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September 2, 2015

Science Comics: Coming soon to a store near you

Filed under: Interesting Sites — Suramya @ 1:00 AM

When you say comics most people think of Superhero comics like Spider-man, Superman or stuff like Tintin, Chaha Choudhary, Super Commando Dhruv etc. No one really thinks of comics as a medium to teach serious science. ‘First Second Books’ (Yes, I also think the name is silly) plans to change this by releasing an all new series of nonfiction graphic novels aimed at middle-grade readers that cover topics in the world of Biology, chemistry, Physics etc.

The first release (called Dinosaurs and Coral Reefs) of the series is going to be in May 2016 so there is a bit of wait before the books are available. I am sure they will make an excellent gift for kids in your life. Which is why I am already planning on buying all the books in the series. (They are not for me, Honest :) )

dinos_sampler_7_0
Sample Page from the comic

Check out the link: First Second Books Unveils New Science Series for more samples from the series.

– Suramya

Source: PopSci Twitter feed.

August 21, 2015

List of Relatively lesser known Indian Special Forces which are among the best in the world

Filed under: My Thoughts — Suramya @ 10:14 PM

If you ask people to list out special forces in the world most people will remember Delta Forces, Rangers, SAS etc. This is thanks to the abundance of references to them in Media be it books, movies or TV series etc. Which is all well and good but what people don’t know or realize that India also has eight kinds of Special Forces that are relatively unknown to most people. Infact even though I am a son of an Indian Air Force officer I only knew about 2 out of the 8 forces listed below which is kind of sad. So to make things right I am sharing the list so that more people are aware of this and the knowledge is shared.

Without further ado here’s the list of Indian Special Forces: (Click on the name to visit their Wikipedia page for more details)

MARCOS:

MARCOS or Marine Commandos is India’s most lethal special force. Though they are trained to engage in battle on all terrains, MARCOS commandos are experts in maritime warfare. The physical test to join MARCOS is so gruesome that more than 80 percent of the applicants drop out in the first, three-day long, physical fitness and aptitude test. Those who successfully complete the test are subjected to a five-week-long process called the ‘hell’s week’ where commandos are put through extreme sleep deprivation coupled with the most difficult physical tasks. These commandos are even capable of firing while lying down, standing, running full-sprint, even backwards and looking into a mirror – with a reaction time of 0.27 seconds. The final stages of the training include an 800-meter long thigh-high mud crawl called the ‘death crawl’, loaded with 25 kg of gear which is concluded with shooting a target 25 meters away with a man standing next to it.

They are also known as the ‘Dadiwala fauj‘, meaning the “Bearded army” because of their bearded disguise in civil areas.

Para Commandos:

Para commandos is one of the most highly trained special forces of the Indian Army. Because of the extremely fatal nature of the operations they perform, they are kept at optimum level of operational efficiency and physical fitness, and only the most physically fit, mentally robust, intelligent, and highly motivated soldiers are inducted in the fleet. Para commandos go through the most grueling commando training regimes in the world, apart from daily 20km runs with 60km baggage and man-to-man assault practices; they even have to free fall from belligerent heights of as much as 33,500 feet. They are also highly trained in terrain and environment warfare and deep sea diving. Their most notable and fatal operations included the 1971 war with Pakistan, the 1999 Kargil war and the infamous Operation Bluestar in 1984.

Garud Commando Force:

The Garud Commando Force formed in 2004 with over 2000 commandos a unit of the Indian Air Force and specializes in Airfield Seizure, Special Reconnaissance, Airborne Operations, Air Assault, Special Operations Combat Search and Rescue, and counter insurgency. The training for being a Garud commando is so tough that it can take up to 3 years to qualify as a fully operational Garud. Also, Garud commandos are extremely adept at anti-hijack and counter insurgency training, jungle and snow survival techniques, specialized weapon handling and advanced driving skills.

Ghatak Force

The word Ghatak means deadly in Hindi and it aptly describes the members of the Ghatak Force which is a special operations infantry platoon that acts as shock troops and lead man-to-man assaults ahead of a battalion. They specialize in raids on enemy artillery positions, airfields, supply dumps and tactical headquarters while also being experts at directing artillery and air attacks on targets deep within enemy lines. Only the most physically and mentally fit soldiers make it into the Ghatak force which is usually 20-men strong. Since they face the enemy face-to-face, they are trained to be undisputed at heli-borne assault, rock climbing, mountain warfare, demolitions, advanced weapons training, close quarter battle and infantry tactics.

National Security Guard Or Black Cats:

Created in 1986, the NSG or Black Cats fall neither under Central Armed Police Forces nor under Paramilitary Forces of India. It’s instead a mix of commandos from both the Indian Army and Central Armed Police Forces which is lead by a ‘Director General’ from the Indian Police Service. Comprising two units – the Special Action Group (SAG), which consists entirely of Indian Army personnel; and the Special Ranger Groups (SRG) for counter terrorism activities – the NSG is equipped with some of the most advanced weapons in the world. The selection process is so brutal that it has a dropout rate of 70-80 percent. And the few, who qualify to become NSGs, are sent off to train for another 9 months to become Phantom NSG Commandos.

