Thursday, January 19, 2006

Its not a "Bat", its Materials Engineering

They say cricket is ruled by batsmen. Unfortunately people get more entertainment for watching boundaries and overboundaries not by waiting for a wicket to fall. All these fun comes from couple of pieces rather few pieces of wood, called bat. International Cicket Council has a poor definition of this piece. A bat looks like this
can not be longer than 96.5 cm including the handle and maximum width shouldn’t exceed 10.8 cm. must be made of wood. There is no restrictions on the weight of the bat (typically 3 lb), the shape: well its understood, there is no definition by ICC. The blade of the bat can be covered with some material for protection and repair, should not strengthen the bat and the thickness of this cover should not exceed 1.56 mm. Recently a committee headed by Sunil Gavaskar, recommended some more criteria, the important one for this case is that you can not infiltrate anything in the blade moreover it should be made of one solid piece of wood.
Where is the scope for improvement? Material scientists and engineers step in here, before addressing this issue let us know where we need improvement. Of course ball should travel faster than what they do now. When a ball hits the bat at a very high speed, there are lots of vibrations and minimizing this has been challenge for sometimes. Striking the ball hard is easy when its hits at the “sweet spot”. This region is almost 12 cm above the bottom of the bat, the thickest part, we define this place as the place where minimum vibration is felt and the ball travels much faster. The sound we say heavenly when it hit this sweet spot. So extending the sweet spot region is also an important issue.
How to go about it? There are few research institute and Universities in Australia and in England are really doing quite a bit of research in these field. The departments associated with this are Material Science and Design, so its science and engineering combination. Lets see a bat, it has go 2 parts, one is solid part the one piece wood one and the other is the handle. The handle is a composite material its made up of canes put together with rubber and adhesive in between. This actually dampens the vibration which comes after the ball hits the bat. In RMIT university in Australia researchers are trying to make the handle with a composite material containing carbon fiber and polymer, this dampens the vibration more compared to conventional handle. This is the bat which probably Rickey Ponting wanted to use last year, under ICC supervision. In case of base ball bat the vibration control system is a piezoelectric device, which generates voltage to nullify the effect of vibration, it’s a software controlled process and these software were developed after a rigorous study on vibration, soon in cricket too we will see such modification setting in. Due to the rules we can not progress much with the blade part from the material science point of view, this is a pure problem for designers, design aspect only can extend the sweet spot. Tennis and Golf has progressed a lot in these regards. They are using the best possible materials for such application, reinforced graphite of bulk metallic glass are few should be named. Lets hope ICC will overcome its conservative resistance and make cricket more exciting.

Some links:

ICC home page

Bat size specification

Sunday, January 15, 2006

This one is really tiny

Phani noticed this hive yesterday; intially we did not know whether that is a bee hive or not, we thought it may be a flower but later i could see a bee flying. now it is almost clear that it is a bee hive. In our campus we are habituated in seeing the big hives with a diameter sometimes more than 2 feet. and the bee sizes are of few cm. For example the bee hives that is forming in my balcony for last two years in Feb, will be huge enough to scare any giant! first time i didnot open my balcony for 15 days, but when mr. ponnana came from CES to remove them, i got the courage and next year i did not feel troubled at all, it was my neighbours turn to get scared :), but this one is really tiny. Life cycle of bees has been roughed throughly in the literature, even text books in school contain detail about them. There are faculties in the Institute who are working on them, i hope to get some info about these bees and write and update.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

"Stardust" is coming back

Just couple of years back the image came in front page of thousands of magazines and news papers around the world. An aircraft colliding with a comet! Analogies were drawn with the movies like “deep impact” and “Armageddon” and details of the impact was getting significant attention of media when compared to politics and sports. The process was really accurate; the way it has been executed was amazing.
The reason I am discussing all these is: on Jan. 15, 2006. Stardust is coming back to earth after seven years of its launch and two years after it had hit the comet, gathered information and dust particles. This was one of NASA’s first endeavour towards the research on origin of life. The 25 kg spacecraft has already shifted its penultimate step towards journey to the earth and NASA says it was perfect. This comet is suppose to carry dust particles which is as old as life on earth and may contain some real evidence for it, but that is future, now the scientist are holding their nerves so that every thing goes smooth. There are reasons for concern, stardust is going to be the fastest return aircraft from space and it will hit the earth with a speed similar to a bullet. Although scientist have predicted that it will be visible from some places in USA in naked eye, but real challenge is tracking the spacecraft, and its place for impact. Wish everything goes well
My interest is in the materials part. Normally these spacecrafts have a shielding of carbon based refractory material, which can withstand temperature more than 5000 K, but here it will be tested. Due to very high friction the material will evaporate and the chemistry of the surface will change. It will be also interesting to see how it reacts to the impact. Heat shielding will really be a very important material for research. Stardust is coming back as an experimental result, which can not be carried out anywhere near earth.
Best of luck guys!


Saturday, January 07, 2006

A place named Purulya

I grew up in Purulia. One of the most peaceful places I have ever seen. Irony is that whenever I mentioned to someone that I hail from Purulia, they immediately recognize the place, “oh! Where the arms dropping took place?” I am sure soon people will identify the place again, for wrong reaons: “Oh! Where there is lot of unrest because of Naxalites?” No. This is not Purulia, and the people who did or doing all these are also not from Purulia. I was born in a place where, nobody was aware of peace because they had never seen violence, but it was quite an isolated district in Bengal more because its late inclusion in the state. Although the district was lagging behind in terms of economy, education, food crop production, yet culturally is much ahead of the other districts in the state, and fortunately, partition couldn’t touch it. “Chhau” the dance is considered as one of the cultural symbol of not only of west Bengal but also in some cases India, but then like “kathakali” we did not have money to protect it, and it is difficult to practice culture when you earn a meager meal once a day! then there was “Tusu and Bhadu”. “Sankrnati” is celebrated as the harvesting festival in major part of India, Purulia is also not an exception, but there is “Tusu and Bhadu”. Crop harvest is very small in the district and that’s being one of the major causes for economic fall in this part. “Bhadu” is a festival of woman and they make nice structures like temples with colourfull papers. You will see a procession of woman singing songs, they are not written anywhere! People memorize it. I heard recently that there is an effort to have them in written form. So this is Purulia. In our childhood we knew more about “Pataliputra” than Calcutta.
Purulia is extremely politically impassive and religiously indifferent district. It has more than one third of villages staying below poverty line. Industries were opened and shutdown came sooner than expected, thanks to the unions which were very active in these cases. A perfect situation for exploited by the Maoist groups. The recent killings in Bundwan can not really justify any cause. Its good if someone comes ahead and fight for the people’s right, but violence can take it anywhere. I remember a place called Duarsini, near Bundwan we went for picnic when I was in school, now that place even armed men wont venture to go. Its valid for Kuilapal another beautiful landscape was developing as a tourist spot no longer a destination for tourists. A little more attention would have changed lot of things, still I believe people don’t like violence but at the same time their affinity towards government probably is not mention worthy.
Changes that took place certainly were late; development is taking place from the middle of nineties. Town wise Purulia has advanced quite a bit, you can get mobile phones servies from atleast four to five service providers. The huge pump storage power project in collaboration with Japan in Ayodhya hills has really changed the roads, economy of this region. Even 15 years back it was a nightmare to go to the hills in rainy season, it has improved now. Government although not new is trying to boost up the economy. Its almost 8 years since I last visited Purulia, wish when I go there next time it will be the same cool and hot "Purulya".