Sunday, July 26, 2020

A Timeline of Political Instability in the Indian state of Rajasthan

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Vanshita Banuana

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A Timeline of Political Instability in the Indian state of Rajasthan

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Global Views 360

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July 26, 2020

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Sachin Pilot and Ashok Gehlot after Victory in Rajasthan Elections

Sachin Pilot and Ashok Gehlot after Victory in  Rajasthan Elections | Source: Dushyant Singh via Flickr

A recent political crisis in the Indian state of Rajasthan has brought with it a storm of internal instability. Perhaps the biggest question on the mind of most political analysts and politicians, amidst this, is the anticipation—or hope— that Sachin Pilot, ex-Deputy Chief Minister of Chief Minister in Rajasthan, will announce his departure from the Indian National Congress (INC) and join the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The central BJP government has garnered quite a reputation for toppling state governments in regions where the oppositional party Congress forms the majority.

But focusing on the BJP might be taking everyone’s eyes away from the big picture: a story that is, for now, about more than possible BJP interference. Consider what the crisis tells the citizens of India about Congress’ national and state level handling of ‘political drama,’ as the series of events continue to unfold.

July 10, 2020: Pilot is summoned by the Special Operations Group (SOG) of the Rajasthan Police in regards to an FIR registered against him on an alleged attempt to dislodge the Gehlot government in recent Rajya Sabha polls through horse-trading; however, the root of discord may have been sown long before that.

July 11, 2020: The Chief Minister (CM), Ashok Gehlot claims the BJP is trying to overturn his government by bribing MLAs.

July 12, 2020: The Dy Chief Minister, Sachin Pilot claims 30 MLAs have ‘pledged support’ to him, making the present government a minority. Ashok Gehlot responds by claiming it has 109 MLAs; Pilot seen with BJP leader Jyotiraditya Scindia in Delhi as he and his supporters move in and around Delhi and Gurgaon.

July 13, 2020: INC issues whip for Congress Legislature Party (CLP) meeting at CM’s residence where it passes a resolution to support Gehlot and take disciplinary action against MLAs and office-bearers who ‘weakens party’; Congress also says that ‘doors will remain open’ for Pilot and his aides; Pilot does not attend the meeting, and those who do are transported to Fairmont Hotel in Jaipur to avoid any ‘potential crossover.’

July 14, 2020: INC calls for a second CLP meet, which is once again not attended by Pilot; Pilot is removed from his positions as the Deputy Chief Minister and President of State Congress Committee of Rajasthan, along with 18 other MLAs who supported him; a plea is filed in Rajasthan High Court against the disqualification notices; 2 MLAs from Bhartiya Tribal Party (BTP) withdraw support from Congress, but hand over letters of support to Ghelot four days later on July 18; the BJP demands a floor test, but later denies this claim.

July 15, 2020: Pilot confirms he is not planning to join the BJP.

July 16: News of leaked audio tapes start surfacing, reportedly proving a conspiracy to topple the Gehlot government; FIRs are lodged.

July 17, 2020: Harish Salve, representative of ‘Pilot camp’ in Rajasthan HC, argues that the rebel MLAs have not resigned, yet they were issued disqualification notices under Paragraph 2(1)(a) of the Tenth Schedule, which is only applicable in case of resignation; 2 rebel MLAs are suspended by Congress over their alleged involvement in leaked audio tapes; an arrest is made by SOG in regards to horse-trading probe and leaked audio tapes.

July 18, 2020: BJP levels allegations of phone tapping and demands Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe in relation to leaked audio tapes; two days later the Rajasthan Government notifies via circular that it has revoked general consent to CBI that is needed for investigations, and consent will now be sought on a case by case basis.

July 19, 2020: SOG reaches Manesar to question one of the rebel MLAs claimed to be named in leaked audio tapes; Gehlot forms probe to investigate audio tapes.

July 20, 2020: Giriraj Singh Malinga, a Rajasthan MLA from INC, claims that he was offered Rs. 35 crore by Pilot to join the BJP, Pilot responds by saying he is ‘sad but not surprised’ at what he considers to be fabrications intended to damage his reputation; Ghelot remains convinced that Pilot is ‘hand in glove’ with the BJP; meanwhile in Rajasthan High Court, the judges observe that a whip cannot be issued with respect to a party meeting, but only for an Assembly session.

