Where the reader becomes a redactor.

Climate change #1 : what the hell ?

This time, we decided to write about climate change. A topic all of us have already heard about. We may be talking a lot about this subject, it may be one of the most important challenges of humanity but nothing seems to change.

I would lie to you if I say I know what I am going to write after. The truth is that there are too many things I can write about. Therefore, I am going to write everything that comes through my mind. I am not the one who is going how bad climate change is. I am not the one who is going to tell you what to do if you feel interested by it. But just so you understand, either way you are going to be affected by it. Climate change will affect your body, your physiological abilities: snow, storms, rain, sun, none of them will be like they were.

Like always in our history, humanity’s problems will affect some of us more than others. Some of us will have to flew away, some of us will have to find another job, some of us will have to find another way to feed their family, some of us will have to fight new disease maybe. But all of us, as humans, have to fight against the corporations that persuade the leaders of our countries to not act against climate change.

environmental-issues-eskimo-inuit-igloo-cactus-climate_change-mlyn203_low.jpgI won’t tell them what to do either, as politicians it may be more difficult to act as human without thinking about political, economical interests. I will just ask them to think about the world they’re going to leave to their children, grandson, to think about their legacy.

I don’t really that this article is one of my best, but just so you know it was written with all the anger I can have because climate change is not a topic we should avoid but a topic we should take seriously without any economical and political motives.


Refugee Crisis #4 -Striving for Global Awareness


She was born to extremely poor parents, in a country ravaged by war. Education was as much of an unattainable dream as was sufficient nutrition. Since the age of three, she was expected to participate in the house chores, and to help sustain the precarious construction her family called home. Not a morning came with breakfast on the table, and not an ounce of drinkable water was to be found in walking distance of where she spent her days and nights. Unaware of the very characteristics of a “normal” life, devoid of fear and hunger and despair, she saw her world as everyone’s reality. She did not perceive her situation as good or bad, for lack of comparison.

Or so she did, until her father started bringing out stories of the western lifestyle at the dining table. There she was, eating the perished bread provided by her role model, the very man who was telling her and her family tales of a “better world”, a world where bombings are inexistent and running water is the norm. And so she started dreaming, dreaming of what her life could have been had she been born in another place, at another time. And so she started feeling inadequate within her own community, as she was now painfully aware of the extreme nature of her situation.

Years passed by, and her father eventually accumulated enough money to flee the country in hope of a better future. The entire family was ecstatic: they would finally be able to settle in a clean house, with personal space for everyone. They could not wait to experience the feeling of safety that came from serenely walking in a park in the center of the city, to receive substantial monetary reward in recognition of their hard labor.

Their first attempt to cross the borders was a failure. Soldiers bluntly rejected them, asking for official documents they could only access as insiders of the country. Yet their willpower was fierce, and they decided to take the risk of crossing the border aboard a refugee boat. Nothing could be worse than the situation in which we are currently living, said the father to his wife as she was wide awake in the neighboring room.

Thus they all boarded the unstable engine; her brother, her parents and herself risked their lives for a better one. And they lost. On a dark and unsteady night, the unapologetic sea pushed the boat on its flank, and with it every single one of its passengers. Most had not learned how to read or write, let alone how to swim. The tragedy in itself was so unavoidable, and yet it could have been so easily eschewed were the soldiers at the origin border given different orders; were they told to screen the refugees and only allow inside the country those who showed no threat to the country, rather than blindly sending every single stranger back to their dark fate.

The refugee crisis is a delicate issue. On the one hand are stories such as the aforementioned one, unfortunately much too common in a world where human rights are often placed at the front most of international conferences. On the other hand are politicians and citizens scared of the potential risks that refugees could bring, leaders who put their people’s absolute safety before every other country’s combined suffering. Together, these facts point at the sad reality of today world, a divided land where fear precedes reason. I am voiceless when confronted to these issues. All I can do is spread awareness about them, for being a mindful sentient being is in any occurrence the first step toward becoming an active defender of world peace.

Refugees crisis #3 : refugees or exiled ?

