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Cyclone Phailin

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Cyclone Phailin: imaged by IMD at 8:30 AM on 11 October, 2013.

Cyclone Phailin: imaged by IMD at 8:30 AM on 11 October, 2013.

Quartz claims:

An atmospheric beast is forming in the Bay of Bengal and heading straight for India. Cyclone Phailin—pronounced pie-leen; it’s a Thai word for “sapphire”—has exploded from tropical storm strength to potentially the equivalent of a category 5 hurricane.

While bracing for the super cyclone, you can use Z News:

Odisha has opened control rooms for the cyclone. The helpline number of the Odisha Central Control Room is 0674-2534177, PTI report.

The district control room mumbers are :

Mayurbhanj 06792-252759, Jajpur 06728-222648, Gajapati 06815-222943, Dhenkanal 06762-221376, Khurda 06755-220002, Keonjhar 06766-255437, Cuttack 0671-2507842, Ganjam 06811-263978, Puri 06752-223237, Kendrapara 06727-232803, Jagatsinghpur 06724-220368, Balasore 06782-262674, Bhadrak 06784-251881.

IE quoted:

“We expect that the cyclone Phailin will make landfall at about 6 pm on Saturday, October 12,” Dr Mrutunjay Mohapatra, Chief of India’s Cyclone Warning Division, said.

Elsewhere IE quoted IMD officials saying that Cyclone Phailin will be the worst storm since 1999:

Cyclone Phailin, the strongest cyclone to form on the Indian seas this year, Thursday moved closer to Orissa coast, bringing back memories of the 1999 supercyclone as Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik wrote to Union Defence Minister A K Antony seeking assistance from the IAF and Navy for relief and rescue operations.

Phailin, which was formed over North Andaman sea two days ago as a low pressure area, Thursday developed into a severe cyclonic storm with a well-marked eye in its centre as it moved northwestwards. Met Department officials in Bhubaneswar said Phailin would continue to move northwestwards and make landfall close to Gopalpur on sea in Ganjam district, which will bear the cyclone’s brunt, by Saturday evening. By the time Phailin hits the coast, it would have a maximum sustained wind speed of 175-185 km/hour, with gusts reaching up to 200 km/hour. “In comparison to the 1999 supercyclone, Phailin is just a notch below. We expect it to wreak massive damage after hitting the coast,” an official said.

In 1999, almost 10,000 people died and 19 lakh houses were damaged in 14 districts.

Far away, in Mumbai, on the other side of India, the skies are overcast and there is an occasional drizzle. HT reports:

Days ahead of Dussehra, a widely celebrated festival in the region, government officials are getting ready for rescue and relief operations in the coastal districts.

The Odisha government had already cancelled the Durga Puja holidays of employees in all districts.

Around 600 cyclone shelters have been set up in Orissa and are being stocked up with dry and cooked food as well as medicines.

The Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force has been deployed while the armed forces are on standby.

Using trucks and buses, authorities evacuated 40,000 people from 40 villages to government-run shelters, schools and buildings in five districts of Orissa state, said Surya Narayan Patra, the state revenue and disaster management minister.

Patra said authorities plan to take another 100,000 people to safer areas before the cyclone hits the region. “No one will be allowed to stay in mud and thatched houses in the coastal areas,” he said.

Authorities also planned to shift thousands of people and cattle to safer areas in neighboring Andhra Pradesh state, the state government statement said.

DNA reported:

12 IAF helicopters will arrive in state tomorrow, says special relief commissioner PK Mohapatra. 300 Army jawans, 50 doctors from Navy and 29 rescue teams will arrive in state tomorrow, he added. Evacuation of 6 lakh people from 7 districts is going on. Cooked food will be provided from tonight [11 Oct], says special relief commissioner PK Mohapatra.

As many as 64,000 people in the north coastal districts of Srikakulam, Vizianagaram, Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh are being evacuated to safer places.

Washington Post carries this report:

The storm is the equivalent of a category 5 hurricane, which comes with these kinds of impacts, according to the National Hurricane Center:

A high percentage of framed homes will be destroyed, with total roof failure and wall collapse. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last for weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.

“A Category 5 (equivalent) landfall on that region will be unimaginable,” says Brian McNoldy, Capital Weather Gang tropical weather expert.

By far, the greatest threat from Phailin is its storm surge. When the storm makes a landfall, it is likely to push ashore a devastating wall of water up to 20 feet high just north of its center, inundating vast, highly-populated areas.

A storm surge disaster is practically unavoidable writes Hal Needham, a research climatologist and storm surge specialist on staff at Louisiana State University.

“The storm conditions 18 hours before landfall tend to correlate best with storm surge heights,” writes Needham. “This means essentially that a catastrophic storm surge is a certainty given the forecast intensity and size at 18 hours before landfall”

Needham adds: “Tropical Cyclone Phailin has the potential to generate a surge at least 6 meters (20 feet) high.”

