Sunday, October 31, 2010

Controlling a computer through electrodes implanted in the brain

From Discover News Mind Over Machine:
"Using nothing but thoughts, people can coax a brain cell that likes Marilyn Monroe to overpower one that likes Josh Brolin -- a battle of cell dominance that eventually causes an image of Monroe to appear brighter than one of Brolin on a computer screen."
Video by Moran Cerf Thought projection by neurons in the human brain
A shorter video in the excellent summary by Carl Zimmer Harnessing Your Marilyn Monroe Neurons and an earlier article by Carl Zimmer Can a Single Neuron Tell Halle Berry From Grandma Esther?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Two Lata-Geeta Dutt Duets

LATA-GEETA DUTT DUET from Toofan Aur Diya (1956).flv
Lata ji & Geeta Dutt in Parbat
It is difficult to distinguish the voices.

Mumbai Concensus by 2040?

Fro a speech of Larry Sumners via India vs China: Which is the best role model for the developing world?:
"And perhaps – perhaps – in 2040, the discussion will be less about the Washington Consensus or the Beijing Consensus, than about the Mumbai Consensus – a third way not based on ideas of laissez-faire capitalism that have proven obsolete or ideas of authoritarian capitalism that ultimately will prove not to be enduringly successful. Instead, a Mumbai Consensus based on the idea of a democratic developmental state, driven not by a mercantilist emphasis on exports, but a people-centered emphasis on growing levels of consumptions and a widening middle class."

'Not sure' says Chrystia Freeland in The Mumbai consensus:
"Summers thinks the real model to watch is India’s, the world’s largest democracy. Partly because of its political system, India’s economic rise has been powered as much by the voracity of its domestic consumers as it has by the country’s push into foreign markets. That’s a sharp contrast with China, where the focus has been on working for the rest of the world, while the Chinese people, who are poorer on average than those of Albania or Jamaica, nonetheless save more than half of their GDP.

What makes the idea of the Mumbai consensus, and of people-centric economic growth, so powerful is that the smartest and most politically potent critique of global capitalism right now is that it isn’t delivering for the middle class.

We are living in an age of unprecedented economic prosperity: since the 1970s the world economy has been growing at a faster pace than at any other time in human history, and billions of people have been lifted out of poverty as a result. Yet a perversity of this global boom is that it has benefited the super-elite most of all.

That is apparent most starkly in America, where 23.5 per cent of total income in 2007 went to the top 1 per cent, but it is also the case in countries with a more generous social safety net, like Canada and the UK. It is happening as well in communist China, where the gap between the rich and poor is as great as it is in the U.S., and in other emerging market powerhouses, including Russia, and, yes, India. (Income inequality has been falling in the fourth BRIC, Brazil, but that may partly be because it has historically been so high. Today it remains far greater than in the U.S.)

This unequal return on globalization is a pretty good key to understanding domestic political battles in most countries around the world. That’s true in authoritarian China, where, according to the state-run China Daily, the key concern of the Communist Party as it debated its twelfth five-year plan this week was “the widening wealth gap”. That is also true in the United States, where the rage of the Tea Party, with its proudly anti-elite heroines, is largely animated by anger that the American middle class is losing out.

Income inequality is high in India, too – Raghuram Rajan, the Indian born and educated University of Chicago economist pointed out in a 2008 speech in Mumbai that India was second only to Russia in its number of billionaires per trillion dollars of GDP. But Summers is right to assert that India’s rise out of developing world poverty has been “people-centric”: both an engine and a consequence of India’s ascent has been a surge in consumption that extends deep into the income distribution.....Summers, who has been worrying aloud about the hard-hit US middle class since well before the credit bubble burst, is painfully familiar with this problem. Identifying the Mumbai Consensus is a first step towards a solution, but alone it won’t be enough."
As a commentor says, it is perhaps people-led rather than people-centric, and I guess it may be due to the inefficiency of the state.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Links October 29

Two posts on Tinnitus (ringing in the ears). Carl Zimmer in Discover The Brain "Ringing in the Ears" Actually Goes Much Deeper Than That discusses the recent progress. There is discussion in The Loom My new brain column: Tinnitus, from ears to consciousness. It seems that different cases have very different treatments. In Vital Signs An Unwelcome Ringing Christopher Linstrom discusses a case which he cured by surgery.
From Distress, culture and gene expression:
"An interesting paper forthcoming in PNAS showing how cultures may favour different expressions of the same gene: "Culture, distress, and oxytocin receptor polymorphism (OXTR) interact to influence emotional support seeking" by Heejung S. Kim, David K. Sherman, Joni Y. Sasaki, Jun Xu,Thai Q. Chu, Chorong Ryu, Eunkook M. Suh, Kelsey Graham, and Shelley E. Taylor."
Sex Makes You Smarter- Can 'Virtual Sex' Do The Same?
A Brief History Of The English Language

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I heard of Ayn Rand

but read nothing by her and very little about her. Apparently she has made it to the Telugu world of cartoons: Auto jaani-Ayn Rand. It seems to have won a prize
Any one can give you knowledge..;:
"My post - Auto jaani-Ayn Rand -- in my blog was appreciated by the American professors. They even mailed me, saying "you are incredibly talented". They procured my caricature of Ayn Rand for thier maganize's article, Ayn Rand Influence on College Curriculum, for $200 as a one time copy right!"
From the blog One More Thought, it appears that the artist is keen about prizes even from goons. But who cares; he seems to be a wonderful cartoonist. Probably 'silly like us but his talent will survive it all'. Vibrant Telugu world!

