Saturday, March 31, 2007

Terence Tao has a blog

at It is probably of interest mainly to mathematicians but the recent post on Navier-Stokes may be of intertest to others too.

Friday, March 30, 2007

No comments for a while

This blog has been a desultory effort to keep track of what I have been reading some of which I keep going back to off and on. One of the topics that started me off was 'farmers suicides in India'. This led topics of globalization, corporations, evolution of morality etc. I seem to have found some interesting papers worth studying in some detail like the papers of Glenn Davis Stone on farmers' problems:, David Labaree's on education and some books on Marx. There is not enough time to read these and also engage in intense discussions. Though I will be posting on what seem interesting to me, there will not be any discussions in this blog for some time to come.


From :
For the first time, Denmark tops the rankings of The Global Information Technology Report 2006-2007 ’s “Networked Readiness Index ”, as a culmination of an upward trend since 2003. Sweden, Singapore and Finland follow, while the United States loses ground in networked readiness, falling 6 places to 7th position. With record coverage of 122 economies, the GITR has become the world’s most respected assessment of the impact of ICT (Information and Communication Technology) on the development process and the competitiveness of nations.
The rankings are here:
USA is 7th, Australia 15th, India 44th and China 59th.
According to BBC news:, India dropped four places from last year and China dropped 9 places.

Discover interviews Jane Goodall

Discover interview of Jane Goodall . Surprisingly, there is a bit about development and microfinance. Excerpts:
"I didn’t care about a degree—I just wanted to learn."

"What is wrong with current African aid programs?

People are given cash. I think the reason our reforestation and education program, TACARE [Lake Tanganyika Catchment Reforestation and Education], has worked so well is that we don’t do this. We’ve invested money into projects but only after sitting down with the locals—our Tanzanian team members do the talking, not us, not white people. So the villagers buy into our projects; they choose them. Microcredit [loans of less than $200] is the way forward, as long as you determine that the project these poor villagers want to develop is environmentally sustainable—that’s key.

How do you persuade people who barely have enough to eat that they need to lead “environmentally sustainable” lives?

TACARE works to improve the people’s lives through better farming, getting scholarships for girls to go to secondary school, HIV-AIDS information, family planning, health care, and especially helping women and children—because all around the world as women’s education improves, family size goes down. Right now more people are living on the land than it can support. And we do our youth program, Roots & Shoots, both inside and outside the villages. As a result, the villagers are now allowing the tree stumps that look dead to regenerate instead of hacking away at them for firewood. We’ve already seen trees coming back around many of these villages. The whole plan is to persuade the villagers to leave not their best but their worst land—land that chimps can travel through. Then our Gombe chimps will no longer be trapped within the tiny park."

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Center for Global Development

From a comment on a previous post:
" I wanted to let you and your readers know they can submit a question for Nancy (on Globalization and Inequality) to answer this week through our new online tool, Ask CGD: The live answer session will be on Friday March 30, from 11am-12noon EST. We also posted a short clip of Nancy giving an overview of the topic on YouTube:".
Update: Just noticed that William Easterly worked for a brief period in CGD and there is a lecture by him and discussions about his ideas on aid at CGD:
Andrew Leonard gives links to Easterly-Sachs debates ( also to some programmes of Abhijit Banerjee on development) in:
Nancy above refers to Nancy Birdsall of CGD ( whose article in Boston Globe was linked in a previous post.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Gandhi's advice to Arjun Rao

From (Gora's Life:An Outline):
"At Sevagram Gandhi told Arjun, "You should become like Ambedkar. You should work for the removal of untouchability and caste. Untouchability must go at any cost." "
More of Gora (Goparaju Ramachandra Rao) and Gandhi can be found in: "An Atheist with Gandhi" at

Pictures from Warangal District

are available in the 'images' section of
See in particular Kalleda 2004 and Samkranti 2005.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Race is on for global warming riches

See Yahoo News for the bonzana that may be waiting in the Arctic. Most of Antarctica is already claimed by Australia and a few other countries; India has a little stake too.

S.R.S. Varadhan wins Abel Prize

S.R.S.Varadhan wins Abel Prize:

By John Simpson
ScienceNOW Daily News
22 March 2007
Srinivasa Varadhan, a researcher at New York University (NYU) in New York City, has won the 2007 Abel Prize for mathematics. The $975,000 award--bestowed by the Norwegian Academy of Sciences and Letters--honors Varadhan's contributions to the field of probability theory, a branch of mathematics concerned with the analysis of random phenomena. The Abel citation credits Varadhan for fundamental work that has "greatly expanded our ability to use computers to simulate and analyze the occurrence of rare events."

