New revelation from NSA: I’m an extremist..and they might be right

As some of you might know, I am not a native English speaker. I try to correct my mistakes with automatic dictionaries and proofreader. Occasionally, some of my grammar becomes downright laughable but hey I don’t care.

I may be late in catching up things on the internet. I caught this article. The National Security Agency( Call it International already, you don’t only monitor Americans, do you?) of America developed a software called XKeyStore, which monitors people who lurk on Linux journals, TOR websites, Freenet, and even Hotspotshied. The software tags those people as ‘extremists’..or..’potential terrorists…!’.

Okay, I am a Linux freak. I can’t spend a day without visiting my favorite Linux journals. Privacy in Internet is also important to me. So, I tend to visit TOR and freenet websites often. Gosh..my IP address along with my private information is being tagged as an ‘extremist‘..

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You know, deep inside my whatever, I have to make a confession . I’m waiting for a special platform..aww..don’t worry it’s not about porn. I’m 22 and I never wrote a love letter. How disappointing is that to not to write a love letter? Who writes a letter these days?

I love you NSA. I love you as much as Bieber. I would even say my love is platonic and eternal. Everyday, when I search for something in Google, I think about you NSA. I am so lucky you accepted my love and started tracking me 24×7. It’s kind of cute..! To amuse you,  I search for Linux, TOR, Freenet and terrorists everyday. Just to force your attention on me. You think I’m a terrorist? Fine, but, I still love you as much as I love Gaylord.  I will still love you when you’re no longer young and beautiful. I’m a love extremist.

Jokes aside, I am surprised that people do not care about privacy as much as they should. Someone might argue that— I have nothing to hide, I am not a criminal. So, I don’t care about privacy in the Internet. Let them track me. Yo people, your privacy is important. Not to you, may be to your daughters and sons. This surveillance has just started. Imagine what would happen in ten years from now on. Everything you’ve done on the Internet will be monitored, and can be used against you. I am not saying that you might be going to jail for that. Innocent people can get arrested for nothing, they can dig up all the information from your teenage to prove a case against you.

“I worry about my child and the Internet all the time, even though she’s too young to have logged on yet. Here’s what I worry about. I worry that 10 or 15 years from now, she will come to me and say ‘Daddy, where were you when they took freedom of the press away from the Internet?'”
–Mike Godwin, Electronic Frontier Foundation

Now, privacy and Internet are like disjoint sets. If something is on the internet, there is no question of Privacy. Ideally, we would like to have some sort of intersection between them. Did I sound too scientific?

privacy and internet
Privacy is crucial in our life and NSA running such massive surveillance programs is not acceptable. People, fire up your Facebook already, spread why privacy is so important. Knowledge is power–don’t let your knowledge become their power.

Disclaimer: All the insults are meant to criticize activities of surveillance, not to hurt anyone’s feelings.

Stargazing with a binoculars

Who said you need a Telescope to look at the beautiful night sky? A good pair of binoculars is effective than a telescope, especially for new comers like me. I’m saying this because setting up and focussing a telescope is not an easy task. Binoculars, on the other hand gives you a wide field of view and you can focus an object very easily. The following is an attempt to summarize my efforts and experiences from the last month, using a 10×50 Celestron binoculars that you can find for a pretty cheap price on the market.

I’ve been always intrigued by the idea of buying a telescope. I am not ready to burn my pockets by buying something which I might not like that much. But, I wanted to see if I like observing night sky. I went ahead and ordered a cheapest pair that I can find on the market.

There are few things which you need to consider while buying a binoculars. One is magnification, and second one would be objective diameter. If the objective diameter is more, it can collect more photons and gives you a better picture. For a binoculars, you won’t get much magnification. One more thing to consider is the quality of the prisms used inside.

First light

I got my binoculars. I was really excited, I went outside. I kept an eye on people walking on the road. It was good and clear. Then, I caught few birds in the sky. I conceived an idea about how to hold the binoculars and was ready for my first night of stargazing.

