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BIG STORY Peeping Through the Black Box INTERVIEW Understanding Theoretical Physics EDITORIAL Scenarios to Scripts

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CONTENTS Free and Open Hardware


Peeping Through the Black Box


Wonders and Visions


Understanding Theoretical Physics



The Cradle of Creativity


Carving Cultures

Scenarios to Scripts


Writing the Future


Graveyard Talks with Galileo


Inside Kaufman’s Mind


Gray Fables


Shifting Gears


Yonder Moment


Sitcoms, Old and New!


Not Punny!

28 We are Our Choices


quipped with a time machine, we decided to explore the origin and evolution of different genres of art and science for this issue of Geek Gazette. Everything around us undergoes change, from simple objects like a book to the paintings of Picasso or the music of Pink Floyd. This often leads to the emergence of new styles. However, when this idea of having The Time Machine of Things as the theme first came up, there was a common concern regarding the need to understand past cultures and people, considering we don’t even fully comprehend the present? Travelling through time, we discovered that future is often foretold in the past. To us, it wasn’t for the study of events or causes, but of the ideas and discoveries that continue to influence our lives to this day. Our cover story, Writing the Future, portrays the history of science fiction genre through its most beautiful, iconic, and interesting treasures. Other articles feature the sumptuous tales of the evolution of screenplays, sitcoms, and humour. In the article, Peeping Through The Black Box, we have reviewed cryptographic attacks which exploit the vulnerabilities in the hardware implementations, also known as side channel attacks. The article Free and Open Hardware advocates the need for more open and inclusive hardware communities. As always, we have also spoken on a diverse range of subjects, from wars between the Greeks and the Romans to the speculative study of cultural and industrial revolution in England. Although it took some minor sacrifices by the team, we were able to resurrect Galileo for a quick chat in the article Graveyard Talks With Galileo. Adding to the eccentricity, the fictional story Yonder Moment will take our readers through the journey of a man experimenting with imaginary time. The subject of the book review, Tales from Outer Suburbia, is wonderfully imaginative, but it particularly struck us for its incisive social commentary. Inside Kaufman’s Mind features the movie Adaptation, a dramatisation of what had actually happened when Kaufman was asked to adapt a book into a film. The comic pays tribute to Stephen Hawking and the puzzle adds its own quirk to the magazine. Geek Gazette too, has evolved over the years. Every issue takes each of us on a rich kaleidoscopic journey, encouraging us to use our imagination to see something more than there is. Consequently, we hope to present articles that are, at their core, ideas—some obvious and some hidden a little deeper—but as thought-provoking as you allow them to be. Team Geek



ardware is a closed industry, quite literally. The market, today, is flooded with unibody devices that warn you against opening them and whose designs are protected behind strict patents. Few consumers know about the specifics of all the components being used in their device, and none probably understands the architecture. Users do not know the functionalities of their device apart from the ones that the manufacturer chooses to tell them. As a derivative of this, maliciously placed components or easily exploitable loopholes in the device become imminent possibilities. In this scenario, open source hardware becomes a reasonable proposition. In the primitive sense, open source hardware is anything whose specifications and design are available to be understood, tweaked with, or updated. Interestingly, the entire idea is not new. Even before open source in hardware was started as a conscious movement, in the early days of computing, circuit design of devices was readily shared in their manual. For programmes that were then written in assembly code, intricate knowledge of hardware was necessary. Over time, with the increasing number of transistors on a chip, electronics became more complicated than ever. The burst of electronics into the consumer space with PCs, portable music players, etc., also meant that electronic devices were now a finished commercial product. The circuitry that rested within became irrelevant to most. Proprietorship also materialized to a great advantage in the closely competed electronics market. The first focused effort to promote Open Source Hardware was initiated in the year 1997 with Bruce Perence, the creator of the ‘The Open Source Definition’, starting the Open Source Hardware Certification Programme. Though started around the same time as the open source

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initiatives in software, open source hardware has essentially staggered as compared to its counterpart. The fundamental difference between open source software and hardware lies in the way contributions are to be made. In the case of the former, community contributions make up the finished product while for the latter they are an important, yet intermediate, process. Lack of an active community and platforms that facilitate contributions are other hurdles for open hardware. Despite all the challenges and the perceptible slow pace of growth, open source hardware is an idea that is here to stay. With the chips almost as much space optimised as they might get, the next bright avenue lies with design optimizations—a domain where community contributions are both feasible and advised. Facebook's Open Compute Project, launched in the year 2011, is a manifestation of the same. A project that can potentially turn the data center computer hardware industry on its head, it aims at making the design of server equipments ‘free’ and ‘open source’. The Arduino Project is another open source project that reinvented the microcontroller market. Bringing the price of microcontrollers from around a hundred dollar to as low as ten dollars, Arduino boards have provided the electronics enthusiasts with the creative liberty that they had always craved for. Principally, the advantages of open hardware are similar to those of open source software. Enabling the users to understand their device as a complete entity, it makes the community accountable for the development of the field while also making the hardware accountable to its user through the openly available design. All in all, open source is a way of doing things—leveraging the varied expertise of the society and catering to the enthusiasts within all of its members.


NOT PUNNY! A priest, a rabbi, and a doctor walk into a bar. The bartender looks up and says, “What is this, a joke?”


he aforementioned couplet can represent any category of people who would normally not walk into a bar. The incongruity here is created, when the personalities don’t blend with each other. Not knowing makes us uncomfortable and makes our brains whirr. Our anxiety increases. Introduce the punch line—the rhetoric wordplay of the bartender, and the scatological turn of events resolves our anxiety. The new perspective leads to amusement. Mentally, we may have recoiled a bit; maybe because of the explicitness of the joke or maybe because of our own stupidity. The bar jokes are a spectacle of modern humour, with the first one dating back to the early 1950s. Endowed with a simple body design, the joke acts as a canvas for different shades of humour—puns, sarcasm, wordplay, etc. It represents one of the many pillars upon which we define humour and comedy. But humour, as we understand today, didn’t appear suddenly; it is a result of an evolutionary process dating back to our earliest times. Both humour and laughter are byproducts of complex cognitive processes taking place inside our brains, intertwining their evolutionary process with that of our mental sphere. In its earliest form, humour was associated with the grunting and panting sounds that occurred during ‘tickling and social play’, or ‘playful aggression’ among our ancient primate ancestors and early hominids. This is the pristine form of laughter, also known as Duchenne laughter or proto humour, whereas, its counterpart, the Non-Duchenne laughter—characterized by advance vocal and nervous functionalities, occurred in aggressive, nervous, or hierarchical contexts, functioning to signal, to appease, or to manipulate. Leap forward a million years or so. By the late 6th century BCE, the Greeks had institutionalized humour in the ritual known as comedy—an art that was performed in contrast to the dramatic form tragedy. Both these art forms highlighted the world as an entanglement of conflicting emotions where tragedy valorized serious, emotional engagement with life’s problems, comedy, in contrast, embodied an anti-heroic, pragmatic attitude towards the same. Tragedy and elitism went hand in hand, whereas comedy, as argued by Aristotle in his Poetics, was an imitation of common, inferior people. Its language imitated the common speech unlike the elevated speech of the aristocracy. While tragic heroes were emotionally engaged with their problems, comic protagonists displayed emotional disengagement. 06

Geek Gazette

As hinted in the case of the ancient Greeks, humour did not have a very widespread reception until the 20th century. Most philosophers took a negative stand when it came to the assessment of humour. Their comments often revolved around mocking laughter, rather than on the careful analysis of comedy, wit or jokes. Plato considered it a ‘malicious emotion that overrides self-control’. “Taken generally,” he says, “the ridiculous is a certain kind of evil, specifically a vice. The vice is self-ignorance.” Because of his objections, Plato declared that comedy should be tightly controlled in an ideal state, and shall be limited to slaves or hired aliens. The major turn of events came with ‘The Relief Theory’—a hydraulic explanation of the mitigating effect of laughter on the nervous system, during the 18th century. The theory was ingrained in Lord Shaftesbury’s An Essay on the Freedom of Wit and Humor (1709); the first publication in which humour is used in its modern sense of funniness. Shaftesbury states that laughter releases the animal spirits that have built up pressure inside the nerves. Humour is ubiquitous. Fluttering, it has moulded itself in various forms with different regions, cultures, societies, and people. With Britain being the cultural and technical hotspot of the world for centuries, it played a critical role in shaping the current form of humour. A court jester or a fool, was the chief source of entertainment for the British Royal Society during the medieval times, whose regular show included physical comedy—juggling, mimicking, miming, and cosplay. Shakespeare further popularized jesters, under the tag Shakespearean Fools; the notable one being Touchstone from As You Like It—a clever commoner who uses his wit to outdo people of authority. The occasional English middle-class laughter was centred around the corrective humour of Augustan Satire, the cuckolds, and the sexual intrigues of stage comedy. Contrary to this, for their everyday humour, they took delight in human suffering; pleasure at the misery and deformity of others. A Woman prosecuted a Gentleman for

a Rape; on Trial, the Judge asked her, if she made any Resistance? “I cried out, ain't please your Lordship”, said the Woman. “Ay”, said one of the Witnesses, “but, that was nine months after”. A piece from their mid-century jestbook is an apt example of their sheer callousness and

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unsympathetic jests. The miserable old father, the hunchback, the battered wife, the rape victim were often the objects of their everyday jocularity. Britain also popularised a wide range of literary humour, with writers such as Dickens, Thackeray, Eliot, and Carlyle, bringing to limelight new elements of humour such as satire, innuendo, sarcasm, macabre through ‘the absurdity of everyday life’. With the advent of motion pictures, humour further percolated deep into the lives of people. From Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator to Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11, comedy mocked the irrationality of militarism and blind respect for authority.

The existential value of the involuntary, simultaneous contraction of fifteen facial muscles was much more than mere amusement.

