Saturday, April 05, 2008

Excerpts - April 2008

A collection of interesting tidbits from magazine and newspaper articles:

Rather Panchali by Radhika Jha (Tehelka Book Review - The Palace of Illusions - Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni)
As a child in Dhrupad's grim palace, Draupadi is haunted by the prophecy that accompanies her into the world - that she will change the course of history.
"Three dangerous moments will come to you. The first will be just before your wedding: at the time, hold your question. The second will be when your husbands will be at the height of their power: at the that time, hold back your laughter. The third will be shamed as you'd never imagined possible: at the time, hold back your curse." But of course, Draupadi forgets, and Mahabharata unfolds...

If Notes Were Goats by Krish Ashok (Tehelka, 5 April 2008 - flaying the 'politically correct insipidity' of Carnatic Concert Reviews in The Hindu, and introducing Subbudu)
Subbudu was a legendary Carnatic music critic whose reviews were droplets of concentrated sulphuric acid masquerading as Tamizh words. His wit wasn't just biting, it was a hungry T-rex... ( A snippet) "If notes were goats, this artist's rendition of Karaharapriya would be the equivalent of a lost herd, roaming aimlessly in unfamiliar pastures, bleating plaintively for help from shepherds in the audience who had already given them up for dead."

Agriculture: Asia's Kitchen - Prof. Shogenji Shinichi in The Japan Journal; March 2008 (On economic growth of China & India and the food shortages ahead)
Japan's culinary habits changed drastically over the last half century..Real per capita GDP in 2005 was 7.7 times that of 1955...A drastic rise in purchasing power brought about a lavish lifestyle in which people consume nine times more wheat, seven times more milk and dairy products, four times more eggs, and five times more fat.

Japanese food exports valued at 330 b yen represent merely one-twentieth of the seven trillion yen worth of imports;
80% of present food exports go to Asia while two-thirds of food imports are from advanced nations, with over 30% produced in USA.

Ultra-fast lasers: Zapping with the light fantastic (Economist - Mar 27th 2008)
A conventional pulsed laser may take a millisecond (a thousandth of a second) to pump up, but if its pulse is squeezed into only a nanosecond (a billionth of a second), its power is increased a million times.

A new record for intensity was recently reported by a team using a titanium-sapphire laser known as HERCULES, which occupies several rooms at the University of Michigan. It produced a beam with 300 terawatts of power (several hundred times the capacity of America's entire electricity grid). But it was concentrated onto a speck a little more than one thousandth of a millimetre across?and it lasted for just 30 femtoseconds (30 million billionths of a second). HERCULES takes about ten seconds to charge up for each pulse, compared with an hour or so for some similar lasers.

Japan's Mittelstand: Under pressure; Mar 6th 2008, Economist

Japan's small and medium enterprises (SME's aka 'Mittelstand' in Germany) in the manufacturing sector are those having capital below \300m ($3m) or fewer than 300 employees. These SMEs represent 99.7% of companies in Japan. Many of them are found in clusters, and specialise in fields such as electronics manufacturing, precision engineering and fine chemicals.
Low productivity (30% less than USA) and pressure from anchor companies is leading to big trouble...

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