Sparrows die everyday

It was an unusual day. A sparrow died. But there’s nothing much unusual about death. I mean, sparrows die every day. And in those multitudes, one should matter. But it did that day.

I was on my post-breakfast walk, when someone tapped my shoulder. It was a homeless looking man. His hands were cupped, as if holding something in his palms.

“Sir, please help me!” He said with begging eyes, “I found this little thing on the road.” He pointed towards a highway nearby.

I was confused, but the fog cleared as soon as he opened his palm. There was a sparrow in it. And it lay deathly still.

Just then, it opened its eyes and tried to flutter its wings. The homeless man tightened his grip a bit so that the bird would calm down.

“What happened?” I asked.

“I saw it lying down on the road, trying to fly. It was failing repeatedly. Maybe it has a broken wing, I don’t know. I picked it up, if I’d left it there, the dogs would have eaten her.”

It was when he said ‘her’, that I noticed the pale plumage. It was female sparrow. And it was hurt.

“Okay calm down. I’ll call animal rescue.” I pulled my phone out and googled for contact shelters near me. Internet was slow in the area, it was taking quite some time for the results to show up.

“Sir, can you please hold her? I have to leave right away for my shift.” The man said, holding out the bird towards me.  I took a step back. Birds disgusted me. What with their erratic flapping and all! Also they had ridiculously sharp beaks. Like someone had designed them to be a nuisance.

“No! Just keep it on the ground for god’s sake!”

“Sir, but the dogs…”

“I’ll stay here until help comes.” I reassured the man.

He then gently bent down and rested the bird onto the ground. And then he left. While I waited for the results to load, a black dog walked up to me. I shooed him away.

And then another dog showed up. He sniffed around and tried to get close to the sparrow. So I drove him away with a hit of my umbrella. And then I looked around to see if there were any other dogs around.

Speak of the devil; a couple more dogs had arrived at the scene. They were gathered with the dogs I had shooed away before. I looked at them and all of them had one thing in common. They couldn’t seem to take their eyes of the dead sparrow.

I looked at my mobile phone, the search results had finally loaded. So I dialled a local animal shelter, just a kilometre away from there. While the call connected, I checked in on the sparrow. It didn’t seem to move.

I nudged it with the tip of my umbrella – no movement what so ever. I nudged it a bit more. The little thing remained motionless. I bent down and looked at its chest, where its pea sized heart was. It had stopped going up and down. The sparrow had stopped breathing. I nudged it one final time.

This time, the body rolled over and its wings fell limp to the ground. The sparrow was dead.

“Hello, is anyone there?” A voice over the phone crackled.

“Sorry, never mind” I said, and disconnected the call.

I came back home and washed my umbrella. It had mud stains on its tip. I’d dug a hole and pushed the sparrow’s body into it. And then filled the hole with mud. This way the dogs wouldn’t disturb the little thing.

Come that day and over the course of the next week, I wrought myself over the possibilities. May be if I’d just picked it up in my hands and walked it to a vet, I would have survived? May be just if I had the god damn guts!  Or maybe not? The sparrow would have died anyway, even if I’d helped him. Because once a sparrow is touched by a human, the other sparrows kill it. Either way, the sparrow was dead. And yet, I couldn’t fathom why it wrecked my conscience.

A sparrow had died. Sparrows die every day. One small death shouldn’t matter. But it did that day. It definitely did matter that day.

Beauty is in function.

Every Time you see a perfect sunset, a clear night sky, a movie star on the red carpet or perhaps just a little butterfly browsing through a field of flowers – only one thought comes to mind .  Beautiful!

But what exactly do we mean by beauty? What is beauty defined as? and Can it be quantified? Such questions are perhaps the most basic philosophical questions. But unlike other fields, in Philosophy, the more basic the question – the more difficult it is to answer.

What is beauty?

If we really get down to the root basics, beauty can be defined as:

the presence of such characteristics in an object (living / non living) that give rise to pleasant sensations through one or more of the 5 senses.

This definition poses one more question. What are these characteristics which we deem beautiful? Is there any one basic characteristic that underlines all that is beautiful? Well there is.

What is truly beautiful?

‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’, goes an old saying. Simply said, beauty is a subjective term. What one may find beautiful, another may not. But that means that we can never arrive at a universal measure of beauty – that is independent of individual view point. Well, not exactly.

Let’s take examples of objects that we find beautiful, and study the characteristics which make them beautiful.

For example, take a beautiful flower.

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We find most flowers beautiful. And what makes them beautiful? Their petals, right! But those petals are beautiful for a reason. The bright colours help in attracting bees, which in turn helps in pollination.

So here the beautiful petals have a very important purpose – keeping the species alive!

And like we discussed in the definition, beauty doesn’t just come from bright colours. There is beauty in sound too.

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When you hear a piece of music that you find beautiful, what is it that makes it beautiful? Most of the times, you say that a piece of music is beautiful when it connects with you on an emotional or an instinctive level.

Here the music serves the function of conveying emotion. And that is what makes it beautiful to your ears.

