Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Abbas Tyrewala on the Mumbai attacks

I was struck and intrigued at what I read here. This is a story on the reaction of Abbas Tyrewala (I had never heard of him before; I guess I do not follow Bollywood script writers, etc.) to the Mumbai attacks. He talks about his genuine fear of retaliation for the attacks with which he has nothing to do. He admires the Indian people (more precisely the people of Mumbai) for sticking together. The only question he does not ask is what exactly is a backlash? It is my humble submission that one can expect a backlash not from the common people of India, but from the horrid political parties which are known to be behind every one of such backlashes.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The events of November 2008: dos and don'ts


Remember the victims and pay homage to their memory.

Thank the heroes and pay homage to their memory.

Hope against all hope that it will never happen again.

Be patient and wait for results of enquiry.


Blame sections of Indian people who have nothing to do with this.

Blame other countries before there is any evidence.

Don't speculate and spread rumours.

Do not demonize others and spread prejudices.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The events of November 2008

A minute of silence for the victims of November 2008. No words will be suffice to express the horror.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Two new words

I came across two new words recently. One was invented by Aparna: she said that she wanted to spend a RELAXFUL Sunday at home. So we saw how words are born in this live example: I guess eight year olds are aware of words such as relaxing and restful this eight year old invented a new word for our edification! From a friend I learnt a new word today: FRENEMY for which many definitions are available on the urban dictionary. Check them out!

The 17th Meera Memorial Lecture

Attention of readers of this humble blog: The 17th Kumari L. A. Meera Memorial Lecture will be delivered on December 12, 2008 (Friday) by Prof. P. Balaram, Director, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore at 6 pm at the Indian Institute of World Culture, B. P. Wadia Road, Basavanagudi. The title is `Chemical Analysis in the Age of Biology'. The web-site of the Meera Trust is here.

Update: You can read the abstract here.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

My article on the Obama Presidency

My article on the Obama Presidency and South Asia has been published by Lokrajsangathan. I am reproducing it below with a crucial typo corrected! The link is here.

The Obama Presidency and its Consequences to south Asia

by B. Ananthanarayan

On November 4, 2008 Senator Barack Obama was elected by a `landslide' to the Presidency of the United States of America. The election has taken place in the midst of a world wide economic crisis and financial meltdown, and in the midst of two highly unpopular wars in which the USA finds itself.

The electoral college landslide victory of Sen. Obama appears to be due mainly to the anti-incumbency factor: his opponent John McCain was directly identified as one who could continue the policies of the outgoing President George W. Bush in domestic as well as in international affairs. It is not entirely likely that Sen. Obama procured massive endorsements of his candidature following his nomination, and indeed the nomination of the Democratic Party as he was a relative newcomer and is not identifiably a member of hated ruling circles and the establishment (in contrast to his main rival for the Democratic Party nomination, Sen. Hillary Clinton).

Sen. Obama's appearance is expected to lend a `human face' to his administration, something that the previous administration could not muster. Even in this regard, it is worth noting that despite national and world wide media extravaganza and efforts to whip up record voter turnout, the figure stood at a little more than 60% of the electorate -- not significantly different from the 2004 election.

In his first comments after the election, Sen. Obama has been quick to say that there would be no quick-fixes to problems and has appealed to the American people to show courage and conviction to deal with their problems. In other words, Sen. Obama admits that his Presidency has the primary task of ensuring that the rule of the financial oligarchs and private moneyed interests receives a new lease of life.

As regards international affairs, during his campaign Sen. Obama repeatedly demonstrated his dexterity at sabre-rattling, by singling out Iran and Pakistan, that consist of fraternal peoples of India, as potential targets of his future Presidency. Such being the case, the peoples of South Asia can only be profoundly concerned at the election of Sen. Obama.

What Sen. Obama inherits is a world profoundly out of equilibrium, with the all round collapse of the arrangements that were in place at the time of the bipolar division of the world. The outright launch of wars of aggression by the Bush administration in Iraq and in Afghanistan which sought to bring in a new equilibrium, have not led to this state of affairs. One of the Obama Presidency's main project would be to try and stabilize the putative hegemony of the USA in world affairs, elimination of regimes unfavourable to US interests, and imposition of market driven economies and western style democracy, and try to meet success in a manner that the Bush administration could not. Despite repeated references to `change' it is likely that his administration will only continue brinkmanship in matters of engagement with Iran and with, e.g., Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

The perils for the people of India and the region are immense in this era. Recalling that having received the recognition of a responsible nuclear power through their various activities including negotiations towards the Indo-US Nuclear Deal, through their dealings in the IAEA, Indian ruling circles are waiting to flex their muscles. Indian military spending stays anomalously high, missile tests take place on a routine basis, provocative remarks are made on sensitive border issues, and so on, which do little to convince India's neighbours that her aims remain peaceable. At this time the ruling circles in India have been waiting with bated breath for the election process to conclude, and to figure out how to carry out their aims at this time. Their main aim would be to be in collusion with US activities and to emerge as a full-fledged world power, and to continue the arrangements that have already been made with the Bush administration. For instance, Sen. Obama's sabre rattling towards Pakistan brings a warm glow to the hearts of India's ruling circles. It is not unforeseeable that India would provide facilities for launching of attacks by the US from its territories in the imperialist wars that may be part of the Obama Presidency.

What then are the people of India to do? The first thing to do is to repudiate all sabre-rattling, and to demand the end of militarization of India, and of the region. They must demand that issues and problems must be settled by negotiation where all parties are treated with dignity. They must demand that India not be part of any strategic alliance with the US. They must demand that India should stop aspiring to be a military power, and instead be a factor for peace and development in the region. Such a demand must be combined with the militarization demilitarization of the inner-life of the country. Name calling and demonization of sections of the Indian people, whipping up of chauvinism must be repudiated. Conditions must be created for the progress of society --- this cannot possibly be achieved by any alliance with war mongering nations with or without a human face. An engagement with the USA must be one which is based on mutual respect for all countries and the peoples, not one of suppression by brute military power of India or of any of its neighbours. By articulating this in a principled and uncompromising way, the people of India can contribute to staving off the danger of war in the region.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Without comment: excerpt from an article on Obama

When you bear this in mind, the US presidential race becomes surreal. The beatification of President Barack Obama is already under way; for it is he who “challenges America to rise up [and] summon ‘the better angels of our nature’”, says Rolling Stone magazine, reminiscent of the mating calls of Guardian writers to the “mystical” Blair. As ever, the Orwell Inversion Test is necessary. Obama claims that his vast campaign wealth comes from small individual donors, yet he has also received funds from some of the most notorious looters on Wall Street. Moreover, the “dove” and “candidate of change” has voted repeatedly to fund George W Bush’s rapacious wars, and now demands more war in Afghanistan while he threatens to bomb Pakistan.

That is from this article by John Pilger.

Here is one more quote:

Among ordinary Americans desperate for a secure life, his skin colour may help him regain this unjustified “trust”, even though it is of a similar hue to that of Colin Powell, who lied to the United Nations for Bush and now endorses Obama. As for the rest of us, is it not time we opened our eyes and exercised our right not to be lied to, yet again?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Our RN article on the puzzle in the B-meson system

With my new co-worker Gauhar Abbas and a summer student from St. Stephen's, Kriti Ashok, I studied problems in the B-meson system, and in collaboration with my old friend S. Uma Sankar, an article was written for publication in Current Science explaining the issues in their Research News Section. The article may be found here.

My paper on the heat-kernel coefficients of `non-minimal' operators

Some years ago while collaborating with Bachir Moussallam, I ran into the issue of so-called non-minimal operators and their heat-kernel coefficients which is of interest in chiral perturbation theory with virtual photons. On my own I tried to understand the issue and the results, found lots of results with no apparent connection, contradictory references, etc.. So I decided to sit down and work through the masses of xerox copies of papers on the subject and wrote a draft of a paper pointing out several connections, simplifications, working out special cases, etc.. I sent it to Journal of Physics and got one report which said it should be published as it is very useful, and another saying that all this is well known. It went to an adjudicator who pointed the possible reason why I was finding some inconsistencies, and said that the paper could not be published in that form. When I took this reason into account all the inconsistencies vanished and it was submitted again, and the round had almost the identical outcome as regards referees. The new adjudicator agreed that it should be published after many many more changes were to be accounted for. The happy outcome of this voyage of discovery may be found here. I am posting this as a part of my new policy of explaining on my blog what I do in my research as well, for the benefit of all the three readers of this blog!

