Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Pallava Bagla gets David Perlman Award

Questioning Rewards
Indian  Journalist

By Vinod Varshney

A dedicated science journalist from India Pallava Bagla has won the American Geophysical Union's “David Perlman Award” for Excellence in Science Journalism for his revelation of a shocking fraud related to the impact of climate change on Himalayan glaciers. His story not only put the Nobel Prize winning organization United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to shame but also raked a hotly contested international controversy which took many months to settle and finally the people responsible for the fraud had to lick the dust.

This is what good journalism can do and this is what is needed more and more. The Perlman Award selection committee rightly applauded Pallava, saying “ His articles serve as a reminder to journalists to question sources, to think harder about the agendas and ideas of those people about whom they are reporting, and to stop the steamroller of opinions or ideas when the facts just don't back them up.”

This is not the first time that Pallava Bagla created by his articles ripples among scientists and scientific institutions. He had for example in 1998 questioned the claims of Indian nuclear scientists about the intensity of the Pokhran II nuclear blasts. His doubts were never contradicted by the Indian nuclear establishment though they became a hotly debated issue internationally among scientists and dipomats both, after publication of his article on this issue in the US magazine Science.

Its echo rang during the Indo-US Nuclear Deal when many politicians who were opposing the deal tooth and nail gave the argument that India’s thermo-nuclear test was not a complete success and India needed to do further tests for the sake of developing an effective nuclear deterrent against China.

To question official information is Pallava’s journalistic trait which got honed by Science magazine which has rigorous standards. Had he remained with Science Reporter, a government of India publication, where he started his journalistic career, he would certainly have become the editor of the magazine, but would have hardly been able to do any of the stories which have brought him laurels today.

Hope the Government of India will honour him with Padma Shree sooner than later.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Prof Ingrid Daubechies

Woman Mathematician
to Provide Leadership

Reports Vinod Varshney

First time a woman mathematician Prof. Ingrid Daubechies would provide leadership to international cooperation in mathematics. She has been elected the president of the International Mathematical Union, an august body of mathematicians established nine decades ago.

The IMU elected Tuesday its Executive Committee also for the term 2011–14. It has one Indian also Vasudevan Srinivas.

Prof. Daubechies’ election is doubly encouraging as the first International Conference of Women Mathematicians was inaugurated in Hyderabad on 17 August. Besides, she is the first woman Professor of Mathematics at Princeton University, New Jersey. She is also the first woman to receive the National Academy of Sciences Medal in Mathematics (2000).

Prof. Daubechies is a mathematician and a physicist and works in the Department of Mathematics and in the Program in Applied and Computational Mathematics at Princeton University. Born in Belgium in 1954, she is now settled in the US (1987 onwards) after her marriage.

In her election speech, Prof. Daubechies expressed happiness that pure and applied mathematicians were interacting more with each other. “I am very interested in how emerging countries develop mathematics…There is enormous potential in young people...In a sense, mathematics is easier for an emerging country to develop than physics or chemistry because you do not need to have a big layout in materials and labs and so on and lot more money. In mathematics, once you build a nucleus who can work together, then the sky is the limit!”

Next Congress would be in Korea

The next International Congress of Mathematicians will be hosted by Korea. The decision was taken by voting at the 16th General Assembly meeting held in Bangalore. Hyungju Park, a member of the Korean delegation in his presentation at the General Assembly told, ‘In IMO (International Mathematical Olympiad), Korea is now steadily ranking third or fourth... mathematics is becoming a very popular subject in Korea. When kids enter college, they take a college entrance exam and they choose their majors. The second most popular area in major universities right now is mathematics. This is something we didn’t expect before. So definitely math is becoming a very popular subject and we think that our ICM efforts also contributed to that. We are telling young students that math is a fascinating subject and there are things that are happening.’

“The relation between the math community and industry is also becoming very strong. Many young students are getting interested in mathematics especially due to TV coverage. Seventy percent of IMO medalists in Korea are choosing math as their college majors – most of them will go on to get Ph Ds in mathematics.”

Friday, August 6, 2010

First Leelavati Prize Goes to Simon Singh





By Vinod Varshney

Simon Lehna Singh, physicist-turned British author of Indian origin has been chosen for the first Leelavati Award that has been instituted for outstanding contribution to public outreach in mathematics by an individual.

This international award had been instituted on the name of the 12th century Sanskrit book “Leelavati” dealing with arithmetic and algebra.

In medieval India mathematics used to be popularized and taught in verse. The superb example is the treatise “Leelavati”. The book posed problems in verse and also gave hints for solutions.

Leelavati, a Daughter of India

Leelavati is told to be the daughter of 12th century mathematician Bhaskaracharya who wanted to teach mathematics to his daughter. He did so by composing this treatise

One can imagine how lucid it would have been teaching and learning of mathematics during that time though the education was allowed to the select few. Compare it with how mathematics is taught in a boring fashion today by incompetent teachers in India.

One may ask what Simon Lehna Singh has done to deserve this ten lakh rupees prize? He actually tried using latest media TV and Film to do a little bit exactly the same what Bhaskaracharya had done eight hundred years ago—popularize mathematics by Leelavati.

Why No Indian Living in India Becomes a Simon
Question however in India will crop up why any Simon Lehna Singh could not grow up here. Obviously the current money-minting culture of media is to blame for this. It does not care to create opportunities of such kind of serious work.

Simon, whose parents emigrated from Punjab to Britain in 1950, like millions thronging UK now, in 1990 joined BBC’s ‘Science and Features’ department. And it made all the difference. In 1996 he directed a documentary Fermat’s Last Theorem.

This was after the acclaimed solution, by the British mathematician Andrew Wiles in 1995, of one of the world’s most challenging problems in mathematics – the proof of the famous conjecture made by the French mathematician Pierre de Fermat in 1637.

