Friday, September 30, 2005

Nano laptop?

We are getting more details about Nicholas Negroponte's " $100 windup-powered laptop targeted at children in developing nations". See a related C-Net presentation, that has absolutely gorgeous pictures of this laptop. It's truly wonderful, looks stylish, and has many thoughtful features built into it. At the end of it all, if the laptop does have all those features at such a low price, heck, I want one!

Having said that, I have to pour some cold water here. In all this excitement, we should not -- and I repeat, we should not -- lose sight of the bad aspects of Negroponte's initiative. I have already said why I think the 'laptop-for-poor-kids' meme is a bad one, and expanded on my views in my comments on Charu's post.

Finally, let me quote from the official website for this initiative:

How will these be marketed?

The idea is to distribute the machines through those ministries of education willing to adopt a policy of "One Laptop per Child." Initial discussions have been held with China, Brazil, Thailand, and Egypt. Additional countries will be selected for beta testing. Initial orders will be limited to a minimum of one million units (with appropriate financing).

Do you see, now? The idea is to sell millions of them to education ministers. If that's not stomach-churning, I have a soft-copy of 'Friday the 13th -- the 30th of September edition' that I am sure you will greatly enjoy.


'Amazing saga of the half-human Bat-Boy'

'Saddam Hussein’s efforts to clone dinosaurs for use as weapons of mass destruction'

'Two-headed alien babies'

'Miracle Baby: Love Overcomes Incredible Odds for Paralyzed Wife and Her Gentle Giant'

Here I was, reading Scott McLemee's scholarly take on the tabloid press; all the above 'headlines' are taken from this column, which has pointers to conferences and university courses devoted to tabloids. The whole thing was quite amusing in a charming -- or, should I say, academic? -- way, and I wasn't thinking in terms of blogging about it.

Then I found a link in McLemee's column to a tabloid 'news story' that hit close to home, and I thought, "Gee, the world (well, all five of you, anyways) ought to know!"   More importantly, enquiring minds in you would certainly want to know. Even more importantly, there are these dark, nether regions -- a counter culture, if you will -- called academia in which there is too much going on. The public, who fund most of our activities, really need to know. The student community, from whom we recruit the future members of this ashram, must know about these happenings, so that they can make an informed choice.

So, ladies and gentlemen, [can I have the drum roll, please ...] here is a great story that represents the best in tabloid journalism. We need more of such stories so, as a great commander-in-chief put it so eloquently, "bring'em on".

Oh, btw, don't forget to read McLemee's piece. ;-)

Thursday, September 29, 2005


If you visit a blog that shamelessly calls itself 'nanopolitan', you would expect (at least once in a while ;-) some nano stuff, right? I think meeting (nay, exceeding!) such customer expecations is easy as long as there are sites such as this that I can link to!

Before I forget, I got the link to that gallery from this fine blog. Oh, btw, I got the link to that blog from the Carnival of Tomorrow, the link to which I got from the Dynamist Blog, which I read regularly. Phew, that was some chain-linking!

Whether you visit all these other sites or not, do visit the gallery and get amazed!

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Road signs ...

Charu and Manish have posted some of the interesting road signs they have seen during their recent travels. The most interesting one that I remember is not a real sign at all; I found it in a Ponnappa cartoon in the Bangalore edition of ToI a few (perhaps six?) years ago.

In the cartoon, you see two guys from behind them; one of them is driving a car. Through the windshield, you also see a 'road' sign. It reads:

Caution: Road Ahead!

Business awards

Since we just talked about awards, here is another set of awards: the Economic Times Awards for corporate excellence.

What I want to highlight is that the Business Woman of the Year award went to ICICI Bank's trio of Lalita Gupte, Kalpana Morparia and Chanda Kochhar. This organization is probably unique among India's corporates in having three women in its top management team. If you included ICICI Ventures (headed by Renuka Ramnath), you have four big hitters in the ICICI team!