The evolution of humour in the 21st century has been more than its cumulative unfolding over the centuries. From advertising tagline puns to Comedy Central's Daily Show, we are encompassed by ever-growing branches of humour. Today, comedians are not looked down upon as buffoons but are considered celebrities. If ancient philosophers want to undo their traditional prejudice against humour, they might consider the affinities between a contemporary genre of comedy—stand up comedy and philosophy itself. Like a philosopher, a standup comedian delivers his act with puzzling dialogues, critical thinking, and an adroit control over language. With the growth of Internet culture, humour encountered an entirely new dimension in the form of 'Meme Culture'. Memes have an unsophisticated humour surrounding them; they inculcate puns, sarcasm, irony, satire, and what not. Though their popularity has skyrocketed, but the idea that memes have made their way into the real-world culture is appalling. Hitching on the pop culture elements, they are blurring one of the important facets of humour—creativity. They are promoting a pseudo-comedy-culture, which is an unfortunate direction for humour to take; perhaps in the future, ideals of humour would be more innovative than dry jokes printed on some overused template. 07


“I’m good at reading people. My secret, I look for the worst in them.” -Elliot, Mr Robot, S1 E1


eated in the middle of a Britain entangled in the intricacies of the Cold War, Hagelin was the favoured cypher machine of the Egyptian embassy. A simple, keyboard-based, seven wheeled machine with ciphered message leading out from one side, Hagelin used a cryptic algorithm that was unbreakable by the computational power available at that time. Rising tension between the Egyptians and the Britishers and the subsequent Suez Crisis made it important for the British Intelligence agencies GCHQ and MI5 to decipher all the communication between Egypt and its embassy in London. For a task in which the agents had repeatedly failed to gain ground and the technological leverage of which was too high, Peter Maurice Wright, the principal scientific officer of MI5, came up with an unusual solution—placing highly sensitive microphones near the cipher machine to catch the clatter of the rotating wheels. This clatter, when passed through an oscilloscope and processed, revealed the base location of three to four of the seven wheels used for the encryption. This added knowledge brought the deciphering of the algorithm within the reach of the computers being used by the British Intelligence. Every message communicated to the Egyptian embassy throughout the Suez Crisis was intercepted, read, and analysed by agents sitting in GCHQ 08

offices. The program became famous by the name ‘ENGULF’. This account of breaking Hagelin, published in Peter Wright’s autobiography Spycatcher, forms one of the first accounts of an attack that broke a cypher not on the basis of the flaw of the implemented cryptographic primitive, but through those that got introduced during its implementation. Under conventional considerations, cryptographic algorithms are explained and understood as an equivalent of a black box whose internals can neither be intercepted nor tampered with. Even though a wrong assumption, this provides the liberty of separation of concerns between the algorithm and its implementation, facilitating rigorous theoretical design and analysis of the security protocols. Side channel attacks are a class of cryptographic attacks that look to exploit this loophole. A side channel attack not only takes into consideration what security protocols are used but also how they are implemented. With the reason of being specific to the implementation, side channel attacks are orders of magnitude more efficient than conventional attacks that take over the mathematical complexity of breaking a cryptographic primitive. For a cryptanalyst to break a cypher, it is important for him/her to gain access to the key used in the encryption algorithm. Once the key is obtained, the cypher could be easily converted to plain text with little computation. The Geek Gazette

research involved while designing a cryptographic primitive naturally makes it difficult to gain the key from the algorithm itself. On the contrary, a strong physical correlation exists between the state of external physical parameters like radiation or power consumption and the present state of the machine. A careful analysis of these parameters to gain the key forms the underlying principle of a side channel attack.

Spectre—which shook the entire semiconductor industry, were in turn basic singular attacks which exploited the way in which processors decided the flow of the executing program. The idea for prevention of side channel attacks, which essentially have become popular over the last few decades, lies within a basic principle in cryptography which was stated by Auguste Kerckhoff as early as in the late 19th century. Popular by the name of the proposer, the Kerckhoff’s principle states that a cryptographic system should be secure even if everything about the system except the key is known to the attacker. Designing systems that can withstand white-box attacks in totally untrusted environments will help in building systems that can withstand side channel attacks better. Techniques such as Randomization (randomizing data that may leak through) and Masking (using intermediate values of data during execution) are being used today to protect systems from these attacks.


Different computations in a cryptographic algorithm execute in different durations of time and this acts as a viable side channel for an attack on the system. Termed as Timing Attacks, the lurking assumption behind these attacks is the fact that the execution time for any operation will depend, to some extent, on the key used for encrypting. Curated input values, and a careful examination of the output values and the timing diagram can leak out significant information about the key. Similar to the time of execution, different instructions leave different power signatures when executed. Another class of SCA, Power Analysis Attacks are based on carefully guessing the instruction that is getting executed, the associated input and the output value based on power trace of the instruction. Electromagnetic analysis and cache-based attacks are other common side channels used for attacking a system. While decrypting cyphers and breaking secured systems are definitely some of the more enticing uses of side channel attacks, their applications are not limited to these. Side channel attacks are also used to explain exploits based on architectural flaws in electronic circuits. The recent hardware-level attacks—Meltdown and

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A side channel attack not only takes into consideration what security protocols are used but also how they are implemented.

The beauty of security lies in the fact that there are no defined parameters to judge a setup. No cryptographic algorithm is bad until it is broken and none is good once it has been. The continuous struggle between cryptographers and cryptanalysts is here to stay; side channel attacks are a beautiful manifestation of this fact. While we can always strive towards building systems that are secured with respect to certain side channels, one geek working through his dusky basement would exploit another, or better, build another. It is this continuous race that makes security interesting, the unceasing struggle to build completely secure systems despite always being aware of the absurdness associated with this idea.



VISIONS ‘Twelve extraterrestrial spaceships mysteriously appear at twelve locations around the world. These ships are silent. They defy gravity and leave no observable footprint or immediate impact on the planet. The United States military recruits a celebrated linguist, Dr Louise Banks (played by Amy Adams), to help them communicate with the extraterrestrial life and discover whether they are here to help or hurt us.’ “Goddamnit! Another aliens-invading-the-earth-movie.”


y 2015, after the release of Guardians of the Galaxy, Alien Abduction, and Star Trek, the movie-going audience, for the most part, were already tired of movies that dealt with aliens and the same old presumptions—extraterrestrial species trying to kill/enslave us and take our planet. We have witnessed many such films fail miserably every year. Producers of the movie, Arrival, were also aware of this fact. And their response was to turn science fiction clichés on their head and make them insightful instead.

Arrival was not just another space opera or action movie. There was more science in the film than in any other of its genre. It explored the concept of time perception and introduced us to Linguistic Relativity. A real-world hypothesis, Linguistic Relativity, proposes that the structure of one's language affects his/her worldview. Started by Sapir and Whorf while they were studying cognitive differences between people who were exposed to different languages, the hypothesis remains highly debated to this day. A commonly cited example is of the structural peculiarity in the Mayan language, that causes 10

its speakers to classify objects by their material rather than by shape as preferred by English speakers. Although the deeper held belief that language determines cognition has been heavily refuted, there are many studies backing up the significant amount of influence language holds on our perception. Arrival shows an extreme case of Linguistic Relativity where the linguist, Louise Banks, begins to perceive time as the Heptapods do while she is trying to decode their language. In other words, thinking in a different language causes her thought pattern to change. Arrival challenges its viewers with perplexing scientific concepts and this makes the film profound, beautiful, and deeply thoughtful, even after being centered around a familiar, overused theme. In the context, most of the science-fiction media revolve around a few common themes—time travel, alternate realities, artificial intelligence, and aliens. Though there are some interesting variations and dozens—or hundreds—of writers who have disputed these themes; by and large, we pick up ideas that are philosophically appealing to us. We can easily imagine a story about a new species trying to enslave us because we are used to that idea. We are a bunch of paranoid beings who grew up in the savannas of Africa or in the plains of Asia Minor with predators constantly attempting to eat us. Therefore, there is a chance that we are hard-coded in a way to see anything new as a threat to our survival. Thus, we always prefer picking up ideas that we have been already accustomed to. On the contrary, consider the idea of the Holographic universe. It was first conceptualised by Nobel laureate Geek Gazette

Gerard ‘t Hooft who suggested that our universe which we perceive to have three spatial dimensions, might be an image or a construct created from a 2D surface, exactly like a hologram. Physicists have deduced that the actual limit on how much information our universe can hold is much more than the actual amount of information present. Thus, only when the 3D system is described by its boundary, the information content of the system can be accounted based on the measurement of its boundary, which will be less than the above limit. The fact that we are living and breathing in a holographic universe will make us uncomfortable at least once, and therefore ideas such as these are not easily picked up to as a theme for a movie/book. With these ideas, we neither have a history, nor are we comfortable imagining the scenarios that easily realise them. But in 2014, Stephen Hawking in an interview with John Oliver set a challenge to science-fiction writers everywhere. In the interview, which was both hilarious and heartwarming, when John Oliver asked which aspect of his work he wanted people to understand, Hawking replied thusly:

“Imaginary Time. [..] It’s the one bit of my work science fiction writers haven’t used because they do not understand it.” Imaginary time is a well defined mathematical concept. While real time is just another name for ordinary time, the time we experience passing by as we grow older, imaginary time, to a certain extent, can be thought of as another direction in space. Thus, histories in imaginary time can be perceived as a closed surface, similar to the surface of the Earth, with no beginning or end. In addition to the usual spatial dimensions, instead of the ordinary time dimension, the early universe is believed to have imaginary time dimension. According to Hawking’s ‘No Boundary Proposal’, real time—the ordinary time that we experience, emerges from this imaginary time as our universe expands. While in the cosmological context, the imaginary time and the real time don’t really coexist, Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity can consistently allow one to explore the consequences of having multiple coexisting real time directions. An implication of such an additional direction of time would mean that we can cease our movement in one time direction at the cost of moving

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as fast as possible in the other. Therefore, it is also possible for someone to stay in the vicinity of a precious moment until they die, by directing their speed along the other direction of time. It is perhaps, the mathematical nature of the precise meaning of these ideas that obscure the writers from using them altogether.

