Celebrating Alan Turing

“When the history books of the future are written, Alan Turing will go down in the company of Newton and Darwin and Einstein. His visions changed how humanity conceives of computation, information and pattern — and 100 years after his birthday, and 58 years after his tragic death, Turing’s legacy is alive and growing.” That’s from the Wired.com article celebrating Turing’s 100th birth anniversary who was born 23rd June, 1912.
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Mrs Gandhi’s Evil Move — 37 years ago

The majority of Indians today don’t know a heck of a lot about Mrs Indira Gandhi. Fact is that they were not even born when she ruled. Her descendants and her party, the Indian National Congress (how’s that for an oxymoron), continue her disastrous policies but Indians are mostly ignorant of how she ruthlessly set into motion India’s descent into serfdom. To reverse that slide, we have to start educating ourselves and our friends about what happened this week 37 years ago. Here are some sources for our edification.
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Visual Perception Lessons

Our brains create the what we observe the world to be. A pretty awesome set of lessons on visual perception from the Mind Lab. Start with “Lesson 1: Illusion of an Uninterrupted World” by clicking on the thumbnail picture. The second lesson is on “Constructing a 3-D World from 2-D Images.” The next lesson is “Visual Interpretation of the Physical World.” And finally, “Perception beyond Sensory Input.” The web is amazing. There’s so much out there to learn. Have a fun weekend.

Why Nations Fail

The question why some nations are rich while others are poor is not new. It has been the focus of economists for centuries. The great Scottish economist and moral philosopher Adam Smith dealt with that in his famous book, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, published in 1776 (that miraculous year[1].) That question can be particularized for India as “Why is India poor when it could have been rich?” It can be restated as “Why has India failed?” if by failing one means not being able to emerge out of poverty. Unfortunately, that question is avoided studiously by not just the general educated population but also by most economists who study India. Why is that?
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India is Poor by Choice

Economic growth, development, progress—whatever you call it—is neither inevitable nor impossible. There are lots of examples of economies that continue to struggle with economic growth. And there are many examples of economies that have made rapid progress. What distinguishes the ones that that succeed from the ones that fail is economic policies. Again an operational definition of “good economic policies” will have to do: those that work. Economic policies that most efficiently harness the available resources are those that work. Economists usually categorize resources used in production -– into land, labor, and capital. Of these, human resources is the most critical. It follows then that policies that value human resources are the ones that work.
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Ideas dictate the destiny of economies

What is poverty? Who’s a poor person? What’s a rich economy? These questions have engaged some of the brightest people for centuries — and no doubt it will continue to fascinate some for centuries. My answer to what is poverty is simple: poverty is a lack of stuff. A poor person is one who does not have enough stuff. It is a technical word. You may not see it used very extensively elsewhere but stuff is a very important word.

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What is Economics?

On twitter, I got into a bit of back and forth with two people about economics. In 140 characters, one cannot have a real argument. Instead it is just a series of assertions. One gentleman came down heavily against the idea that economics studies human behavior. It’s all about money, he seems to think. Another person got angry at the claim that “markets work” because, as he pointed out, they fail. I responded, tongue in cheek, “Planes don’t fly. They crash. They kill people and are worthless for transportation.” That set him off a bit more. C’est la vie.
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Don’t they like freedom?

Everybody likes to be free. That’s evident not only from introspection (which only humans, as far as we can tell, are capable of) but from just looking around we can be certain that all other humans also want to be free. Not just humans, all sentient beings prefer being free. Even lower animals — dolphins, dogs, elephants, tigers, cats, birds, and what have you — have a definite preference for not being constrained. It must be genetically hard-coded in living beings since freedom is good for life. That much is clear. The question is why then is there so much lack of freedom.
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The 2012 Transit of Venus

These few weeks have been exciting for celestial phenomena. First there was the annular solar eclipse of May 20th a couple of week ago. I took some pictures of that one. I will post those as soon as I download them from the trusty old camera. Second, yesterday there was a partial eclipse of “the strawberry moon” — so called because during June they harvest strawberries. I missed it (not the harvest but the moon) because it has been cloudy and raining around here. In any case, here’s a video explaining the strawberry moon eclipse.
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