Wednesday, November 25, 2015


The three purposes of the University?--To provide sex for the students, sports for the alumni, and parking for the faculty.
-- Clark Kerr, Chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley (1952-57)

Source: Wikipedia, Quote Investigator.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Blackmail of a gay student at IISc

Orinam, an LGBT support and advocacy website, carried a report two days ago -- “To the person who wrote the note”: Bengaluru student responds to a homophobic extortion attempt -- on a shocking case of blackmail of a gay student at IISc. When his extortion attempts failed, the perpetrator carried out his threat by outing the student (Tushar) in a vicious note posted on a public notice board.

Then, this happened:

Thus outed to the entire hostel, Tushar, who had only been out to his closest friends until then, chose to respond with the following note on the same notice board [you should go read it now].

Tushar, who describes himself as ‘shy and a bit introverted’ said he felt relieved upon writing the note. Classmates and fellow-hostelites came up to him to express their support. In the weeks since the incident, he, with the support of friends, lodged a complaint with the university administration. At the time of publishing this note, he is still awaiting formal action in response.

I hope the "formal action" will be firm and stern. For now, I just want to convey my sympathies to Tushar (whom I don't know), and to applaud his extraordinary courage.

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This story has also been picked up by Daily O.

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Here's a 2011 post by a gay student at IIT-B. Here's another from IIT-M.

Kwame Anthony Appiah on Adultery

From the Ethicist feature in NYTimes Magazine: Should I Tell My Friend’s Husband That She’s Having an Affair?:

... [If] your assessment is accurate, you are in a deeply compromised moral situation — one in which the cure is worse than the condition. As is so often the case, there’s no way out from under the net. It’s a distressing bind. Moral narcissism is about being more concerned with the cleanliness of your hands than with how your conduct shapes the lives around you. Your sensitivity to this pitfall is commendable. So is the fact that what you’re doing — though the least bad option — bothers you. Life is messy, and the best outcome often has something deplorable about it. I suppose it’s all in the title of the great Bronzino painting that one of Iris Murdoch’s characters found so captivating: ‘‘Venus, Cupid, Folly and Time.’’ If the day comes when Peter asks you why you helped Jane conceal her betrayal, you can tell him the truth. He won’t forgive. But he just may understand.

When Sir C.V. Raman wanted to learn Russian …

… he turned to Mr. K. Narayan, a graduate from our Department at IISc waiting to join the Bhilai Steel Plant that was being created [the story is from 1958]. Nayantara Narayanan recounts an interesting episode, which plays out over a period of perhaps several months, in which the Nobel Laureate learns Russian to become fluent enough to give his Lenin Peace Prize lecture in that language.

When a 27-year-old metallurgist taught Nobel laureate CV Raman how to speak Russian:

Raman asked Narayan to come to his house every morning before starting work. The house, a bungalow named Panchavati surrounded by a sprawling mango grove in the heart of Malleswaram, was walking distance from where Narayan himself lived. And so the lessons began. Narayan used [the Russian language primer by Nina Potapova] to teach Raman basic Russian.

“He evinced a very keen interest, like a Gurukul student of old. Every day he would do his homework and repeat his lessons back to me,” said Narayan. Even though Raman was 60 years old and Narayan only 27, the older man liked to maintain the teacher-student relationship. As payment for the lessons, Narayan would get to sit down with Raman and his wife for a breakfast of hot coffee and idlis.

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[Cross-posted from our department's website]

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Imprint India

The IMPRINT India initiative website has quite a bit of information about its focus domains each of which is subdivided into several sub-themes [Disclosure: I am a part of the team for the Advanced Materials domain, led by Prof. Monica Katiyar and Prof. A.K. Singh of IIT-K]. See also the this brochure.

The Overview is probably where you want to start. The text box on the image says the objective is accelerated research and innovation. Somewhere in the middle of the page, you will find this one-sentence summary of what (this phase of) the initiative is about:

IMPRINT is a first-of-its-kind Pan-IIT and IISc joint initiative to develop a (a) New Education Policy, and (b) Roadmap for Research to solve major engineering and technology challenges in selected domains needed by the country. [source]

The epilogue at the end of the page summarizes the initiative's current phase:

IMPRINT in its first phase is a policy developing initiative covering pedagogy, teaching, curriculum, technology-benchmarking and infrastructure readiness. IMPRINT is not meant only for IITs and IISc; it is a national movement providing an opportunity for the higher echelon institutes in India to integrate with all grass root level institutes, industry and organizations, mutually complement and deliver what the country demands and aspires. Policy is our immediate mandate; technology (products and processes) development and delivery will eventually follow.

