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Vaibhav Varun is science fiction author of the book- ‘I am the Universe’, a public speaker, sky-diver and an ardent lover of space science. He is currently pursuing Aerospace Engineering from Moscow Aviation Institute, Moscow. Whenever free, he goes to different schools and colleges of India and loves talking to children about the beauty of science and mathematics. Frustrated with ‘rot-and-mug’ education system and ‘plug-and-check’ type of questions we have, he wishes to transform education into an actual learning experience through encouraging people to see the concepts in nature and experiment and make on their own. He is working on several projects currently involving his passions about science and writing. Through this series of articles on Space Kidz India, he is hoping to bring about an atmosphere of open discussion about science and innovation, to talk about the beauty and need of questioning everything and to search the humorous side of science!
- The beauty called Science
- The Mystery called Life
- Analysing the Fermi Paradox
- Gaurav Singh- a journey to skies
The beauty called ScienceWe are all aware of the nightmares that studying science/maths has caused us. The endless sessions of mugging up formulas, theorems and battling with numericals leave us with few simple questions- what has it got to do with real life? Where can I apply it? Where do I take this formula and see it in nature? How can I make/build something out of it? How can I be the next Newton, Einstein or Ramanujan? If it is about the nature, why does it look so boring at times? Are there lessons of life hidden in them? The answers to all of them may not be obvious, but they are certainly very simple- may be, we are not doing it the right way! May be, there is something more than just books and exams that is left to science. How can the world that is so diverse, beautiful, magnificent, full of mystery, endless processes and of unknown horizons be so boring that whole of its understanding comes from mugging up few formulas and getting some marks in some random (human-made) exam? When I say ‘Science’, I see it as the most daring thing humans have tried doing. I see it as generations of people- explorers- the fearless ones trying to comprehend the ways of nature- from things as small as atomic nucleus to things as big as the universe itself. I see it as a journey of human species from not being able to go to next country going to Mars. I see it as an extraordinary attempt to understand life and universe amidst all existing complexities. I see it as a tool that is continuously transforming our lives day by day. And I don’t see it as a dull and boring ‘subject’. One can think of science as ‘human attempt to collect and organize knowledge gathered upon centuries, put them to test by experiment and once verified, use them to predict universal phenomena.’ Notice, this definition has no eligibility criteria (luckily!)- anyone, I repeat, anyone capable of gathering and organizing knowledge, putting it to test, seeing it in nature and being able to see fundamental hidden things in universe is very well a scientist! It can you or anyone around you. Because there are no eligibility criteria for science but a receptive and open mind, I trust all of us with little help can begin ‘doing’ it rather than just ‘studying’ it. Science has its own method, history, philosophy and beauty. I seek to bring them out. It is a story of thousands of people and their own amazing ways of questioning and challenging the universe. Imagine the feeling when Galileo had seen the moons of Jupiter for the very first time, when Robert Hooke saw the cell, when Aryabhatta thought of Zero, or when Wright brothers flew for the very first time high in the sky! It is the bravest story ever told and the one being continuously written. Let’s be a part of it. In these series of posts and articles on this very website, I will take many more topics talking about the side of science and mathematics that has been hidden from education system. I shall talk about the social, mental and emotional challenges of it. We will see many awesome and amazing things happening in the world of science- how innovation and imagination combined together make way for a better future, how we can use science to make a better India and how small questions asked on a daily basis will push us towards unravelling deepest secrets of nature. We will talk about many scientists and mathematicians and see how they are an important part of everything we have today. We will see the underlying beauty, art and philosophy that are there in most of the things around us. I am always looking forward to discussing things that you want to put here as one of the most important elements of learning is to have an open discussion. And this space is for open discussion with people from across the country and world. We welcome your suggestions for the theme of next discussion. Keep waiting for the next post! Till then, keep the curiosity in you alive!
