Monday, April 30, 2007

oh on the corridor

overheard on the corridor: "It wasn't my wife this time. It was another random variable."

Friday, April 27, 2007

On faith : Sir John Houghton

Sir John Houghton: One of the most important statements as a scientist: "I don't know". One of the most important statements you should be prepared to make as a believer. "I don't know". Both evolutionists and religious fanatics can learn a bit from this man.

Monday, April 23, 2007

democracy

Cheese eating, yuppy French had a election, where all the jobless people wandered into voting booths, to avoid the sun. They had 85% turnout. U.S, the paragon of democracy, so much that there is enough left to be exported to Iraq. The most touted turnout for elections in U.S. history had a record 55% turnout.

French election is also very significant in the sense of Sarkozy offer a new direction that explores a freer economy that tilts away from labor and provides greater freedom to employers. Ms. Royal offers a more socialist program that has energy and vision. It remains to be seen which way the election will go as the first round votes are close.

Simwinga's green model

Hammerskjoeld Simwinga wins $125,000 for the award, sometimes called the Nobel prize for the environment.
He helped set up bee-keeping and fish-farming projects for people in the North Luangwa valley, where elephant numbers had shown a dramatic fall. He persuades local people they can earn money by keeping elephants alive.
Mirroring the experience of Muhammad Yunus, who said over 95% of loans go to womenfolk:
Over 70% of loans are made to women and Mr Simwinga says they are the backbone of the programme. "We deliberately pushed our resources to the womenfolk in the community because we knew that working with the women was the strongest part of persuasion," he told Reuters news agency.
As an inspiring story of resolve and progress, Mr. Simwinga describes:
He inherited the North Luangwa Wildlife Conservation and Community Development Programme (NLWCCDP), when its US founders Delia and Mark Owens were forced to leave in 1996.

Despite fears it would collapse, Mr Simwinga, known as "Hammer" and named after UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold who died in a 1961 air crash in Zambia, instead managed to expand the project.

"If I had left as well then the work we had worked for so many years to build would have just collapsed," he said.
news link: BBC World Service

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Friday, April 20, 2007

profiling shooter?

livescience.com you can't profile school shooters

One of the problems, they say, is : There are far too many people who are depressed and lonely are not mass-murderers. And how ever finely you make up a profile, the number of false-positives* will be more than true mass-murderers that fit that profile. This reminds of the Bayesian estimation "paradox" that Arunn on Nanoscience posted a while back.
Example: False positive in a medical test (example taken from [1])

A “false positive” in medical terminology is a situation when ... a person not actually having a particular disease or conditions may be returned a positive result in a test. ... Suppose that a test for a disease generates the following results.

(1) If a tested patient has the disease, the test returns a positive result 98% of the time, or with probability 0.99
(2) If a tested patient does not have the disease, the test returns a negative result 96% of the time, or with probability 0.96.

Suppose also that only 0.1% of the population has that disease, so that a randomly selected patient has a 0.001 prior probability of having the disease. The question now is what is the probability that a positive test results in a false positive?

from back of the envelope calculations:

If there are 1000 people, 1 person has the disease. of the 999 people only 96% were detected. so 39.96 were detected positive, but don’t have the disease. So only 1 in 40 people detected to have the disease really do have the disease.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

E=mc2 (Documentary)

I was checking out the documentary about E=mc2 . The documentary attempts to bring to the fore the contribution of one of the greatest minds of the century, Albert Einstein, his equation relating mass, energy, and the speed of light. If we cut through the melodramatic presentation with the Victorian charms and the bourgeois society and its workings, rest of the documentary takes us through the most important developments that made Einstein's discovery possible. As Newton said 'standing on the shoulders of Giants', the documentary attempts to show the giants on whom Einstein stood to see farther than light, figuratively speaking.

The first important milestone happened to be the idea that various forms of energy though having an existence independent of their own, are inter-related and can be changed from one form to another. Heat in the steam, and electricity in the wire, and magnetism of the magnets were all examples of energy in the pristine form, all having a common undercurrent: "energy". Michael Faraday showed that electrical energy can be used to create magnetism in objects and vice versa. The theory of electro-magneitc waves and electromagnetic field came to be proposed for the first time.

The debate that then ensued was about the conservation of matter. That it can neither be created nor be destroyed. It was shown by Antoine Lavoisier, assisted by his wife Marie Anne, that water can be converted to steam, then passed through iron and then condensed at the other end. The liquid at the other end is water, but is lesser in mass than initial. The hydrogen gas collected along with the water in the container and the rust that had formed by reaction between iron and oxygen accounted for the missing mass.

