Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Book Review: Parallel worlds

'Parallel worlds : a journey through creation, higher dimensions, and the future of the cosmos' by Michio Kaku begins with a picture of our universe, and the main themes related to it. Like the two types of cosmologies in religion, the one based on a single moment when God created the universe, and the
other one based on the idea that the universe always was and always will be. Tracing the myths of Buddhism, Hinduism, and other mythologies, the author observes that these mythologies stand in marked contradiction to each other, needing the help of modern science for a possible resolution.
The book begins with a discussion about the theories in vogue. That the universe is made of atoms, each of those is made of tiny strings, which in turn, vibrates at different frequencies and resonances. If we were to pluck this vibrating string, it would change mode and become another subatomic particle, such as a quark. Pluck it again, and it turns into a neutrino. In this way, we can explain the blizzard of subatomic particles as nothing but different musical notes of the string. We can now replace the hundreds of subatomic particles seen in the laboratory with a single object, the string.
Next chapter is about the universe and its riddles. A discussion about Einstein and his brilliance, the birth of a new science, cosmology, and an insight into the theories about the future of the universe, then follow. Future scenarios are rather frightening. "At some point trillions upon trillions of years from now, the stars will cease to shine, their nuclear fires extinguished as they exhaust their fuels, forever darkening the night sky."
The discussion then goes on to the big bang, Hubble and his constant. A good description of rather esoteric topics like phases of the universe, like inflation and phases of the universe takes us to the next part of this book, multiverse.
Discussion about general relativity, black holes, time travel and its converse, chronology protection, negative energy, and a flurry of paradoxes, then follow. (I specially liked here, the grandfather paradox. "You alter the past in a way that makes the present impossible. For example, by going back into the distant past to meet the dinosaurs, you accidentally step on a small, furry mammal that is the original ancestor of humanity. By destroying your ancestor, you cannot logically exist.") More challenging ideas, then follow, like electrons existing simultaneously at many places and making the impnoderables of the world possible, parallel universes, quantum teleportation, and what not.
The book then introduce more such topics, like string theory, m-theory, ten and eleven dimensions, hyperspace, and symmetry. The efforts we are taking to investigate into these abstruse topics are narrated in the final chapters.
The third part of this book, escape into hyperspace, discusses even more complex topics like atom smashers, warp energy and the future possibilities of physics.

This is much more than a science book. Enchanting descriptions, like the one about the secret escape of Bohr to prevent his work on quantum theory from falling into the hands of Nazis, can be seen through out the book. Or the philosophical 'excuse' to the limitations of science, that "we ourselves are part of the mystery we are trying to solve". The book reminds us in the end, "Perhaps the purpose and meaning of the current generation are to make sure that the transition to a type I civilization is a smooth one."

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Book Review: The art of logical thinking

'The art of logical thinking, or the art of reasoning' by William Walker Atkinson is about the theoretical and practical aspects of reflective functions of our brain.
The word reason itself is far from being precise in its meaning. In common and popular discourse it denotes that power by which we distinguish truth from falsehood, and right from wrong, and by which we are enabled to combine means for the attainment of particular ends.' The processes of reasoning may be said to comprise four general stages or steps, as follows:
L Abstraction, setting aside from an object, person or thing, a quality or attribute, and making of it a distinct object of thought II. Generalization by which is meant the process of forming Concepts or General Idea. III. Judgment, by which is meant the process of comparing two objects to find similarity or difference. IV. Reasoning, to produce further results of comparison.
Next chapter deals with concept, a mental representation of anything. Here explained is the process of forming concepts, how our concepts are determined not only by our simple perceptions, but also materially by our perceptions. Which is followed by a discussion on judgment, or the process of perceiving the agreement or disagreement of two conceptions. Propositions and how they take part in various types of reasoning is then covered. How all these can lead to formation of theories and syllogisms forms the heart of next chapters. Finally, a treatise on the fallacies one can expect in this branch of knowledge, brings the book to a close.
I liked this book. The last sentence, that “all correct reasoning consists in substituting like things for like things^ and inferring that what is true of one will be true of all which are similar to it in the points of resemblance concerned in the matter”, and “all incorrect reasoning consists in putting one thing for another where there is not the requisite likeness” quite beautifully sums up the duty of all who indulge in logical thinking. That it is as simple as this. Even more brilliant is the assertion that “the rules of deductive and inductive logic to enable us to judge as far as possible when we are thus rightly or wrongly reasoning from some things to others”.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Need for Approval, the Root of all Evil?

