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Archive for the ‘Information is wealth’ Category

It’s a no-brainer that ours is male-centric one: from people craving for boy children, to women having to stand by their men while they succeed in their careers, is all commonplace. And we’re quite so used to it. Out of the blue, every now and then, there would be talks of women empowerment – namely when Women’s day comes around, or when a movie like Ki & Ka releases, or if we listen to RJ Balaji and get inspired. But otherwise, it’s quite gone from our day-to-day life. Ask your female colleague if she’d join in on a weekend party, and the go-to response would be “I’ll check with my husband and let you know.”

But that’s only one side of the story. In the great words of uncle Ben,

With great power comes great responsibility!

And thus the onus is upon the plug gender (as against the socket gender) to be the primary provider of any household, to be financially secure, and yet at the same time believe in equality. This pressure is never spoken out – it’s taken for granted.

When I was a kid, my dad used to advise me on the importance of education: and cite that my sisters would one day get married and settle down, but it is essential (especially being a boy from the brahmin community) that I study hard, score exceptionally well, and get a good job so that I can eventually settle down. I’ve managed to break pretty much every part of the stereotype tam-brahms are: I didn’t go the US for my yem-yes, took up a research-based study path from within India (man, who does that?), fell in love (a.k.a. made girl fall in love), get married before finishing studies (well the PhD is still viewed as an educational pursuit in India), ran a start-up becoming an entrepreneur, and what not! But hey, this isn’t about my life – I’m actually in a way an exception to this post.

So even if… (more…)

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Spoiler: I am not discussing this year’s peace prize. If you really really want to know how Obama did it, read Ramesh Srivats’ or take a look at Jai Iyer’s. Since it has been given away, I see no point in going on ranting about it. Not that this is the first controversy over peace anyway!

And since controversies always hog the limelight, the rest of the awards given away this year was almost hidden. Being the bio-geek that I am, I am directly jumping over to the prizes in Chemistry and Medicine this year. Two reasons why:

  • Nobel prizes in both chemistry and medicine were awarded to research carried out on bio(techno?)logy. One set of people for deciphering the ribosome structure & function, and another one for discovering the telomerase.
  • What? Wasn’t that a good enough reason? Here’s number two, then: I am somehow not all that attracted towards controversies – everyone writes about them, and a lot do way better than I do (the two referred in the opening paragraph for examples). Plus, literature is just beyond my simple mind.

Now that’s settled. So coming back to this year’s two prizes in discussion, both the groups’ got their prizes much after their work was done. I’ve read about the structure of the ribosome in every book prescribed, and I was just ignorant when we had our teachers rambling on about telomerases.

GEEK ALERT. For the benefit of those with a non-bio background, here’s your lesson:

  • The body’s made up of many tiny little cells, and each cell has tiny molecules called proteins which basically do all the work: talk to other cells, break down the food you eat, take care of harmful things that enter your body and stuff like that. So within a cell, proteins need to be manufactured, and these ribosomes are factories in which they’re synthasised.
  • I’m assuming everyone who’s seen Mani Ratnam’s Aayuda ezhuthu would be aware of Surya speaking of DNA, chromosomes, XX, XY, blah et. al. So basically all *information* about you (like the colour of your eye to your left/right hand habit) is stored in your DNA (a copy of which is present in every cell in your body), and telomerases are a certain type of proteins (refer previous paragraph) which make sure the DNA size is maintained.
  • See, it isn’t all that cryptic!

Ah, yet another diversion. So moving on, like I was saying: both these awards have been given away way after the work was actually done. Why’s there such a lag in awarding the prizes? Was it because no one’s done anything in the past one year or does it take so much time to recognise work? It seems that people need to stand the test of time on top of their achievements before the most prestigious award is bestowed upon them (the *most prestigious* tag still intrigues me). And in certain cases, history has shown us that certain times even several nominations are insufficient to win the prize (this one’s an interesting article I came across on the Nobel prize site itself). Furthermore, awarding the prizes posthumously has been of great debate. So with much ifs and buts running around the Nobels, what’re we all hyping it up for?!

P.S.: This post’s long been sitting in the drafts bin of my dashboard. I just never managed to complete it till the point where I lost track of where I was heading. My apologies.

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Presenting yet another smart arse trying to flaunt his knowledge about the ongoing epidemic/pandemic/stuck-in-between – like the amount of panic it put forward wasn’t enough already. And if in case you’re intrigued by the title, they’re golden words showered upon the South Indian film industry by comedian Vadivelu. In fact, he puts them in manadhai thirudi vittai (name of the movie, translates to “you stole my heart”) in the form of a song.

