Thursday, January 14, 2010

Solar Eclipse - Myths and facts

This article has been updated to include some more trivia in the light of a total solar eclipse on August 21st, 2017 which can be viewed from several parts of the USA. One can view this animation to know the extent of this solar eclipse in their region.


Why are sun rays more harmful during a solar eclipse?

Your eyes are at risk during a solar eclipse. You can burn your retinas at the back of your eyes. If you're looking at the sun normally, your pupils will contract and only allow a little bit of light in. Less radiation gets to your retinas. The intensity of the sun's light usually prevents you from looking at it directly anyway. During an eclipse, the direct sunlight is blocked by the moon, but not all of the radiation. Your pupils dilate because it gets darker, and strong radiation that does not affect the pupils is allowed to penetrate to the back of the eye. Therefore, never look directly at the sun during an eclipse. The safest methods are to use a pinhole projection onto a flat surface, or to use a certified filter made for the purpose of solar observations.



Why is it dangerous to look at the solar eclipse directly specially at that moment?

[Courtesy : Some forum]


You actually can safely look at a total solar eclipse while the sun is _totally_ blocked by the moon. It looks like the moon has a fiery white aura, and it is one of the more spectacular things I have ever seen. So why do people say it's dangerous to look at a solar eclipse? Well, in general (during non-eclipse times), you've probably been told not to stare at the sun. This is because the sun simply outputs more power than our eye is designed to handle, and exposing our eye to that kind of power can damage the retina. And in a nutshell, solar eclipses are dangerous because the sun can come out from behind the moon and "surprise you" before you have a chance to look away. And this is actually even worse than when you normally look away from the sun because during the total eclipse, it is dark out, and your pupil therefore dialates so that it can let in enough light to get a good picture. Then, when the sun reappears and starts flooding the area with really bright light, not only are you staring straight at it, but your eye is in a state where it is wide open, and actively trying to let in as much light as possible.
This explains why it is easy to damage your eye when watching a total solar eclipse, and why you should either be sure to time it very carefully (and allow for a good margin of error), or just view the thing through one of those sets of cheap "dark" glasses they sell for the express purpose of looking at the sun without getting hurt.

Answered by: Gregory Ogin, Physics Undergraduate Student, UST, St. Paul, MN 

So, it is the nature of the eye that will make it dangerous to view eclipse and not the Sun-rays as such. The sun rays are still the same either during eclipse or during normal days.

Why one should avoid drinking stored water during Surya or Chandra Grahan?
During Surya Grahan or Chandra Grahan, one should not drink stored water. During a Sampoorn Surya Grahan (Total Solar Eclipse), Division of Environmental Biology of Vikram Sarabhai Research Centre with the association of S.N. Hospitals, proved that purity of the water was reduced after Grahan. They have researched it for few days and analyzed the results of water before Grahan and the same water after the Grahan.
Why Grass Blades or Durva are kept on food and water during Surya Grahan or Chandra Grahan?
Grass blades (Durva or Garika or Darbha) are kept on stored water and food during the time Grahan. It is not a blind ritual. It’s proven scientifically thatGrass blades purify the water more than Tulsi (Ocimum) leaves can during Grahanam. Grass blades have immense purifying power. This is the main reason why grass blades are kept on stored water and food like pickles.

This was relevant when people did not have UV-purified water. They  probably depended on grass/tulsi for purification. Grass is a good oxidising agent (wheat grass is used to cure cancer). That might be the reason they used it to purify water and food items.

DHARBHA (KUSA GRASS) [Courtesy: Some forum]

It is necessary to mention on this occasion about Dharbha (Kusa Grass). Generally we observe usage of Dharbha in Hindu religious rituals while performing any Homa/Yaga or Pithru Karya. It is said that without this there is no sanctity for performing the rituals. Brahmins always keep some in their houses and it is used for purification in all kinds of ceremonies. The word Kusa is related to the Sanskrit Kushala meaning sharp in the sense of keen intelligence (because of the sharp tips of the grass). It is also ground up and the essence used for Kusha oil (to be used in Summer for it's cooling effects) and Kusha flavored sarbat also drunk for it's cooling effects.

