Our Technological Heritage

By: Joshua

The 11th of May is regarded as National Technology Day but what does this day signify? For most of us, it probably wouldn’t matter and, you might think that it’s just another day in our country but, the legacy behind this day is like none other.

At a time when the country sought freedom from the Britishers, few souls strived to make our country great, and a few scientists and mathematicians studied and took great leaps in the field of science when others might have thought it unnecessary. This essentially acted as the spark that we as a country needed to move ahead and show the world that we weren’t a country that was to be taken lightly. 

The testing of Pokhran II on the 11th of May in 1998 showed the world that India was as capable as the superpowers, not only in making weapons of mass destruction but in our determination to move forward and that when pushed into a corner, we wouldn’t take it lying down. The sanctions imposed by various nations were indeed a drawback and further nuclear testing was banned but it gave us the confidence and the will to push beyond our limits. All of this wouldn’t have been possible if not for one Dr Homi Bhabha, the man who saw the potential we had, the man who gave birth to the Indian Nuclear Program.

The Indian Space Program, started by Dr Vikram Sarabhai and other prominent figures, paved the way right into the future, our present. Many technological inventions made under these programs have also helped the nation grow and further the curiosity in young minds like ours. The first rocket launched from Thumba in 1963, lit up the sky with hope and showed the people of this country that we too could be among the stars.

While we were dreaming of going among the stars, there was one man who worked to improve the foundations of our country with his engineering skills. Sir M Visvesvaraya, regarded as the first engineer of India, contributed to our country’s well-being in very subtle but impactful ways. He worked on various dams and flood protection systems throughout his life. One of his most notable contributions is the Krishna Raja Sagara Dam which still stands strong to this day.

The age we’re living in is right at the edge of a breakthrough. The future we look forward to is very uncertain and we as a species could make or break this future with our technological advancements. By looking at the figures that led us to our present, we can only hope to create a future that will prosper and thrive. The advancements we make as a country are just as important as the ones we make as a species and as a future engineer (hopefully) and Indian, I can only hope to take our country forward. Even if it is a small step, I’ll be glad that I’ve done so.

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The Thrilling Touchdown


On the bustling dawn of June 24, 1982, the magnificent British airways flight 9 bearing 247 lives set off for its long journey piercing through several time zones from Heathrow, London to Auckland, New Zealand. Akin any other day, as the flight picked its customary route devoid of menace to Auckland, it was expected to perform halts at Bombay, Madras, Kuala Lumpur, Perth, Melbourne to unload and load passengers before finally arriving in Auckland.

Moments after the plane landed in Kuala Lumpur, the aircraft fuelers barged into the runway and emptied 100 tons of fuel into its tank and the weary flight crew was relieved by the consummate captain Eric Moody, the avid first officer Roger Greaves, and a new cabin crew before it took off again to resume to Auckland. The passengers were experiencing a smooth flight and relishing the cozy inflight services. After ensuring that the midnight sky is lucid and the weather conditions are pleasant, Eric showed himself out of the cockpit to spend a penny.

The captain’s run to the comfort room was intruded on when the first officer called him out. Sensing the seriousness in Roger’s tone, Eric strode towards the cockpit. On his way back, the first red flag arose. Eric espied patterns of fumes escaping the ventilation duct. Given that the crew members were permitted to smoke in the plane until the late 1980s, the captain initially disregarded the smoke. Seconds later, the intensity of the smoke made it challenging for the captain to ignore it like a cigar corollary. The pilot slid the cockpit door open, still perplexed from trying to discover the source of the smoke.

As Eric entered the cockpit, he was hustled out of his thoughts as he witnessed the concerned first officer’s fixated look on the windshield of the plane which was now being ambushed by flashes of light. The captain calmed the perturbed first officer by explaining that the flashes are a resultant of the “Elmo’s fire” phenomenon which is caused by the thunder clouds producing static electricity and dismisses the arisen second red flag as well. When the metal surface of an aircraft comes in contact with the static electricity created by the thunder clouds, Elmo’s fire phenomenon occurs.

The pilots then cautiously checked the radar in anticipation of spotting the thunder cloud liable for this but to their astonishment, no such cloud was found anywhere around the airplane’s vicinity. This added up to the captain’s perplexity as now he hasn’t the faintest notion of what causes the light flashes. After exchanging glances of bafflement and letting out sighs of exasperation, the duo took a beat to process whatever had happened till now but certainly, they were not mentally prepared to process the series of events that’s about to transpire in the next few minutes.

