M ARCH 19 2008
IIT K HARAGPUR
THE SCHOLARS’ AVENUE
AVENUE Inside ?
From the Editors’ Desk Over a single weekend, we have seen a burst of much-needed activity since the lull between fest euphoria and mid-semester panic. Inter Halls, internships and IIM interviews are perhaps the second-most frequent topics of discussion. The first, of course, is the upcoming election, evidenced by the sudden profusion of monochrome this week, where 68 candidates don their mandatory Black and Whites to try secure themselves a position in next year's Student Council as Secretaries, General Secretaries, and the Vice-President. The Gymkhana elections give us an opportunity to examine two large issues. The first one is the significance of free and fair elections, away from the two p-words pervading our everyday conversations. This issue, we feature a full-length article by the outgoing Vice-President on this topic, and as such, the topic and all its extensions need no real elucidation. The second issue is the broader one on the effectiveness of Student Government in our campus. While we draw inspiration from campuses in the US and Europe for effective student Government, we must remember the most important component of this is student responsibility. The truth is, we are not always responsible about our actions here on campus, collectively or
individually. The night time restrictions are direct evidence that our administration feels the students cannot handle themselves with the decency and respect that is 'expected of an IIT student' If reliable sources be believed, we came perilously close to going down the IIT Bombay road on LAN issues the past summer. We also have a bike ban on campus, which was anyway scheduled to take effect for some time. A common pattern is evident even to the remotely discerning: these are the basic liberties and freedoms we students are used to, that make life here so much easier. The liberties and freedoms we have make IIT campuses a model for student populations. We stand to lose these and a lot more, systematically, unless we prove to the administration, that these liberties are disjoint from any irregularities that might occur every now and then. The best, and easiest way to do this, is to take responsibility: starting with each individual, in his or her own domains. Some might skeptically presume this to be akin to voluntarily walking in a single file during leisure. In fact, this sense of responsibility is just about a single thought towards modifying one's actions to minimize possible adverse effects on others. The reason we must, simply must, sit up and take notice of the issue of individual responsibility is very simple: to avoid
an Orwellian existence in the near future. We believe the Gymkhana elections and its subsequent functioning are a grotesque distortion of the term Student Government in its truest sense. Its saving grace, however, is that the spirit of the two are the same. To be a true Student Government worth emulating, we students must gain the trust and understanding of the Administration – first at our level as students, and only then on larger issues. Trust can only be gained by a direct show of responsibility as a whole. We need to stand up by hanging to our dignity, by not descending to the levels of barbrawls. By living up to the name IIT. By not proclaiming our presumably elitist status like gold chains around a Hip Hop artist's neck. By not saying "Peace maar. I leave in 3 years." But instead saying, "I will make use of this opportunity. I will accept the responsibility that comes along with freedom. The responsibility of using it as a gift, not a right." Change will be slow. It will be gradual. But we all know every drop of water makes an ocean. We need to change. Slowly but surely. Meanwhile, let us all toast the spirit of each candidate contesting these elections, for their overpowering desire to be Student Representatives that sees them
A comparison of mess’s in all the IIT’s. Page 2
Women’s Sports GC A review of the latest addition to the Gymkhana Calendar Page 2
Look Out Renovation of PAN ‘interiors’ and KGP’s first Tech Expo Page 3
Election Fever A review of the Outgoing VP ‘s proposals and achievements Page 4
Election Fever What the outgoing GSecs have to say about their year in office Page 5
Tech Ave Cellular Automata Page 6
Bhaat Ave Your friendly neighbourhood CandiMan Page 7
Homer Hickham A chat with the original Rocket Boy Page 8
through pacts, fundas, sop boxes, the dry March heat, and more funda. Cheers!
The Scholars’ Avenue brings to you the proposals of the two candidates contesting for the highest student post
? Building of an e-resource platform for students to share class notes of previous semesters, examination papers and resources for career enhancement ? Establishment of a core marketing team of students in SRIC so
Ankit Singh Tawar ? Introduce fresher counseling: fresher orientation,
parents’ orientation and student mentor allocation. ? Establish AIESEC chapter in IIT Kharagpur: offers
leadership positions and opportunities for students and recent graduates to live and work in another country. ? Establish a network of battery operated buses covering all halls, departments and major points in the campus. ? Extend the daily timings of the reference section of Central
Library to 3 am starting from a week ahead of exams till the end of exams. . ? Create an IT Student Support Group: gymkhana activities, online maintenance complaint, document student projects, streamline registration process, etc. ? Establish a Food Quality and Hygiene Monitoring Committee to
define standards, conduct random checks on hall messes, canteens, and restaurants in the campus to maintain quality.
that students can earn handsome stipends by working on industry sponsored projects within the insti ? Increasing student involvement in TnP: having 2 reps from each
dept (1 UG, 1 PG) for dept-specific needs ? Extend the facility of online complaints regarding maintenance, water supply, electricity and LAN related problems to the students ? Making IIT Kharagpur a centre for CAT ? Introducing competing mess system ? Inducting students in the library committee so that more
money is devoted to books required by students ? Setting up a career options cell which will conduct regular seminars on various career option like IAS, GRE, GMAT, FRM, NCFM, Actuarial sciences etc. In conjunction with the e-resources portal this cell will act as the first source of study material ? Setting up a committee of students under CELC to conduct
random checks on in-campus restaurants
THE SCHOLARS’ AVENUE
F EATURES A VENUE
M ARCH 19 2008
“Mess”ing Around What our counterparts in other IIT’s feed on Mess food, there is something about it that makes it a different class of edible variety. Persistent discontent is the accepted hallmark of the hostel food experience. Sometimes adjusting to the food could be a problem, like for people coming from a region with culinary cultural values far departed from what a hostel's definition is, sometimes it could be the monotony of the mess food (monotonies can be of different kinds, like for example, potato,
Maddu: 2.5/5, the completely privatized 3- storied central mess Himalaya having a capacity to feed 4000 is apparently not much different from KGP in terms of quality of food served!. The good eateries and a CCD on campus makes it all the more impossible to swallow down mess food on a regular basis.
