Connect with us

Opinion

The physics of our lives

The Kashmir Monitor

Published

on

IST


By Basab Das gupta

If we observe the life of a randomly selected person, chances are that it progresses according to a daily pattern during the week. He/she gets up in the morning, takes a shower, eats something, goes to work, completes the assignments at work, comes home, has dinner, watches TV or spends time on the computer for a while and then goes to bed. The weekends are set aside for shopping and social activities including travel.
This cycle continues with some minor variations depending on seasonal activities and other details. Of course, the routine changes occasionally in a more substantial way when there is a life-changing event such as marriage, birth of a child, new job, etc., but we re-establish a new routine quickly. We feel very comfortable with such a routine. We get stressed out when events happen randomly or unpredictably outside our routine.
We human beings are “creatures of habits”. When we lose our jobs through retirement or lay-off or lose our spouses through death or divorce, we often lament by saying “I miss my job” or “I miss my wife”. What we really miss is the routine we developed around our job or spouse. The key to feel stable and comfortable again is to develop a new routine without the job or spouse. Some people are even afraid to retire because they do not want to break their routine.
The routine arises from the need to earn money to provide for food, housing, clothes and other necessities of life and need for companionship which leads to marriage and family.
Interspersed between all such activities are our thought processes which involve all kinds of emotions. Whenever we are not doing anything physically, we are thinking and feeling some of these emotions. Thinking is often required by our jobs as well, but at other times we are simply thinking, perhaps incoherently about all aspects of our life: our wish to purchase something, our analysis of some event, romantic thoughts about a person of the opposite sex, an urge to create something, worry about our children, some weekend plan and so on. In fact, we think even while we are doing some physical activities.
It seems that life is nothing but a periodic repetition of activities immersed in a sea of thoughts and emotions. The same description of life can even be applied to people who live unconventional lives – monks, panhandlers, prisoners locked up for life, astronauts in a long-term mission on a spaceship; they all follow a certain routine. Even if one is confined to an enclosed space where there is no interaction with the outside world, one’s “biological clock” kicks in and one follows a routine.
When we think about life we realise that most of the things we do in life revolve around earning money and enjoying the fruits of our labor. However, I would like to note that all the needs we satisfy with money – the need for food, clothes and shelter and other amenities and even physical needs – is really to follow the requirements of our bodies. If our body did not change at all and retained a fixed shape without food then this whole concept of education, jobs, marriage etc. for sake of catering to the needs of our bodies becomes irrelevant.
However, we will still be active. We may still want to go to school to broaden our knowledge base. We may still want to work, to not only keep ourselves busy, but to test if we can correctly apply knowledge learned from books. We may still want to take on a mate just for companionship. Most significantly, we would still develop a daily routine and have a life. My point is that life is not about earning money to sustain our body, building wealth or raising children; it is simply a repetitive set of activities and it does not matter what those activities are.
Let us now examine why this is the case. The fact that the earth spins around its own axis at a rate of one revolution in 24 hours and gives rise to day and night automatically introduces a fundamental periodicity in how we spend our life. There is an additional periodicity with a period of one year because the earth revolves around the sun within a period of one year. This also gives rise to the concept of seasons. In addition, we also introduced a weekly periodicity in our life simply by dividing a year into fifty-two weeks.
However, unlike a day or a year, there is nothing fundamental about the duration of week, such as its correlation with positions of stars and planets. In fact, a week, as we know it, consists of seven days; different cultures have experimented with different durations of a week, anywhere from four days to ten days.
The period is fundamentally determined by the motion of the planets i.e. a 24-hour period, modulated by seasonal and annual variations. Can there be life anywhere without periodicity? Interestingly enough, each planet spins around its own axis as well as revolving around other stars. Otherwise, they would have been attracted by some other mass and be destroyed in the resulting collision. So, even if there is life on some other planet, it is logical to conclude that “life” on that planet also follows a periodic routine based on its rotational motions.
I would now like to argue, based on an analogy, that this periodicity, in fact, gives life a structure and stability. My analogy comes from my education in physics. I view life as something that can be modeled as a (one-dimensional) solid. A solid consists of a periodic arrangement of positive ions submerged either in a “sea” of electrons in case of metals or interacting together while sharing the outer electrons in case of an insulator. Similarly, life is just a periodic temporal repetition of a certain routine.
The routine is generated in one of two ways: i) by ourselves, using our thoughts and emotions or ii) dictated to us by some plan which does not involve our input (for example, in the case of monks and prisoners). In case of a solid, it is the periodicity of a lattice structure and the interaction of the positive ions and electrons that give the rigidity of a solid substance. Similarly, a routine with a periodicity which is determined by some plan or thought process gives life a structure.
Just like the interaction between electrons and positive nuclei, there has to be interaction between our thoughts (or a plan dictated to us) and our actions in order for life to have structure. My model has to be a one-dimensional solid because life flows only in one dimension i.e. with time. The ones who do not have such a routine or do irrational things unrelated to a thought process or emotion do not have a life; they can easily fall apart much like an amorphous non-crystalline substance.
A solid can be either a metal or an insulator. Similarly, life can be more spontaneous or more rigid. In the first case, there is room for lots of different thoughts and emotions, even though we are following a certain routine; this situation is analogous to a sea of electrons which can undergo various excitations (such as plasma oscillations in a metal). For a rigid life on the other hand, one just follows the routine without too much thought; this is analogous to the situation of an insulator where the electrons are constrained to follow certain orbits.
If we intentionally make our life completely random or, at least, non-periodic, say by eating and sleeping at irregular hours and doing completely different physical activities on different days, it is likely that our body would not be able to sustain it and at some point, break down. Our body and its biological clock are probably synchronised to the rotation of earth in some way because the evolution of the body from sperm to embryo to a fully mature baby takes place on a spinning platform.
The bottom line is that our life has a periodicity and it is related to the (rotational) motion of earth and presumably indirectly to the motions of other planets and stars as well. A logical question at this point would be if the cyclic nature of joy and sorrow in our lives is also related to such motions as well, thus lending credence to the subject of astrology. I do not know the answer.

