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Laziness is nothing more than the habit of resting before you get tired. - Jules Renard 

Saturday, April 30, 2005

The Droste Effect

The Dutch chocolate maker Droste is famous for the visual effect on its boxes of cocoa. The image contains itself on a smaller scale. This is called the "Droste effect" in any good Dutch dictionary. [Example]

Escher was a Dutch artist of the 1950's. His painting "Prentententoonstelling"(1956) has embedded Droste Effect and also has a spiral grid which is unique. A website is aiming at visualizing the mathematical structure behind Escher's Print Gallery. Make sure you watch the animations from these links: Droste Picture and Escher Picture.
(Via Penny Dreadful)

| posted by Ramki @ 9:29 PM


A photo blog by David J. Nightingale: Chromasia. A wide variety of styles. What I liked most about this photoblog is that if u click on comments for each photo, you get detailed camera settings for each photo like apeture width, shutter speed, focal length, flash etc. This info is really valuable for photography enthusiasts. With my primitive digital camera, I was trying out each setting and finding out what each one changes in a snap. If you have a good digital SLR camera, you can have this photoblog as a reference.

| posted by Ramki @ 8:54 PM

Helping Hand Across the Southern Border

With a significant Latino population in the US it was just a matter of time before outsourcing expanded to accommodate them. This Forbes article covers the trend of American companies going south for their outsourcing needs. Specifically, Brazil is a significant economy and has reasonable technical training in IT. I feel that in the future the Latinos in the US will get more educated and trained to support the people that they need to care about : themselves.

India was able to get a major chunk of outsourcing and customer support due to her large English speaking population. On the downside, India is terribly undertrained in foreign language training : I feel that Chinese and Spanish will be a major chunk of business in the future. China is already introducing English at the Sixth grade level, pretty soon China will be able to support not only China but also English speaking nations. Is India going to realize that and get trained in foreign languages or is it going to sit there and twiddle the thumbs watching businesses moving away? Only time can tell.

Meanwhile, Blair is to unveil plans to compete with India. I remember reading somewhere that the consequence of British imperialism is that English is spread everywhere now and that makes the British redundant in current economic conditions. Should India change its course and move away from over-dependence on English? I sure think so.

| posted by Shankar B @ 7:10 PM

Thinking Cap

Sending a weak electrical impulse through the front of a person's head can boost verbal skills by as much as 20 percent, according to a new study by the U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. [more]

 "It appears to decrease the firing threshold of neurons in the path of the current ".

| posted by Rajan @ 4:52 PM

Indian culture ??

Days after a police constable raped a 16-year-old student inside an outpost at Mumbai's Marine Drive, a front-page article in the Monday edition of Shiv Sena mouthpiece Saamna partly blamed such incidents on provocative clothes girls wear. [more]

The politicisation of rape, that is what has happened in Mumbai. The ruling party Cong-NCP combine and the Shive Sena have turned the shame of Mumbai (when a constable raped a teenager in the middle of the day while on duty) into blame game. " [more]

Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister R R Patil on Wednesday said it will be wrong to criticise the whole force for an isolated incident and instead blamed the laws which could be exploited by cops to "harass" people. [more]

How do we expect any progress in India when its law makers & upholders are upto such dastardly acts. The people making such statements should be sent to school again and put in jail with the same constable. They are no better than him and in most likelihood much worse than the constable in terms of being potential social miscreants. Was there something wrong in the way we achieved freedom. Why dont we have well-intentioned politicians who atleast make it look as if they are concerned with the welfare of the society. Why do NRIs even feel proud of India ??

| posted by Rajan @ 9:42 AM

Research Topic Generator!!!

Looking for a good research topic/Phd Title. Its there for you in just 10 seconds. Unfortunately its for C.S guys, but we can come up with our buzz words and start one for EE.
Check here.

| posted by raj @ 8:40 AM

Friday, April 29, 2005

Building a Good Team

New research on team dynamics from Northwestern University shows how to build a team : A team that mixes old and new blood is more successful than teams which play their cards close to their heart. They have studied Broadway musicals from 1877 and four top journals in economics, psychology, astronomy and ecology and identified that teams that infused new blood was more productive and more successful than other teams that remained intact. From the article :

New team members clearly added creative spark and critical links to the experience of the entire industry. Unsuccessful teams were isolated from each other whereas the members of successful teams were interconnected, much like the Kevin Bacon game, across a giant cluster of artists or scientists.

This looks like common sense but I guess it is good to see some digested results without going through "real world" experience :-) Managers and professors of tomorrow, remember this rule and save yourself some time.

Go to the article here.

| posted by Shankar B @ 11:08 PM

Wired Top 40

Wired has released its top 40 companies that are masters of technology and innovation. Apple is number 1 and Google plays second fiddle. Samsung with a profit of $10.8 billion is at #3. Infosys has moved to #8 from #11. Old giant Microsoft is at #28. Check out this article.

| posted by Shankar B @ 10:53 PM

Press Display

Purely for newspaper freaks - Over 200 newspapers...More than 50 countries...Original format, layout and pagination... PressDisplay delivers the world's leading newspapers to you before they appear on newsstands in their home countries.

Magnifying lens, bookmarks, full text search, and archival access - these powerful digital tools enhance your reading experience and make it easy to navigate your newspaper.

I know that Trash of India has a similar tool for displaying their valuable content. Pressdisplay requires a sign up though! With the logins in bugmenot, you can browse for maximum of 20 pages. For anything more, I guess you can clear your browser cache and start allover again.

| posted by Ramki @ 9:24 PM

Get Perpendicular

Hitachi recently announced creation of high density hard drives with 3D stacking of the bits. Watch this nice hi-tech video from Hitachi, explaining the benefits of using perpendicular bits for magnetic storage: Get Perpendicular.

| posted by Ramki @ 5:40 PM

One more thing to worry about!

It's not too early to start modifying your code: Computer systems worry over  pending "year 10,000" problem.
Concern is building system-wide over a pending problem in computer systems  known to software experts as the "year 10,000 bug," a problem which may have catastrophic consequences for computer systems everywhere on the morning January 1, 10,000.  

While sentient bios and most constructs will be out partying in the new age   that night, computer systems all over the galaxy will suddenly begin miscalculating dates because their designers decided long ago to store the year as a 4-digit number.  

| posted by Ramki @ 5:35 PM

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Technology: System on Person (SoP)

We could very well be architecting a SoP for employees working on the Toyota assembly line, in the next couple of years. Human area networking or Personal Area Network (PAN) is not a new concept. Thomas Zimmerman developed and proved the PAN technology concept that uses the natural electrical conductivity of the human body to transmit electronic data in 1996. " Using a small prototype transmitter (roughly the size of a deck of cards) embedded with a microchip, and a slightly larger receiving device, the researchers can transmit a pre-programmed electronic business card between two people via a simple handshake. What's more, the prototype allows data to be transmitted from sender to receiver through up to four touching bodies."

Zimmerman's publication in IBM systems journal can be found here. The paper is well written and an interesting read. " The transmitter T capacitively couples to receiver R through the body (modeled as a perfect conductor). The earth ground provides the return signal. The circuit reveals that body capacitance to the environment E degrades PAN communication by grounding the potential that the transmitter T is trying to impose on the body. For example, in one experiment, standing barefoot reduced communication between wrist-mounted devices by 12 dB."

