Monday, July 28, 2014

Lessons my baby taught me ....

On the 25th of July 2014 I became a father. It is and will remain the first emotionally profound experience in my life, beating even the hormonal giddiness of first love. I realised how fragile life is when I first held my son. He was all of 2 hours old and all he could do by himself was breathe !!! Even suckling milk effectively had to be learnt over a period of an agonising 5 - 6 tries spanning 18 hours or so.
I had held the view that those who say ' life is a struggle' were just being morbid and a little foolish. But now I realise that successful survival is only achieved with effort. I do not think it to be a sad state of affairs, that it has to be so. In fact our whole body and possibly some aspects of our mind are designed to do this effort. But on the whole it was very gratifying when he started suckling enough to burp everytime and when he started pooping and peeing enough. The point I want to make is that I am usually coldly objective about many things including personal stuff ( much to the chagrin of my loved ones at times ). However in the case of my son I find it hard to be objective. For ex. If the need arose I would gladly murder someone to save my son and it would be a decision made without pangs from my conscience. Why does this happen ? It is not my instincts alone that will cause such a huge change in me. This does bear thinking about. So is this what the yogis call attachment ? This irrational preferrence to the whims of someone/something separate from you, is this what makes me a human being ? Then would it not be better to feel this way about the whole universe ?

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Working in the lab on a lonely evening

I always liked poems by Robert Frost. They have a nice sense rhythm and a very simple yet proufound meaning. Thus I sometimes like to make parodies of the poems. I wrote another one a long time ago.. This is the sequel which I wrote after I discovered the other one still alive in cyberspace...

The original poem is called stopping by the woods on a snowy evening.
The last verse is probably the most popular

The woods are lovely dark and deep
But I have promises to keep
And Miles to go before I sleep
and miles to go before I sleep

The original (and much better) poem can be found at :

I wrote the poem on the same meter but since I work in a lab it has been tempered by my circumstance accordingly.

Whose lab is this ? Of course I know
His office isn't in the complex though
He will not see me working here
getting the data to make a show

All who see must think it queer
that I don't know what is so clear
Choosing the work amidst internal strife
leads to the darkest presentation of the year

The spent medium, the dying cells
GFP glowing in forlorn wells
This lack of data always tells
That I have to screen until I weep

The lab is lonely dark and deep
But I have many blots to keep
And so cannot afford to sleep
And so cannot afford sleep

Hello World (again?)

Hello World...
Or should I say hello again ?. I gave up blogging a few years ago when I realized it was rapidly descending into a rant. About the (perceived or actual) unfairness of my circumstance or whatever was the worst in my life at that point. That is not what I wanted to inflict upon the world, meaningless though it may seem to others. That is not what I wanted to remembered (or in my own little dream 'known' for) my by peers or limited posterity that normal lives achieve/memes achieve. But I recently rediscovered my blog online (much to my surprise as I thought google had deleted my old blog in its entirety when I deleted by google buzz account) and read through some of the poems I had written and well.... they were not half bad. I used to like to write stories as a child and I used to make anyone whom I cared about read them or listen me read them :).

I return to writing basically because I am now older, have a little more experience and hopefully a wider horizon. I would like to write my or just a funnier version of my world because I enjoy it !!
I am now in a much more responsive state of mind to actually ponder about a non me centric universe which is an eminently sensible position to be in. Me centric works for only so far as survival in the wild,war or politics and I am thankfully not required currently to be in any one of these scenarios. Hopefully this blog would be my restorative cordial for my long dormant (but not dead ) muse who keeps whispering in my head but is being ignored due to the restraints of work,responsibilities or sometimes just plain laziness.

So Hello again world...

Monday, September 21, 2009

William Blake.. poet.. Ph.D

we all know the amazing poem written by an equally amazing person called William Blake
His poem goes something like this :

To SEE the world in a grain of sand
and heaven in a wild flower
to hold infinity in the palm of my hand
and eternity in an hour

This is one of the most profound poems I have ever read. This is what he wishes to be able to see and experience. This poem does NOT end there as is popularly beleved but really goes on a long way with similar metaphors but the first 4 lines are my favourites.