Oscars of Indian science

In the sciences, and at the international level, Nobel is the most prestigeous of all prizes and awards, because (a) it is a recognition from peers, (b) it is rare (just one award per year in each field), and (c) it comes with a big pot of money. India instituted last year its version of the Nobel -- the India Science Prize that comes with 2.5 million ruppes. This prize went to Prof. C.N.R. Rao in 2005.

Many awards retain a very high level of prestige even if they offer little or no money. To the winners of these awards, peer recognition and rarity count for much more than the money. In the Oscars, for example, money -- if there is any -- is completely irrelevant.

What are the equivalent of the Oscars in India in the fields of science and engineering? The Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prizes, awarded by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to scientists under 45. These prizes do come with some money; but, at about a hundred thousand rupees, it is not much (but nice!).

The SSB Prize winners for 2004 and 2005 received their awards in a New Delhi function today. Many of you probably saw the huge CSIR ads in today's newspapers, with photographs of all the Prize winners. Congratulations to them all!

The list of those who received their SSB Prizes today includes two colleagues from IISc:   Prof. S. Umapathy (2004) and Prof. S. Ramakrishnan (2005) in the Department of Inorganic and Physical Chemistry. The 2004 list also features a friend, Prof. Madan Rao from the Raman Research Institute, just a kilometer from IISc. Special contratulations to them!

Read this Current Science editorial (from 1998?) on awards for Indian scientists (particularly the young ones).

Next in the ladder of prestige would be the Fellowship of the science academies; but there are more per year in a given field (after all, there are three science academies!) than the Bhatnagars, and they are of a different character -- they are meant more as lifetime achievement awards.

There is one other set of awards that the media go gaga over: the 'Padma' awards. In spite of their rarity (every year, just a handful of scientists/engineers get it), they command a much lower level of prestige than the Fellowships or the Bhatnagar Prizes. This is because of two reasons: (a) politicians' involvement, and (b) some controversy or the other that erupts every year (usually in the fields of arts and sports).

Back to the Bhatnagar Prizes. In spite of the high prestige they carry with the scientists and engineers, it is a pity that the mainstream media missed covering the CSIR announcement of this year's awards a few weeks ago. Sigh! When I tried Google news this morning, I found only one site: Chennai Online. Now that the Prime Minister participated in the awards ceremony this morning, I am sure all the newspapers will carry it tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Jigsaw puzzles ...

... in aid of explaining what science is and how scientists do it. does.

Nice.   Very, very nice.

Monday, September 26, 2005

A controversial academic

Okay, let's see how best to approach this sensitive topic.

There is this US university with a School of Public Health that houses the Department of Exercise Science (you've got to love that name ... ;-) offering a very popular course taught by an adjunct professor to an enthusiastic and appreciative audience of undergraduate students for 17 years. At the beginning of this semester, he finds that his contract has not been renewed.

Apparent reason? His course was deemed a little too, um..., detailed by some (two?) students last year. The course he has been teaching all these years is on human sexuality.

Read a dry recounting -- in the best traditions of academia! -- of this episode in this Inside Higher Ed news story.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

A New Yorker cartoon

[...] this one, seemed to us, to perfectly capture the irony inherent in a communications phenomenon that permits so many to say so little about so much. [...]

So says Bob Mankoff, cartoon editor of The New Yorker. If you want to know what he is talking about, go to BusinessWeek's blog blogspotting, where I found this quote; the post also has two absolutely wonderful New Yorker cartoons.

Saturday, September 24, 2005


Let's face it: parenting is tough. Start with the arrival of an utterly helpless child that would turn even the strongest of hearts into jelly. Add to it the decline of joint family as an institution, and the rise of nuclear and two-income family as a modern-day reality for an ever-increasing number of couples. Throw in the guilt you feel because the child spends lots of time in others' care (creche, day-care centres, baby-sitters). Garnish it with an ever-decreasing family size -- when you choose to have only one child, you also get only one shot at parenting, so you'd better get it right. It makes your stomach churn, doesn't it?

