Friday, June 29, 2018

Periodic Table using AI 
Zhang hopes that in the future, scientists can harness Atom2Vec’s knowledge to discover and design new materials. “For this project, the AI program was unsupervised, but you could imagine giving it a goal and directing it to find, for example, a material that is highly efficient at converting sunlight to energy,” Zhang said.
His team is already at work on version 2.0 of their AI program, which will focus on cracking an intractable problem in medical research: designing just the right antibody to attack antigens – molecules capable of inducing an immune response – that are specific to cancer cells. Currently, one of the most promising approaches to curing cancer is cancer immunotherapy, which involves harnessing the antibodies that can attack antigens on cancer cells.
But the human body can produce more than 10 million unique antibodies, each of which is made up of a different combination of about 50 genes. “If we can map these building block genes onto a mathematical vector, then we can organize all antibodies into something similar to a periodic table,” Zhang says. “Then, if you discover that one antibody is effective against an antigen but is toxic, you can look ”

Tyler Cowen and others on asylum rights

Are asylum rights misguided?  And Australia is given as an example! “You should note, by the way, that Australia has relatively tough asylum rights, but takes in a large number of legal immigrants.  The country also goes to great lengths to stop people from showing up at the border in boats and claiming asylum.  So it seems there is at least one case where this is a sustainable posture.”

Some others A world of free movement would be $78 trillion richer  “If something seems too good to be true, it probably is not actually true. But occasionally it is. Michael Clemens, an economist at the Centre for Global Development, an anti-poverty think-tank in Washington, DC, argues that there are “trillion-dollar bills on the sidewalk”. One seemingly simple policy could make the world twice as rich as it is: open borders.”

Fundamental rule of brain plasticity

Study reveals how, when a synapse strengthens, its neighbors weaken.
“Our brains are famously flexible, or “plastic,” because neurons can do new things by forging new or stronger connections with other neurons. But if some connections strengthen, neuroscientists have reasoned, neurons must compensate lest they become overwhelmed with input. In a new study in Science, researchers at the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory at MIT demonstrate for the first time how this balance is struck: when one connection, called a synapse, strengthens, immediately neighboring synapses weaken based on the action of a crucial protein called Arc
Though the rule they found was simple, the experiments that revealed it were not. As they worked to activate plasticity in the visual cortex of mice and then track how synapses changed to make that happen, lead authors Sami El-Boustani and Jacque Pak Kan Ip, postdocs in Sur’s lab, accomplished several firsts.“

India abroad

News from India

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Another inspiring story from India ‘Pardada Pardadi’

How a school for poor girls cracked the patriarchy in a rural Indian town
During his time abroad, Singh became obsessed with a perplexing question: What keeps India from excelling? Why, for instance, do Indian Americans have the highest average household income of all ethnic groups in the US, yet in India, one in four citizens still live in abject poverty?
He gradually developed a theory that his homeland was crippled by its almost total subjugation of women. “All my life I noticed the girl child being badly discriminated against,” Singh says, adding that such discrimination crosses all social strata in India. From not receiving their fair share of inheritance to being forced to marry older men as a payback for loans, women are systematically deprived of their human rights—and the country of half its potential.”
Via Madhukar Shukla

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Monday, June 25, 2018

Dalit women have crafted a hit

with a little help from Aparna Krishnan from The Hindu “It all began with a lucky conversation. Aparna Krishnan, a software engineer who moved to Paalaguttapalle to become an organic farmer, was asked by one of her dealers if someone could supply cotton bags to Hyderabad. Ms. Krishnan contacted N. Annapurna, who did tailoring jobs to support her family, and gave her Rs. 1,000 to buy cloth. Once the bags were done, she had them delivered to Hyderabad. Ms. Annapurna earned Rs. 1,000 for the order.”

