Thursday, December 31, 2015

It takes 26 hours for the entire globe to enter the New Year!

Based on New York City time, the New Year on the globe begins at 5:00 AM on December 31st, Samoa & Christmas Island, Kiribati.  The entire globe has entered the New Year by 7:00 AM on January 1st, the last entrants being "Much of US Minor Outlying Islands - Baker Island, Howland Island".  That is 26 hours, not 24!

This time zone map (courtesy Wiki) makes it clear why.  Notice the funny shape of the international date line.  Yes, Kiribati lies within the hammerhead, and is +14 hours ahead of UTC (GMT), while Howland Island and Baker Island are at the handle of the hammer and are 12 hours behind UTC.

 This detail from another map from Wiki might help:

Sunday, December 27, 2015

India's carbon future: the design of buildings

This article by Charu Bahri, of outlines how India can save a lot on the energy consumed within its buildings by good building design practice.

Some quotes:

In 1971, residential and commercial buildings accounted for 15% of all the electricity consumed in India. By 2005, that share had doubled, and it has stayed at about 30% since.
...In absolute terms, however, the electricity consumed by buildings is rising, and is poised to rise 700% over 2005 levels by 2050, says a study by Rajan Rawal, executive director of the Centre for Advanced Research in Building Science and Energy, CEPT University, Ahmedabad.
...Unless energy use is curbed, domestic consumption of electricity in India is projected to grow 800% between 2005 and 2050, according to Rawal’s research.
...Enforcing the Energy Conservation Building Code, an energy-saving code designed for commercial establishments, in residential buildings, could reduce residential energy consumption up to 57% and curtail rise in consumption to 300% over 2005 levels, over the same period, said Rawal.   “It would also make buildings so much more comfortable to live in,” he said.
....With more than half of commercial building stock needed by 2030 yet to be constructed, the country has a huge opportunity to get its act right and construct better. In recent decades, India seems to have been doing the opposite.
Prior to 2008, Infosys, India’s second-largest IT company, developed some of the country’s most iconic glass buildings. Then, something changed.
...So far, Infosys has cut per capita electricity consumption by 46% from 2008 levels. Despite doubling employee numbers from 2008, its energy needs have grown only 13%.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Binge watching mathematics

If you are into binge-watching, and are of a certain bent of mind,  I recommend Professor Alexander Stepanov's Four Algorithmic Journeys (actually only 3 were made).  Be sure to go in order.

1. Spoils of the Egyptians
2. Heirs of Pythagoras
3. Successors of Peano
4. Epilogue

The collection of Stepanov's books, papers, class notes, and source code, covering generic programming and other topics.

In these talks, Stepanov traces the history of some simple, foundational mathematical ideas and their value in computer science.   In the process he also demonstrates that the love of mathematics for its own sake is good for the soul.

Friday, December 18, 2015

High Speed Rail and India's Carbon Future

The news has been full of the India-Japan announcement of the first high speed rail (HSR) project in India.  It will be built to run between Mumbai and Ahmedabad (Wiki information here).  While Japan has offered extremely low cost financing, the overall project cost (of the order of 10^12 Indian rupees) has raised a lot of concern about the viability of the project, whether it is the right investment to make, etc., etc.  You can do a news search and look that up.

There is one aspect which I haven't seen discussed very much, and that India's future transportation needs weighed against need to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

At this point, I pause to say, I wish I had command of a thousand mes, to do some serious research in this and so many other areas.  Instead what you get is from a couple of hours of Google search research, with very little validation on my part that the ideas and numbers make sense. Since major economic and political interests are involved, validation is certainly required.

It seems that a good way to think about the demand for transportation is "GDP-transport elasticity". E.g.
The Indian economy has a GDP-transport elasticity of 1.25 (For every one per cent growth in GDP, transport sector has to grow by 1.25 per cent). 
For comparison, Europe:
• For passenger transport, the GDP elasticity is equal to 0.65 on average for the period 2005 to 2030.

• For freight transport, the GDP elasticity of activity is projected to decrease gradually, first down to 0.92 in 2005-2010, and then further down to 0.72 between 2010 and 2030. 
It would make sense then, to seek "GDP-transport elasticity" for passenger and freight traffic and for rail, road, air transport separately.   Since HSR is passenger-centric, I'll seek numbers for passenger traffic only, to limit the length of this post.

