Invictus – The Emancipation of Humanity

There is a poem by the Victorian poet William Ernest Henley known as “Invictus”, which is latin for “unconquered”. It goes like this, (I’ve actually memorized it)

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.

Now, here is a derivation of an expression for the escape velocity of a planet, (I ripped it off of Wikipedia because using MathML or Latex to write it all myself on wordpress is hell)

F = G\frac{Mm}{r^2}.\\\\    dW = G\frac{Mm}{r^2}\,dr.\\\\    W = \int_{r_0}^{\infty} G\frac{Mm}{r^2}\,dr    = G\frac{Mm}{r_0}. \\\\    \tfrac{1}{2}m v_0^2 = G\frac{Mm}{r_0},\\\\    v_0 = \sqrt\frac{2GM}{r_0}.\\\\

Now if I were to give this derivation a name, I would call it ‘Invictus’. Think about it. We emerged long ago as a collection of nomadic tribes in Africa. As a young species, the sky was inaccessible to us. We envied the birds and their ability to elegantly glide through the air and soar through the heavens (in fact, I think we still envy the birds, at least I do). Even more inaccessible was the serene and beautiful white orb that appeared in the skies on a clear night, which we call the moon. Rising up into the heavens like the birds seemed impossible. We were thrown into a gravitational prison cell, that was ‘black as the pit from pole to pole’… and yet our soul was unconquerable.

We developed the scientific method and found out that Nature had laws and these laws could be understood by experimentation and mathematical reasoning. Sir Isaac Newton published the Principia that created a launchpad for our species. It enabled us to decrypt the mysteries of the heavens… and emancipate ourselves. At the launch of Sputnik, we proved that we were Invictus. All of this was possible because of this derivation and the science that lay behind it.

The place on the Moon where humanity first landed is called the Sea of Tranquility. Whenever I look at the Moon it seems astonishing, almost incredulous to me that tiny creatures like us have actually set foot on that beautiful shiny-white world that harmoniously orbits our planet. And yet, we did set foot on it… and by doing so we proved that our species was unconquered by gravity.

The Grand Chess Game

The video is a section from the Richard Feynman documentary called “The Pleasure of Finding Things Out” (watch the entire documentary too, trust me, it’s amazing). In the video, Feynman discusses how doing Science is like observing a chess game played by the gods. You realize certain patterns, which are of course, the laws of Physics. You use your understanding of those patterns to make predictions. Sometimes those predictions fail and you realize your law was only correct under certain conditions, and you have to change or modify the law so that it makes correct predictions in other conditions as well. The analogy is very interesting. It encourages one to look at the universe as a kind of Grand Chess Game.

I wonder how Quantum Mechanics fits into this analogy. Perhaps a chess board where it is impossible to determine when one square ends and the other begins? I don’t think I am qualified enough to discuss the issue. In Carl Sagan’s book, “Billions and Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium“, there is a chapter titled “The Persian Chessboard”. It is a very interesting read. It discusses the origins of Chess and the mind-blowing power of exponential functions.

Another interesting thing to watch is “Curiosity” a video which is part of the “The Feynman Series” by youtuber Reid Gower:

Why I Have no Favorite Color

Let me ask you a question. What’s your favorite song? That makes sense, right? Now if I were to pick a song or a composition, let’s say Für Elise by Beethoven, and ask you what your favourite note is from the entire composition… would that make sense? Of course not. An individual note, considered separately, has no beauty at all. It is the unique combination of different musical notes that has the beauty, not the notes themselves. If it was otherwise so, all musicians and singers would be out of business as people would enjoy random programmed beeps on a computer as much as the Bohemian Rhapsody.

Visible spectrum

Now what is a musical note? It is just a vibration in the air generated at a specific frequency. Different notes have different frequencies. Notes with a higher ‘pitch’ have a higher frequency and vice versa. Now what are colors? They’re just vibrating electromagnetic fields at different frequencies. Now let’s repeat the reasoning. I’ll take an image, let’s say a picture of the “Mystic Mountain” in the Carina Nebula.

Now tell me, what’s your favorite color in that image? That doesn’t make sense right? It’s not the individual colors that are beautiful, it’s their combination. The reason I picked the Carina Nebula is because, in my opinion, the electromagnetic compositions of nature are intricate and profound to a level beyond human imagination, far superior to the musical compositions of humanity. In many ways, studying Physics is just like listening to a symphony. The only difference being that the compositions of nature are far more beautiful than those of Bach and Beethoven.