The next crucial part was that energy was proportional to the square of the velocity. It was shown by a Dutch scientist that when a lead ball is dropped on to a box of clay, it makes 4 times deeper impression when dropped from twice the height. Thus providing evidence to the squared relation, though it went against the proposals of Newton at that time. It took a century to gain general acceptance among the scientific community. Major headway in these episodes was played by Gottfried Leibniz and Emilie du Chatelet. Emilie du Chatelet lead a prolific role in science apart from excelling in arts, and raising a family of 3 children. She translated the Newton's Principia in French.

We are then taken back to Faraday who had then proposed that light itself as a form of energy and hence an electromagnetic wave. It caused much furor as people were still grappling with the idea of the mysterious interplay between Electricity and Magnetism that Faraday himself had demonstrated earlier. Maxwell came along to show that mathematics did permit such a possibility. But then Maxwell also suggested that, to be consistent with his theory, even if one were to travel at the speed of light (690 million mile per hour), one would observe light traveling at the 690 million mile per hour away from them. If you travel next to a car at the same speed as that car, that car would then appear stationary to you. The proposal was counter-intuitive.

Einstein for his part, had to reconcile this fact. He realized that this is possible if the hands of the clock were to move slowly at higher speeds. Thus time was no more independent of the space, measured in watches. Space and time were now related. This dealt an incredible blow to 3 centuries of resolute faith in the scientific belief that time was an absolute.

Einstein began to wonder, what would happens if train were to be accelerated to the speed of light, and more fuel were added to it to accelerate it further? Will it travel at a speed greater than light? That's not possible. So, he concluded that the added energy must be converted to mass of the train to conserve energy.

Thus it allowed him to derive the relation between energy, mass, and velocity of light. E=mc^2

The documentary then goes on the show the meteoric rise of Einstein among the ranks and his proposal for special and general relativity of which a nice introduction can be found on shallowthgts.

So definitely get hold of the documentary and see it. You will learn about women who played very important role in science and have remained relatively unknown. You also get to see the coming together of important scientific developments, each one a truly great milestone.

IMDB: tt0476209

(an updated repost from the past)

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

equality indeed (joke alarm)

Kurt quipped on the CT forum: "We have been a horrible animal. after the Spanish inquisitions, the two world wars, Hiroshima, Roman games. Its clear the earth is trying to get rid of us." Joyce Carol chimed in the middle with the question "But which sex is doing this stuff?" without a second thought Kurt Vonnegut made the snarky comment "Women are no good at doing science, you know? We discovered that at Harvard." (see the video)

I thought this was a nice short exchange for more reasons than one. Kurt may have meant that - In Cat's cradle Kurt talks about the detachment of scientists from the impact their discoveries have on the world, however disastrous they may be. Especially that this is independent of gender. But if you twist his statement it could also mean "If Women claim they can do the most wonderful discoveries just as well as men have in the past, they should accept with calm deference that they are capable of committing the very same horrors as well."

History has shown only few contributions of significance from women. Naturally so. So why would anyone search history to point to the potential of women or the capacity of women to be creative as evidence? Rather, why not believe in the inherent equality of men and women as the basic hypothesis of natural law? Desmund Tutu described of man (and women) "he(she) is capable of most evil acts as he(she) is of the most elevated."

when local search isn't local

I did a linkpost on the interviews about local search and business models before. As a follow up I found this

Cathy: (h/t Paul)
Hate to tell you this, but right on the first page of the Yahoo Local Minneapolis results sits Minneapolis Florist-Same Day, (612) 339-4023, 381 5th St Se, Minneapolis, MN 55414. There’s no flower shop at that location. The calls are just forwarded to an ‘order gatherer’ in Issaquah, WA called Cascade Florist. ...

The second Minneapolis results page shows Florists of Minneapolis, (612) 827-6356, Minneapolis, MN 55408. Nope. Not a real florist either.

the listings on your local search aren't truly local. then what is?

Sunday, April 15, 2007

local ad search

FindBuffalo:

Q: With a $1,000 or less annual budget, what 3 things should a small business execute online?
Paul: Getting their correct business information to the online portals, get social (online), and proactively encourage customers to provide online ratings and reviews … and up the budget (ok, that’s four).

Matt: Less than $100/month? That’s ultra-small budget. Okay… 1) A blog. 2) A listing in all the free local search sites. 3) A PPC campaign on low-cost, long tail phrases (including geo-targeting).

