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Saturday, October 21, 2017

NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik ~ fidget spinner on space !!

Randy “Komrade” Bresnik was selected as an astronaut in 2004. He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps in May 1989. During his military career, he became a F/A-18 Test Pilot and was eventually deployed to Kuwait to fly combat missions in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. 

A veteran of STS-129, he has also trained as a Cave-a-naut with the European Space Agency to test living deep beneath the Earth’s surface as well as an Aquanaut for NASA’s Extreme Environment Mission Operation (NEEMO) 19. Bresnik is currently a part of the Expedition 52/53 crew that launched in July 2017. On October 5, 2017, Bresnik performed his third spacewalk, along with Mark VandeHei.

Away, these gadgets have taken the children space by storm. They came out of nowhere, and they're already so hot that schools are banning them – it is the ‘fidget spinners’, the biggest fad of 2017. These decidedly low-tech devices have become a must-have for kids, to the point where they're an even more popular topic anything else. The spinners are simple (and cheap) gadgets that spin in your hand. They come with an inline skate and ball bearings, and can spin for 2 minutes or more while you're working, hanging out with friends or trying to relax.  In case, you have not seen or played around, inside the three-spoke fidget spinner,  is an area you hold with a finger and thumb. Then, with another finger, you flick one of the spokes and let the spinner spin !the toy  consists of a ball-bearing in the center of a multi-lobed flat structure made from metal or plastic designed to spin along its axis with little effort.

Fidget spinners became popular toys in April 2017, although similar devices had been invented as early as 1993.  Whether it can really relieve people of their stress is not for sure, however, they are used even on   International Space Station, makes an interesting news !!  Sciencealerts.com reports that  astronauts on the ISS have finally got their hands on what was briefly the trendiest contraption in our part of the universe. And watching it spin in microgravity is enough to make the toy look cool again.

NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik, who is currently aboard the space station as part of Expedition 52/53, shared a video over the weekend of him and his colleagues playing with a fidget spinner.The team performs a series of tricks with the NASA-branded (of course) spinner, pretending to spin along with it in various directions as they float through the microgravity of the space station.For example, flight engineer Mark T. VandeHei holds the fidget spinner while he himself does full rotations along a horizontal plane; another crew member Joe Acaba does dizzying somersaults while the fidget spinner rotates in his hand.

But as fun and nauseating as that is to watch, the best part is, of course, seeing the fidget spinner freely floating through the air while continuing to spin. You can even see the iconic toy floating against a backdrop of Earth as seen through the ISS cupola windows. .. .. ….. andas it turns out, microgravity does make a fidget spinner act differently than what we can achieve down on the ground.

"In a fidget spinner, you hold the centre of one ball bearing, the outer bearing race spins around, and the outer parts of the fidget spin with the outer bearing race," physicist Paul Doherty from the Exploratorium in San Francisco explained to Live Science earlier this year.The smoother the action in that central bearing race, the less friction there is and the toy can spin for longer. But in space, the centre part doesn't stay still."Allowing the fidget spinner to float reduces the bearing friction by permitting the rate of the central ring and outer spinner to equalise, and the whole thing spins as a unit," NASA explains in the video description.

Indeed, if you watch closely when Bresnik lets go of the spinner and lets it float around, you notice that the NASA logo stands still at first, but quickly starts rotating along with the rest of the device.Now, at first you might think that in space a fidget spinner would spin for much longer, but as it turns out, there's still plenty of friction happening in the central ball bearing to make the spin eventually slow down.

Interesting little play thing !

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

20th Oct 2017.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Google honours Nobel laureate who studied in Triplicane


It was a grand colourful Deepavali  ~ the sound of crackers was heard throughout the day and at Triplicane (perhaps in all other places too) as one looked at the sky, the night’s stars were not visible as the dazzling fireworks lit up the sky.  This is no post on Deepavali celebrations but something on  a man who probably did  more than anyone else to tell us about the mysteries of the night sky.  The man, became famous for his discoveries about the evolution of the stars. His work was vast, and he began early, developing his theory of stars' evolution before he had even turned 20.

