Tuesday, August 29, 2006

A new blog about India

An American sociologist Stephen Zavestovski has started a blog http://curiousstall.blogspot.com/ about India after spending 6 months there. At the moment he has a series of posts about consumerism in India. The blogs make easy and pleasant reading. He has also started giving links to blogs which are not that known but have interesting posts about working class Indians. All these are refreshingly different from other Indian blogs and give some glimpses of India that I miss. By the looks of it, Stephen may travel to India again and continue with this blog for some time; at least I hope that he will.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Money and mathematics

For those who worried about Perelman missing out on a million dollara, here is an example of the sort of money some can make by quitting mathematcs (coutesy gene expression):
"James H. Simons, the former math professor who founded the $12 billion quantitative shop Renaissance Technologies Corp., pocketed an estimated $1.5 billion last year. That was thanks to the 5% in fees and nearly 44% of profits that Renaissance docks its investors (vs. traditional hedge funds' typical "2 and 20"). Clients don't complain; Renaissance's leading fund has returned 35%, after fees, since 1989".
Simons was a professor mathematics at SUNY (Stoney Brook) and was doing quite well (still lots of papers on Chern-Simons invariants) when he moved to financial investment. Apparently, some of these companies pay newcomers 250,000 US dollars an year plus bonus. Being good on mathematics seems to help in getting jobs in these companies.

There is avery interesting article in the Newyorker explaining some of the politics involved in mathematical circles and Perelman's refusal to accept the Fields medal:
The article may suggest that some thing is strange about Chinese mathematics but this kind of controversies and postings of incomplete proofs and changing them have been going for some time ( see various papers on Tarski problems). See also:
In this kind of atmosphere, Perelman is impressive and this comes out very well in the Newyorker article. His attitude seems to be that even honest mathematicians are putting up with dishonest practices and he wants no part in these politics.

2006 Fields medals

Perelman seems to be bringing a lot of attention to mathematics. From
(which has discussions on the work of winners and various links):
Today the arXiv servers contain the message ” arXiv.org servers are currently under very heavy load due to demand for Grisha Perelman’s papers, published only as arXiv.org e-prints, which are available below.”
The information about various winners and their work can be found at;
The work of Nevanlinna prize winner Jon Kleinberg seems to be of general interest and accessible to most:
The youngest this year is Terence Tao at 31 and he describes his methods in:
Though all this news seems to be rekindling a bit of interest in mathematics again, nothing brought me the same thrill as Galois Theory of which:
Hermann Weyl, one of the greatest mathematicians of the 20th century, said of this testament ( composed on the night before his death}, "This letter, if judged by the novelty and profundity of ideas it contains, is perhaps the most substantial piece of writing in the whole literature of mankind."

Monday, August 21, 2006

Green Energy

A series of articles on green enery:
(courtesy of http://valluvar.blogspot.com/)
Brazil's road to oil independence via green energy:
and comentary at: http://scienceblogs.com/corpuscallosum/2006/08/brazils_independence_from_fore.php

More on Grigori Perelman

Simon Singh in
says "I believe that this hairy Russian hermit could be the poster boy who helps create a new generation of mathematical geniuses".
Somebody actually interviewd Perlman recently:
More from the Telegraph:
Wikipedia has continuous updates:
Abinandanan at http://nanopolitan.blogspot.com/ gave the link to an aricle
http://www.slate.com/id/2147954/ by Jordan Ellenberg. Ellenberg has other interesting articles on mathematics in the same site. I hope that he will write one on Galois Theory.
Here is a link to talks by John Morgan:

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Poincare Conjecture

The following article gives a very nice and accurate wrte up on the solution of the Poinacre conjecture and mathematician who is different:
Suddenly, the topic seems to be in several blogs; may be again the influence of mainstream news. Despite the recent disquiet in several blogs about the rise of anti-scientic attitudes in USA, USA is still a power house in science and mathematics. Though Perelmam came from a Russian tradition which seems to be weakening, many of the mathematicians who contributed to the solution are Americans or educated in USA. The Americans took to Toplogy when it was young and many of the big names and large number of mathematicians working in Toplogy starting with Veblen, Alexander have been Americans. Thurston popularized Hyperbolic Geometry since the late 70's and formulated the Geometrization Conjecture of which Poincare Conjecture is a special case. The Geomtrization Conjecture is much more wide ranging and (now known to be true after Perelman) elucidates the structure of all compact three manifolds. Richard Hamilton started developing the Ricci flow techinque in the 80's specially for the purpose of attacking the Geometrzation Conjecture. Even after Perelman's three papers improving Hamilton's techniques, it took a number of powerful mathematicaians (mostly Americans) three and half years to complete the programme.
George Szpiro, who earlier wrote a popular book on the Kepler Problem is writing a popular book on the Poincare Conjecture and may come out in an year. If the preliminary chapters are any indication, it should be a very readable book.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Links 13/8/06

Review of a book on the entire human past:
Review of book on the origins ofresearch universities:
“Therefore the professor could not come of age until the birth of the modern secular state.

This observation is the linchpin of Clark’s analysis. After making it, he introduces a startling set of ideas: It was not the professors who created the modern academic profession; rather, it was the rationalizing, bureaucratic, market-conscious functionaries who served the various German states of the 18th century. Through site visits, the careful recording of facts, new methods of accountability and judicious use of budgets, government ministers forced the once-indolent professors to become hardworking and reputation-seeking. It was ultimately the state that created the syndrome of "publish or perish" and put us on the path to the large-scale research environments in which scientific work is pursued today.”
“Even four decades ago, Clark Kerr, who was then president of the University of California, warned about the damage to academic culture caused by the "rise of the Research Grant University." In the final chapter of Academic Charisma and the Origins of the Research University, William Clark joins a large number of critics in finding fault both with the managerial and corporate styles of governance present in research academia today and with the grandstanding and self-seeking that have encouraged institutions to purchase faculty. It is assuredly difficult to recognize the remains of collegial authority in today’s universities. The heavy emphasis on wealth generation has produced university-government-industrial alliances that are often disturbing, compromising our sense of the proper use of scientific inquiry and making us wonder about the true strength of professional values. However, this is a complicated story of losses and gains. This tailpiece of the book is its least original part, but in fairness it does tell us where Clark began his retrospective investigations.”
Last of the recent papers on gender differences by Jake Young in Pure Pedantry:
This time he summarizes 1993 paper by Diane Halpern:
In spite of the research since then, her conclusions are similar to those by Jake Young. Final two sentences of her paper:
"We should keep in mind the words of the 18th-century British writer who was once asked, “Which is smarter, men or women?” He replied: “Which man, which woman?””
Suggested solution to the middle east problem from health scientists:
I agree with them but how does one go about it?
An interesting post with a link to recent research and discussion on terrorism fear at:
Madhukar Shukla is as usual informative and skeptical on future employment in India:

Saturday, August 12, 2006

A review of "The New York Review of Books"

It was the December 2003 holiday issue that hooked me. Since then, I have been reading Review fairly regularly, off and on going to the back issues. Since I am not particularly in to any thing except mathematics, I was pleasanly see this endorsement of the Review:
One excerpt: "The first is the inherent interest and intellectual stimulation of each. But the second is that each is dazzlingly discussed in the most recent edition of the publication that, at least in the opinion of this general reader, has the largest claim to be regarded as the indispensable publication of the modern English-speaking world - the New York Review of Books."