Two tributes to Masanam Pandu Ranga Rao

from నా తెగులు...!
ANWAR THE ARTIST / అనగనగా ఒక చిత్రకారుడు.

An article about N.Rahmatulla and his views on Telugu

From the blog నా లోకం-అధికారభాషగా తెలుగు -ఓ ఉన్నతాధికారి గారి అనుభవాలు. Excerpt:
"ప్రజలకు అవకాశం ఇస్తే వాళ్లు మాట్లాడే భాషలోనే శక్తివంతంగా, జ్ఞానయుక్తంగా దరఖాస్తులు పెట్ట గలుగుతున్నారు , విన్నవిస్తున్నారు, పోరాడుతున్నారు, ప్రశ్నిస్తున్నారు. ఆంగ్లం వారికి అరగటంలేదు. తెలుగు చక్కగా జీర్ణమౌతున్న అమృతాహారం. మాటలవరకైతే ఎంతో బాగుంటుంది కానీ అప్పు తెచ్చుకున్న సంస్కృతాక్షరాలు, వరుసవావి లేకుండా తయారుచేసిన లిపి మన పిల్లలకు అరక్కపోవడమేగాక మళ్లీ దాని జోలికి వెళ్లటానికి బెదిరిపోయే పరిస్థితి వచ్చింది. 18 అక్షరాలతో తమిళ లిపి తమిళులకు వరమయ్యింది. 56 అక్షరాలు, వత్తులు, గుణింతాలు మనకున్నా, అవి శాస్త్రీయంగానూ, క్రమపద్ధతిలోనూ, పిల్లల మనస్సులపై సుళువుగా ముద్రవేసేవిగానూ లేనందువల్ల తెలుగు లిపి మనకు మనమే ''తెచ్చిపెట్టుకున్న చేటు''గా మారింది. ఇది భాష తప్పు కాదు. దాన్ని చెడగొట్టిన మన పెద్దల తప్పు".అని వారు స్వానుభవంతో చెప్పే మాటలను కొట్టి పారేయగలమా!
"కర్త కర్మ క్రియలతో సంబంధం లేకుండా అసలు వాక్యం అర్థమయితే చాలునని ఇంగ్లీషు వాళ్ళు తమ భాష వాడకానికి సడలింపులిచ్చారు. మరి మనవాళ్ళో? అసలీ కర్త, కర్మ, క్రియ అనే పదాలు పల్లెటూరి తెలుగువాళ్ళు పలుకుతారా? పలకరు. చేసినవాడు, చేసినపని, చేయించుకున్నవాడు... అంటారు. అలా అంటే సంస్కృత పండితులు ఊరుకోరు. శతాబ్దాల తరబడి వీళ్ళు చేసిన పెత్తనం వల్లనే మన తెలుగు వికృతం అయ్యింది. మన కూడిక సంకలనం అయ్యింది. మన తీసివేత వ్యవకలనం అయ్యింది. మన సాగు సేద్యం అయ్యింది. మన నెత్తురు రక్తంగా మారింది. మన బువ్వ అన్నం అయ్యింది. మన జనం పలికే తెలుగుపదాలు, సంస్కృత పదాలుగా మార్చి, మన పూర్వీకుల నాలుకలు సంయుక్తాక్షరాలు పలికేలా సాగగొట్టిన ఘనత ఈ సంస్కృత పండితులదే. వీళ్ళవల్లనే తెలుగుకు పురాతన భాష హోదా దక్కకుండా పోయింది. నన్నయ్యకు ముందు తెలుగు కవులెవరూ లేరనే పిడివాదం మనకు మనమే తగిలించుకున్న గుదిబండ." అంటూ అంత సాధికారికంగా వారు వాదిస్తుంటే కాదనే దమ్ము ఎవరికుంటుంది?
"ఇక ఇప్పుడు తెలుగు వాడకంలోంచి సంస్కృతం, ఇంగ్లీషు, ఉర్దూ పదాలను తీసివేయలేము. అవి మన భాషలో అంతర్భాగాలైపోయాయి. అక్కరలేని ఆపరేషన్‌ ఎవరు చేయించుకుంటారు? చేసినా గాయాలవడం తప్ప మరే మేలూ కలుగదు. అందువలన మన భాష సంకరమైనా బలమైన హైబ్రీడ్‌ భాషలాగా తయారైనందుకు సంతోషపడుతూ, ఈ సంకర తెలుగు భాషలోనే ఆఫీసుల్లో ఫైళ్ళు నడిపితే అదే పదివేలుగా భావించాలి. ఛాందసవాదులు వాళ్ళు చెయ్యరు, ఇంకొకళ్ళను చేయనివ్వరు. ఒకవేళ ఈ పనిని వాళ్ళకప్పజెబితే ఎవరికీ అర్థంగాకుండా పాడుచేస్తారు. ప్రజలు ఇంతకంటే ఇంగ్లీషే నయమని వాపోయేలా చేస్తారు. మన శాసన సభలో ఎమ్మెల్యేలు ఈ మూడు భాషల పదాలు కలగలిపి మనోరంజకంగా మాట్లాడుతున్నారు. అదే నేటి తెలుగు, వాడుక తెలుగు, వారు అడిగింది అడిగినట్లు తెలుగు లిపితో సాగదనుకుంటే ఆంగ్లలిపినే వాడుకోండి. మన మాట ముఖ్యం. వాళ్ళు ప్రజాప్రతినిధులు. వాళ్ళు మాట్లాడుతున్నది మన ప్రజల భాష. ఆ భాషలో, యాసలో జీవోలు రావాలి. అప్పుడే తెలుగు అధికార భాషగా విరాజిల్లుతుంది".
One of Rahamtulla's blogs here. The quote is from his post ఇలా చేస్తే బాగుంటుంది.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Olbert or Gilbert?