And if you compare all such universally accepted beautiful things, they all have one characteristic in common. And that it function.

Beauty is in function

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The true measure of beauty is its ability to serve an essential function. If an object or its appearance serves no purpose, the object is in no sense beautiful.

This simple principle is the founding law of beauty in all fields such as music, photography, writing, engineering and art. And that is why, the useless and the non essential are eliminated from view, in the modern world. Because that which is non essential, is ugly. And that which is essential, is ultimately beautiful.

The Myopia Myth

Once you go glasses, you never go naked (eye) again!

For a great while, I believed if I ever started wearing spectacles, I would have to wear them all my life. At least, that was what I’d heard from people who wore glasses. So with a heavy stone over my instinct, I believed them. But here’s what my instinct told me :

The size of the lens is adjusted by muscles. And all muscles can be rehabilitated. No muscular configuration is permanent. Hence the muscles that expand or contract the lens can be brought back to the original position through exercise/therapy.

But like all instincts facing the massive general opinion, I silenced my inner voice. And from then on, I worked hard to keep my eyes healthy. I promised myself that I would never need to start wearing glasses.

So I kept my eyes healthy. I ate a lot carrots. Also, I read books instead of reading on the internet. And whenever I could, I spent a while in pitch darkness, adjusting my pupils to it. In short, I just minimized the time I exposed my eyes to artificial light. All this worked very well until college ended and I was off to get a bachelor’s degree.

This was the time when I developed a keen interest in writing. I started spending tremendous amounts of time on the computer, typing my days away. And in that authory fervour, I lost focus on keeping my eyes healthy.

And soon enough, I developed a 0.25 power in both my eyes.  And I though, my fate was practically sealed. I’d have to spend my days looking at the world through a glass wall.

Here ends the first half of the story. The second half has a beginning, which I will tell you in a minute. But the end of the second half, is something I leave to your own action and effort.

The second half began when I stumbled across a video about reversing eye defects. I found it to be quite sound and useful. I m sharing the video down below, and I urge every reader (power or no power) to watch it at least once.

 

Design for an Infinite Life

I was barely past half the day, and I was already bored. One can suffer through 5 hours of boring lectures, but never five more. But I was resigned to sit through an additional 5 hours because of low attendance. That was when the professor walked into class. With a swift motion of his hand, he wrote a few words on the board and read them aloud.

“Design for an Infinite life!”

That eerie phrase jerked me out of my slumber. The professor then went on to describe a host of technical formulas. I won’t bore you with the details. But this got me thinking.

What if we were designed for an infinite life?

To answer this question, we must first turn to the design of life itself.

Life is specific amount of energy infused into a very specific combination of matter. The energy mentioned, is obtained from the surrounding universe. Life on earth gains its ultimate energy from the sun, which in turn generates energy from a fusion reaction between hydrogen and helium atoms. These atoms are set in motion (gain energy) by the forces of nature, which in turn receive their influence from the universe, which has a finite amount of energy + matter. Since the universe possesses a finite amount of energy and matter, it doesn’t give away freely. Like a bank, the universe loans us a small portion of that energy so that we can live. And like every loan, the universe expects it to be paid back in full.

And when we die, our energy debt is repaid to the universe.

Therefore, we plainly arrive at the conclusion that …

Life is designed to be finite.

But a curious mind must venture into an impossible reality. Imagine if the Universe had an infinite supply of energy and matter. As a consequence, life wouldn’t be constrained to a finite span of time. That would mean that there could very well be immortal humans.

Let’s investigate the life of one such immortal.

An immortal would have no reason to eat, since he would never die. So we’d never know the pleasure of eating a luscious peace of steak. Or the ecstasy of fine dining. And by extension, we won’t have a mouth. Also speech would be non-existent  – Since it is just a time saving method of expression. But as we don’t need to save time in an infinite life, we wouldn’t communicate through speech. We could take the time to evolve communication through brainwaves.

Also, since no one ever dies, there would be no logical reason for sex to exist. The death of romance, seduction and other erotic pleasures would follow. Also, men wouldn’t have penises to boast of and since women wouldn’t give birth, they wouldn’t have breasts and vaginas that men adore. In fact, there would be no separate genders in an immortal human. There would be just one neutral gender. Talk about the death of one kind of chemistry!

Also in an infinite life, there would be no fear of death. And since there would be no death, there would be no ambition. And an ambition-less world would sincerely be an evolution less world. We would never evolve from single celled organisms. Or may be bunches of proteins themselves wouldn’t evolve to the single celled organism stage. Or maybe, atoms wouldn’t come together to form proteins. Or if you extend this logic to the sub atomic level, there would be no cause for subatomic particles to form atoms.

In short, the universe would just be a gigantic soup of energy flowing around aimlessly.

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Look at the image above. This is what the universe would look like if life were infinite.

Empty.