A week ago, Ali asked me to write about the refugees’ polemic. I don’t know if it is just me, but I don’t really know what to write about. Who should be considered as a refugee? Someone who fled from his country like Edward Snowden for political reasons? Someone who had no choice but to flee like Aylan Kurdi ? A refugee, according to the Geneva Convention of Refugees is a person who is outside their country of citizenship because they have well-founded grounds for fear of persecution because of their race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, and is unable to obtain sanctuary from their home country or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail themselves of the protection of that country; or in the case of not having a nationality and being outside their country of former habitual residence as a result of such event, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to their country of former habitual residence. Such a person may be called an “asylum seeker” until considered with the status of “refugee” by the Contracting State where they formally make a claim for sanctuary or right of asylum.

Then again, no one can exactly tell who can be considered as a refugee. Before being refugees, they are called “asylum seekers”, but what give us the right to refuse them any right of asylum? In the twentieth century, more and more refugees were accepted, many were finally “used” as workforce to be workers. Nowadays, it seems like nothing has really changed; maybe which one will be accepted: depending on his qualifications…

refugees crisis 2Plus, we need to ask ourselves why do our states call those people refugees when we’re the reason they are fleeing their homeland. Today, we see it as a political matter. But it is more than that. This is more than just realpolitik. This, my dear friends, is a human matter.

I would rather die before I let any politician speak in my name to refuse someone, a home where he can live. A home he is asking for before we destroyed his.

Boys, girls, parents, families risking their lives to get what any human deserve: how many lives have to be destroyed before we wake up?

Refugees Crisis #1 : An Ancient “suffocating” Continent…

Everything seemed so flawless from the outside: refugees flee from war, as we all know. Countries such as Germany and Sweden receive them openhandedly. Their immersion into their new life takes some time, but it is for the best. Everyone is winning from this integration – governments don’t simply act by kindness, but thoroughly calculate what they win from it. Syrians, Iranians and Afghans live happily and peacefully ever after that.


That is how I perceived things at the beginning. I was very much impressed by the wave of solidarity shown by European countries towards the refugee crisis. We must say, politics rarely demonstrated such a consideration for the factor human.


But it has been 12 days that I have been volunteering in the Erding Refugee camp in Germany, a camp capable of hosting more than 5000 refugees. 12 days during when I daily questioned what is truly happening with the refugees without believing it. To the world’s consternation, everything in Europe is falling apart.


The first problem results from the establishing stone of a Democracy, the golden unbreakable rule, the natural law of the code of rights and wrongs. You surely know it, America has been bragging with it for decades in order to unscrupulously attack very coincidentally countries rich in oil. I am talking about how one is free to do whatever he or she wants. You cannot dictate to someone where to go and how to live. That comes with a huge, wide and deep breach that shakes Europe from all sides. Let me explain you by an anecdote.


In the camp where I volunteer, the German Red Cross offers first needs to the welcomed refugees. The volunteers must complain to the refugees’ needs in terms of cloths. And very interestingly, I have seen a big part of refugees only interested in getting sports’ shoes. What seemed to only be a funny hazardous coincidence turned to be the explanation of a particular phenomenon. Most refugees, instead of being dispatched in camps all-over Germany, prefer to do things on they own by leaving the camp. They are illegal, but you cannot stop them – Otherwise, what would be Democracy? The final result is the thousands of refugees currently on European lands of which names aren’t registered in any archives. Where could they be? What could they do? I let you imagine.

Assad has confirmed the infiltration of ISIS’s members within the refugees’ community.

Besides that, much more shows the deficiency of the Ancient Continent to act as a unique entity in time of trouble.

With such disregard to the importance of regulating the movement of refugees, there may be right one single refugee registered at several different countries, simply by adding a letter to his name of by changing his birthdate – and I wouldn’t bet on only one.

Furthermore, the EU’s legislation states that the primary responsibility for asylum application is placed on the first EU country of entry, which is Greece, very often. Therefore, if any country decides to send back its refugees, it is going to fall down on the country from where they entered Europe. With UK’s referendum, we can only fear such throwback. For now, France is holding thousands of refugees in Calais, a city not so far from the Channel Tunnel. If the UK happened to leave the EU, France wouldn’t mind leaving them reach London. Which we couldn’t blame the refugees for ; The conditions of life in the Calais camp have earned it the name of “The Jungle”.

UK’s shameful reaction to the refugees crisis.