Daniel Gilbert says in Magic by Numbers "The sound a number makes can influence our decisions about it" and gives some evidence. The article is discussed in
Phonetic Marketing where the the author's name is given as Daniel Olbert. One of the comments links to this interesting article Sound Symbolism by John Ohala.
P.S. I am posting it here since a couple of comments in Language Log did not go through and I liked immensely Daniel Gilbert's book "Stumbling on Happiness"
P.P.S. It is changed now.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Out-of-school-time (OST) science experiences

From American Scientist article The 95 Percent Solution School is not where most Americans learn most of their science:
"The “school-first” paradigm is so pervasive that few scientists, educators or policy makers question it. This despite two important facts: Average Americans spend less than 5 percent of their life in classrooms, and an ever-growing body of evidence demonstrates that most science is learned outside of school.

We contend that a major educational advantage enjoyed by the U.S. relative to the rest of the world is its vibrant free-choice science learning landscape—a landscape filled with a vast array of digital resources, educational television and radio, science museums, zoos, aquariums, national parks, community activities such as 4-H and scouting and many other scientifically enriching enterprises. The sheer quantity and importance of this science learning landscape lies in plain sight but mostly out of mind. We believe that nonschool resources—used by learners across their lifetimes from childhood onward—actually account for the vast majority of Americans’ science learning."

Carl Zimmer's 'Brain Cuttings'

is the first book that I read on kindle My new book–ebook, that is: Brain Cuttings. Fourteen of these appeared in Discover among
these (Search Results) and many of them discussed in his blog
The Loom. The individual pieces discuss some aspect of a feature of the mind like fear, face recognition, 'zoning out' etc. The pieces come with links which enhance the essays and the discussion in The Loom adds to their value. Putting them out without these extra features seems to diminish them. Moreover in a book, one expects a comprehensive view of the topic with hints for further study. However these articles are only about some feature or features of the topics considered and are not comprehensive reviews of the topics. Though still readable, the book somehow is not appealing. I would rather go back to the original articles or their discussion in the blog.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Devesh Kapur on Indian diaspora

The book Diaspora, Development, and Democracy: The Domestic Impact of International Migration from India by Devesh Kapur, director of CASI is currently available online. Laura Freschi at Aid Watch comments in the post When the brain drain is healthy for democracy :
"The endurance of Indian democracy is one of the great Indian puzzles. How has a population so large, so ethnically and linguistically fragmented, and so economically unequal managed to sustain a participatory democracy since 1947? What forces have kept the country politically stable, enabling the rapid economic growth of the past two decades?

One intriguing answer comes from political scientist Devesh Kapur, who studies the political effects of skilled migration (the so-called brain drain) on migrants’ home countries (we’ve blogged before about the positive economic effects of the brain drain). In a new book presented yesterday at the Center for Global Development, Kapur finds:

"[T]he positive selection of Indian migrants through education has strengthened India’s democracy by creating a political space for previously excluded social groups. Because older Indian elites have an exit option, they are less likely to resist the loss of political power at home."
At the same time, though, Kapur says that members of the upper class that chose exit have still retained their voice: their continuing influence in Indian politics perpetuates social inequalities."
Laura Freschi a;so comments about a similar study from Mexico.

