Sunday, 27 November 2016

Marking Territory

Swami Gulagulaananda said:
Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam"

Planet Earth is considered to be a unique planet - It is the only known planet that harbours life. The Earth has been around for a long time, a few billion years (or a few thousand if you are a devout christian) and is filled with resources such as water, trees, fossil fuel, gemstones, wildlife and more.

Let's look at the planet Earth from the point of animals, say ants. Ants are remarkable insects that live in colonies and have divided their tasks among themselves - Some are workers, some are cleaners while some others are soldiers. They divide labour, just like humans; they communicate among themselves like humans; and they are territorial, just like humans. They decide what their territories are, and aggressively defend it. Any perceived threat will result in a swarm of ants working like a well oiled machine with their mandibles pulling at the enemy from various angles. I saw a video of an ant colony dismembering a scorpion.

Ants are not the only animal group that is territorial - Dogs, wolves, tigers and a host of other animals are territorial as well. I guess we can safely assume that being territorial is a deep rooted primal quality.

The planet Earth does not belong to anyone - So, everything on the planet belongs to everyone. And yet, the reality is not so. I cannot go and see the Great Barrier Reef or Mount Fuji without taking permission from some people. Does that seem fair? Do these places belong to some people? Why? Is it because they were born in that area? And if you look at Australia, it was a pristine country with a few Aborigines which was taken over by some Europeans quite recently. And now they don't let others come in. Is that fair?

We simply accept these things as they are. We were born in a country and we become citizens of that country. Many of us aggressively support that country, defend it and even die for it. Some of the disillusioned ones leave their country for others. We have seen this all.

We like some countries and we don't like some countries. A majority of Indians and Pakistanis don't like each other, Israel and Palestine, China and a bunch of countries fight for land and water. Many people who were born in that country are told as children that they have to be enemies with the other country because they own part of their territory or intend steal part of what belongs to them.

All this seems perfectly natural to us and we consider it as part of our geopolitical reality.

But do you see how similar religion is to this? People are born into it - and children are raised being taught certain things. They support it aggressively, defend it and some even die for it. And many atheists nuts are no different from religious nuts.

However, the question is - Is it really wrong? Why is it that we feel religious fundamentalism wrong but we find territorial “fundamentalism” natural? So unless we all truly believe that the whole world should be utopic where we believe in Upanishadic quote “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” (The world is one family), blaming only religion for problems is silly

Higher Dimensions

Swami Gulagulaananda said:
"That we cannot sense certain things due to a limitation of our body does not imply the absence of what we cannot sense"

I was watching some interesting videos on YouTube the other day, and I stumbled upon String Theory. Matter, as we know, is made up of tiny particles called atoms. Atoms are made up of protons, neutrons and electrons. We learn about this in school And often, we hear about other sub-atomic particles like mesons, bosons etc. It turns out that protons and neutrons themselves are made up of quarks... And quarks are made up, according to String Theory, of extremely tiny particles called Strings.

From what I gathered, everything in eventually made up of tiny strings, and the different behavioural characteristics are due to varying frequencies of the strings. While this theory is still under development, it made me wonder if a string could be the same as the Brahman (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brahman).

But let us not introduce religion into this. Continuing with his explanation, Brian Greene goes on to explain about higher dimensions, saying that they are working with 11 dimensions - 10 dimensions + time.

Now all of us understand up to three dimensions really well - a line exists in a single dimension, a triangle exists in a plane or two dimensions and a cube in three dimensions. Our world is in three dimensions. But they are talking about dimensions above this which we find impossible to visualise, primarily because of our inability to fit it with things that we see around. When we talk about something with three dimensions, I can understand it because our world is 3D. A 2D diagram on a page is easy to grasp too. But what is a 4D diagram?

A 2D triangle has each side made up of a line which is 1D. A cube is a 3D diagram which has each face made up of squares which are 2D. Therefore, should a 4D diagram have each face that should be made up of 3D diagrams? We cannot imagine it...

Our eyes have rods and cones to detect the intensity and colour of objects around us. The world looks vibrant with colours. But other animals such as dogs and bulls don’t perceive the world in the same way as we do. They lack certain the colour detecting capabilities that we take for granted. So the same object is seen differently by them - perhaps less vibrant and more dull and boring.

