Saturday, August 28, 2010

Mother Teresa

While everybody is waiting for another 'confirmed' miracle to make a saint out of Mother Teresa, I am wondering what is the fuss all about. I thought she performed all her miracles while she was still alive.
And in any case, since when is a saint superior to a mother?

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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Two Ways To Solve a Problem

There are only two ways - and only two ways - of solving a problem. All other approaches are a modification or a combination of the two.
One - Accept the facts as given and work around them.
Two - Question the facts, demolish them and create new facts to solve the problem.
Both are effective when wisely and appropriately applied.
Wisdom is in knowing when to apply which.

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

To be a Leader

Ok here is a question.
Who was the leader of the 1953 Everest Expedition that (perhaps) first conquered the Everest?
Chances are that you do not know the answer.
I do not blame you.
And even if you know that it was John Hunt, most remember Edmund Hillary.
So much for leaders.
And do you think Neil Armstrong would be a household name had he not been the first to step on the Moon? He happened to also be the mission commander. But did you know that? And did you also know that Buzz Aldrin was initially supposed to be the first to step on the Moon?
Leadership is not as cracked up as it is made out to be. Only the very strong can be one. And at times it demands sacrifice. And of all sacrifices the most difficult to make is that which goes by the name of 'ego'.
Do you still want to be a leader?

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

The P versus NP Millenium Problem

Are you a math lover? You don't have to be mathematician to be one, you know?
And if you are one, then I would recommend The Millenium Problems by Keith Devlin.
From time to time someone will solve one of "the seven greatest unsolved mathematical puzzles of our time" and you could quickly pick this book up and refesh your memory.
And you know where I am coming from, don't you? Yeah the news that is doing rounds: P versus NP Problem Solved?

The P vs. NP problem is listed at number 3 of the 7 unsolved problems by the Clay Mathematics Institute. In his introduction to this problem Keith Devlin writes, "Of all the Millenium Problems, the P versus NP puzzle is the one most likely to be solved by an "unknown amateur" - someone largely untrained in mathematics, possibly someone very young, who is unknown to the mathematical community. ... Not only is it relatively easy to understand what the problem says, it is possible that all it will take to solve it is one good idea. And you don't need lots of knowledge to have a good idea, just imagination."

So, is Vinay Deolaliker that "unknown amateur"? We need to wait and see.
But what is this problem? I fall back to the description in the book by Keith Devlin. And it goes something like this ...

"Computer Scientists divide computational tasks into two main categories: Tasks of type P can be tackled effectively on a computer; tasks of type E could take million years to complete. Unfortunately, most of the big computational tasks that arise in industry and commerce fall into the third category, NP, which seems to be intermediate between P and E. But is it? Could NP be just a disguised version of P? Moswt experts believe that NP and P are not the same. ... But after thirty years of effort, no one has been able to prove whether or not NP and P are the same. A positive solution would have significant implications for industry, for commerce, and for electronic communications, including the World Wide Web."

So what does P and NP stand for? Unlike what seems obvious, they do not stand for "Possible" and "Not Possible"; rather P stands for Polynomial Time processes and NP stands for Nondeterminstic Polynomial-Time processes. And E stands for Exponential-Time processes.

This blog does not claim to understand the problem completely. Nor do I wish to reproduce the lucid explanation of the problem by Keith Devlin. Instead I strongly recommend reading the book. Trying to understand the problem by visiting the Clay Mathematics Institute is an option available only to the mathematicians.

In any case, if you are a reader of this blog, it is highly probable that you are not a serious mathematian :( But there is still hope and so I repeat the most important line of this post that applies to ALL of us ...

You don't need lots of knowledge to have a good idea, just imagination.

But if you are indeed a serious mathematician, or aspire to be one, why not check out Vinay Deolaliker's proof here.

And while we are at it, why don't you overcome your fear of mathematics by visiting this lens: Are You Afraid of Mathematics?

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Monday, August 9, 2010

The Wheel of History

Some 13,000 years ago, people from North-East Asia reached and populated North America. The present native American Indians are their descendents.
In 16th century, Euopeans invaded the Americas and all but destroyed the native people and their culture. (I wonder why no one calls it a genocide.)
Present day. China dominates the world economy. Everything that is sold in USA and Europe is made in China. China may actually take over the mantle of the largest economy from USA. The people of North-East Asia take what was originally theirs.
Poetic justice?

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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Google versus Bing

I am no marketing guru, but the news of Google copying Bing has a feel of the old marketing classic of Coca-Cola versus Pepsi, when Coke could not understand that brand loyalty goes beyond taste and took decisions that were disasterous.
I may be wrong, but here's an unsolicited advice to Google: Do not let users change the background image of the Google home page. The serene white background, with lego-coloured Google is your identity. Stand out.

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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Other Sarah Flannery

This comment came to me last evening to a post I had written long, long ago - embedded deep in this blog. It is unlikely that someone may chance upon it any time soon. Hence this post.

This post is dedicated to all strong women out there who make a difference in whichever way they deem fit.

Please go here and read her comment (the second one of the post). And add a few of your own!

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Monday, August 2, 2010

Carry a Museum with You

Do this:
1) Go to the British Museum website
2) Click on the link to "A HISTORY OF THE WORLD IN 100 OBJECTS" (You may click here too if you feel too lazy, but I recommend you follow the steps.)
3) Click on "Get a podcast - catch up and keep"
4) Download podcast and take the British Museum wherever you go.
5) To enhance experience click here

If you have been to the British Museum before, this is definitely worth it. If you haven't, this podcast + the on-line experience will make you wish you do.

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Sunday, August 1, 2010

Platform 9 3/4

Ever since someone anonymously left a note (here) that platform 9 3/4 exists at the King's Cross Station in London; it was my desire to take a photograph.
Well here it is.
And no, that is not Hermione.

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