Monday, July 24, 2006

IIT, World Rankings, Rants & Raves

Late yesterday night I received the following email:

Subject: IIT
Date: 23 Jul 2006 18:09:54 -0000
From: sanket karmarkar
Reply-To: sanket karmarkar


I totally disagree with your comments on standard of IITs.latest world rankings show IITs at rank- 450-500 in the world.

Ordinary state universities in USA do must better.The JEE is tough and quality of students is great and after Btech the students get into USA for MBA or MS/PhD and do a good job in USA.if you see research publications of IITs it performs so poor,nor have IITans who did their Btech PhD in India done any great engineering achievement-the Kaveri engine which Indian engineers have been trying to build for indigenous Tejas plane is failed.
Our IIT engineers are good for paper work-i.e math calculations-complex calculations on paper-they are bad at doinng things-while others..say south Korean engineers may not do good paper work but they can create-Sure IIT students are good,but quality of IIT is better than any Indian institute but-go around the world and it stands no where.I feel sorry for that,but thats true

sanket karmarkar

Mr. Sanket Karmarkar was responding to a previous post of mine about IIT World Rankings. Sanket lives in the US but from the name & other internet postings seems to be of Indian origin. Most probably Maharastrian.

Anyway, his email intrigued me and I went to Google looking for more. Came across a number of web sites including this message board about colleges. Rather heated discussions.

I noticed one thing in both Sanket's email as well as message board discussions about the IITs - It is mostly Indians who now live abroad that are so vehement about India and it's condition. Whether it is about the contibution of IITians or the state of the roads in Pune, it is erstwhile Indians who are booing the loudest. Why is that? Is it that they are ashamed of being Indian and hope to wash away this stigma by talking about how bad things are?

I am not sure. I am an IITian (Kharagpur) and I know the IITs and their students. They are good. Are they the best in the world? I don't know and I don't care. But I hope my children will go to an IIT too.

The people who are arguing about the IITs and their contribution vis a vis the MITs of the world seem to forget a vital fact; the MITs of this world have been around longer then the IITs. They have better funding, better partnership with private and govt industries and can afford to pay their staff much better than the IITs. So, what are we comparing? A youngster with a middle aged man in his prime?

Original research needs money. Great intelligence alone will not suffice. And where is the money? In the US and other such countries of the world. So what do the IIT grads do? They migrate to the US. And do research there. IIT grads are just entering the Professor levels in their careers. So far they have been doing the grunt work of research as assistants. Give them some more time. Let them guide research and then come back and compare notes.

It is surprising how people will compare apples with oranges and arrive at a 2 = 3 solution. If you live in the US or any other "developed" nation, the rest of the world will look like a slum. Have the slums changed? Is there improvement?

Saying that the Tejas engine has failed is like saying that the first US space rockets failed. So? Give it time buddy. And if you don't like something about this country, come back and help change it. It is easy to sit in a padded sofa in an air conditioned room and pontificate about how to improve Pune's roads.

What have you done about it?

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Inter-Species Rescue! Frog Carries Mouse to safety!

Came across a very surprising photo on National Geographic the other day. A frog carrying a mouse to safety on it's back!

This photo was taken in Lucknow, in North India during the recent rains. Read the National Geographic original article here.

(Posted via Thinga Web)

Indian elixir for the world as 'saffron evil' in India - Article from

This post is an extract from The original article is available here.

Does monotheism -- belief in a single, omniscient God - impede globalism? If it does what other kind of religion or God will be compatible with globalism? Here is likely an interesting debate.

For over a decade the world has been debating about clashes among civilisations powered by religions. Samuel Huntington triggered this debate in the year 1993 foreseeing clashes emerging between orthodox Islam and modern West.

For many in the West the Islamist attack on the World Trade Centre was validation of Huntington eight years later.

The West viewed 'illiberal' Islam as incompatible with 'liberal' West. And this incompatibility was seen as the source of the emerging civilisational clashes.

Since the 9/11 terror, this debate, premised on Islam as the bad boy and the West as its victim has dominated the world, particularly the West.

But this debate now seems to be moving up, logically, to another level. Slowly some in the West seem to feel that the debate should not be limited to merely examining the clash between the 'liberal' West and the 'illiberal' Islam.

Says Jean-Pierre Lehmann, the advisor to Dr Supachai Panitchpakdi, the previous head of the World Trade Organisation, that organised, monotheistic religions as a class - that is not just Islam but also Christianity - are incompatible with globalism.

Presently Professor of International Political Economy at the International Institute of Management Development in Switzerland, Lehmann heads the Evan Group, a global think-tank composed of government, industry and opinion leaders from Asia, Europe and the US.

Asserting that there is link between monotheistic religions and violence and intolerance, Lehmann points out that 'monotheistic religions have caused so much turmoil throughout history - and continue to do so even now'. He sees 'a new global ethical and spiritual model' as today's need.

