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This week's Pocket reading list : Week 2 of Nov.

Rocket men : Human breath can be used to diagnose patients for certain illness. While people have tried developing instruments that can analyze our breath to look for symptoms, it's a very hard problem to crack given the low concentrations of molecules involved. Cue three rocket scientists - one who had worked on lasers, one who had worked on photonics and analyzing molecular spectral data and the third who had worked on gas flow. They developed a portable machine which can accurately detect Ammonia in human breath, thereby helping diagnose patients.

The Two Cultures of Computing : There are two kinds of people that I know of - the first kind who quarrel about which the best text editor is (VIM FTW) and the second kind who look at us and wonder why we're quarreling over which the best text editor is. This is such an account. More elaborate. More examples.

Everything You've Heard About Chastity Belts Is a Lie : For those who don't know what it is, a Chastity Belt is something that women apparently wore to prevent them from cheating on their husbands who were off fighting battles. Which is all apparently bull, according to this (sound) article.

Impact of Social Sciences – How Academia Resembles a Drug Gang : I've been reading a lot about what prospects recent PhDs and first-time post-docs have in academia, how many of them are comfortable going out of academia and so on. This is an interesting comparison of academia with drug gangs.

The Source Of The Student Debt Crisis Is Not Expensive Tuition : Student debt in the US has been blowing up over the last decade and apparently it's not because of expensive tuition fees now-a-days. It's apparently because of higher rate of enrollment at for-private universities and because of the bleak economic conditions into which the graduates are stepping into, thereby increasing the chances that they will default on their loan payments. Read the article for a more thorough account.

Meet The Obscure Company Behind America’s Syria Fiasco : Honestly, the more I read about militaries, the more I think that they are the least productive and least effective parts of the governments, into which money always flows with little to no end result. This is one such account of how contractors hired by the US military ended up with things getting messy.

Full text of Raghuram Rajan's address at IIT Delhi: Tolerance is essential for economic progress : Raghuram Rajan is the Man! This is a brilliant speech on the importance of tolerance and being intellectually stimulated, especially from the brilliant minds being trained at IITs, to move the country ahead.

Dolphin Intelligence : People have been trying to understand why Dolphins are as intelligent as they are, for over five decades apparently. This is an account of the past and the present inter-disciplinary efforts being made to understand them and communicate with them.

How People Living at Earth's Extremes Reveal the Genome's Best Tricks : Different peoples are genetically predisposed to better fight certain diseases or conditions. Also, when a clinical study is being undertaken to understand the effects of a drug, considering the white, male american/european as a substitute for the sheer diversity of human population is kinda dumb. This is an account of how understanding the diversity in the human genome might help us understand how some of us have evolved to fight certain diseases, which in turn might help us help the rest of the human population.

8 Places Where the Curiosity Rover Left Drill Holes on Mars : Take a minute to understand the fact that men (and women. NASA/USA basically) able to send a whole bunch of instruments on wheels (curiosity) to Mars. This vehicle can move about on the planet, is being controlled from Earth, takes amazing pictures and drills holes to understand the surface composition better.

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on MOOCs.

For those of you who don't know, MOOC stands for Massively Open Online Course.

The internet is an awesome thing. It's making education free for all. Well, mostly free. But it's surprising at the width and depth of courses being offered online. And it looks like they are also having an impact on students, especially those from universities that are not top ranked. Students in all parts of the world can now get a first class education experience, thanks to courses offered by Stanford, MIT, Caltech, etc.

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On programmers.

I just watched this brilliant keynote today. It's a commentary on Programmers and the software development industry/ecosystem as a whole.



I am not going to give you a tl;dr version of the talk because it is a talk that I believe everyone should watch, that everyone should learn from. Instead, I am going to give my own parallel-ish views on programmers and programming.
As pointed out in the talk, there are mythical creatures in the software development industry who are revered as gods. Guido Van Rossum, the creator of Python, was given the title Benevolent Dictator For Life (BDFL). People flock around the creators of popular languages or libraries. They are god-like to most programmers and are treated like gods. By which, I mean to say, we assume they don't have flaws. That they are infallible. That they are perfect.
And alongside this belief in the infallibility of these Gods, we believe that they were born programmers. That programming is something that people are born wit…