Monday, September 5, 2011


Maya is one of the most complex theory dealt with in Vedantic scriptures. Many scholars have discussed this topic for days. It is one of the theories which relates to theory of Karma (which is beautifully dealt with in Bhagwad Gita). Not many sadhus even talk about it saying one is not qualified to easily understand(probably they too don't understand a lot like Quantum Mechanics for physicists). We can discuss Maya as an inferior energy of Lord Krisna (as talked by the Dvaitas) or as a veil between our knowledge self and us (as by Advaitist) but it will be cumbersome to talk about it in detail and explaining it in present context. Let me just present the basic concept here.
Theory of Maya is combination of three idea : desha-kala-nimitta: Space, Time and Causation- and the three are reduced to Nama-Rupa. Suppose there is a wave in an ocean. The wave is only distinct from the ocean in its form and name, and this form and wave cannot have any separate existence from the wave; they exist only in the wave. The wave may subside but the same amount of water remains, even if the name and form that were on the wave vanish forever. So this Maya is what makes the difference between me and you, god and men. Its Maya which makes the Atman being caught into different beings that are distinguishable only through name and form. If you leave it alone, let name and form go, all this variety vanishes forever and you are what you really are.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Book Review: God Does not Play Dice, David A. Shiang

After talking about general relativity, special relativity and other very important piece of intellectual work, Einstein actually returned to very important question. He questioned the existence of an intelligent being whom we call God. I don't want to get into Theology/Religion and other related schools of thought but talk about the Einsteins' statement. 'God does not play dice'.

The book discusses a lot of things in mathematics and debates that the fundamentals of Probability are not correct as they are just conjectures without sound experimental data/procedure to back it. Seems like the writer has read a lot ( has to, he is from MIT) and given plausible arguments against it, using CFD.

I agree with all his premises/claims and the arguments he has proposed that there is no randomness in the world and that things are actually predetermined though they aren't predictable. Things about Quantum Physics lacking a solid basis is also acceptable( thank God! I am with Einstein... its so easy). Lot of things he talks have been (at some point of my undergraduate years) realized by me and thats why I can relate with him (though my arguments have been incidental than factual the way he presents). I also agree with him that mathematics might not be the most comprehensive way to analyze certain things, including God. I am surprised that he cites Upanishads as one of the sources of his knowledge for understanding the issue and still comes to wrong conclusion. I guess his understanding for mathematics have been certainly good but may be he just flipped through pages of Upanishads (and other vedantic text) quite fast.

I reject the conclusion he has come to, saying God does not play dice. Actually, I am not with Einstein too, on this. He has thought/read a lot before writing but still he has not taken his reasoning further to explore even more on this. He says that everything in life is predetermined and will inevitably happen. Its all decided and the fact that you did something means you could not have done anything better. He applies this to gas particle and to humans too! True in some respect but not always !

First, this takes away the independence given to human beings by God (lets not debate on this and bring religion and other human concocted ideas about how they believe it)
which is again a very subtle point made in Vedas. This even applies to the atom( in Dvaita school of thought in Ancient India, though I have not been able to comprehend it till now but I can get it in case of humans/some living being). Choice is one of the important power (shall say weapon) given to us and to deny it saying its not their, but we just feel is there is not a plausible argument given by him ! its just his perception.
There is another way to understand the principle of choice given to us: You might do a set of things but the outcome is pre-decided ! Its like a statistical function which asymptotically approaches a determined function (you can get what i want to say hopefully).

My counter argument is the following to Shiang, which is the next level of realization:
How are the initial values for the predetermined "fate" of the person chosen ? Are they hard coded ? or something else ? There is bound to be some bootstrapping for this !!
I think this is not an easy thing to understand and is a loop in his thinking(which is plausible to an extent).
There are some nice concepts in Chaos related to this, which indicate the presence of Higher Intelligent being, though concept of 'Chaos' is completely denied by Shiang (and agree with him to some extent on this).

The book is worth a read as its gives good arguments about widely accepted facts in mathematics (can say in chemistry/physics).

I would certainly agree on the following comment than the title of the book (which is again not pointing to randomness in the universe), "God plays dice with the universe, but they're loaded dice." This is said by Joseph Ford, who is one of Chaos Theorist. On the other hand, Hawkins is yet to understand this as his comment seems vague.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Education System in India

Education system has taken the turn for the worse, and you may refute me here and say that it has “always been like that, so what’s worse?” It has always been like that, but in the present scenario it has lost its context and the result for all to see. Indian education system needs refurbishing, but not before we understand where it lacks. And when I talk about the “Indian Education system” I am essentially referring to the national boards and higher education centers in India. ‘Madrasas’ and other indigenous forms of education have not been included here.

