Saturday, 30 March 2013

The grass was greener

It is insightful, to note that the amount of generated this year will be equivalent to the amount of data generated over the last two years which was equivalent to the amount of data generated over the last ten. Big data, therefore, now follows an almost exponential curve, and will continue to do so for the next couple of years at least.

The question that I would put to you(not that you'd be interested much) is where would it stop? And lets take the Wikipedia as an example. Yes, articles measuring the size of Wikipedia abound, and indeed, if the whole of the pedia were to be printed and put in a library(and yes, no one would do this), it would not only occupy the whole library but probably spill out onto the streets as well.  The key thing here is to remember that it's not the growth in absolute terms that's important, but the rate of growth, and if you'd look at the nicely shaped graph alongside, you would know that the rate of growth has decreased over the past few years. Yes you could differentiate the damn thing over x, take tangents and do a belly rub on your snoring Persian cat. But the truth of the matter is, there's only so much knowledge that we can encompass. And only so much knowledge that we would be able to convert into data.

So, is the amount of user generated content going to dwindle in the next couple of years. Yes, and no. Now while the explosion is probably soon going to be behind us, it is the amount of storage space which is going to increase. And as it does, it is going to become cheaper and easier to access that storage. You see, once the storage space increases(nanotech, newer ways to store data, removal of limitations regarding magnetic devices) it would be a catalyst to greater file size. The same amount of information would then be packed into a much larger area, and thus while the amount of user generated content might hold steady for the next few years after the boom, the size of the same would surely go on increasing. And increasing. And yes, some more.

What this means is that we should see the golden age of the hardware and networking giants soon, as well as the user generated content aggregation apps of this world. If I had the money, I'd probably open up a huge datacenter somewhere in a country like ours, mostly a deserted location with plenty of electricity available. And then charge people by the hour to use it. Strangely enough, it wouldn't be of much use to me very soon, as all of the storage devices we currently use would be obsoleted in a couple of years anyhow. The easy thing is prediction and the tough part is the ability to act on that prediction.

So its probably not the datacenters you should bet on, but the people providing the infrastructure for that data center. Technology keeps changing, but the demand for storage can only keep rising. The grass will always be greener on the other side of the great technology divide.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Motivated Bloggers.. and mostly just a T shirt

And on an extremely slow day,  what better thing to do than blog your troubles away?  A million different things if you're interested, but you're pretty much stuck with me and my drivel. Oh well, batck to the old parenthetically interrupted, neatly collated list of things that could have been or should have been. But the whole point of that is, you guessed it, to blog.

Which brings us to that most puerile of questions. Why do people blog? If this was a Chlormint ad, I would be getting slapped silly, I'm sure. Unfortunately, it isn't. Aur ab dobara mat poochna...

The reasons why people blog might not be as obfuscate as why other people(in considerably greater numbers) read blogs. However they are infinitely more entertaining. For you see, most people, like you dear reader, are bored, or slightly mental. In the head, no less.

Strangely enough, blogs come in a rather large multitude of variety, a fact which will form the crux of another post. (Yes the key to any successful blogger is to leave his audience expecting more). So there would inevitably be a bunch of different types of blog writers, and a whole smorgasbord of differently oriented readers. So, anyway, here goes. Why do people blog? answered in five easy steps.

<1>  They're bored. Or so full of themselves they're bored all of the time. The key to this is to find readers for your blog, which would comprise usually, of people who are more bored than you are. A tough task for anyone.

<2> They have a really important message to get out to the world. Like global warming, or the annual mass suicide of lemmings being delayed by a few days due to solar winds. This is the sort of topic which is usually greeted by a stony indifference, and apart from the usual social media activist finds very few takers.

<3> They are conspiracy theorists/ anarchist bloggers. Now these guys are surprisingly popular. More so because the whole culture of blogging is somewhat cliqued in nature. This sort of blog not only has a large number of participants, but arguably and most enviably the largest group of motivated re share bloggers in the whole world.

