Thursday, July 27, 2006

Crazyfinger writes

"Be that as it may, it appears to me that, while our eye is on the ball for the impressive economic growth in the years to come, nothing noteworthy is happening on the law front. I haven’t read a single article or a news report that seriously talked about legal reforms, commensurate with economic reforms. Why is that? We occasionally read business community (international) complaining about the legal impediments to establishing scale businesses in India, but no response is reported. How is it that we embrace with so much enthusiasm our own economic boom while riding on the coattails of U.S. business world, but show no interest in the supreme U.S. legal system? If push comes to shove, I’d take the boom in legal reform anyday, over the boom in the economic reform. Puzzling. So I wanted to dig into history and try to figure out what is our legal tradition, what is its status now, and why is it that legal professionals don’t seem to participate in the social commentary.

All that and more I found in a gem called “Professor Kingsfield Goes to Delhi: American Academics, the Ford Foundation, and the Development of Legal Education in India” by Professor Jayanth Krishnan of William Mitchell College of Law (free download). Once in a while, when you are looking for something, it feels like all the answers are hidden in plain view already, lurking and springing forward as soon as you form the right question in the right way. This paper feels like one of those springing forward answers, if you are looking to understand what is happening to the state of legal education in India.

Writing with simple clarity is a hard-earned skill - a long and arduous labor before it becomes “natural” (or “intuitive”) - and deserves a premium appreciation by itself. Not only this approximately 55-page document written with an illuminating clarity, but it also reads like a Dashiell Hammett page-turner."
I ditto his sentiments.

Lalu goes to Harvard


Lalu Prasad Yadav's work with the Indian Railways may soon be a part of the curriculum at Harvard.

His detractors may call him a 'clown and a joker', but there's no denying that Lalu Prasad Yadav has a flair for business. The way he turned around the Indian Railways -- written off by the Rakesh Mohan Committee and termed a white elephant by the government -- is the stuff business curriculums are made of. And it is not just IIMs who want to fete Laluji for posting a fund balance of Rs 11,280 crore in March 2006, even the premier international business schools are joining in.

Harvard Business School and HEC Management School, France, have shown interest in turning Lalu's experiment with the railways into case studies for aspiring biz graduates. For HEC, the crux lies in how a railway system, under the jurisdiction of a coalition government, can be put on the road to success.

Explains Karine Lejoly of HEC, "We are looking at making the Indian Railways a part of our course. While nothing has been finalised as of now, I will be visiting India in October-November to talk to the concerned officials."
Prof G Raghuraman from IIM-A, who first introduced Lalu in their curriculum, says, "We are not just working on the facelift that Lalu has given to the railways but also his personality, the team he works with and the initiatives he has taken. It was not as if Lalu applied some new principles, he was just the guy who said, 'Let's get down to it'."

Earlier story: Lalu goes to IIM-A:
and some his ‘reforms’:
For an overview of Lalu's turbulent period in Bihar see:
Social Justice and Stalled Development:
Caste Empowerment and the Breakdown of Governance in Bihar, Spring 2006.
Update(September 1, 2006)
More links and news in
Foe a recent discussion and comments see

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Problems ahead for India?

Interesting analysis in:
See also for intersting articles and links :

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Asian Future of Evolutionary Psychology

In the Evolotutionary Psychology yaoo discussion group, there is a link to an exchange between Professors Geoffrey Miller and Satoshi Kanazawa on the future of evolutionary psychlogy in Asia. The discussion seems to be of general interest and not really specific to one science. Strangely neither of them seems to take in to account the strong immigration component of the US population. I am enclosing the links to the papers and their abstracts. I hope that Madhukar Shukla and Abi will have some comments.

The Asian Future of Evolutionary Psychology
Geoffrey Miller, Department of Psychology, Logan Hall, 1 University of New Mexico, MSC03 2220, Albuquerque, NM 87131-1161, USA. Email:
Abstract: Asia’s population, wealth, cognitive capital, and scientific influence are growing quickly. Reasonable demographic, economic, and psychometric projections suggest that by the mid-21st century, most of the world’s psychology will be done in Asia, by Asians. Even if evolutionary psychology wins the battles for academic respectability in the United States and European Union, if it ignores the rise of Asian psychology, it will fail to have any serious, long-term, global influence in the behavioral sciences after the current generations of researchers are dead. I outline a ‘marketing strategy’ for promoting evolutionary psychology in the current Asian powers (Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore), the new Asian mega-powers (China, India), and other developing Asia countries (e.g. Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia), in a way that takes advantage of Asia’s relative secularism, freedom from political correctness, sex-positive social attitudes, and intellectual traditions of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism.

No, It Ain’t Gonna Be Like That
Satoshi Kanazawa, Interdisciplinary Institute of Management, London School of Economics and Political Science, Houghton Street, London WC2A 2AE, United Kingdom. Email:
Abstract: For cultural, social, and institutional reasons, Asians cannot make original contributions to basic science. I therefore doubt Miller's prediction for the Asian future of evolutionary psychology. I believe that its future will continue to be in the United States and Europe.