April 29 2005: Technology Review carries this article about NTT developing a new "human area networking" technology called RedTactont that uses the naturally-occurring electrical fields of human skin to transmit data. Replacing the electrical sensors of a Media Lab-style system with faster lasers and electro-optic sensors showed dramatic results. It makes the technology competitive with other short-range communications technologies like Bluetooth, Zigbee, and UWB. If true, the group hug could turn into a productivity tool as well as a motivational technique.

My view:
Every generation in the last 200-300 years has been thrilled by the inventions they made. Clearly the way we have built up on our knowledge is exponential. In our generation "Information Technology" and "Genetics" together have thrown open so many doors. It takes some time and effort to even understand what we would be capable of and how we as a race could potentially misuse this new information/understanding. The progress being made is to some degree contributed to the information disseminating power of the internet, Engineers/scientists of the world should make an effort to stay abreast of the new data being thrown our way every minute of the day. They should visualize the synegistic potential of  different key technological inventions. Good Luck !

| posted by Rajan @ 10:28 PM

Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus

An interesting article in Sciam about the differences in his and her brain structures.

Many studies have shown the anatomical differences between a woman's and a man's brain, but none of these have conclusively proved anything : differences in verbal vs analytical skills, spatial co-ordination etc. were attributed to evolution and brain structure in the past, but these are not conclusive evidences. We cannot rule out the structural, chemical and functional variations in the brains. This beautiful article tries to explain what differences are there and the implications in depression, behavior under stress etc.

| posted by Shankar B @ 11:08 AM

If only life was as predictable!

No prank here. It is based on Image processing research from a UK university. So see how you'll like after 40 years...

| posted by Ramki @ 4:49 AM

Body Piercing Terminology

Body Piercing is becoming more and more popular these days and there are dozens of different types of piercings you can get. There are also lots technical terms for the how's and why's of the procedures and taking care of them afterwards.

When you walk into a piercing parlor to get a new piercing, whether it's your first or your fiftieth, you may hear some words you haven't heard before. Once you're in that chair and about to have a hole put in your face or some other body part, you may be too intimidated or swept away by the adrenaline of the moment to stop and ask "What the heck are you talking about?"

| posted by Ramki @ 4:32 AM

License plate collections

Checkout this license plate collection group's website. A group of enthusiasts have tried to group all the license plate formats that have been issued in countries around the world. The India license plate page is not active though!

Also checkout Coke Bottles of the World Home Page - a collection of coke bottle designs and ads that have been released in various countries.

Airchive.com is an online museum of commercial aviation. With the Airbus largest passenger aircraft A380's last week's first flight and the recent article on lazydesi on Boeing and Airbus fighting for market share in Asian aviation industry, this website makes an interesting read.

| posted by Ramki @ 4:26 AM

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Glass Flowers

The Harvard Museum of Natural History has this very nice exhibit of life-size glass models of 847 species of flowers, with remarkably accurate anatomical sections and enlarged flower parts. I think this is a very commendable effort on the part of the artists.

| posted by Rajan @ 10:18 AM

No More Wind Breaking in Indian Airline Industry

An interesting article from Businessweek about airline industry in India :

By Manjeet Kripalani in New Delhi and Stanley Holmes in Seattle, with Carol Matlack in Paris

Dogfight Over India
Airbus and Boeing are going all out to win billions in plane orders from the nation's booming airlines.

A year ago, G.R. Gopinath was not getting what he wanted from aircraft manufacturers Airbus and Boeing Co. (BA ) As founder of India's first discount carrier, Air Deccan, Gopinath needed planes, but he didn't win much attention from the two majors. So he settled for a pair of turboprops from France's ATR to prove he could profitably operate an airline. When his first short-hop flights proved successful, Gopinath leased two Airbus A320s for a longer, Bangalore-to-New Delhi flight. "First I had to sell India to them, and then the fact that I could pull off a discount airline," recalls Gopinath.

A lot has changed since then. Air Deccan has been a huge success, with 90% of its seats occupied on 106 flights daily serving 32 destinations. Last month, Gopinath ordered 30 A320s -- worth $1.9 billion before discounts -- from Airbus. And Airbus can't do enough to support his young airline. Three Airbus employees -- experts in logistics, pilot training, and engineering support -- are now stationed at Air Deccan's Bangalore offices. In January, when a plane was damaged while being towed, Airbus sent a team of engineers the very next day to set things right. "They're bending over backward to support me," says Gopinath.

Boeing and Airbus are taking Indian airlines -- even startups -- far more seriously these days. "Air Deccan's success changed everyone's mindset," says Kapil Kaul, India country head for the Center for Asia Pacific Aviation, a consulting firm. The country's air travel market is growing 25% annually, spurring the two manufacturers to redouble their efforts to win new business. With the number of passengers in the country expected to grow from 19 million annually now to 50 million by 2010, a dozen groups are planning to launch service by this time next year. All told, Indian airlines are expected to buy at least 280 new planes by 2010, worth an estimated $15 billion, and another $15 billion worth in the following decade. "India is the hottest growth market on the planet," says Richard Aboulafia, an analyst with Teal Group, an aerospace consultancy in Fairfax, Va.

The two majors have been present in India for years, but until recently have had little to show for it. The most excitement that Airbus had seen there was in 1986, when state-owned domestic carrier Indian Airlines ordered 19 A320s. In 1994, Boeing agreed to sell 20 short-haul 737 aircraft to private Jet Airways. For the past decade, Boeing has been awaiting a decision by state-owned international carrier Air India to buy new widebodies -- a ruling delayed by successive governments. As recently as last year, the company was expecting Indian carriers to buy about $25 billion worth of jets over 20 years. In February, it upped that estimate to $35 billion. "India was a sleeping giant, and it has awakened," says Dinesh Keskar, Boeing's top salesman for India. "New low-cost carriers are emerging that have significantly increased demand for new airplanes."

The newfound dynamism in India is largely due to Praful Patel, the Civil Aviation Minister who took office a year ago. In his first week, he announced he would push ahead with a partial privatization of the dismal airports in Delhi and Bombay. The next week he boosted the ceiling for foreign institutional investment in Indian airlines from 40% to 49% and later permitted private domestic carriers to serve international destinations. That spurred even sleepy Air India and Indian Airlines to expand. Together they're planning to spend $10 billion on 110 new aircraft, and both are spinning off discount carriers of their own. Then on Apr. 14, Patel signed an "open skies" pact with the U.S., allowing airlines from each country unrestricted access to the other's market. That same week he inked agreements that will boost flights to Britain, China, and Qatar.

The potential growth has Boeing and Airbus licking their chops. Even before some airlines have gotten approval from New Delhi to operate, their promoters and managers are being courted by the two manufacturers. Dinner meetings at posh restaurants, sales calls every other day, and on-the-house invitations to both Toulouse and Seattle have been extended -- a far cry from last year, when Air Deccan's chief had to pay his own way to Airbus headquarters in France. "Right now, they are both hyperactive," says the project manager of a new airline who is watching the proceedings with amusement.

