Archive for the 'Thought Provoking' Category

13
Apr
08

Moving..

I am excited about moving my blog to a new site, http;//www.entropy.in/ I hope to see you there and visit. Request to update your blogroll links accordingly

It’s evolving and undergoing updates. All the enlightening thoughts and more.

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21
Mar
08

Israeli Solves Math Code

After 38 Years, Israeli Solves Math Code
JERUSALEM — A mathematical puzzle that baffled the top minds in the esoteric field of symbolic dynamics for nearly four decades has been cracked — by a 63-year-old immigrant who once had to work as a security guard.

Avraham Trahtman, a mathematician who also toiled as a laborer after moving to Israel from Russia, succeeded where dozens failed, solving the elusive ”Road Coloring Problem.”

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The conjecture essentially assumed it’s possible to create a ”universal map” that can direct people to arrive at a certain destination, at the same time, regardless of starting point. Experts say the proposition could have real-life applications in mapping and computer science.

The ”Road Coloring Problem” was first posed in 1970 by Benjamin Weiss, an Israeli-American mathematician, and a colleague, Roy Adler, who worked at IBM at the time.

For eight years, Weiss tried to prove his theory. Over the next 30 years, some 100 other scientists attempted as well. All failed, until Trahtman came along and, in eight short pages, jotted the solution down in pencil last year.

”The solution is not that complicated. It’s hard, but it is not that complicated,” Trahtman said in heavily accented Hebrew. ”Some people think they need to be complicated. I think they need to be nice and simple.”

Weiss said it gave him great joy to see someone solve his problem.

Stuart Margolis, a mathematician who recruited Trahtman to teach at Bar Ilan University near Tel Aviv, called the solution one of the ”beautiful results.” But he said what makes the result especially remarkable is Trahtman’s age and background.

”Math is usually a younger person’s game, like music and the arts,” Margolis said. ”Usually you do your better work in your mid 20s and early 30s. He certainly came up with a good one at age 63.”

Adding to the excitement is Trahtman’s personal triumph in finally finding work as a mathematician after immigrating from Russia. ”The first time I met him he was wearing a night watchman’s uniform,” Margolis said.

Originally from Yekaterinburg, Russia, Trahtman was an accomplished mathematician when he came to Israel in 1992, at age 48. But like many immigrants in the wave that followed the breakup of the Soviet Union, he struggled to find work in the Jewish state and was forced into stints working maintenance and security before landing a teaching position at Bar Ilan in 1995.

The soft-spoken Trahtman declined to talk about his odyssey, calling that the ”old days.” He said he felt ”lucky” to be recognized for his solution, and played down the achievement as a ”matter for mathematicians,” saying it hasn’t changed him a bit.

The puzzle tackled by Trahtman wasn’t the longest-standing open problem to be solved recently. In 1994, British mathematician Andrew Wiles solved Fermat’s last theorem, which had been open for more than 300 years. Trahtman’s solution is available on the Internet and is to be published soon in the Israel Journal of Mathematics.

Joel Friedman, a math professor at the University of British Columbia, said probably everyone in the field of symbolic dynamics had tried to solve the problem at some point, including himself. He said people in the related disciplines of graph theory, discrete math and theoretical computer science also tried.

”The solution to this problem has definitely generated excitement in the mathematical community,” he said in an e-mail.

Margolis said the solution could have many applications.

”Say you’ve lost an e-mail and you want to get it back — it would be guaranteed,” he said. ”Let’s say you are lost in a town you have never been in before and you have to get to a friend’s house and there are no street signs — the directions will work no matter what.”

© 2008 The Associated Press

10
Mar
08

The joy of boredom

Don’t check that e-mail. Don’t answer that phone. Just sit there. You might be surprised by what happens.
A DECADE AGO, those monotonous minutes were just a fact of life: time ticking away, as you gazed idly into space, stood in line, or sat in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

In one of the most famous scenes in literature, for instance, boredom takes time. Marcel Proust describes his protagonist, Marcel, dunking a madeleine cookie into his teacup.

Boredom’s doldrums were unavoidable, yet also a primordial soup for some of life’s most quintessentially human moments. Jostled by a stranger’s cart in the express checkout line, thoughts of a loved one might come to mind. A long drive home after a frustrating day could force ruminations. A pang of homesickness at the start of a plane ride might put a journey in perspective.
Increasingly, these empty moments are being saturated with productivity, communication, and the digital distractions offered by an ever-expanding array of slick mobile devices. A few years ago, cellphone maker Motorola even began using the word “microboredom” to describe the ever-smaller slices of free time from which new mobile technology offers an escape.