 

The Kashmir Monitor is the fastest growing newspaper as well as digitial platform covering news from all angles.

Comments

Opinion

Why EVMs must go

The Kashmir Monitor

Published

on

By G. Sampath

The recent Assembly elections — the last major polling exercise before the 2019 Lok Sabha polls — were not devoid of Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) malfunctions.

Though the discourse at present makes no distinction between a ‘malfunction’ (which suggests a technical defect) and ‘tampering’ (manipulation aimed at fraud), there were several reports of misbehaving EVMs. Alarmingly, in Madhya Pradesh alone, the number of votes polled did not match the number of votes counted in 204 out of the 230 constituencies. The Election Commission’s (EC) explanation is that the votes counted is the actual number of votes polled — a circular logic that precludes cross-verification.

 

A discrepancy of even one vote between votes polled and votes counted is unacceptable. This is not an unreasonably high standard but one followed by democracies worldwide. It might therefore be helpful to briefly look beyond the question that has hijacked the EVM debate — of how easy or tough it is to hack these machines — and consider the first principles of a free and fair election.

The reason a nation chooses to be a democracy is that it gives moral legitimacy to the government. The fount of this legitimacy is the people’s will. The people’s will is expressed through the vote, anonymously (the principle of secret ballot). Not only must this vote be recorded correctly and counted correctly, it must also be seen to be recorded correctly and counted correctly. The recording and counting process must be accessible to, and verifiable by, the public. So transparency, verifiability, and secrecy are the three pillars of a free and fair election.

Regardless of whether one is for or against EVMs, there is no getting away from the fact that any polling method must pass these three tests to claim legitimacy. Paper ballots obviously do. The voter can visually confirm that her selection has been registered, the voting happens in secret, and the counting happens in front of her representative’s eyes.

EVMs, however, fail on all three, as established by a definitive judgment of the German constitutional court in 2009. The court’s ruling forced the country to scrap EVMs and return to paper ballot. Other technologically advanced nations such as the Netherlands and Ireland have also abandoned EVMs.

If we take the first two criteria, EVMs are neither transparent nor verifiable. Neither can the voter see her vote being recorded, nor can it be verified later whether the vote was recorded correctly. What is verifiable is the total number of votes cast, not the choice expressed in each vote. An electronic display of the voter’s selection may not be the same as the vote stored electronically in the machine’s memory. This gap was why the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) was introduced.

