Vision 2050: Screw Hulhumale', floating islands ahoy

While getting my daily dose of blog updates from MvBlogs, I stumbled across an entry by primary0 titled "Vision 2020: Get out of Maldives!". Most people would be too lazy to go to his site and actually read what he's said, so let me summarize: new data claims that by 2100, the sea level would rise even further than previously expected.

We could go on living happily, were it that the data suggested mere millimeters or maybe even few more centimeters but unfortunately, that is not the case. The reports claim rises of anywhere from 3m to 20m. has this article summarizing four papers that were published recently in the popular "Science" journal. These papers has stirred up a lot of discussions on the issue of global warming and sea level rise. Global warming has been an issue on table for ages. Heck, our beloved President is revered on government TV and Radio for his 1987 UN General Assembly speech in which he brought up the global warming and the resulting sea levels rise issue as a matter of concern to a country - especially as a low-lying island nation. (Yes, wise man he is. *respect* *cough* *cough*).

What got to me after reading the results from these latest research is that all of them predict sea level rise rates of 3mm to 10mm per year. Image that. That is a lot. By 2050, there'd have been an increase of 50cm!! That would immerse a lot of the Maldives under water. According to the Environment Research Center, the island elevations in Maldives varies from 0m to 2.4m. The 2.4 meters is the highest level and is found on the island of Vilingili, Addu. I couldn't find more specific island elevation data, however, I did find this report at UNEP that estimates that 80% of Maldives is 1m or less! This could indeed mean that a few of our beloved islands could slowly start to vanish off the map - starting with the alluring sand banks or "finolhu". Maybe with island elevation data available, we could even draw up a time-to-vanish schedule for all the islands :-D

Sea level rise isn't to deter us though. There has to be *some* solution to this right? RIGHT? Yes, I thought so too. I recalled that the Dutch are in the same boat as us. Holland is a country with quite a lot of low lying land, with some parts going as low as 7m BELOW the sea level! The Dutch are a smart bunch and they have already started preparing for negative effects of sea level rise. Their plans knocked me out of my seat. Well, not really but it is fascinating nonetheless. They've already built houses, 37 to be exact, that rise with the water - up to 5 meters! The houses don't care what level the water is at - they simply float on water. Have a look at this article - it features pictures! Apparently, they plan to build "cities" with 21,000 of such "amphibious" houses at a cost of 250,000 to 300,000 Euros per 120 square meters. Hmm. I wonder how much it costs for the "production" of the same land in Hulhumale'. I couldn't find any cost/expenditure information about this on the net. Any government site got this published? The HDC site certainly has zilch on anything financial...

Another interesting project that is not so related to global warning but goes along well with the concept of floating cities is Freedom Ship. It is essentially a ship that would house 18,000 living units with commercial services and other life?s amenities all thrown in. Maybe we Maldivians should build such ships (or arks - of Noah's Ark fame) to prolong our existence till the Ice Age wears off. The last ice age took 100,000 years though - quite a lot of time to live in arks.

The floating cities remind me of an "experiment" I carried out about 3 years ago. I had the idea of building a floating platform - not a new idea I know - but I wanted to build it anyway. The idea was nicked from a quite famous man and his self built island, known as Spiral Island. If it succeeded, it could've been made an exotic restaurant or even a holiday getaway. If it failed, it would become my home - a floating home for myself :-P (Please refrain from laughing for as long as you can). I got together a bunch of friends to join in and we collected empty "Oki" cooking oil containers - those large ones. We also got a large wooden (container) crater from the Customs area. We dragged all of it to Vilingili and built ourselves a raft. It worked - within our "experimental parameters". We got bored by the end of the day and dumped the setup on a mostly secluded part of the beach and forgot about the entire thing. It was agreed it was feasible and a solid framework with enough containers would be a cheap and effective method to achieve what we were after. Seriously. :-)

Anyway, back to global warming and sea level rise. Somebody please pass on my request to the President on starting a project to build floating homes/islands, for all our beloved people. The project can be called "Extinction Survival Program". It will be a project along the lines of Hulhumale' but only a lot more grand and sophisticated. Of course it will be something to take away more funds from the budget but it is guaranteed to provide safety for everyone (Fine print: all those who can afford to buy units. Even finer print: all those who are mega rich and privileged ). Psst. I volunteer to lead the project!