Fittingly, in the manner of a random event, the prize announcement on Thursday caught Varadhan by surprise. "It was a shock. I couldn't believe it. It's still like a dream," he told Science.

Born in Madras, India, Varadhan began to work on probability theory as an undergraduate at Madras' Presidency College in 1959. After receiving his Ph.D. from the Indian Statistical Institute in Kolkata in 1963, his studies brought him to New York City later that year. Since 1966, he has taught at NYU's Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences. Among Varadhan's other prizes are the Birkhoff Prize in 1994, the American Mathematical Society's Leroy Steele Prize in 1996 and a Guggenheim Fellowship.

Varadhan's work on probability has implications for quantum field theory, population dynamics, finance, and traffic engineering. Probability theory is used increasingly today to help simulate random processes, Varadhan explains. "One would think the laws of physics would determine everything. But there are always things that are unpredictable," he says. For example, the probability of a catastrophic flood or an asteroid colliding with Earth might be small, but the consequences could be devastating, which makes it important for researchers to figure out such likelihoods.

Daniel Stroock, a mathematics professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge who has collaborated with Varadhan, says Varadhan's research has been a blessing to scientists in various disciplines: For instance, evolutionary biologists could rely on his work to calculate the chance that a specific mutation might impart a selective advantage to a species. "He's very talented and an extremely decent person, which is a rare event, itself a large deviation" from the ordinary, says Stroock.

Varadhan remains modest. "My feeling is you shouldn't let things like this get to your head. A lot of people deserve it, but so few can get it." This marks the second time in three years an NYU mathematician has won the Abel Prize. In 2005, it was given to Professor Peter Lax of the Courant Institute.
Update: Abel prize citation is available at the Wikipedia:

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Nancy Birdsall on Inequality

An excerpt from Nancy Birdsall's article in Boston Review:
"Subsequent work by many economists has strengthened my conviction that while inequality may be constructive in the rich countries—in the classic sense of motivating individuals to work hard, innovate, and take productive risks—in developing countries it is likely to be destructive. That is especially true in Latin America, where conventional measures of income inequality are high. It also may well apply in other parts of the developing world, where our conventional indicators are not so high but there are plentiful signs of other forms of inequality: injustice, indignity, and lack of equal opportunity.
Distinguishing between constructive and destructive inequality is useful. To clarify the distinction: inequality is constructive when it creates positive incentives at the micro level. Such inequality reflects differences in individuals’ responses to equal opportunities and is consistent with efficient allocation of resources in an economy. In contrast, destructive inequality reflects privileges for the already rich and blocks potential for productive contributions of the less rich."

And much more in the article (via 3quarksdaily).

Friday, March 23, 2007

Links 23/3/07

There is a lot about primary education in India( there is also an interesting post by Naveen Mandava in the Indian Economy Blog. It has links to a number of empirical studies) in Abhijit Banerjee's article on New Developmental Economics. An excerpt:
"A wonderful example of delving into the bowels of the machine can be found in a recent paper by Esther Duflo and Stephen Ryan of mit and Rema Hanna of nyu. Seva Mandir, an ngo in Western India, had long been concerned about the fact that in many of the primary schools they run there were reports that teachers do not come to school. The problem was that these were one-teacher schools, so if the teacher was not there, no one other than the children and their parents would know. And they tended to be in relatively remote areas, so arranging for someone to routinely check on them was out of the question. What could they do?

When Seva Mandir explained this challenge to Duflo, who had worked with them before, she had a brain wave. Cameras were getting cheaper all the time. Why not tell the teacher to get a child to take a picture of him and the class at the beginning of each day and at the end, with a time-and-date stamp on each picture. That way you will know at least that he was there at two points in a given day. Seva Mandir agreed to give it a try; and to make the teachers take it seriously, they announced that salaries would be tied to the pictures: teachers would be paid 50 rupees for every day for which they had two pictures. The 50-rupee number was chosen to give a teacher who showed up for 20 days a month what he used to get under the old system (1,000 rupees). There was some concern that teachers would resist the new system, but on the whole it was surprisingly well received: the teachers liked it because it put their destiny in their own hands.

Duflo, Hanna, and Ryan carried out a randomized evaluation of this program. The results showed that teacher absences (measured by unannounced visits by monitors to both experimental and control schools) were 42 percent in the control schools and 22 percent in the schools where the cameras were being used—and at the end of the year, children in the camera schools performed much better on their exams. Moreover, given how responsive teachers seemed to be to the incentives, Duflo, Hanna, and Ryan concluded that it would be worth raising the daily payment by 5 rupees, to 55 rupees per day.

