Monday, August 12, 2019

The start of India's space program

On the centenary birthday of Dr. Vikram Sarabhai, some remembrance of the beginnings of the Indian space program.

A Brief History of Rocketry in ISRO (2012)
PV Manoranjan Rao & P Radhakrishnan
Universities Press (India) ISBN 978-81-7371-763-5
page 2

"Independent India was lucky to have Jawaharlal Nehru as its first Prime Minister, for he shared a common ideal with Bhabha and Sarabhai.  He believed that modern science and technology were indispensable to the development of the country......Bhabha, in the 1950s and 60s, was considered the czar of organized research in India and, more importantly, had Nehru's ear!  Thus, when Sarabhai, with Bhabha's support, came up with a space initiative for the country, Nehru said 'yes' even though  the country was passing through a very difficult phase both economically and politically.

From Fishing Hamlet to Red Planet: India's Space Journey (2015)
Chief Editor P.V. Manoranjan Rao
HarperCollins, ISBN 978-93-517-689-5
page xix

"At that time India was facing severe economic and political hardships - there was a food shortage and that humiliating war in the north east.   Yet when Bhabha and Sarabhai came up with the space initiative, Nehru lent his wholehearted support.

India's Rise as a Space Power (2014)
Professor U.R. Rao
Foundation Books, ISBN 978-93-82993-48-3
Pages 7-8

"Given the background work of Dr Sarabhai and his co-workers at PRL and the expertise developed by Prof. Bernard Peters, Prof. M.G.K. Menon and their colleagues at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Bombay, who had flown a number of balloons from Hyderabad to carry out cosmic ray investigations,  Dr Homi Bhaba [sic] invited Dr Vikram Sarabhai to become a member of the Atomic Energy Commission and initiate space activity under the the umbrella of the Department of Atomic Energy.  Dr V. Sarabhai constituted the Indian National Committee for Space Research (INCOSPAR) with Prof. E.V. Chitnis, ...."
Vikram Sarabhai - A Life (2007)
Amrita Shah
Penguin Books India, ISBN 978-0-67099-951-4
Pages 120-122, scattered excerpts

"When exactly Vikram came up with the notion of a space programme for India is not known.  R.G. Rastogi, his former student, claims to have heard him talk prophetically of setting up a rocket-launching programme 'by 1963' as far back as in the 1950s.  Praful Bhavsar, who had taken a leave of absence from PRL to do post-doctorate work at the University of Minnesota, recalls Vikram telling him something similar in 1959..."
"According to Rastogi, even Vikram's co-director at PRL, K.R. Ramanathan, was openly skeptical. 'He is too young, he has no idea how the government functions.  He will not get the money nor will establishment scientists allow it to happen.'...But Ramanathan had not counted on the chief weapon in Vikram's formidable arsenal of contacts: Homi J. Bhabha. 
It is tempting to speculate that Vikram and Bhabha, the two princes of Indian science, used their youthful days in Bangalore to spin up dreams for the future......It is tempting because of the uncanny sureness with which they set about their plans and their suggestion of complicity in so many of their actions. 
In August 1961, for instance, more than a year before the Chinese invasion and at a time when Nehru was still very much at the helm of the country's affairs, the union government, urged by Bhabha, identified an area known as 'space research and the peaceful uses of outer space' and placed it within the jurisdiction of the DAE.  As a part of the move, PRL was recognized as the 'appropriate centre' for research and development in space sciences.  And Vikram was co-opted into the board of the AEC.  More interestingly, in February 1962, the DAE created the Indian National Committee for Space Research (INCOSPAR) under Vikram's chairmanship to oversee all aspects of space research in the country.  Vikram had overcome the first seemingly impossible hurdle.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

History and Modernity

Bernard Cohn (1928-2003) was a professor of anthropology at the University of Chicago who studied India extensively.  In his essay, "The Pasts of an Indian Village" (1961), Cohn examines the various pasts as remembered by the peoples of Senapur village in Uttar Pradesh, India.  The various groups, Thakurs, Chamars, Brahmins, Muslims and Telis, all have a different narrative regarding their  "legendary" past, as well as that of the past several generations.

Cohn goes on to note:

All Americans share a past created by our educational system and media of mass communication.  We can invoke this past and have it be meaningful across regional and class lines.  Indians do not as yet share such a past.  An appeal for action on the part of the central government, based on what is thought to be a universal identification with a traditional or historic past, is meaningless or leads to antagonistic reactions of major parts of the population...... 
I would speculate that a society is modern when it does have a past, when this past is shared by the vast majority of the society, and when it can be used on a national basis to determine and validate behavior. 
A shared history that can be used to determine and validate behavior.  I wonder if such exists even in that bastion of modernity, the United States of America, where there are many competing histories - of the Yankee North, of the Lost Cause South, of the African-Americans, of the Latinos, of the native Americans; and those of the various immigrant groups.   In terms of sheer numbers, perhaps the first two are the most important. 