July 21, 2020: Hearing of petition ends, Rajasthan High Court says it will announce the verdict on July 24 and the Speaker cannot act on the disqualification notices until then; Third Congress Legislature Party begins at Fairmont Hotel.

July 22, 2020: Rajasthan Speaker CP Joshi moves Supreme Court in order to challenge the stay order of the High Court.

July 23, 2020: SC allows Rajasthan HC to continue passing orders as scheduled; says it will begin hearing the Speaker’s plea from July 27.

July 24, 2020: Rajasthan HC orders that a “status quo” be maintained and defers its judgement until SC makes a decision; Speaker will not be allowed to act on disqualification notice until both courts pronounce their verdicts; Rajasthan HC allows the Union of India to be made a party in the case; ‘Gehlot’s camp’ organise a dharna at Raj Bhawan demanding an Assembly session, and Gehlot meets Governor Kalraj Mishra regarding the same.

As the situation gets more complex and drawn-out, the question of the BJP government’s involvement is still up in the air. The crisis currently presents itself as a mishandling on Congress' part at the state and national level, perhaps stemming from younger leaders not seeing eye-to-eye with the veterans.

The insatiable hunger for power by any means displayed by the BJP- despite its claims of non-involvement- in seeing the current government toppled cannot and should not be overlooked. Speculations run abound, and at the end of the day it might just be up to the citizens to peer through the fog and infer for themselves the roles and intentions of the embroiled parties.

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April 13, 2021 2:10 PM

Detecting The Ultra-High Energy Cosmic Rays With Smartphones

Smartphones have become the most commonplace objects in our daily lives. The unimaginable power that we hold in our hands is unrealized by most of us and, more importantly, untapped. Its creativity often gets misused but one can only hope that it’s fascinating abilities would be utilized. For example, did you know that the millions of phones around the globe can be connected to form a particle detector? The following article covers the CRAYFIS (Cosmic RAYs Found in Smartphones) phone-based application developed by the physicists from the University of California—Daniel Whiteson, Michael Mulhearn, and their team. CRAYFIS aims to take advantage of the large network of smartphones around the world and detect the cosmic or gamma rays bursts which enter the Earth’s atmosphere almost constantly.

What Are Cosmic Rays?

Cosmic rays are high velocity subatomic particles bombarding the Earth’s upper atmosphere continuously. Cosmic ray bursts have the highest energy compared to all forms of electro-magnetic radiation. When we say ultra-high energy particles (energy more than 1018^eV), we mean two million times more energetic than the ones that can be produced by the particle colliders on Earth.  These rays are thought to be more powerful than typical supernovae and can release trillions of times more energy than the Sun. They are also highly unpredictable as they can enter Earth’s atmosphere from any direction and the bursts can last for any period of time ranging from a few thousand seconds to several minutes.

Despite many theoretical hypotheses, the sources of these ultra-high energy cosmic rays are still a mystery to us even after many decades of their discovery. These rays were initially discovered in the 1960’s by the U.S. military when they were doing background checks for gamma rays after nuclear weapon testing. Cosmologists suggest that these bursts could be the result of super massive stars collapsing - leading to hypernova; or can be retraced to collisions of black holes with other black holes or neutron stars.

How Do We Detect Them?

When the high-energy particles collide with the Earth’s atmosphere, the air and the gas molecules cause them to break apart and create massive showers of relatively low-energy particles. Aurora borealis i.e., the Northern and the Southern lights are the lights that are emitted when these cosmic rays interact with the Earth’s magnetic field. Currently, these particles are hitting the Earth at a rate of about one per square meter per second. The showers get scattered to a radius of one or two kilometers consisting mostly of high-energy photons, electrons, positrons and muons. But the fact that these particles can hit the Earth anytime and anywhere is where the problem arises. Since the Earth has a massive area, it is not possible to place a detector everywhere and catch them at the exact moment.