So far, Boeing is in the lead. About 80 of India's 180 commercial aircraft are Boeings. Flag carrier Air India has mostly flown Boeing aircraft for decades, as has private player Jet Airways since it began in 1993. But there has been a "flurry of deals in the past six months," says Keskar. Boeing has won about $1 billion in fresh orders: At least 30 planes from Jet Airways and newbie discounter SpiceJet, which plans to launch in May. The big prize is likely to come in early May, when Air India is expected to agree to an $8 billion deal for 50 new widebodies from Boeing, including the company's latest offering, the long-haul 787.

Airbus has not exactly been a slouch. The company has $2.6 billion in firm orders for 43 of its A319 and A320 short-haul jets from Deccan Air and Kingfisher Airlines, which begins flying domestically on May 9. It also has a commitment from Indian Airlines to buy 43 more A320s worth $2.7 billion. But so far, Airbus has found no takers in India for its newest plane, the double-decker A380.

The courtship is extravagant. As in most other markets, the aircraft manufacturers are offering discounts of 30% to 50% off the list price for their planes. Then there's free training for pilots and engineers, free spare parts for newly purchased planes, and free maintenance manuals. When a deal is close to being signed, airline executives say they receive calls from Airbus or Boeing every hour. "Boeing and Airbus are fighting tooth and nail to get orders in India," says Amitabh Malhotra, an aviation expert at investment bank N.M. Rothschild India in Bombay.

That's why the two companies need all the help they can get -- and they're not shy about asking for it. The U.S. government is pressuring India to buy Boeing planes, with President George W. Bush, Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice all lobbying the Indian government on the company's behalf. Airbus, usually the master of political influence, enlisted France's Trade and Foreign Affairs Ministers to talk the company up in India late last year. Presidential help. Lavish parties. Deep discounts. India's airlines aren't being ignored anymore.

| posted by Shankar B @ 12:25 AM

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Robo toilet

It started as a college prank and someone tried the same in his office too : Install a robo in the toilet, which makes all sorts of crazy sounds. If u can handle it, try listening to the audio clips in the website:http://www.triggur.org/robodump/

There are so many Gmail invites now that a website is arbitrating the distribution of the invits to the needy: http://gmail.afraid.org/

| posted by Ramki @ 5:11 PM

Ranking Webpages

A very well written paper from Stanford on how to rank webpages based on trust. The technique called TrustRank prevents spamming by choosing a small seed of websites that are handpicked using an Oracle (human being). The links from these websites have more trust than others and the trusted sites of all the seeds get higher rank than the rest. In an iterative manner you combine these and you get ranked pages. In contrast to PageRank, these webpages will not only count the links, but also assigns weight to the links.

The paper can be found here.

The original tech report detailing PageRank is also referenced in this paper and is a good read too. I don't have a link to it now but should be seen from Google.

Trivia : An author from Yahoo uses Altavista search results to validate the algorithms and the technique that is going to be patented by Google. What is it?
Answer : TrustRank

Added 4/29/2005 :

Google intends to use the TrustRank algorithm for ranking newspages. Read this New Scientist article.

| posted by Shankar B @ 11:58 AM

It's Payback Time

I mean literally. Americans have finally started paying off their credit card bills and started screwing the credit card companies. Outstanding balances fell from $13.9 billion to $10.9 billion. They have also stopped buying new things. I can't imagine the possibilities if the US moves from a country that borrows to one that saves. Have the Americans finally started to manage their finances better, only time can tell.

Check out this Slate article.

I have also seen a recent trend of credit card companies offering more low interest cards, extending their 0% offers and what not to keep you in debt. They ask 100 questions before you can cancel your cards and they have procedures that have not been in place before : you could suspend your card for a while, go globe-trotting and move back after a couple of years and get the card activated with one phone call on your return.

I read another article somewhere else on the internets that college loans in the US sum up to more than $10 billion, quite a chunk of it not paid even after 10 years. I wonder how much of the credit card debt is actually carried over from college loans.

| posted by Shankar B @ 1:31 AM

Monday, April 25, 2005

Sleazy Desi

If you ever worked in the corporate world, you will relate to almost all characters in the classic movie "Office Space". The sloths at schools can now have something that they relate to.

Very funny and on the spot. You can identify a mixture of these characteristics in many people that you see or have heard of. For example, the FRUGAL GOURMET or Romeonensis Gustatus-Parsimonius :

Favourite Pickup-line:
"No, no. Taco Bell doesn't use lard. And Taco Bell has unlimited Pepsi refill macha!! But MacDonald's has good milkshake."

Apart from being the fast-food aficionado, he has also mastered the art of making tostadas at home. Expert on cooking advice, though most of his dinners comprise of two burritos to go and unlimited small pepsi.

Gets one and only one "date" to go to Taco Bell. She doesn't talk to him again for the rest of the semester. When questioned, he only says, "oh, she wants to go out again, but she is too busy." She, on the other hand, usually changes the subject when the topic comes up.

| posted by Shankar B @ 4:46 PM

PM's House on Sale

Indian PM's official residence was offered on sale. According to this Reuter's article, some Indian crook sold the 35-Million Rupee mansion to an American businessman as a sprawling office in Delhi. Call me weird, I found this very funny.

He must have checked the Ebay rating of the seller before buying the property :-)

| posted by Shankar B @ 10:50 AM

Sunday, April 24, 2005


If only we can undo events in our lives like deleting chapters in a book.... I think a part-II of this video is in the making.
Watch this awesone animation.

| posted by Ramki @ 4:50 PM

Two faces of the pope

No offence to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI. But someone found this strange similiarity in his appearence:

| posted by Ramki @ 4:42 PM

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Quotations database

"Methinks the human method of expression by sound of tongue is very elementary, and ought to be substituted for some ingenious invention which should be able to give vent to at least six coherent sentences at once." - Virginia Woolf

A quote from Thinkexist - an extensive collection of quotations. It requires free user registration if u browse more than 10 pages of quotes.

| posted by Ramki @ 10:17 PM

Top ten Firefox browser annoyances

Top ten Firefox browser annoyances, as seen by a Mozilla Suite user.
I agree with #4 and #9. Others are not at all bothering me.

| posted by Ramki @ 10:09 PM

He came, He saw, He clicked

A nice South Indian gallery. A gallery of  Delhi, Udaipur, Pushkar, Jodhpur etc. And some more of  Varanasi and Calcutta.

The photographer's favorites. Look at pictures from China and Cambodia, I like them too. Go to homepage.

And a very nice gallery from a popular photographer from Chennai.

| posted by Shankar B @ 2:28 PM

Friday, April 22, 2005

For each door we open, we find another closed door behind it! - Pythogoras.

Checkout the bigview -- an amazing website on three major cultures and their spiritual as well as technological advances.

The website explains Buddism, Greek philosophy and Chinese 'Tao-Te Ching' philosophies.

The translation of Lao-Tse's verses and interpretation of Chinese Ying-Yang theory (male-female theory: stating that at any point of time either male or female powers dominate an individual or the world in general) have been explained nicely.

Checkout Budda's resume and here's an excerpt from a commentary on his life "He sees a decrepit old man, a diseased person, a corpse being cremated, and a sadhu (=holy man, hermit). Siddhartha realizes that there is old age, sickness, and death, and that people ultimately have little control over their lives. The fourth sight provides the inspiration that leads to a dramatic change in his life."