But it was just a speculation on Cohn's part.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Harper’s Index: thermostat and test scores

Percentage change in women’s math test scores in a room that is between 80° and 90° F rather than 60° and 70° F : +27
In men’s math test scores : –7
Traced the source to:
Battle for the thermostat: Gender and the effect of temperature on cognitive performance

The math test in question was adding pairs of five digit numbers, 50 pairs in five minutes.
The verbal test was given the letters ADEHINRSTU, build as many (German) words as possible in 5 minutes.
"Our sample consisted exclusively out of students from universities in Berlin. The advantages of this subject pool is that they are relatively easy to recruit and homogenous in their cognitive skills. The disadvantage of this subject pool is that it is not representative of the whole population with respect to age and education level. 
About the results:
"Taken together, these results show that within a temperature range of 16 and 33 degrees Celsius, females generally exhibit better cognitive performance at the warmer end of the temperature distribution while men do better at colder temperatures. The increase in female cognitive performance appears to be driven largely by an increase in the number of submitted answers. We interpret this as evidence that the increased performance is driven in part by an increase in effort. Similarly, the decrease in male cognitive performance is partially driven by a decrease in observable effort. Importantly, the increase in female cognitive performance is larger and more precisely estimated than the decrease in male performance."
 What this result establishes, IMO, is that each person, or at least student in Berlin, tends to put forth most effort in a indoor temperature setting that suits them.   This may have some relevance to supposedly gender-neutral tests, the test setting may be important.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Stanislaus versus State of Madhya Pradesh - Historical Context

Rev Stanislaus vs Madhya Pradesh, 1977 SCR (2) 611, is a matter where the Supreme Court of India considered the issue whether the fundamental right to practise and propagate religion includes the right to convert, held that the right to propagate does not include the right to convert and therefore upheld the constitutional validity of the laws enacted by Madhya Pradesh and Orissa legislatures prohibiting conversion by force, fraud or allurement.

Here is a timeline.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

More China is in a hurry

NBC reports
China's rising tech scene threatens U.S. brain drain as 'sea turtles' return home
Silicon Valley was "a little bit slow for us," said Shenzhen-based entrepreneur Jason Gui, one of millions of Chinese people who were educated in the U.S.

Monday, July 15, 2019

New comments policy

Henceforth, any comment that in my judgment indicates that the commenter has not even scanned the posted material will be simply deleted.  Attempts to derail a discussion will also be deleted.  In this I am following Peter Woit’s polcy on his blog.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Religious Freedom and the Limits of Propagation: Conversion in the Constituent Assembly of India

Article: link (PDF)
Religious Freedom and the Limits of Propagation: Conversion in the Constituent Assembly of India
Sarah Claerhout and Jakob De Roover


In discussions about religious freedom in India, the country’s conflict regarding conversion plays a central role. The Constitution’s freedom of religion clause, Article 25, grants the right “freely to profess, practise and propagate religion,” but this has generated a dispute about the meaning of the right ‘to propagate’ and its relation to the freedom to convert. The recognition of this right is said to be the result of a key debate in the Constituent Assembly of India. To find out which ideas and arguments gave shape to this debate and the resulting religious freedom clause, we turn to the Assembly’s deliberations and come to a surprising conclusion: indeed, there was disagreement about conversion among the Assembly members, but this never took the form of a debate. Instead, there was a disconnect between the member’s concerns, objections, and comments concerning the draft article on the one hand, and the Assembly’s decision about the religious freedom clause on the other. If a key ‘debate’ took this form, what then could the ongoing dispute concerning conversion in India be about? We first examine some recent historiographical accounts of the Indian conflicts about conversion and proselytization. Then we develop a hypothesis that aims to make sense of this enduring conflict by identifying a blindness at its core: people reasoning against the background of Indian traditions see ‘propagation of religion’ as the human dissemination of tradition; this is incompatible with a religious conception where conversion and propagation of faith are seen in terms of God’s intervention. These two ways of seeing ‘propagation’ generate two conflicting experiences of the Indian dispute about religious freedom and conversion.


If for nothing else,  the glimpses of actual debates in the Indian Constituent Assembly are a reason to read this paper.

Green news: Indic women reforesters

Swarajya Magazine reports.

In Uttarakhand:

The Mahila Mangal Dal groups consisting of women volunteers also take up reforestation drives and do the valuable work towards linking trees and the planting of trees with the region's intangible heritage, festivals, rituals, weddings, and cultural events in the region.