Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Amusing Anecdotes with Scientists

One of my grandfather's books, "VijnanigaLodane RasanimishagaLu" (Amusing Anecdotes with Scientists) is perhaps his most popular.  It has undergone multiple reprints ever since it was published.
Many readers of this blog have written to me after getting to know that JR Lakshmana Rao is my grandfather, and have told me how much they value their copy of this book.
My uncle has translated this into English, and we are looking for publishers.  If you, or somebody you know is willing to publish this in English, please mail my uncle at jagalur AT gmail DOT com, or leave a comment on this post, and we can take it up from there
The following is from my uncle's blog
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My father, J R Lakshmana Rao, wrote a book called ವಿಜ್ಞಾನಿಗಳೊಡನೆ ರಸನಿಮಿಷಗಳು (vijnAnigaLoDane rasanimiSagalu) - a collection of humorous anecdotes involving scientists. It was a great success and saw at least seven reprints.
At my father's suggestion, I have translated that book and here is a sample of three incidents.
Mr. Ramamurthy, the great cartoonist famous through his Mr. Citizen cartoons for the Deccan Herald created brilliant cartoons as illustrations for the book.
The way it came about itself is interesting. A friend of my father, who knew Mr. Murthy, requested him to provide the illustrations. Like the true artist that he was, he had to be coaxed and finally agreed to provide some ten illustrations. He had to be provided the pictures of some of the lesser well known (to him) scientists so that he could draw using them as reference.

The anecdotes apparently caught his fancy and he ended up doing 52 cartoons that enhanced the book immensely! 

I am looking for a publisher to take up the publication of the English version. Anyone interested may please contact me. Suggestions are welcome too!

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The Boy who Would not Let Read


If you are asked to name the three greatest mathematicians of all times, it is difficult to leave out the name of Karl Friedrich Gauss, the German mathematician, physicist and astronomer who lived during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
As a professor at Göttingen for many years, he brought name and fame to the university. His mathematical acumen was recognised from his childhood. He was a child prodigy.
Gauss’ father was an assistant to a civil contractor. He had the habit of sitting in the courtyard of his house and doing all his paper work. He was sitting there one payday and was paying the labourers their weekly wages. He called out the name and mentioned the wage paid to each labourer. Then he noted it down in a ledger. After every one was paid, he totalled up the wages. He read out the numbers aloud while he did so. When he finished the list and wrote down the total, Gauss who was playing in the yard said, “Your total is wrong. It falls short by eighty-three Marks.” The surprised father did the addition again and found that the child was right. Gauss was just a toddler of three at that time.
A few years later the boy started going to school. One day the teacher was in no mood to teach but could not let the students off. He hit upon an idea to keep the students busy. He asked the boys to write down all the numbers from1 to 200 and add them up. He was sure that this would keep them busy for quite some time. He then settled down to read a novel, sure of an hour of peace and quiet. To make sure, he added, “No mistakes! Once you are finished, check it all again.”
            He had not read even half a page when Gauss stood up and said, “Sir, the answer is 20,100”, and the answer was right. The teacher, in shock, asked, “How did you do it so fast?”
            Gauss said, “I used the formula”:       (n × (n +1)) ÷ 2
                                                            = (200 × (200 +1)) ÷ 2
                                                            = 20100
         
            “Who taught you the formula?”, wailed the teacher.
            “I arrived at it myself”, said the boy.
            “When?!”
            “Just now”, said the little imp.

Ah! That Elusive Word . . . .

A student of Norbert Wiener, the renowned mathematician and father of Cybernetics, had great admiration for him. But, he had not had an opportunity to talk to him. One morning, when the student went to the Post Office, Wiener was there. He was looking intently at a sheet of paper on the desk. The student, being an ardent admirer, saw immense concentration in that look. He did not know if he could talk to him. Wiener suddenly left the paper, walked to the opposite wall, stood there for a moment and returned to the paper and started staring at it again. The admirer still did not know if he could talk to him. Wiener left the paper again but, this time, walked directly towards the admiring student. Now he had to, at least, greet him. He did. “Good morning Professor Wiener”, he said. A smile broke out on the face that was so serious until then. He stopped, stared at the student for a moment. He then slapped hisforehead and exclaimed, “Ah! It is Wiener. Isn’t it? I just could not recall that elusive word, however hard I tried. Thanks!” He now returned to the paper and continued filling the form. 


