Thursday, August 24, 2006

Pluto's Planet Status

I think it was rather unfair in the part of International Astronomical union to demote pluto (it even got a new official asteriod identification) Only 4% of about 9000 astronomers were present in the voting.

New planets that are discovered outside our system are already too big, (some are llike 5 times the size of jupiter, means something like 60 times the size of earth!)

When we get to these planets, are we going to propose new definitions and demote all the planets in the solar system?

Well, if you get more planets, add them to the list. There will be no shortage of planet discoveries, even in our solar system, or the rest of the galaxy (not to mention, rest of the universe)

The new definitions of planet were as if specifically aimed to demote pluto's status.

We could have some simpler guidelines as:

A planet should satisfy all the traditional requirements, orbit the sun, be in approximately round shape.

Put some size cap on the lower limit and upper limit of planet.

As size should be between x (lower limit) diameters and y(upper limit) diameters.

The newly discovered super giant planets(outside our solar system) could be called planets or above a certain size may even classify as brown dwarfs (failed to ignite stars)

If it is below size of pluto call them as dwarf planets! Put Pluto for marking between planets and dwarf planets. Why demote it?

If we discover new objects larger than pluto that go around the sun add them to the list! It doesn't matter if we got 9 or 10 or 10 million planets in the solar system. We do not need names for all of them, catalog names would do.

Let the classical planets remain as classical planets.

Vote for pluto

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Definition of a Planet

Pluto is a planet?

That's the question currently argued at the International Astronomical Union (IAU) gathering at Prague, CZ. Infact for years astronomers have debated on the status of tiny Pluto.

The question gained significance by the recent discovery of a new object beyond Pluto, which is bigger than Pluto (object: 2003 UB 313)

This created a lot of fuss among astronomers as to whether this new object needs to be included in the classical list of planets, if its not then Pluto needs to be removed from the list!

Now astronomers have developed a new description for what a planet means:

The description summary is:

"A planet is a celestial body that (a) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape, and (b) is in orbit around a star, and is neither a star nor a satellite of a planet."

This could mean even some of the larger asteroids could find a place in the planet category.

Some points from the description draft prepared by the IAU:
  • Pluto - Charon is a "double planet"
  • If asteroids like Pallas, Vesta are found to be in hydrostatic equilibrium (round shape), they are also planets, referred by a new class - "dwarf planets"
  • Pluto may be part of a new class of planets called "Plutons"

On Aug 24th astronomers will vote on the proposal, if they pass it, then Pluto will retain its position, also we will have more additions to planets in the solar system, including the moon of Pluto - Charon.

One thing is certain, whatever happens, all the current textbooks and books on science and planets would be outdated soon.

IAU Official press release
Discovery 0f object 2003 UB313

Monday, August 07, 2006

Happy Birthday WWW!

It was 15 years ago on August 6th, 1991 that Tim Berners Lee released his World Wide Web project into the internet.

Tim BL made a posting on a newsgroup - alt.hypertext, and it is still available here as part of Google groups:

When you read his description, it all sounds so familiar, yet Tim Berners Lee had thought about all this stuff by himself! He even made the first server, documents, and a prototype browser.

The Web was originally developed to share information between scientsits working in different locations.

It revolutionized the way the world organizes and shares information!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Wild Wild Web

Its a Wild Wild Web out there, packed with zillions of spyware, worms, viruses and all things nasty.

My computer just recovered from a massive spyware attack.

It began late last saturday night...

The Invasion

I was browsing using internet explorer (my mistake) trying to download some wallpaper from "Pirates of the Caribean 2", a movie that I just watched that evening.

I clicked on a wallpaper and there goes the popup!

The norton antivirus detected a trojan, but failed to clean it.

It took me a couple of seconds to realize whats happening and pull out the LAN cable out, effectively disconnecting myself from the net.

But that short interval of time was enough, thanks to the high speed internet connection, plenty of spyware got installed into my hard disk, within that time.

The Spread

The downloader trojan, once activated, downloads plenty of other spyware along with it, and executes them.

Understandably all the extra load was slowing down things

I did a search in windows drive to check all the files created and modified at the time of infection and was really surprised at the number of files created! Some with random names!

Within the first few seconds, they were all over the place - the windows registry, drives, they made new folders, installed browser objects, modified startup, generated new windows services...

I watched in horror as the malware invasion took place, the net was disconnected, but the damage was done.

I reconnected to the net and saw popups coming, nothing, not even a firewall could stop them.

Soon, the spyware took over my computer.

The War

Ok enough is enough...I decided, now its time to fight back!

