” Artificial intelligence : 101 – Netflix User Case”

There is a general misconception in several quarters that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is primarily a work medium for technologically qualified personnel and data science experts. The answer is, however, a firm “No”.

AI actually lends itself to any discerning individual irrespective of qualifications but interested in : (a) making the world a better place ; (b) making people’s standard of living better than what is being enjoyed now ; and (c) solving problems in an interdisciplinary way utilising simple technologies and tools available to qualify and quantify information gathered from various sources. With short term courses one will do well to get a handle on tools and techniques of AI.

History records a number of studies and instances where the work carried out and inferences derived could be a part of AI studies without having been clearly designated as such.

My Study in brief :

A three year study I was engaged with beginning 1980 explored the incidences cum impact of Occupational Stress Management in industry (specially manufacturing sector) and the availability of limited scientific facilities for in-house monitoring, collecting, analysing, and interpreting relevant data in an attempt to assess the situation and to provide preventive solutions.

I had the luxury of sophisticated instrumentation in the Premier Institute I worked comparable to any leading institution in the world. ( This is quite akin to Computer facilities and Cloud for today’s AI ).

Coupled with scientific manpower it was possible to collect enormous amount of data – in that period data on 10000 individuals was supposed to be – in real life, work centered, human centered conditions and parameters from a range of industries as steel plants, textile Mills, manufacturing plants, assembly units, and power plants. (This is quite akin to Big Data in AI ).

The data collected was subjected to detailed analysis, and programs were developed to the interests of industries in assessing the risk status of individuals to health. ( This is quite akin to the algorithms written to analyse and create a graph /nomogram for prediction ).

Result :

  1. 1. Simple monitoring of stress parameters with instruments for the purpose which can be done by in-house personnel ( very economical and highly reliable ).
  2. 2. Small team with only three members to take relevant measurements saving time, resources, personnel, and effort.
  3. 3. Simple graphs, nomogram, and equations to help assess health risks and predict future to an extent.
  4. It did not occur to me to term that as an AI Study at that time since the term was not popular making its way in scientific investigations during that period.
  5. In retrospect when we go back to the details of the Study, the first thought that comes to my mind is that it could well be the prelude to AI Studies in that field from a developing nation. Much less sophisticated, much less tech induced, much less algorithmic, and much less revolutionary. But, it sure, was “data driven” and engaging. The study would easily pass for an AI part in today’s context.
  6. User Case : ” Netflix” : This considers the period prior to 2019 with special emphasis on 2018.
  7. Netflix is an international company that relies a lot on Content and Graphics catering to different mediums while adding value to its streaming service.
  8. Good value and engaging content are the chief driving factors of the company’s progressive actions. It centers on its principal focus on the process of ” delivering entertainment reimagined with tech”. Customers enjoy and get fully influenced to watch their contents of the video.
  9. Their movie titles are “stylistic” ;
  10. Their posters are “special” ; and
  11. Their images are “titillating”.
  12. These were the result of AI in their process of ideation and depiction. It was possible because of AI.
  13. To secure images for exciting and meaningful display to the viewers, they focused on three elements – focal point ; text placement ; and image clustering – and made effective variations with suitable algorithms.
  14. Focal Point : The chief area of the image like face, body, legs that the user is expected to view primarily is the focus here. (A focal point algorithm is used here).
  15. Text Placement : Deciding which is the correct place in a scene to put a text like, say, subtitles in a frame is the focus here. ( A text detection algorithm is used here).
  16. Image Clustering : Using different images with varying degrees of image cropping, resizing, colour correction, and title treatment utilising different characteristic qualities to make images more effective for different users globally is the focus here. ( Algorithms to determine a similarity in feel among groups of images is used here).
  17. Netflix has been successful in enhancing the enthusiasm of the viewers with these changes.
  18. ” Grouping the images and maintaining the image collection of more than 2 million has been the challenging task for Netflix with lofty hopes and aims down the road ” – admitted Netflix.
  19. Netflix also stood to gain profitably through the deals forged like : (a) Grey’s anatomy creator Shonda Rhymes ( $ 100 million ) ; (b) Ryan Murphy ( $ 300 million ) ; Netflix’s original projects already planned ( about $ 700 million) ; and (d) the highly valued ‘high 8 figure deal’ struck in May 2018 with Barack and Michelle Obama ( expected to be more than $ 65 million) which together can last several years.
  20. Reports then mentioned that Obamas were likely to create programs covering : ” Scripted series ; unscripted series ; docu-series ; documentaries ; and features.”
  21. Netflix had earned its mark with more than 150 million subscribers covering more than 190 countries by 2018- since unveiling its streaming services in 2007.
  22. Discuss :
  23. 1. What is the status of its competitive edge over rivals now? Specially after COVID-19?
  24. 2. How long can this revenue stream be sustained? Will it be impeded by any unforseen glitches or levels of enthusiasm of users?
  25. 3. Can this medium through AI be used to clear up the conflict and confrontation between nation(s) by focusing on the similarities of qualities of human beings in general?
  26. ” Dieu avec nous “
  27. Tuesday, September 7, 2021 – 9.59 p.m. (IST)
  28. Tidbit : ” Netflix’s ability to pass along price increases to customers without walking away is the sign of a great company “.

