Monday, August 11, 2008


No, petabyte is not a new kind of snack that your pet might bite into, but a term for 1000 Terabytes. The surprising part is that 1Petabyte is the amount of data that Google processes every 72 minutes. The following image illustrates the amount of data that is generated and processed every day.

(Image from:

This data explosion has huge implications for organisations that need to process this data into meaning information. Chris Anderson, editor in chief of Wired, believes that this means that the scientific method is becoming increasing impractical.

But faced with massive data, this approach to science — hypothesize, model, test — is becoming obsolete. Consider physics: Newtonian models were crude approximations of the truth (wrong at the atomic level, but still useful). A hundred years ago, statistically based quantum mechanics offered a better picture — but quantum mechanics is yet another model, and as such it, too, is flawed, no doubt a caricature of a more complex underlying reality. The reason physics has drifted into theoretical speculation about n-dimensional grand unified models over the past few decades (the "beautiful story" phase of a discipline starved of data) is that we don't know how to run the experiments that would falsify the hypotheses — the energies are too high, the accelerators too expensive, and so on. (Link)

Well, I tend to agree with this. As we say in the semiconductor industry, if you can't model the damn circuit, simulate the hell out of it.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Tantra Mantra

This is a pretty old link, but thought that I would post it anyway.
Here Sanal Edamaruku, president of Indian Rationalist Association, challenges a well known tantric Pandit Surinder Sharma to hurt him using black magic. The real fun begins when the pandit accepts his challenge. And this took place on a live TV program on India TV

When the initial set of mantras did not work, the tantric tries to justify himself and says that the chants work only at night. I guess he did not anticipate that both Sanal and the TV channel would call his bluff and scheduled another session that night. Click on the following video to check it out.

Part 2 and 3 are available on Youtube. Also, read Sanal's account of the incident here.

The Eternal Quest for Clean Energy

As the world continues on it's quest for clean energy, we have had many contenders for the mythical free energy. Prominent ones among them being solar energy and wind energy. Most of them are still not practical or efficient enough to replace fossil fuels. Till we come up with a more efficient fuel cell, which can store energy, i am afraid most of these alternative energy sources are not going to make any headway.

Every now and then, we come up with some information on some very radical new energy source or technique. One recent example is an attempt to split hydrogen from water. We have also had ridiculous claims being made (Remember Ramar Pillai? Also Steorn, the company that claimed it had been able to generate electricity from the earth's magnetic field).

But till we obtain "the" alternative fuel, energy conservation should be our mantra. Quite a few countries have started to embark on integrating energy conservation into their everyday life. Denmark is a good example on this.

In this context, it is very heartening to learn that many Indian innovators too are developing energy conservation techniques. You can find a brief list of innovations here. If India is to bring it's population out of poverty, it will need to figure out ways to get more green technology in the hands of people. The above list of innovations is a step in the right direction.