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Sunday, August 15, 2010

Dakshin Gangotri Station: Pride of India [Antarctica] [suggested weekend reading]

India, in 1983, marked its permanent presence on the snow-covered continent  of Antarctica with its first Research station - Dakshin Gangotri [meaning Southern Gangotri (source of the river Ganga)].

The team that made up the first set of residents of Dakshin Gangotri was lead by Major General [retd] Satya Swaroop Sharma, former director of India's Snow and Avalanche Study Establishment [SASE].

I recently received this nicely written, informative white paper that he had authored, in which he gives a very nice, sufficiently detailed account of the work & effort that went into setting up Dakshin Gangotri for catering to needs of Indian Scientists & Researchers, who have been year-round visitors to Antarctica since then, as part of Indian Antarctic Programme.

Click on the thumbnails to view a larger-sized image

  Dakshin Gangotri Station: Pride of India [Antarctica]
Dakshin Gangotri Station: Pride of India [Antarctica]
Dakshin Gangotri Station: Pride of India [Antarctica]
Dakshin Gangotri Station: Pride of India [Antarctica]
Dakshin Gangotri Station: Pride of India [Antarctica]
Dakshin Gangotri Station: Pride of India [Antarctica]
Dakshin Gangotri Station: Pride of India [Antarctica]
Dakshin Gangotri Station: Pride of India [Antarctica]
Dakshin Gangotri Station: Pride of India [Antarctica]
Dakshin Gangotri Station: Pride of India [Antarctica]
Dakshin Gangotri Station: Pride of India [Antarctica]
Dakshin Gangotri Station: Pride of India [Antarctica]
Dakshin Gangotri Station: Pride of India [Antarctica]
Dakshin Gangotri Station: Pride of India [Antarctica]
Dakshin Gangotri Station: Pride of India [Antarctica]
Dakshin Gangotri Station: Pride of India [Antarctica]

Since then India has setup up one more permanent Research base there - Maitri, with another research station, Bharati, being in the process of being set up, targeted for completion in 2012.

He has, in fact, also authored a full book sharing his experiences in Antarctica - Breaking the ice in Antarctica: The first Indian wintering in Antarctica. It is also available for reading on Google Books, as a partial preview - currently reading it - amazing stories, engaging narration.

Speaking of Google Books, started using GoogReader to them. Displays them in an easy to read book-like layout, making reading very convenient [HT Lifehacker]. I would however have liked them include a feature that remembered the last book read and also the last page read before closing the application. Probably available in the paid version, not sure - check it out, but a very nifty application even as a free app.

National Centre for Antarctic & Ocean Research (NCAOR)


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Suggested reading for the weekend – 2009.11.15

Space Agencies & Manned Moon missions: International Astronautical Congress 2009

The 9 Theorems of Innovation at Google – Marissa Mayers

Monday, August 09, 2010

Stumpy, Elephant mascot of 2011 Cricket World Cup - making a statement

Not much of a cricket fan, least of all the utterly dull, languorous 5-day Test match format [its connoisseurs are stuck in a time warp - there, I said it - now sue me #kidding], I was flipping through the sports channels during the 3rd Test match being played between India & Sri Lanka. Just as I was about to switch to the next channel, they happened to telecast the unveiling of the mascot of the 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup - Stumpy, a 10-year old Elephant. Now, being decked up in some sort of a rain coat notwithstanding, what struck me was the actual choice of the mascot - an Elephant.

2011 ICC Cricket World Cup Mascot - Stumpy, the Elephant

Though stripped of its rights to physically host any of the matches, Pakistan still remains one of the organizing members or hosts of the games, however just-on-paper it may be. The tournament is supposed to be just as much of a contributory effort of Pakistan [again, on paper] as any of the other 3 countries & it it would not be unexpected on parts of the Pakistanis to expect that their participation as hosts get highlighted in important aspects of tournament [such is that country of great expectations - they expect everything from everybody - weapons, money, trade aid....the list is endless - the inflated sense of entitlement that they posses].

In light of their continued participation as host of the World Cup, choosing an Elephant as a mascot seems to me as a way for the other 3 countries - India, Bangladesh & Sri Lanka, to make a statement - the World Cup is not Pakistan's baby - they're an outsider - a hanger-on, leeching off the revenue it would generate.

The message should not be very hard to get across to the Pakistanis - the Elephant is native to all the 3 countries except Pakistan. No elephant has ever roamed in the wild of, what was described by its founder itself, the moth-eaten country. The elephant has had no presence or association with Pakistan.

Quite a snub from the organizers I'd say - something that the country should've got used to by now, what with not a single IPL team owners bidding for Pakistani players, its invitation to play in the Champion League Cricket being withdrawn, countries refusing to step foot on its soil and thus having to face the ignominy of losing to those countries on some "friendly foreign soil" - the list  goes on and on. Can't say I'm not enjoying it though #evilme.


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Sunday, August 08, 2010

MMRCA Aircrafts in flight [weekend YouTube watching]

With the results of India's MMRCA acquisition programme just about a year away from being announced, it would not be a bad time to watch each of the competing flying beauties in all their flying glory.