This 2013 Indian Planning Commission Report has some figures and estimates, below the fold:

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

No, India Was Not The Villain Of The Paris Summit

Ruchir Ferrero Sharma in Swarajya Magazine:

The New York Times
Over the last few weeks, editorials across the Western media have abounded with articles about how India was holding the world hostage at the Paris Summit. These included headlines such as “Narendra Modi Could Make or Break Obama’s Climate Legacy” in the New York Times and “China Won’t Block Global Climate Deal In Paris, But India Might” in Forbes. The latter in particular being outstanding for having no basis at all in fact, amazingly not even including the word “India” once in the actual article, but using the title to take a cheap shot at the country.
The story behind the scenes is that the Indian government, on its own accord, launched its own ambitious green energy target in 2013, which was then upgraded 5-fold by the new Modi government in 2015.


....we see an even more egregious example of crass propaganda in Rupert Murdoch’s mouthpiece, The Australian.

The Australian

A part of the News Corp media empire has consistently supported the backward-looking Australian government and coal lobby in pushing coal as the only solution for desperate poverty. It is no surprise that with a tasteless piece such as this, they can hit three of their favourite right-wing bullseyes at once – discrediting solar power, disparaging international development aid, and mocking the poor for their poverty.

One feels the need to point out that it is not as if the Indian poor can eat Australian coal, as much as the benevolent coal industry representatives would have us believe, in order to push through their planned destruction of the Great Barrier Reef for the sake of the poor starving masses.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

IBM's predictions from December 2010

IBM's predictions for today from five years ago:

ARMONK, NY     - 27 Dec 2010: Today IBM (NYSE: IBM) formally unveiled the fifth annual "Next Five in Five" – a list of innovations that have the potential to change the way people work, live and play over the next five years:
• You'll beam up your friends in 3-D
• Batteries will breathe air to power our devices
• You won’t need to be a scientist to save the planet
• Your commute will be personalized
• Computers will help energize your city

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Paris Climate Deal

Getting all the countries in the world to agree to something like the Paris Climate Accord is quite remarkable a feat.  Part of the reason there are no legally binding actions in the accord is because they would never get past the US Republican-controlled Senate; and not having the second-largest emitter of CO2 be on board the accord would be a major failure.

All of the Republican POTUS candidates spit on the accord.  Americans who complain about the accord not being enough need first to tackle the opposition at home instead of pointing fingers at China and India.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Mystery of ISIS

"The Mystery of ISIS" in the New York Review of Books - a must-read.
I have often been tempted to argue that we simply need more and better information. But that is to underestimate the alien and bewildering nature of this phenomenon. To take only one example, five years ago not even the most austere Salafi theorists advocated the reintroduction of slavery; but ISIS has in fact imposed it. Nothing since the triumph of the Vandals in Roman North Africa has seemed so sudden, incomprehensible, and difficult to reverse as the rise of ISIS
We hide this {our lack of understanding of ISIS} from ourselves with theories and concepts that do not bear deep examination. 

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Terrorism: Indian vs. European response

In this very important essay by Balu's school of thought, begins with the observation that the attacks on Mumbai in November 2008 (26/11) and the recent attack on Paris are very similar in dimension.
However, despite all similarities, the Paris attacks took on a dimension that did not and does not exist in reactions to the Mumbai attack. While India and the rest of the world were horrified by the violence and terror caused by these criminals, the self-description of the terrorists – as avengers for the repressed Muslims of India, particularly in Kashmir – was hardly discussed, let alone accepted. There was no talk of a ‘War of Civilizations’, except by the American press. Barring a few exceptions, no columnist or commentator, no eyewitness, Mumbaikar or otherwise, described 26/11 as an attack on something integral and abstract. There are hardly any descriptions to be found of 26/11 as an attack on Indian values, or as an assault on the Indian way of life – not in 2008, and not in the seven years since. 
On the other hand, the Paris attack is described as exactly that: an assault on European values, on the ‘universal values’ Europe has given to humankind, on the European way of life, and on the freedom that Europe embodies.

At the outset, I should note that the terrorists did not "self-describe" in the Mumbai case.  A previously unknown group, the "Deccan Mujahideen" falsely claimed credit for the attack.  Otherwise there was dead silence.  It was only some months later (July 2009, more than 6 months later) that Pakistan admitted that the Lashkar-e-Taiba had committed the act. In contrast, ISIS released this statement after the Paris attack.