But if William Blake was doing his phd in my lab.. what would he see ?
I think it would something like this

To see my future in a set of bands
and hope for an uninterrupted supply of power
To behold my CBB stained hands
and wish for good results in one hour

To hope that the admin people have done,
completed their own share of work
To wish that I don't have to run
to get away from by boss's quirk

To not add the wrong enzyme in the hour of need
but still do and have to face the fact alone
to be horrified at my guilty deed
a mistake that is hard to atone

To wish that people could understand
the importance of computation
and that not only wet work is grand
to sigh in my mounting frustration

to wish and dream of papers printed
to be acclaimed by the community
to desperately want this degree granted
to gain from here eternal immunity...


Sunday, September 20, 2009

Horoscopy or the road to moronic marriages and crappy catastrophies part V

Ok.. we finally come to the end of this long winded discussion. I think I have successfully painted a picture of horoscopy as nothing better than a hobby. But there is something as to why people still use it. Why so many people still need to use random calculations to justify their lot in life. The answer is twofold...
1. People need to believe in something. Something that externalises the cause and effect of whatever is going on in their lives. This is especially true if someone is really suffering in life, they want to look for a reason, any reason why they are in the current state. It always helps if someone else takes the responsibility of the current situation. This is not a bad thing. Tt is a human tendency, it gives hope that one day things will change, or if I appease this god or that planet things will change. Gives them something to do, makes them believe that they are doing something change their lives.
2. People want to play safe, nobody wants to take untoward risks ( unless they are adrenaline junkies ). People believe that by doing all this.. they can empower their lives, strengthen their lives, and are therefore move to consulting astrologers etc. This is especially true when taking big decisions in life, marriage, a business venture. They think it will help them to understand any situation better and then act accordingly.
The first reason is really ok since it is human tendency to believe that something is governing their lives and that something is appeasable/controlloable. This gives them a feeling of having at least some control over their lives. All the human cultures belive in something or the other that is not human and that controls the way life is.
The second reason is also fine, again no one wants to go through life by the seat of their pants, it is good to have some tether of some belief to set one's point of view in life. But both of these stem from one and the same problem. Why can't anyone who does this accept that they are almost completely responsible for what is going on in their lives. If you are not happy in your marriage may it is time to rethink it rather than going to astrologers. If you are consistently unlucky in life.. maybe you are doing something wrong. I know this is very easy to say than to do.. but if almost all of the society thinks like this it will be an amazing place to live in. Everyone taking full responsibility of their own existence here, man that would be cool !! no need for any hookey like horoscopy because no need for any external justification of the any situation. If I am sad right now, yeah I am sad right now. I would rather try address the root of sadness in me rather than try to fix saturn or uranus and how they are looking at me right now. But this is all fine. There is only one thing that I cannot forgive....
Using astrology or horoscopy to predict doomsday or catastrophies... that really boils my blood
I watched a 'documentary' produced by the history channel called "2012: Nostradamus" or something like that. The premise of the whole 1.5 hours of drivel is that in 2012 ther world is either going to end or the end of the world is going to begin. Okm I can live with that, as long as you tell me just exactly WHY the world is going to end. Apparently on december 12 2012 the sun is going to rise in exact alingment with the centre of the galaxy as seen from the earth. Apparently this is very important. Ok.. I can live with that.. again pray tell me why is it important that the sun rising in alignemnt with the galactic centre in just parallax alignment makes it any different from any other sunrise. Granted this happens once every 65000 years or so.. but still what is the big deal. The Halley's comet comes every 76 years.. still why is that a big deal ? (Geroge W bush gets elected only once in 5 billion years, again why is this special ? or important ? ). Apparently the Mayan calender ends exactly on december 21 2012. Great !! mayans were amazing astronomers, there is no doubting that but pray tell me how do you know when their calender began ? so you