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Unintended experiments ( and non-existent results ) in quasi-isolation January 5, 2007

Posted by Sharath Rao in contemplation, weird.

The last week has been one weird time, well, few weird times.

Starting last Thursday, Dec 28th until today Jan 5th, I went out of my house only twice. Once for a period of 1 hour to the shopping mall to buy some medication on Dec 31st night ( I cut my finger along with the cabbage ) and the second time to return library books that were accruing fines. I stay alone in a 1 BR apartment, so that means rare personal contact with human beings. The 7 days I spent mostly eating cereal ( cornflakes ), occasional curry and dal ( dalitoy, if you know what I mean ), drinking lemon juice/coffee/tea. My kitchen/drawing room ( kitchen is built into the drawing room ) is strewn with empty cereal packets. There was no rice at home and I didnt care to buy any. The way its going, if I buy any more rice, I will have to buy trousers as well.

I got up around 1 pm, did random things like reading stuff online/mail etc. until about 4 pm, then went to bed after working until 6 am the next morning. I am reasonably happy with the amount of effort put in, though not quite happy with the results. Ofcourse, working includes keeping tab on email/orkut scraps/Ashes and India-SA cricket scores on cricinfo i.e. watching the textual version of the match. and ofcourse answering phone calls if any. The weather ofcourse was dull most of the time, little sunlight, cold – not bitter cold – but just cold and no snow.

None of this was ofcourse intended. Nor is this a desirable state of existence. I am no misanthropist and love the company of a handful of people which is not the same as saying there are only a handful of people I love the company of. ( though it comes close 😉 ). I am no Seth Roberts and made no measurements on myself to see the effect of these weird schedules on any conceivable factors. These are simply things that one can more easily afford to do as – a) non-corporate employee. and b) bachelor. One cant do it on real vacation either. These are days when I am supposed to be working, though I dont have to attend classes or be at the lab to work.

Could I do this without the internet ? Conceivably, no. Actually its hard to conceive, so I take the short-cut and just say No. Its not just about reading something for which the books should substitute. I cant buy anymore books without buying a cupboard to hold them. But I guess they have stopped making cupboards to keep books that one buys not because you would love to read them, but because you love the idea of reading them. While I make merry reading stuff online, my books will await me to revert to the state where I turn pages lying down on the floor by the corner lamp. Until then, its Alt+N and Ctrl+D.

Sometime in 1999-2000 at the KREC library, I came across this magazine called Resonance, something I got hooked to for the rest of my entire KREC life until May 2003. I remember reading an article that talked about experiments in human isolation. I found the archived issues of this magazine but google site search would still not help me retrieve it. ( I should track their articles more often. I remember even Deepak Krishnan thinks very highly of it – remember reading that somewhere on his blog. ). Nevertheless, this gives you an idea. Ofcourse, my situation was nowhere close to this – neither in motivation/intention nor in execution. I mention this just for the intellectually naughtier ones. 🙂

Researchers of the Department of Animal Behaviour and Physiology (DAB&P) at the Madurai Kamaraj University, Madurai, Tamilnadu are trying to find out. In an experiment the scientists have roped in a group of volunteers and placed them in what is called the Human Isolation Chamber (HIC). The chamber is devoid of all kinds of physical time-keepers. The chamber which has twin-wall system is fully air-conditioned. The subjects cannot directly interact with the people outside but are provided with almost all basic amenities like tables, chairs, cots, kitchen ware, VCD & music players, books etc. The volunteers have to cook their own food and the required materials for the cooking including vegetables, groceries and vessels are given to them. Researchers outside monitor the activities of the subjects as regards their body temperature, sleep-wake cycle etc at regular intervals.

Observations over a period of one to two weeks revealed that the subjects inside drift from the normal 24-hour daily cycle, and begin to work within the chamber according to the dictates of their ‘biological clock’. For example when people outside go to bed at night, people inside may be having a cup of coffee. They also found that the duration of sleep began to vary. Out of the sixteen chosen volunteers there was one woman who slept straight for more than twenty hours.

Nevertheless, at a much less stringent level, for those 6 days, the only windown in the drawing room which overlooks a not-so-busy street and a 24 hour convenience store just across the road was literally my only window to the world.

That is, if you dont count the computer that would be switched on, logged on for all but 8 hours a day.



1. Deepak Krishnan - January 6, 2007

“I found the archived issues of this magazine but google site search would still not help me retrieve it”

I didn’t understand this.

Googling “Resonance+Indian Academy of Sciences” should take you to the site….

check out the mathematics articles by a teacher from rishi valley school (i forget his name). neat!!!

2. Sharath Rao - January 6, 2007

Ooops…I meant I could find the particular article I was looking for where they studied the isolation n all…though I find the entire archive which I linked to !!

I was trying to use this facility

“search keyword” site:www.iisc.ernet.in

3. Sharath Rao - January 6, 2007

Ooops…I meant I could NOT find the particular article I was looking for where they studied the isolation n all…

4. achala - January 7, 2007

The quasi-isolation I can relate to (reminds me of my trips to turkewadi with grandparents where I only have them and my books for company – no tv/computer/phone for days on end) – but the cereal diet? That’s not food man!

Btw, I see the cut finger made it into a post although the distinction it deserves is missing *grin*

5. Sharath Rao - January 7, 2007

yeah I know….

It wud have but for me not having a camera at the moment ..whats the post without a picture of the finger.


on the contrary, kitchen related bragging rights have been exercised here :


6. Sharath Rao - January 7, 2007

cereal may not be food, but dalitoy is 😀

7. achala - January 7, 2007

Lol! The problem with reading text is that it’s not always possible to make out whether it’s been written seriously or sarcastically (especially when the author is capable of both) 🙂

Yeah, read it before. It’s going to be recommended reading for the guy I marry (whoever/whenever that may be).

8. achala - January 7, 2007

Ooh, that’s so much better! I’ll recommend this diet to someone who desperately wants to lose weight. Since I’m currently trying to gain weight, it’s of no use to me 🙂

9. Sharath Rao - January 7, 2007

oh…I thought sarcasm stood tall and clear whenever employed !

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