Sunday, August 31, 2008

Egalitarianism starts early

Editor's summary in Nature of a recent paper by Fehr and colloborators Cooperation is child's play:
"The way that children interact in specially designed tests (well, games) can illuminate the mechanisms behind human altruism and cooperation. Fehr et al. present evidence that young children's other-regarding preferences (where 'Smarties, jellybabies and fizzers' are the rewards in a sharing game and an envy game) take a particular form — inequality aversion. This behaviour pattern develops between the ages of 3 and 8 years. Aged 3 or 4, most children behave selfishly, while by the age of 7 or 8 the vast majority prefer resource allocations that remove inequality. But if the removal of advantageous inequality involves costly sharing, the egalitarian allocation is chosen less often and children tend to favour members of their own social group. These findings suggest that egalitarianism and parochialism have deep developmental roots."
The summary has links to related papers which need subscription. Nature News also has a summary which does not need subscription Children learn rules of equality by age eight. Excerpts:
"Although this might seem an obvious finding, it's important to confirm anecdotal evidence with experiments, says Matthias Sutter of the University of Innsbruck in Austria, who studies fairness and trust behaviour in children. "Having children myself, I can confirm [that 3-year-olds are selfish]," he says. "But we don't know when the change happens, or the magnitude of the change."

Several other factors influenced how egalitarian the children were. The team found that children without siblings were 28% more likely to share than children with siblings. On the other hand, the youngest children in a family were 17% less willing to share than children who had only younger siblings. Sutter, who is one of five children, thinks these results make sense: "You have to take care that you get some of the pie," he says. "If you're an only child, there's no need for that."

In addition, if children knew that their partner was from the same playgroup or school (an 'ingroup' member), they were more concerned about being fair, and with age this bias increased. This suggests that being nice to people you know – parochialism – is something that develops alongside a sense of equality, says Fehr.

Chimps versus children
The findings are also interesting from an evolutionary perspective, the team suggests. Similar experiments performed on chimpanzees show that the animals aren't willing to provide food for a partner even if it doesn't affect the food they receive2. "Chimps seem not to care about the other's welfare in this game, whereas children at age eight already care a lot, but children at age three care only a little," Fehr says.

Further work along these lines could reveal more about why humans are so bothered about fairness, and the part this has played in building human societies. Without it, says Sutter, "there would be no education, no socialization, no social norms"".

A TedTalk by Sugata Mitra

Can kids teach themselves? (via Bayesianheresy)

Several old Telugu film songs

have been recently uploaded on YouTube. Search under VSVutukuri, Mukkamala2020,
MadhuraGeetalu, TeluguBoss, vjdnld etc. My favourite site for old telugu songs is old Telugu songs. The companion discussion site
has useful comments, particularly by Paruchuri Sreenivas. Some other sites for old (and some new) Telugu songs are:
and many more. Videos at saradaga, discussion, songs and videos at జానుతెనుగు సొగసులు . A blog onAnnamacharya Samkirtanalu and one on Natakam. There are many more but these will keep me going for a while.

Sublimal advertising

by Derren Brown from a comment in Found: A Solution to Our Problems!! . More discussion in
Naked Capitalism.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Lalita Mukherjea

passed away a few days ago. Here are a couple of posts randomly selected from her blog:
A caller tune and a story
Sex between sects

Friday, August 29, 2008

Gidugu's birthday

Medepalli seshu from New Delhi just reminded me that today is the birthday of Gidugu Venkata Ramamoorty:
"Sri Gidugu Ramamoorty is the grandfather of “colloquial telugu language movement a.k.a vyavaharika telugu bhasha”. He has brought literary prose to the colloquial language. He explained the beauty and ease in the colloquial telugu."
P.S. From The Hindu report:
"The Andhra Pradesh Official Language Commission has asked the district Collectorates and educational institutions to celebrate Telugu Language Day on August 29, coinciding with the birth anniversary of renowned Telugu language scientist Gidugu Ramamurthy."