” New Zealand makes Cricket Epic in Southampton ” – June 23, 2021.

Angels from heaven sprayed flowers with their blessings on to New Zealand team in Southampton, UK, as they etched their proud name as the First Victor in the WTC match finals against India on June 23, 2021.

New Zealand captain, Kane Williamson’s heroic leadership prevailed.

I now turn briefly to post the key details I gleaned from this match.

India batted first and posted 217 in their first innings. New Zealand replied with 249. India registered 170 in their second innings. New Zealand made 140 for 2 wickets to earn the glory.

New Zealand made mistakes in the world cup one day finals in 2019 that was decided by the boundaries scored after the Super Over also ended in a tie. They seem to have converted their playing skills, mental, and emotional strengths considerably to secure this trophy. Kudos to the team, management, cricket board, and the nation. New Zealand proved that it is a “genuine contender” for the finals of this two year long cricket extravaganza.

Kane Williamson worked out his plan with exactness and details ( selecting the team on strengths and opportunities) to the highest degree ; he seems to wield a sort of extra human powers that makes him a great leader of this team. He brought energy, fullness, and details through his individual performance in both innings and there can be no doubt that this New Zealand team with his proud and motivated members will hold many more trophies in future. From 8th just 7 years ago (with only Bangladesh and Zimbabwe behind) to 1st (numero uno position) today has been “blood, toil, tears, and sweat” to imitate Winston Churchill’s words.

Figures 1 and 2 below depict the performances of India and New Zealand succinctly :

Five aspects are noteworthy :

1. New Zealand adapted better to the match conditions making the only two fifties ( Devon Conway in the first innings and Kane Williamson in the second innings) ; recorded the highest partnership ( 96 unbroken stand between Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor in the second innings) – which catapulted them to tip the scales in their favour.

2. New Zealand achieved excellent stability and solidarity by their tail enders ( last 4 batsmen posting a valuable 58 runs) in their first innings compared to a combined 51 in both innings by India. New Zealand made exciting fours and sixes during that time marking their aggression. They played a truly positive game setting the stage for the final overs. The players seemed to be mentally and emotionally striving for victory though it remained outwardly concealed.

3. New Zealand bowling has also been characterised by excellent control with better bounce and movement ; controlled accuracy by all the seamers ; and good speed and aggression – becoming effective in both controlling the flow of runs and taking wickets. Kyle Jamieson has been spectacular while trapping Virat Kohli in both the innings. Their bowling plan proved to be more than adequate and effective.

4. India on the other hand failed to judge the pace and movement either missing or taking a few blows with impunity. But for the opening partnership between Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill in the first innings and the one between Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane later ( both partnerships, however, could not touch the 100 mark while proving to be inadequate), and the lone and desperate streak of aggression from Rishab Pant in the second innings, Indian batting overall failed to accelerate when needed adding pressure to the batsmen consistently.

5. Ishant and Shami’s astute swing, pace, and variations were neutralised by the surprisingly ineffective performance of Bumrah lacking tight control throughout the match. New Zealand’s choice of four pace bowlers ultimately proved positive, definitive, and conclusive against the strength of the Indian batsmen.

New Zealand team proved victorious in David and Goliath fashion as they took the challenge better than India. They responded better to the difficult conditions and the hardships with resilience. This WTC Final has been a “Cricket Epic”. Even misses in the proceedings reinvigorated them. Only time can tell whether a Special Cricket Docudrama on this will be made by any film producer.

” Dieu avec nous”

Thursday, June 24, 2021 – 4. 09 p.m. (IST)

Tidbit : ” Expect New Zealand to hit the high spots beyond imagination in International Cricket sooner than later”.

” Effective Control of COVID-19 – Factors and Strategies ” – May 5, 2021.

” India has now become the centre of attraction globally as far as the 2nd wave of COVID-19 is concerned “. The second wave appears to be more virulent than the earlier one.

