Thursday, July 30, 2009

India gets serious on climate change

Says George Monbiot (link via Jo):

"With some justice, India has suspected that it is being urged to implement global policies that the rich nations have no intention of honouring.

Indians are also painfully aware that the rich nations in the past deliberately prevented their nation from developing. England, for example, banned the import of calico (cotton cloth) from India, in order to protect its own textile industries. It went on to smash Indian looms and cut off the thumbs of Indian weavers in order prevent them from making their superior products. As Ha Joon Chang shows in his book Kicking Away the Ladder, England's industrial revolution was made possible by preventing India's. Many people there suspect that attempts to limit India's future greenhouse gas emissions have the same purpose.

Partly as a result, and partly because it's the quickest and easiest route to mass electrification, India has been investing heavily in coal plants, while neglecting its great potential to produce renewable energy. But suddenly this seems to be changing. Draft documents released today show that the government intends to announce 20GW of solar power investments by 2020.

This is equivalent to one eighth of India's installed capacity of all forms of electricity generation, or roughly a quarter of the UK's (we have 80GW of plant, about 70% of which is powered by fossil fuel). China and Japan have similar targets, but because most of India is closer to the equator, the capacity factor (the amount of power you get from any given amount of plant) will be higher in India.

Well that's the good news. The bad news is that India is also in the middle of a programme to increase coal capacity by 79GW – equivalent to the entire UK power sector – by 2012. The new solar plant will supplement, not substitute, its other forms of power generation. But at least the $19bn India is spending on it shows that the country is starting to get serious about climate change. Whether it makes any commitments at Copenhagen is another matter."

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Salt tolerant crops

From Genetic change could make crops thrive on salty soils:
"Mark Tester, a fellow at the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics, and colleagues developed a GM salt-tolerant Arabidopsis thaliana plant by introducing a gene into its root that diverts sodium ions into the roots rather than the shoots.

Plants minimise this salt accumulation naturally — but the gene decreased salt levels in the shoots by up to two-thirds.

"We've used genetic modification to amplify the process, helping plants to do what they already do — but to do it much better," says Tester.

The main challenge is applying the technique to crop plants. He says the Arabidopsis gene has already performed well in rice, and the researchers are currently analysing rice, barley and wheat plants containing their own versions of the gene.

Tester says the freely-available technology can also alter the accumulation of other chemicals, with implications for human nutrition, plant growth and phytoremediation — using plants to soak up pollutants from soil — all of which are important for developing countries."
However another professor says "One might be able to grow rice on a salty soil, but the yield may not be worth it. The big advantage will be on mildly salty soils where the yield is repressed in non-tolerant crops."

More reports on Indian students in Australia

ABS newsreport on the Four corners program and College closure hits Indian students. Some earlier reports here.

Remarks on abelian groups

The structure theorem for finitely generated abelian groups asserts that any finitely generated abelian group is a direct sum of cyclic groups, some finite and some infinite. The orders of the finite cyclic groups can be arranged so that each order divides the next, but this extra requirement can be easily deduced once we know that the group is a direct sum of cyclic groups. There is a similar statement for for finitely generated modules over principal domains. The usual proof involves reducing matrices to some canonical form using elementary transformations and takes a few pages. There is a good exposition of the standard method in Chapter 3, of N.Jocobson's "Basic Algebra", Volume 1 (W.H. Freeman and Company, 1985). I taught this method for several years. Recently, writing some expository stuff, I noticed a simple argument which may be useful for teachers. Here it is:
Let A be a finitely generated (f.g.) free abelian group with basis {x(1),..., x(n)}. The fundamental theorem is equivalent to the following statement:

If B is a subgroup of A, we can find a basis {y(1),..., y(n)} of A, integers d(1),...d(n), which are greater than or equal to zero and some of which may be zero such that the non-zero elements of d(1)y(1),...,d(n)y(n) form a basis for B.

