Monday, May 13, 2013

400 - Records Keep Tumbling


While there is no doubt that that the very universe can be described in the language of numbers, I’ve always had a love and hate relationship with them all my life. I got 19 out of 100 in one of my school term exams in mathematics in class 12 (not in boards surely) and well, I considered it one of the lows of my life. As usual, I was stuck in one of the vicious cycles of my life. Speaking of cycles and numbers, I should probably stop basking in the glory of my school report card and come to the point. I come across a lot of written and spoken stuff about cycles and numbers in the kind of stuff I read. And one of them that’s hogging the lime light lately is 400.

I can’t remember anything about 400 over which any love was won or lost in my life except that its the highest individual test score in cricket made by a man whom I would rate higher than Tendulkar anyday in my life (best part - he isn’t an Aussie). Of course, when I tried to stir my head in the few moments of sobriety I am lucky to get, the only thing that kept coming to my mind was the film 400. Two of my brothers, (both sane blokes considering their anti-Dhoni rant), have somehow developed an enigmatic affection for that piece of cultural graffiti I somehow find blasphemous of calling a motion picture (barring some scenes which considering the family audience of my blog, cannot explicitly describe here). So, where was I? Yeah, so while I was wondering why in the world did Butler chose just 400 Hollywood extras to fight an enemy comprising of all possible gothic characters ever conceived, my fading eyesight captured a poster on the net saying the film happens to be titled 300. I wonder if the original Spartans were 400 but 100 were mistakenly pushed into the well during the “This is Sparta!” frenzy (no pun intended). Anyways, pardon my mumbo jumbo (hangover hasn’t subsided I guess) for I am supposed to talk about why 400 has become important.

Well, its actually the 43rd self number in the list of base 10 numbers. Self numbers, also called Devlali numbers, are those integers, in a particular base (base means binary, decimal etc.) which cannot be obtained by any other integer added to the sum of that other integer’s digits (21 is not a self number as another integer 15 when added to the sum of its digits, 15+1+5 = 21). How many of knew by the way that self numbers were first described by the Indian mathematician D R Kaprekar in 1949 and he lived and taught in the town of Devlali in Maharashtra till the end of his life. Its all on Wikipedia so I should better stop copying and come to the point.

Hey all, I must humbly request you to kindly forgive my digressions (I just recalled my latest attempt to be on a high cost me 400). I know its a bad request. Speaking of bad requests, I occasionally encounter them when I try to open certain kind of websites which are best not mentioned. Anyways, how many of you know or remember that the HTTP Status 400: Bad Request code you must have seen on your computer screens. Who knows, considering the rape cases which crossed 400 last year in many major cities in India, tries for certain kind of online ‘education’ that ‘juveniles’ like me are in dire need of, may soon be permanently termed Bad Request in our country. I know I’ll rot in hell because I just realised its already daytime and I have already bored you all to death by writing over 600 words of unadulterated adultery about 400.

Actually, The Mauna Loa Observatory on the island state of Hawaii, USA recently recorded something that has not happened in all of human history. Actually, it hasn’t happened in the last 3 million years. Because for the first time in 3 million years, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere hit 400 parts per million on an average over an entire day just a few days ago. So, what’s the big deal? Well, referring to one of my previous posts titled A BurningApocalypse for Earth?, the earth is well on its way to flush out large parts of humanity within the next hundred years if our love affair with carbon emitting fossil fuels doesn't end soon. By the way, the last time our planet saw such CO2 concentrations, scientists estimate the oceans were just a ‘mere’ 35-65 feet higher. And what most scientists from some of the world’s best research labs and universities are saying is that it could happen again and the signs will become visible in the next few years.

Anyways, if the seas will rise, we (by we, I mean the middle income and upper classes as I doubt  my blog is read by people belonging to lower middle income or the lower income bracket) can always move away from the seas inland and the only people affected will be the poverty stricken living close to sea level. If more and more floods and droughts occur, we can always relax as we mostly live in cities which are rarely directly affected by floods (till now) and if we can afford colas, we can definitely afford packaged water whose rising costs in case of such climatic effects will not affect our household budgets much.

And of course, we don’t care that our food chains will be severely hampered and food prices may rise by more than 30% permanently above the normalised price rise in the next 20 years exacerbating hunger and malnourishment among the already 1 billion plus hungry on the planet. And of course, most of us probably don’t even know that in the Indian subcontinent and in sub Saharan Africa, diseases occurring due to poor water availability and pathetic water quality among the poor is among the top 3 killers. I’ll end my monologue hoping against hope that we can begin shifting to electric cars, energy efficient lighting, ACs and refrigerators and using public transport to the maximum extent possible.  


As I’m wide awake now, I hope to be granted clemency for yet another round of end-of-the-world prophecies to end this piece but I had to harp upon other aspects of 400 because that was the only way I saw to hold some of yours’ attention to read till the end. By the way, for a start, I have got a CNG kit installed in my car for Rs. 24000 as it emits nearly 40% less greenhouse gases compared to a gasoline or diesel car and costs Rs. 2 per km less than diesel and Rs. 3.5 per km less than petrol. Thus, for anyone wanting to drive his car for atleast 10000 km (which more than 99% people do), an electric car is best for city traffic and for long distance travel, CNG should be next in priority list.


(And this time, the inspiration to write something new came from my friend Sakshi)
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