” America First ” USA , despite its initial nervousness, has now with its realisation that ‘he who hesitates is lost’ and after prudent reconsideration of its stand now come forward to help India through its supply of medicines/vaccines ; ventilators ; PPEs ; and other experimental devices as its priority. The role of America’s business organisations, the India Caucus, and legal experts in this change of policy by the Biden Administration wins plaudits from even the staunch critics.

For the two nations, ( USA and India) which have fought the wars on Smallpox, Polio, and HIV AIDS for nearly 70 years, the present joint effort to fight the COVID – 19 war comes as a great relief. France is ready to pitch in with its supply of 8 Oxygen generators, liquid oxygen tankers, electric syringe pumps, and breathing equipment. Thailand, Singapore, and Bhutan also have joined in our support . More than 40 countries have pledged emergency assistance to India.

Let me now allude briefly to three aspects for the worrying situation that India finds itself in today :

Figure below represents the three factors succinctly :

They are : (1) Supply and demand anomaly ; (2) Wastage ; and (3) False propaganda / fear.

( 1) Supply and demand anomaly : While 36% have been vaccinated in USA and 60% in Israel, India has not reached even 10% yet. India needs about 13 crore doses of vaccine per month to achieve its July, 2021 target. Local production of vaccines is now only 8 crores. Hence, the need for importing vaccines and as a first step Sputnik V has been granted permission. Reddy’s lab in Hyderabad will likely produce this vaccine at 85 crore doses per year. Besides these, Zydus Cadila’s plasmid DNA ( 10 million doses per month) and Bharat Biotech’s Intra nasal COVID-19 vaccine ( BBC 154) have achieved completion of phase 2 trials. The extremely large variations between supply and demand on one side and the Wastage of vaccines on the other hand constitute the deterring factors in effective control of COVID – 19. Out of the 10.03 crores of people vaccinated ( covishield) only 17145 have been impacted ; and out of the 1.57 crores of people who had the second dose only 5014 have been impacted. The statistics for Covaxin during the same period is as below : Out of 93.56 lakhs who received the first dose only 4208, and out of the 13.37 lakhs who had the second dose only 698 have been impacted. Hence, the proposition that vaccination is not completely effective is misleading and even dangerous. No one drug is 100% effective and there are always exceptions to the rule.

( 2) Wastage of vaccines have been blamed for the ineffectiveness of COVID – 19 control. At the national level it is 6.5% only. This too was a predominant factor in the first month only ( in January 2021 India started vaccination ) when the frequency of visits by people was low due to apprehensions and other such factors. Wastage was high in Telengana (17.6%) and Andra (11.6%). Subsequently however wastages have not been significant. More people participation and better awareness of the administrators of the vaccines enabled the effective use of the vials.

( 3) Propaganda in Social media that a self imposed quarantine for 15 days will be highly effective in controlling the spread of COVID – 19 is true and should never be opposed or criticised. Better than the widespread rumours of discouraging vaccination by false propaganda. India is neither America ( less populated and more technologically superior and administratively advanced), nor China which has an autocratic trend of control – both helping to contain the circulation of widespread rumours. It is not easy to forget the fear created amongst the public following the death of Tamil comedian actor, Vivek, a day after he was vaccinated. Prior to April 17 (the day of his death) about 2 lakh people were vaccinated each day in TamilNadu. In the three days after April 17 (the total for three days) it came down to 1.6 lakhs, a dramatic reduction. On the day of his death only 25500 were vaccinated. Assurances made by the State Government, Medical Experts, and analysts through all media fell on deaf ears, a revelation of the amount of fear and ignorance among people.

Vaccination is the only solution :

In many countries COVID – 19 has been effectively contained after ‘vaccination’. It makes “Vaccination” the only solution. The fact that only 0.02 – 0.04% overall remain affected even after complete vaccination is highly comforting. The 99.96% who have been protected cannot be neglected or sidelined. Misleading propaganda should be treated as a ‘national crime and evil’.

A new vaccine is emerging :

COVID – 19 vaccine is the exuberant call of the People today. Pfizer, Moderna , Johnson and Johnson, Covishield, Covaxin, Sputnik V, Plasmid DNA, Intranasal .. .. and others are already existing.

Quite significantly, the vaccine candidate that is being pursued by world renowned researchers from the most prestigious institute in India, the “Indian Institute of Science”, Bangalore, India, is glaringly missing in news coverage. Yes, it has now only been tested in animals ( mice and Guinea pigs) but with an astounding result of 200 times ( yes, 200 times) generation of antibodies compared to those seen in human convalescent sera taken from people who have recovered from COVID – 19. Further, it is expected to be effective against new variants too. It can be stored at temp 2 – 8°C without requiring cold chain.

