Archive for the ‘Science and Society’ Category

MH 370: My take

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

MH 370 has been in the news for some time, so I expressed my views on a visit to Penang, and this led to a press conference the next day.

The press has been harping on human factors, terrorists, hijacking by hacking, pilot suicide and all sorts of exotic theories. The terrorist theory was clearly wrong from day one: why should someone intending to kill himself want a fake passport? Hijacking or hacking also does not fit the facts: else there should have been some related demands by now. It is important to understand the correct causes to prevent a recurrence of this tragedy.

The most likely possibility is a failure of technology, not human error. Very likely there was structural failure and an explosive decompression. What would the pilot do in that case? He would turn back to Malaysia (hoping to land), and would dive down (aiming to get oxygen back in the cabin, not to evade radar). [Why would a pilot intent on suicide turn back and fly across Malaysia, that too while trying to avoid radar?] Clearly, despite his heroic attempts, the pilot and passengers must have succumbed to hypoxia and hypothermia very quickly.

At this stage some people with pitiful faith in technology ask  what about the oxygen masks? Obviously they also failed. If the plane cracks open, the oxygen tank and pipelines too can get torn apart. A known example where the oxygen supply failed is the case of Helios flight 522 of 14 Aug 2005  (a Boeing 737), in which all passengers and crew died, and which continued its zombie flight until crash, despite jets being scrambled to intercept it.

There is a wrong expectation that the plane would have disintegrated into bits and fallen on the spot. Even if the aircraft suffers explosive decompression, the plane can continue to fly and may even land safely as demonstrated by Aloha Airlines flight of 28 April 1988 in which explosive decompression tore out an 18 foot hole.

Obviously, in this case of MH-370 (a Boeing 777-200ER) after the failure of the oxygen supply and the quick onset of hypoxia, the plane presumably continued on auto pilot mode, like a ghost flight, like the Helios flight, until it ran out of fuel and fell into the sea.

Clearly, this theory explains all the known facts, and as of now, this is the only theory which explains all the facts.

Further, structural defects are a common occurrence. In fact, the Consumer Association Penang had complained in 2011 when the Southwest Airlines flight 812 of 1 April 2011 (again a Boeing 737)  was forced to make an emergency landing at a military airport, after suffering mid-air decompression. In a subsequent inspection a large number of aircraft showed up with cracks and metal fatigue.

Structural failure is  a common occurrence just because the aircraft body is designed to be as light as possible, and that is obviously not the same as saying it is as strong as possible or that it is as safe as possible. Further, an aircraft being expensive, airlines continue to use it for as long as possible, increasing the chances of corrosion and structural failure. Clearly consumers ought be informed about these compromises and by how much they increase the likelihood of sudden death in the air. They can then make an informed choice.

Given the above long list of demonstrated structural failures of Boeing aircraft, this possibility ought to be vigorously investigated as the lead possibility. Instead,  we are being offered all sorts of exotic explanations through the press, explanations which don’t at all fit the facts. What is being examined by the FBI is the computer of the pilot (who had a long and unblemished record), not the computers of the Boeing company. A colonised mentality? or something else?

There is a relation to the previous blog post. Many people felt outraged when a bomoh appeared at the airport to divine the location of the crash site. However, so many people blindly believe in experts. They do not see that in our present-day society experts are mostly caught in a conflict of interests which they rarely publicly declare. Therefore, there is no guarantee that aviation experts would tell the whole truth, especially if that truth hurts the very aviation industry to which their livelihood may be tied.  And if one is not oneself an expert how does one know that the expert is telling the whole truth (or even that he really is an expert)?  So, in a situation like this, blind belief in the unbiasedness of “experts”is just another superstition.

Here are the reports of the press conference.

Press conference

English

  1. http://www.fz.com/content/mh370-scientist-urges-checks-planes-metal-fatigue-technical-safety
  2. http://www.theantdaily.com/news/2014/03/31/mh370-indian-scientist-dismisses-hijacking-or-pilot-suicide-theory
  3. http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/258645
  4. A video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8V8gthtuGys&feature=youtube_gdata

Chinese

  1. http://ckraju.net/press/2014/MH370-Chinese-1.jpg
  2. http://ckraju.net/press/2014/MH370-Chinese-2.jpg
  3. http://ckraju.net/press/2014/MH370-Chinese-3.jpg
  4. http://ckraju.net/press/2014/MH370-Chinese-4.jpg
  5. http://ckraju.net/press/2014/MH370-Chinese-5.jpg
  6. http://ckraju.net/press/2014/MH370-Chinese-6.jpg

Press release

http://ckraju.net/press/2014/press-release-MH-370.html

Mathematics in refugee camps

Monday, May 6th, 2013

Of what use is mathematics in refugee camps? And its history and philosophy? Explaining this was a tough challenge.

