Monday, September 10, 2018

Rocket woman: How to cook curry and get a spacecraft into Mars orbit

By Geeta Pandey BBC World Service, Delhi

BP Dakshayani
Can you guide a spacecraft into orbit around Mars and cook for eight people morning and night? Yes, if you get up at 5am, and your name is BP Dakshayani. Here the former head of flight dynamics and space navigation for the Indian space agency explains how she did it - and the housework too.
They became known as the Rocket Women or the Women from Mars. Four years ago, the picture of a group of women in saris celebrating as an Indian spacecraft successfully entered Mars orbit shone a light on the role played by women in the country's space programme - among them BP Dakshayani.
Women at Isro celebrating the moment when Mars orbit was achieved
women at India's space agency celebrating the Mars orbit 
She led the team that kept an eye on the satellite, telling it exactly where to go, and ensuring that it did not deviate from its path.

One of her colleagues (also female) described the task as like hitting a golf ball in India and expecting it to go into a hole in Los Angeles - a hole, moreover, that was constantly moving.
It was a tough job made tougher by the responsibilities of an Indian wife. But her strength of will had become obvious many years earlier, when the girl from a "quite traditional, conservative and orthodox" family set her sights on a career in science.
As a child growing up in the 1960s in Bhadravati, a town in the southern state of Karnataka, her father had initially encouraged her interest, and it flourished. There was only one woman in the town who had studied engineering, and Dakshayani would run out to see her whenever she passed their house.

Back then educating girls was not seen as a priority and it was pretty unusual for them to go to university, but her father - an accountant with impressive maths skills - wanted her to study. So she signed up for an engineering degree and graduated top of her year.
But then a disagreement arose. Dakshayani wanted to go on to take a Master's degree. Her father, however, thought that a BSc was sufficient. In the end, Dakshayani got her way - and once again graduated with top grades.

After that she took a job in a college teaching maths, but her interest in space and satellites was deepening. One day she saw an advertisement for a job at Isro, the Indian space agency. She applied - and was hired.

It was 1984 and Dakshayani was put to work on orbital dynamics. Today she is a specialist in the area, but at the time she had to work hard to understand the basics.
She was also assigned to do computer programming, but there was a slight problem there - she had never actually seen a computer. In those days that was not really unusual. Not many people had computers and there were no smartphones or tablets. But she had books. So every day, after work, she would go home and read books on computer programming to get up to speed.
Before long, Dakshayani had other kinds of homework to do as well.
A year after she began working at Isro, her parents arranged her marriage to orthopaedic surgeon Dr Manjunath Basavalingappa - which meant that she suddenly had a household to run.
At the office, she did complex calculations and computer programming to guide satellites. At home, she looked after her large family that included her parents-in-law, her husband's five siblings and within a few years - their own two children.
"I used to get up around 5am because I had to cook for seven, eight people and it was not easy," she says." Also, our food habits are such that we need chapatis (hand-made bread) which take time to make. So I would cook for the whole family and then come to office."
Once in the office, she says, there was little time to think about home and she would just about manage to call home once in the afternoon to find out how the children were doing. In the evenings, she would get back home and start cooking again.
It was tough, she admits.
Some of her relatives assumed she would quit her job, she says, "but I am not a person who gives up easily."

"Also, my father used to say that we should try until the end. Even when it comes to technical things, if I don't understand something, I read it many times until I do."
Sometimes she would go to bed at 1am or 2am, she says, and get up again at 4am to work.

But Dakshayani is not complaining. Far from it. Her voice is full of enthusiasm as she talks about how she juggled home and work life, how much she enjoyed her work and how solving problems gave her happiness.
It must have helped that she actually enjoys cooking.
"I keep doing some small small modifications and try making new things. I say cooking is similar to coding - just as one small change in the code will result in a different number, similarly a small change in ingredients will result in a different taste," she says.
One evening, Dakshayani invites me into her home in a quiet Bangalore neighbourhood to meet her husband. As she brings out tea and delicious snacks, the couple talk about the decades they've spent together, about how they have supported each other in tough times and how their relationship and respect for each other has grown over the years.
In the initial years, Dakshayani says her husband couldn't understand what she actually did. "Sometimes I would go to work on Saturdays and he thought maybe that was because I was not doing my work properly," she says.

