Citizens' Issues
Actor Robin Williams found dead in apparent suicide

In addition to his Oscar, the 'Mrs Doubtfire' and 'Jumanji' actor won two Emmys, four Golden Globes, five Grammys and two SAG Awards


Oscar-winning actor and comedian Robin Williams has died at the age of 63. According to police in Marin County, California, Williams was found 'unconscious and not breathing' just before noon yesterday inside his home in Tiburon, California, following a 911 phone call.


He was pronounced dead at 12:02pm after emergency personnel arrived.


An investigation into the cause of the death is underway, but 'the Sheriff's Office Coroner Division suspects the death to be a suicide due to asphyxia.'


A forensic examination is scheduled for today along with a press conference in San Rafael, California.


Williams' publicist Mara Buxbaum said, "Williams has been battling severe depression of late. This is a tragic and sudden loss. The family respectfully asks for their privacy as they grieve during this very difficult time."


His wife, Susan Schneider, said, "This morning, I lost my husband and my best friend, while the world lost one of its most beloved artists and beautiful human beings. I am utterly heartbroken. On behalf of Robin's family, we are asking for privacy during our time of profound grief. As he is remembered, it is our hope the focus will not be on Robin's death, but on the countless moments of joy and laughter he gave to millions."


Added David Steinberg, his manager of 35 years, "Nobody made the world laugh like Robin Williams. My brother, my friend, my soulmate, I will miss you."


Williams, a four-time Oscar nominee, won a supporting actor Oscar for 'Good Will Hunting' for his portrayal of a wise and morose psychologist. He most recently starred in CBS' comedy 'The Crazy Ones', which lasted only one season. He was nominated for a People's Choice Award for his role as an advertising executive on the comedy, in which Sarah Michelle Gellar played his daughter.


Crazy Ones production company 20th Century Fox TV said in a statement, "Robin Williams was a comedy giant, and although we only knew him personally for a season, he was warm, funny and a true professional. He was one of a kind."


Williams also recently starred in the feature 'Angriest Man in Brooklyn' opposite Mila Kunis, Melissa Leo and Peter Dinklage.


His next project is the feature film 'Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb', the third film in the trilogy, which is set to hit theaters on 19th December via 20th Century Fox.


In addition to his Oscar, Williams won two Emmys, four Golden Globes, five Grammys and two SAG Awards.


Hollywood mourned the death of the actor on Twitter after news broke Monday afternoon.


"I will never forget the day I met him and he stood on his head in my office chair and pretended to drink a glass of water using his finger like a straw," Happy Days and Mork & Mindy creator Garry Marshall recalled.


Williams' first comic film role was the lead in Robert Altman's live-action 'Popeye' (1980), which received mixed reviews. He went on to delight audiences in a long string of big-screen comedies, including 1993's 'Mrs Doubtfire' and 1996's 'The Birdcage'. He also lent his voice to Disney's animated classic Aladdin (1992), playing the Genie, a part written specifically for him.


We are still trying to find a good theory of the brain

Two large groups of scientists are still trying to unravel the mystery of the brain in both sides of the Atlantic


“The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.” — Albert Einstein

Medical scientists seem to have forgotten that science cannot be static; it has to change according to our understanding of man and the world. Time was when we used to teach and accept that the brain is a vital organ that runs the human body and a lot of work has gone into trying to understand the brain. There are two large groups of scientists who are still trying to unravel the mystery of the brain on both sides of the Atlantic. Hundreds of neuroscientists from all over the world have written open letters to the ‘Human Brain Project’ of the European Commission, which has a budget of $1.6 billion, pointing out that the project is overly narrow, ill-conceived and radically premature! Similar criticism has also been aimed at the Obama administration’s ‘Brain Initiative’. The American initiative is hi-tech as usual, using the latest opto-genetics, which allows analysis of individual neurons! Hi-tech has sadly come to be equated with better results.

The real problem is that we still do not know what a good theory of the brain would actually look like. Gary Marcus, professor of psychiatry at the New York University, who is engaged in writing a new book on the future of the brain, also feels that the kind of brain research that we are doing is like the search for the grand unified theory in physics. The old method of building scientific models, which has served to make life much easier with gadgets, communication and transport facilities, seems to have outlived its usefulness. Current brain research falls into that old paradigm.

There is, however, a new model known as biocentrism that takes human consciousness into account. In physics, new understanding of the implications of Werner Heisenberg’s famous uncertainty principle shook up the foundations of the classical model propounded by Newtonians. Similarly, once we are able to correctly account for human consciousness, we may no longer go after brain cells, or for that matter any other body cells, in isolation. The human body works as a whole. Fritz-Albert Popp elegantly showed, using his bio photon camera, how the brain cells respond even to an ointment applied on the dorsum of the hand, with complete synchronicity. According to him, one is healthy only when all the body cells dance in sync; when they are out of sync, one is ill!

