Monday, May 31, 2010

Books from Simon Singh

Here are the books which I read/have been reading over the past few weeks. All the books are written by Simon Singh. Simon Singh is a great writer with deep insight on scientific history.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Airtel Super Singer Junior 2

Airtel Super Singer Junior 2 (ASSJ2) is a singing competition (reality show) telecast in Star Vijay 9-10PM from Monday till Thursday. This competition is entering finals the winner of which will get a home worth Rs 25 Lakhs. The judges of this competition are Chitra, Mano and Malgudi Subha.  There are also a few part time judges. Apart from prize money, this competition features some of the best child singers. I used to watch this one when I was at home for few days. Courtesy another blogger, I am able to watch ASSJ2 regularly over Internet.

ASSJ2 has already 3 finalists - Alka, Roshan and Shravan, all of them are amazing singers. One wildcard finalist will be announced tomorrow to make it four finalists. In my opinion, Priyanka deserves to join as the fourth finalist. Anyway, it will be decided based on public voting. Other worthy singers to become fourth finalist are Srinisha and Nithyashree. I think they keep bringing Srikanth every now and then just to increase ASSJ2's TRP using his comic antics.

Though ASSJ2 is well received and features some of the best child singers in Tamil Nadu, I was not very happy with some of the decisions made by the judges. There is another singing competition conducted by SPB in Kalaignar TV called Vanambadi which is of the highest quality. These competitions have made many young people take up singing. ASSJ2 is more fun and I am eagerly waiting to watch the finals of ASSJ2.

Shravan is a very good singer with strong voice and carnatic background. Roshan has a melodious voice and it is always very pleasant to hear his songs. Priyanka (if she qualifies) has also a great voice and she excels in melodies than anyone else. However, I believe that Alka will become the Super Singer because of her versatility and flawless singing ability.  It will surely be a treat to watch these four compete to win the grand prize. I am expecting few more great performances by the best child singers of Tamil Nadu over the next few weeks.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Crossword Vs Flipkart

Reading general books had never been my passion till 2007. I have a huge collection of technical books, many of which I use as reference and rarely read them sequentially.  I had no clue then why people were so crazy about reading fiction and non-fiction books. As a part of my syllabus for Hindi exams I had read quite a few novels by the likes of Premchand. Those books did not interest me so much to make reading these novels a habit.

I did not know what to do with my huge collection of technical books due to lack of motivation and mindset to read. Many of the books I own, I could not understand much and did not have that much patience to hang on with them. I shifted my focus towards reading fiction and non-fiction books. I initially used to go to Crossword book stores to look into the books and buy a few. Though I could view the books inside for a longer period of time before buying, Crossword never used to give any discount on the books. Their membership program also was not that worth monetarily to join. Odyssey is one such shop located in many malls.

Then I came across some online bookstores like Fabmall which were not that established before 2006 and the discounts were less. We have a campus bookstore called Book World enterprises which provides 15% discount on any book. I used to check if a particular book is available there before proceeding to Crossword. However in the last few years, the growth of online bookstores has been phenomenal. Fabmall became Indiaplaza. Flipkart and Infibeam also joined the race. Slowly Flipkart has overtaken others and is now pioneering the online book trade in India.

The only drawback with bookstores like Crossword is that they do not give any discount for the books. For a low paid person like me, it hurts a lot to buy books at MRP. After much speculation, I have decided look inside the books using Amazon or Google books and based on the user ratings/comments in Amazon I would judge the book. Mostly this approach has worked for me rather than going to Crossword where I would be oblivious to what other readers feel about a particular book. I have been able to land on very nice books on varied subjects by proper researching on the online user comments.

I nowadays order books from Flipkart whose service is amazing. They deliver most of the books in 3 days with upto 30% discount on any book. There is Cash On Delivery option as well which is quite helpful at a nominal fee of Rs 10 per book. Further I do not like the book I would be buying to be turned over by hundreds of customers which is the case in retail bookstores like Crossword, Odyssey etc. On the other hand, online bookstores supply a fresh copy with nice packaging at my doorsteps.