It is perhaps, the mathematical nature of the precise meaning of these ideas that obscure the writers from using them altogether. Science fiction novels are no longer about speculative ideas like two time directions, instead they focus more on the story-line, complexity of characters, and well-honed prose. During 1950s, science fiction books had a particular fascination with massive structures in the depths of space called megastructures. In fact, Star Maker, published in 1937, talks about one such hypothetical megastructure which, later in 1960, inspired the physicist, Freeman Dyson, to publish a paper on a structure which has since been known as Dyson Sphere. These structures still remains a prominent subject in both astronomy and astrophysics. A Dyson sphere can totally encapsulate a star and capture, more or less, all of its energy. In the adaptation of this idea, Dyson imagined a future with ever-increasing energy demands where it would become a necessity to harness most of the energy output of the Sun. Freeman openly credited the origin of the idea to the science fiction novel, and even insisted on changing its name. The goal of the genre was to explore scientific ideas through their depiction of plausible scenarios of the future. While science fiction had once inspired researchers like Dyson and initiated new developments, in the more recent times, it has gradually lost its speculative nature. Though it has grown tremendously in many aspects—smart writing and direction, action cracking through the pages, and huge advances in visual effects, but without a well-conceptualised scientific idea hidden in these pages, science-fiction merely becomes a literary fiction set in space or in an alternate universe.






rahar Mitra is a theoretical physicist working in a very fresh branch of theoretical physics, namely, the study of the equivalence between soft theorems and asymptotic symmetries—and the implications of this discovery for the black hole information paradox. He is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton. Prahar did his PhD from Harvard University under the guidance of a world-class leader in string theory, Dr Andrew Strominger, after completing an integrated M.Sc. in Physics from BITS Pilani with a B.E. in Electrical Engineering. Some of us at Geek Gazette had the chance to talk to Prahar and here is what we talked about!

GG: Many of us know little about how theoretical physicists go about their day. Is it like what they show on The Big Bang Theory? Do you spend your entire day staring at a whiteboard? Prahar: It’s not totally different, to be honest. But it is a lot about collaborations, as well. I have collaborators from all over the world, some in India, some from Japan and so on—all in different time-zones. Sometimes, we discuss if we have some progress in the work that we have been doing, what are the interesting questions that we should be asking, how can we go about solving those questions, and so on. We even discuss what infinitesimal steps we can take. It also depends on the kind of projects that you are working on. So, that’s kind of my day! And yes, you always need to discuss physics with people to generally keep up with what is going on in different areas of physics. GG: You are at the Institute—the very place where people like Einstein and Gödel used to live and storm their brains! How does it feel? Prahar: You know, it is really, really great. It might be a little intimidating at first, but it is actually a perfect place to be a postdoctoral scholar, especially for someone in my 12

position. Depending on where you go, postdoctoral research comes with its own baggage. You might go to a place where you need to teach, or you might have some administrative activities, or often in theoretical physics, you join as a scholar under a principal investigator (or, PI) and the funding for your research comes through him/her. So, most of the times, you need to work on what your PI is working. But the institute is a very special place where you don’t get assigned to a PI. You have the full freedom for three years to do, literally, whatever you want! If you don’t want to work, you don’t have to work. If you don’t want to come to the office, you don’t need to come to the office. You have full freedom! They provide you with tons of resources and have very smart people here. This kind of freedom is rare and is hard to find anywhere else. I’m really glad that we have this freedom while I’m here, and I’m enjoying it. In my opinion, the smartest theoretical physicists in string theory are at the Institute—Edward Witten, Juan Maldacena, Nima Arkani-Hamed, Nathan Seiberg. So, it is really fun to have lunch with them every day.

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GG: What questions are you thinking about in theoretical physics these days? Prahar: Currently, I’m working on the study of basic Quantum Field Theory. Many of your readers might be familiar with the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) where you perform these so-called scattering experiments. From a theoretical point of view, the quantity the experimentalists are measuring is called the S-Matrix. Our job is, essentially, to compute the properties of this S-Matrix. We then tell this to the experimentalists and they go and measure them. Computing the S-Matrix in String Theory is very important. Equally important is learning its properties. This, of course, is being studied for a very long time. But recently, largely due to my PhD advisor, Andy Strominger, the matrix has unlocked a class of new symmetries. So, what I’ve been doing over the past few years is to study these new properties of the S-Matrix and to understand the consequences of these new properties. Symmetry plays a huge role in physics, in general. For instance, you may know this theorem called Noether’s Theorem which essentially tells you that for every symmetry there is a conserved quantity. Like for energy conservation, it comes from what is called time translation symmetry. It turns out that the S-Matrix has infinitely many symmetries that people didn’t know about before us and these infinite symmetries form a class of symmetry called Asymptotic Symmetry. I’m working on proving that there are infinitely many conservation laws and in fact, we already know about these conservation laws. GG: Something on LIGO India? Prahar: Oh, it will be huge! The LIGO team is establishing one observatory in India and one in Japan not just because of the research pool available, but also because they are on the other side of the globe relative to the LIGO observatories in the USA. Now that they have the setups on the opposite sides of the earth, they can use the entire earth as a lens to do measurements. We were always restricted by the size of the lens. This use of the whole earth as a huge lens increases our sensitivity by a huge amount which is going to be really great for GR research, gravitational waves, and more than that, for Indian physics. All astronomical pictures today use EM waves like UV, IR but we haven’t yet taken a gravitational wave picture which contains so much more information. For instance, dark matter and dark energy do not interact with

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any particle whatsoever but they only interact with gravity. So, if we take a normal picture of dark matter, we won't see anything because dark matter doesn’t interact with photons but if we take a gravitational wave picture, we can get to know a lot more about dark matter. GG: There is this culture of wagers in theoretical physics. Have you been a part of any such wagers? Anyway, on what side would you bet in a wager about naked singularities? How about SUSY at LHC? Prahar: No, not yet. I don’t think I’m there yet, to be able to wager any significant amount. I’m still learning things, in the sense that I don’t want to form any significant opinion on a specific topic. Hopefully, when I would have learned many things and become confident enough, I will bet in a wager. GG: What is the reason for more rational mindset in our generation’s researchers over the old generation’s researchers? Prahar: Precisely, I can say only for the way I grew up as a physicist. For me, when I studied QFT, even during my PhD, I kept thinking of it as the truth. Over time, I realized that it is just a terrible way of thinking, simply because I would always confuse myself. With time, it became less confusing to think of the world, the QFT, as a model. Maybe I’m young or not smart enough to clarify these confusions in my head. GG: Thanks a lot Prahar for sharing your views and time with us. It was great talking to you!


THE CRADLE OF CREATIVITY Now look at them yo-yo's that's the way you do it You play the guitar on the MTV That ain't workin' that's the way you do it Money for nothin' and chicks for free


hese are the lyrics to the Dire Straits’ single, Money for Nothing, released in 1985. Mark Knopfler, the lead singer and songwriter, revealed that the inspiration for the song came from a conversation he overheard between two appliance store employees, who criticised stage musicians as doing the equivalent of no effort and still earning exorbitant amounts of fame and money. Unchanged phrases from the conversation formed most of the lyrics of the song, where the first-person character narrating the lyrics referred to a musician "banging on the bongos like a chimpanzee", and a woman "stickin' in the camera, man we could have some fun”. The video for the song was a milestone in itself, as it was one of the first music videos featuring fully computer-animated characters that were created on a Quantel Paintbox system. The song was a global hit, reaching the top spot of the US charts and sustaining the position for several weeks. It was a perfect blend of irony, satire, and of course, one of the most iconic riffs in the world of rock. The song went on to become the most successful single of their career. The Dire Straits were a part of the plethora of British musicians, who redefined the rock’n’roll music genre all 14

the way down to the current day. Not just them, but The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Queen, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones—all these artists are arguably some of the greatest contributors to the worldwide musical revolution. This can be partially attributed to the huge influx of British rock and pop music acts as well as its cultural aspects into the United States in the 1960’s, rightfully termed as the ‘British Invasion’. Over the course of weeks, the American youth found themselves spellbound with the fresh rock-and-roll waves, rising straight from the heart of England, ending the dominance of the long-reigning genres of instrumental surf music, folk revival, vocal girl groups, and teen idols. But the kicker was, the basis of all British beat music lay in the rock-and-roll culture that was on the path of emergence in the United States. However, because of the lack of the basic ingredients of rock and roll—rhythm and blues, and country music—which were indigenous to the US, British artists instead chose to mix local traditions such as dancehall and Celtic rock to form an explicit, original style of melodic rock and roll. Essentially, America’s own music was restyled and returned to it, with a little touch of local creativity to further enhance its appeal. Music is not the only field that the twentieth century Britain was a pioneer in. If we look further back, at the end of the nineteenth century, the small island of Britain was controlling the largest empire in the history of the world. The major factor responsible for this dominance, was Geek Gazette

intuitively, the industrial revolution of the early 1800s which led to the transition from hand production methods to machines, tools, and steam power, leading automation of several manufacturing processes. Rapid industrialisation and economic growth led to a high standard of life in Britain. But it is a matter of curiosity—why was such an island, cut off and separate from flourishing civilisations, at the forefront of the technological and commercial innovations? Why was it England and not some other, equally prosperous European nations of France, Germany, or Italy? Or even other prospering East Asian civilisations, be it the Mughal India, Qing-Dynasty China, or Tokugawa-era Japan, each of which enjoyed a solid internal economy and high standards of living for their time?