Let’s talk about the CBSE examination, one of the most important educational boards of India for class X, XII examinations. In this examination, Kapil Sibal has introduced an option for students to take it or opt for the grading system instead. This was introduced due to the rising suicide rate amongst students because of bad results. He wanted to ease the examination pressure on the students. However, I ask, “What will happen to these very students when they don't succeed in their corporate lives in future? When they won't be able to take the pressures of highly competitive entrance examinations like JEE, AIMS, CAT and the Civil services?” The point I am trying to make is, if they don’t receive enough training to deal with tough situations early, statistically significant number of them are going to falter for the first time they face them. Hence, instead of gearing them up for the hard future, you are giving them more time to relax!
Better way to go about solving this problem of depression and suicide of young students would be to not pressurize them with expectations. The parents should understand their kids’ strengths and weaknesses are and let them perform accordingly in exams. One should try to motivate them rather push them to do things. Parents should relieve the pressure of expectations from their child than expect the ministry to make the test simple. The HRD ministry, in trying to listen to parents, has simply solved the problem in the wrong way.

One of the arguments to support this grading policy is, "it works in the U.S". Now, that’s just naive. First, if the solution works in the west, it’s mostly not going to work here because it’s a social problem and not a technical one. Metals/Non metals have known behavior, humans don't. For the same stimulus ten people will react in ten different ways. So, please don't give that reply.
Also, you need to bring the society at the same level as that of the west in terms of standard of living before you start using the policies that are made for them. Simply, we are not at the same platform and HRD should take this into account.

Secondly, the average American is not all that smart. He gets good money, lives a good life because there are decent arrangements made by his government. Don't mistake it for the effort one has to put in to have the same living standard in India. Thirdly, their education system has flaws (like the level of hardness of tests and the kind of questions asked in the same grade in different states) which they have recently discovered and are finding difficult to resolve.

Most of the students would like to not take the examination to get away from stress. Isn't it? Grading is not a very good idea to be implemented when the number of students scales to millions! It’s ridiculous to give the student who is really well the same grade as the students who just makes into that bracket. There is no room for a student to show he is different, even if it’s for 2% he scores. This frustrates the people in the lower bracket of grades as they are unable to judge themselves; also the system has also given them something which is hard to quantify in terms their ability which has even bigger consequences for them, although not as drastic as suicides, which are immediate. If this grading works in the IITs or other reputed institutes in India, it works because the students have already gone through one competitive examination assumed to have certain guarantees on the level of understanding they have regarding that field.

Here, you cannot guarantee anything common in the levels of understanding of a student from college X and Y in Tamil Nadu and Bihar taking their boards examination; it’s contextual depending on the region. Also, one should understand we are not talking about bright students; we are talking about students who are average and even below average.

The schemes that have been implemented on the education system should be fool proof and should take into consideration Indian society and its many nuances. Else rickety schemes like the grading system will just produce confused students who will add to the current mediocrity of the country.

Education in villages has deteriorated too. One of the news bytes shows how teachers in villages don't even know the spelling of "Saturday"; Sibbal does not even bother to improve the standards of teachers in villages. There is not much wrong with the teacher in the news (link), but there is a lot of which is wrong with the teacher training institution. If there is one teacher like that, it indicates that there are hundreds other like that. Sibal should make sure the quality of teachers coming out of these training institutes meets at least Indian standards, if not international ones. But does he even have a clue that this matters in the building of a good education system? I doubt.

The HRD ministers seem to be the political pawn of the ruling party. Arjun Singh introduced OBC quota in IITs somehow before he died/was thrown out of power without thinking that the number of seats need to be increased as a whole and not for a section of society! Again a lame decision coming from a group of ministers; the people revolted and thankfully the number of seats was increased. Now, is it a good decision? Yes it is. To have 2500 IITians from a population of 1.3 billion today and around the same number 20 years back does not make sense. Surely, there is a lot of talent IITs might have missed because of the sheer shortage of the number of seats where they can admit students. But the way, this was brought about as a political agenda to get votes from the backward communities was wrong. Apart from the people who make good living, most of the backwards in villages would not even know how will it help them. We as IITians know how difficult it has been for IITs to be managing such a change instantly with lack of enough faculty members to actually give attention to all the students. The HRD does not give enough grants to make the laboratories, hostels etc. All they want is that the students should get an admission in IIT. The IITs are going to get dilute, and there is a lot we have to do to save it. IITs are asking the alumni base for funds to help them with this situation and they are helping. But it’s high time, Government should give a thought on giving money in figures in which their scams run into. If they do it once, they won't be required to do it again (I will talk about scams in India some other time).

