Tuesday, October 04, 2011

SH, The Moff, and John-Smith-in-a-Cool-Bow-Tie.

It don't get better than that.

Pic taken from @steven_moffat at twitter.

In other news, Sherlock has been nominated for Best Drama at the International Emmy Awards.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Rules for Time Travel(lers), by Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll, Theoretical Astrophysicist and Time Lord, has this to say about the possibility of time travel. In this article, he puts forth 10+1 (or 1+10) rules that prospective time travellers, guitar players with boyish faces, mad scientists with dogs named after mad scientists, and madmen with bitey boxes must follow. I quote his Zeroth Law here.

0. There are no paradoxes.

This is the overarching rule, to which all other rules are subservient. It’s not a statement about physics; it’s simply a statement about logic. In the actual world, true paradoxes — events requiring decidable propositions to be simultaneously true and false — do not occur. Anything that looks like it would be a paradox if it happened indicates either that it won’t happen, or our understanding of the laws of nature is incomplete. Whatever laws of nature the builder of fictional worlds decides to abide by, they must not allow for true paradoxes.

In this context, might also be worthwhile to take a peek into this article, as referred to by Sean Carroll in above blogpost. The bit about the botched suicide is pretty good.

1. A Botched Suicide

You are very depressed. You are suicidally depressed. You have a gun. But you do not quite have the courage to point the gun at yourself and kill yourself in this way. If only someone else would kill you, that would be a good thing. But you can't really ask someone to kill you. That wouldn't be fair. You decide that if you remain this depressed and you find a time machine, you will travel back in time to just about now, and kill your earlier self. That would be good. In that way you even would get rid of the depressing time you will spend between now and when you would get into that time machine. You start to muse about the coherence of this idea, when something amazing happens. Out of nowhere you suddenly see someone coming towards you with a gun pointed at you. In fact he looks very much like you, except that he is bleeding badly from his left eye, and can barely stand up straight. You are at peace. You look straight at him, calmly. He shoots. You feel a searing pain in your left eye. Your mind is in chaos, you stagger around and accidentally enter a strange looking cubicle. You drift off into unconsciousness. After a while, you can not tell how long, you drift back into consciousness and stagger out of the cubicle. You see someone in the distance looking at you calmly and fixedly. You realize that it is your younger self. He looks straight at you. You are in terrible pain. You have to end this, you have to kill him, really kill him once and for all. You shoot him, but your eyesight is so bad that your aim is off. You do not kill him, you merely damage his left eye. He staggers off. You fall to the ground in agony, and decide to study the paradoxes of time travel more seriously.

The Rules of Engagement, by Jennifer Oulette

Here is what Jennifer Oulette has to say about the most complicated thing in Life and the Rest of the Universe : Love.

As with mathematics, so with love. There are no hard and fast rules to be blindly followed, no matter what the self-help gurus may tell you. Sometimes you just need to take a Fourier transform of yourself, shatter the walls and break everything down into the component parts. Once you’ve analyzed the full spectrum, you can rebuild, this time with just the right mix of ingredients that will enable you finally to combine your waveform with that of another person.

Quoted from her recent blogpost.

Got this link from RK and PZM.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Friday, September 09, 2011

Ronnie and his Dianetics : the Ape, not Monkey way

Ape, not Monkey : The Birth Scientology

Jeffrey Weston, the guy who writes the Ape, not Monkey comic strip, has outdone himself...again. In this rather large comic (link on the thumbnail to the left), he takes potshots at L. Ron Hubbard and how the "Religion" of Scientology came into being. Doesn't quite beat South Park's monumental achievement (link below), but comes pretty close.

South Park: Trapped in the Closet.
South Park: Trapped in the Closet

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Voltaire: How To Make Money, the Easy Way!

François-Marie Arouet, aka Voltaire

François-Marie Arouet, also known as Voltaire, is perhaps best remembered as a foremost eighteenth-century European philosopher, writer, wit and liberal. What is perhaps less well known is that he also had a good head for money matters, and, along with the French explorer and geographer Charles Marie de La Condamine, managed to work the Parisian system and rake up a profit of nearly half a million francs, which left him independently wealthy for the rest of his long life. For the full story, read the recent Futility Closet blog post. Thanks goes to KC for highlighting this article.

