It’s Rewind Time…

2018 has been an interesting year. I started this blog in Jan, 2017 and I said that I would put up a post every week. If you really want to do something, don’t make it your new year’s resolution. But here I am, on the 26th of December 2018, making a fresh decision to start writing again.

The inspiration for this post is what is now the most disliked YouTube video of all time, boasting a staggering 14.2 million dislikes, even beating Justin Bieber’s ‘Baby’ which stands at second place with 10 million dislikes. In light of that disaster anything I write here will certainly be better in comparison. Instead of an account of events in chronological order I am going to write about a few things that come to mind as I reflect on 2018.


Final Year Project

Hydroponics is a method of growing plants without soil. They are grown directly in a nutrient solution which is maintained with the proper levels of all the nutrients and minerals that the plants need. It much more resource efficient than traditional farming and it all happens in a controlled environment. It surprises some people that plants can be grown without soil. Doesn’t the plant come from the soil? Interestingly, it does not. Plants are made of carbon (as are we) and the carbon comes from carbon dioxide in the air. Carbon dioxide is converted to carbohydrates during photosynthesis and that’s where most of the plant comes from: from the air! There is a wonderful video of Prof. Richard Feynman explaining this from the most interesting perspective. You can find it here and I highly recommend it.
We started our final year project this year. Our task, as part of our final year engineering project is to automate a hydroponics farm for a local company. A controlled environment needs to be maintained which includes sensing, monitoring and controlling different relevant parameters of the farm. I shall write about the details of the project in a different post. Suffice it to say, it’s a lot of fun and we’re about 65% done this semester.


Reverse Flowing Fountain

The frozen water stream effect is immensely enjoyable to watch and mind-boggling if you’re seeing it for the first time. The really astonishing bit is when the gravity defying stream starts to flow backwards into the pipe as if time is running backwards. This was our project and – I don’t mean to boast – the star attraction of the project exhibition held in college in July.
The stroboscopic effect or the strobe light effect is what makes this illusion possible.
A strobe light is merely a light that turns on and off at a given frequency. Suppose that you have a vibrating string that’s moving up and down at a fixed frequency. Imagine that the string is illuminated by a strobe light that turns on for a brief instance when the string reaches it’s highest point and then stays off till it moves down and up again and flashes once more when the string reaches the same point again. Consequently, you only see the sting in that one position and it appears to be frozen. If the frequency of the light is high enough your eyes can’t tell that it’s pulsating and the whole thing looks like a regular light and a very irregular string.
I’ll write another post about this describing it in detail.
We won first place for this project. I wish I had a better video.


Books

A few titles that I loved:

The Selfish Gene – Richard Dawkins
This book is absolutely brilliant! Richard Dawkins writes beautifully about evolution by natural selection, aiming to provide a fresh perspective on what the unit of selection really is. The gene can be thought of as an entity that builds bodies for survival. We, the bodies are the vehicles of gene propagation. The bodies die but the gene lives on as its replicas are passed unchanged (mostly) from generation to generation, making it in some ways, immortal.

The Extended Phenotype – Richard Dawkins
In a way a sequel to The Selfish Gene, The Extended Phenotype is rather more technical. Phenotype is the expression of the gene. Black hair, blue eyes, tall, short are all phenotypic expressions. This book makes the case that phenotypic expressions needn’t be restricted to expressions within the body but can extend outwards to include effects of the gene on the surrounding environment. For example, a beaver’s dam is a phenotypic expression of its genes, the behaviour of a host when infected by a parasite is the phenotypic expression of the genes of the parasite.

Rich Dad Poor Dad – Robert Kiyosaki
This book was a financial eye opener. “Rich people acquire assets. The poor and the middle class acquire liabilities that they think are assets”. Kiyosaki talks about what the rich teach their children about money and what the poor and middle class teach their children. He writes about what he learned from his middle class father and what he learned from his friend’s rich father who treated him like a son – rich dad, poor dad. A great book for anyone, and especially if you’re in your early twenties and just starting out in the world with no knowledge of how money works and what to do with it.


There’s more to write. More that has been on my mind. I shall leave that for following posts.

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