Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The August Mars Hoax

Recently, I received this mail, like many others... This is what it contained:

The Red Planet is about to be spectacular! This month and next, Earth is catching up with Mars in an encounter that will culminate in the closest approach between the two planets in recorded history. The next time Mars may come this close is in 2287. Due to the way Jupiter's gravity tugs on Mars and perturbs its orbit, astronomers can only be certain that Mars has not come this close to Earth in the Last 5,000 years, but it may be as long as 60,000 years before it happens again. The encounter will culminate on August 27th when Mars comes to within 34,649,589 miles of Earth and will be (next to the moon) the brightest object in the night sky. It will attain a magnitude of -2.9 and will appear 25.11 arc seconds wide. At a modest 75-power magnification Mars will look as large as the full moon to the naked eye. Mars will be easy to spot. At the beginning of August it will rise in the east at 10 p.m. and reach its azimuth at about 3 a.m. By the end of August when the two planets are closest, Mars will rise at nightfall and reach its highest point in the sky at 12:30 a.m. That's pretty convenient to see something that no human being has seen in recorded history. So, mark your calendar at the beginning of August to see Mars grow progressively brighter and brighter throughout the month. Share this with your children and grandchildren. NO ONE ALIVE TODAY WILL EVER SEE THIS AGAIN.

Got a bit curious about what I just read... I mean, how can anyone be able to see Mars as big as the moon??? It will be catastrophic, if the event ever took place. So, searched about it in the internet, and came to know some interesting facts..... This so called spectacular event has been nicknamed as the "August Mars Hoax".

The main thing to be noticed from the mail that the sender forgot to mention the year in which the event is going to occur!!! So, thats what started all the confusions and the rumours. Here are a few snippets I got from various sites.... Some of them are from various NASA articles (check out science.nasa.gov), so these articles are fairly authentic..... So read on, and know the facts.

Mars did make an extraordinarily close approach to Earth several years ago, culminating on 27 August 2003, when the red planet came within 35 million miles (or 56 million kilometers) of Earth, its nearest approach to us in almost 60,000 years. At that time, Mars appeared approximately 6 times larger and 85 times brighter in the sky than it ordinarily does.

Although Mars' proximity to Earth in August 2003 (referred to as a perihelic opposition) was a rare occurrence, the red planet comes almost as near to us every 15 to 17 years. To the unaided observer, Mars' appearance in August 2003 wasn't significantly larger or brighter than it is during those much more common intervals of closeness.

Mars had another close encounter with Earth in in 2005, but that occurrence took place in October (not August), and the red planet appeared about 20% smaller than it did during similar circumstances in 2003.

Earth and Mars are converging for a close encounter this year on October 30th at 0319 Universal Time. Distance: 69 million kilometers. To the unaided eye, Mars will look like a bright red star, a pinprick of light, certainly not as wide as the full Moon.

Disappointed? Don't be. If Mars did come close enough to rival the Moon, its gravity would alter Earth's orbit and raise terrible tides.


Painted green by a flashlight, astronomer Dennis Mammana of California points out Mars to onlookers on Aug. 26, 2003, the last time Mars was so close to Earth. Photo credit: Thad V'Soske.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

A picture is worth a thousand words.....

I am an avid user of my digital camera, an inexpensive way to capture the memorable moments. Whether it is in particular occasion, or it is just a evening stroll, I always remember to carry my camera, and take numerous shots, well.... there is nothing to worry about the cost of films orprinting, so why not make use of it anyway? A photograph, after being transferred to a PC, needs to be edited to enhance its beauty, or to bring into the attention the subject, or just to remove some unwanted things from it...

Here are a few photo editing and sharing tools I frequently use. There is Google's Picasa for the basic fixes to the digital photos. Be it cropping, or increasing the contrast, I prefer to use this simple and free software. The interface is quite clean. It also has a good photo album to organize the hundreds of pics on my hard disk. Recently, I found the "Blog This" button quite useful. Now its just the click of a button to upload a pic to my blog!!!