The plane was approaching Jakarta and it was 8:40 PM in Jakarta now, and the amount of smoke entering the cabin was swiftly increasing. This issue started to create fret and panic among the passengers. The temperature in the cabin began augmenting exponentially and the people in the plane started sweating profusely and experienced breathing discomforts. Furthermore, the passengers seated beside the window witnessed weird sparks in the wings. All of this happened in a span of two minutes only and put the cabin in complete chaos and the attendants attempted their best to comfort the passengers.

At 8:42 PM, the captain received an alert call from the first engineer officer who stated that the plane’s fourth engine was on fire and instructed to shut it down immediately. Only now did the captain fathom the predicament their flight is in. It was 8:43 PM and the captain received another warning call stating that their second engine had failed as well. Taken aback by the instantaneous turn of events, before he could even have a moment to loosen up and clear his head, he received a couple more warning calls stating that the airplane’s first and third engine had failed as well.

Several thousand feet above the ground, the flight was now levitating with no functioning engines, or, the flight was now gradually falling. The first officer quickly garnered the facts, did the math, and eventually concluded that the plane can fly for another 23 minutes and that it is capable of covering only 168 kilometers more and the pilots hoped to find an airport to land in that range. The Jakarta airport happened to be the closest.

The captain contacted the Jakarta airport immediately and explained the criticality of their situation. The air traffic controllers meticulously listened and also enlightened him that currently, they were hovering over the Java Island area which is comprised of a multitude of mountains, and insinuated that they fly at least 11,500 ft above sea level to prevent collisions and reach the airport. Haplessly, the current rate of descent which the plane is undergoing makes it improbable to fly the plane at the required altitude and make the cut.  

The pilots looked around in hopes to sight an acreage to safely land the plane and the Indian Ocean turns out to be their only option. The pilots geared up to perform the intentional water touchdown right after the captain performed one more futile attempt to restart their engines. Even though the captain’s landing announcement rendered momentary solace for the passengers, their apprehension returned when they saw the flight’s engines on fire through the windows.

Individual apprehension transformed into mass hysteria in the cabin and the passengers were having a hard time pulling themselves together. Families snuggled together, the parents protectively embraced their children, youngsters supportively held the arms of their paramours, the elderly faithfully chanted prayers and the others in utter despair started writing for their loved ones.

Just when the passengers were dwelling in the presumption that their circumstance couldn’t deteriorate any further, the cabin started depressurizing and the lights in the cabin started flickering. Next, the oxygen level in the cabin instantly dropped and commenced another commotion as the passengers jostled to grab themselves an oxygen mask. However, the depressurization formed in the cabin was so high that not even the masks could avail the asphyxiation experienced by the members in the plane.

Acknowledging the jeopardy caused by the depressurization, the captain performs a nosedive by motioning the plane perpendicularly down and descends to an altitude of 13,500 ft now. Only now did the oxygen level in the cabin normalize and the passengers in the plane were able to breathe properly. Around 8:56 PM, the captain made one last attempt to start the fourth engine and to his surprise, the fourth engine started and miraculously so did the other three engines.

The captain’s ecstasy at that moment was inexplicable. At the current low-end altitude at which the plane was flying, the mountains were still a peril. So, the captain deftly lifted the plane to a decent sea level to elude the mountains. Minutes after the lift, Elmo’s fire phenomenon recurred and the second engine failed again. Not desiring the other obnoxious series of events to repeat and before the other three engines could fail, he steered back the plane to a lower altitude of 12,000 ft. 

After tackling several other hindrances, the flight finally approached the Jakarta airport. The fact that Elmo’s fire obfuscated the windshield and the landing wheels weren’t functioning perfectly didn’t make their landing any easier but the pilot succeeded in making a not-so-smooth yet safe touchdown. Thrilled by the successful landing the crew members let out sighs of relief and giggles of happiness and the passengers safely exited the plane with no major injuries.

Later, the investigators came up with plausible theories to explain the weird behavior of the aircraft. The airplane happened to have flown right over the Mount Galuggung Volcano. The ashes from this Volcano had formed a cloud at that particular altitude in the atmosphere where the plane was flying. Since the ashes were dry, the layer was invisible on the radar and the pilots were ignorant of the existent threat. The ashes of this Volcano, when it encompassed the aircraft, was liable for all the factors from Elmo’s fire to the engine failures. 

