Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Rao Balasaraswati Devi interview

I wrote about Rao Balasaraswati Devi earlier. There is a recentINTERVIEW WITH LEGENDARY SINGER RAO BALASARASWATHI. I did not notice the comments in the earlier post (my apologies. I did not expect that my post will be noticed and that there will be queries. I usually write these to keep track of various things for myself and do not check for comments after a few days). Most of her songs are available at oldtelugsons , search under 'R.Balasarawati Devi', 'Rao Balsarasvati Devi', 'Rao Bala Sarasvati Devi', and 'Balasaraswati' (notice v,w changes in the spelling). Many old songs are also available at . Another favourite singer is S.Varalakshmi . I think that most of Balasaraswati songs are available somewhere or other but it seems more difficult to get some of S.Varalakshmi songs, particularly those from her film Sati Sakkubai, often mistaken for a later Anjali Devi film with the same name. Many knowledgeable about telugu songs take part in discussions at

Early differences in taste

I often play telugu songs when I babysit for my granddaughters(they speak English at home). While Leila liked more classical type songs like yedukondalavada when she was aroung one year old, Ava likes songs like jalakalatalalo and mutyala chamma chekka .

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Smoke Screen raises questions

Smoke Screen has an intersting post When a language (culture) tells its own story ... where she quotes from Girish Karard the reaction of Madras audience to a play of Arthur Miller:
"The audience watching the play in Madras was English educated, familiar with Western literature. Many of them frequently were abroad and had a living contact with the Western way of life. The production was a success. But most of the audience entirely missed the element of incest in the play; rather, they chose to ignore it as an unnecessary adjunct to an otherwise perfectly rational tale."
and raises the question "While one can concede the chasm between ‘Indian’ and ‘English’ cultures, is there a similar gap between the peoples of different linguistic groups in India? And, not to put too fine a point on it, is there, then, a cultural, perceptual, gap between speakers of different dialects of an Indian language? ", I think there are, even between different castes in the same region. I wonder whether different castes (or genders) have the same perception of Ramayana. There is a flippant story from a friend who got stuck in a forest and watched Ramlila performed by a tribal group. Rama, Sita, Ravana all got drunk. Rama, Ravana started fighting with Rama saying that Ravana should 'keep' Sita since she lived with him for long time and Ravana saying that Sita was Rama's wife and he should 'take' her back. I wonder whether such can happen in other main stream communities even if the actors got drunk, which is not unusual. In some regions of A,P. people say 'pellani teesuka vacchaanu' ( I brought my wife back) and in some others they say 'pellanni tolukocchanu'(I drove my wife back). There is some perceptual difference there though both seem to be using a term which implies 'property'.
See also Namit Arora' review Joothan: A Dalit's Life. An excerpt:
"Unlike in the dominant Hindu tradition—which Valmiki pointedly denigrates and wants no part of—widow remarriage was even in the 60s an accepted norm in his community. He describes in some detail how their gods were utterly different from Hindu gods and how different their religious rituals were."

Implementation of the Forest Rights Act 2006

Following up Arundhati Roy and Aditya Nigam articles mentioned article I came across this article Redressing 'historic injustice' through Forest Rights Act 2006: A Historical Institutional analysis of contemporary forest rights reform.The act was passed in December, 2006 and the rules have been finalised and issued in January, 2008. From the conclusion of the article:
"The Indian Forest Rights Act has begun to change the institutional ‘playing field’ in terms of undermining the historical basis for state enclosure of forest lands and
puts many aspects of the contemporary forest land administration on the wrong side of the law, therefore requiring reform.
The breakthrough of the Forest Rights Act to an extent implies increasing political
inclusion in democratic processes. However the political processes and compromises necessary for securing reform have inevitably narrowed and diluted the scope of the
reform, in relation to the breadth of the problem.
Firstly implementation of any reform involves effort and commitment to change established procedures and practices. This likely goes against the ‘path of least
resistance’ and so without dynamic leadership, consistent lobbying and substantial
resourcing implementation is inevitably a gradual process of change. Secondly, however, incumbent administrations are likely to have significant divergence of
interests from the interest groups favoured by reform, acutely so in the case of the FRA, and therefore may be actively hostile to full and proper implementation, at
least where discretionary opportunities to do so exist."