HT added:

The warning brought back memories of a killer cyclone which left nearly 10,000 people dead in 1999 and caused widespread devastation whose effects are felt by the state even now.

This time, however, the state government sought to calm fears and said it was better prepared. It broadcast cyclone warnings through loudspeakers and on radio and television as the first winds were felt on the coast and in the state capital, Bhubaneswar. Army and disaster management teams are on the standby to help in evacuation and rescue measures.

Union home secretary said nearly 12 million people will be affected by the cyclone.

Cyclone Phailin preparedness infographic

October 13, 2013

About 12 hours after the storm struck, DNA reported:

National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) vice-chairman M Shashidhar Reddy said as per preliminary reports, situation in Gopalpur in Odisha’s Ganjam district appeared to be encouraging and the wind-speed has come down significantly and the National Disaster Response Force was trying to asses the damage there.

“Wind speed in Gopalpur where the eye of the cyclone passed through has come down to 90-100 kmph at 8 am. We are still trying to assess the devastation caused by the disaster,” he told PTI here.

According to M Mohapatra, Scientist (Cyclone Warning) with the IMD, by 5.30 am on Sunday morning the cyclone started showing signs of weakening with the wind speed reducing to 160-170 kmph.

He however, added that it is still a “very severe cyclonic storm”.

Z News reports a startling casualty figure:

The death toll due to Cyclone Phailin is feared to have gone up to 15 with more bodies reported to have been found in Ganjam district of Odisha. Police said two bodies each were found in Berhampur town, Purosottampur, Ganjam town and Rangelilunda areas.

Considering that counts of deaths in 1999 ranged from around 10,000 to 45,000, the disaster preparedness is startling. Part of the reason may be that it will be some time before communications are restored. But part is due to the enormous improvement in storm prediction in the Bay of Bengal. Post landfall prediction is harder, so there may eventually be more casualties from neighbouring states.

HT reported:

Operations to rescue those trapped under the debris are on in Odisha and Andhra Pradesh, where more than 3,000 personnel of NDRF have been deployed.

Meanwhile, authorities are struggling to restore power supplies and telecommunication links as the winds snapped thousands of trees and poles, while buildings and some communication towers were destroyed. Before Phailin made landfall on Saturday, power supplies were shut down as a precaution.

The remnants of the storm are likely to dump “heavy to very heavy rains” across Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh in the next 24 hours. Parts of Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh were also expected to see heavy rainfall.

Authorities in Odisha were assessing the damage that Phailin would have caused overnight before moving inland, but their task was complicated by a prolonged power shutdown and snapping of telephone services in the affected areas.

Eye witness reports said the powerful winds on Saturday snapped trees like matchsticks and swept away rooftops besides flattening paddy crop across a large swathe of farmland. Heavy damage is feared in Odisha’s Ganjam district and the coastal stretch between Andhra towns of Kalingapatnam and Ichapuram.

Odisha’s top rescue official said 860,000 people moved before the cyclone made landfall on Saturday evening, while at least another 100,000 were evacuated further south in the state of Andhra Pradesh. Residents were also evacuated from coastal regions of West Bengal.

The government had said on Saturday evening that some 550,000 people had been evacuated but efforts to persuade people to flee to safer areas continued until shortly before Phailin made landfall at around 9pm.

About 6.5 lakh people were evacuated from the storm’s path, in what is said to be the biggest peacetime human movement in the country in 23 years. More than 1,700 soldiers besides rescue teams from the navy were kept on standby for emergencies.

October 14, 2013

Two days later, this is what BS had to report:

Although damage to property was estimated at several crores of rupees, loss of human lives was minimal in comparison to the 1999 super cyclone, in which more than 10,000 people died.

Officials said the latest cyclone and flooding has caused 21 deaths so far. The low casualty figure this time was because of timely evacuation of affected areas, following accurate predictions from the weather office, officials said.

This example could be a turning point in the relation between the government and the electors in India.


Written by Arhopala Bazaloides

October 11, 2013 at 9:47 am

2013 Nobel Prize for Peace

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The Nobel Foundation announced today through a press release:

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2013 is to be awarded to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) for its extensive efforts to eliminate chemical weapons.

During World War One, chemical weapons were used to a considerable degree. The Geneva Convention of 1925 prohibited the use, but not the production or storage, of chemical weapons. During World War Two, chemical means were employed in Hitler’s mass exterminations. Chemical weapons have subsequently been put to use on numerous occasions by both states and terrorists. In 1992-93 a convention was drawn up prohibiting also the production and storage of such weapons. It came into force in 1997. Since then the OPCW has, through inspections, destruction and by other means, sought the implementation of the convention. 189 states have acceded to the convention to date.