Water problems

The NITI Aayog released the results of a study warning that India is facing its ‘worst’ water crisis in history and that demand for potable water will outstrip supply by 2030 if steps are not taken. Nearly 600 million Indians faced high to extreme water stress and about 2,00,000 people died every year due to inadequate access to safe water. Twenty-one cities, including Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai and Hyderabad will run out of groundwater by 2020, affecting 100 million people, the study noted. If matters are to continue, there will be a 6% loss in the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2050, the report says.” from 

Himanshu Thakkar’s article on the index Muddying the waters 
Rahul Banerjee’s comments on his wall:
"Nicely written article by Himanshu Thakkar on the recently published Water Management Index Report of the Niti Aayog. Apart from the several important points raised by him, I would like to add a few points myself.
1. In the table on the quality of the data collected for the assessment, the report clearly says that most states do not have data regarding such crucial and heavily weighted parameters as groundwater recharging and for thosestates that do have this data it is unreliable. Under the circumstances the reliability of the index is highly questionable.
2. Moreover, since the report has acknowledged that there is severe water stress, it should have calculated a water stress index for each district as the data is available for such an exercise and is independent of the states' own reporting and so more reliable.
The proof of the pudding of water management is in the dishing 
and a water stress index would better show how naked the emperor is."

Interesting discussions on Phoenicians

spurred probably by a recent book of Josephine Quinn. This article Phatasmic Phoenecia gives a good background discussion. Interview with Josephine Quinn and a Review of her book. An older article which includes some DNA studies.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

A song from Rani Rupmati By Rafi, Krishnarao Chonkar and Geeta Dutt

Another review of ‘Ants among elephants’

By Sujatha Gidla in Prospect Magazine by Gaiutra Bahadur. I liked the review.

Gareth Dale on marketless trading

Browsing again "Michael Hudson and Baruch Levine, eds, Privatization in the Ancient Near East and Classical World, Cambridge MA: Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology", I found this 2013 article which discusses Karl Polanyi's ideas in conjunction with the ideas from the above seminar. This is the first of the five seminars edited by Michael Hudson and others. The last and fifth one on the origins of labour was linked earlier.
Marketless Trading in Hammurabi’s Time’: A re- appraisal
Gareth Dale’s work on Karl Polanyi reviews here by Robert Kuttner in The NewYork Review of Books TheMan from Red Vienna 

Coffee may be good for the heart

from Researchers Figure Out Why Coffee Is Good For The Heart “The team suggests that p27 is likely the reason why caffeine administration can help after heart attack, and that caffeine may even be protective for people at higher risk for heart disease. This will no doubt be music to some people’s ears.”

on our circadian clocks

How our body’s circadian clocks affect our health beyond sleep . One excerpt:
Our intestines, our stomach, and our gut have circadian rhythms, too. Late at night, just like our brain goes to sleep, our stomach and gut start to shut down. Our intestines and gut don’t move food down the digestive tract, so if you eat late at night, the food just sits there. At the same time, the stomach has a buildup and starts to produce acid.
During the daytime, the circadian rhythm in our mouths actually produces saliva that neutralizes that acid. But in the evening, even our mouths shut down, which is why we don’t salivate much in our sleep. When you have a lot of acid, food isn’t going down, and acid is coming to our mouths, we get acid reflux. It’s a very simple thing, but just eating early in alignment with the gut rhythm can help. 
Another idea is in terms of exercise. Exercise has many benefits for the circadian clock and sleep cycle. So for example, taking a short walk in the morning has as huge impact on synchronizing the brain clock and improving arousal and alertness.”

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Long read on Stanford prison experiment

The life span of a lie by Ben Blum
But if Zimbardo’s work was so profoundly unscientific, how can we trust the stories it claims to tell? Many other studies, such as Soloman Asch’s famous experiment demonstrating that people will ignore the evidence of their own eyes in conforming to group judgments about line lengths, illustrate the profound effect our environments can have on us. The far more methodologically sound — but still controversial — Milgram experiment demonstrates how prone we are to obedience in certain settings. What is unique, and uniquely compelling, about Zimbardo’s narrative of the Stanford prison experiment is its suggestion that all it takes to make us enthusiastic sadists is a jumpsuit, a billy club, and the green light to dominate our fellow human beings.” From Lifespan of a lie.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Jerry Coyne review of ’She has her mother’s last laugh’

Twists and turns in the process of heredity “[carl]Zimmer’s book is an excellent way to get up to speed in these areas, but be aware that there are a couple of recent competitors that give much the same information. These include Siddhartha Mukherjee’s superbly written chronology “The Gene: An Intimate History,” and James Watson’s lavishly illustrated (and largely first-hand) account, “DNA: The Story of the Genetic Revolution.” Read at least one of the three, because this is important stuff: If the science doesn’t matter to you now, it will soon.”