A second, more lethal, source of pressure arises from the parents' fear of failure. You absolutely, certainly detest failure -- or, god forbid, being branded as a failure -- in the parenting department. The cost of failure can be pretty steep, indeed. The internet keeps reminding you (like it is going to do just now ;-) all the bad things that people say about parents in general, or about specific parents. You don't want your child to say or write nasty things about you; and, you certainly don't want some jerk to say awful things about you in the all too likely event that your child grows up to become a biography-worthy celebrity.

Given such an onerous and risky task, who do you turn to for guidance and advice? Parents, relatives, friends, books (written, of course, by experts), and, even strangers at toy shops.

There is just one small problem, though. Much of the advice you get conflicts with much else. Apparently, Joan Robinson once said to Amartya Sen, "whenever you make any generalization about India, the opposite is equally true". Any advice about parenting, it appears, is as valid as any other, including its opposite.

In the midst of conflicting advice, however, there is one constant view peddled by almost everyone: Parents have a strong influence on how the child turns out. But, do they?

In their wildly successful book Freakonomics, Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner have a chapter on what makes a perfect parent. They discuss a whole lot of research in the area of what really matters in a child's academic performance, and they conclude that the parents' influence is largely through what they already are when the child is born (their genes and their life situation); more importantly, what the parents do after the child is born counts for very little. To paraphrase Levitt and Dubner, by the time you buy that first book (or, start browsing through the one that came as a gift), it is too late!

Surprising? Yes. But, I also find it tremendously liberating.

A caveat is needed here; Levitt and Dubner's argument is restricted to the child's academics; here is a critique. Gladwell's article, on the other hand, seems to cover all of a child's personality.

IMHO, this chapter alone is worth the book's pretty steep price of about Rs. 500 (BTW, the book's other chapters are also terrific). However, the end-notes in Freakonomics include some references to online resources, including this wonderful 1998 New Yorker profile of Judith Rich Harris by Malcolm Gladwell, the author of two recent bestsellers Tipping Point and Blink.

Gladwell quotes the first few sentences in Harris's book The Nurture Assumption:

This book has two purposes: first, to dissuade you of the notion that a child's personality--what used to be called 'character'--is shaped or modified by the child's parents; and second, to give you an alternative view of how the child's personality is shaped.

What is the alternative view? Do read Gladwell's piece. [Like, right now!] You can pretty much feel many of your parenting-related neuroses evaporate into thin air even while you read his article.

Update: This post was mangled by blogger probably due to some mistake I made; while I fixed things, I also made some slight modifications to the original write up.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Physics and stuff ...

Over at Cosmic Variance, Sean Carroll has a post on how even (even !) Einstein had trouble getting one of his papers accepted for publication by the great physics journal Physical Review. This episode is recounted in an article in a recent issue of Physics Today.

John Tate, the journal's editor, sent Einstein the comments made by an anonymous referee. A pretty routine procedure, but one that so upset Einstein that he sent this letter to the editor:

Dear Sir,

We (Mr. Rosen and I) had sent you our manuscript for publication and had not authorized you to show it to specialists before it is printed. I see no reason to address the—in any case erroneous—comments of your anonymous expert. On the basis of this incident I prefer to publish the paper elsewhere.

Respectfully [...]

Read the Physics Today article to figure out who was on the right side of things in this dispute.

While we are on physics, Clifford Johnson, Sean's co-blogger at Cosmic Variance, has a post about a book on physics and comics (titled, appropriately, Physics and Superheroes) written by James Kakalios, a physics professor at the University of Minnesota; a longer article about the book is here. Do read Caolionn O'Connell's earlier post in which Kakalios says in his comments:

The sneaky aspect is that there's not a single inclined plane or pulley in sight. Rather, ALL the examples come from comic books, and in particular, those cases where they get their physics right.

Talk about sneaky and inclined planes! Just this afternoon, we were talking about all those horrendously complicated physics problems one encounters in the Joint Entrance Examination conducted by the IITs. You know, ... , the kind of problems wherein you are supposed to use a magnetic cylinder rolling down an inclined plane to calculate the age of the universe ... or something like that.

