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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Blood Diamond - The Movie

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Djimon Hounsou, Jennifer Connelly, James Purefoy, Arnold Vosloo.
Directed by: Edward Zwick

This is the latest one of the best movies that I have ever seen. Blood Diamond presents the pursuit of a rare pink diamond in the war-torn country of Sierra Leonne. Set in the backdrop of Sierra Leone in 1999, th movie portrays three characters who in three different ways are linked to the bloody diamond trade in Africa. Solomon Vandy (Djimon Hounsou)plays the role of a fisherman whose family is abducted by the rebels controlling the local area while he is forced into diamond mining. In the process, he comes across a rare pink diamond which he hides in hope of using it to bargain with rebels for his family. Leonardo DiCaprio plays the role of Danny Archer a mercenary from Africa who smuggles diamonds, looking to get his hands on a rare pink diamond. He comes across Solomon Vandy an reaches an agreement with him wherein he (DiCaprio) agrees to reunite Solomon (Hounsou) with his family in exchange for the pink diamond.

DiCaprio seems a pathological liar at first meeting, only later to stun the viewer with his brutal honesty when he is confronted by reporting journalist, Maddy Bowen, looking for the truth behind the diamond business in Sierra Leone. He agrees to tell her everything about the diamond business, the dark, hidden secrets, in exchange for a way to the pink diamond. Djimon Hounsou gives a staggering performance as Solomon Vandy; in one scene he evokes anger, empathy, and hopelessness in the audience.

The plot unfolds brilliantly and tends to invoke a sympathetic feeling onwards the diamond trade that has been claiming millions of lives over the years. The captivating plot line and outstanding cast performances make this film a must see.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Human Brain vs the Super Computer ?

This post is cross-posted from Pardon the grammatical errors, but I posted this as a reference for myself.

The modern science believe that if the human brain can work to its full potential, free of all the fears, tension, complexes etc., it can be much more efficient (2-3 times) than the super computer.

The major functions of the super computer are memory and speed. Memory is confined in the Bites and speed in FLOPS (Floating Point Operations per Second). One thousand Bytes are defined by K and one thousand K from a Mega. The memory of a standard PC runs from 16 MB (Mega Bytes) to 22 MB. The storage space (of data) though goes upto many Giga Bytes (1000 Mega=1 Giga). In spool type storage computers, the Bytes are calculated in Tera Bytes (100 Giga=1Tera). On the other hand, human brain uses Neurons (or brain cells) to store the memory. Although the scientists have not been able to put together a definite figure, recent findings put it to approx. 20 billion. These Neurons are, in turn, connected with each other through fibrous tissues. These joints are virtually uncountable and the approx. figure is put at 1000 billion. If we consider each joint as one byte, the approx. capacity would be 1000 Giga Bytes or 10 Tera Byte. As a RAM, this is much more than any super computer.
As far as the speed is concerned, speed of a modern computer is calculated in FLOPS or Floating Point Operations per Second. K2 super computer's speed is approx. 1 Giga FLOPS. K2 was one of the earlier computers. By 1990 the speed was improvised ten times; being 10 Giga FLOPS. Further innovation came in CM5 in 1992 which ran at 100 Giga FLOPS. The latest one, however, has surpassed all earlier inventions and has a speed of 2 Tera FLOPS. We shall analyze the speed of human brain in comparison.

If there is an electrical vibration in Neuron, it is considered activated. When the electric charge flows in the Neuron, it is said that the Neuron is "Fired". At a time 1% to 10% Neurons are fired in the brain. Each Neuron, in turn, fires (or vibrates) 100 times per second. From the total Neurons of 20 billion, if 1% to 10%, i.e. 200 million to 2 billion Neurons fire 100 times per second, we can surmise the speed of the brain. If one Fire of Neuron is considered 1 FLOPS, the speed (of only 1% to 10% capacity) would be from 20 giga FLOPS to 200 giga FLOPS. If we assume that all the Neurons Fire in the brain at one time at a rate of 100 Fires per second, the total speed would be 20 billion x 100 FLOPS per second; i.e. 2000 giga or 20 Tera FLOPS that is much beyond the speed of any super computer.

We can, therefore, see that in both the capacity and speed the human brain is much more efficient and capable that a modern computer.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Something to think about....

The human body is considered to be one of the most supreme manifestations of nature's creations. It is believed to be the most complex structure on earth, consisting of billions of cells performing billions and billions of various life supporting activities every second. The most complex cells in the body are of course the brain cells or the neurons. Just as complex, is the foetal cells, found in the female body in the umbilical cord during the period of pregnancy. A few hundred lies in the placenta too.

