Saturday, January 31, 2015

Wisdom Of The Week

One night, I was sitting in the office trying to grok linear algebra. A wonderfully lucid textbook served as my guide: Introduction to Linear Algebra, written by Gilbert Strang. But I just wasn’t getting it. I was looking at various definitions — eigen decomposition, Jordan canonical forms, matrix inversions, etc. — and I thought, “Why?” Why does everything look so weird? Why is the inverse defined this way? Come to think of it, why are any of the matrix operations defined the way they are?While staring at a hopeless wall of symbols, a flash of lightning went off in my mind. I had an insight: math is a design. Prior to that moment, I had approached mathematics as if it were universal truth: transcendent in its perfection, almost unknowable by mere mortals. But on that night, I realized that mathematics is a human-constructed tool. Math is designed, just like software programs are designed, and using many of the same design principles. These principles may not be apparent, but they are comprehensible. In that moment, mathematics went from being unknowable to reasonable.

Mathematics is a system of objects, operations, and shorthand representations. It is designed to model real-world phenomena. Like all designs, there are certain degrees of freedom. The system could have been constructed in one way, or another. A matrix could have been designed as a round ball, in polar coordinates. It doesn’t matter, as long as the operations are consistent; it’s just a shorthand. At some point, someone made those design decisions. They picked the objects and the operations, and laid down rules of organization. Based on these fundamental decisions — if they are designed well — a number of other useful, provable properties then follow, and the whole thing can be used to model the things that we experience in the real world: the way that a tossed ball travels through space, the way sound waves dash across the ether, the rise and fall of stock prices. Physical reality contains layer upon layer of complexity. Well-designed mathematical systems offer clean and concise tools to represent physical reality at every layer.


These are but a few examples of mathematical design at work. Our culture instills the strange notion that “math is hard.” Math is seen as too abstract, too impenetrable, too difficult to digest and impossible to know. But from an alternative perspective, mathematics contains striking parallels with software engineering. Both disciplines are heavy on jargon and notation. But once we parse through the jargon, we can begin to see the flesh and bones of mathematics. Understanding the design principles within mathematics provides us with an inlet into this strange land of hierarchical objects and changing representations. By becoming more familiar with the landscape of mathematics, we can help with the cross pollination of ideas between mathematics and software engineering. Maybe we can even begin to make modifications and come up with new designs of mathematics. Hey, that real number system is getting pretty old and cumbersome. Ready for something new?

- Striking parallels between mathematics and software engineering

Quote of the Day

Yet in another way, calculus is fundamentally naive, almost childish in its optimism. Experience teaches us that change can be sudden, discontinuous, and wrenching. Calculus draws its power by refusing to see that. It insists on a world without accidents, where one thing leads logically to another. Give me the initial conditions and the law of motion, and with calculus I can predict the future -- or better yet, reconstruct the past. I wish I could do that now.

- Steven H. Strogatz, The Calculus of Friendship: What a Teacher and a Student Learned about Life While Corresponding about Math

Friday, January 30, 2015

'The Cloud' and Other Dangerous Metaphors

Depending on the situation, data is either like a liquid (data streams), a solid (data mining), or a gas (the cloud). Why and how these metaphors get used when they do is not immediately obvious. There are tons of alternatives: Data could be stored in a “data mountain,” or data could be made useful through a process of “data desalination.”

The metaphors we use matter, because metaphors have baggage. Metaphors are encumbered with assumptions, and when people use metaphors, they embed those assumptions in the discussion. These assumptions are the residue of the physical analogues from which the metaphors draw. Referring to “data exhaust”—a term sometimes used to describe the metadata that are created in the course of day-to-day online lives—reinforces the idea that these data, like car exhaust, are unwanted byproducts, discarded waste material that society would benefit from putting to use. On the other hand, calling data “the new oil,” carries strong economic and social connotations: Data are costly to acquire and produced primarily for commercial or industrial ends, but bear the possibility of big payoffs for those with the means to extract it.


What’s more, metaphors matter because they shape laws and policies about data collection and use. As technology advances, law evolves (slowly, and somewhat clumsily) to accommodate new technologies and social norms around them. The most typical way this happens is that judges and regulators think about whether a new, unregulated technology is sufficiently like an existing thing that we already have rules about—and this is where metaphors and comparisons come in.


And in all our talk about streams and exhaust and mines and clouds, one thing is striking: People are nowhere to be found. These metaphors overwhelmingly draw from the natural world and the processes we use to draw resources from it; because of this, they naturalize and depersonalize data and its collection. Our current data metaphors do us a disservice by masking the human behaviors, relationships, and communications that make up all that data we’re streaming and mining. They make it easy to get lost in the quantity of the data without remembering how personal so much of it is. And if people forget that, it’s easy to understand how large-scale ethical breaches happen; the metaphors help us to lose track of what we’re really talking about.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

One of the first things taught in introductory statistics textbooks is that correlation is not causation. It is also one of the first things forgotten.

- Thomas Sowell, The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Quote of the Day

Among all the occurrences possible in the universe the a priori probability of any particular one of them verges upon zero. Yet the universe exists; particular events must take place in it, the probability of which (before the event) was infinitesimal. At the present time we have no legitimate grounds for either asserting or denying that life got off to but a single start on earth, and that, as a consequence, before it appeared its chances of occurring were next to nil. ... Destiny is written concurrently with the event, not prior to it... The universe was not pregnant with life nor the biosphere with man. Our number came up in the Monte Carlo game. Is it surprising that, like the person who has just made a million at the casino, we should feel strange and a little unreal?

- Jacques Monod, Chance and Necessity

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Learning From Animal Friendships

It is probably no coincidence that many of the better-known animal pairings involve dogs, which have honed the art of cross-species communication through millenniums of having lived with humans. The dogs at the safari park, each housed with a cheetah, are adept at reading body language and take a dominant role with their feline companions — Donna J. Haraway, a professor emerita at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and the author of “When Species Meet,” suggested that the dogs function almost as “social psychologists.”

And sometimes that means figuring out how to speak the other species’ language.

When one dog, Clifford, had trouble persuading his feline companion, Majani, to play, he adopted a new tactic, Ms. Rose-Hinostroza said. Having learned from a trainer how to fake a limp, Clifford tried it out on the cheetah, looking much like a wounded gazelle. The disability, she said, proved irresistible to the cheetah, who came down off its perch to join the game.

But it is grooming, not playing, that cements a dog-cheetah friendship, Ms. Rose-Hinostroza said. Initially, the young cheetahs are terrified by the puppies’ attempts to play, but gradually the two animals begin to trust one another, and at some point, the cheetah begins to lick and groom the dog.

“When you see that happen, you go, ‘Yes, the cat actually likes the dog now,’ so that’s a good day,” she said.

Communing between species, researchers said, can inspire speculation not just about the animals but about the humans that are so fascinated by them.

