Monday, May 31, 2010

Unending Love

"I seem to have loved you in numberless forms, numberless times...
In life after life, in age after age, forever.
My spellbound heart has made and remade the necklace of songs,
That you take as a gift, wear round your neck in your many forms,
In life after life, in age after age, forever.

Whenever I hear old chronicles of love, it's age old pain,
It's ancient tale of being apart or together.
As I stare on and on into the past, in the end you emerge,
Clad in the light of a pole-star, piercing the darkness of time.
You become an image of what is remembered forever.

You and I have floated here on the stream that brings from the fount.
At the heart of time, love of one for another.
We have played along side millions of lovers,
Shared in the same shy sweetness of meeting,
the distressful tears of farewell,
Old love but in shapes that renew and renew forever.

-Unending Love by Rabindranath Tagore


Nature has answers to every issue humanity every faced, facing and will face. It's upto us to understand and realize how precious and delicate biodiversity is. The things we reverse-enginerred using nature as a model:

Inspiring examples of nature at work abound: the spider creates silk, at room temperature, that gram for gram is five times stronger than steel, without the dirty and energy-intensive smelting process. The mother-of-pearl coating inside an abalone shell is twice as strong as industrial ceramics, which require enormous kilns to manufacture. And sharks and other sea animals glide through water with no boost from gasoline. Among the many products on the market today are self-cleaning windows and exterior paints that are inspired by the leaves of the lotus plant, which remain clean even in muddy river deltas, its natural habitat, without the use of harsh cleansing agents. Fabrics, paints, and cosmetics are all being developed with techniques based on the way color is created on butterfly wings. A new kind of plywood is being manufactured with a material that mimics the proteins that allow blue mussels to maintain their grip on rock, rather than by using a formaldehyde-based adhesive. Bharat Bhushan, director of the Nanoprobe Laboratory for Bio and Nanotechnology & Biomimetics at Ohio State University, estimates that the revenue from the top 100 biomimetic products totaled $1.5 billion between 2005 and 2008."

A catalyst for the movement was the work of Janine Benyus, a Montana nature and science writer who began in the mid-1990s to collect and catalog examples of what she called biomimicry. She came to realize that for the most part the people working in the field didn’t identify themselves as biomimics and were largely working in isolation from one another. She collected their stories in her 1997 book 
Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature. Soon after, her phone started ringing with companies such as General Electric, Boeing, and Nike calling to find out how biomimicry might work for them. “They were starting to get pressure to green up their policies and processes,” she says. “They started to ask, ‘What if we pulled up another chair to the design table—and it’s a biologist?’?”

Benyus and her partners were soon invited into R&D labs, and through her nonprofit, the Biomimicry Institute, and her for-profit consultancy, the Biomimicry Guild, she connected like-minded individuals from the business, science, engineering, and design communities. Over time the number of bio-inspired ideas mushroomed. Benyus says an examination of the Worldwide Patent Database between 1985 and 2005 shows the number of appearances of the terms “bioinspired,” “biomimicry,” and “biomimetics” jumped 93 percent, compared with a 2.7 percent increase in patents overall. Universities and research institutions in the United States, Mexico, and elsewhere started to open centers focusing on the subject. “We are at that early, explosive-growth phase,” Benyus says."

and more

One of my favorite quote:

“The library of life is burning, and we don't even know the titles of the books”.
- Harlem Brundeland speaking at the Trondheim Conference on Biodiversity

Rare: Portraits of America’s Endangered Species

RARE from Joel Sartore on Vimeo.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Quote of the Day

"The most important thing in life is to learn how to give out love, and to let it come in."

"You closed your eyes. That was the difference. Sometimes you cannot believe what you see, you have to believe what you feel. And if you are ever going to have other people trust you, you must feel that you can trust them too-even when you are in the dark. Even when you're falling."

"Love wins. Love always wins."

- Tuesdays with Moorie

What I've been reading

The Male Brain by Louann Brizendine, M.D. This is book should be read by every women to understand what they "up" against and to be realistic in their expectations. Also every man should read it to be aware their shortcoming's, strength's and understand what they are made of. It's an easy read and small book. Personally, it had become self-evident a while ago that I am an oxytocin and estrogen driven man (unlike most men who are driven by testosterone and vasopressin).

