The "Brain in a vat" outlines a scenario in which a mad scientist, machine, or other entity might remove a person's brain from the body, suspend it in a vat of life-sustaining liquid, and connect its neurons by wires to a supercomputer which would provide it with electrical impulses identical to those the brain normally receives.
The computer would then be simulating reality (including appropriate responses to the brain's own output) and the "disembodied" brain would continue to have perfectly normal conscious experiences, such as those of a person with an embodied brain, without these being related to objects or events in the real world.
Since the brain in a vat gives and receives exactly the same impulses as it would if it were in a skull, and since these are its only way of interacting with its environment, then it is not possible to tell, from the perspective of that brain, whether it is in a human body or a vat. Yet in the first case most of the person's beliefs may be true (if they believe, say, that they are walking down the street, or eating ice-cream); in the latter case their beliefs are false.
Since the argument says one cannot know whether one is a brain in a vat, then one cannot know whether most of one's beliefs might be completely false. Since, in principle, it is impossible to rule out oneself being a brain in a vat, there cannot be good grounds for believing any of the things one believes; a skeptical argument would contend that one certainly cannot know them, raising issues with the definition of knowledge.
Experts have voiced concern over not a single Indian educational institution figuring in the coveted top 200 list of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2016-17, released on Wednesday.
India aced the rankings as far as South Asia was concerned, but only two universities from the country – the Indian Institute of Science-Bangalore (201-250 group) and the Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay (351-400 group) – could be seen in the top 400 of the 980-institution list. While the premier Bangalore institute moved up significantly in the list (it was in the 251-300 group last year), other establishments like IIT-Delhi, IIT-Kanpur and IIT-Madras figured somewhere between ranks 401 and 500. IIT-Kharagpur and IIT-Roorkee, for their part, appeared in the 501-600 band.
India has 19 institutes in the top 800, two more than last year, and 12 others between 801 and 980.
Though we may pat ourselves on the back because a record 31 Indian educational institutions – including 14 new names – have made it to the list, the picture does not look as rosy when we take the total area and population of India into consideration.
TWO quotes from physicist Richard Feynman set the stage. “There is no learning without having to pose a question. And a question requires doubt.”
“I can live with doubt, and uncertainty. I think it’s much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong.”
Higher education has been in the news in Pakistan. When rankings of universities are revealed we find none of our universities are in the top few hundred. When CSS examination results are announced, the dismal performance of candidates elicits comments about the poor quality of our higher education. When university graduates are found amongst the ranks of extremists and fundamentalists, questions are raised about what they are being taught, if anything, in universities. When the quality of research publications is talked about, our universities are found to be wanting. When internationally known academics are ranked, we get to know that we do not have even a few working out of Pakistan.
I became a sauna addict early on. The first hurdle was to come to terms with being naked with strangers of all shapes, sizes and age. Once you realize that no one cares about that, it’s easy.
Then there’s the heat. Finns are proud of their sauna tradition—the earliest written accounts of Finnish saunas are from the 1100s—and although saunas are popular in other parts of northern Europe, Finns think theirs are the best.
The early wood saunas used to be in pits in the sides of hills in woods and Lapland still has wood-fired saunas in the middle of forests. Now, most saunas, especially the ones in people’s homes, have electric stoves, which are good, but not quite the same as wood-fired ones. There are new-fangled infrared saunas too but a true Finn would sneer at them.
Data ranging from cooling of inflation to a rebound in exports and factory output suggest a favourable shift in the economic climate, recovering from the disruption caused by rollout of goods and services tax (GST) and the aftershocks of the Narendra Modi government’s demonetisation move. The trend gives optimism to experts for an uptick in economic growth rate in the coming quarters.
Even as the BJP is gearing up to use the ‘Gujarat model of development’ in the upcoming assembly elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh as its USP, former BJP chief minister of the state Suresh Mehta, who has had a long-standing political career there ending in 2002, has come down heavily on its industrial model. In an interview with The Wire, he listed the failures of successive Gujarat governments over the past decade.
Citing the government’s own data, he also questioned the priorities of the Gujarat model, which he says favours only the rich.
At a time when India’s capital city has been enveloped by a blanket of smog with air quality ranging between ‘severe’ and ‘very poor’ post Diwali celebration, a study has found that the country occupies the top spot globally in terms of pollution-related deaths in 2015.
According to a report in The Lancet medical journal, pollution caused nine million deaths in 2015 – three times more than AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined.
India accounted for 2.5 million of those deaths – also topping the list of deaths linked to polluted air (1.81 million) and water (0.64 million) – with China following close behind at 1.8 million.
The study carried out by The Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health states that one in six of all deaths worldwide are caused by pollution with the vast majority – over 90% – occurring in developing and rapidly industrialising countries such as India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Madagascar and Kenya.