Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Scidev.net editorial 2/22/07

From the recent scidev.net editorial:
"The scientific community is particularly prone to this one-dimensional approach. Arguing that heavy investment in research and development is enough to promote economic growth naturally appeals to those keen to see scientific laboratories flourish across the developing world.

But experience has shown that such investment is only part of the solution. The real challenge lies in embedding science in all spheres of government policy, and introducing educational, regulatory and fiscal measures to enable innovation to flourish across the economy.

Until this happens, demands for more money for science will inevitably be seen as little more than self-interested pleading from the scientific community."

Academic stories-2

The recent plagiarism bit in Mashelkar Committee report reminded me of an old story. When X confronted Y about plagiarizing from Z's work, Y's response was "Z is impossible to improve ; I did not want to waste my time". All are distinguished scientists. The only problem was Z's book was not available in the library where as Y's was.

Academic stories-1

Just recd. this from an old friend: :"Thanks. You are really keeping track of my papers. I remember your walking into my office and telling me that my paper is referred as "seminal" etc and that my name is in "who is who" and I tried to order for library and our great friend "BR" stopped it!"

Australia plans a wildlife corridor

From Sydney Morning Herald:
A 2800-KILOMETRE wildlife corridor will be established along almost the entire east coast of Australia, allowing plants and animals to move as climate changes.

State and federal governments, led by NSW, have agreed that the plan is one of the nation's highest environmental priorities for this year.

The outgoing state Environment Minister, Bob Debus, will announce first-stage funding of $7 million worth of incentives to private landowners.

The money will be spent restoring and maintaining land along the Great Eastern Ranges corridor. The Government promises there will be no compulsory acquisitions.

Instead, private landholders will be encouraged to undertake land care works and sign voluntary conservation agreements. Planning instruments would also be reformed to ensure that connections between ecosystems are maintained and restored when development decisions are made.

"We have to create, protect and restore ecological corridors that will allow species to move, and to find new areas of sanctuary," Mr Debus told the Herald.

Currently, much of the state's reserve system has become isolated - islands of conservation from which species cannot move as the world warms. Nearly two-thirds of the state's threatened species are found along the land the corridor would encompass.

Presently, however, many of these species will be stranded as the climate changes.

Last year the Bureau of Meteorology estimated that the current rate of global warming was the equivalent of a town moving northwards 100 kilometres each year.

The corridor would also improve the management of the nation's most economically significant watersheds, including the Murray and the Darling.

"To do what we can in this country to help avoid the threat of mass global warming-induced extinction, I believe we must look to better protect the ecological integrity of this 2800-kilometre corridor," Mr Debus said.

The Australian Bush Heritage Fund will announce the acquisition of the first property specifically identified as part of the corridor. Scottsdale is 1300 hectares south of Canberra at Bredbo, taking in critical platypus and native fish habitat in the Murrumbidgee River, vast native grasslands, dry sclerophyll forest and numerous endangered species. It will be crucial in helping to close a gap not only in the Great Eastern Ranges corridor but also another proposed connection between Kosciuszco and the coast.

The Australian Bush Heritage Fund is a non-profit organisation that buys high-conservation land with donations from the public and government. It has formed partnerships with the NSW Department of Environment and Conservation, other agencies and community groups to establish wildlife corridors.

The co-ordinator of the project with the Bush Heritage Fund, Stuart Cowell, said it was not possible to rely only on reserves to guarantee the long-term survival of species. "We need to work with other landholders," he said. "It's becoming more essential that we give species and ecological communities room to move."

The governments' proposed initiative will stretch from the Victorian Alps through to Atherton in Queensland and will include existing national parks, state forests and other Crown land. Currently, however, the corridor is broken by hundreds if not thousands of private properties. The hardest links to restore are expected to be in the Upper Hunter and parts of Queensland, where large tracts of land have been cleared for agriculture. Once complete, the Alps to Atherton wildlife corridor will be among the longest in the world.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Corporate Buccaneers in UK

FromCorporate Buccaneers... in the Guardian:
" "It is about extracting as much as you can as quickly as you can," says Karel Williams at Manchester Business School. "It is part of a broader series of changes in capitalism. These intermediary groups, like private equity and hedge fund managers, are able to enrich themselves in ways thought unimaginable a few years ago.