As at present they have been able to achieve this level of success with just Rs 3 crore in funding. Yes, they have now to go through Phase 1, Phase 2 human trials. But the preliminary success in phenomenal measures achieved already underscores the promise that this vaccine can do in India ; particularly with the second and the likely third waves of the pandemic threatening a progressively long term requirement for vaccines. The vaccine emerging out of the portals of a premier academic and research institution like the ” IISc” will not be driven by any commercial benefits. When it finally enters the usage status it will be the lowest priced compared to others for sure.

When fundings to the tune of several thousand fold are doled out to some companies, a funding of a just 100 fold will enable the researchers to accelerate the process with swift technological help from other institutions of the world for effective delivery.

While commending the team of researchers , if the Government accords top priority to this effort it may help solve the pandemic problem affordably in addition to holding the Indian talent flying high. That IISc has a formidable history of forging partnerships with highly reputed institutions and laboratories in the world is known .

At this moment the saviour triad for COVID – 19 will comprise the following : (a) Vaccination, (b) Face mask, and (c) Social distancing. There can be no relaxation of these strictly.

” Dieu avec nous”

Wednesday, May 5, 2021 – 15.29 p.m. ( IST)

Tidbit : ” If you are going through hell, keep going” – Winston Churchill.

” Lesson from the Verdict of George Floyd ” – April 28, 2021 “

The merciless killing of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, will remain as the ugliest outbreak of racism for all eternity in America and for the humanity.

The image of the terrible 9 minutes and 29 seconds when the White police officer, Derek Chauvin, forced his knee on the neck of George Floyd completely devoid of any semblance of humanity cannot ever be blotted out.

What happened on the footpath of Minneapolis city – the macabre human rights violation ; violation of the code by the Police department ; the cruel murder in broad daylight ; and the manifestation in terms of racism – has been an indestructible black spot that cannot erase the memory of that day in human history.

George Floyd was neither a terrorist nor a murderer escaped from the prison cell. His attempt to exchange a counterfeit $ 20 note in a shop led to his indictment on allegations of crime. Death cannot be the punishment even if that were to be his guilt. And the police department has no right based on American Law(s) to inflict that punishment.

George Floyd’s grievous and painful roar that “I am not able to breathe” when the White officer, Derek Chauvin, knelt on George Floyd’s neck meant to inflict a torture of death punishment has awakened the entire Black Community and the consciousness of those against racism not just in America but in the entire world forcing them to take to the streets in favour of Justice. It caused the American pride a damage internationally.

When Joe Biden, then Democratic candidate for the President (2020) went to Houston and met the relatives of George Floyd, his assurance, “pledging that without spreading hatred, I will try to heal the wounds of racism” became the chief factor that put him on the top of the race for Presidency – eventually succeeding.

Last Tuesday, American court (Jury) while confirming the three charges – second degree unintentional murder, third degree murder, and second degree manslaughter read the Verdict. Derek Chauvin is guilty of murder.

Subsequently in Washington, New York, and other states Americans started celebrating the Verdict in processions.

Events reinforcing that America still has not got rid of racism have been happening and are happening. A few minutes before the Verdict in the case of Derek Chauvin a 13 year old girl was fatally stabbed and another 13 year old girl was charged with causing her death in Winton Hills. In 2014 Eric Garner was wrestled to the ground in a chokehold by a NYPD officer and later pronounced dead in a hospital ; the death of an unarmed teenager, Michael Brown, who was shot and killed by the Police officer, Darren Wilson, on August 9, 2014, in Ferguson, Missouri ; the killing of the 12 year old, Tamir Rice by Timothy Loehmann, a white police officer on November 12, 2014 in Cleveland, Ohio ; Breonna Taylor, a 26 year old African American woman was fatally shot in Louisville, Kentucky on March 13, 2020 by white police officers – are just some to cite here.

Accused getting released from the charges, and negotiations with aggrieved families to settle the cases are some practices mostly followed in such cases.

It will take three weeks to formally announce the sentence in Derek Chauvin’s case. A maximum sentence of 40 years in prison, or a minimum of 12 years and 6 months in prison is the expectation.

A permanent solution to this problem of violence lies in making the police reform bill passed in the Congress into “Law”.

The Bill aimed at criminal reforms lays emphasis on responsibilities and accountabilities of police at national level for such incidents plus restraining the ease of exemption from such cases. What will happen to the Bill in the Senate is eagerly awaited.

