Wednesday, August 30, 2006

"Nanobytes" the name of my new column at the Technician.

The first article as part of this weekly feature is here.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Wikipedia : Vandalism page vandalised !

I found it ironic that Wikipedia's vandalism page was vandalised, and it now has been locked against editing by anonymous or newly registered users, as this warning shows...
ArsTechnica reports that the German version of Wikipedia will serve as a test run for a new editing system, based on trust. An excerpt:
any user will still be allowed to make edits to any article. Those edits won't show up in the live version of the site, though, until a registered user with a certain level of time and experience approves the changes
Well, we shall see how this new idea works out...of course, IF it lasts long enough from other vandalizers...

Saviour offspring.

Continuing on the stem cell issue, the Times reports a bizzare custom by football (this mean soccer) stars...
freezing/storing stem cells from the umbilical cords of their children for future use as "repair tissue" !
Some excerpts...
One Premier League footballer, playing in the northwest of England, said: “We decided to store our new baby’s stem cells for possible future therapeutic reasons, both for our children and possibly for myself.”

The player, who declined to be named, added: “As a footballer, if you’re prone to injury it can mean the end of your career, so having your stem cells — a repair kit if you like — on hand makes sense.”

He is one of five professional footballers who have frozen their children’s stem cells with Liverpool-based CryoGenesis International (CGI), one of about seven commercial stem cell “banks” in Britain.

Now I am a proponent of stem cell research, as long as they don't "grow" embryos for the explicit purpose of creating stem cells. But this seems a little far will someone go once they feel that they can "create" and discard progeny for improving their lifestyles?

Previous post on stem cells : 1.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Stem cells without loss of embryos...

An editorial in the New York Times, explains how a small biotech company has been able to produce human embryonic cells without destroying an embryo ! Apparently, this is not enough to satisfy the people who want to put a stop to all stem-cell research.

Some excerpts...
The standard way to produce colonies of stem cells is to let an early human embryo grow to a size of about 150 cells, at which point its stem cells are extracted, and the embryo is destroyed in the process. But researchers at Advanced Cell Technology have now demonstrated that a colony can be grown from a single cell removed from an embryo that has only eight to 10 cells, using a process that should leave the embryo unharmed.
Apparently the President's Council on Bioethics, this approach has also been declared as being "ethically unacceptable".

It seems like this issue about stem cells will become one of the frontiers for a scientific battleground, based on ideologies, in the twenty-first century...

Friday, August 18, 2006

Pandora's (music) Box

I recently discovered the Pandora internet radio, and what a revelation it has been ! You can create and edit stations and then rate songs/artists/etc. This will then tune your listening habits and play songs that are similar in composition, artists, style, etc...and each time you rate/specify that you like/dislike songs/artists it gets better ! Feels like you have hand-picked each and every song they play ! Uncanny ! Pandora has its origins in the music genome project that has hundreds, if not thousands, of attributes for each song, artist and is their tagline...
Can you help me discover more music that I'll like?
makes a lot of sense doesn't it ?

Sometimes it throws up music that you may not have heard of otherwise, an eclectic mix that just makes you sit up, and want to...well, listen some more !

For example, I recently heard the song Black and Gold (from the album Picks us Apart)by the Jim Yoshii Pile up, and I was stunned ! A great song and I am sure a wonderful album that will hopefully go down in music history as being legendary...

Well, you can also create RSS feeds for your favourite stations/songs/artists, etc. Check out the links for the same on the sidebar, under the title "My Music".

Pop song correspondences...

A hilarious set of fictional correspondences between John Moe and various artists...great stuff...check out the one below, written to Axl Rose, about Sweet Child of Mine !

Notes on
"Sweet Child O' Mine,"
as Delivered to Axl Rose
by His Editor.

Hi, Axl,

Just got your manuscript and demo for the song "Sweet Child O' (sic) Mine." I think we need to talk. As your editor, I am responsible for making your songs as cogent as possible, for helping them reach the high editorial standards your public has come to expect. With this one, I am certainly earning my keep. After several attempts to reach you by phone, I am sending along my notes. Please make appropriate fixes as soon as possible, at which point I can send them to copyediting and proofreading in time for your upcoming studio session.

She's got a smile that, it seems to me—Why equivocate? You weaken your point by framing this as a mere personal observation instead of a fact.

Reminds me of childhood memories—Redundant. You either have a memory or you're reminded of something. You're not reminded of a memory. Heavy-metal fans won't stand for such writing, my friend.

Where everything was as fresh as a bright blue sky—I asked around the office and no one is sure a blue sky is "fresh." You could have a blue sky at the end of a long, sweaty day and there would be nothing fresh about it. And she reminds you of a time when things were fresh? Fond reminiscences of freshness are no foundation for love. Fix.

Now and then when I see her face it takes me away to that special place—Again, you're weakening your own argument. Why does the sight of her face transport you only periodically? And is it just her smile or her entire face that does this to you? Because you've already said both. Consistency, Axl!

And if I stared too long, I'd probably break down and cry—Why would you do that? Because you miss the freshness you described earlier? I think the whole "fresh" thing is really tripping you up. Also, crying? Wimpy.

OK, on to the second verse.

She's got eyes of the bluest skies—See, this is just getting worse. Now her eyes are made of sky? Nice imagery, but you just got done saying her smile reminded you of memories of sky. Is this verse actually supposed to be a second draft of the first verse? Am I just confused on formatting? Help!

As if they thought of rain—Axl, eyes can't think of rain. And even if they could, which they can't, why would bluest skies think of rain? Perhaps less imagery of thinking eyes made of sky and more direct exploration of your feelings?

