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Showing posts from January 2, 2017

Not just about a quota (the hindu)

We need to educate children in schools about caste, ethnic, gender and regional diversities and have public policy interventions to make society more equal and fair

Should jobs, schools, and universities promote diversity with reservations or quotas? This question has long evoked strong and passionate responses. People come to the debate with preconceived ideas and stands, and rarely change their minds. As a result, India is left with little consensus on the reasons for reservations and whether or not reservation is a useful policy.

A new survey called SARI, Social Attitudes Research for India, investigated what people in cities, towns, and villages think about reservations. SARI uses a sampling frame based on mobile phone subscriptions, random digit dialling, within-household sample selection, and statistical weights to build representative samples of adults 18-65 years old.

Divided by background

We asked respondents whether or not they support reservation. In Delhi, about half of t…

Playing the angles, with Russia (the hindu,)

If Donald Trump succeeds in what Barack Obama failed to do, which is resetting ties with an aggressive Russia, it could trigger a cascade of geostrategic realignments across the world

John Kerry, U.S Secretary of State, and his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, met 14 times and spoke on the phone numerous times in 2016 as both countries sought to work together on some intractable global issues. The relationship between the two has been an extraordinary one, producing a range of outcomes. At one end of the spectrum is the Iranian nuclear deal that both Russia and America agree has capped the Shia regime’s nuclear capabilities. At the other end is the collapse to abyss of Syria, a bloody and grim reminder of the limits of their cooperation. Meanwhile, each consecutive commentary on U.S- Russia relations said they were at the lowest point since the end of the Cold War.

A new low

The flashpoint in the relationship last week when President Obama announced the expulsion …

Leap second’syncs Indian time with Earth’s spin (tthehindu,)

The atomic clock was programmed to add an extra second to 2017 to compensate for a slowdown in the Earth’s rotation.

A ‘leap second’ was added to the Indian clock at 5:29.59 hours on Sunday to synchronise with the Earth’s rotational clock. As the atomic clock at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) here struck 23:59:59 last night, it was programmed to add an extra second to 2017 to compensate for a slowdown in the Earth’s rotation.

Adding a second barely has an impact on the daily life, but it does matter in the fields of satellite navigation,astronomy and communication. “The Earth and rotation around its own axis is not regular, as sometimes it speeds up and sometimes it slows down due to various factors, including earthquakes and moon’s gravitational forces. As a result, astronomical time (UT1) gradually falls out of sync with atomic time (UTC), and, as and when the difference between UTC and UT1 approaches 0.9 seconds, a leap second is added to UTC through atomic clocks worldwid…

2016: The Supreme Court’s report card (the hindu )

Collectively, the court’s choices this year have shown us that any independence it enjoys hasn’t guided it towards concerted courage in decision-making

The Supreme Court finds itself at a curious juncture. It has spent much of the year lodged in a widely broadcast battle with the Union government over judicial appointments. Led by Chief Justice T.S. Thakur, who retires on January 3, 2017, the court has fought this contest presumably to assert its independence from executive and legislative control. But, somewhat counter-intuitively, the wrangle has had a deleterious impact on the court’s moral authority. The court has not only been intransigent in allowing the executive no say in matters of appointments, despite the Constitution’s clearly contrary mandate, but it has also failed to make the existing system — selections through a “collegium” of senior judges — more transparent and democratically justifiable. What’s worse, while constantly stressing on its apparent autonomy, the court …

‘There is a huge price to pay when scientists remain in a cocoon’ ()tthehindu,

Altmetric, a non-traditional alternative to impact-factor, measures the attention that research papers published in journals get from mainstream news outlets and social media. In 2016, Altmetric tracked over 17 million “mentions” in different platforms of 2.7 million different research outputs. Among the 100 “most-discussed” papers, three papers had 43 authors from India. This is much more than China and many European countries.

A February 11 paper on gravitational waves in the journal Physical Review Letters, with 41 authors from a few Indian institutions, has an Altmetric score of 4,694. The paper was covered by 92 news outlets (133 stories). A May 2 paper on Earth-sized planets transiting an ultracool dwarf star in the journal Nature had one Indian author. It has an Altmetric score of 2,064 and the paper was covered by 222 news outlets (260 stories). And the third paper on safety of injectable combination hormonal contraceptive in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabo…

Are scientists responsible for communicating their work to the general public? (the hindu,)

‘Does a lay person understand even soft science?’

After getting totally frustrated in a Twitter exchange (@GautamDesiraju) on this question, I decided to put my thoughts down in the more conventional form of an article, a means of communication with which scientists are far more comfortable. One of my Twitter followers even said that one cannot say much in 140 characters, and this matter needs a bit more than that. Do scientists in publicly funded institutions need to communicate the gist of their work to the general taxpaying public? Are they morally bound to do it? Does an increased awareness of science among lay persons increase its acceptability, and eventually create a better sense of its requirement, so that the public continues to pay for what some might even consider a luxury? On the other hand, is it easy to communicate high science to the public? Is there a difference in communicating the hard and soft sciences to non-specialists? In simplifying scientific matters for the s…

Obama’s parting shot at Russia (The Hindu.)

President Barack Obama’s decision to slap more sanctions on Russia and sack 35 diplomats from the U.S. is the latest flashpoint in the bilateral relations of the former Cold War foes. Though the immediate trigger for Mr. Obama’s action are the cyberattacks on Democratic Party systems, which U.S. intelligence agencies believe were carried out by Russians to influence the results of the presidential election, the action must be seen against the deteriorating relationship between the two countries. Ironically, Russia-U.S. relations have hit the lowest point since the collapse of the Soviet Union under a president who had promised a “reset” of ties. At home Mr. Obama faces criticism for not acting decisively against Russian interventions that go against American interests. The sanctions the U.S. and its European allies have imposed on Russia after it annexed Crimea had little impact on Moscow’s foreign policy decisions. In Syria, Russia made a military intervention to boost the regime of…