Monday, September 27, 2010


Surreal thoughts knocked the door that night,
realizations had struck like a lightning in a stormy night,
earth shivered
and the last…
lasted longer
and that night too.

The dew drops touched the bare skin that morning,
only if it could respond…
quivering lips parted to speak,
silence told the untold story
words dried, long back…
the last …
lasted longer

dancing flowers painted the horizon…
it did exist
bright sun soaked the torso,
bathing was warm..
warmth no longer came through the fingers…
they were folded…..and never opened again…long back
last, did last, quite long….

“Godhuli belar sese”
Solitary reaper sang the melancholy song
on her way back home…
home…lost in the lush meadows…
blank vision, blurred with tears
dried…. before the time kissed him bye.
was long

Saturday, September 18, 2010


"It isn't for the faint hearted".....the scottish man added " 3000 ft this side 3000 ft otherside, you need to be a expert trekker" However we never went to the Aonach Eagach, but tried couple of famous walks in the Scotish highlands, the best place on earth for landscape. I knew it was going to be very different trek than what we have experienced in India. We were all set to enjoy the highlands of Scotland
Early autumn, might get you the best or can deliver the worst, but me and Santanu had to take the chance. Hence, we decided to travel during early september. I must say we were half lucky.

Great Glen
The Great Glen fault was created 400 million years ago. It runs from Inverness to Fort william with a distance around 100 km. It cuts the Scotish higlands into two parts and gave birth to UK's deepest fresh water lake, Loch ness. However, the fault doesn't stop there and it extends towards the sea beyond fort william. This fault actually gave rise to beautiful landsacpe which attracts many tourists all through the year, with a larger traffic during summers. Although the the altitude of the peaks in this range is not very high but its a steep climb up to the peaks. Not all the walks are difficult, but certainly few are ! Through the great Glen the most famous walk is called great Glen way. Its a 73 miles walk stretching from Fort willim to Inverness. It takes 4-5 days to cover the complete Glen path, we didn't have that many days so we decided to go to few places along the Great Glen way and far south. The most famous hiking place on the Glenway is Ben nevis, the higest Peak in UK. So we decided upon our plan this way: Travel from London-Inverness from Inverness to Fortwilliam. Next day Ben Nevis and back to fortwillam to Glencoe. Next day Trek to pap of Glencoe, Glencoe to Fortwilliam and from Fort william to Inverness. Next day Inverness and Urqhart Castle, back to Inverness and to London. No doubts quite a bit of travel, but we thought its worth....

Fort william
I had few speechless moments when it was dusk at fort Fort william. Tired bodies got its energy back in the middle of a postcard lands scape. Journey to Fortwilliam was a long one. From London Inverness is around 740 km by Coach, and Fort william is 100 km from there. Me and Jacks (Santanu) started our journey from London victoria. We took Megabus! Double decker travelled quite well but there were annoying passengers, the bus stopped at Birmingham, Then Gallsgow. Were were dropped at Perth from where the otherbus took us to Inverness. To keep my reputation on having troubled journey was intact as the bus we were suposed to catch broke down. Once it was dawn, the landscapes were quite captivating. I was not aware the bus route from Inverness to Fort william was along the bank of Loch Ness. Life goes full cirle....I read about Loch ness at a pretty young age, there was an article in "pujabarsiki" "anandamela". Not to mention mystery and apprehension with darkness was the only thing in mind...but the beauty of loch ness caught me speechless. Although tired, we didn't miss the opprtunity to catch the beauty of Loch Ness. There are couple of popular tourist spot on the way to Fortwilliam. Urqhart castle and Fort Augustus. We had booked our tickets in the City link bus service operated by stage coaches 919 service. the ticket was 7 pounds. we reached beautiful town of Fortwilliam around 5 pm. There was a Morrisons stores at the bus and train station, we bought our food from there and walked to our night stay place at Fort william backpackers. Rain welcomed us there, but the hostel, however was bit cramped but i must say the best place to see the landscape...a leasure walk before the diner along the bank of Loch Linhe was truly amazing. The town unfolded its beauty as the coluds paved away roads for piercing sunrays. Rainbows and evening soft light provided really nice warmth. The town centre isn't far away from the station, if you reach before the market closes, expensive gift shops and stores are really good place to pay a visit. We had nice indian diner that night and crashed at the scotish battle fields (thats how they identified the bunks at the hostel!) , next day we were up to Ben Nevis.