can so smugly predict that it will end on dec 21 2012 ? this is absolute nonsense. OF course mayans knew about the precession of equinoxes, that is the wobbling of the earth's axis so that the pole star changes after every 26000 years. but that does not mean that anything else is going to happen. Apparently Mr.Nostradamus was an accomplished astrologer who predicted all this nonsense 400 years ago and wrote cryptic poems. He ( or his son ) made 16 watercolour drawings to depict all of this. Now one Mr. Jim Wiener proudly says that these drawings depict the end of the world when the sun and the galactic centre align. I mean honestly if you see the drawing from which Mr.Weiner draws his conclusion you will say I want whatever drug this guy is on... It is a drawing of the upper half of a naked man with a bow and arrow ( presumably sagittarius) shooting and arrow at the drawing of an upper half of a naked woman. Mr.Weiner suggests that to him the woman represents the centre of the galaxy as it is going to be aligned with the arrow of sagitarius. All I see is one naked guy and his naked girlfriend doing kinky stuff.. How the hell does he relate that to the galaxy ? Another one is a sword around which a ribbon is wrapped. The ribbon is supposed to be the galaxy. He says it means the sun is going to rise in alignment with the center of the galaxy and that the Milky way looks S shaped from earth. Mr.Weiner please go outside and look to the skies. The galaxy looks NOTHING like an S. Maybe a horizontal I or the bottom part of L. But S ? man this guy is on a roll...
Now let us again consider why would the sun rising with galactic centre cause on whit of a difference on the earth. Again gravity or electromagnetism are the only two avenues available for this interaction to have any effect. The centre of the galaxy is ALWAYS on any one side of the earth since it is a point. So whatever is effect on earth.. it is going to be unidirectional and we have been perfectly safe till now. So who knows why the sun aligning with a MASSIVE amount of matter in the sky would make a difference. It is like saying an elephant is trying to break down a door and not succeeding and an electron comes along to help it and suddenly the door breaks !!
Apparently every culture on the planet has this as prediction in their calendars, says one lady and provides a long list of cultures. O lady of the infinite wisdom you did not count India or China as any culture in your long list. These two places on earth were the greatest civilisations the planet has ever seen, NOT just in amount of sheer number of people living there !! but whatever they had achieved in science and astronomy and maths and medicine. Westerners were still burning people at stakes when we were building universities. The chinese and Indian calendars never end btw. Sure we have a creation and destruction myth and that it is cyclic but it never bloody mentions a calender in conjunction with heavenly events.
This alignment is supposed to trigger a shift in the earth's magnetic field and this is coinciding with an increase in solar activity. Well if the earths magnetic field swtiches overnight.. that would be one hell of a party. A molten mass of a few hunderd million million tonnes suddenly starts to spin in the opposite direction inside the centre of the earth would really cause a stir. I am assuming that these fools know that the magnetic field is caused by the molten metal spinning inside the centre of the earth, and that the direction of the spinning is the reason for the polarity of the magnetic field.
This is bordering on foolishness, there are many many other things that really irritated me and I cannot react to them without foul language. See the problem with this nonsense is that people will actually believe this shit and stop living their lives. This causes a down everywhere, economy, production everything. Religous nuts would use this date to do something catastrophic to prove that the god they believe in has ordained this and they are just helping to prove the theory correct ( man if I had assistants like that to prove my theories I would have gotten a nobel prize by now ). Therefore one must be very careful about propaganda about this kind. Especially to a population ready to believe such nonsense and willing to take drastic steps about it.
So when the world does not end on 21 st december 2012, I am going to find Jim Weiner and kick him in the ass till my foot bleeds and then switch to the other foot and continue ( hopefully on live TV ). The bastard has even written a book on this listing all these 'evidences'. I am going to make him eat every page of his book when it does not happen.
So this is the reason why horoscopy is good only for an evening's entertainment and is really the road to moronic marraiges and crappy catastrophies.
Thank you all for sticking with this till the end... The next series in a few days would be on creationism vs evolution. But I bet you know who is going to win that fight :D

