Showing posts from January, 2009

The Origin of Tradition: A Monkey Experiment

I got this in an email, and it was so interesting that i had to share it on my blog. I don't know if the experiment it describes has actually been carried out, but even if it is merely hypothetical, it does raise some thought-provoking questions. I have translated the urdu text beneath the pictures for those who don't understand the language. How traditions and customs are born? A group of scientists put 5 monkeys in a cage. In that cage they also placed a ladder and some bananas on top of it. Whenever a monkey began to climb that ladder, the scientists started sprinkling water on the monkeys standing below. After this event, whenever a monkey tried to climb that ladder driven by the desire to eat bananas, the monkeys standing below did not allow him to climb. After a while, despite the lure of bananas, no monkey had the courage to climb that ladder. The scientists decided to replace one of the monkeys. The first thing the new monkey did was to climb the ladder but immediat

Diary of a Pakistani Schoolgirl

By 2002, literacy figures for the female population in Swat had risen upto 75%, a figure far more than most other areas of Pakistan. The Taliban in Swat are now threatening the very existence of female education, greatly reversing the progress that had been made in the previous years. However, it will take more than just blasts to silence people: the voice of a seventh-grade girl in Swat is catching the attention of the rest of the world, as she chronicles her daily life and documents the atrocious rule of the Taliban. The diary first appeared on BBC Urdu online, and its extracts are available online on BBC News. The links to its entries are given below: i) ii) iii)

The Grapes of Wrath: The Bank, The Monster, The Society...

Since some days i have been finding myself recalling with increasing frequency a certain portion from the novel 'The Grapes of Wrath' by John Steinbeck. I am posting some selections from Chapter 5 of the novel. The extracts taken are from separate places in the text and have been joined to form a continuous narrative, '...' representing the point of cleavage. The situation is that of a Bank taking over a land from its tenants due to the decreasing produce and the decreasing profits. The narrative beautifully expresses the frustration of the tenants and their inability to understand the legality of the issue, and how something called a 'Bank' which they see as a 'monster', can take over a land which the tenants believe to be rightfully their's. The owners of the land came onto the land, or more often a spokesman for the owners came.... And all of them were caught in something larger than themselves. Some of them hated the mathematics that

Blasphemy Law: Children Detained, Mob Attacks Ahmedis

Amidst all the religious turmoil in country, arises yet another blasphemy case. However, this is the first time in the history of the infamous blasphemy law in Pakistan that Ahmedi children have been made a victim to it. And it is not just a simple matter that a case was registered against these children and they were detained by police, but a mob of angry, zealous believers, reportedly led by the banned organization Jamaatud Dawa, has tried to burn down the houses of Ahmedis in Layyah. So much for religious tolerance... Here is what Daily Times has to say on the matter: Mob tries to burn houses of Ahmadis in Layyah * HRCP alarmed over four children’s detention on blasphemy charges * FIR says local MNA’s uncle ‘probed’ the incident at his outhouse By Abdul Manan LAHORE: A mob – led reportedly by members of banned religious organisations – tried to set ablaze houses of Ahmadis in Layyah on Thursday, a day after four children belonging to the minority community were detained on charges o


The ultimate weakness: having neither the strength to fight, nor the courage to give up.


"It is not their love for humanity but the impotence of their love which hinders the Christians of today from — burning us." Friedrich Nietzsche, Aphorism 104, Beyond Good and Evil

The Smile

The Smile by M. Awais Aftab Trrrcch! Something broke And her smile flew away Flew with wings Till it landed on his face He recognized the smile; the lips who owned it He knew he had to return it So he seeked her And found her But the smile would not rest On either of them Without longing for the other So they both shared it And two pairs of lips united with a single smile

Bluff your way in Philosophy

I recently got my hands on an interesting, humorous book ' Bluff your way in Philosophy ' by Jim Hankinson, about how to pretend to be competent in philosophy during conversations while having little idea of what it actually is. Apart from its tips for the bluffers, the book is also a brilliant satire on the lives and ideas of philosophers. Here are a few selections: 'Another useful line with Plato is to argue either: 1) that he was a feminist; 2) that he wasn't. Both claims can be supported, and each may turn out to be handy (at different times, of course). The evidence for 1) is that in Book 3 of the Republic, he says women should not be discriminated against in matters of employment solely because they are women. In favour of 2) is the fact that immediately afterwards he remarks that since women are so much less talented that men by nature, this 'liberalisation' will hardly make any difference anyway.' 'When talking about, or (safer) simply mentioning


Seeing the writing on the back of a rickshaw: Yeh sab meri maan ki dua hay. ('It is all because of my mother's prayers.') X: Too bad his mother didn't pray for a Mercedes Benz!

