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Wed, September 29, 2004

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Art & Soul Gallery inauguration

The Daily Star, Culture

The inauguration of the Art & Soul Gallery will be held on October 1, at 5.00 pm, says a press release. Eminent artist Rafiqun Nabi will inaugurate the show in the presence of Jurg Casserini, Head of Mission, Charge d' Affaires of Switzerland and actor Aly Zaker. Artworks of various prominent and up coming artistes from all genres will be on display. The gallery is located at Gulshan, Road 36, House 16A.The show will remain open from 11 am to 9 pm daily till Friday, October 15.

Taj Mahal's 350th anniversary celebration begins

The Daily Star, Culture

The Taj Mahal in Agra, needs no introduction. World over, visitors flock to this monument which never seems to lose its exquisite charm. For the romantics, there is the immortal story of the fifth Mughal emperor Shahjahan who built this poetry in marble in memory of his late wife Mumtaz Mahal. When she passed away in 1631, he decided to immortalise her.

Celebrations to mark the 350th anniversary of India's most famous monument, the Taj Mahal, have begun in the northern city of Agra. Festivities kicked off by the Yamuna river near the marble mausoleum on September 27.

Officials plan a series of anniversary events over the next six months. 'It's the beginning of a great journey,' said chief organiser DK Burman after the pigeons were released.

India's Supreme Court, however, dashed tourists' hopes of seeing the Taj at night by rejecting a government request to open the monument after dusk. The court also refused to allow any cultural programmes within 500 metres of the 17th century monument.

The highlight of Monday's celebrations was an evening concert by Indian musician Shiv Kumar Sharma and singer Hariharan. The BBC's Geeta Pandey in Agra says Bollywood celebrities were among the 800 VIPs invited to the concert.

There is little chance of the Taj remaining open to tourists every night, because that would require putting up floodlights. Artificial lighting is not allowed at this World Heritage site because it could damage the monument.

The celebrations at Taj have been also marred by controversy over the monument's construction date. Some scholars insist that the Taj was ready by the end of 1643 or early 1644, so the monument's 350th anniversary happened a decade ago.

'Someone, somewhere goofed up somewhat on the Taj Mahal's birthday dates,' historian Ramesh Chand Sharma told French news agency AFP.

Source: BBC Online

Documentaries allow me artistic freedom --Shakoor Majid
Films on renowned music personalities
Ershad Kamol

The Daily Star, Culture

TV playwright-director Shakoor Majid is on the move. He is now in the process of making three documentaries on three eminent music personalities of the country--Abdul Latif, Shah Abdul Karim and Radha Raman.

Explaining the motivation behind his new project, Shakoor says, 'For many years I had thought of filming renowned music personalities of the country whose lyrics have enriched our music scenario.'

On his documentary film on Abdul Latif, Shakoor says, 'I want to keep footages of this trio of aged cultural personalities of the country. Abdul Latif is now suffering from old age complications. However, I feel that he has a message for the youth. For example, we are still confronted by a question-- as to who the original composer of the immortal tune of the song Aamar bhaier rokte rangano Ekushey February was: Altaf Mahmud or Abdul Latif? Through this documentary it will be clear, that, although Abdul Latif initially composed the tune, the popular tune which we now listen to, was composed later on by Altaf Mahmud. Video footages of Abdul Latif is essential because his other inspirational songs like Ora aamar mukher bhasha and many more motivated the nation during our Language Movement. Moreover, he was the music composer of many of this genre of songs.'

Focusing on the problems he faced along the way, Shakoor says, 'I am facing many hurdles. Firstly, because of his ailment, Abdul Latif cannot communicate effectively. Moreover, he suffers from amnesia. However, his family and friends have pitched in to help me with my new project.'

Shakoor Majid is a fan of Bangladesh's rich tradition of folk songs. He says, 'We do not have many documents on our folk song practitioners. That is why, I have decided to focus on folk songs in my forthcoming project. I am also producing a documentary film on popular folk lyricist, the 94-year-old Shah Abdul Karim of Sylhet. He is the lyricist and composer of popular folk songs such as Krishna, which has earned huge popularity as a remix of the original piece.'

Regarding his work on Radha Raman, Shakoor says, ' Raman's popular Krishna kirtans (love songs on Radha-Krishna), such as Bhromor koio giya and others, are sung by many contemporary singers.'

