Neurons are Cells After All…

As Tim Cook has said:

Anything can change, because the smart phone revolution is still in the early stages

Even as technology increasingly becomes an extension of man’s central nervous system, the only battery we remember to charge these days belongs to our cellphones!

The Long “Weight” for Corrections

Or, insulin vs. investing.

Gaining weight is like a stock market correction. Happens so swiftly that even before you know it your center of gravity and your wealth would have shifted down. On the other hand, losing weight and the climb of prices is a gradual process. I don’t know about the markets but i wish dropping weights would be as simple as lifting them.

Are Poems Fact or Fiction?

What is a poem: verse or its obverse?

Is it an imaginative figment?

Or a metered historical segment?

But does it really matter? Fact or Fiction.

When the reading habit’s in such a dereliction!

I am perhaps a 99% engineer and maybe a 1% poet. I will therefore, attempt to answer the captioned question from a logical perspective (as an engineer would) having done my 1% bit in the 5 line ‘poem’ above. 😐

I guess if the poet writes from personal experiences, it becomes non-fiction. I always feel that such lines best whet their readers’ imaginations. An epic, also, if (and only if) it is historically accurate becomes non-fiction. The other way to look at this is to perhaps surmise about the origins of poems and prose: perhaps what we sang became poems and what we orated, or told stories about, we wrote in long sentences and paragraphs. Since we must have sung songs of fact as well as fiction, maybe poetry flits across both categories. Even as prose, which may have originated from the ‘fact’ that we told stories that were both historical truisms as well as, well, ‘stories’.

In any case, I am trying to discover poetry. Now, since I read all kinds of non-fiction, and because most people seem to think of poems as fiction, I will apply my boundary of fiction to my poetry reading goals as well – which is to read poems written by Indian poets, or poems that are about India. Vikram Seth, here I come! I know it’s rare to come across an alien Indophile poet these days, but one never knows.

And just because, as a ‘good’ engineer, I must force fit my results to my observations, I must bring up the Dewey Classification System, which is a widely used method of classifying books in a library. It specifies the 800s for classifying literature with the 8X3 codes being used for fictional works. All poems are slotted as 8X1s therefore making poems non-fiction and therefore allowed to be a part of my reading diet!

Quod Erat Demonstrandum! (so much fuss for deciding what to read!!!)

Books Read in 2017

2017 was surely an ‘annus horibilis’ when it comes to taking stock of the books I read last year. 😦 The washed out mosaic below laments the death of the year gone by and with it, the many opportunities to read. As little as ten tiles make up 2017’s quilt. Hopefully, 2018 will be much much better when it comes to reading. May the dogs’ ears rustle louder this year.

[my preferred choice of reading remains non-fiction (often uncurated) tomes and specific books featuring murders : give me either Indian murderers or Indian corpses or Indian crime settings. While I have indeed deviated by thumbing through Dorothy Sayers and Sophie Hannah but my focus remains on desi (fictional) killings.]

Happy New Year


23 Things Computers Still Cannot Do

It is surprising that someone is even posting about things that computers cannot do. It speaks volumes about the advances in computing power humans have seen. This post is in response to a similar but reversed post by Seth Godin titled “23 things artificially intelligent computers can do better/faster/cheaper than you can” [link].

So here is my counter list of 23 things that computers (still) can’t do:

  1. truly understand the meaning of the word, “I”
  2. say “I love you” (corollary from above)
  3. achieve a fully parallel and distributed style of computing
  4. Use around 10^(-16) Joules per instruction per second
  5. Appreciate art
  6. feel
  7. have good manners
  8. understand motives of people – i.e. judge people/solve murder investigations
  9. negotiate with humans
  10. lead teams and people
  11. commit crimes of passion
  12. process and output emotions like courage, greed, envy, hated…
  13. making service personal (as opposed to just personalizing or customizing service)
  14. be curious
  15. innovate
  16. be creative (not the same as #3 above)
  17. deliver surprises
  18. be a yoga instructor/shrink/soccer coach
  19. be a politician
  20. evaluate exams requiring descriptive answers
  21. prove that every even integer greater than 2 can be expressed as a sum of 2 primes (aka Goldbach’s Conjecture & many other such curiosities)
  22. understand God, religion, dogma, theology
  23. write on this website as “i” do.



