Help classify galaxies

Participate in Public science and help classify galaxies: Galaxy Zoo 2. An excellent idea to use human intelligence in classification to make sense of astronomical amounts of data.

End of Days

It's 6pm and everybody has gone home. I am sipping my last coffee as a graduate student. I had always looked forward to the day when I would finally be able to say 'I'm done with this crap'. Sometimes, it looked like that day would never come. It always seemed a goal that was too impossible, too far, somewhere in the distance, a year or two away. Now it's finally here, it's not what I had expected to feel.

Today everyone, including my advisor, told me to go home early and get some sleep. Actually, for the first time in my life I genuinely want to stay here. Not because there is work to be done, but I just want to enjoy the last evening here at my desk - alone. I see piles of old papers that are all marked up and with coffee stains, old lab notebooks with failed experiments and incorrect analyses. They make feel that was time well-spent. My finished papers, in comparison, look too clean.

Tomorrow, in about 45 minutes I am supposed to wrap six years of work. They want the cream. I shall present three of my greatest hits, and if that's a hit with the committee, they are going award me a PhD.

My personal experience makes me compare doing a PhD to running a marathon. You have to be slightly mad to think of doing one, and a little more so to finish one. Just as the marathon is not a test of speed, but of stamina, a PhD is not a test of quick intelligence, but of rigor and intellectual determination. For the most part, you hang in there and keep going, and not be afraid of falling down or going down blind alleys.

I recall Chicago. After many miles, I finally rounded the bend on Columbus Drive and saw the finish, less than 400 meters away. Suddenly, all the weariness of those miles disappeared seeing that green banner with large, friendly letters reading, 'FINISH'. It was nice to get that medal around my chest once I crossed. That will always remain. And looking back, what I really enjoyed was running all those miles in the different neighbourhoods. Today, it's that same sort of feeling of seeing the finish line, one that you dreamed about for a few years. Yes, I look forward to crossing the line tomorrow, but tonight I want to sit here and look back.

From the land of navel gazing

Since, I now have more time on my hands, I felt that this is an appropriate time to try out Twitter. So, I have sold out (temporarily) and shall be twittering:, where the good citizens of the world can find the answer to the burning question of the day -- What is Hirak Parikh doing gazing at his navel?

My most private activity is now public. I am now officially a part of the chattering masses.

Working on your talk?

Sad, to see ppl mucking around in Powerpoint when they should be spending more time preparing the talk! Guys! it's a T_A_L_K, not a slideshow. Presenting bullet points instead of making a point.

Lincoln and Darwin

Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin were born on the same day, February 12, 1809, two hundred years ago. As the Birthday Paradox illustrates, you need only 23 people in a room to get better than 1/2 chance of any two people sharing a birthday. The coincidence is welcome however, as I admire them both. What I find more interesting is how separate these people live in the consciousness of people and the media. In all my calendars/dairies I find the day marked as 'Lincoln's birthday', but Darwin goes unmentioned. The newspapers are going to devote more space to Lincoln, while Darwin's going to get a footnote somewhere in the Science page. Perhaps, the man of the moment, Barack Obama shares more with the former Illinois Representative than a would-be-curate-turned-naturalist.

In another parallel universe, Darwin's day has not gone unnoticed as Science magazine is running series on Darwin. The National Geographic had a Darwin cover story. Some folks in the city of Ann Arbor have decided to celebrate Darwin's Day. Now that I shall have more time this week, I intend to re-read the Origin of Species and Lincoln's speeches.

I am curious to see if Google's logo tomorrow is going to pay homage to Darwin or Lincoln. Regardless of the final choice, both were truly great men who contributed in immensely in two completely separate spheres. It also occurred to me that people are rarely shot for their scientific beliefs, merely excoriated or excommunicated. Political belief seems to be a more dangerous responsibility.

Impossible Indian chick!

If you guys have a minute to spare while your women are getting ready. Check this out!
From Reuters: Indian Chick does the impossible!

For the first time, there is evidence that a woman can get her hair, makeup and clothes done in under one minute! What makes this even more of an achievement is the fact that it is an Indian woman! In my most sanguine moments, I thought that half hour would be a reasonable demand for someone to get ready, but this is an Olympian achievement.

It would indeed be a shame if this feat only managed to get in the Guinness Book of World Records. That book is meant for people eating nails, twenty hamburgers in 2 minutes, cycling backwards while playing a violin, or for pogo-sticking to Mt. Fuji. All impressive, but ultimately useless human achievements. This, my dear Gayathri, is worth at least a couple of Nobel prizes.

Here are some of the reasons:

Physics: Doing your hair in a French roll in the time it takes me to tie my shoelaces! And getting in a 9-yard sari in less than thirty seconds! The prize should be awarded for proving that the laws of physics as discovered by scientists no less than Newton, Planck, Einstein and Feymann do not need to be violated for a woman to get ready in less than a minute.

Peace: Surely, guys all over the world would appreciate her sharing this technique with their gals. I mean Al Gore got one for a Powerpoint presentation!

Chemistry: One definite woman has been synthesized by biological means that can ready in less than a minute.

Medicine/Biology: Nothing in the XX chromosome is responsible for any delay in getting ready.

Economics: Let's not even start. Gas, time, lights, etc. saved.

Literature: This might be the only tough sell, but heck! fact is stranger than fiction. This should count for something.