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Contest I Winner : St. George and the JARGON

Confuse-If-You-Cannot-Convince [CIYCC] Pvt Ltd has come out with a new product – Jazzy Application of Resplendent words that God Only kNows [shortened to JARGON]. This product is said to solve the troubles of people world wide, by helping them replace brief and lucid language with incomprehensible, hence, important sounding terms. At the day long launch of JARGON, titled “Bada hai toh behtar hai – the benefits of implementation of large hyphenated words over direct terminology”; the Chairperson of CIYCC announced that they would be having a one-plus-one introductory offer, where, upon running JARGON, each word in your input sentence would get replaced by two complex terms.

The initial reviews of the product have been favourable. St. George, whose negative reviews had slain the previous product DRAGON [DiRect Approach and Outright kNowledge], was all praises for JARGON. Said he – “now I can go forth with courage and speak with confidence on issues I know not of”. Yes, indeed, when a man speaks of “Pulmonary embolism” or “Collateralised debt obligations (CDOs)” in a matter-of-fact voice, the other people can only stand around and nod their heads knowledgeably, daring not to ask the speaker what these apparently commonplace terms mean.

JARGON has found a good market in academia. The language in seminars has now become ostentatious, in negative correlation with the understanding of the listeners. International journals are accepting papers written in Greek and Latin, as they are virtually indistinguishable from the ones on which JARGON has been implemented. Research has shown that when people are subjected to a steady stream of JARGONated sentences, at the rate of ten pompous words a minute, they start losing the capacity to distinguish one word from the next, let alone comprehend their meaning. This gives rise to a sense of awe, albeit mislaid, towards the speaker, making him appear scholarly.

After the enthusiastic reception in academia, JARGON has been released world wide, and has been selling like hot cakes in media, finance and political sectors. Bolstered by this demand, CIYCC is planning to release JARGON ver 2.0, new and improved. Watch this page for more information!

Chetana Baliga Nabar  (MBU)

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What’s in a Mess?

Apparently a lot. Something got raked up in the last few weeks to grab the attention of the student community. Now we’ll be taking you on a stroll telling you the story. Here goes.

Mess privatization

Why did we need this? It was getting difficult for the administration to maintain the messes. And why was it getting difficult? The Govt. of India (GoI) stopped recruiting permanent employees for the mess since 1994. So, the administration had to make do with the existing employees. As time passed, a lot of the employees superannuated. To reduce the load on the employees, the administration brought in contract labourers. It was only a temporary situation. Then, the administration proposed privatization of the messes.

They informed the situation to the student community for their opinion. In that regard, in 2009, the then Students’ Council and the Mess Committee, called for a General Body Meeting (GBM) with all the students. The attendance was less than 5% . A decision could not be taken from the students’ side. The administration went ahead with the decision of implementing the privatization of the messes.

New Mess Tender and its Beginning

An All-India tender was floated, and carried out according to the procedure. Finally, Shakti Kitchen got the tender and came ahead for starting the messes.

But, why the delay? The messes were supposed to start operations in 2011 after the completion of the New Hostel Complex. The messes would be there in those premises. As the construction got delayed by a year, the administration had decided to start the messes in Aug, 2012. And they have started and the messes are operational.

The Batch of 2011 issue

At the time of their admission, the students were asked to sign a declaration that they would be joining the new messes when they come up. However, the rates for the mess was not given. So the students signed it. But when the rates were announced subsequently, they came back to the administration in opposition. The prices were high and would cause a lot of trouble for the students financially. Along with that it was made compulsory for the batch of 2011 to join the new messes, irrespective of their present mess status. They approached the Students’ Council for representation. A meeting was called with Chairman, Council of Warden (CoW) and Asst. Registrar (Hostel). After a lot of deliberation, the compulsion to join the new messes was taken off.

C Mess Demolition

Almost immediately, the administration put up a notice of closing the C Mess and build a Students Amenities Center in its place. It was also stated in that circular that the C Mess boarders will be allowed to join A or B messes, depending on the capacity of these messes. Many C mess boarders raised the point that administration is indirectly forcing them to join the new messes. They approached the Students’ Council for their assistance. The Students’ Council passed on the information to Chairman, CoW and asked him to allow the students a choice of the messes. He was very considerate and agreed to it.

