Wednesday, January 16, 2008

More on "Man is Nilpotent"

This was a response to a comment on my very first post on this blog, but on second thoughts, I felt that it must be posted in the main page, so here it is.

Here, I try to justify two issues that were raised (by one of my very good friends) with respect to the title of this blog and its suggested relevance to Man. The first is how Man can be represented as a square matrix and the second is how time (compared to the finite positive integer n of my definition) can be seen as discrete, while its best described as a continuous variable. Here are the answers:

a) Man can be approximated to be a directed graph as follows - the vertices of the digraph are the various states he can be in (for example, happy, sad, excited, etc.) Of course, the meanings of these emotions depends on the person who is being represented. There will exist an edge from node u to node v if there is some action (either his own action or an environmental change) that can cause that change. The weight of an edge would be the sum of the likelihoods of all such actions causing the state change. Now, the weighted adjacency matrix of this graph is a square matrix, is it not?

b) In reality, there is always a limit on the precision of time - how accurately we can measure it, in spite of the fact that it is continuous. Well, if one can measure time to an accuracy of, say for example, k seconds, then think of the discrete scale to be calibrated in units of k seconds. As technology advances, k would become smaller and smaller, and the scale would become finer and finer - remaining discrete.

Friday, January 11, 2008

When God Came To IIT Madras - Part Two

Please read the first part here, before continuing!

Here, after a long long time, is the rest of the story. Apologies for the delay - I was caught up with so many things. Anyways, enjoy the climax (though, by now almost all of you must have guessed the end)!

I never realized that a person could be this famous and still not be talked about much in general. I had never heard of him at all. The CLT was packed with a crowd of students and faculty. Most of the students, I could guess, were first-years, who were clearly present to know what an extra-mural lecture was. The senior students, if any, were almost all of them from the Bio-Technology (BT) department and it seemed as if all the faculty members of the BT department were present in the first few rows. Sumesh and I made our way slowly to a row slightly past the middle ones and sat down, absorbing the general commotion around us. There were a few minutes left for the lecture to begin.

“The Extra Mural team sure wants a grand start this semester!” remarked Sumesh.

“Hmm", I said, not really listening. I had gone back to thinking how I’d know if the lecturer really was God or not. I had thought over this a hundred times, but I still couldn’t help thinking about it.

Minutes passed, but there was no sign of Ramamurthy. It was half an hour past the scheduled start of the lecture when a harassed-looking Jatin entered the hall and advanced to the dais. He was in my batch, the student coordinator of the extra-mural team.

“We are extremely sorry,” began Jatin, “but we are forced to cancel this lecture because Dr. Ramamurthy is unable to join us today due to unforeseen circumstances.”

At once a collective roar of disapproval rose in the hall, and Jatin had to raise his voice to apologize another time before stepping down.

“Truly a grand start!” joked Sumesh as we waited patiently for the murmuring crowd to dissipate. “At least we know that Ramamurthy is not God! Cheer up, you may find Him yet! There is still time.”

I managed a feeble smile towards Sumesh, who was watching me closely for a reaction. We got up and made our way to the exit. I had hardly four hours left to identify God and what a wild-goose chase it was turning out to be! Dejected to the core, I went to find my cycle. Sumesh said he had to go to the library and I cycled alone, back to my room.


It was five to eleven. I was walking to Gurunath, sad that I had missed the opportunity to identify God that day – the time was almost up. There did not seem to be many people there at this time. When I was about to enter, I got a call and I stopped. It was from Ashok, who worked with Sumesh on his project.

“I’ve been trying to reach Sumesh all day without any luck,” he said, his voice tense. “Tell Sumesh that he has to speak to his guide immediately. He wasn’t at the meeting today. The professor is mad at him.” And he hung up, without waiting for an answer.

Something was definitely wrong. Sumesh had told me that he had attended that meeting. Why had he lied? I rushed into Gurunath – Sumesh wasn’t there. I was desperate to talk to him; it was absolutely essential that he should talk to his guide immediately.

My cell phone rang again. This time, it was a call from an unknown number.

“Hello? Is that you?” Sumesh’s voice was loud and clear.

“Sumesh? What happened to your phone? Listen, I want to tell you something important. You have to talk to your guide immediately. He is so mad at you. Why didn’t you attend the meeting? You told me you did. Ashok just called me and…"

“What?” Sumesh cut me off. “Wait a second. You listen to my story. I’ve been stuck at Vijayawada for almost a day. I got down here when the train stopped and it left before I could get on again. I've lost all my luggage, I hope I can collect it from the authorities in Chennai when I get there - I’ve just bought a ticket for another train which is about to leave. I’ve been trying to call you all day; you never answered! My cell ran out of charge in the evening. I…”

“I’ll speak to you later, Sumesh. Bye.”

“But… but… wait…”

I hated to cut Sumesh off like that, more so given the situation he was in, but I couldn’t bring myself to keep talking to him while looking at him entering Gurunath, before my eyes. My fingers trembled as I double checked the number from which Sumesh had called and I recognized the STD code of Vijayawada. The truth finally dawned on me. The Sumesh who entered just now spotted me and he waved. I went to him and we sat around a lonely table.

“You’re G.. G.. God!” I stammered.

“Finally! How did you find out?”

I told God about Sumesh’s call.

“Ah! I’ve been caught as a result of my own plans. Sumesh’s call wasn’t a coincidence. You were so desperate to talk to Sumesh, and as I had promised that you’d have whatever you wanted when I was around, you got to do so.”

For a few minutes, neither of us spoke. I thought about everything that had happened that day, it all made sense.

“Well, I owe you a wish now. Tell me, what do you want?”

I don’t know what got into me when I said, “I wish Sumesh hadn’t missed his train. I wish none of this had happened.”


Next morning, I woke up to a loud banging on my door.

“Who the f…”, I yelled, as I opened the door. There, smiling at me stood Sumesh, with his baggage, having just reached Chennai. Or, was it God?

“Wake up, sleepyhead. It’s the first day of the semester and you don’t want to be late for class!”


To this day, I do not know if the whole thing was a dream, or if it really happened. I have no way of finding out.