The book basically educate's us on how different neurotransmitters (and hormones) becomes the driving force behind a man in different stages of his life (kid, boy, teen, young man, lover, husband, dad and grandfather). It's not reductionist view of man but its science of who we are and I believe educating oneself will only make us a better person.

Few new things I learnt -

"Emotional system of men are driven by temporal-parietal junction system (TPJ - cognitive empathy) while women are driven by mirror neuron system (MNS - emotional empathy)"

Men falling in love - "Begins with an area deep at the center of the brain called the ventral tegmental area (VTA). We'd see the cells in the area manufacturing dopamine - the brain's feel-good neurotransmitter for motivation and reward - making us feel a pleasant buzz. The dopamine is mixed with testosterone and vasopressin at nucleus accumbens (NAc). Mixing dopamine with other hormones will make a high octane fuel, leaving us exhilarated and head over heels in love."

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Snails on Speed & Human Memory

Memories are one the most complicated process under the universe but it's part of us and makes us who we are. There is no better way to learn about them than from species less complicated (and less messy) than us. Lessons from Snails:

Meth users develop long-term memories of their highs, which is why the sight of places and people connected with a high can cause recovering addicts to relapse into taking the drug. "It's hard to get rid of those memories in addicts," says Barbara Sorg at Washington State University in Pullman. So potent is meth's effect on memory that, in low doses, the drug can be used as a"cognitive enhancer" in kids with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

To probe the drug's effect on memory, Sorg's team placed pond snails in two pools of low-oxygen water, one of which was laced with meth. In low-oxygen conditions snails will surface and use their breathing tubes to access more oxygen. By poking the snails, Sorg's team trained them to associate using the tubes with an unpleasant experience, and so keep them shut. Only the snails on speed remembered their training the following morning, and in a separate experiment it took longer for them to "unlearn" the memory.

Humans are obviously more complicated, says Sorg, but "the snails still provide a model of how meth affects memory". The team's goal is to work out how to diminish specific memories, helping addicts recover."

Two Ways to Live with a Dog

1. Take out all our disappointments, sorrows, frustrations, sadness, anger, hatred and all the chaos of life which hits us hard on the dog.

2. Take in the love from the dog, healing ourselves and in process find the meaning of love and eventually finding true love.

One the simplest choices in life.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Deliver Me

Sarah Brightman's beautiful song and spectacular original video - One of my all time favorites. (too bad original video is not on youtube)

Live Performance:

Original video but video quality is not too good:

Five possible implications of Craig Venter’s creation of synthetic organisms

Newsweek lists five possible implications of Craig Venter's feat. I think, this one is the most plausible:

It’s one thing to read and write the code for various genes. But understanding what those genes do, and how they interact with each other, is a much more daunting task. Robert Klitzman, a bioethicist at Columbia University, says Venter is a little like Benjamin Franklin going out into a storm with a kite and a key to channel electricity from lightning. “Imagine if Franklin had made his discovery and then said, ‘As a result of this, you’ll be able to call up a person anywhere in the world from a little box in your pocket,’ ” he says. “That would have been correct. But it took several hundred years to get from the kite to the cell phone. [With Venter’s announcement], we have the kite. That’s great. But he’s saying we’ll have the cell phone any day now.”

Little do people realize life on the planet has changed (I don't know if it's for good or bad) since last week. May be it will take decades of gradual change but the seminal moment was last week.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Blue Brain Project - Year One Documentary

Early this year on TED, Henry Markram proclaimed Blue Brain project can reverse engineer the human brain in 10 years!!

Here's great documentary on the progress they made so far in year one - the count down begins. 

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Quote of the Day

"The most wonderful of all things in life, I believe, is the discovery of another human being with whom one's relationship has a glowing depth, beauty, and joy as the years increase. This inner progressiveness of love between two human beings is a most marvelous thing, it cannot be found by looking for it or by passionately wishing for it. It is a sort of Divine accident."
- Sir Hugh Walpoe

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Tuesdays without Lost

Sucks but the lesson was letting it go!! So moving on. 