The documentary exploration of the celebrated problem also formed the subject for Singh’s first book, Fermat’s Last Theorem (1997). This was perhaps the first-ever popular book on mathematics to become a best-seller.

Do Indians Know Leelavati

Many Indians, including IT geeks who create new softwares in thousands of companies world over, do not know what Leelavati is.

This work of Bhaskaracharya was also translated into Persian and was influenced mathematicians in West Asia.

The Leelavati award will be given away at the upcoming 2010 International Congress of Mathematicians to be held at Hyderabad, India, during 19–27 August.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Great Maths Show By Women

Great Maths

Show by


By Vinod Varshney

First Time in August this year top women mathematicians from all over the world would assemble in Hyderabad. The occasion is a two day International Conference of Women Mathematicians just before the most prestigious International Congress of Mathematicians.

Only recently women have started asserting their place in the field of mathematics which has been reflecting in girls achieving notable success in the International Math Olympiad. During last twenty five years many girls have almost reached up to the top, remained behind just by a whisker.

Hyderabad women conference would not only raise the self esteem of women mathematicians, but also bring forth some issues which keep women laggards in this field. It is said no women could get Fields Medal, considered as good as Nobel Prize, because it is given to mathematicians who are under forty years.

Since women also have to have children and look after them before 40, this award becomes non-existent for them.

Need to Encourage Girls in Maths

A great need is being felt that girls be encouraged to opt mathematics as a career and research option. If this happens then within a decade perhaps some woman may be able to win Fields medal. Recently the Abel prize has been introduced which is also considered as important as Nobel Prize. Only nine mathematicians have won this so far, but no woman.

No Indian man also has won any of these two most prestigious awards given for great research in mathematics. This raises a question if ever the situation would change in India. Everybody knows that quality research does not take place in India. Indian Universities even do not care to update their curriculum for decades. Bright students remain far behind because of this callousness of Indian academicians. So much so teachers in Delhi University are unashamedly fighting against even introduction of semester system.

We Had Ramanujan Once

Average Indians feel proud only in telling that we had once Ramanujan whose problems no mathematician in the world has been able to solve so far rather than solve them themselves if this is a great mathematical issue.

It is great that International Conference of Women Mathematicians is taking place in India. It is the  European Women in Mathematics that had taken initiative in this matter. Prof (Ms) Shobha Madan of IIT-Kanpur is championing the cause in India.

In India we had last year seen a national conference of women mathematicians at the Jawahar Lal Nehru University, Delhi. But it had mixed attendance, almost equal number of men mathematicians. The Hyderabad conference is expected to be truly a women show on a grand scale.

Bhama Srinivasan

The job of activating women mathematicians around the globe started much earlier by forming the Association for Women in Mathematics in 1971. An American Indian Bhama Srinivasan also had been its President during 1981-83. Bhama Srinivasan, born and grew up in Chennai, got the spark from her grandfather who was an amateur practitioner of mathematics.

More by the Same Author:

Friday, July 9, 2010

History of Indian Mathematics

India Gave Much
More Than Zero

Writes Vinod Varshney

India not only gave the concept of zero to the world, but influenced many foreign mathematical traditions by its disocoveries. Much was not known until Radha Charan Gupta proved this by his immaculate research.

For his pioneering work he will be honoured at the International Congress of Mathematicians being held in Hyderabad during August 19-27, 2010. He is the first Indian to get this distinction--Kenneth O. May Prize.

Radha Charan Gupta, currently engaged in extensive research work at Ganita Bharati Institute in his native city Jhansi (Uttar Pradesh, India). It has been acknowledged that no scholar in the twentieth century has done more to advance widespread understanding of the development of Indian mathematics.

Gupta Expounded Cosmological Theories Also
He skillfully analyzed many unknown ingenious mathematical formulas in Sanskrit. He published several papers on the remarkable mathematical discoveries of the Jaina tradition, many of which had been almost inaccessible to anyone except specialists in Prakrit (an ancient Indian language). He also expounded many Jaina, Buddhist or Hindu cosmological theories.

Prof. Gupta's major contributions include work on the history of development of trigonometry in India. He had been the President of the Association of Mathematics Teachers of India since 1994 until recently. He also founded the journal Ganita Bharati.

Radha Charan Gupta was the gold medalist in the M.Sc. mathematics examination at Lucknow in 1957, and earned a Ph.D. in the history of mathematics from Ranchi University in 1971. He became a professor of mathematics at Birla Institute of Technology, Ranchi in 1982.

Why Indians Do Not Get Felds Medal ?

Mr Gupta's research work is a superb example of objectivity. He maintains, “ Different cultures, including the Indian, have contributed immensely in the development of mathematical knowledge, and it should be recognized by all.”

Many would be surprized to know that he contributed some 500 original international grade research articles, yet even today he does not use any modern amenity like computer and internet. Considering his working conditions, his contribution is even more creditable.

Gupta Period Was the Golden Period for Indian Maths

“Indian mathematics grew maximum in the Gupta Period, dubbed as Golden Period of India, and many great names like Aryabhat and Bhaskaracharya emerged. Later for a few centuries there was lull, but again between 14th and 17th century Indian Mathematics grew in South India and such great names as Madhav and Neelkanth emerged, whose contributions have much connection with modern mathematics.”, told Prof Gupta in reply to a question.

He said, “There is no dearth of talent in India, but working environment here is peculiar and the one who protected oneself from this, could contribute something. This is the main reason why any Indian so far could not get the Felds Medal, considered as the Nobel Prize in mathematics."

Friday, June 4, 2010

Martin Gardner

Spoons Can’t
Be Bent
With Mind

Writes Vinod Varshney

What could be the power of mathematical mind? Uri Geller claimed that he could bend spoons with his mind. But there are always good writers around who debunk such claims and keep people with sane perception.