But remember, they are looking at the same objects as we are. The same objects are seen differently by them - less colourful. Butterflies on the other hand can sense light in the ultraviolet range of the spectrum which is completely invisible to us. This means that the butterfly sees a far more vibrant and iridescent world. The mantis shrimp is remarkable in that way - Compared to the three types of colour receptive cones of humans (five of certain butterflies), the eyes of the mantis shrimp carry 16 types of colour receptive cones. Meaning, it is seeing a different world than you and I.

What if things that we see and feel are not really what they are? What if, we are like the residents of Flatland who live in a two dimensional world? Or like the ant that traversed the mobius strip? What if there are things beyond this and that we are simply unable to perceive them due to some constraints? Are there creatures living in a different dimension like some characters from the Bartimaeus Trilogy? Are THEY “ghosts”? :P

That we cannot sense certain things due to a limitation of our body does not imply the absence of what we cannot sense

Interesting Content
Watch Visualising Eleven Dimensions

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Of traffic, teams and companies

Swami Gulagulaananda said:
"The grand unification theory is nought but analogies connecting seemingly unrelated things"

When you drive through Bangalore traffic, more often than not, you are not driving... You are probably waiting at traffic junctions or trying to wiggle through evanescent worm holes.

The strange fact about driving is that it becomes automatic after some time - You don't even pay attention while changing gears or switching between the accelerator and the brake. And since that frees up your mind, it tends to wander into the realm of contemplation...

As I watched vehicles around me, I drew some parallels that I wanted to list out in this post.

1) Among motorbikes, cars and buses, bikes are the fastest when it comes to rate of picking up speed or accelerating while buses are the slowest. However, once all vehicles start accelerating, bikes soon get left behind as cars and buses zoom past them. Companies are also of these types small caps (start-ups), mid caps and large caps. While start-ups can grow very quickly, larger companies with their higher muscle power - both in terms of finance and man-power can quickly outpace smaller companies

2) Bikes cannot sustain long distance like cars and buses. While on a long distance drive, riding a motorcycle is least comfortable of the three and can make you sore. The fuel capacity also is quite limited and needs constant refuelling to reach your destination. Cars and buses are much more comfortable and needs lesser refuelling. Companies are also similar in terms of funding.

3) Bikes are more agile, then comes cars and finally buses. This is something that you have definitely noticed in traffic. You can quickly manoeuvre a bike and ride through that narrow space between a car and a bus. Cars are much less easy to manoeuvre while buses simply cannot move. Companies are also similar with start-ups being significantly more agile with less bureaucracy and fewer meetings before decisions are arrived at and plans are put into action. Large companies are behemoths that take forever to make even the smallest change in course.

4) Bikes are more unstable and can severely injure the rider in an accident when compared to cars and buses. Start-ups can vanish overnight unlike larger companies

5) When a bike goes down, very few people die unlike in cars and buses. Just like how many people lose their jobs when larger companies go down unlike start-ups.

6) If a bus crashes into a bike...

7) There are bike clubs. I have not heard of bus clubs... There are also biker chicks ;-)

8) Riding bikes are definitely more thrilling than a bus ride. Enough said.




Friday, 13 November 2015

Knight's Tour

Swami Gulagulaananda said:
"The dark knight can never be blocked... nor can the white knight"

The Knight's Tour is a mathematical puzzle which I had played on a Windows Phone game called Doors. I didn't know it was called Knight's Tour till I watched this Numberphile video. I had some time to spare and wrote a simple version of it that you can test out below.

The objective of the game is to make sure that every square of the board has been occupied by your knight once. Click on any valid square to make your move

Programmers: Do you think you can write a program to find solutions?


Knight's Tour

Move the knight and cover every single square without repeating a square

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Yellow Journalism

Swami Gulagulaananda said:
"That moron asked me not to be judgemental about him"

We love watching movies and I am sure that you have watched this scene that appears in several motion pictures; The protagonist walks into his house and is shocked to see a dead man with a knife sticking out of his stomach. He drops whatever he was holding and rushes towards the slumped body he has identified as his father, an eminent lawyer who fought injustice with a fiery passion. It is obvious to the son that his father was murdered by some land baron / politician who was rubbed the wrong way by the deceased, but he puts those thoughts aside for the moment. He has a slight glimmer of hope that his father might still be alive and worries that he is in pain. He crouches beside his father and pulls the knife out of him. At that exact same time, a police inspector and a couple of constables arrive at that scene on a supposed tip-off. "Hands up, you are under arrest" he shouts as the constables proceed to hold down the grief stricken man. "I have done nothing, I am innocent. Oh father!" yells the protagonist as he is dragged away handcuffed. Upon investigation, it is found that the hero's fingerprints are found on the knife. They also find the lawyer's blood stains on the son's clothes. "It has been done for property" announces the public prosecutor with a flourish after systematically placing the "facts" in front of the court. The court announces that a remorseless greedy son such as him deserves to languish in prison for 14 years. The land baron shouts "Cheers" immediately in the next scene as his cronies join him in raucous laughter...

