Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Why there is Turmoil Everyewhere

In established democracies like USA, India, or UK, many are the undemocratic deviations that go unnoticed, overlooked, or even celebrated, though they take pride in calling themselves democratic. This in fact is an indication that more and more countries may seek to satisfy democracy only as a notion. Restrictive policies and practices are there in many states, effectively preventing people from expressing, or openly declaring their choice. Why should it be so?
I think this is a natural response. To whatever disturbances the societies are regularly experiencing. 
I have a doubt here. Why should the societies that follow the ideal form of government, face difficulties?
I think I have found the answer. Democracy, in fact is a highly inefficient way for any species to govern itself. Mainly due to two reasons. One, a great share of constituents' sweat and toil is wasted for governing themselves, a rather nonproductive effort. And it plays no part at all, in the longevity and welfare of the species. Two, there can be large scale duplication and wasteful work just for meeting the needs of concordance of the society at large, while grappling with the miscellany of governance.
In the case of humans, this is further exacerbated by the unwritten duty all of us have given to ourselves, incessantly speaking good words about democracy. Since, as we continue to sing its praise, we miss to see all of the above.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Book Review: SOFT SKILLS

SOFT SKILLS  by  Manmohan Josh is about the unseen side of ability. That those who work needs to have certain abilities that allow them to do their jobs effectively. These abilities are known as hard or technical skills and normally there are formal ways of acquiring these. But there are certain qualities, which are generally encompassing attitudes, habits and how we interact with other people. These qualities, known as soft skills, also contrbutes to success.
The discussion begins by explaining the many aspects of personality develpoment and related tools, like SWOT analysis. After an overview of leadership, and management, with emphasis on various styles, the all important topic of the modern times, stress, is discussed. Close to which comes a few more connected topics, thinking skills and its application to problem solving. Infact the most significant area of the manifestation of such skills, namely decision making, forms the core of the next chapter. A grand overview of the styles and socpe of communication, workplace ethics, as well as the importance of personal qualities in relation to work, brings the short and sweet book to a close.
I found this book a good commentary on the state of the art, as far as personal management go. And of the qualities one should necessarily have, for a successful tenure anywhere.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Book Review: On the Origins of New Forms of Life

On the Origins of New Forms of Life: A New Theory  by Eugene M. McCarthy. How does evolution occur? — That is, what natural processes bring new types of organisms into being? Expressed more technically, one might ask, what are the genetic processes that have produced the various forms scientists recognize and assign scientific names? This is the question considered in this book, and it attracted me a lot, evolution being my pet topic. 
First chapter of the book opens with a discussion of the word species, a word that lies at the center of modern biological thought, examining its history, meaning, and usage. And questions the style we have acquired of attributing unique properties to groups denoted by this word. After a brief discussion about other theories is in  this regard in the next couple of chapters, what is known about stabilization process and its prevalence is discussed. The evidence of the fossil record as it bears on the relative prevalence of the processes postulated by neo-Darwinian theory and by stabilization theory comes next, followed by examination of stabilization theory in detail. A rather rich background about the historical connection provide intellectual context for the discussion. How stabilization theory can be applied while re-evaluating the origin of mammals, in the light of the reasoning stipulated in this new perspective. 
It then explains the stabilization theory in detail, the main tenets of which are, 1) Typical form of life treated as a species comes into being via certain processes ("stabilization processes") that produce new stable forms in an extremely rapid manner, as against the 'Typical new form comes into being gradually through the accumulation of certain characteristic traits within an evolving population over time' of Darwin, and 2) These processes produce new forms that are, for genetic reasons, inherently stable from the time of their inception right up to the time of their extinction, with negigible tendency to change over time in response to environmental constraints, as against the 'The accumulation and spread of these traits is due to environmental influences favoring the survival and reproduction of individuals having such traits (natural selection), of Darwin. In short, stabilization theory suggests we should seek to explain the origin of any given set of similar forms in terms of their derivation from some preexisting set of forms with similar traits.
As I mentioned, this being my pet topic I went into it with interest. Of course the author puts life as something produced rapidly by a stabilization process, and has a distinctive and characteristic set of traits from the time of its inception that does not change significantly thereafter. But the book does not produce a good reason that can act as an incentive to this process, though it mentions of the lack of such incentives in the explanation and analysis of Darwin's theory of evolution. I also feel, more than the modalities of the process evolution, in which this theory does not show much deviation from the classic one, one needs to enquire into the causes of evolution. 
(I think, my theory of the unsure male can fit in here.)