Devesh Kapur is one of the authors of the recent study "Rethinking Inequality: Dalits in Uttar Pradesh in the Market Reform Era" . The others are Chandra Bhan Prasad, Lant Pritchett, and D. Shyam Babu. Summary by Soutik Biswas ( I came across this via Rajib Khan's delicious feed in his blog) in Is the free market improving lives of India's Dalits?. Excerpts (almost fully quoted):
"A group of economists and Dalit scholars led by Devesh Kapur at Pennsylvania University's Centre for the Advanced Study of India, believes so. India's 160 million Dalits are some of its most wretched citizens, because of an unforgiving and harsh caste hierarchy that condemns them to the bottom of the heap.

The study quizzed all Dalit households - more than 19,000 - in two clusters of villages in Azamgarh and Bulandshahar, two poor, backward districts in Uttar Pradesh state. Dalits were asked about their material and social conditions now and in 1990 when economic reforms were kicking off in India. The answers, says the study, provide proof of "substantial changes in a wide variety of social practices affecting Dalit well-being."

If you feel that 19,000 Dalit households in Uttar Pradesh are not a good enough sample for studying their conditions, think again. To put things into perspective, 32 million of India's estimated 160 million Dalits live in Uttar Pradesh alone.

But the very fact changes have happened to the lives of the Dalits in Uttar Pradesh is enough to excite sceptics. Let's look at some of the more striking findings:

1. Ownership of bicycles, fans, TV sets and mobile phones have increased by typically a third to half of the Dalit households surveyed.

2. A substantial improvement in housing: 64.4% and 94.6% of Dalits in the households surveyed in two districts now live in "pukka" (concrete) houses compared to 18% and 38.4% respectively in 1990.

3. Some interesting changes in grooming and dress - again, an assertion of social aspirations. Take, for example, toothpaste. Under 3% of Dalits used toothpaste in the surveyed households in 1990. In 2007, more than half of them in Azamgarh and over 80% in Bulandshahar used toothpaste. Up to 80% of Dalits in one cluster of villages use shampoo today, an 82% jump compared with 1990.

4. Key changes in eating habits. Consumption of pulses has gone up. More than 80% of the children in households surveyed in both districts are not being served the previous night's leftovers. More than 70% of the households use packaged salt. Up to 87% of the households in Azamgarh and more than half the households in Bulandshahar buy tomatoes.

Whether calorie intake has gone up substantially remains unclear. But respondents say that their food situation is "much better."

5. "Massive" changes in social practices within the community. Today almost all the households rent a car or jeep to take the groom's marriage party to the bride's village and bring the bride back to the groom's village, up from as low as 2.5% in Bulandshahar in 1990. More than 90% of them offer tea to visiting relatives.
6. The relationship between the Dalits and other castes is undergoing subtle, but important changes. These days more than 80% of Dalits are not seated separately at non-Dalit weddings of grooms in the village, compared with a little over 20% in 1990. In Azamgarh households nearly 90% of Dalit babies are now attended equally by government and non-Dalit midwives.

The traditional practice that only Dalits would lift dead animals of non-Dalits is dying out. In Azamgarh fewer than 1% of Dalits lift dead animals, compared with 19% in 1990, while in Bulandshahar only 5.3% do. More than 60% of Dalit children in the surveyed households go to school, as do well over half of the girl children.

7. Migration is driving a lot of changes in economic wellbeing. By 2007 fourth-fifths of Dalit households in the two village clusters had at least one family member who was a migrant worker, a professional or was in business. Half of the households in one village cluster, and 78% of households in the other had members who worked locally or had a small business. "Migration," says the study, "has been a powerful engine of Dalit empowerment."

Whether the market is reducing inequality remains a highly contentious point. My hunch is that political empowerment must have played a powerful role in many of the changes: the rise of Dalit politics coincided with the liberalisation of the economy. But the last word comes from the group of scholars behind the study: "No one would argue Dalits have achieved anything like equality, but it is certainly the case that many practices that reflected subordination and routine humiliation of Dalits have declined considerably." That, by itself, is a considerable triumph for India's wretched of the earth."

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Arvind Gupta honoured

From C.R. Rao receives India Science Prize :
"Arvind Gupta of the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Pune, received the TWAS regional centre award for Central and South Asia for popularising science.

Gupta was honoured for efforts in the last 30 years to popularise science and technology among students and general public."

Arvind Gupta's Books and Toys site and his Home Page

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Dirges about higher education

Withering Academia?
Finishing schools for gilded youth?

The above links via Chris Dillow's interesting post Fallible preferences & universities.

See also Thoughts Occasioned (in Part) by the Closure of the French Department at SUNY-Albany.