Through the propagation of innovation, science, and technology, Britain turned into a major hub of creativity and inventiveness. But again, it is not the only reason for its advancement

As far as the issue of the Eastern civilisations go, the ‘Great Divergence’, as popularised by Kenneth Pomeranz’s eponymous book, was proposed to be the cause of the Western civilizations overcoming pre-modern growth constraints and progressing towards the new age at a far greater pace than equally powerful East Asian civilisations. A number of factors have been proposed to drive this divide—European colonialism leading to deindustrialization of Eastern societies, state prohibition on development of new technology in the East, a contrasting increase in innovation in the West, and better living standards and wages, coupled with cheap energy. Medieval Europe saw the rise of the ‘Scientific Revolution’, also known as ‘the Enlightenment’—a period of emergence of modern science and scientists, where advancements in biology, chemistry, mathematics, and physics helped push forward new visions of nature towards society. This advent of modern scientific ideas, at that time reverberating all across the European subcontinent, made its way to Britain, thus opening pathways to new mechanical and financial ideas

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influenced by the modern sciences. By 1700, there were several scientific institutions across Britain, the largest being the Royal Society of London. Additionally, a commitment to science, perceived as the firm basis for success in commerce and industry, and for national prosperity, was established in the political agenda. Her Majesty’s Government encouraged innovation and spread of trade through their policies which included the creation of patent laws to help inventors benefit financially from their inventions and their ‘intellectual properties’, utilising the supreme British Navy to protect trade and incentivising world exploration for companies in order to accumulate resources. England itself housed rich coal and iron deposits, fuelling the production of machines and fossil-fuel power. Also, being an island nation, Britain was not plagued by social issues and wars occurring in mainland Europe, and was hence, able to achieve stability and prosperity for its citizens. By establishing colonies in nearly every part of the world—from India to the United States of America, Britain itself received all forms of knowledge from different cultures and civilisations around the globe. The exquisite potpourri of knowledge helped advance the foundations of the British Society—its populace were exposed to all kinds of new endeavors and experiences—which resulted in further boosts in ingenuity within the future generations. Art, literature, music, natural sciences, philosophy, culinary arts—no matter the field, the British inadvertently are associated amongst the trailblazers in each of them. After establishing such global dominance, Britain has cemented itself as one of the titans of the old world, that shaped the world as we know today in more ways than one. It is still a matter of debate as to what miraculous combination of socio-political and geological factors brought about its dominance, but it is easily conclusive that their achievements are not bad for a diminutive island in the midst of giants, who still have to figure out the meaning behind some odd rock garden.



he experience of cinema, in many ways, is the equivalent of a dream. Movies, feel like fascinating images that seem to emerge when cameras and great performances collide. It would seem as though no one had written or planned them, yet anything imaginable could happen and they usually had happy endings. It’s interesting to think of the very first thing that pops up in most people's heads at the mention of movies. Actors. For quite some time now, movies and actors have walked hand in hand through popularity, often leaving the screenplay writers and sometimes even the directors behind. The mention of Titanic usually brings about vivid, passionate images of Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio’s beautiful romance. The words ‘Jurassic Park’ and ‘Steven Spielberg’ are quite often used together. An Amitabh Bachchan film is no different. It is an Amitabh Bachchan film. While it’s ridiculous how people are paid for writing predictable scripts characteristic of most Bollywood films, screenplay writing is in itself, an art. Evolution of the Screenplay To understand how the screenplay evolved and gained prominence, let us consider the pioneering work of each era in the last 130 years of Hollywood for simplicity. The movies made in the 1890s were a minute or two long with very simple ideas. These weren’t even stories to begin with but rather ‘scenarios’ that a director would scribble on a piece of paper for reference. The concept of a screenplay hadn’t been introduced yet. The defining work of this era was the very idea that pictures could be viewed on a film. By 1903, more interesting ideas were being made into movies like Edwin Porter’s Life of An American Fireman and The Great Train Robbery. While the former was the first movie with music and editing, the latter was notable for introducing hand-coloring of the film negatives and a series of cuts in the story to create a non-linear plot. Their scripts (both written by Porter) helped predict the duration of the movie and the amount of footage needed but weren’t indispensable. After the First World War, the European cinema lost its edge in terms of technological advancement and ownership of movie theatres to its American counterpart. Hollywood dominated the screens all over the world. A stable economy allowed American filmmakers like D.W. Griffith to make war films. The success of The Big Parade (1925) marked the beginning of MGM studios’ domination in the industry. The focus was on capturing the horrors and destructive power of war. The late 1920s ushered in the end of the silent era with The Jazz Singer (1929) - the first 16

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movie with synchronized sound. Pioneering work in sound recording and better fidelity with visuals led to the rise of sound stages and musicals in movies such as Singing in the Rain and Hollywood Review. At this point, it is perhaps important to look at the complete picture of how movies were being produced in order to understand the consequences of a major economic change. Hollywood was already global. Major film studios like MGM, Warner Brothers and Paramount had been established, and they controlled the distribution and exhibition of the movies they made. In short, they owned the theatres where their movies were being shown. In 1948, the Supreme Court declared them in violation of the antitrust laws in the US v. Paramount Pictures case. They were forced to sell their theatres and charge high rental rates to exhibitors. This meant that they had to be more selective about the movies they chose to finance. The cost of production increased and fewer movies were made. Also, the monopoly of a few giant studios ended and independent films could be made without their interference. As a consequence of the 1948 ruling and increased cost of producing a movie, the salaries of actors increased as well. They could now be more selective in picking movies with only the scripts that really attracted them. Moreover, by this time, it was clear that for increased productivity and precise planning, better scripts were needed. Directors began hiring writers and the ‘scenarios’ evolved into ‘continuity scripts’ with information about the locations, number of shooting days, etc. Consequently, the screenplay writer gained huge importance by the 1970s.

Directors began hiring writers and the ‘scenarios’ evolved into ‘continuity scripts’.

and the director. There is no specific rule for who comes up with the story, who approaches whom or who has more creative control. Directors had more power in the past but the demand for better scripts also meant that directors had more opportunities for experimenting with the material and testing newer styles. On the other hand, to match the creative vision of a director, many a times the writer would have to experiment with the style and nature of the screenplay. Mamet clearly pointed out that for someone who has no prior experience in filming a scene, the limitations of what can be written are unknown. We can go further to say that a director who doesn’t understand the writing would not be able to do justice to it. And so a possible trend we could expect is the blurring of the line between the roles of a director and a screenwriter. This is best manifested in the recent rise of a new writer-director breed of filmmakers. We have seen incredible levels of experimentation—from the trailblazing works of Roberto Rossellini, Federico Fellini, Satyajit Ray, Steven Spielberg, and Martin Scorsese in the past to recent ones from Charlie Kaufman, Spike Jonze, Sofia Coppola, Wes Anderson, The Coen Brothers, Noah Baumbach, Greta Gerwig, Eric Heisserer, and counting. Today, the US produces approximately 400 movies every year. Many more are made in India, China, the European countries and emerging film markets. Not only do movies have to compete with each other for our attention but also with TV shows and online entertainment whose numbers seem to grow exponentially. The conversation now is about writing a screenplay that’s original and remarkable—a screenplay people would love and one that pushes the boundaries of our cinematic experience. Clearly, screenplays originated due to a demand for better stories but they have now turned into an art form that continues to evolve. As viewers, we can only imagine and anticipate the amazing stories that are in store for us in the future.

The Writer vs. The Director

If it can’t be shot, and it can’t be spoken, don’t write it in your screenplay. -David Mamet (Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, film director and screenwriter) Another way to look at how screenplays are currently evolving is through the relationship between the writer Spring 2018




t was during a regular meeting of the leagues on a wintery eve of the year 146 BC, in Corinth, when the Roman delegates were showered with insults, threats, and when they whimpered and lamented over the conduct, were thrown out. The eccentric hospitality brought upon them was because of an anti-Roman faction prevalent among the Greeks and their allies. When these words hit the ears of the Roman Consul Lucius Mummius, he was infuriated, and in his agitated state, invoked a war upon the Achaeans, the early Greeks. Marching from distant Macedonia, under the command of Mummius, the Roman army vanquished and crushed their main rival on the Mediterranean grounds of Carthage. The consequences of this drained the city of her treasures, put all men to swords and forced all women and children into slavery, thus, wreaking complete havoc on the beautiful grounds of Corinth. The above-mentioned incident marked the beginning of the Roman dominance in the Greek history, which rendered Macedonia (northern Greece) helpless. Pouncing on the opportunity, the Roman Republic further established hegemonies in several other regions of Greece and across parts of Western Europe. The Roman quest for power that had started with the infamous incident of Corinth, paved the way for some major turn of events for the two kingdoms, and for the rest of the world.


The chapter of Greeks and Romans surfaced in world history around the 8th century BC with the emergence of the two then greatest cities of the Mediterranean—Greece, and Rome. While the Roman city was created through establishing political rule around the Western European nations of Italy and Sicily, the city of Greece emerged as an heir to the Greek Empire of the Dark Ages of the 13th-9th century BC. This period of Middle Ages—also known as the Classical Antiquity, saw an interlocking of the Greek and Roman Empire. It was a long and peaceful period, in which Greek and Roman society flourished and wielded great influence throughout Europe and parts of Asia and Africa. Though both kingdoms had been following a hierarchical ruling system for centuries, the Greek political structure underwent radical changes owing to the works of some of its greatest thinkers; first oligarchy and then later democracy—a term which appeared first in the city-state of Athens in the 5th century BC. Though ‘a rule of the majority’, owing to ill-planning, the new democratic system turned out to be a faux passe, and one of the leading reasons for Greece’s downfall. Contrary to their counterparts, Romans descended from monarchy to oligarchy to a constitutionalized emperor but were prudent enough to leave complete control to the commoners. With time, owing to their divergent policies,

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Rome emerged as a unified empire, unlike Greece that was just a collection of warring city-states. The Roman Empire, with Romanization—a unique strategy through which Romans brought several states of the Mediterranean under their command—experienced an enormous rise in its power. Romans barred the Eastern flank which was an area dominated by Greeks. But soon due to constant warfare, this region became vulnerable to several threats from the Persians, the Parthians, and the Bactrians from three sides, and by the Romans from the West. As the Romans grew more powerful, the Greeks started to see them as a threat. The Greek situation worsened further due to continuous internal wars between its powerful city-states of Sparta, Athens, Thebes, and Corinth, after the death of Alexander the Great. Sensing the magnanimity of the situation, in 215 BC, parts of Greece allied with Carthage against Rome. The Romans retaliated by waging a series of four wars, the Macedonian Wars, against the Greeks, during the 3rd and 2nd century BC. The Romans defeated Macedonia at the Battle of Cynoscephalae in 197 BC, and then again at the Battle of Pydna in 168 BC. Finally around 146 BC, the Romans quelled their thirst for victory by bringing upon a crushing defeat on Corinth, and thus, became the new masters of the Mediterranean.

