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".

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Hee-yah! I am the Bruce Lee of Internet debates!

The way I like to debate these sorts of proposals is via a mailing list. Just now, I just got done with a debate on the iitmcs97 mailing list (IIT Madras, Class of '97, which includes this guy and this guy), and I posted the following note there.

What I wanted to say was that I do these debates in a very specific way - this technique is my own little invention. At the end of the debate, you are able to see how the debate actually went.

Here is an email I sent to the iitmcs97 list just now describing how this works.


The way to visually follow this debate we have been having is as follows :

a. Log in to via a browser (say, Firefox).

b. Click on the following original post :

c. Follow the thread down.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Enter stage left, Arun

So my buddy Arun Viswanath has a new blog on Heritage Speakers of Tamil. The URL is here. Check it out!

Continuing the conversation on the Tamil language: I was asked the following question on a mailing list earlier today:

can you clarify the motivation behind this? Why is there a need to 'modernize the Tamil script'?

Here is my response.

I am asking two fundamental questions :
(a) why are there so many illiterates in India?
(b) what can be done to make Tamil more approachable for both poor people and
heritage speakers?

Monday, June 24, 2013

Hindu Studies Post 4 - Hinduism and statistics - statistical truths versus certain truths

There seems to be a lot of information on Hinduism floating around on the Internet. The one common factor seems to be the poor quality of analysis. It is, generally speaking, bad enough to make you want to laugh. Or at least smile. The main problem is that to be able to critique material on Hinduism properly, you need to be a bit of a psychologist, a bit of a sociologist, a bit of a historian and so on. Thankfully, this blog covers it all. Between us, we have enough of these competencies to say a fair bit about Hinduism without the analysis getting bogged down into the typical sorts of mistakes that Hindu Studies material often gets into.

And that brings me to the joke of the day. Joke, courtesy Lalin Anik.

-Where are you going?
-To Germany (surprise surprise)
- Where in Germany? 
(long silence) 
- Dumbledorf (...)
- Yes!! It is so hard to pronounce it! I don't speak any German.
- Me neither. I only know 'danke'. 
<stuff deleted>
It means 'please'.

> I hope you two permanently stay in Dumbledorf.

What makes this joke funny is that you know what they are trying to say even though they don't get it right. Dusseldorf. Of course. You also kind of know why they are getting it wrong. It is because of the confusion with Dumbledore of Harry Potter fame. At least some of the Hinduism Studies literature seems to be have the same sort of problem. Funny because it is confused. Funny also because it is possible to see why there is the confusion.

The biggest problem that people often get into when it comes to Hinduism is that they confuse statements with a cetain degree of statistical support (and this level of support is always less than 100%) with statements of absolute certainty (where the level of support is exactly 100%). That is, statistical truths versus certain truths. This is the difference between a statement such as "Hindus don't eat beef" versus a statement such as "Hindus eat". One is a statistical statement; the other is an absolute statement of fact.

Let us take a look at a few of the claims on the Hindu American Foundation website under "Hinduism 101"


Supreme Reality or God that is:
The all pervading and absolute reality;
Beyond description;
Worshiped in various forms, male and/or female, and by many names.


The ultimate goal is:
Freedom from samsara, the cycle of reincarnation (the soul survives death to be reborn in a new body);
Achieved by self-realization and elimination of material desires and attachments.

Ultimately neither of these statements is true in the absolute sense.

As I have argued in the post "The End of History and the Last Hindu", Hinduism (or perhaps, better the "Hinduisms") that came after the Age of Enlightenment and the discovery of the Scientific Method are fundamentally different from the forms of Hinduism that came before. It is therefore neither mandatory nor binding that a Hindu should believe in the idea of reincarnation. It is not a scientific belief and it has very little scientific support. It is perfectly consistent with being a Hindu to reject the idea of Moksha. It is also perfectly acceptable to accept the idea. It is the same with the idea of "Brahman". Again, it is perfectly consistent with being a Hindu to reject the idea of the "Brahman" altogether. It is also perfectly acceptable to accept the idea.

What is going on here seems to be something like this - and I am guessing here : the Hindu American Foundation is run out of a single house, from what I have been told, and they don't realize that they get a lot of things wrong even if such is obvious to a discerning eye. The bigger problem is, of course, that there has been very little organizational support for Hinduism in the academe and the academic organizations that do engage in studying Hinduism are often funded by Catholic and Protestant lobbies which consider Hinduism to be a false religion in the first place.

In the end, there is very little about Hinduism that you read about in both the popular literature as well as the academic literature that is right, a point well made by Richard Sproat [Comments - 1, 2, 3]. This is not to say that the stuff you read in the New York Times is wrong. It is just that very little seems to have been done to view this in a social scientific sense. And I do believe that this blog is possibly one of the few places on the Internet to really get it right.

Update: Updated the post a bit, fixed some typos.

Friday, June 21, 2013

What China's supercomputing push means for the U.S.

Via ComputerWorld:
China's latest supercomputer, which may be officially cited as the world's fasted when Top 500 global rankings are released mid-month, is running Chinese- made interconnects and software. China-made CPUs are up next, Beckman said.

