Sunday, November 19, 2017

The Laws Of Perspective

I started with the course “Lectures On Digital Photography” by Marc Levoy. It is a course which was initially taught at Stanford for interested on-campus students, and then later at Google. Now all the lectures are available for free completely on Google Sites. Here’s the link:

Fifteen minutes into the first lecture, Mr. Levoy talks about one of the most important aspects of art- perspective. He talks about perspective in a scientific way. When you capture an image of a real object on a plane, be it as a painting, one of the earliest forms, or photography, which came much later, there are two important ways to look at it.

One was the natural perspective that Euclid explained in his book on Optics. The natural perspective discusses the distance between the eye and the object, and the angle the object subtends to the eye.

In simple terms, the natural perspective tells you that farther objects subtend smaller angles.

The other type is the linear perspective theory created by Filippo Brunelleschi. This basically tells you that closer objects are projected larger on a picture plane.

Using this simple mathematics as derived from the linear perspective theory, the approximate size of the projection on the plane as compared to the actual size of the object can be determined. In the above picture: y is the height of the projection; h is the height of the object; x is the distance of object from the eye; and z is the distance of the picture plane from the eye.

This was of key importance in the paintings during the Renaissance as the painters attempted to produce or showcase depth on a plane sheet. It was generally concluded from the linear perspective theory that all objects away from the painter must converge at a farther point.

So, how is this theory of perspective related to photography? Well, for photographers to choose an optimum focal length for the right aperture that would capture the scene, the way they envision, it is necessary that they have a general sense of perspective. It is not required, and is not possible, to do mathematics every time. But it is necessary to rather have a ‘feel’ of the right perspective that they need for a particular shot.

There is a tamil saying that translates into “Your hand doesn’t measure what your eye doesn’t”, which sums up the the topic of discussion here: perspective.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Why I Did Not Get My Hogwarts Letter

I was introduced to Harry Potter, and the world of wizards and witches when I was eleven. And ever since, I’ve always waited for my Hogwarts letter- most sincerely. People thought it was fiction but I knew it wasn’t just that. What I couldn’t understand though was why I did not receive my Hogwarts letter. Years on end, I peeped through the window to see if I could spot an owl approaching. No such luck.

Now, while pursuing B. Sc., LL. B., I finally found a convincingly probable answer to the question that has bothered me for the last seven years.

This semester we have a paper on Microbiology and Genetics. And, today, while winding up with the genetics topic, our professor showed us a video by National Human Genome Research Institute- Harry Potter and the Genetics of Wizarding.

Thanks to Prof. Eric P. Spana's wonderful lecture in the video, I got the reason why I might not be the one. For all those out there wondering why you didn’t get your letter- read this! The answer lies in your genes.

Let’s look at it this way: Why does Hermione Granger get the letter, but not us?
Brief answer: de novo mutations.

Let ‘W’ be the representation for the alleles of wizards/witches.
Let ‘M’ be the representation for the alleles of muggles.

To be a wizard/witch you need to have at least one dominant wizard allele ‘W’ or a recessive allele ‘ww’ gene.
Mr. and Mrs. Granger both are pure muggles(non-magical human beings).
So, both Mr. and Mrs. Granger are homozygous muggles: MM

Doing the Mendelian Cross:

Parents:                                   MM            x            MM
                                             (muggle)                  (muggle)
Gametes:                                  M                             M

Filial Generation 1:                                  MM            -----------------------> (Muggle)

So, how did Hermione, who was supposed to have only MM genes and be a muggle, become a witch?

De novo mutations are mutations that occur in an egg or sperm cell before fertilization or immediately after fertilization. ‘De novo’ literally means ‘of new’ in latin and refers to such new mutations.

De novo mutations may explain genetic disorders in which an affected child has a mutation in every cell in the body but the parents do not, and there is no family history of the disorder. Thus, even if there is no hereditary history whatsoever of magic use, the offspring can have a mutated gene affecting it, thus making the progeny magical.