Some of the worries are that education seems to be driven by customer coice and economic benefits. David Labarees's papers suggest that this process, at leat in the USA, has taken place over a long time: see How Dewey lost: The victory of David Snedden and social efficiency in the reform of American education and Citizens and Consumers: Changing Visions of Virtue and Opportunity in U.S. Education, 1841-2002. Perhaps owing to the success of American education, this influence is being felt elsewhere too. For the evolution of American University system and its 'success' see Larabee's Understanding the rise of American higher education: How complexity breeds autonomy .
P.S. See also Putting a Price on Professors (via Nanopolitan_

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Links, October 19

From A “one dollar, one vote” explanation of the welfare state
"According to the one dollar, one vote theory of the welfare state, the faster growth of the rich's income in the US allowed the rich to increaseits political influence and tilt policy closer to its most preferred redistribution which involves a smaller welfare state. As a result, the growth of redistribution in the US lagged Europe’s."
quoted in Elitism in the Senate.
In USA Which undergraduate institutions produce science PhDs?. Top ten are private institutions and half of them liberal arts colleges (via Rajib Khan)

From a review of a paper on sex by Rajib Khan Sex with thee and the last woman:
"A new paper in Nature tackles sex through experimental evolution. In may ways the answer it offers to the question of sex is old-fashioned and straightforward. Higher rates of sex evolve in spatially heterogeneous environments......
What does this mean in the long-term? Well, it may be that sex, and males, are adaptations to an unpredictable and wild world whose caprice we can not account for. As humanity, or perhaps more generally sentient beings, begin to control nature and buffer themselves artificially from the volatile fluctuations, will we need sex and males? At the end of history when conditions are stable, and all that is before us is the terminus of heat death, perhaps what awaits us are a series of mindless and boring clonal lineages, perfectly adapted to turning nutrients into flesh, generation to generation."
P.S. Many more links in 'A Blog Around the Clock" Quick Links….a lot of them…all good.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Inependent interviews Bezwada Wilson

of Safai Karmachari Andolan (SKA)The 'untouchable' Indians with an unenviable job

Interview with P.P.C.Joshi

on Telugu publishing here

Telugu Etymological Dictionary

From wapedia wiki:నిఘంటువు :
తెలుగు వ్యుత్పత్తి కోశం

లకంసాని చక్రధరరావు ,ఆంధ్రా యూనివర్సిటీ ప్రొఫెసర్ సంపాదకత్వంలో "తెలుగు వ్యుత్పత్తి కోశం " పేరుతో తెలుగు నుండి తెలుగు నిఘంటువు 1,08,330 పదాలతో 8 సంపుటాలుగా వెలువడినది.

1. అ-ఔ (1978) 412 పేజీలు, పొట్టి శ్రీరాములు కిఅంకితం.ఎమ్.ఆర్.అప్పారావు తొలిపలుకులు.12219 పదాలు.
2. క-ఘ(1981) 455 పేజీలు, కట్టమంచి రామలింగారెడ్డి కి అంకితం. ఆవుల సాంబశివరావు ముందుమాట.19670 పదాలు
3. చ-ణ (1981) 277 పేజీలు, ........... కిఅంకితం, ఆవుల సాంబశివరావు ముందుమాట.11000 పదాలు
4. త-న (1985) 440పేజీలు, వాసిరెడ్డి శ్రీకృష్ణ కి అంకితం. కోనేరు రామకృష్ణారావు మున్నుడి.16000 పదాలు.
5. ప-భ (1987) 498 పేజీలు, లంకపల్లి బుల్లయ్య కి అంకితం. కోనేరు రామకృష్ణారావు మున్నుడి.19000 పదాలు.
6. మ (1987) 268 పేజీలు, ఎమ్.ఆర్.అప్పారావు కి అంకితం కోనేరు రామకృష్ణారావు ముందుమాట.9754 పదాలు
7. య-వ (1989) 272 పేజీలు, ఆవుల సాంబశివరావు కి అంకితం కనిశెట్టి వెంకటరమణ తొలిపలుకు.10132 పదాలు
8. శ-హ (1995) 315 పేజీలు, కోనేరు రామకృష్ణారావు కి అంకితం మద్ది గోపాలకృష్ణారెడ్డి ప్రవచనం. 6651పదాలు. 3904(అ-హ) అనుబంధం.

From a discussion here, it appears that a couple of volumes have been digitized at some stage. Perhaps with a little nudge, Andhra University will make the rest available too.

This article describes various other dictionaries in Telugu.
P.S. I was informed of this dictionary by my friend P.P.C. Joshi in whose office I saw a copy of it.
Several more dictionaries at 'teluguthesis' Telugu thesis > గ్రంథాలయం - తెలుగు గ్రంథాలు > నిఘంటువులు

Friday, October 15, 2010

Telugu-Telugu dictionary for children

'Balala Shabda Ratnakaram' (1991) by Tumati Donappa ( seems useful to older people like me )available here:

Communication Awards from the National Academies (USA)

"The recipients of the 2010 Communication Awards were announced today by the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. Part of the Keck Futures Initiative, these prestigious awards recognize excellence in reporting and communicating science, engineering, and medicine to the general public. With support from the W.M. Keck Foundation, these $20,000 prizes have been awarded since 2003. This year's winners will be honored during a ceremony on Oct. 22 at the Keck Center in Washington, D.C." from the

Ed Yong gives a list of blog posts that he submitted here.
P.S. I still seem to enjoy and remember Carl Zimmer's articles more than those of others.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Age article on Otto Peltzer, 'father figure of Indian athelitics'

A legacy that keeps running :
"Peltzer's own athletic feats, his persecution for homosexuality under Nazi rule, wartime incarceration in an Austrian labour camp, and ultimately his journey to India and the influence he exerted while living in virtual poverty, are a scriptwriter's dream. Chariots Of Fire played out on green fields and posh school cloisters; Otto's odyssey powers on through dusty streets and concentration camps, never breaking stride."

