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".

Sunday, December 18, 2016

INNOVATION: Intel tech brings us closer to the world of 'Minority Report'

You've spent years -- decades -- typing on a keyboard and dragging your mouse around to control your computer. Intel wants to radically shake that all up. 
Intel CEO Brian Krzanich on Tuesday offered a glimpse into the company's vision of the near future with demonstrations of cutting-edge technologies, including gesture controls, facial recognition security prompts, drones that know how to move around obstacles and a jacket that can help the visually impaired sense what's around them. 
At the heart of many of the demonstrations during his keynote at the Consumer Electronics Show was Intel's RealSense 3D, the company's depth-sensing camera technology. Intel is banking heavily on the future of RealSense. If successful, it could mean a radical change in how we interact with computers.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

INNOVATION: Moving over from Silicon

Meanwhile, from the University of Southern California:
When it comes to electronics, silicon will now have to share the spotlight. In a paper recently published in Nature Communications, researchers from the USC Viterbi School of Engineering describe how they have overcome a major issue in carbon nanotube technology by developing a flexible, energy-efficient hybrid circuit combining carbon nanotube thin film transistors with other thin film transistors. This hybrid could take the place of silicon as the traditional transistor material used in electronic chips, since carbon nanotubes are more transparent, flexible, and can be processed at a lower cost. 
Electrical engineering professor Dr. Chongwu Zhou and USC Viterbi graduate students Haitian Chen, Yu Cao, and Jialu Zhang developed this energy-efficient circuit by integrating carbon nanotube (CNT) thin film transistors (TFT) with thin film transistors comprised of indium, gallium and zinc oxide (IGZO).

Saturday, October 15, 2016

TECHNOLOGY: Skilled Foreign Workers a Boon to Pay, Study Finds

Want a pay raise? Ask your employer to hire more immigrant scientists.

That's the general conclusion of a study that examined wage data and immigration in 219 metropolitan areas from 1990 to 2010. Researchers found that cities seeing the biggest influx of foreign-born workers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics—the so-called STEM professions—saw wages climb fastest for the native-born, college-educated population.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

TECHNOLOGY: Stem pipeline problems to aid STEM diversity


Decades of effort to increase the number of minority students entering the metaphorical science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) pipeline, haven’t changed this fact: Traditionally underrepresented groups remain underrepresented. In a new paper in the journal BioScience, two Brown University biologists analyze the pipeline’s flawed flow and propose four research-based ideas to ensure that more students emerge from the far end with Ph.D.s and STEM careers.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

INNOVATION: World’s First Parallel Computer Based on Biomolecular Motor

And now, news from Germany.
A new parallel-computing approach can solve combinatorial problems, according to a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Researchers from the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics and the Dresden University of Technology collaborated with an international team on the technology. The researchers note significant advances have been made in conventional electronic computers in the past decades, but their sequential nature prevents them from solving problems of a combinatorial nature. The number of calculations required to solve such problems grows with the size of the problem, making them intractable for sequential computing. The new approach addresses these issues by combining well-established nanofabrication technology with molecular motors that are very energy-efficient and inherently work in parallel. The researchers demonstrated the parallel-computing approach on a benchmark combinatorial problem that is very difficult to solve with sequential computers. The team says the approach is scalable, error-tolerant, and dramatically improves the time to solve combinatorial problems of size N. The problem to be solved is "encoded" within a network of nanoscale channels by both mathematically designing a geometrical network that is capable of representing the problem, and by fabricating a physical network based on this design using lithography. The network is then explored in parallel by many protein filaments self-propelled by a molecular layer of motor proteins covering the bottom of the channels.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

INNOVATION: Computers read 1.8 billion words of fiction to learn how to anticipate human behaviour

Meanwhile at Stanford:
Researchers at Stanford University are using 600,000 fictional stories to inform their new knowledge base called Augur. The team considers the approach to be an easier, more affordable, and more effective way to train computers to understand and anticipate human behavior. Augur is designed to power vector machines in making predictions about what an individual user might be about to do, or want to do next. The system's current success rate is 71 percent for unsupervised predictions of what a user will do next, and 96 percent for recall, or identification of human events. The researchers report dramatic stories can introduce comical errors into a machine-based prediction system. "While we tend to think about stories in terms of the dramatic and unusual events that shape their plots, stories are also filled with prosaic information about how we navigate and react to our everyday surroundings," they say. The researchers note artificial intelligence will need to put scenes and objects into an appropriate context. They say crowdsourcing or similar user-feedback systems will likely be needed to amend some of the more dramatic associations certain objects or situations might inspire.