We proceed to the proof. We call An element x of A a 'basis element' if it is part of a basis of A. Given any b in B, we can write it as dx+ c, where c is a combination of the complementary basis elements. Note that if d=0 for all b in B, then B is contained in the subgroup generated by the complementary basis elements and we are through by induction since this number is (n-1). The number d depends not only on b,d but also on the basis and we may get different values of d for the same b and x. Choose all positive d (for every d, -d appears for -b and thus there are both positive and negative d) as b varies over B and x varies over the basis elements of A. This set will have a minimal element. Suppose this is achieved for some x and the minimum achieved is d(x). This means that firstly we can write for some b in B, b=d(x)x+c, with respect to some basis containing x. Further if we take any basis, and if y is one of the basis elements, then the y-coefficient of b for any b in B is either zero or a multiple of d(x).
We next claim that we can choose x so that b=d(x)x. First, we have with the above choice b=d(x)x+d(2)x(2)+...+d(n)x(n) where x(2),...,x(n)are the rest of the elements of the basis in the above choice. Let d be the greatest common divisor of d(x),d(2),...,d(n). We can write b=d[c(x)x+c(2)x(2)+...+c(n)x(n)]and the greatest common divisor of c(x), c(2),...,c(n) is one. In this case y=c(x)x+c(2)x(2)+...+c(n)x(n) is also a basis element of A and we have b=dy. Since d divides d(x), this is a contradiction unless d=d(x). Renaming y as x, we may assume that for our minimum d(x), b=d(x)x. Now fix a basis containing x, say {x,x(2),...,x(n)}. Now any c in B is of the form c=kd(x)x+c' for c' a linear combination of x(2),...,x(n). If we call C the free abelian group generated by x(2),...,x(n), then A is a direct sum the subgroup Zx generated x and C. Here k is an integer which may be zero. In any case kd(x)x is in B, and since c is also in B, we see that c' is in B. Thus we have expressed any element c of B as a sum of two elements of B, one of which is in Zx and the other in C. This gives a direct sum decomposition of B compatible with the decomposition in to Zx and C of A. We have the intersection of B and Zx is the subgroup generated by d(x)x. By induction, there is a basis {y(2),...,y(n)} of C and integers d(2),...,d(n) such that the non-zero elements of d(2)y(2),...d(n)y(n) form a basis for the intersection of B and C. Thus the basis {x,y(2),...,y(n)} and the numbers d(x),d(2),...,d(n) satisfy the conclusions of the theorem.
Remark 1. We used the fact that y=c(x)x+c(2)x(2)+...+c(n)x(n) when the greatest common divisor of c(x), c(2),...,c(n) is one. This is easily proved when the basis has two elements and this used again in induction.
Remark 2. To deduce the stronger version of the fundamental theorem, use the fact that if d=mn with m,n coprime, then the cyclic group of order d is isomorphic to the direct sum of cyclic groups of orders m and n.
Remark 3. For principal ideal domains take d(x)to be one of the d with minimal number factors in the first paragraph of the argument. But we have not checked this.
P.S. I have not yet learnt how to upload files. A more formal version may appear later.
P.P.S. (30th July) So far there are two responses. The first with in an hour from Mladen Bestvina said that it seemed good to him. The second from John Groves, a day later, said that Remark 1 can be used to see that d(x) divides d(2) and thus one can see more quickly (without Remark 2) that one can find the orders each dividing the next in the stronger statement.
P.P.P.S. (6th August)
Similar argument apears in Bourbaki:: Algebre
Chapitre 7, Modules sur les anneaux principaux, Hermann, Paris 1964.
See pages 82-84. So, we now have a complete argument!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Neon Leon

spinning the (Australian Rules)foot ball like Shane Warne Leon Davis post match interview shown around 37 seconds in to the interview. Peter Daicos used to do it often. Some say that Daniel Motlop does it better. Here is a kid practicing: Willy21- My Motlop Goals (AFL).