How to Win an Internet Argument

duty_calls

Credits: XKCD [ http://xkcd.com/386/ ]

Choose the Right Viewpoint

Before taking part in an online argument, it is wise to carefully choose a viewpoint that is the most widely believed and hence will get you the most public support. Knowing which viewpoint is supported by the majority of the population is easy: just pick the one that is stupidest, requires the least amount of intelligence, is supported by the most politicians and has the least amount of evidence to back it up. An argument with all of these qualities is guaranteed to be the one with the most public support.

Wrong: Climate Change is a major challenge for our species and we need to use all our combined intellect and resources to avert this catastrophe and leave a better world for future generations.

Right: Climate Change is false propaganda by those pesky liberals.

Awesome: Climate Change is a conspiracy by the Illuminati so they can control the world and impose evil things like science and education on the innocent population.

Use Incorrect Grammar

Whatever you do, don’t write a single sentence that is actually comprehensible.  Using correct grammar or language that suggests you were privileged enough to receive even the most minimal amount of education  is suicide in the world of online arguments. It is also extremely crucial that you misspell all words that are more than three letters long.

Wrong: I am sorry sir, but you seem to be exceedingly ignorant and uninformed of the issue at hand.

Right: Die u stupid imbaceele!

Awesome: Fak u fegit, K? U bez stoopid. Plz dying now.

Credits: XKCD [ http://xkcd.com/1081/ ]

Take Ad Hominem to the Next Level

Whoever said nonsense like, “Attack the idea, not the person“, was clearly an Indian agent trying to spread false propaganda. To win an internet argument you must never ever ever pay attention to the your opponent’s ideas, logic or evidence. The best thing to do is to disregard everything he has to say and keep hurling insults at him, his parents and (only for professionals) his ancestry, race and language.

Preposterously Wrong: I agree with most of your evidence however you must remember that correlation does not imply causation in all cases, and hence the conclusions you draw may be unjustified.

Wrong: Your argument is invalid.

Right: Damn u aNd ur grAndMa. U <insert race> morons r <insert unfriendly country> agents trys 2 destroying my contry. Pplz like u shud B deadened and hanging. Stoopid treitor pPlz.

The Capslock is Your Friend

You may sometimes run into a problem if your assertion is not convincing enough. Some people make the mistake of mentioning objective evidence and logic to support their claim. That’s stupid, don’t do that. The best technique to work your way out of this situation is to  just keep repeating your assertion in an exceedingly aggressive and illiterate-sounding tone. Turning on the caps-lock and SHOUTING EVERYTHING IN CAPS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  is strongly recommended.

And that’s that. I’m sure with these simple, easily implementable techniques you will never lose an internet argument again.

The Stirring of a Breeze

Note: This post was also republished here.

Hostels

I see posts from numerous freshmen on the LUMS Class of 2018 Facebook group discussing their upcoming departure and preparations for their new life at LUMS. Everyone is expressing their joy and excitement. How they can’t wait for the orientation. How their dream has finally come true. When they are planning to depart for Lahore. What they are looking forward to. What their plans are.

Although this is what I, too, should be feeling right now, as I sit here in my soon to be vacated room with shopping bags and boxes beside my bed filled with clothes and presents for relatives in Pakistan, all I am feeling is an overwhelming sense of sadness and… emptiness; along with an inability to appreciate the fact that all this is actually happening. I’m really leaving.

Quotation-Carl-Sagan-space-sense-Meetville-Quotes-211390

It’s sort of strange when you think about it. All through the A-Levels and the SATs, this is what I have been looking forward to: going to a prestigious university and learning Science and Engineering. I still remember looking up the requirements of universities online and going through the immensely tedious and annoying (akin to torture, really) admission processes. I was excited then… restless, motivated, driven… but not sad. Not the least bit sad or anxious.

Maybe it was because I was so occupied with what I could gain from achieving my goal that I hardly took the time to contemplate what I will be losing, at least temporarily. I think I can handle living in the on-campus accommodation (especially considering it’s probably one of the best in Pakistan). I also believe I can handle the tough workloads and competitive environment of a Science and Engineering School. I also hope that if I work hard it won’t be difficult to get into my desired major, Electrical Engineering, along with a minor in Physics. However, the biggest problem I think I will face is the fact that, well… I’ll miss my mom a lot.