What Papaya Can Tell Us About Ending World Hunger

I cannot stress enough on the importance of GM foods to even think about making the world a better place. First, we should trifurcate our food source as Organic, Non-organic and GM foods. Now we should assimilate organic and GM food (and no, it's not an oxymoron). The only issue with GM food has nothing to food itself but everything to do with selfishness (which is good up-to a level). So instead of eschewing GM food, we should try to fix the patent laws and make away for open source food revolution. Here is a great post - Revival of Hawaiian Papaya:

o appreciate the value of genetic engineering, one need only examine the story of papaya. In the early 1990s, Hawaii's papaya industry was facing disaster because of the deadly papaya ringspot virus. Its single-handed savior was a breed engineered to be resistant to the virus. Without it, the state's papaya industry would have collapsed. Today, 80 percent of Hawaiian papaya is genetically engineered, and there is still no conventional or organic method to control ringspot virus.
The real significance of the papaya recovery is not that genetic engineering was the most appropriate technology delivered at the right time, but rather that the resistant papaya was introduced before the backlash against engineered crops intensified.
Opponents of genetically engineered crops have spent much of the last decade stoking consumer distrust of this precise and safe technology, even though, as the research council's previous reports noted, engineered crops have harmed neither human health nor the environment.
In doing so, they have pushed up regulatory and development costs to the point where the technology is beyond the economic reach of small companies or foundations that might otherwise develop a wider range of healthier crops for the neediest farmers. European restrictions, for instance, make it virtually impossible for scientists at small laboratories there to carry out field tests of engineered seeds.
As it now stands, opposition to genetic engineering has driven the technology further into the hands of a few seed companies that can afford it, further encouraging their monopolistic tendencies while leaving it out of reach for those that want to use it for crops with low (or no) profit margins.
The stakes are too high for us not to make the best use of genetic engineering. If we fail to invest responsibly in agricultural research, if we continue to allow propaganda to trump science, then the potential for global agriculture to be productive, diverse and sustainable will go unfulfilled. And it's not those of us here in the developed world who will suffer the direct consequences, but rather the poorest and most vulnerable."

Monday, May 24, 2010

Quote of the Day

“In morals, truth is but little prized when it is a mere sentiment, and only attains its full value when realized in the world as fact.”
Ernest Renan

Lost after is all is about the "Hardest Thing"

By sheer coincidence, I did get it right few weeks before the finale - The Hardest Thing

I cannot think of better final scene than Jack dying next to Vincent, the yellow Labrador (obviously I do connect with Jack and I am biased). 

Sunday, May 23, 2010

What I've been reading

The Big Short:Inside the Doomsday Machine by Mike Lewis.  No question, it's the best book of the year and probably one of the best economics book ever. It's hard to classify this book as non-fiction since every page sounds and feels like fiction and surreal (of course it helps since Mike writes economics like Catcher in Rye). Hilarious is an understatement.

Yes, the "recession" was hard on all of us but since there ain't a thing that has changed the way wall street functions, my point is why not have a good laugh reading this book.? Trust me, I don't think anyone is going to learn any lessons from this book and Mike Lewis knows it too. I admire his persistence to try to wake us up from the illusion of smooth operating/know it all economic machine. Sadly, the truth is we can wake up a person who is sleeping but its impossible to wake up someone who is pretending to be asleep.

Somewhere towards the end of the book, a journalist used the word "Alchemy".  I cannot find a better word to describe the tools and models used by the wall street magicians to create virtual $$ out of thin air.

And this book tops an
elusive list too. 
Here the conversation between one of the characters Danny and Wall Street salesman before he was helping Danny to get into a trade that seemed perfect in every way.

"I appreciate this, but I just want to know one thing. How are going to fuck me?

Heh-heh-heh, c'mon, we'd never do that, the trader started to say but Danny, though perfectly polite, was insistent. 
We both know that unadulterated good things like this trade don't just happen between little hedge funds and big Wall Street firms. I'll do it, but only after you explain to me how you are going to fuck me.
And the salesman explained how was going to fuck him. And Danny did the trade."

And this is the machine basically running the whole planet. God help us.  

Can Monkeys Talk? - Robert Seyfarth

This is fascinating, could be the roots of our Broca's Area.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

"Told You So !!" - Craig Venter

When a journalist asked Craig Venter few years ago if he was playing God?, Venter's reply was "playing?". Modesty and humility aside, this week he proved a point.