(Teaching vs. Research) vs. (Teaching and Research)

Many of my academic friends who blog have blogged in the past on the issue of Teaching and Research. I have participated in the comments on these. It is my humble submission that those who are primarily engaged in research actually do not really understand or appreciate how much it takes to be a good teacher. Often the arguments run that those in Research Institutes who are not doing great work and are somehow falling behind could be farmed off to Teaching Institutes. In fact one could write a farcical counter-proposal to this as follows: "X was hired to to a teaching Institute. Over the years X started getting really sick of students and teaching. He found that he does not find students questions and grading interesting any more. The Head of the Department summons him and says that we are aware that you once did some research also. In your graduate students days you held a research assistantship and even wrote a couple of papers. Now that you are really falling behind in teaching, maybe you should seriously consider a change in career and take up research in one of our premier Research Institutes. After all, all these years in a teaching environment would have given you special skills to deal with unpredictable situations that could arise in a research environment." Now back to reality after a few moments with farce: It is only recently I have come to discover how hard it is to hold the attention of students for a semester, leave alone a year. Not that I have not taught before; in fact I have been teaching for over a decade, not counting years of teaching assistantships during graduate student days. Recently I have been teaching some additonal classes as students wanted to learn about some advanced topics, not connected to the course I teach. The patience that is needed to prepare for lecture after lecture, make up homework assignments, conduct tests and exams, see students off and on is almost superhuman. Furthermore, if one's mind is so preoccupied, how is it possible to really do research? The magnitude of work required to do a good job of research is also awesome. Maybe it is only superhumans who can do a good job of both at the same time?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Chandrayaan launch

We were already up this morning and were able to watch the launch live on TV. It was quite an enthralling experience. Can't imagine how much excitement there must have been at Shriharikota. What I find most impressive about such achievements is the teamwork. Without that how can one get any project of this magnitude done? I will look forward to reading about the actual take-off from the earth's gravitational field into that of the moon. What I found intriguing also is how they went ahead despite the strong cyclonic activity in the Bay of Bengal? [Speaking of this, I got really drenched this afternoon walking to IISc on New BEL Road.] Way to go.

The Indian blogosphere and the US election

I must confess that I am pretty much surprised at the amount of bandwidth that has been consumed by the US election on the Indian blogosphere. Perhaps there are some reasons: many Indian people have lived in the US, have relatives there, read the English press, regale the stories on the idiocies of Palin, the foibles of McCain, the charm of Obama. But I still cannot understand the intensity of opinion and the singular preoccupation of an election circus in a far-away land. Much has been said about Obama's middle name --- does the American voter think of this before he or she casts her vote, is the American voter a bigot, the list is endless. [I wonder how much bandwidth was consumed in the American blogosphere on the Pratibha Patil vs. Bhairon Singh Shekawat election or the Ansari vs. Heptullah election! ] My humble submission is simply: who cares?! Why should anyone care who is elected President of the US. Does in make any difference to the average African-American if an African-American is elected President?! Will the streets of Washington D. C. be safer? Will there be fewer attacks on Afghan civilians by US armed forces? Will fewer people lose jobs?! On the issue of the possible bigotry of the Republican camp: who cares? Why not Indian people think about bigotry in India? Could it be that the Indian blogosphere is dominated by upper-caste types who are themselves not really victims of the endemic and widespread bigotry of our society and cannot relate to it, but can instead relate to purported bigotry against those of `colour' in the US? Such is the nature of confusion in my unsophisticated mind...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Recent talks that I have given

I will be trying to link the talks that I give to this blog so that I have a record of these, and just in case one of you is also interested.

On September 10, 2008 I gave a talk here at CHEP in honour of the first beam at LHC. It was one of the best attended talks that I have given and to my satisfaction many students seem to have liked it. The link for the pdf file is here.

A shorter version was given as a colloquium at Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad and the link for the pdf file is here.

Travels 2008

Just got back from 8 days of vacation and travel in Delhi and the region. We did a two day trip to Mathura, Agra and Fatehpur-Sikri. The region was unseasonably warm and we could not pack in too much despite travelling in an air-conditioned vehicle. The day temperatures were about 36 C and the night temperatures were also high, and even the mornings were warm and humid. Mathura was interesting and we visited the Bange-Behari temple, which I am told is one of the most important temples in the region. And the Nidhivan which is where Krishna is supposed to be dancing every night with his 16,020 Gopikas. Later we visited the Janmabhoomi. It seemed like we were visiting a prison because of the number of metal detectors and frisking we had to endure. As you know this is right next to a fort which is also a mosque. I do not know if the mosque is a place of worship. In any case, despite all the propaganda in our newspapers and electronic media, I did not sense any kind of tension in the air. The next day was the visit to the Taj. After reading the morning's tragic headlines (see my earlier post on `Death in America') we did get to the Taj by 8:15 and inside the complex by 8:30 (lucky as the gates were closed off by 9:00 for a visiting dignitary and we were told would reopen only at 13:00). And what a sight. Did not imagine its grandeur and stateliness, dimensions and yes, symmetry. It is also very simple: sounds contradictory but it is the simplicity and gives the grace. It looks good as new. This is what was most surprising. I did not expect a monument which is I believe 360 years old to look this new. As Aparna said of herself, "this is my first wonder of the world." Yes, mine too. And the first time. After spending a good hour and a half in the complex we then left for Fatehpur-Sikri. It is also very impressive and I visite my first Dargah as well, that of Salim Chisti. It was quite touching to see the faith of so many who come here to make a secret wish. Of course I am tired of talking about India's multi-religious society and and how it is syncretic, blah, blah, blah! Why is it so surprising? After all no matter what the religion is, the people of the country eat the same food, breathe the same air, drink the same water, spend the same money, travel by the same train. But that is another story. After a nice meal at the nearby Hotel Goverdhan which is owned by the father of one of Anita's students at Ramaiah Institute, we got a tour of this lovely little hotel with about 20 rooms, extremely clean, spacious and comfortable, went back to Mathura and rested for a while and got back home by 22:15. A lovely little holiday indeed.

Physics Nobel Prizes: 2008

It was great to hear that Yochiro Nambu has finally be recognized by the Nobel committee. I learnt yesterday that he is now 87 years of age, and the work that has been recognized is about five decades old. It is very hard to imagine how he did the work when there was practically no framework, and nothing to go by. The idea of spontaneous symmetry breaking which was known in palable condensed matter systems was applied in particle physics at that time! To view pions as the bosons associated with a spontaneously broken (approximate) symmetry is now something that is taken for granted. It must have been out of the world at that time.

The second half is shared by Makoto Kobayashi and Toshihide Maskawa for their work on quark mixing that predicted the existence of the third generation (5th and 6th flavours) of quarks. I believe the mathematics was straightforward, but what a leap of faith! What an audacious idea! At a time when the fourth quark was only hypothesized (and needed for consistency), to say that there should be a fifth and a sixth!

Monday, October 13, 2008

`Death of an American Dream': Karthik Rajaram and family, in memoriam

Last week I looked at the headlines in the newspaper at the Indian Oil Guest House in Mathura at 7 am, while on holiday enroute to the Taj Mahal. There was a headline `Death of an American Dream'. I thought that it must be an article on people losing their homes in the USA. But to my horror it was about a mass murder cum suicide in the USA. Continuing to read with suspension of disbelief, I saw the unmistakable name Karthik Rajaram, classmate from B. Tech.. Of course the name may not have immediately rung a bell but for some emails on a newsgroup on which I get mail. The horror of it all: to take three kids, wife and mother-in-law with him. The next day an article in the HT even gave his roll number 80076. Yes, we have already gone for a memorial service for Ajay Tambe, 80001. While there are no words to express this horror, I must take a stand on the issue of taking so many with him. There can be no justification. Because if there is, there will be more to come. My first reaction was anger at killing so many innocents, the next of great sadness that such a thing could happen. There are no more words.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

My Outlook India article on the LHC

My article on the LHC has just appeared in Outlook India, on page 123 of the print edition of the B-school special, dated September 29, 2009 2008. There was no space for acknowledgements, but this would not have happened but for Diptiman Sen, Sudhir Kumar Vempati and S. Uma Sankar, and also Debasish Ghosh of Aerospace who I have never met. So this may be considered the acknowledgement.

Update: Thanks to Abbas Ali for pointing out the error in the date!

Here is the link.

It is reproduced below for fear of link rot (I have checked with the South India Associate Editor that it is ok to do this.)

Subatomic Slugfest

The CERN experiment is the Apollo moon mission of particle physics

B. Ananthanarayan

On September 10, when the first proton beam was injected into the 'Large Hadron Collider' (LHC) at CERN, in Geneva, science began an exciting new voyage of discovery. The LHC is an awesome machine that will collide intense beams of protons, which will be accelerated in two rings of 27 km circumference. The energy would be seven times larger than the highest ever achieved by accelerators. Four immense detectors will surround the four interaction points of the collisions, and detect the particles produced in the fireball of the impact. At a later stage, the protons will be replaced by nuclei of lead atoms to replicate conditions similar to those that existed at the time of the Big Bang.

Likened to the Apollo moon mission in grandeur, the LHC—an engineering marvel—is the result of the effort of thousands of scientists and engineers, whose purpose is to advance their understanding of nature at its most minuscule scale, which can be probed only with the highest energies. And past great discoveries have come with higher and higher energies. These discoveries have had massive spinoffs in technology: indeed, CERN is the mother of the worldwide web, just as the space programme led to the revolution in materials, and nuclear physics is at the heart of the modern cancer therapy.

The LHC was built at a cost of billions of Swiss Francs by CERN member-states, along with the participation of countries like India, which enjoys 'observer' status. It is a proud moment for many players from India—among these, the DAE Raja Ramanna Centre for Advanced Technology, barc, tifr and others have played notable parts, and teams from universities and research institutes have been involved at many stages of the project. ECIL, BHEL, Kirloskar Electric Co. Ltd, Crompton-Greaves Ltd are among companies that have participated in r&d and fabrication of components. The LHC project has demonstrated the coming of age of Indian science, technology, engineering and manufacturing in the 21st century.

