Number of days it took for me to become a  Master of Science in Astronautical Engineering from University of Southern California.

This post is intended to act as snapshot of my thought process at USC. Just felt obligated to follow up on my last such post after graduating from IIIT Hyderabad. I must first Thank my parents primarily because they ensured that I have bare minimum obligations to them which gave me the necessary peace of mind to pursue whatever I am pursuing.

About USC. 
The only thing I considered while coming to USC is the astronautical engineering program. I vividly remember my friends extensively researching about US universities way back in 2007 about features like urban or isolated campus, department rating, professor rating and many other factors that I frankly didn’t understand. Doing nothing of what they did, in 2013 January,  I just applied to two universities which hinted at training person with any engineering background in astronautics: Purdue and USC. I got an admit only at USC. So I came.

Little did I realize that I would really like the campus setup. Being an urbanist, I would like to live in places where there are lot of people, nice buildings, walking friendly areas etc. It takes me no more than 30 minutes to walk from one end of the campus to the other. Within this cozy campus, there exists every engineering department, music, cinema, business, public policy, law schools and many more. This was a jackpot that I didn’t realize that I was getting into.

Suddenly I had access to all these libraries. True to my character of trying to be jack of all trades, master of some, I read the first chapters of lot of books. I did finish about 10% of the books I started. The rest of them were not interesting to me. So, I no longer consider books to be any different from online articles, videos or audio podcasts. Most of them are not at all worth our time. We, unfortunately, have to go through a lot of junk to find the gems.

About Los Angeles
I can never be a fan of any city which doesn’t have high rises and is not walkable. That being said, I love LA for two reasons:
1) Mount Wilson, the place where Edwin Hubble gathered the data that suggested the possibility of other galaxies in our universe which are moving away from each other. It is my favorite place in all of Greater Los Angeles Metro Area.
2) LA is home to many industries. The diversity is amazing. It has something for every mood of every person. If only, LA didn’t screw up its public transportation, I would have ranked it as one of the perfect cities to live in.

About my life at USC. 
I fell into a constitutional amendment trap unknowingly within the first two weeks of being at USC. Amateurs were discussing the constitution of Association of Indian Students, so I had to jump in😀 . Thus AIS became the center of my extra curricular activities. AIS is predominantly a cultural organisation but I am a culture-less fellow, i.e a person who is not fond of cultural programs😛 .  So I was a bit hesitant in the beginning but I knew I had to volunteer even if I am not interested.

Let me try to articulate why: No individual is just a product of their own hard work. The accidental identity baggage every individual carry around matters very much. No individual chooses to be an Indian or Pakistani. Being Canadian is not their fault😛 .The harsh reality of the world is that people will judge. Judging is the only way to take any action. People will judge without complete information thus creating what we call stereotypes.  They are a predominant factor in everyone’s lives. But how are stereotypes formed? If an Indian, an Andhra (yes! Andhra and Telugu are synonymous, deal with it) or a Sikh in USA did good things, the people around would associate positive image to the identity as well. Same goes for bad things. One of the reasons, why it is super easy for Indians now-a-days to live in United States is the hard work of thousands of Indians before us. As George Carlin would put it: I was incredibly lucky to be born in India. I am forever indebted to all our predecessors. The only way to feel good is to help those who come after me even if there is no personal gain and especially even if it is uncomfortable for me. In this process, I was privileged to know and work alongside a few amazing people who think this way in AIS. (Since we are on that subject, I would like you to give a big shout out to Martin Luther King Jr led Civil Rights movement without which it would have been impossible to achieve a free and comfortable lifestyle for all non-whites that live the states).