However I liked the explaination of Greek philosophies the most. Each Greek philosopher's work has been beautifully explained. A greek philosopher Zeno's paradoxes on motion and illusion are as follows:

To evince that motion and change is an illusion, Zeno presented the following paradoxes:

1. The Racecourse. Imagine a racecourse of a given length, say 100m. The runner starts at the beginning of the racecourse and reaches the goal in a given time. In this example of motion, the runner traverses a series of units of distance, foot perhaps. Zeno holds, that each unit of distances can be divided into smaller distances, 1/2 foot, 1/4 foot, 1/8 foot and so on, until at last we have an infinite number of distances. How can the runner traverse an infinite number of distances in a finite amount of time?

2. Achilles and the Tortoise. The swift Achilles and the tortoise hold a race contest. Because Achilles is a sportsman, he gives the tortoise a head start. While the tortoise is already moving towards the goal, Achilles starts and pursues the tortoise. In a few seconds he reaches exactly the point, where the tortoise has been when Achilles started. However, during this time the tortoise has moved forward and it takes Achilles a certain amount of time to make up for this distance. Again, the tortoise has moved on in that time and Achilles needs another, smaller amount of time to make up for it. The distance between Achilles and the tortoise will always be divisible and, as in the case of the racecourse, no point can be reached before the previous point has been reached, thus Achilles can never overtake the tortoise.

3. The Arrow. Does the arrow move when the archer shoots it at the target? If there is a reality of space, the arrow must at all times occupy a particular position in space on its way to the target. But for an arrow to occupy a position in space that is equal to its length is precisely what is meant when one says that the arrow is at rest. Since the arrow must always occupy such a position on its trajectory which is equal to its length, the arrow must be always at rest. Therefore motion is an illusion.

We are all aware of Pythogoras theorem. The incommensurables theorem was based on this theorem and here is the explanation:

For Pythagoras, his theorem led at once to the discovery of incommensurables, which appeared to disprove his whole philosophy. In a right-angled isosceles triangle, the square on the hypotenuse is double of the square on either side.

Let us suppose each side is an inch long; then how long is the hypotenuse? Let us suppose its length is m/n inches. Then m²/n²=2. If m and n have a common factor, divide it out, then either m or n must be odd. Now m²=2n², therefore m² is even, therefore m is even, therefore n is odd. Suppose m=2p. Then 4p²=2n², therefore n²=2p² and therefore n is even, contra hyp. Therefore no fraction m/n will measure the hypotenuse. The above proof is substantially that in Euclid, Book X." (Bertrand Russel, History of Western Philosophy)

This shows how Pythagoras' proposition immediately raised a new mathematical problem, namely that of incommensurables. At his time the concept of irrational numbers was not known and it is uncertain how Pythagoras dealt with the problem. We may suspect that he was not too concerned about it. His religion, in absence of theological explanations, had found a way to blend the "mystery of the divine" with commonsense rational thought.

From Pythagoras we observe that an answer to a problem in science may give raise to new questions. For each door we open, we find another closed door behind it. Eventually these doors will be also be opened and reveal answers in a new dimension of thought. A sprawling tree of progressively complex knowledge evolves in such manner. This Hegelian recursion, which is in fact a characteristic of scientific thought, may or may not have been obvious to Pythagoras. In either way he stands at the beginning of it.

  Please explore the site fully as it has lots of interesting reads.

| posted by Ramki @ 5:43 PM

Mother earth v/s the wealthy

ExxonMobil, one of the world's largest oil companies, has embarked on a crusade to discredit and marginalize Global Warming and the wealth of scientific research supporting its existence. This Mother Jones article  offers a comprehensive look at the ways in which ExxonMobil has attempted to influence public opinion about Global Warming and downplay its environmental effects.

One of the links from this page points to an article which calims the following when talking about the Kyoto Protocol. " Absent from the debate is the discussion of human ingenuity and our ability to adapt to our environment; when the temperature increases, we turn on the air conditioner. More people die from cold temperatures than heat, ... "global warming could actually save lives". It is much more important to focus on innovative technology for energy sustainability and security."

The US, the largest emitter of greenhouse gasses, does not intend to ratify the Kyoto protocol, claiming that this will slow done industrial progress. How can you even say these things aloud let alone publish them ?!!!

PBS had this awesome program where they showed how the global climate is so tightly interlinked . Kids in carribean were reporting more and more asthma cases and this was tightly coupled to the rains in the Indian ocean. The rains/thunder would cause some wind patterns in the atlantic to change which would cause more sand to blow over from the Africa's to the America's. Also more sand because the rivers in the Africas are drying out due to ill-planned industrialization and higher temperatures. With this kind of knowledge and scientific ability we still are not able to do much because of the lack of political will and the political will seems to be more or less on a leash held tightly by the industry moguls.

| posted by Rajan @ 2:22 PM

Hibernation in Humans

What comes naturally to the Lazy Desi crowd is being researched upon at U. of Washington. Three researchers from Seattle found a significant reduction in metabolic rate and core body temperature of mice in the presence of 80 ppm of Hydrogen Sulphide. They believe that hibernation in higher mammals is also possible. Go straight to the Science magazine article or to BBC's coverage. The metabolic rate went down by 90% and core body temperature fell from 37C to 11C.

You will not be the hottest one in town, but you will live longer :-) An excerpt from BBC's coverage on how this can be used in space travel :

We have been looking at suspended animation to cut consumables - food and water - on a journey that could take five years or longer. That is important because missions are driven by the mass of the spacecraft.

"The other thing is trying to avoid psychological problems. You can have people awake, in which case you need to keep them entertained. That means more volume and potentially a very large mass.

"Or you avoid all that by putting them to sleep."

We are approaching the days of :

Dave Bowman: Open the pod bay doors, HAL.
HAL: I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that.

| posted by Shankar B @ 1:26 PM

Stupid IP Laws

A good article on FT about why the IP laws in their current form are stupid :


From the article :

It was observed that the US, with no significant property rights over unoriginal compilations of data, had a much larger database industry than Europe which already had significant “sweat of the brow” protection in some countries. Europe has strong rights, the US weak. The US is winning.

Did this lead the committee to wonder for a moment whether Europe should weaken its rights? No. Their response was that this showed we had to make the European rights much stronger. The closed-mindedness is remarkable. “That man eats only a little salad and looks slim. Clearly to look as good as him, we have to eat twice as much, and doughnuts too!”

| posted by Shankar B @ 1:20 PM

Self-confidence and determination

Can someone without both hands win a swimming race? Well, look at the video in the link below.


I really salute this boy for his determination and confidence.

| posted by Ramki @ 12:24 AM

Thursday, April 21, 2005

A Miracle Pill

Oh no, not that blue one.

A real molecule by the name From Fucitol (spelt differently from the miracle pill) is an alcohol that is derived from seaweed :

Although this sounds like what an undergraduate chemist might exclaim when their synthesis goes wrong, it's actually an alcohol, whose other names are L-fuc-ol or 1-deoxy-D-galactitol. It gets its wonderful trivial name from the fact that it is derived from the sugar fucose, which comes from a seaweed found in the North Atlantic called Bladderwrack whose latin name is Fucus vesiculosis. Interestingly, there are a few articles in the Journal of Biochemistry throughout 1997 concerning a kinase enzyme which acts on fucose. The creators of these articles were Japanese, and seemed to have missed the fact that fucose kinase should not be abbreviated as 'fuc-K'. Similarly, the E. coli K-12 Gene has other proteins that have been named Fuc-U and Fuc-R.

