Tagged: Nature

Man as the Maker


I guess the title sounds kind of deterministic or a sort of prognosis for things to come.

I thought a lot writing about this subject due to its sensitivity and the abject lack of sensitivity on the part of religious opponents who might see this as an affront to their religious choices and their theories that there can be no “maker” other than god. Religions are a part of the fabric of human life on this earth, and they have had an outsized influence on the development and behaviour of human species. However, most religious dogmas were the creation of man, and their continued sustenance demonstrates their hold on humanity, despite evidence that such dogmas resulted in the loss of millions of lives over the past few centuries and especially in the 20th century. Those religious dogmas have no scientific basis.

This is not a blog post which will argue the benefits or otherwise of following a religious faith or the practicing of non-religious faiths such as agnosticism or atheism. This post is more about the most crucial development in science today which allows man to play god, the creator of human beings of any characteristic, outside of the normal process of conception and delivery. If Man can play the role of the Creator, then can it be said that “Creationism” as a philosophy of the arrival of human species on earth could have been right in some way? If Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution is correct, how can Man play god and create a new human or animal species?

I am sure the answer is based on Science. But I got this question into my head and could not get it out of my head for a while. Scientific Research has advanced to such a stage that today, man can create any kind of species (almost, not yet fully!) in a test tube in the labaratory environment. Science is not going to stop its inevitable march towards discovering new things all the time, and Scientists are pursuing the causes of things in this world based on evidence and research. Science is not going to go away and proclaim that all things in this world are a result of some godly intervention to make them happen, which is the Creationism Theory. Or, justify in some research-oriented manner, that god is an “intelligent designer” of all things on this planet, and these things are complex and could not have come into existence without a proper cause.

Man is on a non-stop quest on scientific matters. At the same time, religious conservatives are on a non-stop quest on establishing Creationism as the essential cause of all things we see around us. Both aspects are amazing, but it is clear which one is on the right direction.

If Man can create a human being from a test-tube, and shape its genes and chromosomes, and that can result in a particular species which has certain pre-identified characteristics, what does it mean? Are we all at an inflection point? Are we going to witness the usurping of all things godly by Man who seems to be assuming great powers to make things as he deems fit? Does this sound like the “Maker”?

Well, it is abundantly clear that man’s quest for scientific discoveries is going to lead him to more surprises and more influences than he can manage. He will ultimately gain full and complete access to the technique of making a man. Then, can he be considered as a “He”, meaning god with a capital “G”? Would Man then have arrived at a point when he can demonstrate that capability to all and sundry? Would he be excommunicated by the religious gurus we will have by then? Will people believe in this Man? What will happen?

Nobody knows.

It is only funny that Man has come full circle around. He originally offered the Theory of Evolution to justify how man evolved from monkeys and chimpanzees. Now he discovered Creationism of his own type, based on scientific methodologies. How will the original religious Creationists take this kind of intervention by Man?

Not too kindly, I guess. This is their turf!!!

Religions still dominate our culture. And it is surprising that even in the U.S. wherein scientific discoveries are at the maximum level (including the creation of new species), there are enough number of ultra-religious folks who simply do not believe in any of this science, and push their own ideas on how human species came about – from the one and only god. The British seem to be more sobre. Even Archbishops in the U.K. seem to believe in the Theory of Evolution while not disputing the influence of god.

OK, now it is time to meet Man the Maker of new destinies. This would mean that we indulge in scientific studies ourselves, and discover for ourselves the possibilities at almost the outer realm of science. It is critical not to make judgement calls, and analyze what Man is discovering without actually jumping into it. Take time to analyze and determine for yourself. Check the evidence. Talk to others. Don’t indoctrinate anyone. Let everyone find our for himself or herself.

It is an interesting thought process to follow, and I am not yet done with this line of thinking. There is more to come along these lines. In the meantime, think for yourself, and don’t get indoctrinated by dogmas.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

30th October 2016

 

The Fitbit Challenge


It has been just about two weeks since I started wearing a Fitbit Alta device on my wrist in my quest to measure my walking performance.