While still on physics, and all the hardships it imposed on us during our adolescent years, I think it is about time we indulged in a bit of shaudenfreude? Read this NYTimes article on how two groups are fighting over bragging rights to the discovery of the tenth planet in the Solar system.


If you google failure or miserable failure, the first link you get (at least as of now) is to the biography of George W. Bush at the White House site.

Googlebolg informs its readers that this strange (or, not so strange, according to some ;-) search result is due to a kind of cooperative prank called 'google bombing', in which "a number of webmasters use the phrases [failure] and [miserable failure] to describe and link to President Bush's website, thus pushing it to the top of searches for those phrases".

Two questions: should Google do something about it? (After all, it does have the capability to manually override the decisions made by its program). Also, does the fact that it is not doing anything at all (for well over two days, now) say something about Google, and if so, what is it?

Genius Awards

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, aka the MacArthur Foundation, has announced the winners of this year's fellowships -- 25 in all. These fellowships, also referred to in the popular media as the 'genius' awards, come with "$500,000 [each] in 'no strings attached' support over the next five years". As the overview page puts it:

[...] the fellowship is not a reward for past accomplishment, but rather an investment in a person's originality, insight, and potential. Indeed, the purpose of the MacArthur Fellows Program is to enable recipients to exercise their own creative instincts for the benefit of human society.

This year's list has a fairly big group of academics in many fields (computer science, history, ...), together with a painter, a fisherman, a music conductor, and so on.

Read this section about the nomination process used by the Foundation to learn more about this very quirky (and charming, and lucrative, and ...) award.

Jim Collins, a Boston University professor, wrote this NYTimes op-ed two days ago recounting how his life changed -- in interesting ways -- after winning the genius award two years ago.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Blog break ...

I am away for the next week, so there may not be any blogging. Here is a bunch of links that you might want to visit:

  • Marcus Ranum has an essay on Six dumbest ideas in computer security [link via slashdot]. All you ever wanted to know about penetration testing and othr such impenetrable stuff (but were afraid to ask) is there in this essay.
  • Nassim Nicholas Taleb (NNT) is the author of Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets, which was published a while ago. The book is now out in paperback, along with a new postscript (pdf). Chapters 3, 4 and 5 are also available in pdf. Tyler Cowen has glowing things to say about the book:
    ... if you want ... an egocentric, anecdote-based survey of behavioral finance, with references to classical literature scattered throughout, this is the book for you. I read it through to the end, which I don't do for nine out of ten things I pick up.
    We don't need to be fooled by randomness all the time; sometimes we may even be charmed by it. Cowen's post on NNT is an example, because he has opened up the comments thread, and NNT himself has made an appearance. Don't miss it!
  • The Freakonomics authors, Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt, have a nice NYTimes piece about Seth Roberts, a pretty freaky professor of psychology at Berkeley:
    It began when Roberts was a graduate student. First he had the clever idea of turning his personal problems into research subjects. Then he decided that he would use his own body as a laboratory. Thus did Roberts embark on one of the longest bouts of scientific self-experimentation known to man - not only poking, prodding and measuring himself more than might be wise but also rigorously recording every data point along the way.
    I looked up Roberts' website, where I found links to several of his articles that are available online. Do check them out, if you feel upto it. One of them had this eerie title: "Self-experimentation as a source of new ideas: Ten examples about sleep, mood, health, and weight".
  • If you are still with me, you might be interested in a special "blog seminar" that Crooked Timber organized in which Steven Levitt was the 'speaker', and the audience consisted of such big guns as Tyler Cowen, Tim Harford (who writes the 'Dear Economist' column in the Financial Times), Kieran Healy, Henry Farrell and John Quiggin. The 'seminar' took place in May 2005. Start with this link and go through the rest of it; there is also a pdf version of the entire thing.

See you all in a week! Ciao.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

NYTimes is a great newspaper

Here is why.

