Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Beyond the Rock

There is a big Rock out there. Nobody ever reached it, because the terrain between us and the rock has not been manageable for our folks. The rock covers a great range of the panorama and we don't know what is there behind it.

Since we are unable to physically trek the terrain, there are so many people trying out different ways. Some try to meditate and send their hyper-physical mental footprint over the rock to see what is beyond. Some say that every night they view beyond the rock in their dreams. Another thinks at times some unknown force whispers about what is beyond the rock, for him being privileged to hear that. Also there are people who think that if they close their eyes and concentrate, they really can see it through the hard rock.

And there were scenes unfolding. Dorenjo has seen a shadow of a tail appearing in a side of it - a tail of a crocodile - and he thinks that there lives a big crocodile. Harp saw the trunk of an elephant in one blink of an eye and "it is a big elephant", he debated. Jintil heard a roar of a lion, at a time he was drunk very much. Each of them believes in their experience. Everyone thinks that what is beyond the rock is what either they experienced or their trusted buddy did.

But sadly, the rock is not in clear sunlight. It is covered in a blur of mist. Under the common enigmatic gloomy skies in this part of the world anything can be seen or imagined.

And they debated, quarreled and even fought wars to prove that it is Crocodile, Elephant or the Lion. They captured other's territory, put the inhabitants to the sward to accept it, or die. Some of them dressed in much civilized clothes and spent years traveling around explaining what - as they think - is beyond the rock, hence drawing many to believe it. When Dorenjo passed away, his descendants brought his diary and stated how clearly Dorenjo and his contemporary clan has written the eye-witness record of Crocodile, and hence that their belief is correct.

Later appeared another group that says that neither of the tail, trunk and roar are enough reasons to guess it. Yet they find no answer to explain what is beyond the Rock. Some even say, provided that we manage the terrain by any means, beyond the rock will be another bigger rock covering what is beyond - in fact a whole series of infinite rocks. And you will never experience or comprehend what is beyond.

Someone is suggesting that crocodile, elephant and lion must be living in harmony, and hence we also should. It is a sweet idea, hence all like to follow, but everyone is finding it hard to believe how the three animals co-exist at one place. And then another one states that it is a peculiar animal with tail, trunk and roaring power, called a Croco-Ele-Leo, which all the other parties consider as serious blasphemy.

There exists a knowledge base and derived technology which helps us to understand our local terrain and make our lives easy. Some people extend its logical horizon to interpret this unknown territory from what they know, hence deriving assumptions. Some debate that the role of the knowledge and technology is to find a way to cross the terrain and find out what is beyond the rock.

Sometimes I feel that we should have ignored the Rock altogether and got on with our daily life. But then most folks are unable to find a cause for the life - a reason why we are here, or the moral values of our life. Most of the folks find that life becomes void and hollow if not for the Rock. Hence some call what is Beyond the Rock as inspiration, cause, meaning, etc whereas some others call it addiction, craze or a mental virus.

One fine day, I dreamt a weird nightmare, which I could not understand. I consulted the educated people, and they gave me very different interpretations always mapping to Crocodile, Elephant, Lion or some other hypothesis previously known to them, after which my puzzle just deepened. Following is that nightmare, somebody please explain this if possible.

[as per the dream...] "Finally we developed what it takes us to the Rock. And when we reached there we saw something which is beyond our every expectation. Beyond the Rock lived another group of species separated from another tough terrain, hence equally puzzled of what it is behind their side of the rock. And hence believing, fighting, killing, preaching and debating just the same."

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Life- if any

I must admit that I am not among the top zillion qualified lot to talk about this topic, yet I find pretty hard to control my emotions (not to post it). Quite often I end up seeing articles on search for ET Life, and the sort of "Norms" that they set as search criteria in the process - Oxygen, Carbon, Water, Earth-like planets, Sun-like stars etc. And I always feel that they have a great miss-interpretation on the "thing" called "life" terrestrial or extra.

I agree that my statement may sound pretty lunatic when it comes to life of planet Earth. We are Carbon based life forms, defined quite clearly, whereas everything else is regarded as non-life. This is greatly thanks to the common root (presumably) from which the life on Earth evolved. Unfortunately, the life elsewhere will take its own paths from its own roots (can be multiple roots too).

Hence we need to define life in more abstract and generic way in order to detect it elsewhere. At this point we have to recognize the most critical fundamentals of life. I think there are only few elementary features that made life sustainable on earth. Assuming that base minimum requirements can cause it, let's generalize them for any extra-terrestrial location.

