Saturday, May 31, 2008

Physics Studies, exams and Interviews

I receive many querries by students pursuing graduation and post-graduation in Physics, and following are summarised guidelines for them.
Books to read during BSc Physics:-

  1. Resnik Halliday, Fundamentals of Physics
  2. Berkeley Physics Course, 5 Volumes
  3. Feynman Lectues on Physics
  4. Concepts of Modern Physics:- Arthur Beiser
For problem solving :- "Physics by Example" - Rees

Books to be read during MSc Physics:- Follow your Professors..! Don't get too lost in the treatises!

How to prepare for exams, and how to face the entrance interviews for MSc or PhD:-
  1. Sit back and revise your BSc/MSc syllabus.
  2. Close the books and write down all the Physics you know, from formulae to ideas, concepts.
  3. While you are doing step 2, you will recall certain things that you know, but don't remember exactly. Open the books and fill in such gaps.
  4. Repeat 2 & 3 until you have good list of ideas in Physics. Now, THIS is Your Physics. What you read till then, was just what others knew. THIS much Physics you know. Its yours, congratulate yourself! One night before the exam you need to revise only this.
  5. Give as many entrance exams as possible. In any one exam, lets say NET, you don't do well, then come back home and figure out what you didn't do well. e.g you may not have understood Statistical Mechanics well. Then study that before the next exam, and give the next one with confidence.
  6. Don't gamble, be careful of negative marking.
  7. Do YES!+ program:- . Its important not to have just bookish knowledge, but also to have the ability to apply it well, in a relaxed and focussed state of mind, during exam as well as when you face the interview. This is one of the many important benefits you get out of YES!+ workshop.
Projects:- Its a good idea to engage yourself in summer and winter projects in various research Institutes. Alternate your projects in terms of theoretical, experimental or simulation based.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Career in Physics

An enthusiastic reporter,V. Kumara Swamy from "The Telegraph", Calcutta took my interview through emails. Here is the article he published.
My detailed interview is quoted below, as per his questions and my answers:-

1) Please mention a bit about your ambition as a child, your interest in
astrophysics and about your achievements so far.
As a child I was always a curious observer of everything around me. I read the book by Resnik and Halliday and quickly realised that Physics is the subject that brings me closer to my understanding of the nature around me. I was also blessed to have good teachers who could answer my queries based on the reading of Berkeley Physics course and Feynman's Lectures. With this foundation, there has been an undying zest for Physics and I pursue Astrophysics as an Application of Physics to stars and space - an aspect of nature that draws attention of one and all.

2) What are some of the qualities are needed to be a successful researcher in physics?
Its important to have sound background in Mathematics. Mathematics is the language of Physics. Its absolutely necessary to have a good problem solving practise, Physics is a science where you isolate a particular situation in Nature, and study it in detail. Though Mathematics is a great tool, one also needs to remember to constantly relate the formulae and equations to what is happening in reality, in the physical phenomena you are studying. For this reason, students should never neglect any experimental work, and should take every opportunity to do more experiments.
Research in Science needs an attitude to find many different ways and also a zeel not to give up at any stage whatsoever. I also feel that young students should give more preference to learning the methods of science, rather than some particular topic, in selection of area of research. Once these methods are learnt, they could be applied to any topic.

3a) How has the role of physicists evolved over the years.
This question can be answered only by Senior Physicists.

3b)They dabble in various fields depending on their interest, what do think of your own field?
Astrophysics brings to you closer to the vastness of Nature. Here thousands of years are a very small time, and one realizes that one's own body, the houses, cities and such things which we give so much importance, are in reality very minuscule compared to the universe. When you are looking in sky, you are looking in past, because that ray of light has left that star several years ago. So what you see is a collage of past locations and phenomena in different directions.
Over the last century, the advances in Satellite Technology, have given a boon to study of Astrophysics. We are able to probe in farther parts of universe, by collecting more feeble light from the space based telescopes. We are also able to achieve excellent resolution thanks to the CCD Cameras. And only because of fast computers and huge memory spaces, we are able to store and process gigantic data of astronomical images. Most of the data is freely available even to a graduate student, thanks to internet.
I am studying properties of Interstellar Dust, the dust between us and the stars. Its of micron size and is sparsely spaced, however, because of large distances in space, its cumulative effects significantly changed our view of stars and their surroundings.
4) Can you please say a few words about the career progression in anorganisation like the one where you doing your research now. Do you think astrophysics is one field that opens up more doors for research at a international level than any other? In other words, world can be your playground?
I joined the Joint Astronomy Program at IISc, after my MSc Physics in IITB. After 1 year of Research Training Program in special topics of Astrophysics I chose to work in IIA. I had a number of attempts till I started off on my current research topic, and I was awarded senior research scholarship after completion of my comprehensive exam. I visited Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany, for a one week Summer School related to my research area, and two week mini-project for developing collaborations. I am very glad that my Institute as well as the German Institute gave adequate financial support for the visit.
I feel that in all branches of science, there are excellent opportunities, and they await the explorer.