A Tamil film song by K. Jamuna Rani

Kalai Vayasu from the film Deivapiravi
Telugu version,here from the film 'Anumanam'. Also available at

On the recent Nobel in economics

From Nobel 2010:
"It is said that when the Nobel Prize in economics was first established, prizes were given for using economics to teach people things they didn’t already know, e.g., that economic growth might increase inequality, that depressions are caused by central banks, that macroeconomic stabilization policy doesn’t work, etc. Now, prizes are given to economists who teach other economists things that regular people already know — politicians are self-interested, you shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket, institutions matter, different people know different things, etc. "
Various links in aprevious post
Research Findings That Don’t Surprise Me.
More from Chandan Sapkota 2010 Nobel prize in economics for unemployment! and EconoSpeak Search Theory Gets a “Nobel” :

Monday, October 11, 2010

Walter Neumann's 65th birthday fest

"Faces of Geometry: 3-Manifolds, Groups and Singularities -- A Conference in Honor of Walter Neumann", which will be held at Columbia University in New York, Monday June 6th - Friday June 10th, 2011.
I had the privilege of collaborating with Walter. Ramachandra Guha in his article on Dharma Kumar The last liberal has a passing reference to K.L. Krishna:
"This was Professor K. L. Krishna, a quiet, self-effacing yet celebrated teacher of econometrics at the Delhi School of Economics, a man who in character and intellect and institutional commitment exemplifies the best kind of University scholar." These words seem appropriate for Walter Neumann too.

Friday, October 08, 2010

A request for books from WHAT

From “Vignana Vikasam” A WHAT Library for rural areas : ఒక ప్రకటన:
Currently we are in the process of purchasing books for the Library and looking for your support for the below.
What we need from you:
1. Please take a look at the attached list of books. Please let us know if you have any of these books and ready to donate them to “Vignana Vikasam”.
2. Let us know if you can suggest a book shop (any where in AP) which can provide us discount
3. Suggest us if you wish to add any other books to the list.

When will this project be live?
On Nov 14th 2010, WHAT’s first Library will be set up in Rampuram Village, Tekkali, Srikakulam District, AP.
More details of this project will be published soon.
Any questions/Suggestions are open.
Team WHAT (
P.S. For 'the attached list of books' go to the original post to download the list.

A science article tops the list of the most popular articles in NY Times

Scientists and Soldiers Solve a Bee Mystery:
"Since 2006, 20 to 40 percent of the bee colonies in the United States alone have suffered “colony collapse.” Suspected culprits ranged from pesticides to genetically modified food.

Now, a unique partnership — of military scientists and entomologists — appears to have achieved a major breakthrough: identifying a new suspect, or two.

A fungus tag-teaming with a virus have apparently interacted to cause the problem, according to a paper by Army scientists in Maryland and bee experts in Montana in the online science journal PLoS One. .....
Scientists in the project emphasize that their conclusions are not the final word. The pattern, they say, seems clear, but more research is needed to determine, for example, how further outbreaks might be prevented, and how much environmental factors like heat, cold or drought might play a role.

They said that combination attacks in nature, like the virus and fungus involved in bee deaths, are quite common, and that one answer in protecting bee colonies might be to focus on the fungus — controllable with antifungal agents — especially when the virus is detected.

Still unsolved is what makes the bees fly off into the wild yonder at the point of death. One theory, Dr. Bromenshenk said, is that the viral-fungal combination disrupts memory or navigating skills and the bees simply get lost. Another possibility, he said, is a kind of insect insanity."

The lesson is that it is hard painstaking work still in progress. Before we get too carried away by science matters NY Times has also an article corruption Rampant Fraud Threat to China’s Brisk Ascent. Abi has several more links in Is Scientific Misconduct Rampant in China? and also posts about corrupt academic practices in India and elsewhere Plagiarizing from Wikipedia?

Thursday, October 07, 2010

About those exceptional performances of VVS Laxman

Peter Roebuck The genius and the doubter:
"His career has been a compelling tale of greatness remaining locked away in the mind till the call comes and then emerging and laying waste before retreating back into its shell. As far as cricket is concerned Laxman is a warrior by instinct and a man of peace by manner. The conflict has made his career fascinating and frustrating. His genius is peculiar and requires the most particular conditions. His greatness lies in the fact that those conditions are the toughest not the easiest. He is an artist whose strength lies not in his artistry but in his competitive spirit."

