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(ARCHIVE) VOL. XXII No. 14, November 1-15, 2012
Short 'N' Snappy

Lessons from the rain

As a child, The Man from Madras Musings was none too strong in physics, his considered opinion being that it would have all been to the good if the apple had never fallen on Newton. But all that he (MMM, and not Newton) missed out on was made amply clear to him (still MMM and not Newton) in the last one week or so. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, said the man who was hit by the apple and he was right. Where else to find a better illustration of this than at the lakes that have become housing colonies? During the rains the housing colonies became lakes.

Pascal, another Physics pest, if you recollect, said that water finds its own level. How beautifully was this demonstrated on our roads, all of which became sheets of water, hiding below that smooth surface several deep pits, open sewers, fallen manhole covers and severed electric cables.

Reynolds number, as you no doubt know, dealt with laminar and turbulent flows. Our Corporation demonstrated this through the way the water flowed. In some places, where pipes were broken, it rushed out, turbulent to the extreme. In places where pipes were non-existent, it flowed smoothly, filling all open areas. And where it got mixed with construction debris, sewage and garbage, it became highly viscous and did not flow at all.

Newton who, in MMM's view, poked his nose into things best left alone, had much to say on viscosity. He also, most unnecessarily, gave out formulae and thus complicated life for everyone. But that is neither here nor there, much like our drainage system.

Pressure exerted on a confined fluid is transmitted undiminished and equally in all directions, said Pascal who, after Newton, in MMM's view, was a man who ought to have been drowned at birth. But to give credit where it is due, Pascal spoke the truth. MMM saw his principle demonstrated by lorry tyres that pressed down on water-filled puddles and left them bigger each time. Soon, the puddles became craters. It was also during last week that many residents of ground floor homes learnt of osmosis. Sewage began climbing upwards and reaching into houses, thereby returning to its source.

In the midst of all this, MMM has not forgotten old Archimedes who, if you recollect, said that any body when submerged in a fluid displaces the same quantity of fluid. Pretty obvious you would have thought, but the old man had to run around in the nude on suddenly realising it in his bath. MMM's life in his (MMM's, and not Archimedes') early years was made miserable, what with his (Archimedes, and not MMM) making such a to-do about it. Textbooks if you recollect rambled on about his (Archimedes', and not MMM's) discovery. It was no small satisfaction for MMM to know that he (Archimedes, and not MMM) was finally done in by a soldier. No doubt he, the soldier, had suffered studying Archimedes' principle. But MMM has digressed. What he meant was that Archimedes' principle was evident in abundance if you happened to be walking or wading along roads when heavy vehicles came along. You would have been at the receiving end of the fluid displaced by the cars and buses as they rushed along.

Rather akin to old Archimedes was Newton. He had to make a song and dance out of the earth's gravity and give it a formula as well. Gravity and accelaration due to it were also demonstrated during the monsoon. You just had to trip over a submerged stone and the speed with which you fell said it all. So much for Newton's findings. And he got a knighthood and a tomb in Westminster Abbey for this. The kind of things people get for simply stating the obvious beats MMM.

Added to this was a continuous learning in biology as well, though clinical pathology would be a better term perhaps. MMM notices that the papers are full of news about dengue, typhoid, cholera and several unnamed diseases which are surging ahead, as is the mosquito population. All in all, it has been quite a lesson in science and MMM feels that the Corporation of Chennai ought to be recommended for a Nobel and, if not that, at least an award during the next Teachers' Day.

With the tide

The Man from Madras Musings had a swimming coach whose favourite practice was to push aspiring swimmers into the deep end and watch them struggle. It was his theory that only by losing fear of water could anyone hope to become a Greg Louganis or a Michael Phelps. The Corporation of our city has, it appears, decided that it will create at least one swimming champion from every household. That is what MMM thinks, looking at the condition of the city in the last week when the heavens opened up and filled our potholes and puddles.

MMM is aware that there are four principal strokes in swimming and he is glad to report that he used all four as he negotiated the roads that he frequents. The breaststroke was used in wading forward. Freestyle it was when not knowing the depth of a puddle; MMM chose to put a foot in it only to find himself lurching forward, and at the same time being pulled into a bottomless abyss. The butterfly was the stroke to be adopted when carrying something in hand and doing all of the above. The backstroke was best when confronted with a zooming vehicle that was causing the water to rise in waves like a veritable tsunami wave. At the end of it, all that MMM can say is that he is a lot fitter and ready for any swimming competition. And so, he is sure, are a number of fellow citizens. At this rate, Chennai may soon become the capital for aquatic sports.

Whether & dither

The whether/dither or, as some purists call it, the weather department, tied itself into knots during the last week, much to the mirth of The Man from Madras Musings. First came an announcement that the monsoon would hit the city two days hence and, sure enough, the skies opened up on the very same day and poured and poured. That sent the Met office into a tizzy. It also gave the Corporation someone to blame and it claimed that the early onset of the monsoon had taken it unawares. MMM is quite sure that two days were all that the Corporation needed to complete its pending work and make the city water logging-proof!

Then, just as the rains appeared to peter out, the Met office decided to act smart by telling us that the rains were as good as over. The heavens decided to play killjoy and burst forth once again. Now the Met office is playing it safe by announcing that it is observing the progress of the monsoon. Much as the Corporation is.


A friend espied The Man from Madras Musings in Bangalore and sent him a message asking if the Chief planned to launch Bangalore Brewings. What say, Chief? After all, that city has pretty much the same problems as our Chennai. The newspapers there are full of nothing but garbage pile-up, dengue, traffic and destruction of heritage. Very much our line.


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In this Issue

'Save this landmark building'
Why is our city 'Sink'ara Chennai?
For Metro Rail success a ring line is needed
Enjoying life with Nana
The national treasure that was M. Krishnan
A Vijayanagara-Chennai connection
'Munro' arrives in Madras
We regret...

Our Regulars

Short 'N' Snappy
Our Readers Write
Quizzin' with Ram'nan


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