<4> They like their beauty products. And here we have an exclusive group of female bloggers catering to an exclusive(oh wait.. ALL) females in the world. Whoever thought that religion or conspiracies inspired cults you only have to venture into the makeup and haircare segments to discover the biggest cult of them all... women. Now you know how they pass the time.. eh?

<5> The mavens.. those smart guys who know what they're doing and want to share it with the world. Most of us haven't heard of their blogs, have no idea what it is they write about, and wouldn't know what hit us in case we actually took the rather drastic step of reading their blog,but follow it anyway. These are the sort of bloggers who created blogs, who write about the most important things in their blogs, and whose blogs are the most brilliant of any sort. Or prepare us for competitive exams. Whatever.

And I know the list is fairly limitless, I mean you have travel blogs and review blogs and blogs about the colour of the mole on Aishwarya Rai's uhmm..hmm... But hey, that's really of no concern to the people who write them. In the end, most motivated bloggers should in fact find themselves writing just because, well, they have to write.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

A Song of Ice and Fire

In the age of such quality cinema as Himmatwala I present to you another... non- movie related post. Fortunately this post would also not cover the (almost)eponymous television series, or even the eponymous series of books. Then, dear reader, you would ask me in a sudden bout of ennui, what is this post related to. And I find myself typing in methane hydrate. And what, you ask?

Methane hydrate.

For the scientific ones among you, this would probably be a bit baffling, after all, methane, a thick foul smelling gas is not something you would expect to find in hydrated form. And yet, a complete family of hydrocarbons exists in a hydrated, solid form. So you could fully expect to find ethane hydrate and propane hydrate if you decided to go on a full fledged survey of the Earth's crust. Methane hydrate just happens to be the most common one, and this is in no small reason due to the comparative size of its molecule. Now methane is pretty much the smallest hydrocarbon you could think of, and any mineral formed by a eutectic reaction at high pressure would in fact involve some amount of diffusion into a lattice. So with the water lattice, and yes it does form a lattice thanks to crystallization at high pressures, methane would try to diffuse as far as possible into interstitial spaces. Think of this as trying to force mercury into a sponge. And ice of course has quite a few, especially as there isn't anything much to keep the ice together, unlike water which has a bunch of inter molecular hydrogen bonds going for it. This is also why ice floats on water(not the methane part... the mindless chatter after).

This means that a lot of methane would in fact diffuse into water which would then solidify under pressure to form something like ice, but something that burns. And you would respond with a so what? I do that with my camphor everyday.

So everything. Consider the fact that the reserves of carbon in methane clathrates(a fancier sounding name cooked up by bald men in aprons) is about twice the reserves of carbon in ALL fossil fuels. Also consider that this burns with almost no residue(there isn't much to it when you burn ice) and is also easier to transport than LPG and you have an energy phenomenon on your hands. This is energy that, if exploited properly could put an end to all our energy woes.

And if you're thinking that's too good to be true it probably is. It is tough to extract methane hydrate and the risks involved are considerable. Forget the environmental impact of fracking for shale gas, or exploiting the Alberta tar sands, this would be right up there as an ecological disaster if it were to go wrong. You see, methane is far more potent, global warming wise than almost anything. All the cars in the world do not contribute as much to global warming as the methane in the farts of livestock. Methane is the single most important reason for global warming periods in the past. And this would not be by a comfy 2 degrees on average, but by much more. Of course, methane is found in higher concentrations in ice beds, which means that as it gets hotter, more and more will be released as the ice melts, which would cause more ice to melt. And so on and so forth.

How we exploit this will probably be driven by the forces of economics than by any real scientific thought or common sense. Which is pretty scary considering the fact that the forces of economics are pseudo forces that would make Newton turn in his grave and mumble incoherently. As the price of oil continues to rise and the supply of natural gas continues to be so readily available as to be economically unsound the world will look for a middle path. A sort of compromise, if you will, between easy availability and difficulty of extraction. And we'd probably die in a big flood if the heat doesn't get us first.

