Wednesday, 7 October 2015

London Diaries: with pieces of Oxford and Culham.


The excursion iaps4fusion, to Oxford University, JET (Joint European Torus @ Culham) and Imperial College, London, meticulously organized by the IAPS (International Association of Physics Students) was a great academic adventure. The reason? Find it below!

The four-day (27th September-1st October) event, officially started with assembling of the 40 odd participants at the Department of Physics, Oxford University.

Day 1: After a satiating breakfast organised by the Oxford University, we headed on for lectures on basics of plasma physics, viz. magnetic confinement fusion, laser-plasma interaction, laser-driven plasma accelerators followed by laboratory visits to see Plasma Astrophysics center, laser-driven plasma accelerators. Doing a Masters in nuclear fusion science, it is always good to brush up the basics in plasma and fusion physics. The lecture on Laser-driven plasma accelerators was quite new and unique for me. Also, the petit 5 cm working model of a GeV electron beam accelerator was fascinating! That was mostly the pedagogic part of our first day, albeit visits to the Museum of Natural History and the University Parks were fun and refreshing.

Day 2: The most awaited part of the event- visit to CCFE (Culham Centre for Fusion Energy) to see the the JET. Ever since my undergrad, whilst studying plasma physics and interning at the prestigious Institute for Plasma Research, India, I have been enamoured by the promise of future energy via sustainable fusion in Tokamaks. JET, being the biggest working model yet, was a long time contender to tick off my bucket list. After a brief presentation on the working and technology of JET, we got a guided tour of the JET facility. However, as the device was operational that day, we could not get a closer look to the diagnostics and the confinement vessel. The tour anyway, was really satisfying and encouraging to see so many scientists and engineers dedicating their careers for a promise in future energy via fusion.


Day 3: Having returned from Culham to London the evening before, we had sufficient time to relax, explore the maximum city by night and prepare for yet another amazing day. As the visit to Imperial College was scheduled after lunch hours, we visited the nearby museums viz. Science museum, Natural history museum and the Victoria & Albert museum (filled with antiques taken from India). We were welcomed with introduction to the PhD application process there, followed by presentations on theory research and inertial fusion confinement, especially, my favourite field on Dusty plasmas. We were fortunate to see the Blackett laboratory which included the CEREBRUS (100 TW laser system) and MAGPIE (Mega Ampere Generator for Plasma Implosion Experiments, 1.4 million amperes in 240 nanoseconds)

I talked to various professors about research opportunities and future projects at Imperial college during the tea break. The awe inspiring infrastructure indeed makes me want to apply there for further studies. Well, that was all the academic bit from the amazing and flawless event organized by the IAPS team (Francesco, Danielle, Steven, Kelvin & Deividas). The fun, however continued with the group moving towards the College Union Bar for dinner and drinks and me taking up as the Spotify DJ for the night. Also, with the next day comprising of a planned visit to the Greenwich Royal Observatory. 

The fusion team with me third from left.
Photo credits: CHOI Tsz Hei (Kelvin)
In a nutshell, it was a delightful gathering of like minded physics enthusiasts, resulting in a lot of friendships and knowledge sharing, for which, I would once again like to thank the organisers, and not to forget, FuseNet for funding this excursion and making it possible for me to be part of such an amazing experience.


For those who scrolled down without reading a WORD:

Crossing the English Channel enroute London (Ferry from Calais to Dover)

Tower Bridge


Trafalgar Square

London Eye

Westminster & Big Ben

Westminster bridge

Chinatown, London
Picadilly
British Library, King's Cross
London skyline as seen from Greenwich. Francesco everywhere!

Last one for the nerds.
T-rex's Galore @ Museum of natural history, Oxford.
P.S: I always knew I had a Ross Geller in me.

For more pics like these, stay tuned to my blog or simply find me on Instagram @myeuropediary!

Pictures shot using Nikon P600 and Sony Xperia M2.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

The trip to Italy!!

BUONGIORNO! Before I start ranting about the trip to Italy, I would like to bring into cognizance a round trip around the sun by Soliloquy. One complete year. It all began on a lonely night brimming with a tumult of emotions. From there on, there was no stop to this train of thoughts. My friends said the blog would die soon with me running out of blood ink and motivation to write. I seconded them. Ironically, Soliloquy is 20 posts old talking about 15 different labels from the macroscopic worldly realms of Travel, Photography, Politics, Wars, Sports, Education, Women Empowerment, Food, a Movie Review, the IIT phenomena to the delicate and subtle issues of Love, Break-ups, Humor and Sarcasm. I am no judge whether the journey has been a successful one, but certainly, it hasn't been a failure either.