Stories concerning the origin of Darbha/Kusha:
Pouranically it is said that Kusa grass was formed when the hairs on the Kurma Avatar of Lord Maha Vishnu got loosened during the churning of the ocean and got washed away to the shore of the ocean to form Kusa Grass. Later, when the amrita [nectar of immortality] was obtained as a result of the churning and distributed among the gods, some drops fell on the grass which further sanctified it imbuing it with healing properties. Therefore, in the traditional hair-cutting of Vaishnava toddlers, the hair is touched with kusha before it is cut.

Darbha Grass is identified with Lord Vishnu and is believed to possess the power to purify anything. It was used as a ritual seat as far back as the Vedas. Kusha, whose name signifies sharp in the sense of acute, is the root for the Sanskrit word for "expert," kosala. That is because the edges of the long leaves that grow in pairs along the tall stems are very sharp, so like the sword it is a symbol for discernment or "discriminating wisdom."

It is an age old tradition in Hindu families to cover the food items with Dharbha during eclipse to protect them from harmful ultra violet radiation. Usage of Dharbha (holy grass) is very celestial, sacred and also acts as a protector. (ref:

Thus eclipses are fascinating not only because they have astronomical and spiritual significance, but also because they give us insights into the culture, tradition and beliefs of people belonging to different periods. Next total solar eclipse is happening on July 22nd 2009 and is visible in India which is a total eclipse.

Is an eclipse harmful during pregnancy?

Flying Machines of Ancient India

I came across an article which has descriptions of some of the supposedly existent aircrafts and weapons of mass destruction, described in the ancient literature of India.

Click here to access the article.

Monday, January 11, 2010


Supposed to be a travelogue!

Pondicherry - One of the seven union territories of India. I had developed interest in this territory since I read about it during my school days that French is one of its official languages. Moreover, it was under French rule until 1963(as I remember). Had planned to go there from a long time. The plan materialized when my friends arranged for a trip to Pondi.
Five of us - myself, Ranjith, Ankur, Utpal and Iqbal decided that we go on a weekend to Pondi. We went via Chennai through the ECR. One could see the seashore all along the ECR. It was a wonderful view - brown and blue colors were demarcated as if someone had drawn a line. There were many beautiful beaches on the way. Some were owned by resorts which have come up in recent times. It was about noon when we reached Pondi. It was a hot and humid day; with perspiration all over the body. Our organiser, Iqbal had booked a guest house. It was a modest guest house with air-conditioned bedrooms. It was only after switching on the AC that we felt the weather conditions that we had accoustomed to in Namma Bengalooru. We got freshed up, had lunch and took some rest. It was planned that we would visit the beach in the evening.

There was a funny incident. Iqbal wanted to watch the sunset in the evening. It was very difficult to convince Iqbal that we could not see the sunset (near the horizon adjoining the sea). Even after explaining to him that sun sets in the west and we were on the east coast, he was still optimistic of viewing the sunset.

It was about five in the evening when we went out to visit the beach- it was called "Paradise" beach. We reached there on two wheelers which we had rented from the guest house management. It was a scenic beauty. Fine grains of sand, some ships in the horizon, the light house a bit far away. It was a wonderful place. The sea was taciturn. It was strange for the sea to be so silent on a Full moon day. We were able to see some fishermen returning to the shore with some good yield. They had caught varieties of fishes, lobsters, crabs and prawns. Their nets had many other kinds of creatures which I suppose were not edible because they were just being removed by the net and thrown away. As we were watching the fishes and the fisherman, Utpal who had been observing the sea came running at us. He told us to look at the sea.

We were awestruck to see what was visible. We were able to see huge waves on the horizon. Even the fishermen were taken by surprise to see the giant  waves. It was wonderful to watch; but it wasn't very difficult to realize what was about to happen. The fishermen screamed at all of those present at the beach to vacate the place. All of those who were present at the beach started running away from the beach. We too ran towards the two wheelers and as we started the vehicles the waves were very near the sea. The height of the waves was about 30 feet, near the seashore!! It was huge by all measures.

