Friday, March 31, 2006

Rural Computing

The fantastic information revolution is reaching rural india. Intel is taking the lead.

I was wondering, all these years, if any of the giant sloths like Infosys, etc will look "Inside" instead of "outside". Now you really have "Intel inside". They may start to teach the giant sloths a new way of making business work and still serve communities.

The computers may not be cheap, but they are considering a pay-per-use model.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

A Little plant that won't die

A coffee plant that does not die on NPR news.

don't banana plantains do the same? don't they self-propogate?

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Evolution and Religion

Greg Graffin's Ph.D. work suggests that
  • only 10% of the people think religion is incompatible with evolutionary biology.
  • Relgion is an adaptation. A part of Evolution. That religion was manufactured by humankind.
  • Naturalist worldview proposed by evolutionary biology is harmonious with religion on one condition: If the tenets of theology such as 'existence of soul' or 'consciousness' and such are rejected as unnecessary.
A longer write up is available here.

Graffin is a evolutionary Zoologist who received his PhD from Cornell in 1991.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Global warming?

Here is a small ad. nicely done.


some say the irreversible consequences are 30 years away.

30 years?

that won't affect me.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Warming up of Lake Tanganyika

An article on effects of a warming planet on its various communities has recently appeared on This is part of a series of reports on the effect of global warming on the various communities, jointly produced by NPR's 'Living on Earth', U.C. Berekely graduate School of Journalism and
KALALANGABO, Tanzania: Tanganyika is the longest freshwater lake in the world, the second deepest and the second most biologically diverse. It is also getting warmer.

Along the shores of Lake Tanganyika, there are two kinds of fishermen: the ones who fish for an abundant nocturnal sardine called dagaa and the ones who don't. ... For generations, the dagaa were so plentiful, it never occurred to anyone the abundance wouldn't last. ... But now, Seph said, the catch is down. All along the Tanganyika basin, from Bujumbura in Burundi to Kalemie in the Congo to Mpulungu in Zambia, fishermen like Seph are beginning to say their lake is changing and with it, their way of life.
Whenever any discussion of global warming is brought up, the picture soon gets cluttered with indications to apocalyptic melting of arctic glaciers and flooding of mainlands in the future. People are now reminded that there could a slower and continuous destruction that is happening right now, as we speak, elsewhere farther from the artics, where communities have lived and thrived. It is time we took note.

Friday, March 24, 2006


Signs and Science

It was believed for a long time that Eggs can be made to stand on its end only during equinoxes. A superstitious belief rooted in the scientific fact that earths pole is tilted just the right amount so the day and nights are equal in length. Science has destroyed that belief and down goes one fond tradition of people in China; placing eggs on its end during equinoxes.

One Wayne Osborn, in Central Michigan University, has a tabulation of eggs standing on its end. The experiments ran for 3 whole months including the autumnal equinox on the 22nd of September.

All this because one equinox just passed us on March 22. This is supposed to be the official start of Spring! As Jon said: It bitter cold out here. If you see a ground hog, make sure to punch him in the face.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Delphi unveiled?

A NY Times article discusses the long time relation between religion and science: One more example, down this way, has been the revelations of Delphi Oracle and the stories related to it. A part of it has now been uncovered.
The recent discoveries of a renegade four-member team of scientists illustrate ... the truth behind the Oracle of Delphi's legendary powers, showing how the most influential figure of ancient Greece prepared for ecstatic union with Apollo. The scientists, ... discovered tons of bituminous limestone down below, its layers rich in intoxicating gases.

They also found two faults that crisscross beneath the shrine to form a geologic pathway to the surface. They even measured traces of intoxicants still bubbling up today. This and other evidence suggest that the Oracle inhaled a mist of potent gases that could promote trancelike states and aloof euphoria, helping send her into mystic ecstasies.
However, the euphoria did not extend all the way to other mysticisms.
They claimed no insights into how her utterances stood for ages as monuments of wisdom. They had no explanation for how the priestess inspired Socrates, or the seeming reliability of her visionary pronouncements.

If Science would encroach into realm of mystics, demystifying the myths, then mystic maybe forced to work harder creating new ones. Will Mystics catch up? How much does faith really depend on belief in Mysticism or Miracles?

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

As light leads us from Earth to the Sun

We may know our Sun (Our sun?) as it goes to sleep,
The sun went to sleep,
in a brilliant night dress,
That seemed to shorten,
as its light was seen less.
Until it had rested,
its weary warm head,
Within the cool blankets,
of moon glow, its bed!
-Linda A. Copp
or even as it is waking up
The sun in the morning.
Like a protective mother she rises and brings warmth to everything she touches.
Artists try to harness her beauty, scientists study to find her secrets.
Every being feels more alive when she is there sad when she is shrouded by a cloud.
She leaves each day with a promise to return that is never broken.
--By Bruce Patterson
But how well do we know our Sun? (this is probably the same problem every parent has with their child.) But keeping our discussion to the Sun; It is so scorching hot that we can't go near it, or peek into it to see what it is made of. This is not quite the truth.