The LHC will carry out its explorations in the deep sub-nuclear domain. Whereas people are familiar with chemistry as the science of atoms and molecules, we now know that atoms are made of nuclei and electrons, and nuclei of protons and neutrons, and protons and neutrons of quarks (and gluons). We have a picture of the elementary particles in nature, and how they participate in the electromagnetic interaction, weak and strong. The first arises from electrically charged particles interacting via the exchange of force carriers, namely mass-less photons, not unlike two children (electrons) who throw a tennis-ball (photon) back and forth in a game. The weak interactions lead to the decay of some radioactive isotopes, and also of free neutrons. Thus they are significant only at the sub-nuclear scale, and one may surmise that the corresponding force carriers are extremely massive. The strong interactions are those that trap quarks and gluons inside hadrons. There are also heavier quarks than those in protons and neutrons, all of which would have been abounding around us, but for the weak interactions, which lead to their spontaneous decay. Electrons too have heavier unstable cousins, and each of these have electrically neutral counterparts are known as neutrinos.

If indeed the electromagnetic and weak forces have a common origin as we now believe, how is it that the photon remained mass-less while the force carrier of the weak forces became massive? The question was answered by Peter Higgs in the 1960s, but at a price—a thus far undetected particle, the Higgs boson. With the gigantic energy in the collisions at LHC and the rates of collisions available here, we may at long last discover this particle. There has been gathering evidence for decades, and more recently of direct imprints, of so-called 'dark matter' in galaxies.Such particles will be produced in the fireballs of the LHC collisions and would leave distinct signatures in the detectors.

There have been many questions in the public mind about the project's safety. In popular theoretical scenarios, microscopic black holes are predicted to exist. If produced, they present no danger, as they bear no relation to the super-massive black sholes present in the centres of galaxies, and consequently we need have no fear of these! Furthermore, they would decay into conventional particles as a consequence of the results established by Steven Hawking.

It may yet be that the LHC will reveal wonders that no one has dreamt of. The voyage has just begun.

(The author is associate professor at the Centre for High Energy Physics, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, and serves on the Board of Editors of the European Physical Journal)

I moderate a panel discussion on reservations

Arvind and Sarita of CONCERN, one of IISc's students organization requested me to moderate a panel discussion on aspects of the Reservation Policy. The three panelists were Prof. Muthiah from Osmania University, Thiru Adhyaman, social activist from Tamil Nadu, and Thiru Aanaimuthu, a venerable veteran of the struggle were the panelists. I don't know about others, but for me it was more eye opening than ever, about the condition of the Dalits in our country, and more so about the Dalits among the Dalits. I was particularly shocked to know about the Arundhatiars of TN. It was humbling for me to moderate the event.

Monday, September 08, 2008

India as a `Great Power' --- my article on the LRS page

Here is my article on the subject on the LRS page, reproduce below for fear of link-rot.

India as a `Great Power'

What does it mean for the people of India?

by B. Ananthanarayan

In the preceding months there has been a tremendous amount of activity in the political mainstream and elsewhere on the Indo-US Nuclear Deal. Much has been written about the supposed surrender of sovereignty by India, and even more about the pros and cons for the people of the country in terms of the energy security offered, and a lot of bandwidth consumed by pitiless analysis of the 1-2-3 Agreement, etc.. There have been hairs split about whether or not India is right in brokering these arrangements with the hated Bush administration of the sole imperialist superpower of the world. The Left Parties have criticized the deal mainly in the context of giving in to imperialism, and have argued that the people of India have serious reservations about making any deal with the USA.

While all the above may be true, it has been less clearly enunciated that the Indo-US Nuclear Deal actually comes at a time when the Indian ruling circles have clearly capitalized on the gains they have made in the post-cold war era and have emerged on the world scene as an ascendent imperilialist power.

In an interviewed granted to the newspaper Daily News & Analysis dated August 23, 2008, the India scholar Dr. Marie-Carine Lall says that the deal has nothing to do with energy and instead that ``It has a lot to do with India getting the Great Power status. In the UN Security Council, for instance, all the permanent members are recognised nuclear powers. Even though India was known to be a nuclear power since 1974, due to the Nuclear-Non-proliferation Treaty, it was not recognised as one. The Manmohan Singh government is trying to rectify that. This was only going to be possible if the US did this kind of a deal with India.'', and further that, ``Even if the deal fails, the fact that the US has extended the deal and tried to negotiate it with India means that recognition has already taken place.''

Such being the case, it may then be contingent to ask what does this really mean for the people of India, and indeed for the peoples of the region, and that of the world. Indeed, the people of India need to quiz the ruling circles of India on what they plan to do with such a `Great Power' status. Such a quiz would necessarily lead to rejecting the vision of the ruling circles and would pave the path for offering a different one.

It may first be important to ask what `Great Power' status has historically meant in the context of the Big Five. World over, the opinion would be that this status has been treated as a license by these countries, with the possible exception of China, in the last several decades, to willy-nilly interfere in the internal affairs of other countries, destablize governments, help organize coups, make countries favoured destinations for finance capital, and at times the launch of outright
wars of aggression and conquest. Is this the kind of `Great Power' status that the people of India would like their country to enjoy? An answer to this question cannot come without first considering the historical realities in the country at this time.

At this time in the country, we have a situation where there are increasing attacks on all the peoples of the country, here in the name of crushing naxalism, there in the name of
curbing Islamic terrorism. We have a situation where anyone opposing any activities of the state, whether it is opposing SEZ laws, or seizure of tribal lands, is simply locked away. There are brutal
police firings on a daily basis, here in Kashmir, there in Jaipur, once in Andhra, another time in Orissa. There are fires being set ablaze between religious groups in Kashmir and Orissa and
elsewhere, while simultaneously there are preparations for the general elections in 2009 and state elections across the country. While there is mass discontent, the ruling circles are closing
their ranks to put up a united defence of their interests, while it promises more devastation for the people of India. While the people of India are acutely conscious of what it means to live
under the yoke of such a ruling class, and such a political system as the one under which they find themselves, this system is praised by the USA and other western powers as `the largest democracy'. Given this grim scenario, there can only be alarm if a `Great Power' status
is accorded to a country of which such a ruling class is at the helm. Indeed, the `Great Power' status can come in handy to whip up jingositic fervour and divert the anger of the masses against an external perceived enemy. It can be used to hound religious minorities in the country and cause bitter divisions among the people. It can also be used to interfere in the affairs of other countries to create favourable conditions for Indian big business to operate. It can be useful to carry out militarization of the region on a scale unparalleled in the past. And most importantly, the `Great Power' status can be used to obtain immunity from international law to carry out criminal activities within the country against the peoples of the country, and outside its
boundaries. This is the precipice at which the people of India and the regions are staring at, at this time.

What then are the people of India to do? They must reject the vision of India that is modelled on the European model of great nation states. They must reject the complete divorce between the polity and the people. They must show that to separate the economic and political discussion from the actual impact that it has on the people is not to the benefit of the people. A discussion must begin on how India can be a factor for world peace, a factor for a secure future for the people of the country as well as for the region. Its immense wealth and resource, its trained population, its self-sacrificing working masses and peastry, must be put the service of the people of India and of the region, and not just to that of the rulers of India. The absence of a discussion on this subject would prepare the grounds for an aggressive India that will heighten the risk of war in the region, and the risk of utter devastation for a large fraction of the population of the region. The challenge of the times is to initiate and carry forward such a discussion.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Spenta Wadia is interviewed by The Deccan Herald

Spenta Wadia, well-known theoretical physicist and the founding director of the new International Centre for Theoretical Sciences was interviewed by The Deccan Herald. The link is here.
It is reproduced below due to fear of link rot.

ICTS in Blore to rekindle interest in basic sciences

Theres a need to meet paucity of good science teachers. The quality of science education in schools and colleges is perhaps one of the reasons why people dont take up basic sciences. You dont make them interesting enough. Its not only the money that takes people away says Spenta Wadia

With students turning their backs on science, the Centre has decided to seek reversal of the trend by creating a new International Centre for Theoretical Sciences (ICTS) in Bangalore. This prestigious institute will, among other things, try to bring young minds back to science research by improving the quality of science teaching in colleges and universities. Likely to be inaugurated by November 2009, the ICTS will be Tata Institute of Fundamental Research’s (TIFR) third centre in the Garden City. The other two centres being the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) and Centre for Applicable Mathematics (CAM). The ICTS promises to create the same level of academic excellence. The centre’s director Spenta Wadia spoke to Kalyan Ray of Deccan Herald about the upcoming institute and what role it would play in attracting students to science.

Bangalore already has too many institutes. Why one more?

It will not be just another centre. It will be driven by the visitors coming from all over the world for academic programmes. There will be parallel streams of subjects so that people from different streams can interact. Programmes on statistical physics and biology can run parallel as there are new areas in biology which use fundamentals of physics. This type of centre is unique in India.

What will be its main areas of research?

There will be emphasis on activities in areas overlapping traditional fields of science like biological physics, computational science, complex systems, fluids, the interface between cosmology, particle physics and string theory and new emergent areas of mathematics with applications in biology and finance.

Will you carry out any other activities besides research?

We also want to focus on teachers’ training and outreach. There’s a need to meet paucity of good science teachers. The quality of science education in schools and colleges is perhaps one of the reasons why people don’t take up basic sciences. You don’t make them interesting enough. It’s not only the money that takes people away.

But money is a factor. Science research is simply not a paying job...

Money is a very important factor. But there will be some percentage of people who would feel inspired if the teaching is good, if you produce good textbooks and if you make things interesting and exciting, because if you excite somebody’s mind at some point, that person might think that it (solving scientific challenges) is worthwhile. The government is now investing a lot of money in basic sciences and planning to increase the emoluments of scientists. So science research can be attractive in future.

