Note to recruiters

Note to recruiters: We are quite aware that recruiters, interviewers, VCs and other professionals generally perform a Google Search before they interview someone, take a pitch from someone, et cetera. Please keep in mind that not everything put on the Internet must align directly to one's future career and/or one's future product portfolio. Sometimes, people do put things on the Internet just because. Just because. It may be out of their personal interests, which may have nothing to do with their professional interests. Or it may be for some other reason. Recruiters seem to have this wrong-headed notion that if somebody is not signalling their interests in a certain area online, then that means that they are not interested in that area at all. It is worth pointing out that economics pretty much underlies the areas of marketing, strategy, operations and finance. And this blog is about economics. With metta, let us. by all means, be reflective about this whole business of business. Also, see our post on "The Multi-faceted Identity Problem".

Friday, December 28, 2012

Yes, but I have lost weight since

Yes, I have a few extra pounds on me in that picture but you ought to know that I have lost weight since. After my meeting with Prof. Kobilka, I was so inspired that I decided not to postpone my planned diet+exercise program any longer. I call my diet the Classical Sanskrit Diet. It is based on the idea that you only eat foods that have a name in classical and post-classical Sanskrit. Nope, you are not allowed to look in the dictionary.

In the Classical Sanksrit Diet, you end up eating lots of fruits and vegetables since in the beginning, all you are able to eat under the diet are a number of fruits like bananas and apples. This is because you learn the names of these foods very early or already know the names of these items. Also, specific vegetables like kale, broccoli and edamame are okay to eat since those have been added by me to the English-to-Sanskrit dictionary I have created for the diet. It is a primarily plant-based diet, and has a number of health benefits. Our motto :  "Learn Sanskrit, live well".

I am also on a walking program where I am doing a 5K walk every week for 50 weeks - rather, it is a 5K nearly every week for 50 weeks with a 5 week cushion for those extremely busy times. I call it "50 5k's in 55 weeks". Onward!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Ask The Delphic Oracle meets Nobel Laureate Brian Kobilka

A few earlier posts of mine (here, here and here) discuss a new writing system proposal for the Tamil language. In order to bring attention to the issues with the current Tamil writing system and in order to generate some measure of awareness for my Tamil writing system proposal, I sent an email to Prof. Brian Kobilka, Professor of Molecular and Cellular Physiology at Stanford, to ask if he would be able to meet some time. Prof. Kobilka has directed research resulting in many discoveries of great importance and these have led to many drugs in the field of Medicine. He also happens to have won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry this year.

Before I continue with the rest of this post, I should mention that Prof. Kobilka has requested that this post not be read as an endorsement of my writing proposal for Tamil, and I want to make sure that that disclaimer is there up front. I had come across Prof. Kobilka's work as part of my work for this blog, and his accomplishments are many, but I must say that meeting this man was a humbling experience for me.  In fact, one of the medications that I used to take targets GPCRs, one of the discoveries of Prof. Kobilka's that has resulted in his winning the Nobel Prize his year. And so, I was really quite excited. It was very generous of Prof. Kobilka to give me the opportunity to speak wth him. He struck me as very modest about his accomplishment. I consider myself very fortunate in having the opportunity to meet Prof. Kobilka.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Scrooge of Internet debates

'Anand Manikutty Smackdown Watch' alert. As part of this blog's mission to provide only the best quality opinions, we have now decided to include a Blogger Smackdown Watch. The particular thread on the mailing list silklist linked to in my previous post on the Singularity on silklist turned out to be one where a bunch of people tried to do a smackdown on me. Thankfully, I was prepared. I will describe how I did it below - it is part of my short online lesson on Internet debating.

But first, as part of this blog's 'Anand Manikutty smackdown watch', I would like to alert you to a few facts : (1) the Singularitarian(s) on the list did not provide a set of hypotheses that could be taken as the basis of this theory. This was the case even after they were pressed to do so; (2) the 'innovation is not programmable'/'innovation requires humans' argument was never refuted; (3) each and every single counter-argument (*including* the procedural issue on not linking to the Wikipedia page) was demolished by me on the List that I used to maintain (linked here); (4) I am stingy (in fact, extremely stingy) in terms of the amount of intellectual capital I am willing to spend (that is, I won't spend any intellectual capital by agreeing that I am wrong in Internet debates unless I really am). As it happened, I refused to spend any intellectual capital in this particular debate, but still ended up coming out ahead.

In fact, thus far, although I have debated with a lot of people, even with Nobel laureates, not on a single occasion have they ever been able to prove me wrong. I almost always win debates. Except with the Nobel laureates and such where the debates are just a tie. So, I am just stingy, stingy, stingy all round. Also, note that despite what you might gather from just reading the thread on silklist, I was actually extremely nice to  all the people on silklist, even those who were not nice to me. The silklist is one of the few places left on the Indian blogosphere/forums where civil conversations on topics related to India can be had. You don't see any angry outbursts from me on this silklist thread and if you had read my List, you would have seen a lot of well researched and well thought out comments and, equally importantly, comments that were considerate and thoughtful.  Anyway, given that it is Christmas, I feel like calling myself the Ebenezer Scrooge of Internet debates would be appropriateSo in the spirit of Christmas, I will ask that you take everything I say in good spirit and that my comments should be taken in the spirit of 'giving' and 'shedding light'. I do intend to continue to remain the Ebenezer Scrooge of Internet debates since I believe I shed light on issues on many an occasion. Of course, I have been parsimonious in acknowledging defeat in Internet debates, and I believe that that is an excellent strategy. You should never have to apologize for any Internet comment as long as it was intended in the right spirit and as long as you are right.

The first rule of Internet debates is that there are no rules. The main problem is that in Internet debates, you just don't have that sense of organizational process that makes this sort of thing impossible in business settings. There is no phone number to call and no management hierarchy to resolve things via.   The other thing about Internet debates is that in game theoretical terms - and this is the most useful mathematical model here - they can be zero sum games. Once the debate has gone past a certain stage, one party must win and the other must lose. When a debate looks like a zero sum game, things dramatically change. You have to try really hard to either win or get your point of view across. It is almost like you have to be a sort of One Man Army. You can't rely on anyone else, you have to try hard to block everything and you have to improvise constantly based on what you subjectively see. Now, the big problem is this : if the debate is in a prominent source (also known as an Authority in technical circles) or is in a place that later becomes a prominent source, that particular debate from four years ago might start ranking very high on Internet searches. That may not seem fair, but then life isn't fair. (Just Google for my name and you will find that this particular thread that was practically inconsequential in terms of what I got out of it has only caused me a lot of pain. The benefit was zero.). Also, debaters are often not fair. Not only aren't debaters fair, time is also of essence. You can easily lose an Internet debate in a matter of minutes. Lose you might not only that debate but also your online reputation.

