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other side! Story of moon and me

This small booklet contemplates over the thought; how rote learning has affected education and understanding. Most of our education traps a student into verbal learning, rather than comprehension of the concept. Assumptions about understanding lead to confusion and ambiguity, which in turn hinders creativity. This booklet attempts to investigate the other side of these issues.

Let's begin with the simple question posed to different people, that “Can we never see the other side of the moon from earth?â ˝.

In june 2003 when I started asking this question to whomever I met, from everybody the answer received was yes. But when asked, why? the explanations were unsatisfactory and confusing. To reconfirm with them when another question was posed; " If, I paste picture of my face on one of the hemisphere of the moon and yours on the other, will I never be able to see my face from earth, if my face was considered to be other side of the moon?"

Your face

My face

Most of the grownups ended up saying, how did it matter to them at that point of time in life; and my 8th standard cousin was pretty unsure and preferred to confirm it with his teacher. The argument within me continued, until it was satisfied with an answer from 8th standard geography book, which had quoted the whole story in a single line." The revolution period and the rotation period of the moon around itself and earth is the same, ie... (27 days 4 mins)." For anybody to understand this sentence, then he might be a grownup or a student, he needs to visualize it, which becomes so difficult? Not to mention, phases of the moon diagram in all eight standard books in top view + profile view (depicting waxing and waning of the moon)  still becomes difficult to imagine. In this understanding of heavenly bodies, we need to visualize and that too, not in flat, i.e...two dimensional, but in (3 dimensional). Plus visualize a light source and imagine them moving again with relation to your position on earth, in add- ition to the fact that we being inverted in the southern hemisphere and vertical near the equator with earth tilted at an angle of 23 degrees and moon orbiting the earth tilted from the equator at five degrees.

Advent of computers have enhanced the use of computer graphics. Information graphics are nowadays widely used to explain difficult concepts. A simple experiment was thought, which could be executed in any 3d software program as well as made interactive (see fig. 1.1). Two cameras were placed over a sphere (earth), one at the north pole and another at the equator rotated according to our relative viewing position on earth. Pictures taken by both the cameras were displayed in the small television screens (Fig 1.1). So, from Australia one should see the flipped image of the moon, where we are supposed to be positioned inverted. Same moon from different positions on the earth appears different in the orientation of its light source, most of the times misleading us to assume the light source originating in relation to the position of the area lit on the surface of the moon. Yes interesting thought but, so what?. The point whether good infographics are going to solve the problems in better understanding of these heavenly bodies, at the scale they are meant to be understood. Proposed interactive solutions to explain phases of the moon Camera (North pole)

Camera (Equator)

Picture of the Moon from North pole

Picture of the Moon from Equator

Questions to be answerd from these were whether we really need to visualize 3 dimensional to understnad these concepts. The answer to the query concluded in a yes, during a visit to a pshycologist at the Huminities department of IIT Guwahati. He specifically pointed out that visualization from a two dimensional diagram in a printed book has to form a three dimensional model in the mind, for these concepts to be visualized. But the main problem he pointed out lies in the words rotation and revolution, which he himself recalled, as difficult in comprehension during his childhood, unless it was explained to him individually by his teacher with a special pencil and an eraser as substitutes to these heavenly bodies. The racism our education system follows of creating divisions among students at the school level itself, by dividing bright and dim kids, separating them in classes of A,B,C & D respectively from good, average, poor and worst students. It creates distinct mental blocks for students to believe that they are not clever. Not to mention exams which are conducted to pass or fail rather than confirming whether student has understood the concept.

