Thursday, November 21, 2013

Game 9

I am writing as the game is progressing. The game is quite interesting but I think 28. Nf1 is a major blunder, since Bf1 should have been played. I think now that Anand has lost the game.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Bharat Ratna

It is a great and truly well deserved recognition for CNR Rao. His h-index of 108 currently is similar to Tendulkar's record of 100 centuries and is unlikely to be broken by any other Indian scientist. Further, both are alike in some aspects: hard work, unbridled enthusiasm, passion and perseverance.

It is a great honor for me that I had co-authored a manuscript with him earlier this year.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Game 6

Sachin retires. Anand likely to lose now..

I find it interesting that both players seemed to think that 57. Rg8+ was the decisive mistake, allowing Magnus' king to move to e3, but the engines insist it's a draw until 60.Ra4. If 60.b4 is played, all engines show a draw.
Stupid journalists asking Anand about Sachin's retirement. Irritated Anand says he was not following it because he had other things in mind. Next, he says, "Doing your best means doing your best. I don't know why you don't understand English" I think losing these rook endings are getting to him.

I have no idea why Susan Polgar is explaining chess..has 64 squares, algebraic notation. In twitter, she says that people of all levels are following and she has to explain this. Those who do not know this are not following chess live ! Please.

What else, Ravi Shastri will explain what is run and run out on Star Sports??

Friday, November 15, 2013

Game 5

Pity Anand lost. He says 34..Rd4 is a mistake. But the computer shows 0 advantage at move 45. When Anand moved 45..Rc1+, the evaluation drops to 0.86 indicating a mistake here. Ra1 should have ensured parity even at this stage.

Sachin Sachin

..chants the entire nation. It is difficult to discuss his contribution to India. Just by doing his job of playing cricket, he has done something others can only dream. In my opinion, no other individual has brought as much as happiness to Indians in the post Independence era. He has shown how hard work and humility can help individuals reach great heights. But the key is enthusiasm. As MSD said, "His schoolboy-like enthusiasm for the game is something I envy and admire."

For people who do not understand what is so great about him, they have to be ground when he bats. I have watched him hit a century in Chepauk against Pakistan, a double hundred in Bangalore against Australia and so many other knocks, which showed his talent and ability to soak in pressure. When he bats, time stops. As Hayden said, "I have seen God. He bats at #4 in tests for India"

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Game 4

While India is abuzz with Sachin's last test, the game 4 of Anand - Carlsen was wonderful. The 16th move of Carlsen (Bxa2) was a risky line but he had obviously prepared for it. It turned a boring Berlin opening to one of the best games.

There was an alternative to 28. hxg4, which was Rc1. But it was impossible to spot (though my computer engine picked it up). I think the advantage was with Carlsen throughout the match but Anand played 35. Ne4, which neutralized the advantage. Overall, it was a very quality match and a pleasure to watch and analyze so many lines.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013


As the times higher education (THE) World University Rankings will be published at 9 pm British time on October 2, senior officials at MHRD have already denounced it while the American universities are yawning at it.

Unlike many other systems, the above ranking system using scaled citations for the particular field. It is well known that the average impact factor and citation index vary from field to field. Thomson Reuters (who own Web of Science) scale the citation based on field and even country bias !

IISc will not be ranked this year either. The THE rankings needs undergraduates who have graduated from the institution. This will happen only in 2015 and THE uses citation data based on the prior two years. Therefore, IISc will be ranked only from 2017.

However, based on the data provided by them,

Teaching 36

Research 37

Citations 59

Industry income 36

International outlook 17

yielding a rank of 226-250 for IISc. Four IITs (Delhi, Kanpur, Kharagpur and Roorkee) rank between 351-400.

Friday, August 9, 2013


Some interesting links:

Open access and professional societies

Access to research results

Faking data ??: Note in SI in ACS journal

A video on Saha, Raman and Bose: The quantum Indians

A big controversy on the use of cryo electron microscopy to image HIV viruses

The PNAS paper shows a 6-ångström view of HIV's surface proteins.... If the results hold, Sodroski, Mao, and co-workers have unveiled the sharpest view of the trimers ever captured in the precise configuration that the immune system sees them. This could lead to new insights about how antibodies capable of stopping HIV bind to the virus. 

Several respected HIV/AIDS researchers are wowed by the work. But others—structural biologists in particular—assert that the paper is too good to be true and is more likely fantasy than fantastic. "That paper is complete rubbish," charges Richard Henderson, an electron microscopy pioneer at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, U.K. "It has no redeeming features whatsoever."
Another controversial issue based on another PNAS paper is on monogamy

As the team reports online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, there was a strong correlation in time between all three hypotheses—parental care, female range, and infanticide by males—and the rise of social monogamy in the roughly 60 primate species that live in pairs. However, among the three explanations, only infanticide actually preceded social monogamy in time and thus could be a driving evolutionary force, the team concludes; 

Thursday, June 27, 2013


Professor Balaram signs off as the editor of Current Science effective this issue. His editorials will be missed and many used to read Current Science just for these editorials.

Friday, June 14, 2013

IISc admission 2013 updates

Subsequent to the expose of the manipulation (okay, moderation) of marks in CBSE and ICSE, I have received many emails asking whether board marks will play any role in the admissions to IISc. This is understandable because NITs and IITs do consider these marks for their admission.

The answer is NO. For the UG program, the admission is based on KVPY, JEE (Main), JEE (Advanced) and NEET. For the PG M.E. program, the admission is based on GATE. For the Ph.D program, it is based purely on marks obtained in the research interview.