The idea to fly away with friends all over the Alps from Brussels to Rome was built in a day to overcome the frustration of the badly done exams of my first semester in Ghent. Peers had warned about Italy being the hub of pick pockets and notorious small timers taking tourists for a ride. Keeping that in mind we simply took a cab to the hotel. The friendly driver suddenly got adamant for a petty absurd luggage charge after reaching the destination when all I had was a laptop backpack and a small handbag (Che Cazzo!). The expected welcome to Rome was indeed received and I was happy I made it to the hotel. With a good night's sleep I awaited what Roma had to offer.

Roma/Rome: We took off for the city center, Piazza Venezia (Hysterically, it sounds like Pizza but means Venice Square) after having an obvious breakfast of Pizza! Ancient Roman architecture all around.

''Tourist mode = ON''

 Altare della Patria, Piazza Venezia

Beautiful sculptures with meticulously detailed carvings which only eyes can perceive. So many attractions in one square that in one whole day with the Colosseum just infront of us, but still we couldn't make it upto there. The Roman forum and the Colosseum are surely a Day 2 event when your blood and breath are filled up by Pizza's and Lasagna's, the only thing which you'll find on the streets.

Piazza Venezia as seen from the Roman Forum
Vatican as seen from Castel Sant'Angelo

VATICAN on Day 3! World's smallest enclave.
The state of the Bishop of Rome - The Pope.
We were lucky to be there on a Sunday noon and get a glimpse of the Pope addressing the crowd with a chapter from the Bible. To get into the Basilica was an endless queue of people. Took almost two hours to be in there but the view inside was absolutely breathtaking. Completely flawless, the interiors, the intricacies of the walls bedizened with marble sculptures and gold coatings, St. Peters Basilica is undoubtedly the most beautiful monument man built by the mankind, an epitome of craftsmanship. The Sistine Chapel and the Vatican museums are a must go irrespective of the heavy entry fees they charge. Indeed, Rome is much more than just the Colosseum and deserves all the hype that surrounds it. We were supposed to go to La Spezia next day but trusting a Bla-bla car driver stood us up. So, I would advocate pre-booking of travel if one wants to experience the high-speed and luxurious Frecce trains, otherwise, Regional and Intercity trains also serve the purpose.

Firenze/Florence:

City of Florence from Cathedral di Santa Maria
Surprisingly small as it is, this riverside city is like no other. Cradle of the Renaissance and of tourist masses that flock here to feast on world-class art, Florence in three words is magnetic, romantic and mellifluous. Perfect destination for a honeymoon, solo travelers can still find bliss in the gastronomy of the city. After surviving only on Pizza's and pastas for the 4 day stay in Rome, Florence came to rescue with a street full of Indian food joints. Taste buds tingled again with the authentic spices from back home. A visit to the Michelangelo square atop a hill south to the city center is recommended, both in daytime and night to appreciate the panoramic skyline of Florence.

Florence at night


Cinque Terre (Five lands): The hidden paradise of Italy

Not to miss the beautiful La Spezia, we made a day trip from Florence (with a 30 minutes stop in Pisa for a wasteful selfie with the Leaning Tower) to Cinque Terre. Travelling amidst the lush green farms and the snow covered mountains in the back, the train ride was truly mesmerizing. Blazing through the tunnels in blinding darkness, the first sight of the mammoth blue sea was pure serendipity. Unequivocally ineffable, the view cannot be captured by any lens. My eyes were glued to the horizon embracing the sheer infinitude of the cerulean blue sky fusing with the fresh azure waters. Strolling on the beach savoring each moment this Earthly heaven had to offer, my whole life turned into a clear slate with all pain and sorrow fleeting in the sand washed away by the receding tides. Relinquishing all the fatigue and melancholy, it the was best birthday I ever had and could possibly dream of.

A journey along the ethereal spectrum of nature

Venice
Venezia/Venice:

Heading towards the final destination with lots of surprises at each venue, I thought the trip could not get any better until I stepped out of the station in Venice, a city floating in the Adriatic Sea, so enchanting, feels like God himself conspired with mankind to build such a World Heritage. The weather played spoilsport in exploring Venice. Nevertheless, we were hell bent on rattling ourselves, getting lost in the narrow streets of the island, each evoking a thousand tales. Despite freezing conditions, the cheap off-seasonal Gelato was the best ice-cream I had in Italy. As Venice Carnival was approaching, markets were in full zeal and zest, showcasing some of their best collections of Venetian masks, designer dresses and accessories. A visit to the Glass factory in Murano and a Gondola trip between the colourful houses in Burano still lingers on my bucket list.

