Avatar …. the beginning, read on ..

Is it the Sifi plot line ? the amazing special effects ? the pace at which it reached $ 1 Billion Dollars ? the technological advancements ? The hype created on the internet ? James Cameron the name ? Whatever maybe the reason, Avatar is definitely going to be the highest grossing moving of all time. I guess you already know that, but the fastest movie franchise to make over $1.3 Billion Dollars has something right, that is making audiences wanting to see it more. And the fact that it is one of the most pirated movies of all times is not making a difference to its collections either. I am not going to do a review of the movie, you can find tonnes of it on the internet.

Personally, I believe this marks the stand point of the movie industry trying to desperately fight off illegal movie downloads and piracy. You can download the movie but you cannot download the ‘experience’, and thats what its boiling down to. Setting the stage up, were some animated movies that got onto 3D, then came IMAX and now IMAX 3D. 3D technology has existed for a long time, but somewhat sidelined as they wanted to make a version compatible for the home, and also keep down on cost. What followed was that the global piracy causing the movie industry to crash or get there pretty quick. Now the focus of movie makers worldwide is to keep the users away from the homes and get them back into the theaters.

And then out of the ‘blue’ James Cameron works up his average script which is rumored to be 17 years old and unable to materialize as technology did not exist. Don’t know about that one … lol. I say average script cos its very predictable, in face I found this awesome picture bought up by someone on failblog.org, priceless.

Having said that, the visual treat that your eyes is subjected to and the experience that your mind is subjected to is unbelievable. Most friends of mine who saw the movie in 2D did not like it, obviously since the ‘experience’ was missing.

Apart from the technology required to shoot the movie, like the awesome motion capture that brings the characters to life, quite literally, the content of the movie also hid well thought of Science. And of course so, the most expensive movie ever made must have definitely had technology advisors that made most of the decisions regarding the science that the movie would feature. Some examples of this would be :

  • The choice of putting Pandora on a moon in the real Alpha Centauri star system (the closest system to Earth) was neat since scientists are looking at moons for life.
  • Those floating mountains. Many comments expressed disappointment with them, however, it’s not quite as implausible as you may suspect. The filmmakers put thought into this: Superconductors expel magnetic field lines, so the effect could make these mountains levitate like magnets away from the surface. (Details here).
  • Sigourney Weaver’s portrayal of a research scientist was uncharacteristically good. Dr. Grace Augustine conveyed the natural curiosity about the world that you would normally observe in Research Scientists.
  • If gravity on Pandora is less than that on Earth, larger organisms would be supported, like the giant ‘Home Tree’.
  • Pandora’s atmosphere is not breathable to humans. In Star Wars, Star Trek, and just about any other sci-fi film, there are countless planets with human-breathable air, which is not very realistic.
  • The hybrid antimatter/fusion rocket combined with a beam-powered light sail. That’s exactly the sort of complicated trick that real-world engineers would use to reduce fuel and mass constraints on the spacecraft to travel at sub light speeds to other planets.

In fact just to be able to satisfy the blazing questions of all the geeks out there, as well as some critics who just seem to need a reason to bash up something or anything of interest, the movie staff came up with the awesome pandorapedia. An encyclopedia for anything ‘Pandora’ or ‘Avatar’. (More ‘Avatar science’, links at the end)

Like, the 3D hyper realistic holographic image projectors, the 3D Heads Up Displays in the flight control rooms, the title technologies showcasing direct Brain-Machine Communication, or even the AMP (Amplified Mobility Platform) for the humans on ‘Pandora’ are all technologies that are based on more scientific fact than fiction. Looking at some of them :

3D Holographic image projectors : CNN had tried its hands with 3D holographs a while back with its recent election coverage. Granted, the anchors and reporters being videotaped weren’t actually looking at holograms. Instead, they were looking at monitors, and CNN used 44 small, fixed cameras and 20 computers to insert virtual holograms with real-time effects processing. Fake holograms! Wait, that’s kind of redundant, isn’t it?

Brain Machine Communication of the Avatar : Brain Machine Interfaces and Mind Reading by computers is growing ten fold every year. New research in this field is enabling a new genre of applications for the computer check out more details here.

