Wednesday, July 30, 2008

LOD 13

For Linux enthusiasts, historical materials related to ancient Linux kernels -

Related Content

Monday, July 28, 2008

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Why aren't we any faster ?

The other night, i was driving on my bike back to my place. It was around 9.30 . I was in no hurry, but for the thrill, I was driving faster than usual. Absolutely speaking, the speed was not much. 65-70kmph is not very fast, but, the road was not appropriate for that speed. In a residential area, with a not very well lit road, and with a large number of lanes joining in at right angles, 40-45kmph would be okay. At ~70kmph, by the time i spot someone/something, realize the direction it is going, calculate the intersection, decide to press the brake or turn the handle, it would be too late, especially when the road is not very wide. Considering what the driver of the other vehicle and vehicles around me do during that time makes the scene even more complicated. Our brain is simply not made to handle that level of dynamism. Our brain and sensory organs have to be faster in order to handle that kind of a situation. In this case, we are limited by our brain :(
The big question then is - why are we limited ? If the brain is as fast as it is now, why is not any faster ? Why can't we(humans) drive at 80 at places where we currently can't go beyond say 50 ? Imagine the amount of time and money that will be saved, if the average speed on all the roads in the world increases by 20kmph!
I am no expert in this field but, IMO the reason can be traced back to - evolution!
We are not any faster because, probably nature never required us to be faster! When man became a biped, there were a huge number of changes that took place in his body. Walking on 2 feet instead of 4 is considered to be a very significant event in human evolution. Along with structural and muscular changes, it brought about changes in the brain and shifted the larynx to a favorable position for language to be spoken and evolve (eons later). Language and intelligence in general gave man a very big advantage over other species. Language does not necessarily mean the meticulous syntax and semantics ridden constructions we use everyday. I mean to refer to any preliminary mode of vocal or non-vocal communication which must have existed before the languages of today evolved. A sharp brain (as compared to other species) and language must have been enough for us to save ourselves from predators and hunt successfully when hungry. Man then, would not have been able to outrun a wolf or a tiger, but he had the brains to light a fire and scare the animal away.
Too few individuals must have died due to slower physical responses, so there was no natural selection based on the ability to move/act fast and hence humans might not have evolved to be any faster.
Evolution is a cost optimization problem. There are limited resources, and they have to be put to use in such a way as to maximize the returns. It is analogous to solving the knapsack problem. The individuals who use their resources (for example - the energy they get from food) to get more returns will be selected(in long term) in the evolutionary race and will survive to produce the next generation. Suboptimal use will not be tolerated for long by nature, and individuals doing that will eventually become extinct.
We humans, might have hadPublish Post stronger, faster cousins in the past. While we evolved better brains, they might have evolved stronger muscles and faster responses. But, since we are alive today, we can be sure that, we were the ones that were optimal and not them...

Related Content

Friday, July 18, 2008

Halt and Catch Fire ;)

Came across a funny (fictitious) instruction on an the legendary IBM 360 processor:

The 'printer on fire' is a similar(but not fictitious) one on *nix systems...

Related Content

Monday, July 14, 2008

Pick the right ones!

After a long time, i got a chance to go for a trek. We went to Katraj-Singhagad trek.
The trek starts at the (Satara side) end of the Katraj tunnel and ends at the Singhagad fort. Its not a difficult one at all. There are 7-8 hills to be crossed, a distance of around 15km, plus ~3km walk by road to the top of Singhagad.
The climate was nice. It was windy and raining.
The day before, i was thinking about which shoes i should be wearing. Unfortunately, i picked up the wrong pair, and i had to pay for it all along :( I learnt a small but valuable lesson, which is worth sharing.

The lesson i learnt is: if you have a pair of tough, rugged, water resistant, thick soled Woodlands(or any others) then, the best way to utilize them when going for a trek is to keep them at home! A lightweight pair of sport shoes is always good, unless the conditions demand a really tough shoe. When, i bought my pair of Woodlands, the salesman told me that they are good for trekking and as semi-formals. I did not think much about it then. I decided to put them on for this trek.
Each of my shoes weighs around 800gms. I felt them to be a bit heavy after climbing some distance. Then it began to rain, and there were muddy patches on the way. After getting wet the shoes became even heavier! And, with a lot of mud sticking to the thick sole, the weight rose to around one and a half kg(maybe more) :( The total extra weight was a mere 3kg, but having 3 extra kilos on your back does not make that much a difference, as having one and a half kg tied to every foot. I had to unnecessarily spend extra energy for every step that i took. To add to it, i have a damaged(broken a few years ago) ligament at the ankle, so i generally avoid stressing that foot too much. It pains considerably after some stress, although no long term -ve effect has been observed. Nearing the end, i found a strategy to mitigate the trouble - i started running :) With some momentum, it was a lot easier to lift my feet. I ran through bushes, mud, stones and water. Was the first one to reach the road.

