All posts by harinder

The ride of your lifetime

I should start by repeating what Neil deGrasse Tyson says quite often: “The Universe is under no obligation to explain itself to you.” Keep that in mind while you read ahead.

I lost a bit of my obsession for watches today.

See, for the longest time I was on to watches that would be the *most* accurate. So I would be obsessed with time-keeping. I figured that an external source of accurate time is the only reliable method since the watch itself cannot have enough sustainable energy to keep itself synchronized to the official clock (Cessium-133 or GPS). And I did get myself a neat one too.

Here is the problem though: Our concept of seconds:minutes:days:weekdays:months:years:leap-years and all is pretty arbitrary and doesn’t align perfectly with the way the earth revolves around the sun and the coming and going of seasons either. In fact, we adjust these errors every 4 years with a leap year and every 400 years by skipping that leap day in that year.

And we did not “get” this right away. The errors were known since a long time but were not corrected for a long time and what motivated them was religion (Easter did not fall on a predictable day every year). In a compensation of sorts, we also skipped 11 days.

So with that, I can’t help thinking about the fuss people make about celebrating specific days. No, I am not just fussing about New Years, but also about the violence people have often done to preserve the sanctity of a birthday of their leaders (religious, political and otherwise). While the intentions are usually nice with an aim to find a simple method for people to go about their daily lives, the result is often driven by the desire for influence and power.

It would help a lot if every body appreciated that as mere mortals, we understood that we are sitting atop a planet that is circling around a star while the star itself is circling around the Milky way galaxy. Distances at that scope are so big that if you compare the roughly straight line that you travel in your lifetime (of say, a 100 years), it would not even show up a a dot in a picture of the galaxy.

Image result for earth motion in space
Earth moving …

So chill out. Breathe. Take it easy. You are on an awesome ride of a lifetime and in the larger scheme of things, it looks like you will be doing a one-meter sprint in a stadium the size of an entire city.

I was inspired to write this after watching a few vSauce episodes today.

A walk in the morning

This morning as I walking past the usual crowd, I found it easier than usual to ignore them. Such strong were the thoughts inside that the cacaphony outside due to monkeys attacking the garbage made little difference.

So when she stopped me to talk, I was slow to respond. “Can you check if they fed him milk since morning ? Just see if there is open bottle of milk lying near his bed.” We know each other now. I am there for #9 and she is there for bed #7 and that is all we need to know. Over the past four days, we haven’t even exchanged names and doesn’t even seem important. I had no intention to go inside the ICU but now I was sure to go and check on the Anurag, her less-than-an-year old boy. I told her that when I saw him last evening he was playful and continuously moved his arms and legs and that often invited the nurses around him to also come play with him. I felt it must be important for her to know that he plays and observes the room and interacts with things around, even if they are his oxygen mask or the tubes around him.

Autonomous driving cars

One of the arguments that I have often heard is that in the competition amongst self driving cars, Tesla has an advantage because it has more cars on the road, thereby collecting a LOT more data than any of the other companies’ (Apple, Uber, Google) cars.

I don’t buy that argument.

Tesla surely has a lot more cars with consumers who have purchased cars from roadster onwards, but it sure doesn’t have the data that it needs to train the car to drive by itself. Having cars driven around every street of the world under all kinds of conditions is not all. The car needs to be able to collect data using *many* sensors (cameras, LIDAR, speed, road conditions, traffic sensing and so on). Only then would their computers be able to learn how to drive the car in the conditions that are presented to them.

To build autonomous cars, a *lot* of data needs to be collected about the road conditions and it might also be useful to have a person sit in the car and point out things that may not be obvious to all the sensors in the car. So Tesla’s argument that their cars will become autonomous sooner than others because they have more miles on them is not cool.

Sugar: Fine, white and deadly

The cynical me rarely finds something that is written by somebody else so moving. This is about an article on nutrition – one that describes sugar as a much bigger culprit than say saturated fat. It describes the macro-economic and political reasons behind fat being declared the villain and the massively negative effects of the nutrition guidelines set up government(s) on the population.

Got this from @limnephilidae and I have read it more than once and also took out a PDF version (just in case they decide to put it behind a paywall). So please go ahead, do yourself a favour and read this.

The original article is at http://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/apr/07/the-sugar-conspiracy-robert-lustig-john-yudkin

PDF Version, readable. 24 pages: Sugar

We over value patience

Can we call this piece below by Meryl Steep the patience manifesto ?

Source.

“I no longer have patience for certain things, not because I’ve become arrogant, but simply because I reached a point in my life where I do not want to waste more time with what displeases me or hurts me. I have no patience for cynicism, excessive criticism and demands of any nature. I lost the will to please those who do not like me, to love those who do not love me and to smile at those who do not want to smile at me. I no longer spend a single minute on those who lie or want to manipulate. I decided not to coexist anymore with pretense, hypocrisy, dishonesty and cheap praise. I do not tolerate selective erudition nor academic arrogance. I do not adjust either to popular gossiping. I hate conflict and comparisons. I believe in a world of opposites and that’s why I avoid people with rigid and inflexible personalities. In friendship I dislike the lack of loyalty and betrayal. I do not get along with those who do not know how to give a compliment or a word of encouragement. Exaggerations bore me and I have difficulty accepting those who do not like animals. And on top of everything I have no patience for anyone who does not deserve my patience.” _ Meryl Streep

Making money

So here is an idea.