Asian Creativity: A Response to Satoshi Kanazawa
Geoffrey Miller, Department of Psychology, Logan Hall, 1 University of New Mexico, MSC03 2220, Albuquerque, NM 87131-1161, USA. Email:
Abstract: This article responds to Satoshi Kanazawa’s thoughtful and entertaining comments about my article concerning the Asian future of evolutionary psychology. Contra Kanazawa’s argument that Asian cultural traditions and/or character inhibit Asian scientific creativity, I review historical evidence of high Asian creativity, and psychometric evidence of high Asian intelligence (a cognitive trait) and openness to experience (a personality trait) – two key components of creativity. Contra Kanazawa’s concern that political correctness is a bigger threat to American evolutionary psychology than religious fundamentalism, I review evidence from research funding patterns and student attitudes suggesting that fundamentalism is more harmful and pervasive. Finally, in response to Kanazawa’s focus on tall buildings as indexes of national wealth and creativity, I find that 13 of the world’s tallest 25 buildings are in China, Hong Kong, or Taiwan – of which 11 were built in the last decade. Asian creativity, secularism, and architectural prominence point to a bright future for Asian science.

Iron Law of Oligarchy

From Penguin dictionary of Sociology:
“In his analysis of German Social Democracy, Robert Michels argued (1911) that labour organizations with democratic aims, such as political parties and trade unions, experienced a tension between the need foe efficiency and membership control of the making and execution of policy. As they grew in size, labour organizations became more complex and permanent bureaucracies developed to cope efficiently with the problems of administration. The officials, by virtue of their expertise and experience, became indispensable and difficult to change even when subject to periodic re-election. Once they occupied this strong position, the leaders began to emancipate themselves from member control and displace member goals with their own. These goals are usually less radical than those of the members and the official party or union ideology. As they controlled the channels of communication, they manipulated the flow of information to help buttress their positions. In the final analysis, goal displacement depended on the apathy and lack of involvement of members with issues of party or union government.

The modern study of trade-union government and the internal structure of mass political parties has been deeply influenced by Michel’s pessimism, though research shows that the ‘iron law’ of oligarchy does not always apply to such organizations.”
Some more about Michels is at:
There seems to be an element of truth in the iron law, particularly when there are no grass roots political and social organizations. Lok Satta started developing such organizations and is now debating about becoming a political party. Coincidentally Govt. of India is trying to dilute RTI Act:
According to Dilip D'Souza, a place to contact is:
C 17A Munirka, New Delhi 110 067, India
Telefax: +91 (0)11 26178048; Phone: 26168759,
where my old friend Shekhar Singh seems to be working.

Dr. Free-Ride's Advice to Non-Scientists

Interesting article by Janet Stemwedel at:

"Rather, I think what I'd be happy with is a population which:

has a sense of the kinds of questions science can answer -- and the kinds of questions science cannot answer

has a reasonable understanding of the methods scientists use to try to answer these questions

has a reasonable understanding of the types of "qualitiy control" to which putative scientific findings are subjected

This kind of basic grasp of science puts the non-scientist in a position to get something more from reports of scientific findings than an updated set of facts to take on someone else's authority. My hope, anyway, is that a better feel for the way science works will help people be more critical consumers of science reporting -- an audience that will read past the headline to the "fine print" that provides the qualifiers about the precise conditions the scientists examined and the strength of their conclusions. An audience that knows something about how scientific knowledge comes into being can ask questions about what kinds of assumptions were made in studying a particular question, how widely applicable the findings are, and what questions remain unanswered."
There is much more and also some concrete advice in the article.

Training the Brain

Two free articles in the current issue of “Scientific American Mind”, one about training the mind using computer games and the second about taste In ‘Circuit Training’:
Kasper Mossman discusses Ryuta Kawashima’s game ‘Brain Age’. Kawashima’s idea is that your brain has its own age and if you do not train it, it gets old. He has various exercise to train the brain. Gross man who is only 34 had an estimated brain age of 60 to begin with but:
“After a week of exercises such as Low to High, CalculationsÃ…~100, and Head Count, were my synapses any slicker? It is hard to say, when there is no external yardstick against which to measure progress. But one week into brain training, while taking a phone message, I found I could effortlessly hold one 10-digit number in my head and scribble down another. Maybe Kawashima is onto something.”
Mossmam also describes other computer games designed for children with attention difficulties and patients recovering from brain injuries.
See also another free article by Ulrich Kraft “Train Your Brain”:
I have already forgotten the contents of this earlier article. It is time to start training my brain.