For photo sharing, I have tried different options, the most common being sending photos as email attachments, but somehow, I dont like that way, mostly, if I have a whole album to share with some selected friends.... Thats when I started using Yahoo Photos. Its a quick way to upload your photos at a reduced resolution, and then emailing the link instead to your friends. Then there is the photo sharing option in almost the latest messengers... I have used the Yahoo one, but didnt like it, mainly because, it wasnt suited for my slow Internet connection. I also tried Picasa's Hello... Its quite good, the only problem is the other person needs to have a hello account, and have the hello software installed on his PC too....

FInally, we have the blog to share photos, but thats for all the people on the net to see...

I completely agree with the moto that a picture is worth a thousand words, and thats the reason why almost all my posts are so much full of photos.... Cant help it!!!!! (I tried my best to make an exception in this one though, but cant leave my habit, can I???!!)...

15th Aniversary of WWW

This is a BBC article on the 15 th anniversary of the World Wide Web. The day was 6th Aug, 1991. I found the article quite intersting.... Here is a copied version of the original aricle, and you can read the article also by clicking the link above......

Readers can check out this link too :
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/5243862.stm

How the web went world wide
By Mark Ward
Technology Correspondent, BBC News website


In a few short years the web has become so familiar that it is hard to think of life without it.

Along with that familiarity with browsers and bookmarks goes a little knowledge about the web's history.

Many users know that Sir Tim Berners-Lee developed the web at the Cern physics laboratory near Geneva .

But few will know the details of the world wide web's growth - not least because the definitive history of how that happened has yet to be written.

Zero to hero

One key date is 6 August 1991 - the day on which links to the fledgling computer code for the www were put on the alt.hypertext discussion group so others could download it and play with it.

On that day the web went world wide.

Jeff Groff, who worked with Mr Berners-Lee on the early code, said a very simple idea was behind the web.

"The vision was that people should not have to deal with the technology stuff," he said.

The web was an overlay that tried to hide the underlying complexity of the data and documents proliferating on the internet.

Early on this commitment to simplicity meant that the now familiar addresses beginning http:// were never seen.

In the early 90s a single way to get at the information stored on many different computers was very attractive, said Paul Kunz, a staff scientist at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (Slac) who set up the first web server outside Europe in December 1991.

At that time, he said, computers were islands of information. A login only gave access to that machine's resources. Switching computers meant logging in again and probably using a different set of commands to find and retrieve data.

The web really caught Mr Kunz's interest after Tim Berners-Lee showed it querying a database of physics papers held on an IBM mainframe.

"I knew what the results should look like on the screen and the results looked identical in the web browser," said Mr Kunz.

The web server set up by Mr Kunz let physicists trawl through the 200,000 abstracts more easily than ever before.

This proved so useful that soon even Cern scientists were querying the database via the Slac webpage rather than using the copy on their network.

Audience share

But though physicists were being won over by the web's promise, in the early years few others grasped its potential.

This was because, said Mr Kunz, many other technologies existed that did a similar job. Many people got hold of key documents using the File Transfer Protocol (FTP) and used Usenet as a means to express themselves.

Particularly popular was a technology known as Gopher developed at the University of Minnesota that also put a friendly face on the blooming complexity of the computers connected to the internet. It got the name partly because the college's sports team is called the Golden Gophers.

Gopher was released in Spring 1991 and for a few years statistics showed far more gopher traffic was passing across the net than web traffic.

During this time Mr Berners-Lee, Jeff Groff and colleagues involved in the world wide web project were evangelising their creation at conferences, meetings and online.

The whole project got a boost in April 1993 when the first PC web browser appeared. It was created by Marc Andreessen at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois rather than at Cern because, said Jeff Groff, the web team did not have the staff available to write browsers for PCs, Macs or Unix machines.

Mosaic was so successful that it established many of the conventions of web use still around today, said Mr Groff. For instance, he said, the original conception of the web had no place for bookmarks or favourites.

Also in 1993, the University of MInnesota began charging for Gopher which led many people to consider alternatives far more seriously.

Express yourself

Ed Vielmetti, a pioneering web user and now a research associate at the University of Michigan School of Information, said during these early years the technology really started to prove its usefulness to average net users.

Gopher and FTP systems were typically set up by companies or large institutions, he said. Also Usenet lacked any kind of persistence so anyone making a point had to re-post their opinions regularly.