Quantum mechanics

Quantum mechanics is something I find absolutely fascinating. If you haven't heard of quantum mechanics, well, it's time you did!

Quantum mechanics is a theory dealing with events in the realm of physics of subatomic particles. Oh yes, you think the subatomic is imaginable eh? Reminds you of those very familiar things called electrons, protons and neutrons somewhere in the physics classes in O'Levels, doesn't it?. Well, subatomic in quantum mechanics goes wayyyyy deeper and smaller than mere electrons, protons and neutrons. Electrons are teeny weeny - only detectable by how powered expensive gear, however, quantum mechanics deals with nature at about 10,000,000th of the size of an atom. I bet you can't get an intuitive feel for something that small a size!

I certainly don't understand the least bit of mathematics involved in quantum mechanics - well, atleast not yet but I am hopeful that I can begin to get a better academic/technical idea of it in due time. I have to set aside sometime and actually spend quality time learning first. :-(

Anyway, why am I blabbing on and on about this "quantum mechanics"? Well, it poses many revolutionary ideas that will both invalidate and enhance a lot of what you know, what you think you know and change sizeable amounts of your perceptions of reality. Seriously. For example, "M theory" : postulates that the universe - our reality - is made up of 11 dimensions. You are already AND ONLY familiar with four; that's 1. forwards/backwards, 2. sideways, 3. up/down and finally 4. time. Time is something most people are unaware of except for that sunrise and sunsets signals days and that you "age" with time. The forwards/backwards, sideways and up/down can also be imagined as points in a Cartesian vector space: x-axis, y-axis and z-axis. Add time to that cartesian vector and you get the four dimensional world we are aware of. Places and events can be described by that four dimensional specification - let me give a loose example: I am writing this sitting in a chair on the ground floor in my room in Reading,UK at time 6.54 AM, Friday 24th March 2006. Can you see begin to see how it fits in the cartesian space with time as an additional dimension? Err, if you don't get it, then rack your brain for a few more hours and if you still hadn't got it - you can simply choose to forget it and go bask in the sun for another fun day.

Quantum mechanics already has many applications and more are being discovered or invented. Quantum Computing is an offshoot that promises a whole new era of computing. By new era, I don't mean the availablity of some cool new computer with a faster CPU speed measured in Ghz or computers with enough RAM to fill the buckets and wells. A new era in this case means that the whole Von-Neumann architecture goes dead. No more single process CPUs or amped up CPUs with multiples cores and parallel processing. The quantum computer doesn't even operate on binary digits that go 0 and 1, no sir, they have a new basic unit of information called a qubit. But wait, get a load of this: a qubit can be a 0 and 1 all at the SAME TIME! Ha! I bet that got you scratching your head. 0 and 1 all at the same time? Yes! Infact, if you were to take the quantum equivalent of a byte, it can represent all the values between between 0 and 255 all at the same time - quite unlike the "contemporary" byte that holds a single value between 0 and 255. Read up on Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle to learn more why this is so.

There are exciting new frontiers for other computing related tasks as well. Cryptography is one of the most promising ones. The problem with the cryptographic systems of today involves the task of safely transporting keys. How do you exchange the security keys between two parties without a third party getting hold of it? How do you ensure that "secured" communication is not listened to by an undesired eavesdropper? Well, quantum mechanics offers solutions using a phenomenon called Quantum Entanglement. I won't tell you about quantum entanglement except to say it is one the sexiest facets of quantum mechanics. Sexiest I tell you!

If you are interested in numbing your brain with more quantum mechanics but can't be bothered to read up, then I recommend the following documentary program on PBS. It is available o download in small chunks of video and is quite manageable even on slower connections. The program revolves around the hunt for the Theory of Everything and presents a digestable walk through from General Relativity to quantum mechanics, String theory and M theory.
- Here's the link to the program.

If you want to do more of reading than watching the video, then here are a few interesting intro's that I had bookmarked over time.
- Feynman's Double Slit experiment (essential basics!)
- Quantum Mechanics with animations (good academic intro)
- Short introduction to quantum computation


Ajax flavoured Radheef released!

