Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Cultural diversity in a research lab

I thought that this discussion of cultural diversity in a research lab would be interesting to my readers in India and elsewhere who work in a lab full with people from all over the world. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Friday, April 23, 2010

Playing with numbers

I know, I know! I am not regular in keeping my blog updated any more. My attention is diverted with so many different things that I don't feel like writing at all. But when I saw these drawings of Svetlana Bogatyr through the blog of Tanya Khovanova whom I visit time after time, I just couldn't stop my self to share it with you all. I specially enjoyed her drawings with numbers. You can visit the site to explore all of them, but here are few examples as a eye candy.

Enjoy the rest of them at her site!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Indian Standard Time

Many of us know about this phrase "Indian Standard Time" which means late by an hour to any place. Although I was never late for my classes, but for any social event, reaching on time means you are greeted by workers arranging chairs and you have to sit there for long before anyone else will arrive. So when you read similar stories about other nations, how do you react?

Here is a story about Bolivian Time in BBC. It says:

"Bolivians are really irresponsible, there is no culture of punctuality here, they don't arrive on time to work or anywhere else, it seems they don't wear a watch on their wrist,"

"Sometimes my lecturers show up 15 minutes, sometimes half an hour late. And sometimes they don't even show up," one student says.

I generally smile and enjoy them as a tale of natural human behavior. Yes, I think unless you are forced to learn the habit of timeliness (after coming out of India, I am more or less on time everywhere, even for the play-dates of my kids :)), by nature you take things easy and so never on time. At some places, it also becomes the matter of prestige. To show that you are an important person and have tons of special engagements for the day (even if you were sitting in home and looking at the watch continuously waiting to that hour to pass so you can reach), you are supposed to arrive 1-2 hours late.

Since I moved out of India, things became much more simpler. In most cases my guests are on time and if they are late they make sure to call to tell that they are running late. Meetings and other official things are always on dot. I do enjoy this certainties about life, but some time I miss easy going attitude of Indians for time.

What do you think?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Genetics of Full Professors

I am reading "At the Helm: a Laboratory Navigator" by Kathy Barker. It makes a nice read for anyone who is planning a science career, specially an academic career, in the USA. It contains lots of useful as well as annoying advises for a new PI, but it also contains sharp witty quotes which are fun to read. I came across a funny section titled "The Genetics of Full Professors". Below is the image of the text from the Google books. So True!

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Story of India

I am watching 6 parts series by Michael Wood named "The Story of India".

It took me some time to get used to his way of narrating Indian history. Instead of showing only old buildings, temple and monuments, he shows people and raw India as it exists today for a traveler and try to correlates it with ancient world while narrating the history of India. Many a times, he just want to show images of India without any specific context as well since the movie is made for American and European audience. Once you get used to the fact, that he is trying to correlate old ancient world with the current world, you start enjoying it.

The interesting aspect of the series is that he try to correlate it other civilization(and migration) and don't mind going out of India to show important pieces of our history. The time line of our history is fascinating.

I don't know how the history is taught in today's schools in India, but I don't remember studying Indian history correlated with world's history. When you correlate your own history with the surrounding, you get more complete picture of your own existence, tradition, religion and culture.

Another positive aspect of the series is history of south India which run differently than history of north India in most part. History of south India is mostly ignored in history books (at least what I remember from our school books) and without it, history of modern India is incomplete.

Probably many of you might not have correlated the disappearance of Indus valley civilization with recent climate debate. Throughout the human history, civilizations moved, changed or disappeared for many reasons, and climate change was most important until recently.

Last 2 episodes were less impressive as recent history is more or less known, and I was expecting to get more information from the British side. but nevertheless, it was an interesting watch.

I will recommend it to watch to everyone to understand Indian history if you have any chance of getting the DVD. I got it from local public library so it should be widely available.

Friday, February 5, 2010

A survey on Indian bureaucratic system

Most of us, even though outside of India, are very much interested in the overall quality and efficiency of Indian Bureaucratic system, as we deal with it time after time directly or indirectly. And for those who are in India, there is definitely direct interest for its improvement.

Professor Prem Lal Joshi at University of Bahrain, Bahrain is conducting a survey to gauge the public mood. Here is the link for anyone who is interested in the system and improving its efficiency. I would be very much interested in seeing the positive suggestions (good critics) for improvement as I have no doubt that it lacks the very basic professional ethics. We need many more such studies on regular basis.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Snow is beautiful

Its bitter cold in north America, but there is a beauty in this cold weather. Yesterday, I went to see snow sculpture exhibition. Below are some of the examples with short description.

"5 seconds of life": This is my favorite. A frog is looking at an insect with the idea to attack.

"Chinese Opera": I like the details in this sculpture.


"Man Playing Guitar": This is not probably the exact title, but gives an idea.

Below are more pictures of sculptures which hardly need any explanation.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Climate Debate

This week's Nature has an interesting editorial on climate debate. Another important story of the week is about the Himalayan Glaciers. So what is the truth? How much to believe all the climate talks?

Like any other field of science, climate science, also has its own doubts and imperfections. This piece in Nature is worth reading.

Science is incremental. Any hot field of science goes through rigorous debate before it is settled. This process is important for validitation of any scientific hypothesis. As far as I understand, there is enough scientific data to support that climate changes is indeed taking place.

How much of this is human originated and how much of this change is based on other factors could be debatable. Also, the time line of these changes can also be debatable as most of these time-lines are based on simplified mathematical models. As more and more data will come, these things will be more clear. These imperfections only shows that this field of science is very active and needs more research and support from people and governments. This link is an excellent read for everyone.

