Link Forest

I returned from Palakkad last Saturday. It was a heart wrenching experience to be separated, ergo temporarily, from your wife and daughter again. While there, I read a lot on my mobile while the wife and daughter were sleeping. These I bookmarked and am now posting here for my own reference. I have bunched them together under headings as I sort them.

Space

Telescopes of the World: India’s Devasthal Telescope: I had a fascination with observatories and learning more about them to improve articles on Wikipedia. I even planned a tour of all Indian observatories. In the meanwhile, loved reading this description of India’s ARIES Observatory at Nainital by Sandhya Ramesh.

India’s Star Rises Higher with LIGO’s Third Gravitational Wave Detection: I always enjoy reading stuff on astrophysics. But, sometimes don’t have the right mindset. This article actually put me in the right mindset (by mentioning ASTROSAT) before letting me enjoy reading about gravitational waves. This is an excellent piece by Vasudevan Mukunth writing for The Wire. He also wrote a nice overview of science journalism in India over on his personal blog.

Talking Space with Tim Peake: I had never known about Richard Branson’s blog before this piece came online on Twitter. Here he shares about a talk with British astronaut Tim Peake who has just returned after spending 6 months in space. Includes some lovely photos that scaled well even for my mobile device.

Aadhar

The Aadhar is something that I have no clear opinion on and started reading lots of stuff recently to learn more. I still don’t understand the various standpoints. Most of the stuff that I did read ended up being anti-Aadhar.

Both Mozilla and the Electronic Frontier Foundation had blog posts on why having Aadhar in its current form is a bad idea.

I got sidetracked by some interesting detective work by Kiran Jonnalagadda and his description of it here, on the troll’s denial and the afterglow. It is always great to see a troll unmasked. I wish more unmaskings happen. Thejesh GN has a nice summary on his blog as well.

I’ve read nothing really good in the pro-Aadhar camp online. But, in my work in the bank I’ve had a few customers in the bank I work in who were from the country side who say that the direct benefit transfer that was started has been good and worked well for the most part. They had to undergo a few discomforts but they shirk it all off as getting used to a new system. These people support linking Aadhar to other schemes and facilities as well.

Economics

  1. Stock Market – A Bull on Steroids
  2. GST – No Panacea
  3. The Unseen Economics of Jan Dhan Yojana – I have not seen any writing on the Jan Dhan Yojana that explores these particular themes.

Politics

I’ve been quite impressed to read the writing of Meghanad S related to Parliamentary democracy that we practice here in India. One highlights our poor understanding of how the Parliamentary democracy works and our incorrect expectations from it. The other tries to help us understand how the Government has changed the way the central government shares the tax money it earns with the state and the various challenges and changes that throws up.

The other political piece that I read was one trying to understand the Modi Government’s foreign policy stance.

Miscellaneous

Several odds and ends thrown in here.

  1. Using Toyota’s 5S principles in keeping homes clean and tidy. I read this more to revise the concepts of the 5S principles than with any intention of keeping the home clean.
  2. A nice review of a newly opened cafe in Sikkim with beautiful pictures and a very inviting cafe. Also, Sikkim would be the place I would run away to.
  3. Matt Mullenweg shares whats in his bag in 2017.
  4. I have mixed feelings about farming but have ideas about farming for self-sustenance some day. I was mulling over this stance of mine related to farming when Better India published this nice piece on Zero Based Natural Farming (ZBNF). This also talks of implementing this in the Beed district of Maharashtra.
  5. Really loved this show & tell edition of the Bullet Journal. Working towards making mine look even better.

That’s all. When I put it all down, doesn’t seem like I read a lot. Probably because I read bits between baby sleep cycles.

