Friday, July 17, 2009

Ashaani Sanket - Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay

Started reading the hindi translation purely to while away time, fully expecting to get bored and leave it mid way.

And was rather suprised to find that it held me right up to the end. That was even more surprising, since it was precisely the kind of story I'd have thought I didn't like. A "baaman" family set in a poor village sometime over 60 decades ago. Story is perhaps not describing it accurately. A chronicle of that family, through the months of increasing prices of rice during 1943 perhaps is a more accurate description. The gradual build up from the routine humdrum of village life, to the sense of complete despair is most hauntinly written.

All in all, it was a gripping narration, even if it was a hindi translation. I think I need to pick up more of Mr Bandhopadyay's works.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The starfish and the spider -

An interesting book about the idea as such. Although it tends to get a bit repetitive at times.

The basic idea being of course, that the spider and the starfish are entirely different in the way they work.

A spider has a single controlling "head", ( think normal CEO style hierarchical structures). Cut the head, and the spider falls apart. ( um mostly!)
A starfish on the other had, seems to have no such thing. Its so called higher brains functions, if there is such a thing, seem to be spread out. ( think the more distributed internet, eMule, what not). Cutting off any part of them, might just give you two full starfish, and probably wouldn't at any rate have the thing die off spider style.

Which was a think I often wondered when I read or saw things like war of the worlds etc where there always seemed to be a single nerve centre/ command centre, which the hero would figure out and disable, thus getting the whole thing down. And I remember thinking long back, yes I know thats how traditional armies work, but what if, just what if, you had an alien attack which didn't work that way?

An interesting look at the two diferent structures. Worth a read.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Phantoms in the brain - V.S. Ramachandran, Sandra Blakeslee

A damn fascinating book, and at least the first 3/4ths of it are un-put-downable.

Its a book about "how the brain works" so to speak. However neurology is just a drab way of describing it. What it actually involves are things you'd never have thought could be linked back to it - things that are firmly believed to be part of your "identity" and "personality" and "views". Things we tend to hold so very strongly as "me".

cogito , ergo sum.

However, how amorphous those views can really be, is a question perhaps some of us wouldn't even like to ask. Who knows down where the answer will lead us? And as some of the experiments described in this book show - the rabbit hole goes places you'd not have expected.

I think the first time I got to thinking about this whole area, was some time in school, when I read an article in some readers digest or something. it described a woman who'd suffered some head injuries and her daughter was aghast to find that her preferences in dressing and colours had completely changed.

That got me thinking, if your conservative dressing sense could change to an exuberant one, by a head injury, what else could a whack to your head do? how much of your personality is really malleable, not just by thinking/peer influence/books/experiances, but by sheer physical changes to the brain? How much by just what you eat? coffee helps you keep awake, and chocolate gives you a lift, that seems acceptable to most of us. But could an epileptic fit turn you into a messiah? Does that make your experiance more real, or less, as compared to having gained enlightenment after reading the vedas?

Interesting questions, and a damn fascinating direction, however like I said earlier, be prepared for some unexpected turns in the rabbit hole!


Lets hope something sensible emerges from the courts today.

And please if I hear the word "choice" again, I'll barf. There is no choice, can't these ppl get that???