Nevertheless, the article makes a serious point, comparing the Indian and European responses to very similar attacks.

Relevant quotes from then-Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's address to the nation after 26/11 that characterize the attack on India are:
"We are not prepared to countenance a situation in which the safety and security of our citizens can be violated with impunity by terrorists."

"We will take up strongly with our neighbours that the use of their territory for launching attacks on us will not be tolerated, and that there would be a cost if suitable measures are not taken by them."

"We will go after these individuals and organizations and make sure that every perpetrator, organizer and supporter of terror, whatever his affiliation or religion may be, pays a heavy price for these cowardly and horrific acts against our people."
The Indian response is about the safety and security of Indian citizens.

The then-President of India, Pratibha Patil, was in Vietnam, at the time, her statement about Mumbai  is sandwiched in between diplomatese with Vietnam.
I condemn in the strongest form the terrorist attacks Mumbai. This mindless attack is the work of those who have no regard for human lives, and are pursuing a path of destruction. My heartfelt condolences to those who have been affected by this act of terror.
The closest statements of the kind that put some abstract value at stake, were, e.g., like that from Sonia Gandhi,
We shall not allow such incidents to deter our firm resolve to combat terror in all its manifestations....India's one billion people have the strength and courage to defend themselves against the assault on its unity and secular fabric...
The contrast:

France's President Francoise Hollande to a joint session of Parliament: (emphasis added):
France is at war. The acts committed in Paris and near the Stade de France on Friday evening are acts of war. They left at least 129 dead and many injured. They are an act of aggression against our country, against its values, against its young people, and against its way of life.

They were carried out by a jihadist army, by Daesh, which is fighting us because France is a country of freedom, because we are the birthplace of human rights. 

At this exceptionally solemn moment, I wanted to address a joint session of Parliament to demonstrate our national unity in the face of such an abomination and to respond with the cool determination that this vile attack against our country calls for.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel also described the Paris incident as an attack on liberty and on European values. The statement in German is here.

US President Obama:
...This is an attack not just on Paris, it’s an attack not just on the people of France, but this is an attack on all of humanity and the universal values that we share.....Paris itself represents the timeless values of human progress. Those who think that they can terrorize the people of France or the values that they stand for are wrong. The American people draw strength from the French people’s commitment to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness.  We are reminded in this time of tragedy that the bonds of liberté and égalité and fraternité are not only values that the French people care so deeply about, but they are values that we share.  And those values are going to endure far beyond any act of terrorism or the hateful vision of those who perpetrated the crimes this evening.
British Prime Minister David Cameron:
These were innocent victims enjoying a Friday night out with friends and family, no doubt at the end of a hard week. They were not seeking to harm anyone. They were simply going about their way of life – our way of life.

And they were killed and injured by brutal, callous murderers who want to destroy everything our two countries stand for. Peace. Tolerance. Liberty.
....The terrorist aim is clear. It is to divide us and to destroy our way of life.
Even the King of the Netherlands
...Together with France, we will continue to steadfastly defend freedom against those who use terror to try and undermine it. We will never give up our values of freedom and solidarity....
(The Queen of England only issued sympathy and condolences, as far as I can tell.)

The thrust of the essay is that the Indian response is different and possibly superior to the European response.  It is argued that the European/American response concedes to ISIS the status of representing an alien civilization, instead of being just a bunch of criminals with a criminal ideology; and thus sets the stage for a conflict much wider than it needs to be.

Go to the essay: Paris, Mumbai and the Terrorist 'Assault on Freedom'.

Thursday, December 03, 2015


From this article on the Paris conference on climate change, and how India supposedly holds the fate the negotiations in its hands:
Chennai, a city of 4.4 million, received 34 times its normal rainfall on Wednesday alone—so disruptive that its daily newspaper was not published for the first time since 1878 because its staff could not reach the press. The rains are expected to continue throughout early December. India’s chief meteorologist has said the recent extreme weather events “fit the larger picture of climate change.”
Dunno about 34 times;  the facts are: 
During the month of November, the city recorded a whopping 1218.6 mm of rain, which is three times its monthly rainfall. The normal rainfall figures for November stand at 407.4 mm. However, this was not it, December began on a rainy note as well.

