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Faculty Sections / Shahbag protesters versus the Butcher of Mirpur
« on: February 13, 2013, 12:43:09 PM »
Abdul Quader Mollah has finally been convicted of war crimes committed in Bangladesh in 1971. Now a huge popular protest in Dhaka's Shahbag district is demanding the death penalty

    Tahmima Anam
        Tahmima Anam   
        The Guardian, Wednesday 13 February 2013   

It all began with a victory sign. When Abdul Quader Mollah, assistant secretary-general of Bangladesh's Jamaat-e-Islami party, emerged from the supreme court on the afternoon of Tuesday 4 February, he turned to the press waiting outside, smiled, and made a victory sign. An odd reaction for a man just sentenced to life in prison.

Mollah smiled because for him, a man convicted of beheading a poet, raping an 11-year-old girl and shooting 344 people during the 1971 Bangladesh war of independence – charges that have earned him the nickname the Butcher of Mirpur – the life sentence came as a surprise. Earlier this month, a fellow accused, Abul Kalam Azad, who is reputed to have fled to Pakistan, was sentenced to death in absentia.

When Mollah emerged from the courthouse, a group of online activists and bloggers assembled to protest against the verdict, demanding that Mollah, like Azad, be given the death sentence. They set up camp in Shahbag, an intersection at the heart of Dhaka, near the university campus, and staged a small sit-in. They collected a few donations and ordered khichuri (a mixture of rice and lentils) to keep them going through the night. Word spread on Facebook and Twitter. The next day, a few news channels began covering their protest. By the end of the week, they had managed to put together the biggest mass demonstration the country has seen in 20 years.

The movement – centred around Shahbag, which some have renamed Projonmo Chottor (New Generation Roundabout) – shows no sign of abating. It reached its peak on Friday, when the organisers called a grand rally. Numbers vary, but are estimated to have been anywhere from 100,000 to 500,000. Traffic in the city, already notoriously slow, ground to a halt. Because it was a weekend, many people brought their children, their faces painted in the red and green of the Bangladeshi flag. The mood was like that of a fairground, with vendors selling fried snacks and spicy puffed rice; small groups within the throng sat in circles, singing, reciting poems and playing guitars. A tailor set up his sewing machine, making replicas of the national flag for people to wear around their heads. A play was staged at one end of the roundabout.

For people like me who are opposed to capital punishment, Shahbag has posed an uncomfortable question: can a movement that began with a call for the death penalty, with cries of Fashi Chai! Fashi Chai! (Let him hang!) go beyond a simple baying for blood?

But the call for Mollah's death is about more than revenge. He committed his crimes during Bangladesh's nine-month struggle for independence from Pakistan in 1971. Mollah and the 11 others who stand trial with him – 10 of whom are members of Jamaat-e-Islami – are accused of collaborating in war crimes with the Pakistani army. Between March and December of that year, the Pakistani army unleashed a campaign of mass murder against Bangladeshi civilians. War crimes were ubiquitous in 1971 – as is evidenced by the discovery of mass graves throughout the country, Pakistani documents detailing operations and massacres, hit-lists of local collaborators, journalists' reports, photographs and video footage, and, most importantly, the eyewitness accounts of the survivors.

Since Bangladesh's independence, the state had done little to bring people such as Mollah to justice. The erasure of the war began in 1972 with the granting of amnesty to the Pakistani army officers who led the killings. During the decades of political turmoil that followed in Bangladesh, the war, and its crimes, were buried, while one regime after another contributed to the rehabilitation of the Jamaat party. Internationally, charges of genocide were never formally brought to the United Nations. The world quickly forgot the Bangladesh war.

That is why Mollah flashed his victory sign outside the courthouse. because, for the first 40 years of independent Bangladesh, no government had sought to try him; because he, along with the rest of his party, were courted by politicians at home and abroad. His fellow party leaders were elected to parliament and made ministers. None of them ever thought they would appear in court. One of Mollah's fellow accused is rumoured to have regularly announced in public: "I am a Razakar!" (war criminal).

The tide finally turned in 2008, when the Awami League (the party whose then leader, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, had led the independence movement) won a landslide victory at the general election. The campaign included a promise to set up a tribunal to prosecute those who had committed war crimes in 1971. The International Crimes Tribunal was set up in 2010. Since then, the court has been gathering evidence and hearing testimonies against the accused.

