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November 17, 2017

Fast trade. Slow life.

Filed under: Business line, science — neosurya @ 08:57

Back in the days when I was in grad school (I think around 2004), I had heard of quant analysis. Thousands of stock trades are done in milliseconds. Recently, a scam surfaced, where NSE folks were accused of providing slightly faster access to some stock brokers. Original article is here, here (Indian Express 17 Nov 2017, Business Times, July 16 2017), excerpt is below:

It is alleged that some brokers got preferential access through co-location facility at the NSE, early login and ‘dark fiber’ — which can allow a trader split-second faster access to data feed of an exchange. Even a split-second faster access can result in huge gains for a trader.

The Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) is also investigating the NSE algo trading case to ascertain if brokers made unfair gains in connivance with exchange officials.

The allegations of unfair access pertain to a period when NSE used to disseminate price information through a unicast system. In such a system, information is disseminated to one member after another.


OPG Securities and a few others brokerages were given preferential treatment regarding IP allocations and early access to tick-by-tick data. As for the alleged involvement of some NSE employees, Deloitte said, “While there are indications of differential behaviour being shown towards few members by certain employees, we are not in a position to comment, on the basis of the review performed, on whether this would amount to collusion/connivance or just preferential behaviour.”

Another article on Forbes that I had read a few years back. Original article is here (Forbes magazine Sep 9 2010), excerpt is below:

At 825 miles and 13.3 milliseconds, Spread’s circuit shaves 100 miles and 3 milliseconds off of the previous route of lowest latency, engineer-talk for length of delay.

Three milliseconds is three one-thousandths of a second. Does that really matter? “That’s close to an eternity in automated trading,” says Ben Van Vliet, a professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology. “This is all about picking gold coins up off the floor–only the fastest person is going to get the coins.”

In grad school, I had laughed to myself at the human ingenuity for gold-digging. I told myself that sooner or later, people will realize that quant analysis is a shitty way of doing trades. Someone will figure out a way of introducing delays in the market. A more recent article spoke about how NYSE was planning to device a new type of transaction that adds 350 micro seconds of delay to its trades (Original link here, Financial times, May 17 2017). I also found out that a new exchange called IEX had emerged, which by default added a delay to all trades.

But then, there will be more to come in the era of quant analysis and automated trading. News, user comments, company returns statements, internet events are already being analyzed in near real time to enable automated trading.


April 26, 2017

Artificial Wombs and Sperm Banks

An article in the verge claims that an artificial womb has been developed to grow baby sheep. It is estimated that even human babies can be grown in a similar fashion. It is absolutely dandy what technology has achieved. As per the article:

Inside what look like oversized ziplock bags strewn with tubes of blood and fluid, eight fetal lambs continued to develop — much like they would have inside their mothers. Over four weeks, their lungs and brains grew, they sprouted wool, opened their eyes, wriggled around, and learned to swallow, according to a new study that takes the first step toward an artificial womb. One day, this device could help to bring premature human babies to term outside the uterus — but right now, it has only been tested on sheep.


It’s appealing to imagine a world where artificial wombs grow babies, eliminating the health risk of pregnancy.


It truly is appealing…

Frozen sperm in a bank, no need to hold, push, or yank.
It has been done for you well ahead,
A brochure of well endowed men to eliminate chance.
Well winnowed to weed out the idiots,
No foreplay, or even any kind of play needed.
Why leave this to randomness,
The best seed is available, 24/7, everywhere.

Wombs a-galore in glass enclosures.
Prepared, sterilized and ready to go,
Can they integrate with instagram?
The baby to be visible as it develops legs and arms.
When it is born, watch live on skype,
Why go for the normal when the exclusive is on order?
Select a unique name using google, why risk asking mother, or grandmother?

What a wonderful world, full of opportunities.
Enjoyment forever, due process to eliminate all worries.
No waiting, dating, or exchanging of vows.
Feminists can rejoice, MCPs can party,
True independence from all troublesome activity.
Life can continue un-imbibed with technologies,
Is it not awesome to live with these certainties.

Wait there is more to come.
Why cant we have someone pay for all this?
After all we end up working for a company.
Maybe they can grow the base of their employee.
Selected, trained, and groomed from the womb.
Manufactured to precession to follow every rule.
Such a world, so full of possibility…

McBabies, oh that would be so dandy.
We could select from a menu,
Maybe “make it a deal” with a toy to carry.

August 12, 2010

Plagiarized work – honest work is dead???

Filed under: common man, education, research, science — neosurya @ 23:11

As part of my professional duties, I review research papers that are submitted to conferences. I have been reviewing some papers that were submitted to an international conference. For those unfamiliar with the research arena, conferences are places where researchers submit articles that discuss their recent projects. These articles would typically be 6-8 pages in length, usually with description of the problem, the method used to solve the problem (algorithm, math formulae, code etc), and results of testing the algorithms.

Most researchers are supposed to submit “original work” at conferences, i.e. the algorithms or code should be their own, and should not be taken from someone else. If they do take it from someone else, they are supposed to mention where they took the algorithms from. Even if part of the algorithm is from the researcher’s own work that he had submitted in a previous conference, he is supposed to mention that this part of the paper was submitted earlier.

