Archive for June, 2007

Maybe not so phony after all?

June 30, 2007

 For starters, I hate those motherhood type – general, unsubstantiated and so glorified beyond any semblance of reality that they actually appear funny – statements. So naturally, when the (i)god of motherhood, turtlenecks and faded denims proclaimed some months back that his company was redefining the phone, I ibalked. I mean seriously, I already have a phone that does whatever his magical creation purports to do. Yeah reinvent? – sure.

Then yesterday happened. iday, as some tech blogs proclaimed (Gee, don’t they think they are smart?). I managed to read a Scoble post once he bought the phone. Maybe its adrenaline and he won’t end up being so irosy about iphone after all, but the way he gushes about the phone points to a larger effect (yes, you guessed it – the ieffect).

You see, the iphone does not reinvent the phone. The iphone experience (iphone XP? 🙂 )reinvents the phone. Apple has this magical aura which just makes slightly superior products appear magical. iphone is one, OS X is the other and of course, so is the ipod.

The iphone is redefining the phone experience – in a phone lifecycle sort of way. And frankly I think that is just fantastic.

Maybe this is just a case of post purchase euphoria. You wouldn’t be normal if you acted nonchalantly about something you waited some 28 hours on a street side for. But hey, if it added to the experience, it can’t be so bad.

That man Steve Jobs is a Magician. Er, did I say I hated motherhood statements? ilied!

Magny Cours. Is a turn around now too little too late?

June 30, 2007

After suffering 3 crushing defeats at the hands of Mclaren, Ferrari finally look to have rediscovered their blistering season-opening form. Last week’s tests at Silverstone showed that they had made tremendous progress and that looks like something that has been carried through to practice at France.

Whatever the result, this looks like yet another mouthwatering prospect. That said, the pegging order this weekend at Mclaren seems decidedly in favour of the double world champ. And how he needs to prove superiority. Its incredible, but the way things have turned out, you’d think that Lewis was the World Champion while Alonso was a blubbering rookie. That kid’s really got some talent and yes, most of the worlds influential motoring journalists are British. Did you really think Alonso ever had a chance?

That little digression aside, this is the bigger question – Is a Ferrari revival now enough to see them come through as season Champions? This, after all, is a contest that favours consistency over top results (Ironically a relic of what one Messer Schumacher forced the sport into).

Mclaren, currently in – ahem – the drivers seat are some 35 points ahead of Ferrari. On one hand, a lead so small that two Ferrari 1-2’s and 2 double Mclaren DNF’s would completely obliterate it, but then again, pragmatism dictates that with some 10 races to go in the season Ferrari would need to be consistently, demonstrably superior. Ferrari do have the technical depth, but so do Mclaren.

I’d still tip Mclaren for the Championship. Ultimately, whatever the result, let’s hope this one is super close! 


June 24, 2007

I’ve been flipping through a James Gleick book I originally read during those heady Trichy-with-more-coconut-oil-in-the-hair-than-is-ideal engineering days.

It’s incredible, but just when I think I can’t be any more amazed by the brilliance – in every aspect conceivable – of one of the greatest scientists the world has ever seen, there suddenly comes this little nugget, that brilliant anecdote that raises the man to even greater heights. Apotheosis, if my rusty recollection of that blue-and-terrible-reprint Barrons book serve me right.

The latest cause of wonderment is the sheer respect a man like Oppenheimer had for what was, at that time (Los Alamos Bomb Labs), a 25 year old Feynman. Let’s leave the moral implications of what happened at Los Alamos during those frenetic years aside (will be saved for another day and another boring blog post), but the impact that – in Oppenheimer’s own words – ‘little Richard’ made on the best scientific minds of arguably any generation stands testament to the man’s remarkable, remarkable genius.

Oppenheimer, try as he did, was ultimately unsuccessful in taking Feynman with him to Berkeley (Feynman chose to go instead, with Hans Bethe to Cornell), but a trenchant letter to Raymond Birge (who was slow to make Feynman a Berkeley offer) evinces Oppenheimer’s respect for Feynman – “…Too much courage was not required in making a commitment to a young scientist… He is not only an extremely brilliant theorist, but a man of great robustness, responsibility and warmth, a brilliant and lucid teacher… we regard him as invaluable here; he has been given a responsibility and his work carries a weight far beyond his years…”

Both Bethe and Wigner were effusive in praise for the young genius – wih Bethe going so far as saying that he would rather lose any two scientists than lose Feynman, but perhaps the ultimate tribute came from Wigner at Princeton – “He is a second Dirac” Said Wigner, in direct reference to the Physics Demi god, “only this time Human”.

What a man. What a man.

Rockets up, Parachutes down

June 4, 2007

I just read an interesting article that describes the way Google works in their quest for the Holy Grail of Search – Giving you what you want regardless of where it is, how it is or what it is.

Apparently, Google uses some 200 signals to rank a mammoth index of over 8 Billion web pages against the innocuous group of words that make up your search query. Interesting stuff, truly so.

All that’s good, doubtless, but there are those  minor, fundamental irritations. One of Google’s wow features used to be the whole “Did you mean…” as one of the first links on the search result screen. A fantastic idea, since it’s so easy to inadvertently juxtapose keystrokes while doing that quick search. The whole concept of the “did you mean…” link was to help the user evaluate a potential better search query and execute it with a simple, lazy flick of the index finger. Freakin’ smart.

But even great innovations have those ragged edges. I was doing a search for an old Economist article I had read a while ago. The only thing I clearly remember from the article was a phrase that caught my attention “Rockets up, parachutes down” (an allusion to the way gas prices shoot up when OPEC does their nakra, but merely waft back down once the fuss is over)

So, in true Google “Power User” style, I typed my query in between two quote (“) keystrokes (for the just-about-leisurely-Google-user, a search query flanked by quotes will return pages which have that exact phrase). Google returned zero results (Shock!) but I was delighted when our cute little “Did you mean…” link came up very helpfully. “Did you mean Rockets up, parachuted down”? er, no not really wise guy, but let’s give it a shot anyway. So I click the link and get taken to a second page with – hold your breath – zero results! The darling of innovation, the predictive “Did you mean…” algorithm failed miserably.

So there you go. My story of irritations. Seriously, how difficult is it for Google to figure out that the “Did you mean…” link will not turn up results and therefore not display it in such cases? It should be a walk in the park for them. The devil, it is oft said, is in the Google 🙂 .

Any ways, another boring blog post. And I don’t even know a “self deprecating humor” way of ending it.

Ps: Aside, It will be interesting to see if this post comes up during a future query for the title phrase