“Mobisodes,” two-minute long television episodes of everything from “Lost” to “Prison Break” made for the cellphone screen, are perfectly tailored for the microbored. Cellphone games are often designed to last just minutes — simple, snack-sized diversions like Snake, solitaire, and Tetris. Social networks like Twitter and Facebook turn every mundane moment between activities into a chance to broadcast feelings and thoughts; even if it is just to triple-tap a keypad with the words “I am bored.”

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But are we too busy twirling through the songs on our iPods — while checking e-mail, while changing lanes on the highway — to consider whether we are giving up a good thing? We are most human when we feel dull. Lolling around in a state of restlessness is one of life’s greatest luxuries — one not available to creatures that spend all their time pursuing mere survival. To be bored is to stop reacting to the external world, and to explore the internal one. It is in these times of reflection that people often discover something new, whether it is an epiphany about a relationship or a new theory about the way the universe works. Granted, many people emerge from boredom feeling that they have accomplished nothing. But is accomplishment really the point of life? There is a strong argument that boredom — so often parodied as a glassy-eyed drooling state of nothingness — is an essential human emotion that underlies art, literature, philosophy, science, and even love.

“If you think of boredom as the prelude to creativity, and loneliness as the prelude to engagement of the imagination, then they are good things,” said Dr. Edward Hallowell, a Sudbury psychiatrist and author of the book “CrazyBusy.” “They are doorways to something better, as opposed to something to be abhorred and eradicated immediately.”

Continue reading ‘The joy of boredom’

08
Mar
08

Time Out of Mind

Pl care to read brilliant & Thought provoking article published in New York Times..

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In 1784, Benjamin Franklin composed a satire, “Essay on Daylight Saving,” proposing a law that would oblige Parisians to get up an hour earlier in summer. By putting the daylight to better use, he reasoned, they’d save a good deal of money — 96 million livres tournois — that might otherwise go to buying candles. Now this switch to daylight saving time (which occurs early Sunday in the United States) is an annual ritual in Western countries.

Even more influential has been something else Franklin said about time in the same year: time is money. He meant this only as a gentle reminder not to “sit idle” for half the day. He might be dismayed if he could see how literally, and self-destructively, we take his metaphor today. Our society is obsessed as never before with making every single minute count. People even apply the language of banking: We speak of “having” and “saving” and “investing” and “wasting” it.

But the quest to spend time the way we do money is doomed to failure, because the time we experience bears little relation to time as read on a clock. The brain creates its own time, and it is this inner time, not clock time, that guides our actions. In the space of an hour, we can accomplish a great deal — or very little.

Inner time is linked to activity. When we do nothing, and nothing happens around us, we’re unable to track time. In 1962, Michel Siffre, a French geologist, confined himself in a dark cave and discovered that he lost his sense of time. Emerging after what he had calculated were 45 days, he was startled to find that a full 61 days had elapsed.

To measure time, the brain uses circuits that are designed to monitor physical movement. Neuroscientists have observed this phenomenon using computer-assisted functional magnetic resonance imaging tomography. When subjects are asked to indicate the time it takes to view a series of pictures, heightened activity is measured in the centers that control muscular movement, primarily the cerebellum, the basal ganglia and the supplementary motor area. That explains why inner time can run faster or slower depending upon how we move our bodies — as any Tai Chi master knows.

Continue reading ‘Time Out of Mind’

02
Mar
08

Questionnaire ?

Directions: For each pair of sentences, circle the letter, a or b, that best
expresses your viewpoint. Make a selection from each pair. Do not omit
any items.

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1.a) The body and the material things of the world are the key to any
knowledge we can possess.
b) Knowledge is only possible by means of the mind or psyche.

2.a) My life is largely controlled by luck and chance.
b) I can determine the basic course of my life.

3.a) Nature is indifferent to human needs.
b) Nature has some purpose, even if obscure.

4.a) I can understand the world to a sufficient extent.
b) The world is basically baffling.

5.a) Love is the greatest happiness.
b) Love is illusionary and its pleasures transient.

6.a) Political and social action can improve the state of the world.
b) Political and social action are fundamentally futile.

7.a) I cannot fully express my most private feelings.
b) I have no feelings I cannot fully express.

