Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Rodeo in the clouds...

The rain was pouring down in sheets, and visibility was very poor. But that did not deter the millions of people who had converged on the city of kings, emperors, and viceroys. As the clock struck midnight, the Union Jack was pulled down and the Indian tricolor was hoisted up. The crowd cheered as Pt. Nehru began his famous ‘Tryst with Destiny’ speech. India had finally gained independence, and the day, 15th August 1947 would be a landmark date in world history. Little did they know the repercussions this would have 58 years later.

58 years minus a couple of weeks later, in a metropolis situated 902 m above sea level on the 12th North latitude, I realized that 15th August is to be a Monday, thereby providing a 3 day weekend, a rare novelty. It would enable me to sign up for the migration, wherein professionals with roots in the smallest Indian state return to their homes to relax. The problem was getting a pass, because this is a very important event, and only the early birds get the worm, or in this case, the horses. The latecomers get to ride on broncos. The event is celebrated by holding the longest rodeo ever (over a distance of some 680 km).

It was done. I was Rider No. 30. As I got on to the bronco, a girl came up to me, “Could you please exchange places with my sister? I’m scared of bronco rides and I want to stay close to her.” Given the situation there was nothing to do but agree, so I switched places and got bronco no. 28. I saw that these were twin broncos, that is, two broncos side by side. Some sort of genetic mutation had been done to achieve this. Thus I saw myself rubbing elbows with the fish-eyed goddess, who had also decided to avail the weekend and go down to the plains.

The bronco-herd was late by 25*60*9192631770 vibrations between two hyperfine levels of the cesium-133 atom, and by the time it arrived, absolute humidity was about to be achieved causing unwelcome precipitation and drenching the riders. Luckily the herd was equipped with a canopy, another of those genetic marvels.

The ride commenced at a slow pace, kind of a warming up to ensure law keepers did not rein in the herd for ignoring colors having a wavelength of 0.7 microns in the visible region. The real fun began as soon as the herd reached the great track which forms a part of the auric quadrilateral spanning across the expanse of the former diamond of the British Empire. As the broncos began rearing, we riders were pitched up a couple of feet into the air. This prevented us from catching up on our sleep, but the ride was far from boring, as the fish-eyed was amazing company, and it is thanks to her (and to a communications marvel from a former Swedish wood pulp company) that I survived the ride. Sleep finally took all of us, disturbed only by the occasional rearing bronco, and we woke up to see a beautiful dawn surrounded by clouds. This is where the real adventure started.

What had happened was that the broncos had kicked off their herder and run amok down a dirt path, which kind of resembled the surface of the moon (complete with the huge Hipparchus crater on which Tintin’s moon rocket had landed). Now each time the broncos reared, each of us were flung several feet into the air, landing a few seconds later
back on the broncos’ back, causing extreme discomfort in the dorsal parts of the anatomy.
This unexpected detour taken by the broncos wasted 14400 seconds of our time, but the scenery, whenever we got a chance to glimpse it, was superb. Clouds all around us, a mild sun and an ambient temperature. But all this was forgotten thanks to the rearing broncos. When finally we reached our destination, I was glad to alight and run home. But it definitely was an experience that will remain etched (with concentrated sulphuric acid) on my mind (and my bruised dorsal parts) for quite some time.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Immobili Homo Sapieno Bangalore Publicus Hexa-wheel

“The answer will be found in Bangalore,” said the Upstart. As is common in most professions dealing with higher education (or in other words, knowing more and more about less and less until you know everything about nothing), the seniors ignored him.
“The meeting is adjourned,” screamed the President of the International Chemistry Congress into the microphone, though he had no need to raise his voice. I suppose the problem with being in a position of power is trying to stay there. As they say in India, “Fevicol ka mazboot jod hai. Tootega nahin!!”. The old chap knew that no one respected him, so he shouted. Another possible reason to raise his decibel level could have been the theory proposed by the Upstart. As with almost all upstarts, this Upstart had come from nowhere, had no formal degrees, and to all knowledge had never done any research or presented any paper. No wonder then that he was despised by the seniors.

The topic of debate was the age-old Packaging Problem. How atoms arrange themselves so as to achieve maximum efficiency in the spatial domain was a question that had been haunting scientists for decades. Earliest known theories said that atoms are cubical in shape, so they can easily be placed on top of each other and there would then be no gaps between them. But then the nucleus was discovered, and Rutherford with his famous alpha particle experiment showed that most of an atom is empty space. Thus an atom was like a box in which a long awaited flat screen television comes to your house. It’s a huge box with a small TV inside, just like an atom. Though the scaling factor is a little warped, I suppose u will get the idea. So the TV is the nucleus and the little sponge balls that ensure the TV reaches u safely are the electrons. The electrons exist in the form of a cloud around the nucleus.

The alpha-particle experiment complicated matters. Other discoveries like the Uncertainty principle, which said that electrons exist everywhere at the same time, did nothing to save the situation. Thus theories delving into complex higher mathematics were formulated, which, though unable to solve the problem, at least were complex enough to seem right. Hexagonal formation, aabbcc, abcabc, and so on… the number of possible patterns is endless. The truth was that no one knew the real answer. So when the Upstart proposed his theory, everyone opposed his theory.

This brings us to the theory itself!! It is clear that for maximum packing, when an atom moves, it will cause others to move too. Or if the other atoms are unrelenting, then none of the atoms can move, unless one of them has a lot of energy which he is ready to expend in the process. Now the earth has a high density core. So consider the earth as an atom. And the atmospheric cloud is then an electron cloud. That makes people the electrons. But zooming in, this approach fails because electrons are all alike. As a famous author once said, “All humans are born equal. Some humans are more equal than others.” Hence the earth-atom theory collapses. So let the people be atoms. This gives us an interesting little theory called “Immobili Homo Sapieno Bangalore Publicus Hexa-wheel”. What it means is that in a Bangalore bus, creatures categorized at the top of the primate chart of the animal kingdom are so tightly packed that they cannot move. As the Upstart discovered to his chagrin, to get down at Tippasandra market, one must get to the exit (a wormhole in atomic terms, but I digress) at CMH Road itself, else you will be borne unwillingly to BEML Gate. Thus there is no part of the atomic surface (read human body) that is not in contact with the corresponding surface of some other atom. Of course, every theory has its flaws, and this one is no exception, as the she-atoms are separate, but this can be attributed to a diamagnetic field which is stronger than the nuclear force. This field will of course be explained very easily by some very high order Lorentz equations or something like that.

The matter was put to the vote, and it was decided to send an independent observer to test the theory. It was proved right without any room for doubt. The Upstart has now been nominated for both the Nobel and IgNobel prizes in Chemistry.