Poverty so pervasive that it hampered evacuation [in New Orleans] would seem to have been worthy of The Times's attention before it emerged as a pivotal challenge two weeks ago. And the inadequacies of the levee system deserved to be brought to the attention of readers more clearly long before the storm hit. [Emphasis added]

Yet a look back over the past 10 years of Times coverage of New Orleans in its news columns raises serious questions about how well the paper helped readers recognize and understand these two major problems that have compounded the devastation and tragedy of the storm.

This is the verdict of Byron Calame, NYTimes' public editor. Sure, the newspaper did not do the things pointed out by Calame, but it is asking the right questions.


2 Masala Dosas
5 Vadas
Sambhar that defines the word 'sublime'
1 Badam Halwa

... and three very satisfied customers.

When you get all this for 71 rupees, you are grateful for the existence of such great institutions as the Janata Cafe (8th Cross, Malleswaram).

[The only snag was that Badam Halwa ended up reinforcing the four year old's instinct to not share stuff -- even with his father ...]

Why go to India ...

Why go to India to find yourself? You might be just round the corner.

So says one of the ads for the Church of England. [More info here and here].

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Elementary, says Watson

I got [via reader Guru] this link to an interview of Prof. James Watson (of Watson and Crick fame).

Watson has some strong, controversial views on many things. I am sure some of them are bound to cause some discomfort in you (as they did in me). I am linking to it here just for this last bit:

More than one century after Darwin, there is an impasse between science and religion — or, at least, between science and certain religions that are obsessed with the course of biology. They do not like the concept of evolution, although all biologists apply it because it is not about a mere theory but about a fact. The current controversy is about the wisdom of teaching at school the “intelligent design” side by side with evolutionism. This is mixing up science and belief. It is mixing up ideas that have an experimental basis with other ideas that have no basis at all. I do not think that this should happen.

While we are at it, Clifford Johnson has a New Yorker cartoon, with a caption provided by a reader. It is absolutely great. Go see it now!

On writing

Brian Bialkowski, a recent Ph.D. graduate, has an article in Inside Higher Ed with some sound advice on how to go about the process of writing your dissertation.

Stop telling yourself that the dissertation has to be great, that it has to redefine your field, that it has to be such a wonderful piece of scholarship that you will be able to trigger a bidding war between publishers the day after your defense. A dissertation doesn't have to be great. It doesn't even have to be good; it just has to be good enough [Emphasis added].

He seems to be saying that you are not writing a bestseller that sell millions of copies, and beat Freakonomics. You are just writing a thesis to be read by five people in your field! So, worry about the bestseller after you finish your thesis.

A second, very valuable advice about writing is also the motto of Nike: Just do it! The value of this advice is truly immense. I can point to at least a couple of big guns in academics (and blogging) advocating this approach in a systematic way.

Here is John Quiggin:

I try to write 500 to 750 words of new material every day. 500 words a day might not sound much, but if you can manage it 5 days a week for 40 weeks a year, you've got 100 000 words, which is enough for half a dozen journal articles and a small book.

and, Tyler Cowen (here and here):

Get something done every day. Few academics fail from not getting enough done each day. ...

Here is an article from more than a decade ago that presents interesting perspectives on the 'mechanics' of good writing. In particular, it has some sound advice on how to present complex ideas in a way that makes it easy for people to understand what you are trying to convey.

All this, of course, is for academic writing, which lays a lot of emphasis on competence and efficiency in conveying (sometimes complex) ideas. What do writing courses in English departments do, particularly in the first year of college? Take a look at this post (via Notional Slurry); along the way, you'll also learn what deductive writing and inductive writing are, and which one is better!

Finally, if you are interested in the question "Why is science in the media so often pointless, simplistic, boring, or just plain wrong?", read this excellent Guardian essay by Ben Goldacre [link via Cosmic Variance]. On the other hand, if you are interested in clear and accessible discussions of some of the recent scientific breakthroughs (with links!), here is some great news: Sunil has started a new series on 'Everything Scientific'; Volume 1 in this series is here.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Monk, M.B.A.

The Economic Times reports that a bunch of Buddhist monks have joined an MBA program in Shanghai. What is the idea? To be able to "manage their temples better".

