List of Awesomeness #5

Hope everyone had a great holiday. Last month has been a bit busy. So my “experiment” with this kind of correspondence was on a hiatus.

On the flip side, I have a lot of really good things to share in the coming weeks.

Books

Snow Crash – Written by Neal Stephenson, this is a cornerstone for virtual/augmented reality, online avatars and just general cyberpunk. It is set only a few years in the future where the hero, Hiro Protagonist, is a hacker/samurai swordsman/pizza delivery guy and is after a software drug called Snow Crash – which was a virus created by the ancient Egyptian gods – helping to unravel a plot by a fibreoptics executive to use the drug to infect people and their digital avatars. It sounds very “out there” but being released in 1992, it has influenced the creation/popularization of many things over the years:

  • Avatars: Across games and social media, the concept of avatar allows us to talk to friends, share things,buy/sell stuff,etc. The concept of using the word avatars to represent online virtual bodies was introduced and popularised by this book.
  • MMORPG (Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games):  Games like World of Warcraft were inspired by the “Metaverse” inside the book. MMO’s existed before this book but Stephenson brought a fantastic reality to the concept which changed MMOs.
  • Google Earth/Maps – The “Earth” developed by the Central Intelligence Corporation in the book is literally what became Google Maps and then Google Earth. Overlaying cloud, vegetation, road networks, wind patterns,etc over maps in near real-time are some the many features that have been used from the book.
  • Magic Leap / Microsoft Hololens / Google Glass – The concept of both virtual reality and augmented reality were popularised by this book. People in the book connect to the virtual world using a technology very similar to what all these companies are developing now. In fact, Magic Leap, which has raised $1.4 billion till date, made Neal Stephenson their “Chief Futurist”.
  • Second Life: The founder was inspired to build the exact “Metaverse” from the book after his girlfriend gave him the book in college. (For those who don’t know about SL, its one of the most popular online virtual world since 2003)
  • PayPal – Not exactly the concept of online payments and banking but PayPal’s founder Peter Thiel has mentioned that the culture of the company had Snow Crash’s story at the core.

Articles

The Resolution of the Bitcoin experiment – One of the core developers of the Bitcoin foundation, who was with the cryptocurrency since the early stages, quit 2 days ago. This is a big “nail” in the metaphorical coffin. In this extensive post, he explains why Bitcoin has failed. It’s an absolute MUST read for anyone remotely interested in the world of cryptocurrency and/or those who have constantly heard how cool Bitcoin is from their friends/peers (yes I know for some of you that person is me 😐 ). I always supported the concept of cryptocurrency and the underlying blockchain technology – which I think is what will remain in the aftermath – but it has been evident since some time that Bitcoin in it’s current form will not sustain/exist. So go ahead and have a full read through – some technical bits can be glossed over if you wish.

Papers

Are we living in a simulation? – It’s was a paper put forward by Nick Bostrom, Oxford professor of philosophy, in 2003. It proposed that we all could be living in a computer simulation and it uses some basic math and a lot of philosophy to bring out the argument. Basically the idea proves that a sufficiently advanced society has so much already in terms of computing power that they can simulate a full universe inside a computer. 

I came across this paper back in university but recently it has come back to me due to some recent developments – (1) Latest research in Quantum Physics & String Theory indicates that we might all be just be a hologram – a 3D representation of information stored on a 2D surface;  (2) A video game called “No Man’s Sky” which “procedurally” generates a galaxy-sized galaxy with its own laws of physics, chemistry & biology AND has 31 sextillion planet-sized planets to explore by players – a task which would take an estimated 5 billion years to complete by any one person (to put this in context our real universe is 13 billion years old – just slightly more than twice of that in the game) ! So we are already entering an era where simulated universes are not a dream and this question is more than relevant now.

There is a very engaging discussion on this topic between Richard Dawkins (foremost mind in evolutionary biology since Charles Darwin) & Brian Greene (probably the most celebrated physicist of our generation) – here is the link https://youtu.be/z2w4nurt0X4?t=52m40s. The discussion on this topic of simulated universe is roughly 4-5 mins but they cover the paper at a very high level including a scientific and evolutionary view. If you have an hour’s time free, I suggest watching the full discussion – some of the topics covered are absolutely riveting.

Cheerio!

List of Awesomeness #4

In this installation I won’t be providing any book or paper suggestions. Instead I will summarize some of my thoughts on the previous list.