P.S. Here is a video summary: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hPWNL5YL2ds&list=UUTUs46gzu-mvO9hDIzzMfBg&index=1,

and on the Campus in Camps website: http://www.campusincamps.ps/en/projects/c-k-raju/

Talk in Campus in camps

The talk at Campus in Camps

https://www.facebook.com/CampusinCamps

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The “God” particle and creationism

Monday, May 6th, 2013

Wow, the reports makes people believe that scientists have experimentally demonstrated the existence of God and the church notion of creation! Discount those people (who believe this) as gullible idiots if you like, but that is the constituency.Article on god particle

National year of mathematics and delayed monsoon

Sunday, May 6th, 2012

But why a year on the Christian calendar? That calendar embodies the European ignorance of elementary arithmetic and simple fractions (hence their persistent inability to determine Easter correctly until the Gregorian calendar reform of 1582 when they got the length of the year from Indian books). Click the image for the text version. This newspaper has a circulation of 40 million.

Even so, the Gregorian calendar retains the unscientifc chaos about months. This is a disaster for Indian agriculture. (More details of the monsoon mess in my book Cultural Foundations of Mathematics, or an early preliminary article at http://www.indianscience.org/essays/t_es_raju_monsoon.shtml.)

More recent newspaper clips on the “delayed monsoon” effect are at http://ckraju.net/papers/Monsoon-pages-from-calclnm.pdf.

 

 

Islam and the Philosophy of Science

Saturday, May 5th, 2012

The Pusat Islam organized a talk on Islam and the philosophy of science. (Click the image for the paper. But the paper does not cover the queston of ethics of science, taken up during the talk.)

New curriculum for history and philosophy of science

Saturday, May 5th, 2012

A workshop was held at Al-Bukhari International University to formulate a new curriculum for the history and philosophy of science. Scholars from 3 countries participated. Here is the announcement for the workshop, and an earlier one on the Multiversity site.

The issue is part of the decolonisation agenda, but was precipitated when a person who trained as a missionary in Singapore Bible College, and never acquired any knowledge of science or philosophy, but got a PhD from Cambridge in the philosophy of science, started trying to use the classroom as a pulpit. See the minutes of the discussion, and the draft syllabus.

Here is a group photo

and a press report in Alef (Iran). (Click image to go to site, and use Google translate for hilarious results.)

Reimagining science teaching

Saturday, May 5th, 2012

To teach science one needs to know the right stories of how science developed. That is one needs a truthful history of science, not the trash history one gets from the West. Strange that all those who talk of teaching students to innovate  can only blindly imitate the syllabus from Western universities!

 

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Swaraj in thought

Saturday, March 17th, 2012

Colonialism used church propaganda to inculcate the myth of Western superiority among the colonised. It is high time to break this dirty and evil myth, which is still propagated by our schools and universities.  Had the British not got Mahatma Gandhi assassinated (through Savarkar), to ensure Nehru’s supremacy, we would have got real freedom, real swaraj. Not Hind Swaraj, not Swaraj in Ideas, but swaraj in thought

My paper on swaraj in thought was presented at the 35th Indian Social Science Congress, Wardha in Dec 2011. What a pity that the vice chancellor of the Mahatma Gandhi University is a police official.

 

 

Secret refereeing: quality control or thought control?

Saturday, March 3rd, 2012

Many people think that the system of secretive refereeing (euphemistically called “peer review”) serves as a system of quality control. Whole groups of nations (such as the Organization of Islamic Conference) have formed their science policies on the basis of that belief. (See my paper on “Benchmarking science” for the USM-PSU conference at Hat Yai, October, 2011.)

But, what is the scientific evidence that such secretive refereeing serves the purpose of quality control?

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Islam and science

Sunday, February 19th, 2012

Another way to see the religious bias in present-day science (see previous post)  is to look at the way it is used to attack Islam. (Note: specifically science vs Islam, not science vs “religion”.)  See my paper on “Islam and Science” Indian Journal of Secularism, 15(2), 2011, pp. 14-29.

For example, consider the claim that Islam is anti-science because it does not believe in “laws of nature” or “laws of physics”.  As my paper explains, belief in “laws of nature” is part of the post-Crusade theology of Aquinas; it is no part of science. Newton himself believed that theology and thought that he was a prophet to whom God had revealed those laws. (He also thought he was born on 25 December.)  So, here we have a simple situation where science is pro-church but anti-Islam (as in Hawking’s singularities which support the church doctrine of creation against Islam).

It is true that people are still taught “Newton’s laws of physics” in school. But that is bad terminology which spreads church indoctrination. Because colonial education blindly imitates the West, this propaganda is still propagated through science teaching in schools which should have changed that long ago. Newton’s “laws” have proved to be false, and science cannot ever lay claim to any eternal truth. Science only constructs fallible models.