But it may be the back spasms which unleash the genius with in. Sidharth Monga in 'These situations get the best out of me' - Laxman:
"During the chat we remind ourselves that those back spasms are not that bad a thing. The first time Laxman suffered those spasms was in March 2001. Over the next week, he played the greatest Test innings of all at one of the greatest places to play Test cricket in. Three improbable wins out of three is not a bad strike rate for those spasms at all.

While there might be a general agreement, statistically proven of course, that back spasms have given Test cricket three unforgettable innings, a thought needs to be spared for the back. And both the physios, Nitin Patel now and Andrew Leipus in 2000-01, are people Laxman doesn't stop thanking. "

The quality of mercy

From Sun Co-Founder Uses Capitalism to Help Poor:
"A recent Bain & Company study estimated that Indians give much less as a percentage of the country’s gross domestic product than Americans. Moreover, individual and corporate donations account for just 10 percent of the charitable giving in India, compared with 75 percent in the United States and 34 percent in Britain. The balance comes from the government and foreign organizations.

Rich Indians “are more into temple building and things like that,” said Samit Ghosh, the chief executive of Ujjivan Financial, a microlender based in Bangalore, “rather than putting their money into real programs, which will have real impact on poverty alleviation.” "

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

New Nobel laureates in physics

Abi links to interesting articles about the new Nobel prize winners in physics Physics Nobel trivia. Among them is the NY Times article Physics Nobel Honors Work on Ultra-Thin Carbon. Excerpts:
"Dr. Geim and Dr. Novoselov first succeeded in creating flakes of graphene by peeling them off piles of graphite — the material that is in a pencil lead — using Scotch tape. .... The work on graphene arose from the pair’s desire to investigate the electrical properties of graphite. To do that, they needed very thin pieces, which they first tried to produce by filing down graphite crystals, with no luck. Then a technician showed them how graphite was cleaned before being observed in a scanning tunneling microscope by peeling layers off with Scotch tape.

The scientists placed a flake of graphite on some tape and then by folding the tape over it again and again, gradually cleaved it thinner and thinner until it was only one atom thick.

The Scotch tape technique is still used, although the Manchester researchers have switched to a different tape. Dr. Geim once described the process as “very nonboffinlike” — using British slang for a research scientist — and an example of how you could do great experiments even if you did not have the resources of Harvard or Cambridge behind you. “You can still do something amazing,” he said. "
P.S. A comment in Nanopolitan links to this 2006 biographical sketch of Geim:
Renaissance scientist with fund of ideas

Interesting article on Macaulay's legacy

Macaulay's stepchildren via 3quarksdaily

Monday, October 04, 2010

Maye ni Maye

By Shiv Kumar Batalvi and sung by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan Maye ni Maye mere geetan de naina wichch

Gandhi on Ambedkar and caste

I have been reading Kancha Ilaiah's " Why I am not a Hindu" at the urging of some Dalit friends. Much of it would not pass muster as an academic paper. Perhaps it has to be understood in the same sense as Ambedkar's remarks posted in గాంధీ పై అంబేద్కర్ ఆలోచనలు... . I recall some of Gandhi's responses to the qustions raised which I left in the comments to the above post:
Gandhi’s opinions on several issues seem to have evolved and changed over time. After his often bitter discussions with Ambedkar, Gandhi seems to have finally changed his opinions on caste. Here are a couple of Gandhi quotes taken from “Castes of Mind” by Nicholas Dirks, Priceton Uni. Press , 2001 (page 234).

” When, years later, Gandhi defended himself against attacks by Ambedkar over his views of caste, he wrote that “Caste has nothing to with religion. It is a custom whose origin I do not know and do not need to know for the satisfaction of my spiritual hunger. But I do know that it is harmful both to spiritual and national growth.” At roughly the same time, he stated that “Caste has to go”"

These statements of Gandhi do not seem to be well known. The references that Dirks gave are: Gandhi, Collected works, vol. 63, p.153, vol. 62, p.121

From (Gora's Life:An Outline):
"At Sevagram Gandhi told Arjun, "You should become like Ambedkar. You should work for the removal of untouchability and caste. Untouchability must go at any cost."
Arjun Rao was the groom chosen by Gora for his daughter Manorama (?).

"I think, however, that for Ambedkar to stand up to the uncrowned king and anointed Mahatma of the Indian people required extraordinary courage and will-power. Gandhi thought so too. Speaking at a meeting in Oxford in October 1931, Gandhi said he had "the highest regard for Dr. Ambedkar. He has every right to be bitter. That he does not break our heads is an act of self- restraint on his part." Writing to an English friend two years later, he said he found "nothing unnatural" in Ambedkar's hostility to the Congress and its supporters. "He has not only witnessed the inhuman wrongs done to the social pariahs of Hinduism", reflected this Hindu, "but in spite of all his culture, all the honours that he has received, he has, when he is in India, still to suffer many insults to which untouchables are exposed." In June 1936 Gandhi pointed out once again that Dr. Ambedkar "has had to suffer humiliations and insults which should make any one of us bitter and resentful." "Had I been in his place," he remarked, "I would have been as angry."