Beer vs Dahi

A team from India wants to brew beer on the moon [link]. This has got the politicians very interested and all sorts of updates and details are being sought on the program – deadlines, plan B, risks, implications etc. I don’t have the details of the questions asked but I wonder if an inquiry about the percentage of alcohol content was included. But I was a bit confused on two counts as I read this “news story” a couple of days back:

Firstly, I fail to see what is so path-breaking about this experiment. Many microgravity studies have been done on biological processes on terra firma itself. A range of “g” values can be simulated on Earth itself – why waste so much of fuel and money to do this on the moon? And the Prime Minister’s time as well!

Secondly, and more importantly I feel that the process chosen is ‘alien’ anyways. Why beer? Why not dahi? Dahi, or yoghurt is much more Indian than beer anyways. The process to make both involves post digestive effects of microscopic beings. Yeast for beer and bacterium for dahi. Maybe that is the reason: that the need was felt to examine the affect of microgravity on yeast’s business. We already seem to have a good ‘gut’ feel about bacteria anyways.

No civilization worth its archaeology would be as sober as to not have any native methods to produce alcoholic drinks. The Mexicans even had chocolate – which I feel is more potent and damaging than alcohol as it always comes packed in pockets of sugar. Historically, India has largely used rice, plant & fruits (sugarcane molasses, grapes, apples, apricots, cannabis, cashew nuts, toddy sap, mahua etc.) and other biological ‘degradants’ to produce alcohol, but not as much of barley and malt. Sikkim and Nepal so use millets and barley but that’s small and relatively unknown.

When writing this post, I reflected and sobered up on noting that I personally consume more beer than dahi! Duh. I buck the national trend. The per-capita consumption of dahi (in its various forms) is 2.3 kg per year. Beer on/in the other hand is being gulped at the rate of 1.6 liters per Indian person per year (the rural reverential picture above notwithstanding). The density of beer is just a little bit higher than that of water so Dahi, paradoxically, is ‘still on top’ but just by a few hundred per capita grams. Indians are socially arriving on the scene with their ales that are no longer pale and this is nevertheless good for the infantile craft beer scene in India. I have had a Bira 91 [link] just once which is like nothing when compared to the countless Hoegaarden’s and Asahis and Tsing Taos and Kingfishers and Cobras that I have downed– that’s how nascent the craft beer movement is. I need to get more of these. Making beer on the moon makes news, which is good for the category.

I still think dahi would have made for a less kitschy proposition. But to each team its brew. Good luck, team India. Cheers!

Bollywood Fixation of Indian Media



Nobel Prizes and the Importance of Storytelling, Networking and Politics

test-tube-edkmDr. Subhash Mukhopadhyay’s 86th birth anniversary is tomorrow. A simple but a great man. Remember the movie, “Ek Doctor Ki Maut”? It’s a sad story: it’s a story of a brilliant mind, Dr. Subhas Mukhopadhyay. It is also a story of bigotry, biases and bureaucracy. I made a small info-graphic to tell his poignant story to elucidate my point: that exemplary talent and brilliant achievements are not enough to get you the ultimate peer recognition prize in your domain. Storytelling, connectedness and the company you keep and cultivate is also critical.


We are being told these days that more and more Nobel Laureates (NLs) are likely to come up from India. Huh. And how? If this topic interests you, then do glance at the data I culled from Wikipedia on past award winners’ “countries of association”. Click on the picture below for an enlarged view. I use the term “country of association” to mean either the country where the NL is either born in, studied in or worked in. I obviously do want us Indians to stake a claim on Rudyard Kipling, right? 😉


It’s a typical power law distribution: where rank of a data attribute x its frequency = constant. What this means to me is that India will NOT start loading up on Nobel Medals the way USA started piling up from 1950s onwards. The story of Dr. Mukhopadhyay is the reason why our ilk will not be able to succeed any time soon. The jury of the Nobel Prize selection committee may or may not be secretive and insular, but there is a certain amount of core research, infrastructure, appreciation and salaries for scientists, freedom from bureaucracy & above all independence from meddlesome governments which is required for basic academic research to flourish and develop. I don’t think announcing grand prizes of Rs. 100 crores will do the trick [link].

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