With these increasing difficulties, we would understand Austria and Macedonia for closing their borders. Fear has spread through populations, and that is only suitable to the far right, of which frustration is magnified all over Europe. Germany’s new Right is following a strategy similar to that of Front National head Marine Le Pen: that of putting a friendly face to radicalism. That will only make the refugees’ integrations worse and harder. I can attest to that. I can see people’s distrust when they lay their eyes on me, a very much Arab-looking guy, when I enter a metro. I have been put in the refugees’ shoes without choosing, and that is the saddest part. No efforts have been yet done to educate people towards this completely modern and existing issue. Public anxiety about Muslim minorities, subsequent international conflicts, and vocal hostility towards Muslims in Europe all point to the need for a comprehensive integration strategy.

Europe is not totally to blame. Having thousands of refugees at borders doesn’t make things simple.The total chaos in Libya is also a reason for the increasing movements. Kadhafi, who was holding all migrations with brutal and inhuman treatments back then, isn’t here anymore to complete this task for Europe. It couldn’t keep blind eyes on what is happening.

The Ancient Continent has the human and the economical capital to handle this crisis. What is only missing, is the will to do so.

Space Travel: From Science Fiction to the Reality of a Generation



As scientists and engineers combine their efforts in the pursuit of ever more performing spacecrafts and other groundbreaking technologies, what used to be called science-fiction is on its way to becoming society’s standards. The vast majority of people vehemently oppose such a claim, maintaining that populating other planets and extending mankind’s reach beyond Earth’s cocoon is downright ridiculous.

Yet, this stance is too evocative of past ones to be taken at face-value. Rewind a few thousand years back in time, in order for me to narrate the strikingly exotic Tanzanian myth for the creation of the universe, which appears as nonsensical to us humans of the 21st century as it was the unquestionable truth for the people of Tanzania at their time.

It all started with a creative force, which provoked the apparition of air, the sky and a gigantic Tree on which ants circulated. Eventually, a branch of the tree was blown away, and the ants started to consume the branch in order to ensure their survival. Once they had consumed the entirety of the branch, the ants had no other choice but to consume their own excrements. After a set period of time, these excrements grew into the Earth, and the planet inflated so much as to entirely envelop the original Tree. Then, from the roots of the Tree were sent wind and water and plants, followed by humans and animals. Soon thereafter, a war opposing humans to animals led to the formation of the moon, stars and sun. Although humans won the war, a sheep managed to kill the word, which was the underlying essence of the universe, and that terrible event resulted in thunder.

Although the above tale might be surprisingly analogous to the creative stories that children depict in their objectively atrocious drawings, or even to the esoteric hallucinations of a 70 years old man who got his hands on illegal substances for the very first time, it was once considered to be the absolute truth of the universe, and infants were born and old men died in a society that deeply believed in this alternative reality.

Fast forward several centuries, back to a relatively closer yet still distant past. Up until the 17th century, everyone from the merchant’s servant to the most brilliant astronomer believed that the Earth was at the center of the universe, with the Sun, planets and stars revolving around it in perfect harmony. Even when faced with repeated and sometimes blatant discrepancies in their collected date as the observations kept getting ever more precise, scientists kept working on a model of the universe with the Earth fixed at its center, no matter how many intricate cycles they had to design for each of the celestial bodies in order for their belief to hold. Again, no educated person in his or her right mind would nowadays defend the above claim. Yet a few centuries ago, truth had a different flavor.

The story of our kind has been cadenced by these revolutions in thought, transcending ever further our perception of reality into a more detailed and accurate scheme. Not only has our conceptual understanding undergone tremendous change, but so has our technical mastery over the Earth’s element. I could go at similar length treating of the evolution from stationary agricultural systems to the Industrial Revolution to airplanes to space shuttles, but the Tanzanian myth was too tempting to ignore.

Long story short, we are constantly discovering new stuff and pushing the boundaries of our kind’s influence. Man has walked on the moon. A robot is currently circulating on Mars. Astronauts are currently out there in the characteristic void of outer space, securely kept alive by a fascinating technology that is undergoing an exponential growth. In a way, these first spatial expeditions led by people and machines alike could be assimilated to the initial success by the Wright brothers to get an airplane to depart and land safely back on Earth. A century later, anyone anywhere can get anywhere else on the planet in less than 24 hours.