Kanpura: Mostly short of plates, glasses and spoons but hygiene maintained.
Rookie: This one definitely is rated a notch higher amongst its brothers (Mumbai being above it).
Bamboo: No shortage of plates/spoons, properly cleaned plates and duly maintained hygiene. Rookie: above average hygiene, though slightly varying from hall to hall, no shortage of plates, glass and spoons. Dilli: Perenial shortage of spoons/glasses, clean plates but unsatisfactory overall hygiene.
Mess Bills for Different IIT’s
? Private/Insti run mess:
? Maddu: 8000 per sem ? Gawarti: 6200 per sem ? Kanpura: 4500 per sem ? Bamboo: 7000 per sem ? Rookie: 6000 per sem ? Dilli: 8500 per sem potato or potato). It is not only monotony that could be irksome, it could be the workers, the mess duty days, the tables, the plates, the spoons, the oil, the preference cards or importantly also an unjust mess bill signifying overpriced mess efficiency. We at The Scholars' Avenue, decided to ask a few people from different Indian Institutes of Technology about the mess food/management in their respective institutions, so we could bring out the following survey for readers to gauge their own (dis)satisfaction. ? Menu/food/taste buds satisfaction in general:
Maddu: Private Gawarti: Private Kanpura: Some private, some insti run Bamboo: Private Rookie: Insti run
IIT Madras’ Common Mess Gawarti: One word: Crap! Quality of food, in this private mess was rated as 2.5/5 . Inhabitants prefer eating out approximately thrice a week Kanpura: Some times desirable, other times bearable, rest of the times impossible to look at. Canteen definitely stands out as a much holier than thou place! Not privileged enough to have ice creams on week-ends and also no mess-offs. Bamboo: The review here is from the new five star hostel and therefore does stand above the rest
Inter Hall Women’s GC The first ever Women's sports GC turned out to be an instant success thanks to the extremely fervid and enthusiastic response of the girls of Kgp. Critics were left aghast when girls not only registered an outstanding participation but also turned up to cheer their friends. With three events completed and one more to go, IG has already claimed the crown.
GC'. So, the winning hall will not lift the sports GC trophy even though participants will receive their certificates and medals. From next year onwards, however, a glinting cup will be awaiting the winners.
Rated at 3.5/5, they are pampered with stuff like naan, ice creams etc on a regular basis. Every mess is purely vegetarian with an option of eggs being served. The menu is decided by students on a weekly basis, and, wait for it, theres no mess duty either! Dilli: Mostly the food has to be swallowed unnoticed by the gustatory organ that lies perennially dissatisfied on the surface of tongue, ie thrust it directly into your throat. Rated at 2/5, at least four times a week the outside world succeeds in luring the inhabitants outside the messy niceties. ? Mess bills per semester:
Maddu: Basic amount of 43/day( caterers charge 50/day and insti subsidy being 7/day), averaging it over one semester gross is approximately 8000/semester. Gawarti: Rs 6200/semester Kanpura: Rs 4500/per semester Bamboo: Rs 7000/semester Rookie: Basic charge is Rs 30/day + extras that amounts to 200/month or 6000/semester
The events which were conducted in the women's Sports GC this time are Badminton, Table Tennis, Basket ball and Aquatics. Athletics and Tennis are also expected to be included from the next year. Gymkhana has declared this first women's GC to be a 'demo
short of glasses and spoons and barely clean plates .
of its clan. Food rated as DECENT, 3.5/5 claiming highest scores among all. The inhabitants are faithful to their mess and hardly need the outside world while tending to their taste buds.
Dilli: Rs 8500/semester Hygiene/ cleanliness/ plates, spoons and glasses:
Basketball in progress
Maddu: Hygienic, no scarcity of glasses and spoons. Gawarti: Hopeless! Forever
Dilli: Insti run ? Who decides the menu???
Maddu: The hall mess secys, the HAS (which is the powerhouse of insti politics and the point of contact with the management) and the caterers. Gawarti: HMC and the mess committee Kanpura: Mess committee formed by students selected or volunteers Bamboo: Mess Committee and the Mess Secretary Rookie: Students, on a weekly basis Dilli: Mess Committee consisting of 5-6 students The quality of food rated everywhere lies within the spectrum of three words: 1.average 2.pathetic 3.in-edible. The survey however could tell us a bit more and maybe give us ideas on setting up achievable improvement targets in our current system. One thing is definitely clear, apart from isolated cases (a solitary hostel in Mumbai), mess food across IIT’s leaves a lot to be desired. For those inclined to look at the silver lining, we could say that eating in the mess for 4 odd years strengthens us for anything that lies ahead. For the faint hearted food lovers, we can only say, “Billoo ki Jai Ho!”