Seva Mandir considered the experiment a success, and the program continues. But now that they have seen the benefits of giving the teachers incentives, they have begun to wonder whether there are cheaper options, and ones that are more unobtrusive. The plan is to think of new ways to appeal to the teachers’ motivations. The last time I was at Seva Mandir, I watched Duflo, her colleague Sendhil Mullainathan from Harvard, and Neelima Khetan from Seva Mandir debating how teachers would react to being confronted by empty pages in a child’s notebook, left empty to show that the teacher was not there. I thought I saw a new economics being born. "
Webcast and interviews on Has the civilization gone too far?.
Some of Glenn Davis Stone's papers are here. The 2002 paper "Both sides now..." comes with a backgrounder. The papers that appeared in 'Current Anthropology" have comments by others at the end and Stone's responses. The paper "Agricultural deskkilling etc...' has comments by Ronald J. herring some of whose artcles appeared in Indian magazines.
Current Biology has an online article which gives a 'new' twist to the Cooperation puzzle. It may be online for a few more days
Title:Cooperation Peaks at Intermediate Disturbance
Authors:Michael A. Brockhurst, Angus Buckling, and Andy Gardner
Explaining cooperation is a challenge for evolutionary biology [1, 2]. Surprisingly, the role of extrinsic ecological parameters remains largely unconsidered. Disturbances [3, 4] are widespread in nature and have evolutionary consequences [5]. We develop a mathematical model predicting that cooperative traits most readily evolve at intermediate disturbance. Under infrequent disturbance, cooperation breaks down through the accumulation of evolved cheats. Higher rates of disturbance prevent this because the resulting bottlenecks increase genetic structuring (relatedness [6, 7, 8]) promoting kin selection for cooperation. However, cooperation cannot be sustained under very frequent disturbance if population density remains below the level required for successful cooperation. We tested these predictions by using cooperative biofilm formation by the bacterium Pseudomonas fluorescens[9, 10]. The proportion of biofilm-forming bacteria peaked at intermediate disturbance, in a manner consistent with model predictions. Under infrequent and intermediate disturbance, most bacteria occupied the biofilm, but the proportion of cheats was higher under less frequent disturbance. Under frequent disturbance, many bacteria did not occupy the biofilm, suggesting that biofilm dwelling was not as beneficial under frequent versus intermediate disturbance. Given the ubiquity of disturbances in nature, these results suggest that they may play a major role in the evolution of social traits in microbes.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

more from Sciencedaily

Tomatos grow wellin diluted salt water:
“The controlled use of alternative water resources, such as diluted seawater, could be a valid tool to face drought in the Mediterranean region,” the researchers say in a report scheduled for the April 4 issue of ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a bi-weekly publication.
“Our results show that the antioxidant-related nutritional value of tomatoes is significantly improved when the fruits are picked at the red-ripe stage and when the plants are exposed to moderate salinity stress conditions, such as those determined by the application of diluted seawater (10 percent).”
From Mother Nature's Medicine Cabinet:
"In the study, the National Cancer Institute’s David J. Newman and Gordon M. Craig conclude that only 30 percent of the critically important “new chemical entities (NCEs)” introduced between 1981 and mid-2006 were synthetic and not based on a naturally-occurring compound. NCEs are totally new drugs, never before available, rather than modified versions of existing medications sometimes termed “me-too” drugs. The remaining 70 percent of the NCEs introduced during the last 25 years were natural products — medicines obtained from sources such as plants and animals, derived from natural products or chemically designed to mimic natural products.
Natural products range from aspirin (originally obtained from the willow tree) to taxol, the anti-cancer drug discovered in the Pacific yew tree. About half of all anti-cancer drugs introduced since the 1940s are either natural products or medicines derived directly from natural products, the study notes."
May be some of the traditional medicines are effective and found by trial and error and should not be ignored until further research is done. Apparently the Indian Govt. has funded a database for traditional medicine.
And this one on imitation learning.

