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Saturday, December 31, 2005

Happy new year

I wish all readers a happy and prosperous new year.

Did Early Humans First Arise in Asia, Not Africa?

I generally dont post speculative theories, except that after the discovery of the 'hobbit' humans in Indonesia, all theories on the out of africa premise are getting a long hard look. There is a feature article from NatGeo.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Know your country - Carvaka philosophy

My general disestablishmentarian disposition hides my fundamental conservativeness :) For what it is worth I sometimes hold forth on historical philosophical fragments to demonstrate the vast diversity in thought and action in this vast sub-continent of ours. The resurgence of the fundamental right wingers in the name of majoritarian rights often makes me question their locus standi in claiming to represent 'Indian' thought. While major rational systems of thought like Buddhism and jainism have its origins in India there are a number of lesser known systems that predate the vedantic hindusim that is served as a kind of one size fit 'Indian religion' today. This post is on the carvaka school of thought that is thought to have flourished at about 600 BC. A unique school of thought that has shaped modern India, it is attributed to its founder Brihaspath, who also finds place in the Indian pantheon of rishis (though they generally don't tell you why).

Wikipedia has the following to say:
The Sanskrit word Chaarvaaka is generally understood to be a compound of two words chaari and vaak; chaari means sweet, attractive and vaak means speaking. Some other meanings are also ascribed to the word, but 'sweet speaking' is the most plausible. This school of thought was also called Lokayata probably from pre-Vedic times. Lokayata would broadly mean 'prevalent among people' or 'prevalent in the world' (loka and ayata). Read the entire entry here.

Apparently the agnostics were the sweet talkers of the pre-vedic era. Guess they could not stop the cult of Soma for obvious reasons :) Booze is more attractive than relentless logic!

The humanistic text's site has the following to say

The system of philosophy named after its founder, Carvaka, was set out in the Brhaspati Sutra in India probably about 600 BCE. This text has not survived and, like similar philosophies in Greece, much of what we know of it comes from polemics against it and remarks by its critics. There is a further similarity with Greece in that this is a rationalistic and skeptical philosophy, thus undermining the widespread belief in the West that Indian philosophy is primarily religious and mystical. Amartya Sen has argued, in fact, that there is a larger volume of atheistic and agnostic writings in Pali and Sanskrit than in any other classical tradition—Greek, Latin, Hebrew, or Arabic. He adds that this applies also to Buddhism, the only agnostic world religion ever to emerge.

CarvakaÂ’s philosophy developed at a time when religious dogma concerning our knowledge of reality, the constitution of the world, and the concept of an afterlife were being increasingly questioned, both in India and elsewhere. Specifically, the school of Carvaka contained within itself a materialism that ruled out the supernatural (lokayata), naturalism (all phenomena described in terms of the properties of the four elements), rejection of the Vedas (nastika), and a skepticism that included rejection of inferential logic, or induction.

One of the best sources for CarvakaÂ’s atheistic argument happens to be a book, Sarvadarshansamgraha (the collection of all philosophies), written in the Fourteenth Century by Madhavacarya, a Vaishnavite (Hindhu) scholar. You can read the entire entry here.

Fact of the matter is that Madavacharya is part of the bhakti movement that focused on getting vedic relegion into South India against the logical tide of Jaina beliefs & it appears carvaka logic. It was more geo-political than spiritual. In fact the southern branch of vaishnavism as represented by the iyengars (then kalai) was seeded with converts from other castes to overcome lack of support base. All our spritual leaders from the distant past to the present seem to be more interested in temporal affairs than spritual :-) Reminds me of the 'Bene Gessrit' of Frank Herberts opus 'the Dune'.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Justin Podur interviews RMS

Znet meets RMS. Looks like a number of sites that i frequent are merging :) Read more on the Osho's interview here.

The aesthetics of heat sinks

An interesting technical problem in SSL lighting is to design heat sinks that allow the lamp to function efficiently without 'cooking itself' in the process. A major jump in lighting technology is accompanied by a different set of challenges. Edison did not have to worry much about heat removal as the incandescent lamps that he worked with needed heat to work. Ditto with fluorescent technology, which actually underperforms in cold weather.

With solid state lighting it is a challenge to get the heat out of the die. The problem is very similar to the heat sinking in PC CPU's except that it needs to be a hell of a lot more reliable and cant use devices with moving parts.

One outcome of this is the extremely ugly and functional designs that we see in today's LED luminaries. As a major luminary OEM CEO confided in me, "What is the use of a 10 MM light source that needs a 6 inch heatsink? ? This is what we get for asking electronics engineers to design luminaries :) What the world of LED lighting needs is a kind of 'heat sink howard roark' (Ayn Rand, Fountainhead) who can extract the beauty of a structural form without resorting to ornamentation. In this we were shocked at the parallels between what ayn rand describes as a structure or design being aesthetic without resorting to embellishments and non-functional decorations and the precise need in modern lighting design (at least i was :). The philosophy behind the statement is what is driving heat sink development currently. The heat sinks available today are very functional, beautifully designed, have thermal maps simulated on the best of software but lack the genius of a Roark in bringing the natural beauty of the form out. This will become our next challenge, beauty in functional form so that it can be outside the box rather than being hidden away inside your luminary.

MS ends IE on Mac

Clearly a case of good riddance. read more here. Viva darwin !

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

What's the principle behind SSL ?

One question that often pop's up in the context of Solid state lighting is what the fuss is all about. What it's all about is a fundamental technology change in generating light. While gas discharge tubes were a good innovation (incandescents are typically heating coils, nothing novel except it happened 100 years back). The material properties of different semi-conducting materials and their respective dopants are used to generate light via electro-phoresence. this is the direct conversion of electricity into EMR in the visible range. That is the magic..

Friday, December 16, 2005

MIT Media Labs new fiasco

Rajesh Jain's Blog is carrying an article on the new $100 Laptop that MIT's Negroponte is touting. Brings to mind the MIT India-Media lab project that ended in acrimony with the government throwing out MIT for greed and lack of results.

Uber heat scavenging in Turbosteam autos

Gizmag reports that BMW has developed a turbosteamer proto to demonstrate new ways to increase the overall efficiency of IC engines. While the whole concept of turbocharging is about recovering exhaust heat to increase volumetric efficient, the new concept has a twist, instead of a high speed turbo to compress more charge into the cylinder, this heat is used to power a steam engine that adds to the overall power of the auto. The magic seems to be the way the power is channeled via a combined drive system. What these technologies do is to help extend the life of the oil economy by optimizing resource usage.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The attack of the solar space spiders

The new scientist
has an article about spider like robots that will be used to build solar webs in space to pipe down solar energy to us. Guess what this will do to golbal warming ! Read more here.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Bio Hydrogen

One of the critical probelms with the Hydrogen economy is the source of all the clean hydrogen. Most current projects essentially extract it from fossil hydrocarbons, which needless to say defeats the whole point of renewables. An earlier post looked at sunlight as the fuel for hydrogen extraction. Here is a biological option. While this stuff is in its infancy, a combination of Solar and Bio fermentation could be the way the future goes.

Patent Pending

More on the ills of the US patent system and the problems associated .