Early on people started to use webpages as a way to express themselves in a way that other technologies simply did not allow. Mr Vielmetti said web code was very tolerant of mistakes and encouraged people to play around with it.

"Websites filled this unique little niche for you as a person, not as a corporate entity, and you can have the page sitting there and have it be yours," he said.

Every surge of interest in the web has been driven by the appearance of tools that make this expression, or a new type of it such as blogging, far easier than before.

The foresight of Mr Berners-Lee and the pioneering coders was such that, even today, many early webpages can still be viewed. That persistence can last decades.

"The killer application for the PC was the spreadsheet, for the Mac it was desktop publishing and for the internet it was the web," said Paul Kunz.

He added: "Tim Berners-Lee was working on a problem to solve in high-energy physics but in finding a solution he found a solution to problems that the general public did not know they had."

In late 1994 web traffic finally overtook gopher traffic and has never looked back. Now there are almost 100 million websites and many consider the web and the net indistinguishable.

But, said Mr Groff, only now is the web meeting the vision that the pioneers had for it.

The original conception was for a medium that people both read and contributed to. New tools such as photo-sharing sites, social networks, blogs, wikis and others are making good on that early promise, he said.

The web may be worldwide but it is only just getting started.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Thought this would be funny!!!!!



What do you say to that??!!!!

Orkut Demographics




Today, I was looking at some interesting statistics about Orkut.... Brazil seems to be pretty crazy about Orkut. India ranks third with a share of about 7%..... Click the above image to enlarge...

Friday, August 04, 2006

Gadgets!!! contd.... 3G Phones from Sony Ericsson

Being a huge fan of Sony Ericsson mobile phones, I thought of writing about some of the latest 3G phones introduced by the company in the market this year.... Lets have a look:

P990i:

A great smart phone!!!! Feautring the Symbian OS 9.1, the latest version of the most popular OS used in smart phones.... Together with an integrated 2 megapixel camera with autofocus, a full color screen (262k) with a decent resolution of 240 x 320 pixels, are some the new features this phone boasts off!!! And of course, its a 3G phone, so a better internet experience too!!!! Also has a high quality 30fps (frames per second) video recording and lots more!!! Will be expensive though!!!!

K610i:

Looking for an affordable 3G phone, then there is the k610i... Good looks, 2 megapixel camera (no autofocus though), a full color screen with a resolution of 176 x 220 pixels are some of its important features... Will cost around 14k in the Indian markets...

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Road to Sinhgad...

As I sit writing, I think about one of the enjoyable events this year, our trip to the Sinhgad fort... It was one fine, sunny morning in January, and we were having our practical session. It was so damn boring, that after somehow spending the 2 hours in the lab, we, I mean a group of 6 friends, decided it was just impossible to attend the lectures after this. Well, we were in our final semster, so we didnt worry about attendence anyways. Watever, it was decided to go for a outing, and one of us suggested Sinhgad fort. After some quick plannings, it was decided not to waste anymore time and start....

Well, I forgot to mention the gang - Jasnoor, Aastha, Nikita, Kusum, Anjali, and me. And what was our mode of transportation?? Well, I had an Activa, and Jasnoor brought along his "teenage" Kinetic Honda, and ofcourse, Anjali had her trusty Scooty.

Now, the question was, did any of us know the route to the fort, or any idea how far was it?? Well, someone had a vague idea, and we started on our way. It took as about an hour to reach the outskirts of the city. We asked for directions, and finally continued on the correct route, our slow and gradual ascent uphill. Anjali's scooty was leading the way, she with her usual moto "Speed thrills, but never kills", was imagining herself to be John Abraham in Dhoom, never even looking back to see if we were following her. Poor Niki, who was the pillion, must have had hell of a time!!! They reached the fort, which was about 10km along the uphill road, in an hr or so. As far as I was concerned, I continued to move at my steady speed, keeping a track of Jasnoor and Aastha, as their kinetic started giving problems. We were some place ahead, when I got a call from Jasnoor.His scooter needed some rest, as its engine had overheated. So, Kusum and I waited for them for about 15 min. By that time, our racing duo, - Anjali and Niki, had already reached, and were getting impatient!!! Finally, we finally saw Jasnoor's scooter. We rode alongside them for some time, but again their scooter gave up. So they decided to park their scooter there itself and continue the remaing 1 km walking. We continued on my scooter, and reached the fort in 5 min or so. So that was how we finally reached. We left the college around 12, and by the time we reached our destination, it was already 3 (we also halted for some time in MG, as some of us had some work there).