But gradually he came to understand that satellites dictated his wife's work schedule, and "would not come when we wanted". Today, Dr Basavalingappa says he is incredibly proud of his wife and what she has achieved by her hard work - the Mars mission, for example, and the "space recovery project" where Dakshayani calculated how to ensure that a space capsule returning to Earth would not burn up on re-entry to the Earth's atmosphere, and could be safely recovered at sea.
Asked to rate their lives with each other, Dr Basavalingappa says he would give her "10 out of 10".
Dakshayani laughs and says she will give him only 9.5. "Because you never ever found an occasion to assist me in the housework."
In a traditional Indian family set-up, women are expected to bear most of the burden - and in most homes they do it uncomplainingly. Dakshayani is no exception.

Dr Basavalingappa explains that as a doctor, his working day often stretches up to 18 hours, while his wife mostly worked office hours. Dakshayani seems satisfied with this explanation.
The home front, she says, is no longer so busy. Her son and daughter - both engineers - have grown up and moved to the US to work.

I ask her about her post-retirement plans, but it seems full retirement is not on her agenda.
She wants to continue studying Mars. She lists the differences and the tremendous similarities between Earth and the red planet.

The planet that made her an inspiration to many young Indian girls is one, she says, that she would love to live on. That really would make her the Woman from Mars.

source -

Monday, November 27, 2017


Sunday, September 6, 2015

please sign this petition

this image of a tiny baby lying lifeless on the shore is, like so many, too heartbreaking to watch. what’s really appalling is that instead of being shocked to take urgent action, our leaders are stuck in a fighting match on whose problem this is. but for the first time ever, there’s a glimmer of hope for a solution. 

after massive public calls to welcome refugees, german chancellor merkel and the president of the eu commission are leading efforts to deliver a new, strong european union plan that would give refuge to people fleeing war and hunger. france is on board, but shamefully the uk, hungary, and other eastern european countries have been blocking this emergency action. whether eu politicians lead the world to a humane 21st century refugee plan, or turn their backs, depends on how much they feel the public demands it. that’s where we come in.

right now we are at a tipping point. it’s time for us to lead our leaders. eu ministers are meeting in the next few days to set their positions, so there’s no time to lose. join the call for a plan to give these terrified families safe haven now -- avaaz will deliver our proposal to all key decision makers before their summit.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

line of control

when they knew all people wanted was to fulfill their basic desires, they created religion in hope of controlling them.

change gone wrong 2

when steve jobs wished to change the world, he never said he was going to change it for the better...


invention of land line telephone brought people together from far away even when they were physically hundreds, even thousands of miles apart. cell phone invention destroyed that by emotionally navigating people far away even when they are physically next to each other.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

g g

photographs of eyes affixed to dwellings in rio de janeiro are part of google’s street art project database. creditmosa

street art in dallas by the duo known as faile, captured by a group with street view technology.creditdallas contemporary