Amplified Mobility Platform (AMP) : Already featured in movies like the Matrix Trilogy and the Iron Man, this seems to be the next form of Personal Military technology that is going to be widely anticipated and made available. Tests on primitive versions of this technology already are under trials under the name of exoskeletons. more on Wikipedia about exoskeletons and powered exoskeletons.

Amino Tanks: Used to harbor the avatar to deliver the required nutrition to survive, this innovation is also being used in various research laboratories for organ regeneration.

There is a lot of resources available for the science of the movie. You can check out some of the links below :

Engineering … what is it ?

To put it in short

Engineering is the application of understanding.

An engineer encounters a problem, researches the causes, investigates ways to remedy the problem, and then designs and implements a solution. I always thought that the engineering course that we all undertake is not really about the subjects that you are learning. Well not 100% at least but definitely is to kindle the part of your brain which is responsible for Analytical thinking. And after going through the grueling 4 years of the engineering course, I think that I really have got only that from the college.

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I mean not a disregard to the lecturers who tried their very best to get the subjects into my head, but its a testament to what was the course material that they had actually picked for the course. Frankly, COBOL for programming, nothing to do with present day circuits and instrumentation techniques that were used in manufacturing over 10 years ago. Thats not really ideal, having said that, It is still that information that definitely  triggered the analytical thinking part of my brain.

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Over time I have tried to answer the question “Why do I enjoy doing what I do so much?” and have finally realized that it’s not one particular aspect.  Instead, it’s the process as a whole.  For an engineer, a project is a complete scientific discovery from start to finish. Curious about the problems, Learning how to solve it, Understanding the pros and cons of the solution, expressing it with sketches and finally applying the solution to the problem. Interestingly though, I have just found that even most of hobbies that I engage in all follow this progression.

  • Photography – Curiosity of looking at light and frames
  • Gaming – directly involves lot of problem solving skills
  • Paper craft – well am still a novice, involves 3D modelling of paper
  • Blogging – Just started blogging seriously

In almost every way, I think these are simply different names for the same thing. Engineering in its basics provides us engineers a lot of joy just to see even an unconventional solution working. You can check out this site for a lot of such haphazard solutions which are not ideal but do the job nevertheless : http:/www.thereifixedit.com. Named appropriately.

Leaner and Meaner fighters

While at the Dubai Airshow this year I had a chance to check out the latest in military aviation technology. Well not really the latest but about the closest that was available for people to see. Anyway, from the B1 bombers with the awesome “Master of disaster” B1 bomber to the latest fourth generation F22 stealth fighter everything was there to be scrutinised by press and end users alike. The flying and stationary displays of the aircrafts were not only the displays that were there. It was more and that included in the airshow. The technology display pavilions were amazing as well.

But after a long and exhaustive day at the airshow, I really began to wonder the relevance of the aircrafts. I mean considering the last few years where more than countries going on full blown wars, we have seen smaller gueirella terrorist outfits that make use of imilar technologies as field american personnel. There is a bit of a level playing field considering that in order to engage in combat with these guys one would need to be on the ground and in their lairs. It is definately not as simple as two aircrafts going head to head in open air for a full blown dogfight. In these circumstances is the military fighter aircraft kind of loosing its relevance ?

Fighter aircraft are increasingly required to justify their expense by adapting to new roles and capabilities. Even so, fleet sizes continue to decrease. Despite still forming the backbone of advanced air forces, the size of many global fighter aircraft fleets is on a steady downward trajectory. Simultaneously, this reduction in the physical numbers of combat aircraft coupled with emerging operational requirements has necessitated an expansion in the mission set they are capable of undertaking. Aside from traditional tasks such as defensive and offensive counter air missions, today’s fighters are increasingly required to be accomplished at providing close air support and strike capabilities as well as contributing to intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance efforts.
The future structure of the USAF’s fighter fleet is currently one of the key issues facing the Pentagon and the new administration of US President Barack Obama, with the White House looking to reduce its defence budget while simultaneously remaining engaged in two foreign theatres. As a result of these dual demands, the USAF has been placed under increasing pressure by the Pentagon to focus upon providing capabilities relevant to continuing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, this mentality appears to have shifted attention from the air-superiority mission if current fighter procurement plans are examined. Moreover, the geography of future fighter programmes seems likely to change over the coming years. Despite European, Russian and US dominance in the current global fighter market in terms of market share, a shift away from these traditional centres of fighter technology, although minimal over the next 15 years, does appear to be taking place.
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So, I think the airshows in the next few years is going to consistently move towards civilian aviation technologies and not military technologies. So the last few goldern years of military aviation technology is available for us to view through the air shows. Lets make the most of the airshows then.