Researchers at the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI), a not-for-profit genomic research organization, published results today describing the successful construction of the first self-replicating, synthetic bacterial cell. The team synthesized the 1.08 million base pair chromosome of a modified Mycoplasma mycoides genome. The synthetic cell is calledMycoplasma mycoides JCVI-syn1.0 and is the proof of principle that genomes can be designed in the computer, chemically made in the laboratory and transplanted into a recipient cell to produce a new self-replicating cell controlled only by the synthetic genome.
This research will be published by Daniel Gibson et al in the May 20th edition ofScience Express and will appear in an upcoming print issue of Science.
“For nearly 15 years Ham Smith, Clyde Hutchison and the rest of our team have been working toward this publication today--the successful completion of our work to construct a bacterial cell that is fully controlled by a synthetic genome,” said J. Craig Venter, Ph.D., founder and president, JCVI and senior author on the paper. “We have been consumed by this research, but we have also been equally focused on addressing the societal implications of what we believe will be one of the most powerful technologies and industrial drivers for societal good. We look forward to continued review and dialogue about the important applications of this work to ensure that it is used for the benefit of all.”

Will We Continue to be Lost on 'Lost'?

There will be a big vacuum after Lost ends tomorrow. Life goes on well... there are few Lost books out there to feed the nostalgia and may be use some of the lessons learnt in real life.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Nobody Likes a Modest Man

Personally I know this is true, in other words bull shit sells. But yet life is not to be lived for what others think. It's a rough road but one gets to sleep well at night. Anyways, this is what the study from the journal Psychology of Men & Masculinity:

"First, researchers videotaped two male and two female graduate students answering job-interview questions like "What are your technical skills?" and "What kind of salary do you expect?" Their answers were scripted and identical. So, for instance, when asked about their salary expectations, they all said "Well, if I should be lucky enough to get the position, I'm sure you'd offer me a fair wage."

Reasonable enough, but not exactly assertive.

Each of the participants in the study—232 undergraduates—were randomly shown one of the scripted, videotaped interviews and asked to rate the fake applicant on a number of qualities, including whether they liked the person. The male applicants were rated as less likable than the female applicants, even though they gave the same answers to the questions. Interestingly, the modest men were disliked by women and by other men. Everybody hates them.
So that's the bad news for modest men. But guess what, women? When you act assertive you're deemed deficient in social skills, according to an earlier paper by the same researchers. What's more, employers were less likely to hire those assertive (or "agentic," as the researchers call them) women even if they were seen as competent.
Is the lesson here that everyone should behave according to gender stereotypes lest they offend potential employers/colleagues/passers-by? Let's say no just because that's a depressing conclusion. Instead maybe the takeaway is that men and women have to be aware of those expectations and attempt to walk a line between being true to themselves and conforming to society's expectations."

Modesty is not dopamine driven, hedonic et al to gauge it instantly in a flash. One has to know the person to even being to comprehend modesty. Modesty can easily misunderstood for mundanes. In order to study modesty, we need something like George Vaillant's famous on-going 72 research on "What makes us happy?". 

Thursday, May 20, 2010

How Our Brains Make Memories

Raison d'etre of this blog is the vulnerability of our memories. Memories are malleable, fallible, adaptive, selective, manipulative and everything except precise. Understanding this makes one less susceptible certainty in life and aware of our shortcomings. This one the best piece I have read on how memories form and change:

For those of us who cherish our memories and like to think they are an accurate record of our history, the idea that memory is fundamentally malleable is more than a little disturbing. Not all researchers believe Nader has proved that the process of remembering itself can alter memories. But if he is right, it may not be an entirely bad thing. It might even be possible to put the phenomenon to good use to reduce the suffering of people with post-traumatic stress disorder, who are plagued by recurring memories of events they wish they could put behind them.

One of the scientists who has done the most to illuminate the way memory works on the microscopic scale is Eric Kandel, a neuroscientist at Columbia University in New York City. In five decades of research, Kandel has shown how short-term memories—those lasting a few minutes—involve relatively quick and simple chemical changes to the synapse that make it work more efficiently. Kandel, who won a share of the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, found that to build a memory that lasts hours, days or years, neurons must manufacture new proteins and expand the docks, as it were, to make the neurotransmitter traffic run more efficiently. Long-term memories must literally be built into the brain’s synapses. Kandel and other neuroscientists have generally assumed that once a memory is constructed, it is stable and can’t easily be undone. Or, as they put it, the memory is “consolidated.”

According to this view, the brain’s memory system works something like a pen and notebook. For a brief time before the ink dries, it’s possible to smudge what’s written. But after the memory is consolidated, it changes very little. Sure, memories may fade over the years like an old letter (or even go up in flames if Alzheimer’s disease strikes), but under ordinary circumstances the content of the memory stays the same, no matter how many times it’s taken out and read. Nader would challenge this idea.