paris — there’s a portrait of an anonymous chinese man chiseled into a wall in shanghai, a colorful mural in atlanta and black-and-white photographs of eyes that the french artist jr affixed to the houses of a hillside favela in rio de janeiro. these are among the images of more than 4,000 works included in a vast new online gallery of street art that google is unveiling here on tuesday.
called the street art project, the database was created by the company’s paris-based google cultural institute. using images provided by cultural organizations worldwide, some of which were captured with google’s street view camera technology, it includes street art from around the globe, including work that no longer exists, like the 5pointz murals in long island city, queens, or the walls of the tour paris 13 tower in france.
with the initiative, google is the latest organization to wade into debates about how or whether to institutionalize, let alone commercialize, art that is ephemeral and often willfully created subversively. a private database of public art, it also poses questions about how to legally preserve what in some cases might be considered vandalism.
in a sense, google is formalizing what street art fans around the world already do: take pictures of city walls and distribute them on social media. yet for google to do so could raise concerns, given the criticism of its aggressive surveillance tactics, especially in europe, where its street view satellite mapping is widely seen as a violation of privacy.
google is taking pains to avoid offense by setting strict conditions. it will include only images provided by organizations that sign a contract attesting that they own the rights to them. it will not cull through street view images but will provide the technology to organizations that want to use it to record street art legally. some groups have provided exact locations of the artworks; others have not.
aiming to steer clear of one of the most contentious debates in the street art world, google says it will not include images from groups seeking to sell the art or images of it. many street artists object to their public work being sold without their permission. for instance, banksy, the anonymous british street artist, has objected to attempts to sell his artworks after they are stripped from public walls, saying the stencils belong to the community.
google also said it would remove images if artists complained to the groups that contributed them to the database.
the company sees the platform as a way of making more art available to viewers. “i’m not treating street art as anything different from what i would do with the impressionist collection i’m getting on art project,” said amit sood, director of the google cultural institute, referring to a philanthropic initiative that has provided technical support to more than 460 museums to help put their collections online.
the institute, which was founded in 2011 and has a staff of around 30 engineers, has also helped create online archives for historic figures likenelson mandela and used street view to provide multimedia renderings of unesco world heritage sites like angkor wat in cambodia.
mr. sood acknowledges that the street art program, like the cultural institute, is a way for google to generate good will in privacy-conscious europe. “it helps make people realize we are doing a lot of things that actually support the community,” he said.
the database is searchable by artist, city, genre and other categories, and even includes a special section on new york walls of the 1990s. among the 30 institutions that have furnished images so far are the museum of the city of new york; the dallas contemporary exhibition space in texas; the city speaks in atlanta, which finances street art and disseminates it online; and the museum of street art in france.
working with the french organization project tour paris 13, google filmed the rooms of tour 13 in paris, which had been entirely covered in street art, before its owners destroyed the building. google also used a powerful camera to capture works by the portuguese graffiti artist vhils, who uses an electric chisel to carve images into the sides of buildings. viewers can zoom in on the chisel marks.
shepard fairey, who is best known for his image of president obama, said he had “no problem” with being included in the database. “i’ve always used my street art to democratize art, so it would be philosophically inconsistent for me to protest art democratization through google,” he said through a publicist. and the belgian artist known as roa said he would be pleased to be part of it, “as long as they credit the mural to me, and it’s not being used for commercial purposes or corporations.”
some past attempts to institutionalize street art have not gone over so well. the police commissioner of los angeles criticized a 2011 exhibition called “art in the streets” at that city’s museum of contemporary art, arguing that it encouraged vandalism.
philippe vergne, who took over as director of the los angeles museum in january, acknowledged, “street art often comes with a bad reputation where people don’t know how to discriminate art from vandalism.” lois stavsky, who runs the nonprofit group street art nyc, said that most street artists liked the idea of enabling more people to see their work. she said she had sorted through thousands of photos taken by her group at 5pointz over the years and painstakingly uploaded hundreds to the google platform. the owners of the building painted over the art last fall and plan to demolish it to make way for luxury condos.
“the fact that 5pointz was whitewashed, it was covered up with white paint, just proves how important it is to document this,” she said.
the google street art platform is to be presented at a news conference at the palais de tokyo, a contemporary art space owned partly by the city of paris, which is opening an exhibition on saturday called “the lasco project,” a play on words referring to the prehistoric art painted in the caves of lascaux. street artists have been invited to create works on the museum’s basement walls.
on a recent afternoon, the new york street artist futura was wearing yellow rubber gloves as he spray-painted black dots on a striped wall for the paris exhibition.
the artist, 58, said he liked the idea of google’s street art project, given that he and other artists mostly learn about one another’s work online anyway. “instagram accounts — most artists are there,” he said.