Make sure you burn your fair share of ice first.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Special

One question that gets thrown up a lot is can Bollywood hope to compete with its infinitely more illustrious bigger brother Hollywood n its own terms. Yes not by making movies with budgets to rival the GDPs of some African nations, or by making dramas on boxing an ballet, but by making the same sort of masala fare that we have been dished out since the turn of the century(and last century as well). Can we create movies that are brilliant, and yet, uniquely Indian.

This would appear to be a moot question to many. Most would readily point out that we have in fact spent most of our lives seeing our fledgling movie industry copying its plots from some lesser known(and sometimes even better known) movies abroad. And the buck doesn't stop there, of course, not content with merely copying the storyline, some directors would even copy scenes and dialogues from the original. But hey, we don't complain. As a self critical antagonist in the (surprisingly) hit movie Gangs of Wasseypur remarked...Jab Tak Bollywood rahega...tab tak log chutiye bante rahenge (or reasonably audacious equivalent). Bollywood has always based itself of the smoke and mirrors stuff. Designed to sell movies, not make cinema.

Which is why there are many proclaiming that we are now entering the new age of Indian cinema. The sort of age where even a no holds barred gangland epic like Gangs of Wasseypur can open to a packed house and receive rave reviews. Original Indian cinema, which was previously relegated to the sidelines of mainstream public consciousness, has now emerged to grab the spotlight for itself. We now have the likes of a Dev D, a creative modern day interpretation of an extant classic garnering profits. We now have the likes of a biopic of a track and field specialist recouping its budget. Things look good for Indian cinema.

Except that those movies aren't really Indian cinema. The sort of production value  they have is still dwarfed by some of the more mindless films that sell blatantly due to star casts, and the sort of audience they enthrall is still limited to the urban working class. And the only reason why there is now a market for these movies is not because the movies are being made better or grander, but because the audience for such movies is growing at a rapid rate. As the bulk of India moves from being a bucolic farming class of people to an erudite technocratic service provider, the entertainment it consumes would naturally reflect in its shift.

Which is why Special 26 deserves a special mention. The movie seems to be typical Bollywood caper fare at first. Staid dialogues delivered in steadfast monotone, a pretty decent star cast, a sharp storyline punctuated by a song or two, a beautiful heroine in distress and so on. The only difference is, its not. Not staid, and yet, make no mistake this sort of movie is the bastion of Indian mainstream cinema. The difference is that Special 26 is not only based on real events, it aspires to lend a very intelligent plot to those real events. You see, Special 26 aspires to be the Ocean's Eleven of Bollywood. And yet, not quite. All the trappings of a traditional movie, with a sucker-punch thrown right at the end. A film that can be compared to its Hollywood counterpart not based on its storyline or even its cast, but on the sort of heights it aims to reach.

Movies like Gangs.. would always be made by rebels or by creatives. It is only now that mainstream is responding in kind, by evolving.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Free Energy..for Everyone!

"In any isolated system, one cannot create new energy"
-First Law of Thermodynamics, Universally Renowned as being quite Legit

Now the concept of Perpetual Motion machines have persisted in the putative imagination of so many millions of us that college textbooks seem to have taken a singular dislike to the very concept, seeking to eradicate it through pointed proofs and demonstrable physical theorems. These college textbooks, (we had one by an author called P.K Nag) are apparently not taken very seriously. As a species, human beings are a particularly imaginative lot, and the(very bored college) guy who coined the phrase Necessity is the mother of Invention will probably attest to this fact. Yet amongst our species there have persisted seriously hardy and possibly meretricious fallacies called ideas. And seemingly resistant parasites that these ideas are, we tend to persist with them even after the most ignominious proofs to the contrary have been presented to us. These ideas tend to be rather sine qua non in their nature, and have often known to be spontaneously combustible as well.