Instead of asking the questions in a different manner which could confirm whether a concept is understood for eg. From southern hemi-sphere will you see an inverted image of moon and why? Questions like; Why phases of moon occur? to which answers in rote learning suit well, people with tuition classes (education as business) flourish. Guides for each subject with ready-made answers converted into 21 question paper sets, come into existence. Paragraphs and diagrams are memorized, sentences like (e.g. the revolution period and the rotation period of the moon around itself and earth is the same, so... ) are by heart the day, before the exam and forgotten by the end of the exam. Kids from divisions of C & D due to poor memory power mess up with words like rotation and revolution and find it difficult to recall in the examination hall. Prayers before examinations form rituals and are meant for the same question to appear, for which the answer is by heart. Analysis and statistics of question papers from last five years is done thoroughly by student groups and probability of possible questions, are anticipated. These thoughts questions the pattern of examina- tions that are held every year or the content and the language in which education materializes. Should or can a teacher attend to each and every student in a class with capacity of 60. Government textbooks offering books at subsidised rates; will they be able to succeed in the struggle to match the quality of books with international standards already flooding the markets. So where does the solution lie? If we try to answer this question the solution lies in the question itself.  What kind of question is asked, plays an important role to create interest about the subject rather than directly telling of the idea.Let us relook at the question asked earlier:

“ If I paste picture of my face in half the hemisphere and yours in the other, will I never be able to see my face from earth, if my face was considered to be other side of the moon?" See the figure 2‌

fig 2

Cannot see the moon due to daylight

You cannot see the moon!

We see full moon in the night

Amvasaya stage

Intermediate stage

Poornima stage

There are various options to simulate effects through flickers, animations, or videos but it still lacks reality of experiencing. With these heavenly bodies we always tend to use substitution or metaphors of balls, apples, or oranges to be considered as earth, and those smaller in size (table tennis balls or lemons) as moons, (since it is the most viable approach in a school environment or at home with parents).

Simple and intelligent ideas in a Russian children books, had explained these concepts very creatively, in relation and very close to a child's cognitive model. It had substituted metaphors, which a child could relate with his environments and activites. These and many new media solutions (e.g. Virtual reality and documentaries on Discovery channel or printed books) provide excellent analogies, but shy away from the fact of the child being physically present in an environment, in the same manner as we see mountains, trees, birds or sky, which are so real. The thought was about mind not to have the perception of things to be virtual. The Big idea...

act. The way we have polio vaccines to eradicate polio from the country, same could be thought for education, even the worst student throughout the country should understand these concepts for ever, not remember them, but enjoy the experience and when one understands, he need not remember. Instead it will lead to more inquisitive behaviours amongst the students, primarliy due to the environment we could create.Environment plays an important role in development of a child, may be this is the one of the reasons IITs, Army's, Navy's have big campuses, with schools within and trying to accommodate all kinds of facilities within the campus, to create an environment conducive to learning. So, why our society should be void of such environments. It's up to us to decide whether we require more pubs, video game parlours, Imax cinema halls or fast food centers for the next generations. This should also answer the someone's query of why should one pump in so much money into these massive structures. Some practical questions one would like to have clarified are; How can one be sure of these massive 3d models, enhance a student's understanding? and if, the same could be achieved through books, wouldn't it be more feasible. Are we going to have monuments throughout the country for all the concepts which are difficult to be comprehended. No, this model could only be suggested for heavenly bodies, which are difficult to visualize due to their massive size. For the only reason that the other options presented earlier; flickers or apples or oranges or any other substitutions for this concept, like the Russian book example mentioned earlier, create excellent analogies, but the whole idea is about the impact, the hugeness, reality, which can be only felt physically in these massive structures (environments), of being larger than oneself, which makes it more real and interesting, close to an experience, like seeing a tree, mountain, or say the stars and the sky. Rough Concept Infographic for a massive planetarium in the country.

Can you notice this person sleeping? everything works fine, but when a child says, why the sun is not over his head in comparison to his standing on the railing, which he tries to resonate with the natural phenomenon. Yes, it can be done, lets make the child sleep on the railing floor at 12.00 noon and we will have the sun over his head, he can experience sunset or sunrise in the same manner as he would experience it in the real world. Projectors projecting extra information for audience

