Sunday, April 24, 2016

That Wispy Wintry Delhi morning

I was a kid, When I lived in Delhi I knew not of love or hate But only fun and the odd bit of telly. There are some things you don’t forget, Emotions I didn’t get But they have a way of sneaking up on you As the splintered memory and feelings Are mended back together Through the transience of age And the loss of innocence It was a wispy wintry Delhi morning, At least that’s what I feel When I remember that day Or is it a some kind of reel? Sleeping on the floor, For some reason. A heavy blanket covering me, I could hear my father waking me up I tried opening my eyes, to see This was not usual, or routine As a kid, you are spoilt by mothers’ care As I opened my eyes, I noticed something different, something rare Tear filled eyes. My father sitting next to me “Son, son!” “Enna aachu?” Oh my god, Memories are processed, Feelings are felt I realized what I witnessed You see, I was a kid then I didn’t notice the eyes that were red. I only have memories from way back when. “Your athan...he’s dead” I felt the pain Of that morning Rushing towards me like a train A little too late. You see, I was kid back then, On that wispy Wintry wretched Delhi morning.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Introspections of an aspiring Game Developer

So, what should I do? Sit with something like Unreal Engine? Or do something from scratch?
What is my strength? Development skills with a little bit of creativity. I'm not really a hardcore, touch-the-metal kind of coder either. I should pick up something which makes use of my development skills as well as that little bit of creativity that I have in me. This goes against my idea of developing a game engine from scratch. It doesn't make sense to reinvent the wheel. I might as well pick up a game engine and start developing a game on it. Although I would love to make a game engine from scratch and understand how it all works underneath. Something keeps telling me that going the "make from scratch" way will be way more rewarding. It doesn't seem practical though. I'll have to invest a lot of time for very less output in the beginning. But I would end up using someone else's engine if and when I get down to develop my own game because of the simple fact that people have spent decades perfecting their game engines. So I guess it boils down to what my end goal is - making games or making a game engine and then make my games using the game engine.

Starting off with a game engine = quick prototyping

Where I would be if I started making a game engine from scratch

I would like to be known as a guy who made epic games. If I could be known as the guy who made epic games on his own game engine, that would be ideal, but I don't know if this is the right time to think about that. I should start experimenting on developing games, prototype neat ideas on a good game engine. And if time permits, understand how the game engine works. Then if things go well, maybe down the line, I can think of making a game engine?

I have been contemplating this conundrum for a while now and there seems to be no right answer. Sometimes choices seem to have this paralysing effect on me. It's the fear of missing out on the other choice if I do make a decision. It's a hard to explain this fear, but it is a fear nonetheless. But a choice shall be made by time, even if I don't choose, I suppose.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

"The most important time in the history of mankind!”

I sometimes wonder about almost impossible situations and wonder what would happen if it were true. The short story below is just a manifestation of that thought.

****

“We are living in the most important time in the history of mankind!” proclaimed one of the newspapers.

****

A few months earlier.
Somewhere near Israel.

The sun was beating down with warm gusty winds. Two labourers were toiling with their spades on the hard sun tanned earth. Beads of sweat dripping off of everyone, even the two foreigners who were standing there, keeping an eye upon the proceedings. One of them, Abir, while monitoring a custom modified version of a ground penetrating radar noticed something different.
Abir:“Keep digging! Peter, you need to take a look at this.”

Chills went down the spine of everyone at the dig site when they realized what they were digging up.
Abir: “Oh my god, it’s..it’s..it’s a man!”