About Astronautics
Ah. The primary reason for my arrival at USC. It is terrific. I got exactly what i expected. A couple of suggestions at the right time by a few seniors helped me a lot. I have a much better picture about humanity’s space exploration status now. As suspected, even the best science journalism was wrought with sensationalism and dumbed down explanations.  I filled in the lot of gaps in my knowledge map that were bugging me all these years about space exploration. With many professors from JPL, it was interesting to know many real incidents of how a particular problem was solved. Towards the end, I got an opportunity to work on a research project which genuinely interests me. At this point of my life, I believe I can confidently say I have adequate knowledge about orbital mechanics and wireless communications. I am not sure how to use them yet, I will figure out🙂

About education in US
A couple of California state congressmen came to a meeting to discuss the minimum wage issues in one of the political club meetings at USC. Over the course, the discussion veered off to education and skilled workforce. They were genuinely worried about kids not showing interest in ScienceTechnologyEngineeringMaths while economy is moving very rapidly towards STEM.  So I said this “From what I noticed, Indian education system is very good at training skilled workforce that can do mundane but skillful tasks. However, US education system is very good at training innovative and entrepreneurial workforce. So most innovations and disruptions come from people who went through US education system but to maintain or scale up an established company or product, you need skilled people who are ready to do mundane tasks without complaining much.  So if you really need to secure jobs to your future generations, try to understand Indian education system and implement the best practices in US”

That was about school system. In college, the culture is the same. Even in US, there is an industry thriving on doing assignments and projects for students. There are all types of professors. Just like in India, the best colleges are those which ensure that cheating doesn’t happen during exams or assignments. And just like in India, the best colleges are those which emphasize more on practical training either with industrial collaboration or department’s internal labs. The only difference is: size of government grants to do research. The quality of labs and professors are definitely proportional to the money pumped into universities. All the differences we notice are definitely not genetic or cultural. They are circumstantial.

Miscellaneous Observation
I noticed this first in anecdotal stories from my friends. Just because laypeople don’t know web design and development, many web designers used to charge ridiculous amounts to build silliest of web pages.  Not enough supply of web designers, was/is their justification. This clearly made me furious. However, that was not the only field where I saw the phenomenon. I noticed it among engineers. Mostly hardware and software engineers bamboozling each other with incomprehensible vocabulary to make the others believe that doing a particular task is much more difficult than it really is.

I definitely noticed this in US as well. This is a worrying trend because subconsciously all engineers would now do not want to make things simple. It would be in every engineer’s interest to make things more complex to save his/her own job. I really hope I am wrong on this observation, I just want to put it out.

What next?
I want to work on deep space exploration. USA and specifically JPL is the epicenter of deep space exploration. However, I am not a permanent resident of United States, so it is a bit tricky to stay close to space industry. Also as a secondary mission, I intend to understand the design philosophies of Bret Victor, Alan Kay, Papert Seymour et al and if possible contribute to their quest.

As of this write up, I am still figuring out how to do, what I have to do. Hopefully I can find a solution within a month or two.

-Rohith Daka

Freedom of Speech and Expression

I would like to argue the case for absolute freedom of speech and expression (legally).

As you might have observed, I used the word ‘legally’. The reason for this emphasis is because there is a difference between legality (generally a intersection of all moral codes that exist in the nation) and morality (just a moral code that belongs to a particular group). This post is to argue for absolute freedom of speech of expression legally.

Before getting into the argument, let me provide some context without which it would be difficult for me to explain. It is about interaction between two human beings.

Every person can categorize the interaction with another human being into one or more of the following categories

  1. Physical (When the body is involved)
  2. Financial (When Money is involved)
  3. Psychological (When Mind is involved)

Each interaction has two effects: Help and Harm.

The scope of this post is to convince the reader about absoluteness of freedom of speech and expression legally. Since legal code comes into picture when somebody is Harmed, I will concentrate on Harmful effects that are possible in each of the aforementioned categories.

As you might have noticed, there are various ways in which a person can be physically, financially and psychologically harmed. You can get hit by a bus or somebody could beat you. Somebody could steal your money or you could feel upset by listening to something.  In brief, Accidents and Intents.

When victim takes a hit physically or financially, the recovery from that hit depends on both the victim and the aggressor (if any). Of course if the victim is physically and financially a bit healthy, the recovery would be easy. But it definitely depends on the incident and the aggressor (if any).  Victim is not totally in control to manage the loss incurred due to a physical or financial hit.

