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  • Risk: Interpretation, Innovation and Implementation - Unreal Blog
    Wilmott Espen Haug and Manoj Thulasidas in a free one hour online roundtable discussion to debate the key issues and to find answers to questions to improve financial risk modelling Join our experts as they address these fundamental financial risk questions What is risk How do we measure and quantify risk in quantitative finance Is this effective Is it possible to model risk Define innovation in risk management Where does it take place Where should it take place How do new ideas see the light of day How are they applied to the industry and how should they be applied How is risk management implemented in modern investment banking Is there a better way Our panel of internationally respected experts include Dr Paul Wilmott founder of the prestigious Certificate in Quantitative Finance CQF and Wilmott com Editor in Chief of Wilmott Magazine and author of highly acclaimed books including the best selling Paul Wilmott On Quantitative Finance Dr Espen Gaarder Haug who has more than 20 years of experience in Derivatives research and trading and is author of The Complete Guide of Option Pricing Formulas and Derivatives Models on Models and Dr Manoj Thulasidas a physicist turned quant who works as a senior quantitative professional at Standard Chartered Bank in Singapore and is author of Principles of Quantitative Development This debate will be critical for all chief risk officers credit and market risk managers asset liability managers financial engineers front office traders risk analysts quants and academics Share this Click to share on Reddit Opens in new window Click to share on Voat Opens in new window Click to share on Facebook Opens in new window Click to share on Twitter Opens in new window Click to share on LinkedIn Opens in new window Click to share on Google Opens

    Original URL path: http://www.thulasidas.com/risk-interpretation-innovation-and-implementation/ (2016-02-16)
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  • Physics vs. Finance - Unreal Blog
    provide beautiful semantic contexts to the empty formalisms of advanced mathematics Look at Minkowski space and Riemannian geometry for instance and how Einstein turned them into descriptions of our perceived reality In addition to providing semantics to mathematical formalism science also promotes a worldview based on critical thinking and a ferociously scrupulous scientific integrity It is an attitude of examining one s conclusions assumptions and hypotheses mercilessly to convince oneself that nothing has been overlooked Nowhere is this nitpicking obsession more evident than in experimental physics Physicists report their measurements with two sets of errors a statistical error representing the fact that they have made only a finite number of observations and a systematic error that is supposed to account for the inaccuracies in methodology assumptions etc We may find it interesting to look at the counterpart of this scientific integrity in our neck of the woods quantitative finance which decorates the syntactical edifice of stochastic calculus with dollar and cents semantics of a kind that ends up in annual reports and generates performance bonuses One might even say that it has a profound impact on the global economy as a whole Given this impact how do we assign errors and confidence levels to our results To illustrate it with an example when a trading system reports the P L of a trade as say seven million is it 7 000 000 5 000 000 or is it 7 000 000 5000 The latter clearly holds more value for the financial institution and should be rewarded more than the former We are aware of it We estimate the errors in terms of the volatility and sensitivities of the returns and apply P L reserves But how do we handle other systematic errors How do we measure the impact of our assumptions on market liquidity information symmetry etc and assign dollar values to the resulting errors If we had been scrupulous about error propagations of this perhaps the financial crisis of 2008 would not have come about Although mathematicians are in general free of such critical self doubts as physicists precisely because of a total disconnect between their syntactical wizardry and its semantic contexts in my opinion there are some who take the validity of their assumptions almost too seriously I remember this professor of mine who taught us mathematical induction After proving some minor theorem using it on the blackboard yes it was before the era of whiteboards he asked us whether he had proved it We said sure he had done it right front of us He then said Ah but you should ask yourselves if mathematical induction is right If I think of him as a great mathematician it is perhaps only because of the common romantic fancy of ours that glorifies our past teachers But I am fairly certain that the recognition of the possible fallacy in my glorification is a direct result of the seeds he planted with his statement My professor may have taken this

    Original URL path: http://www.thulasidas.com/physics-vs-finance/ (2016-02-16)
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  • children Archives - Unreal Blog