A Nobler Birth

I just celebrated my 21st birthday. That means, from now on, I am legally permitted to drink. Also, I can  legally get married now. And not to mention, that my opinions are taken seriously as an adult. But despite, all of these handsome perks, I wasn’t at all excited about my birthday. Don’t get me wrong, I tried to be excited. I even put on my smiling face for the rest of the day. But the spark just wasn’t there.

That’s when it hit me. Hit me hard.

I need something nobler to celebrate. I wasn’t interested in celebrating my own birthday because it wasn’t my achievement. My mom had put in all the effort in the process of my birth. And that is exactly why the celebration felt out of place.

So I’ve decided now. I won’t celebrate my birthday from now on. Instead, I will celebrate a more nobler event – the day I achieve my life’s calling. (Whatever that may be.)

Imagine running a race, but not having a finish line. You’ll get tired soon, and give up. But if you have a finish line, and you can see it… that changes things. Suddenly you can see your goal drawing closer with your every step. And you start to visualise reaching the finish line. A new energy surges within you, as you pace towards your goal with hope that you will reach it.

The finish line is what makes the race exciting.

Our ambitions are the driving forces behind our lives. They propel us, keep us on our toes and keep us excited about the future. And that is why, the event of achieving your life’s calling is a moment of grand celebration – it is a new birth. A nobler one.

“The Na’vi say that every person is born twice. The second time is when you earn your place among the people, forever.”

Jake sully

The Engineer’s Manifesto

Manifesto –  a published verbal declaration of the intentions, motives, or views of the issuer (individual/group/political party/government.

Engineers are a highly underrated component of modern society. And that is because not many people truly understand what engineering is about. So here is an Engineer’s manifesto, that in a concise manner, maps out the engineering philosophy.

The duties and principles of a true Engineer are laid out in the following manifesto:

  • Search for problems: The calling of an engineer is in solving the problems encountered in daily life. But not all problems are in plain sight or visibly evident. A true engineer must actively seek out new problems to solve.
  • Expectations into reality: The knowledge of theory gives us a solid base upon which to build our technology. But having a foundation doesn’t mean the building is ready. An engineer has to bridge the gap between theory and practicality.
  • Solve problems: Finding problems isn’t enough. A solution is necessary. An engineer must apply the basic sciences and devise a solution to a problem.
  • Create: Sometimes, a problem is so unique and untouched that no one ever solved it. At this juncture, the engineer must create a solution from scratch. This employs humanities most industrious personality trait – the desire to create something new. Thus an engineer must always be creative.
  • Modify: No solution is the best one. There will always be a possibility of a better solution. An engineer must recognize the potential for a better solution by looking at a previous solution.
  • Ease the efforts of life: Making human life better is the ultimate aim of all engineering practices. Above all a true engineer must aim to eliminate the pains of life.

By now, I hope that the person reading this has gained ,at least, some insight into an Engineer’s work. The luxuries that we enjoy, the free time we have, all of that is a result of Engineers all over the world, slaving their days off incessantly, to better the life of their fellow humans.

They ask not, but do deserve all the respect that we can give them. For the arsenal of a great nation wouldn’t have existed, if it wasn’t for the pen of a tinkerer.

Salute to these silent heroes!

The Ice Breaker

Just recently, a weird incident took place. A piece of ice the size of Delaware nearly broke off from the Antarctic continent. And before scientists and researchers could begin searching for possible causes, the environment patrons of the world have linked this event to climate change.

But is it fair to blame it all on climate change? Or is there another reason this happened? Let’s find out.

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Is it a plane? Is it a bird ? No! Its the fucking end of the world!

In the recent past, comparatively smaller pieces of ice have been calving off from mainland Antarctica and falling into the ocean below. The size range of these pieces is from small boulders to slabs the size of  planes. But even with such a huge size range, the origins of this effect were traced to the rising global temperatures.

Imagine an ice cube in the palm of your warm hand. It starts melting from the bottom. And it melts uniformly, as more and more of the cube is converted to liquid water. In a minute or so, you are holding a puddle of water in your hand.

But larger and denser pieces of ice don’t melt uniformly. Some sections of ice melt before the other and cracks are formed. These cracks propagate through the structure of the ice shelf. And then at the face of the shelf that meets the water, whole blocks of ice fall of into the ocean.

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But this time, the crack is more than a 100 km long. And an ice shelf the size of the state of Delaware is about to calve from the main Antarctic shelf. The mere size of the calving has induced mass hysteria among environmentalists and the general public. And the cause behind this event has given rise to a heated debate.

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But before we pin this baby on climate change, we must investigate other possible sources.

Melting due to rising temperature causes small cracks, sometimes even larger ones. Climate might have caused the 100 km long crack but that doesn’t rule out the possibility of a tectonic event affecting the propagation of the crack. May be there is some undetected or unconsidered tectonic activity which is causing a crack of this scale.

Having said that, if it is proved that the crack wasn’t in fact caused by climate change, it doesn’t imply that we’re safe. Climate change is a real and persistent threat to life on this planet. This calving is certainly  not the end of the world, but it is a hundred km long reminder that we need to care for our planet.