This is where the third category is different from the rest. You can not take a psychological hit without your permission. The whole situation is under victim’s control. He/She can permit themselves to take a hit for silliest of statements or can never permit any statement to hurt them psychologically.

Due to this beautiful feature of Psychological interaction, there in no need to restrict the freedom of speech and expression. Moreover, arrest is nothing but imposing severe physical and financial restrictions on a person. It is unjust to physically and financially restrict a person who did not physically or financially harm another person.  It doesnt matter how insinuating a comment is or how irritating a behavior of a particular person is, there is no need to arrest the aggressor (accidental or intentional) as long as the aggressor isnt affecting the victim physically or financially.

Obviously, I presented the case only to convince that there is no need to legally restrict. Now let me talk about why there should not be legal restrictions.

A major requirement for any legal code to succeed is a proper definition of crime and punishment. If the law did not properly define a crime or did not define a fair punishment to a crime, it will be misused. But for proper definition of crimes and to decide a fair punishment there must be a way to measure the crime intensity. You cant have the same punishment for every crime. (The purpose of punishment is beyond the scope of this post😀 )

This is where it gets tricky. While we are fortunate to have standard scales to measure physical and financial damage to somebody, there is no standard scale to measure psychological harm. You cant standardize the psychological harm. The same comment can be a joke or an insult.

Hence the only reason why a person should be arrested is when that person harms somebody physically or financially but not psychologically.

Also, if a society has to progress, there must be somebody who is crazy enough to think out of the box and challenge the existing traditions or laws  that the society follows. I agree there is too much nonsense by ignorant people who challenges society without any proper basis just because they could not do what they wanted to do. However, there would be that one person who is knowledgeable enough to challenge the traditions or laws to improve the lives of everybody and not just that person. To protect such a person from the establishment, there should not be any law which has the scope for misuse. Definitely not a law which restricts Freedom of speech and Expression.

What am I doing?

Many people asked me this question after my recent decision. I couldn’t answer all of them in detail. This post is an attempt to explain “What am I doing?” This is a question I asked myself various times just like most of humans.

Even before I was conscious enough to ask the above question, there was another question that irritated me. ‘Why did no human go beyond earth’s orbit after I was born?’ No breakthrough related to space exploration seem to have happened after I was born.  Of course, I was wrong. Hubble telescope was launched. Many robotic rovers have been launched to explore other planets in our solar system and various other small but significant milestones were reached after I was born. The reason I didnt feel connected to these events is because they didn’t have the human factor. Looking at pictures is not same as physically being present at a particular location. Same is true with Space exploration. Sending rovers is not same as sending humans and safely getting them back to Earth. We stopped doing human space programs and I decided to find out the reasons.

In this hunt for an answer, I realized Politics and Economics play a huge role. But to understand politics of any region, I must first understand the cultural (mythological, religious) and geography of it. So to connect the dots, I started preliminary reading of these topics. (on a related note: Depth First Studying, bad. Breadth First Studying, good. http://xkcd.com/761/ )

I graduated by now from IIIT Hyderabad. Most people around me, for my own future, suggested not to pursue space related fields. In their defense, I was not clear about specific field I want to pursue in Space Industry. By this time, I already entered this mode of studying politics, economics, geography and culture of India, USA and Russia (space faring nations that I felt are significant :P). Naturally, I started with India.

Then 26/11 happened. In retrospect, it is definitely not the worst incident or decision that effected Indian citizens when compared to shameful neglect by Indian bureaucratic and Political system that results in millions of deaths every year. But humans have this tendency to respond to dangers that are concentrated in space and time. The emotions we feel are inversely proportional to the time period of the event and the area that is affected by it. This inherent bias in me pushed me to take a decision to prepare for Indian Civil Services.  Secondary reason, this gives a good opportunity to study all the things I wanted to study and still have a good career and Primary? To understand the root cause of events like 26/11 and deal with it.