Different points of view
When the first experimental nuclear explosion was carried out in a desert in New Mexico, all the scientists and officials connected with the atomic bomb project had gathered in a safe place, a good distance away from the explosion site, to witness the test. Both Leslie Groves, a two star general, who was the military director of the project and Robert Oppenheimer, the scientific director of the project, were there.
A newspaper reporter, awed by the explosion, asked Oppenheimer, “What did you see?” A perturbed Oppenheimer replied, “….the end of the world”.
The reporter asked the two star general the same question. “The third star”, was the prompt reply.




Not a Question, a Statement

Paul Dirac was notorious for his extreme taciturnity. Once he gave a talk in an American university. At the end of the talk, the chairman invited questions from the audience. Someone got up and said, “I did not understand such and such in your talk” and sat down. Dirac sat comfortably without saying anything. Everyone was curious and after sometime even uncomfortable. The chairman asked rather hesitantly, “Prof. Dirac, could you please answer that question?” 
“That was not a question but, a statement of fact” replied Dirac nonchalantly.

Friday, September 14, 2012

An open kitchen

As a cook, I suffer from a severe dichotomy.  One part of me loves cooking, and the other part hates to spend too much time in the kitchen.  So I am always looking for shortcuts and quick-fixes so that I can get the tastiest and healthiest food ready in the least possible time.  I feel particularly bad when I feel I am missing out on family time.  In the house we lived in previously, it kept coming to my mind that an open kitchen would solve this problem.

On our house-hunt, when we looked at this apartment that we ended up buying, we liked it because it fulfilled a majority of our requirements in all respects.  But we knew that the apartment would require some major rework for it to suit our needs.  The greatest problem was with the kitchen and the store room, and we found that the simplest and logical solution to make it airy and spacious was to break open some walls, combine the kitchen and the store room space and make it a wide open kitchen.

So, a lot, and I mean a lot of work later, the kitchen has been modified to suit me, and the best part of it is, yes, it is an open kitchen.  It integrates seamlessly into the drawing room and dining room, creating the sense of a lot of space.

So this open kitchen has made such a difference to our lives, that I just had to write about it.  A major problem in the previous kitchen was that when I was in the kitchen, Puttachi would clamour for my attention, if not for anything, just for me to hear her talk or watch her draw, or be with her when she ate.  Even if I pulled a chair inside the kitchen for her, it was a little congested, and there were only a few things she could do in there. 

Now, with this kitchen, complete with a kitchen table, Puttachi sits at the table when I cook.  She talks to me, she eats, and she reads or draws or does whatever she wants to - I am happy because I can be with her, and yet get my cooking done, and she is happy that I don't have to keep running away into the kitchen.   Such a great set up.

The other advantages are all secondary, though they are important too.  When there are guests, I don't feel cut off if I am finishing up something in the kitchen, or if I have chosen a menu which needs me to linger in the kitchen.  And guests also feel free to enter the kitchen and sit at the kitchen table - because the  kitchen is no longer a separate space which is out of bounds.  It makes things more comfortable and informal.

And in general, I feel more connected with the happenings around the house even if nobody is in the kitchen with me.  And this open kitchen has kind of made the kitchen a central part of the house.  We also have our meals at the kitchen table. 

Another associated advantage is that when I finish my meal first, and Puttachi is stil eating, I can rise from the table and start clearing up without making Puttachi complain that I am "abandoning" her.  So by the time Puttachi's meal is done, the kitchen is wound up too!  What joy :)

Of course there are negatives too.  You are forced to keep the kitchen neat and tidy all the time in case of surprise visitors (which is actaully a good thing for messy and lazy cooks like me.) 

You cannot steal a quick bite if there are visitors sitting in the drawing room. :)

And the smell of course.  A good chimney is a necessity for an open kitchen, is what I feel, to contain the smells of cooking.

Another disadvantage is that you cannot hold back the sounds of the kitchen within - for example, clanging of steel vessels, and the whirr of the mixer.  

And I am sure I'll discover more disadvantages (and advantages) as the years go by... but yet, I really feel that these disadvantages are minor when compared to the change in lifestyle that an open kitchen has given me. 

Yes, open kitchens are not very popular in our culture, because traditionally, cooking is a private affair, and the kitchen is a sacrosanct place.  Also, some people are just not comfortable with it, and I can totally understand that feeling. 

But I wanted to share my experience with you, because if you have the temperament and the opportunity, do go in for an open kitchen - it is such a life-changer!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The day is here!

Yesterday, there was an unnatural silence at home, and when children are silent, it makes you worry.  So I ran to see what was up, and saw something that I had been waiting for, for 5 years and 3 months (yeah all of Puttachi's life)

She was sitting, reading a book, all by herself.  Reading, yes, not just looking at the pics - and the key phrase here is, "by herself."  The day is finally here when I can start piling up the books next to her and leave her alone to read by herself and give my ears some rest :)
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