Friday, September 18, 2009

Horoscopy or the road to moronic marriages and crappy catastrophies part IV

This piece of the discussion is about how people apply astrology
Astrology is applied to a few if not all important decisions in the life of human beings.
Astrology is used to :
A. predict the future ( but we can consider that prediction with astrology has yet to make sense to anyone except astrologers )
See predicting the future is no fun.. because whats the worst that could happen ? you get syphilis.. or your family suffers its own little economic crisis.. or your son is a schizophrenic or you get a psychosomatic disorder or you get castrated by a gang of delinquents ( death is not mentioned here because it is inevitable, you don't astrology to predict it ). All of this does not depend on the stars... it most probably depends on you ( I mean if you really piss off a gang of delinquents in all probability they will castrate you ) (except the schizophrenic son but still that's genetics so it still might be you).
B. Arrange a marriage or Moronic marraiges.. NOW we're talking...
Checking your 'compatibility' with someone.. now that's a real challenge. For example I have known my parents my entire life but cannot predict with 100% accuracy what they would do in any given situation.
Let us see whether a horoscope can do better :
now .. here is how it goes. I am born under a certain 'sign' or 'constellation' ( read 'random connect the dots in the sky') . So I am born under a certain 'sign' and the person I am checking compatibility with is also born under a certain 'sign'.
So now the rule is... each sign is most compatible with some other sign and probably a little less compatible with the ones that are neighbors of that sign ( the zodiac is in the same order AND circular.. so each sign always has 2 neighbors ). Now why is this ? one would ask... why is this sign compatible with only a few signs. or let us ask it the other way around would probably make it easier. why does sign really not like the other signs ?
there is only answer... "Who knows" comes to mind.
There are 'water' signs or 'fire' signs. This is based on who the planet ruling the sign is ( who ever heard of a puny planet owning a group of MASSIVE stars ? you have to be kidding me ...). Well.. just like water signs there are also traffic signs, little electrons jiggling along in wires rule them.. similar scale of magnitude I think but more effective..
In the paper I referred to in the last post, they talk about a person named Carlson. Who did an experiment. He took 2000 couples. 758 divorced and the others not divorced. He had their horscopoes made and asked a bunch of astrologers to find you which ones are the divorced ones and which ones are not. In all practicality the couples that were LEAST compatible should be significantly higher in the divorced group. Exciting premise.. unfortunately it did not happen that way so statistics does not come to the rescue of the astrologer. They still get left out in the cold wasteland of ' not statistically significant'
In the Indian system there is something a little more intruiging. They try and match the 'guna' ( pronounce Goo Naa ) it can translate to prpoerties/characteristcs or points, but I think points is correct here as it is a qunatitaive trait. So they claim that when checking for compatibility they are checking to see how many points between 2 people match. The higher the points the higher the score.. so in essence the higher the compatibility. But there is one major problem... you are calculating a score between two patterns ( albeit it is based on arbitrary symbols and heavenly bodies with no differential effect on me and the other person ).
So What is the null hypothesis ? How should we determine the cutoff ? what score is ok ? the score always goes from 1 to 36. What is the base matrix based on which you decide at least 18 should match ? It is like doing BLAST without the E value !! (If you ever try this with BLAST ..people will probably fling banana peels at you thinking you should be in the zoo.)( for non scientists.. I cannot think of a good parallel right now. sorry guys ). I mean no disrespect but I believe I am entitled to know why all this is the case. I am not satisfied with the answer of " It is so" I mean I can equally well say it is NOT so and no one is the winner. Did the astrologers take random horoscopes and match them and see what score you generally get if ANY two horoscopes are matched ? I think it would follow a normal gaussian distribution since this is random. It has to be... I confess here that I don't have much of a clue as to how these points are calculated but I am sure it is based on when I am born so my 'sign'. There must be a uniform distribution in a tropical country of people being born all around the year. so then the background score would a be gaussian distribution with the mode being the cutoff. If they have not done this.. it just leads to one question.. why the hell not ? did you just accept this at face value ? There are astrology academies in pune... Don't they ever think.. " man this 18.. its not right.. if the cutoff is 15 .. more people will be compatible.. and probably be happier in the belief that " hey.. i am compatible with more people !!"
Now here is the twist... match horoscopes without regard to gender. IF this means anything.. any man's horoscope should match any woman's horoscope better than any other man's horoscope. I mean I am not against anyone being gay but I am sure horoscopes were made for marriages probably mostly for men and women togther.
But I have never come across any person who is even willing to test this theory. Forget an astrologer.. even if is say this to orthodentists they will probably think I am out of my mind..
why is this ? I mean come on.. it is a piece of paper. not self consistent.. highly subject to interpretation by the observer.. why respect it so much ? why fear it so much ? I know someone who actually told me proudly " When my daughter brought the guy she wants to marry home, even though he had not faults I told her... " If your horoscopes are compatible I am in this marriage and otherwise I am not" " come on man !!! who tells their daughter this ? If someone had told me this I would have shown them my middle finger on both hands ( and probably the fingers of both feet too ).
I am convinced now... that there are 3 kinds of marriages. Arranged marriages, love marriages and moronic marriages. The one that does horoscope copmatibility and uses it as the most important criteria is the last kind. My cousin brothers got married on the basis where the first premise was horoscopy. Don't get me wrong, All my sister's in law are wonderful people and all of them are extremely happy, but they would still be wonderful people and be extremely happy even if they had horoscopes predicting that they were gender confused ducks...
There is so much more to write on this but I better stop before I really hurt someone... So part 4 on moronic marriages ends here.
Part 5.. the one I am looking forward to write the most is about catastrophy prediction.. in particular the one in 2012.... Let us see if astrology helps us there...