On December 1, in just a span of 12 hours, Chennai has received a record breaking 272 mm of rainfall. The city’s normal rainfall for December stands at 191 mm. Not only this, Chennai has also broken over a 100-year-old 24 hour rainfall record.

Previously, on December 10, 1901, Chennai had recorded 261.6 mm rainfall in a span of 24 hours. Chennai has also broken monthly rainfall record of December 1910.
Updated on December 2, 2015 at 08:00 AM: Chennai rains seem to be never ending. The city has received torrential rainfall on the first day of December itself. As per the data available with Skymet, Chennai has recorded 374 mm of rainfall in a span of 24 hours from 5:30 am on Tuesday {December 1}.

and so on.

Carbon dioxide equivalents


Some interesting numbers:
  • Electricity sources emit 1.222lbs CO2 per kWh (0.0005925 metric tons CO2 per kWh)
  • 0.005 metric tonnes of CO2 per 1 therm of natural gas
  • There are 10.15 kg of CO2 per gallon of home heating oil.
  • Unleaded gasoline emits 8.91 kg of CO2 per gallon.
  • CO2 emissions in air travel vary by length of flight, ranging from 0.277 kg CO2 per passenger mile to 0.185 kg CO2 per passenger mile, depending on the flight distance (long haul flights have the lower emissions per passenger mile).
  • On average, commuter rail emits 0.172 kgs CO2 per passenger mile and subway trains emit 0.163 kgs CO2 per passenger mile, and long distance trains (i.e., intercity rail) emit 0.185 kgs CO2 per passenger mile. For rail trips under 20 miles, we calculate your emissions at 0.172 kgs CO2 per passenger mile, and over 20 miles we calculate at 0.185 kgs CO2 per passenger mile.
  • On average, bus trips emit 0.107 kgs CO2 per passenger mile. Road and transportation conditions vary in real life beyond what can be estimated.
  • Emissions associated with a one night stay in a hotel room are calculated at 16.8 kg CO2 per room day for an average hotel (budget through mid-scale). For upscale hotels, that include restaurants, meal service and meeting space, emissions are calculated at 33.38 kg CO2 per room day.
  • The average person's diet contributes 2,545 kilograms CO2e to the atmosphere each year. By dividing by 365, it is deduced that the average person's diet contributes, on average, 7 kg CO2e a day from their meals. This calculation is based on an average US, non-vegetarian diet. The emissions for food preparation are not included in this calculation.

  • Air cargo – 1.527 kg CO2 per Ton-Mile
  • Truck– 0.297 kg CO2 per Ton-Mile
  • Train – 0.0252 kg CO2 per Ton-Mile
  • Sea freight –0.048 kg CO2 per Ton-Mile

Conversion factors:

1 Renewable Energy Certificate = 1 Megawatt Hour (MWh) = 1,000 Kilowatt Hours (KWh)
1 Kilowatt Hour = 3,413 British Thermal Units (BTUs)
1 Metric Tonne = 2,204.6 Pounds
1 Pound = 0.00045 Metric Tons
1 Short Ton = 2,000 Pounds
1 Short Ton = 0.90719 Metric Tons
1 Therm = 100 Cubic Feet
1 CCF = Abbreviation for 100 Cubic Feet
1 CCF = 1.024 Therms

Reduce your individual carbon footprint:

Firearm Mortality, USA

USA: Deaths from firearms injuries - Percentage that were homicides - derived # of homicides

1997 - 32,436 - 41.7% - 13,526 [1]
1998 - 30,708 - 39.4% - 12,099 [2]
1999 - 28,874 - 37.5% - 10,828 [3]
2000 - 28,663 - 37.7% - 10,806 [4]
2001 - 29,573 - 38.4% - 11,356 [5]
2002 - 30,242 - 39.1% - 11,825 [6]
2003 - 30,136 - 39.6% - 11,934 [7]
2004 - 29,569 - 39.3% - 11,621 [8]
2005 - 30,694 - 40.2% - 12,339 [9]
2006 - 30,896 - 41.4% - 12,791 [10]
2007 - 31,224 - 40.5% - 12,646 [11]
2008 - 31,593 - 38.5% - 12,163 [12]
2009 - 31,347 - 36.7% - 11,504 [13]
2010 - 31,672 - 35.0% - 11,805 [14]
2011 - 32,351 - 34.2% - 11,064 [15]
2012 - 33,563 - 34.6% - 11,613 [16]
2013 - forthcoming