Hence, Hermione got through to Hogwarts thanks to the mutation in her genes. This answers why she’s a mudblood.

But why not us too?

Well, de novo mutations occur at a frequency of ~77 per generation but only one of them occurs in a gene. So, analysing the past year students of Hogwarts we find just one person who is a mudblood in a given year. So for a wizarding or magical trait the frequency of de novo mutation in that gene is approximately 1 in 750,000 (considering the population of UK since Hogwarts is in UK).

That is a really slim chance. And, most probably we aren’t that 1 in 750,000 if we still haven’t got our letter.

That is why Hermione is a witch and we aren’t.

To know that our seven years of faith can be broken in one class of genetics with a little help from pure statistics is terrible. I can’t still stop waiting for the letter even after knowing the harsh truth.

And to conclude, and console myself for the rest of my life, I just figured a new argument:
Maybe, my letter was tied to Errol.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

The 39 Steps

Title: The 39 Steps

Author: John Buchan

Richard Hannay is bored and disgusted with the city life in London. Initially, it had been a sort of Arabian-Nights-come-true to live in the Old Country. But the pleasures of London had worn off well before a single month. As if in answer to his growing boredom, one day, he finds a man named Scudder in his house, who seeks refuge from dangerous enemies in Hannay’s place.

Scudder tells Hannay an elaborate tale of how he was being followed and why his followers want to kill him. Hannay, happy that something exciting was happening to him, agrees to shelter Scudder till he was safe to leave. While coming back home from outside, a few days after, he finds Scudder murdered brutally in his house. When everybody assumes that he is the murderer, Hannay sets off on a escape-adventure posing as many different people and exploring the mountains and moors of Scottish terrain and fleeing from two different sets of pursuers- one, the London Police for whom he is a murderer on the run, and two, the Black Stone(the murderers of Scudder) for whom he is a man who knows the deadly secret that Scudder knew. Along the way, he unravels Scudder’s real mission with the help of Scudder’s black notebook full of coded clues. With the timely aid of many innocents such as a milkman, a literary innkeeper, a radical candidate and a spectacled roadman, he continues with his mission to accomplish Scudder’s job.

I loved the part where he first meets the bald archaeologist and realizes that he is the dangerous man that Scudder narrated in his story. Hannay's shock at the realization and the desperate attempt to conceal his shock is most entertaining.

The 39 steps is a fast-paced book and is unputdownable. It is packed with action, adventure and thrill. The roller-coaster ride from Hannay’s monotonous life to one packed with suspense and mystery, is an amazing read!

Friday, May 6, 2016

The Trials Of Apollo: The Hidden Oracle

Title: The Trials Of Apollo: The Hidden Oracle

Author: Rick Riordan

After the previous five-book-series of The Heroes Of Olympus, Rick Riordan is back again to give his readers a story from Greek myth - The Hidden Oracle- the first book in the next saga The Trials Of Apollo.

Since the book has been released only this week, I am not detailing the story. No spoilers!

The story revolves around the Greek God of Sun, Music, Archery and a “bunch of other stuff”, the Lord Apollo, who falls to the Earth after being punished by his father Lord Zeus to undergo several trials and prove his worth before getting restored in his godly form in Olympus again.

The book starts with the heroic landing of the sun God in a pile of garbage in an alley in West Manhattan as a dorky sixteen-year-old mortal named Lester Papadopoulos. The mortal, powerless Lester is forced to serve Meg(Margaret), an untrained demigod in of the Manhattan streets. Their bonding, and their adventures before they reach Camp Half Blood, and an unofficial quest to find the hidden oracle of Dodona is the crux of the story.

This book brings us back many of the characters whom we adore like Percy, Chiron, Will, Nico and even Mrs O’Leary. And towards the end of the book, there is an amazing entry of Leo Valdez with his pet metal dragon Festus. But somehow, when I read the book, I did not feel the same charm that Percy or Leo used to bring, back in the old series. I felt Percy was less cool. He was not the Percy I knew six months earlier(time period according to the book), and I didn’t know Percy can become such an all-time-worried chap from the happy go lucky guy that he was within such a short time. Leo, too, had changed too much. And in all parts that they appeared, I was telling myself: There is something wrong with them. What is it? Probably nothing is. But I don’t know.