Is it the reason that you keep outreach as one of the major ICTS activities to let people know about the wonders of science?

We would like to interact with the civic society at all levels. But specifically, we would target the university and college teachers.

Will there be an industry interface?

It’s important to have an academia-industry interface. It’s not very popular in India and we should make a beginning. For example, there is the concept of Math Clinic in which if an industry — ranging from engineering to financial and biotechnology — has certain mathematical problems, a set of mathematicians are invited to solve that problem.

Do you think that centres like ICTS will help in bringing students back to science?

Hopefully yes. We need to inspire students. Lack of inspirational teachers and inspirational labs are driving students away from science. Our existing laboratories are pathetic. In experimental sciences we are not good precisely because the laboratories in high school and colleges are so primitive.

Why did you choose Bangalore for the centre?

It is important for this centre to have already established scientific centres around it so that there will be mutual benefit. It’s a two-way symbiotic relationship.

How much land you have been promised by the government?

Originally we were shown 34 acres. Now we have got about 20 acres and trying for 15 acres more. It’s difficult to get lands in Bangalore. But the ICTS residential areas have to be close to the academic complex as the visitors will reside there. If they are unable to stay nearby, the effective time the visitors will spend in the centre will be far less. That’s why we are seeking additional land from Karnataka government.

Where’s the institution going to come up and when do you plan to start the construction?

The land is at Hesarghatta in Bangalore. Once the land is transferred to us, we will start the construction work. The funding — a couple of hundred crores of rupees — will come from the department of atomic energy through the TIFR, Mumbai.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Annoucement of membership to editorial board

To all those loyal readers of this blog who also work in hadron physics, please note that I am now a member of the Editorial Board of European Physical Journal A. Part of duties is to solicit high quality articles within the aims and scope of the journal. Please consider this such a request.

Police firing in Kashmir...

I guess one simply gets used to headlines such as `Police firing in Kashmir: 5 killed'. Whatever the rights and wrongs, how come this kind of thing happens every other day? Of course Kashmir could be replaced by Manipur, Nagaland,...Last year in Andhra we had police opening fire and several persons killed. Since this is a private reflection, comments are being turned off.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Abhinav Bindra's olympic gold

Good news! That too in a sport where there is no chance of the athlete ever testing positive for performance enhancing substances, unless coffee or tea can be considered such. I wonder if I write a paper and test positive for coffee or tea, will the referee strip me of the paper? Anyway, the headlines have also screamed that he will now command up to 2 crores for endorsements. So that is what this is all about?!

Anbumani Ramadoss on Homosexuality laws

There was a newsitem which I only briefly looked at. Dr. Anbumani Ramadoss says that to arrest the spread of HIV, it is important to legalize homosexuality. I would say that this ought to be a consequence, and not the raison d'etre for getting rid of such a blot on our collective conscience as the absurd, outdated homosexuality laws. To suggest that in the year 2008 consenting adults, should they choose to cohabit, be considered criminals is way beyond the pale. Correct me if I am wrong, but some one did file a PIL saying that these idiotic and unconscionable laws be scrapped, but was dismissed under the pretext that the PIL should be filed by an aggrieved party. Maybe the courts are too afraid to strike down the laws. If can be legislated away, so much the better.

Roddam Narasimha on India's 61st

In the Sunday section of The Hindu, they had the views of many persons on India's 61st. This included the well-known scientist, engineer, technocract, intellectual, Roddam Narasimha (we like 300 m from him). I am happy to see such a person comment on a political matter. The question is not whether one agrees or disagrees, but in an atmosphere where scientists are supposed to have no views at all, it is good to hear someone speak. Hope to hear more from such persons.

Hiroshima Day, 2008

August 6, 2008 has come and gone. The Hindu had a story on page 12 and Deccan Herald on page 14 (or something like that). It is worth spending a moment thinking about what it was really all about. And to pay homage to the victims. A good reminder of what war is really all about. As I write this, there is news of a war in some province in Georgia. By now one would have thought that Russians would have known what it is really like to roll in tanks and send fighter craft to bomb civilian areas. Collateral damage, I think they all call it.

Bangalore and Ahmedabad, July 2008

This blog fell silent after those terrible events. It was too painful to write about.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Article on Indo-US Nuclear Deal

Here is the link to Appa's article on the Indo-US Nuclear Deal and the Power of the Government to Enter into International Agreements, on the Lokrajsangathan web-site. I am reproducing it below for fear of link rot:


The Indo-US Nuclear Deal and the Power of the Government to Enter into International Agreements

C. A. Balasubramanian

[Additional Controller General of Accounts, Government of India (retired)]

Readers may kindly recall that a majority of the members of Parliament, eminent Political Analysts, our nuclear scientists and engineers who had spent a lifetime of dedicated service in building our nuclear power stations and operating them, besides working on R&D programmes, veteran journalists, social workers and former Prime Minister Mr. V. P. Singh have all come out against the agreement relating to the Indo-US Nuclear Deal, in no uncertain terms.

The 1-2-3 Agreement has been extensively commented upon by strategic analysts, experienced commentators and scientists, who do not have any axe to grind. They have pointed out that the deal goes against the strategic interests and energy security of India.

The official response to the various weighty criticisms or doubts have been dismissive and deplorably inadequate. The Hindu, in its editorial dated June 16, 2008, while commenting on the Government's efforts to persuade the Left Parties to let the Government go to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and negotiate a draft safeguards agreement, without showing the draft to them, said that the IAEA safeguards agreement is part of a project that vitally concerns India's nuclear energy and strategic future over the long term.

But non-consultation, non-transparency and a secretive mindset have characterized the handling of the nuclear deal by the Government from the time it was initiated in July 2005. It passes one's comprehension how, in spite of the horrendous consequences which will flow from the Deal, and which various experts, nuclear scientists and others have pointed out at great length, the Government has the brazenness to go about finalizing this Deal. It is as if the people of India and the members of Parliament that represent them do not exist, let alone have the prerogative of telling the Government what they think of the Deal - and order the Government what to do about it. According to the minority Government at the Centre, the Government thinks that the Deal is in the `national interest', and that should be sufficient for the Parliament and the people. The Government chooses to ignore the fact that whatever action it takes on any matter has to be in the national interest: that is the bottom line. If any action they take is not in the national interest, the Government will be guilty of treason, and will have to face action accordingly. If the adverse consequences of any action of the Government outweigh the presumed benefits expected from it, the Government is duty bound to drop the same.

It will be relevant to consider briefly the provisions of the Constitution of India regarding the Parliament and the Executive (that is the Government).


Traditionally, the main functions of a Legislature are to legislate. Parliament has the power to make laws within its area of competence, as defined and delimited under the distribution of legislative powers between the Union and the States.

Parliamentary control over Government:

In a parliamentary system of Government and under the scheme envisaged by our Constitution, Parliament has to ensure Executive or ministerial responsibility, financial control and administrative accountability. Parliamentary control over the Executive of the Government is based on: 1) the Constitutional provision of collective responsibility of the Council of Ministers to the popular House of Parliament, and 2) Parliament's control over the Budget (Articles 75, 114-116, 265). Parliamentary control over the Executive is political in nature. The answerability of the Executive is direct, continuous, concurrent and day to day, points out Subhash C. Kashyap in his book Our Consitution - An Introduction to India's Constitution and Constitutional Law.

There is a clear distinction between the functions of the Executive and those of Parliament (Art. 75) as defined by India’s Constitution makers. The Parliament deliberates, discusses, legislates, and has also a legitimizational role. The Executive governs - on behalf of Parliament and the people. The Executive has unlimited right to initiate and formulate legislative and financial proposals before Parliament and to give effect to approved policies unfettered and unhindered by Parliament. But Parliament has unlimited power to call for information, to discuss, scrutinize and put the seal of approval on proposals made by the Executive. The Government seems to be acting on the premise that, under Art. 73 (a), the Executive power of the Union extends to matters with respect to which Parliament has powers to make laws, and as Parliament has powers to make laws relating to agreements with a foreign power or foreign organization, the Government has power to enter into agreements on its own, as in the case of the Indo-US Deal. This is not a tenable argument.

The Government has no inherent powers. It can exercise powers which it was exercising before the Constitution came into force, and the powers vested in it by laws made by Parliament in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution. As no law has been passed by Parliament about the powers to be exercised by Government in matters of international agreements, etc., all such agreements have got to be approved by Parliament. It is the fault of Government not to have brought in legislation to govern such matters. If hundreds of agreements have been executed by Government with foreign Governments / organizations (since 1950) they have all to be legitimized by ratification by Parliament.

One of the arguments put forth is that there are no provisions in the Constitution which say that Government should not enter into agreements with foreign Governments, institutions, etc.. But powers cannot be claimed by Government on the basis of `non-existence'. Powers to be exercised by Government have to be specifically provided for in the Constitution and / or in the laws made by Parliament. And if there is any ambiguity, the interpretation should be in favour of Parliament and for strengthening Parliament and democracy, and not in favour of Government which will only lead to erosion of the Constitution.

The writer had in an earlier article on the Indo-US Nuclear Deal on this august web-site drawn attention to the statement issued by two former judges of the Supreme Court of India, J. J. V. R. Krishna Iyer and P. B. Sawant and a former Judge of the Bombay High Court Justice H. Suresh. They had unequivocally opined that the Executive has no power to enter into any agreement with a foreign Government or organization, which is binding on the nation. The agreement will be binding only when it is ratified by Parliament. There is an underlying assumption that, before the Union Government exercises its Executive power, there is a law enacted by Parliament on the subject concerned.