In fact, it is just like war in another way. Different strategies are called for in different situations. In a not-quite-fully-moderated mailing list-type forum like silklist (where there is at least some trolling and many, many of the discussions on matters of national policy go way off track notwithstanding the presence of at least one professor on the list), you are better off linking to your opinion from your own list because you can never control what other people say about you. All you can do is control your own reaction. Note that in this silklist thread, you need to read my comments in conjunction with the silklist thread. Otherwise, you are likely to make the same mistake as at least one person on the discussion did. He assumed that what I said on silklist was all there was to what I had said (but, of course, that was not true). The strategy I used was simple : realizing that there was trolling going on on silk list, I simply started linking to my own List from the first post on silk list (and it continued with every post from there onwards). This way, I prevented what could have been an utter disaster for me because moderators will sometimes moderate out your replies to a forum but not that of others. By maintaining control of what gets said about me, I got to control the outcome of the debate. And finally, one caveat : do not try this at home or at work. You might make people extremely unhappy. End of Internet debating lesson.

So anyway, Merry Christmas, people. Have a happy holiday season!

Update (Jan 3): Updated post a little to fix typos, etc.

MIT research shows new magnetic state, one that could aid quantum computing

From ComputerWorld (emphasis added by me):
Researchers at MIT and other institutions have demonstrated a new type of magnetism, only the third kind ever found, and it may find its way into future communications, computing and data storage technologies. 
Working with a tiny crystal of a rare mineral that took 10 months to make, the researchers for the first time have demonstrated a magnetic state called a QSL (quantum spin liquid), according to MIT physics professor Young Lee. He is the lead author of a paper on their findings, which is set to be published in the journal Nature this week. Theorists had said QSLs might exist, but one had never been demonstrated before.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Cellphone, GPS data suggest new strategy for alleviating traffic tie-ups

From Berkeley's Newscenter:
Asking all commuters to cut back on rush-hour driving reduces traffic congestion somewhat, but asking specific groups of drivers to stay off the road may work even better. 
San Francisco Bay Area freeways colored according to how popular they are as connectors between other roads (bc) and the number of geographic areas that contribute to traffic on a particular road (Kroad). 
The conclusion comes from a new analysis by engineers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of California, Berkeley, that was made possible by their ability to track traffic using commuters’ cellphone and GPS signals. 
This is the first large-scale traffic study to track travel using anonymous cellphone data rather than survey data or information obtained from U.S. Census Bureau travel diaries. In 2007, congestion on U.S. roads was responsible for 4.2 billion hours of additional travel time, as well as 2.8 billion gallons of fuel consumption and an accompanying increase in air pollution.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

A slight miscalculation

Time to look back at all the people who were busily preparing for the Mayan Apocalypse -- and laugh. The prediction that the world would end on Friday, December 21st, 2012 appears to have been a case of a slight miscalculation.
In Moscow 1,000 people who had packed into Josef Stalin's bunker were able to go back home after Armageddon was averted. 
Chinese authorities dismissed outright rumours that Jesus had reappeared as a woman somewhere in the middle of the country, and also denied that they had built an "ark" as a contingency plan. 
At Pic de Bugarach, the French mountain some had believed to be a place of salvation, the sun came out from behind the clouds and a flock of birds flew past as the official end of the world struck after 11am GMT. 
The mountain had been identified as an "alien garage" from where a vast intergalactic flying saucer would emerge to rescue nearby humans.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Drop down menus and radio buttons, two new linguistic constructs for the English language

For those of our readers who survived the End of the World : a big Welcome Back to you.

So I was on email with David Peterson, the President of ConLang, an organization that I came to know about just a few days ago, and had invited him here to the Bay Area. I was emailing him after I read about John Quijada in the New Yorker. Here is my email reply to him.

Hi David,

Thanks so much for letting us know.

I was just checking with you to see if you wanted to give a talk. Please feel free to refer others such John Quijada via email ids if you think they might {[find our location more convenient|be equally suitable choices|have interested in giving a talk]}.

Best wishes,


I have a typo there ('interested' should be 'interest) but you can something different in my email reply to him. I have used the "{[ ... ]}" construct. This is a new construct for natural languages such as English. Think of it as a radio button choice menu for the English language.

The problem for me was that I was emailing a person I had come to know about only recently. I wanted to tell him to refer other people if they would find the Bay Area more convenient to drive to and/or if other people would be equally suitable choices and/or have interest in giving a talk, but these three choices are a sort of a radio button menu where you can pick one or more of the given choices. Using and/or is unwieldy but more importantly, in mathematical terms, is not isomorphous to the choice set with the radio button menu option. Addressing someone an email like this is totally okay because people receive emails all the time with HTML having embedded links and other GUI artifacts. This sort of a construct is, in my opinion, more elegant.

Another thing I would like to introduce is the drop down menu construct for English. The idea here is to offer greater ability to specify choices. Of course, you can always say - please pick one of the above. But there are advantages to having a drop-down menu such as construct reuse. You could say something along the lines of 'Are you coming for the party?  I just want to know whether it is a{{[ Yes | No | Maybe | Will Decide later ]}}"'.

You could have predefined constructs such as #RE_YNMW which stands for the construct given above. So that email would be abbreviated to:

'Are you coming for the party? I just want to know whether it is a #RE_YNMW'

These two options together form a conlang, a constructed language "built" on English. It would be perfectly understandable to speakers of English, of course, when you use them. That is all for today.

And so finally, before I sign off, people, give yourselves a pat on the back. You guys just survived the Apocalypse.

Update: Fixed some typos. Added penultimate paragraph.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Why the World Didn't End Yesterday

From NASA, a Youtube video (title "Why the World Didn't End Yesterday") on the Mayan "End of the World" scheduled for today:

No meteorite will strike us today. No monster tsunami will destroy the earth, people. No hurricane will wipe out the planet. There are fewer things in heaven and earth than may be dreamt of in philosophy. The world won't end today. Of that, I am quite sure. Trust me. We will be back tomorrow.

Update (Dec 22): Updated the post with the title of the video. And yes, we are alive. We made it. Whew!!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Comment - Email to William Nordhaus : the Singularity is not near

From the "End is Near" to the "Singularity Is Near". Below is an excerpt from my email to William Nordhaus wherein I expressed my skepticism towards the entire idea of the Technological Singularity itself.


Dear Prof. Nordhaus:

I have been thinking about the concept of a Technological Singularity proposed by some (Kurzweil, Vinge, Yudkowsky, et al.). I concur with Prof. Hofstadter in that a singularity does not seem likely in the near future. It is quite unclear to me that possibly the Singularitarians could mean by a process of 'continuous self-improvement' in artificial intelligence insofar as what has already been discovered.

<... stuff deleted ... >


I also emailed Tom Davenport on the same issue and told him about my reservations about this idea of a singularity. This was in the context of a post in the Harvard Business Review on IBM's Watson computer program. In the context of the Singularity, it is pretty clear what  Davenport's post is implying : innovation is not programmable. This is more or less the same point that I made over on the silk list (see this thread) as well.