    is more important is to ensure the sanity of the results we arrive at employing the formidable syntactical machinery at our disposal The only way to maintain an attitude of healthy self doubt and the consequent sanity checks is to jealously guard the connection between the patterns of reality and the formalisms in mathematics And that in my opinion would be the right way to develop a love for math as well children Columns parenting quantitative finance wilmott Columns Quantitative Finance The Wilmott Magazine Topical Math and Patterns February 11 2011 manoj Most kids love patterns Math is just patterns So is life Math therefore is merely a formal way of describing life or at least the patterns we encounter in life If the connection between life patterns and math can be maintained it follows that kids should love math And love of math should generate an analytic ability or what I would call a mathematical ability to understand and do most things well For instance I wrote of a connection between three things a couple of sentences ago I know that it has to be bad English because I see three vertices of a triangle and then one connection doesn t make sense A good writer would probably put it better instinctively A mathematical writer like me would realize that the word between is good enough in this context the subliminal jar on your sense of grammar that it creates can be compensated for or ignored in casual writing I wouldn t leave it standing in a book or a published column except this one because I want to highlight it My point is that it is my love for math that lets me do a large number of things fairly well As a writer for instance I have done rather well But I attribute my success to a certain mathematical ability rather than literary talent I would never start a book with something like It was the best of times it was the worst of times As an opening sentence by all the mathematical rules of writing I have formulated for myself this one just doesn t measure up Yet we all know that Dickens s opening following no rules of mine is perhaps the best in English literature I will probably cook up something similar someday because I see how it summarizes the book and highlights the disparity between the haves and the have nots mirrored in the contrasting lead characters and so on In other words I see how it works and may assimilate it into my cookbook of rules if I can ever figure out how and the process of assimilation is mathematical in nature especially when it is a conscious effort Similar fuzzy rule based approaches can help you be a reasonably clever artist employee manager or anything that you set your sights on which is why I once bragged to my wife that I could learn Indian classical music despite the fact that I am practically tone deaf So loving math is a probably a good thing in spite of its apparent disadvantage vis a vis cheerleaders But I am yet to address my central theme how do we actively encourage and develop a love for math among the next generation I am not talking about making people good at math I m not concerned with teaching techniques per se I think Singapore already does a good job with that But to get people to like math the same way they like say their music or cars or cigarettes or football takes a bit more imagination I think we can accomplish it by keeping the underlying patterns on the foreground So instead of telling my children that 1 4 is bigger than 1 6 because 4 is smaller than 6 I say to them You order one pizza for some kids Do you think each will get more if we had four kids or six kids sharing it From my earlier example on geographic distances and degrees I fancy my daughter will one day figure out that each degree or about 100km corrected by 5 and 6 means four minutes of jet lag She might even wonder why 60 appears in degrees and minutes and seconds and learn something about number system basis and so on Mathematics really does lead to a richer perspective on life All it takes on our part is perhaps only to share the pleasure of enjoying this richness At least that s my hope children Columns parenting quantitative finance wilmott Columns Quantitative Finance The Wilmott Magazine Topical Love of Math January 28 2011 manoj If you love math you are a geek with stock options in your future but no cheerleaders So getting a child to love mathematics is a questionable gift are we really doing them a favor Recently a highly placed friend of mine asked me to look into it not merely as getting a couple of kids interested in math but as a general educational effort in the country Once it becomes a general phenomenon math whizkids might enjoy the same level of social acceptance and popularity as say athletes and rock stars Wishful thinking May be I was always among people who liked math I remember my high school days where one of my friends would do the long multiplication and division during physics experiments while I would team up with another friend to look up logarithms and try to beat the first dude who almost always won It didn t really matter who won the mere fact that we would device games like that as teenagers perhaps portended a cheerleader less future As it turned out the long multiplication guy grew up to be a highly placed banker in the Middle East no doubt thanks to his talents not of the cheerleader phobic math phelic kind When I moved to IIT this mathematical geekiness reached a whole new level Even among the general

    Original URL path: http://www.thulasidas.com/tag/children/ (2016-02-16)