****

In a long and winding corridor where light seemed to find no way in, except a flickering tube light at the end of the stretch, two men were walking towards the light.
Abir:“We actually...dug him out of his grave.”
Peter: “But..but..he is alive. Double check everything we can. Check for clues around the dig site too.”
Abir:“Already on it sir”
Peter:”Any idea how he could be alive even though he was buried? It didn’t even look like a grave.”
Abir:”I have no clue”

****
In a dimly lit room, which looked like a hospital ward, a man was strapped onto a bed. He kept trying to force his way out of the straps. He shouted random words at the attendant in the room. She was wearing a lab coat, looked like a doctor, but she had no stethoscope on her. She was taken aback by the volume at which the man shouted at her, and immediately stepped out of the ward,got two other people, marched into the room and got them to hold on to the man while she prepared a syringe. “Hold him tight!” she said while administering the injection. Meanwhile, two men standing behind the two way mirror overlooking the ward, were observing the proceedings.

Abir:“We don’t understand a single word he is saying.”
Peter:“Any clue what language he is speaking?”
Abir:“I think it’s Hebrew. We should be able to find a translator or...a linguistic expert if we need one.”
Peter:”Well then, what are we waiting for?”

****

A woman entered the ward room. She was formally dressed, wore thick glasses and had a big stack of files under her right arm which read “confidential”. She placed the files on the table near the door, pulled up a chair near the bed and sat down. The man, who had a long and thick beard, and long hair, looked at the woman and started shouting words in some random language. The woman, flinched slightly and was slightly startled, steadied herself and kept adjusting her glasses with her index finger. She uttered a few words, hesitantly. The man became wide eyed and said a few things in an almost conversational tone. The woman smiled and continued the conversation.

****
Peter was walking, fast, with purpose. It was raining heavily outside with the occasional lightning lighting up the corridor Peter was walking along. The loud thunders did not seem to bother him as he seemed to be deep in thought. He reached the ever flickering tube light at the end of the corridor and opened the door to the right of him.
Peter:”He is calm now right? Are we able to get through to him?”
Abir was observing the ward room from the two-way mirror. He was almost transfixed on the behavior and the emotions of the man on the other side of the glass.
Abir:”Yes, barely. He asks for food and water from time to time.”
Peter noticed that Abir was keenly observing the man.
Peter:”Is there any way we can determine his age accurately?”
Abir: ”We had a thorough medical examination of him. We are just waiting for the results”
Peter:”But the marks, on his feet and hands. They are..I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw it.”
Abir:”There have been reports of this form of punishment in various countries. We can’t be too sure of anything right now.”

****

Peter was sitting in his office room, typing out an email, almost with haste. The view from his office was overlooking the garden in front of the building and would allow ample amount of sunlight in on a normal day. It was almost night and the screen of his laptop was almost the only thing illuminating his room. His desk was cluttered with files and reports. “Rescue dig of the year” read one of the frames which hung on the walls of his office. A photo frame of his family was also on his desk, but the support holding the frame had broken and it was just laying in there in the pile of almost infinite words. Abir slowly opened the door to check if anyone was there, noticing Peter, he walked in, and looked like he was out of breath.
Abir: “Apparently he’s from Galilee.”
Peter: “You mean Nazareth, Galilee?”
Abir: “Sir, he could be anyone.”
Peter: “What were the results of the carbon dating?”
Abir: “I want you to understand this doesn’t mean anything for now”
Peter: “Tell me the goddamn result now”
Abir: “The carbon dating of some of the organic material we found on him, and around him were...nearly two thousand years old.”
Peter: ”Do we know his name?”
Abir: ”Yes sir. Elena asked him the other day”
Peter:”Well, do I have to ask you to spit it out?”
Abir:”Yehoshua, he said”
Peter was shell shocked when he heard those words. He wanted to hear those words, but never in his wildest dreams did he think it would come true. Peter’s hands were trembling. He was almost rendered catatonic by the news.
Abir: “Sir? Sir?”