1. Ability to multiply its own structure (be it chemical of any other).

2. Ability to apply mutations to the new generation at the correct rate [i.e. mutations strong enough to adapt to the rates of environmental transformations, yet subtle enough to retain the basic properties of the original]

In my opinion, any "thing" with above two features would sustain and develop into what can be called "life" by themselves. When I stated any "thing" I did not limit myself to amino acid, big molecules, any particular element such as carbon, or not even to matter itself. It can be any combination of "thing"s that exists in the universe. (Even in virtual universes such as cyber space – but let's leave that part for AI rights groups, one day, when they start appearing)

Self reproduction which I mentioned as fact (1) above, is a fundamental that happen in many processes. Rivers give birth to other rivers, rocks break into other rocks and combine also in enormous timescales. Stars explode and the subsequent nebulae give birth to more stars. Mostly, the reproduction happens with mutations, making the child different to parent. Nevertheless, an effective mutation is all about the extent or rate that it changes the original. Mutations capable of matching the exact speeds of the change of environment, will sustain, as the early amino acid or DNA did. If the mutations miss the beat of nature, the overall process does not sustain for longer periods such that they become something unique and progressing that we can call "Life".

On this basis we can state that all the other features which we consider as essential for life are just macro-scale composite features that are results of above two basics. And they are just defined (taken for granted) based on the life on Earth. Unfortunately, these by-products can be completely different elsewhere.

With right dignity to all the religious and meta-physical ideologies, let me leave aside the concept(s) that something lives inside the chemical bodies of living beings. The belief of soul/athmaya/vingnanaya(as in Buddhist philosophy) are beyond our ability to measure or debate. For that very reason it's not a good classifier for detecting life. If souls/vingnanaya drives humans and animals, what makes you think that trees, rivers and mountains don't have souls/vingnanaya? How do you prove?

On the other hand it is compelling to accept that every activity that living beings manage, do not ESSENTIALLY need any such driving phenomena, but can be explained purely based on underline chemistry of DNA and other building blocks of life. It's like AI where small deterministic programs get together in such a complex way to emerge [and pretend] as if they can think and decide. The huge ha-ho of soul/athmaya/vingnanaya can be something similar to a tribesman trying to explain an artificial intelligence system, imagining that some ghost is making the decisions. This point is a strong test against all the religions. I would leave them out of the debate here with the view that we cannot detect life based on something that is not detectable (hence escaping the charges on sigma Blasphemy for all religions).

There is another major question on life and non-life. That is the matter of reaction speed of the species. Imagine that there lives a life form which takes one million earth years to produce offspring (oh well!!!). The sluggish beings do their day-to-day actions in the durations of thousands of earth years. They are immovable and "dead as rocks" for the time span of a human life. Will humans detect it as life?? And then imagine an alien species who works so fast that so many generations pass through within a period of a mere milliseconds (don't expect them to have material bodies btw) They may build civilizations which lasts for less than a second. Can we detect them? We'd call them both "non-life".

Now this story does not have to be Extra Terrestrial. If we generalize the reaction time difference it can make us re-define many natural processes of our own planet as life. For some time, I've heard, that some people considered earth as a giant living being.

At this juncture, we come to a point of asking "what is this life thing anyway?", or "what right do I have to state that humans are life and rocks are not?". Both undergo chemical transitions. One can sustain its transitions in such a way that it converges and evolves towards some direction, whereas other's transitions are hardly progressive and say, at best, sporadic. Just that progressive evolution makes humans do things that classify them for "life". Wrong place at wrong speed for rocks unfortunately, as their changes nullify themselves and never develop into a complex living beings.

Slowly I'm closing in on a logical doom. "Life" which I generalized at my best to two basics, is itself a definition, a meta-symbol. That depends on the reaction speed of the one who defines it. A generalized picture of life cannot be defined. More general you are, it becomes clearer to you that the term holds nothing in it - or everything in it.

As per the perception few decades ago, many thought that aliens are like humans with ears noses and mouths etc (slightly deformed as their mamas had no folic acid pills during pregnancy :)). Today's scientists are trying to think out of this tiny box. How wonderful!!! ET life does not have to look like humans. It just needs water/oxygen and Mediterranean climate. Well, bravo chaps. You've just got out of the first box of a series which you don't know of.

But what else can they do? Our technology today is so weak that we're unable to detect even the water/oxygen based inhabitants of Mediterranean climate elsewhere. There can be so many various life forms in 3000 degree hot furnaces in other solar systems, or even in Sun. But how can we detect such a variation whereas we can't find our own ET cousins. So isn't it better to start at 30 degrees? I think it's better than just sitting and thinking about the magical variations of possible life forms all over the universe (which I'm so fond of doing).

