Thursday, March 31, 2011

Nagraj Gollapudi watches the World Cup Semifinal

and writes Every fan an actor on the biggest stage.Excerpts
"Today when India seemed to have floundered after getting off to a bright start and seemed to be losing the plot once Dhoni played a wrong shot, the fans sitting around me started singing religious chants intensely. Men, women, boys, girls all gathered force to give momentum to the prayer. In that moment, these people seemed less like cricket fans and more like belonging to some cult. It was not blind, this fervour. The fans do believe that they can uplift the tempo of the match and they would do anything possible to help their team. A good example was when superstitions took over instinctively when the Pakistan wickets failed to fall at the desired rate. Many clairvoyant fans kept predicting the outcome on the next delivery and kept failing but did not give up. "Sit down, sit down, wickets are falling," said a fan speaking with a South Indian accent. The rest of the fans obliged. Everyone urged others to join the wave of emotion and support. It was contagious."
I would like to believe this (may be there is some hope if one catches them young):
"Yet in the end one image remained. A five-year-old toddler sat in the front row to my right. Throughout the match he had stayed quiet. A cute face, he only smiled whenever there was a wicket or a four. Each time either of the two contestants scored a point over the other, this kid would raise the flag of that country. For him, both teams were the winners."
P.S. Another article (via Rajeev Ramachandran)
By Wright Thompson
Discussion in 3quarksdaily India beat Pakistan to reach World Cup final where I wonder whether games are one of the ways in which nations define themselves against others and about the wane of popularity of field hockey in the subcontinent.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Vigyan Prasar Science portal

Vigyan Prasar Science portal has several downloadable books in the section
Vigyan Prasar Digital Library
Registration is free. I have downloaded a book by J.B.S. Haldane and a biography of Yellapraggada Subbarow.
P.S. See also http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/loom/2011/03/28/great-science-books-for-high-school-students-the-hive-mind-speaks/#comments for recommendationa from various people. My feel is to go for names like J.B.S. Haldane even if they are dated and supplement by some modern stuff. Many more free books at ArvindguptaToys.

Monday, March 28, 2011

A neat way to 'see' the volume of the sphere

from the formula for the volume of a cone in My Brown Big Spiders without calculus. See also the comments for more explanation.

Two books that may help with children's education

Teaching Children Science Hands-On Nature Study in North America, 1890-1930 by Sally Gregory Kohlstedt. In the The American Historical Review (February, 2011), Bruce Kimball writes
"In successive chapters, Kohlstedt presents thorough accounts of the central individuals and institutions that developed nature study and disseminated it into various domains: the Cook County Normal School and the Chicago Institute at the University of Chicago provided a central hub for the Midwest and the nation; New York City Progressive educators, particularly at Teachers College, advanced models of nature study for urban schools throughout the country; and “Cornell's highly successful rural nature study initiative was imitated in states and universities across North America” (p. 78). These accounts insightfully probe the reflexive influence between the autonomous nature study movement and contemporaneous Progressive educators who advocated similar principles and reforms: appealing to students' interest, incorporating activity and direct experience into the formal curriculum, encouraging teachers to devise and modify their own syllabi, and promoting “a number of public reform issues, ranging from conservation to sexual hygiene” (p. 137). These tenets also ensured that nature study education would remain highly diverse, eschewing prescription and encouraging experimentation and innovation at the local level.
....

During the 1920s the ideology, the program, and the very term “nature study” were supplanted by “science” within the public schools, although the movement persevered in external institutions such as “parks, summer camps, and recreational facilities” (p. 226). Kohlstedt attributes this eclipse largely to the opposition from advocates of formal “science,” particularly psychologist Edward L. Thorndike, who argued that nature study “was tainted by the ‘vice’ of ‘sentimentality’” (p. 171), lacked the conceptual rigor of science, and neglected the physical sciences, especially physics and chemistry. This criticism was tinged with fears of the “feminization” of science, since women had become major advocates and participants in the nature study movement, which also provided them significant opportunities for leadership and professional advancement (pp. 171, 146)."

In a different direction, there is the upcoming book by autuism specialist Simon Baron-Cohen Zero Degrees of Empathy: A New Theory of Human Cruelty. Some of the contents of the book are described in the article The science of empathy:
"Empathy itself is the most valuable resource in our world. Given this assertion, it is puzzling that in the school curriculum empathy figures hardly at all, and in politics, business, the courts or policing it is rarely if ever on the agenda. We can see examples among our political leaders of the value of empathy, as when Nelson Mandela and FW de Klerk sought to understand and befriend each other, crossing the divide in Apartheid South Africa, but the same has not yet been achieved between Israel and Palestine, or between Washington and Iraq or Afghanistan. And, for every day that empathy is not employed in such corners of the world, more lives are lost.