Then the Students’ Council called for a GBM, again in 2012, to resolve the issues regarding messes, Demolition of C Mess and the Students Amenities Center. The Minutes of the Meeting (MoM) were put up outside the messes.

Mess Action Committee

Many students had raised points about the mess privatization, subsidy, workers and C mess issue. There was a lot of pressure on the Students’ Council (SC) regarding all these issues. The SC called a meeting of its steering committee, and there it was decided that a committee which will look after all the issues pertaining to the mess will be formed. Therefore, a Mess Action Committee (MAC) was formed.

An open invitation was sent to student community to join this committee. Around 41 students have come forward to be members of this committee. SC convened a meeting of these MAC members to determine and assign their roles. SC, with the agreement of all present there, decided to select 5 (FIVE) among all these members to be the representatives. The MAC will work in collaboration with the mess committee to bring about long term solutions. SC will facilitate to organize the meetings with the administration.

Update: The closure of C-Mess has been deferred. 

Students’ Council is for you, the students. Come be an active member.

Students’ Council

 

Help the Needy Collection: A New Experiment

Many people came to us or our other volunteers and asked us why do we not keep collection boxes in each hostel? The answer comes from our past years’ experience, when we had following problems when the boxes were kept in hostel blocks. The points are listed below:

1. People used to treat it like a dustbin (even after putting notice near each box requesting people not to do so)

2. 50% of clothes were either torn/unwashed/wet, which may spoil other good clothes also.

3. 10% of total stuff was undergarments. We cannot ask volunteers to handle them.

4. The amount of laborious work involved in segregating / sorting clothes was huge.

5. There were cases when some students saw people taking out good clothes from the boxes kept in the hostels.

6. Most importantly, because of the above mentioned reasons, the clothes and other materials in good condition given by the students were mixed in this “hidden treasure” or lost before we  managed to inspect the boxes

And so, last year, it was decided to try out a new method. We decided to ourselves sit at a specified location for a specified time. This would ensure that we segregate the material right at the venue, so there would be no need to have 15-20 sessions of segregating the good clothes in the “hidden treasure”. Although this would involve some volunteer time on a daily basis, we decided to give it a try.

To our surprise, this new method resulted in a dramatic improvement in the quality of the clothes and also required much less effort by our volunteers in segregating. In fact, this year, we also did segregation with respect to size of the clothes, which would further facilitate the distribution process.

Overall, in these two years, the collection turned out to be very good, both in terms of quantity and quality. But, we are left with some important yet unanswered questions.

Is there any need, in an institution like IISc with the so-called intellectual population, to educate people about good and bad materials?

Are the students aware of the fact that even the volunteers who are devoting their time for such noble activities are just like any other student in the campus and they would certainly not like to see the undergarments of people during segregation?

Lastly, the materials will be finally given to some fellow human being and will it be good on our part to  go and distribute such stuff without any regard for the dignity of the fellow human being?

The final remarks were not meant to hurt anybody, but to give some idea about the attitude of some of our fellow students.

We would like to finish the write-up with a positive note that all the volunteers were happy with the collection this year. More than 90% of the material that was collected can be easily segregated and distributed. Last year several orphanages, construction workers, security, mess and BVG staffs were given the material. This year, we have already distributed a lot of material (13 big sacs consisting of more than 2000 clothes!!!) to an orphanage having physically challenged children. Also, we have sent 15 big sacs for the flood relief in Assam. Last year, 8-10 sacs were send for the earthquake relief operation in Sikkim.

We thank all the IIScians for their efforts in helping us to recycle these materials and for enabling us to hand it over to some needy people. We will be happy if some of you would join us in such activities, especially in distributing the huge amount of good quality stuff collected. Do write to us at  [iischelptheneedy@gmail.com] for volunteering or for any other comments/suggestions.