James Salter

I got to know about James Salter through a post of Steven HSU. According to another author “James Salter writes American sentences better than anyone writing today.” A portrait of him The Last Book by Nick Paumgaten. HSU links to an interview (behind a firewall) but HSU quotes lot of it in another post. Here is another Why I write.

About Marxism

I stopped worrying about understanding Marx though I read about Marxism off and on. I take this to be essence of it:
“In a system where virtually all resources are available for a price, economic power can be translated into political power by channels too obvious for mention. In a capitalist society, economic power is very unequally distributed, and hence democratic government is inevitably something of a sham.”
The quote is from an article by Kenneth Arrow.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

A Balasaraswati song: oke okka sari by Arudra. More can be found at I might have posted this before.

Interesting Telugu blog

of Bhandaru Sreenivasa Rao: “Worked as sub editor in Andhra Jyothi,  Vijayavada. Later joined Regional News Unit of AIR,Hyderabad as news reporter in 1975. Moved to Moscow, then in USSR to work as language specialist in telugu and news reader in Radio Moscow in 1987.  Returned back to India after almost five years to join in Hyderabad, Doordarshan as news editor  and finally retired from active service in December 2005”. Noticed these posts about Vijayawada in the thirties and forties అలనాటి బెజవాడ. Search the blog or google ( which seems faster) for other posts about Vijayawada.
There is another blog karpuramanjari which has several articles on personalities from Tenali.

A discussion on low llife expectancy among Dalit women ( in Telugu) The presenter seems to think that since Dalits live outside the villages, they get fresh air and ‘eat home-grown vegetables and fruits’. May be there is a city-village divide; youngsters in cities may not have seen much of village life.

Michael Hudson on Chinese economy

China’s Export Competitiveness = Underpaying Women later on there is a discussion on its current ‘mixed economy’.

Negative Economics

Michal Hudson’s talk from approximately 36 minutes to 1:18.
A story told by Micharl Hudson from a different source: “Consider Plato’s Republic, another product of fourth-century Athens. The book begins when Socrates visits an old friend, a wealthy arms manufacturer, at the port of Piraeus. They get into a discussion of justice, which begins when the old man proposes that money cannot be a bad thing, since it allows those who have it to be just, and that justice consists in two things: telling the truth and always paying one’s debts. The proposal is easily demolished. What, Socrates asks, if someone lent you his sword, went violently insane, and then asked for it back (presumably so he could kill someone)? Clearly, it can never be right to arm a lunatic whatever the circumstances. The old man cheerfully shrugs the problem off and heads off to attend to some ritual, leaving his son to carry on the argument.”

Friday, June 15, 2018

Interview with Daud Ali

The interview from The Hindu
But, somehow, I stumbled onto the work of Norbert Elias and I had, of course, read Foucault who was very fashionable at the time. I made a connection between these two scholars and became interested in how one could think about the formation of what we may call “subjects”. Foucault focuses on the formation of modern subjects and looks at disciplinary practices at large. But Elias takes a more longue durée-cum-sociological approach about the development of manners, habits, mental dispositions and attitudes, linking them with behaviour. He was trying to map them onto particular sociologies.
What occurred to me, which I have been elaborating in my work ever since, is that the material from medieval India has not been looked at from this particular point of view. Everybody has been obsessed with mapping state structures and talking about either dynastic history or social history of a more empirical type, ignoring the whole question of mental dispositions, of bodies, of emotions, of these less tangible things which are incredibly important for the understanding of state structures, social relationships and the sinews of social life. There were people coming at it from the perspective of religious studies. But in terms of history, there was an indifference to these problems; they had not been explored. So most of my career has been working on what I would consider the completely virgin territory of what you could call the history of practice or mentalité.”
The real driver of global history in the U.S. is, sadly, the opening up of Asian markets to American educational institutions. That sounds cynical but I am afraid it is the truth. And a lot of global history is simply re-washed neoliberal claptrap about the rise of capitalism, put in a more acceptable language.”
The Wikipedia article on Daud Ali