Dr. Bekoff, for example, said that videos of interspecies interactions offer a way for people to connect with a natural world from which they feel increasingly detached.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

Mathematics is security. Certainty. Truth. Beauty. Insight. Structure. Architecture. I see mathematics, the part of human knowledge that I call mathematics, as one thing—one great, glorious thing. Whether it is differential topology, or functional analysis, or homological algebra, it is all one thing. ... They are intimately interconnected, they are all facets of the same thing. That interconnection, that architecture, is secure truth and is beauty. That's what mathematics is to me.

- Paul R. Halmos

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

9 States That Have Banned Cruel Gestation Crates for Pigs

Imagine spending your entire life inside. Not just inside, but in a crate. And not just any crate, either. This crate you’re in is so small that you will never be able to turn around in it. Ever. For the duration of your life.

This kind of life is what it’s like for female pigs (or sows) who are used for breeding in factory farms. They are confined to gestation crates, which are usually only two feet wide. The sow can’t turn around, she can’t take steps backwards or forwards and she will never know any kind of life outside that crate. Not only is there limited-to-no mobility, waste piles up underneath the sows, severely diminishing the air quality within the housing unit.

Since 95 percent of pork in the United States comes from factory farms, almost all sows are subjected to this kind of torture. On average, a sow breeds two times per year and lives until she is three or four. After enduring this for years, she will be sent to slaughter for meat.

In early 2014, Canada took a big step to completely ban gestation creates in the entire country. The U.S. is making strides, with nine states already committed to banning gestation crates, but we’re still not close to the example Canada set for us. 

1. Arizona
2. California
3. Colorado
4. Florida
5. Maine
6. Michigan
7. Ohio
8. Oregon
9. Rhode Island

And unfortunately, we still have a long way to go. Just a month ago, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie vetoed a ban on gestation crates in New Jersey, despite 93 percent of state residents wanting Christie to sign the legislation. Maybe Christie — and politicians of the other 41 states — should take a page from these nine states and start taking steps to a better future for farm animals.

Banning gestation crates will undoubtedly improve the lives of millions of pigs in factory farms, however, it is important to remember that this is an improvement, not an all-out win for pigs. The reality is that as long as the demand for pork, bacon and countless other pig products exist, these animals will continue to be viewed as commodities and never really afforded the respect or the life they deserve. Banning gestation crates is the first step in acknowledging the multitude of cruel practices used by the factory farming industry. Once we start to look at the cruel ways we use animals, we can recognize that the best way to help these animals is not to participate in their exploitation at all. Why support an industry that will continue to exploit animals if a truly humane alternative exists?

- More Here and this guy Christie is planning to run for president in 2016. Really, Christie? What do you gain by making these poor pigs suffer more in NJ?

Quote of the Day

The history of science really gives you perspective on how easy it is to talk ourselves into this sort of thinking – that if my big, wonderful brain can’t envisage the solution, then it must be a really, really hard problem!

- Patricia Churchland

Monday, January 26, 2015

Good Bye R K Laxman (1921-2015)

All through my childhood, everyday I woke up to his cartoon sketches.  Sir, you made the common man a legend while making him laugh :-) 
Thank you for all the smiles. 

Brains, Data, and Machine Intelligence - Jeff Hawkins

Building a neocortex  is not same as building a humanoid. Our neocortex is not a replication thing - its a tool for building a model. Modeling process is different than emotional drive. 

-  Jeff Hawkins

Quote of the Day

A Native American elder once described his own inner struggles in this manner: Inside of me there are two dogs. One of the dogs is mean and evil. The other dog is good. The mean dog fights the good dog all the time. When asked which dog wins, he reflected for a moment and replied, The one I feed the most.

- George Bernard Shaw

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Quote of the Day

There is a huge gulf between the man who follows the conventions and laws of his country and the man who sets out to regiment them and to change them.

- Michel de Montaigne

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Wisdom Of The Week

I have been working with Kaggle datasets for over month now and American Epilepsy Society Seizure Prediction Challenge dataset is my favorite. I am still in a learning stage so I stayed away from huge dataset's like this one which require a lot of preprocessing. But little did I realize this competition had such a profound impact on the Epilepsy research - Epilepsy Research Benefits from the Crowd:

For millions of people with epilepsy, life comes with too many restrictions. If they just had a reliable way to predict when their next seizure will come, they could have a chance at leading more independent and productive lives.

That’s why it is so encouraging to hear that researchers have developed a new algorithm that can predict the onset of a seizure correctly 82 percent of the time. Until recently, the best algorithm was hardly better than flipping a coin, leading some to speculate that seizures are random neurological events that can’t be predicted at all. But the latest leap forward shows that seizures certainly can be predicted, and our research efforts are headed in the right direction to make them even more predictable. The other big news is how this new algorithm was developed: it’s the product of a crowdsourcing competition.

The teams analyzed a huge data set detailing the electrical activity in the brains of people while under evaluation for surgery to treat their epilepsy. They also had an even larger data set from studies with dogs, whose epilepsy closely resembles that seen in people.

The competition shows that sharing data to collaborate on complex problems can yield clever and unexpected solutions. Also noteworthy is that none of the winners were clinicians. This suggests that if we can find a platform to engage players from other seemingly distant disciplines, the chances are greater to find innovative, out-of-the-box solutions to current challenges..

That’s why NINDS has launched to catalyze collaboration and sharing of datasets, algorithms, and research tools for BigData studies of epilepsy. On this website are almost 2,000 datasets freely available for analysis, and there is already a user base of more than 670 active collaborators. It will be exciting to see how long it takes to go even beyond that 82 percent predictability..

This is what big data, ML and AI in general is all about. Integrating knowledge from data and wisdom of the crowds to bring in changes to benefit all species. Please don't confuse this with utopia and nirvana but think of it as a small step towards giving every living being a chance to live and enjoy the time on this blue planet pleasurable.

Quote of the Day

In 1958, New York’s modern master planner Robert Moses proposed to blast a highway through Greenwich Village, scattering its communities in order to make room for the inevitable technology of its day, the automobile. Moses had already built a highway through the Bronx, which never recovered from it. His plan for the Village was defeated by an alliance of local residents, including the urban philosopher Jane Jacobs, who articulated what would be lost in unforgettable terms: “the sidewalk ballet”, the dense web of glances, handshakes and hellos that constitutes city life at its most creative and fulfilling.

With digital technology today we are roughly at the stage we were with the car in the 1950s – dazzled by its possibilities and unwilling to think seriously about its costs, which is another way of saying we haven’t thought about how to maximise its benefits. Tools, whether they are made of flint or silicon, should be deployed to extend our potential, not erase it. Hunter-gathering has been revolutionised many times over but we still have the job of being human. It’s up to us to define the scope of work.

- Ian Leslie, Reign of the robots: how to live in the machine age

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Likely Cause of Addiction Has Been Discovered, and It Is Not What You Think

I had a quite personal reason to set out for these answers. One of my earliest memories as a kid is trying to wake up one of my relatives, and not being able to. Ever since then, I have been turning over the essential mystery of addiction in my mind -- what causes some people to become fixated on a drug or a behavior until they can't stop? How do we help those people to come back to us? As I got older, another of my close relatives developed a cocaine addiction, and I fell into a relationship with a heroin addict. I guess addiction felt like home to me.