Seaweed named Bladderwrack - that's funny in itself.

For other silly good names of real molecules visit here . Those Brits sure have a whacky sense of humor.

| posted by Shankar B @ 9:10 AM

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

What Technology Holds For Us

What will the future be for us? Photoshoppers at Worth1000.com let their imagination run wild : some predictions are futuristic, some are outright funny. A sample of these images :

More entries from the contest here.

| posted by Shankar B @ 6:06 PM

Scare Him Stiff

Remember the recent theft of a laptop at Berkeley. The professor who owned that laptop makes an announcement in the class in such a threatening tone asking the student to return the laptop that it will scare the yet unidentified student to think his grade-school teacher is an angel :

Check this link.

The video from which the mp3 above is extracted is from a biology class. An interesting anecdote comparing Caffeine and Viagra at 45:00 mins on the clock is in the video. You can see the video of the threat after this anecdote. Enjoy!

| posted by Shankar B @ 5:26 PM

Nice site for readers

In every home there ought to be books that are friends. In every day, at least in every week, there ought to be some time which can be spent in cultivating their friendship...You need not be any one's enemy; but you need not be a friend with everybody. This is as true of books as of persons. For friendship some agreement in temperament is quite essential.

Lyman Abbott, 1922

This is the caption on the front page of ibiblio.org. Its a nice collection of stuff you can read. Links to project Gutenberg, other blogs and lots of other places you can find interesting material to read.

| posted by Rajan @ 2:07 PM

Indian Middle class

Are the Indians developing new tastes ?? Apparently Yes according to this NYT artlcle. Monica Bhide, the author of this article, is talking about an affluent "upper middle class" who are beneficiaries of the free market economy, and have a penchant for spending. "Live life King Size"  seems to be their Mantra. This section of the society is at the moment confined within city limits , but the rural India is also seeing glimpses of such developments. Are these changes for the better ? Do we (Indians)  want to become the credit card toting, nascar driving consumers or do we want to be 'traditional' and save up for our kids school/old age /emergencies? Do these developments widen the chasm between the haves and have nots ? I am not sure if consumerism translates into more money for the local industry and thus more empowerment of the average Indian.

Excerpt from this article :
"As large as India's middle class is - it is estimated to make up about a quarter of India's population of more than 1 billion - for most of the country the new dining options are out of reach. Some fear a copycat phenomenon, as new eating habits are emulated by those who can't afford them."

See the comments section for a local copy of the article.

| posted by Rajan @ 12:26 PM

Watching videos is always fun

Putfile is a media upload website. Lots of non-copyrighted videos have been uploaded by users and anybody can search for specific videos in it. The variety of videos you can find there is amazing.

My liking for Chinese and Japanese continues and it made me search for them there also. Here is what I found:

1. An amazing Japanese commercial
2. Soon this might happen in Bombay suburban trains too if they go high-tech!
3. And u thought that Chinese restaurants still treat you the traditional chinese way!
4. Japanese wassup!
5. A group of young girls are shown THE RING movie video.
6. Watch what you are doing!
7. Listen to this hilarious audio on a chinese takeaway prank.

The best ones are the following ones. Now I understand why Rajnikant movies are so popular in Japan. Actually they stole his stories and made commercials out of it!

Sega is a videogame creating company are following are their ads:

Eventhough these videos are non-copyrighted, thanks to putfile.com for hosting them. If you have lot of time to kill, you can give multitude of searches and dig lot more interesting videos from there!

| posted by Ramki @ 1:07 AM

Creative Bathrooms

A Netherland firm Bathroom-Mania is working on very creative toiletware design.


Checkout their other products here.

| posted by Ramki @ 12:15 AM

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Mathematics of love

We all have been wrongly told that love is something that cannot be measured. Or so, thinks John Gottman of University of Washington. In his research lab, aptly called "Love Lab", he conducts experiments that can be used to measure how much love you have left in your marriage. He can predict with 90% confidence whether your love for the beloved can last 3 years. He uses the emotions of the couples that walk in to his lab and has built extensive mathematical models to evaluate the love the couple has.


More info about his work on :


Essentially he is looking for those universal things that cross boundaries of cultures, countries, races and even time. Seems pretty interesting how some thing that we think is unscientific can still be evaluated scientifically and more surprisingly predicted. I am in the business of estimation but this is one thing I would dread to touch :-)

| posted by Shankar B @ 11:48 PM


Whatever u do in ur life, finally this is all there in it!
Please watch the following video to see what I mean! (Please copy the link and paste it in a new window. Otherwise it links to the homepage www.yonkis.com, which has certain links that may not be safe for work!) However, I thank them for the video.


Life is too short to be wasted. 
"Har pal yahan Jeebhar jiyo" - Live every moment of ur life.
So stop thinking more about what you have failed to do and start thinking about how happily you can live in the days remaining.

| posted by Ramki @ 8:40 PM

Live Webcam of Vatican

Yahoo News has a live webcam coverage of all the events at Vatican:

The video quality is extremely good. Video newsfeeds from Reuters and AP have been around for a while now. But these are prerecorded newscasts (mis)interpreted by the so called news reporters and manipulated by the so called Governments and corporates. But live webcams during popular events add a new dimension to it. You can watch the events happening live, without any dilution/interpretation from the news reporters.

If a reliable news gathering website like Yahoo or Google sets up such webcams with 24x7 news feeds, a common viewer like me can report some quality news(?) about the same, provided that I have all the time in the world!

| posted by Ramki @ 7:25 PM

Monday, April 18, 2005

Journey to Plant earth - PBS

A very nice program which impresses on us that any of our economic endaevors should be qualified by a deep and scientific analysis of the environmental dimension of our actions. This was written in bold red in the Milenium Assessment Survey .

With the strongest nation in the world being led by a person who is more focussed on enriching financial supporters of his party how much can we expect? Who should be driving this ? Shouldn't the corporate world realize that this is not just a conscientous thing to do but the logically/economically the right thing to do.

| posted by Rajan @ 9:25 PM

Optical Illusions

Check out some awesome optical illusions at http://www.michaelbach.de/ot/

I like


The last one specifically is amazing.

Read the accompanying text if you want to make sense out of the illusion or to find out what to expect.

| posted by Shankar B @ 7:37 PM

Happiness and Health

Are we happy because we are healthy? Are we healthy because we are happy? How do you find out what is the cause and what is the effect?

Check this Wired article for a recent research study from University College London about this topic.

New Scientist also has a writeup.

| posted by Shankar B @ 12:03 PM

WiMAX in India

" Wavesat, a leading developer of WiMAX silicon chips, C-DOT, the premier telecom technology centre of the Government of India and the Communications Research Centre Canada (CRC), the Government of Canada's primary research facility into telecommunications technologies, today announced they have begun working together to build a cost effective fixed wireless access solution, based on IEEE 802.16-2004 standard suitable for long reach broadband communication solutions. "
Whats encouraging about this article on WiMAX is the involvment of an Indian institution in its development. It would be awesome if India can get broadband in its rural parts with less investment.

| posted by Rajan @ 11:10 AM

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Eyes wide open

Small cute eyes are a distinctive feature of Chinese and Japanese.
A japanese company has comeup with a makeup kit which allows them to fold their eyelids and glue it together so that more of the eye is visible. Apparantly this makeup kit has become very popular in Japan.
Watch the flash video explaining this makeup here.
Can't believe they are actually doing it!

