R Venkataramanan

R Venkataramanan

R Venkat's Blog

R Venkat's Blog
"To be an Inspiring Teacher,one should be a Disciplined Student throughout Life" - Venkataramanan Ramasethu



Friday, May 29, 2009

Scientists launch first global study on ocean plants

Scientists have launched a first global study on the health and productivity of ocean plants using a unique signal from the US space agency NASA's Aqua satellite.

Ocean scientists can now remotely measure the amount of fluorescent red light emitted by phytoplankton and assess how efficiently these microscopic plants turn sunlight and nutrients into food through photosynthesis. They can also study how changes in the global environment alter these processes at the centre of the ocean food web.

Using the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA's Aqua satellite, scientists have now observed 'red-light fluorescence' over the open ocean. MODIS is the first instrument to observe this signal on a global scale.

All plants absorb energy from the sun, typically more than they can consume through photosynthesis. A small fraction of this extra energy is re-emitted as fluorescent light in red wavelengths.

'The amount of fluorescent light emitted is not constant; it changes with the health of the plant life in the ocean,' said Michael Behrenfeld, a biologist who specialises in marine plants at Oregon State University.

'This is the first direct measurement of the health of the phytoplankton in the ocean,' said Behrenfeld. 'We have an important new tool for observing changes in phytoplankton every week, all over the planet.'

Single-celled phytoplankton fuels nearly all ocean ecosystems, serving as the most basic food source for marine animals. Phytoplankton accounts for half of all photosynthetic activity on Earth and play a key role in the balance of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

The health of these marine plants affects the amount of carbon dioxide the ocean can absorb from the atmosphere and how the ocean responds to a changing climate.

Scientists previously used satellite sensors to track the amount of plant life in the ocean by measuring the amount and distribution of chlorophyll.

'Chlorophyll gives us a picture of how much phytoplankton is present,' said researcher Scott Doney, a marine chemist from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. 'Fluorescence provides insight into how well they are functioning in the ecosystem.'

The findings were published in the May edition of the journal Biogeosciences.

Monday, May 25, 2009

"Babloo goes for an eye test" Public education material

"Babloo goes for an eye test" booklet for children, parents and teachers
is the ideal public-education material for optometrists' reception areas.

For details on how to grab the widely-acclaimed illustrated
publication at discount, contact: Eye Care India
<OptometryToday@ gmail.com>

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Satyajit Ray is the most acknowledged Indian name in international film and is one of the greatest film makers of all time. Most of his films were made in Bengali, but the universal humanitarian appeal of his movies influenced cinegoers through out the world.

Ray was born on the 2nd May of 1921 in a distinguished Bengali family of north Calcutta. His grandfather Upendrakishore Roychoudhury was a renowned children's story writer. Upendrakishore was a friend of Rabindranath Tagore and once introduced Ray to Tagore in his childhood. His father Sukumar Roy(1887-1923) was a legendary Bengali writer, poet and a celebrated cultural figure. Satyajit Ray's nickname was Manik and was known to many others by this name. Their family was used to run a printing and publishing business under the name of U. Ray & Sons in Garpar, a place in north Calcutta. Ray lost his father at the age of three when Sukumar Ray died from a dreadful disease called Kwalajwar.

At the age of six, their family business did wind up and he moved to Bhawanipore in South Calcutta with his mother Suprava Devi. Ray did his schooling at Ballygunge Government High School. In 1936, he got admitted into Presidency College and in 1939 graduated with Economics as major. He later regretted that this subject was not his cup of tea. He had great passion for music and art. After graduating from Presidency College, he went to Shantiniketan, the open air University founded by Rabindranath Tagore and started practicing art under Nandalal Bose. In 1941, upon hearing the news of Tagore's death, he came to Calcutta bare footed to pay homage to Tagore.

Ray came back to Calcutta in 1942. In 1943, he took his first job as Assistant Art Visualizer at D.J.Keymers, an advertising agency. When D.K. Gupta started Signet Press for publishing and promoting Bengali books, he picked Ray for designing cover pages of the books published from his press. Ray laid out the design for the cover page of Bibhutibhusan Banerjee's novel "Aam Aantir Bhnepu", which he later converted to the famous film "Pather Panchali"(The Song of the Little Road).

Ray was used to watch films regularly and in 1947, he and his friends formed a club - The Calcutta Film Society. In 1949 famous French film director Jean Renoir came to Calcutta in search for locations for his new film "The River". Ray assisted him and Renoir became his mentor. This was the first time when Ray could watch a famous film director from close. His employer sent him for summer training to London in 1950. During his stay there, Ray watched about 100 films in a span of about six months. Probably this was the time when he decided to make films. While coming back to Calcutta by sea, he completed a rough script for the movie "Pather Panchali".