A drop of tear shedding from the corner of my eye. Priceless.

Nice overture to a post, isn’t it? Nikhil might beg to differ. But hey, we all have our own tastes. So coming back to the swine flu outbreak. I’m not going to write about what the thing is about – if you’re internet savvy enough to bother finding my blog and reading it, you’d know to look it up wikipedia, or look at recent news results on google. On the one hand, it is good that the internet provides you with any information required – it helps you be prepared should you face the disease. On the other, it does a mighty good job in creating mass hysteria.

Like the millions of others who cheaply use wikipedia and don’t contribute, I looked up the swine flu outbreak up the website. To begin with, WHO calls it as a phase 5 alert, which indicates that a pandemic is “imminent.” To worsen things, they’ve found the existing antiviral drugs ineffective. Tamiflu and relenza are the best bets for now, and it seems that the vaccine is months away. And the real icing on the cake is this: a live map showing where people are being infected and in numbers. Any person with a little anxiety disorder would go nuts if he gets his eyes on that. On the lighter side of things, people in the US seem to want to find a new name for the disease. No no, it’s not numerology – they want to decrease panic and increase pork sales it seems.

Casting a more optimistic glance on the whole issue, it does feel good that people & governments are becoming aware sooner this time. India for sure has started taking preventive measures, faster than their usual timing. Let us keep our fingers crossed, hoping we wouldn’t have to lose many lives over this.

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Mistake me for what, a clown?! The clause don’t mistake me is classic Indian English for do not misunderstand what I’ve said or don’t misconstrue what I’ve said, just like other great additions of our nation to the English language – cousin sister, co-brother, prepond, close the tap, and so on. No, my objective is not to flaunt my little knowledge of the English language (as is common practice down South of India) – I like to see languages as they are.

So the objective of this post is to put forward the importance of effective communication. A few months ago, I played a game of chinese whispers (a.k.a. telephone, gossip, le téléphone arabe, stille post and so on) with a bunch of my friends. Hey, it’s that game when one person whispers a phrase to the next and it goes on in a chain and you try to see if the information has been passed on right to the last person. And of course – the message was lost when it went to the third person in line. What’s the relevance? I’ll tell you why. It begins with my receiving a million e-mail forwards everyday (yeah, it’s an exaggeration, I get at most 4 a day). I seldom forward them, but I do read every single forward that reaches my inbox. Some of them are fun to read, some plain stupid (my blog-post kinds), some informative (gets me all excited at times, and I choose to forward them), and the rest are just boring.

A while back I got this e-mail regarding rule 49-o of the Indian constitution/book-of-rules/election-guide/whatever. Especially with the voting season setting in, I was all pumped up to share what I found out with my friends and forwarded it to a lot of people. Right after that, I decided to do some research on the thing – turns out that part of that email was a hoax – the part which said re-elections would be conducted under certain circumstances. Anyways, if you’re very keen on knowing more about it, look it up my older post, or on God given gift to dorks, or their own awareness site. And right after I read this, I sent a second mail clarifying what I’d written earlier – yeah, not many bother doing that I know.

Second case. I got an e-mail forward this morning about how you can save someone experiencing a stroke. And in case you’re still bummed, a stroke occurs when there’s a clot in one of your arteries (those tubes that take blood around your body) leading to your brain. The brain needs fresh blood, and if it doesn’t get it, it’s not good. So this mail I got tells you how you can identify someone having a stroke. Use the words STR (ask the stroke-ing to Smile symmetrically, then Talk coherently, and Raise both arms – if they screw up any of these, you can panic and call for an ambulance). So I thought I’ll enlighten the few who read my blog with this information, and thought I’ll google it up before I put it up on my website, and the first google hit for identifying a stroke was a link to Hoax Slayer. It turns out that a person could be having a stroke even without showing any of these symptoms. Can you believe it? There’s actually a website that goes around busting myths about email forwards! Whether those guys are jobless or not is debatable.

So here’s my request to entusiastic e-mail forwarders, “do a little research on the e-mails you send – it helps to convey the right message across to people.”

P.S.: If you want to read more about how to identify a stroke, look it up the hoax-slayer link earlier, or on Pony’s site, or at About.com.

