Source….www.the better india.com
A humble son of a farmer who studied in local government run schools, in Tamil medium, is the new head of India’s premier space agency.
Dr K Sivan was born in Sarakkalvilai in Kanyakumari district in 1957. His father was a farmer, and Dr Sivan is the first graduate in the family.
By all accounts, his is an unusual story.
A young Sivan studied in government schools in his native village till the 5th standard, and completed his schooling in neighbouring Valankumaravilai, all in Tamil medium. Later, he graduated from the S T Hindu College in Nagercoil.
He then graduated from the Madras Institute of Technology in aeronautical engineering in 1980 and completed his master’s in aerospace engineering from the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, in 1982.
That year he joined ISRO on its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle project, towards which he contributed in mission planning, design, integration and analysis. He has held various responsibilities during his stint in ISRO, finally going on to head India’s space agency.
At ISRO, he completed his PhD in aerospace engineering from IIT-Bombay, in 2006.
Dr Sivan, who takes over from Dr A S Kiran Kumar on Monday, January 15, for a three-year term, is only the second rocket scientist after G Madhavan Nair to head ISRO.
MAGE: Dr Sivan’s family home in Sarakkalvilai village. He comes here regularly to attend family functions and for the Bhadrakali Amman puja. Photograph: A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com
Sarakkalvilai falls on the outskirts of Nagercoil, which is the headquarters of Kanyakumari district, Tamil Nadu. All of a sudden this small village has become the centre of attraction for people near and far, thanks to its famous son.
“Take the next right and it is at the end of the road,” says a villager, and as you reach the house you realise it is as unpretentious as the man who grew up there.
Dr Sivan’s sister-in-law Saraswathi lives in the family house with her daughter. “My eldest daughter got married five months ago and Sivan had come for the function,” she says, her eyes glowing with happiness.
Since the announcement about his appointment, people have been coming in droves to congratulate her, and her face beams with pride.
“I was married 30 years ago into this family and at that time he was already working for ISRO in Thiruvananthapuram. He used to live in a lodge then. He comes home for festivals and family functions,” says Saraswathi.
The conversation is interrupted when former Tamil Nadu Congress president Kumari Ananthan lands up with a dozen supporters to congratulate her.
One of the men who comes along with Ananthan hands her a book with the message, “Please give it to him when he comes next.” Another hands her a monthly magazine.
“He comes here every year for the Badrakali Amman puja which takes place in April-May,” adds his sister-in-law.
“He comes with his family, offers prayers and leaves the same day. He always comes for all family functions. When he is with the family he is always smiling and joking. He never calls, but his wife calls regularly and keeps in touch with us,” Sarawathi says.
“He was a class topper from school to college,” says Dr Sivan’s uncle who lives in the house opposite.
“He was a brilliant student and never went for tuitions or private classes. His father used to pluck mangoes and young Sivan used to go to the market to sell it. He was a helpful child,” the uncle adds.
The school Dr Sivan studied at is also opposite the family house. The retired PT master there recalls him clearly. “He was five years my junior in school, I remember him as a very quiet boy.”
“I too was five years his junior,” another villager pipes in. “You know the final exams used to come during harvest time. His father used to be in the field while Sivan sat on the lower branch of a tree with his books, studying, keeping one eye on the harvest, and run if his father called. He was always studying.”
“When Sivan and I were in school we had a very good headmaster,” the villager adds. “That headmaster planted many trees in the school compound and made every class in charge of a few trees. In the morning, when we came to school, the first thing we did was to water the trees and only after that did we attend school.”
“Kanyakumari is basically an agricultural district,” an elderly villager points out. “Apart from coir, there was no industry here. We all survived on farming. It’s rich fertile soil and there is plenty of water. Paddy, bananas, coconuts, mangoes, rubber is grown here.”
“Sivan was exceptional,” the elderly gent adds, “while he helped his father in the field he continued studying every free moment.”
“As there was only a primary school here we went to nearby Valankumaravilai for our SSC (Class 10). Those days there was no 12th standard. As there was no bus facility we walked.”
A colleague from ISRO, who retired a decade ago and did not want to be named for this feature, recalls, “He (Sivan) would go home only to sleep. He is extremely hard-working and totally focused on his work. He was not only the first graduate from his family, he was also the first graduate from his village.”
