Saturday, March 26, 2011

who are Alice and Bob??


Who are alice and bob?
That is the question...

The wikipedia article on the topic refers to placeholder names as  : "words that can refer to objects or people whose names are either temporarily forgotten, irrelevant, or unknown in the context in which it is being discussed"

So.. to put it bluntly,  Alice and Bob are our arbitrary heroes.

What other such arbitrary names do we use in our daily life?


  1. Let's begin ( arbitrarily ) with : Alice and Bob - who are widely used names in the fields of physics and cryptography.
     
  2. When it comes to legal documents and proceedings, the name most commonly used is John Doe, and lets not forget Jane, his female companion
     
  3. And in mathematics, as we are all aware the, defacto name of an unknown variable is - x . ( the actual sequence in order of frequency of use of alphabets for naming variables is : x, y, a, b, z, c, p, q, r )
     
  4. As far as words go, the most common name for a variable, function or constant is : "apple" ( http://drjim.0catch.com/hcii05-368-wordfrequency.pdf )
     
  5. In the field of computing , the arch typical arbitrary words we use to represent variables, contants, functions or values when learning or demonstration concepts are foo and bar
     
  6. And even before we move on to variables, who can forget the most common arbitrary string used the very first time we begin any programming language - "Hello, World"
     
  7. Increasingly commonly, I've been not only seeing, but also adoptiong the replacement of foo and bar with "apple" and "sauce"
     
  8. Andy Lester ( http://www.oreillynet.com/onlamp/blog/2004/03/the_worlds_two_worst_variable.html ) claims that the worst name most often used for a variable is - "data" . And the second worst ? - surprisingly enough : "data2"
     
And while we are on the topic of Alice and Bob, if you have time, you might want to read The Alice and Bob After Dinner Speech given at the Zurich Seminar, April 1984, by John Gordon, by invitation of Professor James Massey. ( http://downlode.org/Etext/alicebob.html ). It's a wee bit lengthy, but a nice humorous and light hearted attempt to understand the story behind cryptology's favorite heroes - Alice and Bob

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Unanswered questions in life

Why is it always much more fun to wear a full-sleeved shirt and then roll up the sleeves than to wear a short-sleeved one to begin with???

Is it the hard worker in us who like the fruit of his own labor ?

Is it the mad scientist in us who is always eager to re-invent the wheel ?

Is it the non-conformist in is who never likes things for what they really are ?

Is it the multitasker in us who likes the idea of having multiple options at our disposal ?




Sunday, March 13, 2011

Birth of a new Japan

Undoubtedly, we've all been glued to our TV screens and computer monitors for the last couple of days, this time around not for some celebrity gossip or for watching cute cats, but to get a glimpse of what's happening down in Japan. Thousands of lives lost, Millions of Billions worth of property losses, the landscape completely savaged by the waters, impending Nuclear threat.... Really makes one feel humbled before the power of almighty mother earth.

But, for a moment, lets keep all this sorrow aside and take an analytical  look at what this means and what the future holds...
As horrifying the scene might be, you can consider it a bit of luck ( no disrespect meant ) that it wasn't some other nation which faced this situation. If that were the case, the death toll would have been exponentially higher. Japan was the best prepared nation to handle this kind of a situation - the extremely strict building laws, which require use of advanced techniques like hydraulic shock dampeners, base isolation pads and their carefully thought out contingency plans, their massive public awareness programs , 40ft tall sea walls- these all insured that the brunt of these disasters was drastically reduced.

But in spite of all these measures, the fact remains that Japan now lies in turmoil... people hurt, homeless a nation in distress. And think back to what happened the last time, the nation faced a crisis of this magnitude - 
  • They rebuild - undauntedly and with a perseverance which shocked the world.
  • People like Akio Morita , Kiichiro Toyoda and countless others revolutionalized the world of manufacturing and made the "Made in Japan" tag, one to be revered and feared
  • They not only rebuild their nation, but also their civilization . With social reforms though out the country, they metamorphosed  into a truly global village
  • The Japanese gave the world a lot a new things from fast bikes, reliable cars to compact computer storage to a whole new manufacturing philosophy(i'm talking of course about Kaizen and all that it signifies)
  • No body would have imagined what within 10-15 years, a nation of sword fighters, cherry blossoms and Geisha would completely transform the world of Technology
And that brings us back to the all important question --- what now?
Rebuild they will - that's granted, and so will they prosper. 
Will they be able to root out the extremely strict traditionalism which many believe is holding them back ?
Will they ,once again, tilt the world of technology , which has been, in the last few years , tilting in the favor of the Americans ?
And what other seemingly impossible feats will they be able to achieve ?
Only time will tell. ..
One thing is certain - they'll surprise us beyond our wildest imagination.

And to tell you the truth, that makes me kind of nervous....