M ARCH 19 2008
N EWS A VENUE
THE SCHOLARS’ AVENUE
PAN Loop to get a new ‘interior’? A talk with the registrar on renovation plans within the Institute T h e R e g i s t r a r, D r. D . Gunasekaran, talks to The Scholars Avenue, answering existing queries, and giving an update of the various developments happening around the campus in the near future. TSA: What has been done about the renovation of the TOAT, so as to make it ready for Spring Fest 2009, as was planned earlier? Registrar: The Civil Engineering Department was asked to check the structural integrity of the TOAT, and Mr. T. K. Mukherjee is in charge of the same. There is a long term plan to increase the capacity of the TOAT by 2000 seats, and on an alteration to the existing design to account for the eventual restricted view that will happen. There are also plans to air-condition the TOAT, but then I suppose the name would be changed too (Laughs). That, of course, isn't in the very near future. The Institute receives directives from the Government that it must follow. The present directives are aimed at maximizing educational capacity, which means more, larger classrooms and hostels. Very recently, we have released a tender of yet another 2000 seat hostel. In addition, we are looking to extend accommodation in existing Halls like Patel and Azad. A few Departments like Chemistry have plans to move to a newer facility. In fact, Chemistry Department is going to hold labs in an entirely new laboratory complex in the future, a little away from the main campus, for health and safety concerns. As for staff, we are extending existing arrangements to accommodate an additional 450 faculty, 300 nonteaching staff, and 117 project staff. The Director ideally wants the TOAT to be operational by next SF, but practically speaking, that might be a little hard to achieve, if you
consider West Bengal's general work that expands existing eateries, as culture and labour issues. well as develop newer, larger ones. (The Vice President, in this context, TSA: There were rumours said that talks were on with the about an all-night canteen opening owners of Billoos and Harry's to up in the PAN loop, to offset the urge them to stay open all night) inconvenience caused to students by the night-time ban. What is the TSA: What about the plans for status of this proposal? the renovation of the existing Gymkhana structure? There was a R: As soon as the ban was design competition about this last enforced, we decided to tackle this year, but we haven't heard about it problem proactively. We invited since. the HMC employees running the Messes by day to use the Mess R: Again, as with the TOAT and the Halls of Residences, we need to have structural stability checked “We have discussed a out before we proceed with any plan to make a multi-food work on the building itself. This has court-cum-gym in the been done, again by the Civil PAN loop space. This plan, Engineering Department. Any Institute of our age, closing in on 60 however, is in the very years, has to make a choice around early stages, and is not this time to either revamp existing likely to see fruition very buildings, or to make completely new complexes instead. The plans soon.”- Dr. Gunasekaran to make a new Gymkhana behind the existing one may not make much sense, considering the facilities to provide students snacks expansion directive we have at night. Unfortunately, none of the received from the Government. If H M C e m p l o y e e s s h o w e d we expand that much, there won't inclination to this offer. There is no be any point in making a new single large-sized eatery on campus Gymkhana of a similar size, and a (seating more than 200 people), bigger Gymkhana needs more space instead we have many smaller than is available at the site behind e a t e r i e s , s e r v i n g f o o d o f the lake. Also, there is a huge objectionable standard and hygiene. consultancy project worth Rs 40 The Dean of Students Affairs needs lakhs to solve the Institute's water to come forward with a proposal problems, to be completed over the that addresses the students' next 5-6 years. Right now, IIT draws concerns the best. We will act upon water from rivers almost 8-10 kms it swiftly, but only once that initial away, which is a problem step is taken. So far, we have discussed a plan to make a multiChemistry Department food court-cum-gym in the PAN to hold labs in an entirely loop space. This plan, however, is in new laboratory complex in the very early stages, and is not likely the future, a little away to see fruition very soon. As far as the short term goes, the students from the main campus, for need to come up with some sort of health and safety concerns plan, in concert with their Dean,
sometimes. (The Vice President commented that there have been very preliminary talks about for the construction of the Banquet Hall cum restaurant in the space behind the swimming pool.) TSA : We were informed of certain large renovation schemes in the pipeline for Jnan Ghosh. How far have they proceeded? R: The Vice President had a lot of proposals for the same. I'd suggest you talk to him about it. Kunal Kashyap : Renovation of Gyan Ghosh involves two aspects.
Extension of existing arrangements to accommodate an additional 450 faculty, 300 non-teaching staff, and 117 project staff. One is to better it for the purpose of athletics events. To this effect, we have remade the access road to grounds and have plans to set up stores behind it. The second is to make it usable for SF events. This is something I had taken up in the beginning of my tenure but the project has been pushed down in the priority list which highlights more important issues like building new departments, hostels and a new academic complex on the Hijli School grounds. Gyan Ghosh to be ready for SF would require 6 new gates and higher walls to be build (security), stairs to be repaired, a stage and a green room to be set up where the scoreboard now stands, an electrical substation nearby, lavatories and parking facilities. The plans had been made and contractors decided but as of now, the administration has higher priorities.
TTG brings to you IndAc 2008 Kgp’s first Technology Expo
IndAc 2008, IIT Kharagpur's first technology exposition, will be held on the 5th and 6th of April, 2008. Organized by the Technology
Transfer Group (TTG) - a student body working under the Sponsored Research and Industrial Consultancy (SRIC) - the event aims to bring the industry and the academia on a common platform. Some of the best technologies developed at IIT Kharagpur over the past few years and ready for transfer to the industry will go on display during the event. A Workshop on IP commercialization would be organized as part of IndAc'08. This workshop will feature renowned experts in the field of IPR. Shri RP Agarwal, Secretary (Higher Education), MHRD, Govt. of India will be the Chief Guest for the event. Besides, many other high-profile guest speakers from the industry will also
grace the event. The technologies to be displayed have been divided into various sectors such as Food and Beverages, Agricultural Machinery, Chemical Engineering, CSE, Electronics and IT. Industry experts and venture capitalists will get a unique opportunity to have direct interaction with the inventors, opening up avenues for realizing the potential of these new technologies. In addition, the best research laboratories at IIT Kharagpur will be showcased during the event. This is aimed at increasing the number of collaborations and partnerships between IIT and the industry. The vision of TTG is to have a
permanent platform that encourages interaction between the Academia and the Industry. This will serve both the parties, as technologies developed here would be commercialized easily and the industry, in turn, would get an opportunity to come out with its needs and requirements. MOUs, sponsored and consultancy projects could also be initiated from this platform. TTG also plans to involve more students in the process. As a first step some technologies developed by students as part of their course work in the institute have been shortlisted, and TTG plans to have technologies developed by students in their exposition next year onwards.
