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Tuesday, March 31, 2015


Movie: Hugo
Genre: Adventure, Mystery
Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Produced by: Graham King, Tim Headington, Martin Scorsese and Johnny Depp
Story by: Brian Selznick
Music by: Howard Shore

The story is set in Paris. Hugo, a young boy, lives with his father alone. His father is one of the best clock-makers. One day, Hugo’s father dies in a fire accident. Hugo has nothing left except that of a broken automaton which his father had brought from a museum. After the death of his father, he is taken off by his uncle who mends clocks in the railway station. He learns the art from his uncle. One day, the uncle goes missing. Hugo starts living in the clock-tower of the railway station, turning the clocks to keep time. He also sets about working on repairing the automaton which he believes would take him to a new “home”. To meet his needs, like food and also missing parts that need to be fit to correct the automaton, he starts stealing from the shops in the station. He steals regularly from Papa Georges' to correct the automaton. But, once, while trying to steal a toy mouse, Papa Georges catches him red-handed, and confiscates everything in his pockets. This costs Hugo his treasured notebook which has details of the automaton.

Papa Georges sees the drawings of the automaton in the book, gets shocked, and tells the boy that he is going to burn the book back home. Anxious that such a thing might happen, Hugo follows the man all the way home. He becomes the friend of a girl named Isabelle who lives with Papa Georges, and begs her to ensure that the notebook is safe.  Later, he finds out that Papa Georges is the Godfather of Isabelle. With her help, they make sure that the notebook isn't burnt. To their surprise, they find that Papa Georges has no such intention as burning it.

While roaming about, Hugo notices Isabelle wearing a chain with a heart-shaped key, which is the missing part that activates the automaton. He immediately takes her to his room in the clock-tower, shows her the broken automaton, and gets the key from her to activate it. To their absolute astonishment, it works! The automaton starts working, and draws the picture of the movie Hugo’s dad first ever saw, and also signs beneath it- Georges Méliès, who is none other than Papa Georges! Hugo believes that this drawing is a message that will take him “home”.

They immediately take it to Mama Jeanne, who asks the boy to go away. Hugo and Isabelle find out from the library of Monsieur Labisse that the film was taken by Papa Georges! They meet the author of the book, a young man named Tabard, who had written so highly about Georges Méliès, but had written that Georges had died in the war. Isabelle fights with him saying that Papa Georges was very much alive, and her guardian!

Tabard visits the house of the Méliès and replays the only film that was available out of the 500 films of Papa Georges. The children are delighted to see Mama Jeanne acting in the film. They do all these without the knowledge of Papa Georges who becomes depressed every time the past is rekindled. But, while they watch, Papa Georges sees them, and decides to go back into the past and relive it. And as he does so, he confesses about his creation of an automaton, and how he had given it to a museum. He even states that he had loved it so much, but would never see it again.

At this point, Hugo excuses himself and runs to the clock-tower room of his, to fetch the automaton that he had repaired, which he realized was created by Papa Georges.

Finally how the automaton leads Hugo Cabret to the family of Méliès, his new “home”, makes the climax of the movie.

The story wasn't fast-paced except for the climax. But, it is still a very good movie.

Especially the policeman, Monsieur Gustave, and even Isabelle, were very lively and funny characters! I liked them very much.

It is a very nice film, overall.

Monday, March 23, 2015

We Don't Understand!

It was a travel in the sea… The ship was moving.
Many people were travelling.
Some were standing in the upper deck and were enjoying the sights of the vast stretches of  the sky and the water.
Some were sitting in the lower deck and gossiping.
In between these two, was a man.
Until then, he had neither seen the sea… nor a ship.
At that time, the wind started blowing strongly.
He was filled with fear on seeing the ship sway.
He started shouting.
The co-passengers were in a dilemma.
How do they make him all right?
A doctor who was travelling came forward.
He gave a few medicines and went away.
The man ate them.
He slept off for some time.
When he woke up, he started shouting again.
Now, an old man came forward.
“I will cure him-” he said. “The disease called fear is gripping him! Call the man who is shouting!”
They brought him.
“Throw him into the sea,” he ordered. And, they did.
“Alas! I am dead!” the man in the sea cried.
“Now take him out, and bring him,” said the old man. They did so.
“Thank God! I am alive!” cried the man.
After that, he never shouted again.
He withdrew to one corner without speaking.
Everyone looked at the old man with admiration.
He said:
“Until our situation becomes worse… we really don’t think about how fortunate we already are!”