I declared war on all malware!

I reconnected to the net, booted Windows in Safe Mode, armed with many antispyware and antivirus tools, I launched an all out offensive at the malware.

The Termination

Recovery was not easy, as I deleted more files, it created new ones with random names.

First I cleared the startup choices, stopped the services,

Then, I cleaned the disk with all the popular spyware softwares, (one software is not enough for all)

Manually searched and deleted all remaining files created at that time of infection.

Cleaned up the windows registry.

After nearly 12 hours of cleanup exercise, I terminated them all!

No more popups, No more slowing down, No more browser hijacks, No more spyware

Recovery & Control

This time the battle is won.

Now I run a couple of Antispyware software in the background, they provide realtime protection and let me know of any spyware-like activity.

Are they enough to prevent further attacks by malware? Well, not really, you are not safe until you switch off the computer and the other digital gadgets - which is ofcourse not an option.

The spread of malware, including spyware and virus, will continue to come even in greater numbers.

Complete prevention or complete cure may not be always possible, but they can be controlled.

We will continue the fight and will eventually win.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Web 2.0

Web 2.0 refers to the current generation of the world wide web, evolved from its formation in the early 1990's (conceived and created by Tim Berners Lee) to what we see today.

The term "Web 2.0" was popularized by O'reilly associates.

Two key factors standout when we speak about Web 2.0,

User Participation: Increasing user participation and tapping the collective intelligence of the users to organize and share data/information.

Web Services and online apps: New and compelling web services and online applications to store, query, process and present data .

Some Web 2.0 Concepts and their examples:

1. Wikis - Wikipedia, PBWiki
2. Blogs -,
3. Social Networking -,
4. Tagging & Bookmarking -,,
5. Photo sharing -
6. Video Sharing -,,
7. Online Apps -, Google Spreadsheets, Yahoo Maps
8. Web APIs & MashUps- APIs from Google, Yahoo, Amazon etc.
9. Audio Content delivery - Podcasts
10 Peer-to-Peer - Kazaa, Bittorrent

And the list goes on...

Technologies for web 2.0

Though these technologies have been around for sometime they are now widely used for a rich user experience in Web 2.0

CSS - Cascading Style Sheets
XHTML - Extensible HTML
AJAX - Asynchronous Javascript and XML
RSS - Really Simple Syndication
SOAP - Simple Object Access Protocol, for web services

Blogs are back in India

The access to blogs and geocities have been restored in India.

It was understood that the intention of the the Govt was to block certain specific blogs, but the ISPs messed up and blocked the entire domain! Anyway, now things are restored and it is good to know that complete block of blogs was NOT the original intention.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Now you see it, Now you don't!

This blog is not available in India now!

In a strange move, Indian ISPs have blocked access to entire Blogspot, Typepad and Geocities.

They haven't given any explanation so far regarding this move.

This is the second time in my knowledge India has imposed internet censorship. A few years back Yahoo Groups was blocked, and access was restored a few days later. Hope the current ban would be removed too.

Wonder what is going to be blocked next - Yahoo and Google???

Friday, July 14, 2006

Nice Cartoon On The Internet


Cartoon by Peter Steiner. The New Yorker, July 5, 1993 issue (Vol.69 (LXIX) no. 20) page 61

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Road Trip - Day 3 - Final Day

Final day of the trip - A visit to the Arches National Park, Utah

The Arches was near a place called Moab. After Grand Canyon and Canyon lands, I thought I wouldn't be surprised by nature's works of art as I had seen some of the best of them, but I was terribly wrong!

The Arches Park, was a prehistoric land similar to Canyon Lands, the speciality of the park was the huge arc shaped structures formed by wind erosion over millions of years. Eons ago this area was supposedly under the ocean! and salt deposits got eroded away to form the arches that we see today.

9:30 Am - The arches national park:

It was a bit cold outside at this time of day. We were walking through the trail that led to the 300 foot landscape arch. The trails were laid out and neat, rather than the primitive trail that we saw in Canyon lands.

This trail will take us to a few arches, depending on how long we want to walk through it. There is an option to go through another difficult trail, for the more adventerous. But as we need to return back to LA, we did not try going through it.

After about a mile walk we reached the Landscape arch, it was a wonderful sight! The arch streched along the crystal blue summer sky.

After taking a few snaps, we moved back in the trail to go to a couple of other arches.
The Tunnel arch and Pine-Tree arch were totally different from landscape, but were interesting in themselves.