THE SCHOLARS’ AVENUE
F EATURES A VENUE
M ARCH 19 2008
VP in Review How the man at the helm of affairs fared “Now that my term as VP is about to be over, it is but natural for people to ask me what I did about my proposals.
Outgoing VP Kunal Kashyap’s proposals, as printed in our April 17 issue last year are: 1) To make a Foreign Applications Cell at the institute level. This is essentially to firm up and unify the sketchy process of applying to foreign universities and companies, until now not part of the TnP agenda. This cell will also build a database, accessible to all students, of SOPs, university rankings, GRE scores, and a forum where information and advice will be exchanged. 2) The formation of groups of people with interests in a particular alternative career, such as IAS. Also included will be workshops, exchange of study material, tips, and external expert advice. 3 ) To m a k e i n s t i t u t e a n d department-specific brochures highlighting the achievements, facilities, capabilities in the concerned domain. This would be for the companies coming for TnP to know the institute better. While institute brochures will be made available to any company, department-specific brochures will be mailed to core companies only. This is his explanation regarding the work he has done to implement these proposals.
Let me start with Mr Deepak Rathee's proposal of “Lenovo laptops for all”. In the weeks that followed after the elections we negotiated a price and a model with Lenovo. The initial payment plan was discarded entirely in favor of a “direct pay on delivery” scheme. In total 350- 400 students bought laptops which I feel is a reasonable number.
Promises made: ? Foreign Applications Cell at the institute level. ? Formation of groups interested in alternative careers (IAS etc). ? Training and Placement Brochure.
The next proposal was the Apping Cell. I started working right away and appointed a group of (former) Kshitij members for the job in April. I made an extensive list of seniors who had secured positions in various foreign universities to collect information at hall level and then integrate it in a database. Despite regular reminders, people did not part with the information leaving us with no ground for implementing this proposal. Thankfully apping season is back and I will try once again to collect this information and pass this on to the new VP. Student involvement in placements
was always my top priority. By the time I was elected, Prof Gautam Sinha (former Prof In Charge T&P and very popular figure among students) had already proposed this idea to the institute and former director Prof Dube had approved it. The only problem that we faced in the selection was that of an appropriate time because Prof Sinha was very busy with his placement and departmental visits to various cities in and outside India. After a minor delay, the team was formed on 20th April 2007, a day before the examinations began. After a month of hard work during the beginning of the autumn semester by the placement committee and The Scholars' Avenue, we were able to produce the first ever Placement Brochure of IIT Kharagpur. It was well received and heavily appreciated by the companies that we sent this to. The Training and Placement Website was perhaps the most revolutionary change brought in this year which made it easy for students to keep track of notices. The credit for the website goes to Deepak Pushpakar, Anup Bishnoi and Shrey Modi and the placement committee for coordinating with them at all points of time. We had also made another website primarily a marketing website as an interface for approaching companies. Unfortunately, by the time we finished the website, it was too late for this year. However this website can be used for the coming years and would most certainly be a very useful medium to attract new companies.
After that it was just donkey work, we spent days and days at a stretch in the training and placement section. Resultantly number and quality of companies increased many fold, we are today ahead of all IITs except perhaps IIT Bombay,
Promises kept: ? Student Placement Committee
formed. ? TnP Brochure sent to companies for the very first time. ? TnP website started functioning. irrespective of how you compare. This was the first time that we were able to host and perfectly manage as many as 9 companies in a day. We were able to get rid of all the printed resumes and were able to automate the process of resume submission. I would like to express my gratitude towards Prof B.K.Mathur and Prof Gautam Sinha who guided us throughout this process. I would also like thank Mr. Kumar, Mr Somya Julu, Mr Karmakar and Deepak Da from the TnP section. The work at placement committee along with all the other duties of a Vice President was equivalent to a full time double shift job; after I started working at Training and Placement Committee I never got the time to implement my third proposal i.e. alternative career cell but I maintain that this is a very good idea and VPs in future can certainly look into this possibility.”
The Inside View A guest article from Kunal Kashyap, outgoing VP, Technology Students’ Gymkhana. Elections and their importance from someone who’s seen it all up close and personal. Why do we have elections at all? A college in Chennai fined two of its students on grounds of indiscipline. The said “indiscipline” was that one of the students was a female and the two students were sitting together. Hundreds of engineering colleges in South India have uniforms and despite being a very unpopular decision among students, it still holds. Hundreds of colleges in India have a ban on students moving out of their residential colleges at all. Many of them lock their hostel gates after 10 'o clock. The point of stating all this is for us to first understand that we are indeed living in a very liberal environment. When it comes to treating students like human beings, Indian colleges fare very badly and Indian engineering colleges come at the bottom of this pyramid. Our institute gives us the
opportunity to appreciate the concept of democracy. In my one year as VP, TSG, I have realized that our institute has always given an attentive ear whenever a reasonable demand has been made by the students. Within the constraints of administrative policies, problems and perspective, steps have always been taken to make students' life better. One must realize that students move straight out of high school and enter this deserted island we proudly call IIT Kharagpur. As they graduate, they knock the doors of the big bad corporate world. Therefore it becomes essential that apart from the curriculum of Engineering and Science, one learns the liberal social sciences, languages and culture and amongst other things, the power of the institution
of democracy. The very democracy for which millions of Indians sacrificed their lives. The power of democracy does not lie on the elected few, but in the 'Demos' or the people. Therefore if you feel something is going wrong, take up the responsibility and set it right. Recently a few students approached me, saying the restaurant owners in KGP do not behave well with the students. As a result, I took up the issue and called a meeting of all restaurant owners. If more such complaints are brought, serious action can be taken against these owners and certainly the situation will improve. Similarly if you feel the candidates are not performing, don't follow any blind trend, judge by yourself and vote him in. Nobody can stop you from voting who you want to. If you feel
the entire approach to the elections is wrong, wait for the next hall elections and make it an issue then. Make the candidates in the hall elections realize what your opinions are. How you think elections should be contested? Having been a candidate myself, I can assure you that the points raised by people during elections stay in the mind of the elected representative. Not just this, if you feel the right candidate is not being supported, demand an explanation. Take this matter up with the hall president. The conclusion of all this is simple. As long as you sleep in your rooms, you do not have the right to demand things on a platter. Its only when you stand up to yourself that things will begin to change in your town.