Here are a couple of news items about the implementation of the act which confirm some of the fears expressed in the article. From Endless Loop, an interview with documentary "Delayed Justice" maker Shriprakash:
"The purpose of the film was to document how the Act is being implemented. The Act is a radical one in Indian history and the film tackles how it is being implemented in all the regions of Andhra Pradesh (AP). “I chose AP because on the surface it had a pretty good track record,” says Shriprakash. Made in 2009, it is part of an ongoing research on the Act and produced by the University of East Anglia. “I thought AP is one of the few states where there is some governance but I found in the remote areas where I filmed, Marripalam for instance, things are the same,” he says. “If this Act cannot be properly implemented in a state like Andhra I wonder what is happening to it in the rest of the country,” he adds.............
In Marripalam village, which is six km from a road-head into the forest, the head of the FRC ( Forest Rights Committee) is confused about the number of claims from the area. Forest officials caught on hidden camera clearly voice their opinion against the Act and also add that the department is involved in large-scale timber smuggling. "
From a Kafila post:
"Mr. Avinash Kulkarni and Mr. Bharat Pawar, activists of long-standing repute, have been working relentlessly for the rights of the Adivasis of Gujarat, over the past 15 years. Based in Ahwa, Avinash and Bharat have been actively involved on issues pertaining to the empowerment and development of Adivasis, through the Dangi Lok Adhikar Samiti and the Dangi Mazdoor Union, in Dang district. Avinash and Bharat have played a significant role in the struggle for the Forest Rights Act and for people’s rights to use, manage and control forests and forest resources as part of the leadership of Adivasi Mahasabha Gujarat, both in the advocacy and struggle that brought about the Forests Rights Act and the monitoring of its implementation across the Adivasi areas of Gujarat. It is a well known fact that they have always worked for democratic and peaceful means of securing the rights and entitlements of the Adivasis and have stood by non-violent means of working for social change.
In the afternoon of 21st March, 2010, about 2 P.M Avinash was picked up by Dy. S. P. Shri Patil under the pretext of questioning and took him to an undisclosed location, without giving any information to his family members or colleagues as to where they were taking him or giving him the right of contacting his advocate. Bharat Pawar also was detained the same evening in a similar fashion by policemen from the DSP office of Ahwa, Dangs. This is a clear violation of Justice D. K. Basu Guideline of Supreme Court."

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Progress in low dimensional topology

This message and comments have various links about the progress on some outstanding problems, including the virtual Haken conjecture.
P.S. A couple of the relevant papers:
Immersed almost geodesic surfaces in a closed hyperbolic three manifold by Jeremy Kahn and Vladimir Markovic
Some notes on recent work of Dani Wise by Thomas Koberda

Friday, March 26, 2010

Research blogging awards in science

From Research Blogging Awards 2010:
"Seed Media Group's Research Blogging Awards honor the outstanding bloggers who discuss peer-reviewed research. With over 1,000 blogs registered at and 10,000 posts about peer-reviewed journal articles collected, it is time to recognize the best of the best.

By February 11, 2010, readers had made over 400 nominations. Then our expert panel of judges painstakingly assessed the nominees to select 5 to 10 finalists in each of 20 categories. Then our registered bloggers chose the winners. Congratulations to the winners and finalists, who represent the best blogging about peer-reviewed research on the Internet!"

The links to finalists and winners are in the post.
Interview with the best blog winner Ed Yong here.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Aditya Nigam on the rumours of Maoism

Perhaps an indirect response to Arundhati Roy's article of the previous post, after several strange responses in Kafila. From Rumours of Maoism:

" would appear that it is rather the frenzied drive towards development that is breeding Maoist politics.
It is important to understand that, at one level, it is not Maoism that is really at issue here, as both the state and the Maoist-aligned intellectuals would have us believe. It is really Indian democracy that is at issue. I have argued elsewhere that a deep split structures the Indian polity – a split between ’sovereignty’ and the rule of the extraordinary and the impulse of democracy.

The rule of the extraordinary, as evidenced in the rule through laws like AFSPA or UAPA/POTA/TADA on the one hand, and the indiscriminate manner in which violence becomes the primary mode of dealing with social struggles and dissent on the other, now structures our politics. Thus, even while Indian democracy can become the vehicle for the political rise of the dalits and lower castes, the seduction of violence at its peripheries always remains powerful for that is precisely where democracy gives way to a complete lawlessness of the Law."
P.S. related articles:
Endless Loop from The Hindu about the documentary "Delayed Justice" by Shriprakash:
"Delayed Justice” poignantly captures how the Forest Rights Act, in spite of being a radical one on paper, is seriously flawed in implementation… Filmmaker Shriprakash talks about his documentary to Meena Menon. "
Redressing 'historic injustice' through Forest Rights Act 2006: A Historical Institutional analysis of contemporary forest rights reform IPPG (Research Programme Consorttium for improving Institutions for Pro-Poor Growth)Discussion Paper Number twenty-seven.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Strategic Hamleting