Help the Needy Team,

Students’ Council, IISc

NFI Essay Writing Competition Result

To celebrate the independence day, various activities were undertaken in the institute. Nation First Initiative(NFI) had actively participated in the celebration and had organised the flag distribution, documentary showcase and essay writing competition which got good response from the students. The essay writing competition had 5 winners, one at first position, two at second position and two at third position. The topic for the competition was “Freedom requires sacrifice and comes with responsibility”. The essay of the 1st prize winner is what follows.

“Quid Pro Quo – Freedom”

“The concept of right and wrong, good or bad,

black or white, freedom and bondage,

are all but a matter of perspective…”

What is “freedom”? The ability to do something as per will? The option to exercise one’s wishes? The permission to go anywhere and do anything? Well, ‘Yes’ and ‘No’. Freedom’s perception for one may be a form of restriction to another. Every liberty, freedom, independent will that we acquire by default, or we assume it to be so, comes after a lot of hard work, sacrifice, endeavours and along with a rock-load of responsibility to exercise the freedom judiciously, cautiously and honestly. It is not in vain that the saying of “Freedom cannot be granted, it has to be snatched” is so often quoted.

India had to suffer for 200 years in utter gloom and injustice and its progeny had to make in numerous and unforgettable sacrifices to clinch the freedom to call their motherland only and only theirs. But, even though we may no longer be making these sacrifices, we have today, after more than five decades of independence, a very important responsibility to honour these sacrifices and uphold their dignity. And the fact that we must make careful and prudent use of this ‘independence’ is pretty implicit in the very concept of ‘freedom’. So, the values and principles of ‘freedom’ use this pretty universal concept of “Quid pro quo”, which is a Latin phrase meaning that one gives something to someone only in return of something else and this barter of objects, thoughts, or intangible benefits occurs on a one-on-one basis. It is just like “Tum mujhe khoon do, main tumhe aazadi doonga…”!

Thus, freedom demands from the most ultimate to the most trivial of sacrifices and compromises, and at the same time expects some responsible and prudent behaviour from us, while giving us a sense of joy and self-sufficiency at the same time. Freedom is indeed a universal right to each and every living entity and, in turn comes with an inevitable and righteous duty to use it carefully. Wars have been fought and nations shattered in thirst of the quintessential “freedom”, but how many of us, have actually sought the true freedom in our lives? The ethereal freedom of being independent in all aspects of life doesn’t have to be snatched from someone or something. It can only be achieved by making true, inter-personal sacrifices and living up to the multi-faceted responsibilities and duties that the freedom itself entails. This is what makes us free and independent from within – our ‘inner conscience’ – and gives us the sense of ‘joie de vivre’ in both an abstract and a concrete way.

So, to be truly independent in life, not only must we honour the sacrifices, behind the rights we have been granted, not only must we behave responsibly, not only must we use our freedom sensibly, but, also create ways to attain an inner sense of independence in our day-to-day lives, by believing in ourselves, by chasing the true joys in life and by making our own definitions of “freedom” in life. So, in order to attain freedom, you have to give it something in return. After all, ‘freedom’ believes in the “Quid Pro Quo” game of life!!!

By:

Siddharth Kankaria

1st year, BS Programme

Indian Institute of Science

Students’ Council, IISc

Coders for Dummies

There is something I’ve always been a little ashamed of. Something I don’t like to converse about. Everyone knows that about me and gets uncomfortable about it. It’s the elephant in the room. But, I think I’m going to come out and say it out loud –

I … am … a … technophobe!

There, I said it!

My boss (the Editor-in-Chief of Voices) always knew about my   secret. And therefore, with a malicious smile and a sadistic sigh (if you can visualize that!), he instructed me to cover the ‘CodeForScience  Talk and Awards Ceremony’ (organized by Elsevier) held recently at the J N Tata Auditorium.

I am glad he was being evil!

As I am not the official spokesperson for any of the companies or their representatives, I will not indulge in advertising any of the sponsors (sorry boss!). Neither will I go into the details of their speeches. Anyways, I always feel very disconcerted around people in suits. So, I’ll stick to Science.