The Mystery called LifeIf you are scientifically updated, you would have come across the buzzing news of discovery of "new-earth like" planet. A planet that could ‘potentially’ harbour life- "Proxima b". Well, let us calm down. We have not found any extra-terrestrial life yet nor do I see any hardcore claims of having done so. But what excites me is the opportunity to have a fresh debate on ETs (extra-terrestrials). First, let me just unfurl this latest news to you and what it may mean. Basically, we orbit a star called Sun. And there are many stars near and far from sun who also have their own planets (as expected). We, as curious beings, try to find life on any planet that looks promising (what is the meaning of promising?). And we have been doing this for a long time now. Using complex methods of science, we have, to a reasonable extent short-listed planets that ‘may’ support life. But no matter what planet/planets we short-list they are too far to be reached in our life-span (reaching to the nearest one will take 70,000 years on current technologies). Not to leave us disappointed, the recent discovery shows us that the planet orbiting the ‘nearest’ star to sun- Proxima Centauri (about 4.2 light years away) may harbour life. So we got one potential candidate right in our neighbourhood! Proxima b lies in the so-called ‘habitable zone’ of its parent star Proxima Centauri. This planet also has some striking similarities with earth- it’s mass roughly 1.3 times of earth. Although one year on Proxima b is only 11 days! (So by Proxima b’s timeline, I am about 663 years old!). Some scientists consider it a breakthrough in search for alien life- while I am happy with the fact this at least puts this whole search into an exciting trend. Second, let us see what it takes to search life outside earth. The so-called exoplanets, or the planets which are likely to support life are not so easy to find. Our inability to actually go and see there- leaves us to rely on indirect options alone. For example- If you have a planet around a star, the planet is also pulling the star a bit so you see the star is moving. It is going towards you and away from you, periodically. This movement affects the colour of light detected from the star - as it the star moves slightly towards us we see the light as being slightly bluer - as it moves away the light appears a little redder. The frequency of this motion relates to the duration of the planet’s orbit, and hence its distance from the star, while the magnitude of the motion provides information about the planet’s mass.Or maybe so-called ET signals, red and blue shifts, data based on satellite and planet movements often come to rescue, but at the end of the day, finding life still remains a mystery. We try our best to determine if a newly found planet lies in the habitable zone or not, even if it does, there is no guarantee that life will actually be found on it. Life depends on a whole lot of factors. Not only its origin depends on the habitable distance between its star and planet, but also on atmosphere, temperature variations, availability of necessary solid and liquid intakes. Third, I must say, as exciting it sounds, it requires a full-life dedication to do this. In India and across the world, there is a lot of scope and demand for people trying to involve in finding life beyond our planet. One must have fundamental knowledge of all basic branches of science as a whole- physics, chemistry and biology along with applied technology. People who are passionate enough to combine biology and physics as a study material should definitely go for this! For we have now just started to encounter the deepest mysteries of nature. What lies ahead is definitely too exciting to be missed! And one again, as I always say, your basic observation and curiosity will help you more than anything else! Observe the variety of life around you, the stars and planets, the growth and death; and who knows someday you will have inter-planetary friends!
Analysing the Fermi ParadoxFermi Paradox. The size and age of the universe incline us to believe that many technologically advanced civilizations must exist. However, this belief seems logically inconsistent with our lack of observational evidence to support it. (1) The initial assumption is incorrect and technologically advanced intelligent life is much rarer than we believe, or (2) Our current observations are incomplete and we simply have not detected them yet, or (3) Our search methodologies are flawed and we are not searching for the correct indicators. He did not care to look for explanations. Do not look for answers somewhere else, they lie in hidden in the question itself, his dad had told. The first assumption. Advanced intelligent life is rarer than we believe. He thought of it. If you fly high-higher than you can ever go, where are you going to end? Dr. Michio Kaku said ‘What we consider as impossible are simply engineering problems… there is no law of physics preventing them.’ If it so, then think about earth as a whole, if someday where are able to cross our mental barrier and come out of it, we would see that the earth is significant only because of life. If someday we are able to think beyond our salaries, families, emotional and political problems, we would realize that the only thing earth holds is life. So we fly high now, and we come out of earth. There we see seven more planets. They differ in size, color and composition. And then we see the sun. So massive and so bright that it can literally burn our eyeballs (and other balls too). Then we move past our own solar system and we realize that is getting smaller- it is just sun and its broken pieces. One of the broken pieces is Earth- our home. From far away, an observer will just see a small dot revolving past a bigger dot. Our imagination may conceal up to that- but there is something beyond. At this point, we have to start believing that we are just one kind of life. The conditions on earth are for supporting us. They may be poison for other forms of life- alien life. We see a diverse form of requirements here on earth only. We need oxygen, whereas it as a waste of plants. The problem is that most of the folks have mugged that up- they still don’t feel in their hearts that plants survive on carbon dioxide. It is just because we take oxygen, we are prone to believe that everything survives on oxygen. But what is oxygen? Just two atoms of atomic number eight clung together. Do most of us imagine that? No. We then feel what is the need to do so? The need is the change of perception. Once you realize that this earthly body survives on oxygen and on this same earth plants survive on carbon dioxide, some bacteria on nitrogen and so on… you move beyond the concept of basic needs