Sunday, April 30, 2006

Back after forever

I have got really erratic at updating this blog. Something I wish to correct.

But all is not lost. Nothing of note has transpired since I had last updated the blog. Answer sheets were graded, laptop was carried around, Orkut was Orkutted, gym was gone to, cycle was cycled, HEB was visited once or twice, a pointless $20 bike computer was procured, T.V was watched, and the Porous media project was doomed.

You heard me right. All the older posts - ranging from the excited to the confused, dealing with the use of porous inserts in Gas Turbines are - well, useless. Using properties from manufacturers, it was determined that the economics of Porous media left a lot to be desired. This realization was not without its drama, though. I thought I was right (as usual). I made a mistake in calcuation (as usual). This time, I took only 2 weeks to catch it. Way better than the blunder I made at IIT with Dr. Arunn - which set me back a couple of months or so. He was very supportive - and I guess I can take heart from what happened then and not lose hope.

Another trip to Purdoo is on the cards - somewhere in the middle of next month. For a couple of days only. Can't afford more time than that in Summer. I plan to make amends in summer. I believe I am already making amends: I am helping one of my colleagues construct a test section. Some rudimentary nut and bolt tightening and carpentry - it is not bad at all. But I must make sure I don't dumben down to pure experimentation. I need to make sure that I do a lot of what I think I am good at: mathematical analysis.

I believe I am getting closer to procuring a car every moment I am here. Another colleague will have to be requested to partner me somtime.....

I would like to conclude now and focus more on other things - especially a presentation due sometime this week.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

What should I do with my life?

Don't let the title fool you. This is not about depression. I am not depressed. I am, as a matter of fact, phenomenally excited. Phenomenal excitement and depression share some similar characteristics in that both raise existential concerns.

My excitement (as always) is due to work. Things are not going amazingly well, but certain thoughts have begun to formulate in my grey cells. I shall now proceed to do a strength - weakness - opportunity analysis of myself, a system that is handed down generations in my family. Dad uses it extensively.


I'm good at understanding things quickly.
I can explain experimental results, and often can intuitively guess what the results would be beforehand, if I understand the system well.
I like coding a lot. And years of experience have rendered myself moderately competent in debugging as well.
I am good at order-of-magnitude analyses.
I have a solid foundation - in physics, heat transfer and fluid mechanics. Elasticity will have to be looked into.
I have done a lot of courses in IIT, and they span a rather wide field of knowledge.
I also believe I am good at getting "original" ideas.
I can communicate well.


I do a lot better when I develop a model from the scratch. If that does not happen, then I need to know the motivation behind the work. If I have to do something aimlessly, I do a pathetic job at it.
I other words, I need a reason do to something.
As of now, I am not too confident with experiments. I have not done much experimental work in my life. All my work until now, has either been analytical or based on "numerical experiments".
The fact that I can do "numerical experiments" quite well means I should be able to do experiments well.
I am really bad with the workshop. At IIT, I never could do the workshop classes well. My work here will require a lot of fabrication. So what do I do? I guess the only saving grace is that I have ample motivation : I know why I am doing it.
Before I do any experimental projects myself, I guess I will do a thorough numerical analysis / theoretical analysis to "optimize" the geometry as far as possible.
Often times, I prejudice myself with one of my ideas. My idea might have a glaring flaw, but my prejudice makes me oblivious to it often.
I don't know a lot of higher level math.
I am lazy.
I have this snobbish "idealistic" streak in me: I tended to look down upon experimenters and Fluent users.


My guide works on experimental heat transfer - and is one of the best in the field in that subject. I could understand some experimental issues.
I could take the whole "experimental" thing as a challenge. I like challenges.
Building the experimental section might appear to be manual labor. But, there's 24 hours in a day. A few hours could be earmarked for theoretical work, if work demands it. Look at it this way - constructing an experimental section is a better use of time than watching Sienfeld!
Motivated work will overcome laziness. It has happened in the past.
As a PhD student, one has more opportunities to take up many courses in many subjects. Maybe a course on meteorology in the future, leave alone math!
Experiments are what got the world where it is today. If the mental block I have about experiments is removed, then I can contribute well. I understand that a theoretical basis is necessary to conduct any reasonable experiment, failing which, one will be consigned to be an eternal subordinate. I understand that I'm okay with the "theoretical" part, and only the experimental part needs urgent looking into.

Life is Beautiful. Let us all smile.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Hectic after a long time

The last week witnessed a spurt in work-load - a subtle spurt, not a dirac delta, but a spurt nevertheless. There was a project to be submitted today: the RDT thing that I was talking about in earlier blogs. Being the IITian that I am, I obviously did not work until the last minutes.

It felt good to be busy after a long time. Good to have no time to do nothing. Good to sit beside my computer and work on some research ... or pseudo research, at least. It felt good to generate results, rationalize them physically, propose physical interpretations and work on order of magnitude estimates again. This is research as I know it.