If you had asked me what causes drug addiction at the start, I would have looked at you as if you were an idiot, and said: "Drugs. Duh." It's not difficult to grasp. I thought I had seen it in my own life. We can all explain it. Imagine if you and I and the next twenty people to pass us on the street take a really potent drug for twenty days. There are strong chemical hooks in these drugs, so if we stopped on day twenty-one, our bodies would need the chemical. We would have a ferocious craving. We would be addicted. That's what addiction means.


After the first phase of Rat Park, Professor Alexander then took this test further. He reran the early experiments, where the rats were left alone, and became compulsive users of the drug. He let them use for fifty-seven days -- if anything can hook you, it's that. Then he took them out of isolation, and placed them in Rat Park. He wanted to know, if you fall into that state of addiction, is your brain hijacked, so you can't recover? Do the drugs take you over? What happened is -- again -- striking. The rats seemed to have a few twitches of withdrawal, but they soon stopped their heavy use, and went back to having a normal life. The good cage saved them. (The full references to all the studies I am discussing are in the book.)

When I first learned about this, I was puzzled. How can this be? This new theory is such a radical assault on what we have been told that it felt like it could not be true. But the more scientists I interviewed, and the more I looked at their studies, the more I discovered things that don't seem to make sense -- unless you take account of this new approach.


This gives us an insight that goes much deeper than the need to understand addicts. Professor Peter Cohen argues that human beings have a deep need to bond and form connections. It's how we get our satisfaction. If we can't connect with each other, we will connect with anything we can find -- the whirr of a roulette wheel or the prick of a syringe. He says we should stop talking about 'addiction' altogether, and instead call it 'bonding.' A heroin addict has bonded with heroin because she couldn't bond as fully with anything else.

So the opposite of addiction is not sobriety. It is human connection.

When I learned all this, I found it slowly persuading me, but I still couldn't shake off a nagging doubt. Are these scientists saying chemical hooks make no difference? It was explained to me -- you can become addicted to gambling, and nobody thinks you inject a pack of cards into your veins. You can have all the addiction, and none of the chemical hooks. I went to a Gamblers' Anonymous meeting in Las Vegas (with the permission of everyone present, who knew I was there to observe) and they were as plainly addicted as the cocaine and heroin addicts I have known in my life. Yet there are no chemical hooks on a craps table.

But still, surely, I asked, there is some role for the chemicals? It turns out there is an experiment which gives us the answer to this in quite precise terms, which I learned about in Richard DeGrandpre's book The Cult of Pharmacology.


The writer George Monbiot has called this "the age of loneliness." We have created human societies where it is easier for people to become cut off from all human connections than ever before. Bruce Alexander -- the creator of Rat Park -- told me that for too long, we have talked exclusively about individual recovery from addiction. We need now to talk about social recovery -- how we all recover, together, from the sickness of isolation that is sinking on us like a thick fog.

But this new evidence isn't just a challenge to us politically. It doesn't just force us to change our minds. It forces us to change our hearts.

Loving an addict is really hard. When I looked at the addicts I love, it was always tempting to follow the tough love advice doled out by reality shows like Intervention -- tell the addict to shape up, or cut them off. Their message is that an addict who won't stop should be shunned. It's the logic of the drug war, imported into our private lives. But in fact, I learned, that will only deepen their addiction -- and you may lose them altogether. I came home determined to tie the addicts in my life closer to me than ever -- to let them know I love them unconditionally, whether they stop, or whether they can't.

- More Here and the book is Chasing The Scream: The First And Last Days of the War on Drugs by Johann Hari

Quote of the Day

You don't develop courage by being happy in your relationships everyday. You develop it by surviving difficult times and challenging adversity.

- Epicurus

Thursday, January 22, 2015

When You're Sick, You'll Wait for the Answer, but None Will Come

Writer and intellectual Susan Sontag, in her book Illness as Metaphor, wrote of this obligation to be sick in our lives. And she also wrote that to decorate our illness with metaphors and melodramas was to make matters worse. "Illness is not a metaphor," she wrote. "The most truthful way of regarding illness—and the healthiest way of being ill—is one most purified of, most resistant to, metaphoric thinking."

For her, stripping illness of its storytelling power was a treatment.


The first treatment is one we administer on our own and continue to administer throughout illness. A symptom arises, and then we treat ourselves by deciding what we think about it. "It's nothing," we might say. Is a pain that we call "nothing" a metaphor? Sometimes this is enough, because sometimes—usually—the symptoms do indeed go away. The symptoms are symptoms of "nothing."

But the first treatment is like standing on the tip of a pyramid. Hope, delusion, and reasoned expectation all meet in a point. Which of the three faces will you tumble down when you lose your balance?

Of the three faces of that first treatment, hope is the most frightening. Delusion finds its end, somewhere. A doctor, a new symptom, a new pain. When you treat your illness with hope, you might never stop falling.

My mother tried hope—which she later discovered was not actually hope at all—for a long time. Too long, some people have said to me. She "should" have gone to the doctor sooner.


When you're sick, you know it because your attention shows up, unbidden, somewhere strange on your body. In your aching forehead. In your laboring lungs. In a tumbling discomfort just below your navel. But many people who end up with a serious diagnosis had no symptoms. People fear seeing their doctor because they fear an unexpected pronouncement. The word origin of "diagnosis" is "to recognize." What is being recognized is the hope or curse instilled by a way of looking and thinking. When you find out you have or may have a secret asymptomatic disease, suddenly your attention shows up in the diagnosed location. You touch that part of your body. You look at it in the mirror. You think into it.


A question that is bound up in illness for us: Who's to blame? If the person who chooses to pray as treatment dies of cancer, is it their fault? If so, isn't the same true for someone who chooses chemotherapy for cancer and dies of cancer?

People will be quick to tell you that some attitudes toward health are "dangerous." This is true. They're all dangerous.

Between two cancers, my mother used a hormone cream to help her have sex more easily. Later, some people in my family suspected that this resurrected the first cancer. I have no thoughts either way about this. My mother was also depressed, she was constantly having dental work done, she didn't exercise often, and she ate a lot of sugar. These are all "reasons" why some people say she might have gotten cancer. Responsibility and its harsh twin, blame, are treatment for anxiety.

But what if we eat raw food? What if we drink enough water, if we take vitamins, if we sleep well, if we exercise, if we meditate, if we go on "retreats," if we take psychedelic plants, if we get massages, if we become vegetarians, if we eat more organ meats, if we force ourselves to laugh, if we take morning walks?

We try to avoid illness and treatment, and in avoiding it create a constant state of illness and treatment.

- More beautiful and insightful words from Susan Sontag's daughter Conner Habib here

Quote of the Day

The time will come when diligent research over long periods will bring to light things which now lie hidden. A single lifetime, even though entirely devoted to the sky, would not be enough for the investigation of so vast a subject... And so this knowledge will be unfolded only through long successive ages. There will come a time when our descendants will be amazed that we did not know things that are so plain to them... Many discoveries are reserved for ages still to come, when memory of us will have been effaced.