A recent report on the internet

Mostly about the developments in USA The News About the Internet in New York Review of Books. One excerpt:
"In a much-circulated essay, Clay Shirky, an Internet consultant and professor at NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program, compares the current turbulence in the news business to the disorder brought about by the invention of the printing press, when old forms of transmitting information were breaking down and new ones had yet to cohere—a transition accompanied by much confusion and uncertainty. The historical analogy can be taken a step further: just as the advent of printing helped break the medieval Church's hold on the flow of information, so is the rise of the Internet loosening the grip of the corporate-owned mass media. A profound if unsettling process of decentralization and democratization is taking place."

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Cosma Shalizi hosts a discussion

on The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies
by Scott E. Page
at FDL FDL Book Salon Welcomes Scott Page: The Difference. From Cosma Shalizi's opening remarks:
"The problems we face in the real world are hard. There are always an immense array of variables which might be relevant, and an at least equally huge number of ways we might respond to them, plus overlapping constraints on our actions. Moves which seem to help part of the problem typically screw up others, because everything is interdependent, everything is connected to everything else. Even when problems are (more or less artificially) tidied up into well-defined mathematical tasks of locate-the-optimum, it is, generically, quite intractable to actually find that One Best Answer.

The Difference draws on about half a century of research into how to deal with complex, intractable problems. Faced with an overwhelming array of considerations that could be relevant, people assume perspectives from which some variables are visible and the rest are hidden. Within those perspectives, they apply heuristics, approximate rules for getting from where you are now to someplace that is usually better, though not guaranteed to be the best. A heuristic for a problem will do better or worse on different instances of the problem, and different heuristics will do better or worse on the same instance. One heuristic may do better than another on most instances, which makes the former stronger; a weak heuristic does only a little better, on average, than a random guess.

The key insight is that a single strong heuristic will do worse than a collective of individually weak but diverse heuristics. The problems are too hard for any one heuristic to solve perfectly, but the diverse heuristics can, so to speak, cover each others' weaknesses and help each other out when they get stuck; a single strong heuristic can't. A collection of diverse strong heuristics would be even better, but the strong heuristics for a problem tend to be similar to each other, so a group of them lacks diversity. In problem solving and prediction, diversity is exactly as important as individual ability.

This is the answer to "why do we need diverse X-ers instead of just the best X-ers?": if there's going to be one person who does X and they'll solve all their problems by their lonesome, sure, go for the one who's individually best at it, the one with the strongest heuristics. Meanwhile, on Planet Earth, everyone works in teams and groups and networks, and even if all you want is the very best job of X-ing possible, you have no reason to ignore diversity and every reason to seek it out, foster it, and make sure that all voices are heard and aren't just token presences.

I doubt it's escaped the reader that the problems facing progressives (how to we get universal health care? how do we keep our country from getting into more stupid wars?) are full of the kind of difficulty and complexity I described. Which means it's no good hoping for an inspired leader to figure out how to do them, or even a small clique of super-geniuses... There are lots of us, from many backgrounds, and we're self-selected to agree, mostly, on what we want to happen. So there should ways to use our internal diversity, our range of perspectives and approaches, to better accomplish progressive goals. But before we can do that we need to understand how and when diversity improves problem-solving capacity, and we really need to think about the ways in which we can bring that diversity to bear on our common problems — which is the whole "better societies" part of the book."
And much discussion. There is much about the sort of problems that I have been wondering about and I hope to read the rest of the discussion over the next few days.(Via 3quarksdaily)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Another Telugu blog

which looks very promising సైన్యం . It is a new group blog and some of the posts that I have seen like భావి భారతి నా ఉజ్వల సాంకేతిక భారతి are very interesting.

Monday, July 20, 2009

New Telugu blog

Kuffir has a Telugu blog now: Fakeeram.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

From science blogs

From Mind Hacks For whom the ball tolls :
"I was just re-reading the excellent Prospect magazine article on psychotherapy and cricket when I was struck by a bit about the high rate of suicides in professional cricket players that I'd not noticed before."
And links to several interesting articles 2009-07-10 Spike activity
Ed Young discusses some recent studies of Joshua Greene and Joseph Paxton Will vs. Grace - are people honest because they resist temptation or because they don't feel it? via Gene Expression :
"Obviously, the study has its limitations. Greene and Paxton couldn't work out how many of their dishonest volunteers were aware of their deceit, whether the honest lot wilfully pushed aside temptation well before the brain-scanning commenced, what the motivations of either group were, or whether their degree of honesty in the experiment carries over into their normal lives. Nonetheless, it's an intriguing start, and as the duo concludes: "The present findings do suggest, however, that some individuals can, at least temporarily, achieve a state of moral grace.""
Jonah Lehrer on Schizophrenia and Smoking :
"Nicotine, it turns out, can significantly reduce the sensory symptoms associated with the mental illness."