When I emailed Tom Davenport about his opinion on the Singularity, his answer was what I expected it to be - that he was skeptical as well. He also sent me one of his articles which gets into more detail on what happens when machines are assumed to be substitutable for humans. That all of us (Davenport, me, Nordhaus) are arguing along very similar lines has convinced me further that the intellectual position against the Singularity is quite strong.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Mayan apocalypse: panic spreads as December 21 nears

From the Telegraph :
In the French Pyrenees the mayor of Bugarach, population 179, has attempted to prevent pandemonium by banning UFO watchers and light aircraft from the flat topped mount Pic de Bugarach. 
According to New Age lore it as an "alien garage" where extraterrestrials are waiting to abandon Earth, taking a lucky few humans with them. 
Russia saw people in Omutninsk, in Kirov region, rushing to buy kerosene and supplies after a newspaper article, supposedly written by a Tibetan monk, confirmed the end of the world. 
The city of Novokuznetsk faced a run on salt. In Barnaul, close to the Altai Mountains, panic-buyers snapped up all the torches and Thermos flasks.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Smartphone with second e-ink screen unveiled by Yota

From the BBC:
A smartphone with two screens - one of which uses e-ink technology - has been announced by a Russian company. 
Yota says having an added low-power screen will help users keep across social network updates and show critical information that stays visible even if the handsets run out of power. 
It plans to put the 4G Android device on sale in the second half of 2013.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

UCSB Researchers Take Next-Generation Augmented Reality Apps 'Anywhere'

From the UCSB Department of Computer Science:
Augmented reality applications for mobile devices could become smarter and more sophisticated, thanks to two recent grants awarded to UC Santa Barbara computer science professors Matthew Turk and Tobias Höllerer.

While many mainstream augmented reality (AR) applications rely on mobile device sensors and a static dataset layered over real-time visuals or GPS coordinates, Turk and Höllerer envision next-generation AR that is more stable, realistic, and dynamically updated by users. 

“Our research employs real-time computer vision for more stable presentation of 3D computer graphics that appear as if they are truly part of the physical world,” said Professor Höllerer. “Imagine applications, such as a landscape architect experimenting with design by placing virtual trees or walking within the grounds they plan to develop. A tourist at an archaeological site could explore the reconstruction of an ancient temple wh ere it once stood.

Monday, December 10, 2012

IBM chip aims to use light to speed up internet services

From the BBC:
IBM says it has developed a chip that makes it easier to shuttle data about via pulses of light instead of using electrical signals.

The firm says it should offer a way to move large amounts of information between processors in computer servers at higher speeds than at present. These provide computing power and data used by apps and other net services. 

One third-party expert said the significance of the innovation was that it was much cheaper than other options. Details of the development are to be presented at the International Electron Devices Meeting in San Francisco later.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

A ho-hum sort of weekend

This is looking like a ho-hum sort of weekend with the only excitement coming from the Mindsweep Quiz to be conducted on Sunday at Stanford. There is more information on the Mindsweep quiz at this here link.

Please note that there will be extra office hours this month on December 17 between 7:30 and 8:15 a.m. Please be prompt on call times because I enforce the time slots pretty strictly. So if you have any questions, please free to call at the usual Skype id.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Comment : the marginal utility of 2000 years of history versus 50 years versus zero years

The marginal utility of 2000 years of history versus 50 years versus zero years. This quantity is hard to quantify. May be it is zero. Maybe it is even negative. Maybe we cannot know what this value is for sure. But it is hard to see why it is necessarily positive notwithstanding Eric Hobsbawn comment that "Nations without a history  are contradictions in terms.'

Historians studying India often make a big deal of the fact that India has 2000 years and more of history. But what is the marginal utility for a country to have a long history? The marginal utility seems small. Below is a comment on an article by Namit Arora on "Three Quarks Daily" :


Nicely done Namit. Some of these Marxist historians are pretty, pretty good. The only trouble is that they cannot always be trusted. Every once in a while, they will say something supremely ridiculous.

Three comments :

1. Regarding the point on historical awareness in premodern India: this is already known. Nothing new is being said here.

2. Regarding the points on Gandhi : this is also already known. Nothing new is being said here. It is useful to bear in mind that we are talking about a fellow form the mid-19th century. Some of those guys were very smart and intelligent, but hardly 'enlightened with a global level of awareness'. Like, say, you and I. :)

3. ‘Nations without a past are contradictions in terms' : It would be useful to think of this in terms of the marginal utility for a country to have 2000 years of history versus 50 years of history. The marginal utility of a very long history seems to be negligible. If, say, there was massive global warming (and this is purely hypothetical) and oil were discovered in Antarctica and they decided to form 10 new countries there which decided to live peacefully and responsibly, they would surely be no worse having zero years of history. In fact, they would be probably be better off.  


Monday, December 3, 2012

Now in Punjabi

Another song video, and this time, a song in the Punjabi language.


@Pontifex hasn't tweeted yet.

The Pope hasn't tweeted yet, but will at Currently, his Twitter page simply reads : "@Pontifex hasn't tweeted yet."
The Pope is to begin sending Twitter messages using the handle @pontifex as his personal account, the Vatican said. 
A spokesman said Pope Benedict XVI wanted to "reach out to everyone" with tweets translated into eight languages. 
The first tweet from his account, whose name means both pontiff and builder of bridges, is expected on 12 December. 
Last year, the Pope sent his first tweet last year from a Vatican account to launch the Holy See's news information portal. 
"We are going to get a spiritual message. The Pope is not going to be walking around with a Blackberry or an iPad and no-one is going to be putting words into the Pope's mouth," Greg Burke, senior media advisor to the Vatican said. 
"He will tweet what he wants to tweet," he added, though the leader of the world's 1.2 billion or so Roman Catholics is expected to sign off, rather than write, each individual tweet himself.

Another Gangnam Style video

Continuing the theme of serendhomophony, here is another misheard lyrics version of the song "Gangnam Style".


Sunday, December 2, 2012

n-ary variables

One problem with the concept of binary oppositions is that it seems to imply that Western philosophical thought is concerned only with two-valued quantities. For instance, a coin toss X is an event that may be represented as follows.

X = { H, T }.

Other two valued quantities :

X1 = {"good", "evil" }
X2 = {"on",   "off"  }
X3 = {"left", "right" }

Note that these are all the examples from the Wikipedia article on "binary opposition".
However, some variables can take three values.

Y = { +, - , 0 }

Y1 = {"good", "evil", "neither good nor evil"}
Y2 = {"on", "off", "neither on or off"}
Y3 = {"left", "right", "neither left nor right"}

You could have a N valued quantity for many different values of N. Here are two
examples of seven valued quantities.

Z1 = {"M", "T", "W", "R", "F", "S", "N" } --> for the days of the week
Z2 = {"black", "white", "American Indian", "Asian Indian", "Chinese", "Filipino", "Samoan"}

Western philosophical thought has ben concerned with seven valued quantities as well. As, for instance, in any analysis in which days of the week enters the picture. Also, some of the quantities that Western philosophical thought has considered have been continuous variables as well.