- Seneca, Natural Questions

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

How to Protect Fast-Growing Cities From Failing

Take the case of São Paulo, where I've been working. It's gone from being Brazil's most dangerous city to one of its safest, and it did this by doubling down on information collection, hot spot mapping, and police reform, and in the process, it dropped homicide by 70 percent in just over 10 years. We also got to focus on those hot people. It's tragic, but being young, unemployed, uneducated, male, increases the risks of being killed and killing.

We have to break this cycle of violence and get in there early with our children, our youngest children, and valorize them, not stigmatize them. There's wonderful work that's happening that I've been involved with in Kingston, Jamaica and right here in Rio, which is putting education, employment, recreation up front for these high-risk groups, and as a result, we're seeing violence going down in their communities.We've also got to make our cities safer, more inclusive, and livable for all. The fact is, social cohesion matters. Mobility matters in our cities.

Quote of the Day

Clarity of mind means clarity of passion, too; this is why a great and clear mind loves ardently and sees distinctly what it loves.

- Blaise Pascal

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

ML in Neuroscience - Exceeding Chance Level By Chance

Combrisson and Jerbi note that this problem is well known to statisticians and computer scientists. However, they say, it is often overlooked in neuroscience, especially among researchers using neuroimaging methods such as fMRI, EEG and MEG.

So how serious is this problem? To find out, the authors generated samples of random ‘brain activity’ data, arbitrarily split the samples into two ‘classes’, and used three popular machine learning tools to try to decode the classification. The methods were Linear Discriminant Analysis (LDA), Naive Bayes (NB) classifier, and the Support Vector Machine (SVM). The MATLAB scripts for this is made available here.

By design, there was no real signal in these data. It was all just noise – so the classifiers were working at chance performance.

However, Combrisson and Jerbi show that the observed chance performance regularly exceeds the theoretical level of 50%, when the sample size is small. Essentially, the variability (standard deviation) of the observed correct classification rate is inversely proportion to the sample size. Therefore, with smaller sample sizes, the chance that the chance performance level is (by chance) high, increases. This was true of LDA, NB and SVM alike, and regardless of the type of cross-validation performed.

The only solution, Combrisson and Jerbi say, is to forget theoretical chance performance, and instead evaluate machine learning results for statistical significance against sample-size specific thresholds.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

A few conclusions become clear when we understand this: that our most cruel failure in how we treat the sick and the aged is the failure to recognize that they have priorities beyond merely being safe and living longer; that the chance to shape one’s story is essential to sustaining meaning in life; that we have the opportunity to refashion our institutions, our culture, and our conversations in ways that transform the possibilities for the last chapters of everyone’s lives.

- Atul Gawande, Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End

Monday, January 19, 2015

History of Vegetarianism - Leo Tolstoy - Extract from 'The First Step'

Excerpts from Leo Tolstoy's essay - The First Step. I couldn't read without...  it's sad... so little has changed even after his powerful words.

We are acting numb for two of these many reasons - it's a family tradition to "enjoy" slaughter and feast (call it a nostalgic factor) and food became a means for that primordial social bonding (call it another form of signaling). Life on this planet will be a better place for all species if only these two mindless followings becomes a social contagion.

A few days ago I visited the slaughter-house in our town of Toúla. It is built on the new and improved system practised in large towns, with a view to causing the animals as little suffering as possible. It was on a Friday, two days before Trinity Sunday. There were many cattle there.

Long before this, when reading that excellent book. The Ethics of Diet, 1 had wished to visit a slaughter-house, in order to see with my own eyes the reality of the question raised when vegetarianism is discussed. But at first I felt ashamed to do so, as one is always ashamed of going to look at suffering which one knows is about to take place, but which one cannot avert ; and so I kept putting off my visit.

But a little while ago I met on the road a butcher returning to Toúla after a visit to his home. He is not yet an experienced butcher, and his duty is to stab with a knife. I asked him whether he did not feel sorry for the animals that he killed. He gave me the usual answer : 'Why should I feel sorry.? It is necessary.' But when I told him that eating flesh is not necessary, but is only a luxury, he agreed ; and then he admitted that he was sorry for the animals. 'But what can I do? I must earn my bread,' he said. 'At first I was afraid to kill. My father, he never even killed a chicken in all his life.' The majority of Russians cannot kill ; they feel pity, and express the feeling by the word 'fear.' This man had also been 'afraid,' but he was so no longer. He told me that most of the work was done on Fridays, when it continues until the evening.

Not long ago I also had a talk with a retired soldier, a butcher, and he, too, was surprised at my assertion that it was a pity to kill, and said the usual things about its being ordained ; but afterwards he agreed with me : 'Especially when they are quiet, tame cattle. They come, poor things ! trusting you. It is very pitiful.'

This is dreadful ! Not the suffering and death of the animals, but that man suppresses in himself, unnecessarily, the highest spiritual capacity—that of sympathy and pity toward living creatures like himself—and by violating his own feelings becomes cruel. And how deeply seated in the human heart is the injunction not to take life !

Once, when walking; from Moscow, I was offered a lift by some carters who were going from Sérpouhof to a neighbouring, forest to fetch wood. It was the Thursday before Easter. 1 was seated in the first cart, with a strong, red, coarse carman, who evidently drank. On entering a village we saw a well-fed, naked, pink pig being dragged out of the first yard to be slaughtered. It squealed in a dreadful voice, resembling the shriek of a man. Just as we were passing they began to kill it. A man gashed its throat with a knife. The pig squealed still more loudly and piercingly, broke away from the men, and ran off covered with blood. Being near-sighted I did not see all the details. I saw only the human-looking pink body of the pig and heard its desperate squeal ; but the carter saw all the details and watched closely. They caught the pig, knocked it down, and finished cutting: its throat. When its squeals ceased the carter sighed heavily. 'Do men really not have to answer for such things?' he said.


We cannot pretend that we do not know this. We are not ostriches, and cannot believe that if we refuse to look at what we do not wish to see, it will not exist. This is especially the case when what we do not wish to see is what we wish to eat. If it were really indispensable, or, if not indispensable, at least in some way useful ! But it is quite unnecessary, (4) and only serves to develop animal feelings, to excite desire, and to promote fornication and drunkenness. And this is continually being confirmed by the fact that young, kind, undepraved people—especially women and girls —without knowing how it logically follows, feel that virtue is incompatible with beefsteaks, and, as soon as they wish to be good, give up eating flesh.

What, then, do I wish to say ? That in order to be moral people must cease to eat meat? Not at all.

I only wish to say that for a good life a certain order of good actions is indispensable ; that if a man's aspirations toward right living be serious they will inevitably follow one definite sequence ; and that in this sequence the first virtue a man will strive after will be self-control, self-restraint. And in seeking for self-control a man will inevitably follow one definite sequence, and in this sequence the first thing will be self-control in food—fasting. And in fasting, if he be really and seriously seeking to live a good life, the first thing from which he will abstain will always be the use of animal food, because, to say nothing of the excitation of the passions caused by such food, its use is simply immoral, as it involves the performance of an act which is contrary to the moral feeling— killing ; and is called forth only by greediness and the desire for tasty food.