In biology, as in other sciences, data is accruing at an ever monstrous pace. But, this ever-growing trove of information seems to be thoroughly disconnected and the task of building the big picture from such tit-bits (and possible extrapolations) is mostly done manually in the form of seasonal reviews. The goal of bringing together coders was to make individual research papers more interactive so that they can optimally be exploited (no negative connotation here!) by the reader. To that end, new applications were sought which would make this task not only possible but user friendly (for people like me).

Winners of CFS-India, 2012 with 
Mr. Y. S. Chi (Chairman – Elsevier Management Committee)

Research students (including IISc students) were the ‘Coders’, all of whom just made life simpler for ‘Dummies’ like me. And, they were all show-stoppers!

Before the chosen applications were demonstrated, there was a panel discussion (which included Dr. S. K. Nandy (SERC) and Dr. Debnath Pal (SERC)) to mull over the current areas of frustration and contention in making scientific literature more amenable. It was pointed out that some journals have already started the trend of uploading a five minute video, alongside the paper, which informs the reader about the essence of the paper. Also, the need for common sites which work on the principle of supply-demand (for applications or information) was raised and the need to re-use data sets for deciphering different aspects of the same problem was emphasized upon. However, it was agreed upon that such applications should be able to target a niche in particular. Having simulations for applied methodologies was a suggestion I truly appreciated. In order to make such initiatives sustainable, it was recommended that instead of organizing competitions which take away time from research, such projects can be made part of the students’ dissertation itself. It was also advised to cite any new application so that it can be used by others.

This brings me to the applications.

There were a plethora of new applications but all of them were useful for biologists. Avilash from IIT Delhi was interested in drug discovery and therefore made an application which would shortlist proteins based on their involvement in infectious diseases and then generate a list of all possible compounds which bind to those proteins. Further information on these compounds would be provided based on the user’s specifications.

Rajiv Ram and team from IIT Bombay (winners) addressed the requirement for following an author’s latest work, to look into the chronological development of a technology or an idea and to retrieve more information about any gene or protein mentioned in the paper at hand. Their application also generated a list of the chosen gene or protein in all the organisms mentioned in the paper. Saurabh’s application (Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology, New Delhi) allowed for simultaneous viewing of a figure while reading the corresponding text while Harsha and team (Institute of Bioinformatics, Bangalore), who won the second prize, were able to create a list of databases which showed all the possible pathways for a chosen gene or protein.

Aiswarya (SERC) and team invented an application which highlighted the names of all the drugs in the article and connected to the KEGG database which provided further information pertaining to the drug’s structure, similar compounds, targets and prescription regime. Srinivas Srikant and his team (Institute of Bioinformatics, Bangalore) used the COSMIC database to produce a list of known mutations implicated in human cancers for the chosen gene. Rishi Das Roy’s (Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology, New Delhi; winner of the third prize) application introduced a sense of social interaction as it allowed for expression of readers’ views (and woes) on a particular article and to subscribe to threads. It also connected to facebook, twitter and google accounts and allowed one to rate and reply to comments apart from following the most discussed articles.

These applications were supposed to be uploaded the next day. I have not had a look at them in their professional avatar. But, I do know that I’ll not stare at them suspiciously… rather, smile smugly and say in a patronizing tone, “You don’t scare me!”……

Anindo Chatterjee (CNS) on behalf of Voices

Photo Credits: Elsevier, India

A Friend on Your Path

Most big cities to which the so-called ‘brain-drain’ from India is directed, have one thing in common – their public transport is exceptionally well organized and there are websites which can guide you wherever you want to go, literally giving you instructions at each step with precise estimates of times which would be followed to perfection in real time. Obviously, for such a thing to happen in India it would take a while, specially to build transit models that can compute paan or biri breaks for drivers or bus stoppages during rush hours for the conductor to come out of one gate and enter through the other to make sure no one gets down at the next stop without paying the fare (or lesser fare in exchange of no tickets to fill the conductor’s pocket). Let us not harp on faults in the Indian systems and give you some good news instead. Change has started.

