Monday, September 24, 2012

The ultimate question of life, the uni...

Somewhere around 10th grade we all enter this big examination hall. And get handed this blank sheet of paper with a single line printed on the top:
Do as directed: Discover yourself. Write an essay on it.
..and we spent the rest of our life trying to hit the moving target that makes "us" us - ever closing in but never quite there. Supplements get acquired, pages get filled up...

Some finish up fast, pack up and leave. Some fill-up the pages with multi-colored inks, highlighting the rungs that mattered most. Some staple onto the pages, souvenirs from their lives - coasters, used bandages, train tickets, the razor blade with which they cut themselves. Yet others keep filling up pages after pages and yet feel as if they haven't written anything of substance. Some end their essay with a one line summary like "To my friends: my work is done. Why wait?"

As the exam progresses, all kinds of patterns emerge. The ugliness of the rat race (who will come up with the  "best" story) - and the realization of the few not wanting to be in it. The quorum sensing of the like minded wreaking havoc on everyone who are trying to discover a "different himself/herself" that what these bullies approve of. Others peek into the sheets of their neighbors and start copying.

There are no rules to the examination. You are allowed to peek, relocate your desk, use whatever media to record your essay, heck you can even hand in a blank paper.

The intensity of this task of discovering yourself waxes and wanes through the examination. Its easy to lose sight of the task at hand when you are flanked by so many people around you. You get distracted, influenced, fall in love, fall out of love with them as you progress. Sometimes you feel like turning back a few pages and erasing some part of what you have already written so nobody can see it. Actually not nobody. But a particular somebody. You realize that even if you try to erase those parts, the written impressions will always remain. And there be a big void left between the pages there. Leaving you with regret as to why you even "tried" doing that. You flip back to the current page and document your vain effort in doing so, thus discovering a bit more of yourself in those moments.

On other days you feel like flipping back the pages and re-reading the stuff you have already written. As you do that, a few patterns emerge. Soon you develop a synesthesia - a filter for recognizing a particular set of events which have appeared again and again through out your writing. The pages appear like those previously classified and now released government documents with black patches of censoring - the uncensored part being the one you want to focus on. You string these paras together and realize that they all describe moments of heightened "self discovery". Involuntarily, you turn around to and simultaneously get poked by a pencil (haye current marti hai!) belonging to a particular s/he. A look of simultaneous similar realization is exchanged and a smile later, you both get back to work.

No matter how the remaining pages turn out, there was and will always be someone who will "read you like you".

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Petri dish for new songs to grow on

Some songs need growing on you before you can like them and snuggle up to them.
Imagine a new bud growing out of your brain, expanding it, in a new direction.
The new music is like a new Sun with a new power spectrum shifted in frequency away from all the other Suns you have been exposed to already.
You have to grow a new bud, and let the DNA of the cells in this new bud mutate, so that it can invent and synthesize a new chlorophyll like molecule to absorb the nourishment that this new Sun has to offer. 

Here is a song that required some getting used to, before I got addicted to it.

And here is another song that simultaneously simulated the power spectrums of many different Suns I had already known and then some; I got drawn to it immediately:

Sunday, September 16, 2012

A freak like me, just needs infinity!

A comment I wrote up for Pragya's which ended up being a blog post on its own!:

Before I say anything - and I have a damn! lot to say on the topic at hand - a quick jump to your poem "Perfection" and back, it had been quite sometime since I last read it :) First up are our dearies Einstein and Newton. Newton (standing on earth) said that the apple falls in a straight line towards the earth. Einstein imagined himself to rise up above "outside" the earth and saw that the apply was not actually moving in a straight line, it was moving along a curved line but sinde space-time itself was curved by the earth's gravity, so it appears straight. Newton stepped back and saw "the apple" fall to the ground. Einstein stepped back even further and saw the apple and the earth together in the frame. Similarly Maxwell unified electricity with magnetism - he up with those 4 equations with "ulta dela" in them! Since Maxwell and Einstein, we are all still waiting for another human with imagination powerful enough to step out even further back and see something even more general

This reminds one of the classic novella "Flatland" by Edwin Abbott Abbott (yup two Abbotts in his name). He speaks of a being from a 2 Dimensional space being brought into the 3D world whose existance he could not have comprehended when he was in his 2D world. The 3D being who brings the 2D being into his world considers it blasphemous when the 2D being questions the existence of a 4 Dimensional world! Definitely, put it this book on your reading list. Sheldon refers to it multiple times in Big Bang Theory. Thats how I came to know about it!. If you have a tablet, get the book from here, its in public domain now: Its amazing how the author presents the basics of geometry thru a nice story which also points out the scummy part of the victorian society during the time he lived.

