Saturday, August 22, 2020

Ashik and Ahyan's Round 5 and 6 Games in MIC TNM August 2020

 Last Tuesday Ahyan and I played the 5th and 6th round of Tuesday Night Marathon online over arranged by Mechanics Chess Institute. The games are live analyzed by FIDE Master Paul Whitehead and Abel Talamantez. After a nice win by Ahyan at 5th round he was jointly in second position with 4 out of 5 in the open section which is phenomenal at his age and rating. Ahyan and I joined the commentary by invitation from TD Judit Sztaray after the 6th round for a short time. Here are some excerpts from our games and the commentaries. The TNM newsletter for this round may be found here -

Friday, August 14, 2020

ThunderCats Opening Remade with CGI

How To Learn Philosophy On My Own

 I have been thinking of learning Philosophy without going to a college or enrolling in Philosophy courses for some time now. Philosophy is such a vast topic that the biggest trouble for me was to figure out where to start, what are the major areas of Philosophy that I should focus on, and how to go about it within the limited time I have. Apart from my spiritual quest, I was very intrigued by Jordan B Peterson's mentions of Friedrich Nietzsche in one of the best books I have ever read 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos.

Some of my early attempts were watching the Philosophy Crash Course in YouTube (and planning to do these 47 videos another go in the next few weeks), reading 50 Philosophy Ideas you really need to know by Ben Dupre, listening in audible 50 Philosophy Classics: Thinking, Being, Acting, Seeing: Profound Insights and Powerful Thinking from Fifty Key Books by Tom Butler-Bowdon, and reading The Four Agreements by don Miguel Ruiz. It still didn't give me enough courage to undertake a long journey of diving deep into various branches of Philosophy. But finally I couldn't resist myself and woke up 5 AM in the morning today to google for four hours all the world of internet, and come up with the below outline for myself to proceed on what might turn out to be (if Almighty permits) decades journey into learning Philosophy myself. 

First I went for identifying major branches of Philosophy to explore. Those are - 
  1. Metaphysics - ultimate nature of reality
  2. Epistemology - what we know and how we come to know it
  3. Axiology - study of principles and values which is further divided into two major kinds
    • Ethics - the study of morality
    • Aesthetics - inquiry about art and beauty
  4. Logic - the structure of arguments
In addition to these, I have also seen the below few to be included as major branches.
  • Ontology - knowing the reality
  • Political Philosophy - deals with government, justice, and so on
I also see attempts to refer to Eastern Philosophy as spiritual and Western Philosophy as logical although most people don't even agree on these two broad definitions. For example, where to put Confucianism in this classification?

When it comes to where to start reading, I have seen popular arguments to begin with the history of Philosophy. For that, I am planning to read the paperback reprint A History of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russell (895 pages) and listen to the audiobook The Story of Philosophy by Will Durant (19 hours). My friend Ashfaq gave me a book as a birthday gift which I will plan to finish next - A Little History of Philosophy of History by Nigel Warburton.

I plan to proceed then next with The Great Ideas of Philosophy, 2nd Edition by Daniel N. Robinson (30 hours), and then The Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant. After that, I hope to figure out which of the following books and in which order I will read next.
When stuck with any concept, I plan to use Stanford Encyclopedia of PhilosophyReddit to unblock myself.

Our Universe

 I have been fascinated while listening to and reading about the Universe since my childhood. But most of those readings have been random, organic in nature just like my readings on everything else - science fictions, detective novels, history, biography, cricket, soccer, and so on. The notable exception is Chess and Software Engineering which I have done pretty significantly in terms of method and volume

In 2015 I started reducing my overall time spent reading, learning, and playing chess (it was not an easy decision, believe me). That gave me extra time to focus on my pursuit of knowledge outside of my day job and family responsibilities. So I picked up first to understand religions and particularly Islam as I felt it's my duty to know in detail as a Muslim. About 3 years of reading, watching videos, enrolling in seminars on topics related to Islam, Comparative Religions, Atheism, and relevant topics - I felt like it's good enough for me to synthesize and reflect on what I found for the foreseeable future. So I switched next to learn about Leadership and Self Help to move towards an Engineering Leadership career. My particular area of interest has been Bay Area Software Startups although I have been learning all aspects of leadership and management that I possibly could find. And then recently, I picked up the journey to learn deeply about Philosophy. I am immensely enjoying all these.

While these are good, my childhood aspiration to learn about the outer space and vastness of the Universe has never died. I have been waiting for the right moment to dive into it. I feel like now is the time. I recently joined a few large online groups that focus on knowledge around deep space. I have prepared a list of things to know after surfing through those in the last few months. You may find the above youtube video useful as a summary although I plan to cover much more than what is mentioned in that video. While planning, I also bought Einstein's Relativity & Quantum Revolution, Stephen Hawking's A Brief Hisotry of Time and The Universe In A Nutshell. Below is a brief outline of what I plan to cover, which I will continue to update as I make progress. Would you like to recommend something to add this list?