I think we have taken empathy for granted, and thus to some extent overlooked it. Psychology as a science virtually ignored it for a century. Educators focusing on literacy and mathematics have also largely ignored it. We just assume empathy will develop in every child, come what may. We put little time, effort or money into nurturing it. Our politicians almost never mention it, despite the fact that they need it more than anyone. Until recently, neuroscientists hardly questioned what empathy is."

The sounds of Sanskrit

off and on I try to read Wendy Doniger's translation of Rig Veda and cannot make much sense of it. Apparently this is a common problem according to Karen Thomson and Jonathan Slocum in Ancient Sanskrit Online:
"The Rigveda stands alone; unlike Old English it has not come down to us together with any artifacts that we know to be dateable to the same remote period in time. But it constitutes a considerable body of material, and remarkably, given its antiquity and importance, it remains largely undeciphered. This course has been written primarily to give access to the text to scholars from other disciplines, and to provide the means for a fresh approach to the decipherment of the earliest Indo-European poems.....
For much of its history this body of poetry was passed down orally. Even following the general introduction of writing, some time before the 3rd century BC, there was a strong reluctance to write down this sacred and cabalistic text, which was the exclusive and secret property of an elite. The date of the earliest written text that has come down to us, from which all others derive, is characteristically unknown. It is a 'continuous' text -- in Sanskrit, saṃ-hitā 'placed-together' -- in which adjacent sounds combine with each other across word boundaries according to strictly applied phonetic rules. This combining of sounds is known as sandhi, from the Sanskrit saṃ-dhi 'placing-together' (see section 7). A second ancient text, the pada or 'word' text, which gives all the words separately in their original form, appears to have been compiled at around the same time. The surviving manuscripts of these two texts in the Devanāgarī script were edited and published in a definitive edition by Max Müller in the second half of the nineteenth century. It was clear to Max Müller that the 'continuous' text obscured the original form of these poems. In 1869 he wrote, "if we try to restore the original form of the Vedic hymns, we shall certainly arrive at some kind of Pada text rather than at a Sanhitā text; nay, even in their present form, the original metre and rhythm of the ancient hymns are far more perceptible when the words are divided, than when we join them together throughout according to the rules of Sandhi." But it was not until 1994 that the metrically restored text, in a modern transliterated form, was published by the American scholars Barend van Nooten and Gary Holland. For the first time in its history, the Rigveda was clearly revealed, on the printed page, as poetry.

Van Nooten and Holland's edition has unfortunately been out of print for some years. In order to make the metrically restored text universally available, we have produced an edited online version, The Rigveda: Metrically Restored Text."
May be there is some hope. In another article on Sanskrit:
"Vedic Sanskrit had a retroflex lateral approximant (/ɭ/) (ळ) as well as its aspirated counterpart /ɭʰ/ (ळ्ह), which were lost in Classical Sanskrit, to be replaced with the corresponding plosives /ɖ/ (ड) and /ɖʰ/ (ढ). (Varies by region; vedic pronunciations are still in common use in some regions, e.g. southern India, including Maharashtra.)
The pronunciations of syllabic /ɻˌ/ (ऋ), /lˌ/ (लृ) and their long counterparts no longer retained their pure pronunciations, but had started to be pronounced as short and long /ɻi/ (रि) and /li/ (ल्रि). (Varies by region; vedic pronunciations are still in common use in some regions, e.g. southern India, including Maharashtra)"
In alanguage in which pronounciation is impoertant, particularly of ancient texts, this seems a strange development. Probably, I will never be able to read Rig Veda.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Hominid migrations to India more than 1 million years ago

according to new paper by Shanti Pappu et al reports Science News in Go east, ancient tool makers :
"Finds unearthed in southeastern India offer a cutting-edge revision of hominid migrations out of Africa more than 1 million years ago that spread pivotal tool-making methods."
John Hawkes comments in Older and younger Acheulean in India

From the review of a new book on Gandhi

How Gandhi Became Gandhi:
"Some years ago, the British writer Patrick French visited the Sabarmati ashram on the outskirts of Ahmedabad in the Indian state of Gujarat, the site from which Mahatma Gandhi led his salt march to the sea in 1930. French was so appalled by the noisome state of the latrines that he asked the ashram secretary whose job it was to clean them.

A sweeper woman stopped by for an hour a day, the functionary explained, but afterward things inevitably became filthy again.

But wasn’t it a central tenet of the Mahatma’s teachings that his followers clean up after themselves?

“We all clean the toilets together, on Gandhiji’s birthday,” the secretary answered, “as a symbol to show that we understand his message.”"
P.S. From a comment in 3quarksdaily
The Life and Work of Mohandas K. Gandhi: Recommended ReadingP.P.S. It seems that the book is now bannd by Gujarat State India state bans controversial new Mahatma Gandhi book:
"A controversial book on Mahatma Gandhi has been banned by the government in his native state of Gujarat.

Chief Minister Narendra Modi said that its contents were "perverse and defamed the icon of non-violence".

The book by Pulitzer Prize winning author Joseph Lelyveld contains evidence that India's independence hero had a homosexual relationship.