The new characters are charming as ever. I especially loved Meg and her pet karpoi named Peaches. Apollo in the form of Lester is also super cool. One other character whom I loved was Harley, son of Hephaestus.

I liked the parts when Apollo was not able to accept and come to terms with the fact that he wasn't a God anymore but a mere mortal. The parts in which Apollo forgets that he is in mortal form without any powers, but talks like a God in his mortal voice, is very funny, and for poor Apollo- it is pathetic!

The book was totally cool. The plot was amazing and there was a very unexpected twist in the end. It was an awesome read!

Thanks, Riordan!

Now, the wait for the next book- The Hammer Of Thor in the Magnus Chase series- begins!

Monday, March 28, 2016

To Kill A Mockingbird

Title: To Kill A Mockingbird

Author: Harper Lee

Six-year-old Jean Louise Finch, fondly known as Scout, and her elder brother Jeremy Finch, or Jem for short, live with their father Atticus Finch, a lawyer, in the tired old racist town of Maycomb, Alabama. One summer, they get introduced to a boy named Charles Harris Baker, who shortly called himself Dill. Dill, Scout and Jem start playing and spending a lot of time together. They are terrified, but also amazed, at their neighbour Arthur “Boo” Radley whom they have never seen and who hasn’t come out of his home for many years. Once, Dill dares Jem to touch the wall of the Radley mansion just to prove he wasn’t afraid. They do many things and work out many plans to make Boo Radley come out of his house. After the summer, Dill goes back to his family and, Scout and Jem are left to themselves.

While walking back home from school, Jem and Scout discover small  gifts like bubblegum and wrappers in a tree-hole in the Radley’s place. Deciding that those who discover things are the owners until somebody else’s ownership is proven, they start taking the gifts. They get a packet of bubble gums, a small figurine of themselves, a wristwatch and many other assorted gifts. Jem writes a letter to the person thanking him for the gifts. The next day, they see Mr. Radley, Boo Radley’s father sealing the tree hole with cement. They are disappointed that they can’t get any more gifts, but in time forget about it.

Meanwhile, Atticus is posted to defend innocent Tom Robinson, a black man, accused of raping a white woman, Mayella Ewell.  Atticus fights his best and proves why Tom Robinson hadn’t done it. But, Maycomb, steeped in racism, had never delivered a case in favour of the coloured and is also not prepared to do so. Tom Robinson is unfairly convicted. Atticus and Jem completely lose faith in the law of the country. But Atticus destroys Ewell’s last thread of public pride. Due to this, Ewell swears to kill Atticus. Jem, Scout and Atticus fear the attack but it does not happen for many days. Also, the town of Maycomb starts abusing Atticus as a "nigger-lover", and blames him for letting his children mix even with the coloured. They blame him for setting a bad example.

On Halloween night, sly Mr. Ewell attacks Jem and Scout in the dark while they return from a party. Jem gets badly hurt and Scout does not understand what is happening. At that point, a mysterious man saves Jem and Scout and take them home. After going home, Atticus calls the doctor to check on Jem’s broken hand. They go back to the place of attack and find Ewell dead. Meanwhile, Scout finds out that it was Boo Radley who had saved Jem and her. She immediately stops fearing Boo Radley, goes up to him and thanks him. She gets to know that it was Boo who left them all their small gifts.

Atticus is under the assumption that Jem killed Ewell, while Atticus’s friend Mr. Tate believes Boo did it. But finally, they conclude that Ewell fell on his own knife and killed himself: like what happens to those who kill a mockingbird!

Scout goes to drop Boo Radley in his place. Boo Radley goes inside his home, and that is the last time they see him. The story ends by Scout feeling bad to have not given Boo anything even after he has given them so much.