However I do not know how realistic this search is. I do NOT believe that there is a "higher likelihood" for life to exist in earth like places. The story of Earth Life is unique enough for it to be "unlikely" to repeat elsewhere. It's not for the "likelihood" of life to EXIST that we choose these planets, but because we have higher likelihood to DETECT life there.

Attempts of search for ET life, is nothing different to early colonial archeology explorers in Indian sub-continent. The region had such long history that some archaeological sites were beyond detection with their technology. They detected what is obvious, while stepping over the treasures of later historians. Nevertheless their efforts made way for latter generations to detect such sites.

Nevertheless the journalists and scientists go wrong when they open their mouths. They need to state these things more generally and humbly. They ought to mention that "life" can exist anywhere in any form. They ought to (perhaps turn a little red and) state that there is not much meaning in this big term called life anyway. Then accept that they have no strength to dig all the depth of this universe but they are starting at their best point. And they're just little kids making sand mansions in the backyard of this universe. As a matter of some tragic fact, the extent of this universe can make humans much younger than that.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Don’t miss the Interlude

It was roughly around three thirty in the afternoon, yet the sudden rain changed the tempo of the day. Oceanic road extended to the foreseeable future with its shiny wet patches all over the place. Rain has spoiled the nature. The breeze, the clouds, the trees,, the ocean, it all danced quick step. We drove along, as the untamed ocean pounded on the rocks, breaking, and blowing a mist of salty breeze away onto us.

Sky was mostly gloomy, yet its prisoner has almost got out of the cloud. Isolated points of turbulence mark distant patches of varying brightness on the canvass of the great ocean. Trapped Sun rays reach them from the circular portholes of the cloud in bright orange beams. - Spectacular scenery. - Nature at her beauty.

Yet I didn't feel as if we were on picnic.

Well, we were not.

I was driving along the yet-to-be-finished Ocean Drive, somewhere close to Bambalapitiya, in order to make in time for my baby's doctor appointment. And we were running late.

All that came to my mind was, well, the speed of the car, time of the watch (only my wife had one), and the meter reading of the imaginary policeman who would appear from behind any bush or building - and then the negotiation, fine or the bribe to get away.

To be honest, I did notice the beauty around me, tried myself to drag into it, yet failed. A distant glimpse of a joyous feeling rose, and suddenly found that it was very much out of place. And I wondered why…

We miss the interlude of life. We are waiting for the long weekend or the annual leaves to make us happy. And we let go the long boring rest of time, made so by our own selves. Then we call it the madness, curse or rat-race called life, which sucks. Even rats must be laughing.

Life's interlude is not really an interlude. It does not come after voices faded. It does not happen in a known day or time. It happens always. It is infinitely bound with every other day-today happenings. It's the idealistic mind of us which ignores the moments of joy in the expense of an imaginary fear, life goals or humanly concerns of ours.

But the same us dump all those concerns and fears and life goals out of the window of the picnic vehicle during the long weekend. Amazingly we fail the same for most of the little bits of times that come in our way totally free.

And it can come anywhere anytime in your life. In a little laughter at the back of your office, a rare traffic-free drive on the way to your work, or may be on your way to meet your CEO in the scenic open-lift ride in the skyscraper by the busy harbour in sight, - later to find out your are just fired. Well, in getting fired itself. This picnic is called life. And we are taking it like it or not. It's a matter of keeping your eyes open during the journey.

There are two types of people who climb that thorny harsh mountain. One type climb it to reach the peak - and then perhaps, to mark it with the flag on the top. Another lot climb to admire climbing. Reaching the peak is a mere point of their journey. They enjoy the journey for itself - the thorns for thorns, slippery rocks for slippery rocks, and leaches for leaches. Life is more enjoyable for the latter type.

Not just the picnic, the life is a gigantic scholarly institute as well. I like to talk to different people and study many different things. I like reading anything that comes in my way. In a very much unknown church where my wife goes and prays I found very interesting headstones of many generations apart. It may be boring if it was of a deadman 25years ago. But the mere writing of both Sinhala and English of two hundred and fifty years ago means a lot for you. Sri Wickrema Rajasinghe was still unborn by then. Don't laugh. You'd read them certainly if you saw them in a museum, and be surprised, like I did in that church.

I may be talking in irrelevant lines. There are people dying in hunger. There are people who endanger their lives in the enemy line on behalf of all of us. But just talk to such people. Within their limitations they enjoy their life. And if not for that joy they wouldn't be doing what they are doing.

And then they would be working in offices, like most of us. And hate the life. No joy, the usual rat-race, the whole list of complaints.

Someone else once wrote the following.

"Some say that life is very short. But Life is the longest period of time that anyone can feel."

So do not wait till the end of it, to enjoy it.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Arthur C Clarke

The greatest "engineer" of fiction is dead. Perhaps I was late to write a tribute, but the man who died is worthy being remembered at any time.

