Book Review: Superhuman by Habit

Superhuman by Habit: A Guide to Becoming the Best Possible Version of Yourself, One Tiny Habit at a TimeSuperhuman by Habit: A Guide to Becoming the Best Possible Version of Yourself, One Tiny Habit at a Time by Tynan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The value of this book will be measured by how much I could utilize the tips giving in this book to improve my self-discipline. I will never give a 5-rating for a self-improvement book. The 4 rating is for excellent language and conversational style of this book. The book is well written, it is based on good research, solid principles and explained it's propositions well. Towards the end, it had some "selling" of stuff that author personally liked. But that's it, nothing negative about it.

Book Review: Indian Astronomy - A Primer

Indian Astronomy - A PrimerIndian Astronomy - A Primer by Dr. S. Balachandra Rao
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read this book after I had completed reading the book The Greatest Inventions of the Past 2,000 Years. In that, I noted down the contributions of The Indo-Arabic Number System as one of the significant inventions in the past 2000 years.

The important thing to note was, the positional value number system along with 0 was invented a 1000 years before the birth of Christ and it was systematized by Aryabhatta in the year 499 CE.

This greatly increased my curiosity for Indian mathematics. The book was a boon in that regard. It dwells with the Indian Astronomy, mathematics with a verifiable accuracy. We are given a survey of Astronomy in , Vedanga Jyotisa , Siddhantha (established truth), and giving the information about Aryabhatta I, Bhaskaracharya. It goes into details about Zodiacs and constellations (as calculated by the astronomers), Yuga System and Eras.

I came to know that Kali Yuga commenced on 17/18 February 3102 BCE, at the demise of Krishna.
So, as of this writing of the review, we have been living in **5119 years** since the start of Kali Yuga (an epoch).

The book also introduced me to the concept of Luni-solar months, were lunar months are pegged upon to solar months. The metric value is called Ahargana,. In Sanskrit 'ahoratra' means one full day and 'gana' means count. Hence, the Ahargana on any given day stands for the number of lunar days that have elapsed starting from an epoch.

This is the counting system used in Indian calendars. After giving details about this, book then talks about Co-ordinate systems, Rasi and Naksatra systems, Panchanga (Panchaga means 5 parts which are Tithi, Naksatra, Vara, Yoga and Karana) and gives the reference for the calculation mean positions of Sun, Moon and Planets.

Given the words like "Panchanga", "Tithi" etc, one would expect this book to be written by some astrologer or might have some preachiness to it. This is where, I think, the book shines. No, it has none of the preachiness, it has none of the emotional or venerable expressions towards those concepts. Instead, those are presented as Indian mathematics, by done mathematicians in India when as they pursued their understanding of the universe and recorded them.

The book is written by Dr. S. Balachandra Rao is was a professor of Mathematics, who has published around 20 books in subjects ranging from Numerical methods, differential equations, calculus, Indian Astronomy, and mathematics.

The Indo-Arabic Number System

Here are two articles about inventions that were listed Book Review: The Greatest Inventions of the Past 2000 Years book that I wanted to note down in my blog for future reference.

The reason I wanted to note down is, I personally find that numeric system that we use today has stood the test of time and is limitless. And my second reason could be due to a emotional attachment and association that is imbibed in me.

V. S. Ramachandran

My favorite invention is the place-value notation system combined with the the user of a symbol 0 for zero to denote a nonexistant number; this marks the birth of modern mathematics. This system was invented in India, probably during the first millennium before Christ, but was first systematized by the Hindu mathematician and astronomer Aryabhata I at the tail end of the fifth century and then transmitted to the West via the Arabs (hence the phrase "Arabic Numerals"). Before this time, even simple arithmetic was tedious and time-consuming (as when the Romans and Greeks used the cumbersome "Roman numerals" - sometime still used in the west). And math, of course, is essential for all science. Without the early invention of zero and place value as well as the use of the a symbol to denote an unknown quantity in an equation (algebra), also from India, subsequent developments could not have occurred. There would be no calculus, no newtonian or Galilean science, no computers, and essentially no modern world.

