Thursday, April 30, 2015

2015 April - Interesting Articles & Links

* Ram Charan again --

* On the Nepal Quake
- MJ Akbar in Kathmandu -
- Silence after the Quake -
- India's apathy -
- Quake Duty -
- Quakes and Avalanches - video AFP -
- The log scale -
- Calculator -

* Wired - Female orgasm explained by science -

* Women's safety in India -- gender is more complex than we think --

* A village stands up for a teacher --

* Dad's reply to school's leave of absence --

* Inequality is different in Japan --

* All you wanted to know about Biosimilars --

* Ajai Shukla - quota's damage the Indian army --

* Chakka (Jackfruit) is the answer -

* German nursery rhymes -

* Atul Gawade on an an anaesthsiologist in rural Maharashtra -

* Devdatt Pattanaik - The ascetic and the nymph --
Power in Corporate Mythology --

* The Poetic Life of the Lowly Eel --
- Eels are, in fact, fish, and the freshwater species fall under the genus Anguilla, which evolved fifty million years ago. There are more than a dozen freshwater species, but the varieties that have been most widely fished and eaten are American (A. rostrata), European (A. anguilla), and Japanese (A. japonica).
- Both are catadromous, meaning that they spawn in the sea but spend their juvenile and adult lives in freshwater.
- Their blood is toxic to humans—research using the toxin derived from it led to the Nobel Prize-winning discovery of anaphylaxis—which is why they’re always served cooked.
- Most curious of all, every American and European eel is born in the same place in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, where, at the end of their lives, they return to reproduce and die: the Sargasso Sea.
- The Sargasso was pinpointed as the breeding ground only a century ago, by the Danish biologist Johannes Schmidt, who spent twenty years searching for tinier and tinier eel larvae in the Atlantic Ocean.
- The spawning grounds of the Japanese eel were found in 1991, after six decades of searching, and those of the New Zealand longfin eel have yet to be discovered.
- The leptocephalus (meaning “slim head”)—a long, flat, transparent sea creature—was long thought to be a distinct species, until one was kept in captivity long enough to metamorphose into an eel; it was merely a larva.
- As they enter freshwater streams and begin eating insects and worms, they gain pigment and become elvers

* Pics - 25 years of Hubble Telescope --

* Gene therapy in China --

* Net-Neutrality --

* Sweet potato is a natural GMO! --

* India's underground oil reserves --

* Nath cult and its philosophy --

* Are you serious? (BS edit on Rahul Gandhi's suited-booted comment) --

* Furusato Nozei - tax breaks for nostalgia -

* The Fall of Saigon (Guardian, 21Apr15) --
- A general's obituary -

* A Leafhopper that pretends to be an ant! --

* Homeopathic Delusions --

* The complex design of a Ziploc bag --
- Börge Madsen invented the resealable bag in 1950

* Biofuels -
- Only two such advanced fuels... are capable of large-scale production. One is turning waste cooking oil and other fats into diesel—a process for which Europe already has 2 billion litres of capacity. The other involves making ethanol from cellulose by enzymatic hydrolysis.
- Sunlight is a great source of energy. Biology may not be the best way of storing it.

* Grapes - debt to ancient viruses --

* Twitter in Japan --

* Solving the mystery of dog domestication --

* The Nanda Devi Mystery --

* Brohi, Nazish (Dawn, 20Apr15) - MIRROR, MIRROR -- An analysis of Pakistani symbolism -

* The most diverse microbiome in humans -

* 57 Interesting maps -

* On subsidising public hospitals instead of private healthcare --

* Japan's Maglev hits 590kmph! --
- Shanghai Maglev Train (SMT) goes at 421kmph -- 19km in 7mts!

* Tycoon - Rahul Bhatia - the Indigo story --

* Pakistan miffs old friends --
- Pakistan’s foreign policy might boil it down to four principles: provoke India, but not too much; say what America wants to hear; do what China wants done; and provide what rich Arab donors in the Gulf think they have bought.

