Archive for May, 2006

Jargon, I love thee; but…

May 31, 2006

Apparently, there is a negative relationship between complexity and judged intelligence;  in one of his posts, Johns Hawks quotes from a paper suitably titled Consequences of erudite vernacular utilized irrespective of necessity: problems with using long words needlessly. Take a look!

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Silicon Valley: follow up!

May 31, 2006

Here is the second part of the article of Paul Graham on Silicon valley that I linked sometime back. In this part of the article, he tells you what, in his opinion, make the start-ups condense in America. The reasons, among other things is that the US allowes immigration and it is rich. Though Paul Graham does not explicitly spell it out, in my opinion, it should be that the US is a rich country that allows immigration; for example, India might allow immigration, but we would not have many immigrating to work here. I guess he got the order reversed there. Of the other reasons, we seem to be doing fairly well in that we are not a police state, if only we try a bit harder, we can have our own elite institutions which allow dynamic typing of careers, we are not too fussy either, and, we do have a large domestic market. The easiness with which you can fire people, according to Paul Graham makes a difference; I have no idea how easy it is to fire people in India. But the bigger problem seems to be the way work is identified with employment in India; it might take a while for us to shed the ‘government job — if not private company job — if not no-job’ mentality. I have no clue about the scenario of VC in India. All said, on the whole, I guess we have more things in our favour. Take a look at the article. It ends with some suggestions on how to do better.

Fanaa: a review!

May 30, 2006

Watched Fanaa yesterday; not recommendable. I guess Uma got it right in her review (warning: spoilers).

The Da Vinci code: a review

May 29, 2006

We watched The Da Vinci code yesterday. Chal ta hai — probably, works better if you have not read the novel.

The story of an Indian juggler!

May 29, 2006

Here is Amardeep Singh on Ramo Samee, an Indian juggler. A very interesting piece!

Never failing friends!

May 29, 2006

As Robert Southey said,

My never failing friends are they \\ With whom I converse day by day.

So,  here are some conversation starters for this summer, from NPR.

Have fun! 

Marriage and scientific success!

May 29, 2006

Does marriage sink a scientific career, asks this article. Apparently,

"Scientists tend to 'desist' from scientific research upon marriage, just like criminals desist from crime upon marriage."

Further,

Kanazawa's perhaps controversial perspective is that of an evolutionary psychologist. "Men conduct scientific research (or do anything else) in order to attract women and get married (albeit unconsciously)," he says. "What’s the point of doing science (or anything else) if one is already married? Marriage (or, more accurately reproductive success, which men can usually attain only through marriage) is the goal; science or anything else men do is but a means. From my perspective, scientists are no different than anybody else; evolutionary psychology applies to all humans equally," he adds.

The obvious corrollary seems to be that criminals commit crime to attract women and to achieve reproductive success 😉

Silicon valley, anybody?

May 25, 2006

Paul Graham writes on How to be Silicon valley in his most recent post; this is the first part–the second one will appear soon. As usual, it is interesting, thought provoking and stimulating. For example, after saying

What nerds like is other nerds. Smart people will go wherever other smart people are. And in particular, to great universities. In theory there could be other ways to attract them, but so far universities seem to be indispensable. Within the US, there are no technology hubs without first-rate universities– or at least, first-rate computer science departments.

So if you want to make a silicon valley, you not only need a university, but one of the top handful in the world. It has to be good enough to act as a magnet, drawing the best people from thousands of miles away. And that means it has to stand up to existing magnets like MIT and Stanford.

He says,

This sounds hard. Actually it might be easy. My professor friends, when they’re deciding where they’d like to work, consider one thing above all: the quality of the other faculty. What attracts professors is good colleagues. So if you managed to recruit, en masse, a significant number of the best young researchers, you could create a first-rate university from nothing overnight. And you could do that for surprisingly little. If you paid 200 people hiring bonuses of $3 million apiece, you could put together a faculty that would bear comparison with any in the world. And from that point the chain reaction would be self-sustaining. So whatever it costs to establish a mediocre university, for an additional half billion or so you could have a great one.

And, he does not favour either gradual upgradation or even upgrading an existing university. May be Kumaraswamy should hire Paul Graham and try creating a Silicon valley in Bangalore, since, Bangalore seems to fulfill most of the conditions that he lists — rich people, nerds, good universities, a town that has attractions other than university, a city with personality. But then, he might not want to, since keeping the government out is one of Paul Graham’s criterion 😉

The conclusion is very interesting: A great university near an attractive town — apparently, that is all it takes to be Silicon valley.

Linguistics — the great vectorial way!

May 24, 2006

Take a look at this abstract of a paper from PNAS:

Thoughts and ideas are multidimensional and often concurrent, yet they can be expressed surprisingly well sequentially by the translation into language. This reduction of dimensions occurs naturally but requires memory and necessitates the existence of correlations, e.g., in written text. However, correlations in word appearance decay quickly, while previous observations of long-range correlations using random walk approaches yield little insight on memory or on semantic context. Instead, we study combinations of words that a reader is exposed to within a "window of attention," spanning about 100 words. We define a vector space of such word combinations by looking at words that co-occur within the window of attention, and analyze its structure. Singular value decomposition of the co-occurrence matrix identifies a basis whose vectors correspond to specific topics, or "concepts" that are relevant to the text. As the reader follows a text, the "vector of attention" traces out a trajectory of directions in this "concept space." We find that memory of the direction is retained over long times, forming power-law correlations. The appearance of power laws hints at the existence of an underlying hierarchical network. Indeed, imposing a hierarchy similar to that defined by volumes, chapters, paragraphs, etc. succeeds in creating correlations in a surrogate random text that are identical to those of the original text. We conclude that hierarchical structures in text serve to create long-range correlations, and use the reader’s memory in reenacting some of the multidimensionality of the thoughts being expressed.

Now, if that sounds interesting, why not take a look at the full paper? It even has a log-log plot of autocorrelation function for The adventures of Tom Sawyer! Have fun 😉

For the Lee fans out there!

May 23, 2006

Maud Newton links to a review of a portrait of Harper Lee; take a look!