— by Arnab Gupta

So-called “Scientist” bets against science; loses

March 15, 2015

This is from the BBC:

A German biologist who offered €100,000 (£71,350; $106,300) to anyone who could prove that measles is a virus has been ordered by a court to pay up.

Stefan Lanka, who believes the illness is psychosomatic, made the pledge four years ago on his website.

The reward was later claimed by German doctor David Barden, who gathered evidence from various medical studies. Mr Lanka dismissed the findings.

The guy is a biologist? I can understand a non-scientist being deeply skeptical of journal articles and medical findings… but a biologist?

The institution that gave him his degree(s) should consider rescinding whatever degree(s) he has, because:

(a) he clearly cannot review scientific literature and gain an understanding of a subject by himself.

(b) he clearly cannot follow a trail of logic and scientific understanding through published medical research even when it is presented to him by someone else.

Here’s how human society works — we all have our own specializations, and it’s part of our responsibility as specialists to help out others who aren’t knowledgeable in, and cannot tell good from bad, or even have an understanding of, our area of expertise. This isn’t just for “scientists”, of course, but for everyone.

Imagine how little we in general know about the inner workings of our automobiles compared to the expert (mechanic) who’s in charge of fixing them. Now imagine a person who calls himself a mechanic, but (a) doesn’t understand how a certain system in the car works, and (b) cannot follow the logic, and doesn’t believe it when another mechanic shows it to him! Would you ever go solicit this person’s expertise again?

This ‘biologist’ is like our hypothetical mechanic.

Elementary school dumps homework; parents are ‘outraged’

March 10, 2015


A public elementary school is abolishing traditional homework assignments and telling kids to play instead — outraging parents who say they may pull their kids out of the school.

Teachers at P.S. 116 on East 33rd Street have stopped assigning take-home math worksheets and essays, and are instead encouraging students to read books and spend time with their family, according to a letter the school’s principal, Jane Hsu, sent to parents last month.

This is excellent on the part of the school. Allowing kids the time and the encouragement to do other things is, I think, a crucial part of a child’s development that we as a society have forgotten to focus on. We’ve become so enamored with the idea of “learning” that we’ve forgotten that “education” isn’t just found in schools. A well-rounded character and an indepedent mind are just as important, and non-school activities can be crucial in developing those aspects.

From a parent:

“They’ve decided that giving homework to younger ages [elementary school students] isn’t viable. I don’t necessarily agree. I think they should have homework — some of it is about discipline. I want [my daughter] to have fun, but I also want her to be working towards a goal.”

Take everything in that statement, only take out the word “homework” from it. Yes, kids should learn. Yes, discipline is part of it. But why should learning feel like “work”? Find them activities, and teach them discipline, and the ideas of working towards a goal, with something other than school activity.

Parents — please don’t freak out. This is good for your kids. Let the schools decide how they want to impart the education that they need to impart. Meanwhile, your kids having more free time is a good thing (even if it sometimes means more headache on you!). They can use this time productively, and it’s up to you help them be productive. Find them books; introduce them to hobbies; open them up to music and sport and writing and painting — and whatever else your kids may find interesting!

Other schools — please consider similar measures! While some homework is okay, there’s often too much of it, and tends to sap much of the fun and sense of fulfilment that an education can be.

When we think about shaping the development of our next generation, we might do well to re-evaluate our childhood with the added clarity of hindsight. What did we love, and what did we hate; what things helped us, and what things were a disadvantage? How must things be different for a generation that’s removed from ours by an entire generation? We experienced childhood a certain way, and even if our childhood was the best possible, that doesn’t mean that it remains the best way for a future generation.

Thoughts on Interstellar, the movie (spoilers!)

November 08, 2014

This post contains spoilers. Please go watch the movie, and then read this. Seriously, go watch. This is an all-time movie, and I have a feeling this will stand the test of time and gain even more popularity as time goes on. This one is that good.

I just had to jot down some thoughts about the movie — and particularly the science therein. One, I’m interested in this stuff, and can’t help it. But also, two, I heard people pooh-poohing it away, and I didn’t like that at all. So here goes.

In summary: I loved it. This is what science-fiction is supposed to look like — a combination of adventure and extrapolation of real science into the unknown. I’ve been reading and hearing some of the negative ‘reviews’, and it seems to me that most of it revolves around “hey, that’s not science, it’d never work that way!” The great thing about this movie is most of the ‘extrapolations’ are in directions that are truly unknown, and until science does cover those areas, your, mine, and the Nolans’ imagination is as good as anyone’s.

