Archive for August, 2006

Symmetry breaking!

August 30, 2006

Symmetry breaking transitions in equilibrium shapes of coherent precipitates is the first PhD thesis to come out of the computational materials science lab at IISc Bangalore. Spontaneous symmetry breaking is also well known in phase transitions in condensed matter systems (and many others, as the Wiki article indicates). So, I was surprised when I saw the title Symmetry breaking and genetic assimilation at Pharyngula. However, after I read those parts that explain symmetry, and its breaking, it sort of makes sense to me. According to Pharyngula,

A hallmark of the Bilaterians, like us and flatworms and fish and cows, is bilateral symmetry: we have left and right halves that are at least superficially mirror images of one another. However, underlying that is a secondary asymmetry. Our hearts are lopsided because one half has a harder job to do than the other; our livers are mostly on one side of our body; and some organisms, such as snails, have a characteristic handedness to their spiral form.

Also, apparently,

There are organisms that exhibit bilateral asymmetries which are not determined genetically; different individuals have right- or left-handed organs, and the parental pattern is not passed on to their progeny.

Makes sense isn’t it? So, evolution is nothing but a phase transition — how the system (species) evolves in response to the changes in the parameters (environment).

In any case, it was nice to see a familiar concept in an area that is very different from mine!

PDFs of public domain books!

August 30, 2006

According to this story from Boing Boing, Google Books offers pdfs of public domain books; and the story also links to Flatland by Edwin Abbott Abbott 😉 Have fun!

Chandamama!

August 28, 2006

When we were kids, we grew up with Gokulam, Poonthalir, and Amar Chitra Katha; however, the neighbour used to buy Chandamama, which we read avidly. Also, if you are learning any of the Indian languages, Chandamama (in Tamil, it was called Ambuli maama) is the first book to buy — I did it with Kannada, Telugu and Sanskrit.

All these reminiscences are because Uma tells us that Chandamama turns sixty this year.

Inner ape!

August 28, 2006

Frans de waal, in an interview with Spiegel, tells about blood-thirst and sex-craze among apes, the origins of the family and the nature of human beings. Take a look! Link via ALDaily.

Poincare conjecture and

August 27, 2006

a non-Fields medallist! Here is an article from New Yorker by Sylvia Nasar and David Gruber; link via ALDaily.

A Ustad and a Nightingale!

August 27, 2006

Ram Guha pays his tribute to Ustad, and, can any article on Indian classical music escape the mention of MS:

The one I remember best was at the Kamani Auditorium, where he played before the interval and M.S. Subbulakshmi sang afterwards, a true “dream team”, indeed, of two great musicians who were also great human beings — one man, one woman, one Hindu, the other Muslim, one North Indian, the other South Indian, and both born in the same year, 1916.

Some gems from PD James!

August 25, 2006

Murder is like that, a contaminating crime.

Murder is beastly, embarassing, and inconvenient.

George Orwell wrote somewhere that murder, the unique crime, should result only from strong emotions.

It was odd, she thought, that scientists so often weren’t religious when their work revealed a world so variously marvellous and yet so mysteriously unified and at one.

— P D James, Death of an expert witness

On teaching!

August 24, 2006

… teaching is not a method, it’s a name for a whole group of social situations in which all kinds of things happen and about which it is not possible to say anything really very useful on a technical level.

From here; link via Savage minds

Sorry Prof. Diamond; but the rats did it!

August 24, 2006

Here is an article from the American scientist which argues that contrary to the theory forwarded by Jared Diamond, the Easter Island’s downfall is mostly due to rats (and European invaders, of course)! Link: via Arts & Letters Daily.

Selected bibliography from Seeing Voices!

August 22, 2006

I plan to get to at least some of these books some day; these are the books listed by Oliver Sacks in his selected bibliography at the end of his book, Seeing Voices. The books marked in bold are the ones that Sacks strongly recommends and/or the ones I want to read first.

  1. When the mind hears: a history of the Deaf — Harlan Lane
  2. The Deaf experience: classics in language and education — Harlan Lane (Ed.)
  3. Deaf heritage:a narrative history of deaf america — Jack R Gannon
  4. History of the college for the Deaf — Edward Galladuet
  5. Deaf and Dumb — scholars 11th edition of Encyclopaedia Brittanica
  6. Everyone here spoke Sign language: hereditary deafness on Martha’s Vineyard Nora Ellen Groce
  7. Deafness — David Wright
  8. A loss for words: the story of deafness in a family — Lou Ann Walker
  9. The quiet ear: deafness in literature — Brian Grant (Compiler)
  10. Lessons in laughter — Bernard Bragg
  11. What’s that pig outdoors — Henry Kisor
  12. The Deaf population of the United States — Jerome D Schein and Marcus T Delk
  13. Spaking the language of Sign and At Home among strangers — JD Schein
  14. Sign language: the study of deaf people and their language — J G Kyle and B Woll
  15. Sign language and the Deaf community: essays in honour of William Stokoe — Edited by Charlotte Baker and Robbin Battison
  16. Deaf in America: voices from a culture — Carol Padden and Tom Humphries
  17. The other side of silence: Sign language and the Deaf community in America — Arden Neisser
  18. Galladuet encyclopaedia of Deaf people and Deafness — John Van Cleve (Ed.)
  19. Towards a theory of instruction and Child’s talk: learning to use language — Jerome Bruner
  20. Teaching and talking with deaf children — David Wood, Heather Wood, Amanda Griffiths, and Ian Howarth
  21. Sound and Sign: childhood deafness and mental health — Hilde S Schlesinger and Kathryn P Meadow
  22. Psychoanalytic studies of the sighted and the blind — Dorothy Burlingham
  23. The interpersonal world of the infant — Daniel Stern
  24. Syntactic structures and 1967 Beckman lectures (reprinted as Language and mind) — Noam Chomsky
  25. The signs of language — Edward S Klima and Ursula Bellugi
  26. What the hands reveal about the brain — Howard Poizner, Edward S Klima and Ursula Bellugi
  27. Words and things — Roger Brown
  28. Biological foundations of language — Eric H Lenneberg
  29. Thought and language — L S Vygotsky
  30. Language and the discovery of realit: a developmental psychology of cognition — Joseph Church
  31. How natives think — Lucien Levy-Bruhl
  32. The interpretation of cultures — Clifford Geertz
  33. Discourse on the origin of inequality — Rousseau
  34. The wild boy of Aveyron — Harlan Lane
  35. The forbidden experiment: the story of the wild boy of Aveyron — Roger Shattuck
  36. Caspar Hauser — Anselm von Feuerbach
  37. Land of darkness and silence — Werner Herzog (Film)
  38. Halo in the sky: observations on anality and defense — Leonard Shengold
  39. Genei: a psycholinguistic study of a modern-day wild child — Susan Curtiss
  40. A man without words — Susan Schaller

Now, I guess that is plenty of reading for anybody — but that is the kind of interest and enthusiasm that Sacks kindles!