November 2008

Here is V Gangadhar’s explanation for why Indians should celebrate Valentines day. V Gangadhar writes the column ‘Slice of Iife’ in The Hindu newspaper on Sundays. Taken from the archives of Slice of life.

Manmadhan was in the habit of shooting arrows made of fragrant flowers at his victims, making them fall in love. Somewhat like Cupid of Greek legend. Unfortunately, Manmadhan once fooled around with Shiva, the Angry Young God, who was not known to be particularly romantic. On being struck by the romantic arrow, Shiva reacted strongly. He opened his third eye, discharged the requisite fire reducing poor Manmadhan to ashes. I do not know when this exactly happened but it would be nice to celebrate the martyrdom of Manmadhan as our version of Valentine’s Day.


Gmail has now made available a wide variety of themes (more than 500 as far as I could count) for its users. Unlike their orkut counterparts these themes dont fill in your window but just give an ambience. The one that caught my attention was Phantasea designed by Mathew Paul. Its a dynamic theme – it changes its colours according to your place and time (takes one of three colours). Those who lose track of time in the internet now have a free wake up call. The one with predominantly blue shade looks very nice. Somehow my iGoogle page and Gmail are showing different shades of the theme though I have set the same time-zones for both ! Some varieties of this theme have been displayed in Mathew Pauls page.

I checked out some more themes. There are themes on Newyork, London, Paris and many other cities. Filmy themes are in general diasappointing. There is one for Tom cruise, Asin (!), Surya-Jo, Abhi-Ash, Katrina Kaif Amir Khan … The Rajnikanth theme could have had its music also to give a real feel for the fans of the superstar! The chroma Velveteen red featurse a nice shade of red. Nature lovers would like the monument valley, misty morning and natural details ; secret garden is really good. No theme on Sachin; There is one on the 64-cross-64 chess board which has been a source of inspiration as much for designers as for brainiacs.

Meanwhile if you are an artist for yourself you can create themes of your own and make it available for others.

While reading through the achievements of the Kerala school of mathematics I came across the Madhava-Leibniz formula for computing the value of pi/4. Though the formula was discovered by Madhava its popularly known as Leibniz formula. This is an instance of Stiglers Law, which is the tendency of NOT attributing a discovery to its original discoverer.

Popular instances of the law include the United States of America, Halleys comet, Planck’s constant and, to my surprise, Gaussian distribution! I came to know that the Gaussian distribution was not first proposed by Gauss, a very late discovery for a communication engineer. The distribution was first proposed by de Moivre of the de Moivre-Laplace formula to approximate binomial distributions for large n. Now by recursive application of Stiglers Law can we say that De Moivre also was not the first proposer of the normal distribution ?