Monday, June 11, 2018

Quantum Facts

You know, as usual, I am behind the curve. If that is the right thing to say of my sort of person. You know, the guy who wears narrow trousers when bell-bottoms are all the rage and proudly struts around in bell-bottoms when the world is gaga over jeans. That sort of person.

So, yes, I was bemoaning the fact that I could not form opinions without knowing facts. Of course I had no idea that quantum physics had invaded the real world.

Yeah, I know, you are astounded at the thought. (Not at the thought of quantum physics invading the real world but at the thought that I even know that there is some such thing as quantum physics? You @#$%) You see, in quantum physics, unless there is an observer, a thing has not happened. So, apparently, all possible outcomes are inherent in a situation but NONE of them have become reality as long as there is no observer.

This chap called Schrodinger then went on to create an elaborate paradox around it. The so-called Schrodinger's cat.

So, if there is this cat in the locked box, which cannot be seen through, along with a radioactive atom (with a long half-life one presumes) and a Geiger counter. The Geiger counter is set up such that it will break a vial of cyanide if it gets a reading of radioactivity. AND the cat will die. Radioactive atoms may or may not decay and, so, the cat may be alive or dead. (THAT half-life thingy? It means that at the end of the half-life, the lump of radioactive material will have decayed by 50%, which means that the other 50% has still not decayed. AND over the period equivalent to the half life in the next round only 50% of what remains will decay. So, any given radioactive atom may never decay in the lifetime of even the Sun...or decay almost before you close the door on the box). When the box is opened, you will see either a live cat or a dead cat. The question is about whether the cat is alive or dead or 'neither dead nor alive' before the box is opened and the situation observed. (Coma? THAT's not an option, thank you. Schrodinger, thankfully for him, did not have to face up to helpful suggestions like this.)

See, the elaborate arrangement with atoms and Geiger counters and all? THAT's because, this thing about the Observer deciding the reality was supposed to exist only in the quantum world. Which means, in this whole set-up, it is the state of the radioactive atom - whether it has decayed or not - is indeterminate till it is observed. So, naturally, whether the cyanide vial is broken or not also becomes indeterminate, thanks to the Geiger Counter set-up, and thus the cat's life is also depends on being observed. In the macro-universe it does not work that way. Or so, Schrodinger and his fellow-physicists thought in their day. They also thought that, once it is observed, the situation resolves itself to ONE reality for ALL observers.

Now...ah, now...

Now, AFTER the box is opened...

Observer 1: "The cat is alive"
Observer 2: "The cat is obviously dead."
Observer 3: "There is a cat. But where is the box?"
Observer 4: "There is a box. Where is the cat?"
Observer 5: "THAT's a cat? You blind idiots cannot even recognize a monkey when you see one."
Observer 6: "What cat? What box? What monkey? There is nothing here."
Observer 7:.....

AND THAT is what Schrodinger escaped by dying. NOW not only does the Observer decide the fact, even in the regular world, but there are as many alternate facts as there are observers.

And I was talking of forming opinions only based on facts. Without realizing that the important question is 'Which set of facts?'

When oh when will I catch up with the curve?

Monday, June 4, 2018

Confidence Lessons-III

The times, they are a changing. And, in the process of changing, they can rob you of confidence as well. Not merely as in finding that your nephew knows more about how to deal with the world than you do because the world now prefers to be dealt with by a smartphone rather than in person. The times, they bring about a change in what is respected and what is not and...

You see, there was this time when someone was called a liberal thinker on the basis of how open he was to seeing everyone's point of view. How open he was to accepting those portions of ideologies which seem suitable and rejecting only those portions which do not. To do all that, a liberal thinker could not have an ideology of his own. (AND, yes, it is really possible to have ideas even if you do not have an ideology, strange though it may seem.)

So, there were these metaphors that applied to such a strange being - separating the wheat from the chaff and all that. This mythical being would seek to eliminate the weeds and retain the crop, instead of burning up the entire field after spotting a couple of weeds OR claiming that there were no weeds; would be able to see that millet plants are not necessarily weeds merely because you are used to rice and wheat; can see that someone could grow grass in order to feed livestock, even if grass is a weed in a paddy field.

The problem, you see, is that I was taught that this liberal thinking was the best way to be. There was this chap called Thiruvalluvar who also put his oar into it by saying 'EpporuL yaar yaar vai ketpinum apporuL meipporuL kaanbadhu arivu'. Meaning that you assess the truth of what is said without regard to who is saying it.

So, what is the net result?

Someone says something and I cannot confidently call him an idiot immediately. I sit around thinking about whether he had some modicum of truth in what he said, whether his ideas are valid in his context, whether the context itself has changed or remained the same...

WIMP!

Where is the confidence of seeing that, if the guy is not one of us, he HAS to be wrong? And what is this nonsense about being a liberal thinker? A liberal is one who holds views that oppose a conservative, it is that simple. All this nonsense about seeing whether he has a point...are you a bloody conservative, after all?

You see, I have not been able to move with the times. The definition of liberal thinking has changed but I have not changed in tune with the times. And my sort of liberal thinking...only losers think that way.

No-one can stop a man who knows he is in the right and keeps coming, even if his knowledge of his rightness is totally erroneous. The chap who stops to wonder whether he is indeed right, though...

I am afraid I am never going to appear confident, after all.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Confidence Lessons-II

Maybe my friend is right. I have not even taken the first step towards appearing confident. I mean, when I do not even think that I have a right to my opinion, how can I ever appear confident? Even the baby in diapers, these days, is sure that it has a right to its opinion and I claim to be an adult.

