Friday, January 31, 2014

Jan., 2014 - Interesting Articles & Links

Nayak-2: Kejriwal Spoof with Alok Nath --

Using RNAi for pest control - Pollack, NYT -

Dhonti, Praveen (2014): THE ROAD TO GURGAON --,1

In pictures - Kejriwal doing things --

A conference call in real life --

Derrick Coleman’s amazing letter to a hearing impaired girl --

The Illustrated Guide to a PhD --

Indian Memory Project -

Fibonacci in Apple logo --

- Joshua Bell’s experiment, 2007
-  "If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?"

Battle for severe institutional changes...has begun --

Broken Bodies, Suffering Spirits - US Civil War --

Mysteries of the X-chromosome -

Hiroo Onnoa - obituary -

- To most Indians, common discourtesy cannot be repackaged as moral virtue.

Tushar Shah says river-linking in India is no longer a viable option --

Demand-driven Research in India --!

Project Syndicate - articles of 2013

Kobragade --

Mody, Ashoka and Michael Walton (2014) -- LETS NOT WAIT FOR A SAVIOR --

Hausmann, Ricardo (2013) -- The Specialization Myth --

- Nano devices to cut the costs of medical diagnostics

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Indian Science & Tech: The Price of Red Tape

India-born scientist, Prof. AJ Paulraj has won this years' prestigious Marconi Award. Multiple-Input and Multiple Output (MIMO) wireless technology pioneered by Paulraj now enables us to use high-speed internet connections through WiFi and 4G.

While going through the award citation and the press coverage that followed, what struck me was that unlike most NRI's scientists, Prof. Paul was originally with the Indian Navy. Its the navy that sent him for higher studies to IIT-Delhi, and then on to a PhD at Stanford.

Again, unlike most NRI's, he returned to India to found three major labs -- CAIR (Center for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics), CDAC (Center for Development of Advanced Computing) and CRL (Central Research Labs of Bharat Electronics).

And then something happened that drove Prof. Paul out of India. According to a Times of India article:
" 1991, according to the now familiar narrative, bureaucratic battles began to take their toll, and with the consent of the Indian Navy, he returned to the US and Stanford University. ''His departure for Stanford University was a major loss for our country and the circumstances that led to his move may explain why we have so few Nobel Laureates from India,'' Admiral Tahiliani said."
What happened?? What is the "familiar narrative"? Where were the bureaucratic battles waged?


* Marconi Society - announcement -

* Chidanand Rajghatta (ToI, 23Jan14): NRI Scientist AJ Paulraj wins Tech 'Nobel' -

* Introduction to MIMO technology -

* Thomas Kailath -

Saturday, January 25, 2014

India & Japan: Looking into Hazy Skies

Tomorrow, for the first time, a Japanese premier would be the chief guest at India's Republic Day parade.

Behind all the symbolism is the bland fact that both sides are living in hope. India hopes that Japan would find some spine and emerge from the shadows of being a US client-state, and Japan hopes that Indians will stop jabbering about "civilizational linkages" and get real about building linkages in trade, commerce and defense.

In today's Indian Express, PD Samanta has come up with some interesting examples. First, the much touted long-term 2012 agreement to supply 4000 tonnes of rare-earths per year to supply rare earths to Japan seems to have fizzled out.  Thanks to a temporary dip in international prices, Japanese firms are trying to drive a hard bargain on long term contracts, and this has turned off DAE.

US1a (pic from MOD, Japan site)
The second  is Japan's offer to sell US2 amphibious aircraft to India. A Joint Working Group is "exploring modalities for the cooperation". In other words this is still in the realm of academic debates, and with the latest crop of corruption scandals in defense purchases, we can rest assured that it will be years before the bureaucrats on both sides decide on anything.

Tomorrow morning, while Mr. Abe peers through a smoggy morning at Russian, US and French-made military aircraft flying across the skies, he might be wondering if Japan too can get a slice of the market. Or maybe he will continue giving us lectures on nuclear abstinence and business etiquette until the next elections.


PD Samanta (Indian Express, 25Jan14)-- ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT

US2 - STOL Aircraft -

JWG for US2(ET, May'13) --

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Battle of Clones

Yesterday, Biocon India launched a 'new', cheaper breast cancer drug called CANMab

In India, breast cancer is the second-most common form of cancer after cervical cancer with 150,000 patients being diagnosed every year. The new drug, CANMAb, is priced about 25% lower than Roche's Herceptin.

For all practical purposes, this seems to be a copycat drug. Like Heceptin, CANMAb too disrupts HER2 protein production and is being marketed as a 'Biosimilar' to a monoclonal antibody called Transtuzumab.

So what does this mean in plain English?

An antibody is a "Y" shaped protein used by our body to identify and kill intruders like bacteria and viruses. Like matching pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, a part of the Y-shaped protein identifies and 'locks' on to a unique part of a foreign target (called antigen). An intruder thus marked can then be destroyed by the immune system. Monoclonal antibodies are produced by identical immune cells and are exact replica's (clones) of the parent cell.

Biosimilars are substances derived from a living organism by techniques that use recombinant-DNA or controlled gene expression methods.

So Biocon India has essentially found a better, commercially more competitive method of producing monoclonal antibodies (MAb's), to take bite of the Swiss MNCs lobal market share ($6.4b globally and $21m in India), for an existing anti-cancer drug.


Heceptin from Roche -

Biocon Press Release -

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Blind Spots and Khobragade

Thanks to a lady named Sangeeta Richard, its a lot easier now to drive around in Chanakyapuri, New Delhi. Gone are the ugly concrete barricades painted in blue-red. Private security guards have been hemmed in; an encroached avenue has been restored to the public.

USA needs to be thanked for reminding us that we too have rule books. And for telling us on our face that they care two hoots for India's laws and regulations.

One thing that amazes me about this controversy is  the blind-spots that figure in arguments put forth by those who stand on both side of the divide. In almost each and every article I have read in the Western press, there is no mention of the fact that the maid's family was sneaked out India by the US embassy officials, two days before the 'arrest' and cavity searches (for what? unpaid dollars??). Not one mentions the fact that the employer-maid dispute was already sub judice in an Indian court.

On the other hand, in India, most of our commentators seem to be closed to the possibility of the maid having a genuine grievance with her employer. To them, she is just another opportunist fishing for a US green-card. And lets not even start on Preet Bharara, that despicable quisling desi trying to lick up to the goras.

If Devyani Khobragade falsified her documents, there is no doubt that she should be punished for it. What rankles Indians is the fact the the US State Department was sneaky about the whole thing. Instead of keeping their counterparts in the loop and easing her out of US, steps were taken to deliberately embarrass India.

As Mukul Keshavan pointed out, it is silly of US to talk of law enforcement and justice after the Raymond Davis episode. Ultimately, everything seems to come down to the motto,  ‘Don’t do as I do, do as I say’. Preach from a high horse when an application form is fudged, but when it comes to murder, damn the laws and regulations of other countries!

The Khobragade episode has served as an enema for all those who had rosy notions about India's diplomatic services and India-US relationship. Now that all the crap is out of the way, we can get down to real business in the true Spirit of Reciprocity.

You respect my laws, and I'll respect yours.



Kishore Mahbubani, Indian Express, 13Jan14 --

Shashank Joshi, The Interpreter, 13Jan14 -

Ellen Barry, NYT, 10Jan14 --

Mukul Kesavan, The Telegraph, 9Jan14 --

Sandeep Roy, FirstPost --

Life in Privelege -

Entreprenur's 'Letter to an Indian nanny in New York'

Former diplomat Prabhu Dayal's oped