Thursday, January 10, 2008

A Fiasco, an Aftermath and Inconvenient Truths

It all happened not so long ago.

As a Final Year Chemical Engineering student, I had to clear this mandatory two credit seminar course that was taken by the evil lord which in his earthly form went by the name of Professor Sriniketan (that more evil lords existed and Srini was, but the cliched hard hearted angel compared to the others was discovered much later).

That I lived in H Wing didn't help my cause much. That I was assigned the topic "Dairy Pollution and Methods to Combat it" (or something on those lines) didn't help my cause much either.

Not one draft of the seminar floated on the LAN. Why??? Because none of the seniors were assigned such an arbit topic for their seminar. That implied I would have to prepare the seminar ON MY OWN!

Which sent shivers down my spine. So like the good, hard working student I am, I began work on the preparation full 12 hours before the presentation. By sheer hard work, ingenious Googling abilities and concern for my immaculate record as an outstanding student of the Department, I had the material ready full two hours earlier than the presentation was due.

My power point was supposed to finish in exactly ten minutes - five minutes less than the stipulated time. And one of the major causes of dairy pollution I had discovered was Cattle Farts. Yeah, you heard it right. My ingenious combination of search keywords took me to such a website where the research done by UC Davis scientists on the aforementioned topic was detailed. Being a duty conscious, well meaning engineering student, I decided to report on this major discovery and so it was, but natural that one of my slides mentioned this important result.

I heard suppressed snickers from the back benchers. I saw the Prof eye me in a nasty, amused sort of way. He interrupted me.

Prof (with considerable menace in his voice) : "How do you propose to contain such a form of pollution?"

By this time, I was shitting bricks. And so, I came up with the following engineering solution:

Me : "We could preprocess the food that the cattle are fed. We could also employ some liquefaction towers that could absorb such gases and produce harmless by products." (This is a standard chemical engineering answer. No matter what sort of a question, profs always fall for this answer or a suitable variant.)

The snickering had spread to a full throated laughter by now. I smiled nervously at my friends trying to gauge how deep a shit I was in. Meanwhile, Srini's eyebrows furrowed and in that god-awful threating voice he roared.

"Do you think this is a joke?"

Oh my fucking god...the hell that broke loose then!

The fame of the presentation grew wildly. So much so that an account of it was included in the next NewsWagon issue (despite the fact that I was the Con and in principle at least, I could've stopped Biswas from writing about it). Juniors who hadn't seen me in ages began coming by to say 'hello' and 'see how I was doing'. Boy, did that suck!

Now why did I bring this issue up at all? The reason is the following:

Concerning your dairy pollution fiasco, let me first tell you that I had been to the college at the end of September, concerning my transcripts. It was then that I met one of our juniors at the department – I forget who – who told me that Dr. Srinikethan had warned them against making a mess of their presentations, with cow-dung and straw, such as one of their seniors, though I think he did not name you, had. Further, copies of it continue to circulate on the LAN, not for reference, but for some comedy.

This is taken from a recent Shandy email. And it kind of pissed me off. The reason is the following:

Every year, cows and other four-legged livestock emit 80 million tons of methane into the atmosphere. As a greenhouse gas, methane is 20 times more potent than CO2 -- serving your family a steak dinner is like taking a 40-mile drive in a Hummer.

British scientists have a solution: garlic. In a study published in July, they used it to kill methane-producing stomach bacteria and have designed high-sugar feedstock to improve digestive efficiency. But consumers might not like garlic-flavored beef, and controlled feeding isn't always possible, so Australian researchers are putting stomach bacteria from kangaroos -- a zero-methane animal -- into cattle.


So I was right after all!. Even the solution I postulated was partially correct - fiddle with the feed of the damned cattle! And to have been the butt of infinite jokes on account of standing up for TRUTH!

Kalyug, ghor Kalyug

The only solace I can find from this otherwise forgettable episode is that juniors assigned the same topic in the future, can find ready drafts for the same on the LAN.


SatyaVrat said...

Alas! Agony of a truth seeker.
But my dear friend, how can you forget that your groundbreaking discovery was 'cow-belching' & not 'cow-fart'. After all, I was you chief adviser then.

SatyaVrat said...

I seemed to have missed the part of your research which established belching (at least in cows) to be the involuntary reflex muscular reaction caused by the resultant pressure of a four walled gastric membrane.

SatyaVrat said...

...& hence, in principle, constitutionally akin to a fart.

Nanga Fakir said... are right!

But I couldn't put cow fart on the slide. So I put the relatively inoffensive belching in the spotlight.

I'm not enjoying the limelight I am getting back at S'kal though!

Safari Al said...

The silver lining being...?

Nanga Fakir said...