5) Can you also please list some of the leading institutes in the country that you think give great opportunities for youngsters?
There are atleast 25 independent Institutes in the country. All have their own speciality. All IIT Physics Departments welcome PhD research. Many University Physics departments are also doing good research, subject to availibility of funds.
With the recent hike in scholarships for research scholars, I see research as a very much valid and bright career option. It is stable, exciting, innovative and fulfilling. It is not so much important as to Where you work, but that how you work, and how much you work.

6) Please mention a bit about your own background

I did BSc Physics from Fergusson college Pune, MSc Physics from IITB and I am currently Senior Research Scholar in IIA, as a part of Joint Astronomy Program of IISc.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Shower in noon!

I love bangalore weather. Its totally unpredictable! I was about to make a dosa for my lunch, when the wind started blowing and it started pouring... I paused for few min and finally decided and went to terrace! As Guruji says, we should dance in the rain! So did I! :) Singing `Dil hai Chhotasa, chhotisi aasha', then the next few tunes that came up were `Ganesh Sharanam ' and `Deva Manohara'...
The roads looked desserted when it poured, as seen from the terrace. I wondered, ohh, the Gods in the heaven are showering grace and people are shying away from it! What an irony!
After soaking thoroughly in the heavenly shower I returned to my room. I cooked a nice golden yellow - brown crisp dosa in few min, and ate it with Cheese Spread(Pepper). :)

Ghar ka Khana

A hungry young man needs good food for the dinner. He goes here and there and what hotels give is mostly junk spicy n oily food. What one is looking for is a homely food. That's what this hotel `Ghar ka Khana' offers!
Jayant and I had a sumptuous dinner last night. They served unlimited chapatis, Rajma, Bhendi, Dal, Rice, and limited curd, ice-cream, with pickle and salad. It was tasty, simple, homely food! You can check their

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

How to cut a Cake

"How to cut a cake and other mathematical Conundrums" is a book by Ian Stewart, author of "Math Hysteria". He discusses in a non-technical manner a number of interesting mathematical puzzles and brings out the beauty and mystery of Mathematics. Mathematicians can wonder about amazing situations, and bring out mathematics out of daily life situations. E.g. he puts the question as to from the number of different ways to tie a shoelace, which one uses the smallest length of shoe. Or, given that probability of a coin giving a head is half, and first four tosses turned out to be tail, will the coin catch up with the number of heads in remaining tosses. If yes, how long should one wait.
The title is based on the problem that given a cake, how would you cut and allow people to take the cuts, so that each one feels they have got their adequate share?
A very refreshing read for anyone who is curious about Mathematics, and if you are afraid of maths, this book will show you simple examples of problems and their solutions.