I woke up in the middle of the night. I’m glad that I didn’t scare anyone. I went to the darkest place that I could find near my house. I attempted to focus on the Moon. What I saw is outstanding! The Moon with the craters is such a pleasure to watch. I could find each crater. I realised why poets and authors were so obsessed with moon. It is beautiful, and with a binoculars it made more sense because you can see it with your both eyes. During the one hour time I had spent with the binoculars, I just saw the moon. Nothing else! I came back home that night with an everlasting gratification.

After that, I managed to see Mars and Saturn. I can not say that I saw them, but Mars looked like small orange star and Saturn looked like golden disk. To differentiate, I would generally do a observation again to confirm whether its a planet or star.

I managed to see some so-called messier objects. Unfortunately, without a tripod, it is really difficult to stabilize them in my field of view.

Few tips

There are few things that I found out after having used binoculars for a decent amount of time.

  • Get a Tripod mount if your binocular is very heavy: This is particularly important because, after sometime, your hands shake. With shaking hands, you will not be able stabilize the view. The deep sky objects are very small, and needs a tripod.
  •  Find darkest place without much lighting: Our eyes take time to adjust to the night vision. If your place is filled with bright lights, you can not really adjust to darkness.
  • Smartphone with Sky maps: To find the objects in the night sky, you definitely need a map. Thanks to the new toys, you can install an application and it will do the job for you.

I’d warn you though with this obsession. Every night when I come back to home, I would think mine is not enough. I would think, may be a bigger aperture and may be a bigger magnification or even a telescope would give me better views. That’s serious because they are really expensive.

Carl Sagan once said

It has been said that astronomy is the most humbling and a life changing experience

True indeed! The very essence of our existence, and a vast adventurous universe is stimulating. If you are a newcomer like me, and really like watching the night sky, binoculars is the right way to go.

Thinking about life: What’s so important in life?

After a long unexpected roller-coaster ride in my life, I finally managed to write again.  For the past few weeks, I have thought about my life and the way I treated it till now. When someone asked me about what’s the most important thing in my life, I promptly answered ‘good relationships’ and by it I mean people. Of course, people are important in life. What is so important than people?

This is all the wisdom I can think of straight from my heart. You want to know what is the most important thing in life? It’s not people. It’s definitely not your friends or relatives. Your mom and dad obviously are important in your life whether you like them or not. I am not saying that they are not crucial but what’s more important is the way one looks at life.

From a distant vantage point, as time passes by, your memories will fade away. What remains is a picture, of the person in your mind.  People will come and they will go just like a periodic event. You can’t do anything about it. What is more important in life is the memories, reflections and experiences from people. After a lot of disintegrating, the only thing that remains of a person is a small memory and exciting experiences from them. The next time you look meet someone, try to absorb something good.

Don’t give so much importance to people. They are all perishable. Life is a time bomb but everyone’s clock is different. Some go away fast, and some live.

Feynman comes into this picture so easily that I can not stop copying what he said about life. After his cancer treatment, Mr.Danny Hills met Feynman and said that he is saddened that Feynman is going to die. Feynman replies:

Yeah, that bugs me sometimes too! It’s actually not bad as you think. By the time you get to be my age, and you’ve  told so many stories like I have, lot of good about you is rubbed off to other people. They have listened to you and repeat what you said. I don’t know how you can see it now, but you will see, although I will be dead, I will not be completely gone.

The fact that I am writing this now and Mr. Danny Hills is still speaking about Feynman is the evidence that Feynman is still alive and proves he is not gone. What’s more important is humility, kindness and love towards humanity. Give importance to the thoughts of your favourite singer, or politician not the person itself!

Of stars and fantasies

I have a fantasy. Whenever I gaze through dark sky, with little stars sparkling homogeneously, I would imagine myself on one of the millions and millions of planets in this universe, which rotates around one of the many stars , and when I think about such a beautiful harmony in our universe, I get a distinct naughty feeling that we are  so insignificant on that scale. What we do everyday, what we die for mean absolutely nothing. On such a scale, all our problems seems like nothing. Even if we can probe some part of such immense beauty, it would give us infinite satisfaction.