I like Dill and Scout the best. They are really charming and insane with their ideas. I love them. The best part in the book was when Scout met Boo Radley in the end. I like Boo Radley very much too. 

The book is all about respecting people because they are people and not on the basis of colour. It talks about overcoming the stereotypes and fighting the right battle. The book was really nice. I loved it.

Friday, March 25, 2016

The Lazy Girl's Guide To Being Fit

Title: The Lazy Girl’s Guide To Being Fit

Author: Namrata Purohit

Do you pick the fattest book from the library so that you can just sit and read all day? Do you feel lazy to pick up a glass of water for yourself even when you are a little thirsty? Do you look at the mirror and know that you are going a little extra in some places but just ignore them, convincing yourself that you will slim down once you start working out? And do you always resolve that you will start working out regularly from the next day onward? Well, Namrata Purohit’s ‘The Lazy Girl’s Guide To Being Fit’ basically asks you to stop thinking too much about it and rather start moving. That would show better results, really, and then you can still read your fat book!

So, what should we be doing? The first thing, the book says, is start! Dance, jump, run, kick, play, walk, squat, stretch- just do something! You won’t and can’t lose all your extra fat in a month. But you surely will- gradually. Namrata, in the book, asks us to have SMART goals: simple, measurable, achievable, reasonable and time-bound.

The book discusses various exercise routines, and also talks about a healthy balanced diet and the benefits of exercising. It talks about motivating yourself. Start, and you won’t stop, the book says. It gives tips as to how to continue some workout routine even on long holidays.  

At the end of the read our motivation is renewed. And, we decide to start our exercise regimen from the next day onward…

Oh gods, no! Let’s start today. Let’s start now!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Uncle Tom's Cabin

Title: Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Author: Harriet Beecher Stowe

Main Characters: Uncle Tom, Aunt Chloe, Eliza, Harry, George Harris, Haley, Mr. Shelby, Mrs. Shelby, George Shelby, Augustine St. Clare, Evangeline St. Clare, Marie St. Clare, Aunt Ophelia, Mammy, Topsy, Legree, Cassy, Emmeline, Madame de Thoux

Mr. Shelby, a generous Kentuckian who believes in the good treatment of his slaves and does treat them well, is forced to sell off his wife’s worthy slave girl’s son, Harry, and his most faithful pious servant Tom, fondly referred to as ‘Uncle Tom’. He signs the papers of their transfer to a man named Haley, a slave trader, with whom he had to settle debts. No amount of pleading from Mrs. Shelby could change Mr. Shelby’s decision to do so, however bitter his heart felt, as he had high debts with the cruel man which could be cleared only by complying to Haley’s demands of transfer of the beautiful Eliza’s son Harry and faithful Tom!

Eliza on overhearing the conversation between Haley and her Master Shelby, and getting to know that her only son Harry was going to be sold over to a trader and then put up in the general auctions for bidders to buy, takes extreme steps and decides to run away that same night. She writes a note  to her Mistress, Mrs. Shelby, thanking her for her generosity and stating that she was running off to save her child from inevitable cruelty. Then she picks up her dear son Harry, proceeds to Uncle Tom’s cabin, and informs him of his ill fate. Eliza offers Uncle Tom to run off with her but Uncle Tom refuses telling her that he would always be faithful to his master and would get sold if his master wanted him sold. And, so, Eliza proceeds on her journey all by herself, fueled by ‘maternal love’ and ‘wrought into a paroxysm of frenzy by the near approach of a fearful danger’.

From here, the story follows these two people separately, following two simultaneous storylines and finally threads them up together in the end.

Uncle Tom is bought by Haley and they, with several other slaves of Haley’s ‘band’, board a small ship bound to New Orleans. On the ship, Uncle Tom even wins the loyalty of a cruel man such as Haley by being faithful and religious. A beautiful little girl named Evangeline shortly called as ‘Eva’, travelling with her father Augustine St. Clare and her Aunt Ophelia, takes fancy to poor nice Uncle Tom and persuades her father to buy him. St. Clare buys Tom for a good price and takes him home. There Tom has a good time with the angel-like Eva and his lovely master St. Clare, and many years pass. The other slaves in the house are treated like masters themselves.