"The ultimate question is whether this behaviour becomes normalised and accepted. This is a socio-cultural change. The culture of naked self-interest among private equity managers is characteristic of the elites in third world countries." "

Kishore Mahbubani on India

The latest from CASI occasional papers, is a talk by Ambassador Kishore Mahbubani, Dean, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore:
"Will India Emerge as an Eastern or Western Power?" Occasional Paper No. 27. It is interesting to see the comments by a ethnic Indian of different nationality. There ia lot of feel good stuff in the talk. Some excerpts from the questions and answers session;
"Q: Let me offer a different view and get a reaction. Is it possible that we are all just
overreacting? If you turn the clock back to thirty-three years ago, the Soviet Union was an alternative pole perhaps, comparable to Islam in some ways, you had the Mai Lai disaster which was comparable to Guantanamo, you had a president of the United States who effectively almost had been impeached, and that too passed, and the West maintained a position of leadership for several decades back at a similar position. Is it conceivable that this too shall pass and perhaps pass quickly?
KM: Yes, that’s actually a very good question. I tell my Asian friends that the biggest danger they face is Asian triumphalism. Asian countries will take at least thirty to forty years more, at least. They haven’t arrived yet. China has got to make this tremendous transformation of its political system. It is not going to be easy. It’s going to be very difficult, very painful. Indeed along the way it’s quite conceivable that China may well stumble, and I think it’s also true of the other countries. Even India can stumble once or twice in its effort to get there, like other countries did. But they say you cannot make predictions about the future except in one dimension. If you can measure the amount of snow that’s fallen in the Himalayas, if you have enough information you can predict the level of floods in the Ganges six months later because there’s a correlation between the amount of snow that has fallen and the flood levels in the Ganges. Now a lot of snow has fallen on Asia already. The huge transformation in Asia is that the number of young people in Asia are the largest in the world. Europe literally has very few young people, and India has this huge demographic pool of young people. That’s one fact. That’s a fact, it’s a concrete reality. The second concrete reality is that this young generation is the most confident young generation of Asians seen in centuries. They believe tomorrow will be better than today. They believe that tomorrow is theirs, and that shift in mindset motivates you in a dramatic fashion. I think this explains fundamentally the tremendous energy you see in both China and India and the other Asian countries, too. ...."
"Q: .......On a more serious note, in terms of the moral dimension, in which the West has suffered a loss,especially the United States in the wake of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib and other sorts of sad excesses, I have been very struck by something that I think is emerging in India in conversations that I’ve had with business leaders and social leaders over the last year. I think it is very interesting to look at the politics of inclusion that you were just talking about and the necessity of inclusiveness in the institutions of global order. India has been one of the champions of pushing for that, whether it’s in the WTO or the United Nations. Across the board India has been a leader of the nonaligned movement in previous decades, but domestically the politics of inclusion and a paradigm of inclusion have become very current in India. I can’t tell you the number of leading CEOs that I have spoken to recently who have talked about the importance of equity and of making sure that India’s economic takeoff includes all of the population. As Mukesh Ambani said to me, we have to do something that no one in the world has been able to do, and that is to grow equitably. I’ve heard this over and over again and I just wondered if you could comment on whether Asia is really the center of gravity as the world moves toward Asia materially, and what is the possibility of coming up with something that goes past Fukuyama’s final moment of history of Western liberalism in some kind of a new model that includes capitalism in some way but differently?
KM: ….
But the good news is that the great values of Western civilization, the enormous regard for human self-worth, the idea that every individual matters, are being adopted. Incidentally one reason why China and India are thriving today is because finally the Chinese and Indians also came to realize that the people at the very bottom are resources and not burdens. That’s a Western idea that has been captured by China and India. So many of the great Western values I believe should become universal values, but for them to become the universal values, the West must stop portraying them as Western values, the West should say that these are human values and we are all working together to defend not Western civilization but human civilization. Once the West speaks in that way, then I think it can be done, then the differences will disappear."

