And how to rescue science

Lies

We all know what lies are. For example, if I toss a coin, and it falls heads, but I tell you,

“the coin landed tails”,

then that is a lie.

Statistics

Many of us also know what statistics are. If I told you,

“There is a 50% chance of the coin landing heads”,

then that is a statistic.

Damn Lies

I couldn’t find a credible definition of “Damn Lies”, so I thought of inventing one myself.

We usually use the word damn “to emphasize or express anger or frustration with someone or something” [2]. More severely, in Christianity, it means “be condemned by…


From pixels to consistent structured information

Humans use computers to solve real-word problems. For example, I (a human) might use my laptop (a computer), to build a model that predicts the number of COVID19 cases in Sri Lanka in the next few weeks (a problem to solve).

In such situations, humans need to supply computers with data that might help find solutions. For example, statistics about COVID19 cases during the past few months (data) might result in a better prediction model (the solution).

By “Processability”, I mean how easily a computer can process the data. The better the processability, the more efficient the processing, and the…


In under 10 minutes

In this tutorial, we will build some graphs that will give a data-driven description of Sri Lanka’s COVID19 situation. End-to-end, it should take you less than 10 minutes.

The data is from two sources:

  1. The COVID-19 Data Repository by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University, which we can access at https://github.com/CSSEGISandData/COVID-19 and in aggregate at https://pomber.github.io/covid19/timeseries.json.
  2. The Health Promotion Bureau of Sri Lanka, which we can access at https://www.hpb.health.gov.lk/api/get-current-statistical.

Part 1: Getting the data

You can either pull the above data yourself. Or we can use my python library, covid19-nuuuwan, which enables convenient data access. To install run,

pip…

A Simple Tutorial

Disclaimer: This article describes a work-in-progress. Please comment on how we might improve the underlying libraries, especially what additional features you would like.

Geo-Spatial Data

The only real barrier to plotting maps of Sri Lanka with Python libraries GeoPandas and MatPlotLib is the difficulty of accessing geographical data for Sri Lanka. I’ve attempted to solve this problem by scraping geographical data from various sources, sharing it on GitHub, and providing a simple python library geo-nuuuwan for conveniently accessing this data.

Begin by installing geo-nuuuwan

pip install geo-nuuuwan

Example 1: Basic Maps

Module geodata in geo (geo-nuuuwan) implements method get_region_geodata, which returns geographical data (as a GeoPandas.GeoDataFrame)…


Redesigning a venerable institution

For most Sri Lankans (and an increasing number of non-Sri Lankans), nothing beats a good Bath (බත්, rice) to quench hunger. And ubiquitous Bath (බත්) Packet (or BP for short), available everywhere, from a humble way-side hawker to the poshest five-start hotel, is a fairly convenient and efficient way to imbibe a Bath into your system.

Image Source: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/515380751084218954/

The Problem

However, the venerable BP in particular, and the way we consume rice in general, has a serious downside. When you open a BP, you will notice the mountain of rice. Perhaps 80% or more of its calorific content is from rice, which itself is…


A Notification System

Over a million Sri Lankans have got at least one dose of some CoViD-19 Vaccine. And plans are afoot to vaccinate many more people.

However, the vaccination drive so far, has been marred by complaints and process inefficiencies. Many people, some of them old and infirm, have had to queue in the sun or rain for hours. Many have been turned away after the ordeal, because the centre ran out of shots. Others have missed the opportunity for vaccination because of miscommunication or confusion.

I have a list of PHI and MOH phone numbers, and I have got into the…


From commandment to reminder

Do ToDo lists intimidate you? They do me.

On the one hand, ToDo lists are incredibly useful. They make sure we get things done, and don’t forget.

On the other hand, they can be intimidating. They are a voice in ones head that continuously mutter, “You have to do me, you have to do me, you have to do me”; ad nauseam. They can be a sort of debt, which one is eternally guilty of not paying. They can even feel like some impending doom…

Hence, do the pros of ToDo lists, compensate for putting up with the cons?

Let’s…


On Forgiveness, Justice and Pain

To forgive, they say, is divine. It is often difficult for us humans to forgive; certainly compared to other things we excel at, like erring.

I’ve tried to forgive whenever I can, and a few times have even been successful. However, this article is about failures. More specifically, some reflections on two reasons why I’ve been unable to forgive.

Justice

For you to forgive me, I should have wronged you. Without this wronging, forgiveness is meaningless. …


On Titles, Levels, Salaries and Effective Experience

What’s the difference between a “Software Engineer” and a “Senior Software Engineer”? Is a Senior SWE in one company better than a plain SWE in another company?

The problem with “titles” like “SWE” and “Senior SWE” is that there is no standard convention around what they mean. Technically, anyone can use any title.

This article summarizes how I think about “titles” in general and how I “translate” titles into other particular factors.

Titles and Levels

Most established tech companies have a progression of titles. Titles are also usually associated with some numerical “level”. For example, Google has (had?) the following titles and levels.


Solving Sri Lanka’s Problems with Five Precepts

Corruption is a common topic in Sri Lankan conversation. And many wonder why I’m usually silent when it comes up. Those who’ve known me a short while assume that I might be a direct or indirect supporter of the maroon team or whoever the corrupter is. Those who’ve known me longer know that I’ve been similarly silent when discussing the green(ish) team’s corruption. Hence, they assume that I might be apathetic or might have given up.

“Don’t you care about these problems?”, you might have asked.

I have a simple answer to this question. “No — I don’t care about…

Nuwan I. Senaratna

I am a Computer Scientist and Musician by training. A writer with interests in Philosophy, Economics, Technology, Politics, Business, the Arts and Fiction.

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