I hate to look into those eyes and see an ounce of pain—Well, hell. I guess in your special Axl World anything is possible. Eyes can be made of sky, ponder the weather, and exhibit pain in amounts that can be weighed.

Her hair reminds me of a warm safe place where as a child I'd hide—Delete. Fix. Do something. You'd hide in a place that reminded you of hair? Never show me such phrases again.

And pray for the thunder and the rain to quietly pass me by—Whew. OK, listen to me now: Thunder can't quietly do anything. It's thunder. And, more importantly, do you really want to come across as a wuss who's constantly on the verge of weeping and skittering into hair caves to escape from rain? Is this a song about love or climatic anxiety? You need to work these things out.

Finally, Axl, I think we might have had a misunderstanding regarding my previous notes. When I wrote in colored pencil "Where do we go now?" I wasn't offering that as a lyric. I was simply observing that, in narrative terms, the song needed to progress in some way. You love the girl, she's helping you work through some issues, whatever. So where do we go now? But instead of providing a satisfactory conclusion, you simply took my note and repeated it over and over again before ultimately just stating the title of the song. This is unacceptable. Don't ask us, the listeners, where we go. That's up to you as the writer! Tell us where we go now!

Again, let's try to fix these things soon and get "Sweet Child of Mine" ("My Sweet Child"?) into your fans' hands as quickly as possible. Because, frankly, if it should ever hit the street in its current form, the song would be a colossal failure.

Talk soon!

Your Editor

Original link via Sidin's Domain Maximus.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Smells like Nirvana

Check out Weird Al Yankovic's version of Nirvana's Smells like Teen spirit ! Downright Hilarious...

Here are the original lyrics and Weird Al's lyrics.

New mathematical mystery replaces old one...

The Poincate conjecture, in mathematics, can be explained as follows...
(It) is a conjecture about the characterisation of the three-dimensional sphere amongst three-dimensional manifolds. Loosely speaking, the conjecture surmises that if a closed three-dimensional manifold is sufficiently like a sphere in that each loop in the manifold can be shrunk to a point, then it is really just a three-dimensional sphere. The analogous result has been known to be true in higher dimensions for some time.
An easier to understand definition...
It asserts that if any loop in a certain kind of three-dimensional space can be shrunk to a point without ripping or tearing either the loop or the space, the space is equivalent to a sphere.
First presented by Henri Poincare, in 1904, it is widely acknowledged as one of the few outstanding questions in mathematics. Three years ago, a Russian Mathematician, Grigory (Grisha) Perelman, from St. Petersburg, announced by posting a few papers on the internet, that he has solved this intractable problem, and then after a few brief lectures and talks, disappeared from plain sight !

Most experts believe that he is a serious candidate for the Fields medal, the highest honour in mathematics, if he shows up ! Some excerpts...
After posting a few short papers on the Internet and making a whirlwind lecture tour of the United States, Dr. Perelman disappeared back into the Russian woods in the spring of 2003, leaving the world’s mathematicians to pick up the pieces and decide if he was right.
But at the moment of his putative triumph, Dr. Perelman is nowhere in sight. He is an odds-on favorite to win a Fields Medal, math’s version of the Nobel Prize, when the International Mathematics Union convenes in Madrid next Tuesday. But there is no indication whether he will show up.
Mathematicians have been waiting for this result for more than 100 years
once he was back in St. Petersburg, he did not respond to further invitations. The e-mail gradually ceased.
Recently, Dr. Perelman is said to have resigned from Steklov. E-mail messages addressed to him and to the Steklov Institute went unanswered.
So, it seems that the new mystery is to find the mathematician who cracked one of the more famous mysteries in mathematics...

The list of Perelman's papers that present the solution.

[Images obtained from here and here.]

Friday, August 11, 2006

Atafah Saheelah...

...was a 16-year old teenager who was hanged in public in Neka, Iran a while ago, for "crimes against chastity" !

See the BBC documentary on Google Videos...
It is now available on youtube in parts.

An excerpt...
...the official report was that she was hanged for adultery, but she was not married...they reported that she was 22, but she was 16 !
Original link via Cox & Forkum.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Virgin Comics...

Both Sarat and Venky have done their part in writing about this exciting collaboration among the likes of Shekhar Kapur, Deepak Chopra, John Woo and Sir Richard Branson : Virgin Comics ! I must do my part in the same...why ? Because I think it is mind-blowing material...when you bring together people with such creative energies, only great things can come out of it...

The initial titles that have been launched are : Devi, Snake Woman, the Sadhu, Ramayan Reborn and 7 Brothers. They have some preview pages on the site [see pdf version - 17MB].

Being a comic book fan myself, I am excited at this entry of Indian mythology and mysticism into this creative medium. And what caught my attention in these comics, is the fantastic art ! Indian comics seem to have come of age, and the dark, suggestive images had me brings out the primal satisfaction of imagery that speaks to you at a much deeper level than you could ever imagine...much more than words or moving images can, at times...

I like the treatment provided to India's most venerable and all time favourite epic - the Ramayana, titled Ramayan Reborn...the visual imagery seems to bring the story to a strange heady mix of characters who seem more human, yet more godlike at the same is the title page...
We already see the different "treatment" meted out to Rama...also the art seem to be much better than the clean-cut, sanitized images of the Ramayan that we have been used to since the Ramanand Sagar days...can't wait to get my hands on this and other titles from Virgin Comics...

Enjoy some more images from the various on each one to enlarge...

[images courtesy of Virgin Comics]

Fictional Cusswords.

Wikipedia lists a bunch of fictional expletives. Some are downright hilarious...
And a large bunch of others...hialrious at times...downright weird at other times.

Original link via India Uncut.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Man vs Bear...

Hilarious cartoon...Enough said.