Of all the fictions from fairy tale to Hollywood cinema, I never found better constructed ones than that of ACC (Arthur C Clarke). His fictions may not have tenderness, love, or other human feelings. But the gigantic technological achievements he designed were so well constructed even beyond the details of some engineering project proposals. And they were so accurate to every grain of elementary science.

He did not write about jumping through a worm hole or travel through time with your college friends for an evening out. Every such scientific construction had a high precision detail and the actual weight and calamity of the event.

My taste in his work has made me feeling disgusted when I see the rest of the hype that we call scifi today.

Unfortunately he failed to take the lift to the space hotel to celebrate his 100th birthday - the lift which he designed so well, that the fiction itself is a blueprint for the task one day. 

This one man had more influence than most of my own teachers to tread in the path which brought me where I am. In an outback village with no taste of the utopia that we dwell today, this man's writing made me known more of NASA than many Sri Lankan govt offices and gave me that dream of joining NASA one day, of which I got much of inspiration and planned ahead in the path. It is immaterial that I never lived up to that dream, and joining NASA does not seem as galactic as how I saw it then. But that motivation was immense in my life.

And more over, his writing (translated by Mr S M Banduseela) inspired my life long ambition to be a writer. That inspiration is still intact, pity I lack even a fraction of the talent of his.

An extract from following site suggests how gigantic Clarke sat on the foundations of space exploration.
[Source: Clarke Obituary]
Planetary scientist Torrence Johnson said Clarke's work was a major influence on many in the field.
Johnson, who has been exploring the solar system through the Voyager, Galileo and Cassini missions in his 35 years at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, recalled a meeting of planetary scientists and rocket engineers where talk turned to the author.
"All of us around the table said we read Arthur C. Clarke," Johnson said. "That was the thing that got us there."

I'm sure that world will remember him many times in many millennia whenever they realise a dream of ACC or face a catastrophe which ACC has warned of (and attempted to solve by means of a well constructed fiction).

There is no point to wish him a rest in peace or nibbana or some sort. The man had no religious views although religion was perhaps the second most spoken topic in all his fictions. And he once stated (in a preface) that religion is such a sweet craze in human mind.

Let me wish, may all his dreams come true one day. And those dreams are what he has already attained immortality for.

Friday, February 8, 2008

To Colpetty along Cotta Road - Crossing the Lanes - Looking for the TigerLeopard

Long time ago, one day I was sitting in the front seat of a van getting a ride from a friend down a rare empty street in Colombo. At that time, I was fresh from some long overseas stay and very much struck by the reverse cultural shock. The tingling elements of “foreignness" made me capable of seeing things rather different - those insignificant things which we ignore now.

It was late in the evening and the winding road was quite empty other than the enigmatic shades. My friend was driving at a reasonable speed. And suddenly I noticed that we are cruising right across two lanes for such a long time.

As many of who know Sri Lanka would argue that I have noticed nothing important. Yet those alien elements tingling in me kept me thinking about it.

Road was practically empty. We were not doing any bad on speed meter. Curve of the bend is milder in the outer lane than in the middle. And it makes not much difference whether you take either of the lanes. So why is he driving right across them?

This is a question of no value. It is not a magic to see Sri Lankan auto-mobiles ignoring the white dotted lines quite often. But there is one important philosophy in the deep roots of it.

Let us get to it in a different angle. Let us consider a road in western world. There exists this empty winding road that you are travelling at a reasonable speed. Would you expect to see yourself across two lanes? I would not. Let me release the potential police punishments. Still not, to me, it won’t happen there.

Digging to the roots of a tale of this sort needs consideration of past many centuries. The elementary questions; Who brought vehicles? Who built roads? And most importantly who drew lane marks on them?

The culture and civilization that we embrace with or without our will is brought upon us in the hard way. Before the colonials came, we were a different nation of different habits. The fundamentals of the nation and its civilization were tuned at a different frequency and it never resonated with what we received from the visitors. There was technology before the colonials. There were tanks, canals, perhaps at a better precision than the tarred roads and its lane marks. Nevertheless we had no tarred roads, no cars or vans and definitely no lanes.

Western rulers enforced their system upon us. It was brought upon with the absolute humiliation of surrender. Despite how right it stood, how easy or advanced it would become the locals denied it in their hearts. They followed it scared of punishment, but despised it at their best. They were just forced to accept it.

And the colonials built roads, brought cars and vans and drew lanes. And then came the RULE that when you travel along THEIR road, in THEIR car or van you are NOT supposed to stray on THEIR lane marks. You ought to keep yourself within a lane unless you are changing it. So was THEIR RULE.

