The observable examined

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Are humans unique?

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We have all interacted with animals, seen them at zoos, marveled at them (watching Nat Geo documentaries). If you are like me, you may have wondered whether they are programmed automatons (“fixed action patterns”) or alternately have a “rich” inner life (don’t accuse me of anthropomorphism just yet). I have always held they view that while animals are well adapted to survive their niches, they are able to do more than execute programmed actions.  Also, along the way, I have tired of the notion that “man was made in the image of God”, in the sense that humans are unique and special, given our extraordinary “cognitive” capacities. But then we humans have succumbed to “confirmation bias” by only looking at evidence that confirms this view (as in the tremendous achievements ranging from agriculture to space research). But we also need to review our history of violence and catalog our behaviors collectively as a species (witness terrorism, territoriality, in group/out group, biases, etc.,) and it becomes quickly evident that our “mental” apparatus has a lot in common with other species.

Frans de Waal argues, that this is indeed in the case, in his essay “What I learned from tickling apes” that appears in the NYTimes. Well worth a read. As always, I find it informative to also peruse the reader comments .


Internet of everything

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If you have not heard of Internet of Things (IoT), here is a definition offered by a large silicon valley company.

Cisco defines the Internet of Everything (IoE) as bringing together people, process, data, and things to make networked connections more relevant and valuable than ever before-turning information into actions that create new capabilities, richer experiences, and unprecedented economic opportunity for businesses, individuals, and countries.”

This is indeed very exciting, but a recent NYTimes blog struck a cautionary note on the implications of this exponential proliferation of data and information, especially at a personal level. Scott Adams has captured this sentiment (lame use of these new capabilities) quite brilliantly in the panel of cartoons below.




Written by asterix98

May 12, 2014 at 3:57 pm

Animal brains

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Over the weekend, I came across an interesting essay, on animal cognition. I loved the ending, where the author, Frans de Waal, an eminent primatologist, writes

“Aristotle’s ladder of nature is not just being flattened; it is being transformed into a bush with many branches. This is no insult to human superiority. It is long-overdue recognition that intelligent life is not something for us to seek in the outer reaches of space but is abundant right here on earth, under our noses.”

You can read the full article here  – The Brains of the Animal Kingdom . In this article, the author mainly showcases chimps, elephants, octopuses,etc., But recent research has shown birds can also hold their own. Here is a write up from Sir Richard Attenborough’s Life of Birds series – Bird brains. The lowly crow turns out to be really “smart”.

While there is sufficient food for thought in the article proper, I always visit the comments page. To me it is fascinating how the main purpose of the article is quickly lost and the conversation quickly degenerates into lame talk of political conspiracy, and other inane commentary. But then, we are the most intelligent species on the earth.



Written by asterix98

March 25, 2013 at 3:01 am

Smelly armpits and singles

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Call it Goofy. Call it Sexy. Call it Genius. [I am paying homage to the Food Network show “Sweet Genius’]. Smelly armpits are back in vogue. Pheromone parties are the in thing these days, at least in some dating circles. Apparently, armpits hold the key to finding your amour. As expected LA and NY are leading the charge [someone on the net referred to LA as the armpit of Southern California]. Read all about it here –

Pheromone Parties A New Trend Among Singles In Los Angeles & New York

Written by asterix98

June 25, 2012 at 4:16 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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poem by my daughter -4th grade

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All the kids in my daughter’s class were asked to write a poem to start their journal entry for this academic year. Parents were privy to this journal as part of back to school night.  I reproduce here, partly because I am proud of her output, but also for an insight into my daughter’s mind (the reference to mom in particular) that I am not able to easily access during normal conversations. So here goes….

I  am a Poem

I am creative, energetic and active

I wonder how the world was made

I hear my thoughts filling up my mind

I see the ocean rushing from side to side

I want to swim as if I were a fish

I am creative, energetic, and active

I pretend that I am jumping off the cliff and the bottom is full of icy cold water

I feel an iceberg in my body making me shiver with fear

I touch warm heater just heating up my skin

I worry about my cousin trying to make me breakdown by teasing me

I cry when I think about my mom

I am creative, energetic, and active

I understand that I can’t fly or soar like the birds

I say the moon is not made of cheese

I dream of sitting on the clouds way up high

I try to understand math

I hope that pigs will fly with the birds

I am creative, energetic, and active.

Below it is in her own handwriting, spelling mistakes and all :-).

Written by asterix98

September 11, 2011 at 6:51 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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