Monday, May 30, 2016

INNOVATION: Mathematical model to explain how things go viral

Interesting research on virality. At the University of Aberdeen:
A University of Aberdeen-led research team has developed a model that explains how things go viral in social networks, and it includes the impact of friends and acquaintances in the sudden spread of new ideas. "Mathematical models proposed in the past typically neglected the synergistic effects of acquaintances and were unable to explain explosive contagion, but we show that these effects are ultimately responsible for whether something catches on quickly," says University of Aberdeen researcher Francisco Perez-Reche. The model shows people's opposition to accepting a new idea acts as a barrier to large contagion, until the transmission of the phenomenon becomes strong enough to overcome that reluctance. Although social media makes the explosive contagion phenomenon more apparent in everyday life than ever before, it is the intrinsic value of the idea or product, and whether friends and acquaintances adopt it or not, which remains the crucial factor. The model potentially could be used to address social issues, or by companies to give their product an edge over competitors. "Our conclusions rely on numerical simulations and analytical calculations for a variety of contagion models, and we anticipate that the new understanding provided by our study will have important implications in real social scenarios," Perez-Reche says.

Monday, April 25, 2016

On the "Smartest Living People in the World"

I was lazily whiling my time away on the Internet - a very small bit of time, because I am just very busy these days - and here is something I came across.

A few comments on the video: it is certainly true that Stephen Hawking is an awe-inspiring figure in academic physics. But to compare him with the other people seems odd. It simply does not do enough justice to the towering achievements of this eminent physicist. Using IQ as a statistical measure hardly does any justice to the scope and depth of Hawking's work. (Indeed, I was trying to impress upon a mathematician friend of mine that intelligence should be viewed as a partial order, not a total order. In that IQ tends to represent intelligence on a flat, linear scale, IQ cannot be used as the only measure of intelligence.) Hawking is the sort of genius whose work cannot be easily compared to that of anyone else, and it is quite wrong headed to even compare him against the others in this list insofar as actual scholarly work is concerned. A second comment would also be in order. Regarding Christopher Langan: I must note a correction to what has been claimed in the video. Langan's work, while done in earnest, does not quite stand up to scholarly scrutiny. Here is my Quora post on the same.


What does the Theoretic Model of the Universe by Christopher Langan say?

Anand ManikuttyIndependent stats & compsci consultant for companies in finance, s/w & hi tech

The Theoretic Model of the Universe by Christopher Langan is supposed to be what the title says - a model of the universe.

I have not read the whole thing, but the parts that I went through did not stand up to scholarly scrutiny. In fact, I can say with a great deal of confidence that the Theoretic Model of the Universe (or the Cognitive-Theoretic Model of the Universe) is mistaken from multiple perspectives - physics, and psychology, just to name a couple. Each field has its own episteme. You need to understand the epistemes of a particular field to comment on a work such as this. I can say that based on my knowledge of the fields of physics and psychology that the entire enterprise is misguided to begin with.
Wishing Chris Langan the best, of course, in his scholarly pursuits. You never know what may be possible until you try. At least he tried.

Friday, April 15, 2016

TECHNOLOGY: How Can Supercomputers Survive a Drought?

Water scarcity has been surfacing as an extremely critical issue worth addressing in the U.S. as well as around the globe nowadays. A McKinsey-led report shows that, by 2030, the global water demand is expected to exceed the supply by 40%. According to another recent report by The Congressional Research Service (CRS), more than 70% of the land area in the U.S. underwent drought condition during August, 2012.

When it comes to 2014, the condition has become even worse in some of the states: following a three-year dry period, California declared state-wide drought emergency. A report by NBC News on this drought quotes California Gov. Jerry Brown as saying, “perhaps the worst drought California has ever seen since records began being kept about 100 years ago”. Many such evidences of extended droughts and water scarcity have undoubtedly necessitated concerted approaches to tackling the global crisis and ensuring water sustainability.