Ben Nevis
There are few walks which will take you to the main Ben Nevis walk way. There are tonns of maps available on the web about the trail, but it isn't is a problem of loosing way on the hills once you strike the Ben nevis path rest was quite defined trail. We walked trough the Belford road towards the youth hostel in Fort william. donot take the north road, walk straight for about 2 miles, when you will see the Glen Nevis centre. The Parking place, a nice centre and walk begins here. You will see the directions marked here. There is a small wodden bridge over the Nevis river and thn the trail follow. The next landmark is the Achintee farm and once we crossed that we could see the Ben nevis Inn. Once we crossed the medow. The Climb began. It well paved trails was nice to walk on, but the weather was not so welcoming. The climb was alright except the rain made the way bit slippery. The Roller coaster life made me realize, i was going for a trek after 3 years. So i was slow, and the weather added to the woes. As we ascended the hill the breathtaking landscape started to appear. You can look at the Landscape and thank yourself that you have decided to trek in that weather. That motivated us to catch out breath and appreciate the landscape. The weather started getting worse and visibility was falling short with every meter we we climbing. We had our first food break on the bank of the lake Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe and we didn't realize it till we climbed up slightly and the cloud allowed us a view. We took pleanty of food as our journey wasn't going to get over at Ben Nevis. We had very nice highland walk guidance from here. We were follwing every direction but my cramps was slowing us down. There was a straight climb from there. There was nothing mentionable on the walk, just follow the trail among the stones. We almost reached the peak, but the weather became extremely worse, visibility was poor, rain cloud, heavy load on the back. Led us to descend.

Glen Coe
There are several city link and stage couch options to reach Glencoe. We took the citylink bus to reach Glencoe village. I have heard that place is good, but i was speechless. It took us 1 hr to reach Glencoe. The landscape was breath taking. Lake leven was one size of the road and the
straight up hills on the other. We had booked our accommodation in the Glencoe independent hostel. which was aroud 3 miles from the bus stop. There was NISA shop at the start of the road towards Glecoe independent hostel only gocery store in the village. We picked up food stuff and started our walk along the banks of free flowing Coe river. I was bone tired, but the beauty of the was took all my tiredness away. walking 3 miles took us 1 hr and we reached the independent hostel. I must say in this whole journey this was the best hostel we stayed. We shared our room with a french couple. Neat rooms and kitchen. The loaction of the hostel was also quite nice. We had our food and then went into slumber. The cramps from the hiking was damaging as i caught fever, but i couldn't afford to have some, i was in the middle of a awesome trip.
It was raining in the morning! My legs were heavier than before, still we decided to follow our plan. We had planned to trek up to pap of glencoe. It wasn't a long trek. we wanted to climb up and then climb down before evening. The trail begins in between Glencoe village and the independent hostel. It was raining, still we decided to go ahead with the trek. While climbing up we realized why its a popular place. The landscape was one of the best i have ever witnessed. Our backpacks drenched in water became heavy and the legs started giving up after a while. So we decided to stop. There was no hope that we could make it to the top. The trail was quite clear and the map said the we were follwowing the trail which will take us to the toughest trek in the highlands. After spendin some time up there we started decending. We few hours to be back to Fortwilliam. So we spent time near the rive. Black water in the middle of the village will remind you the picture one holds for scotland. When we waited for our bus near Loch leven, Glencoe is some place i want to visit again.
When we came back to Fortwilliam we decide to visit the town centre. It was worth a visit. The souvenir shops were expensive but you can buy things certainly, also from the beginning what i wanted to see: the bagpipers. The usual parade was quite a show of perfection and tradition.
We didn't plan to stay for long in inverness. This scottish city is very small in size however it such a place where you can spent hours together. when we reached inverness via stagecoach bus, it was quite late. Most of the journey through the banks of Lochness. I must admit all the childhood stories and discovery show "mysteries and miths" came in a flash and the darkness started shadowing the lake. Its really massive to search any creature. We reached the hostel quitelate. Thankfull the youth hostel was very near to the bus stop. It was a crowded place, we came back to crowed actually. The cooperative shop was open so we picked up food and drinks and planned our next days travel.
Urquhart castle has a history but its not the history but the ruins attracted us because we knew thats the best place from where we can njoy Loch ness. To our happiness, the weather was awesome! so we packed our stuff and took the citylink bus (19) to the castle. we had done bit of research on the castle, but there were lot of other information available on the castle reception. It was quite scenic as you can see in the photograph. We had spend quite a bit of time there and decided to go back to Inverness. The bus frequency wasn't that good there on sunday however we had ample time to spend. We had decided to to spend that in Inverness.
I can write a whole new blog about inverness, but wont do that now. Will leave it for later. We went around to buy something which is a mark of the scotland. There were several things we watched, and then travelled back to the bus stand to catch the evening megabus that took us to London. We bought something: 30 yrs old Scotch!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Dual beam FIB