I wish I knew long back!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Sign of the Times

Obesity of the Mind

What do Artificial Intelligense, Alexa, Siri, and many other devices of similar nature have in common? That these are going to add to our woes.
Let us see how. For the past many years we have been making it more and more convenient to do human chores, effectively eliminating much of manual work. And we landed with troubles too, one of which is obesity. Learning from its consequences, we continue to bring back manual work, of course in disguised form. Calling it planned physical exercises for the body.
Now, the above mentioned techniques and devices replace much of our mental labour. How are we going to compensate for the inactive brain? Is such an issue unlikely?
I think we are already experiencing this. Nowadays, popularity of the irrational is at an all time high. Take a few recent examples.
One, the vehement opposition to the theory of evolution, simply on the grounds that the social status of one of the important elements of the theory, say, is not aristocratic enough. That our dear parents could not have been from a society of monkeys.
Two, interested groups can dictate what should be the content of artistic creations. And people taking it. We know that these essentially are the products of imagination. Are we planning to put a limit there?
Of course people are reacting to this. But only restricted to each specific case, where we get enamoured by the sheer magnitude of the irrational in it, and miss the whole picture. 
What do the whole picture show? That these are not isolated issues. I think it points to mental obesity.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Right, once Again!

'Career Choices of Female Engineers' by National Academy of Sciences, is a report, which proves my argument of the unsure nature of the male, once again. Here it says, despite decades of government, university, and employer efforts, there exist a gender gap in engineering. And that women make up only 11 percent of practicing engineers in the United States.
The report goes deeper into the likely causes of such things becoming gender dependent. It cites greater likelihood of women selecting management and other streams of engineering that promises wider interactions with others, while men giving preference to technologically harder areas of patenting and fieldwork.
 This substantiates my view that it is the frequent exposition to changes in the working environment, which attracts the male. And the familiar ambience of human oriented transactions keeps the females tied to their choice.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Book Review: Hyperspace

HYPERSPACE: A Scientific Odyssey Through Parallel Universes, Time Warps, and the Tenth Dimension by Michio Kaku is about the impending defeat of common-sense theories of three or four dimensions and the victory of the theory of hyperspace. And it makes available, for the first time, a scientifically authoritative but accessible account of the current fascinating research on hyperspace. 

Part I gives an insight into the early history of hyperspace, emphasizing the theme that the laws of nature become simpler and more elegant when expressed in higher dimensions. Consequently, the rather obscure laws of the weather are easy to understand once we view the earth from space, and we see that the laws of light and gravity become simpler in five dimensions. 
Part II contnues with the flow, further elaborate on this simple idea. Emphasizing that the hyperspace theory may be able to unify all known laws of nature into one theory. Why the basic forces that hold together the cosmos, gravity, electromagnetism, and the strong and weak nuclear forces differ so greatly, and how the hyperspace theory allows the possibility of explaining the four forces of nature as well as the seemingly random collection of subatomic particles in an elegant manner. That  everything we see around us, from the trees and mountains to the stars themselves, are nothing but vibrations in hyperspace.
Part III brings up even more concepts to make it further clear, introducing vagaries of an expanding universe. Like wormholes, parallel universes and their collissions. And exploring the possibility that, under extreme circumstances, space may be stretched until it rips or tears. 
Part IV concludes with a final, practical question and discussions, about the fate of the universe. If the theory is proved correct, then when will we be able to harness the power of the hyperspace theory? 
I think the book makes a good beginning to explore the intriguing but speculative scientific question of what level of technology is necessary for us to become masters of hyperspace. 
As usual, Michio Kaku has presented a complex sounding subject in a platter. I relished it.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Book Review: Connecting Quarks with the Cosmos