Keith Devlin

"What is the most important invention in the past two thousand years?" is one of those questions that no correct answer - like "What is the best novel / symphony / movie?" - But if I had to make a choice, it would be the Hindu-Arabic number system, which reached essentially it's present form in the sixth century. Without it, Galileo would have been unable to begin the quantificational study of nature which we now call science, and we would not have had calculus, another major invention of the period in question.

Before of it's linguistic structure, the Hindu-Arabic number system allows humans who have an innate linguistic fluency but only a very primitive number sense to use their ability with language to handle numbers of virtually any useful magnitude, with as much precision as required. Today there is scarcely any aspect of life that does not depend on our ability to handle numbers efficiently and accurately. True, we now use computers to do much of our number crunching, but without the Hindu-Arabic number system we would not have any computers.

In addition to it's use in arithmetic and science, the Hindu-Arabic number system is the only genuinely universal language on earth - apart, perhaps, from the Windows Operating System, which has achieved the near universal adoption of a conceptually and technologically poor product by the sheer force of market dominance. By contrast, the Hindu-Arabic number system gained worldwide acceptance because it is far better designed and much more efficient for human usage than any other number system.

Book Review: The Greatest Inventions of the Past 2000 Years

The Greatest Inventions of the Past 2,000 YearsThe Greatest Inventions of the Past 2,000 Years by John Brockman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I found this book fascinating. It provided me a window to glimpse at the history of humankind's inventions, inventors, and discoverers. The aspect that I liked the most was to do with things that I didn't know about or with the aspects that I had overlooked in the inventions.
For e.g. Invention of Rudder played a major role in navigation, the invention of multiple other devices, funding from the king that helped made Columbus's journey possible. Modern printing press's invention was for printing Bible. English first came to the US to occupy the lands in the Longitude 77, that had significance in John Dee's calendar. The Hindu Arabic numeral system that contributed greatly to the numerous advances in the western world and thinking. Drawing the connections between the inventions and context of these inventions were equally captivating as the invention itself.

Solving Hard Problems

I have personally been annoyed when I cannot find solution to hard problem. I used to think that "looking up" for an answer is not being honest. That stance may not help. After trying, I think, a student (like me), could benefit by looking up the answers for hard problems, and try to emulate it.

Found this in the words a professor giving advise to his students.

Students join forces on the problem sets, and some students benefit more than others from these weekly collective efforts. The most brilliant students will invariably work out all the problems and let other students copy, and I pretend to be annoyed when I learn that this has happened. But I know that by making the effort to understand the solution of a truly difficult problem discovered by one of their peers, students learn more than they would by working out some less demanding exercise.

From 10 Lessons of an MIT Education

Nuclear Gandhi in Civilization V

It seems like the developers of Civilization V once decided to store aggresiveness index of leaders in a unsigned int. And Gandhi, as the most pacifist leader that he was, was assigned lowest number 1. Also, in the game play if a society adopted democracy, the aggresiveness score was reduced by 2.

So, when Gandhi adopted democracy, his aggresiveness score became 1 - 2 = -1, and as it was unsigned int, and it gained a very high value.


int main(void) {
    unsigned int i;
    i = -1;
    printf("%x\n", i);
$ clang unsigned.c
$ ./a.out

And thus Gandhi was ready to nuke whenever there is a conflict.,fl_progressive,q_80,w_636/dnqxrzdmsdkud7fmsqyp.jpg

S. Chandrasekhar's 107th Birthday

Looks like Google celebrated Subramanya Chandrasekhar's 107'th birthday with a doodle. I had missed it, so I got excited to go check it out again.

The doodle is amazing! It illustrates the concept of a star when it gains 1.4 times the mass of sun will turn into white-dwarf and eventually into a black-hole!

Chandrasekhar discovered this, and it is known as Chandrasekhar's limit.


This seems like a typical my-thing. I've fallen into this trap many times. It looks people in my profession fall prey to this too.

That’s one reason I don’t miss IT, because programmers are very unlikable people… In aviation, for example, people who greatly overestimate their level of skill are all dead.

  • Philip Greenspun, co-founder of ArsDigita, excerpted from Founders at Work.