Russell's Teapot or the Celestial Teapot is an analogy intended to refute the idea that the burden of proof lies upon the skeptic to disprove the claims of religions. By using an intentionally absurd analogy, Russell's Teapot draws attention to the formal logic behind the burden of proof and how it works. The celestial teapot is similar to the more recent and perhaps equally paradoxical examples of the invisible pink unicorn, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and the dragon in astronomer Carl Sagan's garage, the latter of which can be found in his book "The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark". Here Carl Sagan used Russell's teapot in the chapter "The Dragon In My Garage" in which he described the discussion as follows:
"A fire-breathing dragon lives in my garage" Suppose (I'm following a group therapy approach by the psychologist Richard Franklin. I seriously make such an assertion to you. Surely you'd want to check it…
I posted a long comment on this Livemint article about the lack of a scientific spirit in India.
How does one even begin to comment about 'science' in India?
I wrote probably 1,000 words here in Disqus in half an hour or so and then 'lost it' as the power suddenly went off.
I will try to re-write it all but it might appear even more disjointed or incoherent than when I wrote it the first time. I will post the comment and then keep adding to it.
"Dare Mighty Things" is the logo the MSL Curiosity project uses. Indians, on the other hand, are probably more like 'should I dare mighty things?' or 'dare I? Mighty things??'
Nora Ephron, in her commencement address, urged the graduating females of Wellsley to 'break a few rules ... create a little trouble.' Indians are more inclined to 'leave no rule of *tradition* unfollowed' or 'break no rules that the *wise* old guys in the family have laid down.'
We are a jaded lot, we in our threatened world. We are good for irony and even cynicism. Some words and ideas we hardly use, so worn out have they become. But we may want to restore some words that have lost their potency.
We have a treasure-house of literature, going back to the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Romans. It is all there, this wealth of literature, to be discovered again and again by whoever is lucky enough to come upon it. A treasure. Suppose it did not exist. How impoverished, how empty we would be.
We own a legacy of languages, poems, histories, and it is not one that will ever be exhausted. It is there, always.
We have a bequest of stories, tales from the old storytellers, some of whose names we know, but some not. The storytellers go back and back, to a clearing in the forest where a great fire burns, and the old shamans dance and sing, for our heritage of stories began in fire, magic, the spirit world. And that is where it…
I think it's quite possible or likely. With reference to our own civilization, I think of the near future, say a hundred years from now. I think we'll master the technology of nuclear fusion. There's no greater panacea for all our energy needs than fusion. So, we'll be tempted to build that ultimate fusion reactor, the ultimate power source that'll power an entire continent.
These reactors will of course generate enormous amounts of power. The major challenge lies in how to tame this suddenly generated energy and use it in a controlled fashion.
The margin for error in these endeavors will be very small. Something might go wrong in how the lasers are calibrated or the hydrogen fuel is measured or assembled and a catastrophic fusion reaction might ensue generating enough energy to blow a continent-sized hole on one side of planet Earth.
Why is everyone in the world living beyond their means? I do not know.
Was it Mahatma Gandhi who said 'there is enough to meet everyone's needs but not enough to meet everyone's greeds'? Also, often many famous well-known quotes are 'attributed' to various persons but they have really never actually said them.
Also, many quotes are 'mis-understood' intentionally or otherwise. For example, people like to claim that Einstein believed in God because he sometimes referred to 'nature' metaphorically using the word 'God.' Of course, in his detailed writings and correspondence, Einstein made it abundantly clear he did NOT in fact believe in God but well ...
Anyway, here's the alarming graphic about the "ever rising" global debt of nations from The Economist:
Richard Stallman sure appears to be a curious character.
No wonder, Mr. Stallman was NO FAN of Steve Jobs. Here's what he wrote when Mr. Jobs died:
Steve Jobs, the pioneer of the computer as a jail made cool, designed to sever fools from their freedom, has died.
As Chicago Mayor Harold Washington said of the corrupt former Mayor Daley, "I'm not glad he's dead, but I'm glad he's gone." Nobody deserves to have to die—not Jobs, not Mr. Bill, not even people guilty of bigger evils than theirs. But we all deserve the end of Jobs' malign influence on people's computing.