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  • parenting Archives - Unreal Blog
    entitlement about the whole thing and it never occurred to the gift takers that they could perhaps give something back as well During the past couple of decades things changed The gift takers would flock around the rich Gulf Malayalees Keralite migrant workers in the Middle East thereby severely diminishing the social standing of the poor soldiers Anyway this pen that I got from my uncle was a handsome matte gold specimen of a brand called Crest possibly smuggled over the Chinese border at the foothills of the Himalayas and procured by my uncle I was pretty proud of this prized possession of mine as I guess I have been of all my possessions in later years But the pen didn t last that long it got stolen by an older boy with whom I had to share a desk during a test in the summer of 1977 I was devastated by the loss More than that I was terrified of letting my mother know for I knew that she wasn t going to take kindly to it I guess I should have been more careful and kept the pen on my person at all times Sure enough my mom was livid with anger at the loss of this gift from her brother A proponent of tough love she told me to go find the pen and not to return without it Now that was a dangerous move What my mom didn t appreciate was that I took most directives literally I still do It was already late in the evening when I set out on my hopeless errant and it was unlikely that I would have returned at all since I wasn t supposed to not without the pen My dad got home a couple of hours later and was shocked at the turn of events He certainly didn t believe in tough love far from it Or perhaps he had a sense of my literal disposition having been a victim of it earlier Anyway he came looking for me and found me wandering aimlessly around my locked up school some ten kilometer from home Parenting is a balancing act You have to exercise tough love lest your child should not be prepared for the harsh world later on in life You have to show love and affection as well so that your child may feel emotionally secure You have to provide for your your child without being overindulgent or you would end up spoiling them You have to give them freedom and space to grow but you shouldn t become detached and uncaring Tuning your behavior to the right pitch on so many dimensions is what makes parenting a difficult art to master What makes it really scary is the fact that you get only one shot at it If you get it wrong the ripples of your errors may last a lot longer than you can imagine Once when I got upset with him my son far wiser than his six years then told me that I had to be careful for he would be treating his children the way I treated him But then we already know this don t we My mother did prepare me for an unforgiving real world and my father nurtured enough kindness in me The combination is perhaps not too bad But we all would like to do better than our parents In my case I use a simple trick to modulate my behavior to and treatment of my children I try to picture myself at the receiving end of the said treatment If I should feel uncared for or unfairly treated the behavior needs fine tuning This trick does not work all the time because it usually comes after the fact We first act in response to a situation before we have time to do a rational cost benefit analysis There must be another way of doing it right May be it is just a question of developing a lot of patience and kindness You know there are times when I wish I could ask my father children Kerala life Malayalam parenting Life and Death Philosophy Work and Life Home No More February 7 2013 manoj I have been called a lot of unflattering things in my life One of the earlier ones of that series was that I was hard hearted which I countered by pointing out that I was perhaps harder on myself than anybody else Thankfully my accuser concurred One of the recent epithets in the same vein is that I m cold and calculated and I use my head to think rather than my heart I believe it is a fair assessment Then again using my head is the only way I know how to think which of course is exactly the sort of cynical comments that earned me the said assessment The first of the series came during my teenage years when my mother accused of a lack of sentiments and looking for literal meanings in what is said rather than the searching for the sentiments behind them In other words being too hung up on the syntax rather than the semantics Again a fair assessment My mother passed away on the 4th of February 2013 after a long drawn out and poignantly unwinnable battle against Parkinson s disease Mindful of her assessment of my psyche I have been searching for my sentiments like any true introvert But as usual I was looking for them in my head not in my heart and found none there Having been through the loss of one parent and seen the predictable onslaught of the disease I knew what to expect I also knew that I had to anticipate a storm surge of unfathomable emotions But none came Perhaps I was a lot closer to my father than my mother and for good reasons Besides the loss of the first parent is always much more of a shock The loss of the second parent however brings into focus other realities Parents are more than important people in our lives They are also our links to our extended families and the placeholders for