The name  * Thiru Allikkeni * (meaning the sacred pond of lily)   pronounced Thiruvallikkeni  by natural laws of linguistics, was crudely rolled and twisted out of shape by the English tongue as Triplicane.   Triplicane houses some best historic educational institutions driving home the point of scholastic excellence for decades. 

Those who have been in and have  seen Triplicane,  would  never miss that imposing [Red / Saffron] structure at 149 Big Street, Triplicane, Chennai 600 005.  A landmark by itself – an imposing structure - bricks and saffron coloured walls with Indo-sarsenic architecture that  has inspired many and created many worthy students.  Hindu High School founded as Dravida Patasala for Tamil boys which later amalgamated with The Hindu Andhra Balura Patasala for Telegu boys that were in existence in 1852. In 1860 they were amalgamated as The Triplicane Andhra Dravida Balura Patasala and in 1898 renamed “ The Hindu High School”.  It has been a great learning  centre producing eminent personalities and transforming the lives of tens of thousands of people into responsible citizens for the cause of nature building.   The school was for long, considered as one of the best schools in the Madras Presidency and was once the feeder school to Presidency College, another institute of formidable repute of yore.

Today’s Google doodle honours - Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar who was  responsible for some of the most important research that has helped mankind understand the evolution of stars, inching closer to better understanding the nature of the universe itself. Mr Chandrasekhar, whose 107th birthday would have been today, was the first astrophysicist to win a Nobel Prize for his theory on the evolution of stars, determining that not all stars will turn into white dwarfs.

Interestingly this Tamilian, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar was born in Lahore, on  October 19, 1910 to Smt.  Sitalakshmi  and Chandrasekhara Subrahmanya, who was in Lahore as Deputy Auditor General of the Northwestern Railways.  He was a child prodigy, who had published his first paper and developed his theory of star evolution by the age of 20.  At just 26, Chandrasekhar was recruited as a deputy professor by the University of Chicago, where he spent the rest of his career. Though initially his theories and equations on the structure and evolution of stars were met with skepticism, they later earned him wide acclaim.

During World War II, he performed research for the US Army, and was invited to join the Manhattan Project which produced the world's first nuclear bombs, but delays meant he didn't contribute.  Scientists acknowledge that  Mr Chandrasekhar’s work challenged  previous understanding of the late-stage evolution patterns of stars. That understanding, concluded by scientists in the early 1930s, determined that after stars would collapse into white dwarves after they converted their hydrogen and helium stores. White dwarves, which are about the size of Earth, are extremely dense from the compression of the star’s electrons and nuclei.  However,  Mr Chandrasekhar  was to expand on that understanding, determining that not all star is created equal ! He found that some stars don’t simply stop contracting later in life. Stars that have a mass more than 1.44 times that of our Sun, he found, would continue to contract. That 1.44 figure, known as the Chandrasekhar limit, was a major step in understanding how neutron stars are created, and what sparks supernova explosions.
This pic credit : the sun co.uk

The Indian-American physicist was also elected to the Royal Society of London before the age of 34, and became a distinguished service professor of Physics not too long after that. These included the National Medal of Science, the Draper Medal of the US National Academy of Science, and the gold medal of the Royal Astronomical Society.  Pinnacle of glory was to be conferred later as Mr Chandra was awarded   the Nobel Prize in Physics, which he won in 1983 alongside William A. Fowler.

The decorated astrophysicist died suddenly of a heart attack at the University of Chicago hospital at the age of 84.  His wife, Lalitha Chandrasekhar, survived until 2013, when she passed away at 102.  His paternal uncle was the Indian physicist and Nobel laureate C. V. Raman. His mother was devoted to intellectual pursuits, had translated Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House into Tamil and is credited with arousing Chandra's intellectual curiosity at an early age.  The family moved from Lahore at 1916 to Allahabad and after two years, finally settled at Madras in 1918.