Unfortunately, that influence continues despite his absence. We can only hope his successors, as they attempt to carry on his legacy, will be less effective.
Here's what you need to keep in mind if you intend to invite him as a speaker.
Well, mostly *facepalm* at all the "praise" MJ has heaped on Chamcha Mukherjee. After all, the Prez is merely enjoying the 'fruits' today of more than 40 years of 'faithful' service to The Family. Pranab-da would be the first to accept that.
If you say 'but he is nowhere as disreputable as other ministers of MMS such as oily minister Moily or Sanjay's sidekicks like Kamal Nath (oh, what a long list of 'infamy' this man can lay claim to)' well, that would be a low bar. I thought Mr. Mukheree was the 'prime' culprit responsible for this government's mis-handling of the economy by taking two steps forward and 2.5 steps back. Although on the 'positive' side, President PM is surely an 'improvement' over his globe-trotting predecessor. And, well, also this: who, if not Pranab?
As to MMS, I don't know how shameless a person has to be to continue to be …
Well, the economic philosophy of Ayn Rand as sought to be implemented by one of her chief acolytes, Mr. Greenspan, has already been shown to be a massive failure. I think.
But here's the more important 'Idea of Ayn Rand.' I think it's about applying some THOUGHT to one's place or role in society and having some idea about the purpose or meaning of life.
Looked in that sense, the idea that Indians (even the 'elites' coming out of those top B schools or engineering colleges) might be something of individualists or non-conformists has got to be the most hilarious idea.
I mean, Indians are the most conformist, conservative kind of people/society out there. Even when they go abroad (to places such as where you live), they take their silliness with them and become Baba Ramdev devotees or Double Sri Ravi Shankar devotees. Can you think of anything more ridiculous and a more egregious example of 'non'-thinking?
This question is being raised today and it was being raised 40 years back during the Apollo era. Dr. Neil Tyson answers that question beautifully in his various popular stage lectures and in a testimony to the U.S. Congress.
"How do you justfiy spending billions on research about sending missions to Mars when there are children starving here on Earth," asked a nun from Zambia.
Dr. Stuhlinger, then the Associate Director of Science at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center wrote back:
May 6, 1970
Dear Sister Mary Jucunda:
Your letter was one of many which are reaching me every day, but it has touched me more deeply than all the others because it came so much from the depths of a searching mind and a compassionate heart. I will try to answer your question as best as I possibly can.
First, however, I would like to express my great admiration for you, and for all your many brave sisters, because you are …
While I see no reason at all why Mr. Kejriwal should not get a chance to be the CM of Delhi if he wishes to, in India's Westminster-style democracy, AAP will have to win in enough MLA constituencies to form the next government.
The challenge lies in finding 30 or 35 honest and capable candidates. I can think of Mr. Kejriwal, Mr. Sisodia, Ms. Shazia Ilmi, Mr. Yogendra Yadav, and Mr. Prashant Bhusan. I am not sure if all of them are candidates. At any rate, who are the other 20 or 30 candidates? Are they as honest and purposeful as Mr. Kejriwal or just moneybags?
The other challenge for honest people to make an entry into politics is campaign financing. On the one hand, the legal limit is said to be laughably low and everyone is supposed to be spending up to 20 or 40 times the artificially low limit.
Even otherwise, I think a really honest person may find it tough to be able to 'splurge' 10 lakhs on an election. Do the candidates pay that out of their own pockets or does th…
I posted this comment on this Open magazine article about that Indian-origin winner of the Miss America contest.
Agree with Madhavan obviously ...
I see in the comments that the 'HIndu warriors' are out in force ...
But that is an easy thing for me to do. I want to pause and really think about this.
Of course, what matters is 'discrimination' and not whether you want to define it as 'racism' or 'caste-ism.'
So, let's talk 'racism' in America. It was 'allowed' till the '60s. Then the Civil Rights movement led to enactment of 'laws' during the Johnson administration which officially 'abolished' discrimination.
While the debate about Raghuram Rajan being portrayed as a 'sex symbol' might be worth having, the thing I noted was this unnecessary sense of euphoria in the avalanche of articles that came out when Mr. Rajan assumed the office of the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India.