Local Ad sites: truelocal iBeginsource yelp

Nina Hale shares her views on strategic internet marketing:
What do you think of Google getting into Pay Per Action (PPA) advertising? Do you see yourself recommending this for some of your clients?

This is a fascinating idea, and I’m studying it seriously for some clients. This is another great form of disintermediation that Google is getting into, but also supports their goal of building their user base by providing successful web experiences, because they will rank good converters higher.

Aggregators like Lending Tree, Search for Colleges, etc., have made enormous amounts of money in this space and I love the idea of putting some of that power back into client’s hands. Of course, the aggregators will also love it! I think it will be most successful overall in fragmented industries.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Gandhi: love and truth as supreme moral law

Gandhi says how he perceives God. In all of the 6 minutes he appeals not to religion or spirituality but to humanity. I suspect even a majority of secular humanists will find themselves in agreement.


Friday, April 13, 2007

this day. 36 years ago. man enters space

News from the NASA pages.
On April 12, 1961, the era of human spaceflight began when the Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to orbit the Earth in his Vostock I spacecraft. The flight lasted 108 minutes.

Twenty years later, on the morning of April 12, 1981, two astronauts sat strapped into their seats on the flight deck of Columbia, a radically new spacecraft known as the space shuttle. more here ...

Click on the image to see the full "Hunstsville Times" story.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

future of tv?

On India Uncut Amith wrote about this video by Cheddarvision.tv who have posted on youtube, a video that shows cheddar cheese as it ages. Striking is the similarity to the concept described by Lewis Black on what makes a successful television. you definitely got to watch Lewis Black.

Paul Wolfowitz. saga continues...

The man who led the charge on the Iraq war as part of the PNAC. When he took charge of the World Bank, he made the fundamental argument that "countries whose governments are highly corrupt should not receive aid". It has its merits, as Wolfowitz recognizes that "major hurdles to transfer from aid to development is corruption". Wolfowitz began to decide by himself which governments are corrupt and which aren't. He stood against aid to Congo because he found out that their representatives to New York had charged hundreds of thousands of dollars at their bank expense account. Similarly he decided India doesn't meet his standards and so obstructed the flow of aid to India. People at world bank argue that it is not their place to take up anti-corruption efforts and focus only on development. This is an interesting debate and one that must be followed closely. But this got muddled in the hypocrisy of the man leading the charge.

Just as he joined the World Bank as its head, conflict of interest arose, as the woman he had been dating also worked at the bank. This quickly lead to corruption and controversy. Bush style.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

can never divide?

1. Given that x is a positive integer prove that f(x) = x2 + x + 1 will never divide by 5.

2. Consider the expression xx + 1, where x be a positive integer.

It can be verified that x = 7 is the least value for which xx + 1 divides by 23.

Given that n is a positive integer, find the least value of x for which xx + 1 is divisible by 2n.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

India unspoken

Joseph Curiale's journey into the life of Anjamma and many others like her who would have committed suicide due to heavy debts.
On March 2nd of this year, I saw something very disturbing on CNN… thousands of farmers in South India have committed suicide because of 7 years of drought, and because of the mounting debt ... forced to switch to genetically modified seeds and expensive pesticides made things much worse ... more than 150,000 farmers have died countrywide as a result,
In a little more than a month I raised around $9,000! So I strapped that money to my waist and headed for India with total faith. When I stood before Anjamma, in the exact spot I had seen her on CNN a few weeks earlier … My biggest challenge at that moment was not to ... break down crying…
Joseph Curiale now has a foundation that has helped many widows out of poverty and will keep them out of it at least for the next 5 to 6 years.

A story from Jadugoda, related to development technology [from the AID India website]. I remember reading an essay by Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan, early after Indian independence, on how India cannot afford to produce talent without a moral, ethical dimension. It seems this has been done, without our realizing so.
The soil of Jadugoda in the Jharkhand region has provided uranium to run the Atomic Energy program in the country and develop Nuclear capabilities, but the Santhal aadivasis of this region are dying a slow death by uranium radiation ... It is a death the reality of which is being denied by all Government agencies. In the region of the uranium mines, in villages such as Chatikocha, Dumardeeh, Telaitaand, Echada, Bhatin, and Lipighututu, 45 of every hundred women are suffering from spontaneous abortions. The children are dying. Most of the children are becoming physically and mentally handicapped. People are not living beyond 65 years of age. No one wants to marry the girls from this area. The girls who did get married are being abandoned for their inability to bear children. Under the influence of radioactivity, physical malformations, cancer and pulmonary diseases are assuming demonic dimensions.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Drive fewer miles