Papers

Not adding a new serious paper this week in order to give time to those who are still on Mr. Einstein’s papers. For the non-scientific readers, I do want to highlight some of the implications of these individual papers:
Photoelectric Effect (Paper #1) : Light falling on some materials produces electrons.
  • Without this single paper, probably, there wouldn’t be any solar energy. Solar cells are based on the Photoelectric Effect.
  • 178 GW of clean solar energy generated today worldwide by solar cells.
  • More than 95% of space operations (including all satellites, space telescopes & space shuttles) depend on solar cells.
  • Without this single paper, probably, there wouldn’t be any photocells (something which regulates current based on light falling on it)
  • Applications of photocells include – sound in movies, ALL cameras (in order to regulate entering light a.k.a. exposure), street lights , hand held calculators, low voltage landscape lighting, automatic car head lights, battery charges, automatic rest room controls, etc.
Special Relativity (Paper #4) : Speed of light is the upper constant limit of speed in our universe
  • Time Travel – If you have a really fast ship, you can easily time travel into the future but cannot go into the past.
  • Time slows down for you if you increase your speed.
  • CERN & other particle accelerators – work only because of the point above. Sub-atomic particles are accelerated at high speeds in order to slow down time for them and make them discoverable by scientists.
  • E=mc^2
E=mc^2 (Paper #5) : All matter is energy and all energy is matter
  • Explained nuclear fission & fusion AND answered 2 questions: “How the Sun burns?” and “How to make a nuclear bomb and completely incinerate cities full of people & thus win World War II ?”
  •  A single human body can power United States for 16 years.

Books

I just finished Zero to One 2 days ago and would like to talk about a few things which I think is not only applicable to people starting a company but also to people in general – a reason why everyone should read it (**SPOILERS BELOW**)
  • “Madness is rare in individuals – but in groups, parties, nations, and ages it is the rule. If you can identify a delusional popular belief, you can find what lies hidden behind it: the contrarian truth” – I have found it increasingly true in all aspects of society: politics, businesses, law & order, religion, etc. The financial crisis, the dot-com bubble, the US housing bubble, early bitcoin madness & even the Great Depression of 1930s are all examples of such conventional mass beliefs which started in delusion and ended with the truth coming out.
  • “Non-monopolists exaggerate their distinction by defining their market as the intersection of various smaller markets. Monopolists, by contrast, disguise their monopoly by framing their market as the union of several large markets” – Google does it really well. They have a monopoly in search but they say they are a tech company building mobile, ads, cars, wearable computers,etc which makes them look like just another player in the competition. On the other hand, every Fast & Furious movie tries to showcase its monopoly by exaggerating how this time “this film will combine various exciting elements in entirely new ways” – it doesn’t.
  • “All happy companies are different: each one earns a monopoly by solving a unique problem. All failed companies are the same: they failed to escape competition” –  I find it true not only for companies but also teams within companies. Talking from my experience in RBS, most of the big banks on the street have dropped their Research teams but not their FX teams. This is primarily because Research teams in most big banks were pretty much coming out with the same thing, content or delivery wise, hence they failed to escape the competition a.k.a. Independent Research firms, offering the same analysis at cheaper prices. On the contrary, FX teams have flourished and even grown in some places because most of the big players are solving a unique problem (cross asset hedging, internalized transactions, desktop/web/mobile tech platform, faster execution, ease of accepting cross-currency payments, retail vs corporate focus, etc.)
  • “Indefinite optimist thinks the future will be better but he doesn’t know how exactly, so he won’t make any specific plans” – Our world currently is almost definitely indefinitely optimistic. Finance, politics, philosophy and even our outlook towards life fall under this category. South America was discovered only because Spaniards wanted to find the Fountain of Youth. Somehow now we are very content  with the fact that insurance companies tell us our “statistical life expectancy”. This seems absurd because best minds in history had thought of death as something to defeat and somehow we have lost that spirit. In philosophy, politics and business as well, often, process trumps concrete plans for the future.
  • “Our schools provide institutionalized education which traffics in a kind of homogenized, generic knowledge” – I find it strange that we are taught the same things, tested to find out who has done the best job at knowing it and then when we join the workforce we are somehow expected to be creative and different! I am not saying that everyone needs to learn something different but just that everyone has a different learning and thinking appetite and somehow we need our schools to understand and implement that if we are looking for a better society.

Article

http://waitbutwhy.com/2014/05/fermi-paradox.html – Fermi Paradox tries to seek an answer to “Where are the aliens?”. And as the article mentions, it’s because either “We’re Rare or We’re First or We’re Fucked“. One of the best articles which has stayed with me (and a lot of people I know) for a really long time.
Cheerio!

List of Awesomeness #3

Shifting gears a bit, I have decided to add in a few papers,books, articles that I found quite riveting last few weeks.

Papers

Starting at the beginning – with the greatest minds of our century – A. Einstein. He published 5 papers in a single year, 1905 a.k.a Annus Mirabilis – the quality of theory in each paper was so high that they say it might easily have taken a whole year for a normal scientist to write just one.

Concerning an Heuristic Point of View Toward the Emission and Transformation of Light – Paper on Photoelectric effect winning him the Nobel prize.