* Coffee in Iceland (Adam Gopink) - -
* Also by Gopink - On Hippo's and Kings --

* Stiglitz on USA's opposition to China's AIIB --

* Kazuo Ishiguro on Leonard Cohen --

* Largest Harappan Site - Haryana's Rakhigarhi -

* Net Neutrality India Campaign for internet access --
* Mahesh Murthy replies to Airtel CEO --

* The key is technology, not money -- (Hindu, 15Apr15, D. Raghunandan) --
. Delhi Science Forum
. All India People's Science Network

* Rushdie on Gunter Grass -

* Nine things successful people do --

* Singapore shows the way on water (FE, Isher Judge Ahluwalia, 14Apr15) -
- 2000- Bedok water reclamation project -  capacity 2.2 m gallons/day - US membrane technology - cost declined 50% in 25 yrs -- NEWater now meets 30% of demand
- Water demand - grows from 77 mg/d (1960) to 400 mg/d (2014)
- Water conservation tax (WCT) - cash transfer

* Why Tipu Sultan is a false hero --

* Culture cannot be a punishment posting --

* Op Red Falcon --

* Patchwork Person - Multi-ethnic, multi-expat --

* ISIS - destruction of Nimrud, Syria :(  --

* GMOs - RoundUp and Risk Assessment -- NY --

* Should you trust big pharma with your DNA? --

* GMOs - - 'Decision makers need not balance science versus nonsense on GM crops'  - Ulhas Karnth -
- Prior to the introduction of Bt cotton in 2002, the only GM crop India allowed for cultivation, the country used 9,400 tonnes of insecticides for bollworm pest control a year. In 2011, only 222 tonnes was used, says K.R. Kranthi, Director of the Central Institute of Cotton Research. Sucking pests however have thrived. But the 42-time reduction in use of use of pesticides against bollworms has to be weighed against the 2.5-fold increase in toxins to kill sucking pests.

* Essential Medicines - price hike approved by NPCO -

* Photography - Bokeh in pictures -
- A technical view of Bokeh -
- Nikkor 35mm 1.8G -

* How to build innovations in organisations --

* Spending money on new Experiences --

* A Gorkha and 30 Bandits --

* Pakistan's Yemen Dilemma -- Khurram Hussain --

* Anti-cancer agents found in #fungus infesting coconut pest - #Cordyceps #Biocontrol #RCC #Kerala -

* Google Drawings -

* Economist - Japan's poverty worsens --
- Shelters at Kotobuki, Yokohama

* Science behind the breast cancer gene --

* Using Wikipedia --

* Prashant's letter to Arvind-AAP-'Goodbye-and-good-luck':-full-text-of-open-letter-to-Arvind-Kejriwal-from-Prashant-Bhushan

* The future of architecture -

* NihonGo - On "O" and "Go" usage -

* On why we must have net neutrality --

* Patent Law - the need to protect Section 3d --
- Novartis argued that the â-crystalline form of the salt of imatinib, imanitib mesylate (gleevec) had better flow properties, was less hygroscopic, thermodynamically more stable.
- Novartis also argued that gleevec was 30% more bioavailable which implied significantly enhanced efficacy. The court held that by itself bioavailability cannot imply higher therapeutic efficacy, which has to be shown by separate experiments.

* Stanford-U on biological warfare --

* First impressions on Africa -
* Karuturi - the Rose King in Africa -
- The one-acre farmer turns Rose King -
- Doubts on viability --
- 2008 - An Indian farmer's African Safari --
. Gambela and other states have since leased out land to others, including India's Shapoorji Pallonji & Co. (50,000 ha) to grow biofuel, and Spentex Industries (25,000 ha) to grow cotton.
. Kenya is inviting foreigners for large-scale corporate farming. Land will be free of lease for 25 years.

* Japan - better explained through a religious lens --

* Vishvanathan, Shiv (6Apr'15): A new public policy for a new India --

* Why the flu vaccine barely worked this year --

* Is flu in your genes? --
- critical - a gene encoding a protein called Interferon Regulatory Factor 7

* Spy camera king from Patel Nagar --

* Cost of Drugs --
- the price of Gleevec tripled from $28,000 a year in 2001 to $92,000 a year in 2012
- THe science behind it -

* One-dose cure for Malaria - including MDR versions -

* A mallu protests the beef ban --

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

On Hexagons

If you wanted to cover a large flat space with with equal pieces, without leaving any gaps, which shape would you choose?