I have seen an amazing change in my otherwise staid walking behaviour. For the record, I walk for about 2.1 KMs every morning (Fitbit measures this distance and also says that I walk for around 3,000 steps) of the working week, and almost 5 to 6 KMs for the weekend morning. So, I approximately walk around 21 to 22 KMs every week.

My challenge has been on setting a target for the number of steps. Initially, I set 7,500 then increased it to 8,500. I realized one day that this figure is not good enough as the American Heart Association says the average number of steps a person needs to walk everyday should be around 10,000 steps. I kept looking at that message from Fitbit for a few days, and then decided to increase the target to 10,000 steps.

It was easy to achieve between 6,000 and 7,000 steps during the period from waking up till returning home in the evening from office. However, I found that I am not that great a walker in the evenings, and could barely ratchet up another 1,000 to 1,500 steps in the evenings. This resulted in couple of behavioural changes.

I started walking within the office more than I usually do. I started walking more often to get a glass of water, for example. That might add some 300 steps. I also started pacing around a large room or meeting area or pantry when I got a call, or I had to make a call to someone. I found that this added a substantial amount of steps, sometimes in excess of 2,000 steps – instead of sitting and taking calls or making calls, I started walking every time. Together with the water trips in the office, I was easily able to add a minimum of 3,000 steps a day, which took my average walking measure close to 9,000 / 9,500 steps.

The balance was easy to make up by walking around the house in the evenings, pacing while taking calls in the evenings, etc., So, I started doing above 11,000 steps a day. I saw this kind of improvement in just about couple of weeks after starting to wear Fitbit.

The other important and somewhat compelling reason for wearing Fitbit was the comparative measurement of other folks who are connected to oneself and using Fitbit. I was able to see how I was doing compared to a few of my friends and colleagues. As it happened, several of my friends and colleagues were veterans of Fitbits, and have collected many badges on the way. They were clearly above 80,000 steps during any preceding week, while I was barely making it to 70,000 steps. This gave additional push to my behavioural change, and I have just started thinking of adding more steps to my daily rigamarole.

My estimate is that 85,000 steps in any one week is a very good figure to achieve for most folks (average of 12,000 steps a day). During the weekend day, I am also trying to ensure that I walk for over 6 KMs at the minimum. There is enough motivation to do so, given the nature trails in Singapore. I get into issues only when I travel, as I have to replicate the steps measure over a treadmill in a gym which is not exactly equivalent to open air brisk walking.

Overall, Fitbit is a good gadget addition to the list of gadgets we all end up with. May be I should go in for the latest device which also has heartbeat. I noticed that the Health app in my iPhone is not exactly producing the same as the Fitbit figures (the app produces far lower numbers as compared to Fitbit numbers). I am going to check out the latest Fitbit device or any other device which can give me more parameters.

Walking makes one feel good (I am sure running also does that). Walk more and eat less is my new motto.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

23rd October 2016

 

 

Rain, rain……..go away


Being a tropical location, Singapore has rains all round the year.

It sometimes bugs you as it is difficult to forecast rains, and the rain can be intense over a short period of time. It sometimes fools people into changing their plans, although people who know Singapore also know that rains here do not last long.

These past few weeks, it has rained almost every day, and on few days, the rains have lasted for more than an hour or so. It is annoying sometimes as the roads can really get very wet.

Many people here have their small umbrellas ready for deployment, but the small ones are not at all effective in shielding one from the intensely angular rains lashing out. Even big ones cannot cover you well and you will discover that your pant edges are wet, your shoes are very wet, and any bag that you may be carrying get wet as well.

The funny part is that most people walking on the pavements and streets walk with their eyes down rather than facing up and so we have to be careful with the big umbrellas. The density of the population in the town areas is very high and you can imagine if everyone carries an umbrella and the rains are getting to be heavy, especially during lunch times.

The one good thing is that most MRT Stations and Bus Stands have covered walkways attached to them, and so for most part, people are shielded from rains. Every bus stop has shelter, but that is not a guarantee from getting wet, as the rains can get rather fierce sometimes.