One such great writer of mathematics and science Martin Gardner died on May 22, 2010. He was 95. Martin Gardner was born in 1914 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and earned a bachelor's degree in philosophy at the University of Chicago.

He became a freelance writer, and in the 1950s wrote features and stories for several children's magazines. Gardner 'opened the eyes of the general public to the beauty and fascination of mathematics and inspired many to go on to make the subject their life's work.

Gardner's 'crystalline prose, always enlightening, never pedantic, set a new standard for high quality mathematical popularization. He was a renaissance man who built new ideas through words, numbers and puzzles.

Was he a believer in God ?

Gardner was a reputed sceptic. He did not believe that God communicated directly with human beings, which most babas (godmen) in India claim. He also did not believe that God comes on earth and performs miracles in this world.

But he believed in having some kind of faith in the God and prayers. This may sound strange to many people. He maintained that human beings lived happier lives through faith and prayer. This is quite rational and is in line with principles of psychology and conciousness.

He also maintained that it is very difficult to know the secrets of conciousness. For this perhaps higher physics than quantum physics would be required.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Chess And Mathematics

Will One Chess Player


40 Mathematicians ?

Writes Vinod Varshney

Mathematicians are gifted with powerful brains. What about chess players? They have even more formidable grey matter. India, a country of Ramanujan, may not have any world class mathematician today, but we certainly have one world chess champion—Vishwanathan Anand.

He will be pitted against 40 mathematicians in August when he will simultaneously play chess with them in Hyderabad.

Let me remind August 2010 will see the largest gathering of mathematical geeks ever in India as Hyderabad is hosting the
International Congress of Mathematicians, the biggest and most prestigious international mathematical meeting.

Chess Is The Most Brain-twisting Game

Chess is the most brain-twisting of all games. Chess and problem solving in mathematics require same kind of faculty. That is the reason one finds many chess enthusiasts among mathematicians. Emanuel Lasker, the well-known mathematician was the world chess champion for 27 years (1894–1921).

The game of chess originated in India in the sixth century. It was called Chaturanga, in Sanskrit, meaning four divisions of military -- infantry, cavalry, elephants and chariots, represented by the pieces that would evolve into the modern pawn, knight, bishop, and rook, respectively. The modern form of the game is somewhat different from the Indian version and evolved in Europe in the fifteenth century.

It is indeed a matter of great pride for India that an Indian is the world champion in the game which has Indian roots. It may be a matter of even more pride if this year some Indian gets the
Fields Medal, the highest award in mathematics. Not a single Indian has ever been able to get it so far.

Vishy Anand Deeply Interested in Maths

Does Anand maintain some interest in mathematics and science? Yes, one of his favourite books which he often refers to is Andrew Hodges's 'Inner Life of Numbers'. Asked about the unique opportunity to play 40 brilliant mathematicians, Anand said, “Actually I am quite looking forward to attending the congress and may even hear some lectures. I enjoyed Simon Singh's book on Fermat's Last Theorem and I keep reading the book repeatedly.

“In fact when I first became a Grandmaster, someone presented me the book, 'The Man who knew infinity', a biography of Ramanujan. I was intrigued by his natural genius. That was my first introduction to a mathematician. Both chess and mathematics are closely linked and lots of our methodology in problem solving is similar".

A related Story of the same author:,_Now_Time_To_Have_a_Hero_N42745.html

Monday, May 31, 2010

Same Gotra Marriages

Love is superior to Gotra;
But Science has
something else to say
Writes Vinod Varshney
Nobody has the right to give death sentence to a loving couple, no matter they marry within the Gotra. “Love is superior to Gotra”, says Prof Neera Bhalla Sarin of Jawahar Lal Nehru University of New Delhi.

But Khap Panchayats have recklessly doled out death sentences in Haryana for such marriages. There is a demand from them to change the Indian Marriages Act also. Many consider this demand besmirched by medieval-thinking in modern times.

Today many especially from young generation do not even know what Gotra is. It is therefore natural that the controversy has puzzled so many. What does modern genetic science say on this issue?

Same Gotra Marriage Opposition has backing of Science : Chautala

In view of the genetic characteristics of Indian population, the demand has some scientific validity, says one of the most respected geneticist of the country Dr Lal Ji Singh, the former Director of Centre for Cellular & Molecular Biology, Hyderabad.

But his comments can easily be misinterpreted and perhaps are already being done by Navin Jindal, Congress MP and Om Prakash Chautala, Former Chief Minister of Haryana.

According to Dr Lal nothing bad can happen in one or two marriages within the same Gotra or Community. But if marriages keep on taking place in the same Gotra generation after generation then there is a risk of single gene diseases.

Will You Marry Within a Gotra: Navin Jindal

If two recessive genes, one from mother and the other from father, happen to join then the manifestation of single gene-specific disease is sure. So far more than 1,000 such diseases have been identified and include: cystic fibrosis, phenylketonuria (PKU), galactosemia, retinoblastoma, albinism, sickle-cell anemia, thalassemia, Tay-Sachs disease, autism, growth hormone deficiency, adenosine deaminase deficiency, and juvenile muscular dystrophy.

A study on this issue, led by scientists at the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) in Hyderabad together with US researchers at Harvard Medical School, the Harvard School of Public Health and the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT was published in the September 24th issue of Nature. This study supports in a way the contention of those who are opposing the marriages within the same Gotra.

According to this study many groups in modern India descend from a small number of founding individuals, and could not get gene flow from other groups since then. This happened obviously because of marriages within the same caste and more so within the same gotra.

Restricted Gene-flow Has Created the Risk

This finding that a large proportion of modern Indians descend from “small number of founding individuals" means that India is genetically not a single large population. Instead it is best described as many smaller isolated population-groups. The populations have remained isolated because of marriages within castes.