I think there would surely be a time in future when the retail bookstores have to come up with new tricks like discount  in order to stay in touch with the online bookstores. It is a healthy competition for voracious readers who would get very good discounts on the books of their interest. When the original prints of a particular book itself is available in discounted price, people would slowly move away from the pirated copies which would certainly be a welcome change.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Fermat's Last Theorem by Simon Singh - Book Review

Fermat's Last Theorem - The story of a riddle that confounded the world's greatest minds for 358 years is a science history book written by Simon Singh. Being a PhD graduate from Cambridge himself, Simon Singh has written this book with so much simplicity that even a person without any mathematical background can appreciate the content. This book is one of its kind as it addresses only one theorem from the start to end. It narrates the struggles Andrew Wiles had to undergo before proving the theorem completely in 1995. This book also gives an account of other mathematicians who were involved.

Fermat's last theorem is nothing but an extension of the Pythogoras theorem. Fermat claimed that there are no whole number (non-zero) solution (x,y,z) for the equation
for n>2 upto n=infinity. Fermat was a mischievous mathematician who rarely gave complete proof for his theorems. He, therefore, claimed that he had a complete proof for this theorem and died before disclosing the solution. The race for proving this theorem started soon after.

This book starts from around 500BC when Pythogorean brotherhood headed by Pythogoras were the front runners in the mathematics. They formed a close community and did not let any of their inventions to the society. Singh has nicely illustrated the incident where Pythogoras executed his own student for proving that there were irrational numbers. Pythogorean brotherhood got eventually destroyed by another student who had been ignored citing his incompetence.

This book has a few more very interesting events like how Taniyama committed suicide before proving his own conjecture which would have eventually proved Fermat's last theorem. Also, there is an interesting account of Wolfskehl whose life was saved by Fermat's last theorem and about the award instituted by him for the person who would solve Fermat's last theorem. Further, the book lucidly explains the complexity of the theorem itself and the various failure attempts in proving it.

The most stunning part of the book is related to Andrew Wiles, the Princeton Professor, who secluded himself from the research community and conferences to focus on achieving his childhood dream, i.e. to prove Fermat's last theorem. The logical reasoning as explained in the book which Wiles took in order to prove the theorem would appeal even to people who have limited exposure to rigorous mathematics. 

The turmoils and pressures he faced after 1993 when it was found by the reviewers that there was a small gap in his initial proof are really well narrated. All the key persons involved in the proof apart from Wiles like Nick Katz, Shimura, Ken Ribet, Richard Taylor and others explain the steps taken by Wiles in their own words. This makes the book even more accessible and credible. The book concludes by giving an account of how Wiles finally releases his paper with the complete proof of Fermat's last theorem in 1995.

On the whole, I loved reading every page of this book. I just completed reading this amazing book on a classical theorem. Simon Singh is an amazing writer and keeps the reader engrossed throughout. This book is highly recommended and is a must read for anyone interested in learning about a great mathematical theorem and its proof. Even people with just high school mathematics knowledge would love this book. I am already into reading Simon Singh's other books: The Code Book and Big Bang. 

Friday, May 21, 2010

Computer Vision: Algorithms and Applications

Computer Vision: Algorithms and Applications

By Richard Szeliski

The final draft of the big book on Computer Vision by Richard Szeliski is finally out. It contains enormous number of applications and algorithms. It is great that the ebook is available free of cost. This book should really be a delightful read for any Computer Vision researcher or practitioner.

French Open 2010 - Preview

I found this preview in Mint.  Please have a look.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

ICC T20 WC Disaster

As expected, India has been blown away from the ICC T20 World cup for the second year in a row. Here are some of the reasons why India got kicked out in rather embarrasing manner.

1. IPL - It played havoc in Indian players' fitness and skills. The team was picked mainly based on IPL performances and all the flat track bullies made it to the squad. It didn't help that the players played against each other in IPL.

2. Reluctance to Learn - India made the same mistake last year and got hammered. One has to learn from mistakes.

3. Bounce - Indian players have pathetic technique while playing fast short pitched deliveries. Players dont try to learn how to play such balls. Even players like Raina are content with thrashing sixes on flat tracks.

4. Jadeja, Yusuf Pathan, Yuvraj - All these 3 players should not have been in the squad based on form or skill.

5. Lack of Pace - India left out fast men like Ishant and picked military medium guys on pacy, bouncy tracks.

6. Commitment to National Team - Players were worried rather very much during losses in IPL matches. I didn't see any emotion on losing for the nation. Money matters more than national pride.

7. Crowd support - Except the final super eight where west indian crowd wanted India to win, they hardly got any support. But the players didn't realize that  entire nation is supporting them watching TV.

On the whole, it was a shame to exit a global tournament without putting up any fight. I hope that here onwards Indian players are more committed to National team than some crap event like IPL which hardly tests true skill of any player.