The Center for Infrastructure, Sustainable Transport and Urban Planning (CiSTUP), Indian Institute of Science (IISc) Bangalore now offers you ‘Maargamitra’ – a friend on your path. Launched on the 23rd of July, 2012 the Maargamitra website (planyourtrip.civil.iisc.ernet.in/Bangalore_PIS/) is an interactive interface that can help you plan your trip within Bangalore before you step out of home.

Funded jointly by CiSTUP, Department of Science and Technology, Govt. of India and IISc, the interactive web-based interface will not only display the best path (based on minimizing the combination of walking time, travel time, waiting and transfer time) over a map and as text, but will also tell the approximate travel time and fare and number of transfers involved (if any). Other than the best path based on minimum total travel time, the trip planner also gives best path based on a unique concept of ‘generalized cost’, in which the best path is obtained based on a weighted combination of walking time, travel time, waiting time, transfer time as well as fare. Generally, it is a natural tendency of a public transport user to attach differential importance to various legs of a trip. For example, a person might perceive waiting time at terminals as uncomfortable and would attach higher preference to a route on which the waiting time is less or minimum. Similarly, an elderly or disabled person may not like to walk more to reach a bus stop or train station and thus will prefer a route that has less walking time, while planning a trip. Some users may prefer direct routes as compared to routes involving transfers, even when the direct route involves higher in-vehicle travel time. All these considerations relevant for Indian conditions can be imitated in trip itinerary planning, by considering the generalized cost approach during shortest path analysis for finding the optimum route through a multi-modal public transport network.

To keep it simple at the beginning, the system has used default weightage values based on an initial study, however, in coming months the trip planner will be updated to allow users to provide their own weights. At present, Maargamitra covers Big-10, Vayu Vajra, Vajra, and Metro Reach-1 services since data on all Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) buses is not available with BMTC either. Within the next year or two, most of the public bus routes and Metro routes will also be covered. Other than this, future plans to improve Maargamitra include providing k-shortest paths instead of one best path that is presented currently, increasing user choices and customization by giving option to the users to provide the maximum number of acceptable modal transfers and their own weights for different legs of the trip as input, as well as refining the travel time modeling further to improve the travel time predictions for pre-trip planning. Using Google Maps, C#ASP.net, TransCAD (a Geographical Information System based transport modeling tool) and C# windows.net, it has taken about two years to build the interface.

So what is so unique in Maargamitra that sets it apart from Google Transit and other similar applications? When asked, Dr Ashish Verma of CiSTUP, who has headed the project, replies: ‘Most of the other applications predict travel time based on an average travel speed of 15kmph, whereas we have developed travel time models for better estimation of travel time and which is used for pre-trip planning. Moreover, Maargamitra is the first public transport trip planner developed in India.’

As part of IISc, that does make you feel special, doesn’t it?

 

Arpita Mondal (CIVIL)

(With inputs from Dr. Ashish Verma, Asst. Prof., CiSTUP)

 

An Introspective for Research Guides and Students

Destinies of research scholars working for their Master’s or Doctoral degrees in institutes of higher learning such as the IISc/IITs, are determined by circumstances often not entirely of their own making.  One of the worrying concerns of scholars is the continuously extending duration of their toil up to and beyond 3 years for the Master’s and 5 years for Doctoral degrees.  Such unduly long extension sometimes leads to the scholars being forced to survive on pensionary or other support, having exhausted the tenure of their scholarships.

So, how does such a situation develop?  Is it on account of the scholar’s inability to cope up with work, or lack of resources at his disposal?  Is it that the research guide has difficulty in securing necessary support for the project, or has different priorities in allocation of time and resources? Some introspection may therefore be required, and in this context, our ancient tradition such as the Guru-Sishya Parampara could be looked at for directions.

