Shunyata, Nirvana, and Zero

There is a persistent misconception in the English-speaking world that I have to every so often set right. It is this: because the numerals we use are called “Arabic,” the number system was invented by Arabs and by association, is Islamic in origin. This is as silly and illogical as claiming that potatoes originated in France since in the US we call them French fries.

Actually, two of the greatest inventions in mathematics arose in India: the positional number system and the number “zero.” Where else could zero have originated but in the land which has the concepts of Shunyata (emptiness, nothingness) and of Nirvana (complete, utter, and absolute extinction) embedded deep into its philosophy?
Continue reading

Funding Jehadis — Part 3

Some time ago, I had lamented India’s funding of Pakistani jehadi groups and then posted a followup to that. In a comment to the former post, Tanveer wrote a comment:

Atanu: You are a Phd in economics, I am sure you know enough how the world works. There isnt always a meaningful reasoning to everything more so in the world of politics. BY your logic since India itself spends so much on nuclear weapons it has no right to recieve any kind of aid. And since the US spends more on military than the rest of the world put together it has no right to talk of peace. Yet it also funds the UN and then bypasses it when it suits her. No country that spends on military should have recieved any aid during the devestating tsunami. But thats not the way the world works. As for your comments on muslim invaders you should remember “An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind” Also, if we are so concerned about our past we should shut down the british high commission . At least till the british arrived india was still the richest country. Just by changing the name of the missile doesnt change its character. Be it Prithvi or ghauri they’ll still kill an equal number of people.

One really does not have to have a PhD in economics to know how the world works. Anyone past puberty and of average intelligence is equipped to figure out how the world works given a bit of pondering. The basic principle upon which the whole argument hinges I stated in the first line of the post: Money is fungible.

There are limited resources available to any entity, be they an individual or a nation state. It is a matter of choice which uses these resources are employed in. If the entity chooses to waste resources into destructive activities, there is no moral ground for anyone to promote those by providing additional resources to the chooser. It is a shortsighted ethically unsupportable act. As long as a country is wasting resources arming itself to wreak havoc on another country, that country does not deserve any sympathy or material help, irrespective of the circumstances. I would apply this principle to all states, but I would be especially vehement in my objection when it comes to terrorist states.
Continue reading

The Prologue to Bertrand Russell’s Autobiography

What I Have Lived For

Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind. These passions, like great winds, have blown me hither and thither, in a wayward course, over a great ocean of anguish, reaching to the very verge of despair.

I have sought love, first, because it brings ecstasy – ecstasy so great that I would often have sacrificed all the rest of life for a few hours of this joy. I have sought it, next, because it relieves loneliness–that terrible loneliness in which one shivering consciousness looks over the rim of the world into the cold unfathomable lifeless abyss. I have sought it finally, because in the union of love I have seen, in a mystic miniature, the prefiguring vision of the heaven that saints and poets have imagined. This is what I sought, and though it might seem too good for human life, this is what–at last–I have found.

With equal passion I have sought knowledge. I have wished to understand the hearts of men. I have wished to know why the stars shine. And I have tried to apprehend the Pythagorean power by which number holds sway above the flux. A little of this, but not much, I have achieved.

Love and knowledge, so far as they were possible, led upward toward the heavens. But always pity brought me back to earth. Echoes of cries of pain reverberate in my heart. Children in famine, victims tortured by oppressors, helpless old people a burden to their sons, and the whole world of loneliness, poverty, and pain make a mockery of what human life should be. I long to alleviate this evil, but I cannot, and I too suffer.

This has been my life. I have found it worth living, and would gladly live it again if the chance were offered me.

[Sorry for not blogging for ten whole days. Be back in a bit as soon as I am done with my ‘flu and other assorted troubles in life such as having to actually work:). In the meanwhile, if you want to waste time around here this neck of the woods, the management suggests the archives.]

Formula for Milking the Digital Divide

They don’t really intentionally kill babies just to make more money, do they? They wouldn’t, would they?

Well, I don’t really know.

Infant or baby formula was developed in the developed world when women began to join the work force and did not have the time to breast-feed their babies. What a wonderful great invention it was. Convenience for the mother, and great nutrition for the baby.

Developed as an alternative to breast-feeding, the industry promoted it aggressively in the developed world. On the way back from the hospital after the birth of a baby, the industry gave as a “gift” all that you need to feed the baby formula—the bottles and the bottle bag–and gave just enough “free” formula so that the mother stops lactating because of lack of nursing. Once the mother goes down that formula road, there is no turning back.
Continue reading

Saving Private Information

I just googled “information” and got 5,930,000,000 hits, or nearly 6 billion hits in 0.06 seconds.

Compared to someone sitting at home about 20 years ago, my access to information from within the comfort of my home is a few orders of magnitude higher. Hal Varian and Peter Lyman at UC Berkeley estimated that the rate of production of information was two exabytes, or two billion billion bytes in 2001. That information could take a stack of floppy discs about 2 million miles high. That rate must have gone up and I can reasonably assert that for this year we will need a stack 3 million miles high to contain all our NEW data. Thankfully we don’t use floppy discs and depend on hard-drives.
Continue reading

India Funding Pakistani Jihad — Followup

India funding Pakistani jehadis” prompted Dan to comment:

Couldn’t you make the argument Indian charity and compassion during Pakistan’s time of need might make a positive impression on at least a few Pakistanis. Maybe the aid provided will change a couple of hearts and minds and they will be less likely to “throw a bomb over your fence.

Dan, unless you are kidding, your naivety is touching. If $25,000,000 were to change a couple of hearts, then to change the few hundred million hearts that need changing would require a brazillion** dollars (which is more money than the entire debt–foreign and domestic–of the United States which is merely in the order of thousands of billions of dollars.)
Continue reading