This route to Auckland was shut down for a while after this incident. A couple of days later, after a Singapore airlines flight encountered the same issue while flying over java island, this route has been permanently banned and an alternative has been provided for the pilots to fly.

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Survivor’s quest


The mighty sun peeked from behind the rugged mountains of the town Saka, Hiroshima, and sluggishly emerged higher. The sun rays generously hit the ocean, causing its surface to gleam as the balmy summer breeze carefully carried the dulcet chirping of the birds and the fragrance of the dainty flowers throughout the city. The small town of Saka remained a serene residence for its inhabitants.

Bun Hashizume, an avid fourteen-year-old, lived a contented life with her parents and siblings in the town. Taking leisurely strolls along with the flower gardens, ascending the majestic oak tree and admiring the beautiful ocean, and indulging in endless conversations with her best pal Hitoshi were pretty much the details of her routine. She aspired to become a poet as Hitoshi desired to become an author. 

The dawn of 6th august, 1945 bloomed like any other. Bun Hashizume set out to work at the Ministry of communications in Hiroshima. It was around 8:15 AM and Hashizume was standing near a window on the third floor. She was bewildered when a sudden powerful light beam splitting into vibrant rays momentarily blinded her sight. That was the moment when the American US B-29 warplane dropped the lethal bomb bearing the moniker ‘Little- boy’ over Hiroshima.

The bomb exploded with a drastic thud as it hit Hiroshima. It annihilated the buildings, shattered the glasses, demolished the edifices, and eliminated 70,000 lives instantaneously, and victimized another 10,000 lives as the rapid-fire commenced. Moreover, the intense radiation ejected by the nuclear bomb was starting to affect the civilians. The hospitals were crammed with injured patients and the relief efforts rendered by the government were below the par.

Finally, acquiring consciousness after her concussion, Hashizume attempted to fight back the aching agony in her limbs as she willed herself to stand up. After a finite number of sloppy foot-steps, she stumbled her way out of the building as blood droplets resumed to ooze out from the wound in her head. She was fortunate to find an elderly woman who offered to walk Hashizume to the nearby hospital.

The walk to the hospital was horrid. Hashizume perceived that her entire town was demolished and the path was covered with innumerable injured people screaming in agony, wrecked people mourning over the corpses of their relatives and desperate people jostling their way to any nearby shelter to protect themselves.

The next morning, dubious and concerned if her family survived the bombing, Hashizume decided to get back home. Placing cautious steps amidst the relatively less fervent fire, Hashizume made it to her place and was delighted to reconcile with her mother but had lost her brother and Hitoshi to the catastrophe.

After years of being tormented by trauma and dwelling in the dark chambers of depression, Hashizume stepped forward to share her experience, and talking about it helped her to heal. She eventually became a poet who penned down her authentic thoughts and fed her readers with motivation and optimism.

Even at the end of this disaster, she admits that hasn’t developed resentment towards the human race. More than being appalled by the fact that human beings dropped a bomb on other human beings, she was genuinely astounded by how wonderful human beings can be after such turmoil.

Meanwhile, Sachiko Matsuo’s family residing in Nagasaki was dreading the inevitable. Matsuo was a hopeful 5th grader. After the horrendous event at Hiroshima, the US B-29 bombers raided the city of Nagasaki and threw flyers all over, proclaiming that Nagasaki was about to be reduced to ashes on August 8, 1945. Tentative though, this announcement created commotion and chaos. Schools and workplaces were shut down and the citizens were insinuated to evacuate the town.

Matsuo’s family gathered the essential equipment and embarked to the hills behind their residence where they established a tiny makeshift shelter to survive the night of Aug 8. Anxiety and apprehension filled the hushed atmosphere and Matsuo’s siblings protectively snuggled towards one another as they lived the longest night of their existence, anticipating the disaster to slam anytime. On the contrary, nothing happened that night.

The next morning faintly relieved and positively hoping that the flyer news was fake and that the storm had passed, Matsuo’s mother suggested moving back to their residence since the town remained intact but her father protested otherwise and insisted that they stay. So, Matsuo spent the morning unpacking their luggage while the elders prepared their meal and her innocent younger siblings played outside.