On avoiding plagiarism

June 06, 2014

I’ve been a student panelist at the Virginia Tech Graduate Honor System (GHS) for a few years now, and by far the most frequent infractions students are accused of involve some form of plagiarism. In some cases, alas, the students seem perfectly aware of what they’re upto, but very often, it seems that they just didn’t realize that what they were doing was anything wrong, or indeed, anything out of the ordinary.

Unfortunately, whether you knew and understood or not, if you did it, well, you did it. On that note, here are some pointers on avoiding plagiarism.

This may be the best journal article ever

April 20, 2014

I was forwarded a PDF of a journal article by friends, and I had a hard time believing when I read it. This has to be the best journal article ever; it even includes comments from a reviewer (which is not common at all, at least in my area of research).

Here’s the link to the article listing at, and here’s a link to the PDF itself.


Using MathJax with Octopress

April 10, 2014

I’ve been meaning to try and implement MathJax on this website for a while now. For including math equations on a website, MathJax is probably one of the more elegant ways to do it. I can write equations in TeX format, and MathJax renders the equations properly for you!

Finally, in the last couple of days I’ve been forced to get around to it, thanks to a new post that I’m writing that includes a little bit of math. So anyway, I just wanted to jot down that process.

Creating Bandpass Bessel Filter with MATLAB

March 04, 2014

Bessel filters are incredibly useful in numerical analysis, especially for acoustic-type waveforms. This is because analog Bessel filters are characterized by almost constant group delay over any frequency band, and this means that the shape of waves does not change when passed through such a filter.

Well, MATLAB provides some of the building blocks required to create a bandpass analog filter, but does not actually combine the pieces to make a usable filter function.

I created a function for my own research (sourced from pieces I found elsewhere, but it’s been too long—I don’t remember where I found each piece, sorry!), and can be found at my MATLAB repository, specifically, here.

Here’s the documentation that I included with the function:

besselfilter. Function to implement a bandpass Bessel Filter.

[filtData, b, a] = besselfilter(order,low,high,sampling,data)


    - order:      Number of poles in the filter. Scalar numeric value.
                    Eg.: 4  
    - low:        Lower frequency bound (Hz). Scalar numeric value.
                    Eg.: 50000 (= 50kHz)
    - high:       Upper frequency bound (Hz). Scalar numeric value.
                    Eg.: 1000000 (= 1MHz)
    - sampling:   Sampling frequency (Hz). Scalar numeric value.
                    Eg.: 25000000 (= 25MHz)
    - data:       Input data. Numeric vector.
                    Eg.: data vector of size (n x 1)


    - filtData:   Output filtered data. Numeric vector. 
                    Eg.: data vector of size (n x 1)
    - b, a:       Transfer function values for the filter. Scalar numeric.

Apple’s Curse

February 28, 2014

Last Fall, Apple included a fingerprint sensor in its latest iPhone, and called the technology ‘TouchID’. A few days ago, Samsung did the same, including its own fingerprint sensing technology in its latest Galaxy S5 phone.

The blogosphere has been aflutter about one small difference between the two launches: when Apple launched their technology, there was a huge uproar about the implications of using fingerprints as an authentication tool. As everyone has been pointing out, even a US Senator, Al Franken, issued a public email (PDF) addressed to Apple asking for clarifications and explanations regarding the technology and its implications. In contrast, Samsung’s new technology has received no such attention.

Apple: Think Different

Apple: Think Different.

Here are my two cents on the reasons:

MATLAB repository

December 15, 2013

I’ve been using MATLAB for quite a few years now, using it both for my own research as well for work at VTTI. Well, I decided to share some of the code that I’ve been writing, which may come in handy to others in the same field. I’ve long appreciated the help I’ve received from the larger MATLAB community, and I thought I should start contributing as well. :)

Here’s the link:

I’ve been using bitbucket as my code repository. I know, GitHub seems to be more popular in the tech and programming community, but by coincidence I happened to learn Mercurial (Hg) first, and Mercurial it has been for me since. Bitbucket supports both Hg and Git, so you may use either based on your preference.

To be sure, these are and will be scripts that I can share, and in some cases may be snippets of code that I think may be useful in implementing certain logic scenarios. They will almost certainly not be pathbreaking new pieces of programming. :) I’ll be glad if you find them useful in any way.