Archive for the ‘Humour’ Category


July 6, 2009

A must-see video ( via LeBlanc at Bitch Ph D).

A jump in numbers: thanks to Erdos (and XKCD)

June 20, 2009

Nearly an year ago, I linked to an XKCD cartoon which defined its own version of Erdos number. Yesterday, there was another about Erdos. Suddenly, the visit to my blog reached an all time high (of 577 in a day — which is almost 2.5-3 times the usual number) thanks to people who are searching for xkcd and Erdos together in search engines.

Interesting read of the day!

June 9, 2009

Via Crooked Timber, I came across this paper, whose abstract reads like that of one from Improbable Research:

An individual will be able to use marihuana for pleasure only when he 1. learns to smoke it in a way that will produce real effects; 2. learns to recognize the effects and connect them with drug use; and 3. learns to enjoy the sensations he perceives. This proposition, based on an analysis of fifty interviews with marihuana users, calls into question theories which ascribe behavior to antecedent predispositions and suggests the utility of explaining behavior in terms of the emergence of motives and dispositions in the course of experience.

Comment section for research papers

May 29, 2009

If only there was one, how much would have been the fun! PHDComics speculates!

Academic Zen

May 18, 2009

During a phone conversation, King-of-Snakes wondered as to how, a common friend who shall remain unnamed, who was so well known for his laziness, still managed to have a better publication record (of one paper per year). King-of-Teachers speculated: “If you are lazy by nature, be lazy; if you are hard working, be hard working. It is by going against your nature that your productivity comes down.” On hearing and saying this, both the hearer and speaker attained enlightenment (and, hopefully will improve their respective (dismal) publication records 🙂

Rutherford on theoretical physics

April 10, 2009

… theoretical physics, an activity on which he [Rutherford] held lifelong views which, shall we say, were dim. (‘How can a fellow sit down at a table and calculate something that would take me, me, six months to measure in a laboratory?’)

Abraham Pais in Inward Bound

As though the university is made for students …

April 10, 2009

In discussing an offer from Yale he [Rutherford] remarked: ‘Why should I go there? They act as though the University was made for students’.

Abraham Pais in Inward Bound

This mixing of oil and water — it happens a lot!

March 31, 2009

Just that in materials science we call it unmixing!

TDR: Thanks for that. Why do you think a pretty significant amount of your students did complain about you? Why do you think that is?

PV: I think that sometimes when you have some students and some instructors they mix like oil and water. That could just be the explanation. It happens all the time, Tyler. Sometimes when a person goes into a corporation, they mix like oil and water. Sometimes when a person goes into a fellowship at a research institution like the one that I’m at now, the supervisor and the fellow mix like oil and water. It just happens a lot.

From this must-read interview with Prof. Priya Venkatesan 🙂

Link via Scott at Shtetl-Optimized whose post is a must-must-read too!

A bookseller, Darwinism in nonsense literature and depictions of Dodos

March 26, 2009

Few links from Telegraph:

[1] Shyam G Menon on T N Shanbag of Strand Book Stall:

He was also sure that since Strand’s core strength was books, he would be happier with customers who came for books than for a cup of coffee. I doubt the longevity of this faith in a world ruled by business models, but I admire that man for having devoted his life to the printed word and making it accessible to more and more people. Visit the Strand website and you will know what I mean. After a mention of its founding in 1948, the highlights are on its discounts. Strand was the first in the world to offer 20 per cent discount; it now offers up to 50 per cent. The world’s biggest book chain in comparison was late to offer discounts and still does no better than 20 per cent. For me, such an approach, plenty of books and a store owner like Shanbhag, are all that matters. The cappuccino can wait.

Just this morning I was discussing with a colleague of mine about the service, sincerity and the discounts at Strand, Bangalore which made book buying such a pleasure (not to mention Kadambam next to it, as long as it lasted — which was not for too long).

[2] Somak Ghosal on Sukumar Ray and his depictions of Darwinism in his nonsense literature:

… the true force of Darwinism in nonsense literature comes through in the works of Sukumar Ray (1887-1923), the poet, printer, humorist and illustrator from Bengal. From his early poem, “Khichudi”, Ray disclosed a playfully witty, yet empathetic, understanding of the inner lives of animals. He not only created a menagerie of fantastic creatures here, but also endowed each of them with a fantasy life. In the poem, the duck (hans) fuses with a porcupine (sajaru) to become hansjaru, the caterpillar chooses to merge with the goat for mysterious reasons. Some of these strange meetings are self-conscious, as if out of some evolutionary design the best of two disparate worlds have conspired to become one: the lion with horns like the deer or the giraffe with the torso of a grasshopper. Such a mix-up, of herbivore and carnivore or winged and terrestrial beings, hints at — and parodies — an evolutionary process (like Darwin’s natural selection) that allows only the best features to endure by coming together.

The Darwinian urge in nature to favour the fittest is also explored in the figure of Kimbhut, another bizarre assembly of body parts giving rise to a hotchpotch animal. In the poem, “Kimbhut”, a sniffling, disgruntled creature longs for the voice of the cuckoo, the tail of an iguana, wings of a bird, the elephant’s snout, and the kangaroo’s legs. The end product is so fearfully ugly that it only inspires jeers. That Ray was deeply fascinated by Darwin is evident from the mini-biography he wrote for the young readers of the Sandesh magazine, which he edited. In that article, Ray explained the scientific premises of Darwin’s theories — why weaker species, unable to adapt themselves to changes in the environment, become extinct, how bodily features evolve through use and disuse.

The rationalism of this piece also pervades the origins of Ray’s nonsense animals, even though wish-fulfilment need not always bring a happy ending.

Reminds me that I should get that Rupa published translation of one of Sukumar Ray’s books (about some owl or something, if I remember correct).

[3] S G on the depictions of the Dodo:

Like the search for the most authentic portrait of Shakespeare, the debate over what the dodo looked like is yet to be over. A Dutch illustration going back to 1598 shows a gawky little creature with tiny wings like stumps, looking like a Walt Disney cartoon. In 1651, Jan Savery painted the dodo as an obese, smug bird with ugly, beady eyes. George Edwards painted it as a colourful, glamorous bird in 1759.

These striking disparities were not due to artistic errors alone. In its natural habitat, on the island of Mauritius, the dodo may have been a slim, even unremarkable, bird. When explorers started taking dodos to Europe, the birds lost touch with their natural diet. As their eating habit changed, so did their body structure. Still the bird proved inedible for humans because of its coarse, tasteless flesh. But dogs, cats, rats and pigs ate up its eggs, leading to its extinction in the 17th century.

Happy reading!

Origin of the

February 27, 2009