Connecting Quarks with the Cosmos: by Committee on the Physics of the Universe, National Research Council
Connecting Quarks with the Cosmos: Eleven Science Questions for the New Century is a study encompassing astrophysical phenomena that give insight into fundamental physics as well as fundamental physics that is relevant to understanding astrophysical phenomena and the structure and evolution of the universe. The study team identified 11 questions and soliciting ideas from the community, prepared the answers for each, as given below.
-What Is Dark Matter?
We know that the objects in the universe are held together by a form of matter different from what we are made of and that gives off no light. Does this matter consist of one or more as-yet-undiscovered elementary particles, and aggregations of it produce the gravitational pull leading to the formation of galaxies and large-scale structures in the universe?
-What Is the Nature of Dark Energy?
We know that the expansion of the universe is speeding up rather than slowing down. This contradicts the fundamental idea that gravity is always attractive. It calls for the presence of a form of energy, dubbed “dark energy,” whose gravity is repulsive and whose nature determines the destiny of our universe.
-How Did the Universe Begin?
We think that during its earliest moments the universe underwent a tremendous burst of expansion, known as inflation. The underlying physical cause of this inflation is a mystery.
-Did Einstein Have the Last Word on Gravity?
Black holes are ubiquitous in the universe, and their intense gravity can be explored further. 
-What Are the Masses of the Neutrinos, and How Have They Shaped the Evolution of the Universe?
We think of neutrinos as abundantly present in the universe today. Physicists have found evidence that they have a small mass, which implies that cosmic neutrinos account for as much mass as do stars. The pattern of neutrino masses can reveal much about how nature’s forces are unified, how the elements in the periodic table were made, and possibly even the origin of ordinary matter.
-How Do Cosmic Accelerators Work and What Are They Accelerating?
We are seeing an amazing variety of energetic phenomena in the universe, including beams of particles of unexpectedly high energy but of unknown origin. In laboratory accelerators, we can produce beams of energetic particles, but the energy of these cosmic beams far exceeds any energies produced on Earth.
-Are Protons Unstable?
The matter of which we are made is the tiny residue of the annihilation of matter and antimatter that emerged from the earliest universe, and in not-quite-equal amounts. The existence of this tiny imbalance may be tied to a hypothesized instability of protons, the simplest form of matter, and to a slight preference for the formation of matter over antimatter built into the laws of physics.
-What Are the New States of Matter at Exceedingly High Density and Temperature?
The theory of how protons and neutrons form the atomic nuclei of the chemical elements is well developed. At higher densities, neutrons and protons may dissolve into an undifferentiated soup of quarks and gluons, which can be probed in heavy-ion accelerators. Densities beyond nuclear densities occur and can be probed in neutron stars, and still higher densities and temperatures existed in the early universe.
-Are There Additional Space-Time Dimensions?
In trying to extend Einstein’s theory and to understand the quantum nature of gravity, particle physicists have posited the existence of space time dimensions beyond those that we know. Their existence could have implications for the birth and evolution of the universe, could affect the interactions of the fundamental particles, and could alter the force of gravity at short distances.
-How Were the Elements from Iron to Uranium Made?
Scientists’ understanding of the production of elements up to iron in stars and supernovae is fairly complete. Important details concerning the production of the elements from iron to uranium remain puzzling.
-Is a New Theory of Matter and Light Needed at the Highest Energies?
Matter and radiation in the laboratory appear to be extraordinarily well described by the laws of quantum mechanics, electromagnetism, and their unification as quantum electrodynamics. The universe presents us with places and objects, such as neutron stars and the sources of gamma ray bursts, where the conditions are far more extreme than anything we can reproduce on Earth that can be used to test these basic theories.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

True Prediction?

Another progressive state is choosing to go more illiberal. One more proof that we are moving forward to the 'age of the irrational', especially when this is read along with the freedom, Saudi Arabia is going to let her female population enjoy.  
"It’s ugly and on the rise; and it’s hard to see how it can end well. The global rise of conservative nationalism with the aim of creating “national communities” – directed by an unchallengeable leader to defend special national values, controlling borders against the virus of immigrants and “foreign” influence – is the menace of our times."..

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Book Review: Thinking Skills

Thinking Skills: Using Your Brain in the Information Age by Eric Garner is an interesting book. It lays bare the art, craft, and the popular tools of thinking, familiarizing us with the benefits and pitfalls one can come across. It goes on to discuss seven pragmatic ways to enhance one capacity to recollect events, followed by a review of major obstacles to effective thinking. Tips like 'Don’t have a monopoly on how things are', 'Things aren't always what they seem', 'Culturally accepted ways of thinking can sometimes limit us to thinking in familiar ways', or 'Be ready to consider other points of view', add value to its reader-friendly nature. Next chapter examines the logical approach to thinking, which more or less denotes the state of the art. Left brain thinking, Right brain thinking, Managerial views, SMART goals, Conscious and the Subconscious are some of the areas covered here. The discussion goes on to examine other facets, like creativity, curiosity, out of the box ideas, lack of logic, enlightenment, humor, and irreverence.
 Then discussed are some of the ways to implement thinking. Like brain storming, sleeping over a problem, or Occam's Razor.
This is a short, valuable guide about thinking. Especially in this Information Age, where brain has replaced brawn, and strength in thinking has replaced strength in muscles. 
No matter what kind of business, one work for, nor what kind of job one does, today one is expected to apply a range of  thinking skills to the work, including using one's judgment; collecting, using, and analyzing information; and being creative about how one can function better.
This book covers all of these skills. It can enable one to develop thinking skills to meet the needs of the modern world.

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