Dubai Airshow 2009


F22 Flyby, originally uploaded by mister_jester.

An HDR attempt at F15, originally uploaded by mister_jester.

The Break Up, originally uploaded by mister_jester.

I was recently at the Dubai Air Show and Man was it awesome. Here are some pictures from there.

Have a look at the complete set here.

Measure it to Save It !

Metering, one word that will be the buzz word in the next few years to come. In fact so much so that Google has enteres into the utility metering race to provide all of us with information that can help us save money as well as do our part for the environment.

I have spoken about this for sometime, Google has an ideal platform that can help it foray into the households of people, this looks like a right step in the right direction for google. Microsoft made it big, only once it entered homes of people; its now google’s turn. Check out google’s video for it.

In fact they have joined hands with GE to plug into the power grid.

I also highly suggest checking out the GE smart grid site as well here.
For those of you who are thinking wow this is a new initiative, well it isi’nt. Google is following footsteps of some of the great thinkers in the same industry. You can check out some of the leaders below

The Monetary benefit of Energy Saving

Like most things in this world, people only take notice of positive ideas when money is involved. One of the roles as a team leader in a marketing company is to be able to convince people to use technology (especially one that we are promoting) to enhance their everyday lifestyles. Off late we as a company have seen a big push from the European / American product manufacturers to move in the direction of possible “Green” solutions.

I believe that in the recession anything that will save you money is a good darn investment to make. Or should I say investing in something that will give you a return on investment as soon as possible. Well how does one quantify such a thing. I was talking to Allen this morning, and he mentioned that he wanted to know the usage of electricity of his existing incandescent bulbs to check if it is worth making the change to CFL considering the cost of CFL vs Incandescent which is almost twice, at least here in Dubai that is the case. I do know that the price difference would be more in India. So moving on, in typical Allen style he asks for information regarding the tariff of the electricity. I used our faithful Google and got him the info that he needed.

After about half an hour he messaged back “AED 25 saving per month, will get changing right away !!”. I said wow, that was really sweet and then when I spoke to him, he mentioned about how he had got it and made a calculator on excel for this. This sparked off an idea of using Google Documents to make the same in a online spreadsheet such that people use it to check out their own electricity usage and see the difference it is going to make to their lives. Well the calculations are pretty simple and can be shown below :

KWH Usage of the bulb = ( No of Bulbs x No of hours they are used x wattage of the bulbs x no of days in the month ) / 1000

The electricity bill = KWH usage x Cost per kWh

Replacing the wattage of the incandescent bulb with the CFL (13W) will show a significant saving. As an example Allen has 15 Incandescent bulbs of 60 W and with 7 hours usage for 30 days the electricity bill with only the Bulbs at a fee of 24 fills per kWh gives AED 45/- as the bill. Consider the same with a 13 W CFL the bill is AED 9 /- a direct saving of about AED 35 or close or USD 10 per month.

Now that makes economic sense to change.

The Google Spreadsheet document is viewable at:

http://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=pIdcGlHXjKDBV2cXz0QK0QQ

Published on Apr 6, 2009 12:25:58 PM GMT+04:00

The Mockup

From the time there have been engineers and architects there has always been an issue in trying to get solution that is acceptable to both the architects and the engineers. I am in the wonderful world of construction, management in particular and as an engineer it is always a loosing battle. Although the client wants to have a high tech facility, the requirement of the facility is nothing as compared to the aesthetics of what he requires.

A client may be trying to build a small shack or even an airport, the requirements are always aesthetics. But being an engineer I would disagree to that school of thought cos, although the aesthetic factor plays a part of first impression, the experience of being in the facility is delivered only by the services in there. Like the Air conditioning, the mood lighting, the plush interiors of the washrooms, Wi Fi Connectivity, High Speed Internet, ample Mobile Coverage etc.