Making a detailed analysis of the Indo-US Deal, a former Prime Minister had posed the question: ``Is there a deal behind the Indo-US Deal?'' The time has also come to ask: ``Who is or who are behind this Deal?'' which is sought to be signed and sealed, circumventing Parliament, public opinion and the people of India. One of the top leaders had expressed the view that the Deal is not for the public interest, but for personal gains. Perhaps the leader has succeeded in hitting the nail on the head?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Some more thoughts on Teaching vs. Research

There is one amazing thing that just struck me today. This was thinking about the recent conferment of the Fellowship of the Royal Society on Girish Agarwal. And not so long ago on Goverdhan Mehta. These two recepients of this greatest of recognition are both essentially teaching institute people. Although both of them were directors of Research Institutes towards the end of their formal retirement in India (Agarwal has now moved to the US where there is no retirement, and Mehta has an endowed chair in IISc), both of them spent bulk of their important scientific years at teaching institutes. And both of them were at the University of Hyderabad, a Central University for considerable number of years. In other words, data points such as these completely muddy the waters regarding any generalization that can be made regarding getting research accomplished or not, at teaching institutes or elsewhere. Comments welcome.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Ashwini Kumar Rath --- In Memoriam

I heard the shocking news of the passing of my friend and post-doc colleague at Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad, years 1992-93, Dr. Ashwini Kumar Rath. He visited Bangalore last year and dropped by my office. It never seemed like it was years since we met last; on an earlier visit to Bangalore. I remember the cups of tea, lunch, and the laughter and fun. He came to Anand with me when I visited Anita there along with some other friends. He was at Sambhalpur University in Orissa. I cannot believe I am writing this obituary already for a friend. His classmates from Institute of Physics Bhubaneshwar must all be as shocked as I am. How must his wife and son feel? And other relatives and friends. Let me observe here a minute of silence.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Striving for relevance

Here are a few muddled thoughts about striving for relevance, a subject oft discussed at coffee tables, faculty lunches and the like here in scenic IISc and I am sure in other research Institutes in the country, and certainly on blogs. The main issue issue is research institutes vs. teaching institutes / institutions / Universities. The first question that pops to mind is why "vs.". There is a general trend now to believe that these should assist one another. I, on the other hand, want to talk about something completely different: this has to do with a certain implicit assumption that those in reserach institutes have plenty of time on their hands, while those in teaching institutes do not, as they are busy preparing for classes, tutorials, lab sessions, etc.. The latter may very well be true, but my question is whether the former is true. One thing that I can simply say off the bat, is that if one is spending a lot of time teaching, it is going to be very hard to find time for research. In a given subfield, it would be easily demonstrable that if number of publications of a given individual is taken as a yardstick, then those who are very busy teaching will have smaller numbers. Conversely, those who are in research institutes will have rather long list of publications, relatively speaking. Now my contention is that in order to actually accomplish this latter, one really does have to work very hard indeed. In fact, even in many of our research institutes, one has to really slog like crazy to get even a piece of work done, do the reading and research, finish the work, write up the results and publish. If one were to do all this sincerely, it would certainly not leave much time. Atleast that is my experience. In other words, it is clear that if one is teaching (a lot) then there is no question of having to strive for relevance, as the work you do justifies what you are paid for. It is my contention here that if one were to work very hard on research and publications,
which are what we have to show for work (not silly gross numbers --- but publication in the sense of the dictionary meaning: the act of bringing before the public; announcement.) then why this anxiety about relevance? Working in a research institute is just like any profession, terms of which are fairly clear. If one is true to this mandate then is there a real need to strive for relevance?

Caveat: I am not getting into the quagmire of those who are inactive in these research institutes. Such subjects are being discussed elsewhere on the blogosphere.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Krishna Kumar on Democracy and childhood school curriculum

They refuse to recognise that democracy in a stratified and highly unequal society requires its citizens to possess a large heart and the capacity to apply individual judgment. These prerequisites develop best in common schools where children of the rich and the poor study together.

That is from Krishna Kumar's article in the Hindu.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Some light reading: Giraffe leads circus breakout.

Even though Rsidd warns me against cutting and pasting articles, I think this will not violate any copyright laws (and the fear of linkrot, of course!) The original is here.

By Saeed Ahmed

(CNN) -- Fifteen camels, several llamas and a potbellied pig broke out of a circus near Amsterdam on Monday. The ringleader? A giraffe who bolted, too.

Police said the giraffe kicked open a fence and walked out.

"The other animals walked out with him," said Amsterdam police spokesman Rob Van Der Veen.

The animals were part of a traveling circus that had set up its tents in the city of Amstelveen, six miles outside the Dutch capital.

They made their break about 5:45 a.m., wandering about a residential street and riling up a neighborhood dog, police said.

Officers and circus employees rounded them up before they could get too far and returned them to their pens.

"It must have been a funny sight," Van Der Veen said. "Waking up in the morning and looking out the window to see those animals walk through the streets."

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Searching for T. P. Kailasam's White House

One of the pull-out sections of yesterday's Hindu had a article on searching for T. P. Kailsam's White House. Actually this is something of a misnomer, because he probably never lived there. It was the house of T. Paramasivam Iyer, Kailsam's father, from who he was estranged. Kailasam had a sister Padma, who was my father's mother, and had expired when Appa was a few months old. As a result even my father and his brother did not have any acquaintance with this celebrated writer. I guess my grandfather had some contact, but very little is known. One of Appa's cousin's, a niece of Kaisalam, who is over 80 years of age lives in Malleshwaram and is a painter. Apart from her, we do not know any other relatives. Unfortunately none of us know Kannada in which our distinguished relative wrote so much. Maybe some day...

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Recognition of work

Over at Tantu-jaal my friend Sunil Mukhi asks the question as to what is to be done if a person in highly privileged Institutes does not get much done. Strongly recommend this post.

Let me ask a different question: what does one do when a person at a Research Institute does a lot of work, or a person at a University does a lot of work. How does such a person gain recognition for his or her work? Now don't tell me, as many of my friends do, that satisfaction that you derive is what you are here for. Partly true. If this was the end of the story, why should there be so many little pieces of recognition? Is there any way in which objectively a person's work is recognized in India? What if he or she is not working some very hot area, at least not so hot at the time the work is being done? Don't tell me that history will judge, and all that sort of stuff. What happens to a person who is working in a subfield on which there is probably not much expertise in the country? How does one judge?

In a scenario where virtually all recognition is through a process of nomination by those who are already in this or that club, and not a process of open application, how does one recognize work? X or Y may be a good scientist and may be thoroughly obnoxious and offensive, and such a person in our set up will not receive recognition for the work he or she has done. Z may have crossed the path of this or that bigshot and is finished off for life. Sometime ago, I had the privilege of nominating a fellow physicist for an international award. Why me? The only eligibility criterion for the nominator was that he or she should be an active scientist. Even though I have never had any recognition myself, it did not disqualify me from making that nomination. For that matter, the Dirac Medal of the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Trieste also has an open nomination procedure.

What I would rather suggest is that there should be a recognized or prestigious forum, where every scientist is welcome to say exactly what he or she has done, and draw the attention of the community. Let the work speak for itself, in terms of published work, the actual publication, what it has sought to show, etc.. Such a forum would immediately destroy the old boys network and scratching backs and bending over backwards for recognition and the quid pro quo..

I am not turning off comments and invite all three of you who read this blog to post your opinions.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Without comment: Fidel Castro Ruz on Obama's speech

My curiosity was kindled when the main stream press reported
that Obama had won Fidel Castro's endorsement. So I looked
around to see what he actually said. I reproduce below
the article from Granma. I don't see how anything here can
be thought of as an endorsement! In any case, I am turning
off the comments here because the views are not mine.

Reflections of Fidel
The empire’s hypocritical politics

IT would be dishonest of me to remain silent after hearing the speech Obama delivered on the afternoon of May 23 at the Cuban American National Foundation created by Ronald Reagan. I listened to his speech, as I did McCain’s and Bush’s. I feel no resentment towards him, for he is not responsible for the crimes perpetrated against Cuba and humanity. Were I to defend him, I would do his adversaries an enormous favor. I have therefore no reservations about criticizing him and about expressing my points of view on his words frankly.

What were Obama’s statements?

"Throughout my entire life, there has been injustice and repression in Cuba. Never, in my lifetime, have the people of Cuba known freedom. Never, in the lives of two generations of Cubans, have the people of Cuba known democracy. (…) This is the terrible and tragic status quo that we have known for half a century – of elections that are anything but free or fair (…) I won't stand for this injustice, you won't stand for this injustice, and together we will stand up for freedom in Cuba," he told annexationists, adding: "It's time to let Cuban American money make their families less dependent upon the Castro regime. (…) I will maintain the embargo."

The content of these declarations by this strong candidate to the U.S. presidency spares me the work of having to explain the reason for this reflection.

José Hernandez, one of the Cuban American National Foundation directors whom Obama praises in his speech, was none other than the owner of the Caliber-50 automatic rifle, equipped with telescopic and infrared sights, which was confiscated, by chance, along with other deadly weapons while being transported by sea to Venezuela, where the Foundation had planned to assassinate the writer of these lines at an international meeting on Margarita, in the Venezuelan state of Nueva Esparta.

