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Showing posts from May, 2010

It matters whether or not matter and anti-matter

Well, this is fun work. Fermilab scientists are finding clues to why there is apparently more matter in the universe compared to anti-matter ... which is a good thing for us creatures made out of matter. And the LHC will probe all these mysteries further and deeper. I wonder what more fundamental insights will be gained into the workings of nature in my lifetime. And whether a Grand Unified Theory will be achieved and whether that achievement is close at hand. Is that going to occur in the next 50 years or perhaps 500 years from now ... in which case I will be as dead as da Vinci is now or Shakespeare. So, cheers! Science rocks! And Ramdev sucks! And Ravi Shankar with multiple Sris sucks too!

Hang Kasab!

Oh, what a circus! Well, the Indian judiciary is a weird creature. It sometimes sprints like a cheetah and at other times crawls like a sloth. Cases drag on for 20 and 25 years. And then sometimes cases are wrapped up pretty soon. For some reason, rape cases involving 'foreign' tourists/visitors to India are disposed off in 'record' time. Then, there's Kasab of course. He is to be 'hanged till death' and you have many hangmen volunteering to do the job. I mean, it's not like you have to operate the guillotine or something. Surely, one does not actually have to behead the convict. So, I wonder what is the big deal in pulling a lever. Anyway, now there's talk about why no hanging still of the guy convicted for the Parliament attacks from 2001. Now that's more like typical Inida. The guy got his initial death sentence back in 2002 and he is still alive while his mercy plea languishes with the government of Delhi. Well, I think some official of the S

False Hypes

The Government of India is almost going to be able to wipe away its entire deficit with the money it's getting from the auctioning of the 3G spectrum — 67,000 crores plus or whatever. It's all a false hype of course. I am sure that the government is not going to receive all that mullah. The companies will take us all for a ride. This has happened before too. Recall when the original licensing happened for starting mobile telephony services in India, companies promised to pay outrageous amounts to the government for acquiring a license. And once they had got the license, they simply told the government that they are unable to realize their revenue projections and hence they would go bankrupt if the government were to insist that they pay their 'committed' license fees. The government of course took pity on the companies and they were left off the hook. So, basically the companies made a promise and then reneged on that promise without paying any penalties whatsoever. The

The Ultimate Devaluation

In the breathless discussion about the gyrations of the stock market and of the price of currencies and of the price of gold, one 'commodity' has been pretty much forgotten and that is human life. The value of this particular commodity has consistently gone down in India. The recent orgy of Naxal killings in the killing fields of Dantewada are merely the latest episode of an ongoing saga. Remember the stampede during the Kumbh Mela — that weird display of religious stupidity or the senseless stampede in the railway station in the nation's capital itself. When such events become daily occurences, they fail to affect us. We become desensitized to them. Oh, I had almost forgotten the horrific image of the dead in that electrocution incident which happened to members of a marriage party. See, that proves my point. So, perhaps this is inevitable — as the total number of people increase, the value of each one of us diminishes proportionately. Yeah, inevitable. How many people die

Some Days are Interesting ... and others are not

What a smorgasboard of news items ... One has to marvel at the way politicians like Lalu and Mulayam survive in spite of umpteen scams. One can add to the list of course. I mentioned these two in the context of something that has been said by the BJP chief which these two 'gentlemen' found 'insulting.' What a joke — I am least bothered. But, the audacity of the shamelessness of politicians and the short tenure of the memory of the public is mind boggling. Well, strange to see Jairam Ramesh suddenly taking a liking to the Chinese and getting into a mess. Even the United States is wary of China ... so, it might be better to take a cautious approach with the dragon so that we are not caught with our pants down. Strange stuff, of course. A very strange nation — China. What does it do to a nation to have been defeated in war like China was by Japan. So much suffering. The Japanese have done such horrific stuff like experimenting on live humans, etc. — basically, not much dif

Onward to Mars!!!

I have a plan ... Why retire the orbiters to some museum? Why not send them to Mars? I am thinking the liquid fuel tank could be refilled in space by a few trips by Russian Soyuzs and then the rocket engines of the shuttle can be fired back up again and away we go to the Red Planet! I am sure there will be human volunteers and food resupply missions can be sent periodically ... Sure, this will be a mammoth exercise ... extraordinarily expensive but not technologically impossible. So, the only reason why this is not happening is because humanity is too busy with 'other' concerns such as wars here and there, developing weapons, more wars here and there, age-old problems of poverty, too many people, too little food, etc. I wish I lived at a time in the future when the average human being was equivalent in intelligence to Carl Sagan or Richard Feynman. Perhaps, that future will never dawn.