The new films come on the heels of Shakoor's documentary film on Lalon, titled Kothay Shey Jon.

On his working process, Shakoor says, 'Like other documentary filmmakers of the country, I make my films in VHS format. I have my personal camera as well as an editing panel. I really enjoy making documentaries as it allows me artistic freedom.'

Earthquake detector


Demeter, the First microsatellite from the French Space Agency (CNES), was successfully launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Russia to detect and measure electro-magnetic disturbances related to seismic activity. The mission could break new ground in the field of forecasting earthquakes.

The French Space Agency's brand new craft Demeter (Detection of Electro-Magnetic Emissions Transmitted from Earthquake Regions) is a new generation microsatellite. Its main mission is to measure electro-magnetic disturbances related to seismic activity and other natural geophysical phenomena such as volcanic eruptions and tsunamis. Experts have observed that disturbances in the ionosphere can be detected a few hours before an earthquake. "Scientists analysing data from the Demeter satellite first need to differentiate manmade causes of disturbances due to electrical networks, antennas and telecommunications networks from natural causes related to geophysical phenomenal explains Pascale Ultre-Guerard, geophysicist at the French Space Agency and head of the Demeter programme. "Then, they need to assess how frequent these natural disturbances are. But don't forget" warns Pascale Ultre-Guerard, "that this mission is merely an exploratory, and not an operational, mission." What if the relationship between electro-magnetic disturbances and seismic activity were proved? "Then yes, we could envisage forecasting these phenomena." The mission is scheduled to last two years.

Founded in 1961, the French Space Agency is responsible for developing and proposing French space strategy to the government. It is then in charge of implementing the adopted strategy under the joint supervision of the ministries of research and defence. In 1998, the agency launched an appeal for ideas for microsatellite missions in preparation for a forward-looking scientific seminar in Arcachon. Of the 26 proposals, France's Scientific Programmes Committee (CPS) selected two missions, including the Demeter programme put forward by the Orleans-based Environmental Physics and Chemistry Laboratory (LPCE). Since 1996, France's Space Agency has been developing a range of 100-kg microsatellites called Myriade. The pioneering Demeter will, in addition to its scientific mission, test and validate new technologies.

The microsatellite, weighing just 125 kilogrammes, is orbiting at an altitude of approximately 700 kilometres. It sends the information it gathers back to earth each time it passes over the Toulouse-based space station. "Which is around four times a day," says Thibery Cussac, Project Manager. "The data is then relayed to the Environmental Physics and Chemistry Laboratory in Orleans, in charge of initial data processing before sending information out to the various laboratories involved in the project."' These labs include the Centre for the Study of Earth and Planetary Environments (CETP), the Laboratory of Space Astrophysics (CESR), the Paris Geophysical Institute and the Clermont-Ferrand Geophysical Observatory.

A range of sensors and seismographs has already been installed at a number of ground sites to round out the information gathered by Demeter. The Gulf of Corinth has been chosen for earthquakes while Piton de la Fournaise in Reunion concentrates volcanic eruptions. "We have also opened up the project to foreign laboratories. We will provide them with Demeter data in return for their ground data from given locations", says Pascale Ultre-Guerard. A bold move for this new microsatellite.

Virgin boss in space tourism bid

BBC ONLINE, The Independent

The British entrepreneur is having five "spaceliners" built in the US by the team behind the SpaceShipOne vehicle. The California-based rocket plane became the first privately developed carrier to go above 100km in June. Sir Richard says it will cost around 100,000 to go on a "Virgin Galactic" spaceliner, and the first flights should begin in about three years' time.

Sir Richard revealed his new venture at a briefing held on Monday at the Royal Aeronautical Society in London.

"We've done quite a lot of research; we think there are about 3,000 people out there who would want to do this," Sir Richard told the BBC. "If it is a success, we want to move into orbital flights and then, possibly, even get a hotel up there."

The deal is with Mojave Aerospace Ventures, the company set up by aviation pioneer Burt Rutan and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen to exploit the technology developed for SpaceShipOne.