The admission to the UG program through KVPY, JEE (Main) and NEET has been completed and the offer letters were emailed yesterday. The cutoffs for various streams are mentioned here. I am aware of the very high cutoffs for the program. As the director of IISc puts it, "More recently, the introduction of a four year Bachelor’s degree in science, using the widely discussed but rarely implemented flexible course structure, with the primary aim of providing research exposure at undergraduate level, is an experiment..." This experiment has been hugely successful due to the faculty involved in the program.

The admission to the Ph.D program has been completed and the offers letters will be emailed by June 17. The last date to pay the fees will be June 26. The candidates can withdraw till June 30. The waitlist will then be operated in the first week of July.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

University Rankings

I recently attended a planning commission meeting where the issue of rankings of Indian universities was discussed. One thing was apparent: many members of HRD and planning commission were serious and wanted to do something. As Professor Balaram points out, if one is serious about playing the game, it is better that one learns the rules of the game. Unfortunately, many players of this game (MHRD, faculty in institutions, policy makers etc.) seem to be oblivous to the parameters involved in the rankings and thus are unaware of the rules under which the game is played. Further, this game, unlike others, may be much harder to fix.

For an institution to rise up the rankings, individual performance and excellence should be recognized, appreciated and (maybe) rewarded at the institutional level. Currently, it is not and I do not see the situation changing soon even in premier institutions.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

IISc admissions

Please read this post and comments before posting.

For the research (Ph.D/M.Sc) program, interview letters were posted on the website on May 10, interviews are from 1 June to 7 June and offer letters will be online on June 15. 

For the UG program, the first round of offers based on KVPY was made on May 8 and the second round of offers based on JEE will be made later. The first counselling will be on May 24 followed by the next in the last week of June.

I have received enquires about the 30-40% reduction in research admissions to IISc this year. While this has been attributed to the lack of hostel accommodation, IISc has maintained the ME numbers and even operated waiting lists to fill up the ME quota. Therefore, I do not think this is a hostel problem but more of a policy decision to admit less doctoral students this year. I only execute matters as an administrator and do not interfere in policy matters. Bottom line: Do not ask me about this.

The research interviews are conducted differently in each department and it is difficult to generalize. Some departments have two rounds of interviews, some have a written test followed by an interview. Many interview committees will ask you two or three subjects that you liked in your undergraduation and ask you several questions based on that subjects. The emphasis will be on testing the depth of candidate’s understanding of fundamental concepts. Never attempt to answer questions in which you do not know the correct answer. It is okay to say that you have never heard of such a principle or law. Because the emphasis is on fundamentals rather on memory, it will be always be appreciated if the student says that he can derive the equation but can not recall it from memory. For Ph.D students, expect some questions on the project done during the masters. The problems you faced executing the projects, the principles you learned in that project and how you think the project helped you overall.

Post queries here and they will be answered, if possible.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

More doctorates

Professor Balaram discusses about producing more Ph.Ds. An important data that should catch the attention of policy matters is that

The NSF survey goes on to poll the foreign students regarding their future intentions. For the period 2005–11, 86.4% of Chinese and Indian students indicated a desire to stay on in the US; the highest amongst all the countries from which students were drawn. China the emerging (or emerged) superpower and India (a country actively wooing expatriates) do not seem attractive destinations for recently graduated US Ph Ds.

While I have my own theories and opinions on why this is so, it is best left to policy makers to ponder on this and come up with feasible solutions. Some opinions are given here.

Two articles on open access: Book review and editorial

PS:Sorry for the long absence in the blog. It has been very busy (even busier than usual) and I have not even looked at the comments in the blog. It may be better now that the financial year end woes seem to have ended.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Dog menance

Though the faculty and students depend on each other for research and professional advancement, there are only some common issues. For example, a faculty is not unduly worried about the leaks in E-block while a student is not concerned about the mode of operation of CPDA grants. However, both are concerned about a major issue – dogs on campus. The issue of dog menace finds a place on the agenda of both the faculty association as well as the student council. Enumeration data based seems to indicate (with a 95% confidence interval) a two fold increase in the population of dogs every year.
            What has led to the increase of dog population in IISc? The students have a theory that since the quality of food in the private messes has gone to dogs (both literally and figuratively), it has led to the robust health and increased population of the dogs. The faculty have another opinion. Many senior faculty complain that the young professors are not committed as they were twenty years ago and say that IISc is going to dogs. The dogs took offense at this statement and, therefore, they have come to IISc instead. Whatever be the real cause, the dogs have significantly increased on campus.
            I have been chased or barked at frequently by these dogs. Previously, I used to throw the bunch of research papers at them and they used to run away. While this is indeed a good use for my research papers (my departmental colleagues may think that this is the only use), recently, they have become more aggressive. This has led to people walking on campus with ultrasonic tasers and lathis, much like the Delhi policemen trying to quell a crowd protesting for a just cause.
            There seems to be no easy solution. The city administration is unwilling to pick up dogs while the NGOs can pick and neuter them. With the dog lovers in the campus unwilling to agree to the latter, the administrator is caught in a web with pressure from each side.  My colleagues feel that the administration will intensely look for a solution only when a “powerful” professor is bitten by a dog. But for an institute wherein the undergraduates understand quarks (the name of their magazine) and the graduate student voices (the name of their magazine) their opinion, I do hope some solution is amicably found.