Celebrating Science Day at GMRT and WSF

World Social Forum 2004

I would start with WSF which is in this case is The World Social Forum. This is where I got a real taste of what global activisim could do. The year was 2004 and it was against the World Economic Forum (or part of it was happening in Mumbai.) It was a double whammy as either due to design or just a coincidence the Kala Ghoda festival was happening at the same time. It had seemed at the time that change was in the air and things will change shortly but it was not to be. The reason this got remembered as I was cleaning my mailbox after a long time, doing a real deep cleaning and while doing it, came across a bunch of mails and people and ideas. While lot of things on the plate have been won, there have been equal or more number of losses. For e.g. Shell is still into fossil fuels and has grown consistently over the years, even political parties can raise foreign funds thanks to the present Government with retrospective effect of 60 years but non-profits cannot do as apparently “only they can influence people”, not political parties. All of this isn’t news unless you have been living under a rock for the last 4 years or so. It all just seems a bit more perverse than before hence had to share it but this was not the purpose of this blog post.

National Science Day at GMRT

We had been celebrating National Science Day at GMRT for last 7 years with this year being the seventh in the series. The only one I missed was last year but then wasn’t well and didn’t want any possibility of aggravation of health issues as had been sick. I had shared I wouldn’t be able to do any of the heavy lifting and our conversation for the event started like this –

shirish agarwal, [27.02.19 13:14]
@mandiv1 apparently Arvind and Aadesh would not be able to go to Reserved-bit .

shirish agarwal, [27.02.19 13:14]
somebody else would have to do the needful.

Akshat, [27.02.19 13:16]
@shirishag75 don’t worry about the logistics. We will take care.

Snippet of Telegram chat.

Later came to know though that this year all of the equipment and merch. sponsorship was done by Zimbra. There were also some other expenses but all of them were borne by Zimbra. So here are a list of photos which shows some of the photos taken by members of the two groups.

Around the end of the first day
Around the end of the first day

While we were supposed to be around 12-13 volunteers, 9 from both Debian and Mozilla turned up for the event. Six were from the Debian side of things, while three from Mozilla. While there were couple of newbies, most of the people had worked with each other before so it was easy to get by.

oking around after a hard day's work
Joking around after a hard day’s work

After packing and finishing for the day, it was time to rib with each other as well as know each other. Nothing like ribbing and getting ribbed to take the tiredness of the day out. Having a cup of tea or two also helps.

How GMRT looks in the evening
How GMRT looks in the evening
GMRT Antennae in Unison - Akshat
GMRT Antennae in Unison – Akshat

GMRT is based in a semi-rural, semi-forested area. The GMRT Radio telescopes are a group of 30 steerable Radio telescopes situated in an about 27 sq. km. , each Radio telescope cover an area of 45 meters and the whole constellation is in the form of a parabolic dish or a Y-shape to be more precise. This particular picture has been clicked by Akshay as it shows his signature eye and framing. It was upgraded few years back and is now back is to former glory. I also just remembered some questions that were asked to the Tatas in Thoughtworks Complex Systems workshop for SKA for which there were no clear answers but that’s a topic for another day.

Photo Op with the Zimbra Team
Photo Op with the Zimbra Team
Another picture with the zimbra team
Another picture with the zimbra team

This was at the end of the second day when the Zimbra team came to see us. Unfortunately they came after lunch when traffic was low to almost non-existent and people were winding up for the momento and the prize ceremony which is held for students coming from various schools and colleges. Organizations are given a momento as it’s geared so that students are aware of all the science around them, the causation and the effect. They also have some repos. on github if people wanna contribute.

Big thanks to Zimbra for sponsoring us and NCRA and GMRT for giving us the stall, travel, lodging and boarding. Also thanks to all the volunteers from FSCI and Mozilla showing up and making it what it was.

Akshat giving a Debian CD and literature about free software.
Akshat giving a Debian CD and literature about free software

This is probably in the morning on the second day when me and Vikas were out to see some of the other stalls which were there.

Projects I liked

There were probably in excess of 100 odd stalls and while it was virtually impossible to visit all the stalls, all of us did manage to visit some or the other stalls. The ones which I liked were the one where an old gentleman showed how light is refracted. He had a green laser pointer and had asked for a dark room and showed the various ways light was refracted. The one which I really liked was when how probably light refracts in a fibre-optic cable. The other one I enjoyed was when I came to know of the ITER . I was told that they have been able to generate more energy than taken although after coming back just came to know that the project is only 58% completed, the rest taking almost 15 years more to complete.