Vehicles make up almost one-third of smog-forming emissions nationally, and because we are driving more and more miles every year (up 127% since 1970), vehicles continue to be a significant contributor to air pollution. Whenever possible, take public transportation, car pool, and combine activities into one trip (such as shopping trips). Even your Weather channel says so!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

heartburn? use organic vinegar

Apple Cider Vinegar ::

Many consider apple cider vinegar as a natural way to cure heartburn. This should be done with caution as this is actually adding more acid to the stomach. This is believed to be helpful by the theory that heartburn is caused by lack of digestive enzymes in the stomach, which causes the food to sit and ferment and therefore expel gas and acid into the esophagus. The natural enzymes in the vinegar help to replenish the stomach enzymes to ease digestion. Those who choose this method should only use organic apple cider vinegar with natural unfiltered enzymes. All other vinegars filter out the enzymes.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

open office file sizes v. windows

word files v. open document format (.doc v. .odf)
74K v. 11K
93K v. 13K

excel files v. open document spreadsheet (.xls v. .ods)
127K v. 5K
126K v. 6K

exact same content. very different sizes.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

great movie, nice song!

Jules et Jim (1962) by Fran├žois Truffaut. A story well ahead of its times, probably even ahead of today's accepted norms.

books on my list : lucifer effect and human behavior

Philip Zimbardo talks about his new book 'Lucifer Effect: How good people can do bad things". Zimbardo says "That human behavior is more influenced by things outside of us than inside." This is a book I am looking forward to read along with "Discipline & Punish: The birth of the prison" by Michel Foucault. Foucault analyses the birth of modern society and the role of prisons as a symbol of power and means for delivering justice.

Breast Cancer detection

American Cancer Society recommends MRI scan over Mammogram for patients who may have high risk of breast cancer. From the Star Tribune pages:

On the mammogram, there was no sign that Carla Meyers had breast cancer. But last November, she had an exam with an MRI, a more powerful imaging device that shows far more details. And that's how her tumor was spotted. [news link]

also from the same article ...
"We've had several patients call in and cancel their mammograms, saying 'I want to have a breast MRI instead,' " said Dr. Audrey Caine, medical imaging director of the HealthEast Breast Cancer Center at St. John's Hospital in Maplewood. ... MRIs cost $1,500 to $2,000, 10 times as much as a mammograms, and have a high rate of false alarms. MRIs use computerized magnets and radio waves, rather than radiation, to produce images of the body's organs.
More on at npr.prg.

Trumpeter Swans dip into lake in Bonobo's neighborhood

Trumpeter Swans will dip into a lake near 8 bonobos. The 8 Bonobos will get to name these Swans that are dipping in their neighborhood for the first time.



Trumpeter swans are America's largest waterfowl, weighing up to 35 pounds with an 8-foot wingspan. Once common across much of the continent, they were hunted for their feathers to near extinction by the late 1800s. [picture courtesy: Surf Birds]






Bonobos have sophisticated language skills, a trait they'll demonstrate when asked to name the swans.

Swartz said they'll either use a board that has symbols the apes associate with objects or choose names from a list researchers provide. The apes already use the board to communicate with humans to identify things like location, food and color. [picture courtesy: William Calvin]


[News Story link]

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

converting types may end blood shortage

BBC reported today that blood types can be converted
"The method, which makes use of newly discovered enzymes, may help relieve shortages of blood for transfusions. The work, led by the University of Copenhagen, is reported in the journal Nature Biotechnology.
This should have potential to make a large scale impact on everyday needs. The mechanism by which this is done is:

The blood cells of people with group A and B blood contain one of two different sugar molecules - known as antigens - which can trigger an immune system response. People with AB blood have both types of molecule, while those with group O blood have neither.

And they found two bacteria (out of 2500 candidates) that could do this:

The new technique works by using bacterial enzymes [from two bacteria - Elizabethkingia meningosepticum and Bacterioides fragilis] to cut sugar molecules from the surface of red blood cells.
The research still needs to be tested before there is talk of any implementation on the field.

Monday, April 02, 2007

top 20 reasons why you visit this page

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Did you come this for one of these reasons? Google keyword search statistics says so.

Sunita Williams will run Boston marathon, in space!

Williams is registered for next month's Boston Marathon, even though she'll be stuck on the international space station when the rest of the field lines up for the 111th edition of the race. So the U.S. Navy commander will run the equivalent distance on a treadmill -- 210 miles above Earth, and tethered to her track by bungee cords so she doesn't float away.
-- Read the rest of the article