From Telugu sites

Kanneganti Ramarao in TANA 09 -- A trip report:
"Here are the general problems about these talks. Why is that
when we talk about some ancient poet, we are forced to admire
them uncritically? I don't know about you, but if somebody likes
everything that I say, I will immediately look for a bridge that
they are trying sell me.

Simpler explanation is this: We are not trained to separate the
wheat from chaff. When Nannaya writes "meeTina viccu
gubbala" we do not see if it is appropriate, even discounting for
the modern tastes. It is as though each of them got a champion
filly and they are trying to sell to the audience like a infomercial
sales person."
Katti Mahesh Kumar maintains a very hectic pace in పర్ణశాల . The language is a bit too bookish for me. Usually I have to run to Brown's Telugu_English Dictionary only to find that some of the words have evolved and mean different things now. It is a pity that there is no dictionary of modern Telugu usage available online except the small "Adhunika Vyavahars Kosam" from Prachee Publications, Who have also published Rahul Banerjee's "Recovering the Lost Tongue: The Saga of Environmental Struggles in Central India".
Coming back to Katti Mahesh Kumar, I find the posts stimulating and I wonder how he manages to post interesting thoughts each day. Possibly, he is a brilliant chap who read and thought a lot earlier. It turns out that he is a Dalit and seems to be receiving a lot of flak and returning it. Kuffir says that caste does'nt need the village .

Two reports on overseas students in Australia

From Australia's overseas education 'a scam':
"Thousands of Indians are being enrolled in "dodgy" courses in Australia, while others are paying up to $20,000 for a good result in the International English Language Test System exam, an investigation into the overseas student industry has found.

Following a recent spate of attacks on Indian students in Australia, The Australian reports the nation's $14-billion international education sector has turned into a recognised immigration racket."

From Foreign students 'slave trade':
"THOUSANDS of overseas students are being made to work for nothing — or even pay to work — by businesses exploiting loopholes in immigration and education laws in what experts describe as a system of economic slavery.

The vast pool of unpaid labour was created in 2005 when vocational students were required to do 900 hours work experience. There was no requirement that they be paid.

Overseas students remained bound to the system as completion of such courses became a near-guaranteed pathway to permanent residency in Australia."
P.S. (July, 23) Another horror story
P.P.S.(July, 27) Reports keep coming: Lifting the lid on Australia's 'visa factories':
"Reports had been circulating for the best part of a year about dodgy private colleges and the visa factories of Sydney and Melbourne.

In one year alone the vocational education sector had grown by over 50 per cent, fuelled by over 70,000 Indian students coming to buy an education.

Egged on by immigration and education agents, many were told that if they enrolled in cooking and hairdressing they could not only get a diploma but they could qualify for permanent residency in Australia.

And indeed they could.

The Government had instituted a deliberate immigration pathway through education, but the trouble was many of the training schools were supplying qualifications that were worthless, and the policing of standards in the colleges was woefully inept.

Four Corners discovered that not only were many of the courses bogus, but other illegal scams were keeping the system afloat.

If a student wants to apply for permanent residency they must pass an English language test. Four Corners has clear evidence that unscrupulous education agents are offering the tests for thousands of dollars.

Similarly with the work experience certificates that students need to acquire as part of their training. These too can be procured through networks of corrupt businesspeople for thousands of dollars.