Human life can be seen as a constant struggle for approval. Even where we disapprove, it is to earn someone's approval. Why? What is its origin? What is the gain? 
Children are taught from a young age to seek approval from their parents or other elders for the things they say or do. Since the need for approval, love and acceptance from our parents is strong, we become conditioned over time. And we learn to seek the approval of someone, unless there are reasons to be otherwise. Whenever we don’t receive approval, whether of our parents, or from someone who is held in awe, we feel a substantial loss. We assume a loss of trust. And there is a strong desire to win it back, which triggers a host of behavioral quirks.

The need for validation fits into this category. Whether we choose to acknowledge it or not, the desire for validation is one of the strongest motivating forces known to man.
Whose validation do we want?

Well, it all depends on whose opinion we value most. A child wants to feel the approval of their parents, while a teenager generally seeks the validation of their peers. Wives want the approval of their husbands, and vice versa. But it doesn’t stop there!

Employees want to hear the phrase “well done” from their employer, just as authors want to see their readers pleased. The fact is, we all have a longing for validation, and, the feeling of being approved, helps fill that desire.
Why does it matter so much?

Let us see why approval is so important? I think it is pretty basic. Approval feeds our strongest desire. If the strongest of all emotional needs is directly linked to our feelings of approval or disapproval, what is that need?

I agree, in many cases, it is easy to compare the need for approval and the need for love, as in both the cases, the corrective mechanism acts in a similar manner. The need for love is well understood as one of the primary needs of all forms of life. Especially for humans, the first thing people usually think of for effecting any changes, is the need for love. I think, as powerful as love is, in reality it can be seen to be the same as validation, a feeling that one can expect support and blessings for whatever one is planning to do. In which case, love is just the ultimate expression of approval. So love feeds the same core emotional need as approval does. And in a similar way one can say, any behaviour which is contrary to one's identity and purpose, or what conflicts with the core beliefs, is generally done to gain the approval of someone else. In short we can say, approval gives us the sense of additional validation necessary for a thinking being.

Why do we have this strong desire for approval, in the first place?

I think the idea of approval originated like this. In the early days of mankind, when, a lingering state of dissatisfaction, as explained in my book 'The Unsure Male', would have been very common in animal kingdom. The 'post mating agony', the cause for this, would have more acute, and rather enigmatic in the case of humans, as, unlike all other forms of life, the female does not take a violent avenue to release her dissatisfaction. Also, if such situation occur, the male does not accept it as part of life, as other beings do. Rather than accepting it as innate inadequacy, the male would have been on the lookout for a good excuse. And humans being an altruistic animal, such instances of displeasure would have been appearing in a wide variety of expressions, the true cause being lost to the species in a few generations.  As a result, over many generations, humans would have become a race with a lingering feeling of dissatisfaction with all the activities related to mating. The actual reason for this having lost in the time that passed, this dissatisfaction would have been reappearing in the form of a great number of obscure, anti-female traditions, most of which end up putting restrictions to the activities of mating.
Over many generations, humans, especially the male, would have stopped taking part in any activity whatsoever, unless prodded. Thus would have necessitated, the need for approval at every new step. The philosophic discourses that make it great to be doing things with no worry about the result, as one can see, fits here most appropriately as an umbrella of approval for whatever one wishes to do.

