Merchants of Doubt

This book is a very interesting read on how greedy companies can go to any lengths for profits and also how few influential people can change the policy decisions of governments by using the “element of doubt” as their weapon.
Here is the summary of what the book is all about –

This book shows us how fear of something can make us do anything. Even highly talented scientists can go to the extent of twisting/ignoring the facts out of their fears. Post second world war, when the cold war was at its peak, I think many scientists who worked on the atomic bomb were still having the fear that Soviet Union might attack USA anytime. The fear of communism taking over capitalism, resulted in few of the distinguished scientists going about blindly supporting the capitalists even when there was more than enough evidence of the harm the companies are causing. All over the book, we can see that the same set of scientists were involved in the issues of tobacco smoking, acid rain, post war (World War – II) nuclear arms development, effects of passive smoking, global warming, ozone layer depletion. The principle of free-market capitalism and importance of hearing “both sides” has been used and abused by people who didn’t want to admit the truth about the impacts of industrial capitalism.

Secondly, it’s sad to see the extremes to which companies can go to defend their products and protect their profits even if it’s at the cost of people’s lives. Though the industries discussed about in the book had conclusive evidence of the ill effects of smoking, acid rain, passive smoking, global warming, etc they kept lobbying to stop any kind of restrictions from the government. Under the cover of capitalism and freedom of speech these companies have ruined the environment and misled millions of people.

The other interesting point is how to defend yourself from criticism. All the lobbyists follow a simple principle of instilling doubts to mislead people. The strategy is simple….just start a controversy against the research, get it published in major newspapers and magazines that common people read and the job is done. The actual research and the results are generally published in all the science magazines that the common people don’t read often or don’t have access to. So, what reaches the public is the controversy than the actual facts.
That brings us to the impact of media and internet. We see that with the scores of 24×7 news channels all over, rise of Internet, anyone can now have their opinion heard, whether it is true or false. You pick any topic and there will always be opposing views on the internet. The burden is now on the people to check the credibility before blindly believing anything.

In conclusion, the below snippet from the book is one of the takeaways for me –
We take it for granted that great individuals – Gandhi, Kennedy, Martin Luther King – can have great positive impacts on the world. But we are loath to believe the same about negative impacts – unless the individuals are obvious monsters like Hitler or Stalin. But small number of people can have large, negative impacts, especially if they are organised, determined, and have access to power.

I would strongly suggest this book to anyone who has any kind of doubts about global warming, effects of tobacco smoking, acid rain, etc. It’s an interesting coincidence that just when I finished reading this book, I came across this report from IPCC.  If you read the book, you will see that it’s this IPCC report of previous years that has been thrashed many a times by these handful of scientists.


It’s been a long time since I posted anything here and its also an entirely different topic that I am writing about.
I had been facing problems with mouth ulcers since childhood and none of the home remedies, allopathy/homeopathy/ayurvedic medicines helped. Recently I saw an ad about Yakult on TV and was curious to know about it. I found out that its a probiotic drink with tons of lactobacillus bacteria in just 65 ml drink. I thought of giving it a try to see if that helps in anyway and it unexpectedly turned out to be the magic cure for my mouth ulcers. I have been having 1 Yakult per day (not very regularly but at least 3-4 times a week) for almost 2 months now and since then the mouth ulcers problem is totally gone. I was really really happy to finally find a solution for this chronic problem. So, I am sharing it here just in case someone else has the same issue.

Also, there is no guarantee that this will work for everyone. For some people using more curd in their diet helps and for some people mouth ulcers could be because of too much of stress. It’s just that Yakult worked for me and maybe it can also be given a try if you ran out of all other options. This Yakult ad is one of the very few good things that I learned because of watching TV 🙂 .

Bit Torrents

Was reading some news article today and from there landed up to a research study on bit-torrents titled “Is Content Publishing in BitTorrent Altruistic or Profit’Driven?“. It was an interesting study on content publishers and why they do it. The entire paper can be downloaded here. Was initially surprised to see the kind of topics that people take up for research. I liked the way they gathered the required data for their analysis and the tool they have come up with. Gives a good overall view about why people publish content on bit torrents.

The caterpillar

As mentioned in my previous post, here is the ultimate one…..the monster….the Caterpillar 777D mining truck. It’s a 1:50 die cast scaled mode and got this one also as a gift 🙂 . It’s one  of my most favorite trucks and the sheer size of the actual truck and every detail about it always excites me. Although I love lots of other trucks and earth movers, this truck is like my first love 😀 …….just like how Hoover dam never fails to enthuse me, the caterpillar mining truck is something I would never be bored with. Watched the caterpillar in the making multiple times in mega factories program in NGC and that will always be one of my most favorite ones in mega factories series. The other trucks that I like are the mammoets but still a long way to go before I can think of having one…..of course a scaled model 🙂 . By the way, did I mention that being a caterpillar truck driver is my dream profession 😀 .