Quote of the Day

Hunting and fishing involve killing animals with devices (such as guns) for which the animals have not evolved natural defenses. No animal on earth has adequate defense against a human armed with a gun, a bow and arrow, a trap that can maim, a snare that can strangle, or a fishing lure designed for the sole purpose of fooling fish into thinking they have found something to eat.

- Marc Bekoff, Animals Matter: A Biologist Explains Why We Should Treat Animals with Compassion and Respect

Sunday, January 18, 2015

What is it Like to Understand Advanced Mathematics?

What a question (on Quora) !! And the answers were phenomenal to say the least. Great insights, read the whole chain of answers and save this link "A Map of the Tricki" for life:
  • You can answer many seemingly difficult questions quickly. But you are not very impressed by what can look like magic, because you know the trick. The trick is that your brain can quickly decide if question is answerable by one of a few powerful general purpose "machines"  (e.g., continuity arguments, the correspondences between geometric and algebraic objects, linear algebra, ways to reduce the infinite to the finite through various forms of compactness) combined with specific facts you have learned about your area. The number of fundamental ideas and techniques that people use to solve problems is, perhaps surprisingly, pretty small -- see for a partial list, maintained by Timothy Gowers.
  • You are comfortable with feeling like you have no deep understanding of the problem you are studying. Indeed, when you do have a deep understanding, you have solved the problem and it is time to do something else. This makes the total time you spend in life reveling in your mastery of something quite brief. One of the main skills of research scientists of any type is knowing how to work comfortably and productively in a state of confusion. More on this in the next few bullets.
  • Your intuitive thinking about a problem is productive and usefully structured, wasting little time on being aimlessly puzzled. For example, when answering a question about a high-dimensional space (e.g., whether a certain kind of rotation of a five-dimensional object has a "fixed point" which does not move during the rotation), you do not spend much time straining to visualize those things that do not have obvious analogues in two and three dimensions. (Violating this principle is a huge source of frustration for beginning maths students who don't know that they shouldn't be straining to visualize things for which they don't seem to have the visualizing machinery.) Instead...
  • When trying to understand a new thing, you automatically focus on very simple examples that are easy to think about, and then you leverage intuition about the examples into more impressive insights. For example, you might imagine two- and three-dimensional rotations that are analogous to the one you really care about, and think about whether they clearly do or don't have the desired property. Then you think about what was important to the examples and try to distill those ideas into symbols. Often, you see that the key idea in the symbolic manipulations doesn't depend on anything about two or three dimensions, and you know how to answer your hard question. 
  • As you get more mathematically advanced, the examples you consider easy are actually complex insights built up from many easier examples; the "simple case" you think about now took you two years to become comfortable with. But at any given stage, you do not strain to obtain a magical illumination about something intractable; you work to reduce it to the things that feel friendly.
  • To me, the biggest misconception that non-mathematicians have about how mathematicians work is that there is some mysterious mental faculty that is used to crack a research problem all at once. It's true that sometimes you can solve a problem by pattern-matching, where you see the standard tool that will work; the first bullet above is about that phenomenon. This is nice, but not fundamentally more impressive than other confluences of memory and intuition that occur in normal life, as when you remember a trick to use for hanging a picture frame or notice that you once saw a painting of the street you're now looking at. In any case, by the time a problem gets to be a research problem, it's almost guaranteed that simple pattern matching won't finish it. So in one's professional work, the process is piecemeal: you think a few moves ahead, trying out possible attacks from your arsenal on simple examples relating to the problem, trying to establish partial results, or looking to make analogies with other ideas you understand. This is the same way that you solve difficult problems in your first real maths courses in university and in competitions. What happens as you get more advanced is simply that the arsenal grows larger, the thinking gets somewhat faster due to practice, and you have more examples to try. Sometimes, during this process, a sudden insight comes, but it would not be possible without the painstaking groundwork. 

Quote of the Day

A man can live and be healthy without killing animals for food; therefore, if he eats meat, he participates in taking animal life merely for the sake of his appetite. And to act so is immoral.

- Leo Tolstoy

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Wisdom Of The Week

In his book Images of Organization, Gareth Morgan describes the way businesses are seen in terms of different metaphors, among them the organization as machine, an idea that forms the basis for Taylorism.

We can find similar examples in computing. For Larry Lessig, the accidental homophony between “code” as the text of a computer program and “code” as the text of statutory law becomes the fulcrum on which his argument that code is an instrument of social control balances.

Each generation, we reset a belief that we’ve reached the end of this chain of metaphors, even though history always proves us wrong precisely because there’s always another technology or trend offering a fresh metaphor. Indeed, an exceptionalism that favors the present is one of the ways that science has become theology.


Once you start looking at them closely, every algorithm betrays the myth of unitary simplicity and computational purity. You may remember the Netflix Prize, a million dollar competition to build a better collaborative filtering algorithm for film recommendations. In 2009, the company closed the book on the prize, adding a faux-machined “completed” stamp to its website.

But as it turns out, that method didn’t really improve Netflix’s performance very much. The company ended up downplaying the ratings and instead using something different to manage viewer preferences: very specific genres like “Emotional Hindi-Language Movies for Hopeless Romantics.” Netflix calls them “altgenres.”

While researching an in-depth analysis of altgenres published a year ago at The Atlantic, Alexis Madrigal scraped the Netflix site, downloading all 76,000+ micro-genres using not an algorithm but a hackneyed, long-running screen-scraping apparatus. After acquiring the data, Madrigal and I organized and analyzed it (by hand), and I built a generator that allowed our readers to fashion their own altgenres based on different grammars (like “Deep Sea Forbidden Love Mockumentaries” or “Coming-of-Age Violent Westerns Set in Europe About Cats”).

Netflix VP Todd Yellin explained to Madrigal why the process of generating altgenres is no less manual than our own process of reverse engineering them. Netflix trains people to watch films, and those viewers laboriously tag the films with lots of metadata, including ratings of factors like sexually suggestive content or plot closure. These tailored altgenres are then presented to Netflix customers based on their prior viewing habits.

Despite the initial promise of the Netflix Prize and the lurid appeal of a “million dollar algorithm,” Netflix operates by methods that look more like the Chinese manufacturing processes Michael Wolf’s photographs document. Yes, there’s a computer program matching viewing habits to a database of film properties. But the overall work of the Netflix recommendation system is distributed amongst so many different systems, actors, and processes that only a zealot would call the end result an algorithm.

- Ian Bogost, TheCathedral of Computation

Quote of the Day

Accustom yourself to the belief that death is of no concern to us, since all good and evil lie in sensation and sensation ends with death. Therefore the true belief that death is nothing to us makes a mortal life happy, not by adding to it an infinite time, but by taking away the desire for immortality. For there is no reason why the man who is thoroughly assured that there is nothing to fear in death should find anything to fear in life. So, too, he is foolish who says that he fears death, not because it will be painful when it comes, but because the anticipation of it is painful; for that which is no burden when it is present gives pain to no purpose when it is anticipated. Death, the most dreaded of evils, is therefore of no concern to us; for while we exist death is not present, and when death is present we no longer exist. It is therefore nothing either to the living or to the dead since it is not present to the living, and the dead no longer are.