our context in the family tree and our sense of belonging in this world When the first one falls we lose and miss the person When the second one falls we also lose a part of ourselves with the extended family ties losing their strength and our context significance and justification becoming a bit fuzzier Hopefully by the time the second loss hits we have all created enough anchor points in our lives to still feel rooted But to those of us who have emigrated and lost a lot of the context in life the loss of the second parent has one more rude surprise It represents the end of the illusion of a lost home In one of his essays Albert Camus wrote that in a world divested of colors and illusions man feels an alien His exile is complete because he is deprived of the hopes for a promised land or the memories of a lost home With both my parents now gone I feel as though my lost home is home no more Albert Camus deaths and births parenting Columns Quantitative Finance The Wilmott Magazine Physics vs Finance February 25 2011 manoj Despite the richness that mathematics imparts to life it remains a hated and difficult subject to many I feel that the difficulty stems from the early and often permanent disconnect between math and reality It is hard to memorize that the reciprocals of bigger numbers are smaller while it is fun to figure out that if you had more people sharing a pizza you get a smaller slice Figuring out is fun memorizing not so much Mathematics being a formal representation of the patterns in reality doesn t put too much emphasis on the figuring out part and it is plain lost on many To repeat that statement with mathematical precision math is syntactically rich and rigorous but semantically weak Syntax can build on itself and often shake off its semantic riders like an unruly horse Worse it can metamorphose into different semantic forms that look vastly different from one another It takes a student a few years to notice that complex numbers vector algebra coordinate geometry linear algebra and trigonometry are all essentially different syntactical descriptions of Euclidean geometry Those who excel in mathematics are I presume the ones who have developed their own semantic perspectives to rein in the seemingly wild syntactical beast Physics also can provide beautiful semantic contexts to the empty formalisms of advanced mathematics Look at Minkowski space and Riemannian geometry for instance and how Einstein turned them into descriptions of our perceived reality In addition to providing semantics to mathematical formalism science also promotes a worldview based on critical thinking and a ferociously scrupulous scientific integrity It is an attitude of examining one s conclusions assumptions and hypotheses mercilessly to convince oneself that nothing has been overlooked Nowhere is this nitpicking obsession more evident than in experimental physics Physicists report their measurements with two sets of errors a statistical error representing the fact that they have made only a finite number of observations and a systematic error that is supposed to account for the inaccuracies in methodology assumptions etc We may find it interesting to look at the counterpart of this scientific integrity in our neck of the woods quantitative finance which decorates the syntactical edifice of stochastic calculus with dollar and cents semantics of a kind that ends up in annual reports and generates performance bonuses One might even say that it has a profound impact on the global economy as a whole Given this impact how do we assign errors and confidence levels to our results To illustrate it with an example when a trading system reports the P L of a trade as say seven million is it 7 000 000 5 000 000 or is it 7 000 000 5000 The latter clearly holds more value for the financial institution and should be rewarded more than the former We are aware of it We estimate the errors in terms of the volatility and sensitivities of the returns and apply P L reserves But how do we handle other systematic errors How do we measure the impact of our assumptions on market liquidity information symmetry etc and assign dollar values to the resulting errors If we had been scrupulous about error propagations of this perhaps the financial crisis of 2008 would not have come about Although mathematicians are in general free of such critical self doubts as physicists precisely because of a total disconnect between their syntactical wizardry and its semantic contexts in my opinion there are some who take the validity of their assumptions almost too seriously I remember this professor of mine who taught us mathematical induction After proving some minor theorem using it on the blackboard yes it was before the era of whiteboards he asked us whether he had proved it We said sure he had done it right front of us He then said Ah but you should ask yourselves if mathematical induction is right If I think of him as a great mathematician it is perhaps only because of the common romantic fancy of ours that glorifies our past teachers But I am fairly certain that the recognition of the possible fallacy in my glorification is a direct result of the seeds he planted with his statement My professor may have taken this self doubt business too far it is perhaps not healthy or practical to question the very backdrop of our rationality and logic What is more important is to