Reducing the spread of elephantiasis

From Sciencedaily:
"Now, a new review of existing research suggests that enriching a community’s salt with a drug could treat and prevent the condition without any adverse effects.
But it remains a challenge to get governments to enrich their salt with the drug, diethylcarbamazine, or DEC.
“Biologically and medically, it’s a great tool. Operationally and socially, it’s a challenge to put it into place,” said Eric Ottesen, M.D., director of the Lymphatic Filariasis Support Center in Decatur, Ga. Ottesen was not involved with the research but is familiar with the review’s findings.
To gauge the effectiveness of enriching salt with DEC, researcher Srividya Adinarayanan of the Vector Control Research Center in Pondicherry, India, and her colleagues examined 21 studies in a new systematic review.
The review appears in the current issue of The Cochrane Library, a publication of The Cochrane Collaboration, an international organization that evaluates medical research. Systematic reviews like this one draw evidence-based conclusions about medical practice after considering both the content and quality of existing medical trials on a topic.
Drug treatments are fairly effective at getting rid of adult worms and very good at killing off the baby worms, which transmit the disease to other people through mosquitoes. But when tens of millions of people are infected, it can be difficult to provide care to individuals.
Enter the drug DEC, which kills the baby worms, known as microfilariae. Since the drug only works if people take it repeatedly, some health officials have put it in salt supplies so people could get a regular dose.
According to the reviewers, the studies suggest that DEC-medicated salt is effective at reducing transmission of the disease if maintained for at least six months. They added that the salt treatment can eliminate transmission entirely if used over a long period of time.
The reviewers also suggest that a very low dose of DEC over an extended period — perhaps six months — is better than bigger doses given at once.
A couple of caveats exist. For one, the reviewers say that widespread use of DEC could lead to resistance to the drug, although there’s been little research into this possibility. The reviewers add that “political and administrative commitment and community motivation is a necessity for community programs to be successful.”
Indeed, while China has eliminated filariasis with the help of DEC, regulatory hurdles have prevented many countries from enriching their salt despite research suggesting that DEC is effective, Ottesen said."

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Pretty picture

See the pretty picture of E_8 root system at AIM and news of some recent developments. Thye Mandala like picture on the right can be enlarged.

The Trap

Via Evolutionary Psychology group. Usually, the moderator and fellow Australian Robert Karl Stonjek posts on many of the latest developments in science But this one about the BBC seies "The Trap" by Adam Curtis came from some other regular contributors:The Trap on youtube. Synopses are coming out at blairwatch. The first two are here and here.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Catalyst to turn carbon dioxide to fuel?

This seems too good to be true but I saw it both in New Scientist and ecofriend. Excerpt from New Scientist:
"A new catalyst that can split carbon dioxide gas could allow us to use carbon from the atmosphere as a fuel source in a similar way to plants.
"Breaking open the very stable bonds in CO2 is one of the biggest challenges in synthetic chemistry," says Frederic Goettmann, a chemist at the Max Planck Institute for Colloids and Interfaces in Potsdam, Germany. "But plants have been doing it for millions of years."
Plants use the energy of sunlight to cleave the relatively stable chemical bonds between the carbon and oxygen atoms in a carbon dioxide molecule. In photosynthesis, the CO2 molecule is initially bonded to nitrogen atoms, making reactive compounds called carbamates. These less stable compounds can then be broken down, allowing the carbon to be used in the synthesis of other plant products, such as sugars and proteins.
In an attempt to emulate this natural process, Goettmann and colleagues Arne Thomas and Markus Antonietti developed their own nitrogen-based catalyst that can produce carbamates. The graphite-like compound is made from flat layers of carbon and nitrogen atoms arranged in hexagons.
The team heated a mixture of CO2 and benzene with the catalyst to a temperature of 150 ºC, at about three times atmospheric pressure. In a first step, the catalyst enabled the CO2 to form a reactive carbamate, like that made in plants."

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Andrew Leonard on Gujarat cotton experiments

Andrew Leonard followed up the article mentioned in the previous post with this article. Excerpts:
"But it's what has happened after the ban on Navbharat151 that is really intriguing. As farmers are wont to do, they saved their seeds, and discovered that the second generation was also resistant to bollworm depredation. Some even experimented with interbreeding the Navbharat151 genetic line with other strains of cotton particularly suited to Gujarat conditions, and came up with new strains that proved effective. Local seed companies sprang up to commercialize the descendant breeds. And even though Mayhco-Monsanto has since been allowed to sell its own cotton seeds, the local bootlegged versions have proved more popular. And why not? According to reports, they're much cheaper, and, from the point of view of local farmers, perform as well or better than the "official" alternatives.
If what Stone labels the "anarcho-capitalism" of Gujarat is an indication of what is likely to transpire in the future (and it seems that a somewhat similar scenario may have played out in Brazil with transgenic soybeans), then what this all adds up to, frankly, is an incredible mess. Corporations will be unable to control how their biotech is used. Green activists won't be able to stop its spread. Governments, no matter how well-meaning, are unlikely to effectively implement biosafety protocols that are 100 percent certain to screen out all possible risks. In some cases, as in Gujarat, farmers will take advantage of new technologies and mix and match with what they know how to do best........
.....Should we be dismayed by this profusion of complexity, or heartened? One encouraging lesson is that while the Monsantos of the world are extraordinarily powerful, they are not all powerful. Another could be the observation that transgenic biotech can indeed make a positive difference in the lives of farmers, especially when they are given the freedom to experiment and adapt. Yet another is that farmers are not automatically helpless pawns in the face of corporate capital -- they can coopt new technologies and create new agricultural practices.