Within six months, I realized one simple fact about society. Politicians and Bureaucrats can identify a problem in society. Only Scientists and Engineers can solve them. Every problem that was ever solved in human history was solved by a person with Scientific and/or Engineering training. At best, politicians provid temporary solutions while bureaucrats  try to implement this temporary solution forever. (Why I came to this conclusion is a matter for another post and is beyond the scope of this post.)

So I should have Engineering training. Thanks to Qualcomm, I got an opportunity to be an Engineer again. To be really frank, the resources that were at my disposal in Qualcomm were amazing. The work culture, a huge online library and brief visit to San Diego really helped me a lot in correcting many of my misconceptions about Engineering. It is definitely a great place to work.

It is because of these wonderful insights that I acquired during my stay in Qualcomm, I could find a way to pursue my dream career of Space Exploration. I didn’t really expect that I would get this chance, Since I got it I decided to go for it.

I should really thank my parents for making sure that I have zero responsibilities in my life. That is a luxury very few people get. I know I misused some of that luxury by wasting some time but I am sure that I used it enough to make the right decision.

PS: I will join MS in Astronautical Engineering in University of Southern California this August.

PPS: There are certain key issues that I need to blog about. Hopefully, I can write about them in simplest of terms possible and keep this blog alive.

India’s role in understanding Life, Universe and Everything

Humans have a tremendous capacity to understand their surroundings. This capacity has given human species the edge over rest of the living beings on this planet.  But after five hundred years of, what seems to be, fantastic advancement in the understanding of our Universe, we still don’t even have the slightest clue about 95% of the Universe. All the billions of galaxies each containing millions stars along with planets that orbit them, interstellar dust and intergalactic dust makes up only 5% of the Universe we live in [Dark Matter (25%) and Dark Energy (70%) constitute the rest of mass-energy density of the Universe]. If we go by human’s standards of considering what is significant and what is not, then the planet on which we live in doesn’t even matter to the purpose of existence of this Universe, if at all there is one. So, we still have a very long way to go in understanding the universe. (Feynman had a great analogy to explain the term “understanding of nature”)

Unfortunately, all this study of the universe is done by just a fraction of humans that have lived on this planet.  An incredible amount of human potential was/is being wasted. As if natural disasters are not enough to destroy us, we managed to find ingenious ways to destroy ourselves with outdated religious beliefs which resulted in certain group exploiting the uninformed, imaginary fears about neighbors mostly fueled by jungle instincts to dominate others etc.  Hence the threats for human species are

  1. Natural Disasters (Earth Quakes; Tsunamis;Floods;Supernova explosion in our Sun’s neighborhood; Asteroid Strikes etc)
  2. Human-made Disasters (Wars; Terrorism; Famine; Exploitation based on race, nation, religion, caste;  Alien attack etc)

Solution in Federal Government of Earth

A multi-tier federal government of Earth is essential to solve all the problems mentioned. A multi-tier federal government is a type of governing structure where there are different levels of governments taking care of different aspects of human lives. Such distribution of jobs among various government levels have both the advantages of small countries (like preserving local culture, language, tradition; efficient solutions for local problems) and of huge countries (like efficient crisis management, good technical expertise, enough resources to maintain police).

The huge government of Earth would have enough technical expertise and resources to deal with any natural disaster in the world swiftly. As a judicial system would replace wars as the tool to resolve conflicts, more resources will be at the disposal of various scientists to find a solution for natural disasters, even from outer space. (We may have to abandon this planet for a better one or build shields to protect earth from supernova explosions).

In my view the most important reason to form an Earth Government is to tackle the alien threat. If aliens visit our planet at this very moment then there are two possible scenarios. 1) Native American Scenario and 2) Indian Scenario

Native American Scenario: If  human species are primitive by aliens’ standards then they simply would destroy humans and occupy this planet for their home.

Indian Scenario: If aliens find human civilization to be resourceful and not so primitive in weapon technology then they would decide to trade with us and hence set up factories on this planet. Klingon Orion Arm Company or Vulcan Orion Arm Company would be set up to trade with countries on Earth. One company supports US, another company supports China and within no time humans would find themselves under Foreign rule.