  1. Observable Universe

    • Metric expansion of space

    • Singularity

    • Cosmic time or Cosmological time

    • Horizon problem

    • Flatness problem

    • Dark Energy

    • Dark Matter

    • Fine-tuned Universe

    • Multiverse

    • Unseen Universe

  2. Big Bang

    • Inflationary Epoch or Cosmic Inflation

    • Quark Epoch

    • Hadron Epoch

    • Redshift

  3. Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation (CMBR)

  4. Anti-matter

  5. Particle Horizon

  6. Gravitational Waves

    • Curvature of Spacetime

    • Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity

  7. Neutrino or Cosmic Neutrino Background (CNB)

  8. Galaxy

    • Dwarf Galaxy

    • Ring Galaxy

    • Irregular Galaxy

    • Blazar

    • Cosmic Ray

    • Interstellar Space

    • Galactic Helo

    • Active Galactic Nucleus

    • Starburst Galaxy

  9. Galaxy Filaments

    • Superclusters

  10. Star Clusters

    • Globular

    • Open

  11. Cosmic Void

  12. Star

    • Dwarf Stars - Red / Yellow / Orange / Brown / White / Black

    • Variable Stars - Intrinsic / Extrinsic / Semiregular / Cephid 

    • Blue Giant - Red Giant, Super Giant, Hyper Giant

    • Neutron Star - Pulsar, Magnetar

    • Binary Star

  13. Solar System

    • Asteroid Belt

    • Sun

    • Earth

    • Terrestrial planet

    • Gaseous planet

    • Ice Giants

    • Heliosphere

    • Geospace

  14. Planet

    • Rogue planel

    • Exoplanet

  15. Gamma-Ray Burst

  16. Fast Radio Burst

  17. Black Hole

    • Event Horizon

    • Supermassive blackhole

    • Micro blackhole

    • Fabric of Spacetime

  18. Nebula

    • Protoplanetary Nebula

    • Emission Nebula

    • H II Region

    • Reflection Nebula

    • Dark Nebula

  19. Supernova

    • Type 1 vs Type 2

    • Hypernova

    • Supernova Reminant

  20. Quasar

    • Double quasar

  21. Comet

  22. Meteoroid

  23. Satelite

    • Sub-satellite or moonmoon

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Exhalation by Ted Chiang

From the recommendation of my friend Ashfaq, I finished listening to the short story collection Exhalation by Ted Chiang yesterday. Ted Chiang has won four Nebula awards, four Hugo awards, the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and four Locus awards. His short story, Story of Your Life, was the basis of the film Arrival (2016). In the 9 short stories and novelette of Exhalation, Ted Chiang brings out a fusion of science, technology, religion, philosophy, ethics, morality, relationship, fantasy with great mastery. He takes an idea and gives it a very human touch instead of just focusing on the core technical idea, exactly the type I like. After Cixin Liu's Three-Body Problem trilogy that I finished 3 years back, Exhalation is the book that is going to instill FOMO (fear of missing out) in me for the new breed of sci-fi books (I still can't come out of Asimov).

The stories in this collection are listed below. The first two are particularly better than the rest of the stories. The first one, The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate, I would rate as one of the best short stories (in all categories, not just sci-fi) I have read in recent times.
  1. The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate - What would you do if you are given a choice to meet your own self 20 years in the future or 20 years in the past? I chose 20 years in the future (when my friend asked me) as Alhamdulillah I am content with my past. Ted touched on what destiny means in the style of Arabian Nights i.e. story-within-story in an Islamic context. Apart from the time travel part, he didn't try to use science in it, and hence this may better be classified under fantasy or philosophy rather than sci-fi. The way Ted wrote, I felt he has talked to his Muslim friends or scholars to properly understand Qadr (Predestination), fate, and the relevant arguments and counter-arguments within Islam about destiny. Just this story alone is worth buying the whole book for. It won the 2008 Hugo Award for Best Novelette and the 2008 Nebula Award for Best Novelette.
  2. Exhalation - You may read the story online here. This is a story based on the second law of thermodynamics (total entropy, thermodynamic equilibrium) in a civilization led by air-driven mechanical human-like robots. The story is epistolary in nature, taking the form of a scientist's journal entry who first identifies the upcoming eventual demise of the universe they live in. Exhalation won the 2009 Hugo Award for Best Short Story.
  3. What's Expected of Us - You may read this very short story online here.
  4. The Lifecycle of Software Objects - I was surprised to read how familiar the author sounded in this novella about software startups and the ecosystem. So later I found he is by profession a technical writer in the software industry. It won the 2011 Locus Award for Best Novella and the Hugo Award for Best Novella.
  5. Dacey's Patent Automatic Nanny
  6. The Truth of Fact, The Truth of Feeling
  7. The Great Silence - You may read this short story online here.
  8. Omphalos
  9. Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Gorvodharini (গর্ভধারিণী) by Samaresh Majumdar

Gorvodharini is a popular and well-known book written by famous Indian Bengali novelist Samaresh Majumdar, published from Kolkata in 1986. It's a story of 4 revolutionary youth Anand, Kalyan, Sudip, and Joyita who went to shake the consciousness of feudal society by taking arms in hand. While their small movement could hardly make a dent in the society, they ran away to Nepali underprivileged village in remote mountains and built a new society. It's the story of Joyita eventually turning into Drimit with the hope for a new society where they hope for equality, simplicity, and justice.

When I was in school and college, books of Samaresh Majumdar along with Sunil Gongopadhdhay, Shirshendu were things that everyone would read. I somehow couldn't read it at that time, but I am glad that finished it now to revisit those old days.

Ashik and Ahyan's Round 5 and 6 Games in MIC TNM August 2020

  Last Tuesday Ahyan and I played the 5th and 6th round of Tuesday Night Marathon online over arranged by Mechanics Chess Institut...