8.a) Virtue is its own reward.
b) Virtue is not a matter of rewards.

9.a) It is possible to tell if someone is trustworthy.
b) People turn on you in unpredictable ways.

10.a) Ideally, it would be most desirable to live in a rural area.
b) Ideally, it would be most desirable to live in an urban area.

11.a) Economic and social inequality is the greatest social evil.
b) Totalitarianism is the greatest social evil.

12.a) Overall, technology has been beneficial to human beings.
b) Overall, technology has been harmful to human beings.

13.a) Work is the potential source of the greatest human fulfillment.
b) Liberation from work should be the goal of any movement for
social improvement.

14.a) Art is at heart political in that it can change our perception of reality.
b) Art is at heart not political because it can change only
consciousness and not events.

Charles Bernstein, ( 1950– )”Questionnaire” (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2007).

“Bernstein is a poetic gadfly, uncompromising in his questioning of what language is, why we use it as we do, and what values are conveyed with our linguistic choice

18
Jan
08

Imagine a World Without Apple, Bloggers, Google ..

David Pogue- New York Times Tech Columnist invites you to grab your piano and sing along.
Imagine (sung to the tune of John Lennon’s “Imagine”)

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Imagine there’s no Apple,
No products that begin with “i,”
No monthly iPod models,
No Apple stores to get you high.

Imagine all the people
Finding other things to do !

Imagine there’s no bloggers…
It isn’t hard to do!
No viruses or spyware,
No weekly Windows patches, too

Imagine all the people
Learning to get a life…

(You-hoo-hoo!)

You may say it’d be a nightmare
Without Google, Mac or Dell
We might have real conversations–
But the world would be dull as hell!

Imagine no new cellphones;
Kiss console games goodbye.
No David Pogue or Mossberg
To tell us what to buy.

Imagine all the people
Getting some exercise!

(You-hoo-hoo!)

You may say that I’m a loony
But rest assured I’m almost done.
I’m pretty sure it’ll never happen
So we nerds can live as one!

© New York Times.

17
Jan
08

In Praise of Melancholy

We’re in peril of losing a major cultural force, the muse behind much art, poetry, and music. We are blithely getting rid of melancholia..-Pl care to read & ponder thought provoking article by Eric Wilson published in The Chronicle Review

In Praise of Melancholy

American culture’s overemphasis on happiness misses an essential part of a full life

Ours are ominous times. We are on the verge of eroding away our ozone layer. Within decades we could face major oceanic flooding. We are close to annihilating hundreds of exquisite animal species. Soon our forests will be as bland as pavement. Moreover, we now find ourselves on the verge of a new cold war.

But there is another threat, perhaps as dangerous: We are eradicating a major cultural force, the muse behind much art and poetry and music. We are annihilating melancholia.

A recent poll conducted by the Pew Research Center shows that almost 85 percent of Americans believe that they are very happy or at least pretty happy. The psychological world is now abuzz with a new field, positive psychology, devoted to finding ways to enhance happiness through pleasure, engagement, and meaning. Psychologists practicing this brand of therapy are leaders in a novel science, the science of happiness. Mainstream publishers are learning from the self-help industry and printing thousands of books on how to be happy. Doctors offer a wide array of drugs that might eradicate depression forever. It seems truly an age of almost perfect contentment, a brave new world of persistent good fortune, joy without trouble, felicity with no penalty.

Why are most Americans so utterly willing to have an essential part of their hearts sliced away and discarded like so much waste? What are we to make of this American obsession with happiness, an obsession that could well lead to a sudden extinction of the creative impulse, that could result in an extermination as horrible as those foreshadowed by global warming and environmental crisis and nuclear proliferation? What drives this rage for complacency, this desperate contentment?

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Surely all this happiness can’t be for real. How can so many people be happy in the midst of all the problems that beset our globe — not only the collective and apocalyptic ills but also those particular irritations that bedevil our everyday existences, those money issues and marital spats, those stifling vocations and lonely dawns? Are we to believe that four out of every five Americans can be content amid the general woe? Are some people lying, or are they simply afraid to be honest in a culture in which the status quo is nothing short of manic bliss? Aren’t we suspicious of this statistic? Aren’t we further troubled by our culture’s overemphasis on happiness? Don’t we fear that this rabid focus on exuberance leads to half-lives, to bland existences, to wastelands of mechanistic behavior?

Continue reading ‘In Praise of Melancholy’




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