Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Several servings of India...

With President Bush's upcoming visit to India, there's a flood of India-related articles in the American popular media. I was lucky to catch most of a Charlie Rose interview with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the man widely credited with reforming India's economy. PM Singh was simply scintillating, in my opinion -- the clear, measured, analytical responses of the economics scholar failed to hide his underlying compassion for India's poor.

According to the Charlie Rose website, you may be able to find/download it at Google Video (free for one day after the airing and $0.99 after that). The rest of week includes more interviews with several prominent members of the Indian administration, business, and journalist communities.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Arrgh... Indian Newspapers

Ask anybody who moved to the U.S. from India about what they miss the most about India. After the customary socially-correct responses of family, culture, yada yada, you will hear, nearly uniformly, that they miss the high-quality English-language newspapers in India. While the notion of a "favorite newspaper" will depend on where they come from (e.g., The Hindu is more popular in the South, the Times of India in the west, etc.), almost everyone will tell you how good their coverage of national and international topics are, how some of the sportswriters could create poetry out of a one-day cricket match, how well-thought-out and progressive editorials are, etc.

Indian newspapers, esp. my favorite "The Hindu" (which is totally non-religious, btw), could also be very frustrating. Here is an example. Somebody sued a State Government about an "entrace test", but I find it nearly impossible to figure out what the lawsuit claimed, what the legislation they're talking about is. What I see instead is a morass of legalese, with phrases like "make the writ petition infructuous" and "prayed for an interim injunction restraining the Government from issuing a notification"...

Speaking of esoteric legalese in Indian newspapers, here's a hilarious example of legal language about an overweight ex-actress... why can't they simply write "released on bail"? The story of why she was brought into "judicial custody" itself wasn't very amusing, though -- but you won't be able to figure it out by reading this article. There's just no habit of giving a bit of background to the news stories... I think it worked well in an era when readers were regular subscribers, and if they don't know what an article is talking about, they can reach for the previous day's newspaper. In the Internet era, where you stumble on an article through various means, it is truly frustrating. Evidently, they don't have the habit of placing good hyperlinks, either.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Lovely quote by Stephen Jay Gould

From today's Quotes of the Day:
In science, 'fact' can only mean 'confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent.' I suppose that apples might start to rise tomorrow, but the possibility does not merit equal time in physics classrooms.
No, I am not about to enter into an Inane Debate about intelligent design. That is too far on the road away from science, past the exit for philosophy, just before the religion rest stop.

I am wondering about provisional computer science theories like P ≠ NP. It seems to me that we're closer to ID people on this than to scientists or even philosophers. Do we even have a philosophical or socio-philosophical reason why this must be true or linked with other deeper philosophical questions? (e.g., If P = NP, then (using reasonable laws of physics) the universe should have evolved a lot faster than it did, or that the future would be a lot closer than it is, etc., or If P = NP, there cannot be free will, or If P = NP, then there would be no poverty in the world, etc.)