Nakul S

Aspiring Polyglot. Lover of films.

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Beating Dragons

Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.

-Neil Gaiman

In this time of uncertainty, I hope this quote reminds you that you can still find hope in stories. All we have are the stories we tell.

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Powering through despair

I’m one of the lucky ones. Life hasn’t been hard for me - I’ve not been through the pain, loss and suffering that many my age have been through. This pandemic has been one of the most stressful events I’ve ever encountered, which isn’t true for many people.

Still, there’s a ton of despair and anguish at the situation. The virus has torn through the fabric of the industrial world, through all our pretenses of a stable civilisation and species, and shaken our faith in long-standing social contracts and established human progress. We seem to have fallen. And so how do we power through this all - wake up everyday, go to work at our desks, sit through calls, work on presentations, cook two square meals and prepare to do it all over again?

I don’t know how. Sometimes its a straight up miracle. Even if you manage to drown out the noises on Twitter and on television, there’s a louder voice...

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Let’s go to Mars

Mars is the next frontier for humankind. When the Saturn-V rocket took men to the moon in July 1969, if you asked the people then how 2020 would be, they would painted pictures of a space-faring society, a species of humans far more advanced than themselves. We’d have settled on one of Jupiter’s moons, or fought wars for land on Mars in their imaginations.

Sadly, we’re worse than before. The International Space Station - the ISS - is the one place outside Earth where man has set base, forget a small colony on the Moon. Humans only fly to the ISS, and only from Russian soil on a Soyuz rocket. The United States shut down the Space Shuttle program in 2011, and American astronauts travel to Kazakhstan to fly to the ISS. What happened to Mars?

Well, a lot of things that I can’t possibly unpack in one piece, but I’ll go over them broadly. The major one’s politics. The Space race between the...

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Compounding

One of the most valuable lessons I’ve internalised over the past few months is the power of compounding. There are tons of thought pieces on this, memes have been made, and bards and oracles (of Oklahoma too) have spoken about compounding. I’ve always read it, but its never something I’ve taken as a fundamental lesson for myself.

Compounding is the accrual of doing one thing every day, over a period of time. Whether it’s investing money, or working out, or reading - doing something a thousand times builds a large value repository of said tangible or intangible item. I don’t know who needs to hear this, but it has to be a guiding principle for some decisions of your life. Health and savings - the two things that are enormously important as you grow older, are both immensely better if you start early, and keep at it. Relationships - invest in some, pay attention and keep at it - these...

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Things you learn in a kitchen

I’ll admit, I’ve only recently started treating my kitchen as if it belongs in my home. With privilege dropping through my nose, I’ve never really had to cook meals properly, or wash dishes. Sure I’ve cooked breakfast, washed utensils through these years, but never a sustained effort of ‘making a meal’, as it were. Except that’s all changed with this lockdown. So here’s a few things I’ve learned. This is advice you’re not bound to find on any food channel on Youtube, or a cookbook. Nay, this comes from that elusive intangible material, experience. Here goes nothing.

  • The pressure cooker is actually your friend, and not a mini-sized steam engine ripped off a local train ready to blast your house to bits.

  • When they say ‘namak swaad anusar’ or ‘add salt according to taste’ it really is an intuitive abstract emotion that comes from spending more time with your dish.

  • Kasuri methi is the...

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Hymn for a stressful time

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

-J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

Tolkien, a man ravaged by the Great War of his time, wrote this years later in reference to the horrors he faced. How relevant it is for today’s time.

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Thoughts on Sum

I just finished reading this book last week, called Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives by David Eagleman, and I can’t stop thinking about it.

Sum.jpeg

First, about the book. Sum is a book by famed neuroscientist David Eagleman, who typically writes non-fiction science books on the brain, what makes us tick etc. This is a radical departure from his usual fare, as this is a speculative fiction book, about 40 ‘imaginations’ of what happens when you die. Each of these imaginations is a 2-3 page note on what life will be like. One hypothesizes that we relive our life again, but with all similar experiences clubbed together - so like 8 days tying shoelaces, 5 months on the toilet, 1 week going through all breakups etc. There are 40 unique ideas of the afterlife.

These imaginations are inventive and unique. They’re a page-turner, making you think harder each time. They’re also a lot of fun. Its...

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Intro to Falcon

In my last post I spoke about rockets’ structure, and why SpaceX’s rockets are cool, in that they’re reusable. In this post, I briefly wanted to touch upon the first rocket from the company - their workhorse - that has powered their missions.
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Image Credit: SpaceX

The Falcon 9, operational since 2010, is the second rocket that the company made, right after the Falcon 1. The Falcon name comes from ‘Millennium Falcon’ - Han Solo’s spaceship in the Star Wars saga. The 9 in Falcon 9’s name comes from the 9 incredible Merlin engines at the bottom of the rocket that provide the thrust for its flight. It is also the first partially-reusable rocket in the world, with the first stage coming back to the ground, a historic feat the company first achieved in 2015. The first stage - the part at the bottom - is also often called a ‘booster’ as it boosts the rocket up.

The rocket has undergone...

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Why are SpaceX’s rockets cool?

Rockets are a fascinating invention. Ever since the mighty Saturn and Proton rockets sent us out to interstellar space, they’ve captured the imagination of a generation, as the news anchors put it so grandly. One company that’s cool and hip when it comes to space and human spaceflight is SpaceX. What’s so revolutionary about them? For that matter, what’s in a bloody rocket anyway and what’s the big deal with SpaceX’s rockets?
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The first stage (the bottom bit) is what lifts the second stage and payload off the ground, and launches them onto an arching suborbital trajectory. Then it separates, the second stage (the upper bit) finishes the launch and gets the payload into orbit, and the first stage lands back on earth, either on land or on a ship (depending on how much fuel’s left).

So what’s so good about their rockets? All other rockets from NASA or any other private player work in...

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Climbing Mountains

Can you really write anything new about the mountains after Ruskin Bond? That man, God bless his soul, has written about the experience of being amidst the mountains so vividly and perfectly that there’s nothing more one can add. Still, we plod on.

Much has been said about the romance and sense of grandeur of climbing mountains. There’s a sense of pure awe when you trudge along a mountain - slow, step after step. This is land that rose through huge tectonic plates clashing with immense force - heaven would have shook. And then, for an act so violent and deafeningly loud to produce something so calm…and still. The mountains don’t do anything much. They simply exist. Yet, that existence has evolved to evoke a symbol of peace and eternity. Indeed, one can’t often throw out ‘majestic’ to describe anything.

I’ve been fortunate to be a part of a Himalayan trek and walk through some of the...

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