Sadly, again they forgot the meaning of education. A stamp that certain X is an IITian is not going to make him a super human. There are certain resources they have to be given, certain training and motivation which HRD ministry cannot. When the IIT Directors question them, they turn deaf. They give orders instead of making things smooth. If the HRD is not going to build a bridge between the society and teachers who have given excellent education to the students in the past, then there purpose is not served. Fifteen IITs! Come on, you had a hard time sustaining the original 5 of them. IITs is not just a place you go for an education, it is a culture, where students are true to their teachers, have ethics, that’s why it’s a "brand". There is a certain trust involved when you take an IIT student in your firm or in any other institution which is similar to a product which you chose, like a computer from IBM or a Mercedes Benz. You need to look for teachers who can give that, which is different from getting teachers with degrees. I guess politicians never met those kinds of teachers, which is why they are what they are today!

Sometime back, one of my uncles asked me about what’s going to be the future of India with so many BTechs being produced from so many colleges? Surely, this is one thing to really think about! Everyone wants to become Engineer without having a clue what it is. Classic case of IIT
JEE 2011, AIR - 1 is to become an IAS after graduating from IIT Bombay!! What a waste.

The other students in engineering colleges, not all of them but considerable percentages don’t have a clue on what they are doing, just that they need to get grades in the mid terms and final term examinations. They think the curriculums they are following are going to make them an engineer? Even the curriculum at IITs is not up to date. Students make personal efforts to know things outside of their text books. Recently in 2007, a committee took feedback from IIT Madras on the changes the students want to make in the curriculum and our then faculty advisor asked the batch mates to give comments. A report was made but they have failed to give a response till now! I am sure the same happened in other IITs too. I wish if I can ask Kapil Sibbal on what he did on this front? I think everyone will agree, Nothing!
Besides this, coming back to the thing I was talking about, I think students should take education seriously once they are into any college. Why doesn't Sibal make committees of retired professors from all the IITs and let them take on the challenge of making policies for educating India clubbing them with the teachers from other leading institutes who deal with sociology? Is it so hard for him to think...Indeed, it is.

Definitely, the society we are going to have in coming decades will be more logical than the present as people will be able to understand and comprehend better because of the increased involvement of science in everyday lives. Given that, the society might just become one-dimensional, as all of them will think alike. People might not be "creative" in the real sense. That’s just my point of view but I hope people who get into Maths stream in class X might be better off by doing something in Arts if they like Arts and excel in it than get into so many of colleges and become programmers in one of the IT companies in India. We need people who can write good prose, who can appreciate nature on their canvas, people who can talk about history and science at the same time; people who can understand other people without a selfish motive. We don't need so many engineers and if we have, they better start making goods as cheap as Chinese to make themselves count. Even if they do Bachelors in Arts, they should make it count to contribute in someway to society and their family by simply the variety of their degree in a different field and give alternate points of view.

Recently, President Kalam visited IIT Madras and spoke about his vision of 2020 and the things he wishes for India. For those to come true, one needs to educate India... the millions of socially/economically deprived kids who usually don’t go to school because there parents aren't well to do or are not enough motivated to teach them need to be sent to school. There is not much to do giving people space at the top when there won't be students who have done their primary and junior schooling properly. For all this our HRD ministry has to do much more work at the ground level much like the way their political parties do, than talk to media all the time and not even implement that properly.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Rkk retires

Vasa and Rkk

About Rkk : Professor R Kalyana Krishnan has been the cornerstone of Computer Science Department at IIT Madras. He, with some other professors set up the CSE Department at IIT Madras in the early 1970s. He received his PhD from Yale. He did his undergraduate at IIT Madras.