The word ‘Guru’ appears to have been adopted into English for want of a suitable word for translation, although the word ‘Teacher’ is used as its synonym.  However, the role of ‘Guru’ is much more esoteric and complex than that of Teacher.  The subtle and the gross differences between the roles of the two, are highlighted in the following oft-quoted comparison:

TEACHER

Provides you knowledge and gives you confidence
Instructs you on how to solve problems
Systematic thinker and leads you by hand
Sharpens your mind and shows the way to success
Instructs you on getting out of the maze
Takes responsibility for your growth
Requires obedience and discipline from you
When required, punishes you with stick

GURU

Enables you to acquire knowledge and makes you wise
Shows you how to resolve issues
Lateral thinker and leads you by example
Opens your mind and shows the way to serenity
Prepares you to destroy the maze
Makes you responsible for your growth
Requires trust and humility from you
When required, punishes you with compassion

Becoming a research guide is supposed to be an evolutionary process, beginning from his initial entry into the institution as a teacher.  His academic credentials and subject – knowledge serve him well as a teacher in a class-room.  However, as a research guide, he would need supplementary humanistic skills and attitudes to take research scholars under his wings, nurture their growth and deliver them on schedule as qualified researchers.  This wouldn’t be possible without the research scholars themselves understanding the importance of the true Guru-Sishya relationship and acquit themselves accordingly.  Periodic introspections are therefore necessary for both, with the guide taking initiative for interaction with his student to maintain the latter’s progress on course.

A joint pledge of Guru and Sishya from the Upanishads:

Om Sahana Bhavatu, Sahanao Bhunaktu
Sahaveeryam Karvaa vahai
Tejaswee Naava Dheeta Mastu Ma Vidvishaa vahai
Om Shanti Shanti Shanti

Translation:
May He protect both of us. May He nourish both of us. May we both acquire the capacity for energetic work and understanding. May our study be brilliant. May we not argue with each other. Om, peace, peace, peace.

R. A. Rao (Alumnus, IISc)

Namma Cycle Flag-Off Event

One fine, quiet Monday morning (6 Aug 2012), in the backdrop of contrasting busy traffic on C. V. Raman Road, the ‘Tata Institute’, as popularly known among autorickshaw-walas and buses, witnessed the culmination of the collective effort of CiSTUP, BBMP, BESCOM, Ride-A-Cycle Foundation, TI Cycles India Ltd., EMBARQ India and Gubbi Labs in the form of the Namma Cycle Initiative.

Namma Cycle is one of the initiatives taken by IISc to build a green campus. Mr. M.K. Shankaralinge Gowda, Commissioner, Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) stated that Namma Cycle is an effective mode of eco-friendly transport. Mr. Gowda was speaking as the chief guest of the flag-off event ceremony. The welcome note was given by Prof. Sitharam of CiSTUP.

Mr. Ashwin Mahesh, CEO of Mapunity and one of the mentors of Namma Cycle, expressed optimistically, “A group of different people came forward to realise this. The next step should be that other colleges must join in.”

BESCOM Managing Director Mr. P Manivannan  emphasized the importance of “cycling, (as) a form of physical exercise”. He further said that such activities aren’t only for protecting the environment but also for inner well-being.

Other guests on the podium too expressed views in favor of such initiatives and hoped such initiatives would extend beyond IISc, and into Bangalore city.

Acknowledging the technological contribution as well of its partners, the vote of thanks was extended. BESCOM was given special mention on account of its ‘persistent belief in sustainable energy’.  The ceremony drew to a close with the dignitaries riding on the Namma Cycle bicycles amid cheers. Many reporters from various news-agencies were there to cover the event.

To avail the facilities of Namma Cycle, one has to register by signing up online

(www.nammacycle.in) by paying a nominal fee. Once registered, users can select a cycle from any node or station. The node manager records the rental transaction using a mobile application. The first half hour of each transaction is exempted from the rent. The rental and station location information can be found on the Namma Cycle website or one can directly approach the nearest Namma Cycle station.

Manish Gautam (CIVIL)

on behalf of Voices

Innovative Designs in Newer Hostel Block in IISc

The scarcity of hostel rooms in IISc seems to be over. Slowly, the “newer hostel complex” the name of which is not yet known, is becoming operational and the first students have moved into it. That gave me a chance to wander around in the block and find some interesting and innovative designs.

For instance, the latch which is suppose to lock the cabinet doors.

