Saturday, May 26, 2007

Lets Try and Act like Human, For a Change

I have noticed on many occasions that we always try to subscribe to a set of theories or theorists while we discuss or analyze an issue. More often than not we also assign the person to be a subscriber of a theory or theorist while we discuss something.

We become liberal or conservative, democrat or republican, christian or hindu or Muslim or representative of some other religion, we become ardent supporter of Global Warming concept or go totally against it, we talk about extreme gun control or providing everyone with guns, and so forth. In essence, we tie ourselves to many chains of prejudices or theories before getting into the ring or discussing or resolving any issue.

The point of discussion becomes "how to convince other with my thoughts," and then nobody listens to anybody. We always think our theory is important than anything else in this world. The people who lobby strongly in support or against of any issue are politicians and media and then they always make left or right of an issue to be more important than issue itself.

Then we either follow Bush or Al Gore, Glenn Beck or Michael Moore, CNN or FOX, BJP or Congress. I also think that's how the choices are presented to us as well.

Surprisingly small interests start playing major role in big problems. It can be easily observed that we rarely see any consensus or resolution in solving big problems of world, country or region(s). Be it poverty, hunger, AIDS, deteriorating environmental conditions, increasing world population etc.

The next tome you try and discuss anything or resolve anything, try and act like human, untie the shackles you are bound with, free up your prejudices, just think what your contribution is or what your contribution should be towards a better world. Just be humans, for a change.


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

My Letter to Blacksburg Mayor - Ban Plastic Bags

As a resident of Blacksburg, I wrote the following mail to Mayor of Blacksburg. The vice mayor promised me to look into the matter. I hope they do. I would suggest you to do the same in your home town and city and country. Its the pressure from common people like us that will help in tackling the issues like this.

Letter Starts here---

Mr. Ron Rordam
Blacksburg Mayor
Blacksburg, VA.
Dear Mr. Rordam:

I have been a proud resident of Blacksburg for nearly 5 years now. The town has long had a reputation of being technology savvy, and has been quite ahead of its time in many ways. The town boasts a wealth of educated people from diverse backgrounds, one of its major strengths.

I recently stumbled upon a CNN news article that described how San Francisco has banned the usage of plastic grocery bags. They estimate saving more than 450,000 gallons of oil, as well as the massive waste of grocery bags that are not recycled--it's a known fact that less than 2% of grocery bags are recycled. I feel it is important for Blacksburg to follow this idea as well. This would definitely be a great service to the earth, and contribute to reducing our carbon footprint. Blacksburg has residents from all around the world, and anything positive in Blacksburg will definitely affect the thinking of people around the world.

I have also noticed that several Blacksburg showrooms, banks, and shops have a lot of their lights switched on even after they are closed. I believe that these commercial places must be somehow regulated or requested to use only a small and specific amount of electricity when they are closed. Reducing this wastage at idle hours will definitely affect the environment, and I believe that it would be easy to convince businesses to do that.

It would be great to see the town of Blacksburg coming with some other initiatives as well (like phasing out incandescent lamps in the next two years, planting extra trees on a monthly basis or having an aggressive recycling program). It's important for us to act today as we are damaging the environment every day.



--Letter Ends here

Relevant News Articles
English Town Bans Plastic Bags
Paper or Plastic

"What are you waiting for?"

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Global Warming and Scientific Uncertainty

Recently with the global warming issue getting hotter and hotter, a term which is being used and misused a lot to prove or mostly disprove the global warming concept is "Scientific Uncertainty." This term has been in use in the scientific world ever since scientist started to predict anything. Mathematical models are very popular tools to simulate most of the physical processes. These simulations are conducted to predict how a system will behave in future under different conditions. Now, these predictions always have some amount of uncertainty in them and it is very different than being wrong or inaccurate. There are several reasons for this uncertainty but the major reasons can be classified as knowledge uncertainty and stochastic variability. The knowledge uncertainty is due to the improper understanding of the system and stochastic variability is the natural property of the system being modeled.

