Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The WhatsApp Cow - the era of (mis)information

Courtesy: Keshav's Cartoon from The Hindu - oct 2016
When the Indian government announced the demonetization scheme, I was scratching my head . Why would  the government remove Rs 1000 and replace them with Rs 2000 which makes it even more easier to hoard black money? At that point, a new information surfaced in Facebook and WhatsApp. Apparently, the new notes are provided with a Microchip technology that will allow the government to track the notes. Like with most FB/WhatsApp information (or misinformation) , it ended with a patriotic note and praises for the Prime Minister!  A quick google search took me straight to the RBI web site which categorically denied the presence of any chips. You can probably buy potato chips with the new note, but that is about it.  

I posted this back in my FB page. By the time, most of my friends have already shared the fake information and moved on to sharing a photo of a Ganapthy that will bring good luck.  

Myth #2: When the opposition parties (as well people with some common sense) started asking more questions regarding the demonetization, the next fake news emerged. Now the new notes seem to include some secret technology. If you swipe your phone over the Rs 2000 note, a message from Prime Minister Modi will pop up warning Pakistan. (and with a usual note “please share this to everyone who criticize our beloved PM, Jai Hind, we will defeat Pakistan”). After a few digging, it turns out that someone has written an App. You download the app, open the app and scan the new Rs 2000 note which bring out an old speech from Prime Minster Modi. It was  hard for me to explain  to my relative that it is all in the app - nothing to do with the currency note. I can write an app to bring out an old speech of the PM if you scan a photo of a cow. The currency notes do not carry any secret message.

Myth #3: Then we got into the issue of the government spending nearly 1 billion dollars on two statues – one for Sardar Vallabai Patel and the other one for the Marathi King – Shivaji. People started asking questions as to why the government should spend nearly Rs2600 Crores on a statue for a dictator king when there are so many other critical projects that need money. Then, the following message surfaced on Whattsup and Facebook
The statue is made of Amorphous Silicon, Cadmium Telluride & Copper Indium Gallium Selenide. This is exactly the same material used to make solar cells. Our government consulted with Dr. Immonen Kirsi, Senior Solar Scientist at VTT Research, Finland to develop technology to mould these materials into a statue form. This research took 2.5 years & on December 3rd, Dr. Kirsi sent a private email to Modi Sir that it’s now ready for mainstream use. The statue will generate enough electricty to power all government offices in Mumbai. The statue also has Radial Uniform Projection And Ranging(RUPAR) technology to track boats in the Arabian Sea to prevent a repeat of the 2008 Mumbai attack where the terrorists entered India through the sea. RUPAR is the next generation of SONAR technology and has been developed at the Indian Institute of Science.
This one is a little hard to debunk, because it is peppered with a lot of scientific jargon that my country men would rather skip. Interestingly, I found out that  there is a such thing as Copper Indium Gallium Selenide. Other than that, the core message is just not true. Dr. Immonen Kirsi is also real. There is a profile in Linkedin and he appear to be an academic in a Finland university.  The poor guy probably doesn’t know that his name is used for propaganda purpose.  The thing that gives out is this Radial Uniform Projection And Ranging(RUPAR). My response is “What the f””K is this?”. I can’t find any information on this so called RUPAR technology. Also no evidence to suggest the IISc has developed one. Why would anyone employ a Sonar technology on a statue? Sonar is generally used under water to detect submarines. The statue generating power? Very novel, why not make it produce rain in draught areas and stop flood? Shivaji has the power!
Myth #4: The last one is the icing on the Cake.
We ask – why protect the holy cow when other animals are allowed to be slaughtered? Why not extend that sympathy to the goat, chicken, etc.? In fact, it is legal to slaughter Water Buffalo which is a close relative to the holy mother Cow? (genetically probably the same, except for the skin colour).
Here is a response from a BJP minister. The holy cow is different. It breaths in CO2 and breaths out Oxygen. Plus, range of health benefits the BJP minister outlines for the Cow Dung and urine.

Really? And my countrymen will forward this junk in  FB and WhatsApp?

I am sorry to disappoint you, my Cow loving Hindu brethren. All mammals, including our Holy mother cows, breath-in oxygen. That is why we have lungs. Even aquatic species like fish needs oxygen to survive- that is the fuel for animal life.  Unless somehow, my cow loving Hindus have magically transformed the holy cow to a hybrid Mammal -Plant, there is no chance in hell that Cows will breath out Oxygen. They will start to fly, talk and stand in elections before that.

What do you know? Our PM has a secret project with the scientists in Indian Institute of science, backed by Professor Heleknki who specialises in genetic modification of animals using Quantum Induced Magnetic Positron Anodization   Sterilization System ( QIMPASS).  The plan will be to transform the cows to breath out Oxygen as well generate electricity. In addition, the cows will also send inter-continental ballistic missiles to shoot down any nuclear misses from Pakistan in Mid air, and sniff out black money from people. This the reason why we must protect Holy mother Cow.  It is all written in our Vedas by our holy Rishis.  Please forward this message to all people. Jai Hind, Baratha Mathe ki Jai!!

