Last week Bill Gates offered his annual list of the top 5 books to read, “5 good books for a lousy year.” I think most of us can agree that 2020 has not been the greatest year of our lives. A year that has been a defining one for many – and largely because of the coronavirus pandemic. As I write this, the virus continues to disrupt lives everywhere but it is encouraging to note that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. In the spirit of looking at what’s positive and what we can use in the year ahead to retake our lives so consumed by this pandemic, let’s take a look at what we’ve found out this year. Not having as profound a view on life and the world as Mr. Gates, I’ll stick to something closer to home.
October 12th, 2019 was a red letter day for every athletics fan. That day, for the first time in history a human completed the marathon in under two hours! Eliud Kipchoge the current world record holder did the unbelievable and shaved off a good 2 minutes from his best time. It wasn’t just a triumph of human doughtiness and perseverance. The run was also emblematic of technology and analytics aiding humans in pushing the envelope. Specially made shoes and pacing lasers ensured energy efficiency. The chosen route and formation of pacemakers minimized wind resistance. The location was picked because of its closeness to Kipchoge’s time zone… a number of sagacious data driven decisions contributed to the feat.
It was the penultimate day of my trip to our San Jose office. In the evening Vikas, Dinesh & I went for a short hike at the Alviso Marina County Park. It was a beautiful trail and the hike was uneventful except for Vikas’ narration of his past exploits with a mountain lion. After the hike Dinesh said that we should grab a quick drink and I suggested a nearby Mexican joint. “The place serves amazing guacamole. You should have that with tortilla,” I tried to tempt Vikas’ mostly vegetarian palate.
L: Dick Fosbury doing the “Fosbury Flop” to win the high jump gold medal at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics (Source: International Olympic Committee)
R: Illustration showing path of center of gravity in the Fosbury Flop (Source: Wikimedia Commons, Author: AlanSiegrist)
It was a winter morning over two decades ago. My class mates and I had braved the cold to turn up at the IIT Kanpur airfield to carry out experiments required to complete our course. The excitement was palpable because most of us were going to fly for the first time.
Recently archeologists found evidence suggesting that our seafaring history goes back at least 130,000 years. How our ancestors of that period navigated the vast oceans is not yet known. Till GPS, accurate clocks and reliable weather forecasts became common place, exploration was difficult and risky.