Tianhe-2 or Milkyway-2, which will have 3.1 million cores, has a theoretical speed of almost 55 petaflops. It's been tested so far at nearly 31 petaflops. A petaflop is 1,000 teraflops, or one quadrillion floating-point operations per second. An exascale system is 1,000 petaflops.

Beckman, in an interview, explains the significance of China's moves, and the power problem facing the push to exascale.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Tamil writing proposal - executive summary

In this proposal, I have presented certain diacritics which, if properly used, can be used to write loan words from Hindi and English in Tamil better. The details of the proposal may be found in the paper put up on SSRN. Please note that, for various administrative reasons, the paper has not been published. I want to reserve it for publication until such time that I am in a doctoral program so that I can get some value out of the process of publication. Please keep in mind that the Tamil language proposal should be read in conjunction with the Leveraged Learning proposal. One paper (the latter) proposes a pedagogy for teaching and the other paper (the former) offers a simple proposal to show how languages can be better designed so as to be easier to adopt. 

In this post, Here is the set of examples from the previous post on examples. The first four names are the names of Rama and his three brothers from the RamayaNa and the last two are just two proper nouns I picked out from the Star Wars saga. On the left are the names in Harvard-Kyoto (first four) and standard English (next two). On the right are the names as written under the Tamil writing system that I have invented.

This is just a review of the examples previously discussed but you may think of it as an executive summary of the proposal.

Note that adopting this proposal is purely optional. Again, it is not mandatory. No child in any school has to perforce learn this script. The script can, however, be used to teach children - who out of their own free will choose to learn this new script or those whose parents give such consent. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The next big thing in tech: Augmented reality

Via ComputerWorld:
Reality isn't what is used to be. With increasingly powerful technologies, the human universe is being reimagined way beyond Google Glass' photo-tapping and info cards floating in space above your eye. The future is fashionable eyewear, contact lenses or even bionic eyes with immersive 3D displays, conjuring up a digital layer to "augment" reality, enabling entire new classes of applications and user experiences.

Like most technologies that eventually reach a mass market, augmented reality, or AR, has been gestating in university labs, as well as small companies focused on gaming and vertical applications, for nearly half a century. Emerging products like Google Glass and Oculus Rift's 3D virtual reality headset for immersive gaming are drawing attention to what could now be termed the "wearable revolution," but they barely scratch the surface of what's to come.

The wearable revolution can be traced back to Ivan Sutherland, a ground-breaking computer scientist at the University of Utah who in 1965 first described a head-mounted display with half-silvered mirrors that let the wearer see a virtual world superimposed on the real world. In 1968 he was able to demonstrate the concept, which was dubbed "The Sword of Damocles."

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Friday, June 14, 2013

Lost opera

Via the Huffington Post:
Scientists have helped to restore Luigi Cherubini's opera "Médée" to its original glory.

A lost aria, or solo song, from the piece, which Cherubini apparently smudged out in spite more than 200 years ago, has been revealed by x-ray scans.

Cherubini was an Italian composer who worked mostly in France and counted Ludwig van Beethoven among his contemporaries and admirers. When Cherubini's French-language opera "Médée" premiered in 1797, critics whined that the opera was too long, and as legend has it, the composer cut the piece by about 500 bars.

A shortened Italian translation of the opera became the dominant form of that opera into the 20th century. But today, many opera-goers and critics long to see "Médée" — which tells the wrenching Greek myth of Medea — as Cherubini first wrote it.

A well-received bicentennial version of the opera in its original form was produced in New York by Opera Quotannis in 1997; critic Peter G. Davis declared at the time that the doctored form "we've been hearing all these years, should now be permanently set aside." Back in December, an audience displeased with a radical take on Cherubini's "Médée" apparently lobbed obscenities at the performers in Paris and shouted "Stop the desecration of opera," according to the New York Times.

Now scientists are taking part in the revival, too. In an original manuscript of Cherubini's "Médée," the closing lines of the aria "Du trouble affreux qui me dévore" ("The terrible disorder that consumes me") are blacked out. Scholars sent the copy to physicists at Stanford University's Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) in Menlo Park, Calif., where the lost musical notes were recovered with the help of powerful X-rays.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Stanford online coursework to be available on new open-source platform

Via Stanford News:
Stanford online coursework will be available starting this summer on a new open-source platform, OpenEdX, the university announced today.

Among the first programs to run on the OpenEdX platform will be Stanford's popular "Three Books" summer reading program for incoming Stanford freshmen, along with two public courses now open for registration – one using contemporary health topics to teach statistics and another helping K-12 teachers and parents change the way students approach math. Courses from Stanford's Department of Electrical Engineering are among those that will run on the platform beginning this fall.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Computing a better way to advertise

From The Daily Pennsylvanian:
This billboard knows if you have a moustache or not. 
Engineering senior and computer science major Cynthia Mai, and Engineering seniors and computer engineering majors Eric Berdinis and Jeff Kiske have designed a video billboard which tailors the advertisements it displays to the people walking by based on their age, gender, glasses and facial hair. 
The team created this digital billboard screen, called “Advise,” for their senior design project — a capstone project for students who are pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Engineering. Students are supposed to apply what they have learned in class to create a device with real-world applications. 
The team recognized from the start that billboard advertisement is ineffective if the demographic of people walking by would never buy the advertised product.

Saturday, June 1, 2013