I even now dread walking on polished marble or granite walkways or corridors which are wet, as it is difficult to see the water on such walkways. There are many buildings whose entrance adjoins the pavements which have marble flooring (cannot understand why they build it that way). One hard fall with a slip which cannot be forecasted accurately can land most people in medical trouble, as it happened to me in December 2005.

So, I am always careful when it rains and try to avoid walking out when there are incessant rains lashing out. Better safe than sorry, I guess !

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan
01 December 2013

What is your Philosophy in Life ?


I had lunch with my long-term mentor yesterday.

Apart from mutual catching up, he asked me a question which set me into some deep thinking.

He asked “what is your philosophy in life?”.

I should say I was a bit stumped at first, even though I had thought about this topic in the past and written about the same in this blog itself.

However, I managed to tell him that I wish to help poor people and children in some way – via volunteering to assist people who have challenges in life like depression and poverty, and poor children who need to be taught maths and science. Plus, I am a bit low on spirituality and godliness.

He listened to me and explained his philosophy on believing that there is a supreme being somewhere which controls the universe and this world, based on what quantum physicists themselves explain. He stated that these physics folks actually believe that there is some super being which ordains this world and all of us, because they have “felt” it while researching physical phenomena – like photons and neutrons and particles which purportedly travel even faster than light.

I thought that there is some learning in that proposition – we are talking about hard core scientists, not just the average joe on the street, not even the average professor who talks about atheism. These are folks who have investigated particle physics, and the black hole, and various other such phenomena and have actually gone on to prove theories.

So there must be something out here……….

Well, I don’t know really – it is rather mystical to me, as I am yet to feel the vastness of space that the astronomers see or astronauts experience personally. May be that would have a big impact to change my views, I guess.

Physics is a subject that I like and I had always wanted to pursue advanced degree in Physics when I was young. But I could not. This is fascinating.

Time to think of the supreme being.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan
28th July 2013

Finding Peace


In today’s world, it is impossible to find a peaceful moment.

Is there something called “peace” in itself ?

I used to wonder sometimes why our body and its bio-mechanics are always in a constant state of elevated pressure, anticipation, excitement and disturbance ? Sometime I feel that this is the situation all the time !!

Now, I have stopped wondering.

Why ?

Because, I do not think there is any escape from worldly pressures, except when one’s mind concentrates heavily on a few things which one loves. For example, it could be Yoga or Gym or Swimming or a game of Badminton. Something which takes one’s mind completely away from the worldly things and allows it to concentrate with total passion and commitment on just one thing – a thing which one loves.

Just think about it.

How difficult is it to concentrate on just one thing at a time in this world ?

Very difficult, right ?

Peace is not easily reachable even for a few minutes. Peace can be achieved if the mind concentrates heavily on one thing at a time, or if you can train your mind to be “blank”.

Yes, “blank” – completely empty.

How can you achieve that ? Sounds impossible, correct ?

It is not.

You can blank out all thoughts – positive or negative – for a few moments on focusing with intensity on something which dominates this universe – may be God, may be the vastness of the outer space, may be the emptiness of the universe, may be the possibility of human lives in distant planets light years away………Yes, you are thinking but not about this world. The moment that you think about this world, your mind gets clouded. Rather heavily. Then you cannot blank out your mind.

Just try it.

It may be one simple way to achieve some peace with yourselves.

The elusive peace is to be found within yourselves first, before you can find it elsewhere. Peace resides in you, and to find it you have to concentrate in the midst of all the distractions around you. Difficult, but possible.

Try it for a few minutes every day (it would appear as an hour when you try it first !) and then you can train yourselves to do it every day. Then you will discover the peace inside you.

This discovery will help calm your nerves and yourself. You will become a more stable, more balanced being. It will help you in all walks of life.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan
14th July 2013

Outdoors at Reno


Reno in Nevada State of the U.S. is for the outdoor lovers.

I met several people whose passion revolved around trekking, hiking, skiing, and probably hunting !