Speed of Zeno's arrow = {x | x >= 0 }
Velocity of Zeno's arrow = {x1 | -infinity < x < +infinity}

The problem of continuous quantities  has not been considered by Jacques Derrida. Note that if the example of 'left' and 'right' given in the Wikipedia article on binary oppositions was intended to refer to political preferences, please note that individual political preferences may be considered multi-dimensional (some varying level of authoritarianism on one axis and another varying level of left-versus-right on another axis - as for example in's PoliticalCompass thing) and so the idea of 'left' and 'right' may be approximations too. The reason I am bringing this stuff up is that it is entirely unclear why Derrida manages to get so much attention when his theory leaves so much out.

Comment : 3QD comment on Derrida

Here are my comments on Derrida posted on "Three Quarks Daily" (slightly edited).


As recreation while preparing for a graduate program at a certain business school, I was reading a bit of Derrida. I was not impressed.

I, for one, continue to be underwhelmed by virtually all of Derrida's 'theories'. It is unclear to me that his contributions to modern thought, and that of the deconstructionists, amounts to anything more than the following single sentence. "A line of text can be amibiguous in meaning."

Other than that totally trivial observation, it beats me what Derrida has really said or contributed to the world of intellectual thought. Indeed, I would term Derrida's work philosophizing for the lazy intellectual. 'Lazy' because a good analysis based on mathematics and statistics would resolve these 'binary oppositions' that Derrida talks about. If there were "binary opposition"s and they were a construction of the "West", then how could the same sort of analytical tools that are used in the "West" are also effective in the "East" - e.g. in countries like India and China?

n-ary oppositions

I am coining a new term in the field of deconstructionism and in the field of Western philosophical thought. It is the term "n-ary opposition". It is, I believe, a new concept for Western philosophy. Below is an explanation of n-ary opposition. To be honest, it is a bit of a cut-and-paste of the Wikipedia entry for "binary opposition". But I am perfectly serious about all of this.


N-ary opposition

In critical theory, an n-ary opposition (also n-ary system) is a set of n related terms or concepts which are spread over a 'spectrum' of meaning. The term, introduced by the columnist Anand Manikutty, is also used to refer to the opposition that exists among the n concepts. Binary and ternary oppositions are common types of n-ary oppositions. A binary opposition is a set of two related terms or concepts which are opposite in meaning. A ternary opposition is a set of three related terms or concepts. A ternary opposition may be a set of three related terms of concepts out of which two are opposite in meaning and the third is a null concept. Ternary opposition, also a term introduced by Anand Manikutty, is the system by which, in language and thought, three theoretical opposites are strictly defined and set off agsinst one another. It is the contrast between three mutually exclusive terms, such as positive, negative and zero. Another example : up, down and "middle" (although various other terms may be used in place of "middle" such as zero position). A third example is left, right and "middle". Again, various other terms may be used in place of "middle".

N-ary opposition is proposed as an important concept within structuralism which sees such distinctions as fundamental to all language and thought. In this extension of structuralism, a n-ary opposition is seen as a fundamental organizer of human philosophy, culture and language.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Office hours for December and January

My planned office hours for December and January are scheduled for Monday, December 3rd, 7:30 am to 8:15 am PST and Monday, January 7th, 7:30 am to 8:15 am PST. If more office hours are needed, I will be adding more times. The theme will continue to be "Religion and politics".

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Serendipity in languages

The three posts ( one , two , three ) below form a set of posts on the topic of serendipity in languages. Please do send me a note if you have thoughts or comments on this.

I really do prefer to use the terms 'pseudoreduplication'/'pseudoreduplicates' although I am proposing the (somewhat less elegant) terminology of 'serendreduplication'/'serendreduplicates'. Also, I would prefer to use the terms 'pseudohomophones'/'psuedohomophony' where I am using the (somewhat less elegant) terminology of 'serendhomophones'/'serendhomophony'. I will be using these terms interchangeably. The use of 'serend-' terminology is there to disambiguate matters if any confusion should arise.

Update: Thanks to my friend Krishna Kunchithapadam for his suggestions, including and particularly the point on retaining the use of the terms 'pseudoreduplication' and 'pseudohomophony'.

Second Update: Note that 'pseudohomophony/'serendhomophony' is a statistical concept. If a significant fraction of speakers of language B think that word XB in language B is a homophone of the word XA in language A, then XB and XA are 'pseudohomophones'/'serendhomophones'.

Third Update (Nov 30, 4:34 pm): Note that my definition of 'serendhomophony' is general enough to cover the case where word XB in language B is a homophone of the word XA in language A for a particular performance, for instance, for a single Youtube video of a song. A different Youtube video of the same song could lead to a different word XB-1A in language B to being a homophone of the word XA in language A.

You could think of the performance of a song performance you listen to on Youtube as a process. It is a process (cf. stochastic process) producing words XA1, XA2, .. XAn in language A. Simultaneously, it is also a process producing the words XB1, XB2, ..., XBn in language B for speakers of language B serendhomophonous with XA1, XA2, ..., XAn. And equally simultaneously, it is also a  process producing the words XC1, XC2, ..., XCn in language C (again serendhomophonously). And so on. (You could cover every language and dialect on earth).

A different performance of the same song on Youtube will be a process  producing words XA1, XA2, .. XAn in language A. But simultaneously, it will also be a process producing the words XB-1A, XB-2A, ..., XB-nA in language B for speakers of language B (serendhomophonously). And equally simultaneously, it is also a  process producing the words XC-1A, XC-2A, ..., XC-nA in language C (again serendhomophonously). And so on.

Note that there are two levels of homophonousness here : per performance and per language.

More on serendhomophones and serendreduplication

So I am coining two new sets of terms in the field of linguistics. The first set is 'serendhomophony'/'serendhomophones' and the second one is 'serendreduplicates'/'serendreduplication'. Perhaps, people have been implicitly aware that this stuff was out there. But bringing something to explicit awareness by codifying it in academic language counts. And I don't think anyone has actually described it in the mathematical language of chance and probability. So here is a very simple but very precise description of these two terms.

First, 'serendhomophone'/'pseudohomophone'. A 'serendhomophone'/'pseudohomophone' is defined as follows. Sometimes, you may have a set of words/phrases in language A that are homophones with words/phrases in language B. This homophony is usually quite apparent for speakers of language B who don't know language A. These word/phrase pairs are called 'serendhomophones'.

Why does this happen? Pure chance. Every sound in language B maps to some sound in language A. So when words in language A are read out in close succession as in speech or song, the words in language A map to some arbitrary words in language B. (This mapping is not fixed. Based on intonation et cetera, the mapping can even change.) So essentially, words and phrases X1, X2 and X3 in language A that happen to map to words and phrases Y1, Y2 and Y3 in language B when they are spoken in a particular way and in a particular sequence. Note that there is a lot of serendipity in terms of what the particular word Y1 will end up meaning in language B. (Sounds have a more or less arbitrary assignment to meaning, generally speaking.) Note also that languages often don't have the same set of sounds, and so the correspondence between pseudohomophones may not really be very exact and often is not.

