Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Book memo: A Long Way Home

Having seen the movie, Lion, which was well-made, I picked up at the library the book, "A Long Way Home" by Saroo Brierley.   As the title blurb says: "As a five-year-old in India, I got lost on a train. Twenty-five years later, from Australia, I found my way back.  This is what happened in between"; and the book adds significantly to what is shown in the two hour movie.  Definitely worth reading.  It provides all kinds of interesting things to think about.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Date of Zero and Its Larger Consequences

The Bakhshali manuscript is now the oldest extant manuscript on Indian mathematics --  it has recently been carbon-dated by the University of Oxford to date to 200-400 AD.  That date is much older than previously thought, at least by five centuries, if not more.  This now supposedly pushes back the earliest recorded date for the use of zero in a place-value system.

Perhaps however, there is a larger point that is being missed.   E.g., as per Wiki, the Bakhshali manuscript "is written in an earlier form of Śāradā script, which was mainly in use from the 8th to the 12th century, in the northwestern part of India, such as Kashmir and neighbouring regions."

To me it seems that now the inferred dates of everything written in the Śāradā script may need to be reexamined. (e.g., Wiki again:  "The Śāradā or Sarada or Sharada script is an abugida writing system of the Brahmic family of scripts, developed around the 8th century.")   Even with the caveat that Wiki isn't the most reliable source of information, it seems to me that some non-trivial amount of history may need to be re-written.

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Rakhigarhi: New player enters the field

I'm still dubious about finding any ancient DNA in the hot and humid conditions of India, but Professor Vasant Shinde of Deccan College, Pune,  and his collaboration with South Korea (presumably Seoul National University College of Medicine) have tried (and rumors have it that their findings are held up due to politics), and now the Times of India reports that another player has entered the field.


Thursday, September 07, 2017

US loss of military competence

Two stories on the radio:

1. Navy Officials Examine Training Procedures After Ship Accidents

After four ship accidents this year , the US Navy thinks years of short-cuts in training might be a contributing cause.

2. Taliban Attacks U.S. Afghan Base In Response To Leaflets

In Afghanistan, propaganda leaflets dropped by the US Army had a cartoon in which the Shahada was superposed on a dog; the dog was meant to represent the Taliban, being chased by a lion that is the US military.  After so many years in Afghanistan, they don't seem to have a clue as to what is instantly offensive to Muslims.




On Rakhigarhi Rumors

Sunday, September 03, 2017

How to handle the Internet

Friday, September 01, 2017

Raining on Humanity's Parade

The Atlantic

For each degree Celsius of warming the atmosphere is able to hold 6 percent more water. For a planet that’s expected to warm by 4 degrees by the end of the century, that means a transition to a profoundly different climate.

“Rainfall extremes have increased in intensity I think at every latitude in the northern hemisphere,” says Massachusetts Institute of Technology climate scientist Paul O’Gorman.

In 2012, a study led by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory oceanographer Paul Durack found that the global water cycle was actually speeding up at twice the rate predicted by climate models, likely intensifying by 16 to 24 percent by the end of the century.
See, we knew that climate models were pretty useless, missing factors of two and all!

In the meantime, someone on dailykos points out: Houston, Mumbai, Ontario, Macau, Niger, Hong Kong, Istanbul, Ireland, Sierra Leone...All Flooded

Returning to the Atlantic:

The African Humid Period brought rains to the Sahara, perhaps the result of more sunlight in the northern hemisphere as the Earth carried on its celestial wobble. Today, by warming the northern hemisphere faster than the southern hemisphere, humans may well again bring more water to this, the world’s largest desert, greening its wastes once more. If so, and perhaps quite unexpectedly, the hurricanes that hit our shores a hemisphere away could become more frequent and intense. A verdant Sahara, by reducing the amount of dust wafting out over the ocean, will allow the sun to beat down on the Atlantic more intensely, forging more powerful cyclones. The idea that shifting rains might turn deserts in Africa to green, spurring more intense hurricanes that will eventually hit North America, illuminates the Rube Goldberg connections of the climate system, and proves there may be more than a few surprises in store as the world changes. 

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

America's mistake in Afghanistan

The US invaded Afghanistan in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, and had pretty much routed the villains of the piece.  But instead of exterminating them, the US let them get away.  Remember the Kunduz airlift?  Ostensibly to let "most valuable non-NATO ally" Pakistan save face and rescue its army personnel who were fighting on the side of the Taliban, it allowed (Wiki) "the evacuation of thousands of top commanders and members of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, their Pakistani advisers including Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence agents and army personnel, and other Jihadi volunteers and sympathizers, from the city of Kunduz, Afghanistan, in November 2001".

Well, he who runs away today, lives to fight another day.   They lived on, and they have kept on fighting and the US is still in Afghanistan sixteen years later, with no end in sight.

Add to the Kunduz airlift the starting of another disastrous war in Iraq instead of finishing the war in Afghanistan first, and that is about all you need to know why the globe's sole superpower is bogged down in fight it can't win.

Well, there's more you should know, such as that NATO paid Taliban-owned trucking companies to ship supplies across Pakistan to Afghanistan; i.e., they were paying the people they were fighting.  Not a way to quickly end a fight.   Why couldn't NATO use some other route?  Well, that is a long story involving Iran. 

In my opinion, there should have been no evacuation.  The Taliban, al Qaeda and Pakistani army and intelligence supporters of those should have been captured or wiped out in Kunduz.   The US should have ended the war six months later.  This is not to say that Afghanistan would have remained stable in the longer term.   The effect on Pakistan on the elimination of a significant part of its jihad-loving military also might have been temporary if positive.   But it would not be America's war any more.