In what turned out to be a defining moment in his early career, Nader attended a lecture that Kandel gave at New York University about how memories are recorded. Nader got to wondering about what happens when a memory is recalled. Work with rodents dating back to the 1960s didn’t jibe with the consolidation theory. Researchers had found that a memory could be weakened if they gave an animal an electric shock or a drug that interferes with a particular neurotransmitter just after they prompted the animal to recall the memory. This suggested that memories were vulnerable to disruption even after they had been consolidated.

To think of it another way, the work suggested that filing an old memory away for long-term storage after it had been recalled was surprisingly similar to creating it the first time. Both building a new memory and tucking away an old one presumably involved building proteins at the synapse. The researchers had named that process reconsolidation.”

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Why I'm a weekday vegetarian

Quote of the Day

"The inevitable hypocrisy, which is associated with the all the collective activities of the human race, springs chiefly from this source: that individuals have a moral code with make the actions of collective man an outrage to their conscious. They therefore invent romantic and moral interpretations of the real facts, preferring to obscure rather than reveal the true character of their collective behavior. Sometimes they are as anxious to offer moral justifications for the brutalities from which they suffer as for those which they commit. The fact that the hypocrisy of man's group behavior... expresses itself not only in terms of self-justification but in terms of moral justification of human behavior in general, symbolizes one of the tragedies of the human spirit: its inability to conform its collective life to its individual ideals. As individuals, men believe they ought to love and serve each other and establish justice between each other. As racial, economic and national groups they take for themselves, whatever their power can command."
- Reinhold Niebuhr, Moral Man and Immoral Society

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Cass Sunstein And The World He Is Shaping

NY times profiles Cass Sunstien. Sunstien took Kahneman's behavioral economics to Washington and like it or not, life on this planet will not be same again. From the fate of organ donor-ship to climate change is one way or other is in his hands. I think, it's all for good but I can only hope it will turns out to be good. But what touched my heart was that the new version of morality has finally found its way to the most powerful office in the world - White House.

One of the last papers Sunstein wrote as an academic concerned the fate of animals under environmental change — many species will quite likely become extinct if the planet continues to warm, but their fates had never previously been accounted for in a mathematical model that could be used by the government for cost-benefit analysis. Sunstein tried to do that, in a paper in which he wrote with feeling about the suffering of polar bears — starving cubs dependent on mothers unable to hunt in melting ice. It seemed to the environmentalists that his sympathies were with them. But to them, Sunstein’s moral judgment seemed compromised by his quest for a perfect technique and his insistence on counting things that were impossible to count. “You don’t spend that long at the University of Chicago,” McGarity told me, “without some of that thinking rubbing off on you.”

I don't think he is trying to quantify suffering but rather he is playing along with the economists to nudge them towards morality 2.0. At the end of the day, this might be his legacy.

Second Thermodynamic Law for Sentimental Interaction

José-Manuel Rey of the Department of Economic Analysis, at the Universidad Complutense in Madrid has created a mathematical model to explain rising rates of marital breakdown. Jeez!! cannot get weirder than this but it's very interesting:

"Using the optimal control theory model, Rey developed an equation based on the “second thermodynamic law for sentimental interaction,” which states a relationship will disintegrate unless “energy” (effort) is fed into it. The results of the mathematical analysis showed when both members of union are similar emotionally they have an “optimal effort policy,” which results in a happy, long-lasting relationship. The policy can break down if there is a tendency to reduce the effort because maintaining it causes discomfort, or because a lower degree of effort results in instability. Paradoxically, according to the second law model, a union everyone hopes will last forever is likely break up, a feature Rey calls the “failure paradox”.

According to the model, successful long-term relationships are those with the most tolerable gap between the amount of effort that would be regarded by the couple as optimal and the effort actually required to keep the relationship happy. The mathematical model also implies that when no effort is put in the relationship can easily deteriorate.

The mathematical model may help explain why couples split in real-life scenarios, and adds to our understanding of how and why relationships go wrong. Having a better understanding of this can help us to work out how to make the relationship improve, which is helpful because broken relationships pose major sociological, economic, and other problems in our society. The study is also a reminder it is better to work on the relationship when the going is good, instead of relaxing and then finding the increased work necessary to fix a disintegrating is more than considered reasonable."