There is this opposing view that as scientists we should observe objectively without any bias (for eg. Confirmation bias) and stop expecting to find a simplified generalized explanation of everything under the sun. For all we know, our universe instead of being an elaborate symphony all completely generated from a simple singular law might actually be like an onion with layers and layers of physical laws which our species will forever try to penetrate one by one. That's what Richard Feynman said in his 1981 interview WHICH YOU DEFINITELY GOTTA SEE: He compares science as a game of chess being played by the Gods and us humans observing the game trying to figure out the rules. a lot of moves later, just when we though that we have got the hang of it, one of the Gods makes a "Castling" move and lo and behold! we have to revise the rules list! He also talks of artists accusing scientists of killing the aesthetic beauty of nature by trying to probe it when in fact scientists can observe the beauty at multiple levels - superficial beauty, beauty at cellular level and molecular level, beauty at social level etc.. ! I sort of envy you - coz you can appreciate this (being a scientist and artist both?) even more than others. As you apply a stroke of paint to a piece of paper can you not see in a single unified revelating vision the water having paint particle dissolved in it, the surface tension that makes the water stick to the brush strands, the hydrogen bonding between dye molecules and water, the fibers of the dead plant that make up your paper that lends to it its unique texture as a medium amongst many different possible media that you could have used to render the imagine in your mind that day - an image which was conjured up in another moment which saw you walking under a bridge with building towering around it. In viewing a phenomenon thru the looking glasses of Chemistry, Philosophy, Art..etc. - you can jump back and forth a zillion times and always be awed at the beauty at every level! So now I am hoping that you will watch that Feynman interview and let it broaden your horizons even further - I am eagerly looking forward to what you think of it!

Woow, saying all that just put my own life of the past few months into prespective (going to brag now!): At work, I learnt to write code for operating system drivers - going a level deeper. On weekends, I ran my first half marathon - oh the squishy sqashy pumping sound of your heart as you outrun a couple of people. Scuba dived - its a whole different world underwater! Went on a road trip. Got almost killed by a mob of 50 villagers in an altercation over nothing - near death experience, learnt to appreciate that epinephrine is one awesome molecule there, aptly named the fight-or-flight hormone. Decorated cute cup-cakes for mom and dadima. Met some awesome new people and did even more awesome things with them. ...So I have concluded that there are so many layers to peel off and so many progressively bigger pictures to be seen - frames to move out into. All this is fuelled by our desire to grow: to be able to do tomorrow something you hadn't done or didn't know how to do today. Whoever catalyzes your growth is known as the nurturer. Your quest for a higher meaning also moves parallel to your quest for a more and more learned nurturer in your life - you begin your life with your parents nurturing you, at some point you outgrow their nurturing and then your teachers/professors take up that role, specially those professors who belong to the field you have choosen to make your career in. At work you sub consciously look for people elder to you, more expert to you as you try to chalk out your path through the wilderness of life - these are the people who have tread a part of the path you are walking on or intend to walk on. Your own path becomes a sort of mosaic of segments from paths taken by these nurturers and segments that are going to be unique to you. And as you move through this path, you become able to see deeper and clearer at various aspects of life. The truth - your own truth will eventually emerge.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Biology Questions

In this blog post, I am going to collect links which shed light on various biology questions that have crossed my mind.

  1. Does a blood transfusion change your DNA?
    Answer: No, because "red" blood cells don't have DNA
  2. I think cells in our body are Eukaryotes (cells which contain complex structures enclosed within membranes) but since red blood cell don't contain DNA, could they be Prokaryotes (cells which lack a cell nucleus (karyon), or any other membrane-bound organelles.) ?
    Answer: Every single cell inside our body is eukaryotic. Red blood cells lose their nucleus during maturation.