Traditionally in Hindu society marriages do take place within the caste but marriages within Gotra (further sub-division of caste) is avoided. The study mentioned above is being cited now as the scientific basis to oppose marriages within the Gotra. If marriages take place within the same Gotra then the risk of Recessive Gene Disorder becomes higher. But it does not mean every such couple will give birth to a baby with the Recessive Gene Disorder.

Risk Only When Mother & Father Are Both the Carriers of Recessive Gene

If parents are of same caste and same gotra then there are enough chances that both are carriers of a recessive gene. Recessive Gene Disorder occurs only when the baby carries two malfunctioning copies of the relevant gene, one coming from mother and other from father.

The study mentions, “Allele frequency differences between groups in India are larger than in Europe, reflecting strong founder effects whose signatures have been maintained for thousands of years owing to endogamy (marriage within the caste). We therefore predict that there will be an excess of recessive diseases in India.”

Haldane wrote decades ago that ‘‘if inter-caste marriages in India become common, various… recessive characters will become rarer’’ that means only Indians will have that disease. An example is a 25-base-pair deletion in MYBPC3 that increases heart failure risk by about sevenfold, and occurs at around 4% throughout India but is nearly absent elsewhere.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

India Gave Zero, Now Time to Have a Hero

India Gave Zero,
Now Time to
Have a Hero

Reports Vinod Varshney

India gave the concept of Zero in mathematics, but modern India lacks a Hero in mathematics. Things are bound to change. May be several initiatives start this year itself.

First time this year in modern India top mathematicians from all over the world will assemble in thousands. This will be a great event, according to many, symbolic of recognition of India by the world as a great mathematical power. But, according to many the claim is only symptomatic of claim-happy Indians.

Indians tom-tom about its great mathematicians namely Aryabhatt (476-550), Brahmgupta (598-668), Madhav (14th century) and Srinivas Ramanujam (20th century), but the current educational and research system in the country is patently incapable of producing even one world class mathematician in India.

Not a single Indian, working in India or abroad, so far has been able to win Fields Medal, equivalent to Nobel Prize. Though there is great expectation that during the International Congress of Mathematicians to be held in Hyderabad late August this year, at least one Indian would join the rank of Fields Medalists.

Will this Indian be the one working in India? No. Understanding among mathematical community is that one of the three well-known mathematical researchers currently in the US may be adorned with this most prestigious award.

Why India does not produce good mathematicians? Research in mathematic does not require costly equipments like $ 10 billion Large Hadron Collider. Mathematical research needs a culture of marathon hard work and recognition of excellence rather than leg-pulling. Prithivraj Chavan, the Minister of Science & Technology claims he is well aware of the problem and dropped a hint Wednesday that the Government may announce an International Center for Mathematical Research.

Chavan told media persons that not having enough number of good mathematicians was a great worry for us, but since there had not been great career opportunity for mathematicians and there had been peer pressure and parental pressure, the brightest students never took mathematics as an area of study. Confident is Prithivraj Chavan, that the INSPIRE, a Department of Science & Technology (DST) program would change all that. As a drop in the ocean the DST has planned 250 INSPIRE Scholarships for M.Sc. and 15 Fellowships for doctoral research in Mathematics.

There more disturbing things. India is dubbed an IT Super Power, but if one counts the number of Computer Science Phds it produces, it is pitiable 30-40 a year where as China produces 3000-4000. So what surprise if China can steal your defence data from government files. Dr M S Raghunathan , a renowned mathematician of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research says the number of Phds in Mathematics is definitely more but their quality is questionable.

How can India in such a situation produce world class mathematicians?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Leadership Crisis in India

Young people will lead
India: Dr Sanjiv Chopra

Reported by Vinod Varshney

India is facing a leadership crisis and the new quality leadership will emerge from among the young people. If India does not have today the desired kind of leaders, then it is the people to blame rather than leaders, says Dr Sanjiv Chopra, the Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School while giving a lecture Saturday on “Leadership for the 21st Century—Ten tenets of Leadership “ at Delhi’s prestigious Maulana Azad Medical College.

Asked to comment on the quality of Indian leadership, he skillfully avoided the trap, and said in a lighter vein, “I may be dispossessed of my passport if I shall speak on Indian political leaders”, but quickly added that the crisis of leadership was everywhere in the world and if India wanted better leaders than people should demand greater integrity and transparency.

He opined in answer to a question that there was a difference between a great man and a great leader. A great man may live by himself, but a great leader inspires others. A leader should have a vision and he should walk the path which can inspire people.

Vision is Important
According to Dr Chopra for a leader vision is very important. He quotes Solomon who said, “Where there is no vision, people perish.” Mahatma Gandhi was thus a great leader who in 1930 went on a Salt March and walked some 360 kilometers to reach sea coast to break the law by making salt. This visionary action inspired millions of Indians to dream freedom.

But when Dr Sanjiv asked the audience approximately 300 comprising MAMC faculty, medical students and city doctors to name some great leaders, surprisingly the names thrown up included Hitler among Lord Krishna and Gandhi. He later explained how Hitler, a fiery orator commanding great following was not a leader, but a negative leader who wreaked immense destruction and propagated hatred.

He encouraged the audience by saying every one of us has a leader hidden within us, but some very negative jolting moment in life prompts persons to chart a different path. For example Gandhi was thrown out of the railway compartment in spite of having a proper ticket and he decided to fight apartheid. Buddha was afflicted with the thought the world was full of sorrow and he set out in search of the truth. He gave example of his friend Papa Jaime who was shocked at the death of a seven year old beautiful girl.