Supercomputers are notorious for consuming a significant amount of electricity, but a less-known fact is that supercomputers are also extremely “thirsty” and consume a huge amount of water to cool down servers through cooling towers that are typically located on the roof of supercomputer facilities. While high-density servers packed in a supercomputer center can save space and/or costs, they also generate a large amount of heat which, if not properly removed, could damage the equipment and result in huge economic losses.

The high heat capacity makes water an ideal and energy-efficient medium to reject server heat into the environment through evaporation, an old yet effective cooling mechanism. According to Amazon’s James Hamilton, a 15MW data center could guzzle up to 360,000 gallons of water per day. The U.S. National Security Agency’s data center in Utah would require up to 1.7 million gallons of water per day, enough to satiate over 10,000 households’ water needs.

Although water consumption is related to energy consumption, they also differ from each other: due to time-varying water efficiency resulting from volatile outside temperatures, the same amount of server energy but consumed at different times may also result in different amount of water evaporation in cooling towers. In addition to onsite cooling towers, the enormous appetite for electricity also holds supercomputers accountable for offsite water consumption embedded in electricity production. As a matter of fact, electricity production accounts for the largest water withdrawal among all sectors in the U.S. While not all the water withdrawal is consumed or “lost” via evaporation, the national average water consumption for just one kWh electricity still reaches 1.8L/kWh, even excluding hydropower which itself is a huge water consumer.

Friday, April 8, 2016

RESPONSE: another response to Manivannan

Some further comments from the intellectual collective James Bonilla.


I have a bit more time this week, and I am going to be using my time to analyze Manivannan's paper in a bit more detail.

Here are some more comments on Manivannan's paper. I am going to go through just a few pages and analyze the sort of stuff I find problematic. Here goes.

  • Line from paper p. 208: "In this article, we will show that the genius of Tamil artists has created all possible shapes on top of the consonants with inherent a, to represent puLLi ( ளி, U+0BCD)." 
    • Comment from Anand M.: It is odd to characterize the drawing of a dot in a few different ways as genius.
    • Comment from James B.: The "genius of Tamil artists"? It is genius to draw a damn dot in five different ways? One with a circular shape, one in the shape of a dot, et cetera. This is what you callin' genius? Bro, you are tryin', you are tryin'. But, boy, you are really reachin'.
    • Comment from Donald Drumpf: This dot... it is a dot. It is a dot. Simple as that. It is not genius. I guarantee it. (We just made this up - Eds.)
  • Line from paper p. 209: "The sample glyph shows a circle above a character that it is to combine with. The annotation says it is not used in Tamil and an additional annotation saying that the “anusvara should not be confused with the use of a circular glyph for the pulli” has been recently added. In orthographic terms, anusvara belongs to Sanskrit language to represent a Sanskrit based sound using a written form that is characteristic of Devanagari or other scripts designed to represent Sanskrit and related languages. Tamil language does not use anusvara nor does it have a written form for the anusvara."

    • Comment from Anand. M.: There is no reason to say that the Tamil language cannot use the anusvara. I can use the anusvara even in English if I want. I would simply have to define what it means when the anusvara circle goes above a character. 
    • Comment from James B.:  Dude, Manivannan. Seriously? You can't be serious. You can't be serious. You are talking about drawing a circle on top of a p? You have issues with dat? You have some serious issues then, pal. Mah buddy here wants to draw a circle on top of a p. I mean - seriously? You are claiming to be serious about all dis, right? What's going on, man? What's going on? Next, you will have problems with me joke about how Chris Christie sat on an iPhone and turned into an iPad. Of course, it is very inappropriate. But it is a joke that is funny in its context. You need to chill out about what people are doing when they draw circles above characters.
  • Line from paper p. 210: "Usage of diacritics to render foreign sounds, loan words, academic notation, etc., is not a new idea. There have been other proposals to use diacritics to render Sanskrit (Sharma, L2/10256), Hindi (Manikutti, 2012) or other foreign sounds (Sevakumar, 2010) in Tamil using the Tamil character set. However, such usage in random proposals, printed texts or a few other non-standard sources needs to be weighed against standard practices of language community. A rational system of diacritics limited to specialist user groups has its merits as long as the orthographic principles of Tamil are not impacted."
    • Comment from Anand M.: Three comments: (1) there is no impact on said language community because they don't have to use it; (2) said language community cannot be taken to be a homogenous community that is in full agreement with Mr. Manivannan; Or any sort of agreement; (3) the use of diacritics is purely optional. And there are multiple solutions offered that are each quite elegant. (Mr. Sharma has done a good job with his proposal:
    • Comment from James B.: Pretty much what Anand has said. Dude, Manivannan. You are simply refusing to listen to the ideas being expressed here.