Pepe Hernández’ group wanted to return to the pact with Clinton, betrayed by Mas Canosa’s clan, who secured Bush’s electoral victory in 2000 through fraud, because the latter had promised to assassinate Castro, something they all happily embraced. These are the kinds of political tricks inherent to the United States’ decadent and contradictory system.

Presidential candidate Obama’s speech may be formulated as follows: hunger for the nation, remittances as charitable hand-outs and visits to Cuba as propaganda for consumerism and the unsustainable way of life behind it.

How does he plan to address the extremely serious problem of the food crisis? The world’s grains must be distributed among human beings, pets and fish, the latter of which are getting smaller every year and more scarce in the seas that have been over-exploited by large trawlers which no international organization has been able to halt. Producing meat from gas and oil is no easy feat. Even Obama overestimates technology’s potential in the fight against climate change, though he is more conscious of the risks and the limited margin of time than Bush. He could seek the advice of Gore, who is also a democrat and is no longer a candidate, as he is aware of the accelerated pace at which global warming is advancing. His close political rival Bill Clinton, who is not running for the presidency, an expert on extra-territorial laws like the Helms-Burton and Torricelli Acts, can advise him on an issue like the blockade, which he promised to lift and never did.

What did he say in his speech in Miami, this man who is doubtless, from the social and human points of view, the most progressive candidate to the U.S. presidency? "For two hundred years," he said, "the United States has made it clear that we won't stand for foreign intervention in our hemisphere. But every day, all across the Americas, there is a different kind of struggle --not against foreign armies, but against the deadly threat of hunger and thirst, disease and

despair. That is not a future that we have to accept --not for the child in

Port au Prince or the family in the highlands of Peru. We can do better. We

must do better. (…) We cannot ignore suffering to our south, nor stand for the globalization of the empty stomach." A magnificent description of imperialist globalization: the globalization of empty stomachs! We ought to thank him for it. But, 200 years ago, Bolivar fought for Latin American unity and, more than 100 years ago, Martí gave his life in the struggle against the annexation of Cuba by the United States. What is the difference between what Monroe proclaimed and what Obama proclaims and resuscitates in his speech two centuries later?

"I will reinstate a Special Envoy for the Americas in my White House who will work with my full support. But we'll also expand the Foreign Service, and open more consulates in the neglected regions of the Americas. We'll expand the Peace Corps, and ask more young Americans to go abroad to deepen the trust and the ties among our people," he said near the end, adding: "Together, we can choose the future over the past." A beautiful phrase, for it attests to the idea, or at least the fear, that history makes figures what they are and not all the way around.

Today, the United States has nothing of the spirit behind the Philadelphia declaration of principles formulated by the 13 colonies that rebelled against English colonialism. Today, they are a gigantic empire undreamed of by the country’s founders at the time. Nothing, however, was to change for the natives and the slaves. The fomer were exterminated as the nation expanded; the latter continued to be auctioned at the marketplace —men, women and children—for nearly a century, despite the fact that "all men are born free and equal", as the Declaration of Independence affirms. The world’s objective conditions favored the development of that system.

In his speech, Obama portrays the Cuban Revolution as anti-democratic and lacking in respect for freedom and human rights. It is the exact same argument which, almost without exception, U.S. administrations have used again and again to justify their crimes against our country. The blockade, in and of itself, is an act of genocide. I don’t want to see U.S. children inculcated with those shameful values.

An armed revolution in our country might not have been needed without the military interventions, Platt Amendment and economic colonialism visited upon Cuba.

The Revolution was the result of imperial domination. We cannot be accused of having imposed it upon the country. The true changes could have and ought to have been brought about in the United States. Its own workers, more than a century ago, voiced the demand for an eight-hour work shift, which stemmed from the development of productive forces.

The first thing the leaders of the Cuban Revolution learned from Martí was to believe in and act on behalf of an organization founded for the purposes of bringing about a revolution. We were always bound by previous forms of power and, following the institutionalization of this organization, we were elected by more than 90% of voters, as has become customary in Cuba, a process which does not in the least resemble the ridiculous levels of electoral participation which, many a time, as in the case of the United States, stay short of 50% of voters. No small and blockaded country like ours would have been able to hold its ground for so long on the basis of ambition, vanity, deceit or the abuse of power, the kind of power its neighbor has. To state otherwise is an insult to the intelligence of our heroic people.

I am not questioning Obama’s great intelligence, his debating skills or his work ethic. He is a talented orator and is ahead of his rivals in the electoral race. I feel sympathy for his wife and little girls, who accompany him and give him encouragement every Tuesday. It is indeed a touching human spectacle. Nevertheless, I am obliged to raise a number of delicate questions. I do not expect answers; I wish only to raise them for the record.

Is it right for the president of the United States to order the assassination of any one person in the world, whatever the pretext may be?

Is it ethical for the president of the United States to order the torture of other human beings?

Should state terrorism be used by a country as powerful as the United States as an instrument to bring about peace on the planet?

Is an Adjustment Act, applied as punishment to only one country, Cuba, in order to destabilize it, good and honorable, even when it costs innocent children and mothers their lives? If it is good, why is this right not automatically granted to Haitians, Dominicans, and other peoples of the Caribbean, and why isn’t the same Act applied to Mexicans and people from Central and South America, who die like flies against the Mexican border wall or in the waters of the Atlantic and the Pacific?

Can the United States do without immigrants, who grow vegetables, fruits, almonds and other delicacies for U.S. citizens? Who would sweep their streets, work as servants in their homes or do the worst and lowest-paid jobs?

Are crackdowns on illegal residents fair, even as they affect children born in the United States?

Are the brain-drain and the continuous theft of the best scientific and intellectual minds in poor countries moral and justifiable?

You state, as I pointed out at the beginning of this reflection, that your country had long ago warned European powers that it would not tolerate any intervention in the hemisphere, reiterating that this right be respected while demanding the right to intervene anywhere in the world with the aid of hundreds of military bases and naval, aerial and spatial forces distributed across the planet. I ask: is that the way in which the United States expresses its respect for freedom, democracy and human rights?

Is it fair to stage pre-emptive attacks on sixty or more dark corners of the world, as Bush calls them, whatever the pretext may be?

Is it honorable and sane to invest millions and millions of dollars in the military industrial complex, to produce weapons that can destroy life on earth several times over?

Before judging our country, you should know that Cuba, with its education, health, sports, culture and sciences programs, implemented not only in its own territory but also in other poor countries around the world, and the blood that has been shed in acts of solidarity towards other peoples, in spite of the economic and financial blockade and the aggression of your powerful country, is proof that much can be done with very little. Not even our closest ally, the Soviet Union, was able to achieve what we have.

The only form of cooperation the United States can offer other nations consist in the sending of military professionals to those countries. It cannot offer anything else, for it lacks a sufficient number of people willing to sacrifice themselves for others and offer substantial aid to a country in need (though Cuba has known and relied on the cooperation of excellent U.S. doctors). They are not to blame for this, for society does not inculcate such values in them on a massive scale.

We have never subordinated cooperation with other countries to ideological requirements. We offered the United States our help when Hurricane Katrina lashed the city of New Orleans. Our internationalist medical brigade bears the glorious name of Henry Reeve, a young man, born in the United States, who fought and died for Cuba’s sovereignty in our first war of independence.

Our Revolution can mobilize tens of thousands of doctors and health technicians. It can mobilize an equally vast number of teachers and citizens, who are willing to travel to any corner of the world to fulfill any noble purpose, not to usurp people’s rights or take possession of raw materials.

The good will and determination of people constitute limitless resources that cannot be kept and would not fit in the vault of a bank. They cannot spring from the hypocritical politics of an empire.

Fidel Castro Ruz

May 25, 2008

10:35 p.m.

Translated by ESTI

- Reflections oF Fidel

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Defining new genre of films

As all the three faithful readers of this blog (are there that many?) know, I have been travelling a little, and finally have some airport / travel stories to tell. No, not as interesting as the last one about bumping into Guenther Grass, but this time the only thing that came to my mind is what I am going to say below. Actually it had already to my mind earlier when I was watching a couple of bits of films on this world movies channel, which seemed to be mainly Spanish films, where really not much happened. The movies were not very interesting, and not very challenging. Then it occured to me that these must come from a genre of films designed for in-flight entertainment. My beliefs were reinforced after looking at the selection on Emirates flights. They were exactly that! But there is another genre of films on Star and HBO which boggles my mind even more. Now which one of us in India would be interested in US war films, where the great white nation mainly takes on the yellow peril or middle-eastern terrorists? Even if these films have Denzel Washington starring as a high-ranking general? Or the other genre of US college and teenage films? Do not those who are responsible for scheduling of films study what genre would or would not be interesting? Even more mind boggling were the films on Discovery or Nat Geo, where there was a long series of documentaries on fishing for crabs in the North Sea. How many of us have ever seen the North sea, sailed on boats or are interested in eating crabs? This genre is really not for me...

preventing diabetes, promoting human rights -- an interview with my big sister

Padma has just been interviewed in YWCA North Rhode Island, and she talks about preventing diabetes and her views on human rights, etc.. Here is the link.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Goodbye Lausanne

The time has come to bid `au revoir' or `auf wiedersehen' to Lausanne again. It was a very nice visit, made nice by friends and the atmosphere here. This is what I wrote to Prof. Pramod Rastogi who helps co-ordinate the ISBRI programme under which I visited here.

