Category Archives: Topical

Includes posts on physics, philosophy, sciences, quantitative finance, economics, environment etc.

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How Greece Got Quantitatively Eased

One thing we need to understand about bailouts is this – those who get bailed out don’t really get any money. So it was for Greece; she did’t get any either. Where did the money go? To the rightful owners of all the money, of course, the bankers. I used to work for a bank, so I know a little bit about it, although my station in the pecking order was way below the billion dollar bailout levels.

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PinPoint

MySQL on Mac OSX Yosemite

If you use XAMPP for dev work on your Mac at home, and updated your OS to Yosemite, you may be temporarily distressed when you find that your MySQLd doesn’t start up. The fix is fairly simple.

Edit /Applications/XAMPP/xamppfiles/xampp. (You may have to use sudo to do this.)

Look for:

$XAMPP_ROOT/bin/mysql.server start > /dev/null &

And add unset DYLD_LIBRARY_PATH on top of it. It should look like:

unset DYLD_LIBRARY_PATH
$XAMPP_ROOT/bin/mysql.server start > /dev/null &

Restart MySQLd and you it should work.

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Philanthropy of Mother Teresa and Other Spiritual Leaders

Philanthropy comes in two flavors. One is where you make a lot of money doing whatever it is that you do, and then spend a large part of it in directly helping other people. Bill Gates is a philanthropist of this kind. The second kind is where you collect money from a large number of people and put it to good use. Organizational charities do philanthropy of this kind. So do spiritual leaders, like the god men of India.

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Richard Feynman — How Much Can We Know?

We open our eyes, we see the world, we discern patterns. We theorize, formalize; we use and rationality and mathematics to understand and describe everything. How much can we really know, though?

To illustrate what I mean, let me use an analogy. I wish I had the imagination to come up with it, but it was Richard Feynman who did. He was, by the way, quirky enough to compare physics with sex.

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Indian Politics – the Last Resort

In India, they say politics is the last resort of a scoundrel. And it does seem to hold true there; Indian politicians are, by and large, corrupt crooks and bullies.

A quick Google research shows that it was Dr. Samuel Johnson who said, “Patriotism is the last resort of the scoundrel.” I guess our colonial rulers modified to suit the Indian condition. In any case, Indians staying out of politics suited the colonial rulers just fine. What is sad is that the Indian politics still attracts mostly scoundrels even after almost seventy years of independence.

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Robotic Takeover

Years ago, I read this fictional story by Marshall Brain called Manna. It talked about the robotic takeover of a fast food chain by an intelligent system.

Marshall Brain, as you may know, is the founder of HowStuffWorks.com and a well known speaker, teacher, writer etc. Although he wrote Manna as fiction, he was so certain that it was the way of our future that he actually patented the system he described (if memory serves). Of course, he was right. I just got this link from a friend about how fulfillment centers work — how do you get the same-day or next day delivery on all those mountains of things that you order from the Internet? Here is how. It is astonishing how similar this scenario is to what Marshall Brain described in Manna.

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Death and Grief

Some recent events have prompted me to revisit this uncomfortable topic — why do we grieve when someone dies?

Most religions tell us that the departed, if they were good in life, end up in a better place. So grieving doesn’t make sense. If the departed were bad, we wouldn’t grieve any way.

Even if you are not religious, and do not believe in an eternal soul, death cannot be a bad thing for the dead, for they feel nothing, because they do not exist, which is the definition of death.

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Fields Medal – First Woman

Just read the news that Prof Maryam Mirzakhani won the prestigious Fields medal (the equivalent of Nobel prize in Mathematics). She is the first woman to ever win the prize. First of all, congratulations to her. Coming from an Iranian background, being a woman, I’m sure it must have been hard for her.

Women seem to have difficulties in quantitative fields — we see this everywhere. The general belief is that compared to men, women are more creative and intuitive, but less analytical. They take in the world as a whole. Theirs is a romantic understanding, concentrating on the immediate appearance and values of the objects around them. This mode of understanding is to be contrasted with the analytic, classical understanding of men, who seem to mentally divide things in smaller, manageable chunks and drill down to the underlying forms to come to grip with world around them. In giving this description, I’m trying to paraphrase what Richard Pirsig said in the opening chapters of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. The analytic mode of understanding lends itself better to quantitative fields like mathematics, and hence the paucity of brilliance among female mathematicians.

Stating the reason that way doesn’t really explain anything. We have to wonder where this gender difference comes from. Continue reading

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Back to Blogging

As you may have noticed, I haven’t been writing much in the last couple of months. It was because of one of my regularly scheduled writer’s blocks. When I’m blocked, I usually find other things to do, and convince myself that they are really important and urgent. One such thing this time around was a revamping of my blog backend. The original design was dated, and it really needed an upgrade. Or so I told myself and worked on it for a few weeks. If you are reading this post, you can see the fruits of my labor. And I hope you like it.

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