More on Auden

From The New York Sun via 3quarksdaily:
"By 1939, Auden had grown tired of being the most contemporary of poets, an antenna for his generation. "
May be this is the appeal of artists like Auden and Bob Dylan (Even John Howard used to like Bob Dylan). Continued:
"Rather, Auden's breaking of his own style now looks like one of the key moral gestures of 20th-century English literature. Auden was one of the first great writers to recognize that, after World War II, the modernist vision — with its abstractions and myths, its glamorizing of danger and sacrifice — was no longer sustainable. Poetry, to be credible in a new world, had to be ethical in a new way: scrupulous about its claims, its concepts, even its language."

Friday, February 23, 2007

Mothers again

From BBC news:
"Chimpanzees in Senegal have been observed making and using wooden spears to hunt other primates, according to a study in the journal Current Biology.
Adult males have long been regarded as the hunters in chimp groups.

But the authors of the paper in Current Biology said females, particularly adolescent females, and young chimps in general were seen exhibiting this behaviour more frequently than adult males.

"It's classic in primates that when there is a new innovation, particularly in terms of tool use, the younger generations pick it up very quickly. The last ones to pick up are adults, mainly the males", said Dr Pruetz, who led the National Geographic-funded project.

This is because young chimps pick the skill up from their mothers, with whom they spend a lot of their time."

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

From scidev.net

There is usually interesting developmental news at scidev. net and you can get updates by registering here.
From this article onIndian scientists:
"Indian scientists must engage in policymaking by contributing more to public discussions on scientific and environmental issues, says a Nature editorial.

A few nongovernmental organisations in India, such as the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), have enormous influence on public opinion and policy in the country.

But some scientists complain that this impact is disproportionate to the thoroughness and reliability of the organisations' work.

The editorial says these grumbling scientists would do better to look at their own involvement in public debate and ask themselves whether their influence reflects their expertise.

According to the CSE, Indian scientists often have a low opinion of and do not participate in the public discussions accompanying science policymaking, instead preferring to concentrate on improving their status among peers.
From Gene deleting tool for safer crops?:
"If this technique is applied successsfully to other crops, it could allow farmers to grow non-transgenic and fully viable plants using seeds or pollen from GM plants — unlike the terminator gene system, which makes the plants infertile."
From this article on phones and biofuel
:"Access to electricity in rural areas is typically poor. By producing biofuel energy from organic matter, rural communities could sell it to the mobile phone companies, powering base stations that receive and transmit wireless signals.

Two pilot schemes are currently underway in Lagos, Nigeria and Pune, India, to try powering GSM networks with biofuels. GSM is a digital standard for mobile phones used by more than two billion people worldwide.
In Lagos, soy oil biodiesel is being used to power a suburban base station owned by MTN in a six-month trial. The study in Pune will use cotton and the hedge plant jatropha, according to a BBC report."
For more on Jatropha, see Jatropha in India
For news on an Indian pioneer on biofuel, see Vulluvar's post.