****

It was a small canteen. It only had canned food and cold sandwiches stacked inside an old rusty vending machine. Abir was sitting on one of the two tables in the canteen area. He took out his cold salami sandwich and peeled the plastic covering from it. He took a measured bite out of his afternoon meal. A woman, wearing a lab coat, entered the canteen. She was the one of the attendants in the ward room. She walked up to where Abir was, and took a seat opposite to him.
Sarah: “I hear the chief almost had a stroke listening to the news.”
Abir: “Yeah, I was there. He literally didn’t move for a minute.”
Sarah: “What do you make of all this? All of this seems...almost unreal. Almost surreal in fact.”
Abir: “We still don’t know much about him yet. He is scared though. Whenever he wakes up, he shouts random words. Or at least acting like he is scared.”
Sarah: ”What do you think he’s shouting?”
Abir:”Well, according to the translator. he is saying ‘Don’t kill me again’”
Sarah:”Oh my god!”
Abir:”Context. We still don’t know in what context he is saying that.”
Sarah: ”But..a chill ran through my spine when I heard that”
Abir:”Same here”
He had a concerned look on his face.
Abir:”You know what this means if the news gets out? I can’t even begin imagining the repercussions”
Sarah: ”But nothing is proven yet.”
Abir: ”People don’t need proof. For centuries people went on without proof. I am afraid of something else. What if he isn’t all that people make him out to be? What if he’s just a normal human being who’s alive because of some freak of nature?”
Sarah:”You mean what if...he doesn’t turn water into wine? or cure people? or perform some other miracle?”
Abir: ”Exactly”

****
Peter, Abir, Sarah and Elena, the translator, sitting in a meeting room, with no windows, were looking at each other, with anxiousness. Peter, quietly observing everyone in the room, decided to break the silence.

Peter: “Please tell me there’s been progress.”
Elena(Translator): “Yes, of course. I have kind of developed...a rapport with him”
Abir:”That’s good. So, what has he told you?”
Elena:”He was scared of course seeing all this new technology. He thought he was in the afterlife. He was shouting ‘God where are you?’ or ‘I want to meet you now’...something similar the first few days. It took me a while to make him understand that he was alive.”
Sarah:”His accent. Does it tell you anything?”
Elena:”It’s unlike anything I’ve heard. I sometimes don’t understand what he’s saying. From the stories he has been telling me, I have a feeling he wasn’t buried all that long ago. One story involved him visiting the Americas and coming back by ship. He even knows some bits and pieces of English!”
A collective gasp could be heard around the room.
Peter: “Does that mean, he’s been alive for almost two millenniums?”
Abir: “That doesn’t explain the two thousand year old material found on him, or more specifically, the cloth he was wearing whilst he was in his...grave. If he was buried recently, that should not have been the case. Although most of the material found were supposedly around two hundred years old or dates to an earlier time than that. Something doesn’t add up here”
Peter: “Abir, mistakes happen from time to time. Re check everything we have”
Abir: “Sure, Peter. But I have a feeling we missed out on something in Israel. Anyway, Elena, has he told you anything about his life? His childhood, anything?”
Elena: “He said he was a carpenter. He doesn’t remember his childhood much...or anything else for that matter. He said he was kind of a rebel during his days.”
Peter:”That’s putting it mildly, if he is who we think he is”
Abir: ”Let’s reserve judgement about that for now.”
Elena:”He doesn’t remember how he was buried or anything in between. He remembers seeing Abir’s face when he was...dug out.”
Sarah: ”It’s funny. I don’t think he knows there’s a whole religion based on him.”
Abir was clearly irked by all this talk.
Abir: ”We still don’t know it’s him. We are also waiting for the DNA test results assuming the Veil of Veronica which was found is a valid piece of evidence.”
Peter:”Let’s wait and see. This could be the most important discovery mankind has ever seen!”
One could notice the spark in Peter’s eyes while he uttered those words.