Rest was pretty enjoyable, sight seeing and all. The fort was all in ruins, but the height at which it was built was quite remarkable. After spending a couple of hours (and not to mention all the photograph sessions), we started our descent... On our way back, we halted near the Kharakvasla lake for an hour to view the sunset. After that, we all decided to meet at CCD, east street, while on our way back to the college.






"Memory is a child walking along a seashore. You never can tell what small pebble it will pick up and store away among its treasured things."
~ Atlanta Journal ~ Pierce Harris

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Gadgets!!!

Aahh!!! The wonderful world of electronic gadgets... Here is a list of a few I would like to own right now....

1. Apple IPod/Creative Zen Vision M :

An IPod has a lot of attractive features, great looks and a simple interface... The 5th generation IPods are available in 30GB and 60GB variants and are capable of playing videos too... It has a 256k color screen supporting a resolution of 320 X 240, having a 3 inch diagonal size. As far as audio is concerned, it supports AAC format/ mp3/wav etc (doesn't support wma)

Talking about portable music players, I also came across a worthy competitor, the Creative Zen VIsion M... Looks similar to the IPod, but has some qualities which makes it score over an IPod - mainly its support for wma. It also has a better screen - a resolution upto 640X480 video playback.... Cool!!!!



2. Sony Ericsson K790i:

Here is a phone with a 3.2 megapixel autofocus CyberShot Camera.... Other features include a full color screen (262K), with an EDGE support, and a Xenon flash. Priced around 20k (or maybe less), this phone seems to be an ideal choice for a photo enthusiast, or a gadget freak. But, its not a "smart phone", and doesnt have a 3G network support, wifi etc, but who needs that anyways, when you are getting a 3.2 megapixel camera with it???

3. Canon Powershot A540:

An upgrade of the previous Powershot A520, it features a Digic2 Processor ( a remarkably faster processor compared to the original Digic) , with an USB2 support, and of course, a 6 mega pixel CCD with a 4X Optical zoom, and a huge 2.5 inch screen. And like its predecessor, it has some manual controls too. Takes excellent images!!!! Cant think of any negative qualities (well, except one, that is, it has a bit slow flash recharge time, which makes it a bit slow when taking consecutive night shots with flash). Priced around 17k, it comes with a 256 MB SD card, and a set of 4 NiMH cells with charger..... Quite a package!!!!
Well, these are a few of them... Will keep on updating if I find something interesting!!!!

Laughing out loud!!!!!

Got a forwarded mail from a friend of mine.... Was titled "Hilarious Court Cases". Here are a few of the questions which are really funny!!! So, read on and enjoy, and have a good laugh!!!!!

These are from a book called "Disorder in the Court." These are things
people actually said in court, word for word, taken down and now
published by court reporters - who had the torment of staying calm while
these exchanges were actually taking place.

1.
Q: What is your date of birth?
A: July fifteenth.
Q: What year?
A: Every year.

2.
Q: And where was the location of the accident?
A: Approximately milepost 499.
Q: And where is milepost 499?
A: Probably between milepost 498 and 500.

3.
Q: How was your first marriage terminated?
A: By death.
Q: And by whose death was it terminated?

4.
Q: Doctor, how many autopsies have you performed on dead people?
A: All my autopsies are performed on dead people.

5. Q: Do you recall the time that you examined the body?
A: The autopsy started around 8:30 p.m.
Q: And Mr. Dennington was dead at the time?
A: No, he was sitting on the table wondering why I was doing an autopsy.

6. Q: Doctor, before you performed the autopsy, did you check for a pulse?
A: No.
Q: Did you check for blood pressure?
A: No.
Q: Did you check for breathing?
A: No.
Q: So, then it is possible that the patient was alive when you began the autopsy?
A: No.
Q: How can you be so sure, Doctor?
A: Because his brain was sitting on my desk in a jar.
Q: But could the patient have still been alive nevertheless?
A: Yes, it is possible that he could have been alive and practicing law somewhere