The knowledge uncertainty can be decreased with improved understanding of the system, whereas stochastic variability can only be quantified. In the Department of Biological Systems Engineering, we work on several hydrologic and water quality models. The predictions from all of these models have some inherent uncertainty due to above stated reasons. The scientific community acknowledges this uncertainty and a lot of research are conducted to reduce it and/or quantify it. The truth however is that a scientist, especially working with natural systems, cannot take into account all possible reasons of uncertainty. In spite of this uncertainty in predictions from these models, these predictions are widely used. For example, the predictions from hydrologic models are used in designing hydraulic structures, the predictions from water quality models are used in preparing watershed management plans and so forth. The hydraulic structures help in water management, flood control, water supply and so forth. Watershed management plans help in reduction of pollution, improved ecological conditions, increased productivity in watershed etc. If we start giving more thought to the uncertainty in modeling and stop building these structures and making plans, where would world be? As an example, if we had given more weight to the concept of scientific uncertainty than its worth then the waters in United States would be still be polluted.

Similarly, if we give more weight to uncertainty of ten, twenty or thirty percent in the predictions of global warming then we will miss the big picture। The truth is "Globe is Warming," and there are higher chances of humans to be responsible for that. I would go for that higher chance and act as if I am responsible for Global Warming, and I need to fix it no matter how miniscule my effect may be. Moreover, whatever needs to be done to reduce our carbon footprint in nature falls in the purview of common sense as well. Doesn't it?


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Accessibility to Guns: Lets Talk About It

This is the copy of my article published in Collegiate Times at Virginia Tech. To read the article in collegiate times, click here.

After the tragic incident of shooting at Virginia Tech, I heard lots of views in support and against of "Gun Control". As an international student at Virginia Tech, my view is affected by this incident as well as my background. In any case, I think whenever the discussions regarding Gun Control starts, people try to be in support or against of it, the focus of discussion moves to counter other person’s argument and the main issue stays unresolved. While still shocked with the incident, I was listening to a radio show where the host very aggressively said that, if more people had gun in the campus, they would have shot the killer before he could wreak such havoc. Such kind of argument influenced by one line of thought without proper analysis is extremely disturbing.

The major point to discuss here is that Gun Control doesn't mean snatching the gun from every person who has it, it rather means that how to make sure that a weapon like gun which can kill so many people stay with only those people who really have concerns regarding their safety. The current gun law allows the citizens to bear arms for their safety and to fight against tyrannical government. Most of us know today that citizens cannot fight their government today with the kind of weapons citizens can get hold of. As far as safety is concerned, it is a valid point.

Now, to be able to drive a vehicle, a person has to demonstrate his/her ability to handle the car by theoretical and practical tests, because improper use of a vehicle can be dangerous to the person using it and other on the road as well. However, to get the gun you just need a state ID, and you do not have to demonstrate your ability to handle the gun. To get a hunting license, a person needs to pass a test, but to get a gun you do not need to go through any of these formalities. As far as background checks are considered, they are conducted only if you buy gun from a shop, but not if you buy it from a gun fair or from your neighbor.

The guns for hunting and guns for safety should be segregated completely and also the kind of ammunition that can be used in each case. The next point of talk is the availability of ammunition. You all have the idea of the amount of ammunition the killer could buy for this Virginia Tech rampage. For safety, the amount of ammunition needs to be rationed, and extra ammunition should only be supplied if approved by the police. For shooting practice, a person should be able to buy ammunition only at the shooting range and unused ammunition must be returned back to the facility where shooting practice is done.

Now when somebody says that everybody should have gun and that way the society will be safe is a baseless argument Picture this, how safe all the international community and small kids (who cannot have gun, legally) will feel if everybody in Blacksburg had a gun. Now extrapolate it for the whole country. There is a brawl in downtown every other weekend, what would the end result be if everybody had a gun? Personally, I would not like to carry a gun, because I will have to take care of gun's safety more than the safety it will provide to me.

There could be several more arguments in support and against of gun law, but most of the argument are manifestation of people's personal opinion and experience. I think its time to move towards a more non-violent society and enjoy the comfort of safety in non-violence.

I think this is the right time to watch an old movie "Gandhi."