I saw srategic hamleting in Mizoram around 1977 and wondered how it started. Arundhati Roy explains in Walking With The Comrades:
"Unlike the Jan Jagran Abhiyaan, the Salwa Judum was a ground-clearing operation, meant to move people out of their villages into roadside camps, where they could be policed and controlled. In military terms, it’s called Strategic Hamleting. It was devised by General Sir Harold Briggs in 1950 when the British were at war against the communists in Malaya. The Briggs Plan became very popular with the Indian army, which has used it in Nagaland, Mizoram and in Telangana. The BJP chief minister of Chhattisgarh, Raman Singh, announced that as far as his government was concerned, villagers who did not move into the camps would be considered Maoists. So, in Bastar, for an ordinary villager, just staying at home became the equivalent of indulging in dangerous terrorist activity."
P.S. See also Nandini Bedi's comment ( Comment number 207 in the Outlook article)on a different side of Maoists in the same area.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Chillies from my garden

A photo in the photos section. Only after growing chillies, I realized that chillies differ not only in hotness but also in taste. The tastiest from my garden are not very hot and are shown at the left bottom end of the photo. I do not know the names of any of them. Some are bought from nurseries years ago and are now from the seeds they gave and some are grown from the seeds given by friends.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Latent talent abundance

From NY Times review How to Be Brilliant (via 3quarksdaily) of The Genius in All of Us: Why Everything You've Been Told About Genetics, Talent, and IQ Is Wrong by David Shenk:
"Shenk doesn’t neglect the take-home point we’re all waiting for, even titling a chapter “How to Be a Genius (or Merely Great).” The answer has less in common with the bromides of motivational speakers than with the old saw about how to get to Carnegie Hall: practice, practice, practice. .............
It’s in this self-help section that two weaknesses in Shenk’s argument become evident. The first is the matter of where the extreme drive and discipline that greatness requires are supposed to come from. .......

Shenk is also evasive about just what restrictions individual biology places on achievement. He is careful to say that we are not born without limits — it’s just that none of us can know what those limits are “before we’ve applied enormous re­sources and invested vast amounts of time.” He ducks the implication that these limits will, eventually, reveal themselves, and that they will stop most of us well short of Mozart territory. "
I think that the first point is valid but am not too sure of the second. We may fall short of Mozart territory but every bit contributes, provides diversity and finally gives the individual satisfaction or whatever of striving and doing. The point is that we do not know our limitations. Of course, meanwhile there is a simple problem of making a living.

Telugu people in basic research

I got a letter from somebody who found that I was in the School of Mathematics, TIFR and wonders "...very few Telugu people are found at such institutes.Is it any lack of interest shown by telugu people towards basic sciences or any discrimination.But the fact remains that there is something that remains under achieved by telugu people."
The simple answer is that I do not know. I got in to mathematics by accident. I was not of the right age to do Engineering and so my father sent me do mathematics. His reason was that it was easier to score higher marks in mathematics to enter IAS. Then I read "Men of Mathematics" by E.T. Bell and was bitten by the mathematics bug. I also rember Gopal Prasad (from U.P.) telling me that though he was doing well in his studies, his father did not want him to do a degree and wanted to him to go in to family business. Then his father's mother intervened and his father agreed. Out of his nine brothers three became excellent mathematics and and one a theoretical physicist. At one time there were a lot of statisticians from Andhra possibly because Andhra University was one of the first (may be the first) to introduce a masters degree in statistics. So there might have been several family, cultural, economic and chance factors and of course opportunities involved in these developments.
P.s. It is difficult to associate a definite linguistic identity to some of the well known mathematicians like S. Minakshisundaram (about whom I posted earlier) , K.G. Ramanathan (, Madhav Nori and many others.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Some books that I liked

