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Checkmate!

To battle is ingrained in the very DNA of life. From the smallest microorganisms to the largest mammals, to the multitudes of marine creatures to avian life; each species, each individual, is locked in a battle, every day, for the entirety of its existence. A battle for survival, to eat or to avoid being eaten, to exist for just a while longer. The earth, then, is a vast battlefield, with innumerable duels taking place at any given instant.

There is one species that excels at battling. Humans, after all, won the battle against all other life forms decisively. They used their superior intelligence to vanquish even the largest, the fastest, the most ferocious and the most poisonous of beasts. But, having vanquished all other types of life on earth, what would the restless battling spirit that is so ingrained in all life, ask of them? Battle a more worthy foe, of course. Each other.

Over centuries the craft of battle was honed, through countless massacres and righteous victories. To cap…

Sea Walking in the Andamans

I stand on the sea floor, off the coast of North Bay, a small island near Port Blair, the capital of the Andaman Islands. Facing a coral reef about 20 feet below the water surface, I am surrounded by hundreds of fishes, from tiny Nemos that nestle among the corals to large foot long grey ones gnawing at my fingers and jostling with each other for a morsel of fish feed. I experience near weightlessness, with the heavy air helmet I'm wearing pushing me down so I stay on the sea floor. Walking is a slow deliberate process, and I step gingerly on the shifting sand floor, trying to keep a firm footing, while minimizing the amount of sand I kick up in the water.  Corals come in numerous shapes, sizes and colours. The ones here were orange with finger sized and shaped cilia. Nestled among them you find dozens of fishes and sure enough, as had been promised, there was Nemo, the orange and white striped clown fish. How strange that it was unaware of what a celebrity it was, its species kn…

The Ride

Time stops, only space rushes by. A confounding of the dimensions or is it a trick of my senses? Hours pass by in the guise of minutes, or were they minutes that seemed like hours? Perhaps it was the wind, now pushing against me, making me feel it's strength, and now racing alongside me, unfelt, as if hiding before another gentle ambush. Engulfed by it, I slice through, sometimes silently, and sometimes with a roar that drowns out the world. As it passes over me, some seems to pass through. Through my skin, a swirling mass of untamed desire mingles inside me, stirring emotion, mixing with the adrenalin pumping through my veins.

A blur of space rushes past, barely seen, scarcely remembered. The earth itself seems in a rush, spinning and turning, making its way through a celestial expanse. I resist, refuse to be swept along; an impossible task, yet one that must be done. The wheels keep turning. The growl of the engine, guttural and low, ready to spring into a roar and thrust me forw…

The fate of the world

hangs in the balance again. And most of the world has no say in it.

The US elections matter to a lot more than just US citizens. While most of the US President's job would be to focus on ensuring the prosperity of the US, the rest of the world usually comes out as collateral damage. To a large extent, the severity of the efforts to tackle climate change, the probability of irresponsible wars and reckless financial disasters along with much else are all dependent on who wins these elections. The stakes could scarcely be higher.

And both the candidates - Obama and Romney - have their flaws. But Romney and the conservative right seem so regressive in most things that matter to the world, and indeed, even to much of the US, that it is a wonder that the race is still too close to call. But it would be foolish to discount the threat of this bunch getting to power again. Bush, for all his proven incompetence, got elected twice.

I hope Obama comes out on top, not because he'll get mo…

Mathemagic

A graphic novel on the philosophy of Mathematics? A friend pointed out the existence of this unlikely book, titled 'Logicomix', and I just had to get it.

Based on the life and work of Bertrand Russell, the book views his mathematical pursuits as arising from events in his personal life. Orphaned at an early age, Russell turned to mathematics to find answers to the reality of existence. He became obsessed with the methods of creating mathematical proofs using logic, but as his understanding grew, Russell eventually became dismayed at the realization that much of mathematics rested on unproven axioms. This began a lifelong quest for the logical foundations of mathematics that would be in harmony with reality.

The book introduces a number of other eminent mathematicians and philosophers that were contemporaries of Russell and gives a layman's perspective into their complex works. Here's a few of the star cast of geniuses:

Cantor: Invented Set Theory and spent decades crea…

The Fisherman and the Suit

There was once a fisherman who was fishing in a pond. Another man, in a suit, was passing him by, but stopped. He looked at the bucket of fish already caught by the fisherman and the wooden stick with a string at its end that he was using to catch the fish and decided the fisherman needed to be helped.

"Old man, why do you fish with a wooden stick?", said the suit.

"What else should I do?" asked the fisherman.

"Why, you should take a boat and a fishing net and go out into the middle of the pond to catch fish.", said the suit.

"But I don't have either a boat or a net."

"You can buy them."

"But, I don't have the money."

"Come, I'll lend you the money." offered the suit.

"But how can I row the boat and fish at the same time? I'll need help."

"I'll loan you the money to hire a few people."

"And then what?" asked the fisherman.

"You can catch a lot of fish!"

&q…

Follow the Laggard

Came across an interesting strategy deployed in sailboat racing while browsing the book'Art of Strategy'by Avinash Dixit & Barry Nalebuff. In a two boat race, the best strategy for the leading boat is to mimic the moves of the trailing boat. In this scenario, any change of wind that can speed up the trailing boat, will also have a similar effect on the leading boat, thereby enabling it to maintain its lead. 
This sort of turns the idea of leadership through innovation on its head. 
I remember a quote by Sean Parker about myspace that said basically the same thing, "There was a period of time where if they (myspace) had just copied Facebook rapidly, I think they would have been Facebook"
What this seems to suggest then, is that the onus of innovation is on the upstart. This has been the case in the technology space. This makes the extraordinarily successful innovation by the likes of Apple a little less remarkable. They had to be blindingly original because if th…