Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Recently, I have been contemplating restarting to blog. I started this blog in the naive enthusiasm of an undergrad 10 odd years ago, and slowly both grew out of it, and also felt quite embarrassed of the older posts (although I resisted the temptation to delete it altogether). My coping mechanism was to pretend it did not exist. Now I feel I might want to blog a little bit more. So till I figure out how to go about it, whether to keep it focused on a narrow stream of topics, or expanding it out a little bit more, or to abandon this old piece altogether and start anew, I’d share this intriguing reflection on tea and coffee by Ernst Jünger from Albert Hoffman’s bio that I had been reading recently (while of course sipping green tea).

“What interested me above all was the relationship of these substances to productivity. It has been my experience, however, that creative achievement requires an alert consciousness, and that it diminishes under the spell of drugs. On the other hand, conceptualization is important, and one gains insights under the influence of drugs that indeed are not possible otherwise. I consider the beautiful essay that Maupassant has written about ether to be such an insight. Moreover, I had the impression that in fever one also discovers new landscapes, new archipelagos, and a new music, that becomes completely distinct when the “customs station” [“An der Zollstation” [At the custom station], the title heading of a section in Das Abenteuerliche Herz (2d ed.) that concerns the transition from life to death.] appears. For geographic description, on the other hand, one must be fully conscious. What productivity means to the artist, healing means to the physician. Accordingly, it also may suffice for him that he sometimes enters the regions through the tapestries that our senses have woven. Moreover, I seem to perceive in our time less of a taste for the phantastica than for the energetica—amphetamine, which has even been furnished to fliers and other soldiers by the armies, belongs to this group. Tea is in my opinion a phantasticum, coffee an energeticum—tea therefore possesses a disproportionately higher artistic rank. I notice that coffee disrupts the delicate lattice of light and shadows, the fruitful doubts that emerge during the writing of a sentence. One exceeds his inhibitions. With tea, on the other hand, the thoughts climb genuinely upward.

Read Full Post »

On a humorous note:

“In every chaos there is an order: A very good writer wrote a rather nice book. But there was no title to it yet. He asked his friend for suggestions. The friend asked him if there was either a drum or a guitar mentioned in the book, to which the author replied in the negative. The book then had the title: A story without drums and guitars.”

(Endre Szemerédi, slightly paraphrased)

Read Full Post »

On June 23 last year ACM organized a special event to celebrate the birth centenary of Alan Turing with 33 Turing award winners in attendance. Needless to say most of the presentations, lectures and discussions were quite fantastic. They had been placed as webcasts on this website, however rather unfortunately, they were not individually linkable and it was difficult to share them. I noticed day before yesterday that they were finally available on youtube!

One particular video that I had liked a lot was “An Algorithmic View of the Universe”, featuring some great discussions between a panel comprising of Robert Tarjan, Richard Karp, Don Knuth, Leslie Valiant and Leonard Adleman, with the panel chaired by Christos Papadimitriou. You might want to consider watching it if you have about 80 minutes to spare and provided you haven’t watched it earlier!

Read Full Post »

After an interesting conversation with somebody recently I was looking around and aggregating simple mathematical facts that have somewhat crazy proofs. Like for all such questions, I found a great MathOverflow thread and decided to share this gem from there:

Fact: \sqrt[n] {2} is irrational for any integer n \geq 3.

Proof: Suppose it is not. Then \displaystyle \sqrt[n] {2} = \frac{p}{q}, then 2 q^n = p^n , or p^n = q^n + q^n contradicting Fermat’s Last Theorem.

Although a commenter there mentions that the argument is essentially circular (which I find fascinating), but other than that it made me laugh, what I find interesting about this answer and an accompanying comment by Greg Kuperberg is that it made me realize that Fermat’s Last Theorem is not strong enough to imply the irrationality of \sqrt{2}.

Read Full Post »

An interesting parable due to Niels Bohr:

Once upon a time a young rabbinical student went to hear three lectures by a famous rabbi. Afterwards he told his friends: “The first talk was brilliant, clear, and simple. I understood every word. The second was even better, deep and subtle. I didn’t understand very much, but the rabbi understood all of it. The third was by far the finest, a great and unforgettable experience. I understood nothing and the rabbi didn’t understand much either.”

Came across while reading “Proving Darwin” by Gregory Chaitin.

Read Full Post »

Not only is it not right, it’s not even wrong! – Wolfgang Pauli

I just found a delightful joke concerning Pauli while rummaging through my email, thought it was worthy of sharing!

The phrase “Not Even Wrong” ofcourse was famously coined by Wolfgang Pauli, who was known to be particularly acerbic to sloppy thinking. The wiki entry for the phrase has the following story on how it originated. Rudolf Peierls writes that “a friend showed Pauli the paper of a young physicist which he suspected was not of great value but on which he wanted Pauli’s views. Pauli remarked sadly,”Not only is it not right, it’s not even wrong!”

Coming to the email which centers around being “Not even wrong”:

Wolfgang Pauli

Exactly, Pauli could be pretty scathing in his reviews. Visiting physicists delivering a presentation would dread seeing him in the audience. Pauli would sit and listen and scowl, arms crossed, and shake his head. The faster he shook his head, the more he disagreed with you.

The joke goes that when Pauli died he asked God why the fine structure constant has the value 1/(137.0) … God went to a blackboard and began scribbling equations. Pauli soon started shaking his head violently…

Note: I didn’t write this but apparently I read it somewhere a few years ago and mailed it to somebody. I googled for parts of it, but couldn’t locate the source. If you happen to know, then please link me up!

________________

Onionesque Reality Home >>

Read Full Post »

Just Keep Walking

This is a post surely uncharacteristic to this blog. And I just might delete it.

I was just scanning some links on my computer and I would like to share a one minute video that carries an important message. We all know that (the message). However I think the manner in which a message is put across can have a much bigger impact. Isn’t it?

Direct link to video

I can achieve immortality by not wearing out. You can achieve immortality, by doing just one great thing – Just Keep Walking.

This is a truly incredible ad, it also reminds me of Isaac Asimov’s The Bicentennial Man at one level.

Life’s hard? And life’s not hard, life is all about pursuit.

Life is pursuit. Life and some of our pursuits in life just like science are Onionesque (like peeling away an onion at the end of which there is a promised or expected solution. The onion might be “infinite” layered or it just might be “finite” ).

Life is something like a stochastic optimization algorithm ;-) with a very very large number of runs. It is not guaranteed you would complete those runs (that is, if the run-time exceeds the time you have), however if you do, it might not be the best solution to the optimization problem, and unfortunately this problem is non-convex (and I can’t prove it ;-). If that is the case, you simply need to re-run and just keep walking and enjoy the pursuit.

Please note, that it is not my intention to argue on the ethical issues concerning the expected blurring lines between truly intelligent robots and humans by posting this ad. It is another matter that I think it is going to happen either way.

PS: I don’t drink, not even socially. It is not my intention to advertise for the mentioned alcohol brand in this advertisement. Though I do think the ad is great.

Onionesque Reality Home >>

Read Full Post »