Leaders Are Not Born
Leaders are not born, reacted Dr Chopra to a question; they become one, if they have some essential traits. Dr Chopra defined these traits: To become a leader a person should be a patient listener. He should listen to the ideas, needs and aspirations of the followers. He should have empathy and compassion. He quoted great spiritual leader Dalai Lama, “Be kind wherever possible and it is always possible.”He should be courageous because it is the quality that guarantees all others. He should dream big and have a sense of purpose. Other desired traits are he live with humility, have integrity and recognize that people are the most important assets. Last, but not the least he should have perseverance as leadership is a marathon, not a sprint.
The lecture was organized jointly by e Medinews, Heart Care Foundation of India, Delhi Medical Council, Delhi Medical Association, Maulana Azad Medical College and World Fellowship of Religions. The session was chaired by Padm Shree Dr K K Agrawal.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Global Carbon Space

India Wants Equity in Carbon Space


New Delhi. India asserts that if in the negotiation process the developing countries are brought into the ambit of making legally binding global agreement for emission cuts, it would ask for a formula for equity in carbon space.

Under international agreement the developing countries have “common but differentiated responsibilities” for containing climate change and are exempted from making any legally binding commitments for greenhouse gas (GHG) emission cuts. Many developing countries have announced their national action plans to cut their emission levels, yet they are being insisted upon by some developed countries to commit to a legally binding agreement.

“If there is a call for such a legally binding agreement, we will ask for a formula for equity in the carbon space. We will insist upon per capita emission of countries, equity in fund flows and would also ask for considering per capita income of countries,” the Indian minister of state for environment and forests, Jairam Ramesh said at the sidelines of the 10th Delhi Sustainable Development Summit (DSDS) last week.

Shyam Saran, Indian Prime Minister’s Special Envoy on Climate Change, said that the broad political consensus of world leaders reflected in the Copenhagen Accord should form the basis for future negotiations. He said that the Copenhagen Summit was not a total failure as consensus was reached to form an ad hoc group to take forward the Bali Action Plan and to start second track negotiation for extension of the Kyoto Protocol.

Why Copenhagen Did Not Succeed ?

He, however, said that the Copenhagen Summit did not yield the desired result as the link between the “green room” and the plenary was lacking and the developed nations were hesitating to make commitments as they were in the midst of global financial crisis.
Earlier, the Indian Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh inaugurating the 10th DSDS said that moving forward; we need to reflect on the lessons from what happened at Copenhagen.
“A modest accord that is fully implemented may be better than an ambitious one that falls seriously short of its targets. This is the lesson that was learnt with regard to the Kyoto Protocol.... We will therefore participate in the negotiations in a spirit of flexibility, acknowledging our responsibilities as citizens of the globe”, he said.

“The lack of global consensus on burden sharing is an even greater barrier to securing an agreement,“ he said.

In preparation for scheduled crucial climate negotiation at Cancun in Mexico, the world leaders shall meet in Bonn in Germany May this year for preparatory talks. A series of preparatory talks are expected before the Cancun Summit.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Indian Defence Research
Goes to Private Sector


NEW DELHI, Jan 25: Defence laboratories of the Government of India will transfer its technologies to private sector for commercial use. This is a landmark development for the country as this move will help industries to get high quality technologies and apply them commercially to produce quality and reliable industrial products at an affordable cost to the consumer.

DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organization) labs have been undertaking a large number of projects in wide-ranging areas of science & technology related to the Indian Armed Forces.

Though the end products are for military use, many of the technologies that are developed to realize these systems can have civilian applications. These technologies and products may have large commercial potential and wide application in India and abroad.

On the other hand, many industries are keen on new scientific inputs and processes for expanding their business.

The DRDO-FICCI had initiated Accelerated Technology Assessment and Commercialization (ATAC) Programme to facilitate transfer of technologies. Under this programme on Monday six Memorandum of Understanding (MoUs) between DRDO and leading industry players were signed.

Indian Industry to Become Globally Competitive

The MoUs will enable transfer of DRDO developed technologies to the partner industries and, in turn, make them globally competitive.

This commercialization process is aimed at filling the technology gap in Indian industries. A proposal for providing incentives to scientists who are behind these innovations is also on the anvil and DRDO hopes to introduce it soon.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Bt Brinjal in India

Indian Bt Brinjal

in Difficulty

Writes Vinod Varshney

Bt brinjal passes through the same travails in India as was witnessed by Bt cotton a few years ago. Same politics, same NGOs and almost same arguments. Bt cotton got accepted initially through black-market as legitimate approval came much later. However contrary to dreary scenario many NGOs used to draw those days, farmers cherish Bt cotton today. Opposing arguments appear today just a propaganda buttressed by political motives.

It is for everybody to see that Bt cotton proved successful and farmers are happy. Yet same old drama is being enacted again with Bt brinjal.

Brinjal is the first Indian food product which will be genetically modified. Genetic modification goes on always during natural evolution, yet man-made modification is being described as something totally unacceptable. Man-made genetic modificaion in the case of brinjal is tailored to suit our requirement. It took seven years of research in India to make it suitable for commercial use. The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee, the regulatory authority in India, has approved it already for commercial production.

Cost of Democracy

But we have to consult people also in our democratic set-up. Though cost is high as a lot of valuable time gets wasted in generating consensus. But what will you say when voice of reason is not even given a chance to be raised due to political reasons as happened last week in Kolkata when Dr Jairam Ramesh, the Minister of Environment and Forest had to walk out of the public hearing.

Government had rightly announced to go through the process of public hearing in all the seven states which together produce 80 percent brinjal in India before giving its nod for commrcial production. But the very first consultation process failed badly as the opposing groups almost torn to pieces the very spirit of free discussion. They even did not allow any other opinion to be expressed in the Stalinist bastion of India. Though it was not unexpected in Kolkata as Buddhadev Bhattacharya, the Chief Minister had already expressed deep reservation about Bt brinjal in a letter written a couple of days ago.