For some really popular, outstanding products that make you drool and want to buy them right away, you may occasionally also have the opportunity to earn more money by purchasing equity in that company. Two such companies come to mind: Apple and Tesla. They both make products that are experiencing massive demand and this only means good profits for the company.

I did a retrospective calculation where I listed every product of Apple that I have purchased so far and calculated what would happen if I had also purchased Apple stock worth the same money at the same time.

I started with my first Macbook (May 2008) and iPod (December 2008) all the way to my most recent one, an iPhone 5 (Dec 2012). I pulled out historical stock data from Google finance and figured that if I had also put in the same amount of money in purchasing Apple stock, the value of my stock today would be about 2.6 times that of the money I invested in.  It is roughly 17% IRR. If you’re really curious send me a note and I will send you the calculations.

So the point is this: Mortals (like me) who are not frequent investors in stock have this very good way to find out which stock is a good one: Just by observing demand in the environment around you. Does the Micromax A110 sell for a premium at the shop, or is there are several months worth of backlogs in the delivery of the latest Ford vehicle that just launched ? Buy that stock if you can!

I badly want to own a Tesla. I also am unable to afford it – unless, well I buy Tesla stock and it earns me enough to buy it!

Shhh! don’t tell anyone. 

 

Now for the disclaimers:

1) I am not suggesting that purchasing stock is an alternative to purchasing the product. The above is just a tool to measure

2) This doesn’t always work though as is the popular case of Oculus Rift, the company that raised its’ seed money on Kickstarter and later on sold out to Facebook for a couple of billion dollars while the original ‘seeders’ did not have any upside from those billions. (To be fair to Oculus, they did deliver on what they said they would to their initial backers, so no harm done by them deliberately – it just isn’t the right money earning forum for backers who should look elsewhere).

Thomas Was Alone

UnityPlayer.175x175-75

There was a time when this awesome little game was only available on Steam for just under $2. It has an amazing soundtrack to it, is very playful in its’ narration (reminds you of Portal series).

They’ve realized their under-pricing now and launched on the Mac App Store for $8.99.

It is still worth twice more than that. So go ahead, download the game and HAVE. A. BALL.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/thomas-was-alone/id859229050?mt=12

On marriage

I learnt this from a big bro I respect-a-lots! These words, mark them down, tattoo them on your arm.

the key is not to marry the right person but, to be the right person

I think  I am going to absorb this for a bit more time.

realigned atoms

It’s atoms around us, isn’t it? Everything is. All things around us are an alignment of atoms in a designated format. People, cultures, mountains, lakes, planets, stars come and go because the atoms decide to align themselves in another manner. Continuing this I want to present four different meditations on this topic

betelgeuse

In response to one of my previous posts (link) where I had asked where will you be 427 years from now, I received a very interesting answer. SK told me he knew where he would be in 427 years from now. He said he’d be a star.

It is true, right ? From another planet, the Sun ofcourse looks but just another star. All human bodies will eventually remain in the gravitational pull of the Sun and they’ll be part of this star too.

I am convinced by the sheer arithmetic of the Drake equation and that means that I believe in intelligent life outside of our planet. If you’re unconvinced, try the exercise here (link).

metamorphosis, past-life regression and memory

I was thinking of situations where memory continues past boundaries you’d not normally imagine.

1. A bunch of caterpillars in an experiment were given a mild electric shock along with a particular scent. The caterpillars learnt to stay away from that smell soon. When they went in to metamorphosis and emerged as butterflies who had an aversion to the same scent (link). This occurs despite the caterpillar completely transforming first into a gooey, liquid mass of genetic fluid before it takes the shape of a butterfly. Something makes it remember. The alignment of atoms carries out in a very specific way so as to not lose this information. I don’t believe this is accidental though, it is a very planned, specific and accurate way of transformation.
2. You’d have heard of people who remember stuff from their previous lives. There is in fact a very tacky TV series on that topic I once saw. When you think of the human bodies as atoms too, it it not all that hard to imagine some memory moving on to the next re-alignment of atoms. This is not going to happen accidentally but there just might be some way for this to happen without us fully understanding it (yet). 
I’d like to believe so.
3. Things have properties. Magnets attract iron. Water stays liquid between 0 and 100 degrees Celsius, Helium is heavier than Hydrogen, they attract each other and so on. I’d like to think of these properties as embedded within the specific alignment of the atoms in that object. If it wasn’t so, how else would a magnet *know* to attract iron or water know to remain liquid ?

groundhog day, the movie

Bill Murray wakes up the next day in exactly the same situation on each day – over and over again. He talks to his friends and the people around him and they don’t seem to know the difference because to them it is just another day, February the 2nd. However to Bill Murray it is the February 2nd that is the day after February 2nd.
See I’d like to think that he remembers something from the previous day that the other characters around him don’t. That’s that basis of his becoming a piano master, an ice sculptor and learn all about the people in that town.
He is the only one who carries over this memory from the previous day while others don’t.

xkcd

Finally I want to share this beautiful cartoon on xkcd. Profound.

xkcd_lego