ensure the sanity of the results we arrive at employing the formidable syntactical machinery at our disposal The only way to maintain an attitude of healthy self doubt and the consequent sanity checks is to jealously guard the connection between the patterns of reality and the formalisms in mathematics And that in my opinion would be the right way to develop a love for math as well children Columns parenting quantitative finance wilmott Columns Quantitative Finance The Wilmott Magazine Topical Math and Patterns February 11 2011 manoj Most kids love patterns Math is just patterns So is life Math therefore is merely a formal way of describing life or at least the patterns we encounter in life If the connection between life patterns and math can be maintained it follows that kids should love math And love of math should generate an analytic ability or what I would call a mathematical ability to understand and do most things well For instance I wrote of a connection between three things a couple of sentences ago I know that it has to be bad English because I see three vertices of a triangle and then one connection doesn t make sense A good writer would probably put it better instinctively A mathematical writer like me would realize that the word between is good enough in this context the subliminal jar on your sense of grammar that it creates can be compensated for or ignored in casual writing I wouldn t leave it standing in a book or a published column except this one because I want to highlight it My point is that it is my love for math that lets me do a large number of things fairly well As a writer for instance I have done rather well But I attribute my success to a certain mathematical ability rather than literary talent I would never start a book with something like It was the best of times it was the worst of times As an opening sentence by all the mathematical rules of writing I have formulated for myself this one just doesn t measure up Yet we all know that Dickens s opening following no rules of mine is perhaps the best in English literature I will probably cook up something similar someday because I see how it summarizes the book and highlights the disparity between the haves and the have nots mirrored in the contrasting lead characters and so on In other words I see how it works and may assimilate it into my cookbook of rules if I can ever figure out how and the process of assimilation is mathematical in nature especially when it is a conscious effort Similar fuzzy rule based approaches can help you be a reasonably clever artist employee manager or anything that you set your sights on which is why I once bragged to my wife that I could learn Indian classical music despite the fact that I am practically tone deaf So loving math is a probably a good thing in spite of its apparent disadvantage vis a vis cheerleaders But I am yet to address my central theme how do we actively encourage and develop a love for math among the next generation I am not talking about making people good at math I m not concerned with teaching techniques per se I think Singapore already does a good job with that But to get people to like math the same way they like say their music or cars or cigarettes or football takes a bit more imagination I think we can accomplish it by keeping the underlying patterns on the foreground So instead of telling my children that 1 4 is bigger than 1 6 because 4 is smaller than 6 I say to them You order one pizza for some kids Do you think each will get more if we had four kids or six kids sharing it From my earlier example on geographic distances and degrees I fancy my daughter will one day figure out that each degree or about 100km corrected by 5 and 6 means four minutes of jet lag She might even wonder why 60 appears in degrees and minutes and seconds and learn something about number system basis and so on Mathematics really does lead to a richer perspective on life All it takes on our part is perhaps only to share the pleasure of enjoying this richness At least that s my hope children Columns parenting quantitative finance wilmott Columns Quantitative Finance The Wilmott Magazine Topical Love of Math January 28 2011 manoj If you love math you are a geek with stock options in your future but no cheerleaders So getting a child to love mathematics is a questionable gift are we really doing them a favor Recently a highly placed friend of mine asked me to look into it not merely as getting a couple of kids interested in math but as a general educational effort in the country Once it becomes a general phenomenon math whizkids might enjoy the same level of social acceptance and popularity as say athletes and rock stars Wishful thinking May be I was always among people who liked math I remember my high school days where one of my friends would do the long multiplication and division during physics experiments while I would team up with another friend to look up logarithms and try to beat the first dude who almost always won It didn t really matter who won the mere fact that we would device games like that as teenagers perhaps portended a cheerleader less future As it turned out the long multiplication guy grew up to be a highly placed banker in the Middle East no doubt thanks to his talents not of the cheerleader phobic math phelic kind When I moved to IIT this mathematical geekiness reached a whole new level Even among the general geekiness that permeated the IIT air I remember a couple of guys who stood out There was Devious who also had the dubious honor of introducing me to my virgin Kingfisher and Pain would drawl a very pained Obviously Yaar when