Monday, May 17, 2010


Soul is probably the only common thread connecting all religions and it's the only solace in the face of our certain and imminent death. But yet, there cannot be anything more abstract than the concept of soul. No doubt that the concept of soul is immensely beneficial for social functioning and bring some sanity to the proceedings but the irony of mankind is we try to quantify abstractions to make sense of something which is tangible as human life. Stephen T. Asma has a "hilarious" theory on the evolution of soul - which is no hidden metaphysics but a mere phrase!!

"Instead of asking whether we can verify the soul's existence—find some empirical evidence for it—I suggest a Wittgensteinian approach. Following the Austrian philosopher, I ask: How do people actually talk about the soul? How is soul talk used in ordinary language? And here we find that the soul is alive and well in certain kinds of expressive language. When you look at actual soul talk, you find the following kinds of expressions: "He is my soul mate," or "She really sold her soul," or "That's good soul food," or "This nature hike is good for my soul," or "She is an old soul," or "James Brown has soul," or "The soul reincarnates," or "Her soul is in heaven now."

"If we think about the human being, we can analyze ourselves into various parts and functions: the body, cognition, emotions, memory, perception, and so on. And we can make many impressive scientific claims about those parts and functions. Modern medicine is a testament to the genius of methodological materialism and a mechanical approach to the human being.
But in this matrix of human thoughts, feelings, and experiences, we also find forms of awareness and activity that call out for a different language. The kinds of awareness I'm thinking of might be described as aesthetic—feelings of ecstasy, feelings for the beautiful or the sublime, poignant stirrings that might be labeled transcendent—or, negatively, feelings of horror or dread. And the kinds of activities I'm trying to isolate might be creative acts (playing music, writing poetry, handcrafting furniture, serving tea while a Zen master whacks you with a stick) as well as ethical activities (acts of altruism, self-sacrifice). It's hard to see how a purely descriptive scientific language can find good traction in those domains, but an alternative language exists and has existed for a long time. Soul talk is a part of that successful expressive language."

Our incapability to hone morality and inability to face mortality because of our intellectual laziness and longing for cognitive fluency, probably lead to the invention of soul. If this ever turns out to be true, this would be the biggest joke ever on humanity. The question is do we have the audacity and humility to laugh at ourselves? 

Quote of the Day

"How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortune of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it except the pleasure of seeing it. Of this kind is pity or compassion, the emotion which we feel for the misery of others, when we either see it, or are made to conceive it in a very lively manner. That we often derive sorrow from the sorrow of others, is a matter of fact too obvious to require any instances to prove it; for this sentiment, like all the other original passions of human nature, is by no means confined to the virtuous and humane, though they perhaps may feel it with the most exquisite sensibility. The greatest ruffian, the most hardened violator of the laws of society, is not altogether without it."
- Adam Smith, Opening lines of
Theory of Moral Sentiments

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Quote of the Day

"The extreme of thinking with no intellectual input gets you as far as a thoughtful caveman. The other extreme is zero improvement on what exists around you. I'm not sure what the optimal compromise is, and it would depend on the topic, but I suspect I am biased in favor of thinking. It's more effort to think correct interesting things than interesting things, and hard for uninvolved listeners to tell the difference, or for that matter for you to. So if you pride yourself at all on having interesting ideas, there's an incentive to think too much."
Katja Grace

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Little Known "Big" Fact About India

Over the years, I have asked so many people and not many are aware of this. Even majority of Indians are oblivious to this fact. The reason for ignorance - Pakistan centric obsession and probably because no one has made a movie on this - so much for history. India badly needs an Indian version of Tom Hanks - The Historian in Chief.

"Through the 19th century, Indian troops saw action in theaters ranging from Egypt to Japan, from Southern Africa to the Mediterranean. Despite growing nationalist opposition, British use of Indian armed forces surged in the first decades of the 20th century. During the Great War, nearly 1.2 million Indians were recruited for service in the army. When it ended, about 950,000 Indian troops were serving overseas. According to the official count, between 62,000 and 65,000 Indian soldiers were killed in that war. In World War II, the Indian army saw action on fronts ranging from Italy and North Africa to East Africa, the Middle East and the Far East. In Southeast Asia alone, 700,000 Indian troops joined the effort to oust Japanese armies from Burma, Malaya and Indo-China. By the time the war ended, the Indian army numbered a massive 2.5 million men, the largest all-volunteer force the world had ever seen.
Yet, as I noted earlier, modern India’s political leadership has been reluctant to recognize the contributions of its men to the making of the modern world."