But VVPATs solve only one-half of the EVMs’ transparency/verifiability problem: the voting part. The counting part remains an opaque operation. If anyone suspects a counting error, there is no recourse, for an electronic recount is, by definition, absurd. Some believe the VVPATs can solve this problem too, through statistics.

At present, the EC’s VVPAT auditing is restricted to one randomly chosen polling booth per constituency. In a recent essay, K. Ashok Vardhan Shetty, a former IAS officer, demonstrates that this sample size will fail to detect faulty EVMs 98-99% of the time. He also shows that VVPATs can be an effective deterrent to fraud only on the condition that the detection of even one faulty EVM in a constituency must entail the VVPAT hand-counting of all the EVMs in that constituency. Without this proviso, VVPATs would merely provide the sheen of integrity without its substance.

The third criterion is secrecy. Here too, EVMs disappoint. With the paper ballot, the EC could mix ballot papers from different booths before counting, so that voting preferences could not be connected to a given locality. But with EVMs, we are back to booth-wise counting, which allows one to discern voting patterns and renders marginalised communities vulnerable to pressure. Totaliser machines can remedy this, but the EC has shown no intent to adopt them.

So, on all three counts — transparency, verifiability and secrecy — EVMs are flawed. VVPATs are not the answer either, given the sheer magnitude of the logistical challenges. The recent track record of EVMs indicates that the number of malfunctions in a national election will be high. For that very reason, the EC is unlikely to adopt a policy of hand-counting all EVMs in constituencies where faulty machines are reported, as this might entail hand-counting on a scale that defeats the very purpose of EVMs. And yet, this is a principle without which the use of VVPATs is meaningless.

Despite these issues, EVMs continue to enjoy the confidence of the EC, which insists that Indian EVMs, unlike the Western ones, are tamper-proof. But this is a matter of trust. Even if the software has been burnt into the microchip, neither the EC nor the voter knows for sure what software is running in a particular EVM. One has to simply trust the manufacturer and the EC. But as the German court observed, the precondition of this trust is the verifiability of election events, whereas in the case of EVMs, “the calculation of the election result is based on a calculation act which cannot be examined from outside”.

While it is true that the results come quicker and the process is cheaper with EVMs as compared to paper ballot, both these considerations are undeniably secondary to the integrity of the election. Another argument made in favour of the EVM is that it eliminates malpractices such as booth-capturing and ballot-box stuffing. In the age of the smartphone, however, the opportunity costs of ballot-box-stuffing and the risk of exposure are prohibitively high. In contrast, tampering with code could accomplish rigging on a scale unimaginable for booth-capturers. Moreover, it is nearly impossible to detect EVM-tampering. As a result, suspicions of tampering in the tallying of votes — as opposed to malfunction in registering the votes, which alone is detectable — are destined to remain in the realm of speculation. The absence of proven fraud might save the EVM for now, but its survival comes at a dangerous cost — the corrosion of people’s faith in the electoral process.

Yet there doesn’t have to be incontrovertible evidence of EVM-tampering for a nation to return to paper ballot. Suspicion is enough, and there is enough of it already. As the German court put it, “The democratic legitimacy of the election demands that the election events be controllable so that… unjustified suspicion can be refuted.” The phrase “unjustified suspicion” is pertinent. The EC has always maintained that suspicions against EVMs are unjustified. Clearly, the solution is not to dismiss EVM-sceptics as ignorant technophobes. Rather, the EC is obliged to provide the people of India a polling process capable of refuting unjustified suspicion, as this is a basic requirement for democratic legitimacy, not an optional accessory.

Continue Reading

Opinion

Doctor to serve the Humanity but ……….