Hours later, Matsuo witnessed an extremely intense yellowish-white beam that was bright enough to instantly disrupt her vision and before she could retaliate from it their shelter succumbed to the fiery flames of the bomb and blew up. That was when the second US airplane dropped the fatal bomb code-named ‘Fat-man’ on Nagasaki. The resilient fire butchered Matsuo’s elder sister while her father died on exposure to the perilous radiation from the bomb while Matsuo, her mother, and her brother were fortunate enough to survive the calamity with some serious burns.

The paramedics and the rescue team couldn’t make it in time and the severely injured lay in despair awaiting death to take them as screams of anguish and yelp echoed everywhere. The alive assembled at the air-raid shelter with much difficulty. Matsuo’s mother retrieved their savings from the nearby bank, garnered food, and aided the critically wounded before their relatives came to their rescue and escorted them away from the radiation.

Even though the obnoxious memories from the aftermath of the bomb blast keep lingering in Matsuo’s mind, over the years she has learned to talk about it and realized the necessity of passing the story on. At that time, due to the hideous discrimination that came along, she couldn’t openly admit that she was a survivor. Today, she proudly speaks up that she is a survivor but the thing that detains her from being happy about it is how the radiation might affect her grandchildren.  

However, the bomb attack did put an immediate stop to the prolonging second world war, and estimated life loss during the war panned out to be relatively less due to this. Yet, are the inhumane intentions and acrimonious actions of the US military officials which drove them to drop an atomic bomb on fellow humankind to manifest authority justifiable?   

History Space Technology

Space Bound

By : Sarvesh

The 12th of April is celebrated as the international day of human space flight. On this day 60 years ago, cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to go to space. We have come a long way since. To appreciate the present one must learn the past.

 At the peak of the cold war, money was poured into the space research organizations by both superpowers. The Soviets always had better rocket systems and on 4 October 1957, 7:28 pm the first man-made satellite ‘SPUTNIK’ was launched into orbit. In 1958, the U.S. launched its satellite, Explorer I. That same year, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a public order creating the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), a federal agency dedicated to space exploration.

In 1959, the Soviet space program took another step forward with the launch of Luna 2, the first space probe to hit the moon. Two years after, Yuri Gagarin, traveling in the capsule-like spacecraft Vostok 1 made history.

The Americans retaliated later that May. President John F. Kennedy made the bold, public claim that the U.S. would land a man on the moon before the end of the decade. -NASA’s budget was increased almost 500 percent. On July 16, 1969, U.S. astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, and Michael Collins set off on the Apollo 11 space mission, the first lunar landing attempt. One-sixth of the world’s population tuned in to see history being made. They were celebrated as heroes of humanity and this effectively concluded the cold war. Subsequently, Apollo 12 and 13 missions were green-lit. Truly a golden age for human space flight.

Then it all stopped. Ironically with the end of the cold war, manned missions to the moon and beyond froze. There was no incentive for the governments, there was no race to be won. There have been no manned missions to the moon in half a century. People say there is a silver lining to everything, and to the cold war, it came in form of huge funding and resource pooling towards the space industry. With no political pressure, funding greatly decreased and science took a backseat. 

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. It was first believed that everything right here was the universe. Then we compromised on being the center of the universe. We soon realized that the sun which was supposed to revolve around us, is actually a million times the size of our small round planet and it was us revolving around it. Later we grasped that our entire solar system is an insignificant fraction of a rather small galaxy. With powerful telescopes, we have discovered 2 trillion more galaxies. The scale of things truly becomes incomprehensible. To think the furthest a human has ever been is to the moon can suddenly seem demotivating but it truly is an incredible milestone in the history of our species. Even a journey of a billion miles begins with a small step.

In less than a century, the human population would become too much for the earth to handle. With a projected number of 9.9 billion by 2050, a war for resources is inevitable. The only place left for us….is up there, beyond our planet. Inexhaustible quantities of raw materials on various asteroids and mars are crucial for the continuation of our species.

The current goal for humanity is to colonize Mars. We have managed to launch several orbiters and even land rovers on Mars. Years of research have concluded the presence of ice and dried-up river and ocean beds on the Martian surface. This indicates mars had liquid water similar to earth. We have discovered all necessary chemicals to have sustained life on Mars in the past. If we can discover Martian life even in the form of a microbe or fossils, we would have answered one of earth’s biggest questions, “Are we alone?” The answer to this will yet again challenge our place and importance in the universe.