Size does matter ...

Just check out this beauty. Even the mighty Wall Street Journal is thrilled. [link via slashdot].

With a name like 'nano', I am not at all surprised that that it is a winner? ;-)

BTW, slashdotters discussed recently this post titled "how I failed the Turing test". Do read the post, it's quite funny.

One of the commenters on this Cosmic Variance post asks a relevant question: With micro and nano used up, where does it stop being cool? Do pico, femto and atto sound cool to you?

Did milli ever make it to the 'cool' list, ever? It only makes me chuckle, but that's because I am from Tamil Nadu ...

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Employment guarantee and its discontents

Even before the (recently enacted) Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme has started creating jobs in the rural areas of this country, it has already succeeded in generating quite a bit of employment among the punditry.

Thanks to Dilip and Anand, whose recent posts triggered some thoughts on REGS.

First, let me point to Jean Dreze, one of the key people behind REGS. He has written two pieces in the Times of India. The first discusses a serious problem with REGS's forerunner program called Food for Work scheme, and identifies a solution as well. The second elaborates on the theme of how to make REGS work well -- through another law that was recently enacted: the Right to Information Act, 2005. [Update (9.9.2005): D.R. Mehta, former Chairman of SEBI, has an op-ed in yesterday's ToI; he supports REGS.]

The critics, on the other hand, have been saying one thing, and they have been rather persuasive. Their point is: "this is all just loot! Don't trust the politicians; they will just steal the money". At 40,000 crore -- 400 billion -- rupees, it is much more than a pocket or a bag or a Samsonite suitcase (remember Harshad Mehta and his suitcases?) can hold. Some of the critics are real heavyweights: Surjit Bhalla (here, here), T.N. Ninan, and Omkar Goswami. Given the long and sad history of corruption in our country, one has to just agree with the critics of REGS on this point.

The debate, at this point, is between two sides that have dug their heels in. Advocates just want to get on with REGS, while the critics, using the 'corruption' plank, are waiting for an opportunity to say 'I told you so'.

However, there is another debate, if it does take place, that will be really worthwhile. Let me, in my own sort of rambling way, pose the issues.

Clearly, no one would want to dispute that abject poverty is a reality for a significant fraction of our rural population. For example, Goswami describes a rural district in Bihar:

Located on the left bank of the river Sone, Jehanabad in Bihar surely ranks among the worst 50 rural districts in the country. According to the 2001 Census, 66 per cent of its 221,000-odd households lived in kutcha houses; and only 1.5 percent of the households could boast of an electricity connection which, knowing Bihar’s administration, probably didn’t have electricity for more than two hours a day.

Jehanabad is a desperately poor district with no roads or infrastructure worth the name; schools exist merely on paper, and medical facilities are non-existent. [...]

Given this, I am sure many people would say "yeah, the rural poor need help". By 'help', I don't mean dole. Help, safety net, social security, "keeping them going till they are able to make use of the opportunities a liberalized India will offer them ... er, eventually", that sort of stuff.

Now, how should this 'help' be provided? In other words, what does economics have to say about the best way of giving the rural poor a helping hand?

I don't want to hear 'growth is the best way, particularly in the long run'. Just as the critics of REGS have pointed to past failures about corruption in government schemes, others may -- rightly -- point to how the higher growth rates in the last 15 years haven't led to significant job creation; apparently, there indeed is such an animal called 'jobless growth'. Moreover, a 'long run' may not exist for many of the rural poor if their poverty is not addressed.

A second issue may be posed as follows: Assume (this is a BIG assumption!) that corruption is not an issue, and that social security is a worthwhile goal. Now, is REGS the best way to provide social security to poor rural folks? If not, why not? Also, if not, what are the alternatives?

All of the criticism that I have seen of REGS so far has only harped on the 'corruption' theme, and ignored the other issues (I have outlined two that I can think of; there probably are more). I am sure the economists argue about them all the time. I am also sure, many people would like to know about the options available for tackling poverty (in the short run, if you insist), and their relative pros and cons. Sadly, our punditry has not done a good job of infoming the public about such important debates.

