Asteroid 2014 JO25 ‘The Rock’ safely passes Earth


The big asteroid that safely swept past Earth on Wednesday, April 19, 2017, night India time, is larger than expected as per the astronomers. The asteroid safely passed the Blue Marble at some 1,768,239 km (1,098,733 miles) distance or about 4.6 times the distance from Earth to the moon. The asteroid 2014 JO25 has been nicknamed ‘the rock’.

Astronomers with the aid of the powerful radio telescope at Arecibo, Puerto Rico,were able to ping asteroid 2014 JO25 to obtain radar images of the approaching space rock.  They found 2014 JO25 is a contact binary asteroid - two space rocks that were originally separate bodies - and each segment is about 640 meters and 670 meters (2100 to 2200 feet) to total 1.3 km approximately.  It also spins around every 3.5 hours.

The 2017 flyby is the closest by an asteroid this large since the encounter by 4179 Toutatis at 4 lunar distances in September 2004. The next known flyby by an object of comparable size will be the 800-meter-diameter asteroid 1999 AN10 approach within one lunar distance in August 2027.

So why is the asteroid 2014 JO25 nicknamed ‘the rock’?  The straight obvious connection is with Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson.  But the real reason is that initially, the asteroid was described as the size of the Rock of Gibraltar. So the rock nickname stuck.  Shame since this asteroid has not come this close to earth in 400 years and will not do so until 2500 CE.

Last time we had an asteroid near miss was on 15 February 2013, when the much much smaller, 30 meter diameter 2012 DA14 whizzed by at just 30,000 km distance from earth.  Google initially released a Doodle, but withdrew it when a meteorite stuck in Russia and caused causalities on the same day.  Since there has been no such misfortune yesterday (or today), here is the Doodle, modified of course by me, for your fun.

Have a safe upcoming weekend.

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Happy Tamil New Year and Vishu 2017 with a Doodle


Today, 14 April 2017 is the Tamil New Year called Puthandu (புத்தாண்டு) in Tamil and also the New Year for the people of Kerala called Vishu.  The people of Punjab also celebrate their New Year on this day as Vaishaki, while the people of Bengal did it one day earlier, as Pohela Boishak.

So ends the past Tamil year of Durmukhi, literally meaning ‘Bad Face’, and it proved in combination with 2016 to be so.  Health of my mother and my own suffered during the period.  The 70 weeks or so commencing in the aftermath of Chennai Floods have been really terrible.  In this period I saw/heard of the passing away of at least 75 odd people – friends, associates, casual acquaintances, and almost strangers – including some half-dozen relatives.  Another 100 odd people have suffered inexplicable health issues. Thus was the sufferings during the past Tamil New Year.

So today, with this fresh start on Tamil New Year and Vishu 2017 may the Gods bless us with health, peace, joy and wealth.  As usual Google has not made up a Doodle for the Tamil New Year or Vishu 2017.  So here a made up Doodle for the occasion.  It is the modified version of the 2017 Nowruz Doodle from Google.  I have added more tulips, neem flowers, and the mango leaves.

May the gods bless us with plenty this new year.

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The Crow and the DTH


The relationship between the pigeons and the statues is well known.  In fact, whenever I see statutes of leaders, which are like daffodils in spring in Madras, now Chennai, I feel both grief and glee.  Grieve to see the statue of Mahatma Gandhi, with a fair bit of ‘work’ by the pigeons.  Gleeful to see the statues of some politicians (who shall remain unnamed), and wish there were more pigeons in the area.

Where there are less pigeons, and traditionally Chennai was a pigeon free territory till 15 or 20 years ago, the crows used to fill in.  The crows are seen not as pests, but as a insect control and clean-up worker.  If not for them, the rats, the cats, and et. al, which die off on the roads would stink the town down.  There is also a tradition in some families of feeding the crows every morning with a spoonful of fresh cooked food, in memory of the ancestors.

You may wonder where this ramble about the pigeons and crows is leading to, and how it is connected with the modern DTH broadcast.  DTH is Direct-To-Home broadcast of usually TV signals from satellite, and also called satellite TV.  The terrace equipment consists of the parabolic dish antenna of around 1-1/2 feet diameter, with a contraption on a bracket at its focal point called LNB.  That contraption is a wave guide and a LNB (Low Noise Block downconverter) and the waveguide side which faces the dish has a plastic like cap of special material.