The First Flight of the GSLV Mk-III

As I write this, the GSLV Mk-III would have commenced its 25.5 hour countdown to launch at 1728 hrs (IST) on June 5, 2017. The 3-stage GSLV Mk-III will carry the 3136 kg GSAT-19 to a geostationary orbit. The satellite carries transponders for communication, a scientific instrument to study the nature of charged particles and effect of space radiation on satellites and among various other technologies an indigenously built Lithium ion battery. This will be the launch vehicle’s debut flight and hence called D1.

GSLV Mk-III at the Second Launch Pad

I love the dawn/dusk time view of the launch vehicle. Image Credit: ISRO

The GSLV Mk-III flew last as GSLV Mk-III-X, an experimental flight where it flew with a passive third stage and the CARE payload. The sub-orbital flight was intended to study the launch vehicle configuration and went off successfully. It allowed ISRO to study how the launch vehicle performed in flight. The crew vehicle CARE splashed down in the Bay of Bengal near Andaman and Nicobar islands and was recovered by the Coast Guard.

The GSLV Mk-III is India’s medium lift launch vehicle capable of flying 4 tonnes to Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit and 8 tonnes to Low Earth Orbit. It is intended to place India’s heavier communication satellites in orbit. It has two S200 solid fuel boosters attached to a core stage. The core stage has two clustered L110 Vikas Engines. The third stage Cryogenic Upper Stage C25 is powered by the indigenously developed CE-20 engine. The payload fairing also has a “slanted strap-on nose cone for aerodynamic robustness” added to it after the X flight.

Notice the change in language. It is no longer called as first, second, third and fourth stages as in PSLV and the GSLV. The stages are called as booster, core and upper stage.

This will also be the time when the CE-20 will actually fire and take a payload to orbit. It is different from the cryogenic engine on the GSLV which is called CE-7.5. The GSLV Mk-III-X carried the CE-20 but it did not fire.

I had written about the commercial aspects of the GSLV launches in the Wire in 2015 and think that the same holds for the GSLV Mk-III as well. India has already begun developing satellites which require a launch capability more than that provided by the Mk III. An example is the soon to be launched GSAT-11. GSAT-11 weighs 5725 kg and is going to be launched on board the Ariane-5 in 2017-18 and uses the newly developed I-6K bus. This requires development of heavy lift (launch capability to GTO of more than 10 tonnes) launch vehicles. This development would be pursuant to lessons learnt in the development of the GSLV and the Mk-III.

GSAT-19 is largely a communication satellite. It holds improvements in satellite components such as heat pipe, gyros, accelerometers and an indigenous Lithium ion battery. There is very little information that I could find on GRASP (Geostationary Radiation Spectrometer) besides what it says about studying charged particles and impact of space radiation on satellites.

With so much to write about, I was not happy with the initial reportage in the Indian press looking at India’s human spaceflight program (example). I wish they would ask ISRO to share more information on the payload (the science payload as well improvement in space craft instrumentation) and the improvements in the launch vehicle that the GSLV Mk-III X flight enabled.

I wish ISRO and the GSLV Mk-III team all the best and Godspeed!

Becoming a Father

I’m in Palakkad right now. I became a father to a baby girl on April 25, 2017. The experience has been overwhelming. Both the mother and daughter are doing fine. 

I’m back in Palakkad again after a few days here at the end of April for my daughter’s 28th day ceremony. We’ve named her Rithika.

The South Asia Satellite

The ISRO will launch the GSLV tomorrow carrying the South Asian Satellite on board. ISRO calls it the GSAT-9. It will carry Indian transponders that will be used by India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and the Maldives. The Wire has a short video describing the significance of the launch and some prior history.

11a8gsat-9seenwithtwohalvesofpayloadfaringofgslv-f09

GSAT-9 seen with the two halves of the payload fairing of the GSLV-F09. Image Credit: ISRO

I think this launch will be important for India for two things. One is to prove, further, the reliability of the GSLV as a launch vehicle capable of regularly delivering communication satellites into orbit. This improves with each launch. As this reliability improves, it brings in business in communication satellite launches as well as reduces India’s dependence on foreign launch vehicles. The second is to improve availability of transponders for users on the ground. Indian transponders can thence be leased and commercialized after meeting India’s requirements.