P.S: My spoilt lazy mind is not thinking about any other application for this kit.

| posted by Ramki @ 11:24 PM

Corporate Whores

The future of advertising as seen by photoshoppers :


Very funny.

| posted by Shankar B @ 10:24 PM

Faculty crunch at IITs

An article from "Slimes of India" about the nature of the faculty crunch at IITs and other Indian institutions :


From the article :

Recently, the director of a leading management institute, addressing the passing-out batch, asked two questions. The first one was: "How many of you would be willing to send your children to this institute?" Most of the batch raised their hands. The next question was: "How many of you would be willing to come back as a teacher to this place?" Not one hand went up.

| posted by Shankar B @ 10:04 AM

An inspiring story

I am not too sure if it is a real story or not, but an inspiring story about how a lone man planted trees and changed the landscape of Provence. Originally in French, the story here is a translation :


| posted by Shankar B @ 9:58 AM

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Its about time I patent my life in earth

You might have read about crazy and absurd patents granted by the US and European Patent offices.
Following are two good sites listing the most impractical/illlogical patents granted:

 But the best ones are the following patents by Arthur Paul Pedrick - an extremely prolific British inventor in the 1960's. Bursting with ideas, he clearly felt that he had to share them with the world, without bothering about the practicality of the ideas.

Some good patents are:
1.UK Patent No. GB1047735. Piping snow and ice balls from Antarctica to irrigate the Australian desert. The patent suggests this will solve the world famine problem. The snowballs accelerate under gravity from 10,000 feet (3,000m) high on the Antarctic plateau, reaching 500 miles per hour (800km/hr) at sea level. They are then pumped naturally through the pipelines, by the Coriolis force due to the Earth's rotation.

Patent drawing: GB1047735

2. UK Patent No. GB1361962. Pedrick's ultimate deterrent to solve the Cold War. The UN places three nuclear bombs on earth-orbiting satellites. If these detect that one of the superpowers has been nuked by one of the others, they are automatically programmed to drop on Washington, Moscow and Peking, ensuring the mutual destruction of all three.
Patent drawing: GB1361962

3.UK Patent No. GB1453920. A solution to a "Towering Inferno" fire in a skyscraper. Rolled-up fire curtains are provided at roof level. When a fire starts, the curtains are released to envelope the sides of the building and extinguish the fire by suffocating it. So that the occupants of the building can breathe, they must go to certain rooms, where apertures in the fire curtains allow air to get in.
Patent drawing: GB1453920

4. UK Patent No. GB1204648. Irrigating the Sahara Desert by piping fresh water from the mouth of the Amazon. The patent also suggests an alternative to the Channel Tunnel between England and France. Both use a semi-buoyant tube submerged 200 feet below the sea surface. Patent drawing: GB1204648

Brimming with bleeding edge technology ideas??? Well... I got that feeling too. Please post ur comments patentable ideas.

| posted by Ramki @ 3:03 AM

A nose that can see is worth two that sniff.

I have seen people sniffing in tobacco, ultra strong cold relief balms. But not this! Maybe you can try it if you are too bored and too lazy to do anything adventurous outdoor. ;-)

Came across the funny quote in the subject line somewhere and queried the mother of all search engines (for a change) on sniffing, and it revealed some more good quotes:

| posted by Ramki @ 12:54 AM

Friday, April 15, 2005

India's statement to WIPO

Following is what India thinks about Intellectual Property Laws. From,


Statement by India at the Inter-Sessional Intergovernmental Meeting on a Development Agenda For WIPO, April 11-13, 2005

Mr. Chairman,

Let me congratulate you on your election to Chair this very important meeting. This is, indeed, a special day for the organization. It is the first time that a Development Agenda has been taken up for consideration in WIPO. We have high expectations that the outcome of this session of the IIM and its subsequent sessions will lead to mainnstreaming the development dimension into all areas of WIPO's work and activities. We are confident that under your able guidance, we will be able to achieve agreement on the realisation of this very important objective - an objective shared by all member states of WIPO, developed or developing. You can count on our delegation's full support in reaching this goal.

I also take this opportunity to congratulate the Group of Friends of Development for introducing the proposal for a Development Agenda, first during the General Assemblies meeting in Semptember 2004 and now on a further elaboration of the issues in the Document WO/GA/31/14. We fully support the porposal, in particular, the establishment of a WIPO Evaluation and Research Office (WERO). We note that the issues discussed in their proposal are not exhaustive. They, however, cover the most important areas relating to WIPO's mandate and governance, norm setting, technical cooperation and transfer of technology. The Elaboration of Issues paper of the Group constitutes an excellent starting point for establishing a "development agenda" in WIPO. This would strengthen the organisation and ensure that its governance structure is more inclusive, transparent, and democratic, and, most important, that it is truly a member-driven organisation.

As pointed out in the two documents presented by the Group of Friends of Development, we agree that much more needs to be done in WIPO to reach the effective results that meet the challenges of development. "Development", in WIPO's terminology means increasing a developing country's capacity to provide protection to the owners of intellectual property rights. This is quite a the opposite of what developing countries understand when they refer to the 'development dimension'. The document presented by the Group of Friends of Development corrects this misconception - that development dimension means technical assistance.

The real "development" imperative is ensuring that the interest of Intellectual Property owners is not secured at the expense of the users of IP, of consumers at large, and of public policy in general. The proposal therefore seeks to incorporate int international IP law and practice, what developing countries have been demanding since TRIPS was forced on them in 1994.

The primary rationale for Intellectual Property protection is, first and foremost, to promote societal development by encouraging technological innovation. The legal monopoly granted to IP owners is an exceptional departure from the general principle of competitive markets as the best guarantee for securing the interest of society. The rationale for the exception is not that extraction of monopoly profits by the innovator is, of and in itself, good for society and so needs to be promoted. Rather, that properly controlled, such a monopoly, by providing an incentive for innovation, might produce sufficient benefits for society to compensate for the immediate loss to consumers as a result of the existence of a monopoly market instead of a competitivemarket. Monopoly rights, then, granted to IP holders is a special incentive that needs to be carefully calibrated by each country, in the light of its own circumstances, taking into account the overall costs and benefits of such protection.

Should the rationale for a monopoly be absent, as in the case of cross-border rights involving developed and developing countries, the only justification for the grant of a monopoly is a contractual obligation, such as the TRIPS agreement, and nothing more. In such a situation it makes little sense for one party, especially the weaker party, to agree to assume greater obligations than he is contractually bound to accept. This, in short, is what the developed countries have sought to do so far in the context of WIPO. The message of the Development Agenda is clear: no longer are developing countries prepared to accept this approach, or continuation of the status quo.

Even in a developed country, where the monopoly profits of the domestic IP rights holders are recycled through the economy and so benefit the public in varying degrees, there is continuing debate on the equity and fairness of such protection, with some even questioning its claimed social benefits. Given the total absence of any mandatory cross-border resource transfers or welfare payments, and the absence of any significant domestic recycling of the monopoly profits of foreign IP rights holders, the case for strong IP protection in developing countries is without any economic basis. Harmonization of IP laws across countries with asymmetric distribution of IP assets is, clearly, intended to serve the interest of rent seekers in developed countries rather than that of the public in developing countries.