We all are aware of Elon Musk’s plan to go to the red planet. His plan to colonize mars involves getting a million people there by 2050. The vehicle entrusted with humanity’s graduation to a multi-planetary species is Space X’s ‘Starship’ fleet. While a million people to Mars in the next 2 decades seems outlandish, the technology being developed and the ship isn’t. Collaboration of the sharpest minds, working together will surely land us on the red planet in our lifetime. It is baffling to realize that the first human to walk on another world has already been born.

We have barely begun to scratch the surface of discovering our cosmic neighborhood. With dimes and nickels as funding and military-minded goals of governments, humanity will likely remain earth-bound for decades to come. There is certainly no better way of uncovering the secrets of the cosmos than by reaching for the unknown.

This is one of my favorite quotes ever was given by Carl Sagan on what is essentially earth’s first selfie. This photograph of Earth taken by NASA’s Voyager 1 at a distance of 6 billion kilometers from the Sun, somewhere near Saturn is dubbed the Pale Blue Dot’ (the cover picture)     “Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor, and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there–on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.”  

We miss the bigger picture as we continue our prolonged wars on defending our different ideologies.  While we practice our politics, shed blood, and remain ignorant, the universe awaits. Our goal as a space-faring civilization must be to grow and expand, uncovering the many secrets the universe hides. The ingredients of life are found everywhere in the expanse of this universe. If life could exist here, even by a billion to one chance, it must exist elsewhere too. I believe it’s not a question of “if aliens exist” but a question of “where”. Will, we ever be advanced enough to contact them or will we succumb to our differences?. Only time will tell.

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The Digital Divide

Author: Prajjwal R T

With the opulent 10% of Indians owning 80.7% of the country’s wealth, the raging pandemic is widening the wealth gap between the rich and the poor. The persistent unequal distribution of wealth in India has augmented the employment crisis, with only the affluent ones gaining access to control the entire wealth of the nation. Thomas Piketty, in his book Capital in the Twenty-First Century (2014) cites a prototype that supports his central thesis that ‘the owners of capital accumulate wealth more quickly than those who provide labor’, an idea that revolves around an aphorism: “The rich get richer and the poor get poorer”

Nevertheless, the death by suicide of an LSR college(New Delhi) student- Aishwarya Reddy calls for a reckoning.

Aishwarya, in her distressing suicide note, wrote about how she was a burden to her family because of her education and stated that the family struggled to keep up with the digital world. The family had to mortgage their home in Telangana while her sister had to discontinue her studies, even after sending several requests to the college for financial assistance. This incidence, termed to be ‘an institutional murder’, has also sparked off the ‘digital divide’ in India. The 19-year-old who wrote “If I can’t study, I can’t live”, should be a grim reminder to society about the psychological tolls faced by the students amidst the global chaos.

The lack of devices and good internet connection has often drawn a fine line between the haves and the have-nots. The pandemic wave has proved to be a catastrophe for the students to cope-up with online education, be it the learning methods or the workload burdened upon them. While the government promises to bridge the gap by providing students with the necessary gadgets to encourage their studies, it has not yet swayed its hands over the weaker sections of the society, calling for surveillance on the working of its policies. While the privileged ones had a smooth transition, people living in remote areas have a different story to tell. As a student myself, there were various occasions where I encountered issues regarding an unstable internet connection, despite residing in a city claimed to be known as Silicon Valley of India. 

With classrooms and social hubs where one could meet and share their little experiences with their peers being cordoned off, it has not only been tough for the students but, for the faculty and staff members as well. Online classes have become a tool to harass teachers, thus making the advantaged look flagrant, despite having access to all the privileges. Something which we believe to be meager can prove to be dear to others.

Speaking of this topic, I would recommend you all to watch Rora Kennedy’s documentary  ‘Without a Net’ which explores the digital split in America, highlighting how the economically deprived sections tackled it and the measures which were taken to provide parity to one and all. In the wake of the pandemic, the digital divide has brought all underdeveloped areas of society in the field of education to a standstill and in-turn, reducing the opportunities to shape their careers. Even though the Digital India campaign launched by PM Modi in the year 2015 focuses on busting digital inequality, the main motive of the program is still striving hard to cater to the needs of everyone.