COBRA (Commando Battalion for Resolute Action):

No, this is not COBRA Command from G.I Joe. :)

COBRA actually stands for ‘Commando Battalion for Resolute Action’ and it is probably the only Indian special force that is specifically trained in guerilla warfare to tackle the notorious Naxalite groups in the country. A part of the CRPF, COBRA commandos are masters of camouflage, jungle warfare, parachute jumps, precision strikes and ambushes. Their sniper units are also one of the best among the armed forces of India.

Special Frontier Force

Created on 14th November 1962, the SFF is a paramilitary special force which specializes in special reconnaissance, direct action, hostage rescue, counter-terrorism, unconventional warfare and covert operations. This specialized force was created in the wake of another Sino-Indian war and it operates in sync with RAW (Research and Analysis Wing). The commandos are supremely trained in guerrilla tactics, mountain and jungle warfare, and parachute jumps.

Force One

After the Mumbai terror attacks, the Maharashtra government brought together the best commandos and assembled the youngest Indian special force called Force One. The sole motive of this squad is to protect the Mumbai metropolitan area when under threat. Force One is one of the fastest response teams in the world and can get ready for action in less than 15 minutes. From over 3000 applications, 216 of the best soldiers were selected who were then trained under close guidance from the Israeli Special Forces.


So how many of these did you know about?

Well this is all for now. Will post more later.

– Suramya

Source: My Dad :)

August 19, 2015

University Computer courses available online for free

Filed under: Interesting Sites — Suramya @ 12:27 AM

Thanks to the whole push on elearning, there is a whole trove of courses made available online for free by various universities like UCLA, Stanford etc. Unfortunately till now there was no consolidated list of these courses available so you would have to search through each of the university’s website to find a course that you liked which you can imagine was quite painful and manual. Fortunately those days are over now thanks to the effort of someone called ‘prakhar1989’ who has compiled a list of ‘Awesome Courses’ available online for free and posted it online on Github so that folks can maintain it easily.

There is a lot of hidden treasure lying within university pages scattered across the internet. This list is an attempt to bring to light those awesome courses which make their high-quality material i.e. assignments, lectures, notes, readings & examinations available online for free.

Some of the Courses from the list are:

  • CS 61C Great Ideas in Computer Architecture (Machine Structures) by UC Berkeley
  • CS 140 Operating Systems by Stanford University
  • CS 162 Operating Systems and Systems Programming by UC Berkeley
  • CS 425 Distributed Systems by Univ of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
  • CS 2043 Unix Tools & Scripting by Cornell University
  • CS 5412 Cloud Computing by Cornell University
  • CIS 194 Introduction to Haskell by Penn Engineering
  • CS 421 Programming Languages and Compilers by Univ of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
  • CS 5114 Network Programming Languages by Cornell University
  • CS 61B Data Structures by UC Berkeley
  • CS 97SI Introduction to Competitive Programming by by
  • 6.851 Advanced Data Structures by MIT

The list goes on and on. Some of the courses are quite interesting. I did go through the first lecture on Introduction to Haskel and for the first time the language actually made some sense to me. Unfortunately doing the course requires time and effort and at this time by the time I get home I am in no mood to study. Hopefully this will change of the next few weeks as things settle down.

Check out the site if you want to do some learning on your own time and pace.

– Suramya

August 18, 2015

Dumping plastic balls in water can at times actually be beneficial

Filed under: Techie Stuff — Suramya @ 9:10 PM

When I first read about this my reaction could be summed up with the follow phrase “say what now?”, but then I read the science behind it and it kind of makes sense after a bit of thought. Basically California is suffering from a severe drought and LA’s city reservoir was loosing about 300 million gallons of water every year due to evaporation. So they came up with this novel idea of dumping 96 million hollow balls into the 175 acre man made lake. These so called ‘shade balls’ Shade balls deflect the Sun’s rays keeping more of the water in liquid form. They also help protect the quality of water by preventing formation of bromate which is created when bromide (which occurs naturally) mixes with sunlight and chlorine (from disinfectants).

LADWP is the first utility company to use this technology for water quality protection. Today’s deployment marked the final phase of an effort that involves the deployment of 96 million shade balls to the 175-acre reservoir — the largest in-basin facility of its kind owned and managed by LADWP. The small, black plastic balls protect water quality by preventing sunlight-triggered chemical reactions, deterring birds and other wildlife, and protecting water from rain and wind-blown dust.

A cost-effective investment that brings the L.A. Reservoir into compliance with new federal water quality mandates, the shade balls are expected to save $250 million when compared to other comparable tools considered to meet that goal. Those alternatives included splitting the reservoir into two with a bisecting dam; and installing two floating covers that would have cost more than $300 million. In addition, the shade balls will also prevent the annual loss to evaporation of about 300 million gallons of water.

It’s good to see folks thinking outside the box to help save water and our environment.