The Saudi-isation of Pakistan

Pervez Hoodbhoy has always been among the few sane voices to be heard from the Pakistani intelligentsia, and he has dared to speak and write about matters that few do. Read his recent article here .

Taliban and Pakistan

'In the current spirit of nationalism, it is hard to avoid an impression that many Pakistanis are relieved to be unified against the one enemy they can all agree on, India. By constrast, many remain deeply sceptical about their need to tackle terrorism and a Taliban insurgency at home, despite over 50 suicide bomb blasts in Pakistan last year .' 'United against the wrong enemy', The Economist, December 20th 2008 issue 'The Pakhtun who experience the full range of Talibanisation, day and and day out, know that Taliban atrocities are not going to end with a dialogue. The Taliban have an agenda of a savage social order to be imposed on the people. The Pakhtun are not ready for that and this is the reason why they are bearing the brunt of the Taliban savagery . Hatred against the Taliban in the Pakhtun areas is at an all-time high and so is disappointment, even resentment, about the Pakistani army for its failure to stop the Taliban. All over the NWFP and FATA one can

Erwin Schrödinger: On the shore

Not many know that Erwin Schrödinger, the Nobel Laureate Physicist, who made vital contributions to Quantum Mechanics, and is well known in popular culture for his 'Cat Experiment', also wrote love poetry (inspired by many love affairs he had in his lifetime). Here is a sample poem: On the shore When on the shore of Wicklow after the bathe we from each others mouth kissed the cherries from each others mouths, tell me just what would it mean? Is it a pastime for any two? When on the shore of Wicklow I with my cheek 'gainst your bare arm leaning went asleep against your bare arm leaning tell me, just what did it mean? Is it a pastime for any two? When one the shore of Wicklow I'll once embrace with all my strength will once embrace you what is that going to mean: that you thenceforth from me shall not go, never go.


X: It was God's will. Maybe He has a better plan for you. Y: I will not make God an excuse for the unfairness of this society!

The Secret Behind Make-Up

It seems alot is going on within a woman's brain as she applies make-up to her face... After two years of research work, headed by Dr Ken Mogi, scientists now have a better idea of the cognitive processes involved in a woman's perception of herself with and without make-up: 'Using a brain scanner, the scientists were able to monitor activity in the caudate nucleus of the brain and confirm that when a woman sees her own face without make-up, she anticipates how she will eventually appear to others and a "reward system" is activated, releasing dopamine to give sensations of pleasure. "We know from previous research that when this area of the brain is activated we can derive pleasure from certain activities," said Keishi Saruwatari, of Kanebo's laboratories. "We interpret that as meaning that when a woman looks at her face she is imagining how she will look when she has applied her make-up. "There is a mixture of expectation, encouragement an

Freedom in Society

"The truth is, of course, that external conditions modify human nature, and that harmony between the two is to be sought by a mutual interaction. A man taken from one environment and plunged suddenly into another may be by no means free, and yet the new environment may give freedom to those accustomed to it. We cannot therefore deal with freedom without taking account of the possibility of variable desires owing to changing environment. In some cases this makes the attainment of freedom more difficult, since a new environment, while satisfying old desires, may generate new ones which it cannot satisfy." Bertrand Russell , Freedom in Society The situation is worsening particularly in our society, as exposure to the outside world and their liberal ideas are influencing the youth, bringing to them a new consciousness and generating in them beliefs and desires, that the present society does not morally and socially allow or has no means of fulfilling. No, i do not wish to say tha

Uljha Hua Sa

Suljha Hua Sa Fard Samjhte Hain Mujhko Log Uljha Hua Sa Mujh Mein Koi Doosra Bhi Hai I don't know who the poet is.