- Epicurus, Letter to Menoeceus

Friday, January 16, 2015

Quote of the Day

The idea, that the truth about nature can be wrestled from pure thought through mathematics is overdone… The idea that mathematics is prophetic and that mathematical structure and beauty is a clue to how nature ultimately works is just wrong.

- Lee Smolin

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Quote of the Day

Companies succeed because they fire people, even if a whole family depends on them. Schools become prestigious because they reject people — even if they put a lifetime of work into their application. Leaders fighting a war on terror accidentally kill innocents. These are children in the basement of our survival and happiness.

The story compels readers to ask if they are willing to live according to those contracts. Some are not. They walk away from prosperity, and they make some radical commitment. They would rather work toward some inner purity.

The rest of us live with the trade-offs. The story reminds us of the inner numbing this creates. The people who stay in Omelas aren’t bad; they just find it easier and easier to live with the misery they depend upon. I’ve found that this story rivets people because it confronts them with all the tragic compromises built into modern life — all the children in the basements — and, at the same time, it elicits some desire to struggle against bland acceptance of it all.

- David Brooks

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Adding Uncertainty to Improve Mathematical Models

The research, published in Proceedings of the Royal Society A, deals with Burgers' equation, which is used to describe turbulence and shocks in fluid flows. The equation can be used, for example, to model the formation of a front when airflows run into each other in the atmosphere.

"Say you have a wave that's moving very fast in the atmosphere," said George Karniadakis, the Charles Pitts Robinson and John Palmer Barstow Professor of Applied Mathematics at Brown and senior author of the new research. "If the rest of the air in the domain is at rest, then flow one goes over the other. That creates a very stiff front or a shock, and that's what Burgers' equation describes."

It does so, however, in what Karniadakis describes as "a very sterilized" way, meaning the flows are modeled in the absence of external influences.

For example, when modeling turbulence in the atmosphere, the equations don't take into consideration the fact that the airflows are interacting not just with each other, but also with whatever terrain may be below—be it a mountain, a valley or a plain. In a general model designed to capture any random point of the atmosphere, it's impossible to know what landforms might lie underneath. But the effects of whatever those landforms might be can still be accounted for in the equation by adding a new term—one that treats those effects as a "random forcing."

In this latest research, Karniadakis and his colleagues showed that Burgers' equation can indeed be solved in the presence of this additional random term. The new term produces a range of solutions that accounts for uncertain external conditions that could be acting on the model system.

The work is part of a larger effort and a burgeoning field in mathematics called uncertainty quantification (UQ). Karniadakis is leading a Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative centered at Brown to lay out the mathematical foundations of UQ.

"The general idea in UQ," Karniadakis said, "is that when we model a system, we have to simplify it. When we simplify it, we throw out important degrees of freedom. So in UQ, we account for the fact that we committed a crime with our simplification and we try to reintroduce some of those degrees of freedom as a random forcing. It allows us to get more realism from our simulations and our predictions."

- More Here

Quote of the Day

Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you'd have preferred to talk.

- Doug Larson

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Golden Age of Indian mathematics was inspired by Babylon and Greece - Amartya Sen

Teaching is not just a matter of instruction given by teachers to their individual students. The progress of science and of knowledge depends in general on the learning that one nation – one group of people – derives from what has been achieved by other nations – and other groups of people. For example, the golden age of Indian mathematics, which changed the face of mathematics in the world, was roughly from the fifth to the twelfth century, and its beginning was directly inspired by what we Indians were learning from work done in Babylon, Greece and Rome. To be sure there was an Indian tradition of analytical thinking, going back much further, on which the stellar outbursts of mathematical work in India from around the fifth century drew, but we learned a lot about theorems and proofs and rigorous mathematical reasoning from the Greeks and the Romans and the Babylonians. There is no shame in learning from others, and then putting what we have learned to good use, and going on to create new knowledge, new understanding, and thrillingly novel ideas and results.


Learning from others - Let me end with an example. The history of the term “sine” in Trigonometry illustrates how we learn from each other. That trigonometric idea was well developed by Aryabhata, who called it jya-ardha, and sometimes shortened it to jya. The Arab mathematicians, using Aryabhata’s idea, called it “jiba,” which is phonetically close. But jiba is a meaningless sound in Arabic, but jaib, which has the same consonants, is a good Arabic word, and and since the Arabic script does not specify vowels, the later generation of Arab mathematicians used the term jaib, which means a bay or a cove. Then in 1150 when the Italian mathematician, Gherardo of Cremona, translated the word into Latin, he used the Latin word “sinus,” which means a bay or a cove in Latin. And it is from this – the Latin sinus - that the modern trigonometric terms “sine” is derived. In this one word we see the interconnection of three mathematical traditions – Indian, Arabic and European.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

He wrote extensively on how schools should be made more attractive to boys and girls and thus more productive. His own co-educational school at Santiniketan had many progressive features. The emphasis here was on self-motivation rather than on discipline, and on fostering intellectual curiosity rather than competitive excellence.

- Amartya Sen, The Argumentative Indian: Writings on Indian History, Culture and Identity

Monday, January 12, 2015

Quote of the Day

Many have died; you also will die. The drum of death is being beaten. The world has fallen in love with a dream. Only sayings of the wise will remain.

- Kabir, The Bijak of Kabir

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Wisdom Of The Week

Elon Musk on Reditt:

Question: How do you learn so much so fast? Lots of people read books and talk to other smart people, but you've taken it to a whole new level.

It seems you have an extremely proficient understanding of aerospace engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, software engineering, all various subdisciplines (avionics, power electronics, structural engineering, propulsion, energy storage, AI) ETC ETC nearly all things technical.

I know you've read a lot of books and you hire a lot of smart people and soak up what they know, but you have to acknowledge you seem to have found a way to pack more knowledge into your head than nearly anyone else alive. Do you have any advice on learning? How are you so good at it?

Elon Musk: I do kinda feel like my head is full! My context switching penalty is high and my process isolation is not what it used to be.

Frankly, though, I think most people can learn a lot more than they think they can. They sell themselves short without trying.

One bit of advice: it is important to view knowledge as sort of a semantic tree -- make sure you understand the fundamental principles, ie the trunk and big branches, before you get into the leaves/details or there is nothing for them to hang on to.

Quote of the Day

My desire and wish is that the things I start with should be so obvious that you wonder why I spend my time stating them. This is what I aim at because the point of philosophy is to start with something so simple as not to seem worth stating, and to end with something so paradoxical that no one will believe it.

- Bertrand Russell, The Philosophy of Logical Atomism

Friday, January 9, 2015

Distinguishing Cause From Effect Using Observational Data

In contrast, determining causal relationships is really hard. But techniques outlined in a new paper promise to do just that. The basic intuition behind the method demonstrated by Prof. Joris Mooij of the University of Amsterdam and his co-authors is surprisingly simple: if one event influences another, then the random noise in the causing event will be reflected in the affected event.