It would be interesting to see if the use of the transponders by some of our neighboring countries provides them with sufficiently good experience that they will continue using Indian transponders or even ask for multiple transponders. This would make it important again to improve the reliability of the GSLV and the GSLV Mk-III to put enough communication satellites into orbit to service these future requirements. Could then India wean off South East Asian countries from American and European transponders to Indian ones?

Interestingly, this satellite also carries with it an electric propulsion experiment. This satellite is expected to stay in orbit for 12 years. Communication satellites usually  last around 10 years. They have to carry as much fuel for what is known as station keeping. The satellites begin to drift from orbit like kites that we fly. We tug at the kite to keep it at one place and prevent it from drifting too far away. The satellite has no strings attached and hence the satellite will have to use fuel on-board to reach its orbit as well as to stay there.

Using electric propulsion completely for doing station keeping would reduce the amount of fuel the satellite would have to carry. This means we can add more transponders which in turn would mean fewer satellites could meet the requirements. But, this is an experiment and hence ISRO is still carrying the fuel it normally would had the electric propulsion system had not been there. I am also delighted to hear that the GSAT-20 mission flying next year will also carry an electric propulsion system on board. The lessons we learn from the experiment on the GSAT-9 would be incorporated.

Sakhavu (2017)

SakhavuPossible spoilers alert.

Example, is a great way to teach others how to live. Nivin Pauly’s character is a student politician steeped in the ways of modern politics. His image is a façade of good while he indulges in political manoeuvring using unfair means. His plans for subterfuge of a fellow comrade who seems to be in his way towards higher posts in the Party. His plans come to naught when he is asked to donate blood to a Comrade in ICU.

The Comrade’s friend begins the story of the Comrade’s life who launches agitations against the tyrant tea factory owners in Peerumedu. Once this agitation is a success, agrarian workers of the zamindar approach him. The Comrade agitates by working on the fields. Success leads him to further agitation. The Comrade teaches by example to his comrades in the Party by leading from the front, showing how to lead agitations and how to organise workers. Later, as we learn of The Comrade’s home life, we learn he teaches his daughter by example as well. The movie shows us of a time when idealism and a certain political philosophy was needed to end oppression.

Cut to the present, the tea factory is not working due to various issues including labour issues and profitability. The Comrade, urges a wealthy friend to purchase and run the tea factory to help the people who could not migrate from Peerumedu and forced by hunger into prostitution. There he faces the hoteliers who have illegally built on Company land. It is while fighting these land sharks that the Comrade is stabbed and in hospital.

The Company wins a case in court, with the news that the land sharks have been cleared and will become operational again. The movie asks, rhetorically, if the political philosophy that ended oppression in Peerumedu would work in this new world? Is that idealism, rekindled, the need of today?

Communism was a tool that was once used to transform a highly stratified society into one of the better states in India. It addresses only one part of the equation, though. It works only when there is an oppressed and an oppressor. The lines between these two has blurred and one wonders if, as the movie asks, it is the right tool for a polarised society we live in today.

(Watched on 15/04/2017 at the 8 pm show in Inox Cinemas, R City Mall, Ghatkopar, Mumbai)

 

What do I do?

Every time I attend any meetup, I find it difficult to explain why I am there. I attended the Kilter pre-conference meetup in Mumbai today and found myself in a similar predicament.

I limit my introductions to the fact that I work in a public sector bank and don’t go beyond that. People who know me from meeting me at different junctures know me for the various interest I had had when they met me. I have moved on mostly. Currently, just working in a bank and my family keeps me occupied enough to prevent me from doing anything else.

No, that’s not entirely true. I have gotten more and more lazy and hence have not found the time for any of my other interests other than reading. I have, hence, been below the radar.

This then confuses the new people that I meet as to why I am there.