Though Romans won the battles, the Greeks won the war.

Though Romans won the battles, the Greeks won the war. Soon, the Roman inflicted wounds on the lives of the Greeks healed, and their daily activities resumed to their earlier state. With passing time, Greek culture ingrained itself deeply into the lives of the Romans through its epitomized art, literature, philosophy, architecture, etc. Romans became admirers of Greek philosophy. The teachings of Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle inspired the Roman thinkers. Not merely that, the Greeks were considered as masters of rhetoric and prose writing, making them the first pick of the Roman nobility who

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yearned to move up the social ladder. It is believed that Cicero and Julius Caesar had gone to Greece before 50 BC to study the art of rhetoric. Educated Romans and the elite class appreciated the Greek language; some even recruiting tutors to acquaint themselves with the populist dialect. Greek, along with Latin, became their official language. During the invasion, the Romans had seized almost all the Greek libraries, thus, gaining access to the former’s literature. Pompey, a Roman political leader, had appropriated a significant collection of medical books to be used by Roman practitioners, and yet, the dexterity of Greek doctors made them more reliable and most Romans’ first choice during an emergency. Over time, the Greek temples were adapted to Roman taste. Pantheon, a spectacle of Roman architecture to a large extent resembles the ancient Greek temple of Athena—Parthenon. In the theatre, Greek epics and dramas served as models for the Roman writers. The epics of Homer inspired Aeneid of Virgil, and authors such as Seneca wrote using Greek style. Despite being the victors, the Romans exhibited a counter-intuitive post-war approach. When Alexander the Great set off from Greece to conquer the world, he not only wiped the culture of his conquered lands, but rebuilt them with his own. Literature, philosophy, and art were the unifying mediums—linking subjects to their earlier culture. The Roman decision didn’t pop out instantly, or over a course of a few years, it was an outcome of a gradual process developing over centuries. Because of its ancestral richness, highbrow status, and the Greek kingdoms’ geographical proximity, the Romans had idolized the Greek culture for centuries. War brought them glory, respect, and grandeur; but it was the Greeks who got the gift of the gab. As the Romans marched further into Western Europe, laden with the Greek air, they introduced people to their freshly gained culture and reforms. Be it the pervasive folklore of the Greek Gods, or the dawn of the modern Olympic Games, the Romans provided the spread of Greek culture with the impetus which left its marks for centuries to come. War, perhaps, is multi-faceted. While its grimace brought in the ancient city of Corinth and several other to wrecks; its chortle made Greece the cradle of Western culture. 19



The Journey of Science Fiction







Frankenstein Flatland 1897

The Invisible Man 1898

The War of the Worlds

Flowers for Algernon I am Legend Post Apocalyptic


Godzilla Aliens


Farenheit 451 Dystopia

Dune Chronicles Islands of Space 1967

Lord of Light 1968

2001: A Space Odyssey






The Sand of Mars


Star Wars (Original Trilogy)






The Struggle for Empire Barsoom series Brave New World Dystopia




Childhood's End

Foundation I, Robot

A Clockwork Orange Dystopia

Star Trek (The Original Series) The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Comedy















Permutation City Grey Mandel Series

Snow Crash 1992

A Fire Upon the Deep

Ghost in the Shell Altered Carbon

Oryx and Crake Dystopia



Time Travel


The Matrix Ex Machina 2015

The Man in the High Castle Dystopia




Millitary Science Fiction


Time Travel

Ender's Game

Children of Men











The Time Machine Dystopia

Blade Runner Neuromancer

Inception Expanse The Martian

Interstellar Her Edge of tomorrow Aliens


n the book Sapiens, Yuval Harari proposes that the core reason for Sapiens’ prevalence over other species of the family was their ability to make up fiction. The fiction ranged from gossip about their neighbour’s secret affairs to the worship of the one ‘true’ God. This gave a remarkable edge to us; while other species survived in small volatile bands of 10-15, fiction empowered us Sapiens to ironically develop mutual trust and set up a stable society consisting of hundreds. Gossip and fiction quite possibly may have been the only factors for our species’ survival on this planet.

challenged religious orthodoxy. An indirect impact of this on literature was the emergence of the genre of science fantasy—a stark contrast to the ongoing popularization of scientific texts like those of Newton. The genre explored unearthly, often utopian settings, mostly ungrounded by the science of the period. In Micromégas by Voltaire, the protagonist is an inhabitant of one of the many planets orbiting Sirius, who comes to visit the Earth. Gulliver’s Travels by Swift features the journey of the protagonist to peculiar and fantastic worlds. Niels Klim's Underground Travels by Holberg follows the story of a Norwegian student who discovers an ‘Underworld’ within our own, with its own exotic life forms and cultures. It is interesting to note that all these works are also a satire on human nature, another popular notion among the philosophers of the century.

“The world of reality has its limits, the world of imagination is boundless.” - Jean Jacques Rousseau The eighteenth century witnessed the rise of Le Siècle des Lumières (The Century of Lights), an intellectual movement that started in France and further spread across the continent. Closely associated with the scientific revolution, it celebrated the scientific method and

Most fiction writers agree that science fiction emerged as an independent genre in the early nineteenth century. It represented the advent of an age when the common man realized it is possible to comprehend all the jibber-jabber

Science Fiction


Super Hero


Space Opera

Hard Sci-fi




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189 172








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17 20



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of the scientific community and to possibly draw something from it. Unsurprisingly, he first decided to study the grotesque and dangerous facets of scientific research. This materialized into perhaps the first sci-fi work of all time—Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.

“I have love in me the likes of which you can scarcely imagine and rage the likes of which you would not believe. If I cannot satisfy the one, I will indulge the other.” - Frankenstein(1818) The popular fiction of any time has been found to be largely characteristic of the mindset of that generation. Analyzing the plot and emotions behind Frankenstein gives us a deep insight into how fiction became a language for the writers of the nineteenth century to voice their concerns about the rapidly advancing world of science. Following the story of Victor Frankenstein and the grotesque and highly sapient creature he created, Shelley’s epistolary novel has had considerable influence on sci-fi literature and popular culture. The novel portrays a deeply insightful and miserable creature who deals with abandonment from his creator and hatred of all mankind. Numerous adaptations have been made of Frankenstein since, and most have been largely inaccurate, on account of both the storyline and the key message of the tale. With the telegraph, the electric bulb, and the internal combustion engine, the late nineteenth century gave way to a new form of science fiction, the scientific romances. Jules Verne, Arthur Conan Doyle, and H.G. Wells were the pioneers of this era. Wells, often revered as the ‘Shakespeare of Science fiction’, published many notable works. He was the first to coin the term ‘time machine’ in the aptly named work, The Time Machine, which went on and continues to inspire innumerous works of fiction. Invasion literature, which usually featured the proceedings and aftermath of a fictitious invasion of a country by another was hugely popular during the first World War. Wells integrated the genre into Sci-fi and subsequently published The War of the Worlds, which follows the invasion of the planet by hostile Martians looking to conquer the planet and subjugate the human race.

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The early twentieth century saw the emergence of pulp fiction (inexpensive fiction magazines) with Hugo Gernsback founding the first magazine fully devoted to sci-fi—Amazing Stories. Even though the magazine itself cannot be considered to have had a significant impact on the genre, its name is ingrained into history, for it featured the first stories from the likes of John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, and Ursula K. Le Guin. Pulp fiction brought many American Sci-fi writers in the picture and so, unsurprisingly, this led to a whole new subgenre of military science fiction.

“The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.” -Isaac Asimov The mid twentieth century witnessed another shift from dystopian to futuristic science fiction. The subgenre of space operas was born, with its first popular work being the Foundation series by Isaac Asimov. It takes place in a futuristic world with the protagonist, Hari Seldon being a mathematician in an intergalactic empire. He studies psychohistory—a branch of mathematical sociology to predict the eventual fall of the galactic empire and a dark age lasting for 30,000 years. Similarly, in other works, rather than showing their protagonist invent or discover a brilliant technology in the present timeline, writers preferred to base the story in a future so distant that abilities like telekinesis and faster-than-light travel were considered normal. Some writers went even further and set the narrative in a galaxy, not remotely related to ours and in the far past or future. George Lucas’s Star Wars perhaps being the best example of this. This was seen as too large a deviation from what was considered ‘true’ science fiction and eventually led to a solid split into hard and soft sci-fi. Soft sci-fi, not being grounded in hard science, allowed the writers a greater extent of imagination and creativity, and thus, led to a high degree of experimentation in the genre. The result was cyberpunk—a subgenre of sci-fi which featured advanced technology in a societal structure radically different from ours; most often dystopian. Popular themes of the century, like global warming, nanotechnology, and the sexual revolution came to be reflected in these works alongside highly advanced 23















Greek philosophers once used to have a key role in the societal policies and notions of their era. Furthermore, they had a heavy impact on the development of the Western thought after the Romantic movement. Science fiction is, and has always been much closer to philosophy than science or fiction. It emerged when man started to question the reasons and consequences of his existence in the Universe. Many realistic philosophical dilemmas

Sci-fi, as a genre, can never stop evolving, for it compliments the technological and social evolution of the human race. The ‘sci-fi of yesterday’ has often been seen to become the ‘science of today’. It is a window into the world that we may not witness in our lifetimes.