Gandhi's latter-day admirers might question Ambedkar's patriotism and probity, but the Mahatma had no such suspicions himself. Addressing a bunch of Karachi students in June 1934, he told them that "the magnitude of (Dr. Ambedkar's) sacrifice is great. He is absorbed in his own work. He leads a simple life. He is capable of earning one to two thousand rupees a month. He is also in a position to settle down in Europe if he so desires. But he does not want to stay there. He is only concerned about the welfare of the Harijians."

To Gandhi, Ambedkar's protest held out a lesson to the upper castes. In March 1936 he said that if Ambedkar and his followers were to embrace another religion, "We deserve such treatment and our task (now) is to wake up to the situation and purify ourselves." Not many heeded the warning, for towards the end of his life Gandhi spoke with some bitterness about the indifference to Harijan work among his fellow Hindus: "The tragedy is that those who should have especially devoted themselves to the work of (caste) reform did not put their hearts into it. What wonder that Harijan brethren feel suspicious, and show opposition and bitterness.""

Friday, October 01, 2010

Out of this earth

Two reviews of Out of This Earth: East India Adivasis and the Aluminium Cartel by Felix Padel and Samarendra Das. A long one from EPW The Bauxite Mountains of Orissa by Sanjay Kak and a short one from Material World
ALUMINIUM AND MATERIALISM by Danny Miller (via Savage Minds Excerpt from the second:
"In this particular case I didn’t even mean to buy or read the book. I have a student living in Guyana and studying aluminium who asked me to find her a copy. I started reading it on the tube train back, and that’s when it went thud. It overwhelmed me with its indignation, its insistence upon the contemporary necessity of informed critique about the sometimes extraordinarily savage consequences of material culture.

Specifically this is a book about the implications of Aluminium as a material substance. It documents the ubiquitous presence of the metal, not just in our kitchens but equally in our armaments. We couldn’t fight a sausage these days without it, or cook one. It then documents the convolutions of the aluminium industry, in its terms the Cartel, and its political economy. Real political economy: that explains all those links between the companies and high finance in London and thence why British development aid, so far from being charitable to the impoverished, is largely charitable to the interests of this Cartel. Mostly the book is concerned with painstaking documentation of the impact upon the indigenous tribal peoples of the state of Odish (previously Orissa) in Eastern India. There are hopefully not too many places where our desire for specific materials can be directly linked to murder and death by starvation. But this is one of them. It is also an exemplifying case of unsustainable ecological destruction."

The Allahabad High Court Ayodhya Verdict

All links from Outlook The Three Way Divide. There are some confusing statements with potential for future controversies:
"Justice Dharam Veer Sharma: The disputed building was constructed by Babar, the year is not certain but it was built against the tenets of Islam. Thus, it cannot have the character of a mosque."

Ayodhya Verdict: Commentaries by Ramachandra Guha and others. From Pratap Bhanu Mehta's article:

"And if issues of faith are reopened, it will polarise society once again.

The acknowledgement that this site be regarded for this purpose as the birthplace of Ram is, if anything, an attempt to de-politicise religion. Our standard distinctions between faith and reason, between myth and history, do injustice to what the court had to grapple here. Whether Ram is an artefact of faith or reason, of myth or history, eternal or contingent, real or non-existent, can be debated. But the court seems to recognise that that discussion cannot simply wish away the forms of self-consciousness that have characterised Indian society. Edmund Burke once said, rightly, that religious wars can be incited by denying religion altogether. The court seems to accommodate its claims, without jeopardising the secular character of the state. This will not satisfy purists. But it is not an implausible way of strengthening secularism."

New Chief CIC

Hush-hush, the Chief CIC is appointed :
"This week, Central Information Commissioner A N Tiwari was appointed as the Chief CIC to replace Wajahat Habibullah. Since Tiwari is due to retire at the end of the year, we must assume that this is a stop-gap arrangement, and we activists are allowed to keep our hopes alive for more transparent selection of the next batch of Information Commissioners and their Chief.

But it is worth noting that the press and public was kept in the dark about the date and time of the meeting of the Prime Minister's selection committee when Tiwari was selected for this post. This can only be described as a slap in the face of civil society, and an act of thumbing one's nose at the Right to Information Act, which the commissioners are supposed to uphold. However, this comes as no surprise, when one considers past actions, including that of the new Chief CIC himself."
The article has also a link to RTI documents reveal malpractices in selection of Information Commissioners A N Tiwari and Satyananda Mishra

Relief for common cold

which we have been following for a long time. From The Claim: Gargling With Salt Water Can Ease Cold Symptoms:
"Nothing but time can cure the common cold, but a simple cup of salt water might ease the misery this winter.
Adults who want a more palatable remedy against cough and sore throat can try mixing warm water with lemon and honey. No need to spit it out.

THE BOTTOM LINE Gargling with a saline solution can ease symptoms of a cold."