P.S: For the sake of our holy mother cow, please don’t forward the above message – no matter how patriotic it sounds, no matter how much proud you feel about India and our beloved PM. Please don’t share crap. Take a minute, breath out the patriotism that is clouding your intellect for a few minutes. Stop forwarding/sharing, then resume your new found Patriotic fever.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Energy - the new buzz word for peddling scam

The concept of Energy is somewhat difficult to grasp. Unfortunately many people  consider energy to be some sort of magical substance that floats in the air. So we end up with all kind of pseudoscience: Chi energy, pranic chakras, positive energy, and so on forth.

A curious and very important idea on energy is the law of conservation of energy. According to the law of conservation of energy,” Energy can neither be created nor destroyed. One form of energy can be transferred to another”.  Scientists often have difficulty in explaining this idea. Here is an attempt by the famous physicists Richard Feynman

"There is a fact, or if you wish, a law, governing all natural phenomena that are known to date. There is no known exception to this law—it is exact so far as we know. The law is called the conservation of energy. It states that there is a certain quantity, which we call energy, that does not change in manifold changes which nature undergoes. That is a most abstract idea, because it is a mathematical principle; it says that there is a numerical quantity which does not change when something happens. It is not a description of a mechanism, or anything concrete; it is just a strange fact that we can calculate some number and when we finish watching nature go through her tricks and calculate the number again, it is the same" (The Feynman Lectures on Physics).

 I think I confused you more.

 Let me give an example that would hopefully clarify this.

 When I was around 15 years old, I ran a thought experiment. See the picture on the right-hand side.
Hypothetical energy generation

 Imagine a large reservoir with a turbine installed at the bottom. The water flows through the turbine which will produce electricity. Now I take this water to a tank and using the electricity produced from the turbine, I pump this water back to the reservoir. 

First how does the turbine rotate? i.e. where does it get is energy from? It comes from the column of water above the turbine. The water column is stationary but it still has a potential to produce energy- this we call it a potential energy (that is an energy trapped in a static mode). In this case, the source of the potential energy is gravity. The turbine rotates, thus transferring the potential energy to a kinetic energy (kinetic means something moving – non static). If I attach a motor (a copper coil and a magnetic core) to the rotating turbine this will start producing electricity. At this point, we have effectively converted the hydraulic (water) energy to electrical energy. We did not create the electrical energy, we simply transformed the potential hydraulic energy that existed.

 Let us say, I now take the water flowing out of the turbine into a tank and use a pump to pump the water back to the reservoir.

 Question 1:  Can I use the electricity produced by the turbine to pump water back to the reservoir? If I could do that then the system will run indefinitely forming a cycle.

 Think about this for a few minutes.

 Now if you concluded that this system will work, then my second question is this. Now I put a branch pipe out of the pump and feed the water tank in my house.

 Q2:  will the system still run? If so, I have got an infinite source of water supply to my tank without spending any money on electricity (the turbine produces electricity and the pump tops up the water to keep it going)- Do I now have a self-sustaining pumping system?

 If you have answered my first question correctly, then you will take even shorter time to answer the second questions.

 Unfortunately, the answer to both questions is a “no”. Our life will be very simple if either of them was the case, we don’t really need to worry about energy needs of current or the future.

 The problem with transforming energy is that whenever you transform an energy, some numerical amount of the energy will transform into other unusable form of energy, commonly referred as “energy loss” (which confuses even more). In the case of the turbine, some of the potential hydraulic energy will convert to friction/heat and noise(the form of energy that is not useful for us), and the remaining energy is transformed as electrical energy. Suppose we say the potential kinetic energy as E1 (don’t worry about the units) and the electrical energy as E2 then,

E1 = E2 + E_loss; where E_loss = heat, friction, sound etc.…
The ratio of E2/E1 is called the efficiency of the system. You cannot build any equipment to provide 100% efficiency.  Nature has decided to take back some!

In the same way when the electrical energy is converted back to a hydraulic energy at the pump, this energy (E3) will be less than E2. If we assume 90% efficiency for the turbine and 90% efficiency for the pump, then the net hydraulic energy available at the pump E3 will be only 81% of E1. So the first question is a no.

 If you understand this, you will know that the answer to the  second question is a "no". As there is going to be some energy required to fill up my tank, the mathematics won’t add up.

So as you can see all we do is transform energy from one form to another form and in that process we loose a portion of the original energy form into unusable forms (usually sound, light, friction, etc.). Nature provides us a range of energy sources that we can utilize such as wind, flowing rivers(hydraulic), sun (solar), waves, gravity, heat energy by burning coal, fossil fuels, chemical reactions, etc.

But the important thing to note is that the energy transformation needs to be facilitated by a device or equipment (turbine, solar panel etc.).

So what are things like Pranic energy, Chi energy, positive energy, karmic energy, etc.? So far we have no scientific evidence to suggest that such forms of energy exist.
  And even if we assume they exist, we still need to invent a device to transform (convert) it from the pranic natural occurring energy into something that we can use to heal your disease.  You cannot simply transform this pranic energy through magic into something else.

 Fist we need some evidence to see if it exists, second we need to figure out a way to measure the magnitude of this, then we need a device to covert it.

 So the idea that someone can heal you through thoughts does not come into even the slightest realm of science.
It is wishful thinking.


About Me

I am an Engineer by profession. Spritual and Anit-guru advice is my part time job!