Walking through the streets, with a speed less than ten kilometres per hour, I am just one fractionally insignificant part, in such a huge, beautiful and adventurous universe. That drives me, and that encourages me to learn more about it. I am sure it does for everyone at least once in their life.

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Infinitely many

I would then wonder why the constants of nature had adjusted themselves to such a precision, allowing us to breathe. I wonder how nature calculates and computes the seemingly complex mechanisms. I wonder what processor nature uses to calculate probabilities, draw patterns out of nowhere. Does it process in bits like we do? Is that processor digital like that of our processors? We are given a huge computing machine. Having no details about the hardware and software except for some occasional clues, how can we ever solve the puzzle?

I can’t stop there, and ask how we transformed from non-living atoms to living organisms. Where is this feeling that ‘I’ comes from? How can we ever know what is reality?

At one level, the complexity in nature is very bizarre and surprising but on another level, the laws governing them are very simple.  What does nature think about us, when we are trying to probe her own creation?

It baffles me that we have something that is absolutely wild. How far can we probe her? Can we ever get to know the real algorithm she uses? I would be very disappointed if turns out to be very simple!

Unanswered questions, and some of  the questions themselves were never asked. I feel great for the fact that we live in such a wonderful time, we have so many secrets to unravel about nature. Remember I told you this was a fantasy? Well, it ends here!

(This song really soothes my mind inside out.)

Book Review Contact by Carl Sagan

I know, I am very late to write this. But, anyway, here’s it. If there is any intelligent life elsewhere in this whole universe, and if they send us a message, a ‘Contact’, what would happen to this world? How would the world respond to their message? Carl Sagan’s novel, ‘Contact’, touches all the deep and interesting questions you could ask about universe.

What is our purpose?

Are we alone in this universe?

What would happen to the world if some extra-terrestrial life communicates with us?

What is the purpose of religion, how science and religion could go along together?

Observable Universe

I don’t think anyone could answer these questions, in a way better than Carl Sagan did. I am not a fan of science-fiction but this novel is truly remarkable effort to answer some of the deepest questions like this. This novel portrays a young female physicist whose character is shaped with a desire for knowledge, dedication towards science and extra-terrestrial life.  The character itself is amazing, she is supposed to be a representation of women in science. Carl Sagan’s extraordinary skill of developing a feminist protagonist even in the early nineties has to be appreciated. As you go into the story, the pages are filled with scientifically valid questions, and dialogues about God,religion, faith. The conversations are gripping, Science versus faith, faith versus god and at one point the male leading character asks protagonist why she wants to do this , why is she willing to give up her life in doing this? And, Arroway replies

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been searching for something, some reason why we’re here. What are we doing here? Who are we? If this is a chance to find out even just a little part of that answer… I don’t know, I think it’s worth a human life. Don’t you?

Carl Sagan

Carl Sagan

Being a physicist, Carl Sagan wrote the novel in a scientifically acceptable way. The physics is stunningly accurate throughout the novel. Distance of ‘Vega’ from Earth is really 25 light years. They talk about side bands, exactly at double the frequency, which is what we use for TV transmission. Things like cryptography, Relativity comes naturally into the plot. I liked the fact that this novel is scientifically accurate. I first saw the movie and went on to read the novel. The movie didn’t destroy anything but reading the novel is better than the movie. Though Ellie is the protagonist, I felt that Sagan wants us not to lose the big picture, she is just a character projecting what actually Sagan wants to tell us. The real protagonist in the novel is an idea, an idea that science can be reconciled with religion successfully, but that religion is not local like Christianity or Hinduism , it is global and universal.

Finally, a remarkable book and it has something in it for every thinker. If you’re pondering about the question, ‘Are we alone?’, I assure you that you will not be disappointed in any way after reading this book.

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