Still another is that the situation on the ground is changing, all the time, and with great speed, and we had better keep paying very close attention."

Saturday, March 17, 2007

A science of the gray

I have been browsing through "Agricultural Deskilling and the Spread of Genetically Modified Cotton in Warangal" by Glenn Davis Stone. It seemed much more balanced than many other accounts that I have read and I googled to see whether any one commented on it. I find that Andrew Leonard at has already commented on the paper and has given several more links. These seem useful material for those interested in BT cotton controversies in India.

Different views of slums

Jeremy Harding reviews'Planet of Slums'and 'Buda's Wagon' by Mike Davis( via 3qurksdaily). Sightseeing tours of the biggest slum in Asia(via HUB) Dharavi. It seems that 80% of the proceeds will be donated to local NGOs.
Update: More on Dharavi

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Jochim Wieler on Irena Sendlerowa

Even my Polish friends, the Wysockis did not tell me bout her. Today following up a story from BBC news, I saw this story of the social worker Irena Sendlerowa who saved 2500 Jewish children and who was sentenced to death twice. The story apprently came out of a school assignment in Kansas:

„…In the fall of 1999, Mr. Conard encouraged four students to work on a year long National History Day project which would among other things; extend the boundaries of the classroom to families in the community, contribute to history learning, teach respect and tolerance, and meet our classroom motto, ‘He who changes one person, changes the world entire.’

Three ninth grade girls, Megan Stuart, Elizabeth Chambers, and Jessica Shelton, and an eleventh grade girl, Sabrina Coons, accepted the challenge and dedicated to enter their project in the National History Day program. Mr. Conard showed them a short clipping from a March 1994 issue of News and World Report, which said,’Irena Sendler saved 2,500 children from the Warsaw Ghetto in 1942-43’. He told the girls the article might be a typographical error, since he had not heard of this woman or story…” (Internet: The Project – See also: Concerning Irena Sendlerowa).
An excerpt from Wieler's 'interview':
"Soon, I had the feeling that she was not so interested in my general proclamations. She told me that she “sometimes wondered why there is so much fuss about ‘heroic acts’. It is something that came rather naturally as a result of my early upbringing and education. When you know that something is basically at stake, like real life, you do everything to save it. You don’t talk about it and discuss it. You do it. – Once a journalist asked me if I would have saved only Jewish children. I found this to be a strange question. How do you feel about that?” „Well”, I replied, „I feel the same way – very strange! But I have not been in such an extreme situation. Yet, I wonder how someone can distinguish between children or even adults.” I also added my sincerely felt apology for the brutality that was inflicted on her by people from Germany, people of my parents’ generation. Irena Sendler slowly nodded her head."

Monday, March 12, 2007

Cool video on hyperbolicity

There may be more hyperbolicity in the world than we think. Watch this video from the Discover Magazine. See also this article by Erica Klareich, a student of a student of William Thurston, a modern master of hyperbolic geometry.

Primary education in India

There is an interesting article in the Indian Economy Blog:
It has links to other articles and some empirical studies. In addition, there are several scholarly studies from:

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Gripes about Telugu Usage

Ambika Ananthreviews a book on Telugu usage (via languagelog) :
TELUGU BHASHALO MELAKUVALU: T. Sanjeevarao; Sunanda publications, 57, Prasanna Vinayakar Koil Street, Mylapore, Chennai-600004.
"TO THE author of this book, working with zeal to instill in students clarity and flawlessness while writing and speaking Telugu the prescribed textbooks in schools came as a shock. Misspellings and grammatical errors are in plenty. Further he also observed erroneous usage of the language in newspapers, magazines and the electronic media. Writers, journalists and poets are also not above board. A serious study of this resulted in a series of essays and this volume is a compilation of those articles. The errors are classified as those of ignorance, of carelessness and those arising due to misconceived notions. By repeated usage in print and in day-to-day speech some of the bloomers gained general approval."
All seem correct to me and even official digital libraries are doing a bad job. Even now very few dictionaries are available on line; probably Brown's dictionary is the best available. Very few on technical usage. Much better work seems to have been done in Tamil and Kannada.
Recently there have been agitations to declare Telugu an ancient language and strangely many Telugus think that Telugu is derived from Samskrit. Arudra quotes from an ancient poet (pages 1-2 of Samagra Andhra Sahityam, vol. 1): "These people are equally fond of beautiful women and war, they are good looking and good eaters. I saw them coming, saying 'atu, putu, ratu'". Arudra goes on to say that these qualities still persist. Painstaking work does not seem to be one of these qualities. More drastic comments are made by Rallapalli Ananthakrishna Sarma in his "Vemana".