Then, refusing to acknowledge the certainty of space travel in the near future, whether it be a hundred years or a few thousand years, is equivalent to insulting the abilities of man to go from a blooming enterprise to a sophisticated technology, just as we did with airplanes. Certainly, there will be a time when space shuttles which are able to depart and land safely on any of the Solar System’s 8 (and maybe 9!) planets, and eventually on any of our good old galaxy’s solid surfaces, will be the absolute truth of a generation.

So far, we had only been able to see the distant universe. A week earlier, against all odds, researchers have heard gravitational waves, which in simple terms correspond to the sounds emitted by two black holes executing a majestic celestial dance one hundred billion light years away (1 followed by eleven zeroes). In other words, we now have ears that supplement our eyes. How long it will take us to put our hands on the surface of distant celestial bodies I couldn’t tell, but the evidence overwhelmingly suggests that someday, it will inevitably happen.

Space Exploration #1 : LIGO – our primitive ears to the music of cosmos

A simulation of a binary blackhole merger in action

What is LIGO?

LIGO project was conceptualised in late 80’s and started in the early 90’s. It began as a first ever attempt – in form of a huge and ultra-sensitive interferometric observatory –  to measure Einstein’s elusive gravitational waves, predicted first in 1916. It underwent a long trial with no successes but rapid upgrades. The primitive detectors took data in several cycles/runs between 2002 and 2010. No gravitational waves were detected during those runs. In 2010, LIGO undertook a long sabbatical from these data-taking cycles (called ‘science-runs’), and began major upgrade operations. In parallel, VIRGO project in Italy and GEO600 project in Germany caught up to LIGO. The LIGO Scientific Collaboration (LSC) became a synonym for LIGO-Virgo Collaboration (LVC). By 2010, GEO600 was assigned the task of a R&D facility where future technology for LIGO was to be tested. VIRGO also stopped its science-runs and joined LIGO in major upgrade operations. After 5-odd years of upgrades, the first two detectors in USA (in Hanford-H1 and Livingston-L1) were intended to go online (for the so-called ‘observation-runs’) in September 2015, while VIRGO would continue with upgrades until mid-late 2016 and then join LIGO. In preparation for the first observation-run O1 in late September last year, LIGO began its last 2-week test run, called ‘engineering-run 8 (ER8)’. At this point, we knew that LIGO detectors had been through enough upgrades and their sensitivity to gravitational waves had begun to be at par with the requirements. We were very optimistic. However, we didn’t account for the possibility of measuring a signal in the test run itself; the signal was found in ER8 data, before the observation-run O1 even began. This was very exciting.

LIGO Hanford Observatory (H1)
LIGO Livingston Observatory (L1)

The Human Story

I joined the LSC (a.k.a LVC) in late 2014 when I started my PhD at the Max-Planck-Institute (in Observational Relativity and Cosmology & Data-analysis). I was in Italy on holidays (meeting a couple of classmates from IIT Guwahati), when one of my colleagues (Marco Drago) at the Max-Planck-Institute (in Hannover, Germany) sent a LSC-wide email citing a disturbance in the data, on 14 September 2015. The disturbance looked frighteningly similar to what one would expect from a cosmic event, in this case a binary blackhole merger. It was initially suspected that it was a fake test-signal injected into the data; fake test-signal injections are done to verify, test and calibrate our data-analysis search methods. Marco was wondering in his email if there was a fake injection planned at that moment in time. He couldn’t find any record of one and he wondered if an unauthorised injection may have missed the catalogues. I returned to Germany 2 days later while enquiries were made across LSC and it was checked if Marco’s suspicion was correct. Within 3 days, all channels were exhausted and it became highly likely – yet not completely sure – that no such injection was made. As soon as I returned, my supervisor (one of the leaders of data-analysis within LIGO) briefed me with a little more detail about ‘the event’. It was to be kept a secret within the collaboration (while deeper detective work took place in parallel to disqualify malicious intent from our list of suspects) and our data-analysis team got down to the task of digging deeper into the data. With each passing day, more suspects were ruled out and it became clear that it was most likely the first gravitational wave signal ever measured. This was officially confirmed within the collaboration by the end of October. It is pointless to say that the entire community got really excited at the prospects that this discovery represented. There were many long threads of emails circulating within the community domain; data-analysis collaborators from around the world started on their caffeine-riddled quest to define the source behind the signal. It was concluded that the signal represented a pair of black holes circling and gravitating toward each other in a binary system. At their merger, an immense amount of energy was released in the cosmic explosion in form of gravitational waves (very very very tiny distortions in the fabric of space-time), which LIGO succeeded in measuring. It was determined from the properties of the signal that the black holes were roughly equal to 30 suns in one – each, totalling roughly 60 solar-masses. Their distance was determined to be roughly 1.3 billion light-years i.e. the event occurred 1.3 billion years ago! In terms of equivalent ‘visible’ luminosity, for roughly 1/10th to 1/5th of second, the explosion shone brighter than all the stars in the Universe combined! This represented the first instance in history when gravitational waves were detected by mankind while (binary) black holes, i.e. the strangest of all objects in the universe, were confirmed to exist. 