Oh you all know what "radheef" is right? (Psst. In case you didn't know, Radheef is the Dhivehi dictionary.)

I had (err unlawfully?) ripped off the data from the Radheef released by the National Centre for Linguistics and Historical Research when the software came out a couple of years ago. It was those times that I was into the MaldivianUnderground project - and quite soon I had programmed an online radheef interface to do lookups. There have been various versions of the online radheef since then: one on MaldivianUnderground that relied on Dhivehi entry in latin, another on that sported a Flash front-end and yet another somewhere that used what I call "dynamic font rendering" to show the output in Dhivehi - which is neat as it shows up whether the computer has Dhivehi fonts installed or not. However, all of these radheef apps no longer exist, thanks to the disappearance of each of the projects that the radheef was released under, and so I decided to slap up yet another radheef!

The new radheef now resides at its own domain name at A cool feature maybe the ability to link to words definitions directly via the use of special URLs like this.

The radheef will be kept alive this time hopefully. Give it a spin. It will be useful if you work with Dhivehi and, like me, have questionable command over Dhivehi vocabulary. Please note that it is at an "experimental" stage at the moment and might not work smoothly on all browsers/operating systems. I'd appreciate if you let know if that is the case - do mention the browser name/version and your operating system name/version.

Techie stuff:
This latest version of my online radheef uses AJAX technology - to suit the current ajax application craze. The new radheef also relies on Unicode Dhivehi and you should be able to enter and read the Dhivehi used on the radheef as long as you have a recent browser with Unicode support. Further options to enable you to use the radheef without having Dhivehi fonts installed would be made available later. The radheef does require that you have JavaScript enabled but that shouldn't be a problem to most, after all almost all browsers these days come with JavaScript and unless you have turned it off manually, the radheef should work fine.

I should note that the Unicode text entry is a bit dodgy at the moment. The text entry relies on Unicode fonts coupled with a custom written keyboard handler (in JavaScript) to map the normal keycodes into Unicode. I shall be releasing the JavaScript keyboard handler script under GPL soon. The script is again something that I had written a couple of years ago but has now been rewritten to accommodate the browser advances and changes. I have tested the handler to work fine under IE 6, Firefox 1.5, K-Meleon 0.9.1, Safari and Opera 9.

DIY PocketPC based projector

I built a "projector" yesterday. It uses the same approach taken by the many DIY Projector plans (link1 link2) found on the net.

A projector consists of three basic elements: projection lens, image source, projection light. The projection lens is what magnifies the image from the image source. The projection light gives enough juice for the image from the image source to appear on the projection surface. The DIY plans usually make use of a Fresnel lens as the projection lens, a TV/LCD as the image source and metal halide bulbs are the projection light. These components can be obtained *relatively* cheaply.

My projector is quite simple.

I decided to use my ageing HP 5550 Pocket PC as the image source. The screen has a resolution of only 320 x 240 pixels, but it is more than enough for watching movies or projecting the usual Pocket PC applications - atleast enough for my use. I then got a handy sized fresnel lens off Ebay for less than 2 quid. I used cardboard I had lying around to make the projector housing.


1. The cardboard was fashioned into a box.

2. A rectangular hole was cut at one end to make room for the fresnel lens.

3. The fresnel lens was mounted on a separate piece of cardboard to be pushed into place inside the box.

4. The Pocket PC was positioned appropriately inside the box.

5. Finished product!

Since I had no screen and nor was I bothered to make one, the off-white colored wall in my room was to act as my screen. The projected image size was around 4 feet - a limitation due to the small size of my room.

Now, it's time for popcorn(not really) and a showing of Stargate Atlantis season 2! :-)


Snow! Snow!!

The winter is almost over and despite the weather forecaster's warning that this would be one of the colder winters, the temperatures have been surprisingly high. It only went sub zero a few times and never for too long. Snow never fell as more than a slight drizzle of white wispy flakes. It is saddening to see a winter end without much snow. :-(

Now, some snow shots from yesterday!

ScienceMaldives goes live!

ScienceMaldives was officially launched today, 1st March 2006. More info on the ScienceMaldives project is available on my previous blog post.

Check out the website and the site's discussion forum.