The other informational projects which I came to know about were the Earth core. While in countless movies, we have reached the center of the earth, in actuality we don’t know. There are assumptions that it may have liquid and some metal on what we have been to explore so far. It may be entirely possible that there may be one more than one more layer of metal and liquid that is being assumed but as we don’t know we can’t do anything about it. The people who were showing that were actually showing how earth’s magnetic poles are moving all the time. They also shared the possibility of the magnetic poles flipping and while I can find quite a few media stories speculating that myth/fact I dunno what to make of it. Of course if does flip, all our communications will be down. Even birds take their bearing from the magnetic north (although instinctively) . Humans would be the worst affected for sure .

While there were many more, there was a whole stall of students using either Arduino Uno or Arduino Mega. I am afraid I didn’t ask which. There were many projects which I liked but they were more thought more in dreams rather than reality. For instance, one of the projects was for a submersible to check the quality of water. They had made a nice UI and used the Arduino to remotely stop and start the boat. As everybody knows, sensors are not so cheap so the only sensor they managed to get was a temperature sensor and they showed how it would work. The assumption being dirty water being more hot than fresh water. Also it would report variances within water temperature. itself so you could know what the temperature of water is at any one point of time.

There was also an Arduino-based bot to clean floors. It looked similar to some of the Japanese bots I have seen. For instance see this one shared on CNET . As it was a college robot, it had an extended arm of about couple of feet with a sensor to detect a foreign object. There was a housewife hanging around who was obviously stressed and was looking at it as a solution to relieve her from some of the household chores. They were also working and looking at to be also used as a mop in addition to the broom but had difficulty figuring out how to get the both the price, engine efficiency and battery also syncing with each other. Of course they weren’t thinking of self-repair but that’s another topic altogether. We also saw projects using Arduino for car theft, museum navigation (for which I gave them a few suggestions) and one using Raspberry Pi 3 with OpenCV to detect cars license numbers for toll gates. I impressed upon them to try the same at their college where it should be much more easily implementable than elsewhere.

I also need to commend all the colleges for this time many colleges upped the budgets to between INR 11 – 15K although it is still a lot lower than what is needed. Vikas, who was with me told some of the students about the robo competitions which are held routinely in many of the Engineering Colleges in Pune.

I would end sharing of the projects by another one I really liked. This was done by some college I don’t remember, we were told about the estuary . Estaury is the place where the ocean and river meet and is one of the best places for flora and fauna to be there. One of the famous estauries she said was a place called Mandvi near Goa, Konkan. Due to lot of garbage being put in the river the estaury doesn’t work in the way it was and is intended to work.

Debian Information

At the end, there was lot of information about Debian which was exchanged with the group. I shared about the Internships article which I had written sometime back and then shared another list of projects yesterday by one of my friends whom I had encouraged to do the same when I was writing the article from bangalore . I do like the one where he talks of the WordPress-libre movement, it does have lot of value but would need quite a bit of time and knowledge, which will come with time.

One of the most often questions asked is how does Debian make money. While Debian is a non-profit it does make money in terms of sponsorships as it is helpful to all the companies who make money of it. The simplest way is to have a look at present and past sponsors of Debconf. Just to share of a few on top of my head. Google sponsors as they use a customized use of Debian as their main OS within the organization. They sponsor quite a bit of Debian Development and probably have a few DD’s (Debian Developer) on their rolls. Hewlett Packard sells and sold quite a bit of Mid-and high-end range of servers to CDN’s, hosting and off the shelf customers who prefer to run Debian on those servers. Lot of HPC machines run Debian. Infomaniak is into hosting and from the looks of it they have prospered with the partnership as now they are Platinum sponsors.

I could go on and on, but is enough to share that there are lot of business and research issues which are solved. Even NCRA and GMRT are big users of Debian as is Pune University, hence they support us the way they can. They are highly dependant on Government Funding.

I also shared some of the Debian Politics but didn’t much as Mayur, Mehul and Aniket were absent, they are from Mozilla and we usually trade happenings and stories :). In many ways, Debian is also going through some changes , in some ways similar to what Mozilla has been going through but that’s a topic for another day. I do hope lot of people do get a chance to go and attend Debtusav Delhi which is also happening soon. This year we are hoping to have lots of Debutsavs if we hope to have a Debconf in India anytime soon. Till later.


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