Microscopy is a monopoly business of the biologists, but we materials scientists live under the impression that microscopy is our business; at last we found one of them which is not meant for biologists. Its a Focused Ion Beam (FIB) with dual beam,I am talking about. I am not going into details of what all these beams mean but briefly i will touch upon the issue. In the optical microscope we use light as a medium which illuminates the surface, so thats optical beam and we use glass lenses for magnification. Then we generate electrons and we use it for different electron microscopes so we use electron beam there, here magnetic lenses are used instead of glass lenses. Ion beam was introduced around 20 years back, where usually liquid metals (primarily gallium Ga) are ionized and can be used to form a beam. The magnetic lenses doesn't work for ion beam so electrostatic lenses are used. Advantages? no its not the correct word; it is the new characterization possibility that this microscope has generated. Ion beam has momentum 400 times larger than an electron beam, so it can knock out materials from very precise location of a sample whether its metal or ceramics. The question arrives why one need to remove materials from the surface? there various reasons, but the primary beneficiaries are the semi conductor techies for whom the interfaces are really important. There are very advanced applications such as study of electrical properties of single carbon nanotube or y junction nanotube. FIB has been extensively used in pattering different contacts which can be used for measuring electrical properties in the micron scale even in the nanometer scale. The dual beam FIB has another advantage, it has an electron beam as well and thats the reason the instrument is called dual beam FIB. It had opened a spectrum of other characterization which can be carried out. The maximum use is the preparation of specimen for transmission electron microscope (TEM). Those who has prepared specimens using traditional ion milling, know how difficult it is to prepare specimen for TEM, when you have ceramics god help you! also carrying out TEM of interfaces was a big challenge. In the dual beam FIB as one thins the specimen using ion beam it is possible to monitor the thinning process using the electron beam simultaneously. The tougher part is to take out the slice out from the specimen. There is a needle called micromanupulator which enters and attaches to the specimen. Its very tricky as things move at a step of hundreds of nanometer, but the FIB has a stage which is piezo controlled hence it is possible to do things carefully. Although it requires quite good level of skills, the outcome it amazing! The other two very important characterization which is possible using dual beam is to prepare 3D crystal orientation map through Electron Backscattered Diffraction, its a reconstruction of 2D slices as the ion beam can form slices as thin as 100 nm. Again similar analysis is possible using the chemical composition (EDX analysis)
All these techniques are wonderful when you start studying grain boundaries and interfaces, but when you have ceramics, which are highly insulating, life really becomes nightmare. The ion beam bombards ion at 30Kv energy, which is huge. Damage of the surface, loss of stability, there are significant no of issues which pops up. well there are ways to avoid them and i must admit at the days end what this tool one can produce amazing results!

Wiki has a nice article on FIB, much more informative than this.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Oil wont run out

Saw this nice video in TED talks, there is always hope...