Religious sentiments: upsetting them v. getting upset

Prashant Bhushan. Credit: Swaraj Abhiyan/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 2.5

If the BJP/Congress have been offended by Prashant Bhushan’s tweet, it could only be because they have interpreted his tweet offensively.

How infographics can lose the plot

Credit: bykst/pixabay

if you don’t force designers to follow best practices when making an infographic, you’ll be setting a lower bar that will soon turn around and assault you with all kinds of charts conceived to hide what the numbers are really saying.

A future for driverless cars, from a limbo between trolley problems and autopilots

One of Google's driverless cars. Credit:

By Anuj  Srivas and Vasudevan Mukunth What’s the deal with everyone getting worried about artificial intelligence? It’s all the Silicon Valley elite seem willing to be apprehensive about, and Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom seems to be the patron saint along with his book Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies (2014). Even if Big Data seems like it could catalyze things, they could be overestimating AI’s advent. But thanks to Google’s espied breed of driverless cars, conversations on regulation are already afoot. This is the sort of subject that could benefit from its tech being better… Read More

Can science and philosophy mix constructively?

Quantum mechanics can sometimes be very hard to understand, so much so that even thinking about it becomes difficult. This could be because its foundations lay in the action-centric depiction of reality that slowly rejected its origins and assumed a thought-centric one garb. In his 1925 paper on the topic, physicist Werner Heisenberg used only observable quantities to denote physical phenomena. He also pulled up Niels Bohr in that great paper, saying, “It is well known that the formal rules which are used [in Bohr’s 1913 quantum theory] for calculating observable quantities such as… Read More

The Last Temptation

Today, I bought The Last Temptation by Nikos Kazantzakis. When I handed the Rs. 450 it cost over at the counter, it was a significant moment for me because for the last three years, after my reading habit had fallen off but before I had realized that it had, I was rejecting books that “wouldn’t appeal to the man I wanted to become”. I wouldn’t read books that had strong religious elements (because I wanted to be an atheist), that hadn’t good reviews (because I wanted to spend time “well”), that attended… Read More

The case of the red-haired kids

This blog post first appeared, as written by me, on The Copernican science blog on December 30, 2012. — Seriously, shame on me for not noticing the release of a product named Correlate until December 2012. Correlate by Google was released in May last year and is a tool to see how two different search trends have panned out over a period of time. But instead of letting you pick out searches and compare them, Correlate saves a bit of time by letting you choose one trend and then automatically picks out… Read More

How big is your language?

This blog post first appeared, as written by me, on The Copernican science blog on December 20, 2012. — It all starts with Zipf’s law. Ever heard of it? It’s a devious little thing, especially when you apply it to languages. Zipf’s law states that the chances of finding a word of a language in all the texts written in that language are inversely proportional to the word’s rank in the frequency table. In other words, this means that the chances of finding the most frequent word is twice as much as… Read More

Hypothesis of unequal perception

Let’s say there are two people talking: X and Y. X has three kinds of knowledge: Basic, Pertinent, Abstracted. Y has only two kinds of knowledge: Basic, Pertinent. S1: If Y argues that X’s knowledge of the abstracted does not qualify him to be more knowledgeable than Y on qualitative terms because it is not useful knowledge, S2: If X argues that Y’s lack of knowledge of the abstracted qualifies X to be regarded as qualitatively more knowledgeable than Y, and refutes Y by claiming Y cannot judge the usefulness of knowledge… Read More

An experiment in propositional calculus

Q: Are truths simply objective reasons whose truth-values may or may not be verifiable? A: This question seems to possess a native paradox, but that simply arises from a logical error in the semantics: we can’t address unverifiable statements as “truths”. Instead, they are logically contingent statements. Even so: As Wittgenstein says in the preface of his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, “In order to draw a limit of thinking, we should have to think both sides of this limit.” Similarly, in order to establish the objectivity of a statement, its subjectivity must be conclusively… Read More

Frakking in the fog

On February 20, Monday, Chennai was blanketed with a heavy fog that appeared out of nowhere during its early hours. Visibility was reduced to some 20 metres and the sun was completely blocked out. I’m inclined to blame global warming for this occurrence, although I don’t know how I could go about proving my point. It definitely wasn’t a smog because it didn’t look polluted; moreover, if it had been a smog, it should have appeared earlier, too, especially during the post-monsoon and winter seasons. That’s not my point. My point here… Read More

Most of your superheroes are fail.

Superman is not a superhero. He’s a normal-sized Kryptonian who, lucky for him, found the planet Earth whose inhabitants’ physical powers were inferior to his, whose inhabitants’ physical powers were proportionate to the problems they had caused on their home planet. Was Superman a superhero on Krypton? He couldn’t have been because in order to have been, the difference between his physical powers and those of his Kryptonian peers would have had to be the same as the difference between his physical powers and that of his Earth-bound peers. And that’s not… Read More

The futurity of art

I suffer from a terrible lack of insight. Unless I find that something is structured in a way that I can recognize the structure itself, I cannot “read” it (and I don’t know how better to put it). For example, consider web design. Ignoring the programming aspect of it, anything on the web is designed keeping in mind the content that will be contained on the page. If it is purely written content, the primary objective is to provide the reader with an “environment” that contains no distractions irrespective of how many… Read More