****

“There is a god!” read the headlines of one of the newspapers. Abir marched into Peter’s office and slid the newspaper towards Peter. One could see the anger in Abir’s eyes.
Abir: “Why would you do this Peter? We have not deliberated enough on the evidence we have. Not to mention the repercussions!”
Peter: “All the evidence points towards the fact that he is who we think he is. Can you not see what we gain from letting the world know what we have found?”
Abir: “All I see is an opportunistic man pouncing on his chance at fame. You and I know both know that we needed to approach this situation with a little more caution”
Peter: “You need more faith Abir. Just because this goes against your religion doesn’t mean it can’t be true.”
Abir couldn’t believe the words he was hearing. His anger had turned into rage. But he calmed himself down. Abir, shaking his head in disbelief, realized something.
Abir: “You had made up your mind about this the moment I told you his name, didn’t you?”
Peter: “Listen, crib all you want, I do not answer to you.”
Abir: “You realize the world is not ready for the proclamation you are making?”
Peter: “No one is.”
Images of the people across the world praying to the picture of the man released to the media by Peter was strewn across almost every newspaper which was scattered on Peter’s desk. Abir looked at the images in disbelief and realized he was too late. With almost no thought, he looked at Peter and said, “Fine, I quit.”

****

“We are living in the most important time in the history of mankind!” proclaimed one of the newspapers the next day.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Damn you quantum entanglement!

If you’ve played the Mass Effect video game series, you will know that the way almost everyone communicates across the galaxy in the game’s “universe”  is through quantum entanglement. Einstein called it “spooky action at a distance”. When I first read about it, my imagination went wild. I imagined a world where all communication was instantaneous (read: faster than light). You could be on the other end of the galaxy and yet the communication could have been instantaneous.

Turns out all of that was a pipe dream. Physicists would have snickered and called me “simpleton” or something if they’d heard my ideas. Well, first of all, I’ll tell you what quantum entanglement is. Consider a pair of particles. All particles have a property called spin. Consider that both particles have a total spin of zero. Now, we can separate the two entangled particles by arbitrary distances and measure their spin. If one of the particles has a spin “up” on one some axis, then the other particle will have a spin “down” on the same axis(conservation of angular momentum) . Yeah, spooky indeed. All this is not some theory either. It has been proved experimentally by keeping particles apart for kilometers. So, the first idea that popped into my head was what if I could control the spin of one of the entangled particles, then we can easily send data across in the form of spins. I felt like a genius. Then I read up some more. All my dreams were shattered. So, basically, when you try to alter the “state” of a particle, you’re introducing a new system and therefore breaking the entanglement, which means it is impossible to communicate using quantum entanglement. The youtube channel Veritasium explain this phenomenon beautifully. Watch it here : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZuvK-od647c

But before terming anything impossible, I’m always hopeful whenever I read
Arthur C. Clarke's (British science fiction writer) Three Laws. They are:

  1. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
  2. The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
  3. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.


Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Free Will

I sometimes wonder about free will. Is there ever complete free will? We humans like to think that we have free will. The fact that I took the decision to write this article should be a tick mark in favor of free will, right? We wake up everyday and go about our routine because we, for all probable reasons, choose to do it by ourselves. 

Then again, what if everything we choose to do is because of a multitude of factors and turns out whatever we do can be determined? Let’s consider the following thought for a moment: According to Heisenberg’s Uncertainty principle, we cannot determine the position and momentum of a particle simultaneously with high precision. But for a moment imagine we know the position and state of every particle and atom (practically impossible) and for a moment assume the movement of particles(electrons,protons etc.) within an atom are deterministic(frankly, I don’t know the science) and also assume we know the state of every other particle and pseudo-particle mankind knows about. So, we feed all this information on to a computer and simulate the movement of each and every particle and its interactions. You will have to know that computing the state of the universe would require computing power of such magnitude that I can’t even comprehend. But imagine we are able to simulate the universe on a computer, don’t you think we could, technically, see the future? It just might be that everything we do and every other interaction living or non-living objects have is deterministic. Every choice you make in your day is causally determined by the interaction between atoms in your brain which in turn might have been affected by the outside world. 

On the flip side, if it turns out that on the quantum level everything IS random, free will might be a possibility. Even then, you might want to read up on this article:
http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com/the-science-of-free-will/

According to the above article:
“In a 2008 study, volunteers were asked to push either of two buttons, and their brain activity could predict which button they would push up to ten seconds prior to actually pushing it.”
Well, the study isn’t solid enough but even then, you have to understand causal determinism of a persons’ actions is something which is being looked at closely by the scientific world. 