“He is a disciplined taskmaster,” says D Karthikesan, former director of the ISRO Propulsion Complex in Mahindragiri, Tamil Nadu.
“He likes to keep everything on schedule and works with a deadline,” adds Karthikesan. “If he thinks there is a problem somewhere he will go and talk to the people actually working on the project, and never limit himself to seniors in the organisation.”
“Though he is a hard taskmaster,” the former ISRO scientist points out, “he is also extremely generous and always looks after the welfare of the people working under him. So people work hard for him.”
“He is a bold decision-maker,” says Karthikesan. “Where others may hesitate wondering if it would work or not, he will say it will work and will do it.”
“Though he followed the schedule strictly,” adds Karthikesan, “he also made sure that all parameters are met at every stage. Whether it is quality or safety, he made sure every parameter was up to the mark before proceeding, and yet kept a tight schedule.”
Dr Sivan has two sons. The elder one has finished his BTech, the younger son is in college.
The school Dr Sivan studied in was built over 60 years ago. “We need to pull it down and build another,” says a villager. A government-run school, the land was given free by Dr Sivan’s uncle.
The village still does not have a bus service, a fact the villagers highlighted to Kumari Ananthan, the Congress politician. Nor does it have a middle, high or higher secondary school.
K Sivan’s ascent bears an uncanny resemblance to another ISRO scientist who was born in a fishing village in Ramanathapuram, also in Tamil Nadu.
That scientist, of course, went on to become the most beloved President this Republic has had.
Source….A.Ganesh Nadar in http://www.rediff.com
Worryingly described by entomologists and arachnologists as a “not uncommon” occurrence in certain parts of the globe, spider rain can see anywhere from a few thousand to several million spiders tumble from the sky in a given area, seemingly out of nowhere.
So what causes it? This is thanks to a rather interesting behaviour exhibited by spiders known as ballooning, which essentially involves an individual spider climbing to a high point and then firing strands of silk into the air, with the result being the spider being carried away by the wind, sometimes for many hundreds of miles.
Arachnologists are quick to point out that countless spiders are probably flying around over head at any particular time and that they usually land without much fanfare and go about their way. Sometimes, though, many thousands or millions of spiders will decide to balloon at the exact same time, either because they’re a single colony or because weather conditions force them to. In regards to the latter, on rare occasions certain weather patterns can see the millions of spiders floating through the air at any given time being thrown to Earth simultaneously at the same location.
Other known causes of spider rain are floods and wildfires, which can prompt spiders to flee en masse to escape what would otherwise be their own demise, concerningly illustrating that the age old “kill it with fire” way of getting rid of spiders isn’t fool-proof.
As an example of the former flood trigger phenomenon, in Pakistan following devastating floods throughout the country in 2010, millions of spiders noped out of there in a hurry via mass ballooning. While you’d expect the people of Pakistan to be unhappy about having to deal with both millions of spiders raining from the sky and floods, the spiders were seen as a good thing by most citizens because they ate all the mosquitoes.
On that note, in addition to ensuring the skies remain free of disease carrying insects, wandering clouds of spiders also provide ample food for birds and other creatures- a fact that combined with spiders often being amongst the first creatures to return to land devastated by flood and fire (via ballooning and landing back in the area), means that spider rain is generally seen as being an overall beneficial thing for nature via allowing these staples of the food chain to quickly and widely disperse themselves.
While you can observe individual spiders floating about in most regions of the Earth, if you’re wanting so see the specific phenomenon of spider rain, where millions of spiders fall from above en masse, your best bet is to live in certain regions of Australia (because, of course it’s Australia where this is most common). As New South Wales resident Keith Basterfield states, “They fly through the sky and then we see these falls of spiderwebs that look almost as if it’s snowing.” (You can see something of this effect here in a video shot in Texas.)
Luckily for arachnophobes, mass ballooning is a behaviour near exclusively observed in smaller species of spider or ones that were born very recently, as larger spiders are simply too heavy to be carried along by typical winds. As a result, if you’re currently imagining endless waves of tarantulas raining from the sky, you can rest assured that if you ever witness spider rain firsthand, at least you won’t be dealing with big spiders, just the little ones that can crawl around on you without you even noticing they’re there… This is also significant because most small spiders don’t posses the ability to penetrate human skin with their bites, even if they are otherwise highly venomous.