The question is - how is this being allowed to happen? "
Well, one of the answers may be economy. House prices seem to be an important part of the economy. Demand from students, and easing residence restrictions for foreigners to own houses in Australia have maintained the house prices. With just a few cities in the country, this type of manipulation seems easy. Moreover student pay full fares, more than fair prices for housing, provide cheap labour.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Some links

Old Cambridge Days by Leonard Roth, via a comment in The Wranglers.
Miracles from medical research Lessons from an Unexpected Life:A doctor, a patient, and a formerly fatal disease by David G. Nathan via 3quarksdaily

Puddle-Muddle of multilinguals: Amitava Kumar reviews Amit Chaudhuri's "The Immortals"; link in The Artist As Part-Genius Part-Householder. This leads to other articles:Amit Chaudhri's review of A.K. Ramanujam's Poems The twin-lobed brahmin with this comment:
"...the creative life of the modern Indian English poet or writer arises from his or her multilingual consciousness, and depends upon traffic, or commerce, between the official and the vernacular tongues."
and to a previous post Puddle-Muddle of Amitava Kumar, commenting on Mukul Kesavan's article Do anglophones paddle in the shadows?.
It may be interesting to recall Vikram Chandra's comment in the famous article The Cult of Authenticity:

"I will not presume to claim Maharashtra or even the entire city of Bombay as my region. I will only claim part of the western suburbs, let us say north from the highway junction at Mahim causeway, roughly an area containing Dharavi, Bandra West, Khar, Santa Cruz, Juhu, Andheri West, and Goregaon West. This is my region. I live in it, in the locality of Andheri, in the colony called Lokhandwalla.

My region is a hugely cosmopolitan place. Every single person who lives in my region is a cosmopolitan. I am of course a cosmopolitan; I travel away from my region every few months to make a living. My neighbors do also. There are the Gujarati diamond merchants who spend three weeks out of every four travelling from Africa to Belgium to Holland; flight attendants who fly to Beijing; businessmen who sell textiles in Australia; mechanics and welders and engineers who keep Saudi Arabia running; merchant navy sailors who carry cargo to Brazil; nurses who give care and nurture in Sharjah; and gangsters who shuttle between Bombay and Indonesia and Dubai as part of their everyday trade. But there are many other cosmopolitans in my regions. I mean the men who have left their homes in Muzzafarnagar and Patna to drive cabs in Bombay; the chauffeurs who send money home to Trivandrum; the road-laborers from Madhya Pradesh; the maids from the Konkan coast; the cooks from Sylhet in Bangladesh; the Tamil bakers; the struggling actresses from Ludhiana; the security guards from Bihar; the painters from Nashik who stand on roped lengths of bamboo three hundred feet in the air to color Bombay’s lofty skylines. They are all cosmopolitan. A woman born and bred in Dharavi, in the heart of the city, is a cosmopolitan because she lives and works in this city of many nationalities and languages, this city that has become a vatan or homeland for people who have travelled very far from their vatans.

Now, in this, my region, it is very very common for a person to speak one language at home, use another on the street, do business in a third, and make love in a fourth."

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Change in Kashmir?

From Hindu temple, Muslim priests:
“We have guarded this place for the Hindus. It is their “amanat”. But now the situation has improved. We want that a Hindu priest should take over this holy place. Being Muslims, we tried to do whatever best we could to keep the temple functional, but it should ideally be run by a Hindu priest”.

Monday, July 06, 2009

David Warsh on Mark Thoma

From The Perpendicular:
"Traditional journalists sometimes assert that blogs are about opinion and interpretation rather than fact and reporting, when the truth is that a great deal of new and ultimately reliable material first appears on blogs.

Therein lies the significance of Thoma’s blog – and other sites like it, including those of Romenesko and David Johnson, the man behind the Russia List. The proprietors of each are essentially editors. They hue as best they understand it to the perpendicular. They seek to see whole the debate they cover, to present its raw files fairly to readers, to occupy the center ground and treat all comers fairly. They function more like referees on a stylized battlefield than (as Robert Wright distinguishes among bloggers) disc jockeys or musicians. It is no accident that in each of these cases the blogger’s ego is almost totally subordinated to the task, that the proprietors work long hours for little or nothing.
But demand for unifying narrative remains strong, at every level, including the version that newspapers traditionally have supplied. This itch for reading on the same page must begin to be satisfied, inevitably, with just the sort of daily record that Thoma and others of his ilk compile from all that fevered discourse in the public square."