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5G: Boon or Bane

Author: Abhinav Gorantla

When the 5th Generation of mobile communication and networking was introduced in early 2020, it grabbed a lot of attention. With 5G, augmented reality can be made possible in real-time. Remotely operated robotic surgeons can be used for healthcare in areas where good healthcare can’t be provided. Search and rescue missions can be carried out by swarms of drones combing the disaster-prone area. 5G can bring speed of around 10 Gigabits per second to your phone. This is more than 600 times the typical 4G speed. This means that you can download games from Steam in under 20 seconds and a 4K movie in 25 seconds.

But the catch is that 5G networks will have very less network coverage. This is because of the high-frequency waves 5G networks will be using. The lack of range can be considered as a trade-off for the very high download speed the network can offer. 5G networks when brought into the mainstream would require a network tower every 500 meters. In contrast, a 4G GSM tower can provide connectivity to devices in an 80,000-meter radius. The low range of 5G networks can be attributed to the very high-frequency waves 5G uses to provide high-speed internet. Increase in frequency of radio waves also increases the energy irradiated during propagation and dampens the wave. Added to this setback is the fact that 5G frequency is interrupted by physical obstructions such as trees, towers, buildings and walls. The very high download speeds and lower latency are the only positives of replacing 4G with 5G networks. The trade-offs for the aforementioned advantages include lower connectivity range, very high operational costs and health disorders.

There has been speculation about the ill effects 5G can have on human health and the environment in general since it was first introduced. The prime cause for this speculation is the fact that 5G uses millimetre waves which lie in the 30GHz to 300GHz range. As discussed earlier this compels the telecom companies to exponentially increase the number of cell towers. Most of these are low-profile antennas rather than full-blown cell towers. Skin and in particular sweat ducts have the capability of absorbing energy with radio frequencies in the range 6GHz to 100GHz. This has the potential to increase the occurrence of Melanoma (cancer of the skin) in humans. A 2018 study conducted by the researchers associated with the renowned Ramazzini Institute in Italy announced that a large-scale lifetime study of lab animals exposed to environmental levels of cell tower radiation developed cancer. A $25 million study of much higher levels of cell phone radio frequency radiation (analogous to 5G radiations), from the US National Toxicology Program, has also reported finding the same unusual form of heart cancer called Schwannoma in male rats. Increase in malignant brain tumours was observed in female rats.

With such long term health consequences which may be fatal eventually, is 5G speed worth the risk? Use of 5G networks must be limited to emergency disaster response and healthcare applications until proper research is done to assess the damage millimetre waves can do to the environment. For areas where wired connections can be used, optical fibre-based broadband internet can replace 5G networks.

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The Women of ENIAC

Author: Abhinav Gorantla

The work of many people remains forgotten in the world of computer science. Many other women in this field like Augusta Ada King, the Countess of Lovelace who was responsible for significant breakthroughs in this field remain forgotten. The first-ever loop was written by Lady Lovelace. She was equally responsible for the creation and documentation of the development of the Analytical Engine which is regarded as solely a Charles Babbage invention. The contributions of the six ladies involved in the ENIAC project- Fran Bilas, Betty Jennings, Ruth Lichterman, Kay McNulty, Betty Snyder, and Marlyn Wescoff had a similar fate. They are one of the many reasons we are now able to multitask in our computers. The changed the way computers work.

When the idea of computers was first conceived, people thought of a computer as this overly complicated set of gears whirring in a setup as big as a medium-sized room. Most of the computer prototypes could perform no more than a single task. These “tasks” most often included basic calculations or things like decoding messages. Until the year 1954, computers were nothing like our present-day workhorses. They were electromechanical monsters and composed of shafts with indentations to perform calculations.

The closest thing to the modern computer that was made before 1954 was the Z1 Calculator by German mathematician and computer scientist Konrad Zuse. This particular machine was also not truly regarded as a computer as it was mechanically driven by a motor. And a computer is “an electronic device for storing and processing data, typically in binary form, according to instructions given to it in a variable program”. So as the Z1 wasn’t essentially a fully electric device and could get nowhere near the electronic speeds, it was not the world’s first computer. Promising progress could be made with the Z1 only if the Nazis gave sufficient funding to Konrad for further development. The saddest part was that this technological marvel was destroyed in the World War – 2 bombings on Germany.

    As the war progressed, the British Secret service employed a special department comprising of masterclass mathematicians and statisticians to break the German Enigma machine. After an excruciating four years’ hard work, the team could successfully break the Enigma code. This gave birth to yet another “computer” called “The Bombe”. But this one also, like the Z1, wasn’t a “true” computer. The Bombe had numerous shafts that were working in sync to decode the German coded messages. In addition to the numerous mechanical parts in this machine, it couldn’t be reprogrammed to perform other tasks like simple arithmetic calculation. It was specifically designed to decode the Enigma.