You know, the problem is that I am always looking for facts and, if the facts do not comprehensively prove it one way or the other, I tend to feel diffident about my opinion even when it is supported by a majority of the known facts. AND if it is an area where I do not have the facts to even feel that a preponderance of the facts support my opinion, I feel stupid about holding any opinions at all.

I sort of used to feel that I had the support of most people in my attitude. Like, for example, I do not see people vehemently arguing about whether the String Theory is stupid or the M-Theory is lunatic. (WHAT are they? Don't ask me, ask your physics teacher. I would only misguide you.) They seem to have no opinions at all about those things, just like me. (Of course, there are people just sloshing with so much confidence that they can dispute science, too. Like the lot who is confident that the 'round Earth' is a lie foisted on us by evil scientists OR the ones who are sure that Darwin belongs in a lunatic asylum for not realizing that Man was made by God and lost a rib to create Woman. But those soar so high in the realms of confidence that they are beyond the reach of most of us.)

Where I erred is in assuming that the same yardstick should be used for everything. This total lack of understanding of the fact that what applies to Science can be conveniently discarded when it came to philosophy or politics or sociology...THAT is what has destroyed me. I mean, come on, where is the confident guy who asserts that "There is no God" and where is this wimpy loser who says, "I don't know. Maybe He is jaunting around the Andromeda Galaxy or maybe He is only a figment of our collective imaginations."

You see, this kinky brain of mine has been the problem as always. There may be lamps which give birth to genies when rubbed and the genies may grant you three wishes when so born. If I want to sort out all my life's problems by rubbing lamps, I need to have an opinion here - that this genie business is true. Otherwise, I would not be setting out to hunt up lamps to rub.

If I do not intend to rely on genies to get me a girl-friend or pay up my Income Tax, do I have to necessarily have a wholesale opinion about all lamps and their potential to be fecund genie producers? I am a lazy bum, as everyone who knows me will certify in triplicate, and I sort of find it sufficient to believe that I will not get such a lamp...I really do not have to make the effort to have an opinion about all lamps from the dawn of time to now.

If I am that lazy even about lamps, why would I bother about to hold opinions about gods or whether they give boons or what their motives would be to cause suffering or whatever? Or about the mysterious ways of politicians or economists or bureaucrats. AND, when I do not have either the knowledge or the facts, I do not even know that I have a right to an opinion, leave alone the right to express my opinions. More evil has been caused in the world by the spreading of uninformed opinions than by villains, as far as I can see. In fact, no villain can ever succeed unless he manages to get people to accept and spread ignorant prejudices.

All that sounds nice and all, but the hassle is that it makes me out into such a wimp. There is a peculiar confidence that bolsters you, when you wear the blinkers of uninformed opinions, because you can see so many people around you wearing the same. THEN you can assert your point of view, and hold your ground against people wearing a different set of blinkers, confident in the support of the multitude who are like you. Skip wearing blinkers totally and you stand all alone.

AND you cannot stand confidently when the only banner you are waving just says,

"I DON'T KNOW"

Monday, May 21, 2018

Confidence Lessons

This confidence thing always has me beat. Not the thing about 'being confident', that's relatively a simple affair especially when you stick to doing what you know how to do. Like sleeping. The bugbear for me has always been 'appearing confident'.

Like the time when I was first appearing for interviews. About the first thing people told me was to maintain eye-contact in order to appear confident. And the first interviewer I come across steadfastly looks down all the time at my CV, no doubt captivated by the fiction I had written there about how much I loved engineering or, perhaps, busy trying to reconcile that fiction with the pathetic performance in all the subjects that related to engineering. Whatever it was, the only way I could have maintained eye-contact with that chap was if I was lying down on his lap and I understand that THAT is not the acceptable posture for interviewees.

The next time I was interviewed, the chap takes one look at me and snaps, "Why are you goggling at me like that?" Somehow it did not sound to me like an interview question and, even if it was, it felt that the right answer to that question was not "I was maintaining eye-contact so that I could appear confident." So much for eye-contact.

But that, I am sure, is the least of my problems with appearing confident. The primary issue seems to be something wrong in the wiring in my brain. (I so HAVE a brain, damn you, and I am not slipping in any lie, so there!) You see, I do not actually see anything from the right point of view and that is what is messing me up.

You see, for example, if someone says, "A friend in need is a friend indeed", what do you think?

'Well, did Reema help me last time when I needed some money? Maybe she is not really a friend.' 

'Achyut did kick in with cash that time when I ran short of funds for the party.' 

And so on, right? I mean, you know that it has to be applied to all the people around you, don't you?

Me - I am too stupid for that. What I end up doing is applying that to myself. Am I really a friend, did I always help my friends when they needed me? etc etc. And beat myself over the head about it.

Does it stop there? You say something about the ideal subordinates and, instead of assessing my subordinates on those criteria, I start assessing myself as a subordinate. Say something about bosses, ditto. Idiotic, I know, but...(What was that you said? None of that surprised you cos you knew I was a congenital idiot? Sheesh...a man cannot even rant without someone calling him names!)

The net result of all this is that I spend so much time wondering about whether my thoughts and behavior are really right, for me to project confidence. Respect comes to that man who seems to KNOW that he is right.

That knowledge generally means that you should be the sort who thinks that, if there is something wrong, it is always wrong with the other guy, never with you.

THAT way lies confidence. Alas, as usual, it is a lesson that will never benefit me!