-Ray Bradbury


“Science fiction may be one of the last places in our society where a philosopher can roam just as freely as he chooses.”

can be examined by talking about the strangeness and crises of imaginary worlds. In a 2011 interview, Stephen Hawking claimed that philosophers had not kept up with science, particularly physics and consequently, philosophy was dead. While this may be partially true, philosophy being the study of the fundamental nature of reality continues to be explored through the world of Sci-fi.


technologies like artificial intelligence and virtual reality. The genre’s focus was usually on an unemotional and electronic world, often controlled by a large corporation. This was in stark contrast to the utopian worlds popular among writers in the mid twentieth century.

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Planet Earth, 14 March 2018

ies den e s n a ang tici Poli ate ch m i l c


This is getting boring. Cease motor functions. Exit Simulation.

e ex budg ploratio et cu n t

DAISY BELL Planet Earth, Stardate 46892.1

What took you so long ?





Each of the following images represents a famous paradox. Can you guess it? Send in your entries to





hrough some lost spells and tomes, we successfully summoned the ghost of Galileo Galilei to answer some questions about his life and his works (it only took a couple of human sacrifices, but no one too valuable was lost). GG: So, Mr Galileo Galilei, welcome back to the land of the living! You spent your last years under house arrest, how does it feel to be able to interact with humans outside your house for a change? Galileo: First of all, it's Professor Galilei to you, but you can also address me as the ‘Father of the Scientific Method’, and if I had to talk to ignorant minds like you, I would much prefer a wall between us, thank you very much. GG: Humble, aren’t you? Let’s start with your early years. We all know that you left your study of medicine in order to pursue mathematics. Are you still satisfied with your decision? Galileo: Unlike these days, fortunately, research back then was equally appreciated in all fields, regardless of profits. Of course, some professions were more financially rewarding than others, but the intellectual satisfaction one gained from a field he wished to pursue was a far greater reward. My father thought that a profession in medicine was both a well paying job and symbol of status in those olden times. But, I have never regretted pursuing my passion. GG: We heard a bizarre story about an experiment of yours and simply have to confirm it. Did you actually climb the Leaning Tower of Pisa to prove your claim 26

regarding the weight of objects having no relation to the time it takes for them to fall? Galileo: If you actually believe that I climbed the eight stories of that ill-planned building just to prove a theory I knew to be correct, I’ll have to reconsider my opinion of your intellect. Had you done your research properly and actually read my books before interviewing me, you would have seen that it was just a thought experiment I had proposed, with no mention of a tower anywhere. Let me explain for the liberty of simpletons such as yourself. Consider a system of a heavy and a light ball connected with a string. If we proceed with the Aristotelian assumption that heavier objects fall faster than lighter ones, we can expect the string to become taut as the system is dropped from a height. But the system, as a whole, is heavier than the heavy ball in the system, which would lead to it falling faster, thus, raising a contradiction. Hence, we can conclude that the assumption must be false. Get that through the head of yours, cazzo.

GG: You were famously commissioned to ‘calculate the dimensions of hell’, as portrayed by Dante in his poem The Divine Comedy. Care to elaborate? Galileo: Ha! One of the best opportunities of my life. Some officials from the Florentine Academy were so enamoured by the poem that they commissioned me to calculate how large the roof of Hell was. In the poem, it was portrayed to be a huge cone with the tip at the center of the Earth, covered by a giant vaulted roof. Based on actual verses from the poem, which put the center of the roof somewhere in Jerusalem and the Sun being along the horizon of its meridian circle, my calculations put its Geek Gazette

diameter equal to the radius of the Earth! Mighty big place, but I suppose it has to be to so to accommodate all the sinners going there (*narrowly glances towards us*). While I was working on calculating the thickness of the roof, I based my calculations on the Brunelleschi’s Dome, which has a diameter of 45 meters while being only 3 meters thick. Through standard scaling, my calculations showed the dome to be 600 kilometers thick. I might have made a few errors in my calculations, but they gave me a job as a lecturer for mathematics at their university, so I wasn’t exactly in any hurry to bring it up. Maybe if the world was full of more such romantics who believed the words of every poet to heart, mathematicians and philosophers would have more jobs. GG: You have famously gotten into several arguments with the Church, on the theory of Copernican Heliocentrism. Ultimately, you were put under house arrest for your ‘outrageous’ claims. Yet, throughout your life, you have remained a devout Catholic. It seems quite contradictory. Galileo: Ah, religion! I knew I would never find an escape from the Church, even in Death. Let me make a few things clear. My family was Christian, my friends were Christian, and I myself was a genuine Catholic Christian. I was never opposed to the idea of Christianity and had seriously considered becoming a priest in my childhood. What I was opposed to were the outdated theories of Aristotelian physics which for some reason were closely associated with the Church’s interpretation of nature at that time. So when I started my campaign to disprove Aristotelian Laws of physics, I was hindered by the efforts of the Church. The Inquisition ruled against my reaffirmations of Copernican Heliocentrism, and their reasons were quite obvious—thousands of years of common sense and academic studies would be disproven if they accepted my theories. Not to mention their ideas of believing that we, God’s most loved creature, were anywhere except the center of the Universe seemed unappealing, for a lack of better words. I was grateful in having a friend in Pope Urban VIII, who allowed me to continue writing about the systems of the world—although under certain restrictions, namely, “Man cannot presume to know how the world is really made, because God is omnipotent” (*shrugs*). After the release of my book, Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, I was summoned again by the

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Inquisition. This time, they went hard after my culo. They ordered me to renounce my claims and put me under house arrest. It is something that has to be said–God, religion, and the people who preach them are magnitudes apart. GG: Expanding upon your history with the Church, you would be glad to know that the Vatican issued a formal apology and acknowledged your ideas. Also, now in these times when the Church is more liberal and in favor of scientific and artistic progression, what are your opinions on these changes? Galileo: An apology, more than three centuries after my death is nothing more than a brief consolation. At the time when it mattered, I was suppressed, threatened with torture, and imprisoned. My discoveries have, no doubt, revolutionized popular sciences and I have earned the titles I have been given. I can only advice future generations in following their passion with conviction and devoting their lives to whatever cause they believe is right. Mankind will progress, and as the new generations ushers away the old, scientific reason will always trump all obstacles in its path and ultimately triumph. GG: Well, it was certainly enlightening talking to you. But, I can already see the effects of the resurrection spell fading; your image is slowly becoming hazy. Any message you have for the students of IIT Roorkee? Galileo: Yes. Please stop asking this question to every single person you interview, it is quite annoying. A dedicated person will find his path in life regardless of any hindrances, divine or otherwise.



“Oh my god, they killed Kenny! You, bastards!”


ny fan of South Park knows that, until season six, Kenny is killed in almost every episode. Everybody knows it’s coming—it’s just a matter of how, and in what new and inventive way, will he meet his demise. Ozzy Osbourne bites his head off, Saddam Hussein shoots him, he internally combusts, he is frozen in carbonite, decapitated, stabbed, electrocuted, micro-waved, or drowned, the joke never gets old. Kenny has an unusual relationship with mortality. There is usually no explanation given as to why Kenny dies, or why he can come back to life in every other episode. It was only after 52 such instances that a partial clarification was given in the episode ‘Cartman Joins NAMBLA’ suggesting that each Kenny is a new one. However, no further explanation was given for the complete growth of each new Kenny within a week, or maybe less than that. Generally speaking, there is no reason for which Kenny must die in every episode and this absurdism associated with Kenny’s dire situation connects South Park to the philosophical school of Existentialism. Existentialism is a philosophical movement that arose during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in Europe. Although there are a wide variety of existentialists, and a great deal of debate concerning the definition of existentialism and which thinkers count as existentialists, 28

there are some common themes among them. In the shortest description, it is a metaphysical doctrine which argues that any definition of man’s essence must follow, not precede, its existence. In the words of Sartre, it portrays an individual’s ability to create meaning for oneself, since there is no essential meaning to begin with. To Camus, the feeling that arises when humans notice that the world cannot be fully explained in a rational manner is regarded as the feeling of the absurd. Camus, a 20th-century philosopher, presented this idea of absurdism as a metaphor for the famous Myth of Sisyphus. Sisyphus is condemned by the Gods to push a boulder up the mountain, only to see it fall back. Like Sisyphus, who pushes the boulder everyday, Kenny must also address his fate without consolation in answers. He is killed only to be resurrected and killed again. Likewise, even though we may not repetitively die, all of us are like Kenny to the extent that we must face the absurdity of life. The absurd lie not in the individual or the world, but rather the individual seeking clarity in an irrational world. To Camus, the world is not necessarily without meaning, but if the world does have a meaning, it transcends the individual’s intelligence. Interestingly enough, when this absurdity of life is acknowledged, Camus believes that a person achieves lucidity and clarity. When Sisyphus accepted his fate and the repetitiveness of his task, he concluded that one must imagine Sisyphus happy. Geek Gazette

Similarly, if Kenny has come to terms with his repetitive death and embraced his comic, for Camus, Kenny, out of all the boys, is the absurd hero of South Park. As any other philosophy, Existentialism is highly misunderstood—by reasons of its broad popularity and general unfamiliarity with its origin, representatives, and principles. It has merely turned into a label for revolt against traditional philosophy and its values. It is often put forward with meaninglessness to our existence, actions or inactions in a condescending manner, and thereof, limits existentialism to despair, angst, absurdity, alienation, and boredom. The majority of its literature has merely reduced to a few overused and misinterpreted quotes—Hell is other people, To live is to suffer, Reason is a whore, and perhaps the most famous, God is dead.