Both the aforementioned scenarios can be avoided if a well established decentralized  Earth government exists before arrival of aliens. An Earth government can at least give a good fight before getting annihilated if humans are really primitive. On the other hand, the Earth government can easily avoid the divide and rule policy of aliens if at all we find ourselves in a fortunate situation of aliens being not so advanced a civilization than us.

India’s role in forming Earth Government

Due to various historical reasons a set of humans got this opportunity to experiment with a prototype of a world government . Despite partition, India is still a mini-Earth with various languages, cultures, ethnic groups and even a huge geographical diversity. If we closely observe India, each district deserves to be a separate country by eastern European or west African standards and each state deserves to be a separate country by western European or south American standards (It is unfortunate that India has only two-tier government structure, totally neglecting district/municipal governments). India is essentially a nation of nations. The success of this democratic secular republic is necessary to encourage European Union, Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), African Union etc to become national entities by rising above their current national tags. Eventually a Federal Earth Government can be formed which would save human species so that we could better understand this Universe.

What do we mean by “understanding” something? We can imagine that this complicated array of moving things which constitutes “the world” is something like a great chess game being played by the gods, and we are observers of the game. We do not know what the rules of the game are; all we are allowed to do is to watch the playing. Of course, if we watch long enough, we may eventually catch on to a few of the rules. The rules of the game are what we mean by fundamental physics. Even if we knew every rule, however, we might not be able to understand why a particular move is made in the game, merely because it is too complicated and our minds are limited. If you play chess you must know that it is easy to learn all the rules, and yet it is often very hard to select the best move or to understand why a player moves as he does. So it is in nature, only much more so; but we may be able at least to find all the rules. Actually, we do not have all the rules now. (Every once in a while something like castling is going on that we still do not understand.) Aside from not knowing all of the rules, what we really can explain in terms of those  rules is very limited, because almost all situations are so enormously complicated that we cannot follow the plays of the game using the rules, much less tell what is going to happen next. We must, therefore, limit ourselves to the more basic question of the rules of the game. If we know the rules, we consider that we “understand” the world. – Richard Feynman

Saving environment by sleeping early

While watching news about Copenhagen Climate Conference, my father quipped “if all cities especially in America and Europe sleep by 10 then the energy saved is enough to achieve those targets.” Though exaggerated, there must be some savings at least because lights are switched off early.

Suppose each person uses a 50W bulb for his/her lighting. Also suppose that person sleeps two hours earlier than his/her regular timings. So he/she saves 50Wx2hrs=100 W.h of electrical energy per day (Computers and other gadgets are not counted because early sleepers rise early and starts their computers early😛 ). In an year, a person can save 365×100 W.h = 36.5 KW.h . The general transmission losses of most power distributions is 10%. So the actual electricity produced to serve 36.5 KW.h is 40.15 KW.h . Emission Factor of Coal 0.963 i.e to generate 1 KW.h of electricity 0.963 Kg of CO2 is emitted. Similarly E.F of Oil and Natural Gas are 0.881 and 0.569.

Production of energy varies from country to country. India used 53% of coal, 0.9% Oil and 10.5% Natural Gas(NG).
So the final formula to calculate the CO2 emission cut would be

PowerOfAppliance(in KWatts)*HoursSavedPerYear* 1.1 (transmission loss)*E.F of Fossil Fuels

where E.F of Fossil Fuels= (%of Coal * E.F of Coal + %of Oil * E.F of Oil + %of NG * E.F of NG)/100

So if a person sleeps two hours earlier than their normal time of 12 or 1am, then that person (if in India) can prevent 23.325 Kgs of CO2 from entering the atmosphere per year. This is just 0.015% of India’s total CO2 emission assuming there are a crore people in India who can sleep two hours earlier. So it is very very insignificant. But when compared to per capita CO2 emission of India which is 1310 kgs per year, then 23kgs savings per year per person accounts to 1.7%. Remember the calculations I did are the least possible savings we could do assuming just one 50W bulb. In reality, what we save will be more and varies according to our lifestyle, proximity to a thermal power station or a hydro electric power station, efficiency of the lights used. Also if the trend of whole city sleeping early is observed then most of the brilliant lighting (definitely more than 1000W) of the malls/shopping complexes will be switched off. The 23 kgs figure is the minimum we can definitely prevent from entering the atmosphere by sleeping early.

