Friday, July 23, 2021

The plight of migrants

 The plight of twenty first century migrants by Mit Ali Husseni 

"But those who want to approach the question of migration truthfully must ask the question which Arendt asked about the Greek democracy but failed to answer when it came to the United States. To what extent does our freedom from the necessities of life rely, and has historically relied, on the labor of people living thousands of miles away? Just as America’s political ideals were founded on enslaved people’s labor, just as Europe was enriched by looting the colonies, today too, our freedom relies, at least partly, on exploiting other parts of the world.

So, as it turns out, to be a “Dane” does in fact have a meaning. The price of Denmark being named “the happiest country in the world” is paid not just by Danes, but also by others whom the global economy exploits. No political citizenry, despite what Arendt’s consecration of the political presupposes, can be stripped from its enabling social and economic conditions."

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Survey of gene-culture evolution

Long-term gene–culture coevolution and the human evolutionary transition 


It has been suggested that the human species may be undergoing an evolutionary transition in individuality (ETI). But there is disagreement about how to apply the ETI framework to our species, and whether culture is implicated as either cause or consequence. Long-term gene–culture coevolution (GCC) is also poorly understood. Some have argued that culture steers human evolution, while others proposed that genes hold culture on a leash. We review the literature and evidence on long-term GCC in humans and find a set of common themes. First, culture appears to hold greater adaptive potential than genetic inheritance and is probably driving human evolution. The evolutionary impact of culture occurs mainly through culturally organized groups, which have come to dominate human affairs in recent millennia. Second, the role of culture appears to be growing, increasingly bypassing genetic evolution and weakening genetic adaptive potential. Taken together, these findings suggest that human long-term GCC is characterized by an evolutionary transition in inheritance (from genes to culture) which entails a transition in individuality (from genetic individual to cultural group). Thus, research on GCC should focus on the possibility of an ongoing transition in the human inheritance system.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

On approaching the age of 80

 I will be 80 in less than week. A close friend who is like a younger brother suggests: “Also, I suggest (with some trepidation) that you should consider devoting some spare time beyond your  mathematics and grandfatherly duties to writing up some more autobiographical material.  Perhaps that could  include how you came to do the work you chose to do, the mathematicians with whom you became involved and the way you feel about doing mathematics or anything else (including farming, as I recall).  By doing something like that, it could encourage many othersto follow their own path [including one of my grandsons when he is a little older]: a sort of much more human-oriented and personal than E.T. Bell's offering.”

Well, there is not much to say. I was silly and a bit stubborn, had some passions and followed my interests. Moreover I was lucky with friends. I am surprised that I am still around.

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Sibling resemblance

 My wife Jhansi and her younger sister Vidya apparently have some resemblance which I did not notice. In December 2017, our third daughter Neelima met Vidya in a New York restaurant for the first time; Vidya was visiting her daughter also named Neelima. By all accounts, our Neelima kept hugging her aunt saying that she resembled Jhansi so much.

Two days ago Neelima took her son Ethan for a walk in a park about fifteen minutes drive from our house. There they met our second daughter Shanti who we do not see that much due to Covid. Ethan kept staring at them turning his face from one to the other. To him the resemblance was confusing.

A 1946 parable from Sarada Natarajan

 Sarada Natarajan  (Subrahmanya Iyer Natarajan)1924-55 is Telugu writer whose mother tongue was Tamil. He was also well-versed in Tamil when he landed in Tenali in 1937 and started working as a waiter. He learnt Telugu and started writing in Telugu. Tenali at that time had many writers with various ideologies. Sarada was pen name and he became quite famous mostly posthumously. Here is a short piece by him translated by Rohith which I found on his wall.

Mister World Has Fallen Sick

- Sarada, July 1st 1946 (translated from Telugu) 

Mr World has fallen sick. He is bed-ridden. Mr Imperalism immediately sends a message to Sir Bourgeoisie. 

The car of Sir Bourgeoisie creeks to a halt outside. 

Mr Imperialism offers a chair to Mr Bourgeoisie to sit. 

"Sir Bourgeoisie, Mr World is unwell. We don't know the disease yet. We should send for a doctor." says Mr Imperialism. 

Imperialism thinks for a while and says "Call Dr. Socialism"

Sir Bourgeoisie takes off his specs, clears the smudge on the glass, puts it back on saying, "Him! Oh, no no.  He gives injections of equality and solutions of revolution for every small thing.' 

Mr Imperialism retorts "Oh, it's not for treatment. Its only to have a precise diagnosis. He knows the nature of Mr World very well. Call him."

Bourgeoisie calls Dr Socialism right away. He comes to help. 

Mr Imperialism and Sir Bourgeoisie asks Dr Socialism to diagone the disease of Mr World. 

He looks at the palm of Mr World, "This is a dangerous disease. It's called the sickness of servitude. It needs a high dose of revolution-medicine. And then, injections of socialism are to be infused into veins. Only then he can recover." 

The other two oldies jolted to conscience saying, "Did we ask you to prescribe medicines? We needed you to only diagnose. Take this 'dollar' and leave." 

Dr Socialism leaves. 

