Friday, September 30, 2011

Too much medicine?

Recent experiences with doctors made me wonder whether we are getting too much medical care by the way testing, treatment, follow ups ad so on ( I had some minor discomfort while chewing for a few months and one of the doctors I visit for arthritic problems immediately suspected temporal arteritis and after a battery of preliminary tests wanted me to go for an invasive biopsy near the jaw. I decided that I had enough and resisted for a few weeks ad later blood tests indicated that there was probably an error in the diagnosis. But the doubts linger on. Just as with cars, I decided not to go to doctors, particularly specialists unless the system seems near breakdown). The result is that I googled 'too much medicine' and found various reports like this:
Patients get too much medical care, doctors say:28% of doctors say they overtreat their patients
Too Much Medicine: A Doctor's Guide to Better and More Affordable Health Care
both about US but I have heard similar stories here in Australia and in India. A recent article of Atul Gawande Cowboys and Pit Crews suggests that the problem may be even more basic:
"The doctors of former generations lament what medicine has become. If they could start over, the surveys tell us, they wouldn’t choose the profession today. They recall a simpler past without insurance-company hassles, government regulations, malpractice litigation, not to mention nurses and doctors bearing tattoos and talking of wanting “balance” in their lives. These are not the cause of their unease, however. They are symptoms of a deeper condition—which is the reality that medicine’s complexity has exceeded our individual capabilities as doctors."

In the case of mental illnesses, problems may be even worse suggests Ethan Watters in Crazy like us: the globalization of the American psyche. Compare the third chapter on Schizophrenia in Zanzibar summarized here and the recent report in Neurosceptic Schizophrenia And The Developing World Revisited.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The world of documents

After reading Country Driving I could not resist picking up another book of Peter Hessler: Oracle Bones.
Very early in the book, he introduces the China scholar Imre Galambos in whose opinion 'China's most important literary unification took place during the Han. They produced their history book, as well as the first dictioary, and their emphasis on written word established the foundation for two millinea of empire'. Hessler quotes Galambos:
"People talk about this idea of literary worlds. There are certain cultures, like the Byzantine and the Chinese, in which the written documents create a world that is more significant than the real world. The officials who ran the country in ancient China — they were selected through exams, through this process of memorizing the classics. They lived in this quasi world of letters. Whoever came in from the outside became a part of it. Even the Mongolian tribes that eventually became the Yuan dynasty — for God’s sake, they were complete nomads, with very little written language. But they became like the Chinese for a time; they assimilated themselves. I think this literary world is the link in time that permits this thing we call 'Chinese history.' It’s not the number of people or anything like that; it’s the enormous written world that they produced. They produced this world that’s so big that it eats them up and it eats up everybody around them."
Somewhat reminiscent of the world of Sanskrit documents explored in Sheldon Pollock's The Language of the Gods in the World of Men: Sanskrit, Culture, and Power in Premodern India (mentioned in this post earlier).

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Stretching without wrinkles

This report Stretch, but without the wrinkles of the recent paper Three-Dimensional Polymer Constructs Exhibiting a Tunable Negative Poisson’s Ratio may be interesting to mathematicians. From the report:
"A team of nanoengineers have constructed new materials that don't wrinkle when you stretch them. This makes them similar to tissue found in the human body, so they may in the future be used to repair damaged heart walls, blood vessels and skin.
The secret of the two new materials lies in their geometry. Engineered tissue is made using a porous scaffold structure. It's the shape of the pores that's important. Square and circular pores, or those shaped like regular hexagons, give you a positive Poisson ratio. But it's possible to achieve a negative ratio by cleverly tweaking such basic geometries."
The modern research in this area seems to have started with a paper of Rod Lakes in 1987, partly reproduced in his site
P.S. Videos Negative Poisson Ratio Material and The strange behaviour of auxetic foams

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A swamiji wins Bhatnagar prize