    Original URL path: http://www.thulasidas.com/tag/parenting/ (2016-02-16)
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  • Math and Patterns - Unreal Blog
    the subliminal jar on your sense of grammar that it creates can be compensated for or ignored in casual writing I wouldn t leave it standing in a book or a published column except this one because I want to highlight it My point is that it is my love for math that lets me do a large number of things fairly well As a writer for instance I have done rather well But I attribute my success to a certain mathematical ability rather than literary talent I would never start a book with something like It was the best of times it was the worst of times As an opening sentence by all the mathematical rules of writing I have formulated for myself this one just doesn t measure up Yet we all know that Dickens s opening following no rules of mine is perhaps the best in English literature I will probably cook up something similar someday because I see how it summarizes the book and highlights the disparity between the haves and the have nots mirrored in the contrasting lead characters and so on In other words I see how it works and may assimilate it into my cookbook of rules if I can ever figure out how and the process of assimilation is mathematical in nature especially when it is a conscious effort Similar fuzzy rule based approaches can help you be a reasonably clever artist employee manager or anything that you set your sights on which is why I once bragged to my wife that I could learn Indian classical music despite the fact that I am practically tone deaf So loving math is a probably a good thing in spite of its apparent disadvantage vis a vis cheerleaders But I am yet to address my central theme how do we actively encourage and develop a love for math among the next generation I am not talking about making people good at math I m not concerned with teaching techniques per se I think Singapore already does a good job with that But to get people to like math the same way they like say their music or cars or cigarettes or football takes a bit more imagination I think we can accomplish it by keeping the underlying patterns on the foreground So instead of telling my children that 1 4 is bigger than 1 6 because 4 is smaller than 6 I say to them You order one pizza for some kids Do you think each will get more if we had four kids or six kids sharing it From my earlier example on geographic distances and degrees I fancy my daughter will one day figure out that each degree or about 100km corrected by 5 and 6 means four minutes of jet lag She might even wonder why 60 appears in degrees and minutes and seconds and learn something about number system basis and so on Mathematics really does lead to a richer

    Original URL path: http://www.thulasidas.com/math-and-patterns/ (2016-02-16)
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  • Love of Math - Unreal Blog
    highly placed banker in the Middle East no doubt thanks to his talents not of the cheerleader phobic math phelic kind When I moved to IIT this mathematical geekiness reached a whole new level Even among the general geekiness that permeated the IIT air I remember a couple of guys who stood out There was Devious who also had the dubious honor of introducing me to my virgin Kingfisher and Pain would drawl a very pained Obviously Yaar when we the lesser geeks failed to readily follow a his particular line of mathematical acrobatics All of us had a love for math But where did it come from And how in the world would I make it a general educational tool Imparting the love math to one kid is not too difficult you just make it fun The other day when I was driving around with my daughter she described some shape actually the bump on her grandmother s forehead as half a ball I told her that it was actually a hemisphere Then I highlighted to her that we were going to the southern hemisphere New Zealand for our vacation the next day on the other side of the globe compared to Europe which was why it was summer there And finally I told her Singapore was on the equator My daughter likes to correct people so she said no it wasn t I told her that we were about 0 8 degrees to the north of the equator I hope I was right and saw my opening I asked her what the circumference of a circle was and told her that the radius of the earth was about 6000km and worked out that we were about 80km to the north of the equator which was nothing compared to

    Original URL path: http://www.thulasidas.com/love-of-math/ (2016-02-16)
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  • Singaporean Archives - Unreal Blog