LANGUAGE: some comments on the proposal

Some comments on the proposal:

(1) Very short learning curve: It should take maybe a couple of minutes for someone who knows both Hindi and Tamil to learn the schema.

(2) Obvious interpretation: It ought to be obvious even to someone who has never seen the system to interpret the letters in the new system.

(3) Compliant (technologically) with multiple platforms: this system is very easy to type with on a standard Tamil keyboard. It is also very easy to type with when working with web applications like Quillpad.

(4) Helpful for minorities: it is very helpful for minority groups; for instance, to be able to avail of social services such as getting prescriptions filled appropriately. (Rather than mess up the name of a medicine; one could write it without loss of fidelity in this system).


I have here a second proposal for the Tamil language. I call it Tamil 2.0. I also call it "Hispanotamil" and "Hispanic Tamil". Here it is -- in executive summary form.

The proposal is pretty simple: we propose an extended Tamil alphabet. The proposal maps Devanagari alphasyllabary (that is, the Hindi/Sanskrit alphabet/alphasyllabary/abugida) one-to-one to the extended Tamil alphasyllabary. It works as follows.

(1) consider the Hindi alphasyllabary. It has two sections: one for the vowels and one for the consonants.
(2) Let the vowels in Hindi map one-to-one to the existing vowels in Tamil. This mapping remains the same.
(3) The consonants in Hindi are in two subsections: the first subsection is the famous 5x5 consonant layout of Sanskrit. The second subsection is the remaining consonants: ya, ra, la, va, et cetera.
(4) Let the consonants in the second subsection map one-to-one to the corresponding consonants in Tamil.
(5) The leaves the last subsection: the 5x5 grid. This is mapped quite simply as follows:
(a) use | | to soften a sound.
(b) use ( ) to retain the existing sound. (Or use nothing.) Note that adding parentheses around an expression in mathematics does not change its value.
(c) use the consonant "ha" to add the aspirated sound.

(6) In addition to this, use the "(" symbol to mimic the "chandra" symbol in Hindi going on top of a character. The "(" after an unmodified Tamil consonant/"a" Tamil letter modifies the sound to "a" as in "cat", and the "(" after a long Tamil consonant/"aa"  Tamil letter modifies the sound to "au" as in "caught".

All this is quite clear from the schema below.

Did not include one thing in the graphic: using the "(" symbol. It is used as below.

pal = ப( ல்

pot = பா(ட்

Al = அ( ல்

aught = ஆ( ட்

Very simple and very clean.

Update (April 9, 2016): there is one typo in the above graphic. It is the "na" with the three swirls in the third line, not the "na" with the two swirls.

LANGUAGE: some more screen shots

Some more screen shots to accompany my Tamil paper proposal. Many of them are duplicate views. No harm in posting some extra pictures of the same thing.









Thursday, April 7, 2016

RESPONSE: Response to Manivannan

I came across a citation of my paper on the Tamil language on the Internet. I believe that my paper has been improperly cited. So this post is by way of response.

I am going to request this author to not cite my paper in the future. This is because I don't think he has understood it. Furthermore, I hate to say this, but I don't think he is conducting himself professionally.

However, given that he has chosen to cite my paper, I would like to respond to Mr. Manivannan (the person who cited my paper but done so improperly). My response has two substantive portions:

(1) Note on manner of academic engagement:

Mr. Manivannan claims to have read our paper (and, therefore, implicitly to have understood it).

I do not believe, however, that the author of the paper has done two things required to professionally engage with the paper: firstly, to make an attempt to fully understand the paper itself; and secondly, to make an attempt to either understand the mathematics in a paper or report inability to do so. Here is the requisite section of the paper where Mr. Manivannan has attempted to place this paper in the context of other papers, other proposals, et cetera.