The next idea was aimed to create environments, closer to realities, where in one can experience these heavenly bodies with their physical presence. The thought envisages a circular railing around an artificially built replica of earth. People were supposed to stand around the railing and watch the artificial moon. One could experience the occurrence of day and night and nothing gets ssumed or substituted. The figure above shows the profile view of the structure, inside there is a huge globe with the railing and people standing in there with their kids experiencing day and night. This railing could be like a street on which lamps get switched on when you are rotated towards the darker side. One session trip on the globe could cover Amvasaya and Poornima, clubbed with knowledge of eclipses (lunar and solar), constellations, or shooting stars. It could be considered like visiting a monument, for e.g. as one would visit Taj Mahal, the same way, schools around the country could bring children to visit the planet earth, a more physical

Children entering: experiencing the massive globe earth from below

Such ideas almost seem impossible considering business perspectives, but the answer lies in thinking with a broader frame of mind. For e.g. whenever a temple is set up in a particular area, the flower vendors, flea markets, start automatically. Nobody invites them, so many people survive on small businesses like these. It runs an economy, may be at whatever level. So what we could do, is try to setup a temple (planetarium), other things could follow, but atleast we could think of these ideas for our country. Then one can imagine of having a science fest throughout the country, (hope the National Highway project picks up soon). The need for Pamphlets, Brochures, Posters, Snacks (packaging), TV commercials, or promotions could spring up and automatically create numerous jobs for the design community in our country, as well as boosting the economy at whatever levels. Lets see one more example, simple concept used pragmatically. This model was used in a music video shoot where the artist is shot at 360 degrees. Most of the people wonder as to how the music video was shot. But, if you observe it has a straight relationship of rotation and revolution around an axis. Reducing ambiguity of concepts at childhood, initiates further thinking, towards creativity.

Glass surface on  which the artist performs

Rotates at 360 degrees shooting the artist from various angles

Video Camera

Actually, industry needs a market place, which could be looked upon as an environment to promote such ideas. Companies will shoot down ideas as independent small scale projects (e.g. toys with planetary concepts), which generally struggle to find a market place. We need to built environments in our country, which can form suitable market places for these cognitive contents. Then companies would reflect their interest in solutions offered by the institutes, generating employment and promoting visual communication as a serious profession (creating respectable jobs in the traditional as well as the new media) resulting in more industry and agencies understanding the utility of design. Ideas could then crystallize into creation of more practical projects contradictory to their current (forced) hypothetical nature. Finally, as we know for sure that we can never see the other side of the moon, we should also realize the need to probe into the other side of education, in order to create a better future. 

Anecdote: During the summers, when I was strolling through the IIT Guwahati Campus, the sun was busy emitting the final rays for the day. There was this massive cloud stretching over me, painted with vermilions of the setting sun, making it a beautiful moment to be captured in a camera. But then parked the thought, that even if I had captured the cloud, thousand times bigger than me in a camera with a wide angle lens and mailed the prints to someone, would he really understand the massive nature of the cloud and the beauty it inherited at that moment. Nonetheless, to scan the cloud over my head (with my eyesight), was in itself a task of looking back and forth 2 to 3 times to appreciate its beauty. Would a 4�x 7� or 800 x 600 pixel jpeg do justice to that natural beauty, no way. Then, how could a kid understand the massiveness of pyramids printed in a geography book. The thought made me stall for sometime. Does same happens with heavenly bodies or even with people? To understand how large is something, we need to visualize how small we are. Series: Concepts for India, June 17th 2003.

Still lot of questions need to be answered, regarding, how will these massive concepts respond to business queries, with reference to these activities being seasonal, and would they be able to create entertainment throughout the year to suffice the running costs. Answers won't come up unless questions are asked. Apparently, if we can have Fantasy lands and Appu ghar, why not educational parks (environments). The future ahead is to imagine (for our country), technology is awaiting ideas. Only after this, we should think of toys for children, flickers for phases of the moon, or other miscellaneous ideas along the periphery of a larger concept. Options are limitless and well as exciting. Projects and efforts towards such directions do happen at design institutes in India, but usually, are manifested as bound reports. Neither are they taken up by the industry nor promoted by the institutes. Its foolish debating on the fact, who is wrong? (industry does not approach institutes or vice versa). It could be more practical to find, what is wrong than who is wrong, (what can change and what could be the possible solutions).


Why we cannot see the other side of the moon?


Why we cannot see the other side of the moon?