    you so formal that it is almost an insult to utter it One of the Asian ways of doing things is to eat noodles like a mini vacuum cleaner This Singaporean friend of mine was doing just that while lunching with me and our French colleague I hardly noticed the small noises after all I m from a culture where loud burps at the end of a meal are considered a compliment to the host But our French friend found the suction action very rude and irksome and made French comments to that effect ignoring of course the fact that it is rude to exclude people by talking in a private language I tried to explain to him that it was not rude just the way it was done here but to no avail The real question is this do we paint a thin veneer of politeness over our natural way of doing things so that we can exude grace a la Hollywood The thinness of this kind of grace echoes loud and clear in the standard greeting of a checkout clerk in a typical American supermarket How ya doing today The expected response is Good how are you to which the clerk is to say Good good The first Good presumably to your graceful enquiry after his well being the second expressing satisfaction at your perfect state of bliss I once decided to play the fool and responded to the ubiquitous How ya doin by Lousy man my dog just died The inevitable and unhesitating response was Good good Do we need this kind of shallow grace Grace is like the grammar of an unspoken social language Unlike its spoken counterparts the language of social mores seems to preclude multilingualism leading to an almost xenophobic rejection of other norms of life We all believe that our way of doing things and our world views are the only right ones Naturally too otherwise we wouldn t hold on to our beliefs would we But in an increasingly flattening and globalizing world we do feel a bit alien because our values and graces are often graded by alien standards Soon a day will come when we all conform to the standards prescribed to us by the global media and entertainment networks Our amorphous How ya doin s and Good good s will then be indistinguishable from the prescriptions When I think of that inevitable day I suffer a pang of nostalgia I hope I can hold on to the memory of social graces judged by lesser standards of gratitude expressed in timid smiles affections portrayed in fleeting glances and life s defining bonds conveyed in unspoken gestures Ultimately the collective grace of a society is to be judged not by polished niceties but by how it treats its very old and very young And I m afraid we are beginning to find ourselves wanting in those fronts We put our young children through tremendous amount of stress preparing them for an

    Original URL path: http://www.thulasidas.com/tag/singaporean/ (2016-02-16)
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  • The Unreal Universe - Unreal Blog
    pure reason to their logically inevitable conclusions But there is another competing view of knowledge and reality that has been around for a long time This is the view that regards perceived reality as an internal cognitive representation of our sensory inputs In this view knowledge and perceived reality are both internal cognitive constructs although we have come to think of them as separate What is external is not the reality as we perceive it but an unknowable entity giving rise to the physical causes behind sensory inputs In this school of thought we build our reality in two often overlapping steps The first step consists of the process of sensing and the second one is that of cognitive and logical reasoning We can apply this view of reality and knowledge to science but in order do so we have to guess the nature of the absolute reality unknowable as it is The ramifications of these two different philosophical stances described above are tremendous Since modern physics has embraced a non phenomenalistic view of space and time it finds itself at odds with that branch of philosophy This chasm between philosophy and physics has grown to such a degree that the Nobel prize winning physicist Steven Weinberg wondered in his book Dreams of a Final Theory why the contribution from philosophy to physics have been so surprisingly small It also prompts philosophers to make statements like Whether noumenal reality causes phenomenal reality or whether noumenal reality is independent of our sensing it or whether we sense noumenal reality the problem remains that the concept of noumenal reality is a totally redundant concept for the analysis of science From the perspective of cognitive neuroscience everything we see sense feel and think is the result of the neuronal interconnections in our brain and the tiny electrical signals in them This view must be right What else is there All our thoughts and worries knowledge and beliefs ego and reality life and death everything is merely neuronal firings in the one and half kilograms of gooey grey material that we call our brain There is nothing else Nothing In fact this view of reality in neuroscience is an exact echo of phenomenalism which considers everything a bundle of perception or mental constructs Space and time are also cognitive constructs in our brain like everything else They are mental pictures our brains concoct out of the sensory inputs that our senses receive Generated from our sensory perception and fabricated by our cognitive process the space time continuum is the arena of physics Of all our senses sight is by far the dominant one The sensory input to sight is light In a space created by the brain out of the light falling on our retinas or on the photo sensors of the Hubble telescope is it a surprise that nothing can travel faster than light This philosophical stance is the basis of my book The Unreal Universe which explores the common threads binding physics

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