1.4 billion people in the world (20% of the total population) have no access to electricity. Of these, 300 million live in India (25% of India’s population). These figures are truly alarming. The only feasible answer to the growing energy crisis is Nuclear Power.
How Nuclear Power Compares:
Despite popular misconception, coal and nuclear have almost the same production costs. Both the alternative energy sources: Solar and Wind have huge production costs. This is largely because of large Construction expenses. Natural gas suffers mainly from high fuel cost. At present solar and wind power’s huge cost rule them out. Solar and wind also require relatively huge tracts of land which would further amplify costs. Lack of sufficient indigenous natural gas deposits puts it out of the question.
This leaves three candidates: Nuclear, Hydro and Thermal.
Thermal vs. Nuclear
Currently Thermal power amounts for 52% of India’s power generation. This is a lot of better than China and Australia’s 75%. Unlike Thermal, nuclear does not directly release CO2 or greenhouse gases into the air. The only pollutant released by Nuclear Power is Steam. Thus, is no way does nuclear energy contribute to Global Warming.
An astonishing statistical survey established that for every 1 person who dies from the effects of nuclear energy, 4000 people die from the effects of coal. Further, this survey does not take into account the number of people who die from the resultant climate change due to Thermal power (remember the number of people who die due to heat-strokes in Nagpur?)
Like coal, India also has large reserves of nuclear fuels such as Thorium. Studies by IAEA and OECD have concluded that India may potentially have a lion’s share in world thorium deposits. Recently, large deposits of Uranium which promise to be among the world’s top 20 were found in the Andhra Pradesh region. This could reduce our dependence on imports as in the case of Oil and Wind Turbines.
Nuclear vs. Hydro-Electricity:
Perhaps nuclear energy’s most potent competitor is Hydro-Electricity. Hydro-Electricity has the least production costs of all sources. Hydro electricity depends on two factors:
Hydro-electricity is strictly limited by the rivers and their course. Secondly by rainfall. Most of India receives highly seasonal rainfall. Lately rainfall has become highly unpredictable. Rivers run dry by March while there are flash floods in July. This limits Hydro-Electricity generation to few monsoon months especially in Southern India. This is one of the primary reasons for the perpetual electricity shortage in Maharashtra. In the north, where rivers are glacier fed, the prospects for Hydr0-Electricity are better.
Although Hydro-Electricity does not directly release any pollutants or toxins it has numerous indirect effects on the environment and the population. Tens of thousands of people are displaced by Hydro-Electricity projects. Knowing our government, most of these people are still to be properly rehabilitated.
The effects on wildlife and forests are equally gruesome. Large areas of forests are submerged by dams. Several endangered species are put to further risk. Construction of the Three Gorges Dam in China reduced the forested area by one half.
The carbon offsets caused by these indirect effects of Hydro-Electricity and the damage to bio-diversity count against it.
Dangers of Nuclear Energy:
Our fear of using nuclear energy is blown way out of proportion. The only major nuclear disasters have been Chernobyl and Fukushima that together killed about 5,000 including cancer deaths. The latter did quite a lot of environmental damage but did not claim a lot of lives. Compare this to the 26,000 lives claimed by the Banqiao Dam collapse and more about 10,000 killed by numerous coal-mining disasters around the world. The Coal-Smog of London killed 2,200 people.
Furthermore, nuclear accidents are extremely rare due to relatively high safety standards of the industry. Fukushima was an unfortunate combination of a strong tsunami (very rare) and a coastal power plant.
Bottom Line: Until solar and wind energy get cheaper and more efficient, Nuclear Energy is our best bet for the present crisis.
In the past few months, I have been aghast to see the direction in which democracy in India appears to be heading. Almost 65 years after the dawn of independence, Indians still have’nt fully realized the fact that their both democratic and sovereign. We still consider our democratically elected governments as our sworn enemies. Every problem in the country is the government’s and only the government’s fault. The solution to every problem, is mass protests and non-cooperation. True, protests and freedom of speech are important parts of democracy; but they are certainly not the only parts. Nation-building involves much more then screaming out in the streets. We love to have quick, easy solutions to every problem. Corruption for instance cannot be resolved by merely spending a few days fasting and forcing bills. Ultimately, the Government is an image of the people. If the government is corrupt we must first look into ourselves. Indians seem to glorify rule breaking. Not following traffic rules is a habit, evading the police an achievement, littering the streets is second nature. Small surprise that our government is what it is.