There have been various lists of Assorted links about influential books. I find that I have not read most of these but started thinking about books I read and keep remembering some parts or themes from them. Since I have not read on any topic systematically and am an off and on reader ( Some I start and cannot finish like books of R.K. Narayan and Salman Rushdie), the books I remember seem to be odd collection and possibly varies from time to time. Here is a first list.
The first books I remember are Telugu books and translations in to Telugu of Indian fiction. Some of these I remember and still read :
1" Gurajada Apparao: Mutyalasaraalu, Kanyasulkam and many other writings.
2)Srisri: Mahaprasthanam,
3) Tripuraneni Gopichand: Asamarthuni Jeevayaatra.
4)Sarat Chandra Chatterjee: Paderdhaabi (Bharati in Telugu), Seshprasna, Mahesh.
5)Premchand: Nirmala, Godan.
6) Various books of Nehru and Gandhi's "My experiments with Truth".
Other books.
1) Tolstoy: War and Peace, supplemented by "The Hedhehog and the Fox". Short stories by Tolstoy.
2) The Brothers Karamazov
3) The Communist Manifesto
4) SCience books like E.T. Bell's "Men of Mathematics", Eddington's "The Nature of the Physical World" and various books of James Jeans, Faraday's 'Experiments with Electricity and Magnetism"
5) Various books of B. Russell , V.S. Naipaul, paricularly " Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy", "The History of Western Philosophy", "A House for Mr. Biswas", "A Million Mutinees Now". Orwell's essays.
Recent (last ten years) readinga:
1) Pankaj Mishra : "Edmund Wilson in Benares", Review of Jhumpa Lahiri's " The Namesake" and "Temptations of the West".
2) Bernard Cohn's Omnibus
4) Cynthia Talbot's "History of Medieval Andhra:
5)Amitav Ghosh:" In an Antique Land"
6) Sheldon PollocK: "The Language of Gods in the World of Men"
7) Velcheru NarayanaRao, David Shulman, Sanjay Subrahmanyan : "Textures of Time"
8) Heilbronner: "The Worldly Philosophers" ,Leo Huberman's "Man's Worldly Goods", Partha Dasgupta's primer on economics.
9) Alice Albinia "The Empires of The Indus"
And books on cognitive dissonance, haphazard mind , evolution like
1) Dan Gilbert: "Stumbling on Happiness"
2) David Linden: "The Accidental Mind"
3)Matt Ridley: Nature Via Nurture,
4) Boyd and Richerson "Not by genes alone"
And blogs like 3quarksdaily, Chhapati Mystery. Still waiting for a book to the cure the disease of trying to understand the world. David Linden's comes closest.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Some trouble with numbers

I have some difficulty understanding the numbers from the various news reports from India about the Women's Reservation Bill.
Radhika Ramaseshan in 'The Telegraph' Quota queries: Everything you wanted to know about the bill:
"Will the sub-quota seats for SC/ST women come into being over and above the current 22 per cent SC/ST quota that is open to both genders?

Yes. This means, of course, that nearly 30 per cent of Lok Sabha and Assembly seats will now practically be reserved for the SC/STs.

So what will be the total quota volume after the women’s bill is passed?

Fifty five per cent — 33 per cent for women plus the existing 22 per cent for SC/STs."

Smita Gupta in 'The Outlook' Now, The Better Third:
Devil's Advocate: Moily on Women's quota says "As for SC/ST women, they will get a third of the seats reserved for SC/STs—from their current 16 in the present Lok Sabha, SC/ST women will be guaranteed at least 42 seats once the bill comes into force. The reason why the RJD, Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party, Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party and Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party are still demanding a sub-quota for SC/ST women is simple, and no different from that which prevails in any other party—they do not want to share the current SC/ST quota with the women of these communities.....

Total Lok Sabha seats 545*

Seats reserved for SCs/STs: 122
Seats to be reserved for women: 181
Unreserved: 240 "

"Karan Thapar: Look then, minister, at the problems that are occurring. To begin with, the 33 percent legislation that you are legislating come on top of 22.5 [percent] for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and although there is a small overlap between the two, you are still going to end up with 48.5 percent seats in the Lok Sabha reserved one way or the another. In a democracy, is such a high level of reservation of Lok Sabha seats acceptable?

Veerappa Moily: No, you are talking on a flat consideration. Women reservations cut across Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.--

Karan Thapar: --I have taken that into account--

Veerappa Moily: --No. That can't be done.--

Karan Thapar: --I have taken into account that one cuts across the other to end up with 48.5 percent seats reserved.

Veerappa Moily: This will not be an offensive that it cuts across caste, community, creed, anything.

Karan Thapar: I'll tell you why it would be offensive. If you look specifically at the case of non-Scheduled Caste and non-Scheduled Tribe men, which is 78 percent of the male population, they can only now contest for 51.5 percent of the seats. From their point of view, it is grossly unfair."

Assuming that two out of three are correct about one third of the seats in SC/ST quota go to women and the figure of 48.5 perecent in the interview is (approximately) correct, one third of the rest of the 77.5 percent seats are reserved for women and so about 51.5 percent are open seats which everybody can contest. This contradicts the number 240 of unreserved seats given by Smita Gupta. Then Karan Thapar says that 78 perecent of the male population can contest only 51.5 percent of the seats forgetting that 78 percent of the male population is only about 39 perecent of the total population.

May be, correct numbers will emerge.

Another nice article in 3quarksdaily

Rousseau Meets Japanese Primatology by Frans de Waal
(Ava is crying; I have to go)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Chikungunya again

Earlier I wrote about Recovering from Chikungunya which I heard from some friends in Hyderabad. Recently a friend's mother came to Melbourne still suffering from joint pains after a bout of Chikungunya. We got the medicine from Hyderabad ( fourteen doses for a week costing 100 rupees). The family says that she is much better now. The medicine is Ayurvedic ( not Unani as I said ealier) and produced in Punjab. It may be useful for rheumatic pains and may be worth a try.
P.S. See also Gambhir, Nehra thank Rajapaksa for facilitating ayurvedic treatment . It seems that there may be many such worth investigating.