The conventions and the work of the OPCW have defined the use of chemical weapons as a taboo under international law. Recent events in Syria, where chemical weapons have again been put to use, have underlined the need to enhance the efforts to do away with such weapons. Some states are still not members of the OPCW. Certain states have not observed the deadline, which was April 2012, for destroying their chemical weapons. This applies especially to the USA and Russia.

Prizes in 2013: Physiology and medicine, Physics, Chemistry, literature, Peace, and Economics.

Written by Arhopala Bazaloides

October 11, 2013 at 9:20 am

An alternative zoology

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These pictures are the result of two animal photos being morphed together. Here: a purd. Norwegian student Arne Olav first created the pictures as a distraction from a hectic exam period, gaining inspiration from his friend’s guinea pigs.

Written by Arhopala Bazaloides

October 10, 2013 at 3:42 pm

Posted in entertainment

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2013 Nobel prize in Literature

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There was a very short press release from the Nobel Foundation:

The Nobel Prize in Literature for 2013 is awarded to the Canadian author Alice Munro “master of the contemporary short story”.

The Telegraph (UK) carries a short story by Munro.

Goodreads gives us the following quote from Alice Munro: “Why is it a surprise to find that people other than ourselves are able to tell lies?”

Prizes in 2013: Physiology and medicine, Physics, Chemistry, literature, Peace, and Economics.

Written by Arhopala Bazaloides

October 10, 2013 at 2:13 pm

2013 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

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There is a press release from the Nobel Foundation on the prize in chemistry:

Chemists used to create models of molecules using plastic balls and sticks. Today, the modelling is carried out in computers. In the 1970s, Martin Karplus, Michael Levitt and Arieh Warshel laid the foundation for the powerful programs that are used to understand and predict chemical processes. Computer models mirroring real life have become crucial for most advances made in chemistry today.

Chemical reactions occur at lightning speed. In a fraction of a millisecond, electrons jump from one atomic nucleus to the other. Classical chemistry has a hard time keeping up; it is virtually impossible to experimentally map every little step in a chemical process. Aided by the methods now awarded with the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, scientists let computers unveil chemical processes, such as a catalyst’s purification of exhaust fumes or the photosynthesis in green leaves.

The work of Karplus, Levitt and Warshel is ground-breaking in that they managed to make Newton’s classical physics work side-by-side with the fundamentally different quantum physics. Previously, chemists had to choose to use either or. The strength of classical physics was that calculations were simple and could be used to model really large molecules. Its weakness, it offered no way to simulate chemical reactions. For that purpose, chemists instead had to use quantum physics. But such calculations required enormous computing power and could therefore only be carried out for small molecules.

Martin Karplus, U.S. and Austrian citizen. Born 1930 in Vienna, Austria. Ph.D. 1953 from California Institute of Technology, CA, USA. Professeur Conventionné, Université de Strasbourg, France and Theodore William Richards Professor of Chemistry, Emeritus, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA.

Michael Levitt, U.S., Brittish and Israeli citizen. Born 1947 in Pretoria, South Africa. Ph.D. 1971 from University of Cambridge, UK. Robert W. and Vivian K. Cahill Professor in Cancer Research, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA, USA.

Arieh Warshel, U.S. and Israeli citizen. Born 1940 in Kibbutz Sde-Nahum, Israel. Ph.D. 1969 from Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel. Distinguished Professor, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA.

Prizes in 2013: Physiology and medicine, Physics, Chemistry, literature, Peace, and Economics.

Written by Arhopala Bazaloides

October 9, 2013 at 10:18 am

Why US politics is like India’s

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During the sessions of parliament, we see every day on TV how fractured the houses are, and that, as a result, completely common sense measures are not taken. Many believe that this is because of the huge numbers of different political parties; sometimes it seems that a party with 5 parliamentarians can form an effective pressure group. Some have come to accept the contention put forward by Anna Hazare and his fellow travellers that this is the source of corruption in the government.

Some people look admiringly at the US legislature with its seemingly stable two-party system. The complete paralysis of the legislature in the US then bothers them. Now an article in BBC seems to solve this riddle:

After Vietnam and Watergate, there was a reform spirit that wanted to open and democratise the process of selecting party candidates for office, as well as get special-interest money out of politics.

The first part worked too well. Party candidates all came to be picked through open primary elections. In the process, the parties lost the ability to select loyal candidates in smoke-filled back rooms – they lost a source of power and persuasion.

The campaign finance reforms, however, backfired entirely. The post-Richard Nixon idea was to stop party bosses from doling out money from local moguls, unions and corporations. Instead, the reforms deformed and opened the spigots for money to flow directly to candidates from all the old sources, bypassing the party machines. The quantities of money have grown to gargantuan proportions.