Chandrasekhar was tutored at home until the age of 12.  He attended the Hindu High School, Big Street, Triplicane, Madras during the years 1922–25. He later studied at Presidency College, Madras and the University of Cambridge, where he was to spend  most of his career at the University of Chicago.

In 1998, the search engine founders Larry and Sergey drew a stick figure behind the second 'o' of Google as a message to that they were out of office at the Burning Man festival and with that, Google Doodles were born. The company decided that they should decorate the logo to mark cultural moments and it soon became clear that users really enjoyed the change to the Google homepage.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
19th Oct 2017.


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Deepavali film release ! ~ ticket rates go up .......... touring talkies (tentu kottai)

Deepavali, the festival of lights is grandly celebrated with crackers, sweets, wishes and more …

One favourite pastime of people is to watch movies on Deepavali day .. How much would a family have to spend now to watch movie in an airconditioned City theatre having plush seats, Dolby atmos sound system, popcorn and other facilities – before you answer, if you had been to a theatre recently, something on good old past !!  ~ and have you ever had the pleasure on standing in Queue anxiously counting whether tickets would last till your turn ? – in our days, the luxury was Rs.2.90p in Devi Paradise theatre ! ~ what is it now ?, yet certain things in life have not changed and that includes the fans of cine actors spending and everyone fleecing the cine-goer.  

Many famous malls have been pulled down with marriage halls and commercial complex rising over there !

Way back in 1982 – for two continuous days watched ‘Gulebakavali’ mid-night show at Sriperumpudur ~ the ticket was 0.40 p or so ! ~ I was never an avid cine-buff.  Gulebakavali (The Flower of Bakavali) released in 1955 had  MG  Ramachandran, TR Rajakumari, Rajasulochana, G. Varalakshmi, in lead roles.  The film produced and directed by TR. Ramanna was the story of  a young man out to find a mysterious flower,  believed to have the power to restore anyone's eyesight, and the various challenges he faces during his journey. The story is linked to  Arabic folklore classic, One Thousand and One Nights.  The movie had a fight scene involving MGR taming a  "ferocious tiger” ~ I had to accompany a group of friends – and the movie was seen in a ‘Touring talkies’[do not remember the name or did it not have a name at all ?] aka Tentu Kottai ~ the prominent features of the theatre were : there was ‘floor class (thatai tickettu) and bench class’; people would even fall asleep on the floor; as the film runs 4 reels or so, they would stop, switch on the lights, rewind the reel and then put the next reel on the machine – a good 5 min break or so – and as you try to stretch your leg, you may suddenly feel a street dog running hither and thither !

Am surprised to know that there have been cases  in Apex Court involving Touring Talkies ! ~  C.A.No. 6460 of  1998.. .. it makes an interesting reading at a time when the  four day-long strike announced by theatre owners in Tamil Nadu against the 30% local body tax levied by the State government came to an end and with the news of movie tickets becoming expensive with tax.  Why all those who cry when the ticket price goes up slightly due to tax – remain totally shut when movie tickets are fixed at astronomical prices on the initial days of screening ~ and when so called ‘cultural events showcasing some artistes’ are priced in thousands of rupees and those assembled shriek every now and then – glitzy dances,  gibberish talks and showing of cine artistes, people are prepared to spend their month’s savings; not to speak of the travelling cost, even the parking fee perhaps would be much higher than the hue and cry on tax going to Govt.  
Some media wrote in their first page on how much of impact the  Local Body Entertainment Tax and how badly the cine-goer would be affected.  Anytime the price of popcorn and a glass of pepsi is much higher – the concern is never on the cine-goer but everything is aimed at his pocket, the industry needs them to sustain their own desire of raking crores of money.   

Reports stated Vishal, actor and president of the powerful Tamil Film Producers Council, stopped six new Tamil films from releasing last Friday, till government withdraws LBET. The Tamil version of Dulquer’s Solo released for a day was withdrawn – he was quoted as saying that they fight is against double taxation. The film industry is not in a position to pay 38 to 48 % as taxes on a cinema ticket – but the only Q is why should the Govt waive the entertainment tax, who is benefitted by such action ? never the common man, the ordinary cine-goer.