    On the other side of the Atlantic, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania were building another numbers-crunching, mathematical monster. This machine was called the ENIAC. The sole purpose of this machine was to calculate the trajectories of the military artillery shells which depended on 29 different parameters like humidity, wind speed, etc. This meant that to only know which path a fired shell would follow required the soldiers to solve a 29-dimensional differential equation. This was not humanely possible on the field. Also for ENIAC to compute the exact values of these 29 variables, it was required to give it an input 29 times, each time with a punch card to give in the data to the computer. 

    Using punch cards to input data was considered an utter waste of time by the scientists responsible for the ENIAC project. So, they decided to recruit several dozens of women to perform tasks that were too insignificant for the computer. Little did these “scientists” know these women were about to bring a technological revolution in our world. The women recruited for the ENIAC project were later assigned the job of interchanging wires and switches on the ENIAC to enable it to perform different operations. During this time, this group of six young ladies realized that ENIAC could be used even more efficiently when a program was input in the form of punch cards and stored into the machine. In those days, every single step of the program required re-adjustment of switches and wires. The group of women decided to integrate a digital memory storage device into the machine to make things easier. They showed the scientific world the importance of software components. Their innovations made way to EDVAC which is the basis for most modern-day computers.

It is because of the trailblazing amount of work these six women did that we know computers the way they are now.

“Those who can imagine anything, can create the impossible.” -Alan Turing

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What Is The Actual Superpower?

Author: Vidhya

Certainly 2020 is not our year. The world has been in lockdown for more than 4 months now. A lot of negativity, hatred is spread all over the internet. There is certainly no sign of when all of this is going to end. Since the lockdown started, I am glued to my mobile screen, traveling from Netflix to YouTube. In a desperate need to bring my sleep cycle back to normal, I decided to reduce the time I spend with my 720p screen. I tried it for a day and I realized I overthink a lot, and I get multiple thoughts simultaneously. It was tough for me to handle, and I decided to pen them down. There were a couple of things that I wrote and most of them were extremely silly. But one of them was a little thought-provoking.

It was a video from Tried and Refused Production on a movie named Bhavesh Joshi Superhero. Among the very few who watched the movie, most of them saw it as an outrage of young men on corruption in India. But I noticed the way they used social media as their weapon to bring about a change, as every citizen intends to. However he ends up failing miserably and gets one of the protagonists killed. This struck a question in my mind- What would be considered a superpower in India? Is it money, fame, power among people, or political power. I felt that the answer was social media. It is the ultimate superpower in the world, which can make or break a person in no time. And the ultimate superhero is the person who knows how to use this tool and understands the algorithms behind its functioning.

We humans are spiritual beings and believe in a lot of things that have no signs of existence. Our lives revolve around our belief system, which is formed by the people we surround ourselves with. What, then, is the best place to remain anonymous other than on social media platforms? We blindly believe everything that we see here without checking the facts. This psychology is used by many, big-shots and commoners alike, who want the world to listen to them. The best example is ‘THE ANONYMOUS’. Do you think that the impact created by this page would remain the same if they had an identity of their own?

People like The Anonymous are superheroes and social media is their weapon, and their superpower is playing with the minds of the public. However, we must remember that it is us who give them these superpowers and it is us who can take them away. We choose what to believe and what not. We choose what stays and what not. We, as an audience, are the real heroes.

Technology Uncategorised World

How Reusable Rockets Work

Author: Abhinav Gorantla

SpaceX is becoming famous in the space exploration industry quite fast. One of the primary reasons for that is their famous Falcon – 9 rockets. The USP of these rockets is their reusable first stage. The first stage of a multistage rocket contains booster engines that propel the rocket to the end of the atmosphere where outer space starts. Reusing this first stage cuts operational costs drastically. It opens the door for space tourism, which may become a reality before the year 2022. 

Falcon – 9 rockets cost $60 Million to build. So with the second stage and the first stage of the rocket successfully landing after separation, 80% of the rocket body safely lands on Earth. This means that only 20% of the rocket body, comprising of the crew capsule or payload compartment, may need re-manufacturing. 

