Turn down that volume, Mr. Driver
By Tania Fernando
These days, when you board a bus, you are not only paying to get to your
destination, but also like it
or not, for some ear-splitting entertainment.
The sound of music blaring above the tooting of horns, and the conductor
shouting 'Pitakotuwa, Pitakotuwa' (Pettah, Pettah) or 'issarahata yanna'(go
in front), is typical of travel in our public transport.
Once upon a time, the hours you spent on the bus, often stuck in traffic
could be spent in quiet contemplation. It was a time to reflect on the
day ahead, a good time to make plans and gather one's thoughts.
But lately, that's been near impossible, unless you have some astounding
powers of concentration. For some strange reason, bus drivers and conductors
of today seem to feel an obligation to provide passengers with music so
loud, they feel like screaming too.
Music, most of us would agree, has the power to soothe and relax, but
music blasting through amplifiers at full volume, is something else. The
rule today, seems to be: the louder, the better.
Sitting as far away as possible from the location of the speakers doesn't
help either, so great is the volume. Even the couples who use public transport
to cuddle at the back are not able to enjoy themselves for they have to
shout sweet nothings to be heard above the blaring sounds.
Dinali, a regular traveller complains that she finds the music irritating
and annoying. 'Unfortunately, it's not possible to approach the driver
or conductor to tell them to reduce the volume. Most often the bus is so
crowded that there are people stomping on my feet and pushing me this way
and that," she said.
'I get a headache when the music is so loud,' said Ferial, another commuter.
After a hard day's work the last thing you want is music blaring into your
ears, she pointed out. 'I don't mind if the music is soft but it's so loud,
it just totally drowns your thoughts.'
'Don't they know it's noise pollution? 'I don't think it should be allowed,'
Imtiyaz, another commuter said that the bus driver is so engrossed in
listening to music that he sometimes does not hear others tooting the horn.
"You can't even have a conversation with the person sitting next to you,
without shouting at the top of your voice."
But the drivers themselves are little aware that they are causing offence.
Somapala, a driver whose bus plies from Moratuwa to Pettah said that since
it takes more than one hour to get to their destination, they try to keep
the passengers entertained. He however, could not accept that there could
be people who actually did not enjoy the music.
'I don't hear the music, since the outside noise is so loud; that's
why I try to play it as loud as possible,' he said.
His conductor Priyantha said that there are times that he has noticed
people looking at the amplifiers and at him, but he just ignores them.
'We are doing them a service, so if we want to listen to some music while
doing our job, I don't think it's wrong,' he said.
Piyal who used to be a bus driver added though that he could not understand
why the buses provide such loud music. 'I think it's just that everyone
else is having it, so they think they must too,' he said.
Meanwhile, an Officer attached to the City Traffic Police said that
loud music in vehicles is a punishable offence under the Motor Traffic
Act. 'Loud music cannot be played in vehicles. The music should be only
restricted to the people inside, he said, adding that those errant drivers
can be taken to courts, as this causes noise pollution. But they have no
cases pending against anyone playing loud music!
The problem lies not only with the driver, the conductor and the Police
but also with us, the passengers who don't see fit to protest. One brave
friend of mine did tell the conductor to reduce the volume and taken aback
though he was, he obliged. But many of us don't want to risk a torrent
of abuse and embarrassment. Maybe the only answer then, is to invest in
some ear plugs!
More finds for Lankan astronomer
Sri Lankan astronomer Ray Jayawardhana was co-leader of a team of astronomers
who recently discovered the first ever edge-on protoplanetary disk to be
found in a quadruple star system.
Twenty-nine-year-old Jayawardhana and his colleagues used the recently
commissioned Gemini North telescope in Hawaii to discover a protoplanetary
disk orbiting one of the stars in a new born quadruple star system.
The findings were reported a fortnight ago in Washington, DC, at the
199th meeting of the American Astronomical Society by a team led by Jayawardhana,
a Miller Research Fellow at the University of California, Berkley, and
Kevin Luhman of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astro-physics.
"What we are looking at is an example of a dusty disk that will probably
evolve into a young planetary system over the next several million years,"
explains Jayawardhana, the author of the book 'Star Factories'.
To date only about 10 edge-on disks similar to this object have been
discovered, and two among them are in binary star systems, while this new
object is the first discovered in a quadruple star system.
The new observations used a technique known as adaptive optics, which
partially corrects for the blurring effects of the Earth's atmosphere in
images of astronomical sources.
Jayawardhana is delighted in the knowledge that the sharp images, now
provide the opportunity to study the earliest stages of planet formation
in remarkable detail. "This is a remarkable demonstration that adaptive
optics can help the largest ground-based telescope reach their full potential,"
Adaptive optics works by flexing a thin mirror many times a second into
just the right shape to cancel out the effects of rolling air above the
telescope. When used on large telescopes, it allows astronomers to obtain
images that are as sharp and sensitive as those from space-based obsevatories
such as the Hubble Space Telescope.
The team included Paola D'Alessio (Institute de Astronomia, Universidad
Nacional Autonoma de Mexico) and John Stauffer (SIRTF Science Center, California
Institute of Technology).