According to tests conducted, scientists have determined successfully that the foetal cells are responsible for the protection of the foetus from various hereditary diseases. These diseases are caused due to exchange of body fluids between the mother and the foetus. These foetal cells are so complex in their orientation in the thin umbilical cord that they have the ability to distinguish between the nutritive cells and the diseased ones. The HIV virus has been an exception as it mutates the DNA of the cells. Nothing apart from these can be transferred from the mother to the foetus and vice versa. Is that so?

Well, recently scientists have embarked upon a mind blowing journey that baffled them due to its complexity. It has been found that after gestation (child birth), these foetal cells overcome all the various barriers and instead of disintegrating, travel all the way to the mother's brain and occupy a place in the cerebrum in an area which remains emotionally active for the next 21 years, after which they finally disintegrate.

It is believed that, it is these cells that account for the emotional attachment between mother and child. Even though the child doesn't feel much attached to his mother after a particular stage, the mother still tends to be always attached ad caring even though she doesn't realize it. This phenomenon is active strongly in the first 10 years after child birth, irrespective of whether the child is dead, abandoned or alive. It is believed that mothers of dead and abandoned children too remember about them as frequently as every six months.

After 21 years the emotional activeness is at its least value, but not absent. This remarkable phenomenon has been observed in most mammals and in a few crustaceans and arthropods.

Something to really think about then!!!

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Book Review - 'Inside the Wire' by Erik Saar and Viveca Novak

A Military Intelligence Soldier's eyewitness account of Life at Guantanamo

Inside the Wire is a gripping portrait of an American soldier's six month tenure at Guantanamo Bay (Gitmo), Cuba, a high level terrorist detention center that houses the 'worst of the worst' al Qaeda and Taliban suspects, most of whom were captured during the US led 'war on terror' invasion of Afghanistan.

The author,Erik Saar, gets posted as a military intelligence linguist at Gitmo. His job - to carefully extract crucial intelligence from the terrorists. Saar was more than excited to begin working at Gitmo and would always look forward to the day of his posting. But then he finds himself in the bizarre world of life at Gitmo that defied everything he had ever expected.

In his powerful account, he takes us inside the cell blocks and interrogation rooms and describes what its like to talk, question and sit face to face with the captives.
Saar describes all the various tortures that the captives were subjected to in order to get them speaking and blurt out valuable intel information. Most of the captives were detained way back in 2001 and many more keep arriving each month.

Gitmo has been largely criticized by many Human Rights activists group for the appalling sexual interrogation tactics used on detainees. Many of detainees were convinced that they would never be released ever again and so many went to the extent of even trying to commit suicide. Simple objects like tooth brushes, shaving blades were sharpened and used as make shift weapons. Former detainees say in most cases the prisoner made a noose out of clothes or sheets and tried to hang himself from the cell bars; one, they say, tried to slit his throat with a knife he had made from metal.

Saar describes his job of reading the letters ,both, written by the detainees to their families in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Palestine etc. and written by their families to them. As he reads the various letters, he struggles to decide whether to be sympathetic to them or be ruthless as everyone else.

Inside the Wire is one of those rare and unforgettable eyewitness accounts for a momentous and deeply sobering chapter in American history and a powerful cautionary tale about the risks of defaming the very values we are fighting for as we wage the 'War on Terror'

* Viveca Novak is a Washington correspondent for the TIME magazine and has been covering legal affairs and terrorism for a long time.


The commander radioed the IRF (Initial Reaction Force) team leader and told him to start moving in. A detainee in the end cell shouted, "Allah Al-Akbar"- God is great-the common cry when the shit was hitting the fan. Then loud, synchronized stomping as five soldiers entered the block in helmets, over-the-knee shin pads, chest protectors and thick black-leather gloves. The first solder in line carried a shield. They were in no rush; the psychological effect of their march down the corridor, boots echoing off the metal floor with frightening, deafening thuds, were powerful. One NCO was with a radio camera. I was told the tapes were used for training.

The detainee very slowly kissed the Koran, closed it, placed it in its white covering and set it on his cell ledge. Then he stood up and took off his orange shirt. He was thin but had a wiry build with sharp muscle definition. We later learned that he was a kick boxer at home. The guard commander offered him one last chance. He said nothing and simply indicated with his hand that he was ready for the IRF team.

The air on the block seemed to vibrate as everyone anticipated the onset of orchestrated violence. Some of the detainees were genuinely frightened, moving to the back of their cells. The others started shouting "American Dogs!". "Kafer!", "Allah Al-Akbar!" I had never witnessed such mayhem.