Keep Your Eyes Open, and Mind

In 1997, fourteen year old Nathan Zohner presented his science fair project to his classmates, seeking to ban a highly toxic chemical from it’s everyday use.

The chemical in question? Dihydrogen monoxide.

Throughout his presentation, Zohner provided his audience scientifically correct evidence as to why this chemical should be banned.

He explained that dihydrogen monoxide:

1-Causes severe burns while it’s in gas form,

2-Corrodes and rusts metal,

3-Kills countless people annually,

4-Is commonly found in tumors and acid rain,

5-Causes excessive urination and bloating if consumed in higher quantity,

6-Is able to kill you if you depend on it and then experience an extended withdrawal.

He then asked his classmates if they actually wanted to ban dihydrogen monoxide, and so 43 out of the 50 present voted to ban this clearly toxic chemical.

However, this chemical isn’t typically considered toxic at all. In fact, dihydrogen monoxide is simply the name for water in Chemistry.

Nathan Zohner’s experiment wasn’t a legitimate attempt to ban water, but instead an experiment to get a representation of how gullible people can really be. Also, all of the points that Zohner used to convey his point were hundred percent factually correct; he just skewed all of the information in his favor by omitting certain facts.

In recognition of his experiment, journalist James K. Glassman coined the term ‘Zohnerism’ to refer to ‘the use of a true fact to lead a scientifically and mathematically ignorant public to a false conclusion’.

In real life similar situations keep occuring a lot more often than you may think, especially when politicians, conspiracy theorists et al use proven facts to persuade people into believing false claims for vested interests.

The fact that people can mislead and be misled so easily is highly unsettling, but we do keep taking part in similar situations, with enthusiasm at times.

This is precisely why we need to avoid watching too much of breaking news & panel discussions on TV news channels and social media postings including motivational ones. The notorious concept of  ‘Zohnerism’ is all about twisting of simple facts to confuse and mislead people.

Ch Navakanta Mishra

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European Gypsies and India, the ancient link

The European Gypsies, the Romani people, are Indian Aryan ethnic group of North India like other North Indians who moved out of India at around 11th century. The word “Romani” or “roma” is of Indian/Sanskrit origin.

Roma (रोम) is a name mentioned in the Hindu epic Mahabharata and represents one of the many proper names used for people and places. The Mahabharata (mentioning Roma) is a Sanskrit epic poem consisting of 100,000 slokas (metrical verses) and is over 2000 years old.

Roma is the name of an ancient kingdom mentioned in the 12th century Lokapannati, “description of the world”, a Pali text from Burma. The Lokapannati’s rendition of the story begins as a tale of two kingdoms, that of Pataliputta (Sanskrit: Pataliputra ) and the distant land of “Roma”.

Roma, according to the story, was filled with makers of automata, what the text calls literally “machines that were the vehicles of spirits,” bhutavahanayanta, or mechanical beings animated by a kind of life force. In Roma, these machines carried out many functions, like commerce (buying and selling), agriculture, and protection. The secrets of this technology were fiercely guarded, and the machine-makers (yantakaras) of Roma were expected to report periodically to the royal court. If there was any prolonged absence, an automaton was sent to hunt down and kill the errant artisan, preventing the knowledge from spreading to other realms.

The people of India don’t know much about gypsies nor many gypsies know much about modern day India. But there is a link going back more than a couple of thousand years.

Ch Navakanta Mishra

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The New Gangster Story

What do you think of Arnab Goswami’s arrest? What I witnessed recently was something that I could not believe. It seemed like something out of the 90’s Gundaraj movies! You remember the horribly made unrealistic movies where the villains ignored all logical sense of caution regarding their action? Well its not unrealistic now; we have achieved something that hardly any sane democracy can be achieved in this century.

He was hauled out of his house in the morning for a “Closed Case”. I myself do not like his shows, as there is too much shouting for my liking, but there is hardly any room to talk about his journalism with the visuals that I have been seeing.

You saw the assault rifles in the hands of the police? Yes, there were some forty policemen with AK-47 and M4 assault rifles who went to Arnab’s residence to arrest him! Seriously? Assault rifles to arrest a journalist? It’s just mind boggling that this can be done and there will be no action or backlash for such brazenness.

Is he a terrorist? He is at most a bad journalist who is unarmed and in his residence with his family. How can they do this related to a closed case at 7:30 am in the morning?

A lady officer tried to grab a paper out of Arnab’s wife’s hand that she was apparently trying to get her to sign, but when she added some lines about the assault it was pulled from her hand.

The Cop kicked the door of his house even as he was standing near the door that was already open. Why?

Shiv Sena statement – “He was spreading malicious propaganda.” – How is this related to the case for which he was arrested?

“Riot Police”, “SOG Commandos” and numerous policemen including a well known encounter specialist. Isn’t it overkill?

What I can say is that the Maharashtra Government is only adding fuel to the conspiracy theories about them being involved in something so sinister that they are very much afraid of it coming out into the public domain, that they do not care about small things such as CRPC and Constitution of India.