Prizes for anti-corruption ideas

Pl. check

Friday, March 09, 2007

Hunterwali comes to Melbourne

From the Age Report on Cinema India exhibition in Melbourne:

"Cast first in a small role, Nadia so impressed that she was made the lead in the Wadias' next film, Hunterwali, in which she performed swashbuckling stunts like a female Douglas Fairbanks, J. B. H's idol. It became the biggest-grossing Indian film of the time and earned Nadia her "fearless" moniker.

As her profile grew, so, too, did the scope of her battles. In The Diamond Queen, Nadia defeats the protagonists who try to subvert an education program in order to continue using child labour in the diamond mine. "Nadia finishes beating the guys into submission and then gives them a lecture on women's rights, feminism and literacy programs — straight after beating them up, but it's pure slapstick," says Benson. "J. B. H's films still have this comic element, which makes them popular, but he was always feeding in this political message. I think that's what makes Nadia more interesting than historians have given her credit for, because of that tone in the movies." "

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Social capital and innovation; a Canadian study

From the abstract of Susan McDaniel's paper "Where Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators Hit the Road and Roadblocks":
" In this paper evidence is amassed on what is known about the social, cultural and institutional factors that create and foster climates for technological innovation"

Labaree on the success of American Universities

David Labaree discusses the 'success' of American universities in a very interesting article (available in the recent papers section of Excerpts:
"In most countries around the world, higher education is under direct control of the state, but U.S. colleges and universities are able fend off state control by acting as semi-independent entrepreneurs in the market.
The market came late in world history, but it was there at the beginning of American history.
By 1910, we had nearly a thousand colleges and universities with a third of a million students at a time when the 16 universities in France enrolled altogether about 40,000 students, a number nearly equaled by the American faculty members at the time.
The market environment, Trow argues, fostered a peculiar kind of organization and governance in American colleges from the very start. Unlike their European counterparts, early American colleges emerged as corporate nonprofit entities, with state
charters but only modest state support. By the middle of the 19th century, states had founded a number of colleges and universities, which quickly became the growth sector in American higher education; but these formally public institutions received only a portion of their funding from the state. By the start of the 21st century, a state university is blessed if half of its income derives from state appropriations; major public research universities may receive as little as 10 percent from this source. The rest comes from donations, endowment, research grants, patents, and, most important, tuition. All of these
other sources of revenue are largely independent of state control, and pursuing them calls for a form of organization that allows, even mandates, leaders of institutions of higher education to operate like entrepreneurs in the educational marketplace. To survive and prosper, a college or university needs to be adept at attracting the tuition dollars of students, the donations of these students after graduation, and a variety of other revenue streams like grants and patents. In the 18th
and 19th centuries, the primary source of market-based revenue was students, and this has continued to be the case in recent years, even after other sources of income have grown substantially. "
"A market-oriented system of higher education has a special dynamic that leads to a high degree of stratification.
This stratified structure of higher education arose in a dynamic market system, in which the institutional actors had to operate according to four basic rules.
Rule One:
Age trumps youth. It is no accident that the oldest American colleges are overrepresented in the top tier of institutions today.
Rule Two:
Rewards go to those at the top of the system. This means that every institution below the top tier has a strong incentive to move up the ladder. It also means that top institutions have a strong incentive to fend off competitors and preserve their
Rule Three:
It pays to imitate your betters. This means: the way to get ahead is to adopt the behaviors of those above you.
Rule Four:
At a certain point, it is more prudent to expand the system by creating new schools rather than increasing enrollments at existing schools. ....Concerned about protecting their institutional advantage, they have no desire to sully their hard-won distinction by admitting the unwashed.
these rules have shaped the historical process that produced the present stratified structure of higher education. This structure has four tiers."
"The Ivy League colleges emerged in the colonial period, followed by a series of flagship state colleges in the early and mid 19th century. These institutions, along with a few social climbers that emerged later, grew to become the core of elite research universities that make up the top tier of the system. Schools in this tier are the most influential, prestigious, well funded, exclusive, research-productive, and graduate-oriented – in the U.S. and in the world. The second tier emerged from the land grant colleges that began to appear in themid to late 19thcentury. They were created to fill a need not met by existing institutions,expanding access for a broader array of students and offering programs with practical application in areas like agriculture and engineering.......The third tier arose from the normal schools, established in the late 19th century to prepare teachers......The fourth tier emerged from the junior colleges that first arose in the early 20th century and eventually evolved into an extensive system of community colleges......each of these institutional types occupies a particular market niche with its own parallel hierarchy, ranging from low to high status, from inclusive to exclusive. ....As a market
driven system, American higher education has developed a four-tiered hierarchy of institutions. These tiers are distinguished from each other by degree of access (which is greatest at the bottom) and degree of social advantage (which is greatest at the top). But one thing the three top tiers have in common is convergence around a single organizational ideal, the research university. "
There is quite a bit more detail and comparisons with the medival universities and also a discussion of William Clark's "Academic Charisma and the origins of the Research University."
His concluding paragraphs:
"In this paper, I have chosen to focus on the reasons for the success of American higher education, where success is narrowly defined as its ability to attain a dominantposition internationally in institutional rankings, financial and human resources, and
academic drawing power. Success in these terms, of course, does not come without consequences. The complexity of the American system, its emphasis on institutional autonomy, its dependence on the market, its adoption of contradictory political goals, and its governance by mixed models of organizational authority combine to produce a set of
educational and social problems that I have not examined here. This structure leads to an extreme form of stratification in American higher education, which preserves social privilege at the same time that it provides social opportunity and which often puts a premium on getting ahead rather than getting an education. It protects the university from overly intrusive and confining state control, but it does so by leaving the universityat the mercy of the consumer. In combination with the extreme stratification of the system, dependency on the consumer leads to an emphasis on acquiring socially salient credentials more than gaining socially useful learning, especially at the undergraduate level. It leads to a grossly inefficient system of higher education, in which our extraordinary investment of public and private funds in the university often subsidizes private ambition more than social need. And it creates a glut of university graduates, whose numbers frequently do more to increase the credential requirements for existing jobs than to increase the productive skills of American workers or the political
capabilities of American citizens. This kind of critical analysis the American system of higher education and its consequences is readily available elsewhere, including in my own work (Labaree, 1997; 2004). But even if you admit the social and educational pathologies of the system, as I do, I think you may also want to admit, however grudgingly, that the evolution of this system has been a remarkable institutional success story."
Labaree's collected papers are recently published under the title "Education, Markets and the Public Good" but I have not seen this book yet.