My DTH installation is around 10 years old.  After cyclone Vardah in December 2016, me and my bro found a wooden twig which had pierced the cap leaving a hole of 1 inch or so.  We removed the twig and did not cover the hole, and there has been no problems till now.

Yesterday early morning, my mom switched on the TV and found that there was no reception.  Surprised, I checked up the connections which were all OK, including a cursory inspection of the dish antenna, and raised a complaint with the service provider.

After brunch, once again, I investigated the antenna.  And the culprit was a Crow.  A neighbour is in the habit of feeding the crows early in the morning around six.  He usually scatters bits of bread, biscuits, wafers, savouries, or whatever is in hand.  Yesterday, he had scattered a savoury called ‘Ribbon Pakoda’ – a rice & gram flour fry shaped like a ribbon.

A crow had taken a piece of that ribbon pakoda and stuffed it into the hole in the LNB assembly.  Whether it got stuck there, or the crow had stuffed it there deliberately for later retrieval is not known.  But that ribbon pakoda made my mom’s life miserable for about 6 hours, disrupting the DTH TV.  Here is the image of the ribbon pakoda, partially out from the hole in the LNB.  I removed it, and made my mom happy.

crow-dth-ribbon-pakoda

BTW, the technician did turn up today, and after seeing the condition of the old LNB, I had it replaced with a new one.
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Breitbart offers $100000 for MadrasNow


The infamous Alt-Right, though some term it as conservative website Breitbart, appears to expand its footprint into India.  Why India?  For one, Steve Bannon, the founding member of Breitbart has publicly commented that he admires India, and reads the Hindu holybook Gita.  Second, American media, over the last few years, view the India as an emerging English language news consumption market, ripe for picking.

Hence, it appears the shocking news (even to me) that Breitbart is to takeover MadrasNow for $ 100,000.  That’s Rs. 60 lakhs.  Not bad for 6 to 7 years of work!  I have not been able to verify it.

breitbart-to-buy-madrasnow

But, hold on to your horses. 
  • I will never, ever sell to the alt-right crowd, especially Breitbart, even if they offer a million dollars.
  • Do you believe all what you read on the internet?
  • When I opened the email, and saw this image attachment, I thought it must be a joke!
    • So, take a good look at today’s date.
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Google Doodle for Ugadi, Gudi Padwa 2017 greetings


People of India in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Telengana, Karnataka, Maharastra, and the Sindhis follow a Luni-Solar calendar, and celebrate their New Year as Ugadi or Yugadi – in Andhra Pradesh, Telengana, & Karnataka, as Gudi Padwa in Maharashtra, and as Cheti Chand by the Sindhis.

This year, the auspicious day is on 29 March 2017 as per the governments, whereas, some, especially the Cheti Chand have done so one day earlier on 28 March.  People of other states would celebrate their new year about 15 days later, as they follow a calculation where the month starts at or near the Full Moon instead of near the New Moon, as per Ugadi followers.

But, whatever calendar one follows, Google as usual has not deemed it possible to release a Doodle for Ugadi or Gudi Padwa.  So let us have our own modified Ugadi doodle, which I call a Moodle.  This is nothing but the hacked version of the Nowruz 2017 doodle of Google.

Enjoy the Moodle – the Ugadi doodle, and best wishes for a happy, prosperous and healthy new year on the occasion of Ugadi, Yugadhi, Gudi Padwa or Cheti Chand.


ugadi-2017
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Death of a Cockatiel


Of the two breeding pairs of cockatiel, both of them born in captivity, one died this morning, or rather yesterday night.  Took it out and buried it underneath the mango sapling.  The worst thing is it was the most friendly, playful, and gentle of the lot.  The more rambunctious one, its pair, is screaming its head off all through the day.  Guess even cockatiels feel the loss of life.

On the other hand, the other pair, were concerned when I was picking up the dead one.  Afterwards, when I placed the food and water in, they were curious and kept looking at my hands - as if they are little children and I am a magician who makes birds appear and disappear out of my hands.  But by afternoon the other cockatiel pair had lost interest, and could not care less.

One good thing is these bird brains have little long term memory.  So, by tomorrow or next day, the noisy cockatiel should calm down.  Else I think it is time to sell it back to the pet shop.

death-of-cockatiel-mar-2017

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