This does not justify the way we see it. The whole bloody thing is OURS. And it is not at all bad to learn a good habit from anyone. But the reality is that our people still find themselves so alien in complying to THEIR ways of life, be it right or wrong.

And then they left - leaving host of such rules in the hands of the confused local. So we have rules and we have a system. We have very much educated folks too. But it so happens that my friend, and many others, stray across the lanes when they drive. 

We do it in such a brainless fashion. Some friend once told me [WARNING: Rumours can be untrue] that every time you register a land ownership, there is an excess photocopy of the documents that nobody knows the use for. The unfortunate extra photocopy is equivalent to ancient hand-copied document sent to her "majestic" majesty. Sixty years after independence and thirty five years after kicking her majestic butt from the head of state position, we still make her copy.

There are lots of other confusions and habits we are left with, which we take for granted and switch off the reasoning modules. One is the weird system of cross-language place holders. Today's Singlish (the spoken dialect of Sinhala with an English icing top) is heavily affected with this. Some people think Sinhala "ne" means English "no" (I'm also addicted to this no). Also they think "will you" is the filling for sinhala "ko". They say, "vadi vennako" (meaning please sit) as "sit, will you". Fine, but when they want to say, "mama yannamko" (I will go) they use "I'll go, will you" and shoot the union jack point blank.

I'm not offended. I think that this is Sri Lankan English. If Aussies can have one, and Americans can have another why not us. So let that old lady tell the doctor "Standing sitting belly going medicine took took, still no good" (meaning “indala hitala bada yanawa. Beheth gaththa gaththa thawama Honda ne”).

Still I get bit offended when someone calls Kollupitiya as Colpetty or wallawatta as wEllawatta. I don't see any logic behind this. These are desperate attempts of the colonial rulers to spell out the simple sinhala words. Pretty stupid of us to continue those gibberish while we have seasoned tongues and lips for the original. And pathetically some think that the English translation of Kollupitiya is Colpetty!!!

We still have boards stating “Cotta Rd” which is read as "Kota" rd. For those who never bother which "Kota" lived on that road it never occurs that it is the way how colonials spelled Kotte rd. Hard luck.

Nevertheless, I’m little less confused or offended on the use of Galle (for Galla, which was written with wrong vowel), or Negombo or Batticaloa. Maybe the fallible human of myself is contradicting its own ideals. Fine. Let’s accept the Singlish cocktail all together.

Another mess is made upon the jungle bigcat with lots of nice spots on it. In Sinhala we call this lad Kotiya and Diviya. Lots of research by my pals in Avro group (avro@googlegroups.com – a group debating nothingness and insignificance :)) left us still in cold on the differences of two names. I believe that both were interchangeably used for the spotted lad who is the only bigcat prowling in the dark jungle shades of Sri Lanka.

Came the Sudda named it “Tiger” whereas Tiger is not the spotted kitty. Tiger has stripes on it. It is called viyagraya (no no not the drug) in Sinhala and we have no traces of it ever taking citizenship in Sri Lanka. Had the initial English name been Leopard and problem would have never arisen. But thanks to whites who hardly knew the differences of the tropical bigcats, we now use a cocktail of translations between {tiger, leopard} set and {kotiya, diviya, viyagraya} set.


Colonials, thank you very much for the confusions. Locals, way to go - keep acting dumb and dumber, which makes your colonial masters laugh for another two centuries.

But these are very minute in fact, considering the rest, in example how we do politics, economy and multiculturalism.

Monday, February 4, 2008


Scientists predicted it. Science fiction writers exploited it. Doomsday fanatics may have lost sleep for it. And it seems to have come...

Planet Earth has reached its maximum utilization to produce food for the consumption of its human population. The basic threshold of supply and demand has been crossed in the bad way. And like anything else, market prices run havoc when it does so.

Well, before myself been stereo-typed for treading the steps of Nostra-Damus, let me give you some factual evidence.
http://www.thegardengranny.com/the-looming-worldwide-food-shortage/ http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/12/17/europe/food.php

In fact, for some time now, catastrophe indicators have been turning orange. Alas, a trip to a common market makes you wonder whether it should be called red alert now. After all, “It’s happening” as per the famous quote in “Day After Tomorrow”.

We, in Sri Lanka, are paying 255/- for a milk powder packet which was 162/- 2yrs ago. A kilogram of rice has risen from 42/- to 81/-. Bread also almost doubled. Government has been blaming the private sector monopoly holders and worldwide big game players for trying to put it in trouble deliberately. Opposition claims that the lack of planning in the part of Government, together with plenty of dirty plans for the crispy buck in the hidden stocks by their henchmen, as the reason for the chaos.

