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.