Ray bought the film rights of this novel from Bibhutibhsan's widow. He formed a team with his friends to shoot the film. The team included Bansi Chandra Gupta who was a production designer and also worked as art director in Renoir's "The River". Ray requested Ravi Shankar to compose the background music for this film. They started looking for producers with a budget of seventy thousand rupees. But no one was interested. In 1952, Ray used his savings, took loan from his friends and managed to gather around fifteen thousand rupees and started shooting in Gopalnagar, Bibhutibhsan's native village. His crew was full of first timers and no stars. He had to shoot only in Sundays and holidays to keep his regular job. Shooting schedule discontinued whenever money got exhausted. In 1953, he started shooting in a village named Boral, near the southern outskirt of the city. To keep up the cost, his wife's jewelry was pawned; some of his music records and books were sold. He started showing prospective producers the portion of the film he was able to shoot so far. At last, Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy, a famous doctor and then Chief Minister of West Bengal, came for a rescue. He saw the portion of the film and managed to get some fund from a State Community Development Project.

In 1954, a Hollywood film director came to Calcutta to select a location for his upcoming film. He saw the unfinished version of the film and was deeply impressed. He requested Ray to send the film to New York for a premiere. The film was shown in New York. After couple of months the film was released in Calcutta. Initially it failed to draw any attention. But slowly the news about the movie started spreading and people got interested. Prime Minister Nehru viewed the movie in Calcutta and arranged all clearance from Govt. for this movie to be shown elsewhere. The movie went to the prestigious Cannes Film festival and won "The Best Human Document" award. Lots of national and international awards and recognitions were showered upon this film. The film became one of the finest films ever made in the world. This film brought Indian cinema in international limelight. After this, Ray made two films based on the rest of the original story - Aparajito (The Unvanquished) and Apur Sansar (The World of Apu). These three films together is well known as 'Apu Trilogy'.

Ray started making films based on a wide range of ideas. Devi (The Goddess) was not just a film, it was a piece of social work, shaking the truth under prejudices and believes. His first work on color film was Kanchenjangha based on his own story in 1962. His first film on Tagore's work was - Teen Kanya (Three Daughters), based on three short stories of Tagore. His first film for children was Goopi Gayen Bagha Bayen in 1968. Later he converted some of his own popular stories into movies. He made three films based on urban Calcutta life - Pratidwandi, Jana Aranya and Simabaddha. He was a fine music composer and composed scores for most of his films. His first film in Hindi was - Satranj ki Khiladi. In 1978, Berlin Film Festival ranked him as one of the three all time greatest directors in the world.

He was a prolific writer and his literary skill created two of the ever popular characters of Bengali literature - Feluda and Professor Shanku. He wrote around 25 story books, articles and book on film making. Ray received many awards through out his life. Some of them are: Bharatratna - the highest civilian award from India, Lègion d'Honneur from France, Academy Award (Oscar) for Lifetime Achievement in World Cinema.

Ray fell sick due to heart trouble and could not shoot film. In 1989 he again came back to filming but started shooting indoor only. He made three movies during this time - Ganashatru, Sakha Prosakha and Aguntuk. Satyajit Ray died on April 23, 1992. He was survived by his son Sandip, wife Bijaya, daughter-in-law and grand son Sauarajit.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Paint Day

They're so young. They're so young. I feel like my life has passed me by.

And they're happy. Not a care in the world. I haven't smiled like that for so long. They aren't posing for the photograph, those aren't fake smiles, they're smiling because they're having the time of their lives.

Well, they are posing, of course. Their smiles are real, but their pose is far from effortless. How long did they manage to stay like that for? Did they plan it or was it a spur of the moment thing?

It's a ridiculous photograph, really. There's six of them, four girls and two guys, all covered in paint. None of them older than twenty-one. They're on their hands and knees in a pyramid, three on the floor, two on top of them, and one brave girl on top.

They're naked, as far as I can tell. Almost every inch of them is covered in splashes of blue, red and yellow. How liberating, to walk around wearing nothing but paint.

It looks slippery - but it can't be too slippery or the pyramid would have been impossible. I suppose the paint is drier than it looks. Cracking on their skin.

I can feel it for a moment. My imagination is consumed by this photograph and I can feel it. The paint, wet and dry, cold and warm on my skin. The sound of laughter, a shriek as the pyramid wavers. The bitter taste of blue paint on my lips. The weight of a friend on my back.

The wonderful lightness of a friend on my back.

What happiness this photograph represents! What privilege! The harshness of life ends within the boundaries of this picture. It contains a perfect little world, full of trusted friends and time to spare.

Out here, there are bills to pay, overtime hours to work, films of starving children on TV. But in this photograph there is only the moment.

I try to put the photograph away, but as soon as it leaves my line of sight I miss it. I long for it. I feel like Dorian Gray, my soul bleeding away into this picture.

In the background of the photograph, I can see colourful blocks of paper stuck to the wall, decorated with body prints. I close my eyes and imagine pressing myself against the paper, leaving behind a bright red handprint. Spreading paint onto the sole of my foot to create a footprint. Trying a cheek, a thigh, a breast.

The thrill of experimentation, the childlike wonder of play, fills me to the brim until I have to laugh to let it out. My laugh echoes in this empty room and I remember that I'm not in the photograph. I'm in my living room. My only company is a widescreen TV. My only escape is the books on my shelves. My only comfort is this faded three piece suite.