Here is a 'misheard lyrics' version of the Tamil song "Kalluri vaanil kaayndha nilaavo?" (now often referred to as "Benny Lava") featuring the Tamil dancer Prabhu Deva.

Note that Buffalax does not use actual pseudohomophones, but a subset of the sounds in the 'misheard lyrics' version of the song are pseudohomophones.

The first few pseudohomophones for the words in the song would be the ones below.

'Kalluri' <=> 'Cull lure E'
'vaanil' <=> 'Vaughn nil'
'kaayndha nilaavo' <=> 'coin the nil ah woe''

Now, for 'serendreduplicates'/'pseudoreduplicates'. 'Pseudoreduplicates' are words/stems of different origins that are thrown together to form 'duplication' within a word. (These words are also called 'serendreduplicates' in my terminology). 'Pseudoreduplication' is the phenomenon wherein a word looks like a reduplicate in that there is some apparent duplication within the word but the word is, in fact, not a reduplicate, and the reduplication has, in fact, arisen by chance.

In a nutshell, 'serendreduplicate'/'pseudoreduplicate' words have some 'duplication' in them that has arisen by sheer luck. It is worth emphasizing this point. Why does reduplication arise? Well, by pure chance. Or, you could call it serendipity.

Serendreduplication and serendhomophony

First a note on the terms 'serendreduplication' and 'seredreduplicates'. A Google search for pseudoreduplication returns no less than 44 hits, out of which at least two ( 12 ) point to academic papers in linguistics. So I have decided to avoid the term 'pseudoreduplication' since that term is already being used in linguistics.

Footnote 2 in the paper by Avram has this to say about pseudo-reduplication. 'Also called “quasi-reduplicated forms” (Bakker 2003: 40), “phonological reduplicated base form” (Miller 2003: 290), “fixed forms” or “fossilized forms” (Wellens 2003: 226). The comparative Austronesian dictionary says this about 'Quasi-reduplicates' : "Quasi-reduplicates" are those words that lack the corresponding unreduplicated forms e.g. didi 'pig, swine', nisnis 'beard'. It seems that the original unreduplicated form may have been lost within the language leaving just the reduplicated form as a sort of fossil. Note that this is not at all what serendreduplication is. It is, well, something completely different.

Now, serendreduplication may be used to motivate the idea that many things in languages may have arisen purely out of chance. I can think of so many things like that. For instance, the (Chinese) name Yao (as in Dennis Yao) is the slang word in Tamil for 'sir' or 'man' (and comes from the word 'ayya'). Pure chance that it is the case. (Think of what it would be like if a guy walked up to a Tamil speaker and told him his name is "Yao Yennaya"). And there is also the more unfortunate case involving the firm "Lund International'. The name of the firm has a somewhat funny meaning in Hindi.

But the point is that this sort of serendipity arises. And this sort of serendipity is, in fact, exactly what Buffalax of misheard lyrics fame exploits all the time. So what should we call the pairs of words and phrases that sound the same in the 'misheard lyrics'? I say let us call them 'serendhomophones'. They are words or phrases that similar to each other but it is pure serendipity that it is so. Note that the correspondence is not exact. It is just "close enough". And so, that leaves us with the minor matter of naming the phenomenon. And that is simple. This phenomenon we shall call 'serendhomophony'/'pseudohomophony'.

Update: Another example of 'pseudoreduplication' would be the word 'metametals', a word that I just coined to describe elements which occur next to metals in the Periodic Table. Of course, many metals are also metametals.

The term 'metametals' could also be used to describe artificial 'metals' engineered to have certain types of properties, that is, a metamaterial that is a metal. The word 'metametal' is a good example of 'serendreduplication', and is probably a better example of 'serendreduplication'/'pseudoreduplication' than 'metamathematics'.                          

Second Update: Googling for 'metametals' returns plenty of hits.

Final Update: Here is a 'misheard lyrics' version of someone doing "Gangnam style". It is one funny video. But if you are a speaker of an Indian language as well as English, I absolutely insist that you watch it. That will give you an idea of what is going on in the brains of non-Tamil speakers when they hear the "Benny Lava" song. There is a remarkable correspondence between the lyrics for this version of the song and what you hear in your head if you are an English speaker who doesn't speak Korean. It is exactly the same thing that is going on with the "Benny Lava" song as well. Words that may not seem like homophones to you may, in fact, be homophones inside the brains of English speakers who don't speak Tamil.

Serendreduplication, a new term in linguistics

I would like to coin a new term in linguistics called 'Serendreduplication'. (I also sometimes refer to it as 'pseudoreduplication' since that seems to be a more natural way to describe what is going on.) Now, reduplication, as the linguists among you will know, is a morphological process in which, as SIL International's site puts it, "a root or stem or part of it is repeated."

Well, 'serendreduplication'/'pseudoreduplication' is the phenomenon in which although it seems like the root or stem of a word (or part of it) is repeated exactly, it is actually two different words with entirely separate origins that are combined serendipitously (or there is some other type of "happy accident") such that it looks like there is reduplication going on.

Two examples of this are 'metamathematics' and 'abracadabra' in English. First, 'metamathematics'. The prefix 'meta' comes from the Greek preposition μετά = "after", "beyond", "adjacent", "self" whereas the word 'mathematics' comes from the Greek word μάθημα máthēm - "knowledge, study, learning".

Note that the prefix 'meta' is always what is used to describe a concept that is an abstraction from another concept. It is just sheer chance that the prefix finds itself added in front of a word that sounds like it. Not my favorite example (and trust me, there is a far better one coming), but it gets us started on the right track.

Okay, onto the word 'abracadabra'. The word 'abracadabra' is a word that is not only fun to say but interesting in its own right. It is known to have origins in Aramaic. As Wikipedia puts it, 'Although at first glance "Abracadabra" appears to be an English rhyming reduplication it in fact is not; instead, it is derived from the Aramaic formula "Abəra kaDavəra" meaning "I would create as I spoke")" Princeton's Allison Chaney has a helpful introduction to the word on her site.

The first known mention of the word ABRACADABRA was in the 2nd century CE in a book called Liber Medicinalis [1] (sometimes known asDe Medicina Praecepta Saluberrima) by Quintus Serenus Sammonicus,physician to the Roman emperor Caracalla, who prescribed thatmalaria[2] sufferers wear an amulet containing the word written in the form of a triangle:[3]

A - B - R - A - C - A - D - A - B - R - A
A - B - R - A - C - A - D - A - B - R
A - B - R - A - C - A - D - A - B
A - B - R - A - C - A - D - A
A - B - R - A - C - A - D
A - B - R - A - C - A
A - B - R - A - C
A - B - R - A
A - B - R
A - B

This, he explained, diminishes the hold over the patient of the spirit of the disease. Other Roman emperors, including Geta and Alexander Severus, were followers of the medical teachings of Serenus Sammonicus and are likely to have used the incantation as well.

