Friday, 30 April 2010

radio isotopes

A Chemistry Department selling radioactive source as scrap!!! Now no one in DU can use radioisotopes....imagine forgetting to remove a radioactive source from a junked instrument. Now that the DU 's license to use radioactive source has been withdrawn, there must be a number of projects in the Chem, Biochem, etc departments that would be left hanging...and the number of research scholars whose degree now will seem a remote possibilty.
But such things are waiting to happen.
In the 70's many research labs. used radioisotopes casually ... in the regular lab space. No badge, no checking by BARC, nothing. It used to scandalise and scare me.
I thought that things must have improved since my time, but doesn't seem to have.
Science is often done by people have no aptitude for it.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

sks-cl academy

Bodhi academies are schools that will give English medium education to children in rural areas at fee of less than Rs 200-per month. These are proper for-profit enterprises run by the SKS microfinance . An old report stated that SKS will run schools along with Career Launcher - a coaching academy for CAT GRE TOEFL etc. I am not sure if they are still associated.
I wonder how they will pay the teachers!
Last year, I did a bit of volunteer work at a school in a village in TN. The teachers were by and large, sincere. They were paid by the government, but the govt did not pay for anything else. The students cleaned the school everyday after classes. The classroom had a roster for this. The principal had persuaded the teachers to pool in Rs 1000 each to pay for painting the school. The school has an old building built during the British days and it is maintained really well. I was really impressed by the school-- its buildings and its work culture. The other schools in the village also seemed as good--they were run by missionaries. Not all village schools are run down and depressing.

In my student days, tuition classes were unheard of..... or, to be more exact, they were for those who could not cope with academics in regular schools...children who failed regularly. So they were unheard of...you did not boast that your son needed tuition. In fact to my great humiliation, I had to go for tuition to improve my Hindi when I moved to a small UP town in my 6th class. Then slowly, the concept of tuition changed. It was the class geniuses who went for coaching so that they could perhaps " learn" differential equations in the 5th class!!!

Of late, some of the more 'modern' parents agree that coaching classes are not good and instead send their 6 year olds to "Brain Gyms" where the children learn to use the abacus, do mental arithmetic, Vedic math etc. Of course, this is helpful in boosting a child's confidence since he can multiply and divide fast and arrive at the answer before his less fortunate friends who count on fingers can.

But do these really boost the child's cognitive skills? Some evidence that it may not

Monday, 19 April 2010

One of the blogs I read is by a prof. who sometimes cribs about the amount of her time wasted by the work on different committees.
I don't know if her attitude is the norm in the US, but it contrasts with the attitude of university faculty here in India. Being on different committees is a badge of honour. More the committee to adorn, bigger a boost to their ego. Lack of time to teach or do research, is quite acceptable in lieu of being a part of, or heading a committee.
Further, I can quite understand that feeling (maybe even think the same if I were to be given the chance) I think, as a people, we are fond of officialdom and committees.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

technology and the senior citizen

The Hindu has an article about how the elderly are using technology...some are terrified of it while others have taken to it. Of course, the older you are, the longer it takes to learn.
"Those who have resisted change feel vulnerable, oblivious to how critical the computer will be to help them as they become more housebound. "
I read a blog by an 84 year old lady. My parents, who are 85 and 75 , are regular net surfers.
But a statement Allis makes is what makes me write. He says "If there is a silver lining, it is this: The next generation of seniors — the baby boomers — will not have to go through this wrenching change. They know how to reboot, IM, and tweet."
But how do we know that 20 years from now, some entirely new technology won't have come up, which bewilders us, even those of us who are tech-savvy -middle-aged people now?
We too may end up bewildered by the new technology which is at the moment beyond our imagination.
I am similarly bothered by sci fi writers whose aliens are mildly mutated humans...the aliens have two legs, speak some kind of language, have two or at a pinch, three eyes...just slight variations on our biology. Maybe if there are aliens, we may not even recognise them as aliens.
Why do people limit the possibilities to what is known?
The unthinkable does happen.
20 years back, facebook was beyond our imagination
200 years back, computers were beyond our imagination
2000 years back automobiles were beyond our imagination.
Something that is unimaginable now, will come up in the next 20 years and many of my age group will be bewildered.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Logic

I have never formally studied logic. It's quite complicated and beyond me. But common sense logic..yes one does appreciate that and I believed that I was quite good at that.
However, in that too, surprisingly often, I am proved wrong.
One such thing was autoimmune diseases.
I thought -- if one is afflicted with some autoimmune disorders, at least one will not succumb to common ailments...you won't catch a cold every third week..etc... efficient immune system isn't it?
The angle that I never thought about is this...with autoimmune diseases, the immune system is overloaded trying to fight its own body that it is quite inefficient when it comes to repelling externl attacks. Double disaster!!

When I was a child, festivals were fun. They were about good food, perhaps new clothes, some token praying (from the kids' point of vie...