– Suramya

Source: Science Alert

August 13, 2015

Online Tools help share details of NASA’s Journey to Mars with us mere mortals

Filed under: Interesting Sites — Suramya @ 12:30 AM

This month marks the three year anniversary of Curiosity rover’s arrival on Mars and what better birthday present can NASA give to the rover than releasing two new online tools that allow casual users to explore Mars from the comfort of their homes.

First off we have Mars Trek, which is a web-based application providing high quality visualizations of Mars using data collected by NASA during the past 50 years of exploration. The second offering is called Experience Curiosity that allows viewers to journey along the Curiosity rover on its Martian expeditions. It simulates a 3-D version on Mars based on data from the rover and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

These are not the only tools that NASA has made available. A few months ago they also opened up a whole bunch of data to the public using free API access points so that people can consume the data and come up with innovative uses for the datasets. Their About Me section pretty much sums up what they are expecting to achieve with this site so I am just going to quote it instead of trying to think of sometime impressive to say:

We have a new Open Innovation team to continue NASA’s efforts to meet the White House mandate to set our data free – in a format that is useful for you. In doing so, we hope to spark your creative juices and equip you with tools to innovate your world – whether local, global, or interstellar – leveraging our digital assets. We may not be able to offer you the ride-of-your-life on a spaceship (at least for now), but we can certainly work together to solve looming challenges here on Earth – using NASA data, tools, and resources.

If you think you have an interesting application for the data then check out NASA’s data portal and the list of API’s they have made available.

Source: New Online Exploring Tools Bring NASA’s Journey to Mars to New Generation

August 12, 2015

Taught my nephew how to call people using voice dialing

Filed under: My Life — Suramya @ 12:49 AM

So while I was at my sisters place over the weekend I decided to show Vir (my nephew) how to call people using voice dialing on the Moto 360. I used the command ‘Ok Google call Mom’ to have the phone call Mom as an example.  Then we decided to let Vir try it out and surprisingly the phone actually did call Mom when he tried it. (At least it did till he insisted on saying OK boogle instead of OK Google).

The fun started when he wanted the phone to call his mom (my sis) using the command ‘call mom’ and was unhappy when it kept calling my mom. So then I had to explain to him that since it was my phone it was calling my Mom and not his. Over all it was interesting to see how quickly he picked up how to use voice dialing.

Though in hindsight it might not have been the best idea since he will insist on using voice dialing to call people when I visit next. Ah well. Joys of playing with kids. :)

On a side note majority of this post was written using voice typing on my moto x. Now if only I could figure out how to add a full stop when dictating things would be perfect.

Well this is all for now I’ll write more later.

Cya,

Suramya

– Suramya

August 7, 2015

Books For Non-Physicists Who Want To Understand Quantum Physics

Filed under: Interesting Sites — Suramya @ 1:37 AM

If you have ever wanted to understand Quantum Physics but found that all the physics gobbledy gook went over your head then you should check out this list of books by Chad Orzel that try to explain Quantum Physics to non-physicists.

Chad has also written a book on how to How to Teach Quantum Physics to Your Dog (Not sure why you would want to do that, but hey… who am I to judge). The title is interesting enough that I am tempted to buy it to check it out.

Example entry from the list:

How the Hippies Saved Physics by David Kaiser is, as the title promises, a highly readable look at the role counterculture and “New Age” thinking played in sparking the renewed interest in quantum foundations that started in the 1980′s and has exploded into the modern field of quantum information. While none of their colorful attempts to explain ESP through quantum phenomena actually pan out, showing why they can’t work proved surprisingly fruitful.

Check it out if you have some free time and want to learn.

– Suramya

June 29, 2015

I have a new niece!!!

Filed under: My Life — Suramya @ 6:13 PM

At 4:32pm Sara Bhansali was born. Both mother and baby are doing great.

Will post pics later when I have a better net connection. For some reason my phone is refusing to upload a pic.

– Suramya

And the wait begins..

Filed under: My Life — Suramya @ 8:34 AM

At the hospital waiting to find out if I will have a new niece or a nephew.

Hopefully this time it will be less of a wait, but I am fully prepared in any case :)

Will keep folks posted.

– Suramya

June 25, 2015

Life in Bangalore’s fast lane with 3.8km/h speedy drives

Filed under: My Life — Suramya @ 11:56 PM

Today just as I was leaving for home Google Now messaged me that it would take me 53 mins to get home if I drove which was 14 mins more than normal. What makes it interesting is that I live 3.4 kms of driving and 1.6 km walking from work. This means that I would have been driving at an amazing speed of 3.8km/h tonight. How is that for a fast drive? No wonder it took me 2 1/2 hours to get back from Whitefield the last time I drove there.

We really need to do something about the traffic situation in Bangalore. The Roads in Bangalore are some of the most haphazard and ridiculously designed roads that I have ever seen. However the situation does seem to be improving a bit thanks to the newly built St Marks road which is very nicely done and for a change seems to be following a logical plan.

In case you are wondering, I decided to spend an hour more at work and then did the trip in 15 mins. Yes, I had the car today. It’s raining and once it rains the ‘sidewalks’ can be re-branded as swamps so I prefer to drive instead of walking.

– Suramya

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