However, Tamil Nadu based multiplexes and single screens decided to go ahead with the screening of existing content till their association meets and takes a call – meantime, the Tamil Nadu government, which came under severe criticism on the LBET issue,  swept it under the carpet. They reacted by coming out with the long overdue revised ticket rates for cinema theatres in the state. After a decade Tamil Nadu government revised cinema ticket rates by 25 % over the existing base price.

There is absolutely no need for panic, nay not to think of that even – if theatres remain closed for a month also, life would not come to a standstill – Sun would still rise.  As it happens, the Vijay starrer Diwali release ‘Mersal’ has been hyped as undergoing a struggle – perhaps a planned strategy to get free advertisement and draw more crowds.

In the melee, the Touring talkies / tent kottais – perhaps are no longer in existence.  Earlier they were granted exemption and the case cited earlier as in Apex Court was on the grant of  exemption to touring cinema within the purview of sub-rule (2) of Rule 14 of the Tamil Nadu Cinemas (Regulations) Rules, 1957. The appellant owned and operated a touring talkies by the name of Sri Karthikeya Touring Talkies.  The Tamil Nadu Cinemas (Regulation) Act, 1955  under Sec 11 gave the power to Govt to exempt  any cinematograph exhibitions or any place where a cinematograph exhibitions or any place where a cinematograph exhibition is given from any of the provisions of this Act or of any rules made thereunder.  It had a proviso that touring talkies will not be allowed in towns  with a population of 50,000 and above, if there are three or more permanent cinemas.  It further stated that touring cinema   shall not be allowed within a distance of 1.609 Km. of  nearest permanent cinema located in the same local area or in the adjacent village, panchayat or town or in the City of Madras.         The distance between any two touring cinemas shall be not less than 0.402 Km.  however, there existed no restriction in regard to the distance between one permanent cinema and another permanent cinema.
~ a tent kottai pic credit : Frontline

            It appears that the appellant's touring cinema was granted exemption in Apr  1988 by reference to Section 11 of the Act which exemption came to an end with effect from  October 28, 1994.  On the same day, the appellant moved a fresh application seeking a similar exemption.  During the pendency of the application on  September 6, 1995 the G.O. No. 1326 came to be issued making an amendment in the Rules.  It also appears that between April 4, 1988 and September 6, 1995 a permanent theatre owned by respondent No.1 had come up into existence which attracted the applicability of Rule 14 and the appellant's touring cinema could not have operated unless and until granted an exemption. 

            Feeling aggrieved by the order dated October 30, 1995, the party agitated in court of law.  The Apex Court observed that it  is well-settled that if an authority has a power under the law merely because while exercising that power the source of power is not specifically referred to or a reference is made to a wrong provision of law, that by itself does not vitiate the exercise of power so long as the power does exist and can be traced to a source available in law.

            Stating so, the Apex court allowed the appeal, setting aside the judgment of the Division Bench.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

18th Oct 2017.            

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

MV Act ~ road rules ....... and driving without licence !!!

In legal Forums, and Court of law, many legal aspects do get analysed in every case.  In the impugned case, the learned counsel for the respondents submitted that the person holding LMV is not entitled to drive the transport vehicle if there is no endorsement on his driving licence to that effect under Section 3(1) of the Motor Vehicles Act from the District Transport Officer.

Section 3(1) of the Motor Vehicles  Act 1988  reads as under : -

"3. Necessity for driving licence.-(1) No person shall drive a motor vehicle in any public place unless he holds an effective driving licence issued to him authorising him to drive the vehicle; and no person shall so drive a transport vehicle [other than[a motor cab or motor cycle] hired for his own use or rented under any scheme made under sub-section (2) of section 75] unless his driving licence specifically entitles him so to do."

