in a different universe. Thanks to Quantum Physics, teleportation (actually it is more like cloning) is already a reality, although at a much smaller scale. The day when we may have the capability to teleport humans or even small objects "exists"(if it does) somewhere far far into the "future".

Finishing up the book, one is sure to gasp at the wonder nature is. One also can't help but wonder at the distance we have traveled since the dawn of civilization. The distance we have traveled from the days of Copernicus , Galileo or even Newton is surely impressive. Not too long ago, people just used to look at the sky and theorized about what lies out there. Now, we have giant telescopes which can look almost at the edge of the universe. We know that we are part of a solar system which is only one of hundreds of millions in the galaxy milky way, the galaxy we are part of is one of only a billions out there, and if current theories are right, the universe itself may be part of one of only infinitely many universes out there. All this, if it were not true, would have made great science fiction. Achievements like this make me think of the most wondrous thing in the nature , the human mind. The human intellect is the biggest marvel of nature. It is surely staggering to realize what pure thought combined with passionate curiosity can achieve. Physics's monumental achievements are a great proof of that.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

iTrip is cooooollll!!

I am a self-confessed Ipod junkie, just like millions others. Ipod has changed my life for the better. The idea of carrying all my music collection in my pocket and be able to play at anytime anywhere is captivating and thanks to Apple it is a cool reality. However, once all your music collection is at the palm of your hand, there is a strong urge to be able to play that music on the speakers of your choice. The headphones seem too restrictive. If you have "state of the art" music system with yourself (like I do with my Bose speakers!) you want to be able to use it. Enter Itrip, a wonderful little device which attatches on top of your Ipod and transmits a radio signal at the frequency of your choice. That radio frequency can be picked up by any radio device within 30 feet range. The most wonderful thing about the whole thing is that I have my own personal radio station , commercial-free I might add, at which I can play any song of my choosing from my vast 20 GB collection. That degree of control is thrilling to say the least. The device is ideal to play your music in a car. Unlike its bulkier, more general purpose counterparts in market, Itrip doesnot need any batteries. It draws its power from Ipod and is as light as a feather. Moreover, there are a lot more frequencies to choose from unlike some other devices (like Irock) . The only possible drawback is that of a general FM-transmitter. If you are on a long drive through the cities then you may have to change frequencies quite often, however a long drive through countryside should give no trouble at all. If you are playing it at home then there is no problem whatsoever. All in all, a great Ipod accessory.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

ESPN- The Villain

ESPN has done it again. For no apparent reason , they decided not to show live the French Open semifinals. They were happy to show the recordings in the evening though. Makes me wonder whether it had something to do with the fact that the tournament was in France or it had something to do with the fact that no American could make it that far in the tournament. May be it was both, but neverthless Tennis fans were undone again by ESPN. It reminds me of the Australian Open this year when they decided not to show live the epic semifinal game between Marat Safin and Federar thus robbing Tennis fans of one of the best grand slam semifinals games ever. The reasoning at that time -as far as I could make out- was since it was a game involving two non-americans, it was not worth showing, because they did show the other semifinal between Roddick (american) and Hewitt. This strange behaviour from ESPN is baffling because even commercially it does not make sense. Tennis is a very popular game in US and a grand slam semifinal is sure to find a substantial audience, whether an american is playing or not. It is just unfathomable that ESPN can not (or may be does not want to) acquire rights to broadcast live the semifinals games of a Grand Slam event. Even the puny old National TV in India broadcasts grand slam Tennis live.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Pheonix Suns - Loved it while it lasted

So finally the juggernaut called Phoenix Suns has come to a crashing halt. Phoenix Suns were like a 'breath of fresh air' (cliche alert) in this era of diffensive basketball. They were great fun to watch and played basketball like it is meant to be played, great athletic game full of spectacular dunks, layups and terrific shooting. It worked wonderfully well as Suns managed to win 62 games in the regular season & reached the conference finals. However, their flamboyance could not come to terms with the playoff experience of San Antonio and the awesome talents they possess. My friend Neeraj had pointed out to me that even though Spurs are primarily a defensive basketball team, they can play offensive game as well as any, however, Suns do not have the defense to challenge the likes of Duncan and Ginobili. Spurs proved that beyond any doubt in the first two games as they beat Suns in their own game and that too in their backyard by playing a full throttle fast-paced basketball. Suns did score their customary 100+ points, but Spurs proved more than a match. In game 3, Spurs were back to what they have been doing all along, great defense combined with a measured offense to hold Suns below 100 points for the first time in the playoffs & go up 3-0. Suns did really well in Game 4 to snatch a come from behind victory, but everybody knew that the series was as good as over . Spurs came back to Phoenix and completed the formalities by giving another all round display of basketball. Spurs look really good right now and my money is on them to win the championship for the third time in 7 years.

Even though Suns lost they do take a lot of positives from these season. Getting Steve Nash from Dallas proved a masterstroke as not only he was the MVP for the year but also took his game a couple of notches up(as if that was possible) to give one of the best performances by a point-guard in playoffs. Their draft- pick Amare Stoudemire is finally coming on his own, as he averaged 30+ points in playoffs and gave one spectacular performance after another. The wonderful combination of Stoudemire and Nash ensured one of the greatest turnarounds in NBA history. Phoenix Suns went from 29 victories in 2004 to 62 victories in 2005. Suns are sure going to be a force to reckon with for next few years.

French Open- Federar Vs Nadal

This one promises to be one of the best games of 2005. Ever since the draw for French Open came out, fans have been salivating over the delicious potential match up between the current number one and the spanish sensation. The last time the two met, at Nasdaq-100 open in Florida, they produced a crackling game of tennis full of flamboyance and elegance. Federar did win the contest but not before sweating it out in sweltering Miami Heat. The upcoming game in Paris promises to be no different only that the stakes are higher this time around. Federar, the world no. 1 by about 100 miles, and Nadal, the most sensational young player in the ATP circuit are players of almost equal calibre & style but contrasting personalities. Federar is the epitome of calm concentration and Nadal is all about letting himself all out in the heat of the battle. Federar, because of his experience and calm head, certainly has more than an edge, however it should be remembered that Nadal is the only player to have come close to beating Federar after the Australian Open. Tradesports has given Federar 60% probability of winning which to me is underestimating Federar's chances, however Nadal has been nothing short of spectacular on clay this year with a 21 game winning streak so far, so even if Federar's chances are being underestimated it probably is not by much. All in all, it is going to be a mouth watering clash between these two supremely gifted players. I just can't wait for Thursday.