M ARCH 19 2008
F EATURES A VENUE
THE SCHOLARSâ€™ AVENUE
Gymkhana : Outgoing GSecs Review
Sports Debashis Sarangi & Parived Parashar
Q What were your proposals and how far were you successful in implementing them? Debashis: I had proposed to organize an Inter-hall Womens' GC in Sports. This is being conducted successfully. We got Reebok jerseys for our Inter-IIT teams this time. Work for this started in August itself and entailed several rounds of negotiations and a couple of trips to Delhi as well. Also, a captains committee was formed two months before the meet so that the captains could coordinate better among themselves. I mooted the idea of having a Billiard's Club. This will be started shortly. But since this didn't have an allocation in this year's budget, there is only one board. So, for now, only 72 people can register. We had proposed to conduct an Inter-collegiate Sports Fest. This was agreed to by the earlier administration and ratified in an Executive Council Meeting. But then the administration changed and we had to start all over again. The new director was approached after his appointment and by the time he could be convinced there was hardly any time left to conduct it this year. I strongly believe this will come up next year provided the new council members take initiative. Another proposal was to get renowned sportsmen to conduct coaching camps for our teams just before the Inter-IITs. This proposal couldn't be implemented because of lack of time. We met on 3rd October to try and implement this, but it was too late. Parived: My first proposal was to boost our participation at the Inter University tournaments (apart from the usual Inter IIT championships) which was successful to a certain extent. Our other proposal to hold an Inter College Sports Meet was put down by the new director after being approved by previous Dean (Student Affairs) and then Gymkhana President. The Institute wasn't in favour of any more Inter College events due to the numerous fests that already happen throughout the calendar year. I was also working actively to begin an Adventure Club for Kgpians but due to the sad death of a first year student at the NSS Camp, this plan has been put on hold currently. However, we are looking at the possibility of conducting Trekking expeditions in near future. Anand: One, to start a technical magazine for the campus. Despite constant efforts, a team couldn't be made, as there was no incentive for people to get involved in the voluntary work. Nikhil and me, propose the inclusion of three secretaries under the G.Sec Tech, to
Technology Nikhil Singh & Anand Kanodia
help him look after and organize the Tech GC. This additional man power will give him sufficient time to work towards implementing his proposals. My second proposal was to start a new event in the Tech GC concerning architectural design. I had planned to hold the event in the Spring semester seeing that most Archi 4th years are normally out of station during the Autumn semester. But due to the crowded events schedule time in the Spring semester, the event had to be shifted to Autumn semester if it was to happen at all. This idea was then scrapped. Nikhil: The event Overnite has received the ACM certification. In another 2 years it may lead to regionals of ACM ICPC happening in KGP. The Kshitij team has also been allowed a permanent office in the old gymkhana which we will begin using from the next session. This was a result of an initiative by the Gsecs and support from the institute administration. Vijay Kamble: I had proposed using Jnan Ghosh for the star nights. Last year we had been allocated only a p a r t o f T O AT a n d c r o w d management in such reduced capacity is very difficult. Surprisingly, this year the Institute agreed to lend the entire TOAT for the star nights. Hence there was not much to be achieved by using Jnan Ghosh. It would've only resulted in increased expenditure. I had also proposed starting a Fine arts society. Spectra, a fine arts society by an independent group of students is already running. They've organized a few events. It is now their choice to either come under the gymkhana or to search for other mentors. They seemed quite inclined to come under the gymkhana and if this decision is taken, the formalities will be completed by the end of this semester. Tejasvi : I had planned to conduct a Fine Arts Workshop, but it couldn't be implemented because of a reduction in the Soc Cult budget. We had already talked to some persons in Bhubhaneswar, but the workshop fell through because of the lack of the funds. From this year onwards, a soft copy of all Socult results are being maintained which will be passed on for next year. Q What were the high and low points of your tenure? DS: The high point was definitely, the day I got a confirmation from Reebok India agreeing to supply the
Inter IIT tracksuits at subsidized rates. I felt that all the efforts had finally paid off. Low point was when the proposal for the sports fest was not approved by the administration. Hopefully somebody else in the future will make it possible and not let the hard work go waste. PP: Disappointing performance by Kgp at the Inter IIT sports meet was definitely the low point of my tenure. Apart from that, lack of infrastrucutre for some games did not help our cause as well. Nonetheless, there are more halls and teams participating in popular sports like Cricket, Football and Volley ball than ever before which is bound to raise the standard of our game. As many as 14 teams participated in Inter Hall Football and Cricket this year. Besides, Inter IIT participants did not have to pay for their tracksuits unlike previous years . AK: The unprecedented success of Kshitij 2008 was quite definitely the high point of my tenure. The increased participation and sponsorship, the new events