The Kashmir Monitor

Published

on

By Sheikh Umar Ahmad

Doctors profession is regarded as a noble profession world over and is given due dignity and honor in global community for their selfless service to humankind.Every educated person aims to become a doctor in order to serve humanity in best and better of their capacities, but as it is, everybody can’t become a doctor and there are other professions as well to serve the humanity in general. Among all other professions, the medicine is regarded as one of the coveted both in terms of requirement of its service as well in terms of monetary benefits. This profession is only among existing ones that cater to global community involvement as well as service dissemination. Every person has expectations from doctors to deliver in close coordination anytime, rather 24*7 when the need arises without any internal or external excuses, including personal ones. There is a deeper dissatisfaction & grudges when any person from medicine community refuses any other person of consultation when it is time for them to serve. If they are unable to deliver to society with utmost satisfaction, then their purpose of serving the society through this profession only does not hold any merit. A similar kind of episode some days before than happened at state’s premier maternity hospital, so called as Lal Ded has shaken the whole Kashmiriyat that is otherwise known world over for their hospitality and generous behavior but some doctors who in literal sense are there to grab the greater public shearing and for their mere monetary benefits, have deceived and decimated the expectations of one of economically, socially and educationally backward section of our society who yet hold equal weightage at the measures table when it comes to Kashmir diversity and harmonious ethnicity.

Their refusal to admit a women in labor pain and then her parturition at a roadside, has shackled the immediate conscience of whole educated lot of Kashmir who now think that there should be a humanity course for every doctor before only he is allowed to practice medicine. A doctor in true essence should be ready to work in any society, with any person, and to serve any other person in need irrespective of his caste, creed, colour, religion, sect and above all ethnicity. If a doctor is unable to work in any multi-cultural society, he loses his position in the eyes of society to be called as a doctor. This person dashes the hopes of weaker section of society as they think that such persons can never pay attention towards them being economically and culturally senile. The death of a newborn on the roadside at Srinagar area speak volumes about those gross irregularities that still exist in best of our essential & emergency services. This should not have been the case and nothing such things happen in world over but are common in Kashmir only and there is a greater need to overhaul the whole system so to debug these bogus and nefarious elements in society that tarnish the whole image.

 

There should have been a commission in place to look at those gross malicious activities thatdiscord the whole organisational setup. Now as we know, the enquiry will be put in place and at the end what will be seen, nothing but the ball will be put in the court of victim by falsifying & negating the whole episode. The little one has gone now and no one on earth can bring him back. This episode brings this message forth, that doctor being the representative guardian of life our earth, protect lives every day in every part of world and there is a greater sense of satisfaction and this dealing makes the person feel happy internally & eternally for this greatest benefit to mankind. But for us, it is high time now, that we repent of our past sins and relook at our duties to disseminate it properly at every time it is required. Every person will be suitably rewarded for his good deeds and kind gestures that he has done on humanity and doctors are none as exception.

They are the best representatives of selfless service and moral attitude, and kind reflection of ultimate hope. State administration in Kashmir at the helm of affairs need to reaffirm their responsibilities and duties, so that utmost discipline is maintained in hospitals both from public & doctors end. If public outrages over anything that may be the reflection and agony of intermix of pain and grief. It is the responsibility of doctors on duty to deal with those situations quite humbly and morally, so that the professionals deliver their duties in its true essence and totally error free. There should be limited biasness in dealing with culturally and economically down-centric groups of society. We need to be first ambassadors of humanity before guardians of life through practising medicine to protect the lives of people. We need to safeguard the hopes and expectations of our ethnic groups before we deliver our best to save the lives.

These episodes nevertheless should be repeated in the times to come, else this profession will loseits dignity and honor world over for not withstanding with the requirements of and fulfilling the criteria of being a doctor humanely. There are doctors who treat animals even, this never mean that we need to make an animal human first to be treated by a human doctor as animals are animals, rather we need to be real doctors to understand the physiology of animals before only we can treat them. This is the only message I can conclude with… ! Hence a change is imperative.

(The author is Doctoral Research Scholar, currently working as DST INSPIRE Fellow at CSIR Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine Jammu)

Continue Reading

Opinion

The angry Pakistani

The Kashmir Monitor

Published

on

By Arifa Noor

IT takes an outsider to point out the anger within us. Last week, a former US ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron Munter, spoke at an event, arguing that our anger prevents us from telling the good story about Pakistan to the world.

It reminded me of an interaction that took place nearly 20 years ago. Back in 2000, a soft-spoken Indian professor from Delhi had asked why the Pakistani people were always so pessimistic about their country — present and future — despite the fact that till the 1990s, Pakistan had always enjoyed better social and economic indicators (including a higher growth rate) than India. It was a question I had no answer to. The hostile questions about Kargil and military rule were easier to answer during that trip to India than this gentle insight and a sense of bewilderment about our state of being.