In the instant case, the Mini Door 3 Wheeler of the appellant was certainly a transport vehicle as defined in Section 2(47) of the Motor Vehicles Act and, therefore, the endorsement on the driving licence of its driver under Section 3(1) of the Motor Vehicles Act was essential. Without this endorsement, therefore, it can be safely concluded that the driver was not holding a valid driving licence and that the respondents are not liable to pay insurance claim to the appellant.  That was the decision highlighting ‘what constitutes valid license’ decided by - State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission [SCDRC]  Punjab in - Asha Rani vs UIICin Sept. 2010.

The roads are getting congested – and the way people drive mad, it would appear  that only a small proportion are sane…. as you drive in the metropolis – there are killer lorries [water tankers are notorious]; transport corporation buses threaten you; it is so scary  riding infront of tourist taxis, buses of educational institutions and those transporting office goers……….then there are fantastic costly cars whose owners decide that they only are entitled to be on road and drive at breakneck speed – as you feel threatened of your existence, an autorickshaw cuts past from nowhere…… and then there are two-wheeler (many do not look road-worthy but still transport sometimes a group of people)……… there are also cycle rickshaws and the odd bullockcarts – with many cattle [cows / buffaloes / horses] roaming on the street not to speak of the population of stray dogs….

Why do people  drive so fast and negligently – is it sheer fun; is that because of the power of vehicles that thrusts the macho feeling… women on wheel is more dangerous…..What we fail to learn is :  As a Nation, we are not law-abiding.  We would stretch every muscle to break the rules.  Most rules be it traffic rules, signals or other laws are meant to bemuse and restrain the common man. People ride with gay abandon on wrong side and on roads declared as one-ways.   The rich and powerful always consider themselves above the law.  In the busy stretch of KamarjarSalai (Beach Road) in Chennai, where traffic flows right from the morning,  one can often see vehicles violating signals, cutting yellow lines and being driven at break-neck speeds causing trouble, fear, hindrance, nuisance and threat to life and limbs of other road users.  Many of them belong to Politically powerful (one can see the stickers and paintings of political leaders), some Government vehicles, transport corporation buses  and top bureaucrats – many of them even have the red light atop the vehicle.  If it is a rule, does it differentiate between elite and ordinary road users.  Sometimes, even life saving ambulances are not properly provided free way.  Worst, whenever an ambulance winds its way through marauding traffic, people mindlessly try to follow the ambulance by driving fast after that.

But would you drive or allow your son to drive without a valid Driving Licence ?is that not an offence ??  ~ now read this newsitem in today’s Times of India, Chennai edition titled ‘ TNSTC permits over 30 of its drivers to operate buses without valid licence’ – shocking !!

At a time when carrying original driving licence is mandatory for drivers, Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation (TNSTC) has allowed more than 30 of its drivers to operate buses without a valid licence  in one case for over six years.The issue came to light when advocate  brought the matter to the notice of the Madras high court. Admitting his plea, Justice T Raja has ordered notice to TNSTC returnable by October 26.

Williams submitted that the driving licence of P Natarajan, a driver with TNSTC, had expired in 2011. Since he had crossed 40 years of age, his licence could not be renewed automatically, as rules mandate his personal appearance before the authorities and a test to prove his physical endurance.But, flouting the rules, Natarajan chose to drive without a valid licence, instead of renewing it. Being the regional secretary of Anna trade union, an affiliate of the ruling AIADMK, Natrajan managed to keep TNSTC officials from bothering him to renew the licence. Natarajan was doing so for the past six years, knowing well that his act was not only illegal but also puts hundreds of innocent passengers' lives at stake. Appalled over the inaction of TNSTC over the issue, Williams approached the high court. He further submitted that knowing that the issue has reached the court, on September 2 TNSTC passed an order stating that action had been taken against two supervisors who failed to supervise the licence issue. Natarajan has renewed his licence now.

This apart, through another order passed by the corporation on August 25, it has come to light that 31 more drivers conductors have not renewed their licences and were allowed to continue their work with expired licence, the advocate said.

Appalling !

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

17th Oct 2017.