Mikoyan MiG-29 OVT & MiG-35 [Duration: 4 minutes 48 seconds]

Mikoyan MiG-29 OVT & Mig-35 in flight

Some more Vectored-thrust flightgasm: MiG-29OVT <--> MiG-35

On Wikipedia: MiG-35, MiG-29

Note: MiG-29 OVT is the Technology Demonstrator [TD] aircraft that validated the vectored thrust and other technologies incorporated into the  MiG-35.

Dassault Rafale - On Wikipedia

Eurofighter Typhoon - On Wikipedia

Saab JAS 39 Gripen - On Wikipedia

Lockheed Martin F-16 Viper/Fighting Falcon - On Wikipedia

Another: F-16 Cockpit tour

Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet - On Wikipedia

As for which aircraft moi rooting for - purely on aircraft ability and manufacturing setup, I'd have gone for the F-18 Super Hornet - Boeing has undoubtedly one of the most evolved ERP and Supply Chain Management in place. The second M in the MMRCA is best exemplified by the Shornets, IMVHO of course [a blog topic for some day, perhaps].

However, considering that the Indian Air Force currently operates no American combat aircraft, which would then require a completely new logistics supply chain and maintenance line to be setup, adding to the overheads & with its history of imposing sanctions as and when it desires, I'd be very averse to the idea of buying them, their technology advantage notwithstanding.

Instead, moi would like the IAF to recommend and the MoD to decide on purchasing the Dassault Rafale aircraft. Having been a very satisfied operator of the Mirage-2000H aircrafts, the Indian Air Force had earlier expressed its desire to purchase additional Mirage-20005, an advanced iteration of the Mirage-2000 to bolster its rapidly declining squadron strength. However, in ways typifying our bureaucratic babooz, by the time the decision had been taken with much delays, Dassault had already shut down the production line of the aircraft, cost of restarting which for the Indian contract would've rendered the final cost of the aircrafts unviable. So started a hunt for an aircraft for the Indian Air Force through an acquisition programme labeled the biggest defence contract in the world out there.

Besides being a capable aircraft in its own rights [moi, the Armchair, brochure reading, YouTube watching Air Chief Marshal speaketh], India has also had a fairly satisfactory defense relation with the French, both in terms of user-experience and supply of spares [the latter factor marking an absolute low as far as Indo-Russian ties go]. Sharing commonality with the Mirage-2000, it would be an easier task maintaining the flight-worthiness of Mirages, to undergo a comprehensive MLU programme of its own to keep them air-worthy for the next 20 odd years [expected to fly till 2030-35] and the Rafale, owing to the commonality inherited from being products of the same company - Dassault.

Yet, the fact that it does not have an operational AESA radar may work against it, for if newspaper paper reports are anything to go by, the Indian Air Force is big on having them on its MMRCA aircraft. This condition, if strictly enforced, could leave only the F-16 Vipers and the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet in fray. The Vipers & the Super Hornets with their their AN/APG-80 & APG-79 radars respectively are the only competing aircrafts with operational AESA radars. Although all the competitors have assured an AESA by the time the contract is awarded, the AESAs being in the final stage of testing they claim.

A quickie comparison between specifications of the different aircrafts.

Click on the info-graphic to view larger-sized image

Quick comparison between specifications of aircrafts competing in the MMRCA acquisition programme

Whichever aircraft comes out on top is expected to serve in the Indian Air Force till around 2040, forming the workhorse of the IAF along with the Tejas, with the FGFA and the Su-30MKI forming the strike components [there is also the AMCA, which may fit in role similar to that of the MMRCA, though more advanced aircrafts that would outlast the MMRCA]. All in all, very interesting times ahead.


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World’s Air Forces and their Flying Machines

India’s Medium Multi-role Combat Aircraft program : A comprehensive summary

F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program: An Overview 01

[not quite] Suggested Reading for the weekend – 2009.11.28

Know your Jammu & Kashmir [suggested weekend reading]

The recent eruption of riots, arson & mob violence in the Kashmir valley of the Indian State of Jammu & Kashmir evoked an interest in knowing more about the issue at hand. After going through the sources of information available, one belief that was reiterated was that the nature of reporting and point of view adopted by the media houses [quite contrary to the view that the media houses should only report the news without voicing an opinion - it's the job of the reader] is based more keeping in mind commercial considerations than taking the plunge and asking the real hard pertinent questions that are bound to cause discomfort to people in the place of power.

Rioting, stone-pelting arsonists running their writ in the Kashmir Valley

Sharing some links of interest - by no means exhaustive but may help gain some perspective of the issue confronting us.