Even as people reveal their true feelings when they become angry, any physical element shows its nature when it is very hot. The physics of it is: a hot body "feels" hot to us, and this heat comes to us as heat waves.

The light we see are waves of a particular length (or wavelength), and within them we see variations from blue (40 microns) to green to red (70 microns). One time when Newton passed white light through an optical prism, he found an image of a rainbow on the white screen nearby. This rainbow is the called "spectrum" of white light. You can also call it the signature of white light. Similarly when physical elements are heated at high temperatures, they begin to glow and emit waves, just like light, and that defines its own charateristic signature spectra. In the turn of the 19th century, enough progress had been made studying the signatures of Hydrogen and Helium at very high temperatures. (1000000 microns = 1 meter)

It was then possible to obtain signature of the heat waves coming from the sun and they began to show patterns that matched those of Hydrogen at high temperatures. This not only gave an idea of how hot the sun is (Its very hot!), but gave us an insight what is happening inside of it. The temperature on the sun is about 15 million degrees Celsius at its core.

At this temperature, as makers of the atom bomb also figured, many Hydrogen atoms can fuse into larger elements, thus producing a lot of energy. You see, the total mass of Hydrogen atoms is more than the mass of larger element produced. The remainder is released as energy in accordance with Einstein's relation that energy and mass are equivalent. We knew there was Hydrogen there and it was there at high temperatures. The patterns that matched were not exact, and what didn't match must have come from the heavier elements. You can also guess now that Sun has more hydrogen than of the heavier elements, as Hydrogen leaves heavier imprint on the signature of sun's heat waves than other elements.

So the theory was that Hydrogen fused to form Helium, and some Helium atoms further fused to form Carbon and so on. This theory is now backed by the signature patterns. We begin to appreciate how we have gone from visible light to make inference about the sun, which we can hardly look at. But, Sun is the Star of our solar system. Sun looks bright to us because it is so close to us. So the same story holds for all the stars that light up the night sky.

There are many unresolved questions. Will Hydrogen get exhausted? Remember some energy also comes from fusion of Helium atoms. How long will the sun last? How did it come to be in the first place. How old is it? There are many theories and each one was arrived at in its own peculiar way.

The sun went to sleep,
Within the cool blankets,
of moon glow, its bed!

Another day, Another time, Same blog.

Being on Cloud Nine »

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Harassment : Blog-a-thon

What do you do if you are not someone who has been harassed, or have not seen anyone be harassed? That is more a question to me than to you. I guess there might be something right there.

Most of these incidents that I have read have been harassment where the victim's response is muted and does not draw attention to the harassment when it happens. Perhaps, in a society where people take their perceived self-respect a little seriously, they continue to engage in this behavior not because they won't get referred to the police, but they won't even evoke a whisper. At least in all cases where the victim knows what is happening to them, and can raise the issue. I think that might have made the issue claimed to be present everywhere to be there on every mind too. Won't you think that would help?

Monday, March 06, 2006

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Science Update : India

Recent Developments

A group of Indian researchers, Pankaj Joshi of TIFR, his student Rituparna Goswami, and Parampreet Singh of Pennsylvania State University, have found and proposed an experimental test for the quantum theory of gravity. "Validating quantum gravity is a necessary step in having a unified theory of forces of nature" says Dr. Joshi. We may also remember the "Primes is in P" paper by Manindra Agrawal, Neeraj Kayal, and Nitin Saxena of IIT-Kanpur. Or, even the work of Abhas Mitra of BARC.

Science and Society:
  • Scientists have isolated anti-malarial compounds from Mussels, and these can be prepared without killing the Mussel. The discovery came from a team led by Dr Anil Chatterji of NIO. Shreya Life Sciences, a Mumbai based company has the right to commercial production of the compounds.
  • Even as progress is made in medicine, you would think a patient can't be blamed for not responding to treatment!

  • The Indian Budget for the Fiscal year 2006 has allocated 16% of GDP for endeavors in Science and Technology. As part of this, chosen universities will receive large research award to develop and nourish scientific programs.
  • President Kalam has exhorted the scientific community to engage in finding and developing alternative sources of energy on the National Science day. He envisions an energy independent India by 2030.
  • Hyderabad has now become the Genome Valley of India, one of the largest such bio-technology facility in the world. The facility will house among other things an international life sciences institute, a world-class animal resource facility and a biotech incubation centre for start-ups.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Journal access to Africa

The Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) has announced that it will give Africa free access to its journal archives. A total of 1.5 million pages and 250,000 articles will be available electronically to African scientists.