What convention is it - what conspiracy! - that says as grown-ups we must buy our fun in pre-fabricated packages? Sure, we are permitted a moment of abandon on a designated paintball field - or go-kart track, or fairground ride - but not without safety briefings, security deposits and would you like Coke with that?

How envious I am! How I wish I could call my friends and invite them to a paint day! But they wouldn't be able to find a babysitter, they couldn't take the time off work�

My friends are so scattered now, so displaced. Each of us has gone away to find ourselves, then found that there was nowhere to come back to when we were done. No community anymore. The nearest person I would call a friend lives miles away.

And even if I could bring them all together again, it wouldn't work. We'd be worried about the effect the paint on our skin, we'd feel awkward about undressing, we'd be loath to mark the walls.

It is sad that the people in this photograph are strangers to me now. I used to know them so well. It's sad that my memory of this moment has shrunk into the bounds of this photograph.

I took this picture. I was behind the camera, leaving yellow fingerprints on the mechanism, laughing as the pyramid swayed. Those were happy times. We were so young.

Are the best years of my life behind me? Is it all a struggle from here on in? It pains me to admit it, but I cannot picture ever again being as happy as I was when I took that photograph.

I cannot picture ever again being as happy. That thought makes me want to cry. It makes we want to run away. It makes me want to tear myself apart. Is this it?

How do I come out the other side? How do I reach happiness again? It seems so impossible. Is this why people have children, to distract themselves from how hollow their lives have become? Is this why people turn to religion?

The more I think about it, the more the whole world seems like a distraction. A veil of meaningless activity to hide the emptiness. Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

I would trade the rest of my years to be within this photograph again. Where is my Faustian devil? Where is the genie that will grant me my wish? I can't achieve it alone.

Or is this just a phase, a kind of adult adolescence - a puberty of the mind? Am I merely suffering an adjustment from one kind of happiness to another?

Maybe it's wrong to lament. Maybe by mourning the death of my past I'm constricting my future. Perhaps the only thing to do is to accept this universal human challenge, and fight it with all my soul. Imagine a better future and rage against my limitations until it is achieved.

Even thinking about it tires me. I had so much more energy back then.

It's too daunting, too difficult. I need something smaller. Something easy to get me started. Happiness seems too far away - I need to start with just one step.

I haven't spoken to these friends in ages. Maybe that's the first step. I'll invite them for a reunion. No paint this time, we've grown up. A chance to reminisce, to get it out of our systems; and to rebuild our friendships, to reframe them.

But I don't have all of their contact details anymore. They will have new addresses, new phone numbers. I'd hate to send an email and never get a reply. How would I track them down? What would I say? They'd think I was pathetic, desperate. They'd prefer to spend time with their new friends.

No. I mustn't get caught in this downward spiral. A small step. Even smaller than that.

One friend. I need to call just one friend. I'll invite them round, or go and see them. We can reminisce together, and talk about maybe organising a reunion.

I have a phone number. It's not too late to call. If they don't answer, I'll leave a message. I can arrange to see them this weekend. It's a start.

I pick up the phone. I can still see the photograph in the corner of my eye.

The Lives of Others

I saw this film for the second time today, and I think I appreciated it even more than before. It portrays a sense of claustrophobia and paranoia, corruption and injustice, with perfectly judged subtlety. An absolute triumph for Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's directorial debut. Bittersweet and moving.

The story is set in East Germany in (appropriately) 1984. Captain Wiesler, an agent of the secret police, conducts surveillance on a writer and his lover and gradually finds himself becoming absorbed by their lives.

The actor playing Captain Wiesler, Ulrich Mühe (who sadly died shortly after the film was released), was once the subject of Stasi surveillance himself, and his story mirrors that of the film to an eerie degree. While the film itself is fictional, it is real enough to make you think.

I watched it today with my Film Club at work, and one of my colleagues was particularly affected by it. She lived in Iran before the 1978 revolution, and she remembers the feeling of constantly being watched and judged. She remembers having to whisper in her own home if she wanted to say something that might be interpreted as subversive. She remembers finding forbidden material (a book in English, a countrywide rail map) that someone must have dropped because they thought they were being followed - or perhaps an unfriendly neighbour left it there to frame her family?

I wonder what I would do if I found myself trapped in a society in which I could get arrested merely for owning a book.

Much more worryingly, I wonder if I already live in that society?

Since the various Terrorism Acts in the UK, it is now illegal for me to photograph a policeman. I can be detained for 28 days without charge - indefinitely if I was a foreigner (which, with dual nationality, arguably I am).

And I'm constantly being tracked by five million CCTV cameras, credit card transactions, my Oyster card, NHS patient records, mobile phone triangulation, licence plate recognition cameras, shop RFID tags, Internet cookies, Google, Facebook, and no doubt lots else. (Wow, looking up all those references has made me even more paranoid.)

Yes. Makes you think.

Journal of Vision - Volume 9, Number 4 http://journalofvision.org/9/4/

Check out the link below,