The ultimate battle ground for the engineers vs architects battle is always a client mockup. The engineers trying to prove their point and the architects trying to destroy everything the engineers stand for. For example, CAT 6 cables (data wiring) are definitely the latest, and to work as one of the best wiring systems they need to follow certain guidelines. Some of them being strict segregation between Data and Power lines. But aesthetically the structure housing both the Data and Power lines, like for example a pole holding a IPCCTV camera, would need to be big enough for the data cables, the power cables, the segregation, the maintenance, the operational requirements etc. And since slim is in, all of it trying to be housed inside a very thin pole could be the fuel to the flame of the eternal battle of the architects vs engineers.

I do not think there would be a solution for the war, except if people crossover into each others territories. Like engineers turned to architects who understand the complexities of systems and services like wise more architects turned to engineers to define the aesthetic side of engineering. Until that day comes, daily battles will continue to rage in the battlefield of Mockups !!

Social Networking a Boon or Curse !

Well ever since Gulf News posted an article of my favorite Social Networking Website Orkut, Emirates Internet I.e Etisalat have blocked the website from accessibility within UAE.

Its been three long and painful years in Dubai for me, and for these three years I had lost in touch with a lot of my fiends back home, some very near and dear to me. In this time and age of emails, work get so hectic that mailing friends goes down to the bottom of the priority list. When I was at my vacation last year a few friends in Bangalore mentioned Orkut to me. I was impressed with the idea, created an account just before I got to Dubai. When I got back here, I was surprised to find the number of long lost friends there were on Orkut. Some from more than 10 years back. A lot of my coffee table conversations at that time involved around which friends I found and which ones I was looking for more. It even gave an idea of which of my friends made it and which of them were on the brink of success.

Few months into using Orkut I discovered Groups, there was a group for the School Alumni, One for my college Alumni, One group for the place I worked first, Groups for people with similar interests and even a group for people who had joined too many groups lol. I thought that was interesting. Well for us poor souls it is a boon in disguise. Moreover the assurance that it is run by Google is something noteworthy as well. How many times have you forgotten a friends birthday, Orkut would help remember birthdays as well.

But like everything on the net, the blog has been bitten by the sex bug. There are other tons of communities promoting sexual interests, one of them called Dubai Sex with over 2000 members in it. Interesting as it may seem, this is an issue which is far fetched than just Orkut or any networking site. Alas, the people who are running such communities do not realize the long term effects it has. Not that I do not support it, I mean its their lives and their preferences, and that is the very fact that makes us human. Our perspectives and choices. Well human, choice and perspective are not words that are very widely appreciated in the Middle East and being what they are they have blocked the site.

There goes the days of connections, back to celibacy from friends. I think we will have to wait for someone to say its Ok. Maybe Google to make some modifications or Etisalat to relax a bit. Either way now is the time for alternatives. And my first stop is FaceBook. A little more privacy and tons of features, this application is beginning to loose its charm in my perspective.

What Might have been

Every time new technology is promoted these days, people give the example of the telephone, i have always heard people comparing new technology to the success of telephone or the television, the very sophisticated, i-know-it-all look and the statement “When people saw the telephone for the first time they laughed, and said its amazing but who is going to use it”.

But, in the process of trying to achieve the same level of success with newer apt inventions many of the scientists have lost their everything. My today’s blog is a tribute to one not-so-well known scientist who tried to create the unthinkable and if approved would have shown the doors of exit to the energy crisis the world over, maybe even would have stopped the oil-crazy Americans to get into Iraq saving thousands of lives, both evil and divine. ENERGY FROM VACUUM, a concept so weird that we may take some time to digest. My today’s blogging tribute goes to Inventor Edwin Gray or Ed Gray.


33 years ago in 1974, the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office unprovoked – shut down inventor Ed Gray’s facilities which were preparing to produce the Gray Car powered by Ed Gray’s fuel less motor, which utilized energy from the vacuum. Historic photographs from the brochure of Ed Gray’s car have been posted on The Tom Bearden Website Here.

This could have been the greatest gift of a man to mankind. But alas the Greed of man, one day we will definitely chop the branch that we are sitting on, and it will all be over. Well The Vacuum powered engine aside, some of the additions to this car would have definitely been the pride of the owner with the then latest technologies like electronic speedometer projected on the deck of the car, 360 degrees turning radius, power steering, lesser parts of the vehicle, Lexan (another alternative for safety glass) etc. hmm … guess we will have to wait for the next free energy car.

Special Thanks to Roy for this.