What does it mean to us if there is no free will? Will it mean that whatever we do is simply a output of a “function” and we don’t really control what we are doing or what we are going to do? So, every choice we took up until this point of time was just an illusion and we would have made the exact same choice anyway?

Well, I believe everyone will have these questions running on their minds some time or the other. Maybe the “action” we take to make a decision(and the thought process behind it) is so abstracted from fundamental quantum physics and its determinism such that free will is almost an outcome or a by product(or can be considered as such) of the processes that run the universe. 

If you found the topic of free will interesting, you might want to read up on this too:
http://bigthink.com/in-their-own-words/free-will-is-a-cognitive-illusion

Happy pondering!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Our Pale Blue Dot.

I find astronomy astonishing. I never had the aptitude or fortitude to learn the intricate physics which describe the universe, yet looking at the night sky I am always filled with amazement at the magnitude of what I am seeing and of what lies beyond. Thinking about the many mysteries and the vastness of the universe always has a therapeutic effect on me. It calms me down and gives me perspective on the “human-scale” problems I am facing. You see, every problem dwarfs in comparison to the bigger picture. This beautiful speech (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p86BPM1GV8M)  by Carl Sagan about the pale blue dot i.e. our Earth always challenges my notion of reality and has brought in more emotion from me than any other event.



So, when we fight in the name of ideologies, religion and politics, I don’t feel anger or sadness. I feel disappointment. Disappointment of the fact that we humans fail to see perspective at times of quarrels and fights (that includes me too sometimes). Have you seen the show “Cosmos” hosted by Niel DeGrasse Tyson? If not, now is the time. The show not only elaborates on the intricate mechanisms of how our world works, it also admits what it doesn’t know (and you also get to see Niel’s awesome oratory skills). As humans, we are afraid of things we don’t know, we are afraid of things we can’t explain. Our forefathers explained it with supernatural forces, now we explain it with science.

Until science came about explaining things about our universe, we always thought there was something or someone controlling everything around us. As our scientific thinking moved forward, things which were credited to a “God” were now explained by scientific laws. And the gap is closing in. More and more things which couldn’t be explained before now have simple scientific explanations. Slowly we are beginning to realize we are just part of nature and nothing else, our developed consciousness is just a byproduct of evolution and not a ‘gift’ from God. This particular reasoning, if it is true, has a lot of repercussions. Nothing that we do will have a moral basis. Ideas such as karma, sins, heaven and hell and everything else which is in the same ballpark has no basis. So, if you’ve started panicking about society and the chaos that might ensue if there’s no “system” controlling our behavior, you might want to read this book called the “Selfish Gene” by Richard dawkins. Here’s an excerpt from wikipedia on what it’s about - 
“The Selfish Gene is a book on evolution by Richard Dawkins, published in 1976. It builds upon the principal theory of George C. Williams's first book Adaptation and Natural Selection. Dawkins used the term "selfish gene" as a way of expressing the gene-centred view of evolution as opposed to the views focused on the organism and the group, popularising ideas developed during the 1960s by W. D. Hamilton and others. From the gene-centred view follows that the more two individuals are genetically related, the more sense (at the level of the genes) it makes for them to behave selflessly with each other. Therefore the concept is especially good at explaining many forms of altruism”

If you’ve not grasped it by now, my belief in a supreme being has withered away to a point that I don’t even think about a supreme being. I know I cannot disprove the presence of one, but the burden of proof does not lie with me. I would like to quote another argument from wikipedia. It’s called the celestial teapot argument - 
“Russell's teapot, sometimes called the celestial teapot or cosmic teapot, is an analogy first coined by the philosopher Bertrand Russell (1872–1970) to illustrate that the philosophic burden of proof lies upon a person making scientifically unfalsifiable claims rather than shifting the burden of proof to others, specifically in the case of religion. Russell wrote that if he claims that a teapot orbits the Sun somewhere in space between the Earth and Mars, it is nonsensical for him to expect others to believe him on the grounds that they cannot prove him wrong. Russell's teapot is still referred to in discussions concerning the existence of God.”.
The problem with my current world view is that I cannot expect everyone to follow it nor understand it completely. I understand the problem too. If you believe praying works for you and gives you peace of mind, I cannot do anything to stop you. That does not mean I will believe you without evidence.