From the New Scientist

From New York Times to Mark Thoma's site, more and more articles are appearing which many may consider leftist. Hopefully, as Daniel Bell said, the age of big ideologies is over and many are discussing issue by issue for the general good. In this direction are the current editorials in New Scientist (20th February, 2007). Recently there has been condemnation of Indonesia, including in some of the science blogs, for withholding birdflu samples. The editorial (unfortunately needs subscription) supports Indonesia's stand:

"In a fair world, Indonesia would send its virus to the best labs and share in any vaccine made from it. In our world, Indonesia sends off its virus, companies make vaccine from it and sell it to countries that can pay. Indonesia is not one of them, and neither are the other countries suffering badly from H5N1.
Indonesia is treating this as a case of biopiracy. Like other tropical countries, it is a hotspot of biodiversity. For decades foreign companies have helped themselves to its plants, microbes or whatever, and made lucrative products from them. In response, it has passed laws to stop exports of genetic material without agreement. It is invoking such a law to control samples of H5N1 and asking developed countries to respect the sort of intellectual property rules that they themselves have imposed for decades."

The rest of the editorial needs subscription. I hope that New Scientist can take a leaf out of its own book and make such editorials and articles accessible to all.
The second editorial is about the travails of a young scientist:
"This week a paper is published by a young researcher named Shahriar Afshar describing an experiment that he believes explodes an 80-year-old orthodoxy in quantum theory (see "Quantum rebel wins over doubters"). It has been a long road. Afshar failed to post his paper on the Arxiv database apparently because of a mix-up over his affiliation. Journals rejected it out of hand. New Scientist covered his work after quantum physicists advised us that, right or wrong, it raised important issues. Regrettably, Afshar was then chastised for talking to the press.

Aspiring scientists should expect to run the gauntlet of their peers, but they should not have to put up with the abuse to which Afshar was subjected, including attacks on his honesty and his religion. Why the extreme reaction? Perhaps people thought an experiment as simple as his must be wrong. Perhaps those who interpret quantum theory are unused to seeing their pronouncements put to the test. Whatever the reason, there can be no excuse for this kind of treatment."

Young scientists are increasingly being forced to go along with the prevailing orthodoxies and increase the research output of their seniors rather than persuing interesting and risky topics. In many universities tenures, increments, and promotions are measured by the number of papers rather than quality. And young researchers are pressurized to spend their most of their best productive years in such activities to increase the output of their seniors. The concept of universities where one is exposed to exciting ideas, connections between desciplines, connections to improving real life etc seem to be becoming more and more of a rarity as administrators, administrative type professors are increasing in numbers and taking over the universities.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Minority Report

From Minority Report in The Guardian:
"It is not Livia Jaroka's youth or talent that mark her out in the beige corridors of the European parliament, but her skin. Jaroka, a centre-right MEP for Hungary, was nominated for a parliamentary award for her conscientious work last year. The response? A Bulgarian objected, arguing that she did not deserve it. "In my country, there are tens of thousands of Gypsy girls way more beautiful," Dimitar Stoyanov wrote in an email to MEPs. "In fact, if you're in the right place at the right time you even can buy one (around 12-13 years old) to be your loving wife. The best of them are very expensive - up to €5,000 a piece, wow!"
With 785 representatives from 27 member countries and chambers in Brussels and Strasbourg, it is the world's only directly elected international chamber. It represents a more diverse range of people than almost any other - 492 million European citizens. It is also almost completely white, and it is against this backdrop that Stoyanov's inclusion starts to make sense."

An excerpt from "Mothers and others"

From the article "Mothers and others" by Sarah Blaffer Hardy (available at http://www.citrona.com/articlesbysbh.htm. In this article, Sarah Hrdy proposes that humans are cooperative breeders,discusses alloparenting and worries about its future):
"And this is why I get so worried. Just because humans have evolved to be smart enough to chronicle our species' histories, to speculate about its origins, and to figure out that we have about 30,000 genes in our genome is no reason to assume that evolution has come to a standstill. As gene frequencies change, natural selection acts on the outcome, the
expression of those genes. No one doubts, for instance, that fish benefit from being able to see. Yet species reared in total darkness—as are the small, cave-dwelling characin of Mexico—fail to develop their visual capacity. Through evolutionary time, traits that are unexpressed are eventually lost. If populations of these fish are isolated in caves long
enough, youngsters descended from those original populations will no longer be able to develop eyesight at all, even if reared in sunlight.