We feel sorry for the protagonist. Of course, it is a movie and you know sooner or later, the evil people are going to pay their dues while the hero winds up with that beautiful heroine. However, the truth is that the hero was falsely implicated by prima facie evidence. It is only that WE know that it is a movie and that WE know that the hero was innocent that we aren't worried about it...

But does real life work like this? Unfortunately, the answer is no. People, in general, arrive at conclusions based on prima facie facts only - That is, they arrive at conclusions based on what is presented to them and don't analyse deeper. Let's have a look at this example.


Yellow journalism


This is a newspaper article from Times Of India, dated October 21, 2015

Click on the image to enlarge the image and read the article. Now, from the headlines, it is very obvious that this is some sort of hate crime. Poor Dalits - that too kids - were burnt alive by vicious thugs from upper caste.

Immediately people will start fortifying thoughts that they have had in the past - India will never grow because of casteism. That's right, this stupid system has been a dark spot in the face of India's cultural past. Then some "intellectuals" will start talking about "blot on democracy" and "fabric of society" while moron Congress supporters will start saying "Oh, so this is the Acche Din promised by Modi"



Alright, what happened to those kids is really unfortunate. However, please read the article carefully - Do you see any reason for the killing? The only point mentioned here is "confrontation over a murder" which is not clear - Who murdered whom? They have also mentioned that "a religious programme was held which helped the attackers" - How? Atheists will now talk about how religion and caste is responsible for all sorts of problems...

Alright, now let's look at the exact same incident from Times Of India's mobile app - previous day



See the highlighted section? Police inquiries show that a piece of property was the reason for the hatred between them. Clearly, the Dalit and Upper Caste Rajput had no role to play here. The dispute was because of some property. If that is the case, why is it that the story is projected in a different way? Also, why is it that there is no mention of "property" in the print version?

Here is another news item - Again, Times Of India

Dalit girl gang raped - What kind of headlines is this? Shouldn't it have been "14 year old girl gang-raped"?

The point of putting the word "Dalit" in the headline is justified if she was raped because she is Dalit. But if you read the news item, there is no mention of the reason. So she was raped like any other girl was raped - because of the rapist's perversion and not because she is Dalit. Does the newspaper write "23 year old Madhwa Brahmin girl gang-raped"? Does that make any sense?


You see, these journalists understand exactly how to play on our sentiments. By showing only bits of information and presenting it in a certain fashion, it is very easy to play with people's minds. Take the case of Dadri beef lynching - It is amazing how people quickly spoke about the safety of Muslims in India. I even read some ridiculous comments equating Indians with ISIS because of some sporadic killing.

While I observed great commentaries on the regrettable killing of a couple of men over beef, I rarely see any voices against the systematic holocaust of Kashmiri Pandits. Why do we not read about them in the papers? Why do we not hear debates about them? Why is there no anger?

I specifically mention this because people vehemently oppose painting all Muslims with the same brush because of the acts of a few terrorists - absolutely agreed. A few bad eggs don't necessarily define the entire religion - and yet, "intellectuals" who claim to be the voice of reason because they are also atheists write things like...

"Great going hindus..."











Summary
Before you arrive at any conclusion, make sure you have all the facts ready. Just because you are reading some printed material, don't jump to the conclusion that the material is 100% true. History is often tainted and historical records of the so called great kings should only be taken with a pinch of salt because those records were written under the aegis of the very king they are describing - Who would dare call a king a moron when he has the ability to hang you or drive a spear through the heads of your entire family?

Similarly, journalists also have ulterior motives. They like to sensationalise and stir emotions of the masses. It's imperative as educated people to invest more time and energy into uncovering the truth before branding things and drawing conclusions and judgements. More importantly, we should develop an understanding that things don't need to be exactly the way in which it was presented to us - The hero was indeed caught holding a knife that killed his father... But he was innocent all the time. Do not judge before you know the full facts.