Because the trial has been so long in the making, the verdicts are watched by millions of people waiting anxiously to see if their families will finally get justice. And for them, after 42 years, a life sentence for a man convicted of mass murder, arson and rape was not punishment enough.
Abdul Quader Mollah victory salute Abdul Quader Mollah offers a victory salute after being convicted of war crimes in Dhaka. Photograph: STRDEL/AFP/Getty Images

In addition to the perceived inadequacy of the sentence is an abiding anxiety about the way it will be carried out. It is ingrained in the public imagination that justice always takes second place to political expediency. Mollah knows that if his party or its allies were to come to power again, he would almost certainly be freed. That is why the protesters at Shahbag are calling for his death: it is the only way they can be sure the episode will come to an end.

In Shahbag, the organisers have refused to allow political parties to take the stage. Instead, freedom fighters and activists are invited to speak. Zafar Iqbal, a beloved children's writer and columnist, arrived on stage mid-afternoon on Friday. The first thing he did was ask for the crowd's forgiveness. "I have complained about your generation, saying that all you do is go on the internet and check your Facebook. I said that you would never come on to the streets. I am so happy to have been proven wrong today." A few days later, the Bangladesh cricket team turned up to show their support. With the chanting and singing spreading across the grounds, the protesters of Shahbag often resemble a jubilant flash-mob.

Shahbag is unique for Bangladesh on two important fronts. First is the prevalence and visibility of women, who are among the core organisers. Unlike in many public spaces in Bangladesh, women have been highly visible. They frequently take the microphone to lead the crowd in chanting. Second is the movement's use of social networking on Facebook and Twitter, and dependence on the 24-hour satellite news channels that have been covering the protest since the first day.

In the days leading up to the Mollah verdict, the Jamaat party called a succession of hartals (strikes), in an attempt to bring the country to a standstill. Activists burned cars and clashed with police. Four innocent people died in the crossfire. Now the Shahbag demonstrators are calling for an end to Jamaat and its student wing, Shibir. Though the Jamaat party only won two out of 300 seats in the last election, their presence as a powerful third party in politics has remained unquestioned – until now. There is a sense of a shifting political landscape: the people keeping vigil at Shahbag are young, possibly undecided voters who are looking for leaders. Who knows what this means for the old guard?

The next few weeks will be crucial for the Shahbag movement. There is fear, and there is hope. Fear that the protest will be co-opted by greater political forces; that violence will erupt and women will no longer be safe; that the cries for Mollah's hanging will overpower all other forms of resistance, and anyone who disagrees will be branded a traitor. But there is hope, too: that the protest will become a movement for a fair trial, and for a final, definitive and unbiased account of what happened in 1971; for the strengthening of secular, progressive politics in Bangladesh.

Business Administration / More Facebook friends = more stress, poll finds
« on: November 27, 2012, 03:48:31 PM »
We all want more pals, but a Scottish survey suggests you should think twice before accepting your mom's friend request.

The whole point of Facebook is to keep up with your friends, right? You might think that adding friends means having more fun, but a small Scottish study says it's adding to our stress.
A report by the University of Edinburgh Business School has found that increasing friends -- specifically different groups of friends -- increases the potential for stress.
It's hardly earth-shattering news, but including parents or employers as Facebook friends resulted in the greatest increase in anxiety, according to the report.
"Stress arises when a user presents a version of [herself or himself] on Facebook that is unacceptable to some of their online 'friends,' such as posts displaying behavior such as swearing, recklessness, drinking, and smoking," the university said in a release.
"The more social circles a person is linked to online the more likely social media will be a source of stress."

Researchers surveyed 300 people, mostly students around 21 years old. They found that Facebook users have an average of seven different social circles.
"The most common group was friends known offline (97 percent added them as friends online), followed by extended family (81 percent), siblings (80 percent), friends of friends (69 percent), and colleagues (65 percent)."
The research follows studies suggesting Facebook is the second-most depressing activity cited by users, just under recovery from illness, and that those who frequent the site can suffer from Facebook envy.
Another finding from the Edinburgh poll is that more users are Facebook friends with former partners than their current boyfriend, girlfriend, or spouse. Also, only one-third of respondents said they use the listing privacy setting on their profile, which controls how information is seen by different types of friends.
"Facebook used to be like a great party for all your friends where you can dance, drink and flirt," report author Ben Marder of the Business School was quoted as saying. "But now with your Mum, Dad, and boss there, the party becomes an anxious event full of potential social landmines."