George Floyd killing teaches a few lessons for us too : 1. The case has witnessed the Verdict being delivered within a year of the killing ; 2. The last, dying, words of George Floyd has been recorded clearly vouching for the happening ; 3. Police department did not make any attempt to safeguard the accused ; 4. The head of the police force has himself admitted that Derek Chauvin breached the Rules of Thumb in the case.

Contrary to these, in India, deaths in police custody, encounters, police violations, higher authorities in police force and the government making their efforts to protect the accused and such other criticisms are not totally erroneous.

What is needed is a responsible and accountable partnership between the Police Force and the Judiciary.

Everyone’s mind is yearning for Leadership and Moral Clarity in these situations.

” Dieu avec nous”

Wednesday, April 28, 2021 – 12.51 p.m. (IST)

Tidbit : ” Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed for ever ; the yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself”. – Martin Luther King Jr.

” Protecting More People Financially – FDI Increase in Insurance Sector ” – March 25, 2021.

If former PM, Dr Manmohan Singh (UPA) gave a boost furthering the interests of foreign institutions, the present Government lays the strip of red carpet for them to walk on.

Having opened the banking and insurance sector already raising the limits of foreign investment is not inappropriate. Even to raise the question of whether privatisation is necessary or not is incomprehensible.

When the world including the communist nations have already progressed towards privatisation, it will be unacceptable for India to act with a different economic outlook.

The Insurance ( Amendment) Bill, 2021, has been passed in the Lok Sabha on March 22, 2021, (Rajya Sabha had already passed the legislation) and sent to the President for approval. It is now certain that it will be made a Law. This is not a matter of surprise since this has been announced in the Economic survey last month.

The Bill enables the increase of foreign investment limits in an insurance company from 49% to 74%.

While public insurance companies receive capital resources from the Government, the Bill seeks to present a level playing field for the private insurance companies to receive funds from foreign investors. This has also been stated clearly by the FM, Nirmala Sitaraman.

Malaysia, Thailand, and China have recorded higher insurance growth rates than India specially in the last 10 years. ( Malaysia, 4,72% ; Thailand, 4,99% ; China, 4,3% ; and India, 3,76%).

Life Insurance growth has already decreased. The population-premium ratio has increased in India. It still falls below that compared to Malaysia, Thailand, and China.

Presently there exist 24 Life Insurance Companies and 34 General Insurance Companies in India. The number of persons working in the private sector is 24 lakhs (both employees and agents) and those in the public sector is 17 lakhs. The growth in this sector, however, is not impressive when compared with other Asian Economies. Statistics also reveal the lack of awareness to insurance in general and the lack of the right frame of mind to register oneself for Insurance.

The main reason attributed to this has been traced to the poor growth of expansion of the companies through branches extensively.

The significant part played by the Health Insurance and agricultural products insurance contribute to the level of growth achieved as at present. The expectation is that the private insurance companies can expand their activities to spread their net further.

The increase in foreign investment is ‘conditional’ upon utilisation of the insurers’ money within the country.

More the number of institutions engaged in Insurance, less will be the Insurance premiums cost benefiting the customers is also one of FM’s expectations.

A fact that is brought to the fore from the records is non-utilisation of 49% FDI earlier in this sector ; and the low figures of investment by foreign investors. It reveals the unusual behaviour of foreign investors in general. If the increase in FDI to 74% can reduce this hesitancy it will be a good result.

Be it the Public or Private sector ; be it the local or foreign investor – a larger coverage of the Insurance Sector geographically and population segment wise will, sure, enhance the ‘job opportunities’ for youth and ‘protect more people financially’ .

Isn’t this a matter of pride, happiness, and delight, springs to our mind(s). Let’s wait and watch.

“Dieu avec nous ”

Thursday, March 25, 2021 – 9.03 a.m. (IST)

Tidbit : ” Both terrorism and insurance sell fear – and business is business “. – Liam McCurry.

” Trump is Not Finished in American Politics Yet ” – February 23, 2021.

Former US President, Donald Trump’s second Impeachment trial ; his acquittal ; and to an extent the January 6, 2021, Capitol attack – once the biggest draws have their curtains fading from light now.

An important aspect that has not been in many discussions or print drawn as example/precedent pertains to the 1785 case of Warren Hastings ( who served as the Governor General of India ) whose removal from office was proposed in the British House of Commons after his retirement. The trial was based on accusations of amassing wealth disproportionate to the sources of his income during service ; charges of extortion ; and his orders to shoot the Maharaja Nandakumar who staunchly opposed his style of Leadership. Following the debate and discussions during the trial, the resolution to remove him from office was defeated. Significantly, Jamie Raskin, Democratic Lead Manager of Trump Impeachment trial in the US Senate, quoted this as a previous example to justify the proceedings. In the final verdict, Trump has been acquitted.

