Friday, November 29, 2013


1. Zakaria's commentary on "the Rediscovery of India"

One fact that stuck with me.
Most of India’s wealth is generated from its cities and towns. Urban India accounts for almost 70 percent of the country’s GDP. But almost 70 percent of its people still live in rural India. “As a consequence,” writes Ashutosh Varshney of Brown University, “for politicians, the city has primarily become a site of extraction, and the countryside is predominantly a site of legitimacy and power. The countryside is where the vote is; the city is where the money is.”

2. A python library for interactive visualization called Bokeh (via Nathan Yau)

3. Sal Khan of Khan Academy at Google discussing his new book (with Eric Schmidt) "The One World Schoolhouse".

While I think there is a lot of hype around the idea of online education, I seriously think there are quite a few insights in this talk. For example, I never questioned (*) why school is arranged according to age?, (*) why we have scheduled holiday vacations?, (*) the role of exams and mastery.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Wine Crying due to Tension

A beautiful video explaining the phenomenon of "crying wine" (via Jimmy Touma).

The demonstration with pepper and detergent was impressive. I had to impress my daughter with it.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Zen Pencils: Feynman on Beauty

After Reid Gower's video on Feynman's "Beauty (of a flower)" (as part of a trilogy) Zen pencils offers a comic tribute to the quote.
I have a friend who's an artist and has sometimes taken a view which I don't agree with very well. He'll hold up a flower and say "look how beautiful it is," and I'll agree. Then he says "I as an artist can see how beautiful this is but you as a scientist take this all apart and it becomes a dull thing," and I think that he's kind of nutty. First of all, the beauty that he sees is available to other people and to me too, I believe. Although I may not be quite as refined aesthetically as he is ... I can appreciate the beauty of a flower. At the same time, I see much more about the flower than he sees. I could imagine the cells in there, the complicated actions inside, which also have a beauty. I mean it's not just beauty at this dimension, at one centimeter; there's also beauty at smaller dimensions, the inner structure, also the processes. The fact that the colors in the flower evolved in order to attract insects to pollinate it is interesting; it means that insects can see the color. It adds a question: does this aesthetic sense also exist in the lower forms? Why is it aesthetic? All kinds of interesting questions which the science knowledge only adds to the excitement, the mystery and the awe of a flower. It only adds. I don't understand how it subtracts.

Sunday, November 17, 2013


A speaker today showed this picture of earth taken by Cassini from Saturn to make the point that perspective is important.

Lots of other beautiful pictures of Saturn on the JPL website.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Feynman Trilogy

Canadian filmmaker Reid Gower has a Feynman trilogy on Beauty, Honors, and Curiosity.

From the second film,
When I was in High School, one of the first honors I got was to be a member of the Arista, which is a group of kids who got good grades. Everybody wanted to be a member of the Arista. I discovered that what they did in their meetings was to sit around to discuss who else was worthy to join this wonderful group that we are. OK So we sat around trying to decide who would get to be allowed into this Arista. This kind of thing bothers me psychologically for one or another reason. I don’t understand myself.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Stretching the truth

Doug Richards presents a brief primer on basic material science and rheology (as it applies to human tissue), on his way to explaining "why" some kinds of stretching work and others don't.

PS: The title of the post, with or without punctuation, conjures very different images.

Friday, November 1, 2013


1. Talk nerdy to me: 50 "intellectual" jokes. Examples:
Two fermions walk into a bar. The first says “I’d like a vodka martini with a twist.” The second says “Dammit, that’s what I wanted!”
Did you hear about the suicidal homeopath? He took 1/50th of the recommended dose.

2. How not to talk to your kids. Reiterates how praising "smarts" can be problematic.
I am smart, the kids’ reasoning goes; I don’t need to put out effort. Expending effort becomes stigmatized—it’s public proof that you can’t cut it on your natural gifts.
I remembered how during my undergrad days at IIT Bombay, the label "maggu" - someone who had to work hard to earn his grade - was  decidedly derogatory.