In 300 CE, Pappus of Alexandria said that it was best to use Hexagons, just like bees do.  Pappu's idea remained a conjecture for 1700 years when in 1999, Thomas Hales proved that proved the Alexandian right through the honeycomb theorem.

I heard this for the first time in this TED video by Eduardo Sáenz de Cabezón:

But how did bees determine that this was the best shape? And how do they pass this knowledge across generations?


* Why do honeybees love hexagons?

Thursday, April 02, 2015

The Apathy Chronicles

Science may have found a cure for mos evils; but it has no remedy for the worst of them all - the apathy of human beings." -- Helen Keller

Today's Indian Express has a telling cover story on the state of governance in India. It is a classic case of adopting the proverbial ostrich-like attitude: pretending that a problem does not exist, and hoping that, somehow, it will disappear on its own.

I just thought it would be interesting to list some of them to see if there is a pattern that could lead us to possible solutions.

First, the IE story today:


The Central Pollution Control Board identifies a potential problem area and commissions an independent agency to examine the air quality in Delhi, through an exhaustive study involving 11,000 schoolchildren from 36 schools, across three years. Yet, despite detecting an alarming rise in pollution levels, everybody is still busy "studying the report".

- Landmark study lies buried -
- Chatterjee, Pritha (31Mar'15), IE: Seven years ago, everyone saw Delhi’s air take a deadly U-turn but no one did a thing


Over past two decades, hospitals across India have been witnessing a sharp rise in new and re-emerging diseases: Chikungunya, bird flu, swine flu, monkey flu, Ebola, MDR TB and Malaria, etc., This year along we have lost over 2000 lives to H1N1 swine flu.
What have we done about it? The health ministry had figured well in advance that our total dependence on imported diagnostics and medicines would hamper containment efforts. So it decided to develop indigenous technology and succeeded in getting entrepreneurs to produce test-kits for a tenth the cost (Rs. 400 vs. minimum of Rs.4500/test). And then, amazingly, after handing out the necessary regulatory clearances, it does nothing to encourage states to adopt cheaper, more affordable diagnostics and medicines.
Predictably MNCs like Applied Biosciences are quite pleased with the state of affairs. While low-income patients balk at the cost of getting reliable tests and drugs, the MNCs are laughing all the way to bank, happy to serve just those who can afford it.

- Nagarajan, Rema (18Mar'15), ToI: Two Indian firms develop cheap H1N1 test kits, but find few takers
- Singh, Jyotsna (31Mar'15), DTE: When flu turns fatal -


Inspired by Curitiba (Brazil) and Bogota (Colombia), and goaded by IITD academics, the Delhi government decided to ease the urban transport problem by building a BRT corridor in South Delhi. The first phase of construction (2008) was so haphazard and unplanned that vehicles kept crashing into unmarked barriers that had come up overnight, constriction of road space forced bikers on pedestrian pathways and VIPs appropriated the bus-lanes for themselves.
Now there is talk of just scrapping the whole project. So what if the project cost a few millions?


Why is it so rare to find 24x7 piped water supply in Indian cities? Because the amount of water that would be wasted from taps that are left open would leave us very little to supply the next day!
In suburbs like Noida, the municipality has fixed a "flat-rate" for monthly consumption of water. This amounts to a measly Rs. 25 to Rs.150 per month. Since there is no incentive or costs to careful use of this resource, enormous quantities of water overflow into the drains every day. Picture this: Everyday, Noida Jal processes and distributes about 100 cusecs (244 million litres/day) of water. Water is pumped from the holding stations to overhead waterttanks in each sector, and from here, it is supplied to users twice a day for about three hours.
Water quickly fills up the overhead tanks in all the buildings, and since the supply is not metered, most users have an overflow pipe that spills excess water into the drains. For at least an hour water just goes down the drains. Has there been any effort to calculate and control this huge, daily wastage of clean water? Who cares!

- BRT May be Scrapped -