A long-rumored Google project, the Project Glass augmented reality glasses were unveiled by Google on a new Google+ page. The project is specifically from Google X, the company's "secret lab" focused on long-term projects. These early videos and images show an augmented reality concept that's deeply integrated with all of Google's services, with voice commands, video chat, location check-ins, maps (outside and in-store), and much more.  The New York Times's Nick Bilton writes that the prototype glasses that Google showed off look like a "pair of wrap-around glasses with a clear display that sits above the eye." With the glasses set on the bridge of your nose via small pads, a clean Google UI is then integrated directly over your vision. Bilton says there are "dozens" of models, including variations that can "sit over a person's normal eyeglasses."

The wrap-around glasses are early prototypes, and the Google+ page notes that these are possible designs that show what the interface and design could look like, and the video demonstrates "what it might enable you to do." The detailed demo video shows off a first-person view of an augmented day in the life of a New Yorker moving through the East Village, ending with a rooftop sunset video chat. Overlaid on the narrator's vision are weather stats, text messages, map directions, subway alerts, calendar reminders, and — of course — Google+ integration. The design elements seen in the video take some of the UI ideas seen in the company's recent ecosystem-wide redesigns,
It seems the glasses have moved past the concept phase, though. Speaking to Bilton, someone who has used the glasses said, "They let technology get out of your way. If I want to take a picture I don’t have to reach into my pocket and take out my phone; I just press a button at the top of the glasses and that’s it." In late February, Nick Biltonreported that "Google employees familiar with the project" confirmed the glasses would be available to the public for around $250 to $600 dollars by the end of 2012. At  Wired, Steven Levy says that Project Glass "is very far from public beta," and that an end of year product launch is "extremely unlikely."

Though scientists have suspected for a while that a giant black hole lurks at the center of our galaxy, they still can't say for sure it's the explanation for the strange behavior observed there. Now researchers are closer than ever to being able to image this region and probe the physics at work – potentially shedding light on the great conflict between the theories of general relativity and quantum mechanics.

At the heart of the Milky Way, astronomers see some wacky things. For example, about a dozen stars seem to be orbiting some invisible object. One star has been found to make a 16-year orbit around the unseen thing, moving at the hard-to-imagine speed of about 3,000 miles (5,000 kilometers) a second. By comparison, the sun moves through space at a comparatively glacial 137 miles (220 kilometers) a second.

Based on the laws of motion, these dozen stars' orbits should be caused by the gravitational pull of some massive object in the center of the galaxy. Yet telescopes observe nothing there.

"The really important thing is that all the orbits have a common focus," astrophysicist Mark Reidof the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics said during the recently concluded April 2012 meeting of the American Physical Society."There's one point on the sky, and there's nothing you can see on images at this position."
Plus, all this is happening in a region only about 100 times as wide as the distance between the Earth and the sun – very tiny in the galactic scheme of things. [Photos: Black Holes of the Universe]

There is, however, a very faint emission of radio waves coming from this area, which scientists call Sagittarius A* (pronounced "Sagittarius A-Star"). By comparing it against the sun's movement around the Milky Way, researchers have been able to determine that this object is barely moving at all – less than 1 kilometer (0.62 miles) a second, much slower even than the rate that the Earth revolves around the sun.

If Sagittarius A* were any moderate-mass object, it likely would be pulled by the gravity of nearby objects and experience some motion.

Reid said of the object's apparent stillness: "The only way that this can happen is if Sagittarius A* is tied to a very massive object. When you do the analysis, you get a lower limit of 4 million solar masses."
The density limit of a black hole

Astronomers can't see the galactic center well enough to measure exactly how large Sagittarius A* is, but they can say for sure that its radius is no larger than about two-tenths the distance between the Earth and the sun.

The means that in the center of the Milky Way, something packing about 4 million times the mass of the sun is sitting within an area that could fit inside the orbit of Mercury and is basically invisible, producing much less light than any of the stars orbiting it.

Right now, that puts this object's density at about an eighth of the theoretical limit for a black hole. So while scientists can't say for sure the object is a black hole, it's looking mighty likely.

"Although there are alternative explanations, they would actually be even much more fantastic than the rather mundane supermassive black hole that almost certainly is there," Reid said.

One of these other, exotic explanations is that there exists a ball made of an unidentified variety of heavy fermion particles. But even such a ball would be unlikely to have the density required to explain all the evidence.

Programming Competition / Learn to Create Websites
« on: October 18, 2011, 01:20:41 PM »
From w3school you can learn how to develop website/web applications
w3school the world largest web development site. Someone can learn from basic to advance level web programming from this web site.

