Author Archives: karan

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In celebration of Pi Day (3-14), here’s a neat little article on pi, and how it helped Archimedes to develop a method still in use today:

Aside from laying the groundwork for calculus, Archimedes taught us the power of approximation and iteration.  He bootstrapped a good estimate into a better one, using more and more straight pieces to approximate a curved object with increasing accuracy.

More than two millennia later, this strategy matured into the modern field of “numerical analysis.”

A lot of this is stuff I was way more familiar with in high school, but sadly in the day-to-day work I don’t have any reason to keep in touch, and so I slowly lose touch. Should pull out a maths textbook one of these days to see how much I recall.

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Holy crap, this is a scary theory - a known structural defect on 777s could have slowly caused decompression that disoriented and then left passengers on MH370 unconscious:

A structural failure related to the flaw could not only have led to a slow decompression that left the 239 passengers and crew on the missing flight unconscious, it would also have disabled satellite communications, including the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS), which transmits data of the plane’s location automatically.

It would also have rendered the plane invisible to all but ‘primary radar’, which has a range of only 100 nautical miles.

“A slow decompression (e.g. from a golfball-sized hole) would have gradually impaired and confused the pilots before cabin altitude (pressure) warnings sounded,” it said. “If the decompression was slow enough, it’s possible the pilots did not realize to put on oxygen masks until it was too late. [It] also explains why another pilot thirty minutes ahead heard “mumbling” from MH370 pilots.”

The truth could be stranger than all the fiction imagined around terrorism and stolen passports and whatnot.

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The Guardian has an interesting profile of Narendra Modi, the man who looks most likely to be India’s next Prime Minister, the leader of the largest democray in the world:

The BJP believes Modi, one of the most polarising figures to walk the Indian political stage for many years, can lead it to a landslide victory, despite opposition claims that he is a demagogue and a “hatemonger”. After a false start in 1996, the party won real power for the first time two years later, but lost the 2004 elections. Now BJP strategists believe they have an opportunity to end the long decades of Congress dominance for good – and with it the power of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty. Insider v outsider, dynast v working-class boy made good, suspected sectarian v secularist: this electoral battle has it all. Some analysts talk of the most significant contest since India won its independence from Britain in 1947.

It’s astonishing to me how much this looks like a foregone conclusion on the ground, that it’s only a matter of the elections happening to make the transition, even more so than the Australian election last year was. The inevitable disappointment is due, but until then, cynicism has taken something of a back seat.

(Also, at 63, Modi would be the youngest PM in 20 years and more, and the first born after Independence in 1947. That’s kind of astonishing compared to Western democracies.)

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The scale of the solar system if the moon were a pixel. Lovely and with funny comments littered throughout the journey. This reminds me of the Douglas Adams’ quote about space:

“Space is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly hugely mindbogglingly big it is. I mean you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space.”

it goes on from there, but of course I shouldn’t have to tell you how much I love the Hitchhiker’s Guide.