 

But since that morning in New Delhi, there have been so many moments when the professor’s question has come back to mind. Countless memories that came spilling out echoed what former ambassador Munter said. Some as clear as the question asked by the Indian professor; some a little less sharp. But each one testifies to our despair, anger or lack of confidence in what is known as Pakistan.

We have been living in an age of anger, decades before Pankaj Mishra wrote about it.

Fast forward from 2000 to the last months of 2007 or the beginning of 2008: a faded memory, I am unsure of the exact month, but it was during the days of that heady yet difficult transition from dictatorship to democracy. Musharraf was fighting for his survival. Benazir Bhutto and the Sharifs were clawing their way back to relevance (followed by the devastating assassination of the former). A lawyers’ movement had caught Pakistan’s imagination. And there were terrorist attacks galore.

In the midst of these trying yet hopeful times, an op-ed had discussed Pakistan as a possible failed state. I was told that the writer had gotten a call from an amused friend in Afghanistan who said that despite all that had happened in and to Afghanistan, no Afghan would ever call his country a ‘failed state’.

We, of course, have used this term so often for the country that many of us believe it is a failed state — despite the term’s problematic origins as one used by Washington to describe countries it ‘disapproved’ of rather than an empirically established concept.

Then there are jumbled up memories of various track II dialogues. Each such seminar or conference is coupled with at least one discussion (on the sidelines) of how the Indians (and more recently the Afghans) present a united stand unlike Pakistanis. There is always a sense of frustration at how we end up helping ‘their’ cause rather than supporting our interest.

Why do we do this, as the professor asked?

Perhaps it stems from our long bouts of dictatorships. Denied their due and rightful say in policymaking has made entire swathes of the populace angry, hostile and critical of the state. They are angry at being left out: it’s an anger that is accompanied by a sense of helplessness at the direction that the country and society have taken. And in recent times, too, there is a sense of outrage because course correction (if there is any in their opinion) has not included their input. Hence, many refuse to believe that there has been any course correction, or criticise it for moving too slowly.

This is why perhaps the anger is most palpable when it comes to foreign policy, especially relations with India, and the radicalism that has engulfed state and society.

Being denied a voice, there is little left to do but express rage at the state, what it has come to stand for and to also conclude that there can be little hope for the future. (Pakistan has not just been at the crossroads ever since I can remember, it has also forever been in danger of being torn apart).

The rage has gotten worse post-2008, for the hope that accompanied the transition then has turned bitter. We thought that the worst was over, that ‘true’ democracy had returned to Pakistan and politicians would now rule — fixing all that had gone wrong. The 10 years of exile and powerlessness had also given the politicos a sheen of competence and maturity. But it was yet another shab gazida sahar (night-bitten dawn).

Ten years later, the anger has grown for it seems that decision making was never transferred. But because the hope this time was greater, so has the rage been too. And perhaps because the urban middle class fought for this transition in greater numbers than before, the disappointment is greater. They are angry for they cannot see the change they had fought for or protested against.

The judiciary turned out to have feet of clay. The military didn’t really share as much as they had promised. And the politicians didn’t deliver the reform or show any inclination for democratic norms once in power. And we continue to rail, against all of them or the one we had placed most hope in, or the one we hated most.

In addition, the rage has turned into hatred of the institution that has disappointed us the most. Indeed, the anger is expressed with malicious glee at times: the Sahiwal incident is a case in point, as was the controversial statement by a former high court judge, Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui, or any terrorist attack which reveals chinks in the armour of the security forces. And, of course, the various JITs revealing the shenanigans of our political ruling class.

It is as if we have no option but to express our rage, so all energy is poured into it.

But expressing outrage, however cathartic it may be, is not a strategy, which is what Cameron Munter was trying to say.

Continue Reading

Subscribe to The Kashmir Monitor via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to The Kashmir Monitor and receive notifications of new stories by email.

Join 980,511 other subscribers

Archives

January 2019
M T W T F S S
« Dec    
 123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
28293031  
Advertisement