Liberalism, the India Concept, and Ramchandra Guha

My fascination with maps, especially ones printed before computers became part and parcel of everyday society, began, I believe, from the day I received a Bengali-language atlas. It has been been a quarter of a century since that day Ma bought me that atlas from College Street on her way back from Presidency College. My fondness for maps was strengthened when I received a somewhat old copy of the 23rd edition of the Oxford School Atlas. A quick perusal of the background to this blog proves my point, I believe. Which is why I was struck by the beauty of the following map while snooping around in Wikipedia looking for material to write this blog about.

The map is of the Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir, dated 1909. Thirty eight years later, in 1947, this state was being ruled by Maharaja Hari Singh at the time of India's independence from British rule. It had a predominantly muslim population, was geographically contiguous with Pakistan, and everyone expected Hari Singh to join Pakistan. But he hesitated, and after a rather messy affair, Kashmir joined the State of India.

That is of course a matter of history, a subject that Ramchandra Guha is intimately familiar with, given that he is a historian by profession. I have often read his articles, been fascinated by his email id (something like ramguha@so-and-so) and have wondered if he is Bengali (a doubt which could have been cleared up from the article about him on wikipedia). Anyway, today was the first time I saw him in the flesh. He was here, at Matscience, to give a general colloquium on "Libralism in India". This was in memory of Rahul Basu, who, apart from being a high-energy theoretical physicist, also had varied interests, possessed razor-sharp wit and sense of humour.

Ramchandra Guha began by distinguishing between a patriot and a nationalist. Following Tagore, he defined a patriot as one who loves her own country, and a nationalist as one who hates countries other than her own. He then outlined the basic definition of liberalism (freedom of thought and expression, free trade etc) and stressed on its role in being the thread that binds India together. He pointed out that India is probably the only country in the world where people from over 20 different major language groups and nearly eight hundred and fifty different dialects coexist peacefully. Well, almost. A bit like modern-day Europe, which, demographically or, to be more accurate, linguistically, greatly resembles India. But Europe is an amalgamation, tenuous at best, of fifty or so nation states, whereas India is one country. Which is where RK steps in.

In the question session following the talk, RK asked Ram Guha about the lack of civil liberties (compared tot he rest of the country) in J&K and the NorthEast, and how that fits in with Guha's claim of the liberal outlook that is, supposedly, the bedrock of the modern State of India. The discussion spilled over into the coffee session, and initially comprised of RK and YT (and not Guha, who had taken off), and was later joined by RA, PR and RR. One of the primary things discussed was the definition of the Nation-State of India, and what made us Indians. Historically, the first concept of India as a nation was espoused, I believe, in the nineteenth century by the new breed of rational "Indian" thinkers. In 1947, at the time of independence, India was a fractured tapestry of princely states, formerly British-controlled areas and a few French and Portuguese areas. The process of the Political Integration of India makes for fascinating read and perhaps a future blog post, and essentially underlines the virtual lack of cohesive cultural or societal integrative forces behind this integration. Yet, we find, in year 2011, that most of us feel Indian in some way or another. Personally, I have not yet been able to fully grasp the underlying mechanics that preserves India's unity in so much diversity, but today's discussion did clear a few things up. What cannot be ignored, of course, is that this wonderful country still has problem areas, and most of these problems stem from the chronic disregard by the State for the vox populi. What should also not be ignored is that, some of these problems, have, on some occasions and partially at least, from the machinations of forces beyond the borders. As I finish this rather poorly planned and executed blog post, I tend to both agree and disagree with RK's views, and hope to have another such session with RK and RA. Thanks to Ramchandra Guha for a wonderful lecture, and to RK and RA for a wonderful debate.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Suitcases, Staircases, Semicidecases

It all kind of began 7 minutes and 43 seconds back when I read this, the latest offering from AKP. Well, maybe not quite. Maybe it was 8 minutes and 27 seconds back. No, wait, 35 seconds back. No, ...