It’s a sad day for the Democracy of India, where if a high profile journalist can be picked up like this then think what they can do to a common man who wants to come up with information against the government!

To all the brave twitter and social media warriors that swear by the constitution, freedom of speech, democracy and FASCISM, hope you can see this and it does not go by your keen vision and wisdom.

Whatever be the case, was it so urgent that they were there in his house by 6AM and arrested him by 7:30 – 7:55 am? This is not pure and simple vendetta?

What do You think of Arnab Goswami’s arrest?

—-Ch Navakanta Mishra

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The Lamp Glass Vendor

“He’d never give them back”, said the middle aged man with an all knowing air but much anxiety while finishing off his lunch hurriedly. “I am sure he will return them to us, but please don’t hurry with your lunch as even if he doesn’t and you are proved right, then in addition to that loss, would be good food wasted and much peace of mind lost”, the young man said as he went on with his lunch with leisure and calm.

Both of them had come to the city from their village at some distance for some work and also marketing. It was just past noon and it was the peak of summer. Stark scorching sunlight in this city can be quite torturous, and added up to that was the dust and smoke of a heavy traffic. The village had electricity but power outages were common. It was a time when rechargeable lights, inverters and similar things were not there, so when there was a power failure in the evening, the young man had to use kerosene lamps to read and write, but he hated the conventional hurricane lantern. He had a beautiful antique brass lamp on his study table, but a few days back its glass slipped out of his hand while he was cleaning it and it was shattered. This morning they had left for the city a little late, and after finishing off with the work at the government office they had purchased some tit bit things which won’t be available at the village stores. It was near noon and very hot when they drove up to the main square of the city as it was here only that a glass substitute for the young man’s brass lamp could be found.

At one side of the main square was a vendor’s stall. The old man who owned this stall was slightly overweight and a jovial person. Lining the three walls at the back and on both sides were racks designed in step like shape, as in an auditorium gallery. Neatly showcased on these racks were lamp glasses of many shapes, sizes, and colours.
There were transparent plain glasses; there were pink, blue, yellow, green glasses. There were glasses with intricate designs carved on them.  The young man loved beautiful things. So he took some pieces in his hand and admired their beauty and excellence of workmanship. Suddenly a glass slipped from his hand and was shattered. The embarrassed young man brought out a brass lamp out of his bag and selected a blue tinted ‘chimney glass’ quickly. This was a beautiful piece though, extra long and slim, but without carvings on it, but that did not matter much, as a shade would be put on it anyway. Then he asked the vendor its price and paid the amount. Whilst the vendor was packing the glass piece carefully in a cardboard box, with shredded papers jammed on all sides lest it break, the young man handed over another fifty rupees to him.
“But you have already paid sir”, the old man said in an astonished voice.
“This is for the one I broke.”
“You didn’t break that glass intentionally. It was simply an accident. As it is, pieces do break during transit also. I can’t take this money sir”, the old man said firmly. The young man could not gather the courage and strength to counter such a firm refusal and ceded to the older man’s will.

They were hungry and had decided to have their lunch at a hotel at the other end of the city as the food was good there, which it was. Simple food, some chapattis(Punjabi bread), a chicken dish, a tadka dish, and some salad. The young man discovered first that they had left the bag behind at the vendor’s stall when they were in the middle of their meal. Now his companion had got up from his chair, his meal half-finished, and kept insisting that the younger man also follow suit. The bag had some little things in them, purchased from here and there, but there was a set of silver cutlery among the things which cost a substantial amount of money and the middle aged man was afraid that it just might be too difficult for the vendor to come over greed. Not that they had left the bag in his custody. It was lying on the counter and may be someone else has already picked it up, and one can’t possibly blame the vendor for that.

They rushed back to the main square. The old man was there at his counter as before. When he saw them he had a wide smile on his face.
“Ah sir! I knew you’d be back for the bag anytime, so didn’t leave the shop for lunch, as then you’d have had to wait for me till evening”, he said jovially and handed them back their bag. The relief on the faces of the two men was visible to anyone who cared and the old man also noticed that. He had a lovely smile for them and said that sometimes customers do leave back things inadvertently, and that’s why he always checks the shop after their departure. He showed another expensive looking bag in one corner and said that a lady had left it behind some days back, but hasn’t come back for it yet. “May be she lives far away and discovered her loss later. May be she would come back anytime for her bag”.
“Have you checked what are there inside that bag?”
“Why should I? It’s not mine!”

Suddenly the young man saw something. He saw a iridescence at the back of the old man’s head. It was an aura of beautiful colours, so soothing to the eyes and mind. He saw before him a noble man. The old man’s most ordinary looks and attire, all transformed into something beyond description, so exceptionally beautiful.
“Please check your bag. Check it’s contents”, the lamp vendor was saying, but the young man did not hear anything. He simply kept looking at the old vendor at the counter with a soft heart, thanked him, and as they were about to leave the stall, the young man turned back again and looked at the counter and said,

“Goodbye Sir”.

———————Ch Navakanta Mishra

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