Foodie tip: While taking a train from Florence to Venice, a stop at Bologna for lunch is highly recommended for admiring their delicious pastas, specifically, the Spaghetti Bolognese.

Hitherto, these photo's I clicked and this blog-post is a futile attempt to portray the surreal beauty I witnessed. I await going back to Italy to reminisce those pleasing memories.

Thanks to a special friend to make me blog with such positive energy making me relive the awesome trip to Italy.

Ciao! Until next time.

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Friday, 13 March 2015

INDIA'S new timeline- B.C. Before BBC and A.D. After banning the Documentary.

I had finally found some peace here. I thought the gloomy blogging days were over. But the fateful incident in Delhi on December 2012 has come back to haunt me and the billion more. Who's responsible this time? The people who raped, the people who made the documentary, the idiots starring in it or the victim herself?


Britishers have since long scarred India off it's glory and reputation. Not to be so generalized, I would correct myself to BBC. If you look at the articles BBC has to say about India since Independence, it is nothing but a satire meant to ridicule the people once ruled by the British. I don't even understand why BBC took the pains to travel to India when their country has a bigger problem of per capita rapes and Jihadists operating on their own soil.

Rape is a menace all over the world, but international media has made it a matter of propaganda against India. Yes, awareness is imperative but is it, at the cost of a single nation?

Constant efforts to render India as a banana republic, a nation of peasants and snake charmers. A shitty movie like Slumdog millionaire making it to the Academy awards was plainly unanticipated. Any reason for winning the Oscar? A first world perspective of the dirt and filth of third world. Mocking a country looted for hundreds of years and left in tatters?

But this time, let's own it. Let our heads go down in shame. Let's sit down once again and paint a broader picture of our nation, one viewed from their eyes.
Because defending our country by saying that we have a smaller per capita rape percentage compared to the developed countries is shameless and gross. A rape is a rape whether is happens in India or the west. Countries like USA, France, Australia, UK give explicit instructions to their citizens travelling to India are about rapes of foreign nationals, sexual harassment and the ways to avoid such incidents. 

As an Indian living in Belgium, fraternizing amongst the locals and fellow international students with some beers always ends in lengthy parleys over rapes and the cry over beef consumption in India.
The only glamorous fact they find about India is the TAJ MAHAL!
And Yes, Hindus don't consume beef and Muslims don't consume pork.

March 8, The International Women's Day: Strategic release of the documentary before the big day when the world celebrates womanhood, India was blatantly put to shame.

Why wasn't the film aired until now? And most importantly why was it even aired so late? Are we really interested in the the demoralizing views of defence lawyers for rapists? How does the teacher of the victim know which movie the couple wanted to watch and where was he until now? Why isn't the only witness of the Gangrape featured if the documentary claims itself to be legitimate? And Most importantly, giving such a platform to a convicted rapist for his views is justified?

The answers may differ for every eye going through these questions and I am not debating on who's right or wrong!

Rape will be a problem and will remain a problem as long as we try to cover it up. Are girls any safer on our streets now? Does your sister, mother or daughter feel comfortable going out at night wearing whatever she likes? Have you been abroad? Have you noticed the difference when you talk to girls here? Do you even find so many girls/women on street or in a working atmosphere (even driving a bus, operating a restaurant in India?). One doesn't see seats reserved for women in buses or a full coach reserved in train anywhere except India. Why do we need to provide such special services if we talk about gender equality? Fact is, we are nowhere close to that standard when it comes to safety for women!

I previously talked about Empowering Women - The less privileged gender and Gang rapes - and the failure to stop them. I hope the dust does not settle until we rid of such colossal and cruel acts of insanity against the other half of this world.

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Must Read: Recently, a friend of mine introduced me to an article, India’s Daughter and BBC – Belgian Professor speaks out., written by a Professor of India studies at Ghent University, Belgium. I recall meeting him at India platform dinner in the University hall here. Back then, the platform discussed issues on Education, Waste management and problems faced in Europe and India requiring a collective effort to find it's solution. I was elated to learn about his liberalized ideas and philosophies about India as opposed to one German professor who rejected a male applicant citing 'Rape Problem'.