Correspondents say that more bans can be expected in a country where homosexuality still carries a stigma."

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Some articles on Indian music

The following remark ""Pattnam Subramania Iyer , a disciple of Thyagaraja, composed is well-known 'Raghuvamsa Sudha' in the raga kathakuthuhoolam, which he had invented using a modified version of the Western major scale and that specifies long intervals and almost no gamaka.The composition and a variety of "English notes" or "Western notes", as they are called are a staple fare at the end of anyinstrumental concert of Karnatic music to this day" in Amanda Weidman's
Singing the Classical, Voicing the Modern:The Postcolonial Politics of Music in South India

led me to look around a bit on western influences and studies of South Indian music. Here are a few:
From Threatened by Modernity to Reinvented by Modernity: The History of the History of Indian Classical Music 1980 – 2006

From Court to Concert Hall: The Evolution of Carnatic Music Performance

NottuSwara – Muthuswamy Dikshitar’s European airs
Music and Manipulation

The latest from Amanda Weidman Anthropology and the Voice in which familiar memes like S. Janaki, P. Suseela and L.R. Eswari appear.

There are also several interesting articles by Stephen Putnam Hughes. For a discussion of one of his papers http://eprints.soas.ac.uk/3596/1/MusicIntheAgeofMechanicalReproduction.pdf, see The evolution of South Indian movie music

Sunday, March 20, 2011

you can lose a lot of brain tissue without ever really noticing

'as long as it happens slowly enough' says Bradley Voytek in the post
Why we don't need a brain (via Rajeev Ramachandran's google reader).
See also Voytek's post on
Top 10 neuroscience TED talks

Friday, March 18, 2011

Interesting site

partial objects
"Partial Objects is a user-driven community blog that articulates the underlying biases, assumptions, and frames of mainstream politics, culture and media. Any registered user can post to the front page, and registration is currently free. To get an idea of what makes a good post, just browse the front page of the site, or see the About page."
apparently started by the owner of the blog The Last Psychiatrist

A Gurram Jashua quote

via ఇద్దరు కవుల ‘విగ్రహ’వాక్యాలు!
"సుకవి జీవించు ప్రజల నాల్కలయందు"

Christophe Jaffrelot reviews

Philip Oldenburg's India, Pakistan, and Democracy: Solving the Puzzle of Divergent Paths in The Indian Pakistani Divide
Oldenburg's book at google books

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Telugu narration in 1922

The king and the margosa Seed from Northern Circars (Coastal Andhra),
Parable of the prodigal son from Ceded Districts (Rayalaseema)
A dishonest friend from Chanda, Central Provinces
Parable of the prodigal son in Telugu
from Chanda

via Open Magazine essay Voices from Colonial India

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Two articles on Benguluru Nagaratnamma

విద్యాసుందరి by J.K. Mohana Rao (Eemaata, November 2007)
విద్యాసుందరి - వ్యాసానుబంధము by J.K. Mohana Rao and Paruchuri Sreenivas (Eemaata, March,2011)

Suresh Kolichala's new series on Telugu etymolgy

From the first article పలుకుబడి: ముందుమాట:
"సంస్కృత భాషా పదాల వ్యుత్పత్తి గురించి, వాటికి మిగిలిన ఇండో-యూరోపియన్ భాషా పదాలతో గల సంబంధం గురించి గత మూడు వందల యేళ్ళలో ఎంతగానో పరిశోధనలు జరిగాయి. ఆ భాషా పరిశోధనలతో పోలిస్తే, ద్రావిడ భాషలలో భాషా పరిశోధన చాలా వెనుకబడి ఉందనే చెప్పాలి. అందుకే, ఈ శీర్షికలో ఎక్కువగా తెలుగు పదాల వ్యుత్పత్తిని, వాటికి సోదర భాషలైన తమిళ, కన్నడ భాషలలో సజాతి పదాల గురించి, వాటి ప్రయోగాల గురించి నాకు తెలిసినంతలో రాయాలని నా ప్రయత్నం. ఈ యత్నంలో విజ్ఞులైన పాఠకుల అభిప్రాయాలు, సలహాల ద్వారా నేనూ ఎన్నో కొత్త విషయాలు నేర్చుకుంటాననే ఆశతోనే ఈ శీర్షిక నడిపే సాహసం చేస్తున్నాను.

వచ్చే విడతలో ‘వ్యుత్పత్తి’, ‘నిరుక్తి’, ‘పలుకు’, ‘బడి’, ‘పలుకుబడి’, ‘నుడి’, ‘నుడికారము’, ‘మాట’ మొదలైన పదాల వ్యుత్పత్తి గురించి చర్చిద్దాం."

Unfinished business

Trying to finish some unfinished papers after a long time, I realize the strengths of a collaborator of 25 years. One of them seems to be to try to understand what we are doing without immediately trying to finish the task at hand and and go wherever they may lead to.