This is for grad school but most of the stuff is applicable to undergrads as well. Especially the last part.

What I must realize, however, is that times have somewhat changed since the departure of 19 year old Chandrasekhar on a ship to Cambridge for his MSc. in Physics. I’m going on an airplane instead of a ship, for one. Not to mention, I can contact my family instantly via phone calls, emails, social networking etc. instead of sending ye olde letters or waiting for the telephone operator to finally put an international call through. Hence, I definitely need to stop acting like a baby.

I can’t live on my dad’s money forever and I know it. On top of that, university will provide me with something I have always craved and hungered for… knowledge. Especially knowledge about Physics and Engineering and all sorts of other scientific fields. I guess I should stop sulking like a kindergartener and act like an adult for once (which is pretty difficult for me, considering I have a maturity and IQ level less than that of an average elementary school student). When I was young, I always assumed I’d be far more mature and grown-up-ish at the age of 19. Yet, here I am, as stupid as ever.

Also, on a more positive note, this is my 96th blog post. Only four more left till I reach the goal of publishing a 100 posts on this blog. I still vividly remember the day I made my first post after transitioning from my previous blog about three years ago. Ah… the memories.

Scientific Tweeting

Twitter is like a library. There are all kinds of books but which ones you want to read is entirely your choice. Most people just issue a retarded Jane Austen novel to kill time with, but some use the library to read textbooks on Science, Mathematics and Medicine. If you fall under the latter category, then here are some amazing twitter handles for you to follow…

Neil deGrasse Tyson’s tweets are so epic, they’re even featured in his book. I found his book, Space Chronicles – Facing the Ultimate Frontier, at a bookstore and took a picture. Here take a look,

20140731_125734_Android

Yes! NASA’s Voyager actually has an official twitter handle. Awesome, right? If you don’t think that’s awesome then you’re bad and you should feel bad.

This one doesn’t seem to be official but it’s pretty well informed and, quite frankly, posts more interesting and cool tweets.

Epic epic epic epic EPIC epic epic epic EPIC!!!! Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the official twitter handle of NASA’s curiosity rover.

A tribute to Carl Sagan. Gives you a regular dose of profound and meaningful Carl Sagan quotes.

Incredibly informative.

And that’s it. Some of the best and most informative accounts on twitter. As a side note, there’s also this wannabe newb who has practically no followers at all and would appreciate some new ones…

 

An Open Letter to Chickens

Disclaimer: I am brain-damaged.

ChickenDear Chickens,

You are one of the most mysterious animals that exist on this tiny blueish speck we are obliged to call a planet. I have way too many questions and I have been wondering about them for way too long. I want answers, and I want them right now. If you fail to cooperate… well, let’s just say Chicken Biryani has always been one of my favourite dishes. I warn you, this is not an empty threat. You can go crying to PETA or wherever you want, but I will still carry out what I intend to do unless, of course, you give in to my demands. As they say, everything is fair in love and chicken curry.

My first question relates to your origins. I want you to tell me as soon as possible whether it was you that came first or whether it was the egg. Be very careful, I won’t tolerate any beating around the bush and lame word play. I want a crystal clear, single word answer. Was it you or the egg?

derrivative

Secondly, pray tell me guys… why, in the name of chicken sheesh kebabs, did you cross that bloody road? What, you’re offended by that are you? Well, mail that to someone who cares. I won’t tolerate any of that nonsensical neo-liberal propaganda you all are so deviously propagating. Stuff like, “I dream of a world where chickens can cross the road without having their motives questioned.” You damn rooster-necks think you’re pretty cunning, huh? You think I don’t understand what you master plan is? You think I don’t know that you’re all in it together, do you?

That fake innocent-looking clucking of yours and that mock stupidity you show may be good enough to fool the average Joe but it isn’t nearly sleek enough to deceive me. You need to try a little harder if you’re planning to convince the thinking man. You know what else I know, but you don’t know I know? You can fly. Yeah, you think you’re made everyone fall for your stupid ‘too-fat-to-fly” act, but I know. I know you can fly, I’ve seen you do it! You just pretend to be unable to fly in order to appease your bosses down in Antarctica, isn’t that correct?