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Horoscopy or the road to moronic marriages and crappy catastrophies part III

Yes... The one probable saving grace of astrology or horoscopy.. statistics...
I have tried to argue that the constellations in the sky are absolutely arbitrary since they are just some dots connected by lines to for some shapes.. SO there is no earhtly ( or heavenly )reason in sight ( to me ) why someone born under some shape should be different than someone born under another. ( here under does not signify physical location, the entire earth is UNDER all the shapes ALL the time so that hardly gives a point of discrimination but instead under is when the sun or the moon is in the foreground of that constellation( or shape but hey.. take it as you want. I am not overtly artistic anyway but thats just me.. :D ) ) So now what is left ? A common sense argument using some facts of astronomy and some simple logic has lead us to the point of asking the question does astrology really make sense ? As Swati has very astutely pointed out on the part 1 post.. it is at best a correlation with events on earth in our puny little lives to some events of alignment of the sun and the moon and the other dudes ( and ladies ) up there ( dudes ( and ladies ) means planets and such.. I am NOT talking of gods here ). So we come to the only way we can assess any patterns or correlations in data. Statistics, pattern recognition algorithms, data mining even metadata analysis... all of these avenues are available to us. unfortunately I can understand only a little bit of the first one, statistics.. so let us start with that.
A huge thanks to my dear friend sameet who pointed out ( read his comment on part 2 ) that a statisical test for astrology had already been done and whats more it was published in a the jounral current science A statistical test of Astrology the current science article and by no less a person than Dr. J.V.Naralikar !!!
(I know his talks are boring but he is among the best scientists there is.. ). I am not going to describe the article here since it is open access. please follow the link above to read it. But the gist of the article is that astrology failed to hold up to the statistical tests they put it to. Therefore cannot be dubbed a science. A hobby at best perhaps. The paper shows that astrological predictions do not show a statistically significant predictive power and are more close to the flipping of a coin. What Dr.Naralikar has done is elegantly simple and lucid and convincing. ... but I too have some statistical experiments that I would like to conduct with astrological data ( obviously not as amazing as these people but nevertheless "majha kharicha vata" (marathi proverb, please ignore if marathi not first language) ) let us take one premise at a time and try to see whether it might be an objective disprovable/provable thesis. ( god I am writing the word thesis here.. I need to get out.. I need to get out of this place now !! )
To be an objective science you need :
1. A provable/disprovable hypothesis ( see.. thesis again .. save me !! )
2. A repeatable observation given a set of assumptions
3. A set of assumptions/rules based on known information that could be subject to change if in need of correction