Article 370

Kashmir Article 370. You may read the full book here [chapter links on the right]

Brief History - Article 370

The truth about Article 370 [URL to e-book present on that page]

Essays & Books

Converted Kashmir - Memorial of Mistakes [e-book]. Also available on Scribd. A hard copy of the book may also be purchased here. Chapters of special interest - Governor Jagmohan, Article 370

Jammu & Kashmir:  Self-Determination, Demands for a Plebiscite and Secession

The Linguistic and Cultural Diversity of Kashmir

Pakistan's role in the Kashmir insurgency

Home Minister’s Statement in Parliament on Jammu & Kashmir

The truth on Kashmir and terrorism in India - US State Department report on Terrorism

Paradise lost

Terrorist role of Pakistan

Articles & Columns:

Stone throwers killed my child: Kulsooma

Naiveté in Srinagar

The Shadows in J & K

Why giving in to Kashmir -fatigue is not a good idea

Anarchy in the valley

My thoughts on Jammu & Kashmir - B. Raman

Forgotten people of Jammu & Kashmir: Refugees from POK

Dispatch: the politics of policing Kashmir

Kashmir Deal - Solution or Surrender?

Valencia to Valley, money passes - With Kashmir on the boil, trail from Spain blips on security radar

Kashmir survey finds no majority for independence

Hair cut fuels Sikh protest

Abrogate Article 370

The Ugly world of Kashmir's online rebels

Afghan heroin used to lure youths for stone pelting

Af-Pak Behind the Lines: Kashmir

Blogs, websites & News outlets:

Kashmir Information Network. Please take a look at its Book section - available for reading online

Panun Kashmir: A Homeland for Kashmiri Pandits

Roots in Kashmir

Rising Kashmir

Jammu & Kashmir Newspoint

Indo-American Kashmir Forum

Terror unleashed - An exhibition on Kashmir

The Kashmir [Please do check its Blogroll]

Kashmir Herald


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Thursday, August 05, 2010

1945-1998: 53 Years, 2053 Nuclear detonations, 14 minutes

Came across an interesting work of animation prepared by a Japanese named Isao Hashimoto. Starting from the first Nuclear test detonation in 1945 at New Mexico by the Americans, it animates all the 2053 confirmed Nuclear test explosions till 1998, that culminates with India's Shakti-series of tests [that was preceded by the Smiling Buddha] and Pakistan's copycat Chagan-Chaman-whatever-it-is-they-called-theirs test. Since this animation was prepared in 2003, North Korea's 2 Nuclear tests remain undocumented here.

Set to a scale of 1 second denoting 1 month, & mapping the test locations on a map of the world, it gives us a sense of perspective of the mindset & prevailing threat perceptions during the Cold War era. Built primarily as a weapon of deterrence [thanks to MAD] & make policy statements*, one can see the mind-boggling frequency with which the power centers of the time tested their devices at the height of the Cold War - the animation goes bezerk with the light & sound display of Nuclear explosions during that period depicted.

Duration: 14 minutes 24 seconds


The video denotes only those Nuclear explosions that were backed by confirmatory data, the data having been sourced from the compendium Nuclear Explosions 1945-1998 published by the respected Stockholm-based organization SIPRI. Thus India is shown to have conducted a total 4 Nuclear tests, while Pakistan 2 and the Vela incident finds no mention.

* except in case of a certain nation that has been termed an "International migraine", who uses it to threaten the world with suicide


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Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Easy and hassle-free downloading from file-sharing sites [software]

As an Internet user, downloading a file from one of the innumerable file-sharing websites like Rapidshare, Megaupload etc is quite unavoidable given their convenience & resulting popularity. From personal experience, I'd say that I am more likely to find files I am looking for on one such file host rather than, say, the Bit Torrent network.

However, if you are a non-paying user, then downloading files from such a site can be a very inconvenient & frustrating experience - CAPTCHA, multiple mouse clicks, countdown timers, limit on number & size of files downloaded ityadi. Limitations put in place to encourage [rather, force] you to become a paid user, after which all such restrictions are removed. With every one having their own preferred file host & thus sharing them on a different site from the other, becoming a paid downloader on each of these sites may not be a very VFM idea [understatement].

In the last couple of days I've had to download large number of files from such file-sharing websites. Being a non-paying user, the prospect of going thorough the whole cycle each time I had to download a file [93 files in all] had to be avoided.

easy & convenient downloading from Rapidshare and other file sharing sites

FreeRapid is a useful download manager that does just that. All you have to do is add the URL of the file in Free Rapid and specify where you wish to save the file and FreeRapid will do the rest for you. No more mouse clicks or countdown timers to deal with - gives a convenient & hassle-free download experience. Best of all it is a Freeware.

The developers state that it can download from more than 150 such file-hosting websites. I've tried downloading from a couple of sites, including YouTube and was able to download with ease & without issues. It also claims to be able to resolve some types of CAPTCHAS. If it fails to do so, you shall be prompted to do it manually after which download begins

Gripe: Free Rapid can't seem to prevent the computer from going into standby if the computer is not being used for anything else & left unattended - currently using Windows 7 Ultimate Edition. Its a big problem if the file-sharing site does not support download resuming - downloading will re-start from 0% no matter what. I had to run some other program alongside to prevent standby. Also the option to shutdown the computer after download was completed seems not to be working.

Small gripes aside, I'd say FreeRapid is a must-have tool to download from the the online file-hosts as a free user with ease and convenience.

While looking for a suitable software, I also came across some other such freeware download mangers that are said to do just the same - Mipony, MDownloader & Skipscreen [Firefox add-on].

Haven't felt the need to try them out yet, but a quick Google tells me that they are just as easy & effective.


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