Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Encephalitis in eastern Uttar Pradesh

"With 10 more persons succumbing to encephalitis, the death toll in the viral disease in eastern Uttar Pradesh has climbed to 488 this year, health officials said on Tuesday.

Ten persons suffering from the disease died in various hospitals in the region in the last four days, they said.

"Over 280 people suffering from encephalitis are undergoing treatment at the BRD Medical College here besides in some other district hospitals.

"As many as 3088 patients were admitted to government hospitals in the region this year of which 488 have died, they said."

-- http://www.thehindu.com/news/article2570185.ece?homepage=true

A woman with her encephalitis-afflicted child at a hospital in Gorakhpur on Sunday. Photo: Subir Roy

A few things about encephalitis:

"Encephalitis is irritation and swelling (inflammation) of the brain, most often due to infections."

"Encephalitis is a rare condition."

"It occurs more often in the first year of life and decreases with age. The very young and the elderly are more likely to have a severe case."

You can read more about encephalatis here.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Need some help

I need some help understanding this.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A radical fix to the climate change problem



Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Free will & Determinism, again

I feel a need to emphasize consequences of belief in determinism. It will turn everything topsy-turvy. Ubiquitous conversations like, "May I have a glass of water?", "Please turn off the TV!", or "Why didn't you do your homework?" will become rubbish, should we believe in determinism.

Sensible people will see there's a difference between, "Please turn off the TV!" and "Please become the President!" It is stupid to go overboard believing in Free Will and someone for not having tried hard enough to become the President. Nonetheless, we can reasonably expect people to achieve certain little things -- like turning off the TV (unless they're paralized or something) if they only "set their mind to it".

Between these two lie a lot of things: passing an exam, getting the top grade in it, making a a truckload of money, and so on. These are neither pure-choice nor pure-chance. However the share of your responsibility in them varies, and there is a proportion of responsibility on you. Repeating myself, you decide how hard you try for them, but you can be sure neither of how hard you need to try, nor that if you push yourself to your limits, you'll achieve it.

Monday, July 18, 2011


This is actually off-topic — still, well, imagining heaven is a good way to spend time, sometimes. Probably when I was younger, I even believed in one.

What I'd like to tell here, is that, my imagined heaven had all people in it know one another. Not unlike the South Pacific island traditional villages.

With a little fewer than seven billion people in the world, however, even if only a thousandth get there (yes, yes, it's imaginary, but still), I don't see how that could happen.

On the nature of zerairds

In the previous post, I proposed that

1. In addition to all the carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen and whatnot that we know we all have, we also possess zerairds, and that

2. These zerairds are the source of free will and consciousness, collectively sentience.

These differentiate us from stones and corpses. I believe, also from plants and microorganisms. Possibly, from insects. Not, however, from dogs and doves, cows and crows. Different faiths see these differently: Christianity appears to believe that only humans possess zerairds, whereas the austerest Jains see zerairds in stones too.

Ah, am I agreeing too much with religions? ... No!

All the science we know tells us that matter (matter-energy, after relativity) - that is to say the carbon, hydrogen and whatnot - cannot be created or destroyed. It does not recognize zerairds, hence no comments.

Common religions, on the other hand, hold the body to be perishable, and says souls live forever. Clearly, it is wrong on at least one count. The second law of thermodynamics notwithstanding, we should be able to reverse "material death" - at the cost of a lot of entropy generated elsewhere.

I believe common religion to be wrong on BOTH counts. I believe that our zerairds are created upon our birth, and destroyed upon our death. The assymmetry does appeal to me! Besides, whilst it is possible that the zeraird enters from elsewhere into a baby upon birth, and leaves a person upon their death, we have no evidence of it.

More on this later, but I also find it comforting to believe that one day my zeraird will be completely finished.


Saturday, July 16, 2011

Zerairds, free will and sentience


I believe in free will. By free will, I mean that I decide what I try to do, and how hard. I may not be able to judge how hard I need to try to achieve something. I may not succeed even if I push myself to my limits.