Haiku By Muhammad Awais Aftab The accusations The anonymous shouts -- But I smile [Published in Us Poet's Corner ]


Faith is the ability to not panic. Anonymous

The Teleological Argument

[ Discussing whether a patient's breasts are real or fake ] Dr. House: [ to Chase ] I'll bet you two clinic hours those love apples are hand-crafted by God! Dr. Foreman: I thought you didn't believe in God. Dr. House: I do now! House, Episode # 2.13

Biological differences between sexes 'may be determined after birth'

'One is not born a woman, but becomes one.' Simone de Beauvoir Here's a recent scientific research that the students of gender studies would be interested in: Biological differences between sexes 'may be determined after birth' By Jon Swaine at The finding signals that not all sex-specific characteristics develop in the womb during pregnancy, as was previously thought. Scientists came to the discovery by giving baby female rats treatment normally reserved by mother rats for their sons. Mother rats typically spend more time grooming males. Previous studies have suggested this is necessary for their genitalia to develop properly. The researchers, from the University of Wisconsin, stroked baby female rats in a similar way. They found that the number of receptors for oestrogen - the female sex hormone - in the stroked rats' brains was lower than in those not stroked, and were of similar levels to that in male rats' brains. On inspection of the ra


Years pass, and you come to regret some of the things you have done. And you wish to apologize to someone, to just let them know that you are sorry. But doing so might only scratch old wounds. That person has moved on; you have moved on. Can silence be the best apology?

The Ideal Lifestyle

X: Unfortunately, most Pakistani women (of older generation, at least) have a particular mentality. In our society we are taught that there is only ONE lifestyle that means happiness; ONE ideal of lifestyle. And if your life deviates from that one ideal lifestyle, then you cannot be happy (and even if you are happy, society will gradually talk into your mind that you are not happy). For girls, it states that they have to marry a good guy because only then they are set for the happy life. With all the rishta competition in Pakistan, the race against time to find a proposal before all the good ones are taken and before the "expiry date" of the girl is reached, the gossips, and other bla bla, every mother believes that she has to make sure her daughter has a happy life, and that in delaying her rishta and marriage, she is actually risking the happiness of her daughter's whole remaining life; she has so much at stake from her point of view."

MS Paint Tag

Vasudha passed on an interesting Tag to me recently, so this post is in response to that. The rules are: The person who tags you gives you five different words and you have to make five pictures based on those words using MS-Paint only. After doing the tag, you have to tag 5 other people and give them 5 words for their pictures. The five words she gave me were: > Self-portrait > A stethoscope ['cuz you're a doc, too :) ] > Dr. Miranda Bailey (from Grey’s Anatomy) [Because you watch the show too :D ] > A philosopher > Freedom [Would love to see your interpretation.] Here it goes! Self portrait in Jackson Pollock style! :D That's the best i could do on MS Paint without losing artistic credibility :P Lub-Dub, Lub-Dub... i can hear your heart beat ;) Miranda Bailey... the Nazi of Seattle Grace Hospital! A philosopher stuck in reflection... The last of human freedoms... something you can find even in a caged cell. This is an open tag from me... anyone who wants

Some Medical Ironies

* Anti-histamines, the drugs commonly used to treat allergy, can themselves cause an allergic reaction in certain people. * Ciprofloxacin, the antibiotic used to treat 'traveller's diarrhea' can itself cause diarrhea as a side-effect. * Some drugs used in the chemotherapy for cancer (such as Alkylating agents) are so toxic that they themselves can cause the development of secondary cancers. * Anti-arrythmic drugs, used to treat the arrythmias (abnormal beatings) of heart, have the capability of producing arrythmias.


And the doctor said to the prophet, "What you experience is not revelaton; this is psychosis; this is schizophrenia; this is epilepsy." And the prophet said, "Maybe so, but then that is way God made me capable of talking to Him." ( Paraphrasing something my brother once said to me. )