Neither intellectual property protection, nor the harmonization of intellectual property laws leading to higher protection standards in all countries irrespective of their level of development, can be an end in itself. For developing countries to benefit from providing IP protection to rights holders based in developed countries, there has to be some obligation on the part of developed countries to transfer and disseminate technologies to developing countries. Even though the intended beneficiary of IP protection is the public at large, the immediate beneficiaries are the IP rights holders, the vast majority if whom are in developed countries. Absent an obligation on technology transfer, asymmetric IP rent flows would become a permanent feature, and the benefits of IP protection would forever elude consumers in developing countries. As pointed out in the proposal by the Group of Friends of Development, technology transfer should be a fundamental objective of the global intellectual property system. WIPO is recognised as a specialised agency with the responsibility for taking appropriate measures for undertaking this and we expect the "development agenda" to address this issue.

Technical assistance should be primarily directed towards impact assessment and enabling the developing countries, including LDCs to utilize the space within the prevailing arrangements in multilateral IP treaties and conventions.

The current emphasis of Technical Assistance on implementation and enforcement issues is misplaced. IP Law enforcement is embedded in the framework of all law enforcement in the individual countries. It is unrealistic, and even undesirable to expect that the enforcement of IP laws will be privileged over the enforcement of other laws in the country. Society faces a considerable challenge to effectively protect, and resolve disputes over, physical property. To expect that the police, the lawyers and the courts should dedicate a sizable part of society's enforcement resources for protecting intangible intellectual property, is unrealistic. Therefore, WIPO's current focus of Technical Assistance should be shifted to other areas such as development impact assessment. This would, inter alia, inspire civil society and others to play a supportive role, if the impact is seen to be favourable to the community.

In conclusion, it is important that developed countries and WIPO acknowledge that IP protection is an important policy instrument for developing countries, one that needs to be used carefully. While the claimed benefits of strong IP protection for developing countries are a matter of debate - and nearly always in the distant future - such protection invariably entails substatial real an immediate costs for these countries. In formulating its IP policy, therefore, each country needs to have sufficient flexibility so that the cost of IP protection does not outweigh the benefits. It is clearly in the interest of developing countries that WIPO recognizes this and formulates its work program accordingly - including its 'technical assistance' - and not limit its activities, as it currently does, to the blind promotion of increasingly higher levels of IP protection. This is where WIPO, as a specialized UN agency, can make a major impact - by truly incorporating the development dimension into its mission - in letter and in spirit, so that it is appropriately reflected in all its instruments. Certainly it will result in a revitalisation of WIPO as an organisation sensitive to integrating the development concerns of developing countries into all areas of its work.

| posted by Shankar B @ 6:16 PM

Thursday, April 14, 2005

The truth is out there!

I guess I found someone sharing similar traits of Lazy Desi's...

Sathiyon... we are not alone in this lazy world.

| posted by Ramki @ 9:29 PM

India: "Identity" slide show from Kansas Univ Indian Students Association.

Here is a slide show called "Identity" from Kansas University -
Indian Students Association:

Very nice pictures of India complemented with a very good background score.

| posted by Ramki @ 8:31 PM

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Tech News : $100 laptop for kids in developing countries

" Negroponte and some MIT colleagues are hard at work on a project
they hope will brighten the lives and prospects of hundreds of
millions of developing world kids. It's a grand idea and a daunting
challenge: to create rugged, internet- and multimedia-capable laptop
computers at a cost of $100 apiece.

That's right, the price of dinner for four at a moderately priced
Manhattan restaurant can buy a Third World kid what Negroponte
considers an essential tool for making it in the 21st century. The
laptops would be mass-produced in orders of no smaller than 1 million
units and bought by governments, which would distribute them. "

Very nice effort but riddled with all the problems possible. If it
comes to rural India, the logistics should be handled by NGOs or
corporate India. Is this do-able by one of us in India or do you need
to pull strings at processor companies and political circles ?
Is there something called a digital divide in India ? I know in Mumbai
even the kids in the slums have some awareness of computers. Although
their first attraction to the machine being the multimedia abilities.
I can imagine rural India having a real problem, but aren't institutes
like NIIT adding to the clutter of sign-boards even in the smallest of


| posted by Rajan @ 3:37 PM

Tech News : Intel Manufacturing in India

This news is very encouraging. If it takes off it will create a lot
more jobs than the software industry.

" BANGALORE, India — Intel Corp. will locate a production facility in
the southern Indian city of Chennai, according to a news report Monday
(April 11) quoting India's union minister for communications and
information technology, Dayanidhi Maran.

No further details about what will be manufactured at the proposed
plant, or whether it will be a fabrication facility, were available.
Past reports have assumed that an Indian manufacturing facility would
imply the construction of a wafer fab. Other observers have said this
is unlikely, and that a test and assembly facility for the chip
packaging is more likely.
According to a report in The Hindu of Chennai (formerly Madras), "All
multinational companies look for a very good deal and other
incentivespointing out that Intel had finalized its plans for a
manufacturing facility in Chennai." It quoted the minister as saying:
" They [Intel] are waiting for the special economic zone policy to be

The report said the minister had assured Intel Chairman Craig Barrett
when they met last year that the project would be put on a fast track

The minister was also quoted as saying that the federal government had
formed an interministerial task force from the telecoms, commerce and
finance ministers to coordinate all issues regarding the Nokia
manufacturing plant to make mobile devices announced last week.
Nokia's plant is also coming up in the state of Tamil Nadu, though not
in Chennia, the state capital.

Three more global telecom equipment manufacturers are shaping their
India plans, including Motorola and Nortel Networks, it quoted Maran
as saying."


| posted by Rajan @ 7:19 AM

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Higher Education in India

Following is an article from "The Hindu" dated 12th April 2005. The article is at :


Philip G. Altbach

To compete successfully in the knowledge-based economy of the 21st century, India needs enough universities that can support sophisticated research.

INDIA IS rushing headlong toward economic success and modernisation, counting on high-tech industries such as information technology and biotechnology to propel the nation to prosperity. India's recent announcement that it would no longer produce unlicensed inexpensive generic pharmaceuticals bowed to the realities of the World Trade Organisation while at the same time challenging the domestic drug industry to compete with the multinational firms. Unfortunately, its weak higher education sector constitutes the Achilles' Heel of this strategy. Its systematic disinvestment in higher education in recent years has yieldedneither world-class research nor very many highly trained scholars, scientists, or managers to sustain high-tech development.

India's main competitors — especially China but also Singapore, Taiwan, and South Korea — are investing in large and differentiated higher education systems. They are providing access to large numbers of students at the bottom of the academic system while at the same time building some research-based universities that are able to compete with the world's best institutions. The recent London Times Higher Education Supplement ranking of the world's top 200 universities included three in China, three in Hong Kong, three in South Korea, one in Taiwan, and one in India (an Indian Institute of Technology at number 41— the specific campus was not specified). These countries are positioning themselves for leadership in the knowledge-based economies of the coming era.