Usage of diacritics to render foreign sounds, loan words, academic notation, etc., is not a new idea. There have been other proposals to use diacritics to render Sanskrit (Sharma, L2/10256), Hindi (Manikutti, 2012) or other foreign sounds (Sevakumar, 2010) in Tamil using the Tamil character set. However, such usage in random proposals, printed texts or a few other non-standard sources needs to be weighed against standard practices of language community. 

(Simply put: If you do not understand the math, Mr. Manivannan, you should say so. It is okay. It is acceptable to say that you don't understand the math in the paper but that you disagree with it.)

(2) Notes on the points raised:

(a) Mr. Manivannan has not clarified what his actual point of disagreement with my proposal is.

(b) In fact, Mr. Manivannan has not clarified what his actual point of disagreement with any of the other proposals, in fact, is. Calling another scholar's work a random proposal -- and clubbing it with other authors as well -- is rank unprofessionalism. I don't even know whether my proposal should be considered under the category of "printed text" or "random proposal".

(c) There is no indication that Mr. Manivannan has understood any of the mathematics in the paper.

(d) It is to be noted that, one of the sub-proposals in the paper goes as follows: use such characters as "|", "_", et cetera, to introduce foreign sounds. These are already being used in Tamil. So much for lack of conformance with Tamil orthography.


The only thing I can think of at this point is complete disengagement. Let Mr. Manivannan do what he wants, but he needs to start providing some proof that he understood the math.

(Btw, at this point, James Bonilla has this to say: "By talking about a paper you clearly don't understood, Mr. Manivannan, you look like a fool. You have clearly not understood the paper. You are clearly dismissing the paper. God! What a jerk!!" Sorry, but those were James B.'s exact words.)

If Mr. Manivannan so wishes, we can engage on Quora or some platform where a BNBR-type ("Be Nice Be Respectful") norm is enforced by external moderators.


Wednesday, March 30, 2016

TECHNOLOGY: Four DARPA projects that could be bigger than the Internet

From DefenseOne:
Forty years ago, a group of researchers with military money set out to test the wacky idea of making computers talk to one another in a new way, using digital information packets that could be traded among multiple machines rather than telephonic, point-to-point circuit relays. The project, called ARPANET, went on to fundamentally change life on Earth under its more common name, the Internet.

Today, the agency that bankrolled the Internet is called the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, which boasts a rising budget of nearly $3 billion split across 250 programs. They all have national security implications but, like the Internet, much of what DARPA funds can be commercialized, spread and potentially change civilian life in big ways that its originators didn’t conceive.

What’s DARPA working on lately that that could be Internet big?

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

INNOVATION: Memory cells built on paper

A team based at the National Taiwan University in Taipei has used a combination of inkjet and screen printing to make small resistive RAM memory cells on paper. These are the first paper-based, nonvolatile memory devices, the team says (nonvolatile means that the device saves its data even when it's powered down).  
As Andrew Steckl outlined in his feature for IEEE Spectrum last year, paper has a lot of potential as a flexible material for printed electronics. The material is less expensive than other flexible materials, such as plastic. It boasts natural wicking properties that can be used to draw fluids into sensors. And it can be easily disposed of by shredding or burning.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

TECHNOLOGY: Scheduling algorithms based on game theory makes better use of computational resources

Rubing Duan and Xiaorong Li at the A*STAR Institute of High Performance Computing in Singapore and co-workers have now developed a scheme to address the scheduling problem in two large-scale applications: the ASTRO program from the field of cosmology, which simulates the movements and interactions of galaxy clusters, and the WIEK2k program from the field of theoretical chemistry, which calculates the electronic structure of solids1. The researchers' new scheme relies on three game-theory-based scheduling algorithms: one to minimize the execution time; one to reduce the economic cost; and one to limit the storage requirements.

The researchers performed calculations wherein they stopped the competition for resources when the iteration reached the upper limit of optimization. They compared their simulation results with those from related algorithms—namely, Minimum Execution Time, Minimum Completion Time, Opportunistic Load Balancing, Max-min, Min-min and Sufferage. The new approach showed improvements in terms of speed, cost, scheduling results and fairness. Furthermore, the researchers found that the execution time improved as the scale of the experiment increased. In one case, their approach delivered results within 0.3 seconds while other algorithms needed several hours.