For example, suppose we are trying to determine the relationship between the the amount of highway traffic, and the time it takes John to drive to work. Both John’s commute time and traffic on the highway will fluctuate somewhat randomly: sometimes John will hit the red light just around the corner, and lose five extra minutes; sometimes icy weather will slow down the roads.

But the key insight is that random fluctuation in traffic will affect John’s commute time, whereas random fluctuation in John’s commute time won’t affect the traffic. By detecting the residue of traffic fluctuation in John’s commute time, we could show that traffic causes his commute time to change, and not the other way around.
Still, this method isn’t a silver bullet. Like any statistical test, it doesn’t work 100% of the time. And it can only handle the most basic cause-and-effect scenarios. In a three-event situation—like the correlation of ice cream consumption with drowning deaths because they both depend on hot weather—this technique falters.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

Convincing - and confident - disciplines, say, physics, tend to use little statistical backup, while political science and economics, which have never produced anything of note, are full of elaborate statistics and statistical “evidence” (and you know that once you remove the smoke, the evidence is not evidence).

- Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder

Thursday, January 8, 2015

This Dog

Every morning this dog, very attached to me,
Quietly keeps sitting near my seat
Till touching its head
I recognize its company.
This recognition gives it so much joy
Pure delight ripples through its entire body.
Among all dumb creatures
It is the only living being
That has seen the whole man
Beyond what is good or bad in him
It has seen
For his love it can sacrifice its life
It can love him too for the sake of love alone
For it is he who shows the way
To the vast world pulsating with life.
When I see its deep devotion
The offer of its whole being
I fail to understand
By its sheer instinct
What truth it has discovered in man.
By its silent anxious piteous looks
It cannot communicate what it understands
But it has succeeded in conveying to me
Among the whole creation
What is the true status of man.

- This Dog, Rabindranath Tagore

What the ML Algorithm Saw in Fine Paintings

In many cases, their algorithm clearly identifies influences that art experts have already found. For example, the graphs show that the Austrian painter Klimt is close to Picasso and Braque and indeed experts are well acquainted with the idea that Klimt was influenced by both these artists. The algorithm also identifies the influence of the French romantic Delacroix on the French impressionist Bazille, the Norwegian painter Munch’s influence on the German painter Beckmann and Degas’ influence on Caillebotte.

The algorithm is also able to identify individual paintings that have influenced others. It picked out Georges Braque’s Man with a Violin and Pablo Picasso’s Spanish Still Life: Sun and Shadow, both painted in 1912 with a well-known connection as pictures that helped found the Cubist movement.

It also linked Vincent van Gogh’s Old Vineyard with Peasant Woman (1890) and Joan Miro’s The Farm (1922), which contain similar objects and scenery but have very different moods and style.

Most impressive of all is the link the algorithm makes between (below) Frederic Bazille’s Studio 9 Rue de la Condamine (1870) and Norman Rockwell’s Shuffleton’s Barber Shop (1950). “After browsing through many publications and websites, we concluded, to the best of our knowledge, that this comparison has not been made by an art historian before,” say Saleh and co.

And yet a visual inspection shows a clear link. The yellow circles in the images below show similar objects, the red lines show composition and the blue square shows a similar structural element, say Saleh and co.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

My greatest concern was what to call it. I thought of calling it 'information,' but the word was overly used, so I decided to call it 'uncertainty.' When I discussed it with John von Neumann, he had a better idea. Von Neumann told me, 'You should call it entropy, for two reasons. In the first place your uncertainty function has been used in statistical mechanics under that name, so it already has a name. In the second place, and more important, no one really knows what entropy really is, so in a debate you will always have the advantage.

- Claude Elwood Shannon

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

23andMe and Genentech in Deal to Research Parkinson’s Treatments

Under the deal, Genentech will sequence the whole genomes of about 3,000 people with Parkinson’s disease in 23andMe’s database, and use that data to look for new therapeutic targets that could treat the neurodegenerative condition. The companies did not disclose financial terms, but a spokeswoman confirmed that 23andMe will receive $10 million initially and up to $50 million in future milestone.

- More Here

It's about time!! This was the reason I signed up 23andme  few years ago. Big data isn't of much use if its not used to make life on this planet pleasant for all species.

I cannot wait for people to "freak out" because of this deal. Remember, these are the same people who will snore with the most profound security over the torture of a hundred millions of animals in the name of  developing a pill to "cure" Hangover leave alone Parkinson's.

But He Still Shares His Food With Homeless Dogs ...

Lokesh, an amazing man from India, takes his love and passion for helping animals to a whole new level, though. Despite living in a “slum,” and being so poor that his family lives without shoes, Lokesh still finds the room in his heart and house to care for a mother dog and her pups. Winters can be extremely hard on animals, and Lokesh brought these dogs into his home without a second thought.

His kind actions for animals don’t stop there, either. When Lokesh found another injured dog in his neighborhood, he carried the animal to the volunteers at Animal Aid Unlimited himself. This is when they first heard his amazing story of selflessness and were inspired to share his story with their followers.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

I think anthropomorphism is the worst of all. I have now seen programs "trying to do things", "wanting to do things", "believing thing to be true", "knowing things" etc. Don't be so naïve as to believe that this use of language is harmless. It invited the programmer to identify himself with the execution of the program and almost forces upon him the use of operational semantics.

- Edgar Dijkstra, The Fruits of Misunderstanding

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Most Punctual Man in India

Gandhi’s legendary punctuality had a utilitarian imperative—without it he would never have been able to answer the sacks of letters and streams of visitors that demanded his attention each day. But, as with everything he valued, it had a moral imperative as well. Simply put, time was tied to his philosophy of trusteeship: the belief that just as we do not own our wealth but are trustees of it—and thus have to use it wisely—similarly, we are trustees of our time. “You may not waste a grain of rice or a scrap of paper, and similarly a minute of your time,” he wrote. “It is not ours. It belongs to the nation and we are trustees for the use of it.” Consequently, any abuse of time was unethical. “One who does less than he can is a thief,” he wrote to a friend. “If we keep a timetable we can save ourselves from the last-mentioned sin indulged in even unconsciously.” While this focus on punctuality may portray Gandhi as skittish and anxious, the opposite was true: a timetable allowed him to give the issue at hand his tranquil and undivided attention.


Gandhi was fighting a losing battle. Indians have a notoriously relaxed attitude toward punctuality, and as the national joke goes, the abbreviation IST (for Indian Standard Time) should really stand for Indian Stretchable Time. One reason proffered is that the approach to time is fundamentally different. Unlike the Western linear sense of time, Hindu philosophy treats time as cyclical, a concept succinctly illustrated by the sameness of the Hindi word for yesterday and tomorrow—kal. As Salman Rushdie jokes in Midnight’s Children, “No people whose word for yesterday is the same as their word for tomorrow can be said to have a firm grip on time.” But Rushdie also parodies the relentlessly accurate tick-tock of the clock as an “English-made” invention. A similar observation was made by the writer Ronald Duncan, who visited Gandhi’s ashram in 1937. Duncan wrote: “I shall always remember the anachronism of the large cheap watch which dangled on a safety-pin attached to his loincloth: worn this way, time itself appeared to be a toy, an invention of the Western mind.”


