Star Fire

Pooja Krishna H A, III Year B.A. English

Is there no star will lend me its fire?
For I’m cold, so terribly cold.
My teeth chatter, my skin pales
And as I lie there, shivering and shouting
For help, in vain,
I could do with the memories
And the warmth they contain.

 

Is there no star will lend me its fire?
For I’m hot, so stiflingly hot.
My eyes water, my skin reddens
And as I lie there, burning and sweating,
And as my vision fades, and my limbs tire,
I could do with the light
That accompanies their cold fire…

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The Mathematics Of Love

Zenia Zuraiq, I Year B.Sc Physics
Image source: http://www.en.wikipedia.org

NO! Wait, dear reader! I see you inching to click away as you read the M-word in the title! I understand your concern, but I assure you that there is very little math in this article. In fact it’s about something I came across recently that delighted both the math nerd and poetry enthusiast in me – a love poem written by a Mathematician using a fair bit of math, of course.

This wonderful amalgamation of things that seemingly don’t mix is a posthumously-published (1874) eight stanza, five line poem by Scottish mathematical physicist and engineer William Rankine (1820-1872).

Rankine’s poem The Mathematician in Love, characterizes love as, amongst other things, potential energy. It charmed more than a few mathematicians, some of whom describe the poem as “the earliest known equation of love” and a “marvelous mathematical formula”.

The poem reads as follows:

The Mathematician in Love

I
A mathematician fell madly in love
With a lady, young, handsome, and charming:
By angles and ratios harmonic he strove
Her curves and proportions all faultless to prove.
As he scrawled hieroglyphics alarming.

II
He measured with care, from the ends of a base,
The arcs which her features subtended:
Then he framed transcendental equations, to trace
The flowing outlines of her figure and face,
And thought the result very splendid

III
He studied (since music has charms for the fair)
The theory of fiddles and whistles, —
Then composed, by acoustic equations, an air,
Which, when ’twas performed, made the lady’s long hair
Stand on end, like a porcupine’s bristles.

IV
The lady loved dancing: — he therefore applied,
To the polka and waltz, an equation;
But when to rotate on his axis he tried,
His centre of gravity swayed to one side,
And he fell, by the earth’s gravitation.

V
No doubts of the fate of his suit made him pause,
For he proved, to his own satisfaction,
That the fair one returned his affection; — “because,
“As every one knows, by mechanical laws,
“Re-action is equal to action.”

VI
“Let x denote beauty, — y, manners well-bred, —
“z, Fortune, — (this last is essential), —
“Let L stand for love” — our philosopher said, —
“Then L is a function of x, y, and z,
“Of the kind which is known as potential.”

VII
“Now integrate L with respect to d t,
“(t Standing for time and persuasion);
“Then, between proper limits, ’tis easy to see,
“The definite integral Marriage must be: —
“(A very concise demonstration).”

VIII
Said he — “If the wandering course of the moon
“By Algebra can be predicted,
“The female affections must yield to it soon” —
But the lady ran off with a dashing dragoon,
And left him amazed and afflicted.

Pretty great, eh?

What I absolutely adore about this poem has nothing to do with the references to ratios and harmonics, or even the actual integration of love that Rankine carefully spells out in Stanzas VI and VII. It’s the somewhat poignant end. The titular mathematician believes that mathematics, which has been so successful in such improbable tasks like calculating the trajectory of the moon, will definitely be useful in helping him get the girl he loves. But of course, Love trumps Mathematics and his heart, as she runs off with another.

That’s how improbable and mystical Love is. I mean, sure, we can all describe Love chemically or biologically, we can talk about all the mathematical patterns it seems to follow, but in the end, the girl just runs away. And, that’s kind of beautiful in its own way. Love’s unpredictability, its absolute uncertainty is what makes it so charming.

Maybe I’m romanticizing things. Maybe someday we will formulate an equation of love. Maybe someday we might quantise love – give it its own factors and states. Maybe someday, we’ll have a theory of love.

Maybe it’ll even remain an electron cloud, full of probabilities and improbabilities, with all these fluctuations and states that we’ll never fully be able to predict, never fully be able to see.

So, I guess the real question is – does it matter? Does it matter how we see love as a scientific community, as a society? Or is the only view of love that matters your own? Because we all already have theories and predictions, equations and experiments about love in our minds. Maybe that’s all we need, each of us with our own personal equation.

At this point, of course, I’d like to note that Rankine is not science’s only contribution to the art of the love poem – I have since had the fortune to come across various other works of “scientific love poetry”. This includes a delightful work by the father of electromagnetism, James Clerk Maxwell, containing this amazing stanza, comparing love to various electrochemical cells.

Constant as Daniell, strong as Grove.
Ebullient throughout its depths like Smee,
My heart puts forth its tide of love,
And all its circuits close in thee…

So, the next time you feel that spark of “chemistry” with someone, just remember that there’s a little mathematics waiting to get into the mix.

