Terra

Today is Earth Day. The year’s campaign focuses on Environmental and Climate Literacy. Chennai had its own event planned for the day — a human chain formation, street play and mime to raise awareness on environmental pollution.

I want to write more on Earth Day, but the internet is a veritable storehouse of information concerning the day’s history, philosophy and sociology. Instead, I thought I’d post Nina Simone’s ‘Feeling Good’; the lyrics portray earth in its vibrant best. It’s a depiction of earth on a day with life brimming over. No wonder, it feels good.

To have and to hold on to that feeling, all of us here have a role to play.

Earth Day greetings, all!

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For the kind attention of (not)-passengers: the Science Express will arrive shortly on Platform Number 3.14159

Okay, here’s a simple game. Choose the answers that suit you best from among the following.

a) You are a graduate/postgraduate in science.
b) You are passionate about science communication.
c) You have a deep-seated inexplicable love of trains.
e) You have good people-skills.
f) You can come up with innovative, fun ideas to explain scientific concepts.

If you answered yes to all, I need to know you.

No seriously, if you answered yes to all, the following opportunity might just be for you.

The Science Express is all set to roll out next month. And Vikram A. Sarabhai Community Science Centre is looking for a Science Communicator for this project.

Have a look at the advertisement, and chug along.

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The advertisement appeared in The Hindu on 14 September, 2016. Look here for the advertisement in the the pdf format.


Vow to speak Tree-ese this Earth Day

Today is Earth Day. A lot has been said to reflect on the day, ranging from the outright alarming (children in China do not know that the sky is blue in colour) to the positively hopeful (people still planting new saplings on the day). The earth is getting warmer — yes, but fear-mongering, I am certain, will not yield the concerted, sustained efforts to save this planet from our own selves.

On this day, when Google’s poignant doodles have been egging us on to sit up and take note, I want to recount something here. This past week, on a particularly hot day, I was standing by the window looking out, thinking of nothing in particular. There was nary a soul in sight on the street, when all of a sudden, a hot breeze rustled through the trees lining the street. The breeze was whispering something, and in response, the leaves waltzed. The yellow flame tree in particular, put on a spectacular show. The tree’s flowers – adept in a different dance form – with all the aplomb and grace of a ballerina, pirouetted to the ground, making manifest a beauty that commanded attention. The gentle cascade of flowers that I witnessed was an acknowledgement and affirmation of the “here and now”, of everydayness, and the beauty in that everydayness. That moment, standing by the window, watching the flowers shower down was right.

This wondrous sighting reminded me of a beautiful passage from Hermann Hesse’s Trees: Reflections and Poems. Here it follows for your reading pleasure.

Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.

A tree says: A kernel is hidden in me, a spark, a thought, I am life from eternal life. The attempt and the risk that the eternal mother took with me is unique, unique the form and veins of my skin, unique the smallest play of leaves in my branches and the smallest scar on my bark. I was made to form and reveal the eternal in my smallest special detail.

A tree says: My strength is trust. I know nothing about my fathers, I know nothing about the thousand children that every year spring out of me. I live out the secret of my seed to the very end, and I care for nothing else. I trust that God is in me. I trust that my labor is holy. Out of this trust I live.

When we are stricken and cannot bear our lives any longer, then a tree has something to say to us: Be still! Be still! Look at me! Life is not easy, life is not difficult. Those are childish thoughts. . . . Home is neither here nor there. Home is within you, or home is nowhere at all.

A longing to wander tears my heart when I hear trees rustling in the wind at evening. If one listens to them silently for a long time, this longing reveals its kernel, its meaning. It is not so much a matter of escaping from one’s suffering, though it may seem to be so. It is a longing for home, for a memory of the mother, for new metaphors for life. It leads home. Every path leads homeward, every step is birth, every step is death, every grave is mother.

So the tree rustles in the evening, when we stand uneasy before our own childish thoughts: Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives than ours. They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them. But when we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy. Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness.

Need I say anything more?


A couple of job postings

  1. National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management, Chennai.

This is a centre instituted by the Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change, Government of India, and is located in the Anna University, Chennai Campus.

They have several openings at the moment. Posting to highlight a JRF opening for which an M.Sc. in Chemistry would be suitable. Also, this position speaks (in lowercase, ha!) with the wanderlust in you. Go on, give it a shot if Sustainable Development Research floats your boat (in addition to buoyancy, i.e.)!