It got me thinking. Is this euphoria limited to article writers who need fodder for their articles or is more widespread? Well, certainly the stock market types need any peg they can find to 'talk up' the markets. So it serves their purpose too if the markets 'rally' on the basis of the 'pep talk' given by the new RBI Guv.
But probably the larger population is not so easily driven to euphoria. Actually, if you see, there is this pattern in media reporting where they go into paroxysms of joy whenever someone new comes along.
Look at these articles that came out when Mr. Chidambaram 'returned' to the Finance Ministry last year.
Does there have to be a human at the apex or tip of an endeavor — a historic endeavor — for that project to register in the human imagination? Think of Apollo and it's most closely associated with Neil Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins of Apollo 11 fame. Then there are the many other well known names from that era of historic space exploration.
But surely Apollo was a project that required the efforts of a million talented men and women and not a dozen or two dozen astronauts.
The old explorers such as Columbus and Magellan were financed by kings and emperors of that time. They were sizable exploration efforts requiring money and many humans and yet they are associated with a few individuals.
Same with the climbing of Everest and the first humans to reach the poles.
Perhaps the Great Wall of China and the Pyramids are the only major achievements of humanity that are not associated with specific individuals.
Transcription of the 2005 Kenyon Commencement Address - May 21, 2005
(If anybody feels like perspiring [cough], I'd advise you to go ahead, because I'm sure going to. In fact I'm gonna [mumbles while pulling up his gown and taking out a handkerchief from his pocket].) Greetings ["parents"?] and congratulations to Kenyon's graduating class of 2005. There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says "Morning, boys. How's the water?" And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes "What the hell is water?"
This is a standard requirement of US commencement speeches, the deployment of didactic little parable-ish stories. The story ["thing"] turns out to be one of the better, less bullshitty conventions of the genre, but if you're worried that I plan to present myself here as the wise, olde…
You want a physicist to speak at your funeral. You want the physicist to talk to your grieving family about the conservation of energy, so they will understand that your energy has not died. You want the physicist to remind your sobbing mother about the first law of thermodynamics; that no energy gets created in the universe, and none is destroyed. You want your mother to know that all your energy, every vibration, every Btu of heat, every wave of every particle that was her beloved child remains with her in this world. You want the physicist to tell your weeping father that amid energies of the cosmos, you gave as good as you got.
And at one point you'd hope that the physicist would step down from the pulpit and walk to your brokenhearted spouse there in the pew and tell him that all the photons that ever bounced off your face, all the particles whose paths were interrupted by your smile, by the touch of your hair, hundreds of trillions of particles, have raced off like children…
So you think you've found your soulmate -> the guy who has the exact same crazy hobbies as you and wants to spend time doing the exact same goofy things as you do. You were always looking for a partner who was into reading classic literature and now you are sooo looking forward to spending the next months, years, and the lifetime itself together reading wonderful books to each other. But what if your interests doing quite coincide? You are sure you can reconcile your differences? So you're both into Hemingway and Faulkner and not into maudlin romances. But what if one of you suddenly develops a liking for 50 Shades? No gray areas? Well, you never know. You haven't spent 30 years talking about your interests. Indeed, your interests might change as you grow older and who knows, two people might grow old differently. They might be possessed of different demons.So you're both ornithologists. But what if one of you is interested in migratory birds while the other is more …
The interesting thing about technology is that it keeps advancing at a relentless pace. While this may be disorienting for some or at times, it is better than being stuck in millenia-old ideas or concepts or technologies.
High Performance Computing is the leading edge of computer science in many ways. The race to build the next fastest supercomputer continues non-stop.
Here's a story about the Oak Ridge Supercomputer Facility. Will we get exaflop supercomputers by 2018? An exaflop is 1,000 petaflops. One petaflop is 1,000 teraflops. One teraflop is 1,000 gigaflops. So, an exaflop refers to one billion billion floating point operations per second.
How are we sure that India won't end up in the same chaos that Syria is experiencing today?
As I read this excellent article about why the Syrian crisis is pretty much intractable, I was thinking about how India with its enormous diversity could well be a much larger version of Syria.
India too can be said to be an artificial creation of a European colonial power. India is of course an 'old' civilization with a long history but does that afford any obvious advantages?
Does India's long history or civilization or diversity unite or divide Indians?