Of course, come to think of research, my guide is an experimental person. So, it is natural to expect that lots of my PhD work will indeed be experimental. Until now, I have not really been exposed to experiments in general. Numerical experiments, yes, but real experiments, no. Until now, I have heard that wind tunnels exist, seen some (from a distance), but I have never genuinely used any. The experiments here will surely give me an idea of various experimental issues encountered by real researchers. They will also give me a first hand experience of turbulence - an experience with the various methods used to measure the same. It is one thing, being familiar with the physics of something, and quite another thing to witness the physics in action.

I intend to keep a hectic schedule from now on. I hope I get to work on some experiments from today onwards. I am okay with working as a lab assistant even!

I've really got nothing more to say.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Another Post from Evans

It would seem that the only place that I update this blog is from within the gargantuan library in the Texas A&M campus, the Evans Library. Why do I update this blog only here? Why do I not do it in my room or in my TA office? The answer to that is mind-numbingly obvious. I am procrastinating working by blogging. I come here with the intent to work, but I give into the temptation of blogging. At home, blogging is too boring: I give into the temptation of the idiot box.

Have you ever worn clothes smeared with the essence of cockaroach? I have a gut feeling that I am doing so right now. And here's the rationale behind the "gut feeling". I went to the far away laundry room (they have not fixed the nearer one yet), and washed my clothes. I went back, put them in the drier. After putting them back in the hamper, I just felt around the drier - so see if any sock had lodged itself into some crevice within the drier. I did find a sock (the only one that I washed) and another lumpy thing. I picked it up and examined it closely. It was a legless cockaroach. I reckon the legs would have beem amputated druring rotation. It felt quite dry (it was in the drier, after all).

A rather unpleasant thought formed in my head. Did the cockaroach die due to the dizziness of rotation, or did it die in the heat, or was it sheared to death by clothes moving around? Disgust had seen to it that I replaced the cockaroach into the drier. I went back home.

I think I am finally enjoying the food at home. Both my room mates seem to cook quite well - essentially they cook south Indian food - and do a pretty good job of it. Munched some chips as I ate Sambar with rice and that staple: egg curry. (Made "American Style" using pepper instead of chilli power and garam masala).

I am in the library. I intend to work on Turbulence right now. And then I shall go home and change and go to the gym. Work out, and perhaps eat out too. Shlotzky sounds good. Their pizza is unbeatable, but perhaps a tad heavy for lunch.

I had Ramen for lunch today ... I could feel myself get fatter .. there should be a law against those horrible things. I picked out a vegetarian flavour: some Cheddar and Jalapeno. Too cheesy. I refuse to eat Ramen again... ever. I wonder what I shall do with the other two packets at home. Charity? No ... wait .. that would be cruelty rather than charity.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Another weekend bites the dust

Well, not entirely, but it sure did bite more dust than it should have in an Ideal world. But let's get to that later.

I remember a recent conversation with my cousin (who is currently enjoying the good life in NYC). I told him about my social life here, or lack therof. I tried to tell him that I was well on the way to achieving a social life of sorts here - a white lie. For, after all, I am a graduate student. A PhD. Everybody knows that a PhD does not have a social life - especially when he/she is undergoing the PhD!

I'm in the library with the laptop now. I'm downloading midis of Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsodies and listening to them in winamp, with the hope that I shall bump into that memorable peice that Fred Quimby and Co. used in that Tom and Jerry episode. I can tell you at this point in time, that Rhapsody #12 is certainly not the one. But it is a beautiful piece. I'm having fun listening to it.

The Idea was to do some good work in the weekend. But, research work is one obstinate little thing. You can't just decide to do work. Everything has to click, or else it is back to the drawing board. Case in point: I downloaded and amazing paper (or so I thought). Using the results in the paper, I could make my order-of-magnitude estimates quite well, I thought. But, when I hit the calculator, the results just do not compare with intuiton. The weekend was spent in a bad temper, trying to analyze these conflicting results. And finally, a conclusion was reached: more papers needed!

I had some pending TA work in the morning. It, I am relieved to say, pends no more. In stark contrast with research work, TA work is very predictable. A rather perverse analogy with fluid mechanics comes to mind. Research work is like turbulent flow: you really have no idea what is going to happen. TA work is as deterministic as laminar flow. The questions will be corrected, subtly sarcastic comments will be written (by self) on the answer scripts, grades will be input into the computer, webct (ideally) will be updated. This will roughly take 6 hours in all. And students will request an incremental point in class ... 40% of these requests will be denied. Students will curse (under their breath) and await that TA evaluation day.

I drove around a residential colony yesterday with another of my cousins. Driving here in the USA is a pleasure. I was intrigued by how sensitive the car was to my command. I had to get used to driving on the right side of the road - no big deal now .. after all, it's been eight months since I came here. I also do understand that more opportunities to tour open up once a car and a license are procured. Hope that happens soon.

And now I digress again. The classic Tom and Jerry peice is indeed Rhapsody #2.

I'll sign off and get back to 'research' work. Turbulence this time. The professor has converted some of the predictable class work into research work. Fun, I must add, lest I be misunderstood.