US Capitol attack of January 6, 2021, cannot be erased from human memory just as injustice cannot be erased from the world. Even before the Senate trial it was well known to everyone that it was faced with the prospect of a certain defeat. But, it perhaps helped highlight : (a) the fact that the attack had the tacit support of Donald Trump and will be registered in future history of America , and (b) to erase the stigma and taint attached to the incident from the eyes of the world.

Citing this trial of Warren Hastings, Jamie Raskin emphasized that, ” even when a person is not holding his office, it will not be wrong to make formal legislative inquiries through the accepted process and to make the required resolution against the person.”

Removing persons holding high offices in America is not a simple matter. To hold a Senate trial a vote of acceptance is required. Donald Trump’s trial happened after a formal acceptance.

Results of the General Election in America will be known in November itself. The new President-elect will however formally take charge only on January 20. During the intervening period, the losing President will hold his office in the White House with full legitimate power. The acts of the President during this period hold significant value and impact for the successor. A defeated President should not be granted any liberty to do what he pleases , specially during this period on account of ” January Exception/Proscription” is the rubric here. Donald Trump is the first President in American history to be impeached twice in his term of Four years. This Impeachment trial also holds the distinction of the shortest in the course of trial days in history. President, Donald Trump, got acquitted with the votes favouring him at 57 – 43.

If there remains one special meaning to this Impeachment trial, it is that Donald Trump had not lost his rights to contest the 2024 General Election again. He cannot, however , be completely solaced by this memory with a host of criminal investigations still hanging in the balance even as he hangs tough.

According to the 14th Amendment, section 3, of the American Constitution – any individual inciting insurrection can be removed from office and if he is a common citizen criminal investigations can be proceeded against him/her.

Even amidst all the demanding circumstances one cannot take the shine off the reality that “Trumpism” and the support of nearly 75 million voters will exist in America for years, if not for decades.

” Dieu avec nous “

Tuesday, February 23, 2021 – 6.19 a.m. (IST)

Tidbit : ” If Abe Lincoln came back to life, he would lose New York and he would lose California too ” – Donald Trump.

” Perseverance Rover and Mars Exploration – Not Easy but Worth it ” – February 22, 2021.

This is a glorious period for Indians in America holding their flags flying high after committing to nail their colours to the mast.

If Kamala Harris swung into the saddle of VP on January 20, 2021 ; if more than 20 Indians have been nominated by President, Joseph Biden, to key positions in US Administration ; – now it is Bangalore born, Dr Swati Mohan who with her parents migrated to America, adding another feather to our cap of pride in making an impactful contribution to the “Perseverance” Rover launched by NASA in their aim to explore and inhabit the Second Planet , “Mars” on Friday, February 18, 2021.

Having raised the heartbeats of millions for more than 7 minutes when the Perseverance Rover’s six wheels finally and successfully landed on the Red Planet, a new hope was kindled 47.2 crore kilometres away on Earth for the humankind.

Research Scientist ( Aerospace engineer and Guidance control Operations Lead on the NASA Mars Mission 2020 ) Dr Swati Mohan proudly made the announcement of the landing at 2.25 a.m. on Friday.

Launched from Florida’s Cape Canaveral on July 30, 2020, it took 203 days to cover the 300 million miles from Earth. The weight of the Rover was 1025 kilograms. Its length was 3.048 meters and height 2.13 meters. The expenditure incurred was 207 crore dollars. This is the largest and technologically most superior spacecraft launched in history so far.

It is also the first Rover in nearly thirty years to use domestically produced plutonium created by national laboratories in U.S.A. The cost of the mission is equal to the amount of money Google makes in 6 days ; or the amount of money Americans spend on pets every 10 days ; or equivalent to 33 hours of running the US Department of Defense.

One Mars year is equal to 2 Earth years. The chief aim of this mission is to characterise planet’s geology, and past climate and to be the first mission to collect and cache Martian rock and regolith paving the way for human exploration of the Red Planet. Explore the possibility of life or otherwise to be precise.

The 45 sq km Jezero Crater where it has landed, the site of an ancient river Delta ( previous orbital missions have pointed to the wet conditions ) has harboured life billions of years ago ; whether microbial life existed or not ; whether the temperature patterns are life preserving ; collecting samples of rocks ; testing new technology that can benefit future robotic and human missions to the planet – are some of the objectives constituting this mission.