Attitudes to evolution in different countries

There is a very interesting discussion:
on this report:
See http://newsroom.msu.edu/site/indexer/2827/content.htm
for a link to the original article.
A couple of correspondents tried to see the correlation to tax rates and murder rates. Unfortunately, the list has only 34 counntries. The two countries that I am most familiar with, Australia and India, are not on the list. The survey is confined to some western countries. A follow up post:
Pharyngula has a list of books on evolution here:

Friday, August 11, 2006

At last

Having been a smoker for over 40 years, I find this news cheery:
but probably there are many other ways, like exercising, which may prevent Parkinson's.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Book Recommendations

Off and on, newspapers and magazines have lists of best books of the decade, century and so on. Even in this information age, I find that I have not read most of these books. Finally I have found a list in which I have read some of the books and know of the others. Here is the link;
Americanscientist has this kind of interviews periodically.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

New Scientist on antioxidants

"You name it, if it's an antioxidant, we'll swallow it by the bucket-load. According to some estimates around half the adults in the US take antioxidant pills daily in the belief they promote good health and stave off disease. We have become antioxidant devotees. But are they doing us any good? Evidence gathered over the past few years shows that at best, antioxidant supplements do little or nothing to benefit our health. At worst, they may even have the opposite effect, promoting the very problems they are supposed to stamp out."
The article needs subscrption. The gist is that antioxidants work when taken in the form of naturally occuring vegetables and fruits, they rarely work and may be even harmful (except in some cases of particular deficiencies). The scientists are not sure of the mechanisms involved; may be fibrous material in vegetables and some other unknown mechanisms may be involved.

A scientist looks at colour prejudice

Pl. check:

Brazil's Innovation Law

"Innovation is now widely acknowledged as an essential tool for development. Other nations would do well to learn from the political challenges that Brazil's new legislation has unearthed."
"An important element of the new law is its explicit attempt to increase social inclusion by encouraging public participation in decision making — which has rarely featured in the country's history. The law was drawn up with public consultations, primarily through posting a draft version on the Internet and asking for comments from different segments of society before it was discussed at public meetings. The final draft was approved in December 2004 (see Brazil adopts innovation law), and came into force last October.

The law has three main components: incentives for building and strengthening partnerships between universities, research institutes and private companies; incentives to encourage the participation of universities and research institutes in the innovation process; and incentives for promoting innovation within private companies.

A key component is that it encourages public and private companies to share research staff, funding and facilities, including scientific laboratories. This was previously forbidden on the grounds that it meant that public funds would be subsidising private business.

In principle, one of the benefits of the new legislation is that it provides a way for private companies to receive government funding for innovation projects. Whether this materialises has yet to be seen; so far the government has not given any details on what form this support will take.

Private companies have also welcomed the government's promise to give tax credits for investment in research and development, although the details of how this will work have also not yet been clarified."
For more hopes and doubts, read the complete article at SciDev.Net

Monday, August 07, 2006

A GD Naidu type story

This has been around for three days but no comments so far:
I wonder whether this is because the story is not taken up by the mainstream media. Apparently there is a new scholarly book on blogging: http://snurb.info/index.php?q=node/158. May be it will tell us why.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

A gambling case before WTO

The following interesting and cheery news via madisonian.net and

"Scoffing, the Antiguans are asking the WTO to declare that Washington is defying its ruling. Many experts expect Antigua to win again, after months of delay.

Then comes the hard part for Antigua.

The WTO cannot force a country to do anything. Even if found guilty, a country can refuse to change its trade practices. The WTO largely enforces its rulings by giving the victorious country the right to impose punitive duties on the loser's products.

That enforcement mechanism works for big, rich countries such as the United States because other nations fear losing the vast U.S. market. But Antigua's economy is so tiny that few U.S. companies would notice.

"The WTO gives the little guys clout, but it cannot guarantee symmetry of justice," said Claude Barfield, a trade expert at the American Enterprise Institute.

So the Antiguans plan to ask the WTO for the right to impose sanctions that would hurt -- namely, permission to copy and export U.S.-made DVDs, CDs and similar material. Hollywood is not amused."

Read the full story at the above link to Washington Post.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Interesting threads from blogs

One of the crticisms of Putnam's social capital is that it is a local and small scale. Responses to pandemics may show how to combine such local efforts when there is a common cause. The science blog 'Effect Measure'
has the surprising example of Hezobollah's organization as a network of local units without strict hierarchies of conventional armies which makes it effecive and suggests similar strategies to fight pandemics:
SciDev.Net has continuous updates of efforts and news from all over the world.