Day Dreaming about Goldman Sachs

I wonder when and if Congress can pass a law to simply liquidate Goldman Sachs. What would be the consequences? Not many direct job losses, to be sure. Millions of people have already lost jobs and nobody bothers too much about that or them. There will be a lot of 'collateral' damage for sure. Overall, the size of the financial sector in the economy will shrink. Is that a bad thing? Youngsters might not dream about becoming millionaires by getting MBAs or law degrees. Instead, bright people might choose to do science which will benefit mankind. Money lures all — or, at least most of us. So, as long as 'legal' avenues are available to make lots of it, youngsters will choose to pursue that career. In India, engineers suddenly metamorphose into MBAs. IITs' loss is Goldman's gain. I don't know how much of that happens in the U.S. What if what is happening in Greece were to take place in the U.S.? Who will come to bail the U.S. out? China? India? Europe? Will peo

Religion and the U.S. Supreme Court

John Roberts, Jr. — Roman Catholic (R.C.) — Nominated by George W. Bush John Paul Stevens — Protestant — Nomiated by Gerald Ford Antonin Scalia — R.C. — Nominated by Ronald Reagan Anthony Kennedy — R.C. — Nominated by Ronald Reagan Clarence Thomas — R.C. — Nominated by George H. W. Bush Ruth bader Ginsburg — Jewish — Nominated by Bill Clinton Stephen Breyer — Jewish — Nominated by Bill Clinton Samuel Alito — R.C. — Nominated by George W. Bush Sonia Sotomayor — R.C. — Nominated by Barack Obama Elena Kagan — Jewish — Nominated by Barack Obama Sandra Day O'Connor — Episcopalian — Nominated by Ronald Reagan David Souter — Episcopalian — Nominated by George H. W. Bush May be, President Obama will get to nominate four justices in the course of his two terms as president. On the religious front, well, sad to see no Muslims, no atheists, no Hindus, no Buddhists, etc. ... But if really religion and government are to be kept completely separate, then should not the judges be free from any an

More ...

I don't know if this is Ancient History 101 or Pre-Historic Human History 101 or Anthropology 101 but it's good ... The only 'logical fallacy' that I can think of is this ... both Neanderthals and ancient humans were speaking English??? Must be with a British accent then ...

An Interesting Architectural Slant ...

... about the monster called Goldman Sachs ... And to think that it's at present headed by a lawyer who's doing god's work ... Serving the poorest of the poor ... as Mother Teresa or Gandhi would have said ... BTW, Gandhi walked 243 kms during his Dandi March, the famous Salt March, did not he? He would have been 61 years old then by my reckoning ... R-E-M-A-R-K-A-B-L-E !!!

Babies are smart after all

Gosh! What astonishing studies psychologists do!!! Testing babies to see if they can differentiate between right and wrong! And lo and behold, babies CAN do that! Six-month-old babies and eight-month-old babies and year-old babies! Babies can tell the good guy from the bad guy! So, we start out with some innate sense of what is right and what is wrong. Then, culture and learning reinforces those senses. Wonderful stuff ... The next fun stuff to see would be this: test to see if babies are capable of deceiving when they see some benefit for themselves in it and no harm for anyone else ... something akin to corruption perhaps. Adults normally find it easy to take short cuts and indulge in corruption when they feel that they can gain something from indulging in such corruption while at the same time there is no obvious downside to it ... can or do babies make those sort of decisions ... Oh, what a crazy idea

Did they do it? Yes, please

Well, did our ancestors mate with the Neanderthals? Biologists are doing pioneering work in this sphere of evolutionary anthropology. They have substantially decoded the genome of the extinct Neanderthals!!! So, it's only a matter of time before they find some preserved egg of some dino and manage to decode that as well. And so Jurassic Park is nigh! I can't wait to see little dinosaurs not to mention big ones. And oh, I want to see some of those Neanderthals in 'reality' as well rather than only on the Discovery Channel!!! Way to go scientists!


So, it's Death to the Infidel! Or, perhaps Death to the Traitor! Or, Death to the Murderer! Or, Death to the Terrorist! I don't know what sounds most potent ... I am only referring to Kasab getting the death sentence for his role in 26/11. I wonder how much of an impact this event will have from the perspective of one hundred years. How will people remember this incident? In this vast country, with its myriad tumults, I am sure this will be no more than a footnote known only to or remembered only by a few professional historians of the 22nd century. The more immediate question though is this. When will Kasab be actually hanged as per the punishment dished out? The Bombay HC is there and then the Supreme Court of India. So, a conservative estimate would be at least one year. Check with me in one year's time and then we'll see if I have been right or wrong — too optimistic or too pessimistic. Remember that the guys who got the death penalty in connection with the Parliame

Greece vs. India

Two ancient nations and cultures going back over 2,000 years. Is it possible to compare them? Greece is known as the cradle of Western civilization. Ancient Greece is associated with so many legends — everyone from Pythagoras, Socrates, Aristotle, Homer, Sophocles, Euripides, Herodotus, Hippocrates , etc. Greece is of course the land of the Olympics. How many people are there in all of Greece today? Roughly 10 million. Or, 11 million. Of course, they enjoy one of the highest standards of living in the world. What does India have to boast of? Let's see. Population of 1.2 billion roughly. Oh, a 'booming' economy — one of the 'fastest' growing economies of the world. And yet, pathetic literacy rates overall. And poverty. Miserable. Degrading. India perhaps leads the world in childhood malnutrition and infant mortality. Being the leader in the IT services sector in the world has perhaps made some dent in this abject poverty. Perhaps the wealth created in the burgeoning