As any other philosophy, Existentialism is highly misunderstood—by reasons of its broad popularity and general unfamiliarity with its origin, representatives, and principles. During his lifetime, Friedrich Nietzsche saw the idea of God-given morality losing its popularity amongst the elite and consequently said that God is dead. He denied the objective existence of right or wrong and believed that the truth of our moral claims isn’t a socially-constructed concept, rather it is relative. Each individual is entitled to his or her own perspective or personal truth. So, without the myth of God prejudicing us towards certain actions as right or against others as wrong, our existence itself becomes subjective. To put it simply, if truths of right and wrong, as we commonly conceive them, are an illusion, how are we to make moral judgments at all? This is the dilemma precisely projected in the Netflix original series Bojack Horseman. While the show is laced with existential themes like happiness, self-identity, and closure; morality and goodness deep down inside person remains one of the most interesting philosophical questions that the show opened for us. Bojack addresses this question in the fourth episode of the third season, when he justifies all his worst kinds of behavior by explicitly mentioning Sartre:

Spring 2018

“Hey, I stand by my critique of Sartre. His philosophical arguments helped tyrannical regimes justify overt cruelty.” The statement and Bojack himself, are typical of the kind of misinterpretation people have of existentialism, namely that just because all inherent values do not hold and since God isn't around for us to measure ourselves against, making morals inconsequential and Bojack unaccountable for his actions. However, if one actually reads Nietzsche’s work, he has continuously defended his philosophy against such claims. Popular opinion says that there are certain tenets of existentialism that do not hold one accountable for terrible actions. Read superficially, as he usually has been read, Nietzsche may appear to be in the same tradition; but he is not. According to him, while truths may not be objective, this shouldn’t stop us from seeing that there are better and worse answers. His is a philosophy of radical freedom, the need for humans to always have to choose. Here, right and wrong are not determined objectively by God, but rather, by an individual who maintains a critical distance from nihilistic sickness. On the other hand, Bojack is constantly looking for something to scapegoat for his miserable existence and his own terrible choices—alcohol, sex, parents, drugs, and Sartre. In one of the earlier episodes, he steals a box of muffins, only to eat them all at once and consequently blame the muffins for his obesity. He is drowning in, what Sartre refers to as bad faith. Trapped in a nihilistic inward rage, Bojack will never seek happiness or great success. Maybe that is why the long face, Bojack? Existentialism is a timeless sensibility that can be discerned here and there in the past, but it is only in recent times that it has hardened into a sustained protest and preoccupation. It is marked by dissatisfaction with traditional society. Existentialism does not imply loneliness, darkness or alienation. Existentialism is just a viewpoint of philosophical analysis of actual experiences in the world. Some of these experiences were analysed by Nietzsche and Sartre, but others belong exclusively to us, here and now. Whether we employ it to justify our insufferable nature, our constant need for sympathy, our nihilistic doom, or our passion to make meaning for ourselves, it is a choice that belongs to us and we are our choices. 29

INSIDE KAUFMAN’S MIND Adaptation (2002)

Director : Spike Jonze Starring : Nicolas Cage

Meryl Streep Chris Cooper

IMDB : 7.7/10 | Rotten Tomatoes : 99%


daptation, to reference a dialogue from the movie, is a journey about evolution and adaptation. It is a movie about itself and how its screenplay was born. Adapted from the book, The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean, it begins where Charlie Kaufman's previous movie left off—on the sets of Being John Malkovich. The central characters are real people in the life of Kaufman including himself and the idea behind it is quite simple—to show what goes on in the head of a screenwriter while adapting a book into a movie, especially while under the pressure of following a previous success with another one. The conflicts arise because the book’s subject matter (flowers) is an unusual theme for a Hollywood script, yet the writer intends to stay true to the book’s vision. The New York Times called it, “a gleefully self-referential exercise in auto-deconstruction”. Its characters are gripped with their strong desires and passions for love, affection, madness, acceptance, and validation, but the movie does not take itself seriously leaving us to wonder what it really wishes to convey. The theme of the movie is not instantly clear and obvious and for the same reason, perhaps, it is so effective. We’re left to wonder at its motivations and objectives, and more importantly the lessons we should take from it. Quite evidently, the movie deals with obsession and passion that drive people to make insane choices and reveal their true nature. All the characters either care immensely for their passions or wish they had one, to begin with. This unfolds across a haphazardly structured plot-line that vacillates 30

back and forth in time. In a way, it reflects Kaufman’s real-life struggles in writing movie scripts and the conflict between the dynamics and nature of his profession, and his personal interpretation of his craft. Also, the writer-director team of Kaufman and Spike Jonze collaborated for the second time on this movie after the critical success of Being John Malkovich. It comes at a time (2002) when Hollywood was more receptive of unusual scripts and movie ideas coming from fairly unknown screenwriters like Wes Anderson’s Rushmore (1998) and Sofia Coppola's Lost In Translation (2003). Adaptation is truly experimental and unique. The use of voice-overs and dream sequences add layers to its characters. It touches upon various ideas but steers away from any resolution other than the fact that to struggle is only natural and sometimes answers come from the unlikeliest of places. This movie is worth watching not only for the uniqueness of its storytelling approach, but also for the powerful performances by Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep, Chris Cooper, Tilda Swinton, Brian Cox, and the rest of the cast. Adaptation is, truly, a masterpiece of brave storytelling and synergistic collaboration, one that surely deserves to be appreciated.

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GRAY FABLES Tales from Outer Suburbia (2008)

Author : Shaun Tan Goodreads : 4.3/5


ales from Outer Suburbia is a collection of bleakly vivid and hauntingly beautiful short stories, along with a series of illustrations setting the environment. Each story is set in a quiet suburban neighbourhood of some faraway country and deals with the bizarre experiences of its residents. Most of the characters and occurrences in the story are alien and surreal, but as the fable goes on, one can associate a strange feeling of familiarity with almost every story. Broken Toys, for example, is a story about a mysterious scuba diver who was found by two kids wandering about the neighbourhood. The kids, puzzled at his outlandish appearance, lured him to the house of a grumpy old lady who did not fare well with them, in hopes of creating discomfort in her life. In a perplexing turn of events, the scuba diver ends up living happily with the lady, who herself becomes a gentler and a friendlier soul. On the surface, this seems too far from a cohesive plot for a story, but on taking another look, this is the story of how a person seeking help who, having been ostracised by the society due to his peculiar appearance, meets a lonely old lady who has been living a life devoid of companionship, and this chance meeting completes both their lives. In Stick Figures, a strange race of ‘stick humans’ are living alongside normal humans. Throughout the story, a special emphasis is given to the figures leading a purposeless life. The humans are indifferent to their existence, albeit with kids sometimes trying to interact with them, and young adults taking pleasure in tearing them apart. Yet, the Spring 2018

figures remain adrift in mysterious silence, making the narrator wonder why the stick humans exist, seeking answers to the following sequence of questions; “Who are you? Why are you here? What do you want?”. In the end, he realizes that maybe those strange beings have the same questions regarding us. These powerful lines are strong enough to make one question his own existence. As the stick humans do not differ from a lonesome stranger on the street—someone we would not pay a second glance to; the cold realisation that we do not differ from the stick humans may send a reader down the path of existentialism. A fascinating aspect of the book is that every reader can have his/her own interpretation of each story. Although the book is only about an hour long read, the rich illustrations in the book would have any individual engrossed and lost in the imaginary world, embowed with life through the words of Shaun Tan. Upon further scrutiny, one can observe that the stories do not differ from any individuals’ everyday life. From the moments of the somber life of an outcast to the simple, bittersweet joys of brotherly quarrels, all are nothing but picturesque short stories with a lucid elegance to them. We all witness many such fleeting moments, stories lost in the pages of time, which could decorate the journals of our lives. Because after all, there is always enough space for another story.





rabh Pal is a final year B.Tech student of Mechanical Engineering at IIT Roorkee. Pertaining to his overwhelming interest in mechanical engineering, Prabh has done a significant amount of research in the field and has been a contributor to several research papers. Currently, Prabh is working on an intricate engine design for his Bachelor Thesis Project. GG: In a college where most students pursue disciplines like coding, consultancy, and data science, what prompted you to choose core mechanical engineering as a career? Prabh: I have had a keen interest in mechanical engineering since my childhood. My family background in the manufacturing industry has certainly been a major factor in shaping my interest in the field. This exposure to the field from an early age proved to be very helpful while deciding the stream that I wanted to pursue. After joining college, students face an overwhelming number of choices and so did I, but mechanical engineering was the one that I felt to be the most appealing. GG: You have been involved in quite a lot of research at IITR and you must be well acquainted with its environment. What are some problems that you faced in the process? Prabh: During my research, I worked with Dr Arup Kumar Das on a simulation based project. I’ve also worked on projects under SURA and with Team Robocon. One of the problems that I faced was managing the resources. Back then, we did not have a tinkering lab, so a lot of manufacturing was done by the students or outsourced from third party vendors. Even though the lab staff was


very supportive, progress was hindered by the lack of resources. Also, the lab staff has been significantly reduced in number over the years, from around 40 to merely 5. Despite these issues, the perks outweigh the cons and research environment is definitely improving at IITR. GG: You did a project in your sophomore year under SURA, IITR’s former summer research programme. How effective was it in kindling your research ideas? Prabh: Working on the project under SURA was a fairly enriching experience. Apart from the technical skills, I also learned management skills that helped me develop a streamlined workflow for all my projects. It made me aware of the kind of problems that one may face during a project and how they can be dealt with. Even though we could not complete the project as it was quite difficult, I walked away with a set of skills that proved to be valuable assets during all my other projects, including my B.Tech project. GG: What have you been working on for your B.Tech. Project? What other projects have you worked on? Prabh: I’ve been working on an engine design for my B.Tech. project under Dr Arup Kumar Das. I approached