So, in this pale blue dot of ours we live in, so many differences and so much energy is wasted on issues which might as well be non-issues. We waste so much time just to maintain our identity that we forget the real problems. Forget about what religion or caste you are part of. Forget about your nationality. All that matters is what you can do and what you are willing to do.


Friday, November 14, 2014

The Spectrum of stupidity

Everyone is stupid. Wait a minute there. I know you might have felt offended by that, but hear me out. I’m not saying everyone is dead-in-the-head stupid. There are varying degrees of stupidity around. On this spectrum of stupidity, we all fall somewhere in between.

So, I have a few ideas about the kind of stupidity we might encounter in our life. On the lower end of the spectrum is the utterly stupid and the nonsensical. People who will never listen to reason and do what they please and in the process annoy everyone. They simply cannot be reasoned with. And in some cases, cause hurt. I would include everyone from terrorist nut jobs to the almost mentally ill in the lowest end of this “stupidity spectrum”. I add the “ almost” to the mentally ill because mentally ill people have a genuine problem. Anyway, the probability of you meeting this kind of stupidity is quite low, but their visibility is quite high and can be the most annoying people in the world. You wouldn't want to be near them.

Next come the people below the middle line of the spectrum. Now, yes, they’re stupid. But their stupidity now has a reason. They would give you a reason and justification for their stupid actions and thoughts. The problem is, the reasons and justifications make nigh a sense. These are the kind of people who go “The earth is flat”, “ Evolution is false because the bible says so” and “black men are better off as slaves because that’s what they did when we found them”. Their reasoning is off and you can do almost nothing to change that. These are “gone case suitcase” types and there are possibilities that you may know one or two people like them personally.

Next come the people who are somewhere near the middle and upwards. These kind of people believe in superstitions, don’t trust scientific facts and say stuff like “I heard from this guy that aliens visited earth”, “ the moon landing was a hoax” without much to back it up. Admittedly these people are somewhere near the lower middle of the spectrum. But these are the most frustrating kind of people because there are chances you see them almost everyday. They’re so frustratingly close to thinking for themselves and come to logical conclusions. But it’s like they almost reject logic when they say they embrace logic. Any attempt to bring them to the logical side is greeted with “you’re wrong” and “f**k off”. I find them hysterical because most of the time they’re harmless and funny. They’re harmless until the point they don’t act upon their ill-fated reasoning.

Now comes the part of the spectrum where a lot of us fall in. The people in this higher end of the stupidity spectrum do listen to logic and reason and usually come to their own conclusions about it(however misguided it may be). These people usually lead normal lives and you maybe able to have decent conversations with them. But you might find that they have a “stupid” part of them where they are utterly misguided. But since they have a tendency to listen to others and form logical opinions, there are chances of this “stupid portion” of the person to be tamed and controlled somewhat. Unless, “oh my god, a black cat just crossed my path!”

Ah. Now come the people in the crème de la crème of reasoning. They are higher up in the spectrum for a reason and for all we know, they might call us mortals stupid from time to time. Just because they’re on the higher end of the spectrum doesn't mean they’re not stupid at all. They might have their own idiosyncrasies and faults, but they usually find out about it themselves and try fix it on their own. They may have a “holier than thou” attitude which may be pissing off.

So, in which end of the spectrum do you think you’re in?

Note: Before you start accusing me, this article has no scientific basis (if I was not being obvious enough).