I also mean I can choose what to believe and what not to, even though I may be grossly limited in finding out what I should believe (usually, the truth), let alone making my beliefs come true.

If I'm wrong about this, it's not my fault.


Intelligence and sentience. Sensing and feeling. Decision making and free will. They all seem intertwined.

Let us say, I keep a jug of water in front of a stone. The stone can see it, inasmuch as if there's light in these surroundings, light reflected by the jug will hit the stone. If the chemical nature of the stone's surface is made up of silver bromide or something, then it will even react to the light. Responding to stimuli?

When we attach a camera to a microprocessor and program it, we can make the processor print out "Hey, you've kept a jug near me!" on a monitor also connect to it — even to announce it through a connected speaker.

We can do a lot more things with the microprocessor: we can have different messages, chosen on basis of time of the day, colour of the jug — may be the people it "sees" around itself, and so on. But, is it the microprocessor's choice? No, it is a direct result of if-elses within the program

The program could use random numbers and make outcomes harder to predict. Purer random numbers can be generated using some of the external inputs the processor gets to generate them. Besides, after quantum physics, we believe that there is some ultimately pure randomness too, which we can cleverly introduce (give a place of significance) in the program. Then, the programmer would themselves be rendered completely unable to predict the processor's future actions.


Getting somewhere?

Would the programmed microprocessor be responsible for its actions?

If it is not, and we are, there is something sophisticated machines don't have which we do. Let us call this "zeraird"+. I somehow perceive the contrast between sensing (as is also done by a weighing machine) and feeling (as we do when we lift a baby) as so strikingly similar, I think that, too, must be a result of our having zerairds. Intellectually speaking, we do not know if weighing machines feel, too, which is why I took this post along the thinking–acting lines.

Thank you!

+ Sadly, very few people who would patiently read through such a load of logical matter and philosophy would not be put off by the word 'soul'. Hence, "zerairds, free will and sentience".

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Corruption: a योगरूढ शब्द or a metonym

Today, on a blog I regularly read, was made a post about how metonymy often leads us to making awful conclusions. Like condemning a practice just because the Nazis did it. This blog, over all, advocates antinatalism and the right to commit suicide.

Facebook told me how one of my friends had relished this article, to which his friend had posted a link. Here, it is described that Sanskrit forms a majority of its nouns (names for objects) from the "properties" of the object they correspond to, instead of being arbitrarily assigned.

And then, another friend said that "corruption" is used for absolutely any misgovernance in India (as if, if the beauracracy didn't put governmental wealth in its own coffers, the money would assuredly be well-spent).

Edited on 14 July 2011: gave link to the regularly-read blog. Hereafter, I shall strive not to mince my words here anymore.

Monday, May 30, 2011

A Steven Weinberg quote

With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil—that takes religion.

I take religion to mean dogma, or anything taken to be true without verifying by experiment or experience. I differentiate between theism and religion. (Sadly most scientists, including Weinberg himself, don't seem to.)

I came across this quite some time ago. It seemed intuitively true even then, but yesterday, I pondered over why the same religion won't make bad people do good things.

We need to consider the nature of normal bad people. What we mean when we say a person is bad, is just that they are extremely selfish and short-sighted. Selfish here could include placing one's own kin or cult or country above any other too.

Good people, on the other hand, give consideration to others' feelings and also to long-term results of their actions.

Now, dogma can tell you that dogs love getting their ears clipped, but it can't tell you you'll love to get your hands amputed. Dogma can tell you if you give a hungry man a meal (how do you tell he's hungry anyway?), you will reap a tonne of grain fifty years from now -- or go to heaven after you die, but it can't tell you a sack of grain will appear in your kitchen at the very moment.

Dogma can tell a Briton that India is a land of elephants and snake-charmers, but can't tell them that Britons are very tactile people who hug others at least 20 times a day.

Thursday, May 26, 2011


Every so often, I find my past self immensely stupid. Another of those times has just passed by. Or it's just that the way I've been going about this blog was immensely stupid. Whatever. Everything has now been cleared unconditionally. It is time for a new beginning.