My point is: Why become responsible even for that insignificant 20 odd kgs of CO2 emission per year when clearly almost all of the things that we generally do late night (reading books, chatting with friends, watching movies, playing games etc) can be done after sunrise and before 10 PM?

PS: The third widget from the top in the right side panel helps you figure out how much CO2 emission per year can be prevented by saving electricity. (be it early sleeping, switching off the unnecessary devices or shutting half the lights of the malls/shopping complexes earlier than their normal close time etc ) Indian electricity production distribution is set as default.

Tonight’s show – part 1/3

Melissa Alba: Good Evening. Welcome to the Tonight’s Show. I am Melissa Alba. Today is the tenth anniversary of Planet Maya’s discovery and third anniversary of establishment of International Space Organisation. We have in our studio, a few experts from International Space Organisation and its related agencies: Dr Robert Dupont (Space Operations), Dr Nancy Cuoco (Astrobiologist), Dr Aanjaneya Prasad (Anthropologist) and Dr Gustav Greenidge (Earth Sciences). Welcome to our show.

Before we start our discussion, lets take a look at some facts we know about this planet.

A Male Voice Over:

Maya is the third or fourth planet from the sun depending on its position in orbit. It was named after the sanskrit word “maya” which means illusion. Due to its strange position in our night sky, it was not discovered until recently.

Though the credit for its discovery goes to NASA’s voyager team, there are two noted observations of this planet before. The first one by Sir Arthur Eddington and his team during the solar eclipse which proved the General Theory of Relativity. They observed the star shift as predicted by Albert Einstein. However, they also noticed an uncharted dot. They reported this observation to many astronomers around the world as they couldn’t publish it formally due of lack various independent observations. Ever since many astronomers tried to find the ‘unidentified dot’ during solar eclipses but were not successful.

The other observation was by Dr. Chandrashekar’s team. His team took four observations in Boma (DR Congo), Mbuji-Mayi (DR Congo), Suryapet (AP, India) and Berhampur (Orissa, India) during a solar eclipse. To their surprise they found the dot in both the observations in India but in none of them in Congo. He explained that it was like “maya”, an illusion. Since then this was unofficially named the ‘maya’ phenomenon.

Ten years ago, when the voyager’s team found the radio signals from an unexpected place in this solar system, they turned the cameras to find ‘a pale blue dot’. This was a defining moment in the history of humankind as not only, we found a place that might closely resemble our own planet, we also found evidences that there may be  intelligent life on it.

Observation of this planet is very difficult from our Earth-Moon system. The eyes that could gather some data about this planet were the Voyager Probes. They managed to find out some of the important physical and orbital characteristics like:

Mean radius: 5866 kms
Mass: 5.3298 × 1024 kg
Equatorial surface gravity: 10.33 ms-2
Sidereal rotation period: 22h48m55.398s
Axial tilt: 5.0684 o
Satellites : One with an inclination of 1.04 o

The scientific community seized this opportunity to convince all the governments to sign and ratify the outer-space treaty which paved the way for the establishment of the International Space Organisation.

Melissa Alba: We are sorry for that very small introduction for an event that eventually changed the way we look at ourselves in this world. We think we should have more time for our guests here to give the details in their own words. Lets start. Dr Dupont, how do you compare this planet with our Earth?

Dr. Robert Dupont: Let me say a note of caution. The current data is very minimal about this planet. However,it is sufficient enough to have this discussion with some intelligent guesses. About your question, Maya is unequivocally identical to Earth in terms of size, mass, density and age. As you can see the data for yourself, the mean radius, mass, rotation period, surface gravity are within ten percent of the values of our Earth. That is a remarkable match. Yet there are significant differences like the axial tilt which is only five degrees when compared to twenty three and a half degrees of our Planet; its moon’s inclination which is just one degree when compared to five degrees of our moon.

