Friday, March 28, 2008

Of Free Speech and Closed Borders

Some insignificant Dutch MP is trying to buy his 15 minutes of fame by offending all the Muslims on this planet (all 1.2 billion of them) by quoting some passages from the Quran and correlating them with "terrorism" in his amateur 16 minute movie called "Fitna" (which I refuse to watch).

Obviously, his brain is minute and absolutely incapable of long term memory and logical analysis. I can point out further intellectual and personal inadequacies right now - but I won't. This post isn't about him. It's about his hate-filled, short sighted message - and the utter hypocrisy it is immersed in.

Apparently, his movie shows the 9/11 attacks and the Madrid attacks - and quotes passages from the Quran seeming to justify the same. And then he reaches the audacious conclusion that the Muslim holy book is a fascist manifesto of sorts. He then sees the increase in Muslim population in Europe - and feels justified in demanding closed borders and discriminatory immigration.

Making such movies is possible only in free societies. How ironic that its message, if implemented would convert a free society into a discriminating (and therefore, fascist) one?

(We won't go into other obvious inaccuracies such as the implicit claim that the only terror in the world is Islamic. How many people (non-Muslims) has islamic terror killed in the last decade? How does it compare with 100,000 dead Iraqis? (More realistic estimates put it at 1 million)).


Just to be clear, the Author believes that Osama Bin Laden is a homicidal criminal - and hopes everyday that Osama has been caught - or at least lynched.

The author is not a fan of Islamic regimes that tend to be repressive - and is opposed to them tooth and nail.

The author also believes that misusing free speech knowing fully well that doing so will incite fatal reactions is tantamount to murder - an equivalent of firing a bullet into a crowd knowing fully well that someone will die.

Monday, March 24, 2008

4000 Dead In Iraq

To the uninitiated observer, 4000 dead in Iraq would not seem like a particularly big deal. Five years of military occupation in Iraq resulting only in 4000 dead people? Looks like what's happening down there is love, not war.

Then, one digs a little deeper. 4000 people died in Iraq, because the Americans are the only "people" in Iraq. When it is said "4000 people dead in Iraq", it basically means 4000 dead American troops.

The number of "unpeople" who died in Iraq is a statistic that is most certainly of the order of at least 100,000 - and some (this one is peer reviewed) estimates put it closer to a million. (Here we use the Noam Chomskian convention: people = people from developed world; unpeople = people from under-developed world. This convention is implicitly used in all western (US) media agencies with a few conscientious exceptions.).

A MILLION in a population of 25 Million. 4% of the population of the country. That's the population of Dallas and Houston metro areas put together, if the country in question were the US. The population of Delhi and Mumbai put together if the country in question were India. (The fact that 60% of India is unpeople notwithstanding).

But who cares? Iraqis clearly are not people. 4000 dead American troops? Now, that's a whole different story.

A dead man is a dead man is a dead man. The author of this post laments the fact that even in death all are not equal. Reality is not just 4000 American troops dead. It is probably a hundred times worse (from a mortality stand-point). It just makes me sick to see the disproportionate amount of time spent on TV on the American deaths - when the number of Iraqis killed is a couple of ORDERS OF MAGNITUDE HIGHER because of a blunder on the American side.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Boomerangs Work in Space*

For a moment, when I read this story I was shell shocked. Could it be that all the aerodynamics I learnt in my life until now was fatally flawed? Could the fact that airplanes fly be a bizarre coincidence?

Why on earth (or more aptly, Why in space) would a rotating shaped solid actually come back in space when it (theoretically) was experiencing no lift, no drag (by virtue of the all-pervasive vacuum surrounding it)? My heart was beating faster. My head was in a serious existential tail-spin.

I was sure I knew (in a hand-wavey way that we engineers are used to) how boomerangs operate. Just to make sure I was correct, I looked at this web page. I wasn't wrong. Phew.

So, how on earth did the damn thing come back in space? Does there really exist a God? Is he trying to deceive us into thinking that we understand how a little of nature works by letting some of our theories be experimentally verifiable? Have I been wrong all along? Is he having fun with us letting us think that we know why airplanes fly? By planting dinosaur bones on the surface of the planet? By planting DNA very similar to yours and mine in a Chimpanzee?

I followed up by a few frenetic Google News Searches.

Apparently the (astro) nut threw a paper boomerang INSIDE THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION and was ecstatic that it came back. Duh. Of course it'll come back. That's its job in a room filled with air at more or less atmospheric pressure. (Air faithfully follows the Kutta-Jukowski theorem - creating a lift force on moving airfoils - as opposed to vacuum). A boomerang coming back has nothing to do with gravity. Actually gravity is BAD for a boomerang as it might hit the ground before coming back - therefore not completing a cycle.

This basically tells me that astronauts are only semi-educated in science - and are far from the "best of the best" that NASA proudly proclaims they are.

And .. Oh Yeah.. There's still no god.

* Where space is defined as any volume within the international space station.