That was history but India's contribution to the peacekeeping force is true as of today. The nauseating thing about all this no one gives a damn. Educating people to give a damn is difficult, which is an understatement. People give a damn only if its projected on silver screen or unveiled in a cricket stadium, Well, if that helps, then we should do that too. When countries are trying to weave their own version of history, India is the only country which dumbs it's fully woven history in the garbage. 

"A second legacy of the Raj is the “military surplus” in the Subcontinent, which has endured despite all the political changes of the past six decades: partition, permanent Indo-Pak conflict, the occupation of Tibet by China and the resultant Sino-Indian military tensions on the Indo-Tibetan border. Despite these challenges, the now-separate armies of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh have made an important mark on international security politics. That the South Asian armies, including those of Nepal, contribute nearly 40 percent of the world’s peacekeepers underlines the region’s role as a military reservoir. But this extraordinary role is widely overlooked in international debates on peacekeeping, particularly in India’s case."

Friday, May 14, 2010

On Fermi's Paradox

Fermi’s Paradox is the discrepancy between the high probability of existence of aliens (because of billion stars in the universe) and the obvious lack of any contact with them.Paul Davies gets to be the first human being to meet an alien if they well... ever visit us one day ("perks" for being the head of the official SETI Post-Detection Task Group). Full interview here (video).

Question: If you were the first human to communicate with an alien civilization, what would you say?

Paul Davies:  Well first of all we have to understand that they’re unlikely to speak English unless they’ve been studying us for a long time and that it’s hard enough to communicate properly between different people on this planet, all part of the same species, the cultural gulfs of misunderstandings are of course notorious.  We’re now dealing with a completely separate species.  Then you have to think what on Earth have we got in common, so I feel that our communication will be… we will want to let ET know our finest achievements, the things we’re most proud of and if you just go out on the street and ask people well what do you think are our finest achievements, chances are that you’ll be told a Beethoven symphony or a Picasso painting or something like that and I have no quarrel with that, but the problem is that our appreciation of works of art and music are very much tied to our cognitive system and an alien whose brain is wired differently probably wouldn’t have any understanding of it and certainly wouldn’t have any understanding of politics or sport or anything of that sort, so there would be no point in sending those things.  Now there is one thing we’re all agreed that we must share and that is mathematics. Mathematics is universal.  It’s discovered by human beings, but the rules of mathematics are the same throughout the universe and the laws of the universe.  Our mathematical relationships or the underlying laws of physics we can cast in mathematical form, so if they are communicating with us if they have technology they will understand the laws of physics and the nature of mathematics.  These are things that we can share, so it seems to me that our communication will begin in terms of mathematics and physics. 
So me, I’m a mathematical physicist, so you might say well you would say that wouldn’t you, but I really do think that this is the common currency of the cosmos and so we will want to communicate about our understanding of mathematical physics, so we could tell them things that we have discovered in the realm of mathematical physics, but there is stuff that I would like to know.  There are some famous problems like how to bring gravitation and quantum physics together, the long-sought-after theory of quantum gravity.  That’s one thing that I would like to know.  It may be hard to understand the answer that comes back.  There is something that is perhaps a little easier.  There is a quantity in the theory of quantum electrodynamics called the fine-structure constant.  I’m getting technical here.  It’s a particular quantity.  It’s a fundamental constant of nature.  It has a value of about 1 over 137.  Nobody knows why that number is as it is.  It’s a pure number.  It doesn’t matter what units you use and it’s long been an interest of mine as to how that number has arisen in nature, why that particular number and none other, so I would like ET to give me the explanation for that.  Of course the answer might be we don’t know either.  It’s not clear that ET will be all-knowing."

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Best Visual Illusion of 2010

This is fantastic (thanks).

n this video, wooden balls roll up the slopes just as if they are pulled by a magnet. The behavior of the balls seems impossible, because it is against the gravity. The video is not a computer graphic, but a real scene. What is actually happening is that the orientations of the slopes are perceived oppositely, and hence the descending motion is misinterpreted as ascending motion. This illusion is remarkable in that it is generated by a three-dimensional solid object and physical motion, instead of a two-dimensional picture."