Tricking Or Treating: The Indian Scenario

Samyuktha Shiva, I Year B.A. English
Sera Grace John, I Year B.A. English
Illustration by Riya Nagendra, I Year B.A. English

Halloween: the festival that celebrates mystery, magic and, well, anything and everything that is eerie and spooky. The very term reminds us of kids with tipsy panama and black cloaks. It usually brings a cunning smile on the masked and painted faces of excited kids, and a sigh of impending anxiety on those of parents awaiting a battalion of Barbies and Beasts. Fun to the little, hell to the old!

It is said that every October 31st night, the spirits from above (or below) visit Earth and strike up conversations with the living (not a very enjoyable conversation, I bet). While that notion sounds far-fetched, that is the thought that started the festival: All Hallows’ Evening a.k.a Halloween!

Anyone who hasn’t been hiding under a rock the past century knows all about Halloween. There is, almost always, one episode per season focused entirely on Halloween in every other American sitcom, and countless possessed dolls, Harley Quinn and IT costumes that make Halloween hard to miss.

Aside from throwing huge parties so that everyone can play ‘dress-up’, Halloween also means Trick-or-treating. For those of you who are alien to this concept, it basically means sending your children to travel house-to-house, and yell out “Trick or treat” while asking for candy.

Now, try to picture this in India. Emulating a foreign custom like Halloween is likely to be a Herculean task in this generation of protective parents. For a country whose parents spend all their time warning their children not to talk to strangers, the whole “house-to-house” thing seems pretty far-fetched. Let’s not even bother getting to the candy-taking part.

Apart from protective parents, there is also the crooked mass of paedophiles and psychopaths who are an Achilles’ heel to the excitement of innocent devils and cherubic witches. While it is ‘Trick or Treat’ that kids shout out, ‘I’ll treat you with a trick’ is what bellows in their mind’s workshop.

Aside from all this, Halloween does sound fun. Wouldn’t a younger you have jumped at the thought of running around with your friends, all dressed up, to get free candy – or what we call “2 rupaiya eclairs”?

Maybe one day, India would be safe enough, and parents will loosen up and actually let their children learn the term “independence”.

Until then, I think all “Halloween in India” is going to be about, is finding another reason to get together and throw a party. This, again, is not that bad, considering it means more celebrations, more fun, and the best part – more food!

All The World’s A Stage: Until It Is Burnt Down With Nuclear Weapons!

Pradeksha Sethupathi, III Year B.A. Economics

It is truly refreshing in this era of clickbait news, to read some non-biased factual reporting- Hey! It isn’t the media’s fault that the United States of America and North Korea like to throw some explosive punch lines (pun intended) at each other. It has almost become like a daily soap opera with the false edge-of-the-seat moments and unnecessary background music, not to mention questionable hairstyles of the lead stars in it.  The thing about this particular soap opera is that both the protagonist and the antagonist are competing for the Stupid of the Year award.

This hostile relationship blossomed on June 25, 1950 when North Korea, which was supported by China and USSR, invaded South Korea which was supported by the US. One of the first proxy wars fought between US and USSR during their cold war days, the Korean War lasted for three years and ended with the creation of a strip of land acting as a buffer between North Korea and South Korea. Yet, the allies formed during the war continue to maintain diplomatic ties, as evident by the standing US army in South Korea, even as there are drastic shifts in power in the international arena.

North Korea, again, rose to media prominence in 1994 with its objection to letting international inspectors check its adherence to the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) which it had signed in 1985. This led to a series of allegations by the US on its nuclear capabilities. The long standing fear of America is that North Korea can reach the West Coast of US through long range nuclear missiles. In 2003, North Korea formally withdrew from NPT thus making it free to test nuclear missiles as it pleased and collaborate with other nations in this regard.

There was a glimmer of hope in 2007 when North Korea agreed to shut down its biggest nuclear plant and US agreed to remove North Korea from the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism. Yet, it was all dashed in 2012, a year after the new leader Kim Jong-un came into power, when they decided to launch a satellite to celebrate their late leader’s 100th birthday. This once again set in motion the apprehension as satellite launches are technologically similar to missile launches. Since 2013, North Korea has been openly issuing threats to US. Needless to say, after Trump came into power, there has been some serious retaliation in the form of words.

Now, it is reasonably fair to assume that words are merely being spilled by these considerably new heads of State in lieu of the idiom ‘a new broom sweeps clean’. A little more thinking on the lines of a conspiratorial theorist can lead us to conclude that this is a distraction to turn people’s attention from – well, you guessed it right – other hidden agendas. Nevertheless, it must be noted that there is still the issue of legitimacy of North Korea’s claim of its nuclear capabilities. With it making open threats against Japan and Australia, the international world is turning to China, who is North Korea’s economic lifeline, to show its full force on North Korea. Whether China, who has its own complicated relationship with US, can play the Good Samaritan depends on whether this act conforms to their hidden agendas of taking over the world.

