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One of the first things you learn about American car culture is the “road trip”. Now I had a friend coming over from Seattle to visit New York, and he wanted to see the Niagara Falls.  I had bought my first car ever just 6 months ago and I wanted to do a road trip. The plan was to leave in the morning and come back at night. I had never driven for more than 2 hours in one direction at any time. This would be a 7 hour trip one-way! (more…)

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It’s been over 2 years since I first read “The Selfish Gene” by Richard Dawkins, and in the meantime I have forgotten quite a bit of it. The basic idea of evolution is simple, but once you start studying it, lots and lots of details emerge, and these are quite complicated. No other book has influenced my worldview as much as this book has and I know that if I simply only read it again, I will probably forget a lot of it in another couple of years. So I thought, this time, I would note down whatever I learn as briefly and succinctly as possible and create a “The Selfish Gene for Dummies” if you will. I am not a biologist, scientist, or an English language expert, so any comments or suggestions pointing out my mistakes are very welcome indeed.

This will be a short post as I start reading the first chapter titled

“Why Are People?”

The theory of evolution is a fact. There is no denial among real scientists that evolution is true. In common parlance, however, a theory has a different meaning. It means something which can be easily doubted. In science, however, a theory means something that is supported by facts and evidence, and is a valid explanation for whatever question the theory attempts to answer. In the scientific world, the theory of evolution has the same standing as the theory of gravity, it is the best explanation of the how and why of life. In fact, maybe even a greater standing, since the theory of gravity breaks down at speeds approaching the speed of light.

Evolution is survival of the fittest genes, not the fittest animal, nor the fittest group of animals i.e species.

The genes are ‘selfish’, not the organism that the gene is part of. This is why having selfish genes does not necessarily mean we are selfish too. The gene’s selfish ‘agenda’ is to survive as a gene through replication. Now genes do not really have thought or purpose, so what the ‘agenda’ above really means is that genes which replicate will survive and those that don’t replicate will not. The ‘selfish’ refers to the fact that the replication of the genes is at the gene level i.e a gene of type A, when it replicates, will only make copies of gene A, and not of gene B. That is why it is selfish, and not altruistic.

Altruism exhibited at the individual level is still selfish at the gene level. This, to me, is a very good explanation of why we “treat others as we wish to be treated ourselves”. Not because some stupid book says so, but because if we treat each other well, and not kill each other, our chances of survival increase, and hence the chances of survival of the genes that are part of us, also increase.

Speciesism is distinguishing between organisms based on their species, just as racism is distinguishing among people based on race. If we were to derive our morals based purely on biology (There is no suggestion we should), then there is no basis for thinking that a human fetus is more privileged or precious than a chimpanzee.

Memorable Quotes

Let us try to teach generosity and altruism, because we are born selfish. Let us understand what our own selfish genes are up to, because we may then at least have the chance to upset their designs, something that no other species has ever aspired to.

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Well, what I really mean is the best moments in concerts that I own on DVD, but that’s not going to be very high up in the search hits, is it? I’ve always thought the live performances are a lot better than the studio versions. One of the reasons is probably because the live version is just a slightly different version of the song you’ve already heard and that you like. And then there’s the element of surprise. Every concert will likely have some unscripted touching or high moment that will be remembered by those who were there. This is a list of my favourite ones.


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Fractals are geometric figures that are recursive. For the fractal mountains, we start with a single triangle. We then pick the mid-points of the 3 sides of these triangles, join them, and create 4 more triangles. Then we do the same for each of the 4 triangles. This recursion is the fractal part of the mountains. In order to make these triangles into a mountain, on each such division, we also raise the midpoint of the sides.

These are 3D models generated using only elementary mathematics and C++ code and then rendered using Maya.

Who says mathematics is not cool?
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For a “country that runs on roads”, there is a surprising lack of variety in cars in the US. The American fascination with big things also carries over to cars. Small cars are virtually non-existent with gigantic SUVs ruling the roads. So when I looked toward buying my first car over here, there were very few cars worth thinking about.
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Recently I happened to be working on my iMac browsing the web for some information about the MINI, and listening to The Corrs in the background and that made me think…how could I have everything I like in one place? And that gave me the idea of the iLike picture (Yes…I am a Mac addict), that would have everything that I like and that I think is cool in one place!

What I Like...doh

What I Like...doh

They are from top to bottom and left to right in no particular order of preference.

  • Andrea Corr
  • iPhone
  • Idli / Sambar
  • Dido
  • Baileys
  • MINI Cooper Convertible
  • iMac
  • Richard Dawkins
  • The Universe – More like astronomy really.
  • ThinkPad X40 AKA Florian
  • Einstein
  • Coffee – This got me through grad school

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