Math, girls and socialism
This paper argues that the socialist episode in East Germany, which constituted a radical experiment in gender equality in the labor market and other instances, has left persistent tracks on gender norms. We focus on one of the most resilient and pervasive gender gaps in modern societies: mathematics. Using the German division as a natural experiment, we show that the underperformance of girls in math is sharply reduced in the regions of the former GDR, in contrast with those of the former FRG. We show that this East-West difference is due to girls' attitudes, confidence and competitiveness in math, and not to other confounding factors, such as the difference in economic conditions or teaching styles across the former political border. We also provide illustrative evidence that the gender gap in math is smaller in European countries that used to be part of the Soviet bloc, as opposed to the rest of Europe. The lesson is twofold: (1) a large part of the pervasive gender gap in math is due to social stereotypes; (2) institutions can durably modify these stereotypes.”
Two more Sources for my New York Times Op-Ed - "Why Women had Better Sex Under Socialism" from last year and e cerpts from a 1973book (long read):
Women in Russia before and after the revolution by Sheila Rowbotham.

Lakshmi Narasimhan Ikkurthi

Lakshmi Narasimhan Ikkurthi:Back to His Roots

“Lakshmi Narasimha Ikkurthi gave up his software career to take up social initiatives in his village Yazali.”

An inspiring doctor

About community driven development

A bombshell Evaluation of Community Driven Development by Duncan Green. See also the comments by several experts.
3IE cast its baleful eye over the evidence from 25 impact evaluations, covering 23 CDD programmes in 21 low- and middle-income countries and concluded.
  • CDD programmes have no impact on social cohesion or governance.
  • Many community members may hear about CDD programmes but not many attend meetings.
  • Few people speak at the meeting and fewer still participate in decision-making.
  • Women are only half as likely as men to be aware of CDD programmes and even less likely to attend or speak at community meetings.
  • CDD programmes have made a substantial contribution to improving the quantity of small-scale infrastructure.
  • They have a weak effect on health outcomes and mostly insignificant effects on education and other welfare outcomes.
  • There is impact on improved water supply leading to time savings.”

Monday, June 11, 2018

Seven Common rules

Seven moral rules found all around the world
Converging lines of evidence – from game theory, ethology, psychology, and anthropology – suggest that morality is a collection of tools for promoting cooperation.
And, as predicted by the theory, these seven moral rules – love your family, help your group, return favors, be brave, defer to authority, be fair, and respect others’ property – appear to be universal across cultures. “

Saturday, June 02, 2018

Long read on how Harvard lost Russia

via David Warsh. In News Values “There’s been a tendency in recent years to rely more heavily than before on professional economists as journalists. Paul Krugman, of The New York Times, and Martin Wolf, of the Financial Times, are the most prominent examples. There are many others, tucked away in business pages, magazines, or on websites of their own.
There’s a downside, though. Membership in the economics guild brings with it a natural reluctance to tangle with the leadership of the profession, on any other than strictly professional grounds. To put this slightly differently, economists who enter journalism remain economists; they are not there to police their peers.
As far as I know, neither Krugman nor Wolf has ever mentioned the Harvard-Russia story. Only The Wall Street Journal actually covered it.........
As for the “Further Reading” section of the Journal of Economic Perspectives, not even McClitick’s 25,000-word article rated a mention there – perhaps because Harvard professor Andrei Shleifer was JEP‘s editor from 2003-2008.“
Here is the article How Harvard Lost Russia by David McClitick from 2006.
A follow up from 2014 Some Russian money flows back to Harvard by an ex-dean from Harvard.

Friday, June 01, 2018

Peter Scott retiring today

My collaborator and friend  Peter Scott is retiring today. I first met him in Liverpool during 1968-69 and have been collaborating with him since 1986 and quite intensely since 1994. He moved to The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor in 1987. I retired in 2005 but there have been periods of collaboration even after retirement. We still have two long papers in progress but the progress is slow as the work seems essentially complete. Peter has made several basic contributions to three dimensional manifolds without mentioning his results. His first famous paper Finitely generated three manifold groups are finitely presented appeared in 1973. A note of mine written for his sixtieth birthday here

A biography f Lejuene Dirichlet and his work