Translated by me from "Ullame Ulagam" by Thenkachi Ko Swaminathan (publishers Vanathi Pathipagam).

Sunday, March 22, 2015

What does "calculate" really mean?

We've all “calculated” a lot! But why are we “calculating”? Why use the word “calculate” to denote the action of determining quantities mathematically? Read on to find the reason.

Rewind to the days of ancient Rome. Ancient Romans had used an instrument called a “hodometer” to measure distances, while giving two-wheeled vehicles on hire. This instrument had a tin-like structure, and pebbles in a revolving metal cover. As the wheels of the vehicle turned, the metal cover revolved and making a pebble fall inside the tin. So, at the end of the journey, they count the number of pebbles to “calculate” or sum up their bill.

In Latin, the word “calculus” means pebbles, and so we get the word “calculate”!

Now, we know where the word- so very often used for all kinds of calculations from elementary math, to the vegetable vendor, to high-school mathematics, or in any other context- comes from!

Hope you enjoyed it!

Source: 30 Days To A More Powerful Vocabulary by Dr. Wilfred Funk and Norman Lewis


Saturday, March 21, 2015

Recounting Old Tales Of Mathematical Concepts

I read an article in the AMTI’s 2015 publication of ‘The Mathematics Teacher’ titled ‘Trigonometry- History and Pedagogy’ by Mr. E. Krishnan. I found two very interesting stories in it. Both in the life of Thales, the Greek scholar.

The first incident:
One day, Thales was summoned by the king, who asked him to measure the distance of the ship anchored far in the sea. Thales set about doing the job. He positioned a pole at the edge of the shore, such that it was in line with the anchored ship. Then he planted another pole at the edge of the shore such that both the poles were in a straight line.
Next, he put a third pole in the exact middle position to the first and second poles. Finally, he positioned himself in a place such that the the third pole and the ship are exactly one behind the other. So, it looked like this.

Now, the problem is solved! The ship, the first pole, and the third pole form a right angled triangle that is congruent to the the right-angled triangle formed by Thales, the second pole and the third pole. So, if he wants to know the distance of the ship in the sea, all he has to do now is measure the distance between him and the second pole! Amazing, right?

The second incident:
When Thales was experimenting, he found the height of of the Egyptian pyramid by comparing the shadows of the pyramid and his staff! Well, he used similar triangles property. But, where are the similar triangles?

He planted his staff perpendicular to the base of one side of the pyramid. Since, it is the shadow that he is comparing(from the light from the sun), it formed the same angles. So, the ratios of the shadows of the pyramid to the staff is the same as the height of the pyramid to the staff. He knew the height of the shadows, and his staff. So, boom! He got the height of the pyramid! Clever, right?

I loved these two stories. The article was very nice!

It was a good read.

(Note: The diagrams featured above are mine.)

Thursday, March 5, 2015

It Was On Fire When I Lay Down On It

Title: It Was On Fire When I Lay Down On It

Author: Robert Fulghum

“It Was On Fire When I Lay Down On It” is a collection of short writings, where Fulghum has shared his opinions and perspectives on different matters. It is witty and nice to read. It actually is a kind-of continuation of his previous book “All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten”.

The writing shows up in different forms. Sometimes, it is his personal experience and incidents, in a few others it’s like a story, some are just his opinions, and in some he just talks about what he likes and why.

Some of his writings also narrate the story of people like Rosa Parks, and John Piermont.

Among his writings the ones I liked the best are about John Piermont(he was the man who composed Jingle Bells that all of us know very well, and sing every December), Old Mr. Perry- the “driver trainer”(DT), about flight travel and business cards, Grandfathers, the Hunt Saboteur Association and about the young girl who sat on her ticket and thought it was lost!

At the end, he finishes by talking about laughter and how it helps us go forward. He talks about ‘asbestos gelos’, a greek phrase that traces back to Homer’s Iliad, where it describes the laughter of the Gods. It simply means “unquenchable laughter”. “And he who laughs, lasts,” says Fulghum in his book.

It is a wonderful read. Highly enjoyable! I am reading his “All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten”. So stay tuned for the next post!