Book Review: Socrates

Book Review: Socrates by Voltaire. This short book describes the last days of Socrates. How, as Socrates say, drinking of poison does not amount to a big thing.
To me, this book made one thing clear. The way Xanthippe, the wife, shows disagreement and reproachful behavior at Socrates's actions, particularly of deeds of benevolence to his friend's daughter, makes this thing quite plain. Domineering is not new for conjugal life, Socrates can vouch for it.
This is followed by a description of his trial and judgement. "Socrates, you are accused of being a bad citizen; of corrupting the youth; of denying the plurality of the gods; of being a heretic, deist, atheist. Answer." How his replies are seen as blashphemy, and how he meets with his end. That is, after telling "Reflecting that pleasure comes from pain. It's in this manner that Eternal Happiness will be born from the miseries of life", he drinks the poison.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Book Review: The Fourth Industrial Revolution

Book Review: The Fourth Industrial Revolution:  Proceedings of a Workshop (NAP)

If the first Industrial Revolution (1784) started production of steam, water, and other mechanical things, the second (1870) ushered in division of labor, mass production, and electricity, and the third (1969) gave us electronics, IT, automation, etc., the fourth could be thought of as Cyber-physical- - systems(?). That, and its implications for manufacturing, as well as its likely social and economic effects, are dealt with in this paper. It explores, the cross-sector collaboration between government, universities, and industry needed to accommodate emerging developments in the key technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, namely artificial intelligence, virtual and augmented reality, and the Internet of Things.
The Forum’s perspective on the present and future technological and societal changes is captured in the four principles that characterize the Fourth Industrial Revolution. 
One,  Think in terms of systems, not technologies. The systemic impact of various technologies will matter, sometimes for good, but sometimes also in negative ways. Hence the Fourth Industrial Revolution will have civilization-changing impact—on species, on the planet, on geopolitics, and on the global economy. 
Two,  Empowering, not determining. The Fourth Industrial Revolution shall honor existing social principles, and humans shall be shaping them and decide on how they are applied.
Three, The Future will be by design, and not by default. That calls for active governance, an amalgamation of individuals, governments, civil society, companies and, undemocratic, random, and potentially malicious forces to shape the future of technological systems and their impact on people. 
Four, Values as a feature, not a bug. The emphasis shall fall on preserving the common good, delivering multi generational environmental stewardship, and holding the primacy of human dignity, where the organizational culture changes to accommodate these.
This book, though is not suggesting any concrete plans for the future of technology, is giving sufficient signs that all that we see today shall become obsolete sooner than we think. I am sure this is a warning to all societies those are investing heavily in the present day technologies. More needs to be done for encouraging experimentation and development of new ideas for the future.

Friday, September 8, 2017

What is Beyond Einstein program?

Beyond Einstein program by NASA is a bold attack on the deepest mysteries of nature, since Einstein sought, but never achieved, an understanding of how nature works at its
deepest level.  With Beyond Einstein, we seek that next level of understanding, which will employ a series of missions linked by powerful new technologies and complementary approaches to shared science goals. 

NASA’s program Structure and Evolution of the Universe (SEU) has
identified and prioritized the science objectives in space astrophysics:
1. Find out what powered the Big Bang;
2. Observe how black holes manipulate space, time, and matter;
3. Identify the mysterious dark energy pulling the Universe apart;
4. Explore the cycles of matter and energy in the evolving Universe; and
5. Understand the development of structure in the Universe.
The prioritized Roadmap is in good accord with the recommendations of the National Academy of Sciences, including the Astronomy and Astrophysics in the New Millennium and Connecting Quarks with the Cosmos reports.  Guided by the concerted efforts of the space astrophysics community, this Roadmap puts forward a single integrated program of five missions, technology, research, and education to address the highest priority objectives.  
This is the Beyond Einstein program.
And over the next decade, the Beyond Einstein missions will answer fundamental questions about the origin of the Universe and the nature of space and time.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

A Recipe for Peace

Why are we agitated? What is wrong with our society? Nothing, but the inappropriate choice of our actions to various triggers. If so, what can we do to correct it? Easy. Let every form of response flourish. The one most suitable will naturally survive.

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All my Books and all my Hubs

Sometimes I wonder , how is that each one of my friends happen to be so memorable a character? One among them, who is also a little mor...