Anyway, leaving temporal unconvergences aside, it can't be denied that life sometimes throws at you opportunities that only satsumae can squash. Which is why cockatoos and aardvarks are endangered nowadays. And if they are not yet, they might well be in the future. What really matters is how neatly and nattily you can pack your suitcases, how primly and prattily you can climb staircases, and how grimly and grattily you can commit a ghastly semicide. Or fail to. Partially.

A word of caution. This post might not make too much sense to someone who has not read AKP's recent post, linked near the top. A second word of caution. This post might not make too much sense to someone who has read AKP's recent post, linked near the top.

I think it is time to say something sounding suspiciously similar to...

Ah, well, Wilhelm just screamed.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Supervillains and the Gini Coefficient

A new blog post, coming after a bit of a hiatus, usually begins with acknowledging that very fact. And building upon it.

So, thanks to SMBC and KC, I learnt about the Gini coefficient: a measure of the uniformity of distribution of wealth in a country. This graph essentially measures the uniformity --- or lack thereof --- of the distribution of a nation's wealth among its population. The following graph, taken from Wikipedia, shows that India does not do too badly...depending upon your point of view of course.

For more, look up its entry in Wikipedia.

Building stuff is boring. Much better to simply change the topic.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Another day...

She calls out to the man on the street
"Sir, can you help me?
It's cold and I've nowhere to sleep,
Is there somewhere you can tell me?"

He walks on, doesn't look back
He pretends he can't hear her
Starts to whistle as he crosses the street
Seems embarrassed to be there.

Thanks to PC for the words.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

"...they call me a teddybear..."

PZ Myers, one of the most vocal atheists in the world, male or female, describes himself in this interview conducted by a certain Richard Dawkins.

PZ Myers Discussion - RDF Productions - RichardDawkins.net

Rapture: Harold is still Camping...

It just boggles my mind how these people continue to thrive and make utter fools of people and still get heard. I just found out through Jen McCreight's blog that Harold Camping has now revised the date of Rapture. Personally, I hope raptors get him...but I guess he will be unpalatable.

Edit: Here's an amazing joke about the Rapture from RK: "If you can't think of a joke on Rapture, don't worry; it's not like its the end of the world."

Thursday, May 12, 2011

How is Chrome built?

Well, according to Pam Greene (Software Engineer), it's built with "wrenches and hammers".

Honey, I'm home? :The well-known QUeuing problem

In other news, according to an IPL (that's the Indian Premier League of CCricket) cheerleader, MS Dhoni is a "polite" guy.

Luke Surl Comics - 449 – No ExQses

[ thanks to RS for the link ]

A simple algorithm for solving problems

Step 1: Write down the problem
Step 2: Think real hard (scratch your forehead a bit, if needed)
Step 3: Write down the solution

This algorithm was generated by one MG-M from California. He was trying to describe how a certain colleague of his, by name RPF, used to solve problems.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Losing my sandality...

...or A Case of Missing Sandality, whichever you prefer. Inane, inane, inane. Add an 's' and let the slaughter begin. Steven Thompson and Jeremy Webb, two of the dumbest...no, wait, the dumbest writer-director pair ever! Really put the rorying darvill into the works. What a waste of 45+90 minutes.

P.S. You, yes you, I am talking to you. Can't you even recognize that one of your shoes is a size too big, you idiot!

P.P.S. NG, please please do not screw up next week. Who knows, if you do, the Sandman might just pay you an unscheduled visit.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Hygiene and cleanliness in 19th century France

I had the general idea that the level of cleanliness among the general populace was rather low in the middle ages and afterwards. But I always had the impression that this had improved by the Victorian age. Reckon I was mistaken. The following piece I quote from a post by Tim Carmody, and thanks to KC for putting the link to the post up in Reader. [This passage was taken from France Fin de Siecle, meaning "France, at the Turn of the Century". It is a book about art, culture, and literature in mid-to-late 19th-century France.]

