Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Ramanujan's Magic number

I took an auto to work today. Usually, I say the place where I want to go and by the type of shake of the driver's head, I get in or try another. I don't notice the auto or its driver (and the meter, as Aparna often reminds me).

Somehow I noticed the registration number - 1729. After racking my brain for some time - it wasn't long, you see, since I have one equivalent to a mini calculator and searching is lightning fast - I remembered that this number occurred in Ramanujan's biography. Hurrah!

He was sick and was in the hospital when G.H. Hardy, Ramanujan's mentor and collaborator, came to visit him. Hardy disliked formal greetings (and was uncomfortable doing so) and he greeted Ramanujan with "I came in a cab with the number 1729. Seems a boring number." Then Ramanujan replied, "No Hardy, No. Thats a very interesting number. It is the smallest number that can be expressed as the sum of two cubes in two different ways." Thank God, I didn't take up mathematics as a profession!

Unfortunately, both Hardy's and Ramanujan's biographies (atleast the ones I have read) are silent on the numbers that form 1729. After a looooong time, I figured them out. Can you do it and beat my record? I did it in one light-year.

Lets see if you know your high-school physics and math - Figure the numbers as well as the flaw in the blog.

Monday, September 18, 2006

The Mad Morning Rush

The morning has been a disaster. We woke up late, very late, in fact. Rain outside made us draw the blankets closer to us and sleep on blissfully, ignoring the shrill shrieking of the alarms (yes, multiple alarms!!! Lazy folks...). Suddenly, the time was 7:00 AM. In another half-an-hour, I had to be at the bus stop waiting for the interminable ride to office.

We experienced a mad rush that has not happened in a long time. First, I put some toothpaste on some ancient toothbrush that had somehow evaded my wife. Then I dropped some more toothpaste in trying to balance the mug and the brushes. finally, the morning rituals were done.

Then I was crying about the ironed clothes, which turned out to be in my in-laws home and which we had forgottent to bring the previous night. A mad scramble ensued, when my wife declared that it was my problem and refused to help me (she also had to get ready). Luckily, I had finished my bath, so a defeat was avoided there ;)

In all this commotion, she had forgotten about the milk that she had set for boiling on the stove. When I came out wearing some clothes (?), I heard a noise from the kitchen and found black milk throwing out so much smoke to warrant a vist from the fire brigade. The vessel also had joined the fire, I guess and hence the smoke was too much to bear. I proceeded rapidly to get the cup of coffee and promptly spilled it!

My morning cup of coffee, the elixir and fuel was gone, and my cup of woes was filled! A look at the clock was the last straw that broke my back (and no, I am not a camel). The bus would have merrily passed my bust stop a few minutes back.

Rummaging through cupboard brought forth some dusty socks, then the shoes with the laces still on and I was ready, head hanging for having missed the proverbial bus.

Finally, through a set of different transports - RTC Bus, auto and finally my own office bus (which I miraculously boarded at about 3/4ths of the distance covered), I reached office more or less on time.

All this "hurrying" when my daughter was not in the house. I am imagining the scene when she goes to school at 8 AM. I wonder what will happen when there are two kids.

I have decided to build bathrooms for each of us, complete with all facilities such as mirrors and combs.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Addition: Traffic in India - Humorous, but true

I had read this quite a while before, but forgot completely all about it when I wrote the previous post.

Traffic in India (A Description) - This is written by a Dutchman; very humorous and very true.

Note: Google gave me this as the most probable source. If its not, please let me know so that I can correct it.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Me First, Me First! - Impatience in city traffic

A phenomenon that has been bothering me for quite some time now - the increasing use of the horn and a palpable impatience among people driving in cities. Although I am talking of my city Hyderabad here, I am sure readers from other cities will be able to identify with it.

You get onto the road and you are immediately met by a cacophony - two wheelers, autos, buses, trucks, cars and everything in between. All vying for that inch of forward space in the next lane. Speaking of lanes, there is a great deal of confusion among drivers on what exactly lanes mean. Some of the drivers I spoke to believed that the right lane is meant for speeding vehicles while the left lane for slower ones. Other drivers were of the opinion that the left lane was for light vehicles, while the right lane was for heavy vehicles like buses and trucks.

The greatest menace is either (depending on which mode you travel by!)two wheelers or Autos (a motorized tri-cycle, not dissimilar to the tuk-tuks of Singapore). Even Bangalore, which is supposed to be the city of educated individuals who have been abroad has fallen prey to this phenomenon.

I clearly remember that when I visited Bangalore in1996, I got down at the Cantonment Railway station and was going to a hotel in MGRoad at 6:15 AM. The auto fellow was most polite, carried my bags to the auto and drove with good traffic sense. We stopped a minor junction and was surprised to see that traffic lights were working and everyone was honoring it.

Fast forward to 2004. It was 10:00 AM on Hosur Road. Traffic signals were not working, there was no policeman and might was right. I was not afraid though. I have been brought up in hyderabad, where "convenience" has always ruled over "order".

Apart from this chaos, there is a new factor that has come into play - impatience. I recently witnessed a car "lightly bumping" a two-wheeler because he was not giving room to overtake! I see people zipping on the main roads, while they drive more slowly in areas where there is little traffic. A friend of mine aptly summarized this as "I need to be ahead of everyone. I don't care a hoot what happens behind me."

I feel this is related to the increasing stress at the work place, where a picture of your family waiting for you at home and your boss is berating you at office is always nagging you. A sense of guilt and stress seems to be the reason behind this impateince, which again is behind the increasing number of accidents.

I am not sure what the cure for this could be, but I am pretty sure that I am going to drive a little more relaxedly.

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