My New Favourite Birds – The Black Egret and Potoo

It’s not every day that I get inspired or be awe struck by something so different and I have no other way to put it. So here’s a post dedicated to them.

First up,

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The Black Egret, an absolute beauty.
Isn’t it just wonderful?, like a stealthy predator ready to strike any moment.
Now, what’s so great about it? This next picture will show you exactly that.
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See the two fellas on the left? They look like they’re hiding, but appearances can be deceiving and this is a good example of that.

“How do you hunt during the day when your prey hides in the darkness?

You make your own, like the black egret!”

These birds use “canopy feeding,” where they form their wings into a makeshift umbrella that blocks out the sunlight and creates a small area of darkness underneath for fish to hide in. But when fish get close enough to the surface, the egret makes its move and has a nice meal.

–from IFLS’s FB page

Pretty neat, huh?  But as always the internet finds a way to make a joke out of anything and the Black Eglet is no exception. So here’s one I found quite funny
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=THrpJSstWZ8&feature=youtu.be

Up next, the Potoo

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  Pretty funny, right? The next pic will just melt your heart.
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The Potoo are indigenous to South American forests are just about the coolest birds I’ve seen.
What’s so cool about them? just look at THEM!!

Or Just do a google image search, sit back and enjoy.

https://www.google.co.in/search?q=potoo&client=ubuntu&hs=E3&channel=fs&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=RU7lUq6SM4_JrAe4kYG4BQ&ved=0CAkQ_AUoAQ&biw=1301&bih=647#imgdii=_

reCAPTCHA : What’s Google doing now??

For those who don’t know what reCAPTCHA is, the first paragraph would be a short introduction, others can skip over to the second paragraph. Ok, CAPTCHA stands for Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart. In non-technical terms, it’s a system designed to prevent spam by asking people to solve problems that computers can’t solve. reCAPTCHA is Google’s implementation of CAPTCHA, Here is their website, its motto is “Stop spam, read books”. It was started to help aid google’s book digitization project by allowing humans to digitize words which an OCR software can’t.

Now that we know what is (was) reCAPTCHA’s motive, here’s something that I found odd. Anyone who recently used reCAPTCHA would find out that instead of two skewed words, you get two sets of numbers. Not that numbers are odd, but upon closer inspection, one number looks like a real world image while the other looks the old skewed number image. Here is an example.

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You can see many more like this in the above mentioned website.

What’s interesting is the second image. Yes, the reCaptcha is now more difficult for machines to solves and simultaneously easier for humans to solve. But the point is the second image is not computer generated, its taken from the real world, many of these look like door numbers, street numbers and room numbers. As you can see in the second image, the 8001 looks like its above a door. The next logical question is, where did google get all these images? Obvious answer, Google street view, therefore one can conclude that google has started to “digitize” street view images.

The strange thing is that there is no mention of this anywhere in the reCAPTCHA site or google’s blogs. The reCAPTCHA site still states that it is only digitizing books. Why is google keeping mum? . Interesting conclusions one can draw from this is that Google has made good progress with its digitization efforts and now expanding to street view images.

I still find google’s silence weird, all that one can hope now is that google comes clean soon or someone (like me 😉 ), figures this out and spreads the word around.

P.S strange thing is that, once I started writing this, I stopped seeing numeric captchas, guess i’m getting paranoid :p

God vs Mathematics

One of the longest standing and still unresolved debates is about god and his existence, whether he really does exist. If so why is he allowing bad things to happen to good people ., you know the rest. Now I too was a sort of atheist due to similar arguments, ignoring those concepts that cannot be understood by the vigours of a mathematical proof. It was quite natural to believe so, we had a good system of logic, namely the scientific method, it helped us understand the world around and went one step further and helped us in manipulating it to our benefit. The ways of religion and faith seemed far fetched and quite frankly hilarious. But then two things have happened in the near past that have changed my view and now I have no idea what my religious beliefs are ( A limbo like condition).

     The first one was a course that I had to take as part of my undergraduate curriculum named “Logic in Computer Science”, basically it was a course dealing with ( as the name suggests) logic systems, proof methods in these systems and their impact on computer science. It is quite abstract and as such many people would find it hard to follow, but I felt at home with the abstraction as I didn’t have to give preference to visualization and hence I could fully and completely pay attention to what was being discussed.
    One of the discussions was on soundness and completeness of the various proof systems. What these two terms mean are quite simple concepts.
The Soundness property of a logic system states that

 
Anything you prove using the logic system is true in the real world
meaning, if your logic system is sound, then you should be able to prove only true things , for example, you cannot prove that 1 = 0 ( which is obviously false) if your logic system is sound.
The completeness property states that
 
Anything that is true in the real world can be proved
 
Again what this means is that if you know that something is true in the real world, then you should be able to prove that it is true if your logic system is complete. for example, We know that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west ( on Earth of course !! the statement would be false on venus). So if your system is complete, you must be able to prove this.

Now, why are these two properties of a logic system important??

Because of this man

In 1931, Kurt Godel proved that no reasonably complex logic system can be both sound and complete at the same time which are called Gödel’s incompleteness theorems, a consequence of this  is that if you want to have a logic system using which you can prove all truths, then it must contain some statements which cannot be proved using the logic system itself, but you just have to assume they are true ( sound familiar??)
     Now the second thing that made me reconsider my religious belief was not suprisingly another course ( humanities) Bhagawad Gita ( Now please don’t ask me why I took such a course contradicting my belief, that’s another story unto itself. Let’s just say that I was “given” that course). Apprehensive at first, I went to the lectures, the first  few lectures was about Lord Krishna and how he is the supreme being and ruler of us all, I scoffed at these statements but still went to the lectures hoping to find some strand of “reason” in all the things being said, and find I did.
    Few lectures later, the lecturer told us that to understand the Gita, you have to first believe that Krishna was the supreme controller of us all and you need to have faith in him, reflexively I laughed at this only then did I realize it was just another logic system which worked on the above mentioned assumption, so religion was just another logic system or in other words, religion is the most ancient logic system. This was a “Aha” moment for me, it all seemed to make sense now, we were just following an ancient logic system without even realizing it.
     Of course,  people will argue that it is not a sound logic system ( after all, it did say that the world is flat right?? ). Well, not exactly. It was people who interpreted and came to such a conclusion. As such we don’t have the original manuscripts of Bhagawad Gita or any other religious texts ( except the dead sea scrolls) and what we have are people’s interpretation of the original and this can very well be wrong.
    I continue to go to these lectures keeping in mind the simple assumption and I have not encountered any fallacies yet.