There are several new articles on mirror neurons, parly stimulated by a sceptical post in 'mixing memory':

It is not clear what makes a topic break the 36 hour life span. Possibly topics taken up by main stream media still make them popular in blogs. An article in New york times describing the role of early development on health in later life seems to be generating a fair amount of discussion:http://www.gnxp.com/blog/2006/07/on-being-your-mothers-son.php
Related work of Robert Fogel and others is reviewd in
I hope to learn more of this.

I am still looking for a nice and simple write up on Bernoulli Effect with some pointers to everyday life.

Market economy?

I heard this kind of horror stories when I was in school. Apparently they are not just stories:
Courtesy: "Marginal Revolution".
See http://www.truthonthemarket.com/2006/07/20/organ-markets-social-justice-and-the-poor-a-reply-to-professor-pasquale/ for a discussion of the ethics of the organ market.

SciDev.Net news team wins an award

From http://www.scidev.net/ms/abswaward/
Friday 21 July 2006
SciDev.Net news team wins top UK science writing award

Lawrence McGinty, Health & Science Editor, ITN News (far left) and
Martin Taylor, Chairman of Syngenta (far right) present the award to
SciDev.Net's director, David Dickson and senior correspondent,
Catherine Brahic.

The Science and Development Network (SciDev.Net) news team has been awarded "best science journalism on the world wide web" by the UK's top science writing body.

The prize was presented to SciDev.Net by the Association of British Science Writers (ABSW) for its online coverage of the consequences of the tsunami that swept across the Indian Ocean in December 2004, claiming 300,000 lives.

Its timing coincides with calls to improve the region's tsunami early warning system, put in place in the aftermath of the 2004 disaster. This week, a new tsunami struck the Indonesian island of Java. Although the threat was detected, the warning messages did not reach the coastal communities, contributing to a death toll that is currently nearing 550.

SciDev.Net's coverage is grouped into a continually updated feature known as 'Tsunami update'. This combines regular news coverage of tsunami-related research, policy decisions and events with detailed background information about the causes of the disaster, analysis of its consequences and comment about lessons for the future.

SciDev.Net's coverage of the tsunami was coordinated by news editor Mike Shanahan, senior correspondent Catherine Brahic and South Asia regional coordinator T. V. Padma.

Other contributors to 'Tsunami update' during 2005 include SciDev.Net freelance reporters Sanjit Bagchi in India, Mustak Hossain in Bangladesh, Dilrukshi Handunnetti and Nalaka Gunawardene in Sri Lanka, Ochieng' Ogodo and Kimani Chege in Kenya, Abiodun Raufu in Nigeria, and Marilyn Smith in France.

In announcing the award, Ted Nield, the president of the ABSW, said that the short-list for the web-writing awards had provided a strong set of contenders that all made full use of the web’s capabilities. "Our winner delivered a really high quality writing product," said Nield. "Science writing for the web has finally arrived."

David Dickson, the director of SciDev.Net, said that he and the organisation's news team had been thrilled and honoured to receive recognition of its work by the ABSW. "I would like to thank all of those who contributed to this achievement, which demonstrates that one can combine good science journalism, the new possibilities opened up by the Internet, and a commitment to improving people's lives," he said.

The SciDev.Net news team has decided to donate its UK£2,000 prize money to the Disasters Emergency Committee, a coalition of aid agencies providing ongoing relief in areas affected by the 2004 tsunami.

Also at the 2005 ABSW science writing awards, Sonja van Renssen, who worked as an intern at SciDev.Net in the summer of 2005 and contributed to 'Tsunami update' during this time, won the category of "Young broadcaster of the year" for a radio programme about the ethical dilemmas raised by military research.
See http://www.scidev.net/content/opinions/eng/we-need-a-slow-race-for-science-based-development.cfm
for a flavour of some of their posts.