SpaceShipOne is one of more than 20 craft vying for the $10m (5.7m) Ansari X-Prize, which rewards the first team to send a non-government, three-person craft over 100km (62 miles) into space, and repeat the feat in the same carrier inside two weeks.

The Virgin boss was flanked at Monday's announcement by Rutan, who has already collaborated with Sir Richard on Virgin GlobalFlyer, a jet plane designed to fly non-stop around the world without refuelling.

"Virgin has been in talks with Paul Allen and Burt throughout this year and in the early hours of Saturday morning signed a historical deal to license SpaceShipOne's technology to build the world's first private spaceship to go into commercial operating service," said Sir Richard, who founded the Virgin Group of companies.

Commentators said it was a logical next step for someone to come in and move the SpaceShipOne technology into the commercial flight business.

David Ashford, director of UK-based Bristol Spaceplanes Limited, another X-Prize contender, said space was finally being opened up for ordinary people. "The price will come down - there's no doubt about that," he told BBC News Online.

"The X-Prize has succeeded in doing what it set out to do. The original idea was to break the mould of thinking - to break Nasa's monopoly on space policy. Space tourism should have happened many years ago."

Mojave Aerospace Ventures has been asked by Sir Richard to produce a bigger version of SpaceShipOne. The Virgin SpaceShip (VSS) will carry five passengers compared with the two-passenger capacity currently offered by SpaceShipOne.

The final design for the maiden ship, the VSS Enterprise, should be signed off in 2005. The vehicle will then have to be built and tested before beginning a scheduled space service. "Every passenger will have a spectacular view; they will have considerable windows and luxurious seats," Sir Richard said.

"Initially, they will take off from the Mojave Desert near Los Angeles. It will be a three-hour journey. Passengers would have about a week's training prior to taking off."

The Virgin Group has interests in a range of businesses, including trains, finance, soft drinks, music, mobile phones, holidays, and cars.

Globally, Sir Richard is probably best known for his Virgin Atlantic airline and for his speedboat and ballooning adventures. He said many of the group's existing pilots would be in line to take the controls of a VSS vehicle after the necessary training.

Innovative scientific apparatus

DR. M. A. ASGAR, The Independent

The concepts and definitions of such terms as innovation, low-cost equipment, science, technology and education, which by their associations form the title of the present article. The importance of creative participation in the design and development of apparatus for science and technology education will be stressed from the historical point of view, from philosophy of science education, from the system concept and information theory and from the point of view of social and economic needs. Some examples of instrument design and development from different fields of science will be given to illustrate innovative activity in instrument design. An attempt will be made to define the strategy for meeting the need of equipment for science and technology education in the developing countries like Bangladesh; keeping in mind the present state of progress in the developed world.

Value of innovation

Scientific activities, in fact all activities, can be broadly classified into two groups; one is the acquisition of knowledge or materials that already exits, thus increasing our scholarships or wealth. The other is the creative activity where new knowledge and ideas or new materials and their forms are generated. We are concerned here with the second kind of activities in relation to the development of scientific equipment.

But creative activities can again be of different kinds. And, although, we often confuse the terms discovery, invention and innovation as synonymous; they are, essentially, distinct.

By discovery we mean the finding of something that was there but its existence or its meaning remained hidden. Thus Faraday discovered electromagnetism. This force had always been there, but it had not been understood before.

By innovation we mean the designing of something entirely new to be produced from new or may be from ever known materials, or by the application of known laws. Thus Marconi and others used the radio waves, discovered by Heinrich Hertz, to invent wireless telegraph, radio transmission, television, etc.

Innovation is to bring about changes or novelties in the existing inventions, in order to improve upon the old system or to meet a new situation. Innovations are, therefore, smaller inventions that go on rather in a continuous way through the contributions of many. This adds flexibility, dynamism and evolution to all big inventions. One example of the effect innovations to the evolution of scientific equipment is a modern optical microscope, which did not come into being until the famous collaboration of Abbe and Zeiss. It is to be noted that Carl Zeiss was a mechanic and instrument maker to the University of Jena who begun to improve the design of the microscope and build instruments according to his own ideas.

His meeting with Erns Abbe, who became professor at the age of 26, led to an epoch-making partnership and can be mentioned as an example of one of the first deliberate applications of science to industry. There are many thousands of such instruments, each of which are slightly different and as such is a result of some small innovations. However, all optical microscopes function upon the working of an optical systems which consists of two distinct parts, the objective and the eyepiece, each of which may contain two, or often more individual lenses.

