Monday, October 31, 2016

Can a Diwali fireworks rocket ("aatishbaazi") keep going up and up and eventually escape the gravitational force of Earth?

I used to wonder this during school days, when I would play with fireworks rockets such as Lunik Express or Whistling Rocket during Diwali days. I used to think that since this rocket is "overpowering" Earth's gravity for at least some seconds, it shouldn't be the case that it can't keep doing the same for longer and longer, to the point where it breaks free from Earth's gravity [almost, that is]. I used to ask myself what would happen if this rocket was filled with a little more of the explosive mixture so that it rose a little bit more? And so on.

It was only yesterday that I realized that each gram of extra mixture that we add to the rocket increases its starting weight, thus requiring more starting force [hence higher rate of combustion of the mixture] to lift the [now heavier] rocket. If we want to double the upward range, we can't just double the amount of mixture. The new amount of mixture also has to "carry the extra weight of the additional mixture" by burning at a higher rate, thus reducing upward range to less than twice. And so on. A rocket that's large enough to break free from Earth's gravity will likely become analogous to commercial rockets, as dictated by relevant equations.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Are the people of a very advanced civilization living virtual lives by implanting their consciousnesses inside us, the characters of their simulation?

  • Hard to comprehend/understand, but our Universe has been around since "ever". Our scientists talk about some billion years ago as the starting point, but it isn't difficult to realize that there's infinite time before any time interval that we speak about.
    • Important caveat: If our Universe is indeed a simulation run by a very advanced civilization, then our Universe of course can have a finite starting point [the point where their video game was started]. However, the parent Universe in which folks of that advanced civilization live [assuming they themselves aren't a simulation of someone else] has been there since "ever".
  • Mankind already spends so much of its time inside all sorts of video games, including as characters inside virtual reality games [virtual worlds] such as Second Life. Proof enough that people seek to "escape" real life and live a more ideal/exciting virtual life, even if for only a while. Perhaps some aspects of the real world aren't always good, and solace is achieved within the world of video games.
  • Fair to assume that similarly the folks of that very advanced civilization sometimes want such an "escape". Maybe they have technology so that a dude in that civilization can implant his consciousness/mind/personality into a character inside the video game which we are [assuming we believe in the simulation hypothesis] and live a virtual life as a human being. Maybe all of us folks are actually "them" - our bodies are virtual and our perception/understanding of our minds is actually a subset of their actual/full consciousness [that is, each of us believes that we fully know our own minds, but perhaps we just can't access/feel/read/see those contents/portions of our minds which they've restricted our access to, and which belong solely to them and they do not want to make a part of the simulation]. Maybe they immensely enjoy playing in this world that they've designed. Maybe they've put concepts and phenomenon in this world that they dream of [or miss], like love or simplicity. Maybe due to incredible technological advancement those folks are so machine-like now that they just can't be simple or "cute" anymore.
  • Lastly, we know about only till a few billion years back. But the real Universe has been around forever. So this "forever" is "enough" time for development that's far, far, far ahead of anything that we are or anything that we can imagine. So it's likely that there's a much, much, much superior civilization our there, and that we're simply their game, and that we might never encounter anyone else.
Update [Jan'17]: Just felt that it isn't necessary that we're a simulation. It could very well be that we are the "creation" of aliens. Maybe it's the aliens who discovered our Earth as a far-off planet suitable for life, and maybe it's them who planted the seeds of life here. Perhaps they're watching us all the time, but in a way that we can't detect their presence. So it ain't necessary that we're a simulation. Perhaps we exist at the same time as them, and maybe we are their creation.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Insurance - car, health, life, etc. - uses socialism as its driving principle [COMPACTIDEA]

Insurance essentially is a common pool into which people put money [quantity of money you put in decides how much you can withdraw] without knowing which ones of them will need [a lot more] money later in life. Only a few out of the total group feel the need for money later in life, and these folks get many times more money than they had put in [because they also take those people's money who never needed to access this pool but had put in money].

It's like everyone says that we don't know who among us is going to require lots of money [due to a car accident or a critical illness or maybe death], so let us all put in small amounts to create a big pool and the few who will genuinely require money will each get a large sum.