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This post has long been pending. Something or the other kept coming up, not allowing me to pen.. I mean type this post. Research has always fascinated me (I know, that’s derived from the cliché that goes science has always fascinated me – I mean, whom hasn’t it fascinated?!). It was in the past 4-6 months that I decided that I’m going to carry out meaningful (yes, I specifically choose this word) research for the rest of my life. It’s good to carry out research – even if it is of little significance. It feels good to know that what you did is of some use.

Or so I’ve been thinking. Until I met another class of researchers. A study has concluded that women with smaller chins are more likely to remain faithful than women with large chins. Who cares a rat’s arse if they do?! And I quote this from this article, rather a barb that I read in the Times of India. Now I feel that this study would make the matrimonial columns in The Hindu go “Bride wanted: fair, around 165cm height, well educated, homely, small chin, preferably without a chin at all…”

And of course, there’s the Ig Nobel prize, a wonderful mockery of the Nobel prize. I’m a fan of them, and Shashank wrote about them too. I mean, I’m sure no one knew that heaps of string or hair will inevitably tangle until Dorian Raymer and Douglas Smith proved it. Then there’s this guy who found out that armadillos could mix up the contents of an archeological site. And to top it all off, Kuo Cheng Hsieh patented a technique to catch burglars in a bank. Guess how? By springing a net over them! And this is just a glimpse of the winners – you’d be stunned at the amount of pointless research that’s going on worldwide.

The amount of money that’s being poured into these things is terrible. It would be wiser of them to use their money and minds in better things. Now moving on to the brighter side of things – there is a lot of good things happening in science thanks to advancements in technology. Now that I’m stepping into research, I’ve been doing a lot of background reading related to my work, which inevitably leads me to online databases that contain scientific journals. And I realized that there’s a lot you could do when you read throgh a paper from ScienceDirect – you can save your history of papers browsed, and even subscribe to email notifications on anyone who cites that work later on! Call me geeky/nerdy, but I find this pretty cool – especially for people working in that field.

Then there’s 2collab that lets you save your favourite papers, and discuss your work with other geeks online – it’s still at its infancy, but makes a lot of things possible! And then I attended a webinar yesterday. It’s a seminar being telecasted live online – it’s good to realize that video conferencing is being used for something other than pornography.

There is however one thing that’s weird about obtaining access to online publications. There was this particular publication that I was looking for, and so I googled it. The first result took me here, which required me to pay USD44 if I needed access to the publication. The second result was this, which let me download the full text free of cost. Access to scientific material ought to be made free of cost – for if you put a price on knowledge, it might become too expensive to share.

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It’s interesting the way the births/deaths register of the Chennai City Corporation works – they issue a birth certificate for the newborn without the name printed on it! This is for the benifits of those parents who’re yet to decide the name when the kid’s born.

But this obviously isn’t the reason for this post (duh!). The Chennai City Corporations’s website has loads of information. For all those of you who were born in Chennai (after 1960 I think), you can download and print your birth certificate for their website. It’s absolutely free of cost! And this printed thing is authentic – you don’t have to rush to the corporation office and fill some stupid form if you need to get another copy.

Believe in India Shining?! Chennai definitely is! 😀 And it seems my blog is taking a rather meaningful turn – providing information worth looking into. Don’t be too glad – I’ll be out with useless posts in no time. 😀 Cheers!

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49-oh!

Hullo! It’s been real long since I last wrote (despite several reminders from Nikhil warning me against not writing) – several reasons why (and I’m sure lethargy tops the list). However, this e-mail forward that I got this morning really got me interested. It was about choosing against not voting. Campaigns saying “If you’re not voting, you’re sleeping” has been up on TV for a while. And what if, WHAT IF you DID NOT want to vote for any of the contestants in your locality? Here’s a rule in the constitution that allows you to declare that none of the candidates are worthy. There’s a website that’s started a movement too – check http://www.49-o.info/ for more details. And of course, there’s Wikipedia to help us too: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/49-O

If any of you have already gotten the e-mail, there is a paragraph in that which sounds like quite an incentive: “if the number of nil-votes in your constituency exceeds the highest number of votes gotten by any candidate, re-polling would occur and those candidates would not be allowed to participate in the re-poll as people have already expressed their opinion about them.” However beneficial and logical this sounds, this is yet to be implemented (Duh!), and is just hearsay. However two petitions have been filed in to implement this.

Bottomline: let’s at least be aware of what rights we have! And for those of you (like me) who’re yet not on the voting list, you’ve to file in Form 6 to the Electoral Registrar Officer.

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