Ladies and Gentlemen, this is a prime time television show. Go, grab some popcorn: the games are just beginning.

Fandom, Canon And The Stories In Between

Divya Iyer, I Year B.SW
Radha Rani, I Year B.Com

Come closer and tell me, what do you see? What worlds exist in these pages? What mysteries are waiting to be explored on this screen? And what secrets do you carry in your heart?

When we look at fiction and fantasy worlds, there’s often only so much that can be clearly defined. The beauty of books and writing, in general, is that no matter how much is written down, the manner in which a person visualises each character will inevitably be different.

At the same time, without clear definitions, minority groups often never truly get the space they need to exist. We’ve been conditioned to see certain things as default – to think that characters are white if their race isn’t mentioned, to think that a character is heterosexual and cisgendered unless otherwise expressed, to think that a character will be a certain way without any indication of the author one way or another.

Saying outright that a character belongs to a minority group is important because that’s what Canon is. (To our readers: Canon is anything that is specifically mentioned by the author or shown on screen in movies) Once it’s stated explicitly, it becomes something that is a fact, in that universe. Books and other forms of fantasy/fiction reach a diverse crowd of people, and it’s important that everyone who reads or watches the product is able to identify, empathize and see themselves within it.

We want you to ask yourselves, when was the last time you saw someone like you on screen or in a book? In most western media, representation is sadly lacking and that’s a tragedy. An utter travesty. Representation gives people a place to belong and, when done properly, empowers people. Representation is looking into a book/screen and being able to see people like yourself. It is finding that there are people like you living, working, existing, in that world you love.

When there isn’t enough representation in the canon universe, fans turn to other places to find it. They usually come together and form what is known as a ‘Fandom’. Fandom is a varied diverse group of people who might have originally come together to create art and expand stories and worlds that already exist, but over time it’s evolved into so much more.

Fandom has, instead, become a space for expression.

Expressing yourself through the characters you love, and through the situations and people around them helps you connect better with that fictional universe, and the people in it. In a way, it helps you analyze and understand the core aspects of Canon better, while simultaneously enabling you to ask “What if it were like this instead?” and create alternate realities within that universe.

Fandom gives people a space to interact and understand each other within the context of another world. People from different cultures and backgrounds are able to understand each other and bond over their love over a common theme. It provides a tool for representation that is often more efficient, as a diverse group of individuals leads to a coming together of multiple perspectives. Often, people contribute to fandom by drawing inspiration from their own lives and struggles, therefore providing people with a relatable context within which they can understand these struggles.

Seeing fan-art that portrays characters in different ways is liberating, as well. Often, characters’ physical appearances are not defined in detail, so fan art gives artists a space to draw and portray these people however they visualize them. The same character can be drawn in several ways, and can still make sense in canon – for instance, the debate over a black Hermione in the Harry Potter universe. Some fans can visualize it, and some fans choose not to. Both representations of Hermione are still valid in their own right, and are still Hermione.

There are different stories that are created, about characters who struggle with anxiety, and cut themselves as a coping mechanism, and there are also people around him learning how to help him through these anxiety attacks. (For those of you who wish to read the fic, it’s on ao3: non te ne andare by adreamingsongbird) Another one, where Ginny Weasley gets sorted into Slytherin and has to deal with the prejudice against her house, (Changeling by Annerb) also brings light to several issues. The point to be made here is that fandom covers up a lot of holes in canon or rather, exploits canon for all its worth. While tons of fanfic is homage to canon, there are so many more that have this punk-rock anger towards it. Fanfic/art is fans coming together and saying, “That’s not good enough for us. So guess what, we’re going to make it better.”

Fandom is the space where we take matters of representation into our own hands. We say that we want to see a reality in which these characters are more like us, and we shape that reality – give form to it.

Ultimately, everyone needs representation, and what better way to get it than to chase after it on your own? After all, what better fate, what better destiny, than one you make for yourself?

Note From The Editors

October is synonymous with festivity, cheer and, of course, examinations. In times like these, when one either wants to create alternate realities, live in day dreams or even try imagining a scenario where one can simply do whatever they want, and make it happen, Fantasy is the one escape for that wandering and questioning mind making the seemingly impossible, absolutely possible.

With this theme for the month’s issue, Stellaeidoscope brings to you the many ways in which reality and fantasy can blur, as the beauty of imagination takes over. With articles that are centered on real-world issues such as the North Korea-America conflict, and the recent theatre strike in Chennai to articles on Virtual Reality, Halloween and even Harry Potter, there is no dearth to the variety for this issue, that also includes the Humans of Stella feature, poems and stories.

Pablo Picasso said, “Everything you can imagine is real”, and as we break these boundaries, we hope this issue offers you everything that will make you wonder and stir your imagination. After all, aren’t dreams a part of reality?

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