Mellisa: Speaking of these differences. Dr Greenidge, what does these two differences say about that planet?

Dr. Gustav Greenidge: The axial tilt is responsible for the seasons we experience. We have large variations in seasons because of our significant axial tilt. But for Maya, as it is just five degrees, we can expect most of the climate to be very calm due to less variations in seasons.  They most likely do not have monsoons or hurricanes. Even if they have, their intensity wont be much when compared to us. Polar ice caps may probably be stronger and  definitely cover a small area than ours. Continent placement is direct result of tectonic activity so we cant comment on that, but the images indicate that land coverage is forty percent of the planet’s surface, almost double the land area on Earth. We still have to verify this piece of data though.

Moon’s orbit inclination is very fascinating. It is just one degree. So every fortnight there is an eclipse.  Solar and Lunar eclipses occur alternatively. But this is not the reason why the inclination is fascinating. That one degree may result in occasional non-occurrence of an eclipse.

Melissa: That is very interesting. So those people may not consider eclipse as a bad omen I suppose because of the frequent occurrences.

Dr. Greenidge: No, they may not. Anything that happens very frequently is not special. So it may not have any cultural significance.

Melissa: Yeah, about their culture.  It is a known fact that our Earth’s orbital characteristic have a significant affect on our cultures. Dr. Prasad, what kind of culture can we expect to see because of these these two differences?

Dr Aanjaneya Prasad: Axial tilt is very important. As it is just five degrees, duration of day don’t change much throughout the year unlike on Earth. Our festival of lights like Christmas, Diwali etc are celebrated in Northern Hemisphere’s winter due to longer nights and also because most of our civilisations had origins in Northern Hemisphere. If our civilisations had origins in Argentina, South Africa or Australia we would have celebrated  Christmas or Diwali in June or July. However, for Mayanese people …

Mellisa: Wait a second Doctor!  Mayanese is what we call them?

Dr Aanjaneya Prasad: Yes, to distinguish them with Mayans of our planet. To respect Dr. Chandrashekar we named it after his phenomenon. Later, when we realised this possible confusion, IAU decided to name those people Mayanese.

Coming to our point, Mayanese don’t have such huge variations in duration of daytime unless they are really close to the poles.  So festival of lights may not have a place in their culture.  Similarly, given the frequent occurrences of eclipses, a lunar non-eclipse may be as considered the ultimate festival for many cultures on Maya.

Mellisa: Why only Lunar non-eclipse? Why not Solar non-eclipse?

Dr Prasad: It is just my guess. There are less full-moon days than less full-sun days. Everyday we the see the entire sun, but the moon has phases and only once a month we can see it totally and for them on almost all full-moon days there is lunar-eclipse. So we thought a lunar non-eclipse will have more significance than solar non-eclipse.

Mellisa: Looks like just facial similarities are not enough to understand Maya or Mayanese. Lets a take a break and when we come back, we will discuss about ISO’s mission to Planet Maya.

To be continued..

Update about scifi story

The recent unrest in AP coupled with release of Avatar hindered my work on scifi story. Two weeks are lost in the preparation of brief history of AP. On the other hand, I was worried for a while about the release of Avatar as it also dealt with another world. Though the concept of ‘dealing with aliens’ is similar, fortunately, Avatar’s themes (good wins at the end, save the nature etc) are nowhere near my motive behind building the story. Anyway, read them when you are free and decide for yourself.

It was observed that many people are expecting this series to end. I intend to build this series as several stand-alone episodes which contribute to the overall story.  I realise I added “to be continued” tag at the end of two of the episodes. It was a mistake. Only episodes whose title mentions part number requires continuation. This series ends whenever you don’t want to read or whenever I am tired of continuing the story.  As of now the story wont end in near future.

You can read the first three episodes here, under the “The Other World” Series subheading.