Mr World's pain intensifies after Dr Socialism leaves. He is writhing with pain on the cot. The situation has come to a stay. Dr Socialism is out of question now. Mr Imperialism and Sir Bourgeoisie ties up Mr World to the cot and begin thinking again : 'how do we cure this?'

Sir Bourgeoisie suddenly reckons: "Don't we have our  Fanatic-Priest Rao Bahadur Sir. He can treat with our own homemade pills and domestic oils instead of those toxic foreign medicines. I am calling him", and takes out his phone. 

Fanatic-Priest Rao Bahadur Sir comes by his own chartered flight. He takes a look at the hand of World. "May God Bless Him, Misters! This Mr World has the typhoid fever called atheism in his body. That's why he is twisting with pain. It's not something that can be cured. I will give a blended spirit to sedate him for now." 

He gives two ounces of vedanta, two grams of desh-bhakti and three ounces of non-violence. 

"That's better. He makes a lot of nuisance awake. Let him sleep.", says Sir Bourgeoisie with a sigh of relief.

A landmark judgement on environment from Australia

 The Federal Court judgement 

"The children took a novel route in asserting the federal environment minister owed them a duty of care. A duty of care means a responsibility not to take actions that could harm others. A duty of care is the first step in a claim of negligence.

A similar duty was found in the Netherlands in 2015, as a global first. In 2019, the Supreme Court upheld that duty – the Dutch government owed it citizens a duty to reduce emissions in order to protect human rights. 

Other cases around the world were inspired by that success, including the one decided in Australia today."

Covid's next phase By Zeynep Tufekci

 Covid's deadliest phase may be here soon by Zenep Tufekci

By the same author according to Gautam Menon but I cannot find the link:

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

M.S. Narasimhan (7 June 1932 – 15 May 2021) RIP

 Reminiscences of M.S.Narasimhan (possibly more about myself):

I joined TIFR as a research student in 1964 eleven years after Narasimhan. Though he was much senior and already a star, he was friendly from the beginning. Both of us being students of Fr. C. Racine in Loyola college may have some thing to do with it. Sometimes, he used to attend/oversee our first year courses. One incident, I remember is that the lecturer in algebra confused all of us while explaining tensor products. Then Narsimham took me to his office offering to explain and he too made a mess of it. I assumed that he was big picture man as Raghunathan told me at some stage that Narasimhsn explained the essentials of Kodaira-Spencer work in an hour during seaside walks near the TIFR canteen.

Having browsed Hausdorff's Set Theory in college, I was already committed to learning Topology and in spite of Narasimhsn's diverse interests, I chose an area in which he was not an expert. He did try to get me interested in the topology of moduli spaces. But my interest was more towards general theories rather than specific calculations. Our acquaintance which slowly developed in to a sort of brotherly guidance continued. Around my third year or so, we occasionally had beer together on Saturdays. I do not remember what we talked about, it must have been about general things and some about mathematicians rather than mathematics. The actual mathematical discussions were with M.S. Raghunathan and S.Ramanan who were both interested in topology.

Meanwhile there were visiting professors and I particularly liked the lectures of John Stallings whose papers I read earlier. I enjoyed learning mathematics and was not sure or care whether I could do a ph.d. And TIFR gave great opportunity to learn without pressure of publishing papers or doing a ph.d. There was always the possibility of teaching in a college in Guntur area if one could not do a ph.d.  I also enjoyed reading Milnor, Browdrer, Zeeman, Serre's Thesis and various Cartan seminars on topology. Towards the end of his stay, Stallings said that Papakyriakopoulos did some great work in three dimensional topology. After Stallings left, I started studying  Papa's papers though I did not have any background in 3-manifolds. It soon led to some minor work which became part of my thesis.

Then came a crucial intervention from Narasimhan at the beginning of 1968. He heard of Nuffield Foundation Fellowships and thought that I had some chance of getting it and went about organising my application. By that time I had 3-4 papers and he thought that it would be good if I had specific place in mind. I read several papers of CT.C. Wall who was in Liverpool. He organised sending my papers to Wall and a letter of support from Wall. He coached me on preparations for the interview. Since I was generally like a bull in China shop reflecting my village farmer background, he advised me about being polite to the interviewers. It seemed to have worked. One Kothari asked me name the greatest theorems in topology. I replied that it was a silly question. Apparently, I came back and told Narasimhsn that I followed his advice since I said that the question was silly instead of saying that it was stupid. To my surprise, I got the fellowship snd the visit to Liverpool proved to be very useful in terms of what I learnt there which was used in later research and the start of acquintance with Peter Scott which resulted much later in a long collaboration.

He was supposed to be one of those persons who understood me. Kalyan Mukherjea told me once that he told MSN that I was planning to quit TIFR. He asked MSN to guess what I wanted to do. Apparently, the reply was that I was planning to go back to Guntur which was correct.

Narasimhan went on to bigger things both mathematically and as an administrator in the development of mathematics in India. He was slso Head of the Mathematics group at the International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP), Trieste from 1992–1999.

I was not in touch with him during some periods. But I remember gratefully his visits to Delhi during 1982-86. This was a difficult period for me and his visits both to my office and home offered some succour.  We renewed correspondence after he moved to Bangalore. I visited him a few times in Bangalore and was looking forward to visiting him again when the sad news came.