In case you lose your keys, any screwdriver will do the job, without damaging the lock. The latch is mounted in a way that if it is latched, it does not cover the plate with the screws. That would usually not be a problem since I do not know anybody using that latch anyway. However students are asked not to lock the doors, since the furniture such as cots and desks, are not built up yet. So all personal belongings are in the cabinet and the room door is left open. On the contrary, the security asks students to lock the doors even in case mother nature calls, due to thefts. 1000 rooms and 1000 times the latch wrongly mounted. Dear carpenter, is it so difficult to use the brain to think for a second?

Have a look at the two images below. Find 10 mistakes.

These rooms are just opposite. However you might have noticed that the space above the cabinet in the second room is just a rock solid wall. The problem here is that the room is around 30 to 40 cm too long. This means that the wall with the room door does not fall in line with the girder supporting the structure. Instead the space between the girder and the door is used to build in a larger window towards the hallway. But due to the girder, neither additional light nor fresh air will find their way into the room.

Since the gap above the cabinet and the girder would be very small (around 15 to 20cm in height), the additional space that is there in the first room has been conveniently walled, sealing something like 1 cubic meter of air behind the wall. Was this intentional by the architect? If yes, then why the differently designed rooms and not the same design for all? Or did the planner wrongly estimate the lengths? That brings me to another thought: For the structural integrity of the building, should not girders always fall in line with walls for support? Maybe someone who is familiar with the subject, can shed some light on it?

But in the end, as usual, no one will care. At least a major issue that was bothering people for years, has been solved and students finally get rooms on campus.

Alexander Fell
(SERC)

Analysis of Failure

In Engineering we often use the term ‘Failure Analysis’, defined as ‘the process of collecting and analyzing data to determine the cause of a failure’. Lots of samples are subjected to conditions which ultimately leads to failure, or samples which have already failed due to unknown causes are studied. Based on the parameters tested we modify the existing design or determine a safe limit for a practical purpose.

Interestingly, the mind does not seem to work this way. Very often we are put to test and sometimes we fail. The failure may have different levels of impact and the heaviest blow seems to be the one which appears to be putting an end to everything we are holding onto.

The question is should we stop there, knowing our limits, or continue fighting?

History is witness to the fact that no big achievement is possible without failures at all steps. Even the problems which we consistently talk highly about (which they do not define as failures), which almost stopped them and how they got past them. Internet is full of comeback stories of pioneers from all ages and all fields. Sadly, rarely do we find material on what they did during the course of their failure. Surely it’s heartbreaking but stories only tell the nice part of reality. Some miracle seems to happen and things change suddenly over a short span of time. Looking back at their lifetime, it is during such periods of failure that the transformation seems to takes place.

Everybody has their own story, where they faced obstacles which seemed insurmountable but the winner in them looked at it differently, and fought it till the end. Finally when it is over, they are completely different beings who have bathed in the glory of a hard earned victory and at the same time have humbleness in their hearts which knows that the battle was tough and it could have gone either way.

Comparing such failures with the Engineering ‘failure analysis’, we realize that it is not the breaking point but only an iterative process to push one to higher limits, to grow and to become stronger.

A seconds thought might make us say, ‘if you haven’t failed, you haven’t lived.’ But is failure that necessary? One should ask why we fall in the first place to prevent the inevitable. It’s the choices and actions which define the fate of a being.

Nature has its own unique laws which unlike Newtons’ are applicable everywhere. One of them can be interpreted as ‘Everything in this world has a place/task for itself which has to be discovered/fulfilled.’ Failure to comply with this task leads to what we call ‘suffering’ which is nothing but nature’s alarm clock.

Electrons and things alike seem to be winners and so are ants and many other living creatures. To the best of human knowledge they don’t seem to deter from their path. Homo sapiens being the ‘superior’ ones have a mind which works in a peculiar way. It helps us to understand the phenomenon and at the same time divert us from our own basic nature (remember things comes with their own pros and cons!). Once this mind has been controlled and ones purpose realized by following the right path, nothing can deter us from achieving what many religious texts call Salvation.

Remember, one’s purpose is not a destiny which will be fulfilled on its own; it’s a treasure which can be enjoyed only when it is realized through the right path. So the next time you feel like you have failed, just smile and thank mother nature for waking you soon enough.

Ankit Chhabra
(CIVIL)