Category Archives for "Everything else"

The illusive Space-Time: How large is the Universe?


Spacetime fabric

Spacetime fabric (Image Courtesy Wikipedia)

No matter how hard I think, I can’t even come close to visualizing space time. And I am sure not even Einstein could , though he was the one who came up with the counter-intuitive and bold concept of time dilation. While the maths is absolutely spot-on and it has lived up almost a century now, describing the world at an macro scale scale (yes, the quantum world has got a different set of maths), I am sure it would take us ages to be able to engulf it (but if Darwin was correct, we would ultimately “evolve” to be able to visualize it, provided we survive long enough).

Anyways, to cut it down, I somewhere read that the diameter of the observable universe is about 97 billion light years, i.e. it is about 48.5 billion light years radially.  How can that be? If nothing can travel faster than light, and the age of the universe is about 13.7 billion years (that is when the big bang happened) how could there be anything visible beyond 13.7 billion light years? This question (and a 100s of others) pop-up every now and then to me. I am lazy enough to sit on them for quite some time until it starts disturbing me. And this one did! And it took just about 10 minutes to get the answer (or rather explanation). So the idea is that the space itself can expand. I knew space could bend, but now I know it can expand as well. Well, even if the space expanded at the speed of light, the radius of the universe should have been about 27.4 billion light years. But that is not the case. The answer to this is that space did not respect Albert Einstein and it decided to expand faster than the speed of light! Wow, isn’t that really cool? With this, even if someone says that the universe is a billion billion quadrillion light years in the diameter, you can’t question that, could you? I noticed that there is already the notion of *observable* universe. There are things beyond that, which we can’t see.

Could the mysterious and illusive dark matter, which is yet to be understood throw some light on it? To me space itself  is nothingness (though it can be filled with something), and how could nothingness expand? What if the dark matter (or something else) is such that it makes light travel ridiculously slow when it passes through it? Wouldn’t it make all our distance observations overestimated? Well I know, there are enough reasons for this not being true, else someone would have brought it up for sure. But the point is that it looks to me,  that in the last century or so we have created a complicated  aura around all this. It has to be simpler. It really has to be. Otherwise it is not true.

Cosmology has always attracted and eluded me since childhood. I just wish that during my lifetime, we witness a spectacular theory or discovery which takes us a step ahead. Wouldn’t it be cool if we discover the mysterious dark matter? Or the fact that things can travel faster than light? Or something more beautiful than E=Mc2

And then, there’s quantum mechanics. I wouldn’t talk about it in this post at all. Einstein wouldn’t have liked it 🙂



It isn’t over yet. Amazon just rocks!




Image Courtesy (Amazon)


It isn’t over yet! You may tend to feel that I am biased towards Amazon, but I have to write this. While I was still going gaga over the replacement of my Kindle, I never imagined what more could I expect. To be precise, I was facing this peculiar issue of Kindle getting restarted on it’s own and a faster than normal battery drain. I read on some forums that some people have faced this issue and strangely attribute this to the leather cover for Kindle (non-lighted).

I thought I was in the same boat and decided to call up Amazon customer care again.  In just about 5 minutes:

  • I was refunded the amount for the leather cover.
  • And Amazon offered a US$ 25 promo to purchase the lighted cover.
  • And Amazon offered to refund the customs and shipping costs incurred to get the new cover  shipped to India.
  • And they proved that they are really building “Earth’s most customer-centric company” as they claim.

The cover is already on its way and will possibly reach India before I am there.

What more could I write!


Amazon customer service – It doesn’t get better than this!

The Kindle!

The Kindle! (Image courtesy- Amazon)

I’ve just experienced what might be the best customer service in my life! It is definitely the best so far. The story goes like this. Eyeing an eReader for a long time, I had ordered a Kindle back in November. Since I one of my friends was travelling to India from the US, I got my Kindle delivered in the US. Once I laid my hands on it, it was definitely one of the most prized gadget I ever owned (yes, there are emotions involved).