In this sense the whole concept of insurance policies rests on a very socialism-like system. Even though banking, insurance, mutual funds, etc., are all hallmarks of a capitalist society. So socialism [and maybe communism] very much thrives even today, although as threads within the fabric of an otherwise capitalist society.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Price comparison of purchases done at online retail outlets with offline stores should be done by including intangible factors [COMPACTIDEA]

It isn't correct to only compare listed sale price when comparing a product at an online retail website like Flipkart with an offline store like Easyday. Some of the other, intangible factors to be included are:
  1. Time saving when ordered online [no need to go to store, etc.].
  2. Parking and fuel saving.
    1. Vehicle wear and tear saving.
It might be tough to assign exact monetary value to these factors, but it cannot be doubted that these positive aspects of online retail certainly reduce the actual price of the product to below the list price that we see on online retail websites [even if it's tough to determine the extent of the reduction].

Sunday, October 2, 2016

The complexity, obscurity, secrecy, invisibility, plausible deniability, hideability, speed and volatility of software and electronics are powerfully enabling covert evil acts by governments and corporations

  • VW wouldn't have been able to cheat if its engines had been purely mechanical [like yesteryear], with the ability to "see" all the components and to "visually understand" what each component does. With software, we don't even know what code/programming lurks inside, what logic/rules it follows, when it gets triggered, for how long, and so on. Worst of all, we don't even know if something, if anything at all, exists inside. The electronics could very well have been designed to automatically wipe the software if someone tried to study it, allowing plausible deniability.
  • Yahoo wouldn't have been able to quietly scan/spy upon the incoming emails of hundreds of millions of Yahoo Mail users [or at least the extent of this massive spying operation would've been much smaller] if instead of invisible digital bits and bytes, the communication had been on physical paper. Electronics and software allowed Yahoo to covertly/quietly obey its masters in the US government to conduct blanket spying in a way that Yahoo's customers never knew about it, even as Yahoo continued to publicly trumpet about its strict adherence to the privacy of its customers. If not for this leak/revelation, the world would've never known, and this breach of privacy and trust would've gone unnoticed. That's the scary thing about software.
    • Because it's about invisible, complex software, when Google, Microsoft and Twitter claim that they aren't a part of this NSA program, why can/should we trust them? Is there a way to know that they aren't lying? If they were cooperating with NSA, would they admit it? Of course they would lie. This is more like an obvious/standard answer rather than a certain truth.
  • The CEO of Reddit wouldn't have been able to quietly edit/modify the posts of his own service's users [without their consent/knowledge] had we not been talking about software. In software, and especially in Cloud-based software, anything is possible. Expect anything. NYT could be modifying its past articles [and/or comments]. No one stops American companies from modifying your blogs. Past Reddit content could've been modified. And so on.

  • Google wouldn't have been able to covertly make ProtonMail invisible from its near-monopoly search results if its inner workings had been available for scrutiny. It's only when the ProtonMail guys noticed their demotion and left no stone unturned did Google correct this so-called "glitch" without any explanation. Two better explanations are that Google wanted to kill ProtonMail or that CIA/NSA asked Google to kill ProtonMail. [link 1] [link 2] [link 3] [link 4] [link 5] [link 6]

  • What's going on inside a Google Chromebit? No one knows. It's all inside, away from scrutiny. It's possible that the thing has been programmed to quietly ship the names of all files stored offline along with the encrypted traffic it uses to communicate with Google. Anything is also possible. We can't just trust Google on whatever it says. We have to assume that worse things are happening.
  • It's only because of the secrecy and speed of software/electronics that Uber has been able to [and continues to] fool governments and authorities.

Two more examples of impossible trinity - in case of cars and in case of fancy insurance products [COMPACTIDEA]

During my MBA days, the concept of impossible trinity intrigued me. You can choose any two in the triangle, but you lose the third. Are there other similar examples? Sure. See below.

In case of cars:
  1. A car with low fuel consumption yet high performance will be expensive.
  2. A car with high performance and low price will guzzle fuel.
  3. A car with high fuel economy and low price won't have performance.

In case of fancy insurance products that claim to bundle insurance with saving/investment:
  1. A product with high, assured return won't have insurance in it [it'll be a fixed deposit].
  2. A product with high return and also an insurance cover won't guarantee that return [it'll be an equity market linked product].
  3. A product with assured return and bundled insurance cover won't give high return [this is the kind of bundled product that most people mistakenly buy, not realizing that the return is lower than if they had bought individual capabilities separately].

UPDATE [5-OCT-16]: In the car example, the extreme case is also true, where you choose any one vertex of the triangle in "extreme" way, and you cannot have the other two as a result.
  1. Choose too much power, and the car would be neither cheap not efficient [think Cruze].
  2. Desire too much efficiency, and the car would be neither cheap nor powerful [think Prius].
  3. Choose too much cheap, and the car would be neither efficient nor powerful [think Nano].