I came to think about this idea due to a quiz question by my friend Govind Krishamurthi which went as follows :

QUESTION: In Tamil examples of this linguistic construction are:
Mada-Mada (faster)
<stuff deleted>

In Hindi, 
<stuff deleted>
Examples would be

<stuff deleted>
<stuff deleted>

There are also several examples in Telugu.. but I didn't post all of them.. Some of you can give examples in Telugu, Kannada and other languages too.

So the question is what is this linguistic construction called?


That gives you a good idea of what reduplication is. It also gives you enough examples to play around with so that you can infer what serendreduplication/pseudoreduplication is as well.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Gangnam Style

The latest news from the exciting world of technology is that "Gangnam Style" has now become Youtube's most viewed video. It has received more than 800 million views. That is right. 800 mil. Anyway, here is the video. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Draper University

The latest news on Tim Draper's Draper University:
Draper and his project team will host a neighborhood meeting tonight to discuss the temporary pilot program at the hotel, located at 44 E. Third Ave. The incubator program is designed to support the successful development of startups through an array of business support resources and collaborative mentoring with the university’s network of contacts. 
Recently, the city just relaxed its downtown retail requirements that mandated storefronts on ground floors be used solely for retail purposes. 
Before the city relaxed the rules, however, the former owners of the Collective Antiques building, the Musich family, asked the city for a variance to allow a startup, SnapLogic, to operate on the ground floor. 
Some residents, however, urged the City Council not to grant the variance to keep downtown pedestrian and retail oriented.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Big Data to Create 1.9M IT Jobs in U.S. By 2015

From :
Big data, which refers to data collected and analyzed from every imaginable source, is becoming an engine of job creation as businesses discover ways to turn data into revenue, says Gartner. By 2015, it is expected to create 4.4 million IT jobs globally, of which 1.9 million will be in the U.S. 
Applying an economic multiplier to those jobs, Gartner expects that each big data IT job added to the economy will create employment for three more people outside the tech industry in the U.S., adding six million jobs to the economy. That's the kind of estimate that presidential candidates, if they focused on IT's impact on the economy instead of fossil fuel fracking and pipelines, might jump on. 
But Sondergaard's estimate included a caveat -- namely, that there's a shortage of skilled workers. Only a third of the big data jobs will be filled.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Why you can't vote online

From MIT's Technology Review:
A decade and a half into the Web revolution, we do much of our banking and shopping online.   So why can’t we vote over the Internet? The answer is that voting presents specific kinds of very hard problems. 
Even though some countries do it and there have been trial runs in some precincts in the United States, computer security experts at a Princeton symposium last week made clear that online voting cannot be verifiably secure, and invites disaster in a close, contentious race.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Comment : Comment to Chris Langan, the "smartest man in the world"

Below are some comments I made to Chris Langan. Chris Langan who? Well, Chris Langan was dubbed "the smartest man in the world" in one Youtube video and "the smartest man in America" by Esquire magazine. He has an amazingly high IQ - estimated to be between 195 and 210.

For years, Langan has been developing a theory he calls the CTMU ('Cognitive-Theoretic Model of the Universe'). It took me less than three hours to find the mistakes in his theory, a mistake which basically dooms it. Here are the comments that I made on the blog 'Three Quarks Daily'. Note the times at which I made my comments. The first one came at 3:18:00 PM and the follow up came at 5:37:00 PM.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Comment : comment to Prof. Sieg Hecker

Here are some comments I sent to Prof. Sieg Hecker, a world expert on nuclear weapons.


In the case of India, I have been surprised that India continues to adopt what I would term an 'underdog' stance. India talks about nuclear 'have's and 'have-not's and justifies its own nuclear own program on this basis. I believe this to be a mistake. I think it would be better for India to adopt a policy of 'persistent ambiguity' (or, if you prefer, 'calculated ambiguity'). 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

China is building a 100-petaflop supercomputer

From Infoworld :
As the U.S. launched what's expected to be the world's fastest supercomputer at 20 petaflops, China is building a machine that is intended to be five times faster when it is deployed in 2015.
China's Tianhe-2 supercomputer will run at 100 petaflops (quadrillion floating-point calculations per second), according to the Guangzhou Supercomputing Center, where the machine will be housed.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Predicting what topics will trend on Twitter

From MIT news :
Twitter’s home page features a regularly updated list of topics that are “trending,” meaning that tweets about them have suddenly exploded in volume. A position on the list is highly coveted as a source of free publicity, but the selection of topics is automatic, based on a proprietary algorithm that factors in both the number of tweets and recent increases in that number.
At the Interdisciplinary Workshop on Information and Decision in Social Networks at MIT in November, Associate Professor Devavrat Shah and his student Stanislav Nikolov will present a new algorithm that can, with 95 percent accuracy, predict which topics will trend an average of an hour and a half before Twitter’s algorithm puts them on the list — and sometimes as much as four or five hours before.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Birth control for men -- featuring inventor Sujoy Guha's RISUG

An article in Stanford Magazine on birth control for men.
[T]he demand and need for more options are real, Lissner contends. In a 2002 survey of 9,000 men across four continents, 55 percent said they would be willing to use a new male contraceptive if it became available. "Men have quite a few motivations," she says. For one, they are held socially and financially responsible for any children they father. And as much as skeptics may argue that women would never trust men to take a contraceptive pill, faith goes both ways: Men have to trust that their female partners are using birth control consistently and correctly. Lissner cites the best evidence that contraception remains a pressing issue in the United States: Half of all pregnancies are unplanned. As one man wrote to her, "Condoms are a nice method. However, I have a 3-year-old that proves they are not 100 percent effective." 
RISUG (Reversible Inhibition of Sperm under Guidance), it seems, has progressed to Phase III trials.
Digging into the topic again, she discovered that one of the most promising methods had progressed to phase III clinical trials in India.  
Essentially a "no-snip" vasectomy, the technology is called reversible inhibition of sperm under guidance (RISUG). Instead of severing the vas deferens, a doctor injects a long-lasting polymer gel that chemically inactivates sperm as they pass through. It takes effect immediately so there is almost no wait-time before men can resume sexual activity. The polymer can later be dissolved with the injection of a second chemical, meaning that, in theory, the procedure is reversible.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Office hours for November -- and biases in American academia (gasp!)

The office hours for November are on November 5. The next office hours are on November 19, December 3 and December 17 between 7:30 and 8:15 a.m. Office hours have usually been on the first Monday of every month between 7:30 and 8:15 a.m. Additional office hour times have been added for November and December.

