Friday, August 25, 2006

8 planets!

I am greatly relieved to know that the number of
planets has now shrunk and poor Pluto has been
demoted to a 'dwarf planet'. Imagine the lethalness
of having to remember the names of so many
planets, had it been otherwise. What is interesting
in this entire debate is that so far there was no 'definition'
of a planet. Now there is! What will all this do
to astrology?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

12 planets!

So the Universe as we knew it will change. Now three more celestial
bodies in the solar system will be elevated to planets. Actually one of
them, Ceres, had been a planet in the 19th century and had been demoted.
This lies between Mars and Jupiter, and was until now the largest
asteroid. The other trans-Plutonian (certainly trans-Neptunian) objects
in this hallowed list are Charon and (yikes!) Xena. Hope the name
of the last one will be chosen to be something else.

BELLE results on missing energy decay

The KEK B-meson factory, BELLE recently put out some
interesting results, having observed 17 B-meson decays
into tau lepton and its neutrino, from a sample of,
yes, 450 million B-meson pairs! In the decays, the
B-mesons turn into a final state with only leptons,
with missing energy carried away by several neutrinos.
The number is in accordance with the standard model
expectations and tightly constrains the parameter space
for charged Higgs. Details can be found here.

Sen. George Allen denies making racial slur

According to many media reports on the despicable event
surrounding Sen. George Allen of Virginia, describing
a campaign worker of his opponent as a 'Macaca', he
now says that his remark was not meant to be a racial slur.
This is a terrible thing to happen to a person who is an
American albeit of Indian descent. Among the many
things noted in the article, the following are relevant:

  1. "This fellow here, over here with the yellow shirt, Macaca, or whatever his name is," said Allen, who at times pointed directly at the camera.
  2. Macaca is a class of monkey, including the rhesus monkey.
  3. "He was doing that because he could, because he could get away with it," Sidarth said. "I think he was just trying to, trying to point out the fact that I was a person of color, in a crowd that was not otherwise."
Kind of amazing that such a thing could have happened.

I am also reminded of the writings of Rahul Mahajan, where
he had once written that when he was campaigning against the Iraq war
before it started, many would question his patriotism, while colleagues with
'standard' American names would never get mail of that sort.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Our recent educational paper on neutrinos

This is just to provide a link to our recent educational
on neutrino experiments and their results.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Guenter Grass' confession

There are plenty of articles appearing on the recent
confession of Mr. Guenter Grass about his membership
of Hitler's elite Waffen SS. Commentators are saying
that he had no business being the moral voice of
Germany as he had not come out in the open. Maybe
they are right. But why could others not establish
this truth? This is something that confounds me about
that part of the world. When they talked years ago
about Kurt Waldheim, why did they not establish his
antecedents before he became UN Secretary General
or long before he became Austria's President. The role
of Juan Antonio Samaranch during the Franco period
is also well known --- so why was he allowed to be
President of the IOC. In any case, I do find that the
attitude of Europe towards its past is a very positive one.
There is a lot of soul-searching and a lot of 'coming out
of the closet'.

Unfortunately there is nothing of that sort in our country.
We have politicians in our midst in all political parties,
so many of who can be directly identified with specific
crimes of genocidal nature. But we have no soul searching
of this kind. There is a lot of crocodile tears about the
partition. There are those who have openly talked about
participating in specific crimes including murder, who have
been elevated to high posts in the ranks of certain
'cultural organizations'. It would be great if people took
a leaf out of the books of the European soul-searchers.
It is good to keep in mind the following quote:

"Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it."
---George Santayana

Discussion on faculty salaries

My good friend Abinandanan over at Nanopolitan has a post followed
by a simpler one on the need to enhance faculty salaries. I had a couple
of comments there on why I think the issue of demanding higher salaries
is not a justifiable one. It has been a long time since I wrote anything on
this blog, owing mainly to the starting of the semester and of course, the
famous writer's block. Let us hope that this will help me break it!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Something light for a change

I have often wondered why I feel the pressure
to write only about heaviosity in this young
blog, or in my other writings scattered all
over netlandia. Here is one that might cheer
you up: I saw someone described as a 'polymath'
the other day. I thought perhaps this means
that he is good at algebra, geometry and

However, my online dictionary says


n : a person of great and varied learning

On this note, I also find it useful to recall
the following from Alice in Wonderland:

The different branches of Arithmetic -
Ambition, Distraction, Uglification, and Derision.