Which is why a possibly fraudulent inventor seeking the Holy Grail of all Physics Scams should start off by ringing alarm bells in your head. The Perpetual Motion Machine(of types 1 and 2, creatively monogrammed as PMM1/2) has been conclusively disproved by Thermodynamics in general, and the experience of scammed theoretical physicians in particular. Yet Muammer Yildiz continues to persist with the idea, now having invented a motor which runs on neodymium magnets alone. He has submitted his claim to the world now to dissect, and the world has responded quite readily, by fragmenting his machine, and running over it with a fine tooth comb. They found nothing amiss, but keep in mind that in most scams of this nature nothing is found to be amiss until the proverbial shit hits the fan. Think the Pilmington man.

For those whose memories need to be refreshed.. a long Reader's Digest article on the Pilmington man was what clued me in. And this was over a decade ago, so I'm guessing the scam was even before then. The Pilmington man was long considered to be the missing link between man and monkey..led to a new genus of humankind..and in general some mindless euphoria. That's before the Man was in fact discovered to be a monkey, carefully merged with a human skull.

Proof enough that the scientific establishment is as gullible to false advertising as we are. The claims need only be too good to be true, and the premise larger than life for investors to throw money at it. We now live in a world wherre venture capital is easier to hunt down than your neighbours missing cat, and while this has given rise to some truly breathtaking ventures, it has also resulted in some of the most harebrained schemes raising enough money for the erstwhile proprietor of those schemes to take a trip to the moon and back.

Strangely enough, this theme has attracted more loonies to it than moths to a candle. It all started with the Charles Redheffer scam in 1813, and has continued to this century. This in itself is probably why Muammer Yildiz is probably onto something. As a scam this is essentially a dead rubber, with no investor with any basic knowledge of physics(and I'm told its compulsory education these days) would dare to invest in. Recent demonstrations in Turkey have led to his contraption being disassembled into ever decreasing pieces, and kept running for ever increasing times. However, the acid test iwill take place over the course of next month, when the motor will be kept running for over 30 days, under constant observation by a team of renowed professors.

We could all hope to flush the Laws of Thermodynamics(and those fat college textbooks) down the toilet now, couldn't we?  But if this magnetic motor were in fact to become reality all sorts of possibilities could come into effect, cars that dont need petrol to run, fans that dont need electricity, you name it, the energy conundrum would be cracked wide open.

Is it a scam? We will know 30 days from now. Part of me fervently hopes not. Muammer Yildiz and his enduring reputation would also fervently hope not. The whole world would also hope not. But we can only wait and watch now.


Saturday, 26 January 2013

This Space..Reserved

Yes, it is the day of the founding of our glorious Republic today, and for those of you willing or able to count backwards, it is the 64th time that we are celebrating. Our proud nation has thrown of the yoke of oppression, had done so more than half a century ago in fact, and is now well on the road to becoming an economic superpower.. et cetera. In fact our great nation has been on the road to becoming an economic superpower for the better part of a decade, and is projected to surpass other incumbent economic superpowers in a decade(or a century, depending on which news channel you follow). Anyway, the whole point of this being that the government of India, yes that bastion of the republic, under whose aegis our great country thrives has been largely responsible for this maelstrom of progress that has enveloped our country. In doing so, they have enacted many policies which on the face of it, would be sheer genius. These policies have, in a nutshell, accelerated our growth and brought true progress to our nation. Or provided the largest part of a corpus to a certain banking firm in an Alpine country(once again depending on which news channel you follow).

For you see, our country is famous for its oppressed status. We have always been opressed(or so we like to think), for we have been invaded(time and again), our riches looted, our houses burnt and our glorious heritage tarnished by those goddamned infidels who dare to invade our country time and again. The Hindus are oppressed by the Muslims, the Muslims are oppressed by the Hindus, the Christians are oppressed by everyone, the Sikhs aren't oppressed, they really don't get out much..and so on and so forth. The poor in our country are oppressed, the rich in our country are oppressed, the women are oppressed, as are the men. We now, have come to take pride in our singluarly downtrodden and defeated status.