A recent paper on religion

From a recent paper The origins of religion : evolved adaptation or by-product? by Ilkka Pyysiäinen1and Marc Hauser:
"Considerable debate has surrounded the question of the origins and evolution of religion. One proposal views religion as an adaptation for cooperation, whereas an alternative proposal views religion as a by-product of evolved, non-religious, cognitive functions. We critically evaluate each approach, explore the link between religion and morality in particular, and argue that recent empirical work in moral psychology provides stronger support for the by-product approach. Specifically, despite differences in religious background, individuals show no difference in the pattern of their moral judgments for unfamiliar moral scenarios. These findings suggest that religion evolved from pre-existing cognitive functions, but that it may then have been subject to selection, creating an adaptively designed system for solving the problem of cooperation."

Discussion of the paper by P.Z. Myers here. Discussion of the paper as well as other theories is in the Seed Magazine article
Why We Believe by Dave Munger. The following appeals to me as it does to the author:
"I’m a little more convinced by Linden’s explanation of religious behavior. He claims it’s a result of the natural tendency of the human cognitive system to fill in gaps. For instance, patients whose brains have been damaged so that their two hemispheres cannot communicate with one another will consistently fabricate elaborate explanations for why one isolated hemisphere acted in a particular way. Similarly, the human visual system works by preserving the illusion that we process an entire scene at once, when in fact we are only able to focus on a tiny portion of our visual field. We simply and subconsciously fill in the rest with our imagination, believing it to be manifest truth. Such may also be the case with religion.

Linden ultimately argues that these beliefs are not incompatible with science, and that science itself is full of beliefs that, like religious beliefs, cannot be proved. I’m quite sure that atheists like Myers would strongly disagree with Linden on this statement. The debate over religion and science—and whether we can study religion scientifically—is likely to continue on for the foreseeable future."

The views of David Linden are apparently expressed in his book 'The Accidental Mind' reviewed here.

A link to Marc Hauser's papers is in the Cognitive Evolution Laboratory site.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Some links to women quotas

From About Quotas:
"This website reveals that the use of electoral quotas for women is much more widespread than is commonly held. An increasing number of countries are currently introducing various types of gender quotas for public elections: In fact, half of the countries of the world today use some type of electoral quota for their parliament.

Today women constitute 18.4 percent of the members of parliaments around the world. Recently, Rwanda superseded Sweden at the number one in the world in terms of women’s parliamentary representation — 56.3 percent women against Sweden’s 47.3 percent. Rwanda is an example of the new trend to use electoral gender quotas as a fast track to gender balance in politics. Other parliaments, however, still have very few women elected."

A Female Parliamentary Majority in Just One Country: Rwanda

The World’s Best Countries for Women gives links to various women empowerment indices.
From one such in 2007 India ranks 114 among 128 listed, below Qatar (at 109), recent destination of M.F.Husain.
P.S. Some information about proposed Indian quotas here(via Nanoploitan). A quote:
"Does such a quota exist anywhere else in the world?

Yes, in Argentina, Pakistan, Uganda, Bangladesh, Eritrea and Tanzania."

I am not sure what this means in view of the assertion in the first reference about hlf the countries having some sort of quota for women and the case of Rwanda. May be it means over 33 percent. Another interesting point, the big parties and the communist parties are for it whereas some of the parties representing weaker sections are against it.
More comprehensive links in OUTLOOK: Now, The Better Third

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

More resource curse

Abstract of The political resource curse:
"Is the discovery of natural resources necessarily a good thing? Examining data from Brazil, this column finds that a 10% windfall in government revenues leads to a 12 percentage point increase in corruption and a 3 percentage point reduction in the probability that politicians have a degree. The chance that an incumbent is reelected raises by over 4 percentage points."

The other Oppenheimer

I have not heard of Frank Friedman Oppenheimer before but resd two articles about him this week A Hero of Science, After All (behind a firewall in NYRB) and
In the Exploratorium's distorted room in MindHacks.
The first is a review of the biography Something Incredibly Wonderful Happens: Frank Oppenheimer and the world he made up by K.C. Cole.Excerpts:
"The physicist Frank Oppenheimer is remembered today, insofar as he is remembered at all, as the younger brother of J. Robert Oppenheimer, leader of the Manhattan Project scientists who built the atomic bomb. Some also recall that Frank was drummed out of academic life for lying about whether he had belonged to the Communist Party yet went on to found the Exploratorium, San Francisco's innovative science museum. But there is far more to his story, as K.C. Cole's able biography makes clear.....
He insisted that the Exploratorium's workshop be located near the entrance and have no walls, so that visitors could see exhibits being built and repaired and "smell the oil from a lathe." "We both agreed that physics was grubby," said Stanford's Wolfgang Panofsky, one of the many major scientists Oppenheimer dragooned into helping him build the Exploratorium:

"It shouldn't be pretty and under glass. The visitor should learn that experiments break, and fail, and you've got to fix it. Shops should be part of the museum. Because that is the way that physics is done. Things break. You fix them. You repair them. You change them. You improve them."
Oppenheimer called the Exploratorium "a kind of woods of natural phenomena," a place where you went more to explore than to have things explained to you. He liked to say that he built it for the same reason that people build parks—because there aren't enough trees around—and insisted that it have no guards and as few rules as possible. Children should be free to run around as they pleased; if they broke something, so what? "The whole point of the Exploratorium," he said,

"is to make it possible for people to feel they can understand the world around them. I think a lot of people have given up with that understanding—and if they give it up with the physical world around them, they give it up with the social and political world as well."

Still, when we consider that Robert Oppenheimer's greatest accomplishment was to build a bomb that just about everybody wants there to be fewer of, while his younger brother advanced techniques in science education that almost everybody wants there to be more of, we may wonder which brother will, in the long run, have the more enduring legacy."

The post in MindHacks has a short description of the Exploratorium's 'distorted room' together with a video and some links : "
The San Francisco Exploratorium is the Mind Hacks of science museums - every exhibit is hands on, giving you the chance to experiment with and experience for yourself scientific principles."

Website of the Exploratorium

Monday, March 08, 2010

A small selection from MindHacks

How reliable are fMRI results?:
"A new study has looked at the reliability of fMRI brain scanning results over time, finding that the same experiment will only only be moderately reproducible when conducted at two different times, suggesting that fMRI is much less reliable than most researchers assume."

It links Neurocritics response Depression's Cognitive Downside to Jonah Lehrer's article Depression’s Upside . Excerpts:
"It should be obvious that a transient, slightly sad state is drastically different from a prolonged major depressive episode......The analytical rumination hypothesis even has the potential to be harmful. Belief in the glorious "upside" of their ailment could prevent some severely depressed individuals from getting proper treatment, placing them at greater risk of suicide and other adverse events. Needless to say, such an outcome would be of no evolutionary advantage."

MindHacks is a bit more enthusiastic about Jonah Lehrer's pose Inequality Aversion. Excerpt from the post:
"The lesson, then, is that while we are inequality averse, it's a fragile kind of aversion. Even a hint of meritocracy can erase our guilt."
See also the comments. Hoever, it is not so straight forward. See Does Culture Matter in Economic Behavior? Ultimatum Game Bargaining in Machiguenga of the Peruvian Amazon. Boyd and Richerson have been telling us for some time the importance of culture Not By Genes Alone: How Culture Transformed Human Evolution .

Friday, March 05, 2010

Primordial memories

From a curious article Echoes of Naipaul-Nadira affair (
"Iqbal's pride in Brahmin ancestry

Iqbal, a third generation convert from Sapru Pandits of Kashmir had once in a verse challenged a Syed, the highest caste Muslim directly descended from the Prophet's clan, to dare match him in superior philosophic wisdom inherited from Iqbal's Shiva-worshipping Kashmiri Pandit forefathers as follows:

Main asal ka Somnati
Aaba meray Lati aur Manaati
Tu Syed Hashmi ki aulad
Meri khaak kaf-e-Brahmin zaad
Hai philosophy meri rag rag main Poshida hai resh-a-gul main.

�I am the descendant of a family of true worshippers of Somnath (Shiva). My Kashmiri Pandit ancestors were devotees of the gods named Lam and Manaat (whose idols were removed from Kaaba by Prophet Muhammad after conquest of Mecca). You may belong to the highest Muslim caste of Hashmi Syeds. But my mortal body of five elements (panchbhut) has been incarnated in a Brahmin family. Philosophy is, suffused (hidden) in every vein of my body, blossoming like a flower in its every atom.�"

Misc. from Telugu blogs and such

Jajimalli makes a trip to Madigagudem నా మాదిగ గూడెం యాత్రా విశేషాలు and finds that in many cases men drink and play cards whereas women take care of themselves, children and also feed husbands. That is when there is some work to do. She enquires about what they do when there is no work, They go the dabha near the road; presumably for prostitution. Jajimalli is skocked and exclaims that they will get all sorts of diseases and die. The reply is that they have to each day to surive.
From Inclusive Growth in Andhra Pradesh: Challenges in Agriculture, Poverty, Social Sector and
Regional Disparities
"Most of the problems of the farmers relate to credit and debt. The 59th Round Survey of NSS provides information on outstanding debt of farmers. Table 6 provides percentage of indebtedness households and by source of loan. At the all India level around 49% of the farmer hhs. were indebted (col.2 in Table 6). The levels of indebtedness vary from state to state. Andhra Pradesh has the highest percentage of indebtedness (82%) while Meghalaya has the lowest percentage (only 4% are indebted). However, we are more interested in the source of loan because institutional credit is important for farmers.