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Interesting site

I enjoy music but my knowledge of music is confined to a few film songs (mostly Telugu, Hindi) and what I pick up from YouTube. One of my favourites is Lapak Japhak from Boot Polish. I was amazed to find this discussion inspired by that song The 'semblance' of râga, rasa, and hâsya (links to the song and many more links).

Friday, July 03, 2009

Writing a book!

For a long time, I wanted to write a book for beginners on Algebraic Topology, which was my first love in things academic. Now that I have retired for a few years, it seems to be good time to recall the elementary and nice topics which I still remember and indicate the flavour of the topics that fascinated me. It is coming back and apart from visualization of things in the small, what I still like is the power of general nonsense (my term for abstract thinking). But writing is a pain, too much latex symbols, diagrams going back and forth, changing the earlier chapters when progressing with the later chapters. It seems that it be a quite a mess. Once completed, it will be available online to see whether it will be useful to some. My experience with Rahul Banerjee's "Recovering the Lost Tongue: The Saga of Environmental Struggles in Central India" was that it was easier to read the published book than the online material. May be, it will be different with mathematics.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Quote of the day

From Marry for What? Caste and Mate Selection in Modern India by Abhjit Banerjee, Esther Duflo, Maitreesh Ghatak, Jean Lafortune:
"So the institution that the economic forces are not able to destroy may be endangered by love"

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Mindhacks recommends

a few science articles from Newsweek in A neurobiology of the disordered mind: . The articles Beyond the Book of Life on epigenetics and A Biology of Mind by Eric Kandel are very readable as well as the Mindhacks article itself with links to some of the concepts used.

The Age investigations on foreign students in Australia

From Foreign student death details suppressed:
"DETAILS of the deaths of more than 50 overseas students have been suppressed by Australian coroners amid evidence the death toll is higher than the Federal Government has admitted.

State and territory coroners, under the National Coroners Information System, have refused an application by The Age for data on the deaths of overseas students in the year to November 2008.
A leading expert on international education, Monash University business professor Chris Nyland, said he was concerned that a drive to protect Australia's lucrative $15.5 billion higher education export market was masking the suffering of foreign students.

"All countries that compete for the education market should be reporting that information," he said. "And … it would be wonderful if we had good data saying that it was not the case they are harmed at any greater rate than domestic students."

Professor Nyland said there was a need for a federal advisory body on student safety, made up of independent members free from "vested interests in seeing this thing dampened down and going away quietly". He called for mandatory statistical reporting of international student deaths.

National Union of Students president David Barrow said the Government faced losing billions in revenue if it failed to protect overseas students. "The time has come for a full-scale inquiry," he said. "Australian society and government needs to see all the facts."

Currently, if an overseas student dies here, the education provider is not required to give a cause of death when it reports the matter to the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations. Under the law, a college needs to report a death within a fortnight of early "termination" of studies. But it is left up to the college how thoroughly it reacts.

A spokeswoman for Education Minister Julia Gillard said the law would be reviewed this year and next.

Opposition Immigration spokeswoman Sharman Stone said she sought the data in February because foreign-student organisations suspected under-reporting of deaths. "To have 34 cited as unknown is an extraordinary statistic," she said.

"It will no doubt be raising further anxiety and alarm, particularly in the Indian student community and their parents and relatives and friends."

At least three overseas students died in the 12-month period after violent attacks, including an 18-year-old Chinese woman who was allegedly sexual assaulted by a knife-wielding assailant before she and her boyfriend fell from a balcony at Waterloo in Sydney.

Although the number of these deaths was well below homicide rates for the Australian population, it raises questions about reporting procedures from the booming private education providers."
The age also queries 'How did he die?' asks Indian family.

In the early 90's 'The Age' ran a sustained campaign against racism in Austrian Rules Football both among spectators and players. There seems to be a general improvement since then.