and obtaining an ACM certification for Overnite were the major advancements over last year. Also, three very successful exhibitions were held which added a completely new dimension to the fest.I regret being unable to attend satisfactorily to the Tech GC. A lot of improvement is required to raise its standard. I believe that with the inclusion of the three secretaries under the G.Sec, the situation will definitely improve. NS: Kshitij 08 became a fest worth close to one crore and participation touched the 3000 mark. Eureka, the technical paper presentation saw 15 international papers being presented during Kshitij. This was appreciated by students and professors alike. The amount of effort towards the Tech GC is not justified. This is probably because of the enormous responsibility associated with Kshitij. We have proposed the addition of three Under Secretaries so that the work for the Tech GC can be distributed and handled properly. VK: We were quite happy with the tremendous response that we received this year in the sponsorship front. I think companies are realizing the potential of SF as a major branding platform in east India. this will continue to grow over the years. The number of events in the Soc-cult calendar were brought down drastically, easing the long standing problems in the past due to a congested schedule. The low point was definitely my absence
Soc Cult Vijay Kamble & Tejasvi Kushwah
during the fest due to medical reasons. Q: Any suggestions for the incoming Gsecs? DS: Events have to be spread out throughout the year in the Womens' Sports GC and more games can be included. Also the audience turnout hasn't been great. This has to be addressed. We couldn't get the jerseys for the Inter-IIT Aquatics team though we had started work on this in August itself. I suggest that the next GSecs should start work immediately after the elections in order to ensure this is not repeated.We definitely should have camps for the Inter-IIT teams. This will not only help in increasing their skills but also in lifting the team spirit. PP: Recruiting external coaches during the Inter IIT period will go a long way in improving the standard of our game , not to forget the justice it is bound to do to the immense talent that we have (especially among the first years).Infrastructure needs a major face lift. Synthetic Tennis Courts, Badminton Courts and lights at TSC and Jnan Ghosh are also urgently needed. AK: At present, the G.Sec prioritizes Kshitij over the Tech GC, which is somewhat justified by the size and growth of the fest. This needs to change gradually as the Tech GC is in a developing stage and needs due attention. With Kshitij having reached this stature, we should shift our focus from quantity to quality in terms of outstation participation. Given the increasing size of the fest, I recommend increasing the size of the core team and the plan is actually in process. I also strongly advocate the allocation of three under secretaries under the G.Sec Tech to assist him in his duties. NS: Try and make Kshitij more popular in India and abroad. We have a firm foundation and Kshitij can truly be billed as an international event. VK: At the start of my tenure as a G.Sec, my first aim was to change the stagnant structure of Spring Fest. A lot of changes were made this year in the form of new events like paintball, professional plays, and kalaripayattu. I hope that this trend continues under my successor. Uptil now nobody has given any attention to the social aspects of this post's responsibilities. With such a huge student population this IIT can become a major hub of social and welfare activities. This potential should be tapped.
THE SCHOLARSâ€™ AVENUE
T ECH A VENUE
M ARCH 19 2008
Spake Thus Bobby Henderson Bobby Henderson, a physics graduate from the Oregon State University in Corvallis is popular as the founder of the parody religion, The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. The religion, which also became an internet phenomenon, started in January 2005, when Henderson sent an open letter regarding the Flying Spaghetti Monster (FSM, the supreme deity of the religion) to the Kansas Board of Education as an argument against the teaching of intelligent design in
Biology classes. He claimed in a later email interview that the FSM had revealed Himself to him telling him to spread the word.
The religion contains a lot of mockery in all its concepts. For example, in line with the name and the looks of the deity, the prayer of the religion is RAmen. It also states that the invisible and undetectable FSM created the entire universe after drinking heavily and that when radio carbon dating is done to verify His existence, He changes the results with His Noodly Appendage. Heaven, according to it, is a place with beer volcanoes and a stripper factory. Hell, on the other hand, is similar, but the beer is stale and the strippers have venereal disease. Henderson's aim behind sending
theories are given equal time in our science classrooms across the country, and eventually the world; One third time for Intelligent Design, one third time for Flying Spaghetti Monsterism, and one third time for logical conjecture based on overwhelming observable evidence." this open letter was to tell the people that if intelligent design was a possible explanation to the existing universe, then the FSM was too, inspite of the apparent absurdity ingrained in it. In his own words, "I think we can all look forward to the time when these three
The concept is similar to Russell's Teapot and The Invisible Pink Unicorn. Each claims the existence of something in a well crafted manner in order to make disproving it impossible. In fact, In August 2005, BoingBoing.net announced a prize of $250,000 for any individual who could produce empirical evidence that Jesus is not the son of the FSM.