Thursday, August 28, 2008

A mathematical digression

and possibly a platitude. Recently, I discovered Bernard Cohn when I found a relatively cheap copy of his book "Colonialism and its forms of knowledge" in a book shop and found it very interesting. I then borrowed his "An anthrpologist among the historians" from the library and found it even more interesting. Some of the essays there seem to have become bases for later books by people like Nicholas Dirks and in one of the articles he suggests the choice of topics and methodolgy for research which seems cocrete and useful. But there is demand for all three copies of the book in the library and I was asked to return it before reading it completely. While travelling on the train to return it, I tried to see whether I could still think some mathematics which I have not been doing for a while. Surprisingly I could and it was about a couple of problems that I struggled with in the seventies and both solved now. The solutions suggest a conclusion which ia a platitude but it did not come to me naturally.
Both the problems are related to low dimensional topology and group theory. Before the days of Thurston and Perelman that was what most of us were doing. One of the questions is now a famous theorem "finitely generated three manifold groups are finitely presented" proved by Peter Scott in 1972 (independently by Peter Shalen but unpublished) and second is a theorem of Klaus Johannson that certain three manifolds are completely determined by their fundamental groups.
A group is like integers, both positive, negative and zero. Every element has an inverse (negative of it) so that if you add them, you get the identity element zero. Zero is called the identity since if you add it to any element, it does not change it. Any two elements can be added and addition is associative. Gadgets with these properties are called groups. But integers are a bit special in that the addition is commutative; whether you add a to b or b to a, you get the same result. This is because integers are just generated by one element 1, by adding it to itself repeatedly and taking negatives, one gets all the integers. If one takes gadgets like above with some addition operation which is associative, has identity and negatives, it is called a group. In general they are not commutative and if we start with some objects say a,b,c etc and form words freely and their negatives (usually called inverses when multiplicative notation is used) we get what is called a free group on the objects a,b,c etc. If there are n such, it is called free group on n generators and any group on n generators can be got from it by adding some relations. If the number of relations needed is finite (which we may not know before hand) the group is called finitely presented. Finitely presented groups can be represented by finite spaces and are usually more desirable than the complentary ones.
To show that finitely generated implies finitely presented for 3-manifold groups what one expects is a proposition of this type:
Prposition P: If G is finitely generated and indecomposable (as explained below), then the group obtained by adding sufficiently many finite number of relations is already indecomposable.
That finitely generated three manifold groups are finitely presented was proved in 1972 by Peter Scott (and independently by Peter Shalen, but unpublished). A key technical prposition involves decompositions of groups. The operation forming free groups from infinite cyclic groups generated by a,b,c etc above is called free product formation and the inverse operation 'a free product decomposition'. A group which cannot be decomposed into a free product is called 'indecomposable'. Any finitely generated group G can be written G=G1*G2*...*Gm*G(m+1)*...*G{m+n)where the last n factors are infinite cyclic and the first m factors are indecomposable but not infinite cyclic. The numbers m,n depend only on the group and the ordered pair (m+n,n) is called the complexity c(G) of the group G. A crucial technical proposition that Scott proves is:
Prposition Q: If there is a onto homomorphism from G to H which is one-to-one on the indecomposable factors of G other than the infinite cyclic ones, then c(G) is bigger than or equal to c(H) and equality holds if and only if the map is an isomorphiam (which means G,H are indistinguishable and are the same except in name. A homomorphism is a map which preserves the operations).
Somehow, this was not enough to prove Proposition P which is the natural approach to the original 3-manifold question and some more hard work and trickery was needed. Then after nearly 30 years, I met Thomas Delzant in a conference, and he told me during a lecture I could not follow that Proposition P was true. What all one had to do was to extend the notion of complexity to an onto homomorphism between groups, rather than just for a group.
A similar thing with respect to Johannson's theorem. In 1972, I found a simple proof by reducing it a group problem and showing that a certain group was trivial. There was an obvious relative version which was also useful but I could not prove. Again after 30 years, a colloborator (by some coincidence Peter Scott) insisted that I prove it and it turned out to be equivalent to saying that a cetain homomrphism of groups was trivial (every thing maps to zero).
Looking at both the problems, the crucial change seems to be that instead of looking at an object by itself, one had to look at a relation ( in these cases natural maps which are special cases of relations) between objects. Put this way, it seems to be a platitude but it did not occur to me for nearly 30 years.
It seems that I may have to keep doing mathematics until a copy of Bernard Cohn is available.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


by somebody about somebody whose posts and articles were puzzling to me:
"C is a master of the vague platitude"