Anti-MNC poitics is OK, But ......

Great harm will be done by politicizing science. Anti-MNC politics may have its justification but it should not go to the extent of harming our own farmers. Indian leftists should learn from China which started commercial production of Bt cotton much earlier than India and it captured immensely the early benefit. Indian cotton farmers lost many good years of better income.

The trouble in the country is lack of scientific literacy. Much of local language media is not equipped to handle scientific issues. Thus it is very easy for politically oriented NGOs to create confusion in the minds of people.

The country's future is in taking advantage of crop biotechnology and its capability to give genetic solutions to many existing problems. But vigorous attempt is being made to retard the growth of this potential sector in India.

Bt Brinjal May be More Rewarding

Brinjal is a rewarding crop for farmers. By spending Rs 100 on its cultivation, they earn Rs 200. But to get this income they have to protect their crop by spraying insecticides 28 times. This cost them immensely and also enhance pollution so much so even mother’s milk is getting polluted with residual pesticides.

NGOs say the benefit of the new type of genetically modified seeds will go to only seed making companies. This was argued in the case of Bt cotton also, but it turned out only partially correct. It is true Monsanto got immensely benefitted by high level of royalty for the technology transferred, but Indian farmers also made a killing.

What G. Padmanabhan Says ?

Please click the link below to read what one of our illustrious scientist of Indian Institute of Science has to say:
There is yet another interesting story below :

Monday, January 11, 2010

How Many Engineers

India Produces in a Year ?

Writes Vinod Varshney

New Delhi. India produces how many engineers in a year? Six hundred thousand or nine hundred thousand? Nobody knows this at least in India. We may be having Planning Commission and Ministry of Human Resource Development, but our capability is limited to telling only how many engineers the US produces.

This assertion was made by no less a person today than Mr Kapil Sibal, the HRD Minister of India, who is known for making bombastic promises, while releasing a study titled “Engineering Education in India” at Observer Research Foundation (ORF).

The study was undertaken by Rangan Banerjee and Vinayak P Muley of IIT Bombay. While giving briefly inferences of the study, Mr Rangan himself admitted that it was such a difficult task to get correct statistics. He could compile statistics only up to 2006.

Engineering PhDs So Few In India
The study puts India in a very poor light so far as the higher engineering education especially the research is concerned. It highlights that advanced countries like UK, US and Germany produce 10, 9 & 8 per cent doctorate engineers out of graduates whereas India is happy with just around .5 percent.

Indians better forget what US, UK and Germany or France do; we need to peep at what our neighbours like Korea and China do. Sibal told that China was producing 60,000 science & engineering PhDs a year while India only 8,000 though fifteen years ago India and China were alike.

Who should put their heads in shame for these statistics--people of India or the political leaders of India? The country is full of talkers and dreamers, but there is acute shortage of people who can convert dreams into reality. Sanjay Joshi of ORF rightly said, “Aspirations remain dreams unless concrete actions are taken.”

Sibal Promises to Take Bold Steps
Kapil Sibal assured that 2010 would be an important and different year. He sounded like he would be taking concrete steps. His remedy lies in involving private sector more in higher education. But know for sure currently already seventy five percent of graduate engineers are products of private engineering colleges. This is told to be one reason why Indian engineering graduates are un-employable, many feel.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Nano tech to make apparels
and garments more comfortable


Thiruvananthapuram, Jan 6 : Nano technologists are coming forward to help the Indian textile industry to produce novel wears and create a niche market. The Delhi-based Indian Institute of Technology has launched a research group on nanotechnology for smart and innovative textile technology (SMITA).

Speaking at an exclusive session on nanotechnology and education of the 97th Indian Science Congress, Prof Ashwini Agarwal of Delhi IIT said : “fibres and filaments are one-dimensional structural materials for textiles. Through nanotechnolgy we can decrease its module value and increase its strength. Not only nanotechnology can be deployed for fibres and filaments and for creating composite nano fibres, but it can also be deployed for surface modifications and finishes of yarns and cloth. By this process the textile products can be made more attractive, strong and responsive to customers’ choice.”

Textiles is the major segment of the Indian economy responsible for about 17% of export earning. Indian textile industry is faced by severe competition in the global market.

According to Prof Agarwal if the diameter of the fibre is reduced, its strength increases and with the given flexibility it can be subjected to better orientation and formation. For making better nano fibres we need drawing, template synthesis, self assembly and phase transformation. Electro spinning of nano fibres can then be taken up

Nano finishes can be undertaken for making it resistant to heat, flames and also make the cloth stain repellent. Nano finishes can be of silver with varying colours. The cloth and the wear can thereby be made attractive to customers’ choice and giving more comfort to the body
Launch of GSLV-D3 Dalayed because
of Indigenous Cryogenic Engine


Thiruvananthapuram, Jan 6 : The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has finally planned to launch its Geo-synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle – GSLV D3 and its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV – 16) by March 2010.

The launch of GSLV- D3 had been postponed twice, first it had been scheduled for December 2009 and then in January 2009. The launch of PSLV – 16 was planned even prior to that.

The director of Satish Dhawan Space Centre-SHAR, MC Dathan revealed : “The launch of GSLV – D3 was delayed as we are reviewing the indigenous cryogenic stage. The GSLV-D3 will be powered by an indigenous cryogenic stage built for the first time by the Indian Space Research Organisation. It will put in orbit a communication satellite, GSAT-4.”

He said that the PSLV – 16 will also be launched in March to put in orbit Cartosat-2B; Alsat, a small satellite from Algeria; two nano-satellites from the University of Toronto, and another nano-satellite, Studsat (Students’ satellite), built by several Indian universities.