Story of a private university

Story of a private university from New York Times:
"The University of Phoenix became the nation’s largest private university by delivering high profits to investors and a solid, albeit low-overhead, education to midcareer workers seeking college degrees.
But its reputation is fraying as prominent educators, students and some of its own former administrators say the relentless pressure for higher profits, at a university that gets more federal student financial aid than any other, has eroded academic quality.
According to federal statistics and government audits, the university relies more on part-time instructors than all but a few other postsecondary institutions, and its accelerated academic schedule races students through course work in about half the time of traditional universities. The university says that its graduation rate, using the federal standard, is 16 percent, which is among the nation’s lowest, according to Department of Education data. But the university has dozens of campuses, and at many, the rate is even lower.
When the book, “Earnings from Learning: the Rise of For-Profit Universities,” was published last year, it said the university’s academic model was convenient for working students, but included a “cautionary note” saying the recruiting scandal had raised “disturbing questions.”

Those questions are likely to dog the university as it defends itself in the lawsuit, which a district court had dismissed but an appellate court reinstated in September. The university could be forced to repay hundreds of millions of dollars if it loses. It asked the Supreme Court last month to review the appellate ruling, arguing that an adverse outcome in the lawsuit could expose it to “potentially bankrupting liability.” "

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Build inland!

From a report by the environmental editor of the Guardian:
"An international panel of scientists has proposed that all countries cease building on coastal land that is less than a metre above high tide so as to avoid some of the worst impacts of climate change."

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Globalization rhetoric

Robin Verghese at 3quarksdaily gives links to an exchange between Jeff Faux and Brad De Long on globalization and trade with China. There are links to other articles and a follow up in Crooked Timber. The arguments and some of the comments are interesting but I am left with the same feeling as somebody who said:
"Mr. DeLong,

Please tell me how you would move forward.

I keep reading and this sounds more like the squabbles we readers have with each other than respectful disagreement between learned individuals. Do you guys have the ability to downrate each other???

I see the arguments on both sides, but the clear level of distrust you may be hearing is that for all of globalization's benefits to the world, the abject poor are still not being recognized. If the promises of globalization are to be realized, it seems that some intervening actions must be taken by the civil societies that are not strictly economic."

Greenhouse emissions and economy

From NYT report by Andrew Revkin:
“Since 1990, for every 1 percent increase in emissions the economy has grown about 3 percent,” Mr. Ebell said. “That’s good, and it’s better than the European Union’s performance.”