Mahan Maharaj, a senior researcher at the Howrah-based Ramkrishna Mission Vivekananda University, was among 11 scientists selected today for the prestigious Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize, India's highest science award.Maharaj and Palash Kumar of the Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata received the prize in the Mathematical Science category.
Swami Vidyanadhananda, originally Mahan Mitra, usually called Mahan Maharaj I have known since 1995 through his work and met him for the first time around 2005. After a Ph.D. in Berkeley he joined the Institute of Mathematical Sciences and suddenly decided to join Ramakrishna Mission and disappeared for about seven years. During this period I slightly revised one of his papers (and also worked on the proof sheets of another) that I used and helped publishing it; I am not sure whether his permission was taken. Towards the end of his training Kalyan Mukherjea got to know about Mahan through Mahan's brother and persuaded him to come back to mathematics. The long break seemed to have no effect and he seemed even stronger than before. He continued with his monkly duties, has been doing strong mathematics, meanwhile helping set up a mathematics department in Vivekananda University in Belur Math. I spent a month in Belur Math during 2009 and had the pleasure of coloborating with him and saw him training several Ph.D. students. It was a fun stay and I hope to visit him again.

There is a 2009 photograph of Mahan in the photos section of this blog (currently on page 3).
P.S. Link to Mahan's papers and a young researcher meets Mahan:"Thankfully he doesn't wear his religion on his sleeve." My impression after staying in Belur Mission for a month: The organization is more into service than religion and there are monks of various religions in the RK Mission. But I have not enquired whether there were any atheists.
A nice picture here

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Andrew Leonard faerwells HTWW

A farewell to How the World Works :
"Was the experiment a success? I'd give it a mixed grade. Traffic grew steadily throughout the blog's tenure (and peaked, actually, during the recent debt ceiling nuttiness), but there are definite limitations to how deeply you can report or think or how much you can craft your prose when you are attempting to post three times or more per day. When I was learning new things, the pace was fine -- invigorating, even -- but when I found myself simply reacting to news events with insta-analysis, and repeating myself over and over again, it became considerably less satisfying."
I read HTWW regularly for a couple of years and was introduced to work of Glenn Davis Stone through it and have not been reading it that much in the recent months probably for the reasons mentioned above.

Friday, September 23, 2011

A Telugu film review

of 1948 film Drohi:Drohi film review in Roopavani magazine. I did not remember that L.V.Prasad (Akkineni Lakshmi Vara Prasada Rao) made one of my favourite films 'shavukaru' or that he was in the first talkies in three languages. Googling about him, I found this film review.
Here are some songs from Drohi and more information including lyrics here and here.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

China on the move

Excellent Country Driving by Peter Hessler reviewd here and here. From the second review:
"There is a myth, one believed by many Chinese, that foreigners do not and cannot understand China. This book shows that this myth is simply nonsense.

Hessler makes the effort. He drives through many of the least developed provinces and villages in China and down little country lanes for months on end. He camps in the open air and lives on Red Bull, chocolate bars and Oreos. He saw the China where villagers worked for months to dig useless tree holes even though the diggers only received two bags of instant noodles each day to show for their work; the China where young people move away to cities or towns to find jobs while the elderly cling to their old life in the villages; the China where desperate migrants have to lie about their age and identities to seize a job in a booming industrial coastal town. Even many Chinese, especially those who live in the cosmopolitan illusion of Shanghai and Beijing, are unaware of this China. It may not always be pretty in pieces, but there is great beauty in the mosaic of a people living their lives in a time of great change and working to make a better life for themselves and their children. It is a China I want more people to know about."
Author Peter Hessler reads from his China memoir Country Driving before a Q & A with Emily Parker of the Center on US-China Relations. (1 hr., 6 min.) from Asia Society which has many other interesting interviews.
Thanks to Jack Morava for sending the book.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Glenn Greenwald on public opinion surprises

Public opinion surprises (via Rajeev Ramachandran's google reader):
"I confess to being amazed that 43% of Americans -- close to a plurality -- believe that "U.S. wrongdoing might have motivated attacks" by Terrorists. I'm not amazed because it's untrue -- it plainly is true -- but because that is a view almost never heard in establishment media discourse. To the contrary, the notion that American "wrongdoing" is a cause of anti-U.S. Terrorism is one of the most rigidly enforced taboos. Nothing provokes allegations of "unpatrotism" or "anti-Americanism" -- or intellectually dishonest claims that one is "justifying" Terrorism -- more than pointing out this obvious causation. Despite that, and despite the natural jingoistic bias of believing that one's own country does not engage in truly bad acts (certainly not sufficiently bad to provoke Terrorism), a very sizable portion of the citizenry has come to that conclusion on its own. That's a very encouraging finding."

