March 20, 2013

Top 10 Crazy Facts About India

Here's a random list of things.
1.            Indians sometimes prefer to abort a fetus if they find out that it's female. (Or they just kill the new born baby after it's born.)
2.            There are more than 20 million babies born in India. EVERY. SINGLE. YEAR.
3.            Child labor is so commonplace in India that few notice it or consider it out of the ordinary. Kids work as waiters or dishwashers in roadside restaurants. Sometimes, kids ferry tea to the local police station from a nearby roadside tea stall.
4.            Massive numbers of kids and younger and adult women are employed as maids in middle class to rich households. Middle class houses might pay 200 rupees to a female who comes and washes the dishes. Rich houses might employ women permanently by paying them more.
5.            Cars in the Indian cities are washed in the morning by car-washers who tend to be young men who get paid around 100 to 200 rupees per month for this service.
6.            India is home to some crazily competitive exams. The IIT JEE and the IIM CAT have crazy ratios of applicants versus number of seats. Half a million candidates might compete in the JEE for some 10,000 seats. 2,00,000 candidates might vie to study at the IIMs which have around 2,000 seats.
7.            Getting jobs is tough. People in India love government jobs. Civil service exams are the gateway to the IAS and the IFS -- jobs that command a lot of respect with a heritage going back to the British Raj. So more than 3,00,000 candidates try to get selected for less than 1,000 seats. In March 2013, it was reported that there were 1.3 million candidates for about 1,300 jobs advertised by the State Bank of India, India's largest bank, a Public Sector Bank.
8.            Indians hold on to a crazy old caste system with an incredible complexity that no outsider would ever be able to penetrate the subtlety of. Luckily, it's so pointlessly complicated that even most youngsters today are probably given to overlook and discount it.
9.            The traditional arranged marriages with lots of haggling over dowry persists despite various changes to society. The reason for this is a complex set consisting of the poverty of most Indians which makes people attracted to wealth and the deep need for sex and the skewed male-female sex ratios.
10.          A strange persistence of monogamy. The facts would appear to be that some 95 to 99 percent adult Indians might be monogamous with their spouses. There are of course very few divorces after marriage. Which does not necessarily imply high rates of marital bliss. Quite the contrary.
Since a picture is worth more than all of the above words, here's one about India:

Clearly a list of this kind about a country as vast and diverse as India can have 100s of items. Add any item that you feel should be included in the list in the comments.
Here's an interesting Quora thread related to this topic.

March 18, 2013

The Toll for March

We are about halfway through March. Let's make a tally of the dead from road accidents in India so far.
Of course this list is less than "perfect" as I am making a tally only of accidents that "made it to the news" and  for that to happen,sufficient numbers of people have to die.
dozen school children dying near Jallandar is clearly good enough to even make it to the Sky News website. But wait, that's a UK website. Didn't Indian newspapers/websites find the dozen deaths newsworthy? Well, some like NDTV apparently did though I don't remember it being the top headline on the prime-time 9PM news that day. Why is that? Is it because Jallandar is not Delhi or Mumbair or Bangalore? Remember that school-bus accident more than a decade ago in Delhi which led to the Supreme Court guidelines about yellow school buses and speed governors and what not? I guess accidents are still happening and SC guidelines are still being violated. I see many rickety Maruti Omnis zooming around in the morning and afternoon through the narrow lanes and bylanes of Delhi. The drivers of these dilapidated vehicles can even be found talking on their cellphone while reversing the vehicle. It's a wonder more such accidents are not happening.
I guess it's a regular feature on the roads of India that accidents happen when people are returning after attending a wedding reception. This accident in Navi Mumbai on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway is the latest accident with a toll of seven dead. Availability of free liquor and good food at wedding receptions must make for a rather deadly cocktail —> you over-do the alcohol and get intoxicated, eat too much of the tasty food and then try to return home in the middle of the night when the body is more used to being asleep. With a high alcohol content in the blood, obviously the driver becomes rash and has impaired judgment and is sleepy to boot and trying to stay awake. If they have to drive on a highway where there are no dividers in the middle of the road, well, then the slightest error of judgment can lead to fatal results. India has two marriage seasons —> one during the summer months of April, May, and June and another during the winter months of December and January (roughly). And we are not even in the thick of either of the wedding seasons. Arguably, there will be more deaths as we get into the thick of the wedding seasons.
The other seasonal madness that occurs in India has to do with various religious festivals at various places; the Kumb Mela comes to mind. There's the Rath Yatra in Puri, Odisha. There are umpteen such religious occasions in India and I am the last person who would be an expert on them. However, I imagine that devotees going to and returning from these vast crowded affairs must also often meet with road accidents. Here's an accident involving UP visitors visiting Puri in Odisha. And here's an accident involving Oriya visitors visiting the recent Kumbh Mela in Allahbad, UP. Of course, these two accidents did not happen in March but I am including them in this list as examples to emphasize the point that these accidents occur with the regularity of a metronome.
BTW, news organizations should by now get the name of the state right. It's Odisha changed from the earlier Orissa and therefore, the people of that state are to be referred to as Odia rather than Oriya.
To return to the toll of March, here's an accident that killed two teenage cousins one of whom was probably in a hurry to reach his matriculation examination center on time. Two young men riding a bike get hit by a bus and fall off onto the road and a truck comes swiftly along and crushes the teens to death.
Here's a report about two accidents in the North-East that killed eight people. Buses and other vehicles falling off those curving mountain roads in Himachal Pradesh must be a recurring cause of death. Driving on a bike on the road from Chandigarh to Shimla, I was struck by how unsafe those roads were and how close I was to being involved in an accident. All I could do was drive as safely as possible but teenage boys and those in their 20s would be rash drivers because of all the hormones in their blood. Indeed, the HP government bus drivers were quite audacious drivers too. I suppose if you spend all your time driving on those dangerous roads, you would get used to the danger but surely, one day, your luck might run out ... the break might fail when you need it or a tire might go flat.
Ten people died when a bus rolled into a gorge in Rajouri in Jammu & Kashmir. A father-son "duo" dies in a road accident. Five dead in three separate accidents in Trichi and Tiruvarur. That's a short history of death on the roads of India focused mainly on half the month of March.

March 13, 2013

The Genius of Ramanujan and Paul Erdős

Mathematicians are strange creatures. Here's a story about Paul Erdős.

In addition, as many of Erdős's collaborations were handled via mail, and because he
dealt with so many people he would sometimes forget what they actually looked like. On
one occasion, Erdős met a mathematician and asked him where he was from.
"Vancouver," the mathematician replied. "Oh, then you must know my good friend Elliot
Mendelson", Erdős said. The reply was "I AM your good friend Elliot Mendelson."

Paul Erdős's first paper was a new proof of Bertrand's conjecture which states that there is always a prime number between any number and twice that number.

Erdős is the most prolific mathematician in history with author credits for 1521 academic papers. He was a prolific collaborator as well and collaborated with 509 authors.

Here's Paul Erdős talking about child prodigies.

Both Erdos and Ramanujan appear to have interacted with G. H. Hardy.

Of course, Hardy 'discovered' Ramanujan and considered it the one 'great romance' of his life.

Among his many contributions to number theory, Ramanujan's various formulas related to the value of pi are quite remarkable. These formulas continue to be used today as the value of pi continues to be calculated to trillions of decimal places.

Whereas you or I might be happy to know the value of pi to, say, four decimal places, mathematicians like to go berserk and since the advent of computers from round about the middle of the 20th century, there has been an esoteric race going on in this sphere.

In the 21st century, with the aid of capable supercomputers, the value of pi has been determined to more than 10 trillion decimal places.

Here's the chronology of computation of pi.

Dowry Seekers Please Excuse

If you are a male of a certain age in India, of course you are seeking a suitable alliance.
The below is a compilation of the definitive characteristics of the Indian female.
This should help the grooms find and choose their perfect life partner.
  1. Girls are traditional … and with a Fair complexion too.
  2. They carry Positive attitudes and expect the same.
  3. Their Priorities are more to family values and Indian culture.
  4. They’re often simple and sober.
  5. A beautiful girl of high oral values, strong character, righteous... virtuous... kindhearted, God fearing.... straight forward... traditional values and modern outlook... done PG (anthropology **** University). 
  6. They’re sincerely from core and strong will power.
  7. They’re god fearing and trust on god very much.
  8. They’re very Ambitious.
  9. my famly believs in horroscope matching so, please provide ur birth details along with ur inteterest.
    & those who support dowry... please xcuse.........
  10. Hobbies: Cooking & Dancing
  11. They believe in sanctity of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji
  12. They believe in family values

March 12, 2013

Richard Feynman on God

If you expect us scientists to give answers to all the wonderful questions about what we are, where we are going, what the meaning of the universe is and so on, then I think you could easily become disillusioned and look for some mystic answers to these problems. However, scientist can take a mystic answer ... I don't know because the whole spirit of ... well never mind ... I don't understand it but anyhow ... if you think of it though ... the way I think of what we are doing is we are exploring, we are trying to find out as much as we can about the world. People say "are you looking for the ultimate laws of physics?" ... "No, I'm not. I'm just looking to find out more about the world. And if it turns out that there is a simple ultimate law that explains everything, so be it. That would be very nice and ... but if it turns out it's like an onion with millions of layers and we are just sick and tired of looking at the layers, then that's the way it is. 
But whatever way it comes out, it's nature it's there and she is going to come out the way she is. And therefore when we go to investigate it, we should not pre-decide what it is we are trying to do except find out more about it. If you say ... "but the problem is - why do you want to find out more about it" if you thought you want to find out more about it because you thought you are going to find an answer to some deep philosophical question, you may be wrong. It may be that you can't get an answer to that particular question by finding out more about the character of nature.
But I don't look at it ... my interest in science is to simply find out about the world and the more I find out, the better it is and I like to find out.
And there are very remarkable mysteries about the fact that we are able to do so many more things than apparently animals can do and there are other questions like that. But those are questions that I want to investigate without knowing the answer to them. And so altogether ...
I can't believe the special stories that have been made out about our relationship to the universe at large because ... they seem to be too simple ... too connected, too local, too provincial ... the Earth! He came to the Earth! ONE of the aspects of God came to the Earth! MIND YOU! And look at what's out there and how can you ... it isn't in proportion ... 

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