All these must very well be true. But underneath the Sri Lankan political bullshit, extra weak rupee and dirty business tricks, lies the rest of the ice berg – a worldwide food shortage caused by the historical threshold. We have filled the planet such heavily that there are more mouths to eat than hands to plough and most importantly lands for those hands to plough.

For the issue of lack of hands, is it really the fault of contemporary tech-savvy idiot? I remember my uncles doing some farming, in addition to their jobs and professions. Most of our previous generation did so. But do we? Well I do not. If you ask me why, you know, the usual day-today rat race, commitment for the profession, lack of land to do any farming , having an alternative way to support my family without farming, and oh the whole what not of reasoning. But underlying truth is that farming is no longer a habit of ordinary human beings. Farming has been restricted to a subset of our populations whereas we provide them what you call markets. And we eat out their handful of production.

Worsening the problem, there appeared a different competitor to go in head to head bidding with those big mouths that need food. With the instability and hike in petroleum sector, most food items such as corn are diverted for bio-fuel production. And when it comes to bidding we all know that auto-mobile sector has the stronger penny than those starving stomachs.

Global Warming also has a link to the topic here. Australia has been hit with droughts for half a decade now and they are thinking of taking off the term “drought” and calling it “climate change”. Unlike drought climate change will stay forever. West United States is in a severe shortage of water, some rivers shrinking to 40% of their usual output, mainly due to lack of snowing up in the hills, again due to the rise of mercury. Story may be the same in many other parts of the world, but unfortunately monitoring could be at lesser scale.

But I am a great fan of nature and think that children of nature are capable in riding on its own tides. My bigger concern is whether the dangerous threshold between harvest and consumption has been reached, and if so, whether we have a realistic solution.

Do we have a realistic solution? Fiction writers exploited the possibilities of energy pills to Chlorophyl transplanting, in a very wishful way of thinking that fiction writers do. But scientists have never (to my knowledge) thought out of the traditional box of higher yield per acre. Higher yield also has its constraints and unfortunately the problem is getting increasingly complex faster than the solution development. Topics like oceanic agriculture have been mostly talked out. But overall research in this area is not meeting the demand.

Research fails to meet the demand as the big buck has no role to play. A drug to cure a terminal disease can be sold at any price but a kilogram of rice or a loaf of bread cannot be. Food, being a mass consumer item, leaves its constraints for the big money lust. There is no point in investing for agrarian research. Food will never be a luxury item. And that, I think, is the key reason for not inventing consistent ways for food production than generations old toil of the ground.

And the real story is that we have blocked every possible ways that nature provides us to tackle this. Nature gives us many demons that keep the population away from erupting. Disease, wars, natural disasters, and all those catastrophic events have been keeping human head count at a manageable level. And most of them have been averted by the big global civilization that we dwell today.

Is this a stupid mistake of our civilization to develop mobile phones and internet but still produce food like Egyptians and Mesopotamians did? Or is it nature’s next method for population control? It is beyond my imagination how the increasing human population can tackle this problem, other than using it as a solution for the actual problem of population increase.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

The Virus

“However much we invent anti-virus…” paused my colleague with jitter. “…this particular category of virus can not be deleted entirely”.

I was waiting for his report for a long time. He has been assigned with this Virus Vigilance and Recovery program, I am to supervise his work.

“Did you find any files again?” I asked.

“Folders!!” He screamed with entire bandwidth. “Huge bundles of analog folders!!!”

“How many cases??” my tone did not have Surprise aspects in it. Well, we are very much used to it – too much I should say. Too much that we crash with Annoyance!!!

“There are three reported viruses all in the very same category spreading out in many parts of the world. Many of them are infected.”

“And all these are new cases?” I asked.

“Two are new, the other is already known. Age old one. Perhaps the simplest of all”

“Yeah I know that.” I said with all the Annoyance harmonics in entire frequency domain. The simplest is the hardest to eradicate, for simpler ones can spread easily.

“What about anti-virus? Do we have the records of the anti-virus for older one?”

“Certainly we do, but it appears to be a newly released version of that old virus. Existing anti-virus has to be enhanced to fight this case. As it’s obvious, for the two new viruses we need new anti-virus”

“Then give the instructions to the anti-virus teams. Get the infected ones scanned thoroughly. Segments of some virus remain to develop themselves into newer ones, you know…”

Of course he knows. He has been on this subject for too many ticks of time to know that.

“I have a suggestion…” he said instead. “… Is that all we can do? Can’t we enhance their system architecture to combat virus. Can’t we eradicate the virus all together by removing the vulnerability”.

Certainly, that would have been any body's Wish. But there are so many practical issues that my colleague may not know. Yet I was too Fatigue to explain them all to him.