This, in a rather perverse way provides the impetus to many of our government's policies(so THAT's where the first two paragraphs were leading..huh). WE have reserved special seats for those who are the most decrepit amongst us. A bit like those comfortable sofas for the chief guest at the party. For you see we can now stand tall and proclaim ourselves to be Backward, and not just any type of Backward, but Non Creamy backward. This probably means we like our tea black, or our milk skimmed..who knows exactly what it means, the important thing is the assumption that backward must automatically be made forward for the greater glory of our nation. The meek shall inherit the earth( or at least Government Sector jobs).

I wonder if there were some sort of Forward Caste that we could apply to. I for one would be the first to apply. I would probably take some sort of pride in being called forward. Which is not to deprecate any of my Scheduled or Backward brethren, who have obviously made massive efforts to stay as such and should not be derided.

In the sort of convoluted logic usually reserved for writing bucket sort algorithms, we have decided to make arbitrary sets of rules that benefit certain sections of society while regressing others. This category now includes women as well, since they have of course been the most repressed section of society since for ever. And ,of course this is akin to chopping off everybody's legs just because half the population is blind and felt bad that everyone else would be going about their daily business with impunity. The road to equality does not start with handouts, nor has it ever. Women and repressed castes now have the scope, in an egalitarian society, to prove their worth without needing special benefits.

Equality really should not involve one  party having the upper hand over the other. That, by definition, is inequality. You would have thought most of the people in our country would have figured that out by now.

Or maybe we just like being called backward...

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Fanning the Flames

This is about the third time that I have written this title on the top of my blogger screen and resentfully thought to myself, is this really going to go all the way? Am I really going to go on and write another superlative masterpiece of nonsensical proportions? Which brings me to the point, rather conveniently of superlative masterpieces. There is one being painted in India this very moment. On a sordid canvas of  political debauchery masking itself as moral rectitude.

You might have had nothing but contempt for the ruling class/politicians/godmen before, but this had, I assume long since been replaced by a sort of steadfast apathy. Otherwise why else would you have allowed yourself to be lulled into a false sense of security. To grin and bear those loudmouthed twats who bemoan the clothing(or lack thereof) of the Indian woman(read Bharatiya Nari) of Delhi. These twats would wonder every now and again, why in fact people complain about the number of rapes in Delhi when the women care to dress as such, and through the astounding prowess of their Machiavellian intellect(and you thought the Bapus of this world were smart) deduce that rape was in fact a laughable matter.

The point is, no one really bothers to ask why a grey cast iron(yes, with appropriate amounts of C and Si) dildo isnt shoved up the unassuming backside of any such man who dares venture outdoors in shorts.

The press are having a field day with this. They know what sells in this country, and they are in the strict business of making a profit, while harbouring information on the side. Every single rape now is covered with ta sort of prurient relish otherwise reserved for Mahesh Bhatt movies. Every single gaffe, every blunder, every faux pas now makes headlines, irrespective of how small the fry that makes the aforementioned faux pas. We must remember that just as rape is NOT an Indian phenomenon alone, neither is the curt dismissal of it. During the run up to the general elections in the US, many members of the Republican Party made some very embarrassing remarks which ultimately cost them the putative vote.

The fact of the matter is that YOU have failed us, dear reader. You have failed to be outraged by these comments, you have failed to take any of this seriously, and you are only interested now because the flames of anger have ripped through the country in a conflagration capable of charring even the most deep rooted malaise. In simple words, with no bullshit packaged in, you shouldn't have waited for a brutal gang rape to ask society to change itself. You, who are a part of the new India, the egalitarian, erudite, enlightened India, should have backed your corner a long time ago.

For you see, there are now TWO Indias. Those who would have their viewpoint imposed on the people they rule, at any cost, and then there are those who question everything. Women are now, more than ever being given opportunities to work, to support themselves, to place themselves on an equal footing with men. Women now realise how important it is to be independent, to have a steady job and a steady life. And this in itself is threatening to most men. There are reasons to this as well, some women can be complete bitches in the workplace, others can be as loyal as doctor fish. Women can also cost you a place in the educational institution of your choice, as reservations become a new revolutionary(read myopic and lopsided) experiment. Women can be the bane of your life, or the greatest influence in it.