Science Key to Africa's Future: To drive home the point, Professor Calestous Juma, co-ordinator of the UN's Millennium Project Task Force on Science, Technology and Innovation says "If all the aid from Live Aid was spent on agricultural colleges rather than relief, Ethiopia would not be in difficulties today".

Open Access Movement has been around for years fighting the idea of mandatory paid subscriptions to access journal articles as it impedes the academic dissemination of ideas freely among the scientific community through out the world.

some outlets for free public access to journals are PLOS, arXiv, and there are many more.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Lyrical Limerical

friends gods send

walk with your hand in mine
this way brotherhood will gain
in a future so bright
country can take pride
this journey will not be in vain

air eclair

i don't remember jack abramoff
hey journalist, you back off!
I tell you, in honest!
once there 'was' a forest!
no clean air, childrens cough

havana marijuana

marijuana keeps your pain at bay
medical of course, didn't I say?
no side effects, no no
not until well, you know
an elegy comes to me from far away

kicks of limericks

hey you, this is all just limericks
write some and get some kicks
out of it. you care?
have time to spare?
write yours on glossy lipsticks

Harassment. Will it stop with us?

Annie's post, Streets, stories, strategies, for a woman on the streets of bombay: filled with anecdotes, tips for survival, what to expect, things that will make you cringe. Another post that is worth reading more than once. A post that appeared much earlier on the same issue : On being a female body by Charukesi. Reading all this also reminded me of an op-ed: Rape is Murder by Vir Sanghvi on the Delhi rape incidents.

On a follow up note, there is a Blog-a-thon on the issue of street harassment, you can blog your thoughts, experiences, and comments on March 7th. You can have your intention to blog announced early by emailing to blurtblanknoise [AT] before the coming Monday (6th March).

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Scian Melt 14

Science and Society

Sunil has his blog on Medical developments including Avian flu in China and how it is being managed. Sowmya has an elaborate blog on the role of Radon in your lives and on Dishwashers and Suds, a blog exemplifying 'scientific curiosity as part of our lifestyle'. I have been making some attempts to find out the 'how of supercooling' by looking at two of its examples: Hand Warmers and Clouds.

Sujatha has written a vey nice blog on Caserean Sections in India: analyzing from both the mother's perspective as well as from the doctor's perspective. Gurcharan Das argues for how burgeoning prospects for education in India can help position it as a powerful knowledge economy. On a related note, Sujatha narrates the story of Noor: a foot-soldier on war against illiteracy.

from small to big:

Aswin gives us the deal with the Big Bang theory. On the smaller end, Selva has blogged on Quantum Computing and Cryptography and how you can hide your secrets.


Abhinandan carries a discussion on the recent denial of visa to Indian scientists by US immigration authorities, its consequences, and the barriers to science caused. At the same time, India isn't doing too badly for herself. Amardeep blogs on India's new digital library project in progress, much like Gutenberg. Even as we progress in our sciences, our failings in leaving Indian women in tatters is a cause of woe and concern: from Uma of the other india blog and Peppy of the perpetualmisfit blog. This is not all, as Dilip blogs on two cases of rape and homicide that have come before the justice system only to slip away without notice. But then Dr. Indumathi bridges both issues: A scientist with a social conscience (link courtesy: Selva). Talking of integrity, Prashant blogs on Why are Indian politicians this corrupt? claiming they aren't quite as corrupt as they are just effectively playing a game of survival in a system whose rules are larger than themselves.

Link to Previous Scian Melts can be found on the announcement blog. For future nominations write to melt [at] thescian [dot] com

Charon's Cousins

Observations with the Hubble Space Telescope from May of last year show two tiny dots revolving around the same center of gravity as the ninth planet (Pluto) and its largest moon, Charon.
(yes, even the moons have a name!)
"We used Hubble's exceptional resolution to peer close to Pluto and pick out two small moons that had eluded detection for more than 75 years," says Hal Weaver, an astrophysicist at Johns Hopkins University and the discovery team leader.
Based on their brightness--and assuming that their surfaces are about as reflective as Charon's--the scientists believe the two moons are roughly 38 miles and 29 miles in diameter.
Given that they share Pluto's distance from the sun--roughly three billion miles--but are 4,000 times fainter, it is not surprising that the satellites eluded detection until now, the researchers say.
--Thats how large the distances are. If you were looking at your palm, and see the wedges between the palm lines, imagine a palm sitting there with its own palm lines, and do this a 1000 times, thats how small the moons appear when we place the distance between the Sun and Pluto into perspective. Hubble telescope is quite a remakable window to outside of our world.

--How do I know what a solar system is? Is "my world" all that I can see? What if the tenth planet has already given its loyalty to another Sun or a Star?

--From the Scientific American article