Sunday, July 06, 2008

Unified field(s) theory

First of all this post has nothing to do with the UFT in physics that one is familiar with. Moreover there is no theory at all. Who said the title/subject should be an appropriate reflection of the body anyway? like this comic or the innumerous sensational headlines one gets to see on TV these days. Anyways the reason i used it was 'coz this post was touching so many fields, including bit of physics, which is the reason i remembered it in the first place. :)

Well it started off with me finding these couple of printouts @ home, which i had probably taken around 2 'n half years back, the time around which i started this blog. Let me check, yep somewhere during this 4th post of mine. Hmm, they were some amazing days...all those discussions on physics/philosophy/religion/life ...learning about so many new things...
Its sad that 've completely lost touch with it now, don't even read! :(

Anyways the printouts in question are - 'The Meaning of it All' by Feynman and 'Plato's Theory of Love: Rationality as Passion' , which a friend had forwarded asking my views on it. The former i saw that i had read almost half but not remembering anything i restarted from the first page. It made for a great reading, as all his other stuff. Its a collection of 3 lectures -
I. The Uncertainty of Sciences
II. The Uncertainty of Values
III. This Unscientific Age

The first two are brilliant but the third i felt was a bit dragging. Many parallels can be drawn from the present world to the ideas expressed there. For eg, this paragraph from 'Uncertainity of Sciences' -
"Most people find it surprising that in science there is no interest in the background of the author of an idea or in his motive in expounding it. You listen, and if it sounds like a thing worth trying, a thing that could be tried, is different, and is not obviously contrary to something observed before, it gets exciting and worthwhile. You do not have to worry about how long he has studied or why he wants you to listen to him. In that sense it makes no difference where the ideas come from. "
can easily describe the open source community. Or take this -
"It is better to say something and not be sure than not to say anything at all"
Don't we all hear the exact opposite? Say something, only if you are sure. Can you imagine how boring the world would be if it was like that? Of course if you say something stupid, just be prepared to accept that you were a dunce and move on. Reminds me of this nice post and the inspirational Google quote - "don’t run from failure — fail often, fail quickly, and learn."

Then you have references to Cold war, Communism in Russia and one is amazed at the intensity of it. For later generation people in third world countries like ours , cold war just remains something you read in history text book or Robert Ludlum's novels.

In the third lecture, there is this part where he talks about statistical sampling and arriving at (wrong)conclusions. It seemed so relevant to what i was coming across in google reader these days. I generally lean towards the opinion 'Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics' and looks like 've valid reason to be, as this latest post in freakonomics blog, points out people generally lie. Even if you assume the people surveyed, told the truth, theres the question of whether it was the correct sample i.e sufficient and unbiased to arrive at a possible right conclusion.

But seriously some of the ones one comes across are so ludicrous, they insult your common sense. A new sensational view of the society is portrayed as a result of some survey whose sole participant(s) will be the author of the piece. The best example? TOI of course. Well you can't blame them as they generally source their articles from outside(rediff,internet...). Actually there is a much serious problem here, that of reporting without verifying the story first. The recent prank played on the leading newspapers in India brings out this issue to the fore. You can read more of that story - here.

Another more worrying problem is the effect on the younger generation. Unless its some film gossip, the general attitude is to believe everything they report in paper. Say supposing an article reads 'more than 70% of under aged students indulge in pre-marital sex'(i really wonder where TOI does its survey to get such data from), now wouldn't other normal kids think that its ok? Yea i know its not such a gr8 example, its a grey issue like many others but you get the idea. This twisting of data/results to come up with a sensational headline is what i take exception to. A funny thing happened just few days ago, which exactly illustrates this process.

Couple of days back, friend shared this item on google reader . It boldly proclaimed -
"Why do psychopaths exist? The ladies help the psychopaths reproduce by going to bed with them. Men who are narcissistic, self-obsessed, liars, psychopaths, Machiavellian, and thrill-seekers get laid more."
Well naturally ones eyebrows will rise at such a statement. But funny part was that another friend of mine had shared this article almost a month back. Now just notice the difference between the two. This one at least mentions more about the study, how it was done 'n so on. Others don't even mention it. So just imagine the third level of referencing done by some other paper from the 2nd source, how would it be?

First of all there are many issues with the way study has been done. I mean with a statement like 'Psychopaths get laid more', one would expect that in the survey one went and asked some known psychopaths how many times they got laid and compare it to normal men. Well this itself will give you a skewed picture as the ratio of psychopaths to normal men is so less but say, lets still grant this one. But alas, this wasn't the way it was done. Just read the article to find more as to how it was done, the only thing i would like to draw your attention in that is to this line -
"He came to the conclusion after conducting 200 surveys on psychology students which asked them about their sex lives and attitudes towards sex and relationships"
Pretty amazing huh?
Now couple it with the fact that most people lie when it comes to self-reporting, aint this result just amazing?

Its not to say that the idea is wrong, it may be right(for all other reasons), but come up with the right set of data to prove it. Well it wasn't the chap's fault, a grad student who had to submit a research paper but you would expect the media to report for what it is and in the cases where they are sensationalizing it, at least give a link to the original research.

hmm....thats a lot 've written!
Time reads 3:35am, guess 'Plato's theory of love' 'n philosophy part will have to be some other time :)

Adios
'n yes Rafa won :D
just an awesome match, estupendo!
feel blessed if you managed to watch the entire thing. :)

>>Update/disclaimer/correction
Say supposing an article reads 'more than 70% of under aged students indulge in pre-marital sex',
The keyword there was 'supposing'. Note i don't quote any specific TOI article, mainy 'coz i'm really bad at remembering the details, but do remember coming across a TOI article similar to this long time back and that time thinking how ludicrous it was and wondering where they got the data from.
So ppl are asked to not use the above as their reason to vow not to marry a b'lore girl :P
as i don't even mention b'lore in there.
he he, 'n this incident perfectly illustrates what i was talking about, namely how a simple number can have such far reaching effects.

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3comentarios:

Blogger shrek said...

A few issues with the post - please mention that the post i shared doesnt "boldly proclaim" bad boys win. I would much sooner publish a study myself than share something that says so.. it comments upon the study.

and Ms. Bangalore girl, is that a hint to be taken by us friends to go out in hordes to search for a Mr.right for you ?

Thursday, 10 July, 2008  
Blogger shrek said...

coming back to the statistic, no wonder bangalore is the "hot-bed of activity" attracting youngsters from all over the country

Friday, 11 July, 2008  
Blogger Puthali said...

hey, i know the reason you shared the item 'n that boldly proclaim is to the post it links to but even then i take exception to the "Why do psychopaths exist? The ladies help the psychopaths reproduce by going to bed with them."
i mean you have to agree its totally absurd, wht is it trying to say, that being psychopaths is hereditary?!
its just an example for what i was trying to say, so often things are said just 'coz they sound good(guess /me has also been guilty of that sometimes)

'n as far the hint, had no clue what you were talking about, until a discussion i had in evening with vishnu regarding the post 'n he said he didn't understand why i shared that note, when there was no comment, 'n i was like didnt you read sankar's comment?
So yea, neways have realized its a bug in google reader, when you share with a note of a post with another note, it removes the old note 'n you 'll have to xplicitly share both to get the desired behavior!

Friday, 11 July, 2008  

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