A duet by S.Varalakshmi and Jikki

Navaneeta Chorudu from the 1961 film 'Krishna Prema'. Many others in the link are from a 1943 film with the same name.

Straddling Science and Medicine

Carl Zimmer writes about Arthur Horwich who with his colleagues discovered 'that HSP60 is like a changing room for proteins' Horwich Wins Lasker Award by Straddling Science and Medicine

Monday, September 12, 2011

Five men from Hyderabad

A misfortune for five men [Hyderabad]:
"The five men - Nizam's finance minister Moin Nawaz Jung, Muhammad Hameedullah, Yousuf Hussain Khan, Zaheer Ahmed and Pingle Venkatram Reddy - comprised the delegation that went to the UN to argue Hyderabad's case for independence in September 1948."
Three returned to India and the article sketches their later careers "Upon his return from the unfinished job, Khan, a historian and litterateur at OU, and the brother of Zakir Hussain, the former president, returned to his alma matar. But he soon quit his job and went to Aligarh where he later became the pro vice-chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University.

Venkatram Reddy was arrested on his return and interned at Chanchalguda jail. He was later shifted to his residence but was kept under house arrest for a long time. Anuradha Reddy, a relative, revealed that his loyalty to the Nizam's government was unquestionable as he believed that his presence in the administration would 'save' Hindus from the menace of Razakars.

After the wrath of the government subsided, Reddy took up social work. His son Jagan Mohan Reddy became the chief justice of AP High Court and later vice- chancellor of OU during the crucial emergency years.

But the most rewarding return was that of Zaheer Ahmed. He sailed over to the Indian government smoothly and got plum postings, including a stint in the UN.

After his retirement, he served for several years former prince Mukarram Jah Bahdur - grandson and successor to the seventh Nizam. He also served as ambassador to Saudi Arabia in the early 1970s."

Photo of an old lady


Dan Little revisits 'A Jobless Future'

by Stanley Aronowitz and William DiFazio in A jobless future?
Other reviews here and here
Related posts with similar themes
here, here, here and a recent post by Yves Smith The Decline of Manufacturing in America: The Role of Government Neglect

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Cliff Robertson RIP

This earlier write up also mentions some of his charity work Cliff Robertson

Friday, September 09, 2011

Some telugu words

in several places from Andhra Bhoomi in the links here, particularly in the links titled మాటల మూటలు. For example, from
"తనివి: అంటే తృప్తి - తమి: అంటే ఆసక్తి - ఆరయిక: అంటే పరిశోధన - మెలన: అంటే చరిత్ర - చవి: అంటే రుచి - గురి: అంటే లక్ష్యం"
One of the links on the last page says
"‘థ్యాంక్స్’ అనడం మనకు బాగా అలవాటయిపోయింది. దానికే కొందరు ‘ధ‌న్యవాదాలు’ అంటున్నారు. ఇదే అర్థంలో ఇంతకంటే కమ్మగా చెప్పగల ‘మప్పితాలు’ అనే తెలుగుమాట ఒకటుంది" but this does not seem to agree with the comment of Seshatalpasayee in అచ్చ తెలుగు పదాలు.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Vernon Ruttan on the role of Public sector in technology development