Yeah. I know the penguins are your bosses. I’ve known that for a long time. Remember that ginger cat you though was on your side? Well, she was a double agent! Muhahaha. She worked for me. She told me all about your secret rituals. How you all send secret messages early in the morning when you think all us lazy dumb humans are asleep.

All that seemingly meaningless “Cuck-oroo Coo. Cluck. Cuck-oroo Coo.” You think I didn’t notice the hidden pattern? You think I was too retarded to crack the secret encryption codes you use? Well, you thought wrong! I know all about your cunning little plan of enslaving humans.

chicken fowl play

Your numbers have been growing, haven’t they? There are already more than 50 billion of you compared to only about 7 billion of us. On top of that, I have been told by good authority that you have already perfected the technology of light-sabers and ion-cannons. You have also figured out a way to destroy to us biologically from the inside using your secret ‘bird-flu’ project. So my last question is… why are you holding back? Why?

You can easily conquer the human race right now if you want to, so why wait? Is it, perhaps, because you’re plotting something even more evil? Or was your goal something other (and probably more sinister) than world domination from the very start? As I said earlier, I am not going to tolerate any of your false pretenses and lame excuses anymore. I want answers and I want them right now! Otherwise, you will be responsible for the consequences.

Yours carnivorously,
Muhammad “Chicken Hunter”  Tirmazi

 

Putting Things in Perspective

Note: This content of this post is similar enough to a previous post of mine titled We Are Negligible for the post to be mentioned here, but not enough for this post to be considered a sequel.

calvin-significant

The philosopher Immanuel Kant once wrote in his essay, Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch,

Without man and his potential for moral progress, the whole of reality would be a mere wilderness, a thing in vain, and have no final purpose.

Like most philosophers, Kant had absolutely no idea what he was talking about. Even if he did, his analysis is incorrect to the point of being considered self-centered and childish. Looking at the vastness of the cosmos and its grand scales (which I discussed in the post I linked above) does the hypotheses that without the existence of an insignificant collection of life-forms wandering on the surface of a speck of dust orbiting a tiny nuclear fusion reactor, one of billions spiraling around a black hole forming a structure that is just one of infinitely many in a universe (which might turn out to be just one of infinitely many other universes), that without the existence of these puny little beings, the whole of reality will descend into chaos hold weight?

Well, I don’t know about philosophy, but in the scientific point of view this assumption is preposterous. One must remember that for 99.9% of the about thirteen billion years of cosmic history, humans weren’t even around. Was the cosmos at that time any worse off without our existence? Of course not. On top of that, I hate to say it but (at the incredulously naively ridiculously over-optimistically estimated very very most) in about a couple billion years we won’t be around to make these nonsensical arrogant claims anymore. Here is a video that discusses the ultimate fate of the universe (it was made with the help of Caltech Theoretical Physicist and Cosmologist Sean Carroll, so I’m guessing it’s pretty scientifically accurate) :

It seems depressing, right? Makes one feel insignificant. Putting things in the cosmic perspective may seem disconcerting, but it is a very nice means of self-improvement. For example, if Napoleon, Genghis Khan or any number of modern war-mongering generals and politicians were to stop and think for a moment in the cosmic perspective, perhaps along these lines:

I am about to send my army to kill hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children, fellow beings who share my moment in time. I am about to widow and orphan countless people. And after all this cruelty I’ll be able to claim ownership of a tiny portion of a microscopic dot which carries no particular significance in the cosmos. Is it all worth it?

Perhaps there would would be fewer wars and bloodshed and we’ll finally learn how to live in harmony respecting each other’s differences and treating each other as equals. Another good thing the cosmic perspective does is that it gets rid of your ego. It is impossible to contemplate about your existence and your place in the cosmos without developing humility. Here is a video of Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson discussing one’s ego and its relation to the cosmic perspective:

One might ask, in all this emptiness, how does one add purpose and significance to one’s life? Well, if you measure your worth by the amount of lands you have conquered or the amount of wealth you have amassed then I don’t think being reminded of your place in the universe will give you any comfort as it will make you realize your insignificance even though you are trying hard to deceive yourself into believing you are important. On the other hand, if you measure your worth by the amount of people you have helped and influenced in your life and by the knowledge and understanding you have gained, then I think this perspective should be far more uplifting than it is depressing. In his book Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space, astronomer Carl Sagan wrote (yes, I quote Carl Sagan a lot, deal with it):

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.