Signal waveforms recorded at LIGO Observatories
Location of signal in the sky

In terms of a life of an individual, besides the extra attention, nothing much has changed (for most people). We are obviously very happy that the efforts of past 25 years have finally paid off. It feels like a truly great achievement to be part of such a gang-of-science-people. At the same time, we also realise the possibility of measuring many more such phenomenal (theorised) events in the cosmos. LIGO finished its O1-run on January 12, 2016. We have already gotten down to the task of analysing the rest of the data from O1 (for similar kind of sources, as well as from other exotic objects such as ‘neutron stars’), and prepare our techniques for the second 6-month observation-run O2 starting in June 2016.

What does the discovery represent?

This discovery of the gravitational waves also serves as a direct proof of Einstein’s theory of General Relativity, published in 1915. Precisely after 100 years of the advent of General Relativity, its smoking gun(s), i.e. gravitational waves, were found. With more precise measurements and more such events, we will soon be able to find further corrections/modifications to the theory of General Relativity, and be able to explore it in great depth. This starts a new era in astronomy, of Gravitational Wave Astronomy. Gravitational waves are also predicted to be emitted at the Big Bang; those ancient signals (called ‘primordial gravitational waves’) are extremely extremely weak. In roughly two or more decades, we hope to be able to be sensitive enough (with incredibly more sensitive future detectors, including the upcoming duo in Japan and India, besides LIGO’s 2 and VIRGO’s 1) to capture the holy grail of the Universe.

If you like it, Don’t forget to propose topics to write about!

— Avneet Singh

Today’s topic was about music. Well… I always had some difficulties describing reasons why I like a song. I obviously prefer a certain style of music, but I never had particular criteria to decide whether I appreciate  or not a track. I rather think that it comes naturally. That the overall combination of rhythm, lyrics, and percussions assert an overwhelming power on you. Bob Marley perfectly explained this by saying that “ one good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain”.  Henceforward, the power of music is indescribable and immutable. You can always give your point of view on a song, tell its qualities and defects, but no one will really pay attention to your words. Why ? Because as long as the song moves people, they will listen to it and enjoy it. Consequently, music is and will always be universal. It will always be a melody that floats in your body and eventually touches your heart.

This is why I will not give  an analysis of one of my favourite song. Nevertheless, I can always show you a group called Seafret which I recently discovered in Birmingham and that really moved me. I went to see Kodaline’s concert – you should also check them out if you don’t know them – and they were playing the first part of the gig.

Before they started jamming, the concert hall was very noisy and no one really paid attention when they came on stage. However when Jack Sedman, the vocalist, started to sing, I really had the feeling that he wanted to send a message to the public. And obviously this feeling was shared with other people from the audience. Like me, everyone was completely astonished by the presence of the singer and the virtuosity of the guitarist Harry Draper.


This is why I want to share with you the amazing talent of these two young and still unknown British lads. I think they deserve more recognition for their hard work and dedication to create incredible music. You should also watch the video clips of the songs that are, in my opinion, wonderful and especially meaningful.

Art in our way #1 : Lik from Oum (Acoustic)

And just like that, I got myself a new favorite tune. The universe and all of its inhabitants are truly something indescribable we cannot even begin to fathom.