Future research should concentrate on consciousness to understand the working of the brain and the human body, not spend billions of dollars to misunderstand the human as machine. Technology has been very profitable in healthcare and the interested parties would not want to abandon it easily. In fact, it is such reductionist (vivisectionist) researchers who get the Nobel Prize and all the grants.

There are some oases in this scientific desert where thinking people are questioning our dogmas. People like Karl Popper, Paul Feyerabend, Harry Miller and Trevor Pinch, among others, have questioned the existing scientific model; but the money involved in this model does influence many men in the world of science. Paper writing, awards, grant collection, fattening the CV and social status are more attractive than thinking. Now, studies on rats have been found to be seriously flawed, as the researcher’s consciousness and even his gender could change the results by as much as 40%. While one research cannot discount all others, it does raise questions about how modern science conducts its research. Let there be an international conference of thinkers in science to set the ball rolling for research in holistic science.

No one knows how our mind works, but it surely does not fit the present paradigm of the mind as a product of mere neurons and axons.

 “The brain is a wonderful organ; it starts working the moment you get up in the morning and does not stop until you get into the office.” — Robert Frost

Professor Dr BM Hegde, a Padma Bhushan awardee in 2010, is an MD, PhD, FRCP (London, Edinburgh, Glasgow & Dublin), FACC and FAMS.



Jeanine Joy

3 years ago

Thank you for pointing this out.

I have been researching the question, "What makes humans thrive?" for a few decades by reviewing research from diverse scientific disciplines.
I often see research stating, "We observed ____ but need more research to understand it. But, because I don't limit myself to one discipline, I've seen research in another area that explains and could have predicted the results.

Multi-disciplinary research is difficult to publish because the peer review process wants an expert that can review the entire work to do so while some of the answers must cross disciplines. A committee review, with experts from each field in the work would be a workable solution.

I saw one paper that theorized that our brains were not storage devices, but sending and receiving towers. It indicated the functions we see in the brain are circuits that are activated based on where the station is tuned to receive or transmit.

The idea really resonated with me but I did not make a note of which paper it was in, expecting to see further work on the concept.

Quantum Physics is providing answers about how quickly communication occurs in the body--something the old chemical reactions cannot do.

What I call The Galileo Effect makes many cling to the old paradigms until they fall under the weight of the exceptions required to shore them up. We need to consider the Parsimony Principle more often when the exceptions to the answer we believe is true begin piling up. When we understand how the mind is designed to prove our beliefs to us rather than show us reality we will do so.
Jeanine Joy

Competition Commission to demand 1.5% penal interest for delay in fines

The demand notice issued to defaulters would now specifically mention that any default in penalty payment would attract a penal interest of 1.5% per month


Looking to recover thousands of crores worth penalties imposed on erring entities, fair trade regulator Competition Commission of India (CCI) will now specifically demand a penal interest amount applicable to delayed fines in its demand notices.


The CCI is mandated to keep a tab on unfair business practices across sectors and is authorised to impose fines on those found to have engaged in anti-competitive activities.


To help CCI recover penalties from defaulters in a more effective manner, the Government has amended the Competition Commission of India (Manner of Recovery of Monetary Penalty) Amendment Regulations.


While these regulations provide for the CCI to levy a simple interest on the unpaid penalty amount, the details of the same were not explicitly mentioned in demand notices so far.


Pursuant to the latest amendment, notified on 30th July, the demand notice issued to defaulters would now specifically mention that any default in payment of the penalty would attract a penal interest of 1.5% per month.


“In case you fail to deposit the penalty amount... within the aforesaid period, you shall be liable to pay simple interest at the rate of 1.5% for every month or part of a month comprised in the period commencing from the date immediately after the expiry of the period mentioned in this demand notice and ending with the date on which the demand is paid,” as per a new paragraph to be inserted in demand notices.


As per the amendment, the demand notice would further state, "Further, the Commission shall also take necessary steps for recovery of the sum due besides initiating action for non-compliance of the order(s) of the Commission".


The latest amendment brings more clarity on actions that could be taken in case there is a default in payment of penalties imposed by the CCI.


Though the fair trade watchdog has slapped hefty penalties for various violations across sectors, the actual recovery of monies is low. Going by estimates, thousands of crores worth fines are yet to be recovered as many rulings are in litigation.


In December last year, the government had said that CCI recovered only nearly Rs20 crore as against penalties worth more than Rs8,000 crore imposed on 154 entities.


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