The percentage of indebted farmer hhs. by source of loan (cols.3 and 4 in Table 6) shows 56% of indebted farmer hhs. obtain loan from formal sources and 64% from
informal sources. The total percentage is more than 100 (120%) because farmers take loans from multiple sources. The shares in formal and informal sources vary from state to state. In Andhra Pradesh, 54% of the indebted farmer hhs obtain loans from formal and 77% from informal sources (total is 130%)"

Many shift to towns to educate their children so they can get jobs. During marriage discussions, they are comments like "The salary is about 5,000 rupees a month but he can make another 20,000 (presumably from bribes)". That must be from govt. jobs. Salaries of private school teachers tend be low; a couple of years ago I have known of teachers getting about 1100 rupees a month. Middle class farmers sometimes sell lands to educate the children. That shifts the problem to another group of farmers, sometimes from lower castes. In any case, there are only so many jobs. This may be the root of some of the current agitations.

In ఆంధ్ర ప్రదేశ్ లో ఆంగ్ల భాష Rehamtullah says that there is a reluctance of including English words in Telugu dictionaries eventhough they are frequently used in everyday conversations and official work.
P.S. From Mosquito Noses and Baby BrainsFindings Log /, seems to be a preliminary report:
"The Basis for Bilingual Babies
A study published last week in Psychological Science looked at the effect a mother’s bilingualism has on her unborn child’s language abilities. The researchers followed three groups of mothers: those who spoke English and Tagalog, those who spoke English and Chinese, and those who only spoke English. Comparing the language abilities of these mothers’ newborns, the researchers found that, just as babies with monolingual mothers are capable at birth of identifying their native language, babies with bilingual mothers are capable of identifying both of their native languages. What is most compelling about this finding is that it suggests we may not be evolutionarily wired to have only one native language. Instead, we may have an innate ability to recognize fundamental distinctions between languages like English and Tagalog. While still in the womb, we could be developing a sensitivity to the rhythm of the words being spoken around us. It makes you wonder what else we learn in there."
Reprt in Sciencedaily:

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Some articles relevant to Telangana issue

Somebody has kindly sent me this list Telangana: Reading List on Telangana Issue . A few of them that I read before, I found them excellent. I look forward to reading as many of them as possible.

Another innovation for the poor

Is it a bag, is it a toilet? No, it's a Peepoo:
"''People will say, 'It's valuable to me, but well priced,' '' he said. He plans to sell it for about two or three cents - comparable to the cost of an ordinary plastic bag. In the developing world, an estimated 2.6 billion people, or about 40 per cent of the earth's population, do not have access to a toilet, according to United Nations figures.

It is a public health crisis: open defecation can contaminate drinking water, and an estimated 1.5 million children worldwide die yearly from diarrhoea, largely because of poor sanitation and hygiene.

To mitigate this, the UN has a goal to reduce by half the number of people without access to toilets by 2015.

The market for low-cost toilets in the developing world is about a trillion dollars, according to Jack Sim, founder of the World Toilet Organisation, a sanitation advocacy group.

As far as toilets go, ''the people in the middle class have reached saturation in consumption,'' said Sim, a fan of the Peepoo. ''This has created a new need of looking for a new customer.''"

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

On inclusive growth in Andhra Pradesh

Abstract of Inclusive Growth in Andhra Pradesh: Challenges in Agriculture, Poverty, Social Sector and
Regional Disparities
by S. Mahendra Dev:

This paper deals with inclusive growth in Andhra Pradesh. Growth may be higher in the last two decades but inclusive growth or equitable development has been missing. It is like running a train with engine only without connecting bogies and people to the engine. According to us, important elements of inclusive growth are: agricultural growth, employment generation and poverty reduction, social sector (health and education) and reduction in regional and other disparities. In this paper, we concentrate on these four elements of inclusive growth.

There seems to be some 'turn around' in the gross state domestic product (GSDP) of A.P. in the last five years. The average annual growth rate was 6.9% during 2002-07 and 7.8% during 2003-07. However, there are problems in the four elements of inclusive growth. Growth of agriculture particularly crop sector is very low. Employment growth in the post-reform period (1993-94 to 2004-05) is the lowest in the country. The recent data shows that literacy levels are also low as compared to many other states. The National Family Health survey (NFHS III) indicate that A.P.'s rank for infant mortality is 11 out of 17 states in the year 2005-06.