I am writing to you to thank you and the officers, especially Dr. Barbara Baumann for facilitating my visit to the EPFL under the aegis of the ISBRI. I
had first heard of this from my colleague, Prof. V. Venkatraman who had also visited EPFL a couple of years ago. My enquries to you and Dr. Baumann were
met with enthusiastic replies. I was also very happy that the application procedure was transparent and clear and was conducted in a very professional
manner. I sent a pdf file with the proposal and my curriculum vitae, and in a couple of months I had a positive reply. I sought a prepartory period of
some months which was also approved. I am pleased to inform you that I have now spent most of my planned one month at EPFL in a very productive manner.
I must also record my thanks to Prof. Shaposhnikov for his hospitality and that of the members of the group here. I hope that it would be possible to
visit again in future.

It is worth recording here that the atmosphere that is prevalent at the EPFL is one of the greatest professionalism. The work facilities are outstanding
and it would be hard to imagine how things could be better. In fact, it is this kind of hassle free atmosphere that makes a visit to Switzerland
particularly welcome for many of us from India. I found the time spent here, free of my usual administrative work and other routine matters, to be of
utmost satisfaction. Besides the collaborative work at the EPFL, I was also able to work on other research problems profiting from the hassle free
atmosphere that I referred to earlier.

As you are aware, I have deep ties with Switzerland, having spent three years as a post-doctoral fellow, of which two were actually in Lausanne itself.
I am happy to renew these ties as well, although the members of the erstwhile Institute of Theoretical Physics are now retired. This bond between people
who have once worked here and the country of Switzerland itself is of value and it would be great if an instrument like the ISBRI were to play a role in
strengthening such ties.

Of course for Anita and me Lausanne will always have a special place. But now it is time to head back home...

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Raychaudhuri --- some correspondence regarding

Updated: In view of the comment of RS, I have removed email addresses.
While in general I agree with his observation, I do not think any one
would mind their mail being displayed when it is about paying respect
to the work of another scientist. It is like quoting from an article.
I do not see why any one would object.

Date: Fri, 30 May 2008 15:52:25 +0530 (IST)

Subject: Raychaudhuri

Dear Dr. Buchert,

I enjoyed the seminar you presented at Lausanne last week, although i know
very little about the subject. I was pleasantly surprised to know that the
work of A. K. Raychaudhuri continues to be of use in modern research. You
may be interested (from a human interest angle) in the following: (click here)

I hope some of the articles are to your liking.

B. Ananthanarayan

Date: Fri, 30 May 2008 13:26:42 +0200

Subject: Re: Raychaudhuri

Dear college,

I am pleased to learn that you enjoyed the talk. Of course,
Raychaudhuri's equation is key to many research questions.
I actually saw some of these articles, and thank you for
sending me this site.


Centre de Recherche Astrophysique de Lyon UCBL / CNRS UMR 5574 / ENS
9, avenue Charles Andre F-69230 Saint-Genis-Laval


Even more travels in scenic Switzerland

For those of you who are sick of tourists and would like to see absolutely beautiful places of a different kind, not the rugged Alps, I strongly recommend the Jura range. Yesterday I took the postal bus to the valley of Brevines eventually to Le Locle in the canton of Neuchatel from the railway station. Of course you would know that Les Brevines is known as the Swiss Siberia as it is the coldest region in the country in winter. Now the pine forests are calm and beautiful. Then I went into the cute town of Neuchatel, all in the watch making area of the country. The bad news is that the Physics Dept. there has been closed down and the members transferred to Bern making the Institute there bigger. This will be from August 1. This morning I thought I had a lot of time when I reached Bern at about half past nine and since my meeting with Leuwyler was only at 1 pm, why not go to Lucerne by the train a few minutes later and get back by 1. Terrible mistake as it took an hour and a half to get to Lucerne and I suddenly realized that I could not make it back for 1 if I stayed in Lucerne and jumped into a train to Zuerich which would go through Zug. Now Zug is to Switerland what Switerland is to the world. It is the banking centre of banking centres and so I thought it would be nice to see this groovy place even if from the train. This was mistake number two, as in Zurich I would have only about 3 minutes to catch the train to Bern to make it by three minutes to 1 pm. I had to really run as I was at the rear end of the train to get to the main bay and to platform 12. The train started as I got in. In Bern it was good to see Leuwyler who told me that he would have to leave by 3 and not 5 as he earlier thought as he had a train to catch from Geneva. So you guessed right. I took the train with him and hopped off at Lausanne and got an extra hour of physics with him. The back by the quarter to eight train from Lausanne to Biel and by funiculaire to Evilard. Today was the most I ever spent in a train, all unplanned but now I am ready to sleep.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Prof. Qaisar Shafi recognized at UD

I just got a message from Monika Shafi that Prof. Qaisar Shafi, my teacher and Ph. D. supervisor has been awarded a Faculty Excellence award at the University of Delaware. Here is the link.

The story is reproduced below:

College of Arts and Sciences recognizes faculty excellence

1:49 p.m., May 21, 2008--Faculty members in the College of Arts and Sciences were recognized with awards for excellence in teaching, service, research and advising, at a program held May 6 before a capacity crowd in the Hartshorn Theatre.

Dean Tom Apple presented the awards, which were selected by the College Senate Awards Committee.

Margaret Stetz, Mae and Robert Carter Professor of Women's Studies, received the Outstanding Teaching Award. "While her research and scholarship are prolific, her lectures and other presentations are in demand and her wit and style are legendary, it is for her teaching that we honor her today," Apple said. He quoted a nomination from one of her students who said, "I loved this class. I wish we could have it as a year-long class.”
Anthony Seraphin, assistant professor of mathematical sciences, was presented the Outstanding Service Award. Apple noted that Seraphin has served on various search committees for the Department of Mathematical Sciences, chairs the Educational Affairs Committee for the college, serves on the College Committee on Diversity in Faculty Recruitment and Retention and is on the AAUP Steering Committee.

Susan Groh, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry, received the Outstanding Advisement Award. "In addition to teaching a full load, she advises 70-80 students per year," Apple said. She also advises Habitat for Humanity, Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society and the St Thomas More Oratory Student Organization and serves on the advisory board of the HHMI Undergraduate Science Education Program and the Board of Senior Thesis Readers.

Qaisar Shafi, professor of physics, was presented the college's Outstanding Scholar Award. "Prof. Shafi has published over 180 papers in refereed journals," Apple said, "and his publication venues are the very best in his field; his citation index stands well over 6,000, and many of his papers are highly cited. In the past five years alone, he has delivered over 50 talks at major international conferences, schools and workshops while simultaneously collaborating with and training postdocs and Ph.D. students."
Apple also introduced two members of the college faculty who received University awards this year: Ken Haas, professor of sociology and criminal justice, and Patricia Sloane-White, assistant professor of anthropology, each received the University's Excellence in Teaching Award.

The program included a report by Apple on the highlights of the 2007-08 academic year and his goals for the future. Departments and programs also showcased their accomplishments at a reception after the event.

Onset of the monsoon

The great joy is here! Here is the story from the Deccan Herald.

India's southwest monsoon keeps its date
Thiruvananthapuram, IANS:
The southwest monsoon, which brings the eagerly awaited rainy season vital for India's agriculture, set in over Kerala on Saturday, within the range of expected onset, bringing relief from oppressive heat.

According to observations at 8.30 a.m., it covered most parts of the south Arabian Sea, Kerala, some parts of Tamil Nadu, parts of the southwest and west central Bay of Bengal, the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) said.

It pointed out that the conditions were favourable for further advance of monsoon into some more parts of the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal, remaining parts of Kerala, some more parts of Tamil Nadu and some parts of Karnataka and northeastern states in the next two to three days.

The IMD had earlier predicted the monsoon onset over Kerala would be on May 29 with a model error of plus or minus four days.

In 2007, IMD predicted the monsoon onset on May 24 and the actual date was four days.

Current meteorological analysis and numerical weather prediction models suggest that isolated to scattered rain or thundershowers activity accompanied with thunder squall are likely over plains of northwest India during next three to four days.

Scattered rain/thundershowers activity accompanied with strong thunder squall are also likely over West Bengal, Sikkim and Orissa during the next 48 hour

CNN travel article on walking in Switzerland

Here is an article for those who love walking. The original link is here.

Lesson from Switzerland: Get up, get out and hike

* Story Highlights
* Walking is the No. 1 sport in Switzerland
* Every Swiss village, city and mountain is crisscrossed with paths
* The Swiss also ride bikes to get around
* Next Article in Travel »

By Sheila Norman-Culp
Associated Press

FTAN, Switzerland (AP) -- Limbs and lungs aching after a 5 1/2-hour, above-the-treeline hike in the Swiss Alps, I plopped down with pride upon the roughhewn log that served as a bus stop bench.

Hikers take in the view in Chur, Switzerland.

"That was a monster!" I said to my husband, reliving the trek across unstable slate fields and rugged mountain meadows, along trails carved by rushing streams, meandering cows and burrowing marmots.

Then the Bachman family from Basel walked by. They had done the same hike with 5-year-old twins, a 7-year-old and a 9-year-old.

"At least you beat the twins," my husband smirked.

Only the twins and their mother, Damia, waited with us for the bus. The older kids and their father continued down a grueling 1 1/2-hour switchback trail to the resort of Scoul. In a further blow to my ego, I learned that the Bachmans were on a three-week summer vacation and had gone on similar hikes nearly every day.

"The hardest thing is stopping every hour to feed them," Damia Bachman said. "They are always hungry."