Dathan, who is participating in the 97th Indian Science Congress at Thiruvananthapuram said : “In January, this year we will do the ground testing of the biggest solid booster for GSLV Maitri which is scheduled to be launched in 2011. ISRO also has a programme to use reusable launch vessel to carry hygrogen to produce water in combination of oxygen extracted from the atmosphere. As we would not carry water this would help us to reduce the weight of vessel at the take off stage.” He said that ISRO was exploring the possibility of using kerosene as a fuel option..

The CMD of the Cochin International Airport Ltd, Dr CG Krishnadas Nair said that India would soon make a headway in the areospace industry by producing a light helicopter which would fly at a level of 6 km. He urged the government for a proactive aeronautic policy and setting up of adequate institutes for aeronautic study.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Second Indian Nobel Prize

goes to Prof C. R. Rao

Writes Vinod Varshney
New Delhi. Prof. Calyampudi Radhakrishna Rao was today given the “India Science Award” which is the highest award for Science and Technology in the country, also known as Indian Nobel Prize. He is the second Indian who has been accorded this honour, though at a ripe age of 89.
The award fetches INR 2.5 million and was instituted in 2002. The first award had gone to Prof. C R Rao in 2006. For last two years no Indian scientist could be found worthy of this award. This blog site had first reported yesterday that somebody would be hounoured this year. There was a lot of speculation as to who could be the winning scientist.

Times India Chose Him as One of Top Ten

Prof Rao, an FRS is widely regarded as one of the greatest statisticians of all time along with Deming and Fisher. Times of India dated 31 December 1988 chose C R Rao as one of the 10 top scientists of India considering all disciplines; the list included such outstanding scientists as J.C. Bose, S.N. Bose, S Ramanujan, Harishchandra, G.N.Ramachandran and Nobel Laureates H. Khurana , C.V. Raman and S. Chandrasekhar.
C.R. Rao is purely an Indian product having received all his education in India and making original contributions to statistics while working in India at the Indian Statistical Institute for 40 years before he took mandatory retirement on attaining the age of sixty.
Among his best-known discoveries are the Cramér-Rao bound and the Rao-Blackwell theorem both related to the quality of estimators. He is the author of 14 books and has published over 400 journal publications.

Got Padma Vibhushan

Rao was awarded the United States National Medal of Science, that nation's highest award for lifetime achievement in fields of scientific research in June 2002. Government of India awarded him Padma Vibhushan.
Rao received MA degree in mathematics with a first class and first rank from Andhra University (1941) and MA degree in statistics from Calcutta University (1943) with a first class, first rank and a record of marks unbeaten till now, and a gold medal. He started working in the ISI at Calcutta as a research scholar from 1943. Based on the work he did he earned his Ph.D. in 1948 from Cambridge University. A few years later, the university awarded him the prestigious Sc.D. degree based on a peer review of his research contributions to statistics. Up to date he has received 31 Honorary Doctoral Degrees from universities in 18 countries in 6 continents.
PM allures Overseas Indians

for collaborative research


Thiruvananthapuram, Jan 3 : Government is likely to announce special incentives to encourage scientists of Indian origin currently working abroad to return to India or to associate themselves with Indian universities and scientific institutions for a short period.

The Prime Minister of India, Dr Manmohan Singh inaugurating the 97th Indian Science Congress here on Sunday outlined the need to rebuild the country as a knowledge power in the 21st century through a strong capability in science and technology.

He said : “ We must make a special effort to encourage scientists of Indian origin currently working abroad to return to India, including coming to our universities or scientific institutions for a short period. In this way we can, convert the brain drain of the past into a brain gain for the future. This will require special incentives. We need to think creatively on how this can be done so that high quality minds are attracted to teaching and research.”

The prime minister’s pronouncement is significant as it come a few days before the two-day conference of Overseas Indians – Pravasi Bharatiya Divas – scheduled in Delhi from January 8. The newly formed Prime Minister’s Global Advisory Council of Overseas Indians would meet for the first time on January 7.

Building upon the recent comments of the Nobel Laureate of Indian origin, Dr Venkatraman Ramakrishnan on the need for greater autonomy for Indian scientists from red tape and local politics, he said : “I invite you to explore all these issues and engage with us so that we can do what is needed to liberate Indian science from the shackles and deadweight of bureaucratism and in-house favouritism.” While investment of money being only one part which was needed, the change in the mindset of senior faculty and university administration was the hardest thing to do, he said.

The prime minister announced that the National Science and Engineering Research Board will start functioning before March 2010. A National Policy for Data Sharing and Accountability has been formulated. The Protection of Intellectual Property Bill focussed on sharing revenue from intellectual properties with researchers will be taken up for discussion in the parliament soon. He called for a partnership of academia, research and industry and involvement of venture funds.

The government is considering the revision of the value of doctoral and post-doctoral fellowships as well as formation of schemes that would cover all research scholars with some funding support. The government would award one student within the age group 10-15 years from each school in the country under the Innovation in Science Pursuit for Inspired Research (INSPIRE) Scheme

As the government has declared 2010-2020 as the “Decade of Innovations” , Singh urged scientists to find new solutions in many areas for achieving inclusive and sustainable growth like in healthcare, energy security, infrastructure, water, transportation, renewable sources of energy. Describing the outcome of the Copenhagen climate summit as “not satisfactory”, he stressed the need for a low
greenhouse gas emissions and energy efficient development path with a shift to use of renewable sources of energy.

The government has decided to launch Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission for setting up of 20,000 MW of solar generation capacity by 2020. The PAN-IIT programme for solar energy research will drive down the costs of technology options through R&D led innovations. Euro 5 million collaborative research programme on solar energy research with European Union and a similar collaborative programme with UK for pound 5 million has been launched.

The prime minister said that the technology solutions for 25 different water-related challenges being discovered by the Technology Mission for Winning, Augmentation and Renovation of Water (WAR) would be applied by 2011.