How many of us look at ourselves as 'Indians'? Frankly, nobody does; if only because that would be essentially ridiculous in such a diverse nation. We have certain 'roots' that tend to trace to one state or one mother tongue.
While exceptions exist, mostly Indians live in self-contained communities within linguistic and state boundaries. With modernity and industrialization, migration is taking place and hopefully, …
I would not have written this but for the fact that I put in a comment on M. J. Akbar's article today.
I came across the article in Mr. Akbar's Facebook feed although it may have been penned for his Times of India blog.
All of Mr. Akbar's articles are available on his blog.
There is much consternation and hand-wringing going on about India's current economic woes. So, is it entirely the fault of the UPA? Of Manmohan Singh and his co-conspirators Mr. Mukherjee, and Montek? Or Chidambaram and the ultimate Big Boss Sonia?
I doubt it. For example take the currency de-valuation.
interesting to note that while China attracts much criticism from its main
business partner USA for keeping the remnimbi artificially under-valued, we see
some weird nationalistic pride getting hurt when the rupee devalues.
It seems almost axiomatic that the rupee's moderate de-valuation will help the
export sector and India's dreams of becoming an economic superpower presumably
As long as we use the Internet, we have to have some basic understanding of how this behemoth works.
We cannot just pretend that we are technologically-illiterate. All of us have to be somewhat technologically literate.
The attack on the nytimes.com domain is a good opportunity to educate ourselves about how to pull such a trick. Of course, the idea is not that EVERYONE should then try to pull similar tricks but just educate ourselves about HOW STUFF WORKS.
A huge majority of Indians appear to be stuck in some 19th century mindset when it comes to marriage and sex.
I do not know why that is so. Whether it was the British or the Moghuls who made Indians into such boring conservatives or it is a legacy of the Hindu religion.
At any rate, it's time to change the rules of the game.
No more 'arranged marriages' between a guy and a girl who do not even know each other. No more parents 'deciding.' No more idiotic 'horoscope matching.' No more looking at caste equations. No more dowry negotiations.
I propose that marriage be made 'temporary' rather then its present 'permanent' form. Let us have 'stations' in life at various intervals where you can choose to 'get off' the bus or train if you so wish.
Let every married couple have the 'option' and the right to leave a marriage at the 1-year interval, then at the 2-year, 3-year, and 5-year intervals. If people stick to each other for 5 …
You have to search hard ... REALLY HARD ... to find an Indian institution on the list. IIT Bombay and IIT Roorkee are there towards the end. Look for institutions from Asia and use Ctrl+F and type 'India' and you will be able to locate. Indian institutions are languishing somewhere outside of the top 200 institutions.
Is not this truly cringe-worthy? Look at the nations featured in the Top 100.
All sorts of nations feature in the Top 200 list: Belgium, Taiwan, Singapore, Sweden, Israel, Netherlands, Austria, Australia, Ireland, Korea and so on. Of course, Britain, France, Germany, and Japan feature there by default.
Enjoy! The 'anger' in this article may be well-founded but it perhaps mangled the economics in comparing India with Greece and in using debt-to-GDP ratio as a barometer of a nation's overall economic health.
I don't know how Britain and Japan managed to have such high debt-to-GDP numbers but they are among the most developed and richest nations on Earth — both being members of the G8. How do or did Britain and Japan manage to become so extraordinarily wealthy? Well, the history aside, in the 20th century and after the Second World War, they have been at the cutting edge of various kinds of technological innovations. While Japan has been the center of the automobile revolution in many ways, Britain is home to British Aerospace, Rolls Royce, and many similar companies.
I bet if we look at the data of per capita number of doctors or engineers in those countries, the ratio would be better than in India. India pr…
So what's making the news around the middle of August 2013?
Here's a random summary.
The staggering corruption being committed by the Gandhi family in general and Robert Vadra in particular is back in the news as Mr. Khemka's official response to the Haryana government has turned up in the media.
Here's a news round-up of all articles related to Robert Vadra.
Clearly, officers like Mr. Khemka deserve much appreciation from the Government for his extraordinary career of exceptional uprightness. What about a National Award such as a Padma Sri or Padma Bhusan? Clearly, if cricketers and other worthies can be so awarded, it'd not be out of place to confer honest officers with such awards.