On the evening of January 30, 1948, he was so engrossed in a meeting with India’s new home minister, Sardar Vallabhai Patel—who was Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s rival—that he forgot the time. His great nieces, Manu and Abha, who were tasked with alerting him, held back, knowing how anguished he was by the rift between his two protégés. When they finally screwed up the courage to interrupt, he rose quickly, went to the bathroom, and then headed out. The interfaith prayer meeting was a crucial form of outreach through which Gandhi met the public and tried to calm the fissile atmosphere in Delhi. The capital of a newly independent India had been engulfed in savage Hindu-Muslim riots and only a fast by Gandhi had stopped the bloodletting. Upset, he hurried forth, saying, “It irks me if I am late for prayers by even a minute.” Minutes later, he was dead, as was his watch—not at “around five” or “five-ish,” but at 5:12, a chronometrically precise salute to the man who loved time

- More Here

Quote of the Day

They, instead, commit the fundamental attribution error, which is if something good happens, it’s because I’m a genius. If something bad happens, it’s because someone’s an idiot or I didn’t get the resources or the market moved. … What we’ve seen is that the people who are the most successful here, who we want to hire, will have a fierce position. They’ll argue like hell. They’ll be zealots about their point of view. But then you say, ‘here’s a new fact,’ and they’ll go, ‘Oh, well, that changes things; you’re right.

- Why Google doesn't care about hiring top graduates

Monday, January 5, 2015

Fasting for 3 Days Can Regenerate Entire Immune System

Fasting for as little as three days can regenerate the entire immune system, even in the elderly, scientists have found in a breakthrough described as "remarkable". Although fasting diets have been criticised by nutritionists for being unhealthy, new research suggests starving the body kick-starts stem cells into producing new white blood cells, which fight off infection.

Scientists at the University of Southern California say the discovery could be particularly beneficial for people suffering from damaged immune systems, such as cancer patients on chemotherapy. It could also help the elderly whose immune system becomes less effective as they age, making it harder for them to fight off even common diseases.

The researchers say fasting "flips a regenerative switch" which prompts stem cells to create brand new white blood cells, essentially regenerating the entire immune system. "It gives the 'OK' for stem cells to go ahead and begin proliferating and rebuild the entire system," said Prof Valter Longo, Professor of Gerontology and the Biological Sciences at the University of California. "And the good news is that the body got rid of the parts of the system that might be damaged or old, the inefficient parts, during the fasting. “Now, if you start with a system heavily damaged by chemotherapy or ageing, fasting cycles can generate, literally, a new immune system."

Prolonged fasting forces the body to use stores of glucose and fat but also breaks down a significant portion of white blood cells. During each cycle of fasting, this depletion of white blood cells induces changes that trigger stem cell-based regeneration of new immune system cells.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

The hardest thing to learn in life is which bridge to cross and which to burn.

- Bertrand Russell

Sunday, January 4, 2015


Pk in hind means "drunk". The story is simple, its a philosophers fantasy. An alien lands in India and looks at our world (and use of language) throw innocent eyes. A brilliant satire against religion, India and us, humans.

The director Rajkumar Hirani is an legend and one of  those gifted story tellers with rare brilliance to translate wisdom into art. Sir, please make more movies.

Stop protecting your god ... or else only shoes will be left on this planet and not humans

Quote of the Day

No one gossips about other people’s secret virtues.

- Bertrand Russell, On Education

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Wisdom Of The Week

In Seattle, a group headed by Hans-Peter Kiem and Keith Jerome is taking a more futuristic approach. Using an enzyme called Zinc Finger Nuclease, they are genetically altering blood and marrow stem cells so as to disable CCR5, the doorway for infection in T cells. Researchers will modify the stem cells outside the body, so that when the cells are returned some portion of the T cells in the bloodstream will be resistant to H.I.V. infection. Over time, they hope, those cells will propagate, and the patient will slowly build an immune system that is resistant to the virus. Those patients might still have a small reservoir of H.I.V., but their bodies would be able to regulate the infection.

The largest Collaboratory, with more than twenty members, is led by David Margolis, at the University of North Carolina. Margolis, an infectious-disease expert, is targeting the reservoirs directly. The idea, which has come to be known as “shock and kill,” is to reactivate the dormant virus, unmasking the cells that carry it, so that they can be destroyed. In 2012, he published the results of a clinical trial of the drug Vorinostat, which was originally developed for blood cancers of T cells, as a shock treatment. This October, “shock and kill” was widely discussed when the Collaboratory teams convened at the N.I.H., along with hundreds of other researchers, assorted academics, and interested laypeople. Margolis and his group explored in their talk new ways to shock the virus out of dormancy.

The killing stage is more challenging, because the shocked cells carry few H.I.V. antigens, the toxic flags released by pathogenic particles and recognized by the immune system prior to attack. One approach to the killing strategy comes from an unusual type of H.I.V.-positive patient who may carry the virus for decades yet seems not to be disturbed by it. Some of these so-called “élite controllers” possess cytotoxic, or killer, T cells that attack virus-producing cells. The objective is to make every H.I.V. patient into an élite controller through “therapeutic vaccination,” enabling patients to generate killer T cells on their own.

- Jerome Groopman,  Can AIDS be Cured?

Quote of the Day

 I don’t see any reason why the tools we use to develop… and train networks, should be used to execute them in production.I also think we’ll end up with small numbers of research-oriented folks who develop models, and a wider group of developers who apply them with less understanding of what’s going on inside the black box.

What does the future hold for deep learning?

Friday, January 2, 2015

10 Documentaries that Will Make You Rethink Everything You Know About Animals

10. Peaceable Kingdom
The gist: The film features five farmers, a humane officer, an animal rescuer, and a cow named Snickers, whose stories will challenge your ideas about farmers, farm life, and the animals themselves.

How it makes you think: Hearing the personal stories of conflict and transformation from the film’s human subjects, alongside footage of farm animals in peril and in a sanctuary, gives you a deeper understanding of the complexity of animal rights issues. What’s more you’ll discover how “farm animals” are just as unique as your household companions.

- Amazing list, check out the whole list here esp. for those who are stupid enough to "think" and "pride" only about the self

Quote of the Day

No mathematician in the world would bother making these senseless distinctions: 2 1/2 is a "mixed number " while 5/2 is an "improper fraction." They're EQUAL for crying out loud. They are the exact same numbers and have the exact same properties. Who uses such words outside of fourth grade?

- Paul Lockhart, A Mathematician's Lament: How School Cheats Us Out of Our Most Fascinating and Imaginative Art Form

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy 2015 !!

Quote of the Day

There was a footpath leading across fields to New Southgate, and I used to go there alone to watch the sunset and contemplate suicide. I did not, however, commit suicide, because I wished to know more of mathematics.

- Bertrand Russell