Some food related articles

Jo sends this from UK Rich countries once used gunboats to seize food. Now they use trade deals.
From Capitalism could counter its impact on obesity, a response to Obesity researchers must understand how capitalism works. Solution seems to be probiotics, like yogurt.
Andrew Leonard links to interesting articles on soil management in Peak Dirt, the 'terra petra' mentioned there seems similar to 'pati matti' in Andhra.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

"Western leaders blew the chance for peace"

says Paul Keating in this Age report:
"Western leaders had failed to grasp a potential "new era of peace and co-operation" created by the end of the Soviet Union in 1990, and failed to find a place for Russia in the global "strategic fabric".

"(Former US president) George H. Bush talked about a New World Order, then lost to Bill Clinton. And what happened then? Well, nothing happened then! The Americans cried victory and walked off the field."

The Clinton administration "rashly decided to ring-fence Russia" by inviting former Soviet-dominated states to join NATO. "By doing so, the US failed to learn one of the lessons of history - that the victor should be magnanimous with the vanquished," he said.

As a result, NATO states now were on the borders of Russia, which kept its nuclear arsenal on full alert. "This posture automatically carries with it the possibility of a Russian nuclear attack by mistake," Mr Keating said.

Russia had allowed its nuclear surveillance and early warning systems to "ossify". To compensate, it kept its nuclear arsenal on full alert."

Transcript of the full speach from Melbourne Writers Festival here.

Lant Pritchett's book

Let Their People Come: Breaking the Gridlock on Global Labor Mobility is still available online from Centre for Global Development site. From the blurb:
"In an increasingly liberalized and integrated global economy, with more open capital and goods and services markets, the highly restricted and heavily regulated markets for global labor are an oddity. In this controversial book, CGD non-resident fellow Lant Pritchett examines the potentials and perils of greater cross-border mobility of unskilled labor -- within poor world regions and between poor and rich countries. Pritchett argues that irresistible demographic forces for greater international labor mobility are being checked by immovable anti-immigration ideas of rich-country citizens. He highlights the difficult political and ethical issues that the movement of people across national borders presents to the current system and proposes breaking the gridlock through policies that support development while also being politically acceptable in rich countries. These include greater use of temporary worker permits, permit rationing, reliance on bilateral rather than multilateral agreements, and protection of migrants' fundamental human rights. Pritchett's discussion of ways to break the deadlock is a provocative contribution to the growing debate on one of the most important and difficult issues of the 21st century."
Lant Pritchett spent three years in India and one of the authors of 2006 World Bank report "Inclusive Growth and Service Delivery: Building on India's Success" is available here .
I found his recent paper "Is India a Flailing State? Detours on the Four Lane Highway to Modernization" very interesting; this paper and many of his other papers are available from his site .

