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.


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Holy Cow! How religion makes us Violant.

The evil Oonan (ஓனான் in Tamil)
My observation of religiously inspired violence goes back to my child hood memory of a group of Chameleon (Oonan) hunting boys. These boys would capture Chameleons and then torture them to death. It usually involves capturing a Chameleon using a noose tied to a string (just the way a cow boy would capture his cows). Once captured, the animal would be subjected to extreme form of torture until it dies. In one instance that I vaguely recall, the boys tied the captured Chameleon to a super explosive fire cracker that we called the atom bomb. After the loud explosion the animal’s carcass fell down in pieces.

  Reflecting back, I can’t believe how brutal it was, and I never understood why I was in the company of such kids displaying such brutal behavior.  Of course, when you are child, you are irrational and have difficulty in understanding the difference between right an wrong. Most of the boys grew out to be good citizens not indulging in any violence behaviour.

 But it raises an important question. So why were a group of young kids capturing Chameleons and torturing them?

 Because we were told that these Chameleons are evil.  The fable story (told by our parents) was that when God Ram was building a bridge to Srilanka to rescue his princess Sita, the Chameleons sided with the evil monster Ravana and refused to help.  The squirrels on the other hand helped God Rama build a bridge and so it got rewarded by a pat in the back by god Ram. (that apparently is the reason behind  line on the back of the squirrel).
Squirrel patted in the back by god Ram

 They therefore had a duty to protect the squirrel and kill the Chameleons!

 I don’t think the parents’ indented their bed time story to result in such brutal activities, but you can see how superstitious stories can produce unintended consequences. The story provided a justification for the brutal act, and it made us immune to guilt, shame or even empathy. During that time, the boys were fully convinced that they were carrying out their duty to god.

 Does that ring any bell to you? Does that explain why a certain group of young men strap themselves with explosives and are prepared to die? The fable stories of their religion convinces them to believe that they are simply carrying out their duty to fulfill their commitment to god. There is no sense of sympathy, empathy or afterthoughts towards the victims of their atrocity, nor there is any shame or guilt associated with this.

 Does that explain why a group of cow vigilantes killed a Muslim man in Dadri , India ( and other such brutalities of the cow protectors)?  The cow vigilantes are convinced they are carrying out their duty under their religion. Some fable religious story tells them that the cow is their mother and they have a duty to protect them. Even if it means killing the children of other human mothers!
When did I turn holy?

 Yes, of course a vast majority of us have grown up, with a level of maturity that we are not prepared to commit atrocities no matter what justification the mythological stories may provide, or no matter what our religious leaders say. Most of us are rationally thinking bunch that we start to ask questions, shake our heads and just don’t do such evil acts. However, we also never speak up against such atrocities nor we consider it to be our problem! Because no one wants to offend a religious faith even if that faith result in brutal killings.

 The problem is that the majority (the non violence folks) remain silent. Even the worst form of brutality is therefore not condemned in strongest tone because of the risk of offending a particular faith.

 We need acknowledge that fact that religion has this kind of magnetic effect on humans that it can easily brutalize them. When you start believing in something that has no rational or scientific basis, it creates a fragile state of mind. It is only a matter of personal mental stability that stops the person from reacting to external stimuli (a cartoon, an article, or a cow) and becoming a brutal monster. We see in our history, time and again, a substantially large number of people killed as a result of violence propagated in the name of the religion.

 In the aftermath of the partition of India, approximately half a million people died as a result of the Hindu Muslim violence. No natural calamity has ever broken that record. I am sure the people who were killing each other were fully convinced that they are carrying out their duty under the religion. Their state of mind is no different to the state of the mind of these young kids who were capturing and killing Chameleons.

 More people have died as a result of religious violence than all natural calamites put together.

 In other words, more people have died in the name of god than by god!

 We need to grow up and realize the religious text books are bed time stories cooked up by our ancestors. Some teach good moral, others are interesting fiction, but a large number of them are simply designed to keep the herd together. To stay together and protect the invisible deity, and for that, any act of violence is justified.

 As the saying goes “Without religion, god men will do good things and evil men will do evil things, but it takes religion for good men to do evil things

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016”-Why you should be concerned?

Maps of India – a brief history

Maps have been a source of political controversy in India dating back to the days of the British Empire. The legacy of development of Maps of India goes back to the days of the British Empire which commissioned the great trigonometric survey to map territories under their occupation.   Maps provided a strategic advantage in wars, especially at a time when other European powers were circling India for occupation. The British government therefore created a series of laws and regulations to restrict the production and dissemination (sharing) of maps. The Survey General of India, originally a military position, was created for this very reason. When India gained independence in 1947, it inherited much of the laws pertaining to the production, reproduction and dissemination of maps.   Since then, the Indian government has maintained this position, largely citing concerns with security and sovereignty.