Each of the reports below is titled "Deaths: Final Data for YYYY" (YYYY = year)
The main page is here:
[1] CDC National Vital Statistics Reports, Volume 47, Number 19
[2] CDC National Vital Statistics Reports, Volume 48, Number 11
[3] CDC National Vital Statistics Reports, Volume 49, Number 8
[4] CDC National Vital Statistics Reports, Volume 50, Number 15 
[5] CDC National Vital Statistics Reports, Volume 53, Number 3 
[6] CDC National Vital Statistics Reports, Volume 53, Number 5
[7] CDC National Vital Statistics Reports, Volume 54, Number 13
[8] CDC National Vital Statistics Reports, Volume 55, Number 19 
[9] CDC National Vital Statistics Reports, Volume 56, Number 10 
[10] CDC National Vital Statistics Reports, Volume 57, Number 14
[11] CDC National Vital Statistics Reports, Volume 58, Number 19 
[12] CDC National Vital Statistics Reports, Volume 59, Number 10 
[13] CDC National Vital Statistics Reports, Volume 60, Number 3
[14] CDC National Vital Statistics Reports, Volume 61, Number 4 
[15] CDC National Vital Statistics Reports, Volume 63, Number 3 
[16] CDC National Vital Statistics Reports, Volume 63, Number 9 


Wednesday, December 02, 2015

What the NYT editorial board heard Modi say, and what Modi actually said

NYTimes Editorial: What Narendra Modi can do in Paris

What Modi said in Paris (full text):

What the NYT Editorial board heard Modi say:
Speaking in Paris on Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi blamed “the prosperity and progress of an industrial age powered by fossil fuel” for the climate change crisis, and noted that “we in India face its consequences today.”
What Modi said:
Over the next few days, we will decide the fate of this planet. We do so when the consequences of the industrial age powered by fossil fuel are evident, especially on the lives of the poor.

The prosperous still have a strong carbon footprint. And, the world's billions at the bottom of the development ladder are seeking space to grow.
a. What else other than the industrial age powered by fossil fuel is responsible for the increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere?

b. India doesn't have a billion poor; Modi here is talking about all the world's poor, not just "we in India".

What the NYT Editorial board heard:
In framing the Paris climate talks in terms of historical responsibility, India could be setting itself up for playing the role of the spoiler for a climate change agreement that, for all its shortcomings, does something important: acknowledge a collective responsibility among nations to avert a global catastrophe.

What Modi said (some emphasis added):
Democratic India must grow rapidly to meet the aspirations of 1.25 billion people, 300 million of whom are without access to energy.
We are determined to do so, guided by our ancient belief that people and planet are inseparable; that human well being and Nature are indivisible.

So, we have set ambitious targets. By 2030, we will reduce emissions by 33 to 35% per cent of 2005 levels, and 40 per cent of our installed capacity will be from our non- fossil fuels.

We will achieve it by expanding renewable energy - for, example, by adding 175 Gigawatts of renewable generation by 2022. We will enlarge our forest cover to absorb at least 2.5 billion tonnes worth of carbon dioxide.

We are reducing dependence on fossil fuel through levies and reduction in subsidies; switching sources of fuel where possible; and, transforming cities and public transportation.

We hope advanced nations will assume ambitious targets and pursue them sincerely. It is not just a question of historical responsibility. They also have the most room to make the cuts and make the strongest impact.
And, climate justice demands that, with the little carbon space we still have, developing countries should have enough room to grow.
i.e., India accepts collective responsibility - human well-being is inseparable from Nature, and Nature does not respect national boundaries. India will try to alleviate the impact of its growth necessary to remove poverty with cleaner technology.  But just as robbers target banks because that is where the money is, carbon footprint cuts should go after where the largest carbon dioxide emissions are.  It is not just a question of historical responsibility, it is where one can make the quickest strong impact.  Stopping the future growth of developing countries (carbon dioxide not yet in the atmosphere, and not there for another 10 years or so) has less impact than cutting existing emissions of carbon dioxide.

PS: Four myths about climate change in South Asia