If one considers the scarceness of water and of facilities for its evacuation, it is not surprising that washing was rare and bathing rarer. Clean linen long remained an exceptional luxury, even among the middle classes. Better-off buildings enjoyed a single pump or tap in the courtyard. Getting water above the ground floor was rare and costly; in Nevers it became available on upper floors in the 1930s. Those who enjoyed it sooner, as in Paris, fared little better.

Baths especially were reserved for those with enough servants to bring the tub and fill it, then carry away the tub and dirty water. Balzac had referred to the charm of rich young women when they came out of their bath. Manuals of civility suggest that this would take place once a month, and it seems that ladies who actually took the plunge might soak for hours: an 1867 painting by Alfred Stevens shows a plump young blonde in a camisole dreaming in her bathtub, equipped with book, flowers, bracelet, and a jeweled watch in the soap-dish. Symbols of wealth and conspicuous consumption.

In a public lecture course Vacher de Lapouge affirmed that in France most women die without having once taken a bath. The same could be said of men, except for those exposed to military service. No wonder pretty ladies carried posies: everyone smelled and, often, so did they.

Teeth were seldom brushed and often bad. Only a few people in the 1890s used toothpowder, and toothbrushes were rarer than watches. Dentists too were rare: largely an American import, and one of the few such things the French never complained about. Because dentists were few and expensive, one would find lots of caries, with their train of infections and stomach troubles, it is likely that most heroes and heroines of nineteenth-century fiction had bad breath, like their real-life models.

Carmody goes on to make the following comment: 'Yep. That's why we call them "the unwashed masses." '

To be quite fair, I was somewhat taken aback (read: shocked) at this. History never ceases to fascinate.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Rabindra Rock?!?!

[Thanks to pgSSG for this link.]

I was never really a really big fan of rock music (apologies to SP, but yes, rock would probably-definitely not be my first choice music). But we (here "we" means me and rock music) have managed to get along, sort of. That alliance/peaceable coexistence is, I am afraid, now over. And this is to blame for that.

PhD comics: Dark Matter video

Jorge Cham has put up a very nice video about Dark Matter and such stuff on the latest PhD comics.

Dark Matters from PHD Comics on Vimeo.

Monday, May 02, 2011

OBL gets an obituary?

Just saw this off a PZ Myers blog. It seems BHO has himself claimed this news. Love the comment by PZ:
I'm expecting his head to be mounted on a pike outside the White House now.
Other resources here and here.

The Merry Month of May

Whoever said that probably (surely) never lived in Chennai. In other news, just discovered PZ Myers and his blog, thanks to RS. Also, planning to learn (and do) some metaprogramming as well as improve my scant knowledge of python. Finally, imho, Kevin Spacey does a better Chris Walken than Chris Walken (and perhaps a better Jack Nicholson than Jack Nicholson, although the few good men of the jury might still be out on that).

This starts off May.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Mwanga na Kivuli

No, I have not gone mad. That is Swahili. It means Light and Shadow. It also refers to a new photoblog started up by AKP. This was, in his words (or a close approximation nevertheless), lying dormant for a while. Strategic application of virtual chinese feather trick has brought it out of hibernation. Thankfully! Here is a sample shot from that blog.

AKP, take a bow! :) Mwanga na Kivuli!

Wednesday, March 09, 2011


Procrastination is a good thing, or so I thought, up until that moment when I realized that such a thing exists. It is a bit like The Game --- the game I alluded to in my previous post. You keep winning till you realize that you are playing it, at which point you lose The Game. Procrastination works in a funnily similar way {not sure if "funnily" is a legit word and not interested in a dictionary search right now}. So, I finally was pushed over the edge and into restarting 1:34 am by a friend of mine, who managed this feat brilliantly. You see, the reason I was procrastinating was that I thought there was nothing worth writing about. That friend, somehow (maybe with arrows) convinced me that it was not so. Hence, the blog restarted. Now, what was I going to write about again...? Ah, right, a quick peek at the title helped: Identity! A question of who we are, who we were, and who we might end up being. Let us try and explore that question in a little more detail in the next paragraph.