If human compassion develops only under particular rearing conditions, and if an increasing proportion of the species survives to breeding age without developing compassion, it won't make any difference how useful this trait was among our ancestors. It will become like sight in cave-dwelling fish.
No doubt our descendants thousands of years from now (should our species survive) will still be bipedal, symbol-generating apes. Most likely they will be adept at using sophisticated technologies. But will they still be human in the way we, shaped by a long heritage of cooperative breeding, currently define ourselves?"

Friday, February 16, 2007

Some quotes

Robert Dreyfussquotes Bush :
"Either they knew or didn't know, and what matters is, is that they're there. What's worse, that the government knew or that the government didn't know? … What’s worse, them ordering it and it happening, or them not ordering it and it happening?"
Compare this with how university professors write ( from my blog October 15, 2006):
"We all know that the political world judges Iraq by the absolute badness of what is going on (which means Bush critics find a higher number to fit their priors), but that is an incorrect standard. We should judge the marginal product of U.S. action, relative to what else could have happened. (North Korea, and the UN response, will give us one data point from another setting.) In that latter and more accurate notion of a cost-benefit test, U.S. actions probably appear worst when deaths are rising over time, and hitting very high levels in the future.

Of course the rate of change of deaths is not exactly the proper variable. Ideally we would like some measure of the contingency of eventual total deaths, relative to policy. I am not sure what other proxies for that we might have."
Compared to these Indian bloggers seem clearer.Here is a quote from one if them:
"Real or fake Indian, I don't read books written by Sudras. Hope that clears it up."

Monday, February 12, 2007

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Links 2/11/07

Browsed through these and should look at them again:
Asghar Ali Engineer on Ram-Prasad's 'Hindu View of Islam'
lectue notes on evolutionary psychology and related topics. It has also links to online resources.
Mark Thoma's views on markets with lots of comments. Back to the basics
an exposition of Stolper-Samuelson Theorem and discusses an application (?).
Toxoplasma gondii
involved in sex ratios (?).
Trivers-Willard Hypothesis
on sex ratios
Discover on Sarah Hrdy.

Sarah Hrdy has a good discussion of sex ratios in her book 'Mother Nature'. I am reading this book for the second time immediately after first reading. At the moment, I feel that this one of the best popular science books that I have read. I tried to buy copies for my daughters but it is not available in Melbourne. Many of the book shops have several books by Diamond, Pinker and others but not this one. I wonder why? Robert Trivers, Matt Ridley, Frank Sulloway and others have high praise for the book. Here is Judge Posner's comment from the blurbs:
" A superb book ... It establishes more covincingly than any other book with which I am familar the relevance of the study of (other) primates and of human evolution to urgent current issues of public policy involving women, children, and family"
Over to you Annie.

Another 'gloom and doom' story

Today's Age has this story of pain in Spain. Excerpts:
"Of all the developed countries, it is in Spain where the warning signs of environmental disaster are most advanced. Spain's environmental ills read like the worst predictions of the panel's report come true.

A United Nations study published in 2005 warned that the Sahara Desert is poised to jump the Mediterranean, and that within 50 years one-third of Spain, including 90 per cent of Spanish territory bordering the Mediterranean, will be desert — Africa will enter Europe by the back door.
Last year was Spain's hottest year on record. In the past 150 years, temperatures in Spain have increased by 1.5 degrees, compared with a global average of just 0.6 degrees. Madrid's average temperature has risen by 2.2 degrees in the past three decades, the greatest increase of any capital city in Europe. Rainfall in south-eastern Spain decreased by 23 per cent during the past 100 years.
Spain's summer is also lengthening at an alarming rate, to the extent that spring arrives in Spain two weeks earlier than it did 30 years ago and autumn arrives nine days later, according to an EU study published last August.
"The reality is that we are consuming twice as much water as our rivers and aquifers can provide," Julia Martinez, a water specialist at Murcia University, told Spain's El Pais newspaper last year. "We must make new plans. Our system of intensive tourism and inefficient farming is simply unsustainable."

