Tuesday, May 14

Niven's laws

One of my friends shared this link with me. Very amusing some of them son. Perfect to sprinkle in your conversation or essays. Provides a bit of zest. Btw, a bit of a sneaky tip. In your exam papers and essays, just a small hint of humour increases your marks. Marking papers is a bloody boring job. One of the main reasons why i couldn't be full time in academia. So when I read something a bit amusing, it increases my marking generosity. And many other teachers have said so to me as well. 



Niven's laws - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Niven’s laws were named after science fiction author Larry Niven, who has periodically published them as “how the Universe works” as far as he can tell. These were most recently rewritten on January 29, 2002 (and published in Analog Magazine in the November 2002 issue). Among the rules are:

Never fire a laser at a mirror.

Giving up freedom for security is beginning to look naïve.

It is easier to destroy than to create.

Ethics change with technology.

The only universal message in science fiction: There exist minds that think as well as you do, but differently.


Niven’s Law (re Time travel)

See also: Novikov self-consistency principle

A different law is given this name in Niven’s essay “The Theory and Practice of Time Travel”:

Niven’s Law

If the universe of discourse permits the possibility of time travel and of changing the past, then no time machine will be invented in that universe.

Hans Moravec glosses this version of Niven’s Law as follows:

There is a spookier possibility. Suppose it is easy to send messages to the past, but that forward causality also holds (i.e. past events determine the future). In one way of reasoning about it, a message sent to the past will “alter” the entire history following its receipt, including the event that sent it, and thus the message itself. Thus altered, the message will change the past in a different way, and so on, until some “equilibrium” is reached—the simplest being the situation where no message at all is sent. Time travel may thus act to erase itself (an idea Larry Niven fans will recognize as “Niven’s Law”).

Ryan North examines this law in Dinosaur Comics #1818.

This proposition is also extensively examined in James P. Hogan’s Thrice Upon a Time.


is also the title of a 1984 collection of Niven’s short stories.

Included in the 1989 collection N-Space are six laws titled Niven’s Laws for Writers. They are:

Writers who write for other writers should write letters.

Never be embarrassed or ashamed about anything you choose to write. (Think of this before you send it to a market.)

Stories to end all stories on a given topic, don’t.

It is a sin to waste the reader’s time.

If you’ve nothing to say, say it any way you like. Stylistic innovations, contorted story lines or none, exotic or genderless pronouns, internal inconsistencies, the recipe for preparing your lover as a cannibal banquet: feel free. If what you have to say is important and/or difficult to follow, use the simplest language possible. If the reader doesn’t get it then, let it not be your fault.

Everybody talks first draft.

In the acknowledgments of his 2003 novel Conquistador, S.M. Stirling wrote:

And a special acknowledgment to the author of Niven’s Law: “There is a technical, literary term for those who mistake the opinions and beliefs of characters in a novel for those of the author. The term is ‘idiot’.”

(from Known Space)

Drawn from Known Space: The Future Worlds of Larry Niven

  1. Never throw shit at an armed man.
  2. Never stand next to someone who is throwing shit at an armed man.

Never fire a laser at a mirror.

Mother Nature doesn’t care if you’re having fun.

F × S = k. The product of Freedom and Security is a constant. To gain more freedom of thought and/or action, you must give up some security, and vice versa

Psi and/or magical powers, if real, are nearly useless.

It is easier to destroy than create.

Any damn fool can predict the past.

History never repeats itself.

Ethics change with technology.

Anarchy is the least stable of social structures. It falls apart at a touch.

There is a time and place for tact. And there are times when tact is entirely misplaced.

The ways of being human are bounded but infinite.

The world’s dullest subjects, in order:

Somebody else’s diet.

How to make money for a worthy cause.

Special Interest Liberation.

The only universal message in science fiction: There exist minds that think as well as you do, but differently.
Niven’s corollary: The gene-tampered turkey you’re talking to isn’t necessarily one of them.

Fuzzy Pink Niven’s Law: Never waste calories.

There is no cause so right that one cannot find a fool following it.
in variant form in Fallen Angels as “Niven’s Law: No cause is so noble that it won’t attract fuggheads.”

No technique works if it isn’t used.

Not responsible for advice not taken.

Old age is not for sissies.

Monday, May 13

War and Famine in Late Colonial Bengal

This was a raw read. A snippet: ]

A review of Hungry Bengal: War, Famine, Riots, and the End of Empire 1939-1946, by Janam Mukherjee.

Janam Mukherjee’s dissertation is a thorough study of late colonial Bengal in the context of war, famine, and riots leading up to the eventual dissolution of empire. The central argument of the dissertation is built on the claim that famine was the “most profound factor influencing the structural, political, social, economic and communal fabric of Bengal” during this period (p. 5). The author provides a vivid illustration of the famine’s “awesome magnitude” in terms of its impact on the socio-political landscape of Bengal (p. 7). Before proceeding to the core content of the work, the author makes three important revisions to our understandings of the famine: first, he complicates the chronology of the famine, which is otherwise more commonly referred to as the Bengal Famine of 1943. Secondly, he shows that the war efforts and business interests, both centered in Calcutta, were responsible in equal measure for the devastation that ravaged rural Bengal, thus leading to the famine. And by looking beyond the actual famine victims and drawing a more explicit link between rural and urban Bengal, this work also demonstrates that the Bengal Famine was indeed “man-made.” Finally, contrary to the claim that the famine victims “died without a murmur” (Sugata Bose,Agrarian Bengal: Economy, Social Structure, and Politics, 1919-1947. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986) the author argues that by broadening the chronology of the famine the active resistance of the victims becomes evident.

I have spoken before about witnessing the raw hunger and pain in Calcutta when I was a teeny weeny chappie, around the war of independence in 1971. Seeing people fighting over scraps of food in the rubbish bins with dogs and others was a horrible sight. But to see that the British actually had direct responsibility over the death of millions of Bengali’s is a big big issue.


Here is the wiki entryhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bengal_famine_of_1943 for the Bengal Famine.