So much must have been written by better writers than me about death that it is probably superfluous for me to try and add anything on the matter. But of course I will go ahead and add my two cents worth.
After all, everybody has babies and everybody wants to experience the 'joys' of parenthood and sex and so on. Probably we won't all perish suddenly and unexpectedly when something happens at the center of our Milky Way with the supermassive black hole though those black holes do spin at crazy rates and generate a huge amount of x-rays which are no good for living beings like us. We are probably lucky that the Sun is about 30,000 light years away from the center of the Milky Way. We live in the boondocks or the suburbs. The threat of a nuclear Armageddon in a third world war has pretty much disappeared as well. So, we'll all probably live out our lives and slowly fade away. So the question that arises is: what is the right time and manner to do so? My drink-buddy died a few …
When spouses are concerned, it seems to me that kindness and consideration should be the key words, not loyalty, and sexual infidelity does not necessarily wipe them out. Fidelity in the sense of keeping one's word I respect, but I think it tiresome that it is tied so tightly in people's minds to the idea of sex. The belief that a wife owes absolute fidelity to her husband has deep and tangled roots, being based not only on a man's need to know himself to be the father of his wife's child, but also on the even deeper, darker feeling that man owns woman, God having made her for his convenience. It's hard to imagine the extirpation of that: think of its power in Islam!
Let's take a 'pulse' on the many news items of today. Why today? No reason really.
The heroic Edward Snowden continues to look for a 'safe' place and a safe country to live in as the U.S. government — I don't know whether to describe the Obama administration as Fascist or Soviet-style — continues to try and arrest him and put him in jail for life.
Mr. Snowden left Hong Kong and we know now that the U.S. government got a 'secret' arrest warrant from a court in Virginia and tried to get the Hong Kong government to arrest him. He has landed in Moscow and his future destination remains unknown although the speculation is that he will leave Moscow and go to Cuba en route to Ecuador which is considering giving him asylum.
The Snowden saga is of course one-of-a-kind. Here are the other events that the news media is tracking.
What business books to read? Andrew Ross Sorkin lost a lot of the regard I had for him when he opined that Glenn Greenwald should be 'almost arrested' for exposing NSA spying through the whistle-blower.
That is the problem with 'experts' in one domain butting into other domains which are not their bailiwick. Sorkin is good in finance though and he wrote this column about the best business books for this 'summer' in America.
He lists some good books and readers have added their own favorites in the comments.
The list includes everything from The Art of War to Machiavelli to Warren Buffett, Michael Lewis, Michael Porter, Malcolm Gladwell, to Andrew Sorkin himself. The well known books such as Barbarians at the Gate and books about insider trading feature in the list.
For as long as I can remember reading newspapers ... which has been a pretty long time by now, like 20 years, I remember this annual summer 'tamasha' called 'Delhi University cut off.' And 10 or 20 years ago, I was NOT living in Delhi but Delhi news sort of gets transmitted all over India. This was probably more true years back when newspapers did not have so many 'city' editions.
But let's talk about this 'cut off' business. What does this tell us?
I think the fact that the 'cut off' is 95 or 97 or 99 or even 100% says that the exams in which these students scored that much are more or less farcical. So, how come CBSE exams have come to this sorry pass. I believe the reason is that in India, all sorts of competitive exams have been converted into multiple-choice type exams. Thus, Indian students are mostly good at cramming information for exams and then regurgitating those. The reason why we have multiple-choice type exams is of course also…
Happiness, it seems to me, is both
more difficult and easier to attain in the modern age. As educated people, Americans and
Europeans are expected to know all the 'basics' ... such as the fact that money
can't/doesn't buy you happiness. And yet survey after survey seem to point to
the fact that people in less developed nations such as India tend to be happier. What gives? I think the difference
lies in what one's life goals are, what one is striving for, what one chooses
to measure one's life by. The 'BIG' "Meaning of Life" question. We take our cues from our parents,
family, society, surroundings, and so on. The horizons of someone who lives in
a village in India or China is limited. He/She sees folks grow up, pursue the
same activities as his or her parents, then get married and have kids and
slowly grow old. The cycle of life tends to repeat itself. The 'desires' tend
to be basic and simple and easily obtained. Hence, happiness and con…