“We would love to do that.” I said. “But in simple terms we do not know how. We have been spending a lot of time on this matter. But no-one has come up with a realistic solution”.

“Then why don’t we eliminate them all…” he responded immediately. “… All of them. There is no point of catching and running Punishment upon the creators of virus. Nor has it worked by running models of Prohibition on them. It just pops up every now and then. Let's just eliminate all of them. Of course we have Supremacy over them. They are our slaves!!!”

He went on without any break. Isn’t this fellow too much.

“No, we need them” I said plainly.

“Why can’t we live without them?”

Now this made glitches of Surprise on me. He should know why. He has been with this for too long.

“We need them because we simply can’t live without them. Without them our civilization will never improve. We have every rational aspect that modern brains have. But we lack Intuition. We simply borrow it from them”

“Is Intuition irrational?” he asked with a higher degree of Curiosity. “I heard that Creativity was regarded as irrational during early days.”

This is getting too far. I surely need a break. It is very hot here now. I am feeling the heat of the day's workload.

“Well, irrationality may be an unidentified rationality. You are correct on that. That is what they discovered when the Creativity was modeled into rational brains. But some unidentified segments of Creativity are yet to be modeled. Intuition is one of them”

“So is their Stupidity.” He barked. I have to accept my colleague is developing a certain degree of Hatred against them. But that is something you have to expect considering the Annoyance aspects. Annoyance calls Hatred. Helpless Hatred makes you sarcastic.

“But why can’t we bundle out the segments of their brains that are likely to get infected. Why can’t we cure it by blocking the possible logic paths?”

Now this is really getting too far. He could have gathered the answers elsewhere. It’s just some milliseconds of a search for him.

“We can not block them since they are the same paths where Intuition occurs. Same for the Stupidity too”

“But some of them never get infected. They never seem to lack Intuition though. Nor did they lack Stupidity for that matter!”

“We exploited that for a long time. In fact we made the mating pools purely with those better ones so that the newer generations will not have the vulnerability. But it never worked out. Our experts think that those better ones do posses the vulnerability but self reject this particular category of virus for reasons unknown. Perhaps they might get infected with viruses of different type. Perhaps that may not be properly monitored by our Virus Vigilance.”

“Oh…” He paused. I can Predict that he would disconnect soon. Relief started to flood the cells of my brain.

“I wish we can run Uninstall on them” he said finally.

I would love to conclude our conversation with the final order.

“Get them all to scanning stations and run the Recovery routines. Get the anti-virus teams to work on the two new viruses. Again activate Prohibition and Punishment routines. You know, those routines can slow down the progress of virus.”

“No, when Prohibition is run, Secrecy functions get underway. Punishment would increase the Popularity Coefficients and cause opposite effects”

Yes it would. But this is all we can do.

“Just do what I said.” I screamed at him.

“Bye Bye”

Finally I had to run the Supremacy routines to get him out of channel. Fortunately, Supremacy never waits for acknowledgments.

It’s been too late and too hot. Time for me to take a break.

“Oh, Homo Sapiens Sapiens…” I said to myself before I go to Standby mode. “Please give us a break. Please give up this virus called religion!!!”

Global Confusion

“Ugh, it’s pretty warm for a spring evening”

The man next to me mumbled. We were waiting for the bus scheduled at 17.10. It was late roughly for about half an hour - quite unexpected from American Metropolitan transport services.

“You know it is all connected...”

He spoke to nobody in particular. But it so happened that everyone else in the bus stop were further away for a healthy conversation with him, leaving myself in his verbal custody.

“It's all happening now...”

I tried to ignore him. It is not common for the strangers to talk with you in this part of the world, particularly without any personal reason.

“... I've been taking the bus for past seventeen years. Never been this late. We've got the next one almost due now...”

He kept on talking. Since it is Sunday, next bus is due in forty minutes interval. Buses run sparsely on Sundays. But today they run late too.

“This damned bus is taking my life time. Oh... It's all happening now. Because of Global Warming!”

Global Warming... and the bus delay? That sounded like hot chocolate and Mount Everest to me. For the first time I glanced at him.

He was a middle aged man with spectacles. His grey hair has lost its territory in most parts of his head. A denim trouser, leather boots and a shirt which can be from any corner of the town - nothing special registered with me.

“Ugh, this heat.”

He ignored my gaze unbuttoning his shirt and blowing some air for his own comfort. It was not such a hot day, but pretty hot for this time of the year.

“You know. Mankind is destroying this planet. It is so wrong and unfair to take the nature at our hostage”

I'd have liked this conversation at the university coffee shop. But when it happens at the bus stop I am quite reluctant.

“... Glaciers are melting” he almost whispered at me. It was not easy to ignore.