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Science miscellany

From Farms in Brazil and India must adapt or roast in heat:
"For a temperature increase of 3.5% from late 20th-century averages, the model predicts that India will lose between 7 and 17% of its income from farming.
Studies that focus on the biological relationship between weather and crop yield instead of the economic connection between weather and farming revenue, on the other hand, predict a 30 to 40% loss of yield.
Survival tactics
"Our forecast is lower, but I think it's also more realistic," says Mendelsohn. "By studying how well farmers do financially, we take adaptation into account. The income from farming will depend not only on the direct effect of the weather on the crops and livestock but also on whatever the farmers do to cope with this," he says.
Brazil is predicted to lose 10 to 30% of its farming income under the same scenario. The difference between the countries is most likely due to India's agriculture being less sensitive to climate-dependent changes in rainfall because agriculture there relies more heavily on irrigation, argue the researchers.
However according to the World Bank, farming makes up a whopping 23% of Indian GDP as opposed to only 6% of Brazilian GDP, so the country as a whole may be hit harder by a more modest loss in income from agriculture."
FromWorld's farmers turn to raw sewage for irrigation:
"Half of urban fields are irrigated with sewage, suggesting that a tenth of the world’s food is already grown this way. IWMI’s director Colin Chartres warned this week: “This figure is bound to increase as growing cities coincide with escalating food shortages to create a squeeze on agricultural water supply.”
Theoretically, irrigating food crops with untreated wastewater is banned in many countries, one reason why there is virtually no research on the practice. But “while it may be theoretically forbidden, it is unofficially tolerated”, says the report’s authors, who found that city authorities in Faisalabad in Pakistan auction untreated sewage to farmers during droughts."

From Remembrance of viruses past:
"Nearly a century after the 1918 influenza pandemic claimed 50 million lives, survivors continue to produce powerful antibodies against the virus, researchers have found......The results suggest that the antibodies could be used therapeutically should an outbreak of a similar virus occur. What’s more, one of the antibodies reacted not only with the 1918 flu strain, but with several other strains as well. "It’s probably binding to something that’s really important for the flu virus – possibly so important that the virus can’t change it to avoid immunity," says immunologist Patrick Wilson of the University of Chicago. "As a target for drug development, that would be ideal.""

From More Women at the Top:
"Few programs address the leaks as women progress at midcareer level and beyond. One is the Hedwig van Ameringen Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine (ELAM) Program for Women, within the Institute for Women's Health and Leadership at Drexel University College of Medicine. When ELAM welcomed its first class in 1995, it was a trailblazer and is now viewed by many as a virtual prerequisite for women aspiring to high-level leadership positions in academic health centers.
In addition to the widespread belief that participation in the ELAM program is highly beneficial to a woman's career, there is a growing body of evidence to demonstrate that ELAM works at the institutional level as well.
First, there are the statistics. ELAM alumnae currently represent nearly 30% of the female deans of schools of medicine, dentistry, and public health in the United States and Canada. About 25% of ELAM graduates hold a variety of high-level positions in university administration, industry, foundations, and organizations. Additionally, from its inception ELAM has emphasized rigorous research and impact evaluation. In a longitudinal study, ELAM graduates were compared with a matched cohort of women from the Association of American Medical Colleges' Faculty Roster and with a group of women who applied but were not accepted into the AAMC program. ELAM graduates scored higher on 15 of 16 leadership indicators than did the women in the other two groups; for 12 of the 15 indicators, the difference was significant."

From A New State of Mind:
"New research is linking dopamine to complex social phenomena and changing neuroscience in the process." As usual, an excellent article by Jonah Lehrer.
See also the same issue of Seed for the portraits five young researchers crossing disciplinary boundariesRevolutionary Minds. And Handle With Care on possible dangerous technologies.

Ajay Shaw on Inequality

In Inequality , Ajay Shaw discusses unequality and links to some interesting articles, one of which is Does Inequality Matter? by Michael Warton. One of the questions considered is whether income inequality leads to inequality in opprtunity and as far as I can see, the articles are inconclusive. In Rising Inequality Hinders Upward Mobility, Lane Kenworthy considers the possibilty in US of the effect of income inequality on social mobility. The article by Anirudh Kriskna and Eric Heglund mentioned in the previous post Effectively Participating Population feel that their results have important implications for social mobility: "These results have important consequences for social mobility in general. In fact, a case can be made for promoting mobility as the wider objective, with poverty reduction being subsumed as a component part."