11:00 am - towards the delicate arch

Time was running out, we need to get back, in the meantime we could not miss the amazing sights the Arches park is famous for, and one of them is the delicate arch.

The delicate arch is huge and sits on top of a hill. We can go near it, by climbing or walking a long distance or we could go watch it from a far off observation point. We went to the observation point and took a look at it, would have been really nice if we got the time to walk all the way to the top and stand near the arch. Anyway will save that for next time!

11:32 am - The Windows

The windows refers to a groups of arches, in all stages of formation. Plenty of arches along the same area. It was a short stop, just to take a few photographs, and then were back on our way out of the park!

Later that day we were back home in LA, and the wonderful summer roadtrip came to an end.

Landscape arch
Picture of the 300 foot landscape arch, taken by me

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Road Trip - Day 2

9:05 am - Driving through the Utah desert

After a good night's sleep, back on the road on way to the Canyon Lands! We were riding through a desert, Weird looking terrain on both sides. Now and then we would pass through some small town. Most of this place comes under the Navajo Indian reservation.

We stopped a couple of places to take some snaps. The highway was really windy at times, you could feel the wind pushing on the car!

The canyon lands national park was not far away, we should be reaching there around noon.

1:07 pm - the canyon lands entrance

After waiting in queue at Grand Canyon entrance, here at Canyon Lands, it looked deserted! less number of people.

1:20 pm - Into the Canyon Lands!

This place truly looked like some other planet! There were some greenary here and there, and some truly amazing rock formations! The prehistoric nature of the rocks are evident from the various colored layers seen through the rock formations.

You can drive the car through the road and stop at some vista points to take some pictures, but the real fun comes when you hike!

Adventure lovers will adore this place, with splendid hiking trails, which take you deeper into the lairs of canyon lands, to boldly go where no motor vehicle had gone before! There is even a 100 mile bike trail!

2:30 pm - Hiking through the Canyon Lands

Armed with plenty of water for each of us, we set on a hiking trail. The trail was marked with small group of rocks stacked on top of each other, here and there.

The hiking gives a feel of exploring a prehistoric planet. Along the way we climbed small hills. It was very windy on top, and provided some breathtaking views.

The whole trail that we were going would go up to the confluence of rivers, where two rivers meet (the green and colorado rivers). As it was late in the day, and the whole hiking trail is about 5.5 miles in one direction, we did not hike the whole trail.

5:00 pm - The "Elephant Hills"

After coming back from the river confluence trail we walked through the "Elephant hills" trail. That was not as good as the first one, but still fun.

We tried in vain to find some rock formation that looked remotely similar to some part of an elephant! Though in our frustration to find one, we discovered new ones like, the "sitting hen" rock, the "snowman" formation etc! :-)

This trail was also intended to be a 4-wheel drive trail. In reality it looked like you need a vehicle trained in mountain climbing to go through the trail! At some places it was difficult even to walk straight. But we did see a jeep struggling through the drive, looked risky at times. You need four or five people, if you get stuck to give the vehicle a little push.

We started to walk back on the trail once the sun started going down the horizon.

Canyon Lands - 1

8:05 PM

To fully cover the canyon lands we need to take atleast a week, you need to hike long distances and camp inside the canyon lands. But thats another time.

Now, after sunset, its time to leave.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Road Trip - Day 1


2:00 am - Los Angeles, California

The rental SUV was under the street lamp, gleaming in a yellow hue.

Done with stuffing the bags into the back, and excited about the travel ahead, five of us got into the vehicle.

Soon we were in the Los Angeles freeway, and we zoomed ahead.

5:58 am - Freeway, Somewhere between Cal and Nevada.

Wide awake at this time, not much traffic on the freeway. It was desert on both sides of the road.

The sun was about to peek over the eastern horizon. The sky turned into vibrant twilight colors.

From the car, we saw the sun rise in the desert, that a was pretty sight. "Hotel California" by eagles was playing in the car stereo system, which added to the mood of the scene!

7:05 am - Still in the same freeway

Hard luck - the SUV broke down! and had to wait for three long hours before the rental company replaced the vehicle with another. This put an end to or original idea of going to the Arizona Meteor crater. We decided to move on directly to the Grand Canyon.

2:13 pm - Near Kaibab National forest, Arizona

On our way to one of the natural wonders on earth!

Sometime back we were driving through the desert, suddenly there were trees all around us, wondered how the terrain could change so fast.

As we were about two miles from the grand canyon national park entrance we encountered a vehicle queue! all of them were trying to get into the park, and it took another one and half hours to finally go through the entrance gate!