Thus, for the most part, spider rain is harmless (to humans). However, the phenomenon can potentially damage crops when millions of spiders all land in the same location, with their subsequent webs cutting the plants off from enough sunlight. (See a picture of this here.)
But I think the main point we want to drive home to arachnophobes is that some spiders can fly, and at any given time they may just fall from the sky on top of your head…
Source….www.today i found out .com
In the North Sea off the coast of Suffolk, England lies Sealand, which some people believe to be the smallest country in the world.
The story of Sealand began when former army major Paddy Roy Bates took his family to HM Fort Roughs, an abandoned fort seven miles offshore and roughly the size of a tennis court, on Christmas Eve in 1966. Bates was a radio pirate that is and he wanted to continue broadcasting his pirate radio signals without the interference of the British government.
At the time, the BBC controlled British radio and TV. Bates took issue with this, and the 46-year-old drew on his military experience to move his family away from the influence of British laws without moving too far away. Because it was actually in international waters, the sturdy steel and concrete platform of HM Fort Roughs fit the bill.
When it was built in 1943, during World War II, the platform was to defend shipping lanes against German incursions by sea and air. After the war, however, Britain had no use for the small fort and abandoned it.
This meant that Britain no longer had control over the abandoned structure. It also meant Bates could do as he pleased.
Rather than just use his newfound territory as a broadcast point, Bates got creative. He made the platform into his own country and there was nothing Britain could do about it.
On Sept. 2, 1967, Bates, along with his wife Joan and two teenage children, declared independence for their sovereign state of Sealand. Bates got rid of the other pirate broadcasters using his platform and dubbed his wife Princess Joan as a birthday present. Ironically, Bates never restarted his radio signals after this point. He was too busy running a country.
In 1968, the British Royal Navy destroyed three nearby platforms, all within sight of Sealand, in an attempt to prevent more pirates from taking hold. It was too late to stop Bates, however. Despite being arrested for firing warning shots at navy ships and facing a coup of armed mercenaries in 1978, the Principality of Sealand endured.
Britain extended its sea territory to 12 nautical miles in the early 1980s, which then placed Sealand in British territorial waters and not international waters. The British government then declared that the Principality of Sealand was not a country because it fell under the sovereign rights of Great Britain. The government further declared that Sealand could not be its own country because it did not have any physical land.
Nevertheless, Bates and his family continued to run Sealand as if it was an independent state, the self-proclaimed smallest country in the world.
Even though Britain has sovereign rights over the platform, the Bates family still claims Sealand as its own to this day. It’s as if both sides tolerate each other from a distance, so long as neither Britain or the Bates family interferes with each other’s operations.
For Sealand, those operations include bestowing titles of royalty for those who apply and pay the application fees (the government has to have a revenue stream, of course). You can even obtain citizenship and a passport. The self-proclaimed country also has its own currency, which depicts Princess Joan, as well as postage stamps and a national soccer team.
However, Sealand now also faces an uncertain future. Prince Roy died in 2012 and Princess Joan followed in 2016. That leaves their son, Prince Michael, and his two sons in charge of the island territory.
In addition to the royal family as well as friends and relatives who make up Sealand’s several dozen citizens, a rotating group of caretakers oversee the platform. Meanwhile, Sealand’s online presence is helping to expand the country’s virtual populace, but is it enough to sustain Sealand?
Prince Michael Bates hopes so.
He maintains that Sealand’s sovereignty is serious business. However, the prince manages the country’s affairs from the offices of his fishing business in Essex, England.
Based on the mainland, the country’s shop sells various goods (including T-shirts and jerseys of the national soccer team) as well as citizenship, royal titles, passports, and the like. Prince Michael has even said that he’s thinking of selling the platform. His family invested more than $1.4 million into their rusted island paradise, but he says he has grandchildren to think about.
Sealand was for sale in 2007 for $977 million, but there were no takers. Prince Michael says he would sell for the right price. The aging prince says the platform is bigger than it looks for anyone interested in owning their own sovereign territory. Living quarters are in the two concrete legs. You can swim, scuba dive and maintain tourism while owning your own little slice of heaven.
Just don’t expect anyone else to recognize your sovereign state. In 1994, the United Nations passed a resolution stating that sea-based platforms are not considered a nation.
But as the story of Sealand shows, you can still deem yourself a head of state, at least in your own imagination and for the right price.
Source….www.all that is interesting.com