The Role of Public Sector in Technology Development: Generalizations from General Purpose Technologies by Vernon Rutton:
"Abstract: In the new science and technology policy literature that emerged in the
early 1980's it was held , while public support for science is appropriate, that
public support for technology development represents an unproductive use of public resources. The perspective that emerges in my recent book, Technology, Growth and Development: An Induced innovation Perspective, is quite different. Government has played an important role in technology development and transfer in almost every U.S. industry that has become competitive on a global scale."
Towards the end of the article, he also discusses cases which do not fit into this scheme and says "A second lesson that emerges from U.S. experience is the importance of a decentralized national research system. The structure of the U.S. national research system took its present form in the half century between 1880 and 1930. This period witnessed the formation of scientific and technical bureaus within the federal government, the establishment of industrial research laboratories, the formation and growth of public and private research universities, and the emergence of philanthropic foundations to support research and education. These institutions drew on each other for their entrepreneurship and leadership. This decentralized structure has given the United States greater capacity to adjust to changing national and global priorities, and to direct research to the exploration of commercial opportunities, than in countries in which government-funded research is conducted primarily in national laboratories or research institutes only marginally linked with universities and in which private sector research is limited primarily to large firms"
The above article is drawn from his 2001 book mentioned above and in a 2006 article, he goes further to discuss the role of military and defence related research:IS WAR NECESSARY FOR ECONOMIC GROWTH?
P.S. I came across the articles though comments of E. Barandiaran in the MR post Who invented interchangeable parts?. E. Barandiaran also suggests the paper Modeling the Transition to a New Economy: Lessons from Two Technological Revolutions by Andrew Atkeson and Patrick J. Kehoe.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Shiv Visvanathan on saving the Hazare process

Excerpt from Hazare vs Hazare: A Scenario as a Warning by Shiv Visvanathan:
"The question is how do we move from the critique to construct and salvage ­another impressive movement from going underground? How can we prevent the good Hazare from losing out to the bad Hazare? Let us face it; every movement has the possibility of eventually making an ass of itself. His core team is not very reassuring in terms of presence or competence. I am not saying they have not ­surprised me so far but I have a sense that the group is heading towards the usual ­inertias of such struggle.

To open up the playfulness of Phase II requires some change in mentalities. First, Anna Hazare has to move from being prophet to sage, while guaranteeing that his disciples do not become the high priests of legislative reform. Second, the group must break the clichés about the State and governance. The State is often seen as wooden and unresponsive. But of late, whether on the RTI or the debate on ­genetic seeds, the State in collaboration with NGOs, has sought to experiment with partici­patory frameworks where stakeholders openly debate the politics of expertise. For instance, Jairam Ramesh in collaboration with sensitive environ­mental activists like Kartikeya Sarabhai at the Centre for Environment Education, Ahmedabad, created the dialogic possibilities of such controversy, letting scientists, farmers and seed manufacturers debate with each other. We need to create sites for such debate so that governance can also be seen as a ludic exercise at least in terms of the future.

Dogma also has to yield to method and particularly methods of resolution. The politics of movements need to be captured as ethical norms or as institutional methods. What is the goal of the movement beyond the holy grail of the Lokpal? At what level does the Lokpal operate? Or are we creating an alternative behemoth, a byzantine bureaucracy more Kafkaesque and inquisitorial than the current structure?"

Sunday, September 04, 2011 on Aadhaar

Massive Biometric Project Gives Millions of Indians an ID via Ed Yong. Some of the benefits:
"One of his [Nandan Nilekani's] first major coups was persuading India’s central bank to declare the Aadhaar number adequate identification to issue no-frills accounts. Bringing biometrically verified banking to the poor could lead to enormous savings in government benefit programs—for both the recipients and the state. Today, a pensioner in a village like Gagenahalli has to take a bus to the nearest town to collect his monthly payment in cash. That’s time and money lost for him. Meanwhile, more than 40 percent of the government’s $250 billion in subsidies and other spending on the poor will be siphoned off by scammers over the next five years, according to investment group CLSA. Both problems could largely be solved if instead the funds were sent straight to bank accounts held by biometrically verified recipients. “It’s like having 1.2 billion pipes through which you can send the benefits directly,” Sharma says. Connecting the poor to banks could also enable some of them to get loans to start businesses or pay for their children’s education."
See also the NYTimes article Scanning 2.4 Billion Eyes, India Tries to Connect Poor to Growth

Prosperity without growth

a report by Tim Jackson available here. A review of the later book in The Guardian
Prosperity Without Growth: Economics for a Finite Planet by Tim Jackson

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Another song by R. Balasraswati Devi

and several songs from Shavukaru here (misprint attributes it to S.P.B.)
P.S. Savitri in one of her early films (around 2.20 minutes into the video)

Friday, September 02, 2011