4:45 pm, mountain time- The Natural Wonder

Grand canyon, the sight was truly exhilarating. It is impossible to capture its scale of vastness in any photograph, one has to be present there physically to comprehend it.

We were at the southern rim of the Grand Canyon, the width of the canyon, is about 16 miles on an average.

There are various vista points, were one can stand and relish the sights of the canyon. Those were very windy, and we could see not just the canyon, but mountains, some 50 miles away!

To reach these points, there are two ways, walk the whole way or take the free shuttle bus (kind of like a guided tour which stops at all points) The fun part is to walk the whole way through the canyon rim. Stopping now and then to capture some snaps.

There are also long hiking trails, were hikers and adventure seekers can walk. It usually takes more than a day to hike all the way to the bottom of the canyon (of course you need to walk back too!) I think people would carry all water and supplies with them and camp at the bottom of the canyon.

We saw the Colorado river going through, a long distance away.

Once we reached a considerable distance we turned back and caught a shuttle bus back to our starting point.

From there, we drove the car to another location, were we hoped to catch the glimpse of sunset. And the Canyon looks amazing when the sun in down towards the horizon, lit up in the yellow-orange light of the setting sun.

Slowly the sun set in horizon, and glow faded from the canyon, the temperature quickly dropped and it was cool and windy.

The Grand Canyon

8:45 pm, mountain time:

We left the grand canyon, shortly after the sunset. Then we drove for a couple of hours and soon found a motel to stay for the night.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Summer Roadtrip

Couple of weeks back, I went on a wonderful road trip which covered four US States, California, Arizona, Utah and Nevada.

We (me and friends) went to 3 main places,

1. The Grand Canyon
2. Canyonlands National Park
3. The Arches National Park

The places were amazing! Looked out of this world!

Soon will write a detailed report, and share some photos.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Antisocial Mobile Phone

Mobile phones are great to keep in touch, a wonderful piece of communication device for the man on the move. But like any modern technology it has its downfall.

The mobile phone is antisocial!

Consider this story:

Tom, Dick, Harry, James are friends. James takes all of them for dinner one fine evening. The gathering of friends, the idea is to spent some good time chatting with each other.

They ordered the food and just when everything seemed to go fine the mobile phones start ringing!

First it was Tom, he started talking..then it was Dick and Harry. Within five minutes all three of them are enagaged into their own conversations, in their respective cellphones.

James was just like a dumb spectator! Until he too decided to take his mobile phone to forward some nice SMS jokes to some of his other firends. Everyone just went talking/messaging on their cellphones on and on...the food came and went....they are still busy with their phones...and finally its time to leave...they wave goodbye to each other and leave (mobile phones still in their other hand!)

Whats the moral of the story? Mobile phones should be banned at social gatherings! be it with family or friends.

While you could argue that the mobile phones play a huge role in bringing the network of people together, unless their usage is limited they simply do the opposite.

When a group of people gather to spend some time with each other, they need to do just that - discuss, talk to each other, share thoughts - don't let technology barge in and take away the 'social' aspect of gatherings.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Robots are ready to break Asimov's Laws!

The US army has come up with a new breed of robot 'soldiers' armed with deadly machine guns to fight war for them.

Eventhough they would be mostly remote controlled,and don't take decisions on their own, they are designed to fire machine guns.

This violates Asimov's laws of robotics:
  1. A robot may not injure humanity, or, through inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.
  2. A robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  3. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  4. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
Ofcourse even in his stories, the robots often 'disobeyed' the laws. But this is the first time in real-life robots are designed specifically to fight against human beings. These robots are based on a more gentle version, which were used in a more constructive manner to disarm bombs.

Photo/News src:

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Happy Pi-Day everyone!

Pi-day is celebrated on March 14th (3-14) signifying the first few digits of Pi!

The actual value of Pi is not known or cannot be known, Computers have calculated the value of Pi to more than a Trilion decimal places.

You can download the value of pi upto 50 Million digits! here

Monday, March 13, 2006

Google maps for mars!

Google maps goes to new level with maps of mars...It comes in time when the new NASA mars orbiter enters a crucial phase of orbit around the red planet. The map comes with interesting features such as search for landing sites of previous mars missions, canyons, dunes, craters etc (even the probable crash site of Beagle2 probe!) A fun way to discover the most researched planet in the solar system (other than the earth ofcourse!)


(Previously Google had published maps of moon)

Friday, January 13, 2006

Quote of the day!

For all you computer geeks out there! Came accross this interesting quote,

"There are 10 types of people in this world,
people who understand binary and people who don't!"