At this juncture let me disclaim {another word that I am not certain exists, but who cares} that this has nothing to do with the somewhat-enjoyable movie Identity, nor with its absolutely trashbag Hindivisation {hmmm, my internal dictionary seems to have gone offline --- good show!}. What I want to write about here is the interesting dilemma I faced this afternoon, and the way it was resolved. To put things in a nutshell, I was offered a nice offer by a nice company that offers nice offers --- this offer was rather nice: I was to get some shiny things and one more shiny thing for a third of the price...or if one thinks alternately, the shiny things were free and I had to pay for the shiny thing. Tough decision! The amount I had to pay to get all shiny things, singular and plural, was about the refractive index of water times my monthly acquisition. Not too-o bad, if one thinks about it. Not a big huge amount to spend for a truckload of adamantium and a juicy purple fruit (which is somewhat spectral-nomenclaturely weak). So I was in a dilemma. To be, or not to be!

Most of the people who read this blog do the same thing I do: they try and discover that nature of all things, boldly go where no one has gone before. Less romantically, they do research. For fun. For their daily bread. But mostly, for fun. Notwithstanding JC and his gang, research is a nice thing to do {in fact, very much NotNotwithstanding JC et al}. And as far as I am concerned, College Street wins every time. So, matter has been resolved, this post also looks like a perfect jogakhichuri, and things move on. As always.

Mini-blog: of mini-blogs and red buttons

Correct me if I am mistaken, but I do believe Wordpress has a Mini-blog feature. Blogger does not. That is bad. Formal potesht! Of course, there is Buzz. But that is micro-blog! I want a mini-blog feature in Blogger {or I want someone to point it out to me if it already exists, feeling too lazy to actually search for it.}

Ever noticed how completely ineffective the Gchat red "busy" button is? I'm sure you have, so I need not say more about it. Also, "AFK" means "Away From Keyboard" and not "I Am Not Here".

This was a mini-blog. Future such entries will be marked as such. Next up, a full-length blog on Ravel's Boléro.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Dear 1:34 am

Nice weather we are having, aren't we?
Ah well, I knew that that pathetic effort at a nonchalant hi-how-are-you-yeah-i-haven't-asked-of-you-for-a-lifetime would fall flat/splat on its face/space. You know, I am actually trying to write this using html tags. You should at least give me some credit for tha...all right, all right, no need to throw things now, is there? See? Me? Here? On my knees? Saying sorry? See? See?

Right! Let me straighten my bow tie a bit now. And no, bow ties are cool. The latest from Gallifrey, it is. Even StartThis says so. Nope, I'm keeping me bow tie.

First of all, Science Day is over! Well, if you didn't know of this that can hardly be constituted as my fault, can it? It was all over the web. Science Day @ IMSc 2011! On 27 Feb! From 8 am! We even had our own web page --> Science Day @ IMSc! So what in azure blazed were you cribbing about, eh?

Yeah, we had a blast. We had a blast last year as well. This time one of the coolest things (apart from my bow tie, of course) was our Elephant Toothpaste experiment! Wait up, I'll put up pics of that on the site soon enough. And, I also invite you to the program next year: believe me, it is a blast (or did I use that word before)!

I was talking to RA this afternoon at tea about engineering, clerkship and science. Rancho would understand: it was he who said that it is rather stupid to learn the marvelous aspects of engineering for four years and then throw it all away to do an MBA and then become a banker. Of course, he did not quite work it out that the banker in question is also the "the biggest selling English language novelist in India's history (TM)". The world moves on. Before Independence (or something like that), Indian boys had star-struck ideas of being clerks in British offices, and a clerk-babu was a superstar. Funny how history repeats itself.

Have to be honest: I had quite forgotten (damn, I just lost The Game, sorry SP) about you. And would you please not throw any more cultlery, they tend to be sharp. And yes, cultlery should have been sick (sic), but who in Gallifrey cares anyway. I think you need to give your sincerest thanks to someone who belongs to none, and you need to do this at least two hundred and four times, and maximum nBones-2 times.

Righto then, I reckon I've spent enough time with you for the time being. Back to Nicole's adventures then! Seeya later, 1:34 am.