We started our vehicles and went riding towards the city to find some high place. The vehicle that I was riding had some problem and it stopped all of a sudden. Murphy's law had once again proved to be true, that too at this point of time. I had read about these kind of waves in my high school. If I were true, these are called "Tsunami". Even as this was going through my mind, I was doing all that was possible to make the vehicle start. Ranjith, who was riding pillion with me started running and I too left the vehicle at the mercy of the waves and started sprinting. I knew that I was running for my life but I did not know that I could run this fast! And as we ran, the unthinkable happened; the waves overtook us. All of a sudden, I was under water. I was not able to feel the land below me. I thought even Ranjith would have met the same fate, but I could not see what had actually happened. All I could see was turbid water. I hoped that at least others would be safe.

After sometime, I was swimming in the sea, and I could see a piece of land which was full of palm trees. The island was like a paradise; one of the most beautiful views I had ever seen. I swam towards the island and to my surprise a couple of heavily built men came towards me, as if they were waiting for me! They took me to one of the several huts present on the island. There were many people like those men, heavily built and dark-skinned. The place looked like a paradise; with several beautiful trees and flowering plants. There were also normal people like me. But there was one person who was very different from all those present there. He was white and had a white beard and hair. I was given some food to eat- fruits, some juices, etc. I wasn't sure where I had reached. I had never heard of such place.

After the food, I told them that I wanted to make a phone call and asked them where I can find a phone. To my surprise, the two men who had escorted me, told me that there was nothing like that in that place. I insisted that I had to make a phone call and asked them whether I could go to any nearby island to find a phone. But they told me that there is no island nearby. I started getting worried and raised my voice, insisting that I had to make a phone call. So, they took me to the white guy with the white beard. I told him that I had to make a phone call and that I had to go home. He told me that this place is my home. I got irritated and told him again that I had to go to my home which in India. He told me to take a deep breath and told me that I have come too far to go home. He slowly told me that I had reached the land of no return! I was shocked. I did not know what that guy was talking. I wanted to run away from that place. He gradually convinced me that I cannot ever return home. Never Ever. This was the place where the time was actually given a break, meaning the time stood still in that place. I was torn apart. I did not know what to say. I was still wondering what might have happened to me. But I realized that the fate had taken me over. I couldn't digest the fact. Soon, I looked around for familiar faces, but I was glad not to see any familiar face!

The next morning when I woke up, I was still in a shock!!!


Volume 1

Once Billa, Peelu and Rahu had been to a nearby hill to enjoy the cool breeze. It was already dark and the moon was near the horizon. All the three of them began staring at the sky. Billa was keenly concentrating on the moon. Peelu was the first to break the silence. 
  He said, "I have been staring at the sky for sometime wondering about the billions of stars and galaxies, their composition and God knows what else . But has it ever occured to anyone of you that some living being in some other world would be looking at us at this very moment, if it is staring at the sky above its world". 
   Peelu replied, "Yes, I have wondered about looking life on other worlds from outside. If anyone sees our own earth from outer space it seems to be very calm, everything seems to be orderly and peaceful. There will be no visible signs of our existence. Actually for the observers in outer space the life doesn't exist at all. But if someone zooms into our world, slowly he would come across the signs of life, of man and his creations. The onlooker may not observe the different intricate processes of life. To him everything done on earth adds on to zero. There is no change in the overall composition of earth; Only forms change. 
  The onlooker from outer space might also not give any significance to human feelings and emotions. They are non-existant for him.
  Man or any animal for that matter doesn't actually need these to live. And what makes human different from animals is that he can express his feelings in more than one way and have emotions, which the animals supposedly lack."
  Billa objected," Without any emotions and feelings we will not be called humans. It's not only the ability to think that differentiates us from animals, but also these traits such as love, affection, etc which are different from parental instinct; parental instinct can be seen in animals but most of the creatures in the animal kingdom have no more than parental instincts."
  Rahu was still watching the sky. The other two turned to him and asked for his opinion.
  Rahu replied," Well, you people started with the idea of people from outer space staring at us and reached to somewhat boring things like emotions, feelings, etc. It is considered inhumane if one doesn't have feelings or emotions. But it is the liberty of an individual to be devoid of such things. What matters is how one shapes up his/her life; the foundations of one's thinking ability.