While discriminating between discovery, invention and innovation, we must stress the interdependence of the activities, or rather between pure and applied science. Since there are almost infinite number of examples that one could sight, I shall only choose a few at random.

Karl Jansky in 1931 in trying to solve the practical problem of a hissing noise in transatlantic radiophone messages discovered that the source of noise at the centre of the Milky Way, was a galaxy, 26,000 light years away.

Early in the 1880's Edison, while working to make perfect his incandescent lamp, noticed a discolouration of the inside of the bulbs. To the practical minded Edison, this was a curious phenomenon but of no possible practical application. If he was not only an inventor but a scientist as well, he could have opened the door to the modern electronics and radio wave theories and applications. This was done, however, by John Ambrose Fleming.

Over several years he did experiments with lamps equipped with several kinds of filament, and proved that the particles of carbon that short off the hot filaments were always negatively electrified. It then occurred to him that he had built a valve through which only negative impulses could pass. Marconi then used this Fleming valve as a detector of radio waves.

The last example that I would like to mention is the association between James Watt and Doctor Joseph Black, which not only helped the invention or steam engine but was largely responsible for the Industrial Revolution, and the whole complex of machine production in England. James Watt was a curator of precision instruments in the University of Glasgow. His understanding of machinery was instinctive. He would either repair or invent new parts to improve the existing equipment.

Watt's attempt to improve upon the atmospheric engine of Newcomer, one of which he had to repair, watt was puzzled at the immense amount of heat in steam. He was helped by Prof. Black to understand the origin of this heat from the concept of latent heat. (Although the concept of heat was not quite correctly developed then).

Watt main invention came from the utilisation of this energy of steam as a prime mover. The reason for narrating the above events is to show from the history of scientific instrument that the role of innovation, or even mending the existing equipment, is not merely to save money or to get equipment at a cheaper price, but, in fact, without participation in the activity of invention, and innovating scientific equipment, a nation cannot hope to develop technology in the real sense.

For Aristotle idea and matter were one. Principles or ideas were to be tested by reason rather than by experiment. Broadly speaking, the Middle Ages accepted Aristotle's Authority. The traditional ideas continued until the 17th century.

After the European dark ages the tradition of science infiltrated into Western Europe via Spain. Science, in fact, was preserved and developed after the Hellenistic period by the Islamic people who occupied the East, South and West of Mediterranean.

When we discuss the interaction between science and technology, the former defined most briefly as know why, and the later as know how, it must be remembered that instrumentation and experimentation are the most important activities to bring about that interaction. The medieval clock was the source of the researches on the pendulum of Galileo and Huygens. The manufacture of spectacles paved the way to the invention of telescopes and microscopes. The needs for the draining of mines led to experiments on the vacuum and the invention of air pump by Alto Von Guerick and the researches on gases by Robert Boyle.

New concept of quantitative nature

The real break with the medieval concept of moral order came with the new scientific thought of measuring physical quantities. Scientific instruments were thus invented and improved, and by the end of the sixteenth century there was a comparatively large class of skilled artisans and instrument makers. A new philosophy of science emerged from the fusion of scholarly tradition of logic; mathematics and abstract generalisation with the practice of experimental investigation. Galileo invented the thermometer, Torricalli the barometer, Gascoigne the thermometer and Heygens improved upon the pendulum clock.

During the 18th century, scientific instruments were made not only for the lecture demonstration but also for people to use in their homes. Thus microscopes, telescopes, electrostatic generator, etc. used for private purpose. This provided a market for scientific equipment and disseminated on interest and knowledge of scientific things.

In the 19th century scientific research became institutionalised and the Universities started becoming the seats for such activities. However, even then the necessary apparatus was made by the scientists in their respective institutions. In the 20th century specialised instruments are produced in factories for universal uses.

Thus if we look to the evolution of the scientific equipment with a historical perspective, we can see that it has gone through the stages of germination, inspiration, dissemination, consolidation and universalisation. The whole process being a complex interaction of technical, economic and social factors in addition to the sciences that it embodies.

The writer is the professor of the Rashid Chair at BUET.

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