Faculty Forum / With Siri, Apple Could Eventually Build A Real AI
« on: October 17, 2011, 06:08:05 PM »
As iPhone 4S’s flood into the hands of the public, users are coming face-to-face with something that they weren’t quite expecting: Apple’s new voice interface, Siri, has an attitude. Ask Siri where to hide a body, for instance, and she’ll give you a list of choices that include a reservoir, a mine, and a swamp. Ask her how much would could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood, and she might tell you the answer is 42 cords, or she might ask you to clarify if it’s an African or European woodchuck.

Joshua Topolsky’s at This Is My Next began gathering some of the service’s cheekier answers on Wednesday, and now there’s a Tumblr up called Shit That Siri Says which houses an even more extensive, growing collection.

Siri’s answers are cute, but they’re not much different from the “Easter eggs” that sly coders have been slipping into software for decades. Or are they? I want to suggest, in all earnestness, that as Siri’s repertoire of canned responses grows, Apple could end up with a bona fide artificial intelligence, at least in the “weak AI” sense. Siri may be yet another chatterbot, but it’s a chatterbot with a cloud back-end, and that cloudy combination of real-time analytics and continuous deployment makes all the difference.
The roots of intelligence: algos or data?

In its initial incarnation, the part of Siri’s interaction model that responds to jokes, insults, and other casual queries that are merely intended to probe the machine for a clever response puts it in the venerable category of chatterbots. The chatterbot lineage can be traced back to ELIZA, which was a primitive interactive program that would take English-language input from the user and spit it back out in the form of a question. ELIZA was originally intended as a parody of psychotherapy, and an example exchange might go something like the following:

    USER: I feel sad.
    ELIZA: Why do you feel sad?
    USER: Because I made a mistake
    ELIZA: Why did you make a mistake?
    USER: I have the flu
    ELIZA: Maybe you should see a doctor. I’m merely a psychotherapist.
    USER: Habla Espanol?.
    ELIZA: Now you’re not making any sense!

A chatterbot like ELIZA uses a mix of natural language processing (NLP) and canned responses to take the user’s input and transform it into some kind of intelligible grammatically correct output. The hard part of making a good chatterbot is the NLP portion. For instance, the program in the example above has to know that “make” is the present tense of “made,” so that it can turn “Because I made a mistake” into “Why did you make a mistake?”. This kind of productive, algorithmic knowledge about how to combine a limited vocabulary of nouns, verbs, and modifiers into syntactically correct and at least superficially relevant English is difficult to code.

So the art and science of chatterbot coding as it has been practiced since the dawn of UNIX is in designing and implementing a set of NLP algorithms that can take a finite vocabulary of words and turn them into legit-sounding English sentences. The easy part, at least from a computer science perspective, is in cooking up a complementary slate of pre-packaged answers that are mere strings produced in response to a set input pattern, which the chatterbot produces in specific situations, like when it doesn’t quite know what to say.

For example, in the above dialog, ELIZA might be hard-coded to match the pattern “have the flu” in the user’s input with the output string “Maybe you should see a doctor. I’m merely a psychotherapist.” This kind of string-to-string mapping doesn’t require any kind of NLP, so there’s no “AI” involved in the popular sense. Ultimately the success of the canned answers approach to chatterbot making hinges not on the intelligence of the algorithm but on the tirelessness of the coder, who has to think of possible statement/response pairs and then hard-code them into the application. The more statement/response, or input/output pairs she dreams up to add to the bot, the more intelligent the bot is likely to appear as the user discovers each of these “Easter eggs” in the course of probing the bot’s conversational space.

An adult user will quickly exhaust the conversational possibilities of a chatterbot that has a hundred, or even a thousand, hard-coded input/output pairs. But what about 100,000 such pairs? Or 1 million? That’s where the cloud makes things interesting.
Big Data, big smarts

In the traditional world of canned, chatterbot-style “AI,” users had to wait for a software update to get access to new input/output pairs. But since Siri is a cloud application, Apple’s engineers can continuously keep adding these hard-coded input/output pairs to it. Every time an Apple engineer thinks of a clever response for Siri to give to a particular bit of input, that engineer can insert the new pair into Siri’s repertoire instantaneously, so that the very next instant every one of the service’s millions of users will have access to it. Apple engineers can also take a look at the kinds of queries that are popular with Siri users at any given moment, and add canned responses based on what’s trending.

In this way, we can expect Siri’s repertoire of clever comebacks to grow in real-time through the collective effort of hundreds of Apple employees and tens or hundreds of millions of users, until it reaches the point where an adult user will be able to carry out a multipart exchange with the bot that, for all intents and purposes, looks like an intelligent conversation.

