Solar Eclipse – 22 July 2009

solar_eclipse_22_july_2009_taken_by_lutfar_rahman_nirjhar_from_bangladesh

When I was in Class 9, there was a total solar eclipse. I came to know of it when school reopened after the Summer Vacation. A few days later, it was in the newspapers. You must not watch it with your bare eyes. You must use special glasses, etc etc. My then Biology teacher, Ms Nina said, “If you watch the solar eclipse with your naked eyes, you’ll keep seeing that eclipse for the rest of your life.”

As mid-July approached, my Math teacher Mr Poincare announced his plans to go to a southern part of the country where the eclipse would be better visible. All this for an eclipse? At that point of time, the internet connection at home was a pathetic dial-up connection and the computer didn’t work when I needed it to. Thankfully, the newspapers contained what I wanted to know.

It would be a total solar eclipse and it would be the longest solar eclipse of the century. Now that was impressive. It would be an almost total eclipse where I lived but that wasn’t bad. The biggest hurdle was how to see it. Experts suggested that people should not use medical X-ray sheets to see it (as they usually do). This eclipse would be way too powerful. My friend, Alliser, came up with a good idea. He suggested we use the red film inside floppy disks and that is what we did.

On the day, I woke up at 02.00 AM UTC and went to the roof. Soon, I was joined by a couple who lived upstairs. I live in a society of some 30 apartment blocks. At most 5 people were up, someone in the next block, someone far away and the three of us. All of them had X-ray sheets. The couple had no idea what I was doing with my floppy disk. I’m sure that to this day, they think I am crazy. The eclipse was maximum at about 02.30 AM UTC. I clicked one or two photos. Of course, the eclipse was partial, so it was never very dark. I stayed for an hour before deciding my mother would reach her boiling point if I didn’t start getting ready for school.

The experience was, on the whole, extremely boring. In the past, I had often dreamt of becoming an astro-something. But now, I knew I had to look for something else. To this day, the space remains fascinating to me. But it’s limited to seeing TV shows about space, such as The Universe (on History Channel) and setting space wallpapers on my PC. Nothing more.

For more info on the eclipse click here.

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Mr Perelman – 1

Before college, I used to study in this big school… really big. My favourite teacher was Mr. Perelman.

At the beginning of every year, we were given our class schedules, and the initials of the teachers who’d take our classes. For some reason, no one told us the full names. No one asked either. We had this school booklet where the names of all the teachers and their departments were printed. I made a habit of taking this with me on the first day of every academic year.

In Class 8, we had two Math teachers one of whom was Mr Poincare. The other teacher had not been decided upon yet. We didn’t have that Math class for the first two weeks and we got used to free periods. In the third week, a really dark guy arrived in the class. He had a black bag with him and he wore really thick glasses. I had seen him before and I had always thought he must be one of the office staff.

He entered the room and introduced himself as Mr Perelman. He would be our new Math teacher. He would be teaching us Algebra, Mensuration and Trigonometry. We were crushed. He looked really strict and mean. I was sure I wouldn’t get 100 In Math again. By the way, somehow I managed to score full marks in Math in every exam in Class VII (and I love boasting about it). He started Mensuration that day. Standard, boring stuff.

He used to teach a few things in class and then give us a few problems. Those who were able to solve them first got the opportunity to have his/her copy checked by him. Sometimes he would give a tick with a blue pen and that meant the world to us although we would have preferred it if he had used a red pen. Some of us became regular “performers” in his class. There was me and there was Dominica (she and I were in the same Math tuition since Class VII), and Severus (you’ll hear a lot about him later), and Alicia, and Robin (she’ll be a central character too some day), and a few others.

One day, after the half-yearly exams, he started his class with a problem. He asked us to do a problem. He wrote on the board:

Factorise (x + y)

What the f*ck! How would I factorise (x + y)? He called up Dominica to solve it on the board. She had no clue what to do. He called me next and I, being the (over-)confident person I was, said, “There’s no solution to this problem.” He smiled and he called up Severus, and then Alicia, and then Robin, and one by one everyone fell. We were all dismayed and a bit annoyed because we had no idea how it could be factorised. And then a hand went up. It was Aemon. He claimed he had a solution. I smiled wisely. There couldn’t be any solution. He went up to the board and did this:

x + y =(x^{1/3} +y^{1/3})(x^{2/3} - x^{1/3}y^{1/3} + y^{2/3})

I was stunned! Mr Perelman smiled wisely and looked at us. For the first time in my life, I learnt to think outside the box. And I have remembered it ever since.

Welcome

Hey there! I am a Math undergraduate student in India. Why did I make this blog? I don’t know. Why the name “Math Undergrad”? I don’t know… Maybe this blog will have to do something with my life in Mathematics.

This is a personal blog and I hope to maintain a diary of my thoughts and feelings about life as a Math undergraduate, and hopefully postgraduate and doctoral life too, some day in the future.