Dawkins versus Hawking

Not that they would have thought of themselves as being 'adversaries.' It just occurred to me that Dawkins published his legendary The Selfish Gene back in 1976 while Hawking's classic A Brief History of Time came out only in 1989. So, by that token, Dawkins precedes Hawking by more than a decade when it comes to conveying the ideas of science to a general population. But, Hawking of course became the darling of the public overtaking every other popularizer of science including the incomparable Carl Sagan. Perhaps, it's to do with the differing subject matter of the material covered in those books or perhaps it's the 'unusual' and heroic life story of Hawking himself which helped to propel him directly to the top. Nevertheless, Dawkins has acquired quite a lot of fame if not notoriety now a days for his books and his militant atheism. I am very happy about this. He is a scientists who pulls no punches when it comes to his religious viewpoints in contra

Time Travel and What Not ...

Stephen Hawking continues to stretch the frontiers of the human imagination even as his body continues to be confined to a wheelchair! What an inspiring story his life has been ... Although there have been legitimate debates about the true value and fundamental nature of his contributions to astrophysics, I believe his having accomplished all that he has is in itself an extraordinary story of the triumph of the human spirit. The world of physics is awash with geniuses of all sorts ... from Feynman to Dirac to so many others ... and yet, Hawking remains a uniquely inspirational figure. And now through a TV series, he is talking to the general TV viewing audience about difficult concepts of astrophysics. Again, a laudable enterprise. It feels odd at times to think that we are part of the same humanity: one part of which is struggling to get access to the basic necessities of life such as food, water, clothing, housing while there are these scientists who build these remarkable stuff and

My New Residence

I hear Mr. Vijay Mallaya is 'tearing down' his ancestral home in the 'heart' of Bangalore — I mean, I am not ABSOLUTELY sure, okay — to build in its place a 31-storey skyscraper that will boast of 75 super-luxury 'flats' — of course, that's different from flat tyres. 'Flats' are merely apartments ... And the price-tag for the said apartments will be a reasonable 20 crores apiece ... So, obviously, I am going to buy one of these. Bye bye Gurgaon, here I come Bangalore! Do you think the Indian Income Tax department reads my blog? No, not likely ... though, I don't think they would be watching porn like the SEC guys ... I mean, how cool is that!!!

Jai Ho Diaspora

So, one more Indian scales one more peak. Amartya Sen has climbed many such academic peaks. Now, Nitin Nohria, of Indian origin is to be the head of the Harvard Business School — educator to Goldman CEOs to presidents of the U.S. to numerous business honchos from the world over. In terms of the you scratch my back and I will scratch yours nature of the interlinkedness among business heads and political big shots and other 'influentials,' nothing much would change. The people who have appointed Mr. Nohria must be fairly certain that he would toe a fairly conservative Harvard line and continue its fabled traditions. Indians tend to do well when they are asked to play on a playing field with well-defined rules of the game — however challenging the game itself may be. I am sure Mr. Nohria is a brilliant man — to have travelled this far from IIT Mumbai to Harvard. So, kudos and Godspeed to him!

Money oh money ...

Is it just weird me or what! I mean, I just loooooooooove holding brand-new currency notes hot off the press! I love everything about them — oh what beauty, what crispness, what fragrance ... I'll stop lest folks think I am completely bonkers ... I learnt recently that the Government of India had got currency notes of 100 and 500 denomination printed in Europe — and I was thinking may be that's why the notes were looking extra crisp ... The sheer amount of it is mindboggling of course — 20,000 crores worth of 100 rupee notes meaning 200 crore notes of that denomination. 80,000 crores worth of 500 rupee notes meaning 160 crore notes of that denomination. 100,000 crores of rupees in all!!! What a large country India is ... I don't want any of that of course ... I am only interested in attaining 'oneness' with the Creator of the Universe ... or, twoness if I am high on alcohol ...


Being an honest, patriotic, God-fearing (or, may be not so God-fearing), heterosexual Indian, I think it's my onerous duty to choose the best medium multi-role combat aircraft for the 75-year-old plus Indian Air Force. Although, since India became independent only in 1947, it beats me how the IAF can be older than 75 but that's a different story. As to the present contract for 126 of the MMRCAs, the contenders in the fray are these: F-16 F/A-18 MIG-35 Gripen Rafale Typhoon So, which one would I choose out of these six? To me, the choice is obvious — MIG-35. Of course, I don't have the advantage of user trials and other evaluation techniquies that the IAF has. But the MIG-35 seems to be the most modern of the lot while the F-16 and the F/A-18 have been around forever. Cost-wise too, the Russian MIG-35 should be on the cheaper side if not the cheapest. I am holding my breath for Mr. Antony to take a final decision then.