now let us take the first tenet of astrology :
1. When you are born and Where you are born makes a difference in how you will lead your life.. ( again where is important only to calculate the position of the sun and all the other dudes ( and ladies ) up there. astrologers are not particularly fond of any place on earth.. at least that is the hope ). So do one simple test. define the smallest unit of time and the smallest unit of distance you want and then consider all the people born at those coordinates in time and space. ( In India sample size obviously is no problem in such matters.. ). They should have identical heavenly vistas in the sky when they were born. so they should IDENTICAL lives ( or identical predicted lives ). See if this is statistically significant with respect to important things like.. well education, death, health, spouse.
2. Identical twins.. ohh.. now it is interesting... Identical twins should have everything same !! even if they are born 10, 20, 30 minutes apart ( some simple astronomical calculation would tell us that the moon shifts from from nakshatra( in the Indian system there are 27 constellations other than 12 zodiac signs) to the next in about 12 minutes ( 12 zodiac signs so 2 hrs per zodiac sign and 27 constellations so 2.25 constellations per zodiac sign ( any astrology book would tell you this ), so 0.22 hours per constellation ( thats like 12 minutes )) this can be taken down to any resolution, I just used the moon because it was easy ( and the moon is the fastest moving heavenly body in the sky so for anything else it has to be more than 12 minutes.. point rests ). So depending on how apart twins are born, their horoscopes whould vary accordingly.
3. but again hang on.. we have enough knowledge of biology to understand that 'life' or the newborn baby begins at conception and NOT at birth as is popularly believed. So maybe horoscopes should be cast using conception time and birth time and then see which one is correct. ( if horoscopes with conception time turn out to be more correct.. people will laugh their pants off at astrologers who were doing the wrong thing for millennia !! :D ). So then.. in this case identical twins have a xeroxed fortune of eath other.
4. Why couldn't animals have horoscopes ?. Take 100 mice born at a time as close as you is practically possible. predict their lifespan using the horoscopes ( we like to use lab animals anyway ). Then if you are feeling particularly nasty about all this.. just kill them in the next 5 min when the horoscope says that they would live out their natural lives (and you can laugh like the demons from old south indian movies ). But to play nicely just see whether it works out or not.
These are a few things I would like to do.. any and all suggestions are welcome for more experiments in the comments section. But unfortunately astrologers think I am mocking them. I say to them please open your minds.. if astrology fares well in these tests.. then it IS a science and we will bow our heads in respect to it and accept it. I know astrology was a great discipline in the ancient days. I have even seen with my own eyes some guy reading my mom's future in an authenticated 3000 year old book and I am still at a loss as to explain how the hell did that 3000 old book have a correct picture of my mom's life. But the astrology that is done in these times is either extremely incompetent ( they might not get the math right ) or just plain idiotic ( they could not do much else in life so they became astrologers ).. People have a problem with the identical twin idea. they come up with concepts like "their karma maybe different so different patrika( read horoscope ) " well.. people karma cannot be measured.. so sorry.. i will not believe you. I think astrology can be made better if we apply statistics to it.
But here ends part 3... part 4 will consist of the applications of astrology and I think some suggestions people ( astrologically inclined or not ) should take seriously about it. Part 4 is about moronic marriages based on pieces of paper...

About Me

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just your regular guy who dreams too much. i read a lot don't remember it all though.. swim, trek, yoga.. think and read more.. that about sums it up..