The theme for November will be "Politics and Religion". Over the month of November, I will be proposing a new theory of  Hindu Studies. I call it the Bias Theory of Hindu Studies. (I am hoping that people won't call it the Racial Bias Theory of Hinduism Academia -- although racial biases are part of the picture.) I will be making the argument that at least part of the problem for Hinduism scholars is that they have biases that they are not able to overcome. (Implicit racial biases may be part of the picture although racial biases do not represent the entirety of the matter). But this is only one part of the overall thesis. The overall thesis is that American universities, as organizations, do not have sufficiently good processes -- processes in the sense of organizational processes. This causes them to produce products that have a quality problem overall. The product in question is, of course, papers and such produced by Hindu Studies scholars. And although this area has half-beaten to death by a number of people, I believe that what I am proposing is novel. Wendy Doniger, Rajiv Malhotra, Balagangadhara, Paul Courtright, Russell McCutcheon - not a single one of them has really come up with the argument that I will be making as part of this thesis. None of them. And the funny thing is that they are all really quite fundamentally mistaken. Each and every one of them.

Anyhoo, besides Hindu Studies, this theory has significant applicability to American academia in general as well. I have laid out the basic arguments in one of the papers that I recently wrote which should probably called the Bias Theory of American Academia. In fact, one of the reasons I am quite happy to take the time to write these posts although I am extremely busy right now is that I have already written up the paper and so I know exactly what I am going to say. That is about it for an introduction. The first post will be up shortly.

Update (Nov. 11): Note that I am only promising to kick off my proposal this month. I am planning to make this into a two month series. The first series of posts will be this month. The second series of posts will be scheduled for a future month.

Update (Dec 3rd): The theme for November is "Politics and religion" and the subtitle for the theme for November is "-- and all the things you are not supposed to discuss at work."

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Breakthrough(?) in world's oldest undeciphered writing

Continuing our series on languages and technology, here is a recent article from the BBC on Proto-Elamite, an as yet undeciphered writing system. Proto-Elamite is, in fact, the world's oldest undeciphered writing system.
This international research project is already casting light on a lost bronze age middle eastern society where enslaved workers lived on rations close to the starvation level.

"I think we are finally on the point of making a breakthrough," says Jacob Dahl, fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford and director of the Ancient World Research Cluster.

Dr Dahl's secret weapon is being able to see this writing more clearly than ever before.

In a room high up in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, above the Egyptian mummies and fragments of early civilisations, a big black dome is clicking away and flashing out light.

This device, part sci-fi, part-DIY, is providing the most detailed and high quality images ever taken of these elusive symbols cut into clay tablets. This is Indiana Jones with software.
Why has deciphering this writing system has (thus far) been challenging?
Dr Dahl suspects he might have part of the answer. He's discovered that the original texts seem to contain many mistakes - and this makes it extremely tricky for anyone trying to find consistent patterns.

This first case of educational underinvestment proved fatal for the writing system, which was corrupted and then completely disappeared after only a couple of hundred years. "It's an early example of a technology being lost," he says.
From the headline "breakthrough in world's oldest undeciphered writing system", one would be led to believe that the news item is announcing a breakthrough but, in fact, it is only talking about a potential breakthrough.

Update: Linked here is a paper by Graeme Earl, Kirk Martinez and Tom Malzbender that describes the technology that the article is referencing. Tom Malzbender is at HP Labs from right here in the Bay Area with multiple publications related to image processing including in SIGGRAPH and ACM Multimedia. This research work is what the article should be talking about but is not.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Gospel of Jesus' Wife forged?

There has been a recent paper, a recent newspaper article and a recent blog post on a possible forgery with the so called Gospel of Jesus' Wife text. Click on the links above for the paper as well as post.

Just when you might have thought that the story of the Gospel of Jesus' Wife was dying down, there is another twist in the tale.  Andrew Bernhard has just published the following piece:

How The Gospel of Jesus' Wife Might Have Been Forged: A Tentative Proposal

I am going to cut to the chase and offer an "executive summary" of what I regard as the most important contention::

Line 1 of the Gospel of Jesus' Wife fragment copies a typo from a website interlinear of Coptic Thomas

Update 1 (Oct 29): I just knew they would be using one fancy-shmancy technology or the other sooner or later in reviewing this claim. So I kind of preemptively talked about it on the blog. In this case, mailing list technology appears to have been used it. See? I knew it.

Update 2 (Oct 29): Seriously speaking, what is amusing is that while the above Guardian article lays out the true picture of what happened, a previous Telegraph article on the same topic came to a series of incorrect conclusions. The article is now ridiculously funny to read. None of the contentions of the writer Tom Holland in the article, in fact, hold any water. You can also step over right this way to the sad little site hosted by Harvard where they talk about this unfortunately baseless historical claim. (Sad because it is just looking pretty forlorn given how much the original text itself has fallen in favor, and sad for oh-so-many-other reasons.) But, but, but back to the topic. But if you go back and read my email to Noam Chomsky that I had posted on my blog before, it is still pretty accurate. So the final scores are : Tom Holland - wrong. Harvard professor - wrong. Anand - right. But of course! You already knew that, dear reader. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

The world isn't flat

Pankaj Ghemawat makes an excellent case in this TED talk that the world isn't flat. I had helped with a journal article on the topic of globalization and had the opportunity to look into this area a bit. In fact, we had cited Ghemawat's work in this area because we found his analysis to be quite top notch. I, for one, am convinced that regional economics have limited levels of interaction and that the world isn't flat. To hear Ghemawat's perspective, you can start right about here.

Monday, October 15, 2012

TED Talk : human-computer symbiosis

A TED talk by Shyam Sankar on what he calls human-computer symbiosis. I know his wife Pooja Nath a little from my time at Oracle. She is now CEO of Piazza, a Q&A website for colleges ad classrooms. Check out the talk. Check out Piazza. Enjoy!

Update (Oct 23): My main comment on this is that I don't think there is anything particularly different about Big Data insofar as human communication with computers goes and so the idea of human-computer symbiosis does not appear to be a novel one per se.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Stanford scientist Brian Kobilka wins Nobel

Stanford's Brian Kobilka has won the Chemistry Nobel Prize jointly with Robert Lefkowitz for his work on G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs).
The receptors, which snake in and out of the cell membrane, serve as one of the main methods of communication within the body — conveying chemical messages into the cell's interior from outside through the membrane. Over the course of the last three decades, Kobilka and his colleague Robert Lefkowitz, MD, with whom Kobilka shares the prize, have played an important role in discovering and understanding GPCRs. Last year, Kobilka was the first to crystallize and analyze one of the receptors bound to its signaling molecule, which is a critical step toward understanding how to control them.
Roughly 800 different GPCRs have been identified to date, making them one of the largest families of human proteins. These proteins regulate the beating of our hearts, the workings of our brains and nearly every other physiological process. About 40 percent of all medications target these receptors, including Zyprexa, which is used to treat schizophrenia; the antihistamine Clarinex; and Zantac, which is used for stomach ulcers and gastro-esophageal reflux disease. GPCRs are also involved in some kinds of drug addictions, such as addiction to morphine and other opiates.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Office hours

The office hours for October was on October 1. The next office hours are on November 5 and December 3 between 7:30 and 8:15 a.m. Office hours have usually been on the first Monday of every month between 7:30 and 8:15 a.m. 