Meenakshi Temple

Sabari and I were returning from a college trip, and visited this beautiful temple called "Meenakshi Temple". There was lot of empty space, and evening time one could see the sky clearly. Children were enthusiastically taking prasadam. Very nice carvings and solid rocky foundation. It was as if the Divinity was saying aloud that its presence is strong and definite like rock, and infinite like the empty space.
The vibrations and the serene atmosphere could be easily noticed just stepping in the temple. The difference was very clear, out on the road, and in the temple premise. The Sun was about to set. I said to Sabari, " I was recalling all the seva that I have done so far. Its not much, and the rate at which I did it is also not significant. I extrapolated that and felt that the total seva done at the end of lifetime won't be much." Sabari replied,"It takes time to mature in Seva and get on a fast track in it." I also asked,"Its a truth that our Sun will become bigger and engulf the earth after a few lakh years. Its a long time, but its going to happen. Considering that we take births after births, what will happen to us then. Where will all souls go... Is it something similar to cosmic dissolution that Yoga Vasishtha talks about.." Sabari said, "Its like dissolving. You can dissolve and merge and become one right now. You are the Sun." I was quite satisfied with his answers and we left for home.
I wasn't much "for" visiting to temples, but now I feel a difference after any visit. Its like this, we are used to refer to God in third person:- as "He" or "She". But not as "You" or "I". However, as God is omnipresent, God is in You and I too. Visiting the temple does two things:- first, since one believes God is in Temple, atleast one feels closer to God. secondly, your belief in the presence of God gets stronger. So simple ways our Rishis have devised, yet they are so profound!


There are different kinds of fires. Some fires give smoke, no light. Some give light without smoke. Some give fragrance. We need to have a fire that gives light and fragrance, without smoke.
We need to chanelise the energy of life, so that the fire within us also results in light of knowledge and fragrance of happiness and warmth of love.

An ancient method that purifies the atmosphere and cleanses the mind is called "Agnihotra". Impurities in the atmosphere cause insects. Practise of Agnihotra has shown better crops, healthy trees, irradication of mosquitoes and cockroaches and many more things that bring harmony in the atmosphere.

Its the simplest Yagya that can be performed by any common man. In fact our ancient texts say that its a compulsory daily activity, not an optional one. Read how to do Agnihotra here.

Its also important to perform the Agnihotra on time of Sunrise and Sunset. There are four states of mind:- wide awake, totally asleep, dreaming and meditative. When you are awake, you may not be at rest. When you are sleeping, you are totally at rest, but there is no awareness. In dream, you are neither aware, nor rested:- sometimes after a night full of dreams, you wake up quite tired. In meditative state of mind, you are both aware and rested.
Similar to these states of mind, there are states of the Atmosphere and surroundings. You can experience a glimpse of meditative state of mind just before you wake up from sleep or just before you fall asleep. Similarly, Sunrise and Sunset are the times when its easiest to meditate. Also, these are cycles in the nature that affect the entire surroundings, body and mind. Synchronizing with them and energising the body, mind, surrounding at those times gives you total harmony and peace. Check the Sunrise and Sunset timings here.

In the Agnihotra fire, you offer Rice and Ghee and Chant few Mantras. The Mantras mean, I offer this to Sun, This energy is all Sun's, not mine. I offer this to the maintainer of entire society. This is all his, not mine. I offer this to the Fire, its all from fire, not mine.
Also, the rice grains need to be whole rice grains, not broken ones. What a nice way of keeping our sense for small details alive!
The practise sets in such a nice rhythm in your daily life, and you can resonate with the nature's frequency!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Chronicles of Narnia :- The Prince Capsian

I saw this nice movie today:- Chronicles of Narnia :- The Prince Capsian...

What would the world be like, if the animals started talking English, and trees started walking... Welcome to the world of Narnia... Beautiful jungles, lovely clean river water.

Narnians include horsemen too... creatures with human chest and head and horse's body and four legs. Human Narnians are short and proud of the woods. They love the nature and are in harmony with it...

Alas... some other human creatures find all this absurd, and are on way to cause total extinction of Narnians... Will they succeed..!? How will the prince Caspian save Narnians. How will the Elder(by hundreds of years, yet of same age in their Native as the Prince Caspian) Kings and Queens return to Narnia and help the Prince... Worth a watch, espacially in PVR Cinema.... :)

Logan - The Canadian Mountain..