By the 1980s, politicians were essentially free agents. They didn’t need the parties to get nominated or to fund campaigns. Pollsters, advertising wizards and fundraisers replaced the party bosses. And the party leaders in Congress lost their leverage.

Contrary to appearances the US is no longer a two-party system. It is not even a multi-party system. It would seem to be a legislature of what we would call independents. That does explain the shutdown.

Written by Arhopala Bazaloides

October 9, 2013 at 8:42 am

2013 Nobel prize in Physics

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Francois Englert (left) and Peter Higgs (right) in CERN on July 4, 2012 at the announcement of the discovery of the Higgs particle

A press release from the Nobel Foundation confirmed everyone’s guess:

François Englert and Peter W. Higgs are jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics 2013 for the theory of how particles acquire mass. In 1964, they proposed the theory independently of each other (Englert together with his now deceased colleague Robert Brout). In 2012, their ideas were confirmed by the discovery of a so called Higgs particle at the CERN laboratory outside Geneva in Switzerland..

The awarded theory is a central part of the Standard Model of particle physics that describes how the world is constructed. According to the Standard Model, everything, from flowers and people to stars and planets, consists of just a few building blocks: matter particles. These particles are governed by forces mediated by force particles that make sure everything works as it should.

The entire Standard Model also rests on the existence of a special kind of particle: the Higgs particle. This particle originates from an invisible field that fills up all space. Even when the universe seems empty this field is there. Without it, we would not exist, because it is from contact with the field that particles acquire mass. The theory proposed by Englert and Higgs describes this process.

On 4 July 2012, at the CERN laboratory for particle physics, the theory was confirmed by the discovery of a Higgs particle. CERN’s particle collider, LHC (Large Hadron Collider), is probably the largest and the most complex machine ever constructed by humans. Two research groups of some 3,000 scientists each, ATLAS and CMS, managed to extract the Higgs particle from billions of particle collisions in the LHC.

François Englert, Belgian citizen. Born 1932 in Etterbeek, Belgium. Ph.D. 1959 from Université Libre de Bruxelles, Brussels, Belgium. Professor Emeritus at Université Libre de Bruxelles, Brussels, Belgium.

Peter W. Higgs, UK citizen. Born 1929 in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK. Ph.D. 1954 from King’s College, University of London, UK. Professor emeritus at University of Edinburgh, UK.

One hears that Prof. Higgs had made up his mind to be untraceable today. BBC reports:

Professor Higgs is renowned for shying away from the limelight, and he could not be located for interview in the immediate aftermath of the announcement.

“He’s gone on holiday without a phone to avoid the media storm,” his Edinburgh University physics colleague Alan Walker told UK media, adding that Higgs had also been unwell.

But the university released a prepared statement from Higgs, who is emeritus professor of theoretical physics:

“I am overwhelmed to receive this award and thank the Royal Swedish Academy.

“I would also like to congratulate all those who have contributed to the discovery of this new particle and to thank my family, friends and colleagues for their support.

“I hope this recognition of fundamental science will help raise awareness of the value of blue-sky research.”

Francois Englert said he was “very happy” to win the award, speaking at the ceremony via phone link.

“At first I thought I didn’t have it [the prize] because I didn’t see the announcement,” he told the committee, after their news conference was delayed by more than an hour.

Here are the links to the paper Broken Symmetry and the Mass of Gauge Vector Mesons by F. Englert and R. Brout and Broken Symmetries and the Masses of Gauge Bosons by Peter W. Higgs. The papers are available without subscriptions.

There is indignance on the far side of the Atlantic. Physical Review Letters reported:

“It’s unfortunate that the Nobel Prize is limited to only two recipients,” said R. Sekhar Chivukula (2010 chair of the APS Sakurai Prize Selection Committee), “because failing to recognize the work of Guralnik, Hagen and Kibble is a significant oversight. I’m glad that the APS could award a prestigious prize in a way that makes clear just how important they all were in establishing the foundations of contemporary particle physics.”

The 2010 Sakurai Prize cites Guralnik, Hagen, Kibble, Brout, Englert, and Higgs for “elucidation of the properties of spontaneous symmetry breaking in four-dimensional relativistic gauge theory and of the mechanism for the consistent generation of vector boson masses.”

Interestingly, this citation is carefully crafted to exclude P. W. Anderson by referring to four-dimensional relativistic gauge theory. Peter Higgs in his paper says: “This phenomenon is just the relativistic analog of the plasmon phenomenon to which Anderson has drawn attention”. It is unfortunate that the Nobel prize is not given to seven people. It is the nature of science that the process of discovery is diffuse. It is also the nature of myths and prizes that the story of discoveries is simplified.

Prizes in 2013: Physiology and medicine, Physics, Chemistry, literature, Peace, and Economics.

Written by Arhopala Bazaloides

October 8, 2013 at 12:23 pm

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