Author Archive

Scientists and citizens collaborate on Cahooots GIS Map of Gulf Coast oil spill

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

Author: Dr. Neeraj Mainkar, Physicist/Manager, Software Development, IEM

Information sharing and collaboration among the general population for disaster management and response is a very powerful thing. Take the current BP Gulf Coast Oil Spill disaster for example. Since the start of this catastrophic event, Cahooots is being used by thousands of individuals, agencies, and response groups to post, share, and gain information about this ongoing environmental tragedy. Witnesses on the ground have reported and shared oil sightings in the water, fouled wildlife sightings on the Gulf shore, and conditions at popular beach resorts along the Gulf coast.

BP Gulf Oil Spill MapThis information on the Gulf oil spill response, oiled wildlife and the 21st century’s greatest environmental disaster is being collected in a powerful collaborative GIS mapping tool. The information on the Cahooots Gulf Oil Spill map is instantaneous, real-time and entirely decentralized. To help collaborate with us on Gulf oil spill data, register for a free account at To view the collaborative Oil Spill map, visit

Are You In Cahooots?

Monday, June 21st, 2010

Author: Dr. Neeraj Mainkar, Physicist/Manager, Software Development, IEM

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years, you probably have at least heard of social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace. Many of you probably already have a Facebook account and, like me, update your status a few times a day. The extreme popularity of social networking sites is based on a very fundamental human need—a need to reach out to people, make a connection with friends and family, share special interests that include music, pictures, an interesting article you’ve read or simply tell other interested parties about what’s going on in your life. In other words, we have a basic need to share information.

While social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace cater to the non-serious, casual side of information sharing, the technology that has enabled sites like these to proliferate (namely Web 2.0) can and, in fact, is being used for serious information sharing as well. For example, it’s being used for information sharing during or after major disasters.

In today’s world, where speed is measured by how soon you can update your Facebook status, traditional news media such as TV, radio, and newspapers fall woefully short of quick information sharing. In traditional news media, there are simply too many nodes that a particular piece of news has to go through before it can be broadcast. This results in the frustrating outcome that by the time the news reaches the general public, reality has already changed. In addition, the distribution of news is always centralized to the particular news organization in question—be it a TV or radio channel, or the newspaper agency. They give and we receive.

The advent of Web 2.0 technologies has threatened this old relic of one-way flow of information by making the sharing and dissemination of important information completely “democratic” and quick. (more…)

Padma Shri Awarded to Dr. Arvind Kumar

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

Author: Dr. Neeraj Mainkar, Computational Physicist, IEM

IEM computational physicist Dr. Neeraj Mainkar penned the following letter to his father, Dr. Arvind Kumar, who was recently awarded a Padma Shri, one of India’s highest awards.  Dr. Kumar was honored for his many years of work in science education for the underprivileged population in rural India.

A letter from a proud son

Dear Dada:

I have no words to describe to you how happy I am today. In the normal course of life, parents often get several opportunities to express pride for their children but today I feel like I have been blessed with a rare opportunity that only a few lucky people get – for a son to openly express heartfelt and genuine pride for his father.

I know you have never been one to indulge in sentimentality but I would ask you today to please let me take this chance to express to you my emotions about this amazingly great news about your PadmaShri Award.

Physics Professor Arvind Kumar, 2010 recipient of Padma Shri

Father and son with family in 1980. From far left: Physics Professor Arvind Kumar, 2010 recipient of Padma Shri; IEMer Neeraj Mainkar; Neeraj’s grandmother, Neeraj’s sister, and Neeraj’s mother

Dada, all my life growing up, you have always been the best teacher I have ever had. I always tell people even today that I learned nothing from my school or college teachers as much as I learned physics from you and you alone. I remember the days even up to my M.Sc. in physics when you would painstakingly sit with me for hours on end on weekends and weeknights working through all the difficult and intricate concepts of quantum mechanics and electrodynamics and ALL other topics in physics. Even after I came to the US, I unabashedly relied on your guidance in so many physics problems. Of course, in doing so, you set a standard in regard to the pursuit of physics that was almost impossibly high for me to even imagine reaching. I was in awe of you, I admired you and your uncompromisingly honest approach to truly and fundamentally understanding the essence of physics. What is more, I know it’s not just me that would feel this way about you just because I am your son but those countless students that you inspired, guided and worked so diligently for. I still occasionally run into so many of your students who mention to me how instrumental you were in developing their love for physics. For me you were the all-knowing physicist that happened to be my father. Even today when I think of you, I am reminded of the lines from Oliver Goldsmith’s poem “The Village SchoolMaster” that we learnt in school:

“…And still they gaz’d and still the wonder grew, That one small head could carry all he knew!..”

That is how I feel even today.

But I want you to know how even more proud I am of the values you have lived by all your life as well. In today’s world where money, material possessions, bank accounts, and exclusive club memberships have become the currency by which everyone judges a person’s worth, you are to me one of the few remaining individuals in this world that have lived their lives never pursuing such things, always living modestly and purely on the wealth of knowledge and your dedication to others. Your work on the underprivileged and disadvantaged children of rural India, your efforts and success at revamping the Science and Math Olympiad and bringing India glory through her performance at these competitions will always be things for which myself and thousands of people will be grateful to you for. And for this, I am so incredibly proud to be your son.

Dada, to me this Padmashri Award is nothing but a national recognition of something I have already known and experienced all my life. It is just so wonderful to see that our country finally took notice as well.

With lots of love and affection.