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And this is the image with the site advertising the opening.

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2. NPTEL, IIT Madras

The National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL) is a project initiated and funded by the Ministry of Human Resources Development, Government of India. Through this programme, e-learning in various disciplines like Engineering, Sciences, Management and Humanities is made possible. It is coordinated by seven IITs (IIT Bombay, Delhi, Guwahati, Kanpur, Kharagpur, Madras and Roorkee) and the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore (IISc). Here’s it’s Wikipedia page.

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Specific positions called for at NPTEL – IIT Madras:

  1. Web application architecting and development
  2. Management of online teaching/learning portals and examinations
  3. Human resources and administration
  4. Liaison with colleges
  5. Liaison with industry
  6. Graphics Designer
  7. Networks and Server administrator
  8. Media

An M.Sc. qualification is eligible for a Project Associate position. The position would be  a great place to get your feet wet in (Science) Education Research.

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All the best!


Things in the pipeline. And it’s a very exciting pipeline.

The Science Express – Climate Action Special is coming to a city near mine. Yours too, if you are in Chennai or thereabouts. Wanna come along, and go see it?

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Rameshwaram’s on my mind. What’s on yours? Give me a chance to change your mind. Ha! Who am I kidding, yes?

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The Biochemical Society has called for entries to their Science Communication Competition. Winning entries will get cash prizes, and mentoring sessions with their impressive panel of mentors. Head on here for the details. Last date to send in your entry: 8 April, 2016.

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Education to Build a Better Future for All“.

That’s the theme of the 2016 International Essay Contest for Young People  organised by Goi Peace Foundation.

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Are you less than 25 years of age?

And does the essay theme mean something to you?

Then, get writing. Here are the details of the contest. Deadline: 15 June, 2016.


It’s raining essay competitions.

It’s been some time since I posted anything on competitions. So, here’s a post to set the lack right. And of course, not just for that reason.

Here goes:

Fourth Durga Das Basu Essay Competition.

Essay topic: Scrutinising the Constitutional power to disqualify a person from contesting democratic elections.

Eligibility: All UG and PG students in India.

Word limit: 3500-5000 words.

Deadline: 31 January, 2016.

Impressive cash prizes to be awarded.

Essay formatting guidelines and further details here.

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This one’s absolutely fantastic! Calling students to make a case for the study of humanities.

Organised by 4humanities, this is what the organisers are essentially looking for in your essays:

Why is studying the humanities–e.g., history, literature, languages, philosophy, art history, media history, and culture–important to you? To society? How would you convince your parents, an employer, a politician, or others that there is value in learning the humanities?

Eligibility: Undergraduate or graduate student, an individual or team, from any nation.

Word limit: less than 2000 words.
You can also submit your work as a poster, short story, cartoon etc. See more here.

Deadline: 1 March, 2016.

Again, cash prizes to be awarded.

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Environmental Physics Essay Competition.

This is organised by the Institute of Physics, IOP.

Essays sought on any aspect of environmental physics including (but not limited to) atmosphere and climate, hydrology, plant physics, waste, energy and the built environment.

Eligibility: You need not be an IOP member. You can either be a secondary school student. Or, you can be studying for, or with a degree.

Word limit: 2000 words.

Deadline: 28 February, 2016.

Up to £500 in the offing.

And, here’s the cake: your essay could be considered for publication.
Here’s the cake factory: An invitation to speak at an IOP gathering.

For more on this, see here.

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And this essay competition organised by Bang magazine is several kinds of cool, even as our planet is getting warmer.

You are required to write an essay answering the question: “HOW CAN WE AS A SOCIETY SOLVE CLIMATE CHANGE?”

Eligibility: Anyone. Non-Oxford is also okay! [That’s what Bang says. :)]

Word limit: 1000 words.

Deadline: 24 January, 2016.

Winning piece to be published in Bang.

More here.

Get writing, people!


Got a snappy video on climate change? It might just fly you to Paris.

Still on Competitions. While googling for COP21, I came across this video competition organised by United Nations Framework Conventions on Climate Change. It’s called the Global Youth Video Competition on Climate Change. The prize is to die for: an all expense paid round trip to attend COP21. The deadline is 17 August, 2015.

It’s perennially climate change season.