The first stage of the Falcon-9 contains nine Merlin-1 engines. These are responsible for putting the spaceship at the edge of space at an altitude of about 100 km. After this, the first stage separates and lands safely on the ground. The engines used on Falcon – 9 give the rocket 600 tonnes of thrust required for liftoff. After the first stage gets separated, the cold-gas thrusters on the first stage fire up and initiate the “flipping” process to make the rocket ready for re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere. But how does the rapidly accelerating 200-ton iron behemoth land? 

At the time of separation, the first stage is accelerating into outer space at a speed of 4,700 km/h. At the time of landing, the 200-ton giant has a vertical velocity of 20 km/h. Conventional rockets are known to use every drop of fuel they carry to propel the rocket to the edge of space. But, in a Falcon-9 after the cold thrusters vent out Nitrogen gas to flip the first stage, the engines fire up and use the “extra” fuel to make use of the reverse thrust and decelerate. 

After the “flip” happens, the computers, and at least a dozen sophisticated sensors onboard the Falcon-9, kick into action and maneuver the rocket ever so slightly to get a smooth and precise landing. The computers onboard the Falcon – 9 are so precise that they can land the rocket on a 90×50 meter offshore landing site. The landing sites are mostly offshore to ensure safety in case of any mishaps. Remotely controlled from the rocket launch site, drone ships function as “remote landing platforms.” The drone ships, which serve as landing sites, are not exactly completely stationary during the whole touchdown process. 

Using an offshore landing platform comes with its challenges. The computers onboard the drone ship and the rocket need to be synchronized perfectly to achieve a successful touchdown. The time frame for the separation and re-entry and touchdown is just 4 minutes. The process is so complex that it would not be possible for a human to do it without a computer’s aid. 

Landing a 200-ton behemoth traveling in outer space only using computers is nothing short of a beautiful work of art. This shows us how engineers can build such admirable pieces of art. 

“All civilizations become either spacefaring or extinct.” – Carl Sagan

change Technology Uncategorised World

Future of Transport

Author: Abhinav Gorantla

Hyperloop trains are considered to be the next significant innovation in transportation technology. Trains powered by magnetic levitation, capable of achieving speeds up to Mach 1. It seems too far in the future for me. The idea doesn’t feel practical in the present circumstances.  But how does an underground tunnel network, that can replace conventional roads, seem? 

The Boring Company is an American infrastructure and tunnel construction company founded by Elon Musk. They have recently completed digging a 2 Km long tunnel under Las Vegas. This marks the end of the first phase of a 50 million-dollar tunneling project. TBC plans to build tunnel systems in major metropolitan cities like Los Angeles, San Jose, Washington and Shanghai. This project, when completed, aims to decongest the crammed streets of major metropolitan cities across the world. But is it a step forward towards mitigating the ever-increasing traffic at the street level?    

Elon Musk first announced his plans for this project during a TED talk in 2016. The Boring Company began digging by early 2017 in the parking lot of SpaceX. The company is now excavating tunnels to transport cars in several locations across the United States and China. During the trial in December 2018, the official test speed was a nauseating 205 KMPH. The car was put on metal “skates”. The vehicle was then mounted on top of a pair of rails. There was no external propulsion for the car and speed was achieved entirely from the motors in the Model X.    

While this may seem to decrease street-level traffic significantly, several safety issues limit its operations. San Jose, for instance, sits on top of an active tectonic plate and has a 62% probability of an earthquake of magnitude 6.7 or higher. It also happens to be one of the locations where The Boring Company is digging its tunnels. And being launched at speeds of up to 200KMPH in a closed tube is no joke. Even a small error may result in horrifying consequences. One such incident that has occurred in recent times is the 2008 Channel Tunnel Fire. The Channel Tunnel is a railway tunnel connecting the U.K. and France. In the 18-hour ordeal that followed the disaster, 14 people suffered severe internal injuries due to smoke inhalation and were hospitalized.    

Due to high maintenance costs, TBC suggests that most of these tunnels will be sold to the highest bidder on completion. A very few of these invisible architectural innovations have been earmarked for the use of pedestrian transport.    

With safety precautions in place, this surely seems to be a huge leap forward in the public transport sector. With all the fuel-guzzling machines underground, the street level will be cleaner than ever. With no more traffic jams, fuel consumption will also be significantly reduced. The company plans to expand to multi-level tunnels going up to several hundred feet deep into the ground.