Note that building an AI by piling Easter egg on top of Easter egg in the cloud isn’t solely the domain of Apple’s Siri. When Google does exactly this—for instance, by showing a five-day weather graphic in response to a local weather search, or by displaying local showtimes in response to a movie search—it’s called a “feature,” not an “Easter egg,” though it’s the same basic principle of “do this specific, clever thing when the user gives this specific input.” Indeed, Google has been at this approach for quite a long time, so I expect that they will shortly be able to reproduce much of Siri’s success on Android. They have

the voice recognition capability, the raw data, and the NLP expertise to build a viable Siri competitor, and it seems certain that they’ll do it.
But is a “real” AI?

A philosopher like John Searle will object that, no matter how clever Siri’s banter seems, it’s not really “AI” because all Siri is doing is shuffling symbols around according to a fixed set of rules without “understanding” any of the symbols themselves. But for the rest of us who don’t care about the question of whether Siri has “intentions” or an “inner life,” the service will be a fully functional AI that can response flawlessly and appropriately to a larger range of input than any one individual is likely to produce over the course of a typical interaction with it. At that point, a combination of massive amounts of data and a continuous deployment model will have achieved what clever NLP algorithms alone could not: a chatterbot that looks enough like a “real AI” that we can actually call it an AI in the “weak AI” sense of the term.

Science Discussion Forum / UC Berkeley Scientists 'See' Movies in the Mind
« on: September 25, 2011, 04:01:40 PM »
California scientists have found a way to see through another person's eyes.

Researchers from UC Berkeley were able to reconstruct YouTube videos from viewers' brain activity -- a feat that might one day offer a glimpse into our dreams, memories and even fantasies.

"This is a major leap toward reconstructing internal imagery," said Jack Gallant, professor of psychology and coauthor of a study published today in Current Biology. "We are opening a window into the movies in our minds."

Gallant's coauthors acted as study subjects, watching YouTube videos inside a magnetic resonance imaging machine for several hours at a time. The team then used the brain imaging data to develop a computer model that matched features of the videos -- like colors, shapes and movements -- with patterns of brain activity.

"Once we had this model built, we could read brain activity for that subject and run it backwards through the model to try to uncover what the viewer saw," said Gallant.

Subtle changes in blood flow to visual areas of the brain, measured by functional MRI, predicted what was on the screen at the time -- whether it was Steve Martin as Inspector Clouseau or an airplane. The reconstructed videos are blurry because they layer all the YouTube clips that matched the subject's brain activity pattern. The result is a haunting, almost dream-like version of the video as seen by the mind's eye.

The researchers say the technology could one day be used to broadcast imagery -- the scenes that play out inside our minds independent from vision.
PHOTO: UC Berkeley researchers use brain imaging, computer modeling to recreate clips.
Courtesy of Shinji Nishimoto
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"If you can decode movies people saw, you might be able to decode things in the brain that are movie-like but have no real-world analog, like dreams," Gallant said.

The brain activity measured in this study is just a fraction of the activity that lets us see moving images. Other, more complex areas help us interpret the content of those images -- distinguish faces from lifeless objects, for example.

"The brain isn't just one big blob of tissue. It actually consists of dozens, even hundreds of modules, each of which does a different thing," said Gallant. "We hope to look at more visual modules, and try to build models for every single part of visual system."

More models, Gallant said, mean better resolution. It also means a ton more data to analyze.

"We need really big computers," Gallant said.

Shinji Nishimoto, a neuroscientist in Gallant's lab and the study's lead author, said the results shed light on how the brain understands and processes visual experiences.

"We need to know how the brain works in naturalistic conditions," Nishimoto said in a statement. "For that, we need to first understand how the brain works while we are watching movies."

Whether the technology could also be used to watch people's dreams or memories -- even intentions -- depends on how close those abstract visual experiences are to the real thing.

"We simply don't know at this point. But it's our next line of research," said Gallant.

If the technology could be used to broadcast imagery, it could one day allow people who are paralyzed to control their environment by imagining sequences of movements. Already, brain waves recorded through electrodes on the scalp can flip a switch, allowing people with Lou Gehrig's disease and other paralyzing conditions to choose letters on a computer monitor and communicate.

Gallant and his team are often asked whether the technology could be used in detective work or court cases -- an idea that brings to mind the futuristic crime-foiling action in "Minority Report."

But the potential to watch a person's memories may not be so far off. Whether such memories could be used in a court of law, however, would be limited not only by the technology but also the nature of memories. After all, Gallant's website reads, an accurate read-out of a faulty memory only provides misleading information.

Programming Competition / Re: Learn Mathematics Learn Programming......
« on: September 25, 2011, 03:36:30 PM »
very good resources..

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