Economics of seduction

Tyler Cowen, over at Marginal Revolution has a post, triggered by Neil Strauss' new book The Game : Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists [Update (9.9.2005): Here is a review by a desi]. Apparently, Strauss recommends 'hard-to-get' as a strategy. Cowen's discussion of this recommendation covers a lot of bases (including, for example, "Isn't 'hard-to-get' too easy to mimic?"), and poses some interesting questions in game theory. His conclusion? "A proper application of hard-to-get is well...hard to get right"!

While we are on game theory, do check out this recent post in which by Michael Higgins draws some interesting parallels between marriage and -- ouch! -- a repeated game of 'prisoner's dilemma' ...

Wednesday, September 07, 2005


Update (just 30 minutes later): Just noticed that both Anand and Uma have given their perspectives, starting with the same Sainath article.

Do read yesterday's op-ed in the Hindu by Sainath on the burning of 50 Dalit houses in Gohana, Haryana, exactly a week ago. He gives you a glimpse of the long and horrible history of crimes that are committed on Dalits all over the country: Haryana, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, and on, and on.

Sainath quotes Chunni Lal Jatav, a survivor of the Kumher massacre in Rajasthan:

"All the judges of the Supreme Court do not have the power of a single police constable. That constable makes or breaks us. The judges can't re-write the laws and have to listen to learned lawyers of both sides. A constable here simply makes his own laws. He can do almost anything.

Yesterday, ToI also carried an op-ed, this one by Chandra Bhan Prasad, about the same incident. He draws several eerie parallels between the Gohana atrocity and another that was perpetrated in a far away country (Tulsa, Okhlahoma in the US) a long time ago (1921).

In his piece, Sainath says parenthetically:

But I'm still sure you'll see editorials that tell us these things are wrong because `they send bad signals to investors'.

I am not sure if editorials will say it (though they have used similar arguments in the past), but I am sure lots of individuals -- even ones who should know better -- will say it. If you have any doubt, I just wish to remind you of this.

Thanks to reader Anant for the e-mail alert about Sainath's article.

Friday, September 02, 2005

The Onion

The Onion has a great story about Google. Do check it out [link via India Uncut].

Here is another Onion story that moved Gawker to wonder 'why the Onion isn't just any vegetable'.

Dawkins and Coyne on ID

Several people have already linked to this Guardian piece by Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne. It's really great. Here is the key paragraph:

Intelligent design is not an argument of the same character as these controversies. It is not a scientific argument at all, but a religious one. It might be worth discussing in a class on the history of ideas, in a philosophy class on popular logical fallacies, or in a comparative religion class on origin myths from around the world. But it no more belongs in a biology class than alchemy belongs in a chemistry class, phlogiston in a physics class or the stork theory in a sex education class. In those cases, the demand for equal time for "both theories" would be ludicrous. Similarly, in a class on 20th-century European history, who would demand equal time for the theory that the Holocaust never happened?

P.Z. Myers offers a short commentary on the article here. The Wikipedia entry on Richard Dawkins is here.

On blogosphere

Several blogs celebrated their birthdays last month. In the order in which the announcements arrived (and the number of years they have been in this business): Anand (1), Dilip (1), Charu (2) and Ramnath (3). A very august bunch, this ... (sorry, I couldn't resist it ...)

DesiPundit asked bloggers to share the love, and (almost) everyone did! So much so, that DesiPundit (almost) became the cliche of the week.

Anand has a post in which he asks for your opinion on whether (a) you are responsible for the contents of the blogs you link to (and, at some level, whether your links are a seal of approval), and (b) whether a blogger must go through the contents of a blog before linking to it. He gets a variety of answers in the comments. [My answers, like many others', are no and no]. If you have a view, head over there and share it with everyone.

The following news is in a different league altogether: Wall Street Journal reports that a blogger is getting sued " for comments posted to his site by readers" [link via slashdot].