Energetic charged particles known as cosmic rays hit our atmosphere, where they collide with air molecules to produce a shower of secondary particle | Source: CERN

Detecting such a shower requires a very big telescope, which logically means a network of individual particle detectors distributed over a mile or two-wide radius and connected to each other. The Pierre Auger Observatory in South America is the only such arrangement where 1,600 particle detectors have been scattered on 3,000 square kilometers of land. But the construction cost of the same was about $100 million. Yet, only a few cosmic ray particles could be detected using this arrangement. How do we spread this network around the Earth?

In addition to being cost-effective, such a setup must also be feasible. The Earth’s surface cannot possibly be dotted with particle detectors which cost huge fortunes. This is where smartphones come into the picture.

Detecting The Particles Using Smartphones

Smartphones are the most appropriate devices required to solve the problem. They have planet wide coverage, are affordable by most people and are being actively used by more than 1.5 billion users around the planet. Individually, these devices are low and inefficient; but a considerably dense network of such devices can give us a chance to detect cosmic ray showers belonging to the highest energy range.

Previous research has shown that smartphones have the capability of detecting ionizing radiation. The camera is the most sensitive part of the smartphone and is just the device required to meet our expectations. A CMOS (Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor) device is present in the camera- in which silicon photodiode pixels produce electron-hole pairs when struck by visible photons (when photons are detected by the CMOS device, it leaves traces of weakly activated pixels). The incoming rays are also laced with other noises and interference from the surroundings.  Although these devices are made to detect visible light, they still have the capability of detecting higher-energy photons and also low-ionizing particles such as the muons.

A screenshot from the app which shows the exposure time, the events- the number of particles recorded and other properties

To avoid normal light, the CRAYFIS application is to be run during nighttime with the camera facing down. As the phone processor runs the application it collects data from its surroundings using a camera as its detector element. The megapixel images (i.e., the incoming particles) are scanned at a speed of 5 to 15 frames per second, depending on the frame-processing speed of the device. Scientists expect that signals from the cosmic rays would occur rarely, i.e., around one in 500 frames. Also, there is the job of removing background data. An algorithm was created to tune the incoming particle shower by setting a threshold frequency at around 0.1 frames per second. Frames containing pixels above the threshold are stored and passed to the second stage which examines the stored frames, saving only the pixels above a second, lower threshold.

The CRAYFIS app is designed to run when the phone is not being used and when it is connected to a power source. The actual performance would be widely affected by the geometry of the smartphone’s camera and the conditions in which the data is being collected. Further, once the application is installed and is in the operating mode, no participation is required from the user, which is required to achieve wide-scale participation. When a Wifi connection is available the collected data would be uploaded to the central server so that it could be interpreted.

There is much complicated math used to trace back the information collected from the application. The most important parameters for the app are the local density of incoming particles, the detection area of the phone and the particle identification efficiency. These parameters are used to find the mean number of candidates (photons or muons) being detected. Further, the probability that a phone will detect no candidates or the probability that a phone will detect one or more candidates is given by Poisson distribution. The density of the shower is directly proportional to the incident particle energy with a distribution in x and y sensitive to the direction in which the particle came from. An Unbinned Likelihood (it is the probability of obtaining a certain data- in this case the distribution of the cosmic rays including their energy and direction, the obtained data is arranged into bins which are very, very small) analysis is used to determine the incident particle energy and direction. To eliminate background interference, a benchmark requirement has been set that at least 5 phones must detect and register a hit to be considered as a candidate.

It is impossible to express just how mind-blowing this innovation is. As the days pass, Science and Technology around us keep on surprising us and challenge us to rack our brains for more and more unique ways to deal with complex problems. The CRAYFIS app is simply beautiful and it would be a dream-come-true to the scientists if the project works out and we are able to detect these high energy, super intimidating cosmic rays with smartphones from our backyard.

Further Reading

The paper by Daniel Whiteson and team can be found here.

An exciting book “We Have No Idea” by Daniel Whiteson and cartoonist Jorge Cham can be found here.

The CRAYFIS app can be found here.

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