Money in education

This reportfrom BBC News indicates the possibilities of India marketing itself as a place for affordable education both in terms of online tution and schools:
"Many foreign students attend because India's burgeoning economy has brought their parents to jobs in Bangalore. For others, it's the lure of an affordable boarding school education."
About online tution:
"Mr Ganesh estimates the online tutoring market is potentially worth $12bn. He plans to expand his own operations to South Korea, China, Australia and western Europe."
The report also says that in US online tution is offered to some underprivileged students. I wonder whether similar efforts can be made in India in regions where there is teacher scarcity at primary school level.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Godmothers of 'The Namesake'

An interesting article from Harvard Magazine via 3quarksdaily. Excerpt:
"Mira Nair ’79 met Sooni Taraporevala ’79 in the Lowell House dining room in the fall of 1976. The two women, both of Indian descent, became friends and, nine years later, began working together on the 1988 film Salaam Bombay!—Nair as director, Taraporevala as screenwriter. Later they collaborated on Mississippi Masala (1991) and My Own Country (1998). But none of their movies so directly mirrors their own life experiences as this year’s The Namesake, based on Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jhumpa Lahiri’s first novel. Having read the book en route, Nair arrived in Taraporevala’s hometown of Mumbai (formerly Bombay) in March 2004 and bluntly told the screenwriter, “Sooni, we were born to make this film.” "
For me, even the book paled off compared to Pankaj Mishra's review and the passage from the review I keep going back to:
"This is the melancholy awareness that suffuses Lahiri's catalogs of desirable things and people. And so while such obvious underdogs as Nazneen and Chanu arouse pity and indignation, an overprivileged immigrant like Ni-khil leaves one with more disturbing feelings: an intimation, such as the one his father once had, of "all that was irrational, all that was inevitable about the world"; a suspicion that "all men are mild lunatics engaged in pursuits that seem to them very important while an absurdly logical force keeps them at their futile jobs." It is as if we have been given a glimpse not so much of an unjust social or political setup as of what Nabokov, writing about "The Overcoat," called "flaws in the texture of life itself." "

Friday, March 02, 2007

Old Telugu Film posters

Some available here (thanks to Sri J.K.Mohana Rao). It works sometimes.
P.S. Added on August 28, 2011
Check also
or google

US to talk to Iran and Syria

After several reports that US may go to war with Iran, we now have reports that the US will join talks that include Syria and Iran. This surprising change is attributed in International Herald Tribune to the new Iraqi Oil Law:
"Iraqi officials had been pushing for such meetings for months now, but Bush officials refused to sign on until the Iraqi government reached agreement on guidelines for nationwide distribution of oil revenues and foreign investment in the country's immense oil industry, administration officials said."
One version of the draft is available here.
From dailykos:
"First, according to Article 1 all oil and gas in Iraq is controlled by the new Iraqi Federal Oil and Gas Council. And according to Chapter II, Article 5 the purpose of this Council will be to "To assist the Council of Ministers in creating Petroleum policies and related plans, arranged by the ministry in coordination with the producing provinces and regions, and to put important legislations for exploration and production..." There's nine other responsibilities of this council, all basically insuring that any exploration, development, and production of any oil/gas in Iraq is controlled by this group.

Now who will sit on this Council? Here's the fun part, it will be headed by the Prime Minister with other members consisting of:
"1- Federal Government’s Ministers from the ministries of oil, treasury, planning, and cooperative development.
2- The director of the Iraqi central bank
3- A regional government minister representing each region.
4- A representative from each producing province not included in a region
5- Executive managers from important related petroleum companies including the national Iraqi oil company and the oil marketing company
Yes, that's right. Oil company executives will sit at the table to decide how to develop Iraq's oil/gas fields. And the Iraqi national oil company is just one of many oil executives with a seat at the table--they don't receive any preferential treatment. I mean why should they?--they're only the Iraqi national oil company and we're only talking about developing Iraqi oil and gas? If you want to see some fantastic corporate profits, imagine if Exxon sat on the board that controlled the third largest oil fields in the world..."
More reports here, here, and here.
Oil seems to be still a large part of the game. Since Bush has less than two years to go, who will continue the game? Presumably the national interests.
Update 1: More at maxspeak.
Update 2:Suzanne Goldenberg atThe Guardian has a different interpretation. Excerpt:
"It is being called George Bush's Come to Jesus moment. As in the midlife realisation that led Mr Bush to give up alcohol and embrace Christianity, the president in his sixth year in the White House has undergone another radical conversion, abandoning an ideological foreign policy for a more pragmatic approach, foreign policy experts say."

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Ancient Islamic Tilings

similar to Penrose Tilings were found in various Islamic buildings by a graduate student Peter J. Lu. Penrose Tilings are described here. Roger Penrose patented them in 1979 and a company which used them on toilet paper was apparently sued. I wonder what happens now.