Stuff Our Government Says: Global University Rankings Edition

A lot of hue and cry is raised about our higher education institutes not figuring in global ranking. The reason is not lack of high quality research work but the fact that in India, a large section of research work is done in vernacular languages, whereas global rankings only consider research in English
-- HRD Minister Smriti Irani [Source: The Indian Express]

Thursday, November 05, 2015


That's the name of a new initiative "to develop a roadmap for research to solve major engineering and technology challenges in ten technology domains relevant to India today." It was launched today by President Pranab Mukherjee. Here's the official press release. Here's another.

Coordinated nationally by IIT-K, IMPRINT India has identified ten themes including Healthcare and Advanced Materials, and the job of developing and coordinating a coherent research program in a given theme has been given to IISc or one of the IITs [More details at the IMPRINT India website at IIT-K].

While I have not been able to find any numbers in terms of funding for this initiative, a DNA story mentions a sum of Rs. 1000 Crores (over how many years? I don't know).

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

The Road to the Top 100

Anubhuti Vishnoi in The Economic Times: Centre to fund 10 institutes for next 3-4 years to help them find a place among top 100 on global academic rankings:

The Centre will soon pick 10 higher education institutes with potential and provide them with substantial funding over the next four years so that Indian institutes can finally storm into the top 100 on global academic rankings like QS and Times ... These 10 institutes, it is proposed, will be granted funds — ranging fromRs 100-500 crore for the next 3-4 years so that they can create world class research infrastructure and laboratories. The end target is getting Indian institutes among global top 100.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Ranjit Chandra

Via Shannon Palus in Retraction Watch (After court verdict, BMJ retracts 26-year-old paper), we get links to two devastating BMJ articles:

  1. Editorial: A major failure of scientific governance.

  2. A feature by Caroline White: Ranjit Chandra: how reputation bamboozled the scientific community

See also: the Ranjit Chandra archive in the blog of the late Seth Roberts.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Parenting HowTo

SMBC offers a tip. Not likely to work on kids over 4, though.

Monday, September 07, 2015

Scientific Papers with 1000+ Authors

Robert Lee Hotz has a great article in WSJ on the phenomenon of papers with long author lists (in a recent case, this list is over 24 pages long -- in fine print!). His articlle has a plot that shows that 2012 saw over 200 papers with 1000+ authors!

Hotz also goes on to discuss some of the pranks played by scientists:

Michigan State University mathematician Jack Hetherington published a paper in 1975 on low temperature physics in Physical Review Letters with F.D.C. Willard. His colleagues only discovered that his co-author was a siamese cat several years later when Dr. Hetherington started handing out copies of the paper signed with a paw print.

In the same spirit, Shalosh B. Ekhad at Rutgers University so far has published 32 peer-reviewed papers in scientific journals with his co-author Doron Zeilberger. It turns out that Shalosh B. Ekhad is Hebrew for the model number of a personal computer used by Dr. Zeilberger. “The computer helps so much and so often,” Dr. Zeilberger said.

Not everyone takes such pranks lightly.

Immunologist Polly Matzinger at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases named her dog, Galadriel Mirkwood, as a co-author on a paper she submitted to the Journal of Experimental Medicine. “What amazed me was that the paper went through the entire editorial process and nobody noticed,” Dr. Matzinger said. When the journal editor realized he had published work crediting an Afghan hound, he was furious, she recalled.

Physicists may be more open-minded. Sir Andre Geim, winner of the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics, credited H.A.M.S. ter Tisha as his co-author of a 2001 paper published in the journal Physica B. Those journal editors didn’t bat an eye when his co-author was unmasked as a pet hamster. “Not a harmful joke,” said Physica editor Reyer Jochemsen at the Leiden University in the Netherlands.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Maria Mitchell's Fight for Equal Pay

Becky Ferreirain Motherboard: How a Victorian Astronomer Fought the Gender Pay Gap, and Won:

... [One] of the most interesting fights [Maria] Mitchell [the first professional female astronomer in American history] took up during her life was over an issue that remains incredibly relevant: equal pay for equal work. Given that the gender wage gap still is a pervasive problem in STEM fields, it’s worth revisiting the utterly badass way in which Mitchell approached some 145 years ago.

Phyllis Rostykus on Women Scientists in Films

In her Slate article -- The Real Real Genius -- she says, "Thirty years ago, I helped inspire the lead female character in the classic nerd movie. I finally understand why some critics disliked its portrayal of women."

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Married Kama Sutra

Simon Rich and Farley Katz describe some of the positions from this yet-to-be-written classic.