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...

11 comments:

Abhijit said...

Very Nice,esp the twin thing I like very much and so the mouse theory ...I mean why not for drosophila which eclose like seconds apart from each other and we kill them the next moment (so cruel are we..that is different issue though).But this is quite interesting...waiting for part 4 though ......

Scarecrow said...

I loved the ideas 3 and 4... HUHAHAHAHA...nice Southie demon laugh? :D
You are writing out my mind here man... Reading avidly

Ashwin Kelkar said...

thanks scarecrow... you got it perfectly !!! :D :D read on for part 4... more fun coming up I promise

Nandini said...

Well written and logical indeed.. Mi Naralikarachi kahi bhashana/interviews pahile ahet ya vishayababtit.. Twins baddal te bolale hote.. patata te.
Now as you have put it, stars vagaire ek khun asana possible ahe to mark that event. However, mala aajunhi mahiti nahi ki mazya olkhichya kahi lokani fakta tevdhya mahitiwar, evdha accurate kasa sangitla mazya aayushyabaddal..I have no idea. Bhavishyabaddal tar mahiti nahi.. pan bhootkal accurate hota. I think sagli bhankas nasavi.. kahitari asel which was lost in the time flow..

Rishikesh said...

I of course have not the slightest doubt abt the colossal craziness of this indian "tradition". I always press all my friends/relatives to go for someone with a "bad" patrika. These are the people who the idiots will reject, and thus give you access to a better talent pool :) (I also wish to scout for flats jyachat khoon jhalele astat, so that they get sold for cheaper prices ... but thats another story)
I have figured that this (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confirmation_bias) probably best explains why soooo many people might still follow star-wars. and i am equally convinced that this "tradition", among others is not one to die easily :)

Swati said...

Hi Ashwin, about twins..amchya khup jawalchya olakhit doghi bahini identicle twins ahet..majhya manlelya bahini..tenchi aaji was a highly respected and knowledgeable astrologist...she has predicted very accurately abt many ppl I personally knw, even my own Dad..neway, sorry for the ramification but coming back to the point...she could draw out patrika's for every minute possible and these differed substantially..I DONOT know how this could be so, but there was some confusion abt the times of my cousins birth and so she back-calculated, matching what she knew about them presently and what the different patrika's of different time-point suggested to the minute and a half!

Swati said...

About animals, imagine this, if humans( human-like robots if you wish) were to be generated for the sole purpose of experiments would they have any variables in life..patrika's come into play when you have choices to make, your nature dictating which path you choose amongst several open to you...animals and drosophilas with a small life span would one, have completely different calculations plus would be only applicable to wild animals and not to trapped animals..then again one can argue, that one of the trapped animal could have the destiny to escape..but maybe on a smaller scale they do have fortunes..who gets wot tumor, who dies first, who gives a splendid phenotype...who knows...m just as confused as ever :)

Ashwin Kelkar said...

Swati.. aaha.. you have hit a very crucial point when you said patrika is valid when we have choices to make. I did not want to touch upon this but I think patrika is generally consulted when we DON'T have a choice or CAN'T have a choice. for ex. supposed I have cancer patrika is used to tell me when will I die, will I recover.. I have no choice in the matter
And you beautifully contradict yourself when you say that maybe mice do have fortunes as to who gets a tumor and who does not etc.. what else do I need to say other than QED ??? :D I chose this system because I can control it in its entirity while the mice cannot. So lets see if the predictions come true in a controlled environment, since we cannot do the same for humans. This becomes a perfect testing ground for the theories.

Ashwin Kelkar said...

part V is up guys....

svk said...

i liked ur idea no 4.:)
gud one !

yogeshwar said...

Ashwin, masta re.. no comments. tujhya 'juLe' ani 'undeer' arguments testable ahet.. someone should really get to do this!

majhya chahachya cup chya khaali chiradlelya bacteria la nakki mangaL asaawaa!

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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..