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

film-obsessed-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.

dr-subhash-infographic

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? 😉

nobel-prize-winner-countries-combined

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].

Happy New Year

Wish you all a very happy new year. 2017 is a prime number and I hope that it becomes a prime year for you. Let’s all work in a hurry to achieve our dreams because the next “prime” year will only appear ten years later, i.e. 2027. 2017 is also a “sexy prime”, coupled as it is with 2011. Sexy primes are primes that differ from each other by 6. So remember what you did or what happened to you in 2011 – rinse, repeat and raise higher the good stuff of 2011 and sieve, spit and sink the bad things of 2011. Some numerology this!

Here is a visualization of the full text of the PM’s address to the nation on new year’s eve. Note the complete absence of the word mitron – that’s so sad. It’s been usurped by the inexpressive “friend”/”friends”. The picture below clearly shows where the thrust of his speech was. I hope you appreciate the background colour I chose for the visualization. 😉

new-year-address-to-nation-31dec16-modi

Intelligence and Loneliness

Dr. Satoshi Kanazawa is a psychologist who courts controversy. He has gone into sufficient level of detail to explain why certain type of women are unattractive and predictably kicked off a good deal of protest in the process. [link, link]

While I personally haven’t looked at, not do I have any interest in looking at that aspect of his research, there was this other observation made by Dr. Satoshi which made me pause and think. It was about the link between intelligence and loneliness [click here for the research paper]. If my understanding of what I have read is correct, then Dr. Satoshi suggests an un-insignificant correlation between simplicity and stupidity. Less intelligent people are simple. They think simple thoughts and make more friends and are therefore less lonely and happier. Ignorance seems to be bliss indeed! They also seem to like the daily soaps more! There is a postulate which seems to negatively correlate IQ with affinity for watching the “saasbahu” type of soaps. If you believe in the power law of distribution, then the below seems to be the reason why advertisers flock to buy ad spots during weekly soap opera runs.

soaps-and-intelligence

It therefore seems that the following hypotheses shouldn’t be dismissed at first glance as outright heretics:

  1. Villagers are more satisfied with life and therefore happy
  2. Villagers who socialize more with each other are even more satisfied and therefore happier
  3. An intelligent villager seems to be an oxymoron
  4. It would be extremely difficult to spot an extremely intelligent individual in a very communal village.
  5. Intelligent folks are unhappy and lonely.

If leadership is a lonely place and if intelligent folks are unhappy and lonely, then it must mean that leadership is positively correlated with intelligence – which we generally know. However, I would be surprised if someone told me that all intelligent people are successful. Perhaps it is the weight of early expectations on sharp men and women (i.e. those endowed with high IQ), that seems to be making them gloomy.

I have however one question – if villagers are happier than their urban cousins, then why are they killing themselves? Is suicide so exhilarating? 😐

Prime Minister’s 70th Independence Day Speech

A word cloud of PM’s I-Day speech.

wordcloud2

India in Rio

Incessant rain and a lazy weekend made me prepare the following info-graphic on how India has fared in the past twenty years at the summer games. I hope it is self-explanatory enough (click on the pic for an expanded view)

India in Rio 2016

Here is the post I had done four years back in the run-up to the London games. This time around, the (Indian) sports pundits are hoping for a double digit medal haul. I crawled the web to find medal predictor models which, mercifully, include the lower ranked sporting nations in their reporting as well:

  • olympicmedalpredictions on India at RioThe 6 medal haul in 2012 and the expectations of a double digit winning notwithstanding, folks responsible for http://olympicmedalspredictions.com/countries.php have a very different take. According to them India is to get two medals only. The problem with forecasts is that the moment you start getting into specifics, you run the risk of being dismissed and not taken seriously. These folks should take a lesson from the story of Nostradamus (who, we now know was much more wrong than correct). Case in point: with all the dope around Narsingh Pancham Yadav, I am not sure of seeing him on the podium!Gracedata Prediction India at Rio
  • According to the sports data analytics firm Gracedata (Infostrada sports), India is tipped to get a rank of 43 (which is definitely an improvement over our London performance). The key to a high rank is the number of golds, obviously. In London, we did not win any gold medals. Abhinav Bindra had shot India up to the 50th rank in Beijing – our best rank so far (in percentile terms) thanks to his gold medal. This incidentally is the ONLY individual gold medal that an Indian has won at the Games. Anyways, Gracedata’s number crunching for this year does predict that the Indian mens field hockey team will win the silver medal this year!! Which is awesome!
  • PwC predicton model fitThe PwC model, this time around is much more optimistic about India. It indicates a final standing of 12 medals which is really a 100% improvement over the London performance. Well, if PwC’s prediction were to come true, then the NIFTY would be severely lagging behind at a 66% gain (over this period). BTW, here is an analysis of the accuracy of their 2012 predictions – surprisingly accurate. The chart on the right is an extract from the attached document.
  • The Third I’s “The NIFTY model”. Which is so elegant because of its simplicity! 🙂

NIFTY Model for Rio Medals India

Many have said that it would be disappointing if India did not return with a double digit tally. Stranger things are known to have happened! Let’s see and pray.

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