Our problems won’t be solved by simply protesting but by changing ourselves from within. However we choose the quick, glorified former path over the slower and more difficult second path.
Freedom of Speech:
“What is freedom of speech if not the freedom to offend?”-Salman Rushdie.
What alarms me most lately is the decline of the critical Freedom of Speech. India poorly understands the meaning of this right. Freedom of Speech means your allowed to say just about anything that comes to your mind so long as its not libel/slander/incitement to crime. Various religious and political groups are under the impression that they are in some way immune from being spoken against. The government’s drive to prosecute Google and Facebook because they contain data that insults the them (the government) is ridiculous.
Radical Right-Wing parties seem to find it fit to attack immigrants and threaten. Denying Salman Rushdie security and safety in India when he was’nt even going to talk about his controversial book was a disgrace to Free Speech.
The release of movies are threatened with violence while law enforcement bodies remain passive. Books are censored while Internet is currently under screening.
I was aghast this morning when i heard the ministers of Karnataka accused of viewing pornography in the House saw fit to shut off power supply and create a news blackout in their constituencies to prevent news of their disgrace from spreading. I was even more aghast when I saw that the media put this bit of information in so little light and lie dormant to such a clear violation of our most basic fundamental right.
The Indian legislature is in a poor state of affairs. This winter session of the Houses did almost nothing useful due to constant deadlocks and disciplinary breakdowns. The fundamental guiding principal of Indian politics seems to be “Either you get what you want; or you don’t let others from getting what they want. ” Watch a session of the House of Representatives or the House of Commons and then a session of the Lok Sabha and you see a huge difference. In the former you see a calm, controlled discussion/debate, while in the latter you generally see constant shouting, banging and angry debating. In a democracy, if the desire of the majority is against your desire, then you ultimately have to accept it. You cannot have everything you want nor can everyone have what they want.
Fall of Secularism:
India is supposed to be a completely secular country. Yet 65 years after independence, we still see reservations and so called ‘backward classes’. The concept of reservations is fundamentally flawed. Every country has its own minorities and ethnic groups. If these groups are backward, then the obvious thing to do is create specific development programs for those groups. Providing education and financial support to these communities may help.
Elections are supposed to weed out all the inept people and thus allow only the very best of people to make it to the upper levels of administration. Reservations allows otherwise inept people to enter the system. It undermines the whole purpose of entrance examinations and elections.
Take for instance the introduction of 33% reservation for women in the House. What difference does this make to the woman who is a victim of domestic violence and/or economic poverty?
What difference does it make to the poor, uneducated children in the slums whether universities offer 5% or 10% reservations for OBC.
The only people who benefit from reservations are those who don’t need the help. Moreover, deciding who needs special help and reservations based on caste is ridiculous as the caste system is all but extinct. There are those in the depressed classes who are quite well-off and those in the so-called upper castes who are struggling in poverty.
Its time we woke up to where our “Democracy” is truly heading and work hard to put it back on course.
This Christmas, I was gifted the Amazon Kindle 3(the latest!!). The Kindle, in every way, is the iPod of books. Amazon recently reduced the Kindle’s to a significantly low $139(almost half the price of its predecessor). The Kindle 3 is not only cheaper then Kindle 2 but its even better. Kindle is not only a book-reader but also a music player, web browser, audio reader etc.
Reading on the Kindle is just as comfortable (if not more) as reading a normal book. The Kindle is thinner than the average book and far lighter. You don’t need to hold it apart like a book (and some of those tiny books have a really horrible binding which keeps snapping close!) which reduces hand strain for long reading. The size of the screen is about the size of a normal book’s page. The page-turning buttons are located on both sides of the device which is good if your a left-hander. You can adjust the font size from a wide selection of sizes(brilliant for those with weaker eyes) and best of all is the Text-to-Speech(If only every blind fellow had a Kindle; No more Braille).
The most amazing thing about the Kindle is the E-Ink technology. The E-Ink looks astonishingly like real paper. Best of all the E-Ink display does not require a back light like computer screens so you have no eye-strain. Just like reading real book. The e-ink screen does not require any power to maintain a particular screen hence the Kindle gets something like a 1 month battery life(I usually get around 3 weeks with some music and occasion wi-fi).
The Kindle has about 3 GB of memory available to the user. The average E-book is about 200 KB is size. So that’s space for 15,000 books (I dont think ill run out of it!). No more book stacks, no more messy cupboards. Best of all you don’t need to worry about which books to carry on a holiday; just take them all!