There are times in life when something that has been abundantly obvious to others for so long finally becomes obvious to you. Like most Americans, I honestly had no idea how sedentary I had become.
Don't Miss

* From France to Italy over Mont Blanc
* Bern: Switzerland's playful capital

It's not just our fast-food culture that's making us the oversized laughingstocks of the world. It's also that we sit too much -- at work, in the car, at school, at home.

We spend weekends and evenings as passive observers, watching sports or movies, playing video games, surfing the Internet -- all sitting down.

In most of America, virtually every activity requires a hop in the car. Even when parents do walk, they often keep toddlers in strollers months too long because it's faster that way.

Plenty of American families are involved in sports, but that can mean nothing more strenuous than sitting in the bleachers watching a child's tournament. While exercise walking is by far America's most popular sport -- practiced by nearly 90 million people in 2007, according to a survey by the National Sporting Goods Association -- that survey includes anyone who did it at least once that year.

In Switzerland, walking is also No. 1, but here it's a daily commitment practiced at distances that would leave most Americans panting.

Lorenz Ursprung, head of sports promotion at the Swiss Office of Sport, said it's easy to see walking's appeal.

"You can do it as a family, a couple, by yourself. You don't need any expensive equipment. You don't even have to go anywhere -- you can walk out your back door," he said.

Of course, it doesn't hurt that every single Swiss village, city and mountain is crisscrossed with paths, ranging from flat sidewalks by the lake to heart-stopping alpine trails.

The Swiss walk for pleasure: to breathe fresh air, talk with friends, give the dog a romp, head to a cafe for lunch. They walk to do errands, pick up groceries, go to work. On Sundays, when most stores are closed, paths are filled with three-generation families, all out for a walk.

"Every single weekend, we went hiking with the family," reminisced Sandro Della Rossa, a 27-year-old language teacher in Zurich. "Sometimes when I was a teenager, all I wanted to do was stay home and hang out with my friends. But no, I had to go hiking with the family.

"I didn't appreciate it then -- but I do now."

On weekends, morning trains are filled with elderly hikers heading into the mountains with walking poles. Packs of 10- to 13-year-olds gather for overnight mountain treks led by 16- and 17-year-olds, with nary a parent in sight. Young couples lug infants and toddlers on their backs as they trek up to see glaciers.

I've even seen a father hike up to the Matterhorn base camp, his prepubescent sons following eagerly, on a trail where one slip could mean an early death.

In the cities, Swiss toddlers zip along on tiny wooden balance bikes, expected to keep up with their parents.

And every day, hundreds of students, professors and office workers march up the hill to the University of Zurich along a slope so steep it also has a funicular train. Those 218 steps leave me gasping.

"It's the most direct route and I don't have to buy a monthly tram pass," explained student Lukas Schneider. "It's jammed during rush hour, but it's quite dramatic, don't you think?"

The Swiss penchant for movement is not limited to walking. All types of people -- the old, the fat, bankers in suits, women in skirts -- regularly ride bikes to get around, despite the many steep streets. Some Zurich postmen pick up the mail using little wagons attached to bicycles.

Part of our problem in America may be fear: Kids rarely walk or bike to school because parents are afraid of bad drivers and pedophiles. Part may be our speeded-up culture: Parents often feel too rushed in the morning to walk their children to school.

Jonathan Dorn, editor-in-chief of Backpacker magazine, in Boulder, Colorado, says many U.S. towns also lack the infrastructure the Swiss have -- sidewalks, safe street crossings, schools that are close to students' homes.

But he also thinks more American children could turn into lifelong walkers if parents broke some bad habits.

"Maybe it's not practical to walk your kids to school," he said. "But instead of letting them watch videos Saturday morning, take them out to your local park and walk. They will whine for about 10 minutes, then find a frog or climb a tree."

BBC article on Swiss puncutality

Just thought I would reproduce this article here for kicks. The original link is here.

Switzerland's obsession with time

Switzerland is famous for its watches and its trains that run on time. But, asks Imogen Foulkes, can punctuality become too much of a good thing?

Euro 2008 countdown clock in Bern
Euro 2008 fans will be able to depend on punctual transport

In the centre of Bern there is an electronic clock which is ticking off the days, hours, minutes and seconds until the start of Euro 2008 - a reminder that Europe's football championships begin on 7 June and Switzerland is the proud host.

Seeing the clock caused me to reflect on Switzerland and time.

My first job in this country was as a journalist for Swiss Broadcasting's international service. Not so different from the BBC World Service in fact, apart from one curious thing.

Every day at exactly nine, 12 and four, the offices were all empty, and the elevators up to the staff restaurant were all full.

Why? Morning coffee, lunch and afternoon coffee it turned out. Always at the same time.

Not because the company ordered it but because the Swiss do it that way.

Electronic timekeepers

One of my first assignments was at the city hospital, but I made the mistake of arranging an interview for 9am.

I wandered through empty corridors, passing wards where patients lay quietly, not a doctor or nurse in sight.

I finally found my neurologist in, of course, the canteen, coffee at his elbow.

Swiss alps
There are new daily timesheets, in which all work activity must be recorded at 15 minute intervals
"But what if you don't want coffee at nine?" I finally asked a colleague. "What if you fancy a cup at 10? Or what if you're hungry at two?"

I was greeted with a puzzled frown. "Well," came the reply, "I'd be on my own, because everyone goes at nine. I'd have no-one to talk to."

But despite the national enthusiasm for punctuality, Swiss companies are now trying to formalise the timekeeping of their employees and there is currently a boom in time management software.

Bureaucratic insanity

I know a woman who works as a translator. It is a quiet office, everyone works individually and phone calls are rare.

This woman likes to swim for an hour at lunchtime and because - yes, you have guessed it - everyone takes lunch at the same time, her local pool is full at midday.

So she took the revolutionary step of going for lunch at 1330.

The school timetables are not just strict, they are Byzantine in their complexity

The pool was almost empty, it was bliss - until she got back to work and found an email from her boss saying that under the new system, lunch after two o'clock was not possible.

I have another friend who works part-time, in theory every morning from eight until noon. But sometimes it gets very busy and he works on until two.

Or he did until the newly-installed electronic timekeeper began deducting an hour's wage as soon as it got to one, because of course he could not possibly be at his desk, he had to be at lunch.

The most bizarre system of all is about to be imposed on my former colleagues at Swiss Broadcasting: a new daily timesheet, in which all work activity must be recorded at 15-minute intervals.

Imagine, if you will, racing to get a television report edited in time for the evening news and having to stop every quarter of an hour to explain what you are doing.

Management claim it will allow them to compare the cost effectiveness of programmes. Journalists say it is a bureaucratic insanity.

School timetables

And then there are the schools. Punctuality is prized in the classroom too. Children who are late can expect punishment.

But the school timetables are not just strict, they are Byzantine in their complexity. A regular nine-to-four day is unheard of. Instead children come and go throughout the day.

Letzigrund Stadium in Zurich, Euro 2008 venue
It will be interesting to see how the Swiss adapt to the different habits of all these visitors
Here, for example, is a snapshot of my two sons' timetable.

On Monday, one starts school at 0730, the other at 0820.

One comes home at 11, the other at 12, one goes back at two, the other is home for the afternoon.

It goes on like that all week but not in the same way, of course. Each day is cleverly different.

The only thing that is sacrosanct is the two-hour lunch break. Forget about school dinners. Switzerland still operates on the principle that Mum is at home, so children are always home for lunch.

I have a friend with three children who tried for years to get a job but never succeeded because - and she worked it out precisely - given the school timetable, she could never be out of the house for more than an hour and 43 minutes.

Transport system

But there is one glorious, positive side to this obsession with timekeeping: the trains. They really do run - nearly always - on time.

So the hundreds of thousands of football fans who are about to descend on Switzerland for Euro 2008 need not worry about missing the kick-off.

An intricate and integrated transport system is already in place, with extra trams and trains laid on in all the host cities.

What will be interesting, though, is to see how the Swiss adapt to the different habits of all these visitors.

The Italians are going to Zurich and may well want their cappuccino at 11, not nine.

The French are coming to Bern. What if they want a five-course lunch at two?

Perhaps it is just as well for punctilious Swiss restaurant managers that the Spanish team is playing in neighbouring Austria, since their fans tend to enjoy dinner at 10.

Still, I am sure it will all go smoothly, as long as there is no extra time.

More travels in scenic Switzerland

When I was visiting Bern the other day, in fact the Institute where I had been a post-doctoral fellow in 1995-1996, I decided to check out the Fine Arts Museum. It had an exhibition by Ferdinand Hodler a well known Swiss painter of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. His work included landscapes of the Lac Leman region, the famous mountains, religious motifs, those of his model who later died of cancer, in various stages of her illness. Very moving indeed. I also went to the History museum where they now have the `Einstein Museum' on the second floor which is basically a reduced version of the long exhibition they had in 2005-2006 to commemorate the miracle year of 1905. As you know, he spent long years of his working life in Bern and they are very proud of him indeed. At the entrance to the Physics building there is a small head of Einstein in bronze (I think it is). Here in Lausanne I have visited the Mudac, the museum of contemporary design and crafts with a beautiful glass collection (the theme being glass as a medium of art) and also to the Elysee museum, a museum of photography. I learnt that the first photograph was taken in 1935 by someone called Bayard, following work of Arago in Paris. I have walked several time on Boulevard Arago with nary a thought of who he or she might have been! Maybe I will try once more to go to the vivarium. This time I have a printout of all the participating museums.