Overall, it was a nice excursion. Next time, whenever i go for a trek, i'll think twice about what footwear i'll wear...

Related Content

LOD 10

Related Content

Saturday, July 12, 2008

An awesome accessory!

I was searching for a way to play mp3s in our car. We have a 'car tape', but its only a cassette player. I was thinking of getting a new CD player fitted. After thinking about it for some time, i thought it would be better and cheaper if somehow i could give direct audio input to the player and use its amplification and speaker system to play whatever input comes in. I was not sure whether our tape had a provision to do that, in order to connect my mp3 player to it. While discussing this with friends, Mandar told me about a useful accessory.

The accessory is known as 'Car tape adapter' in the market. It is nothing but a cassette, with a wire that has a male audio jack at one end, and is directly connected to the cassette's part which touches the head. Here is how it looks:

Its a nice idea and works well. I bought it from the market near PAsodyA VithobA, Budhwar Peth, Pune. It cost me 75 bucks. The cost of replacing the player with a new one would have run into thousands... :)

Related Content

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Rise of neo-religious powers

I do not know whether the proposition that, there is a God has been confirmed, but there sure are religions proclaiming that there surely is a God and that 'their God' is the best and everybody should start believing in Him.

India is a multi-religious nation and religion wars are seldom if not totally absent. What i observe today is, apart from religious divisions, people are being divided on other (for the lack of a proper phrase) religious planes. Gurus have emerged and sects have been formed. I call these sects - neo-religions. 'neo-religion' a parallel for the word 'सांप्रदाय' in Indian languages. A religion is a set of people who worship one or many Gods or their commandments; a neo-religion is a set of people belonging to one of many religions who worship and follow a God-like Guru.
A popular example of what i call a neo-religion is the one formed by the followers of Shri Shri Ravishankar. Another one is the neo-religion formed by Shri Aniruddha Bapu of Mumbai or that by Satya Sai Baba.

From what i have seen, once people subscribe to a neo-religion, they start taking pride in it and its activities. They begin to differentiate between followers and non-followers. More often than not, a follower will ask you to join in or try out their programs once. Sometimes the coaxing gets a bit too much. IMHO, its the responsibility of the Guru/head to see to it through his teachings that, 'My neo-religion is better than yours' kind of attitude does not develop in the followers.

The main difference between religions and neo-religions is - religions are not following a living person as such, unlike a neo-religion, which follows a living guru. Of course, religions have religious heads like acharyas or mullas or popes etc, but people consider them at a level of superiority lower than Gods and teachings of that religion. In a neo-religion, the guru is the सर्वेसर्वा (be all and end all). IMO, this makes a huge difference.

With a direct following of millions, a great power rests in the hands of the neo-religious head. He can subtly guide or misguide or even make use of the support he has got. What would happen if the head 'ties up' with a corporate organization ? He would be the best promoter the organization can get! Imagine him saying - 'Foo company has provided us a lot of help in building an ashram(or whatever) at foobar place. We should return their help by using their products whenever possible' . This would be a powerful yet indirect way to advertise. Negative advertising can also be done - 'We should prefer not to use Foobar's products because... so and so'. Although i've not heard it happen and it sounds extremely skeptic, but it is not improbable. The head might have clean intentions but, people below him in the ladder might not. In addition to that, with a lot of money flowing in and out, clarity about financial operations needs to be maintained.

Every neo-religion sports its own set of karma-kandas. Some have a peculiar maala for doing jaap, some have specific religious ceremonies and some have their own books, stotras etc. This is similar to what happens in religions. But, sometimes, karma-kanda itself takes up a lot of time and importance and, only a few realize the real objective of doing it in the first place. It is only after looking within can anyone really improve. No amount of blind copying can help.

All through, I have been negative about the neo-religions. But it would be unfair to not state that, many of the neo-religions do a lot for the benefit of the poor and the needy. Environmental and social activities are also taken up. Again, like i've mentioned before, there is immense power in the hands of the the religious head, and he can channel it for good or non-good.

It would be interesting to watch the dynamics of the neo-religions in the coming future - what new ones will rise ? which of them will dominate ? and which ones will become history...

Related Content