Thursday, 9 August 2007

We didn't start the fire.

Nobody puts it better than Monty Burns.
Oh, so Mother Nature needs a favour? Well, maybe she should have thought of that when she was besetting us with droughts and floods and poison monkeys. Nature started the fight for survival and she wants to quit because she's losing? Well, I say hard cheese!

The way this post has started off may lead you to the conclusion that I'm going to do some environmentalist bashing, but no. It's just about a certain hypothesis I have.

I find this whole business of blaming humans for state in which the planet is today a bit unfair. We are, after all, products of evolution. This logically implies that all those 'artificial' things which we have today are also products of evolution. They emerged from the human brain, didn't they?(which is natural, I'm sure you agree). This means that antibiotics, computers, automobiles and even the atomic bomb are all, technically speaking, part of nature. Saying that all the technology we have today is not a product of nature is like saying that the weaver bird's 'house' is 'unnatural'. Any product of a product of nature, is also part of nature, is all that I'm trying to get across.

Survival is difficult, and the fact that Nature equipped us with a superior brain to survive was probably the mistake. This brought other consequences with it. A brain that could device antibiotics, could also build an atom bomb. If it could comprehend the advantages of agriculture, pesticides were not far off. If, for shelter, we need to cut down forests, then that's the way it is. It's not our fault. It's inherent to human nature to do these things, and we can't help it. We didn't ask for it, it was given to us by Nature.

I whole-heartedly agree that things like wars are a terrible waste of human life and cause wide spread, sometimes irrepairable, damage to our surroundings. I am not defending the human race, but only saying that pollution, global warming, animal extinction, deforestation, poaching and the like were bound to happened. Evolution took an ugly turn, but took it nonetheless. Creating a species that could survive under any circumstances brought a huge cost along with it. Nature made the mistake, not us.

The ability to realize what we are doing and where all this leading has also been given to us, and is a product of the evolution of the brain. It's upto to us to now make amends. As far as we know, we are the only planet that harbours life, and we aren't going to get help from outside. We have to do it not only for ourselves and our race, but for the sake of a wonderful accident called life. But if it doesn't work out, it wouldn't be our fault.

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

A Random Post

The other day, while GK, Shortage, Ram and I were grubbing at Tiffanys, the issue of how computers generate only pseudo-random numbers came up.
Is there anyway to generate truly random numbers?
Asked GK.
Yes. Radioactivity and Evolution are truly random processes.
Said Ram.
Said I.
Lets leave before it begins to rain.
Said Shortage.

It is much harder than what it seems to get a computer to do something random. For it to do anything at all, it has to be fed with instructions, which is deterministic by definition, making all random numbers generated from computer algorithms only pseudo-random. The numbers are part of a repeating sequence.

Radioactive decay is a process which can safely be called genuinely random. There is no way one can predict when an atom will decay. In large enough numbers, though, it becomes more predictable and notions such as half life make sense. Microscale randomness, if I may? Fermilab has an excellent internet service, HotBits, which generates random numbers for you, by exploiting this fact.

The process of evolution on the other hand is not truly random. The backbone of evolution is natural selection, and the 'selection' throws all ideas of randomness out the window. Its only the genetic mutations which are genuinely random. In other words, me being human at birth was very predictable, but could I turn out to be John Cleese? There's no way to tell. Microscale randomness again!

So, is there anyway to have genuine 'macroscopic' randomness? Why, just roll a die.

I recently read that atmospheric noise produced by thunderstorms can generate random numbers. Which means, one can sit at home, build a radio, pick up the noise and have genuine random numbers.

So stick that in your Geiger Counter, Fermilab!

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Humour at 35,000 Feet

Indian Airlines is not particularly known for their expertise at entertaining their passengers, but this time...

It was time for the much awaited refreshments. Printed on the aluminium foil, in boldface and bright green letters was

Noticing that my guffawing had caused a slight throbbing in the temples of the passenger seated next to me, I reduced it to a snicker.

For those of you who are still wondering what I found so funny, click here

Monday, 11 June 2007

Caught Napping

The scene is your usual summer afternoon ManTech class. Just how anyone can ramble away on the best possible angle for the tool during a turning operation, for fifty minutes, when he is greeted by a sea of sleepy faces, is beyond me. While most of my classmates are cursing themselves for not bringing pillows along, I'm keeping myself entertained by observing the different spatial configurations a body can take when exposed to soporific stimuli.

Over the four months I underwent the course, I made some very interesting observations.

  • The most common one was the expected hands folded on the table, head cradled between them.
  • The rarest one has to be TI's. He just takes up any posture as long as its humanly possible, and each one seems more impossible than the previous one.
  • The most outrageous of them all? Uss, hands down. Chin propped on elbows, head inexplicably following the prof's every move, face stoic, yet in deep sleep. With appropriate artwork on his eyelids, you'd think he's wide awake and all ears.
Though not ManTech, not mentioning Frame's little incident in Mr R's class would be blasphemous.

Our man is sitting in the very first bench and has crashed himself into oblivion. Just picture the rude shock he would have got when he is awakened with the following:
Waat ees thees gentilman! sleeping een the first bench! Go drown yuwar face and come!
-Mr R
The unnecessary emphasis on 'the' is not mine.

Frame has ever since developed a mysterious dislike for the first bench.

Sunday, 10 June 2007

The Initio

This being my first post, I'll keep it short. (Adding the 'sweet' bit borders dangerously on corniness)

So here it goes! And all that jazz.

Hi, I'm Aditya, and I was feeling excessively creative about fifteen minutes ago. A few minutes of mucking around with templates and other such paraphernalia enabled me to put that to use.

Now wait a minute.

If you are getting the idea that this blog is some spur of the moment thing, as Jeremy Clarkson often puts it,
You'd be wrong. Very wrong.
Now it goes without saying that there'd be good posts and not so good ones, allthough statistically things ought to even out. But then again,
There are three types of lies in this world. Lies, Damn lies and statistics.
-Benjamin Disraeli
As to why it took me so long to jump on to the blog bandwagon, a wise man self referentially once said:
It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter's law.
As you must have guessed by now, the wise man in question is Douglas Hofstadter.

Do keep visiting now and then!