   When we look into the history of various civilisations, art has always been a part of human life; even before the advent of any known civilisation, we can find traces of some paintings in the caves which supposedly housed stone-age men. It was just a way of expressing his ideas and feelings. 
   Though we can't find the roots of art, we can guess that when man began to live as a community, he needed some way to express himself. So he might have started creating sculptures, paintings, music, etc. It also has an added advantage; he could have attracted more females with his artistic way of life. Though flirting has been a part of human life, I do think that art is something more than that. Art demands creativity. I think what differentiates us from animals is creativity. We can express ourselves creatively."
   Peelu was somewhat satisfied with Rahu's reply. He said, "However we interpret our life to be, it just goes on. We may not get an answer for why we are here, but we can certainly make our mark in this world, a mark that can be seen from the outer space!!"

(Hope) to be continued....


First Love?! Second Phase!

    I was strolling in the campus on a warm afternoon when I saw her. She was wearing a blue dress with a whitish tinge. She had such beautiful eyes that one would get lost in them. It was a bit cloudy and the sun was not very active; it was not so bright and the shadow of the tree, the combination, along with her made their way throug my heart and into the void. I was struck at that moment and couldn't recover. She made her way silently and i was standing there, watching her with both of my eyes wide open. It took sometime for me to recover from that sudden jolt. I don't remember how long I had been standing there, but I just remember that it all happend at the spur of a moment. I had lost my sense of the fourth dimension.
     All of a sudden a I felt a hand on my shoulder and I remembered that I had a class to attend. It was one of my classmates and I went to the class with him. But I could not take her off my mind; she kept running through my mind, or rather my mind was running around her like a wild horse(any running animal can be compared with!!!).
     It was the end of the day, and my mind had not slowed down. I had a strange nostalgic feeling. It was the second time that it had happened to me.
    The first time was when I was in high school. She was standing outside the classroom with her friends, when I saw her for the first time. The young heart was poken hard, but somehow I managed to get into the classroom and find some place to sit.
   [It was a long time ago and I only have vague memories. Later she became my best friend and I may not tell the story how my heart healed itself]
    I don't remember exactly how I got out of the pathetic situation, the first time. The sudden burst of nostalgia gave some rest for my mind; after about eight hours I was able to get rid of her for two minutes on a stretch! Later I was struggling to get sleep, and after some time my mind gave in and I slept peacefully :-).
    The next morning I was roaming in the campus just to get a glimpse of her. I had come a bit early to the college and I roamed near the bank and the canteen. I gave up and was on my way to the class, when she was coming down towards the bank. She dressed to kill with a saffron dress and I followed her to the bank. I took some form and stood in a queue behind her. Even God showed mercy and sent a friend of mine to the bank; he was there to pay some fees and I volunteered to pay , which I would have never done under normal situations. I was waiting for an opportunity to talk to her. I thought of asking a pen. I made up my mind to talk to her, and when I was about to utter the first word someone talked to me from behind; he asked me for some clarifications in the form and during that time she finished paying her fees and went away. I returned the form to my friend and left the bank! It was already time for the class and I went to attend my class, she went to her class.



Actually there are no problems in life; i mean to say life by itself doesn't pose any real problem. It's we mere mortals who create our own problem and start solving them. So life actually consists of only solutions and no problems.

But not all problems are created by an individual. The collected efforts of many in the mortal community serves to create hell lot of problems. But no problem!! It has been like this for centuries; and it may be like this for many centuries to come. It's such that man can't live peacefully without actually taking the peace out of his life.


This may not be liked by everyone; but atleast someone will appreciate it! But who the hell cares. Do you beleive in merry-go-round. Merry-go-round?! Well, it's a term which describes the universe and the life. But how is it? Think about it!! Get the answer for yourself. But don't worry if you don't get the answer! It will only be a waste of time. So, don't waste your time and carry on your work. Thank you for wasting your valuable time!!