Sunday, December 27, 2009

Simplex, duplex, complex, multiplex ?

Having been re-accustomed with examinations recently, I have been hearing people say "This is complex" or  "That's actually simple" more often that I began wondering what actually the word simple/simplicity means. Well, the reasoning was simple enough - something that's simple for a person might not be same for the other. That just not shows, but proves that 'simple' and 'complex' are relative terms, a mere shamming up of words that people came up with to hide their incapabilities. And I am the culprit to be blamed as I was at the receiving end most of the times - most things appeared complex to me. And the worst misnomer (according to me) in the past 6 months was a tool called "SimpleScalar", which is full blown out-of-order processor simulator!! Well, while thirty of us thought it was extremely complex, there was someone who thought it was 'Simple'....

When someone says something is simple, it is a clear indication that he/she is in complete understanding of a particular aspect of the thing. But wait, does this mean he/she is an expert on that thing..? No, this is again a relative measure - a measure that only you, yourself can come up with and is therefore highly a personal grading of your relative understanding of the subject. There is every possibility that your understanding of the subject is completely incorrect and therefore you find it simple. Nevertheless, the fact and truth is that "your" perception of the subject is perfect under your evaluation and therefore it becomes simple. The aspect that your understanding being incorrect is irrelevant of it being simple for you. It is simple but incorrect, but simple nevertheless.

That brings me to the another ambiguous analogy of simplicity. A very vague analogical example which most of us can associate to is the 'simplicity' that we relate to asceticism. We say ascetics lead a simple life - where the simple is just one of our definitions - with respect to material aspects or renunciation. But, there are people still leading a simple life despite this renunciation - are they less simple? less spiritual? Isn't  it their definition of simple that actually matters and not ours? This analogy is further made difficult by the fact that a large percentage of characters that we Indians look upto for spirituality have seemingly mixed simplicity. For instance Shri Ramakrishna was a man that would match a definition of economical and visual simplicity whereas Shri Vivekananda has throughout led a complex life- running institutions, writing books, asking questions, answering them, giving conferences, making public appearances; all that negates our definition of being simple. So is simplicity an essential ingredient for attaining peace ?

In both of the above versions of simplicity - an object and of a person - it is very evident that we rely upon the definition of the term simple. When we refer to an object as being complex, aren't we explicitly trying to provide an excuse for our incapability of understanding it? When we say that we lack peace due to our complex lifestyle, aren't we again providing an excuse for our incapability of retaining a mental balance? Looking back, it seems that I have been providing ample examples of my incapability in the past years ;). And if you were wondering why this post all of a sudden - I was trying to understand waveform multiplexing and I found it complex!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Whats your Avatar?

"The thing that I can't tolerate is, there's soon going to be this next dumb quiz on facebook -  What's your avatar? " said my friend, after the movie ended, and while we were walking down the dark alleys on a silent and cold night, on our way back home. That summed up our feelings for the night, after a movie that sure excited us by its awesome graphics and pure innovation. Truly, we were all taken to the Pandora's for a little over couple of hours. Summed up by James Cameron as one of his life achievements even before the movie released, this baby of his is definitely worth a watch. Its truly creditable that the entire movie, right from its conception until its execution was in its own realm of unbridled imagination and ecstasy.

With very little story value, the movie, Avatar, has the freedom to explore the hidden depths of one's imaginative mind. And it definitely has taken advantage of this freedom of imagination resulting in a stupendous visual feast - the colours throughout the movie are simply amazing. The fluorescent flowers, the huge leaves, the multi-legged creatures, the winged mounts that soar the skies - all these form the core of the movie that charms the audience and binds them by its sheer magic.

The movie is a must watch, if you would allow yourself to be guiled by the lack of logic and science. And when you are given a date that far out in the future, you are entitled the rights to throw in gadgets and concepts as you like. Avatar is short of neither, and you have everything right from machines that transmit brain signals across to a different biological entity to a civilization that makes use of neural networks of the orders of 10^12 that enables them communicate with trees and animals alike. After dealing with Asymptotics for half the year, these numbers seemed to be more than realistic to me though. The screenplay, if there was any, was simple and clean with no major hiccups or aberrations. The entire movie was apparently taken with the help of human motion sensors to capture the motions of actors in the set and transmit them to the natives that makes it amazingly realistic.

Just so that the review remains fair enough and covers all aspects of the movie and to bring back the admirers from the sheer awesomeness of the visual treat, I would probably have to bring out things that struck me rather ordinary in the movie. The story would instantly remind you of any tamil/telugu movie flick with its standard package of romance and heroism. And, my international friends, if you have liked those aspects of the movie in particular, I'd recommend that you watch a few Indian movies with/without sub-titles which I am sure are full of these. And if you make sense of just one of these movies, its just a contextual switch that you need to flip and language isn't a barrier any more. The indicator random variable would invariably point to 1 up, then on.. :-)

Length of the movie was another thing that I have always wanted directors to be aware of, perhaps with the rare exception of a few movies that have a very strong story line to back up the length. While not withstanding the fact that Avatar is a visual treat (esp in 3D which I've heard is simply awesome), the 165 min runtime seemed to be an overkill for the movie. It's my firm belief that no matter how good or beautiful a particular feature is- an overdose is definitely a killer.

As a final note, I would definitely recommend the movie- its truly a next step forward as far as the technology and innovation is concerned. However, I'd definitely not rate it at par with the Lord of the rings, Troy, or A Beautiful Mind. It wasn't designed to compete with movies of this genre, but to create a new class of its own!