Meanwhile, Eliza and her little boy Harry, with the aid of many generous people along the way proceed with the aim of reaching Canada- the place where George Harris, her husband, had started running off to. She makes many good hearted friends who go to great lengths to help her get away from men who pursue her on the instructions of wicked Haley.

Coming back to Uncle Tom, a few sudden events change his fate. Evangeline dies. And a few weeks later, the poor heart broken man, St. Clare, who promised Uncle Tom his freedom, also dies in an accident. All the slaves of St. Clare are sold off in an auction. Uncle Tom is bought by a tyrant name Legree who is a plantation owner. He goes and works faithfully in the plantation. It is cruel, but Uncle Tom survives it, till one day Legree asks Tom to beat up a woman and Tom refuses to do anything that was cruel or a sin. This invokes the wrath of Legree and he beats up Tom for not obeying him. With many such instances and Tom’s complete faith in God, Legree is astonished by the determination of Uncle Tom. But this only makes Legree angrier and he resolves to change Uncle Tom and make slave not only of Tom’s body but also of his soul.

"Well, here's a pious dog, at last, let down among us sinners!—a saint, a gentleman, and no less, to talk to us sinners about our sins! Powerful holy critter, he must be! Here, you rascal, you make believe to be so pious,—didn't you never hear, out of yer Bible, 'Servants, obey yer masters'? An't I yer master? Didn't I pay down twelve hundred dollars, cash, for all there is inside yer old cussed black shell? An't yer mine, now, body and soul?" he said, giving Tom a violent kick with his heavy boot; "tell me!"
In the very depth of physical suffering, bowed by brutal oppression, this question shot a gleam of joy and triumph through Tom's soul. He suddenly stretched himself up, and, looking earnestly to heaven, while the tears and blood that flowed down his face mingled, he exclaimed,
"No! no! no! my soul an't yours, Mas'r! You haven't bought it,—ye can't buy it! It's been bought and paid for, by one that is able to keep it;—no matter, no matter, you can't harm me!"

This piece shows Uncle Tom’s unwavering faith in God which carried him through all his bitter experiences with amazing strength, and which influenced many to follow his method to retain hope and life in their melancholy heart.

Master George Shelby, who by this time had grown from a little boy to a young man, comes back in search of his loved Uncle Tom to redeem him and take him back to reunite with his wife and children in the Shelby estate. He traces all the bills of purchase of Uncle Tom and rides out to Legree’s plantation to claim back his Uncle Tom. But there, he finds Uncle Tom in a pathetic state- beaten up and in the doors of death. Uncle Tom recognizes his ‘little Master George’ and declares that he shall ‘die content now’ as he had seen and inquired about the wellness of his family. Uncle Tom rests forever. George, with a broken heart, takes the body of Uncle Tom with him and gives him a decent burial.

Meanwhile, Eliza and her child, on their way, reunite with her husband, George and they all escape, after a lot of dangerous adventures, to Canada- a free land!

George comes back to the Shelby estate and informs everyone of the sad turn of events. He prepares legal documents and frees every single slave of his estate. He vows to fight against the practice of slavery. While returning he meets two women- Cassy, a runaway from Legree’s estate, and another woman Madame de Thoux. He comes to know that Madame de Thoux is the sister of George Harris and Cassy was the mother of Eliza. He redirects them to Canada.

The story of Eliza and her Harry ends happily as they all reunite and reside in a free land as free humans. Uncle Tom’s story is sort of sad and touching! But the book tells us:
Pity him not! Such a life and death is not for pity!

I loved the book! It is such an amazing and touching book. It is simple yet strong! I loved many of those kind characters in the book and despised the cruel!

Uncle Tom’s Cabin was really nice.