The ninth floor, please, and I appreciate your work I had a friend once. He was a simple man. A ball for a head and some sticks for limbs. For a simple man, though, he was in touch with some pretty complicated emotions inside him. Embarrassment, for example. It was hard to make out from his face, but he would turn a sheepish shade of white if an elevator door opened as he was passing it by. He felt bad when a hardworking elevator stopped at a level and slid open only to find no one waiting to get on. He was also an avid enthusiast of Hindu philosophy. He once told me he believed he would be reincarnated someday as a wicked coat rack and would stalk the streets looking for people who didn't have the courtesy to take off their coats when they entered a pub. It wouldn't have been very difficult to rearrange him into a coat rack. I shuddered inside my coat, but didn't pull it close around me. Then, one fine spring day, he disappeared. That summer, I built universes in my spare time. To understand how I performed such outrageous magic, you need to first ask me a pertinent question: What's an automaton? I realize that a term like that doesn't even remotely sound related to anything magical, but you throw in a little patience, and some neuron jiggle, and you can have enough magic on your hands to keep you busy for a short lifetime. I'll begin then. Anything that claims to change the condition it is in if you give it something, and does so, is an automaton. I understand that this
definition excludes your desktop computer at most times, and your local council politics at all times, but, for the time being, it is a precise enough definition. And we'll come around to including lots of other things later. It would, in fact, become very difficult to exclude anything anymore once we are done. Consider an elevator. It takes the press of a numbered key as input and changes its state from one discrete level to another. Presto. We have an automaton . We are civil engineering mortals yet, and we construct buildings that do not butt their heads into the heavens so there is a finite number of levels an elevator in such a building can be on. We quite obviously call this elevator a finite state automaton. A vending machine is an FSM for the same reasons, as is Pac-Man. A traffic light is one too. They differ in their design in a very superficial way, but they all fit the bill as being finite state machines. They make transitions between states on some inputs and most of them produce outputs that help us keep ourselves busy. But these are boring automata. And magic is not boring. Enter Cellular Automaton. I begin with a simple inorganic static lattice, like a two dimensional checkerboard. Each checker is a cell. On my checkerboard automaton, each cell can be either black or white. I lay down some ground rules, and I collectively call them the transition function. I start a discrete clock. On the next tick, a cell goes to a state defined by the transition function. The transition function depends on the current of
state of the cell as well the states of a certain number of cells in its neighborhood. The automaton begins to come alive. Cells blink and unblink as time passes. I see patterns emerge, then dissolve, and then reemerge in other forms. I am bored. I shake up things a bit, maybe throw in a few more states, different colored, or change the definition of the neighborhood, or even add a third dimension to the lattice. Even more complicated and refined patterns emerge. Most days, it ends up in one big colorful mess, in chaos. But some days are different. Patterns seem full of intent. Some look very familiar. A cluster of colors in one corner looks like the night sky. A funny looking thing rumbles along a diagonal, collides with another funny looking thing, and turns into something funnier. And more complex. I relax things further and take out the term finite from my earlier definition, allowing structures, or agents, as I call them, to evolve as freely as they want, storing any amount of previous data, history, they find useful. This opens up the possibility of anticipation and planning. I change rules further and make cells independent of each other, working on different rules. Another checkerboard evolves. It starts creating its own states, new states, and new behaviors, governed by its environment, the bigger checkerboard. As this process continues, my role in this colorful universe becomes increasingly redundant. I find it increasingly harder to imagine that this started from a relatively simple bunch of black and white checkers. I sit back, pizza in hand, and watch, as seeds
turn into plants into birds into quadrupeds into bipeds into wondering children into adults into adults fighting wars with guns and tanks and computers and cryptographers and logicians and then, suddenly, I sense someone inside some deep nested level of this buzzing mĂŠlange look up at me with a questioning, wondering look. I feel somewhat sick, too full of myself, so I go out to the sea for a swim. Reductionist science has brought us pretty far. But there are phenomena we just can't make sense of when we break them down to their smallest constituent components. It seems as if certain things previously considered relatively complex will have to be considered fundamental if we are to understand more. Cloud patterns. Traffic jams. Stock market trends. Entropy. Human thought. One such creative evening that summer, I came back from the cleansing swim wondering how it might have turned out had I jiggled up the starting checker pattern even a bit. There is no way to know but to do it all over again. That seems to be the catch here: a deterministic universe that attains dizzying levels of complexity that cannot be envisaged beginning with the harmless looking bunch of bits. And it would all turn out so different if a dusty butterfly were to flutter its wings anywhere near it. These days, when I visit pubs around town, I make it a point to take off my coat and hang it over the coat rack.
M ARCH 19 2008
B HAAT A VENUE
THE SCHOLARSâ€™ AVENUE
Your Friendly Neighbourhood Candi Man
God's Hair Brained Scheme Homo Sapiens is definitely not the best possible design for a carbon based life form. Fine, it can climb Mt Everest without any oxygen, swim across the English Channel, build structures that claim to be visible from the moon and occasionally reach 7:30 classes in time, but, it does lack some very fundamental characteristics of a good design. I expect strong disagreement on your part. Well, then, what do you have to say about nose hair? First of all, the idea of having something grow inside your nose is in itself pretty amusing; maybe a little scary too. Secondly, just adapting to it and accepting it as something that can't be changed is not a solution either, for, a little hormonal imbalance can easily result in overgrowth and spotting a bunch of it outside the domain of your nostrils may become a frequent occurrence. Trust me,
trimming your own nose hair is an activity you don't want to indulge in, even in a closed uninhabited room. Actually, it's not really just the nose hair. Hair, in all its manifestations is equally annoying. One of the theories that seems to offer some explanation for the existence of hair is the Compromise Theory. God (metaphorically speaking of course; being an atheist) must have said at the time of creation, "OK, fine, let's make a compromise. I give you the capability to procreate, but in return, you must have small strands of proteins coming out from random parts of your body." Adam has to have been bewildered. Evolution offers some insight too, if we realize that we are still evolving. Sure, the fittest is the one who survives, but we, are not the fittest yet. The fittest humans would
DID YOU KNOW?
definitely be the ones who have got full control over their hair, the ones who can make their hair grow when they want to and make it mind its own business at all other times. And seeing the current pattern and the complete autonomy hair enjoys in the current generation, it won't be very surprising to find that somewhere among our ancestors, some particular line of people got extinct because they had hair growing on their lungs. The hair on your head is not a minor affair either. Things would have been easier if only it had an idea how difficult it is to have a visit to the hairdresser. The problem almost always revolves around the question, "How short is it going to be?" I believe the difficulty lies in the improper distribution of information and skills between you
This paper is colour blind!
and the hairdresser. You have a rough idea how you want to look but don't know how to reach there. The hairdresser knows only how to reach certain specific places but has no idea where you want to go in that restricted domain. The only possible solution for this apparent mismatch is to use the limited power of spoken languages and communicate your idea to the hairdresser, which can only be done by answering fuzzy questions as illustrated above. Need I say how difficult it can be? Homo Sapiens are outdated. Period. I had some non-hair related points too, but they were too hair-raising which sort of distracted me. For now, let's just hope that someone (God?) comes up with Homo Sapiens 2.0, preferably open source and with a function to stop the hair timer.