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Effectively Participating Population

India's lack of success in Olympics is discussed in various places: Rediff, Chrumuri and Marginal revolution. Marginal Revolution links to an interesting article by Anirudh Krishna and Eric Haglund which is discussed in An Academic View of India. For me, this article is more interesting than olympics and it may form a basis for further study in different areas of development. Excerpts from the article:
"Not only for Olympics, but also in regard to Nobel Prizes, mathematical and scientific excellence, winning patents, etc, enlarging the pool of effective participants can be importantly applied. In this analysis, we consider two separate arenas, one related to sports and the other to social mobility. In both cases, we examine the plausibility of an explanation based on effective participation rates. Since the numbers of effective participants are not readily available – this concept, like some other valuable ones, such as democracy, social capital and human well-being is not easy to pin down in terms of a precise metric – we rely in our analysis on two sets of surrogate evidence.
The macro as well as the micro part of the analysis show that public information matters a great deal....But we find that public information still has an important effect. Enhancing public information will deepen and widen the pool of effective participants, enabling individuals to find positions more commensurate with their abilities, and simultaneously enabling countries to ratchet up their performance in
diverse arenas.
The Olympic Games, while important enough in and of themselves, also served here as a useful metaphor, a starting point for an analysis concerning other and more pressing livelihood concerns. Thus, we view success in the Olympics as an indicator more broadly of the provision of opportunity to a country’s populations. Countries which enable a higher fraction of potential athletes to achieve the ultimate success of winning an Olympic medal are likely to be similarly successful in developing and fostering talent in other areas. Where the fraction of effective contestants for positions in national sports teams is very low, the prospects of social mobility generally are also likely to be disappointing.
Advancing information and enabling access are as much a critical part of raising Olympic achievement as they are of enhancing development success and other achievements. In general, information and access are crucial for effective participation. Where more people are able to participate more effectively – in the economy, in competitive sports, in public decision-making, and in other walks of life – the country will grow faster and more citizens will benefit."
P.S. There is a lot of emphasis on access to information in the article. Access to information may not mean access to opportunities. My son-in-law is an Anglo-Indian who lived in several places in India until the age of 16-17. He was a keen swimmer those days and was never selected even to represent a club after winning the local events. In the very first year of his arrival in Australia he was selected for olympic trials but his swimming career was unfortunately cut short due to an accident.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Friday, August 15, 2008

Some links to Grothendieck.

A recent article Who is Alexander Grothendieck? by Winfried Scharlau fills in the work of Grothendieck in poltics, religion and mysticism since the 70's. There is a spate of articles about Grothendieck since he turned 80 this year.
From the very readable 2004 articles by Allyn Jackson"Comme Appelé du Néant: As If Summoned from the Void: The Life of Alexandre Grothendieck":
"The work of Alexandre Grothendieck has had a profound impact on modern mathematics and, more broadly, ranks among the most important advances in human knowledge during the twentieth century. The stature of Grothendieck can be compared to that of, for example, Albert Einstein. Each of them opened revolutionary new perspectives that transformed the terrain of exploration, and each sought fundamental, unifying connections among phenomena.”

Changing balance?

Brad Setser in The changing balance of global financial power:
"To me, one of the world’s greatest ironies is that US dependence on authoritarian governments for financing has soared over the last four year. US rhetoric hasn’t matched financial reality.

Though I guess it is equally ironic that Russian purchases of Treasuries over the past few months have helped to finance the current US aid mission to Georgia."
Interesting comments too.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Recent articles on D.D.Kosambi

in EPW are uploaded in arvindguptatoys under the English Books section. Links to DDK's books and the above articles are towards the bottom of the section under 'Books by D.D. Kosambi'. There is also a link to the first few sections of 'Combined Methods in Indology and other Writings' edited by Brajadulal Chattopadhyaya, including the excellent introduction by the editor.

A blog on dalit history and problems

by a an Andhra researcher and lecturer Untouchable Spring .... అంటరాని వసంతం . The latest post is on Tsundur.

Monday, August 11, 2008

A Narla Venkateswara Rao website

here. Outstanding journalist, editor and writer. I still carry some of his writings like 'Kottagadda', a collection of plays about farmers.