This has been trotting in my mind for a while. Now, I could make myself, pick up the jaw and take my eyes and mind away from the reality, into the heavens which contain all answers. With talent, with pleasure. Travelling has never been so easy. I realised what a gem this song was. Not unknown, but eclipsed by globalised american songs. Something I wouldn’t complain about. When I love something, I want it for me and no one else.

Today, I destroyed the misconceptions I had about the lack of creativity in my country. It is now my duty to do the same for you. Oum is a mesmerising artist. As much as this song wants you to dance and shout, It provokes into you an envy of sitting on some hot sand and just stare at the stars.

We have the privilege to see an artist on the action, like looking at Brad Pitt shooting the final scene of Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Just an innocent training to some important concerts. But the result is even better. The symbiose between the images and the voluptuous, sincere and soft voice of Oum is just an ecstasy. Even the artists, melted in fear and hesitation, don’t realise it. Magic is all working by itself.

When I listen to this music, I can only think of waves. One after the other, stronger or weaker, faster or slower, but just awaking. An emancipation of the senses.

Life is good. Keep dreaming guys!

War on terror #5: It’s time to go rogue


    Terrorism, for the past few decades, has become synonymous to radical Islam. This, in principle, is untrue. Yet, this correlation has its reasons for existence. Global terrorism, if one may prudently define such a thing, has its roots in the Arab and the Middle-east regions. However, the origins of the modern-day terrorism are not the making of either the Arab or the Middle-east to a majority of extent. The seeds of modern-day terrorism were sown by western commercial interests in the region, particularly Oil trade, in particular by the United States of America. Under the umbrella of introducing democracy in the aforementioned Islamic regions, which traditionally have been aristocratic monarchies or military dictatorships, commercial interests of the United States played a major role in destablising the region and turn it into the mayhem that it is today. That being said, there is no point crying over spilt milk now. One must look for ways to solve this major global issue before it threatens the very elements of civil society. In context of such a solution, religion – in this case Islam – has been at the center of all debates. It has in fact, for a vast majority of cases, been the only point of argument, and one cannot separate the issue of ‘Global Terrorism’ from Islam. I will address this precise issue today.

    It is a common misconception that Islam is more aggressive and a more radical religion in comparison to its other counterpart – Christianity. Without getting into the depths of sectarian formations within each, one must look for reasons behind such a conception. What issues dominate this cultivated idea of Islam being more dangerous than the rest? What percentage of this conceptual idea actually holds true in the current scenario? As always, I intend to approach this in lists and in terms of contextual correlations.

I. Is Islam fundamentally more voilent than, say, Christianity? No. It is not. Bible has incited many generations to stone the homosexuals, practise sectarian and racial violence, undermine and abuse womanhood, and spread hatred against disbelievers. Islam has done nothing different than what Christianity has. This misconception is false and needs to be rebuked. However, one may ask then that what led to such a misconception on a global scale? This brings me to my next point on the list.

II. Is the current practise of Islam more violent than Christianity? Yes. Unfortunately, ‘time’, in this case, has played its role. While Christianity had a set of major and strong atheist movements in the past 4-5 centuries, Islam had remained isolated from any such developements. Purely on the basis of aggregate statistics, there is a heavy following of fundamentalist Islam today than of fundamentalist Christianity. Both religions, while fundamentally similar in preaching despicable ideas, have evolved differently in time, especially in the past 4-5 centuries. This disparity is causing more trouble than anything else today and is single-handedly responsible for progression and propagation of terrorism in the Islamic world. Why did this come to pass? Probably, fear of extremist persecution and isolation – in terms of libertarian advancement – from the west. One may wonder, where am I going with this?

An idea: We need atheist movements within Islam. For long, Islam has been the victim in the hands of terrorists. For long, followers of Islam have suffered from the global bias against them. In an ideal world, one may practise a faith one may choose. In reality, victimisation of muslim world will stop when fundamentalism in Islam stops. It is time to recognise that fundamentalism – theoretically good or bad – has done no one any good in practise in the long run, and it is time for people to take matter in their own hands. It is time for the people of the muslim world to shed beliefs that were laid down for a much basic, simpler and idiotic human generation. There is no room for fundamentalism and peace in the same neighbourhood. We need more open-minded and brave muslims today than we ever have. Fundamentalism must go before peace can be brought to this wretched planet.

 – Avneet Singh

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