Growth rates in district domestic product (DDP) and per capita DDP shows that 7 districts of Telangana (Ranga Reddy, Nizamabad, Khammam, Hyderabad, Mahbubnagar, Warangal and Medak) and 2 districts of North Coastal (Visakhapatnam and Srikakulam) recorded higher growth rates than that of state average. On the other hand, all the districts in South Coastal and Rayalaseema and three districts of Telangana and one district of North Coastal showed lower growth than that of state average. However, one has to see the quality of growth in Telangana and Rayalaseema districts.

We have examined whether A.P. can achieve Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). It is
depressing to note that Andhra Pradesh will not meet MDGs in 10 out of 14 indicators. Thus, except in poverty, enrolment of boys and girls and drinking water, A.P. may not achieve millennium development goals in crucial indicators of education, health and sanitation at current rates of progress. The progress in MDGs for some regions and socially deprived sections like SCs and STs has been slower than the state average.

This paper suggests several policies for improving inclusive growth in A.P. Economic
growth may be improving but A.P. is lagging behind in agriculture, employment, human
development and in reducing regional disparities. There is a need to operationalize a plan for achieving inclusive growth during the 11th Five Year Plan period and beyond in Andhra Pradesh. The action plan should cover the priority areas like agriculture, employment and social sectors. It should have a plan for removing economic and social deprivation across all regions. Also it should have a plan for socially disadvantaged sections.

The Gaddes of Avanigadda

seem to have spread around the world. I recd. a letter saying that one Ramaprasad Gadde is entitled to about 700 dollars and if does not collect it soon, he will loose it. I do not know who he is. Today I also recd. a family tree of the Gaddes of Avanigadda ( earlier Avaneejapuram, later Avaneepuram) and I do not know most of them. Apparently, there was an attempt in 1914 by Gadde Kotaiah Naidu who migrated to Madras area and made it. He was supposed to have donated about one and half acres for Madras Central Station and built a railway station Anupampattu near his village Pudikuppam. Another Gadde Rangaiah Naidu also migrated to Madras and became the mayor (municilal councillor ?) of Madras. I remember seeing a street in Madras named after him. According to the family tree prepared by Kotaiah Naidu in 1914, the Gaddes of Avanigadda came 394 years before that from 'Gaddevaarigudem' near Nellur. One Potaraju Mukkanna (daskatdar of Avanigadda, I do not know what daskatdar means)visited Kotappakonda nearby for Sivaratri festivals, met some Gaddes, felt that they were good farmers and invited them to come and cultivate temple lands in avanigadda. That is how, approximately, 500 years ago two families of Gaddes (of dhanyala gotram) came to Avanigadda. The early marriage alliances were with Paruchuri, Kota, Yarlagadda and Thumati families. Apart from some who made money and some local bigwigs, There do not seem to be any illustrious Gaddes. The nearest is Avula Sambasiva Rao, A.P High Court Chief Justice and a rationalist writer who is claimed as a nephew of the Gaddes. Now they seem to have spread to all the continents (though I have not heard of any in Africa).
From what I remember most of our families were middle class struggling to send children to college and many of them could not. Many of the current ones seem relatively affluent who can afford foreign vacations, eat in relatively expensive restaurants etc. Compared to them, many from the poorer castes in the same area are still struggling to make a living. Caste connections are probably useful in this acquisition of prosperity and I hope that some of them will try to spread the prosperity to others.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Ethnic affinity ?

Ethnic affinity :
Steve Hsu quotes Robert Reich:

"The essence of ethnic affinity:

“We have never met before, but I instantly know him. One look, one phrase, and I know where he grew up, how he grew up, where he got his drive and his sense of humor. He is New York. He is Jewish. He looks like my uncle Louis, his voice is my uncle Sam. I feel we’ve been together at countless weddings, bar mitzvahs, and funerals. I know his genetic structure. I’m certain that within the last five hundred years—perhaps even more recently—we shared the same ancestor.”

--- Robert Reich, Clinton administration Secretary of Labor, on his first face-to-face meeting with Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan."

May be there is something in it. Yesterday, I had a similar experience in Footscray, one of the suburbs which was much in news about the recent problems of Indian students in Melbourne. We stopped in a small Indian restaurant 'vanakkam India' which specialises in Hyderabad Biryani and dosa(i). There were about twenty young people in the restaurant and I immediately knew that a few in one corner were were from Guntur-Krishna area. As I overheard the conversation, it became more clear though I did not enquire since the young people seemed to be really enjoying their weekend meal. I find similar things when I visit other places. It seems so easy to build some sort of rapport and even 'business' contacts and alliances. May be one should not read too much into these things. Anyway, the good news is : the food is ok, not expensive and there are forty types of dosa from paper dosa to schezwenchilly masaladosa. The restaurant is located at 198, Nicholoson Street, Footscray (phone number: 9687 2233).