Meanwhile, it doesn't hurt if we all try to do whatever we can to reduce our impact on the climate. I think the most positive aspect of climate debate is that it made people aware of their own imprints. I hope that all the prediction of melting of Himalayan Glaciers are wrong, but I also hope that people become more aware and use the natural resources wisely. This will be perfect outcome of imperfect scientific endeavor.

Friday, January 15, 2010

A lovely video on teaching and learning

if the above embedded link doesn't work, try this direct link. I would suggest to watch this to anyone who is involved in teaching directly or indirectly. Through the blog of midway, here is another video link which is exactly the same idea applied in different context.

With the advancement of technology, the role of teacher is also changing. In today's time, the teacher is not needed to transfer the information, but his role is to help students understand the material at the very least. I will not go into the other roles teacher can have such as motivating, inspiring and providing support network as these can hardly be defined or measured. And as the second video conveys it well, that technology can and should definitely replace bad teacher or absence of teacher. Good teachers can not be and should not be replaced and here technology can be used as an aid.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Niki in the Graden

I saw this exhibition couple of years ago, but it had profound impact on my imaginary.

Niki de Saint Phalle used not-only unusual technology for her work, but her biography is interesting as well. I am sharing some of the images of her work from my picture collection.

Knowing the world around

Sometime back I posted reading suggestions for 4-5 year old. This list was based on what my daughter and we liked to read on regular basis. I thought I will continue to post similar suggestions as she grows, but lately things have been more complicated. As she is growing, her interest is also changing.

Most of the books for young kids are animal based and convey interesting ideas. The very fact that most of these animal based stories are made up and not real started to trouble her lately and she wants to know what story is real and what is not. She now knows that animals can not talk and these very stories with animals are probably confusing for her age. Lately she wants real life books (whatever it means for 5 & 1/2 year old).

Also, she has access to very good library at her school and brings books whatever attracts her. Therefore, instead of making another list of books for 5-6 years old, I will write about some interesting books which we read recently.

During Christmas time, all she wanted is to have a bunny as a pet and asked her librarian to find a book about rabbits for her. She told the librarian that she don't want a story book with bunny, but a real book about bunny. And she got a very nice and interesting book titled: Rabbits today: A complete authoritative guide. This was an interesting book about history of rabbit's domestication, different breeds and how to care for pet in home. This was very helpful when we had her class bunny visiting us for the vacation.

Another interesting book she recently brought is Gargoyles, Girders & Glass Homes. This books is very interesting account of famous architects behind some of the world famous buildings and structures. These monuments are triumph to human history and reading about it makes an interesting enriching experiences not only for a 5 year old child but for anyone who cares about human endeavor. I highly recommend to it read if possible.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Freedom to make mistakes

Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.
- Mahatma Gandhi

I was remembering this quote while reading a review of "3 Idiots" at the blog of Sumedha. She makes an interesting alternate point as compared to the movie. The movie's message has to be clear, unambiguous and strong otherwise it can not reach to the masses. However, life is more complex than that. Most of the people really don't know what they want to become and choose the least confronting path which don't close too many options for them. Also, many a time people choose a particular path to satisfy their ego. This is an interesting observation and well worth a remark.

I will add an another alternate, which is a freedom to make mistake or alternatively freedom to change the path as we move along. Many a time as we move into a path, we realize that we don't enjoy it as much as we thought we would. Most of the stagnation in Indian academic institutes is because people don't have freedom to change the path if they realize that they don't enjoy teaching or research enough to continue in academia. They keep holding what they have, because to release your holding and pursue unknown needs a lot of courage. In the college where I was teaching, more than half of the staff lacked the passion needed for teaching and educating young minds, but they continue and politics inside the institute keep growing. The same goes to any other organizations as well.

My father quit his permanent semi-government job in 70s to start his law practice from scratch. He was a gold medalist in LLB and LLM, and his ambitions was growing. It was a risk as he already had a family to support, but it was worth a risk as he grew very tall in his profession because of his hard work, dedication and natural talent as a lawyer.

I had a permanent teaching job but after a few years in the job, I realized that I am feeling stagnant. Even though I enjoyed teaching very much but teaching similar courses year after year was kind of boring. I felt saturation and started looking for alternate. I found that I enjoy challenges of scientific research much more. And I gave up security of permanent government job to navigate the unknown world of science research. I am happy that I took the plunge. Not only I learned a lot about my field of science, I did some interesting stuff and along the way I met many interesting people which I would not have chance if I would have kept myself in the small town in India. It was a risk worth taken.

The freedom to grow and change the path as we grow is something which I consider as the biggest freedom which Indian society still have to gain by and large. In most cases it is economic decision which restrict people from taking risks. As Indian economy is growing and society is getting more economic freedom, people will have more options to choose and they will be more eager to take risk to find their passion. Signs are positive and I am hopeful.

PS: If you are a reader from San Jose, California, who visits this page regularly, would you like to talk to me via email?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Mathematics as a way of life

Long long time ago, there was a clever man somewhere living in a far far village. He had a donkey for his business which was very helpful. Now, as with anything else, this donkey was getting old and becoming more and more of a burden. Since it was not possible to get good money for an old donkey in the open market, this clever man thought about a plan.

He announced a lottery, everyone who was interested in getting the donkey will have to give 1 rupee each, and he will put all the names in a pot and pick one randomly. Whoever wins will get the donkey as prize. Many people thought it as a good investment and gave one rupee to the man.

On a set day, he put all the names who have given money to him in a pot and picked a name and gave the donkey to the winner. He had collected good enough money in this method and was very happy.

After a while, the donkey died, and the owner came to complain to the man. So what do you think this clever man did? Of course, he was an honest man, so he returned one rupee back to the owner.

I remembered this old story which I read many many years ago while reading an excellent post by Tanya Khovanova on her math blog. Check her out. She is very interesting to read.