On May 14th Morning I woke up as usual.The previous day Mom had agreed to the idea of buying a car after long persistent effort from my side.Mahesh, my room mate had come back from Trichy that morning.When he entered the house I said 'I am buying a Car..Let's go and checkout nearby showrooms'.Didn't have much idea about the latest models.Also I was out of reach for any sort of Automobiles for quite sometime due to fracture on my Ankle joint.Will tell you more about that brave encounter of mine with that terrible accident in another post!
We then checked out some of the showrooms nearby and the nearer one happened to be
Mahindra Renault's Logan showroom.I had heard Logan was good in it's segment.
Abhay,Mahesh and myself went for test drive.I sat in the car and drove it.I felt really comfortable.The car is simply amazing and very very very spacious when compared to other cars in the same segment.The boot space is larger than Mercedes, I came to know from good friend of mine, Mr.Jaspal.Mr.Jaspal is an awesome person that you need to meet sometime or other.Will write more about him later.A tidbit about him: he is running his own Cafe Lounge in Bangalore.You will get delicious and yummy food over there.All foods are homemade!!
The car seemed best bet for that price and in its segment.After some analysis I came to know,1.4 Petrol version seems to be giving better mileage than some of the best selling hatchbacks in the market.I need see if it is correct.
Finally I booked the vehicle on May16
th morning as per the Panjangam timing(For people who don't know Tamil, it is Almanac my father uses, to tell the auspiciuos time).I need to find out the truth once I get the car.Misty Silver is the colour I'd chosen.Need to wait couple of weeks for the much awaited car.Can go for trips easily after that.Will be having more things to share after that.
Logan is second highest mountain in NA of 5900 meters approximately.Don't know why they have kept this name for this Car!!

With love

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


I play these lightening games sometimes online... I play totally absurd opening, still the game makes sense! Here is an interesting one! I was white. (Of course, I won.)

1. h4 e6 2. h5 d5 3. g4 h6 4. d4 Be7 5. Nf3 Nf6 6. Bh3 Ne4 7. Bf4 Nd7 8. c3
Ndf6 9. Ne5 c5 10. f3 Ng5 11. Bxg5 hxg5 12. e3 Qb6 13. Qb3 Qc7 14. Bf1 g6
15. Nxf7 gxh5 16. Nxh8 Qg3+ 17. Ke2 hxg4 18. Nd2 gxf3+ 19. Nxf3 g4 20. Ne5
Ne4 21. Qb5+ Kd8 22. Nhf7+ Kc7 23. Rd1 Qf2+ 24. Kd3 a6 25. Qa5+ b6 26. Qa4
Qxb2 27. Qc6+ Kb8 28. Nd7+ Bxd7 29. Rh8+ Bf8 30. Rxf8+ Ka7 31. Rxa8#
{Black checkmated} 1-0

One more with me white.
1. h3 g6 2. b4 Bg7 3. c3 a5 4. bxa5 c6 5. e4 Qxa5 6. Bc4 Nf6 7. Nf3 Nxe4 8.Qe2 d5
9. O-O O-O 10. Bd3 Nc5 11. Bc2 Ne6 12. Ba3 c5 13. Bb3 Rd8 14. Ne5 Nc6
15. f4 d4 16. Nxc6 bxc6 17. f5 Ba6 18. d3 gxf5 19. Rxf5 dxc3
20. Rxf7 c4 21. Qxe6 Qb6+ 22. Kh1 cxb3 23. Rf8+ Kxf8
24. Bxe7+ Ke8 25. Bc5#
{Black checkmated} 1-0

Oops! For those who are new to Chess, check out the notation for moves of the game here.

New Bike!

On 21 April 2008 I bought home my new Honda Activa!! 800 km in last one month!
Life is great with bike... I have driven it in rain, with flooded streets, and it still didn't give any starting problems, engine problems. No need to change gears, lots of space to keep my books and stuff, my life rocks with this bike!

The dream called World

What is this world, but a long standing dream. For example, if you were thirsty before you slept, then in your dream you drink water and your thirst is satisfied. Same way had you been awake, when you drink water, the thirst is satisfied. So how is your life different than the dream. You may say that in real world it hurts when you fall on ground. It may not happen so in a dream. Actually it does, but lets look at the hurt in the real world. Say a scratching wound on your arm. How many days does it last!? Few days. If deep, a few weeks. Then its all normal. Then, you don't even feel the sensation of the wound. That being the case, how is the falling in real world different than that in a dream, except for a time lag- the impression of the fall in the mind lasts just for a short while, in a dream, while that in real life it lasts for a little longer. And then its all gone!

~~This Article is inspired by reading of the beatiful book called Yoga Vasishtha. Even the Matrix movie is based on few pages from a book and its absolutely relishing to read it.

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