Goodbye E-72

I thought I actually made a post about my new E-72 and was trying to link to that but then realized that I never wrote about it 🙂 . Anyways bought a new nokia E-72 this august and finally I sold it off today. Though I bought it after a lot of research, somehow did not appeal to me much. So, at last took the decision and bid goodbye to it today. Now the search starts all over again. Whether android, rim or apple is the question but no symbian again for sure. Good bye to nokia forever.

And here comes the boeing-747

Got my first scaled model of a boeing-747 as a gift recently 🙂 . Looks really cool and a perfect time to get it when I recently got two more books on air planes. Just started reading the book The Sporty Game: The High-Risk Competitive Business of Making and Selling Commercial Airliners. Have another one lined up.And just around this time downloaded a few air crash investigations episodes and also a series on building the airbus A380. Right now its all air planes….air planes and more air planes 😀 .

But the real big thing is about to come 😀 ……will be posting about it the coming weekend and when I say big, it’s really big and the ultimate one I always wanted to have. So, keep watching this space for the monster 🙂 .

Hi-Tech traffic ticket

Last weekend I had some work in a bank and parked my car just outside the bank. It was a service road and generally cars are parked on the service road in Bangalore. After finishing my work in the bank and coming back to the car, I saw a parking ticket  on the windshield of my car. It was supposed to be No Parking area but as always, there was no sign mentioning it. The cop who gave the ticket was still there and on the ticket it was mentioned that I have to pay Rs. 100 fine within 24 hours. So, went to him to ask where to pay and he said I can pay it to him.

He then took out his blackberry 😯 , entered all my details and then took a print out of the receipt from the mini printer 😯 he had in his hand. The whole process took just some 3 mins or so and no bribes nothing. The money would go straight to state exchequer and not into his pocket. Though I heard sometime back about traffic police using blackberry’s in Bangalore, never got a chance to see it for myself. Was really surprised (and also a bit happy inspite of getting the ticket 🙂 ) to see how hi-tech our Bangalore traffic police have become.

I hope they would show the same amount of seriousness in managing the traffic as well 😛 .

An update (10 sep 2010) – Got another one this morning in a similar way 🙁 . Need to be more careful now.

Rakesh turns 26

Rakesh/raki/rocky…..turns 26 today 🙂 . Another year older and when I look back at the 25th year, it has been one of the most eventful years in my life.  There have been many developments both in my personal and work life. But today what made me to actually make this post is not those events but this feeling of mine when I got up this morning……..I was still not completely awake and I heard some activity going on in the kitchen already. It’s my mom in the kitchen who started off with her daily chores. Its been 26 years today and every day….every single day, she has been there for us irrespective of how she was.

I still faintly remember how she used to walk me to my school bus stop when I was a kid….of course I also remember how she used to beat me when I refused to go to school 😀 . She gave up her own career so that I can have a good future. Its been 5 years since I left Hyderabad….2 years in IIT and 3 years in bangalore, I was having fun but back in Hyderabad she was always thinking about me. Even now when I go to home, she says its better not to come as she doesn’t like it when I go back to bangalore.

So, this birthday its to my mom because of whom I am what I am today. All I can say is thank you mom 🙂 .

From 28 to 32

Before anyone comes up with any weird guesses 😀 , I am talking about my waist size 🙂 . Yes, you read it right…..I am talking about my waist here which shows how happy I am. All these years I always wanted to put on weight and was never able to inspite of whatever I did. My waist size has always been 28 and it used to be always difficult to find many options for jeans. Now at last, my weight is 60+ (between 61 – 63) for almost 4 months now and that’s really an achievement for me 😀 . Today I went to get a jeans and surprisingly, waist size 32 was fitting fine….though 30 was kind of ok, 32 was more comfortable. So, finally I crossed the barrier of 28 🙂 .

Food food and food….

Thanks  to Amith who took me to Alibaba Cafe & Restaurant for the first time. I must say, it’s the best place to have mutton. Yes!! this post is all about where and how I ended up in finding this Arabian restaurant….though the name has cafe in it, its definitely not one of those Irani cafe’s in Hyderabad 😀 . This place is known for the Arabian delicacies and the mutton served there is really tender. My favourite is sukhe maas (mutton) along with gawapolis. They have a special biryani made only during weekends called khuboos. Also the tea served here is also great.

I like the food there so much that I take the pains to drive 45 mins (one way) in bangalore traffic to eat mutton 😀 . The route to this place is a confusing one and consistently I have always gone through the same wrong route 🙂 but somehow ended up reaching the place. I would definitely suggest this place to any pure non-veggie visiting Bangalore.