Thoughts for a rainy day

From Is There Anything Good About Men?:
"...culture relies on men to create the large social structures that comprise it. Our society is made up of institutions such as universities, governments, corporations. Most of these were founded and built up by men. Again, this probably had less to do with women being oppressed or whatever and more to do with men being motivated to form large networks of shallow relationships. Men are much more interested than women in forming large groups and working in them and rising to the top in them."
This article caused considerable discussion in the blogs last year which continue. Some of the links are in the article Male Bias or Female Choice?.
In another article The Lowdown on High Self-Esteem Roy Baumeister says:
"After all these years, I’m sorry to say, my recommendation is this: Forget about self-esteem and concentrate more on self-control and self-discipline."
Here is a site for some downloadable research articles by Roy Baumeister and colleagues.

Arvind Subramanian on possible reforms

in a Voxeu article says:
"But the desirable (tackling inflation) is probably infeasible. And the feasible (financial sector reforms) is not ambitious enough for the current circumstances and risks squandering, yet again, the Prime Minister’s political capital.
There is, however, an alternative, ambitious possibility. Economic and political decentralisation, combined with the rise of coalition politics, have sharply reduced the central government’s domain of economic influence.
But the one area where it retains influence – or rather strangling control with disastrous economic consequences – is higher education. This last bastion of the licence-quota-permit raj is crying out for reform.
There is political, administrative and regulatory interference on virtually every aspect of higher education:

* admissions policies,
* internal organisation,
* fees and salaries, and
* the structure of courses and funding.

In higher education, deregulation, liberalisation, and globalisation are the way forward.
There may well be a continuing role for state provision, and especially state funding, of higher education, but a much greater role and freedom for the private sector are both desirable and unavoidable."
Devesh Kapur and Pratp Bhanu Mehta in 'Mortgaging the future? Indian education reforms', an article quoted in the above paper, paint a very bleak picture of Indian education:
"Despite impressive reforms elsewhere, Indian higher education sector remains the most tightly controlled and least reformed sector. Deep ideological and vested interests have made reform in India’s Higher Education sector all but impossible."
The reason for Arvind Subramanian's optimism seems to be the recent political victory of Manmohan Singh.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

System of Rice Intensification

videos from World Bank . More updates at the Cornell SRI site. Some of the efforts in Andhra Pradesh can be found by google under Dr. Alapati Satyanarayana. An earlier post on the same topic here.
P.S. Some of the peer reviewed papers that I have seen contradict each other and there are two comments from actual practioners in Entertaining Research..

A Kalleda girl is going to Beijing

Story in Outlook of Pranitha selected for Beijing Olympics: Taut As A Bow String .
Glenn Davis Stone write up on Kalleda Rural School where she studied.
Some pictures of Kalleda in the image section ofGlenn Davis Stone website

Monday, August 04, 2008

An online library

with a section India-history-20th century from u.penn. It has special sections :A Celebration of Women Writers -- Banned Books Online -- Prize Winners Online. I found it while looking for an online version of Eaton, Richard M.: The Rise of Islam and the Bengal Frontier, 1204-1760 .

Baobab tree in India

EU approved the extract of the baobab fruit as an ingredient in foods in the European marketand Malapati Raja Sekhar of Rural Development of India Blog thinks that "Rajasthan or Indian government can promote this fruit as food security for our nation".
Clicking on Baobab (on the appropriate picture) on the left, gives the Indian names:
"Common name: Baobab • Hindi: Gorakh imli गोरख इमली • Marathi: Gorakh chinch गोरख चिंच • Gujarati: Bukha • Telugu: Brahmaaamlika • Bengali: Gadhagachh • Tamil: Papparappuli பப்பரப்புளி • Sanskrit: Sarpadandi
Botanical name: Adansonia digitata Family: Bombacaceae (baobab family)"
Though this video says that it is almost extinct in India, they seem to grow in several places in India including these wonderful specimens in Savanur. Some more information about Baobab here and here.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

"Comin Thro' the Rye"

Animation in Scots brogue. The lyrics on the right (click 'more information') also include later additions by Burns. Some of these additional lines are in the Ava Gardner's version in Mogambo.