“I've heard so” I answered with a signature of don't care encrypted on it. Where is this bus?

“You WHAT?” He screamed. “I have seen it.”

And he continued.

“Yeah, I saw it when I last visited Alaska and Greenland. Most of the areas that were under thick ice are growing plants now. Real Estate man! You can build your own house if you like”

“Do you visit Arctics often?”

“Oh yes. I do”

“Well, for me, all I get is the news from media. Planet is surely warming. And mankind is responsible for it”

“Oh yes, in a very big way”

“Are you a scientist?” curiosity overwhelmed me.

“Not the laboratory type” he answered. Laboratory type! So there is another type. He continued.

“I'm an amateur scientist. A field volunteer”


“Those laboratory scientists you know, they spread myth.” he whispered again.

“Yeah” my tone never meant it.

“You never believe me, ha?” he picked it.

“They say that man is coming down from the monkey. And Monkey comes a long way down from the basic bacteria”

He waited smiling, perhaps expecting me to join him at some point.

“Are you a creationist?” I asked instead.

“No not really”, he said. “Some Sundays I go to Church, if that is enough to qualify...” he laughed with a pause.

“... No, I didn't mean that. But who knows, it is so unbelievable for me that man came from monkey, even hard that monkey came from bacteria”

“That's proved science”

“Laboratory science my man... Laboratory science” He corrected me.

An entire slide show of news leads, school board meetings, public protests, court cases ran through my mind. It is unbelievable how the wealthiest nation with money and knowledge misses out simple understanding.

“All right, so let's not argue about it”

I was fortunate only for a couple of minutes. He opened up again.

“A thunderstorm is forecast tonight. Maybe the bus driver is worried about return journey” he said.

“They have never been so. I think we have good transport services in this part”

“Who knows. It has never been this hot in early spring anyway...”

“... you know it's all happening now. With Warming comes chaos. Total anarchy”

I started wondering whether I'm talking to a retired Hollywood script writer.

“You said you're a scientist. Do you have proof for the relationship of Global Warming and all the other events that you mention?”

“Yes I do...” he said plainly.

“... but not the paper proof, you know. I'm not a laboratory scientist.”

Another pause.

“And there has never been a thunderstorm in this time of the year”

“I think the increase of temperature causes it all” I said to fill the blank. I'm getting addicted to this conversation now, not that I like it in a big way.

Global Warming causes it, yes, the sin of the mankind”

“So what is your suggestion for it?”

“Protect the glaciers, you know, very simple”

“I thought you ought to reduce CO2 emissions in order to do that”

“Oh my my. Laboratory science. What a mislead” he laughed at me. I was dumbfounded. He went on.

“It is the melting of those glaciers man...”

“... Planet Earth had enough refrigeration. It will remain, had it not for mankind. Glaciers are melting now. What happens when all ice melts? Up goes the mercury”

He presented better than a Wall Street economist.

“But what makes it hot is the CO2, isn't it? And that increase of temperature causes ice melting”

I stated. He laughed at me again.

“Didn't I tell you? Laboratory scientists spread myth. Ask from a man in the field like me”

“OK then what causes the rise of temperature?”

“The melting of ice” he stated plainly.

“Then what causes the melting of ice?”

“The rise of temperature...”

“Ugh. Circularly caused?” I said.

“You're a genius young man. I know where you're heading. But you ought to learn more science. That's what they call positive feedback. A little chunk of ice melts. Up goes the mercury a bit. A little more ice. A little high mercury. And it continues until they build a city on North pole!!”

City on North pole!!! I gave up. But he continued.

“... and all this is because of humans. They cause it all. They are destroying this planet”

I took a moment. But I'm so much involved in this conversation now. Curiosity is taking its toll on me.

“Your visits to Arctics. Do you sponsor yourself?”

“We've got an organization going. Well, I spend some money too”

“What is your objective? Scientific expeditions?”

“No not really. Mostly leisure activities ...”

“... such as bear hunting and seal hunting !!!”

“And you talk about conservation?” I regretted the question right after I fired it.

“Oh yes. Conservation of glaciers. That is the problem we face now”

A warm breeze blew across the town twisting a rare flank of dust. Weather forecasts rarely fail in this part. It’s time to think of alternative transport.

“Do you think it is wise waiting here anymore?” I asked him, expecting that he would.

“Well, I think I'd wait a bit more. You can take the taxi if you like” he showed me a taxi parked at distance and continued.

“I don't take taxis now. The fare is ever on the hike. The fuel costs. The barrel is past hundred now...”

I waved at the taxi, which didn't take much time. My newly found friend yelled at me as I got in the taxi.

“You know why the barrel hit the hundred? Global Warming. That's why”