On applications of transgenic technology in agriculture, he said that Bt cotton has been well accepted in the country and has made a great difference to production. He said that genetic modification technology was being extended to food crops which raises legitimate questions of safety and these must be given full weightage with appropriate regulatory control based on strictly scientific criteria. He lauded DRDO for developing a new and rapid diagnostic method for detecting the H1N1 virus

Indian Science Congress 2010

PM steers clear of R&D
expenditure comittment

Writes Vinod Varshney

Prime Minister Man Mohan Singh steered clear Sunday from his earlier commitment to raise expenditure on science & technology R & D up to 2 percent of the GDP by the end of eleventh five year plan which will end in 2012.
While inaugurating the 97th Indian Science Congress which will deliberate on the issue of 'Science and Technology Challenges of the 21st Century -- National Perspective over the next five days, the Prime Minister did not mention this key issue which is known as the biggest hurdle for the speedy development of Indian science.
Science and Technology Minister Prithivi Raj Chavan too only made a brief mention of the need to enhance expenditure on research and development.

Performance of Man Mohan Government is Dismal

The performance of Man Mohan Singh government is apparently dismal on this count as the national expenditure on R&D is still 1 percent of the GDP and there is no possibility it can go up to 2 percent within next two years.
In fact this issue of expenditure had embarrassed government institutions immensely when former President APJ Abdul Kalam had criticized them for not being able to spend whatever little money was allotted to them in the national budget.
Last year in Shillong the General President T Ramasami had informed the delegates of 96th Indian Science Congress in his presidential address that most developed economies invest about 2.5% of GDP in research and development whereas Indian spending on R&D is languishing at nearly 1% but the government has proposed to invest about 2% of GDP into Research and Development.
Everybody agrees that the relatively weaker competitiveness of India in the world of Research and Development can be traced to the very small size of the Indian R&D base. Our R&D base may need to be at least trebled within the next five years. But where is the money?
Chennai to host 98th Indian Science Congress
Reports Vinod Varshney

K C Pande
New Delhi. S.R.M. University of Chennai will host the 98th Indian Science Congress next year. This was decided Saturday evening in Trivandrum by the Council of the Indian Science Congress Association.
SRM University is a private technical university, celebrating its silver jubilee this year. It claims outstanding laboratories and infrastructure.
Osmania University of Hyderabad was a close contender for the chance to host it followed by institutes of Kolkata and Nanded.

Chennai gets this honour the Seventh Time

Chennai, the capital city of Tamilnadu would be getting the honour to host this reputed science meet the seventh time. Though Kolkata has the record of hosting the largest number of Science Congresses, ten times out of 97 so far.
The last one in Chennai was held in 1999 when Dr Manju Sharma was the General President and inaugurated by Atal Behari Vajpayee, the then Prime Minster.
Chennai had traditionally been considered the second science capital of India, the first one being Calcutta. Though Calcutta now has been replaced by Bangalore.
It may be recalled the 1st Indian Science Congress was held in Kolkata 1914 and the 2nd next year in Chennai, then called Madras. Chennai had also the distinction of having organised the Science Congress in 1929 with the only Indian Nobel Laureate Sir C.V. Raman being its General President.

Prof K. C. Pande Will be the Chennai Congress Hero

The next year Chennai would be hosting the Science Congress with Prof K C Pande as the General President. This is a departure from the tradition of electing some scientist from the government establishment as the General President.
Prof Pande is purely an academician who had been Vice Chancellor of Chaudhary Charan Singh University, Meerut. Since the focal theme of next year’s Science Congress is going to be related to Science Teaching and Quality Research in Universities, his choice as the General President seems quite appropriate.
However the theme has yet to be fine-tuned in the next Council meeting of Indian Science Congress Association within a week, said Dr G Madhavan Nair, the General President of the 97th Congress.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Indian Science Congress 2010

Indian Nobel Prize to be

announced today

Reports Vinod Varshney
The India Science Award, popularly knpwn as Indian Nobel Prize carrying an award of Rs 25 Lakh may be announced in Trivandrum tomorrow by the Prime Minister Man Mohan Singh while inaugurating the 97th Indian Science Congress, top official sources indicated.
So far only Professor C.N.R. Rao had been bestowed with this prestigious award since it was instituted six years ago. The authorities are maintaining top secrecy about the name of the awardee for obvious reasons.
The so-called Indian Nobel Prize had been instituted by Atal Behari Vajpayee in one of the Science Congresses in order to give impetus to science research in the country. In order to maintain the dignity and standard of the award very rigorous parameters had been fixed. That is why during the last six years only one Indian scientist could be found worthy of this national honour.
Meanwhile the preparations for the 97th Indian Science Congress reached at its crescendo today with SPG commandoes occupying their positions. Approximately 5000 science delegates would be participating in the Congress, according to the Dr G Madhavan Nair, the General President of the Indian Science Congress.
Two Nobel Laureate scientists from the US John C Mather and Roger Y Tsien have already reached the venue and they will be star attractions in the inauguration ceremony.
The Indian Science Congress (ISC) is the largest national science event in the country. It is a sort of national forum, where an attempt is made to decide the future direction of the science in the country. For this a focal theme is chosen. This year’s theme is “Science & Technology of the 21st Century—National Perspective”.
Traditionally, the Indian Science Congress is inaugurated by the Prime Minister of India. During the Congress, plenary lectures are delivered by eminent scientists and Nobel laureates. These lectures invariably provide broader international perspective and create awareness about the role of science in the society. One of the major attractions is a science exhibition revealing the latest scientific developments and achievements in the country.
The first Indian Science Congress was held from January 15 to 17, 1914 at Calcutta. The Indian Science Association (ISCA) owes its origin to the foresight and initiative of two British Chemists, namely, Professor J.L. Simonsen and Professor P.S. MacMahon