Even before the building boom reached current levels, National Geographic Traveller Magazine, one of the world's leading travel magazines, agreed, announcing in 2004 that Spain's Costa del Sol (or the "Costa del Concrete" as the magazine called it) was the least environmentally sustainable tourist destination in the world. Spain's coast was, the magazine said, the "epitome of overdeveloped mass-tourism" and "the antithesis of sustainability".
The fear remains, however, that even if Spain suddenly transforms itself into a good environmental citizen, the human impact on its environment may already be irreversible."

An Indian village takes lead on HIV

From today'sAge:
"The council in Budni, in the state of Karnataka, has decided that the only way to curb the spread of HIV is to make sure that no HIV-positive person marries and passes it on to their spouse.
"We are fed up with boys living in the cities coming to marry our girls, going off after the marriage and then finding that the girl, who stayed behind, has got the virus. It's ruining young lives," council head Shrikant Prasad said.

"I don't oppose premarital testing, but we have to be aware that it could spark off a new industry in fake negative certificates," said Ashok Khanna, an AIDS volunteer worker in Bangalore.

An estimated 5.7 million people in India are afflicted with AIDS/HIV, more than any other country in the world."

Interesting site

Check this sitefor a quick view of various type of data about the world. Go to description of the site. SeeMap categories for categories.
Primary (lack of) education for girls is here. Click on 'Open PDF poster' for more details. This has a description of Royalties and Licence fees.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Photo blog from rural children

"Children at a rural school in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh are running a photoblog about daily life in their village, Kalleda. The school gives children from poor families a free education." Check here.
UPDATE: Kuffir in blogbharti has given direct links to to the Rural Development Foundation and the Photoblog.

Saturday, February 03, 2007


There is an interview in Telugu of Kodavatiganti Rohiniprasad (son of the famous Telugu writer Kodavatiganti Kutumbarao)in Koumidi . Rohiniprasad is a physicist who writes, mainly in Telugu, on science and music. He has a blog which has some of his writings.

Friday, February 02, 2007

National characteristics and sports

I never thought that a respected commentator like Peter Roebuck would so openly link national characteristics to performance in sportsperformance in sports. Considering India's performance in Olympics, may be there is some thing to ponder about. Some excerpts:
"It is a nation despoiled by voyeuristic newspapers, obsessed with soccer, driven by desperate nationalism, a nation of cringing monarchists and lager louts leavened by sudden shafts of doomed humour better expressed in the cries of the Barmy Army than in soap operas populated by baleful characters.
Australia suffers not from a surfeit of arrogance but servility. At its best, England combines stoicism with a strong sense of social justice. At its worst, it is sniffy. At its best, Australia is democratic and independent. At its worst, it is inhospitable.
The next step must be to engage the black African community that has contributed so much to British soccer and athletics.

Apart from these players, England has not impressed. None of the others has markedly improved. Faulty batting techniques have been exposed and the pace bowling has been relentlessly wayward.

It is not impossible to conquer Australia. Sachin Tendulkar arrived as a teenager and scored dazzling hundreds in Perth and Sydney. Alas, these Englishmen have lacked the mental and technical capacities needed to meet the challenge."

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Quote of the day

Long ago, I visited the village Maddipadu near Ongole in Andhra Pradesh where my father was teaching. I met the village munsif who was my father's neighbour. He did not study beyond fifth class and never travelled in a train. Yet he started the village high school. By that time I had a Ph.D. travelled in several countries. I was confused and silly (still am) and wondered why I did not have the calm wisdom of the villager who never travelled 50 miles beyond his village. Today I saw this inCosmic Voices:

It is said Somerset Maugham traveled the world with a notebook to learn the essence of life and Kafka sat in a room for the same objective. Yet Kafka came out with a better world-view. - U.R. ANANTHA MURTHY