The Kindle worked flawlessly for a couple of months and I kept reading on and on until that day! Yes, I was travelling to Riyadh and had put my Kindle inside my bag. When I took it out, I saw my screen frozen with some horizontal and vertical lines on it. That was it. My Kindle was broken. And my heart as well. I was in such a state of shock that I didn’t even bother to contact the customer care to get it repaired. Since the Kindle was damaged because of possible baggage mishandling, there was no way I could dream of a warranty claim.

After about a month, once I gathered myself, I simply called the Amazon customer care from India to check on the options of getting it repaired ( of course at my cost). It was like a routine call and little did I expect that it would turn out to be the best ever customer care experience I have witnessed to date (and possibly will ever witness). I explained my situation. And the executive on the other side listened to me patiently. Once I was done he said, let me see what I can do for you. And beyond that, it was like a charm. I can keep writing about it, but let me be precise for the readers:

  • Amazon offered me to *replace* my Kindle free of cost under warranty.
  • Amazon offered to ship my Kindle free (priority International shipping) to India (note that my Kindle was shipped to the US originally.)
  • Amazon agreed to bear the custom clearance formalities, custom duties etc.

As if the above was not enough, Amazon agreed to pay for the shipping charges incurred to ship my defective Kindle back to the US.

I have no words to appreciate this gesture. Kindle is by the the best eReader out there. I might have purchased a new one even if Amazon did not offer a free replacement. But they did. And I am a customer for life!

I have my new Kindle already with me. Amazon has not just replaced a piece of hardware. It has given back a lot more which I can’t even explain.

Thank you Amazon!


Update: I have stopped tracking this post. But it seems that Amazon is still amazing people with its customer friendliness! Here’s a more recent experience from one of my colleagues:

The Rare Case Of Replacing An Out Of Warranty & Broken Kindle (For Free)

Sir Tim Berners-Lee Live!


Tim Berners-Lee, founder WWW

I am in Riyadh to attend the 2nd ELI Conference on eLearning, which is the largest conference of its kind in Saudi Arabia. I was particular excited to listen to Sir Tim Berners-Lee, founder WWW and Jimmy Wales, founder Wikipedia. We all watch so many speakers on video sites like you-tube, TED etc. I was particularly interested to see if it is a different experience to listen to them live.

And there is a huge difference. You suddenly feel more connected. Even though I was just one of the crowd, there was a shuttle connection. The motivation multiplies. And suddenly the mind starts thinking a lot of new stuff. It was an a great experience.

So what does the founder of the World Wide Web (WWW) have to say about the web at this point in time. Well nothing new that we are not aware of. But still, it is different when you listen such things from legends :-). He emphasized on the following:

HTML5: Tim is bullish on HTML5 and sees the web driven by it in the times to come.

Learning on the Web: Tim believes that a lot of learning will happen on the web. It is already happening, but it would expand tremendously. (I guess he had to say this because of the theme of the conference was eLearning 😉 )

Data on the web: He particularly emphasized this point. These days, when more and more data is being pushed on the web, there’s a need of an ecosystem which can address:


  • Privacy
  • Anonymity of data (if required)
  • Security
  • Transparency

    The above would be the biggest challenges as we move ahead.

He also mentioned about web 3.0 which will largely we driven by the semantic web. Not to forget, the social and collaborative approach would be of significant to whatever is done on the web.

I would again say, listening to such people live is very different from watching some videos and stuff. So whenever you get an opportunity, just do not miss it. It does motivate.

I end this post with a brilliantly done image by one of the guys from ImageThink (more about the image in another post)


ImageThink - Tim Berners-Lee on the Web

ImageThink - Tim Berners-Lee on the Web



Egypt: We toppled the ruler!

Last couple of days I’ve met at least a dozen people from Egypt. And they all are invariably saying

We have successfully toppled our leader and we are free!

They can’t seem to hide their excitement. They just look so relaxed. It was really nice to witness the excitement of what is going to become one of the historic events of our times.

I am happy that the Pyramids and museums are safe. I was scared of them being damaged before I witness them 😉

Cheers to the Egyptians!

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