I have been privileged to take two courses under him. Work on project in summers following freshmen year. Spending numerous hours discussing about the computer science, its history, physics, philosophy, human psychology and other interesting topics. And yes, the final ride to our department on his age old mobike.
I am glad he was here till the time I graduated, as he has been an ever inspiring figure to me. Visiting the department without his presence (BSB 335) would have been unpleasant.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Perl Vs Python

Perl is really a pearl of a language. I have used it since my first year summer for my summer project to develop a website for insti using it extensively for both backend and frontend.
I have been using python scripts too, for Openflow platform and some simple tasks. I have always been biased towards Perl as a better language, but today I must say, Python has an edge.
One thing that I have personally realized is the OOPs concept implemented in both the languages. In Perl, it was introduced late as the language was not designed for it. I had hard time for writing modules in Perl and creating classes using *bless* and never felt blessed.
I think Python is easier. Besides there are a number of libraries and active community for Python than Perl. Perl once notoriously famous for its jaws regex and weird syntax, and the usual bragging that comes about by saying " there is more than one way to do it !" is loosing its popularity(i doubt how much it was before, because of the reasons stated above).
I have found it hard to compare the two in the past for couple of years, but now ...
definitely, python is as good as perl in my opinion :) [I am still a little biased towards perl]

Friday, July 30, 2010

Heavy Metal at IIT Madras

Before coming to IIT Madras, i saw 'Saarang' advertisement in VH1 and i said ...there is more to IIT Madras than just academics. I found from my cousins and others, there is a lot of metal culture here... and a lot of hip hop too ! Hip hop and RnB apart from some numbers suck, because they literally demean women in most of their videos( but that is not what I wanna talk about, they can do what they want).
When I was in first year, there was only one shredder who ruled,that was JDK ...and there has never been anyone like him since then. He ripped Satriani on his guitar ... had underground jamming sessions and i liked it. 7x was also good ( my wm coord in first year) but he liked liter side of music... he could play Slash.Since then there was no one ... all Hendrix, Deep Purple like musicians... NO metal what so ever. I couldn't find any gas in "smoke on the water" what many people just loved, to be frank. Metal was dead in our IIT.
I missed what I wanted. I wanted something so evil and satanic that only few can stand it. I wanted people to appreciate something which talks about everything from politics to death to love to everything else. No one played likes of Iron Maiden, Anthrax ,Slayer, Pantera ,Megadeth, Metallica,Testament and that was so pissing, though all head banged in Saarang.
Till last semester there wasn't much buzz on metal. Then I played "Slayer" this Saarang. The response at WM Group was amazing and I loved.
I loved it because it was totally metal. We played Sabbath,Metallica,Alice in Chains... Pony played SOAD,Metallica...Sapola played Opeth and rest added too.
It wasn't about winning WM for me ... (thankfully one metal performance was amongst the top 3) ...Its about moshing together, its about sending a message of 'brotherhood', its something sublime.
Last night playing Motorhead, GnR (etc) and seeing mates headbanging, was Nirvana for me. There are breed of second/third year metalheads, who are mad about Megadeth, Cannibal Corpse, Meshuggah and it pacifies me to the core to see this love for metal in these teenagers.
Once visited by a '74 alumnus while jamming one of Pantera song for WM, he said,"We loved Zepelin , Sabbath,Floyd in those days... and people used to play it !". Then we had couple of toast to music and ourselves.I feel METAL is back and hopefully will rule Insti for years to come.
Metal Rules
I wish bands like Judas Priest,Slayer, Sabbath, Megadeth be played in IIT \m/.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Mobiles , the new generation

We are pretty much done with Desktops , laptops are stable pieces of computation . PDAs are too costly affair for what they provide.
Certainly , i think that mobiles are the gadgets of the present times. I mean all the stuff just clubbed into one thing . It can be really one thing to look after.
Giants like Nokia , LG , Moto , Sony ...Apple , Google etc list is endless are just pushing limits on this small device which is changing like anything. I cant really talk about the technology details as i am bound by legalities , but i am sure ... Mobiles are going to change the future of people ... i guess they really are . Apple as such with ipod has made a revolution as there are developers all over the globe to give user some great experience on this device . I mean we as humans want different experiences .
Previously , these devices dint look as cool , but as the User Interface has evolved to colored screens and the devices capabilities has evolved like anything having efficient micro kernels to control them , they are awesome.
I always though they can't be as good , with small buttons and small screen sizes ..(pathetic) but the kind of access they provide and the usability at any place .. and low energy consumption , with the internet at there disposal ... this technology is going to make billions and trillions in the business market , and a company to take control over this will be making gold .
There were issues at the technology levels , and the way these companies have handled them , i am just amazed . The complexity is still there , but its engineered to the optimum .