Update(Oct 23): There will be additional office hours on November 19 and December 17 at the same time (between 7:30 and 8:15 am PST).

Sunday, September 30, 2012

More Paul Daniels

A very nice trick. In this trick, Paul Daniels, of course, uses the Sullivan-Bose effect to create the visual illusion of embossed lettering.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Go First dice

From 'The Guardian' :

When two or more people roll a die each in order to see who scores highest – what you do, for example, when deciding who goes first in a board game – there is always the chance of a tie. In the event of a tie, of course, you roll again. But then there is still the chance of a tie. And this can go on ad infinitum. 
In other words, the process is not as efficient as it could be. Eric wondered if he could come up with a set of fair dice such that one roll of each die is enough to establish an absolute winner. In devising a solution – and thus saving the board game players of the world hours and hours of lost time – Eric and a friend have made the greatest innovation in dice technology in recent years. 
Their set of four "Go First" dice (pictured above) are such that when two, three or all four of the dice are rolled together: 
1) no ties are possible.2) each die has an equal chance of displaying the highest number. 
Eric's friend is Robert Ford, a mathematics professor at Dalton State College, Georgia. Initially they were considering a set of eight cubic dice, but Robert worked out that it was impossible to have a set of cubic dice that satisfied the two conditions. He then looked at a set of four dodecahedral dice – the 12-sided dice that are used in Dungeons & Dragons – and after a week found a solution, which include all the numbers from 1 to 48 with no repeats: 
Die 1: 1, 8, 11, 14, 19, 22, 27, 30, 35, 38, 41, 48 
Die 2: 2, 7, 10, 15, 18, 23, 26, 31, 34, 39, 42, 47 
Die 3: 3, 6, 12, 13, 17, 24, 25, 32, 36, 37, 43, 46 
Die 4: 4, 5, 9, 16, 20, 21, 28, 29, 33, 40, 44, 45 
These dice satisfy Eric's requirements: if you roll any subset of them, each die has an equal chance of winning.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Comment : Email to Chomsky on the Gospel of Jesus' Wife

My email to Prof. Noam Chomsky on the recent paper by Karen King 'Jesus said to them, My wife ...' :

A note on interpretation - notice the clever use of the subordinate clause qualifying "I" in the second sentence. I think I have slipped past Chomsky's defenses in implying that *I* am one of the people in the world with a tremendous historical perspective, which is not something I am going to correct Chomsky on if that is the interpretation he is going with. Just kidding, of course. I am posting this since this topic has significant relevance for India.


Dear Prof. Chomsky,

I read with interest Prof. Karen King's paper "Jesus said to them, 'My wife...". As one of the people in the world with a tremendous historical perspective, I would be interested in your response to some comments I have below from an organizational perspective.

As somebody who studies organizations, one thing that never ceases to amaze me is the extent to which organizations are path dependent. It seems to me that there is one little aspect of the world's longest surviving non-profit organization, the Catholic Church, that seems worth discussing in this regard - the Catholic Church has stipulated celibacy for priests. One of the main reasons given for this has been their assumption that Jesus was celibate.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

India and Olympic sports

It has been an increasingly common complaint that Social Scientific Theories lack predictive power, but the ones I discuss below do not suffer from this problem. I can confidently state that for every year that is divisible by four, India will send a contingent to the Olympics and that said contingent will perform underwhelmingly. Furthermore, I can also quite confidently assert that there will be a general outpouring of strum und drang following each Olympics in India where journalists and everyday folks like you and me wonder if there is something we are doing wrong. Nirmal Sekhar writes about the performance of India in the most recent Olympics in The Hindu :

My dear readers, let us get real. We have failed the Koms and the Yogeshwars and the rest as much as we seem to believe that many Indian athletes have failed us. They don’t owe us as much as we owe them.

We need to follow their careers, cheer them from grassroots up, care about how they are treated by the administrators, worry about how they are ignored by the big corporate giants who would readily part with $10m for a 15-second TV ad campaign featuring a Sachin Tendulkar or a Gautam Gambhir. But we don’t.

We simply don’t give a damn most of the time and then bemoan their lack of success at the Olympics once every four years.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Elijah the Prophet : a fantasy with riddle

For no particular reason other than the fact that the story has a riddle in the end, here is an extract from a story by Sholem Aleichem.

 An old man with a great gray beard down to his knees. An old face, yellow, wrinkled endlessly, fine and good. And eyes-such eyes. Good tender friendly loving and faithful eyes. Stooped over a great, great cane with a sack on his shoulders-and sha shtill, he comes wordlessly straight to me.

“Nu, yingeleh get into the sack,” says the old man to me so softly and sweetly.

I ask him: “To where?” He replies: “You’ll see afterwards.” I don’t want to go.” He tells me again. I ask him: “How can I go with you? I’m a rich man’s son.” Says he: “So you’re a rich man’s son, what yichus [family connection] is that? By me, you’re not an only son.” Say I: “Fussed over, from seven the sole survivor. They’ll find out that I’m gone and they’ll not be able to bear it. They’ll die, especially Mama.” He looks at me, the old man, softly and sweetly like earlier: “If you don’t come with me, sleep well, but sleep forever.” I begin to cry: “Does that mean that I will die? They’ll not be able to endure it, especially Mama.” “You don’t want to die? Then come with me. Separate from your parents and come.” “What do you mean? How can I go? I’m an only son, from seven the sole survivor.” He speaks up more strongly to me: “For the last time, yingel, choose one of the two: either separate forever from your parents and come with me or remain here and sleep forever. Forever.”

When he finished these words he took a step away from me and turned to the door. What should I do? Go with the old man God knows where, to oblivion–and my parents would die? An only son, from seven the sole survivor? Or remain here and sleep forever? That means that I myself would die. I hold out to him both my hands with tears in my eyes: “Elyohu HaNovi, good, loving Elyohu, give me a moment to think.” He turns to me his fine old yellow wrinkled face with the great gray beard down to his knees. He looks at me with his fine good loving faithful eyes and gives me a smile: “One minute I give you to think, my child, but no more.”

The old man leans on his great, great cane and waits.

The question is: what could I devise in that minute so that I needn’t have to go with the old man or sleep forever. Ah, nu, who can guess?

Update (September 10): A correction : it isn't quite true that this story was posted for no particular reason. I sent the piece below "Now, I don't want to sound like a politician ..." to a professor and he said that this piece reminded him of Sholem Aleichem. It is the sort of stuff I was aiming for. It is not that I had Sholem Aleichem specifically in mind, but it is done in the same folksy sort of a way and it is, like, you know, kind of intended to talk about everyday people and their concerns, but it is also designed to satirize larger things. So, color me pleased.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Mind reading

Paul Daniels does some mind reading.

The trick works, I think, because the return valence of any smoothly packed set of robust dodecahedrons is never less than four.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Other transliteration schemes

Three other transliteration schemes are the ITRANS scheme, IAST and Velthuis. Here is what the Devanagari vowels look like in these above schemes (table courtesy Wikipedia).