There was a time when countries could achieve economic success with cheap labour and low-tech manufacturing. Low wages still help, but contemporary large-scale development requires a sophisticated and at least partly knowledge-based economy. India has chosen that path, but will find a major stumbling block in its university system.

India has significant advantages in the 21st century knowledge race. It has a large higher education sector — the third largest in the world in student numbers, after China and the United States. It uses English as a primary language of higher education and research. It has a long academic tradition. Academic freedom is respected. There are a small number of high quality institutions, departments, and centres that can form the basis of quality sector in higher education. The fact that the States, rather than the Central Government, exercise major responsibility for higher education creates a rather cumbersome structure, but the system allows for a variety of policies and approaches.

Yet the weaknesses far outweigh the strengths. India educates approximately 10 per cent of its young people in higher education compared with more than half in the major industrialised countries and 15 per cent in China. Almost all of the world's academic systems resemble a pyramid, with a small high quality tier at the top and a massive sector at the bottom. India has a tiny top tier. None of its universities occupies a solid position at the top. A few of the best universities have some excellent departments and centres, and there is a small number of outstanding undergraduate colleges. The University Grants Commission's recent major support of five universities to build on their recognised strength is a step toward recognising a differentiated academic system — and fostering excellence. At present, the world-class institutions are mainly limited to the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) and perhaps a few others such as the All India Institute of Medical Sciences and the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research. These institutions, combined, enrol well under 1 per cent of the student population.

India's colleges and universities, with just a few exceptions, have become large, under-funded, ungovernable institutions. At many of them, politics has intruded into campus life, influencing academic appointments and decisions across levels. Under-investment in libraries, information technology, laboratories, and classrooms makes it very difficult to provide top-quality instruction or engage in cutting-edge research.

The rise in the number of part-time teachers and the freeze on new full-time appointments in many places have affected morale in the academic profession. The lack of accountability means that teaching and research performance is seldom measured. The system provides few incentives to perform. Bureaucratic inertia hampers change. Student unrest and occasional faculty agitation disrupt operations. Nevertheless, with a semblance of normality, faculty administrators are able to provide teaching, coordinate examinations, and award degrees.

Even the small top tier of higher education faces serious problems. Many IIT graduates, well trained in technology, have chosen not to contribute their skills to the burgeoning technology sector in India. Perhaps half leave the country immediately upon graduation to pursue advanced study abroad — and most do not return. A stunning 86 per cent of students in science and technology fields from India who obtain degrees in the United States do not return home immediately following their study. Another significant group, of about 30 per cent, decides to earn MBAs in India because local salaries are higher — and are lost to science and technology. A corps of dedicated and able teachers work at the IITs and IIMs, but the lure of jobs abroad and in the private sector make it increasingly difficult to lure the best and brightest to the academic profession.

Few in India are thinking creatively about higher education. There is no field of higher education research. Those in government as well as academic leaders seem content to do the "same old thing." Academic institutions and systems have become large and complex. They need good data, careful analysis, and creative ideas. In China, more than two-dozen higher education research centres, and several government agencies are involved in higher education policy.

India has survived with an increasingly mediocre higher education system for decades. Now as India strives to compete in a globalised economy in areas that require highly trained professionals, the quality of higher education becomes increasingly important. So far, India's large educated population base and its reservoir of at least moderately well-trained university graduates have permitted the country to move ahead. But the competition is fierce. China in particular is heavily investing in improving its best universities with the aim of making a small group of them world class in the coming decade, and making a larger number internationally competitive research universities. Other Asian countries are also upgrading higher education with the aim of building world class-universities. Taiwan, which is a major designer and producer of IT hardware, is considering merging several of its top technological universities to create an "Asian MIT."

To compete successfully in the knowledge-based economy of the 21st century, India needs enough universities that not only produce bright graduates for export but can also support sophisticated research in a number of scientific and scholarly fields and produce at least some of the knowledge and technology needed for an expanding economy. How can India build a higher education system that will permit it to join developed economies? The newly emerging private sector in higher education cannot spearhead academic growth. Several of the well-endowed and effectively managed private institutions maintain reasonably high standards, although it is not clear that these institutions will be able to sustain themselves in the long run. They can help produce well-qualified graduates in such fields as management, but they cannot form the basis for comprehensive research universities. This sector lacks the resources to build the facilities required for quality instruction and research in the sciences. Nor can enough money be earned by providing instruction in the mainstream arts and sciences disciplines. Most of the private institutions do not focus on advanced training in the sciences.

Only public universities have the potential to be truly world class institutions. Institutions and programmes of national prominence have already been identified by the Government. But these institutions have not been adequately or consistently supported. The top institutions require sustained funding from public sources. Academic salaries must be high enough to attract excellent scientists and scholars. Fellowships and other grants should be available for bright students. An academic culture that is based on merit-based norms and competition for advancement and research funds is a necessary component, as is a judicious mix of autonomy to do creative research and accountability to ensure productivity. World class universities require world class professors and students — and a culture to sustain and stimulate them.

A clearly differentiated academic system has not been created in India — a system where there are some clearly identified institutions that receive significantly greater resources than other universities. One of the main reasons that the University of California at Berkeley is so good is that other California universities receive much less support. India's best universities require sustained state support — they require the recognition that they are indeed top institutions and deserve commensurate support. But they also require effective management and an ethos of an academic meritocracy. At present, the structures are not in place to permit building and sustaining top-quality programmes even if resources are provided.

A combination of specific conditions and resources are needed to create outstanding universities.

Sustained financial support, with an appropriate mix of accountability and autonomy.

The development of a clearly differentiated academic system — including private institutions — in which academic institutions have different missions, resources, and purposes.

Managerial reforms and the introduction of effective administration.

Truly merit-based hiring and promotion policies for the academic profession, and similarly rigorous and honest recruitment, selection, and instruction of students. India cannot build internationally recognised research-oriented universities overnight, but the country has the key elements in place to begin and sustain the process. India will need to create a dozen or more universities that can compete internationally to fully participate in the new world economy. Without these universities, India is destined to remain a scientific backwater.

(Philip G. Altbach is Monan professor of higher education and director of the Center for International Higher Education at Boston College.)

| posted by Shankar B @ 12:20 AM

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Economics : Two books

"Economic Theory" and "Wall Street" may be enigmatic to you, but these two books are out to change that a bit. These books are under Creative Commons License (and hence free as in beer) and seems to be good reads. One book is "Wall Street, How it Works and for Whom" written in 1997 and the title is self-explanatory. Another book is called "Economics in One Lesson" written in 1948. Very interesting book - there is one lesson in 8 pages and the applications of that lesson are laid out in the following 190 odd pages.

Wall Street book can be downloaded at :

and the economics book at :

If this is all too much load for you already, how about a joke :

Reaching the end of a job interview, the human resources person asked a young engineer fresh out of MIT what kind of salary he was looking for.

"In the neighborhood of $140,000 a year, depending on the benefits package."

"Well, what would you say to a package of five weeks vacation, 14 paid holidays, full medical and dental, company matching retirement fund to 50% of salary, and a company car leased every two years...say, a red Corvette?"

"Wow! Are you kidding?"

"Yeah, but you started it".

If you want to, substitute MIT engineer with Harvard MBA and giggle your way to glory, but remember that such honeypot deals are not uncommon to the Em-Bee-Ayes.

| posted by Shankar B @ 4:46 PM

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