Thursday, 18 February 2010

Damn nature, you brilliant!

Recently I read a quote which went something like –
There is a incredible amount of phobia of supercomputers taking over the world. I sometimes wonder if it is arrogant to assume that our one creation which has been fifty odd years in evolution can beat the billions of years of natural evolution so easily.
This research is immensely humbling, illustrating that quote. On one hand scientists are scrambling to get quantum computers running at conditions which require cryogenic temperatures and responses in femtoseconds (10^-15 second). And on the other hand algae may be doing it already all this while. As a fair comparison, quantum computers are not running at room temperature and definitely not generating food side by side.

Earlier I was wondering if we are really the smartest/best species on the planet (You will point out rats and dolphins, but I suspect Douglas Adams was overestimating humans.) and we need to acknowledge ingenuity of other lifeforms on earth. There is enough in the world to know and there will be ever more which is not understood.

P.S. This part was mind-blowing –
This "quantum coherence" binds them together for a fleeting 400 femtoseconds (4 × 10^-13 seconds). But this is long enough for the energy from the absorbed photon to simultaneously "try out" all possible paths across the antenna.
Comparing that to our "normal" sense of time, I feel like typing one keystroke in 1000 years. Only similar thing I can think of is this xkcd comic.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

lux gold coin fraud

The omnipresent ad of (some) lux soaps containing gold coin will be pulled back. I could not find any english news report, here are Pratahkal (Hindi) and Loksatta (Marathi) reports. The two are not reporting the same thing. I guess it is better than no reporting from English media.

What I could gather from the news:
  • Ad watchers had appealed to consumer court claiming fraud by HUL.
  • HUL agreed that some language in the ad could be misleading and decided to pull the ad out and change the packaging.
  • The basic claim is that the batches that contained gold coins were out much before (manufactured before 22 Nov/10 Dec 2009) and currently running ad-campaign says that offer is valid for soaps manufactued between 5 Oct 2009 and 20 Jan 2010.
  • Appeal has been made for 2.5 Crore penalty for misleading.
Loksatta also quotes that it is illegal to advertize based on schemes involving luck (like lottery).

So many interesting things here -
  1. Win for consumer awareness
  2. How can HUL dare to violate a law, that too in marketing itself?
  3. Why is there so little reporting on news sites or blogs (The reason I am putting it up here)?
  4. Why does it take day and half more for other news sites to investigate a decently important story? Are there vested interests (unlikely that so many are together)? Or is it delay in indexing from google (again, unlikely)?

Friday, 15 January 2010

is China immoral in censorship?

For ethical and/or commercial reasons, Google is threatening to say Goodbye to China. Google was complying with Chinese censorship till date, now it is in civil disobedience. Google is complaining that cyber-attacks over its systems originated from China (likely from intelligence network, given the sophistication) hence it is no longer in good conscience to support self-censoring of search results. Meanwhile analysts are wondering whether the low market penetration in Chinese search market was significantly worth to Google anyway. China is basically suspected to have acted in bad faith.

It is sad that a large population can be cut off from useful information just because their government feels insecure. But I have a different point to make. It is high time others stop patronizing China (or India, or Africa....). China is trying to set rules for the games it plays rather than playing on someone else's turf.

Many in Western free speech lobby are taking a moral stand over Chinese censorship. I think it is ok for China to allow or disallow rights to citizens. For example I have no business asking my neighbour to behave to her family members. Likewise, westerners have no right to tell China how to treat its citizens.

Don't get me wrong, I am not trying to justify the attacks and I am a strong believer in democracy. But people outside have no moral high ground in imposing a belief system on China.

It is ok to call censorship suboptimal, but not ok to judge it moral or immoral.

PS: Interesting graphic.