On the Movement of Small Particles Suspended in Stationary Liquids Required by the Molecular-Kinetic Theory of Heat–  This is effectively just Brownian Motion. But Einstein’s unique insight into classical hydrodynamics and kinetic theory helped arrive at equations to find mean free path between collisions (Jean Perrin confirmed this using experiments and got a Nobel Prize for that)

A New Determination of Molecular Dimensions – This is his PhD dissertation. Remember that there was no electron microscope at that time so even though people knew atoms existed, there was no conclusive proof of its existence and size. His paper showed how to calculate the size of molecules and atoms.

On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies – Paper on Special Relativity (he preferred to call it Principle of Invariance) – 2 outcomes: laws of physics do not change for any non-accelerating a.k.a inertial frame of reference + speed of light is constant upper limit of speed in the universe.

Does the Inertia of a Body Depend upon its Energy Content? – Proposed E=mc^2 .Really a supplement to the paper on special relativity

 If you have time to read one paper only, I would suggest the LAST one above – E=mc2 has been the defining equation of our generation. It gave birth to the atomic bomb which ended WWII. It has implications in Quantum mechanics. It runs CERN and other particle accelerators. It is what drives Solar energy – our energy saviour for the present and the future. It’s also a very short paper 🙂

Books

Zero to One (Peter Thiel) – Recommended by a lot of people, I am halfway through but already tons of great insight and advice on starting/building “innovative monopolies”

The Code of Hammurabi – Law book of the 6th king of Babylon – funny to read at times but the simplicity of morality in that age is interesting at the very least – considering how laws and their interpretation is often twisted by the lawyers of today to facilitate their agenda.

Seven Brief Lessons on Physics (Carlo Rovelli) – Relativity and Quantum Physics have changed physics for more than 100 years and yet we teach Newtonian physics to young adults. This book explains, using plain english, all the aspects of modern science – covering some recent topics such as Quantum gravity, not-so-black Black Holes,etc. (Website is amazing!) 

Articles

http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2015/05/13/andrew-ng_n_7267682.html – It’s an interview of Andrew Ng – one of the most respected minds in AI and deep learning. He built the system at Google which recognized cats, founded Coursera and is now running Baidu’s AI branch. Love 3 things that he mentions in this interview:

  1. “Follow your passion” is the worst advice adults give
  2. Habits contribute more to success than will power (read more to find details)
  3. Read a research paper more regularly & don’t watch too much TV

http://wayswework.io/features/design-at-facebook/ – I have seen a lot of articles on insider view of Facebook, but this one really captures the real essence of dev and design at Facebook + how they take care of their employees (its ironic how every company tries to whatever they can to retain employees for long term and how someone with a history of staying at a company for long is frowned upon during job interviews)

http://blog.samaltman.com/the-days-are-long-but-the-decades-are-short – When Paul Graham first met Sam Altman, he said “This is how Bill Gates must have been when he was young”. Great pieces of life and career advice coming from the guy who runs Y Combinator.

Cheerio!

List of Awesomeness #2

Cool Links

http://raw.densitydesign.org/ – D3 is fascinating but always out of reach for non-JS devs. This is a kickass concept which matches the void between spreadsheet and advanced visualization.

https://medium.com/@sall/using-charted-2149df6bb0bd – Another drop-in charting tool by the Medium Product Science Team.

http://asana.com – Love the task oriented approach of project management

http://slack.com – Rockstar tool for rockstar teams! Makes everything about team communication and sharing so intuitive!

Development

https://github.com/MCluck90/simple-ssh – a really simple wrapper around NodeJS SSH2 module. Fantastic for quick SSH based automation TBH (can cascade commands too!)

https://github.com/facebook/osquery – a SQL like query language for accessing OS stats (solves a personal pain I had joining up various OS data e.g. actual process name,location,port usage,etc in a single screen)

Videos

..And continuing with my subscribed channel list:

 Cheerio! 

 

List of Awesomeness #1

OK I might have gone overboard with the title but the gist is that I usually come across and curate a personal list of links, tools, websites, images, videos, songs, etc.

Sometimes I bookmark them, sometimes I am distracted and the resource is lost forever. So in order to get some order into the randomness, decided to put it in a small list – things I come across during a whole week of “browsing”.

(since this the first one so will probably end up being a small one as trying to get my head around how I want to categorize and share stuff!)

Code

https://github.com/lukesnowden/FSVS – Pretty sweet full page scrolling library (Trending on Github currently)

https://github.com/google/material-design-icons – Love where Google is going with this!

https://github.com/feross/webtorrent – Haven’t tried it out myself but looks cool. Starred it! Will check it out later!

Video

First of all, I will most likely NOT be putting individual links to Youtube videos (since I think there are already WAYY too many websites which do that!) but instead will pen down interesting channels or my own subscriptions + some non-youtube-lying-in-the-unknown videos

To start off, my current channel subscriptions:

…TBC in the next iteration of the list!

 Cheerio!