So, there is this paper by author “X” in front of me – the complete paper has been copied from page 2 to page 5 from another paper written by author “B” in 2005. Author “X” has submitted a paper written by someone lese in 2005 as his own paper in 2010. Author “X” cannot even claim that they did not see the 2005 paper. The 2005 paper is quite reputed. If the university of author “X” has even a half-way decent policy on ethics, X would be removed from college. I can only wonder what the professor who guided this student “X” was doing.

So, here are a few ground rules when it comes to writing honest articles:

  1. Never, ever copy work from somewhere else. There was this wise-crack student in college who once asked me “how would I reference the bubble sort algorithm, it is known to every CS student”. I told him he should mention the MIT white book as reference for that. Jokes apart, unless something is as common knowledge as E=MC2, one is supposed to mention a reference. (Even for E= MC2, one is supposed to cite Einstein [1])
  2. If you need to write from someone else’s article word-for-word, please put it in quotes. If it is more than a paragraph or so, clearly indicate the start and end of such copying.

However, not everyone has their head screwed on in the right way when it comes to plagiarism. Even regular authors have plagiarized; case in point is Kaavya Viswanathan [1, 2]. If one goes by this article, she does seem to be getting more successful now. But she had to move away from writing as a career. Good for her, it was still early in her life and she was able to change to a different profession. But not everyone has similar luck. Cheating in the academia can kill one’s career. You may get that pat on the back from your boss, but when it will hit you in the future you will not be able to get back on two feet.

While I am saying all this, I also feel these days that the pressure is too great to perform. We are shifting from a society that expects well-thought out ideas, to a society that expects quick results and cool ideas. I am reminded of a video that I saw long back on “Vignyan Ashram” [YouTube]; I had blogged about it here. The founder of the school “Dr. Kalbag” says at one point (Translation is mine):

I had visited a school in the city, the principal of the school said that students in the city school were better at mathematics and science. I asked him – yes, your students are better at Math, but if my students are writing an exam, I can leave the classroom even while they are writing the test. I will be confident that my students will want to trust their own knowledge and not depend on the crutches of cheating.

March 25, 2009

Research on global warming.

Filed under: global warming, NGO, science — neosurya @ 22:33

Saw the following article in the Times of India, page 18, 25th March 2009….

Ocean test to fight global warming fails
Amit Bhattacharya | TNN

New Delhi: LOHAFEX, the Indo-German Antarctic scientific expedition that had triggered a storm of protests when it set sail in January to test a controversial method of fighting global warming by getting a huge amount of CO ² to sink deep into the ocean, has returned with disappointing results.
The team found that the amount of CO ² —a greenhouse gas chiefly responsible for global warming—eliminated from the atmosphere as a result of the experiment turned out to be far less then expected. This has led the scientists, 29 of them from India, to infer that the Southern Ocean near Antarctica may not be as good a site for ‘ocean iron fertilization’ as previously thought.
Iron fertilization is a method of seeding the ocean with iron to prompt the blooming of phytoplankton, a class of tiny plant algae which take up CO ² from the air and quickly die off, sinking deep into the ocean with the carbon. If conducted on a large scale, it was touted as a way of sucking millions of tonnes of CO ² , thus reducing the level of the greenhouse gas in the atmosphere. The LOHAFEX team, however, found that though the algae mass doubled in size after four tonnes of dissolved iron was dropped in a 300 sq km patch of ocean, most of it was quickly eaten away by a crustacean zooplankton species. ‘‘This grazing resulted in most of the CO ² trapped by algae to be recycled into air,’’ said S W A Naqwi from National Institute of Oceanography, Goa, the co-chief scientist of the project.

Funny feeling I get – A few days ago, I had written about the one straw revolution, and how science and business collude in an unholy matrimony, resisting from seeing all parameters before implementation of an idea. This article is another (though milder) embodiment of that observation.

September 25, 2008

IT or MIT: Information Technology or Mis-Information Technology

Filed under: common man, science, social change — neosurya @ 07:46

A friend sent me a blurb about section 49-O. There are lots of emails circulating that 49-O is a section where people can tender a -ve vote and thereby cause a re-election. The emails are simply forwarded by individuals who do not bother to verify facts.

The bad part of it is that it is called Information Techology, and it can also spread Mis-Information. This is not true just in the context of rumors, it is happening in professional circles as well.

My office has a comprehensive system to process payments. I have not yet recieved rent, salary, or any other payment for the past several weeks. The “system” does not have the ability to tell HR when these payments will be made. Due to reliance on computer-driven “IT” systems, HR cannot pick up a phone and ask the relevant department when a particular payment would happen. They have to send an email, register a ticket and wait for a confirmation. 🙂

All the same, IT has significant advantages if people use it carefully. This mis-information in part could be because of human nature. For example, we spread rumors very easily without thinking of consequences. Information Techolology has made it all the more easier to do it. Similarly, most IT systems are designed to be air-tight, take control away from the human, and put the onus on software. This arises out of mistrust of the human’s ability to do the correct thing.

Some corrective action may be taken by casual internet users themselves. If a false claim is made on a blog/email, we should at least think of letting the author know. Of course, this centers around wether one has time or not. :-D. In fact, I myself could be wrong about certain things. Feel free to comment.

PS: The erroneous blurbs on 49-O are here:

The real story may be found here:
or better yet, here:

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