Music, Browsing etc
Along with reading books, the Kindle can also double up as a web browser and music player. Its far easier to browse on the Kindle than on PDAs and smart-phones. However a slow-refreshing screen and no colour makes browsing a little boring and dull. Wi-fi also uses battery pretty fast. Kindle is a pretty good music player and can play music while reading. However it can only play MP3 files. You can also plug-in a headphone.
At $139 the Kindle is just amazing. This device is the future of reading. There are thousands of classic books(pre 1913) that are free to download and this includes some of those great novels like Pride and Prejudice, Jules Verne’s, Mark Twain’s etc. It would be great if every kid in the world had a Kindle (do we need something like OLPC here?)!
For More info on Kindle:
Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kindle
Google, in the past 2 years, has released several new software (and hardware) and has greatly expanded its business. From being a small search-engine company, Google has now expanded into multiple markets. Here’s a list of Google’s latest products and how good they were:
Overview: Based on the Linux platform. Minimalistic UI.Specially designed for those who use the computer purely for browsing/email.
Last year, Google announced that it was developing a Chrome-Browser based, Linux operating system. The OS will have all the applications necessary for those who live the mobile life, and use their computer for nothing more than browsing/e-mail. The OS is designed to look like a large Google Chrome browser. The Chrome OS is going to be completely open-source and is likely to provide stiff competition to Ubuntu: Netbook Remix and other Netbook OSs. However, the capacities of the Chrome OS is highly limited and the ability to install new software is limited.
Overview: Easy integration with Gmail. Good for people who want a little more private environment than Twitter.
With Twitter gaining increasing popularity in the tech-world, Google released Buzz, designed to compete with both Twitter and Facebook. One of the best features of Buzz is its integration with Gmail, and no word limit, for those who want to express themselves in a little more than 140 words but not write a whole blog. It also requires no special signup. Its easy accessibility and a more private structure encouraged many who had avoided Twitter to join Buzz. However, Google faced huge criticism over Buzz violating Privacy and this has given Buzz a bad kickstart.
Overview: Very useful for those with expensive broadband access or those with slow connections. Open Source.
Google Gears is a software which will store website data of websites such as Youtube, Gmail, Docs etc. allowing offline access to such websites. Gears also speeds up website loading. Thus, you can write documents, mails and soon offline and go online only to upload thereby saving time and huge amounts of money in areas where Internet is expensive. However Google has shut down all support for Gears, but independent developers still develop apps for various websites to use Gears.
Google Nexus One:
Overview: Hardware keyboard is a boon. Thinner than iPhone. Android OS is better than iPhone’s OS.
This is Google’s first and only expedition into the hardware market. When announced, the ambitious 3-G phone hoping to become a competitor for iPhone, was met with considerable surprise from most people. The Nexus One fetched a reasonable amount of orders on its release. Assuming Google’s zero-experience in the hardware sector, the Necus One was quite a good product. The presence of a hardware keyboard was a huge benefit to those who used smart-phones for e-mail and browsing. However, the Nexus One lacked Apple’s huge number of apps. There were also reports of problems with the 3G and Nexus was much more pricier than iPhone. However, it is a good start for Google.
Overview: Over-hyped. Few uses and not-so-great interface.
When Google announced limited preview of the Wave in September 2009, people almost went mad to get their invites. So popular Wave was, that invites were even being sold on E-bay. However, no sooner had people obtained their invite and checked out Wave, than they realized there was nothing great about it at all. Even after watching Dr.Wave’s brief demo of using Wave, many still could’nt figure how to use Wave or why they’d even need it. For some though, Wave has proven to be a useful tool. However its complex interface has lost it many customers.
Overview: A very good piece of software. Defies Firefox and Safari in most speed and capabilities tests.
In September 2008, Google released its browser Chrome. Within a few months, Chrome had raced to the third place in the most used browsers surpassing Safari and Opera, and holding a 6% market share. Chrome’s overall user-interface and design is pretty good. Chrome also, comes with very decent security features that are far better than those of IE, Safari and Opera and compete with those of Firefox. Since it’s release, a lot of add-ons and themes have been developed for it making it highly customizable like Firefox. Chrome’s market share is growing fast and poses a great threat to Firefox, IE and other market leaders.
For years, independent software developers have had little perspective of developing successful softwares as big time companies and their marketing were do big to compete with. Because of this, software developers could little but work for big-time companies with a limited view for expanding further.
The introduction of the iPod and iPad and the iTunes store where any person can freely develop any software and can sell it, has become not only a way for developers to make extra money but for some, a full-time profession.