Reno is surrounded by beautiful mountain range, which leads up to Lake Tahoe at 6,200 feet. I had the opportunity to visit this famous lake as well, and I will publish the write-up and photos in a separate blog post.

Last weekend, we went hiking in the hills around here (not far from the hotel where I was staying). The air was crisp and cold (around 10 degrees C at 10 AM), and quite refreshing. Since there was no humidity, there was no problem walking for a long distance – the only challenge was going up the hill on the narrow trails (and sometimes, there was no trail whatsoever).

Though a bit strenuous, I enjoyed the hiking – especially when you are with great friends, it is a pleasure to engage in a joint activity like this – and took in the views of the Reno city from afar. There were a number of houses built on the slopes of the hill – big and expensive, I was told.

We walked up some 300 feet, enjoyed our break-time conversations, and then walked back. Walking down a hill is a bit tough, but this hill was not that hard. I was told sometimes there could be some animals around here – like a huge cat, may be cheetah – but they do not come around when there are groups of people.

The whole experience was fantastic, and we reached back to our car without a sweat (!), after some 90 minutes or so. Such outdoor experience is difficult to get in the metro cities of India – we have to drive quite far to get a similar experience in the hills of Lonavala for example (near Mumbai).

The weather has worsened in terms of temperature now – dropping to negative 5 deg C today. Probably today was the coldest day during my stay here at Reno. But, still enjoyable to walk around if you protect with some heavy winter clothing ! Not as severe as the North-Eastern states of the U.S.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan
14th December 2012
Mumbai

Old times from Beach Walking


It is funny how most of us like to take a walk on the beach, but rarely get to do so in the midst of hectic schedules, though plenty of beaches are available in India. Walking on a sandy beach is a good stress-reliever and I used to enjoy it, but it has been more than 18 long months since I have been on a beach, though I live in a city with several beaches.

This time though, I decided to visit the Besant Nagar Beach in Chennai, though most visitors would normally like to go to the Marina Beach, purportedly the second longest sandy beach in the whole world, stretching for several kilometres (which is the first longest one ?). This is a smaller one, far from the maddening crowds at the Marina Beach.

The Besant Nagar beach has white sand with less crowds and at this time of the year has a pleasant cool windy breeze. The sand does not really stick to you, which is the way I like it. The beach was not dirty like most other Indian beaches, and has hardly any plastic strewn around it, which was again environmentally a good thing.

I liked it today as no hawker approached me and disturbed my thoughts or actions. Incidentally, on this beach the hawkers are all centrally aligned along a stretch leading to the beach front. I do not support hawkers at all on a beach, but no amount of protest is going to remove hawkers from any Indian beach. I do not patronize the hawkers at all, except may be the ones who are outside the beach area on the pavement. Consumption of any food or drinks should be prohibited on any beach.

A beach without plastic, without hawkers, without balloons – that is just a dream in India. But in any case, I liked the Besant Nagar Beach which was decent and met some of my criteria for being a good beach providing a decent environment for people who come to enjoy a beach.

I did not see any life guards on the beach (not surprising), but neither did I see any warning signs. The tides were a bit high, and people including families with kids were in knee-deep and some in waist-deep water, enjoying themselves. But again, that is the way it is in most Indian beaches, except may be in Goa. People could not care less about their own personal safety, they came here to get a free entertainment and they were not going to be dissuaded.

I saw a few well-maintained horses, and my son elected to take a ride for just about USD 1 per ride lasting some 5 minutes. We are allowed to take pictures, and the horse walks with my son seated on the horse along the beach and returns after a few minutes. A good stress-reliever, I guess.

The best thing about a beach walk is that one gets to forget his cell phone and his computer, gets to walk on a sandy beach with eyes focused on sea waves, with his face getting brushed by cool sea breeze. I believe that this is good stress-buster which is free of charge, and few other things can match its benefits, it is critical to switch off your cell phone though ! and, do not tolerate any disturbance of any kind !!

Enjoy the breeze and the sea ! It is free !! And, do not disturb the ecosystem !!!

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan
25th December 2011
Mumbai