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him with the idea in my first year and he was very supportive about it, but I didn’t have the skills required to work on the project. So, he suggested that I work on other projects and get back to this project in the future. I then pitched the idea to him as my B.Tech project, and now it is on the verge of completion. Talking about the other projects, I have worked on simulations of micro-droplet transport. I have also worked on a patent pending optical device that reconstructs fluid interfaces. For my industry oriented project, I worked on a safety device for factories. I’ve also worked with Team Robocon and under SURA on robotics related projects. GG: Undergrad students at IIT Kharagpur and IIT Madras have an option to skip the thesis project and take up electives of their choice for the required credits. What do you think about it? Prabh: I think the B.Tech. project is an essential part of the curriculum and should be taken up as an intellectual challenge rather than a burden imposed on you. It is an opportunity to come up with something new, and the environment IITs provide you is very constructive in that sense. Objectively speaking, it is fairly demanding, but it is also a fruitful learning experience. Since, many students pursue careers that have a little to do with their branch, having the option to skip the project doesn’t hurt either, but I am not in complete favour of the idea.

industry aren’t as different as they seem if you are involved in the research and development sector. They collaborate very often and one can always move to academics after working in an industry; the work experience only add to one’s skill set. If I ever decide to pursue higher studies in the future, I would love to learn about Jet Engine Propulsion and Aerospace Engineering. GG: What advice do you have for your juniors? Prabh: Students, especially freshers should talk to their professors often, as they are the best resource at your disposal. Most professors are extremely supportive, and they often go out of their way to help students. Also, students should visit their departments to have a look at the ongoing projects and find things that pique their interest. If they start interacting with people who work in the respective fields that interest them and try to find things that they can work on, they can make their time in college way more productive.

GG: What fields in mechanical engineering can aspiring engineers look to explore? Prabh: Today, research is quite interdisciplinary. Mechanical engineering is involved in research related to Civil Engineering, Hydraulics, and Micro-electronic systems. I worked on a project related to chemical transport of micro droplets which has its links with Chemical Engineering. In the future, I think Nanotechnology and Nuclear Energy have very promising prospects because of the recent advancements like, nano gears and nano motors, and our need for alternate fuel sources. There are innumerable research opportunities in these fields. GG: What are your plans for the future? Did you apply for higher studies, or are you planning to join the industry? Prabh: Although I plan to join the industry, academia and

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YONDER MOMENT Fictional Story

March 12, 2081 I have decided to keep this journal in order to record the peculiar events I have been experiencing for the past four days. This Friday, I collapsed on the desk in my lab while working. It was quite unlike me, but I suppose it is not the first time it has happened, and there are usually no long-lasting effects. However, I have been feeling a bit strange since then. At first, it was like experiencing déjà vu. Not just once or twice, but every petty event felt like a distant memory tugging at my mind. Then came a sense of urgency, growing steadily as time passed. But perhaps the most troubling part—dreadful anxiety. Decisions I wouldn’t give a second thought to, routines that I have followed for years, suddenly made me apprehensive. There was also the matter of these nightmares that I could not fathom. I am not much of a dreamer—but for the past few days, I have been waking up at night, shaking, and covered in sweat. It really is quite disconcerting. But something happened today that made me start writing it all down. When I went for a walk with Ollie, my dog, I was feeling so anxious that I took a longer route through the park, something I had not done for quite a while. My nerves immediately calmed and the feelings of apprehensiveness faded instantly. I felt as if a great weight was lifted off my shoulders. This, however, was not the most perplexing thing I saw today. As Ollie was jumping around the park, I momentarily saw him suspended in 34

thin air. It was as if time had slowed down—I could not hear the wind whistling in my ears or the sound of people around me. It was a very brief moment—most would have missed it, ignoring it as trick of the senses, but not me, not after all the work and research I have done on imaginary time. But that’s strange. The machine I have been building cannot be used for long jumps in time. Why did it happen? Was it connected to these strange feelings I have been experiencing? Or is it because of the machine? I cannot rush to conclusions. Maybe, just maybe, I have become caught up in something beyond my imaginations. I must perform experiments and figure out what is happening. March 13, 2081 Fire, a gunshot, howling, floating in space, falling off a cliff, feeling the world curve in on itself, screaming, barking. I woke up screaming. The barking was Ollie’s. What are these goddamn nightmares? What could they possibly mean? Having theorized that my unnerving anxiety is somehow associated with the feelings of my perception of time slowing down, I performed several experiments today—including going against my usual schedule and making changes, big changes, like talking to my neighbours for once. I am certain now—my perception of time is diluting whenever I deviate from my normal routine. The answer to these observations is quite Geek Gazette

obvious—it is the machine. But it can only send anything a week back at most, not to mention it’s not perfect yet; scratch that, even the theory is imperfect. I have yet to resolve all the possible paradoxes that can occur. Yet, that is the only explanation I have. Unless� If I have resolved the time limit in the future, my future self travelled back in time. The thought is terrifying—there is no way I could have perfected my machine in such a short duration of time. Then what propelled myself to time-travel with all these glaring faults and errors? From what I understand, my future self arrived in the past last Thursday and merged with my present self, as predicted by my calculations. But I did not take the memory paradox into account; it seems the memories of my travelling self are locked deep in my subconscious and are affecting my emotions, thoughts, and dreams. Since the future me obviously didn’t resolve all the paradoxes, it is most probable that I did not resolve the time limit either. So, the event that made me travel back is probably going to occur this Thursday.

works differently for me. Still the same laws of physics apply, but to me, they apply in my own time frame, and not the world’s. This difference was not so obvious yesterday. I have changed everything I could—it has to be enough. It must be. I can’t sleep. The time keeps getting slower—I feel like I’m slowly sinking in quicksand. Only an hour has gone by in the world, and I don’t know how much that is for me. There is no clock synchronized to my ever-changing perception, but it has been more than enough. I am no longer able to perform fine tasks. I can no longer continue my research. It takes nearly all my effort to write slowly enough to keep the ink-flow continuous. This would be my last entry�.It’s still Wednesday. It’s still Wednesday Its stillWednesday Itsstillwednesday

The dreams must be connected to this. There must be some meaning to the visions. But I have spent hours deciphering them—still, I have no answers. It’s driving me insane. I have to find out what is going to happen that would make me take such drastic measures. I have to sleep, the dreams are my best chance right now. If only I could make this uneasiness go away�


March 14, 2081 Burning, the loud scream of a gunshot, white-hot steel burning my flesh, running on an endless spiral, laughter, falling, barking� I woke up. The barking was Ollie’s. My head is burning. The nagging feeling has grown into an itch that I can’t scratch. It just gets worse and worse and a hundred times worse. I cannot figure out what is happening. The dreams make no sense to me. I keep making changes—I just hope that I’ve altered the timeline enough to prevent whatever horrendous event I escaped from occurring. I cannot help it, time is moving so slowly, like marbles through honey. The tiniest event—even a breath—alters my perception. I am on my own plane of time. Everything is same as the rest of the world, but time

Spring 2018



easer, credits, trouble, muddle, triumph, and then finally, the kicker; these are the ideal plotline elements a twenty-two minute interlude, a sitcom or a situational comedy, offers us every day. From multi-camera shoots to single-camera footages, from a live audience to laugh tracks, sitcoms not only have evolved technically, but their scripts, too, have reflected the changing societal norms. They have always been feel-good phenomena; often based on a relationship that holds a group of characters together, which the masses can relate or aspire to. The sitcom genre began with shows which had self-explanatory titles like Father Knows Best and Make Room for Daddy. The ‘father’ would be a smart and strong head of a white, middle-class family which mostly comprised of old parents, a dumb wife, and a couple of mischievous kids. The same set of characters kept reacting to different situations. However, with the passing decades, the dumb wife evolved into an attractive and well-spoken lady, while the father, in contrast, became childlike & immature, creating complications and struggling to come out of them. In the 1970s, sitcoms diverged from flowery paths to more serious issues. Two of television’s highlights of the decade were M*A*S*H and All in the Family—the former being set around the Korean War while the latter became a pioneer show for exhibiting racism, homosexuality, and the Vietnam war. The 1980s, on the other hand, were marked with more diverse and liberal cultures. Conventional sitcom families were becoming dysfunctional. A fitting example for this trend was the show, The Family Ties, wherein a couple of ex-hippies raise three conservative children. Moreover, the sets also shifted from the warm-homely-setups to tacky, urban settings, such as bars or courtrooms. By 1990s, friendship became the new glue between the characters as TV families slowly became scarce.

situations to the characters themselves. The show wasn’t only dependent on the jokes to produce laughter as much as on other factors, be it Kramar’s peculiar approach towards life, George’s disgraceful nature, Elaine’s assertiveness or Jerry’s immaturity. It had characters who were messed up in their own unique ways, deviating far from ideality and converging more towards relatability, often making immoral decisions and hurting others in the process. With Seinfeld, the true meaning of ‘situational-comedy’ emanated. Thus, with coming years, the shows started making the characters more vivid, eccentric, and laughable. This huge shift from ideality to relatability was made more prominent by deeply exaggerating the flaws of the characters and cartoons provide a great platform to do so. Consequently, animated shows became a major stakeholder in the sitcom industry, for they provide the liberty to play with facial features and exaggerate the appearance and clothing of cartoon characters, which often became an allegory to the personalities showcased by them. While originally framed around the feel-good phenomenon, the scripts have generally become more morbid and strange to relate to current times and situations. Some may say that the genre will die out eventually, for it has undertaken a depressing tone and displays a lack of healthy interpersonal relation, but then again, it may evolve to a new form and teach us to laugh at our own imperfections.

Seinfeld brought another major change in the genre, with the main focus of the show shifting from the funny 36

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Geek Gazette Spring 2018  

Geek Gazette is back with its Spring 2018 issue featuring the exhilarating journey of ideas through time. In the cover story, focusing on t...

Geek Gazette Spring 2018  

Geek Gazette is back with its Spring 2018 issue featuring the exhilarating journey of ideas through time. In the cover story, focusing on t...