He sees - what will shock, even shame, the seculars here at home - India as the best candidate to supply that model to the world!

In a provocative article in 'the Globalist', a daily on-line magazine, he makes some profound points on globalisation and religions.

He says that both Christianity and Islam, the fountainhead of monotheism, have been hijacked by fundamentalists.

He argues that for progress of human civilisation all organised religions have to be eradicated by persuasive secular humanism, but admits that people cannot live without God or religions.

His suggestion is 'rather than eradicating religion per se, 'we should instead eradicate monotheistic religion in favour of polytheistic religion'.

Why prefer polytheism - the worship of many Gods - over monotheism?

He answers: 'If you have only one god, and you believe that god is all powerful and omniscient and you come across someone who does not agree, then you may feel it is your duty to kill him.

If, on the other hand, you believe there are hundreds, indeed thousands of Gods, and that none can be totally almighty or omniscient, then you are likely to be far more tolerant'.

Precisely for this, Lehmann looks to the only surviving polytheistic society in India as the hope for the world.

For him India because of 'its remarkable ability to have managed multiculturalism to such a brilliant extent' is a living illustration of how globalisation can work.

What has made this possible is obvious. Hindus have millions of Gods to worship. Divergent Gods are inadequate rather than wrong or objectionable.

Hindu Gods are related by marriage and other relations. Such vast range of inter-related Gods to worship itself has ruled out clashes among the followers in the name of the only God without a second.

Lehmann admits that 'India is not a Utopia' and has its own problems of inequality part of which, he says, is sanctioned by religion.

Yet asserts that the 'global environment is desperate for ideas, philosophy and religion'.

'India is the most prolific birthplace of all three' due to 'the great synergy of democracy and diversity' and greater degree of 'self-confidence' in Indians now'. He adds 'Indians and members of the enormous Indian Diaspora are thought leaders in economics, business, philosophy, political science, religion and literature'.

He asserts that 'the Indian religious and philosophical traditions can provide' the 'sense of moral order, spirituality and an ethical compass' which the world desperately needs.

Recalling his conversation with an Indian religious guru Lehmann says, 'I could adhere to his religious tenets' and still 'maintain my secular convictions', which, he says, 'no imam or priest would allow'.

For him Indian philosophic traditions are secularism-compatible and monotheism is not.

Lehmann asserts that the planet needs an alternative geographical force to the American Christian fundamentalist thinking that drives the Bush establishment. Who could be that alternative?

Europe being 'spent force' and China 'dictatorship', he rules them out as alternatives. He disqualifies the Islamic world as it is going through, putting it mildly, an 'awkward moment'.

That is how he zeroes in on 'the important role India must play both because of its innate qualities and also because there no other serious contender'.

He hopes that 'the 21st century better becomes the century inspired by the virtues of Indian polytheism'.

Else, he warns, 'We are headed for disaster'. This is precisely what Arnold Toynbee, the famous historian, said decades back.

But, ironically, as Lehmann looks to Indian polytheism to save the world, the 'seculars' here condemn it as 'saffron poison'.

Thus what according to Lehmann is the elixir for the survival of the world is evil for India and the world according to our seculars! How positive he is and how perverse they are.

(Posted via Thinga Web)

Pinnacle TV Tuner for Video Capture from Old Analog Camcoder

I have an old (circa 1998) Panasonic Camcoder that record on VHS-C tapes. I used it a lot till about 2002. After that the battery died and I didn't bother replacing it. Also I have always wanted to be able to digitize my recordings to DVD but didn't have a solution till recently. The photo studios in Hyderabad offer a solution for this but their rates are more than I am willing to pay.

Anyway, I borrowed a Pinnacle PCTV internal TV Tuner card from a friend (Raghu Patri) last Sunday. Plugged it in and after some fiddling around manged to capture my old tapes! Now I am digitizing all my tapes and burning them on DVDs.

My Setup:

  1. Pinnacle PCTV TV Tuner Card: Internal. Plugs into a PCI slot.
  2. S-Video adopter (S-Video to RCA): My Camcoder takes a RCA cable for Video as well as Audio. The adopter came with the Pinnacle card.
  3. RCA to Stereo Male Cable: This is for the Camcoder Audio jack. Connects to the Line-In on my PC Sound Card.
  4. Windows Media Encoder: Free download from Microsoft. Captures from the Pinnacle card and the sound card. Writes to WMV format. Nice set of controls. I have not researched other solutions at this time. There might be better products out there. Particularly from ULead.
  5. WMV to MPEG2 (DVD) Conversion: The neat little conversion software from Cucusoft. Works for VCD as well as DVD.
  6. AVI/MPEG/RM/MWV Spiltter: For cutting out portions of the MWV file captured from the camcoder.

I will go buy my own Pinnacle card this weekend. No idea how much it costs in Hyderabad.

(Posted via Thinga Web)