Ethan Nicholas: The biggest success story of app-development
Ethan Nicholas, the head of a one-man developing company is one of the best examples of the boon app-development has proved to developers.
Nicholas, before his success was a small-time developer with financial problems. It was in his Christmas break that he took up developing an iPhone game called “iShoot” . After its release the game did not become very popular. To promote his game, Nicholas released a Lite(demo) version of the game. The minute he did, there were thousands of downloads of the Lite game. This culminated to a large number of purchases of the full version. In a month, the app had risen to the top ten apps of iTunes which meant sales of over 10,000 copies of the game in a single day. Thus Nicholas had risen from a small-timer to a sub-millionaire.
Nicholas’ success is not only an example of how much software developers have gained from App development, but also the right way to promote games and software.
The total sales of iPhone apps has totaled to a huge $25 billion showing the huge popularity of apps with both people and Developers.
Today Apple releases its much-anticipated “iPad”. The iPad has been received by both praises and criticism by the media so far. The fact that it offers tablet computer like features for such a low price is indeed wonderful. It also comes with a huge array of capabilities and can serve a lot of purposes; E-book, internet, e-mail, photos, videos, maps, music all in one place. It’s thin size also makes it simple to carry in place of a netbook.
Thin, light, portable and with a touch screen. The iPad is likely to replace netbooks as the ‘on-the-go’ computer. The 10 hour battery life can also come in very useful. It costs only a few more dollars than the Amazon Kindle DX($479.99) and with the Kindle App, can serve as an excellent replacement for the expensive Kindle. The iPad comes with a 1 GHz processor which would more than suffice for ‘on-the-go’ tasks. The iPad will integrate iPod and a Mac into a single device enabling you to both watch movies without straining your eyes as well as do computer-level tasks with ease. It is competitively priced for the features it offers and may become a replacement for netbooks. iPad also comes with a 3G model which could be the ultimate smartphone killer. However this feature is pretty expensive(a $130 premium over the non-3G model)
The biggest disadvantage of the iPad is that its software is rigidly controlled by Apple. Thus you can’t install any of your programs other than apps from iTunes store. This greatly limits the iPad’s capacities. Also the battery is irreplaceable and you will be forced to dispose your iPad after its battery life cycles are over. The iPad also is unable to render Adobe Flash graphics thereby limiting the web. It also does not come with a webcam or microphone which will mean no video-audio chatting! Worst of all, no USB or FireWire ports so you can’t even hook your own devices and file transfer will depend solely on SD cards which is sad indeed. The iPad’s low end model has just 16 GB Flash memory which is nothing compared to todays netbooks. Even the top models have just 64 GB of memory at the most.
Who will be affected:
Amazon Kindle DX: The Amazon Kindle DX may very well suffer a death-blow in sales after the iPad releases. Since the Kindle DX is prices at $479 which is just $20 less than the iPad (which offers Kindle’s functionality plus a lot more) few would be eager to buy it.
Hi-Fi Smartphone: iPhone and Blackberry’s smartphones are likely to suffer a setback as the iPad would serve most of their features(including 3G) and people would thus want just an ordinary phone rather than a smartphone when they have an iPad.
Netbooks: Although netbooks come with better processors and memory and RAM, most people would gladly exchange that for the iPad’s touch screen and better portablility and style. However if you want more functionality, you will still need to have a netbook/notebook.
Disclaimer: This review is based purely on personal opinion. If you do not agree, I’m sorry for wasting your time.
20 years ago, George Lucas released his super hit, groundbreaking movie,” Star Wars”. At that time, creating something even half as good as Star Wars was considered next to impossible. However, Lucas breaking all barriers, created something that was truly fantastic and worth appreciation.
Avatar had great special effects, but that was quite, the only thing it had. The 3-D was good but nothing great. The plot of Avatar was definitely not original, rather, it was a complete copy of Disney’s Poccahontas. Compared to Star Wars and other major hits, Avatar’s technology, effects etc were not that ahead of time or something that may revolutionalize the movie world (There was the 3-D which was good, but note that 3-D movies had been made long before Avatar, and Avatar’s 3-D technology is quite like them)
Avatar is good, but it nothing groundbreaking. Whatever it deserves it certainly does not deserve the huge hype. Avatar has ended up like the average hit blockbuster, but failed to kick off a revolution. After watching movies such as Star Wars, people came out of the theaters saying “Impossible made possible”, “This is gonna change the cinema world forever” and so on. Well in the case of Avatar, hardly 10% of the people said so.