Research pertaining to the atmospheric gases is the top priority now. Past research has evidenced the existence of nearly 90% carbon dioxide in Mars atmosphere. Plants, shrubs, and trees on earth take CO2 and release O2 during the day while they take O2 and release CO2 during night on Earth. This type of exchange is not found in Mars. Hence, the scientists have carried an instrument called ‘MOXIE’ to Mars this time to test the production of O2 from CO2 in Mars. This is the most significant aspect of this launch that will ascertain the possibility of human inhabitation in future.

Mars exploration is not new ; starting as early as in 1960s several attempts have been made in the last 60 years or so. Viking 1 and Viking 2 in 1975 were the successful early launches by America. About 16000 photographs were collected during that time. “Pathfinder” in 1996 ; “Spirit” and “Opportunity” in 2004 ; “Phoenix” Mars Lander in 2008 ; “Curiosity” in 2012 and “InSight” Lander in 2018 are the other launches from America. Each of these has served to bring new insights to the process of Mars Exploration.

India launched its ” Mangalyaan” in 2013 first ; UAE’s Al Amal ( “Hope” – 2021 ) is the Arab World’s first such mission that landed on February 9, 2021 ; and China’s “Tianwen 1” landed on February 10, 2021 is its first now orbiting the red planet ; China’s “Tianwen 2” will be landing in May. India’s “Mangalyaan 2” is getting ready to be launched. (exact date is not known, however).

Whether Mars holds water for human habitation ; whether Mars has a congenial atmosphere with enough O2 for human inhabitation ; and whether Mars has congenial temperature for the safe existence of human beings are some of the ongoing researches on this aspect.

The secret of evolution of life in other planets is the primary quest that drives the human interest to explore Mars now. It is the vista of the greatest opportunity that our children, grandchildren, and/or great grand children can hope for with joy, dream, and ecstasy of reaping the benefits in their lifetime.

” Dieu avec nous “

Monday, February 22, 2021 – 10.29 a.m. (IST)

Tidbit : ” To confine our attention to terrestrial matters would be to limit the human spirit ” – Stephen Hawking.

” Is China Advancing its Steps in India-Sri Lanka Relationship ? ” – February 18, 2021.

India-Sri Lanka relationship is a well established relationship. Tamils and Tamil nadu politics are the two pillars governing this relationship. Elections to Tamil Nadu assembly are to be held soon.

China’s recent emergence as a force determining India-Sri Lanka relationship in this context has to be noted. How this will shape and which direction it will take under the circumstances remains a mystifying puzzle.

China has been offering financial support to Sri Lanka extensively. Most sea ports of Sri Lanka are upgraded with the help of either a Chinese Organisation fully or jointly.

The previous political leadership of Sri Lanka had set an agreement to upgrade the East Container Terminal of the Colombo Seaport jointly with India and Japan. But the present Government (2019) under President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has decided to pull out of that agreement independently without any consultations with either India or Japan.

In addition, it has recently given the responsibility of establishing electric facilities in Yazhppanam islands to China. That the islands are located just 50 km from Tamil nadu, Rameswaram, is significant. China executes this work jointly with Ceylon Electricity Board. Sri Lanka approved Sinosoar-Etechwin JV in China to install hybrid renewable energy systems in the following islands – Nainativu, Delft or Neduntivu, and Analaitivu. All these are connected to the Jaffna Peninsula by ferry service managed by Sri Lankan Navy.

Many in Tamil Nadu are concerned and cautioned against the safety of Indians. Many in India have also condemned this development. India has also registered its strong concern over the ₹ 87 crores project to be executed with China.

Austin Fernando, Sri Lankan former High Commissioner to India has voiced his support for Sri Lanka that this project backed by Asian Development Bank had the due procurement process including invitations for contracts from International Organisations fairly and genuinely. He also cited the participation of an Indian Organisation in this process (without citing its name) that could not succeed.

In the 1980s America attempted to establish a Tower in Trincomalee (city in Sri Lanka) which was strongly resisted by India. Sri Lanka was subjected to the stress and pressures of India that proved fruitful. But, India is not in a position to adopt a similar stance today.

The islands where the electric facilities are to be established are not in close proximity to the land of Sri Lanka. Uptil now, the islands used only diesel generators for their needs of electricity. Of these islands, Eluvaitivu is the smallest and Neduntivu is the largest. Neduntivu is also the island where Sri Lankan Naval Base is organised. It was also at the peak of LTTE agitation that Sri Lanka faced them from this island.

Indian External Affairs Minister, Sri Jayashankar, has clearly expressed the firm resolve to strengthen the India Sri Lankan relationship. He has also reiterated emphatically the two key aspects of : (a) Justice to the Tamils ; and (b) establishing their rights through implementation of 13th Amendment by the Sri Lankan Government. However, Sri Lanka’s efforts do not create any faith in true observance of these conditions.

