Category: Travel

MathematicsTravel

Calculus and The Mother

Last weekend we spent a beautiful afternoon with cousins at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Delhi

There was a lecture going on about the divine inspiration of Calculus — a meditation on how both Newton and Leibniz came to discoveries of infinite series and limits that led to the starting point for advanced maths.

As I pondered the spirit of The Mother, my mind went back to the visit we’d taken to the Jantar Mantar in Jaipur — an astronomical observatory built around the time of Newton’s discovery. Surely, a society that had the capacity to develop highly accurate astronomical predictions had the sophistication to develop the machinery for dealing with infinitesimal rates of change.

Newton — or more likely Leibniz — was indeed late to the game by at least 200 years! 

Keralan mathematician Nilakantha Somayaji in the 1400s seems to have worked out machinery for dealing with infinitesimal velocity and converging series.

This was in service of improving the accuracy of astronomical calculations. I’m not even sure if Somayaji’s work was used in the Jantar Mantar observatories, but there is now speculation that the Kerala school might well have been known to Leibniz.

Chalk another wonder up to globalization, I’ll give props to The Mother for the inspirations.

Travel

Jantar Mantar

Blessings to my mother-in-law for treating us to an amazing trip to Jaipur!

The place that I can’t keep thinking about is the Jantar Mantar — the name translates to English as ‘calculating instrument — an astronomical observatory there constructed in the early 1700’s by the Maharajah Sawaii Jai Singh. 

It’s more like an astronomer’s playground! To behold the scale of the sundials and other celestial instruments is just — well you need to take a pause

The Samrat Yantra (the largest gnomon sundial above ) is capable of determining the time based on the sun position to within an accuracy of two seconds. 

Two second accuracy — 300 years of precision!

The smaller of the sundials (the Laghu Samrat Yantra) is shown above, it was accurate down to the second when we checked. You can see a time lapse video here

The Jai Prakesh Yantra  is capable of tracking Zodiac/Constellation positions measuring altitudes, azimuths, hour angles and declinations.

There is such a rich history of Indian astronomy, so much so that Jai Singh constructed several observatories of similar scale throughout India with no need for the works of Kepler and Galileo.

Travel

Mawlid with Shaykh Salim

Yesterday the world celebrated the birth of Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H.)

We visited Fatehpur Sikri the night before.

It’s a world heritage site built by Akbar the Great that has so much significance in the Islamic world.

Akbar picked this particular site for his palace because it was where Sufi Shayk Salim Chishti — a beloved advisor — had his camp.

My son and I offered prayers on behalf of family and friends at Shayk Salim’s resting place.

Despite Azad and our guide trying their best, I succumbed to a very persistent artisan.

Shayk was looking out though — the pieces I bought were an extremely good deal.

Capitalism aside, the moments were priceless — we felt so fortunate and uplifted to breathe in the spiritual beauty.

HistoryTravel

Havana: whimsical artchitecture

Cuba has left us with a lot to think about. Still coming to terms with its lessons on race, identity, the bounty of being out of one’s place of comfort, and most importantly those on human dignity and kindness.

While I make sense of those lessions, I’ll share some photos from Vedado, Trinidad, and points in between that testify to the whimsical, surprising beauty of this country and its people.

Travel

The world beyond the window

Sometimes I’ll glance out the window of an airplane and think “Now that’s someplace I need to check out”.

Have y’all ever visited a place that you first caught sight of out the window– of a bus, a train, or the car — and been intrigued? To the point of wanting to visit that place?

For me a couple places stand out. Gayatri and I once passed over Tunis at night on the way back to Chicago from Gaborone. This was before the cell phone era so you’ll have to use your imagination.

This place below, which I can best figure is near Qikiqtarjuaq in the Canadian Arctic seemed so intriguing with its glacier.

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The same flight passed over Svalbard, Norway (if you’ve ever read The Golden Compass) but I didn’t have the presence of mind to get over to the window seat!

The African-American Artic explorer Matthew Henson was a hero of mine back in the day — so yea, something about the Arctic has always appealed.

We did a fly over the Okavango Delta.

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We really want to give it a good walk around (but not within stompin’ range of the elephants)

Maybe you’ve also passed over Glen Canyon heading to California

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So what places have called out to you from the window of a plane, a bus, a train, a car?

Maybe you’ve followed that call? You’ve gotta share that adventure!

MathematicsTravel

The geometrical beauty of Doha

As we passed through Doha on the way to Gaborone, I was amazed by the architectural beauty of so many Islamic inspired structures. It was truly a feast for the eyes and mind.

Though we did not have time to visit many of the older architectural treasures, I discovered that a lot of the buildings have received prestigious architectural awards over the last decade. The investment of Qatar in its country is amazing, and Al Jazeera is a gift to humanity.

There is even wonder in the Qatar airways “air sickness” bags!

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