Either way, they are people, human beings, in no way inferior to men. They demand respect. Stand up, speak up now, because even if the whole hullabaloo goes down next month it's you dear reader who should not fail us again.

Don't wait for the nation to rise up in protest before you do, injustice does not deserve your tolerance.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Lighting the Torch

It has been almost three weeks now since the horrifying incident of rape on a moving bus jolted a nation out of its stupor. And a normally complacent public has taken to the streets to demand justice, and a normally apathetic government has responded in kind, and a normally slothful judiciary has taken cognizance. The media which normally buried such incidents in between sheaves of cricket controversies and defence scams has now been running this story and allied stories continuously for the past weeks. Not even an India-Pakistan cricket series, that normal bastion of public distraction can console a nation plunged into mourning. For you see, this is one cut that cuts too deep. Protest marches fuelled by anger and disdain have become epidemic across the country, as have shrines and places marked for respect. There is one just a little away from my home, and I assume from yours as well, proof of the fervour that has been ignited across the country.

The usage of the word normal in the above paragraph is not only a marker of my abject vocabulary, but an indicator of past history. This sort of shit happens, is perused by a callous public and relegated to a footnote in the annals of Indian rape history. The annals, are apparently quite lengthy as well, even though one may assume are completely made up of footnotes. Twenty Two thousand reported rapes a year in the latest statistic does not do India justice, we can expect the real number to be orders of magnitude higher. But credit where credit is due, this sordid business has not been relegated to any place other than the headlines. The media have not succumbed to their short term memory loss on this one. This rape victim has been anything but a normal one, and has refused to dissolve into the inky blackness of silence, instead lighting the torch of a movement against the apathy of the law and those who make it.

But you already know all this.

Which brings us onto the measures that a jilted society can now take to reform itself. As with most things of any import, these measure may follow one of two paths. To either lock up women in the confines of nascent safety laws, or to promote a freer and more open society. This is a debate that can broadly be classed as intuitive and counter-intuitive, and there are a few issues that have followed such lines. One of them is economics.

You see, when faced with the rampant dissolution of monarchies, the establishment of republics and democracies everywhere, and an increasing emphasis on trade and economic policy to feed and clothe a rapidly growing population, the powers that were in charge of their respective people had two paths to follow. One was to side with the poor(the intuitive path). The poor were the most needy, hence needed the most protection, the maximum amount of handouts and the maximum number of assurances. The idea was that we placed our trust in the poor to lift themselves out of poverty leveraging the benefits we gave them. The other was to side with rich(the counter intuitive path). To provide benefits to the richest people hoping that some of them would wish to grow their wealth, and thus provide employment to the poor. To hope that the richest of the rich would indulge themselves in philanthropy rather than philandering their wealth away.

These measures are otherwise known as socialism and capitalism, and while the one was an eminent failure, the other has helped countries like ours to grow, prosper and create a new middle class.

The same middle class that responded with such animosity to the barbaric treatment meted to one of its own. There have been worse cases in the poorer villages of India that no one knows anything about as the media is unwilling to cover anything that doesn't benefit itself. The rape of a middle class girl may have triggered an outrage, but it is an incident that will sell papers more likely than not. This middle class needs to recognize that protest marches and candlelight vigils will not have any effect on those of the criminal mentality who commit these crimes. Nor will it bring about any empathy in the people who struggle for their daily bread. The sort of people we tend to overlook as human beings are the ones most susceptible to moral and criminal turpitude.

The conversion of society as a whole to a more law abiding one presents many currently insurmountable challenges, but for now we must be content merely with stricter laws and policing. And treating those who behave like animals as such. No mercy should be shown to those who have shown none. Hang the bastards.