However, within a month of his visit Sri Lanka offered India’s participation in the upgradation of the Western Container Terminal of Colombo Seaport even while pulling out of the Eastern Container Terminal.

Rajapaksa brothers have always held the belief grudging India’s responsibility in the defeat of Mahinda Rajapaksa earlier. Hence their staunch opposition to involve India in the matter of Sri Lankan Tamils. This is also a reason why the clout of China is raising in Sri Lanka.

Lankan citizens seem to believe that India should not try to put their oars in the internal matters of Sri Lanka. That China is slowly becoming a force to reckon with in determining India-Sri Lanka relationship is seen clearly here. It presents a challenge to India.

” Dieu avec nous “

Thursday, February 18, 2021 – 3.17 p.m. (IST)

Tidbit : ” India and Sri Lanka are both neighbours and Republics within the Commonwealth of Nations “.

” Happy Republic Day, January 26, 2020 ” – January 2020.

My BlogLeader is knowledge driven.

          I am fortunate to have witnessed two Republic Day Parades ( also Beating Retreat ) in Delhi, one in 1976, and the other in 1977, during my Defence tenure.

PM, Indira Gandhi with French, PM, Jacques Chirac. 1976.

Republic day, 1976.

For momentous occasions of this nature, it is said with pride, that anyone who gets to witness one in life may be likened to seeing them all in life. I felt extremely happy then.

          In recent years I made it a practice to see the events of the Republic Day Parade on TV without fail. It makes me wonder how the celebrations have turned into a great spectacle exhibiting our innovative military arsenals combined with our innovative methods of displaying cultural heritage – the two key elements and characteristics of the nation. It seems to belie/alter the old saying…

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” President Joe Biden’s Inaugural Address – Theme of Unity and Healing ” – January 20, 2021.

New American President (Joe Biden) and Vice-president (Kamala Harris) were sworn into office this noon ( VP at 11.27 a.m. ET and President at 11.47 a.m. ET ) , January 20, 2021.

Calling the day as ‘Democracy Day’ and ‘America’s Day’ and asserting that at this hour Democracy has prevailed, Joe Biden emphasised that Americans today Celebrate the cause of Democracy and not just the victory of a candidate.

“My whole soul is in ‘Unity’, bringing Americans together and healing the wounds” – he said while assuring that Unity is the path forward that I will mount to take all of us through these challenges.

His recipe for the evils that Americans face today lie in opportunity, security, liberty, dignity, honour, and truth.

He promised to repair the alliances, engage truly with others, and lead not just by the power of examples but carving strong and trusted partnerships for peace and security.

A silent prayer to all those who lost their lives due to the pandemic was his FIRST act as President.

Citing the complex problems of racism, inequity, economic struggle, and control of pandemic as the immediate problems to tackle, he will prepare the nation to be judged by how it resolves these problems and write the next great chapter in American History.

Tracing the work and prayers of centuries by the citizens as his legacy, he vowed to add his team’s work and prayers to continue and enhance that during his term.

Unity and not division, light and not darkness, truth and not lies are the way forward to write a new story of America – according to him.

He ended his 21 minute address with words : “Before God I will give my word to defend our democracy, to defend every American, and to defend our values to write a new story of America”.

His address centered around the theme of Unity and Healing with no reference to any specific plans or programs in any sector, no reference to Trump, and no reference to past mistakes.

In an optimistic mood with conciliatory attitudes and gestures he reflected the realities of the present situation with the promise to treat every American well.

It was a celebrated speech, ambrosial in a sense to people seeking to invoke patriotism and unity.

America witnessed today, two septugenarians : One entering the White House gloriously and the other leaving ingloriously ; one faced with the challenges of the future of the nation and the other faced with the challenges of future dangers to his personal status ; one with an excellent popular perception of his skills and the other with a gravely diminished popular perception of his skills ; one with his self confidence matching the requirements of the situation and the other with his self confidence shattered amidst painful future circumstances in life ; and one with a high level of motivation to engage in positive actions for a worthy national cause and the other with an increasing need for motivation, specially, after the traumatic experiences of this fortnight to engage in actions for a worthy personal life.

This inauguration in effect is a legendary stuff in the history of American Presidency.

To some, it is the brightening of the cheerless times ; while to some others it may be the unnatural cession of rights of ruling or governing.

America has a new President, new Governance, and a new Era from this day.

” Dieu avec nous”

Wednesday, January 20, 2021 – 11. 47 p.m. (IST)

Tidbit : ” I will be a President for all Americans ” – President Joe Biden in his address.

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