Friday, July 21, 2006


Toxoplsma gondii is a parasite related to the malaria parasite and can be carried by many warm-blooded mammals including humans. But its definitive host is cats and it can sexually reproduce only in cats. Its eggs are spread in cat faeces. A passing rat can pick it up from the moist infected soil. Apparently rats behave recklessly when infected (resulting in toxoplasmosis or toxo for short) , are more active and less scared of new things and are even attracted to cat's urine. This makes them easy prey to cats and the life cycle of the parasite continues.
Between 30 to 70 percent of the humans (depending on the country) are supposed to be infected with this parasite and the effects may vary considerably. Apparently it can affect one’s intelligence, has been linked to schizophrenia and may raise chances of being knocked out by a car. But the main danger seems to be to pregnant women and pregnant women are urged to be vary of handling cats and cat litter:
According to New Scientist:;jsessionid=GDHALMBFEDLA
the definite host is cats and the effects on humans may be much less harmful and depend on the gender:
“The results from personality tests were complicated and showed confusing gender differences, but men at least seemed to mimic one aspect of rat manipulation. Infected men tended to be more independent and inclined to break rules, although infected women tended to go the other way. Could it be that males are being made more reckless, like the rats, while for some reason the mind-control chemical has the opposite effect in females? “
“But one test, measuring reaction times and attention span, gave more consistent results (Parasitology, vol 122, p 515). Both men and women who had a latent infection took longer to press a computer key after a prompt from the monitor. People without an infection took about 250 milliseconds to react, but those with a latent infection reacted about 8 per cent slower. What's more, toxo-positive subjects did worse as the experiment went on, suggesting that they have shorter attention spans. Again, the effects in humans seem to be mimicking those in rats.
Until recently, few people have taken Flegr's results very seriously. So what if toxo causes a few strange lab results, what difference does that make in the real world? What made people sit up and take notice was research published in August by Flegr's team showing that humans with a latent infection are 2.7 times more likely to be involved in a car accident (BMC Infectious Diseases,”
It is possible that this parasite has very little affect on humans but I was reminded of it by the developments in the middle east.
Update (August 2, 2006). See
for the latest.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Hard Blogging (Science)

Razib at GNXP (Classic) says:

John Hawks is the Chris of Mixing Memory for paleoanthropology, and Chris of Mixing Memory is the John Hawks of cognitive psychology. And Robert Skipper is the philosopher & historian of science equivalent of the pair. Can you name other weblogs that stand head & shoulders above the pack in terms of their scholarly orientations?

What Razib didn't say, modestly, is that his own blogging at GNXP and GNXP Classic "stands head & shoulders above the pack" in terms of scholarly orientation. I'll add RPM at Evolgen. And in philosophy of biology, John Wilkins' stuff on species at Evolving Thoughts is required reading.
Some of these links:
Pl.check also the comments in gnxp

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Some science sites

Science seems to be getting more and more complicated. May 25th issue of Nature has an article: "What is a gene". It seems that two decades ago, the concept of gene was explained in two hours to fresh undergraduates. Now, it takes a whole semester. According to one scientist "Diecrete genes are beginning to vanish. We have a whole continuum of transcripts". Even many of the teachers are unaware of basic discoveries in other areas. I am listing below a few online journals which have popular science articles. I will correct and update it from time to time.

1 Science magazines and sites (free):

2 Longer articles and downloadable books:

3 Science magazines and sites (some free articles):

4 Science news and discussion blogs :

5 Sustainable development, water resources

6 Future prospects

7. Continuous updates about interesting sites

More from

In retirement, I have started trying to find out how things are in India. The period I still remember distinctly is the decade of post independence. By that time, I was bitten by the mathes bug and did not pay much attention to the world around. By 60’s there seemed to be some improvements and the time of major famines seemed to be over. The whole Indira Gandhi period was a bit of haze for me though traumatic for many others. Off and on when I visited home, I heard comments that our caste was loosing out and the lower castes did not know their place any more. Overall, there seemed to be improvements. I hoped that the period when poverty dehumanised both haves and have nots was over. Since, I do not have too much faith in the mainstream media, I started looking at blogs. There seem to be many brilliant people and many brilliant blogs, generally interested and anxious about India’s development, but somehow frenetic and I could not get a picture of how things actually work in India. I also feel that the problems are too complex, news too unreliable that it is difficult for any one person to understand the current realities and one has to be a part, formally or informally, of a discussion group to get a grip on the current events and future directions.
One such group seems to be
I read comments in some other blogs that these are commies, but as far as I can see from individual blogs, some of them seem to be suspicious of ideologies. They all seem vaguely left (for me left means those who are concerned about others irrespective of their race and creed. Possibly many economists are leftists according to this definition). At the moment, I am sold on this blog and hope that many more such group blogs will arrive. To get an idea of how difficult social change may be in India, look at the articles and comments on reservations. To get an idea of how things actually work and the nitty-gritty of clash of ideologies, politics, egos see mrajshekhar’s articles about Orissa and ‘World Bank, SHGs, market linkages and the private sector”. In spite of all the anxiety about development, there seem to more comments about caste and reservation and less about development. There are more such articles in the ‘My Articles’ section of, for example,
I do not know how long the site will last but at the moment it seems to be doing a good job of educating people like me about India.