of life. Your basic need can be poison to some form of life. And what supports what kind of life is hard to predict. Rather, hard to imagine. Now, we move beyond our solar system. The earth is not visible. The sun appears as a small dot. And then we see several suns. How many? Millions! Hundreds of millions of them in our own galaxy. Is it not very obvious that one of them, regardless of the perception that we have about life, that life can exist? And there are as many galaxies as there are stars. Millions of them. Even if we think that earth is the only planet with life- considering that our Milky Way has one million stars or suns- even then the chance of finding a planet with life is one in a million. And knowing that we have millions of galaxies, the same fraction of chance tells us that there should be probably a million planets with life on them in the visible universe! The second assumption. Our current observations are incomplete. There are more chances of it. Humans haven’t sent probes to all the planets that we have seen. One can use basic principles of science to predict life. But then again the same question arises- which kind of life? The evolutionary rules may be different on a planet in the neighboring galaxy than those on earth. The third assumption. We are not searching for correct indicators. It can be very likely. We may be searching for their language, their communication methods, their scripts- maybe they don’t use language at all. It is again our sense of applying common sense to the uncommon things. Wake up, folks. And lastly, why should a common man be worried about all these? No, he should not be. We cannot expect people who are not able to move beyond their caste, religion or country to move beyond their planet. As simple as that. (Excerpt from my book “I am the Universe”)
Gaurav Singh- a journey to skiesThe famous quote of waltdisney "If you can dream it, you can do it" All it takes a single moment in ones life .A dream to fulfill , to live and the love for things you really want to do in life.From early childhood I was passionate about airplanes , one thing that really fascinated me that how does it fly,How does it feels to get in there and it was just a dream ... At early age of 14 years ,I finally saw my dreams in my hand with a name as Aeromodel ,where I started my passion as an aeromodeller with my instructor. There was still an instinct that whenever we used to go to field and he used to fly the R/C planes,I thought again Qs and Qs arrived of a small kid,now how does that flies with a remote??..Having no clues I started with chuck glider and still my instructor didn't gave me the command on remote .Being very curious I told my school friends about this and then made a team of 11 members ,with whom finally my faculty of school gave permission to open a club in school "PHOENIX AVIATION TEAM,2005 " The first proud moment of my life at just age of 15 years. The dreams seems coming closer to the reality but still the R/C was not in my hands. With my school team we started making aeromodels as guided by our instructor and soon it became a passion to build the balsa airframes with a very complicated design that was above our head at that time.The only thing that was pushing me in was "IHAVE TO PROVE IT,TO MAKE HIM BELIEVE IT"that yes ,I can also fly that just give a chance. I got my first chance after a gap of an year at age of 16 years,where my whole school team was separated due to their interest in some other fields and I was the only one left. I had the R/C in my hand and instructor a bit worried but as I experienced it I proved just after two flights that yes ,I have the guts to fly that. Life was full of surprises after my high school got over and the dream to fly was more and more .In 2010 ,I joined NCC Airwing knowing that they have real planes but it takes a real challenge to compete with the people in your state and if you do than you can be selected to represent the state nationally in Bengaluru,India. I Started my R/C 3D sport flying at early 2011 ,where it seemed real tough when you push the airplane to its extreme limits by making all the impossible/possible manoeuvres that needs strong heart ,as it is combination of speed,thrill,adventure,imagination,quickdecision,keen observation and concentration.As the flying machine is your own investment,a very small mistake in just seconds can cause you a price that is very heavy and its painful. Still aware of that I kept my hopes alive and started preparing for the national competitions that used to held at various NITS and IITS.I have started with NIT WARANGAL,2013 .Where just entering you see a crowd of more than 500 people around you and 170 + team participants ,a few doubt there was in mind a faith that people didn't have on me that "I CAN TRY BUT IT'S FIRST SO CHANCES ARE LESS"It became a challenge for me and I proved it again getting 3rd position in India at R/C flying competition at just a matter of seconds not minutes .Taking away the same challenges competing and winning various R/C nationals at IIT MUMBAI,IIT MADRAS,IIT KHARAGPUR AND IIT KANPUR till 2014. I got an opportunity from my graduate college to open up a club and prepare students for the same. The club again got inaugurated as "PHOENIX AERO CLUB OF ACROPOLIS" with team of 5 more members from college,acting as a President and evangelized Aeromodelling to 150 students of my college till 2014. Just after the college got an opportunity to become a "UAS TEST PILOT" in Asteria Aerospace,Bangalore.Where everything seemed to be new ,from systems to the airplane.Where what you see as the system works until you are not aware, a small mistake can go make anything wrong. Flying a UAV is a same challenge as flying the 3D R/C planes. I would definitely say if you have flown 3D R/C planes then you can handle any amount of pressure ,because 3D flying makes you fast,your reflexes become fast,the ability to react at any bad condition is quicker and you panic very very less hardly any effect when anything goes .The confidence gets boosted and that is what is required to be a good UAV pilot. Just for an example: If a redbull air race pilot given a control of a normal Cessna 172 it will be very easy for him to manoeuvre and respond at very bad condition but if a Cessna pilot is given control of the air race plane as "MXSR" with some complicated manoeuvre he will try to do it but not risk it,its a tough job for him switching from a low speed aircraft to high speed aircraft but its rather easy to switch from a high speed aircraft to low speed aircraft. PART OF LIFE IS INFINITE AND STILL MORE TO GO ON MY JOURNEY BUT YES I DID IT ,WHAT I DREAMED OF" Story ©Gaurav Singh Please send in your questions about this story and we will publish an interview with him!