C H O L A R S
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F EATURES A VENUE
M ARCH 19 2008
Blast Off! Aim for the October Sky The Scholarsâ€™ Avenue brings you an interview with Homer Hickam who worked on Sputnik. We got along great! That's what generally happens when governments get out of the way and people get to meet other people. TSA: Where do you think the current trends will take space research in the future?
TSA: What exactly made you choose space research as a career? Was it just the launch of SPUTNIK, as shown in the movie "October Sky"? Or was there some other motivation too? HH: First, the movie isn't very accurate although it tells a good story. The truth is in my memoir titled Rocket Boys. I encourage you to read it. I think you will find the true story is even more inspirational than the movie. However, the movie was correct in that the first motivation I had to work in the space business was the launch of Sputnik. The world's first earth satellite, being Russian, struck the United States like a big hammer, scaring most of the people and the government. All of a sudden, going into space became a great idea and the USA wanted to be first. I read a lot of science fiction in the 1950's and had already thought about space a lot although I never imagined I would work with rockets. When Sputnik was launched and I saw it fly over my home town of Coalwood, I thought to myself I wanted to be part of the movement into space. The only way I could figure out how to do that was learn how to build a rocket. TSA: Space research was very closely related to the Cold War during your time. What were your views about something so important for the whole human race being a part of a war between two countries? HH: As a young man, I thought it very important the United States stay technologically ahead of the Russians, mainly because I believed that was the best way to avoid a war. It was the belief of most Americans that if the Russians got ahead of us, they would start a war probably by invading Europe. So there was a great deal of fear and determination on our part to always be number one. The race into space became part of that determination .With the Shuttle era beginning, I was hired by NASA to work in spacecraft design and later astronaut training. When the Soviet Union collapsed, I visited Russia to work on the International Space Station program and met many of the engineers and scientists
HH: It is necessary to separate robotic and human spaceflight in order to talk about trends. With robotic spacecraft, the future is assured. Communications, GPS, and observation satellites will always be needed and launching them using chemical rockets has proved to be expensive but economically viable. There is already a huge commercial infrastructure for robotic spacecraft launchers in the USA and the rest of the world, including India. So the future for robotic spacecraft is very, very good and chemically propelled launchers should serve quite well for decades. TSA: What role do you think the Indian Institutes of Technology play in space research? What role do you think they should play? HH: In my novel Back to the Moon, I had the Indians launch a very important spacecraft for my hero in his bid to fly to the moon. I did this because I was very much aware of the great rocket boosters developed in India. There is no reason why India can't have a leading role in spaceflight. I hope you do what's necessary to keep building your own capabilities. The people of India are bright, energetic, and just now realizing their potential for world leadership. TSA: Other than communication and meteorological advantages, is Space Research aimed at something more advantageous than an indispensable need to satiate human
curiosity and intellect? HH: It is my belief that when we humans stop wondering or caring about the rest of the solar system and the universe, we will start to die. It is imperative that we keep moving outward, exploring and learning, or we will collapse into warfare and the destruction of humankind as we know it. TSA: Ethically, how correct is it to pour millions of dollars worth resources to find ice on Mars when half of humanity dies thirsty in the underdeveloped countries of our planet? HH: I don't believe this is a true proposition because of the way governments spend their money. By way of example, let's say the United States decided to cancel NASA and not spend sixteen billion dollars annually on spaceflight. Would that mean the sixteen billion dollars saved would be used wisely or for altruistic purposes? I sincerely doubt it . In other words, the reason why most people suffer around the world is because they have despotic and corrupt governments that like things the way they are. We know how to cleanse water and make it available. Technologically, this is very simple. Yet, most people don't have access to it. This ultimately is a matter of politics. In the meantime, other things must be done including the movement into space. TSA: We never really notice the 99% who DON'T win competitions, their struggles are much longer. What do you suggest for such "Rocket Boys", who have dreams but equally strong counter family pressure? In effect, what do you think would have been the course of your life if you had NOT won the State Championship which got all of you the scholarships?
Jake Gyllenhaal, who plays Homer Hickham in the movie, October Sky (DVD shown right).
HH: When you read my book Rocket Boys, you will understand that we did NOT win scholarships when we won a gold medal at the National Science Fair. Although the movie said we did, we did not. There were no scholarships available. Yet, we all went to and graduated from college. How did we do it? We all worked our way through . Although we were all children of coal miners without much money, 80% of my class went to and graduated from college! Almost all of us worked our way through one way or another because we understood the value of education. As for counter family pressure, ultimately it's your life. While still honouring your parents, you have to live your life the way you think is best for you. That's your right as a human being. TSA: Any messages for the Aerospace engineers at IIT? For the Mining engineers? HH: Yes. Congratulations on your career choice. I think you will have a good, productive life as a result and what more can we hope for? I eagerly look forward to reading about your future successes!
Who is Homer Hickam? October 1957. The first artificial satellite, Sputnik-1, a Russian Scientific marvel sprang into orbit. With it, rocketed the aspirations of a small boy in a Mine Town of West Virginia. Defying destiny which was bound to shackle him to the mines of Appalachians, Homer Hickam went on to become one of the greatest engineers America has ever produced. An Industrial Engineering graduate, Mr Homer was recruited by US military and later by NASA. He was involved in many significant Space Shuttle and SpaceLab missions which included Hubble Space telescope and International Space Station. A writer extraordinaire, his childhood memoir "Rocket Boys" was a literary blockbuster. The famous movie "October Sky" (1999 ; the word is an anagram of "Rocket Boys") is based on his life and his trial and error adventure with rockets. We at The Scholars' Avenue owe Mr Homer Hickam a million thanks for interacting with us over e-mail despite his busy writing schedule. We present to you the excerpts of the Interview here; the complete Interview can be viewed at our website http://www.scholarsavenue.org .