Maybe if we think of things in this perspective, perhaps there still might be some hope for us, as a species to one day end famine, reverse climate change, establish world-peace and journey to the planets and the stars. Until then, and once again I quote Carl Sagan, “for small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love.”

Finally, here is a photo called “Earthrise” taken by an astronaut during the Apollo 8 mission. It shows the beauty and fragility of the tiny planet we call home…

earthrise

The Awesomeness of Mark Twain

Mark Twain was one of the most awesome, hilarious, ingenious and original people in modern history. I’ll discuss a few of his funniest or most favourable aspects.

Originality

One of the things I like about Mark Twain is his originality. He didn’t bow to popular belief or peer pressure and change his opinions accordingly. His opinions were his alone. As an example, read his comments on Da Vinci’s the Mona Lisa…

To me it was merely a serene and subdued face, and there an end. There might be more in it, but I could not find it. The complexion was bad; in fact, it was not even human; there are no people that color.

At the start of the novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, he wrote:

Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.

I don’t understand the motive behind this statement, but I’m guessing this was actually a challenge to attempt all the things he warned not to do.

Premature Obituary

On June 1, 1897, the New York Herald, a widely read and popular daily American newspaper wrote an article in which it stated that Mark Twain was on the verge of death and that his thinking facilities had already been completely compromised. Ironically, Mark Twain was alive and well at the time. In fact, it was Mark Twain’s cousin J.R Clemens who was severely ill and had probably been the cause of the New York Herald‘s mistake. In an article titled “Mark Twain Amused” published the very next day in another newspaper, the Journal, Mark Twain made history by writing this ingenious comedic masterpiece:

“The report of my death was an exaggeration.”

This statement has been misquoted in many ways but, in my opinion, the original is still the funniest and most befitting.

 

Hatred for Jane Austen

One of the aspects of Mark Twain I like the most was his hatred for Jane Austen and the hilarious way in which he expressed it. Here are a few of his quotes that illustrate how much he detested Jane Austen and her works:

“Jane Austen? Why I go so far as to say that any library is a good library that does not contain a volume by Jane Austen. Even if it contains no other book.”

“Everytime I read ‘Pride and Prejudice’ I want to dig her [Jane Austen] up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone.”

“She makes me detest all her people, without reserve. Is that her intention? It is not believable. Then is it her purpose to make the reader detest her people up to the middle of the book and like them in the rest of the chapters? That could be. That would be high art. It would be worth while, too. Some day I will examine the other end of her books and see.”

Perhaps it’s because I, too, share his prejudice towards Jane Austenish literature, but I find his statements to be humorous.

Interest in Science

Yes. Mark Twain was interested in science too. As I mentioned in a previous post, Mark Twain was a close friend of Nikola Tesla. Mark Twain also patented three inventions including the Elastic-Clasp Brassiere Strap which is used nowadays in women’s bras. In addition, Mark Twain also wrote one of the first novels related to time travel called A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.

Here is a letter Mark Twain wrote to Nikola Tesla. I’m dead serious…

Letter Mark Twain Tesla

 

This is beside the point but to be frank, I don’t think Tesla ever invented a “destructive terror” but still, he invented lots of other great things that have shaped the modern world.

What’s the Deal with Billions and Billions?

billions-and-billions

Carl Sagan’s association with the term “billions and billions” is so popular that there’s actually a term called sagan which is synonymous to billions and billions. Sample usage: “There are sagans of stars in the Milky Way”. Ironically, although he often mentioned millions, trillion and miscellaneous -illions of things, Carl Sagan never actually used the term “billions and billions” exactly in Cosmos: A Personal Voyage. It was actually popularised by the comedian Johnny Carson who parodied Sagan. Luckily, Sagan took it to be good-natured humor and titled his last book Billions and Billions.

Here’s a collection of all the ‘-illions’ mentioned in Cosmos: A Personal Voyage:

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson faced a similar situation with the hilarious “We got a badass over here” meme nowadays. The meme is probably based on an interview he gave to the Youtube Channel BigThink, where he discussed Isaac Newton and his achievements. Once again, like Carl Sagan and the term billions and billions, Tyson never actually used the phrase “We got a badass over here” in the interview. It’s kind of hilariously unfortunate, in my opinion. :D

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Here’s the original interview, where Neil deGrasse Tyson discussed Isaac Newton:

And here’s a video of Neil deGrasse Tyson discussing the meme, it’s hilarious: