Thursday Dec 25, 2008

The Gibbs

I was reading about the Amistad case on Wikipedia, and noticed the interesting role that Josiah Willard Gibbs Sr., the theologian, had played in finding a Mende speaker. (Gibbs learned how to say numerals one to ten in Mende, shouted it in the New York Harbor, and found someone who understood the numbers.) Gibbs name, of course, made me curious about this relationship to the other Josiah Willard Gibbs, the mathematician and physical chemist, whose theories we constantly apply in chemical thermodynamics. (Josiah Willard Gibbs, Jr. also happens to have been awarded the very first U.S. Ph.D. in engineering, under a dissertation entitledOn the Form of the Teeth of Wheels in Spur Gearing.)

It might be worth mentioning that Wikipedia runs on the MySQL database server, as has already been described in a number of case studies and presentations.

Saturday Apr 07, 2007

Lessons from the Persian Gulf

Abbas Edalat, professor of computer science and mathematics at Imperial College of London, draws some lessons from a recent incident in the Persian Gulf.

Check out, also, his inaugural lecture which begins with some important historical facts on computational arts and has a wonderful slide on the "failure of floating point computation." He gives an example of a floating point arithmetic failure in the "First Gulf War" to demonstrate the importance of the more exact "real arithmetic" based on Kashani's technique for estimating π.

Friday Mar 30, 2007

Inquisition, Fact and Fiction

Some say The Inquisition ended centuries ago. They may be right but, in 21st century, torture (depending on how you define torture) continues as a means to extract the required confessions from the victims. Whether the confessions are truth or false, may matter not, as long as they perpetuate the necessary fears and the required propaganda.

Wednesday Jan 10, 2007

Modern Diplomacy

The "gunboat diplomacy" which was a constant feature of British Empire's 19th and 20th century dealings with Persia has been picked up for a dreamy revival by the new empire -- a dream that this time may prove ready to turn into a real nightmare! Other perspectives seeing recent developments in the U.S. occupation of Iraq can be found here, here, here and here. President Bush's speech can be found here. (Unfortunately, the latter speech blames others for the problems caused directly by the occupation and the consequent and gradual destruction of Iraq's civil society. It seems that Iraq must bleed more before it is left to its own account: "We must expect more American and Iraqi casualties"!) Financial Time's editorial about the same, can be found here. The Washington Post reports the story and some poll results here and elsewhere in an editorial. Unfortunately, the editorial, while advocating some pragmatism, accepts some of the fiction told earlier repeating several false mantras when it comes to the region.

The WP also carries Zbigniew Brzezinski's column analyzing the president's speech. Of the old guard of U.S. diplomacy, he has the keenest view of the trends in the region. He observes: "America is acting like a colonial power in Iraq. But the age of colonialism is over. Waging a colonial war in the post-colonial age is self-defeating. That is the fatal flaw of Bush's policy." [Some have produced evidence that Brzenzinski, who served in President Carter's administration, was the American diplomat who gave the green light to Saddam to attack Iran when Iran had disbanded its military after the revolution and the hostage crisis. See for example, Noam Chomsky's Towards a New Cold War: Essays on the Current Crisis and How We Got There (1982 edition). So, Brzezinski is no dove.]

Wednesday Nov 08, 2006

Solutions in Search of Problems

We often demean "solutions in search of problems" and send people packing to better define what problem it is they are trying to solve. However, every solution, if it is user-driven can lead to the serving of new markets. See Clayton Christensen's The Innovator's Dilemma for several examples. For an excerpt, see here.

The history of independent inventors speaks a similar story:

The independents reserved their enthusiasm and primary creative thurst for the act of invention; they performed the entrepreneurial function of establishing companies because they wanted to bring their inventions into use. They had to establish companies because they found that firms busily presiding over well-established technologies were usually not interested in nurturing radically new technologies with which their employees had no experience and for the manufacture of which their machines and processes were not suited. The independent inventors also found that others did not nurture their inventions with the tender care and undivided attention they themselves lavished on their brainchildren.

Thomas P. Hughes, American Genesis: A Century of Invention and Technological Enthusiasm, 1870-1970

Tuesday Oct 31, 2006

Evidence under Coercion

Here is a recent report on laws suspending habeas corpus: Demetri Sevastopulo and Daniel Dombey, "ICRC concerned over new US terror law," Financial Times, October 19, 2006. On the history of the law, see here. Leaving aside the very important moral questions involved and given the doubtful nature of evidence attained by coercion and the associated questions regarding its admissibility, others have also questioned its purpose and validity.

Sunday Sep 17, 2006

The Mashhadi Blasts Off

Anousheh Ansari, born in Mashhad, blasts off to become the first female space tourist and the first Iranian in space.

Here are a few more sources: Anousheh's weblog contains reports of the space journey. Her personal website comes in Persian, too. NASA reports the launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The Washington Post carries a more detailed article on Ansari's space journey.

(On the city of Mashhad, you can also check e-Mashhad.)

Monday Sep 04, 2006

FT Interview with Khatami

For partial transcript of a Financial Times interview with Mohammad Khatami, see here. (At the time of this writing this report did not required a paid subscription to view from the US. Your "mileage" may differ!) The interview touches on a large number of issues.

Friday Aug 25, 2006

Another War

Another war from ancient times finds a record here and another version of it here.

Kaveh pointed out "Crassus at the Battle of Carrhae" in his comment on this embarrassingly poor attempt at grasping what is going on in our time today.

It is really a shame that some journalists are in the habit of penning so much and learning so little.




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