Posts about India

Teen Solves Puzzle That Has Stumped Mathematicians for 300 Years

Teen solves Newton’s 300-year-old riddle

An Indian-born teenager has won a research award for solving a mathematical problem first posed by Sir Isaac Newton more than 300 years ago that has baffled mathematicians ever since.

The solution devised by Shouryya Ray, 16, makes it possible to calculate exactly the path of a projectile under gravity and subject to air resistance. Shouryya, who lives in Dresden, eastern Germany, came up with the solutions to this and a second mathematical riddle while working on a school project.

Only partial solutions had been discovered up to now, requiring simplified assumptions or calculations by computer. Shouryya’s elegant solutions could contribute to greater precision in fields such as ballistics.

Related: Teen Tackles Centuries-old Numbers challenge (this time it was an Iraqi immigrant in Sweden)Numeracy: The Educational Gift That Keeps on GivingOur Brains Reorganize As We Learn Math

Pay as You Go Solar in India

Farmers Foil Utilities Using Cell Phones to Access Solar

In October, Bangalore-based Simpa Networks Inc. installed a solar panel on Anand’s whitewashed adobe house along with a small metal box in his living room to monitor electricity usage. The 25-year-old rice farmer, who goes by one name, purchases energy credits to unlock the system via his mobile phone on a pay-as-you-go model.

When his balance runs low, Anand pays 50 rupees ($1) — money he would have otherwise spent on kerosene. Then he receives a text message with a code to punch into the box, giving him about another week of electric light.
When he pays off the full cost of the system in about three years, it will be unlocked and he will get free power.

Across India and Africa, startups and mobile phone companies are developing so-called microgrids, in which stand- alone generators power clusters of homes and businesses in places where electric utilities have never operated.

Very cool. Worldwide, approximately 1.6 billion people have no access to electricity and another 1 billion have extremely unreliable access. The poorest spending up to 30% of their income on inefficient and expensive means of providing light and accessing electricity. Solutions like this, finding engineering solutions for basic needs that are market based, are great.

That the poor end up owning their solar system after just 3 years is great.

Creating great benefit to society with the smart adoption of technology and sustainable economics is something I love.

Related: Solar Power Market Solutions For Hundreds of Millions Without ElectricityAppropriate Technology: Solar Hot Water in Poor Cairo NeighborhoodsEngineering a Better World: Bike Corn-ShellerWater Pump Merry-go-Round

Letting Children Learn – Hole in the Wall Computers

The hole in the wall experiments are exactly the kind of thing I love to lean about. I wrote about them in 2006, what kids can learn.

Research finding from the Hole in the Wall foundation:

Over the 4 year research phase (2000-2004), HiWEL has extensively studied the impact of Learning Stations on children. Hole-in-the-Wall Learning Stations were installed in diverse settings, the impact of interventions was monitored and data was continually gathered, analyzed and interpreted. Rigorous assessments were conducted to measure academic achievement, behaviour, personality profile, computer literacy and correlations with socio-economic indicators.

The sociometric survey found:

  • Self-organizing groups of children who organize themselves into Leaders (experts), Connectors and Novice groups.
  • Leaders and Connectors identified seem to display an ability to connect with and teach other users.
  • Key leaders on receiving targeted intervention, play a key role in bringing about a “multiplier effect in learning” within the community.
  • Often girls are seen to take on the role of Connector, who initiates younger children and siblings (usually novices with little or no exposure to computers) and connects them to the leaders in the group

I believe traditional education is helpful. I believe people are “wired” to learn. They want to learn. We need to create environments that let them learn. We need to avoid crushing the desire to learn (stop de-motivating people).

If you want to get right to talking about the hole in the wall experiments, skip to the 8 minute mark.

Related: Providing Computer to Remote Students in NepalTeaching Through TinkeringKids Need Adventurous PlayScience Toys You Can Make With Your Kids

Artificial Intelligence Finds Ancient Indus Script Matches Spoken Language

Artificial Intelligence Cracks 4,000-Year-Old Mystery by Brandon Keim

An ancient script that’s defied generations of archaeologists has yielded some of its secrets to artificially intelligent computers.

The Indus script, used between 2,600 and 1,900 B.C. in what is now eastern Pakistan and northwest India, belonged to a civilization as sophisticated as its Mesopotamian and Egyptian contemporaries. However, it left fewer linguistic remains. Archaeologists have uncovered about 1,500 unique inscriptions from fragments of pottery, tablets and seals. The longest inscription is just 27 signs long.

They fed the program sequences of four spoken languages: ancient Sumerian, Sanskrit and Old Tamil, as well as modern English. Then they gave it samples of four non-spoken communication systems: human DNA, Fortran, bacterial protein sequences and an artificial language.

The program calculated the level of order present in each language. Non-spoken languages were either highly ordered, with symbols and structures following each other in unvarying ways, or utterly chaotic. Spoken languages fell in the middle.

When they seeded the program with fragments of Indus script, it returned with grammatical rules based on patterns of symbol arrangement. These proved to be moderately ordered, just like spoken languages.

Related: The Rush to Save Timbuktu’s Crumbling ManuscriptsThe Mystery of the Voynich ManuscriptAztec Math

USA Losing Scientists and Engineers Educated in the USA

The USA continues to lose ground, in retaining the relative science and engineering strength it has retained for the last 50 plus years. As I have said before this trend is nearly inevitable – the challenge for the USA is to reduce the speed of their decline in relative position.

A new open access report, Losing the World’s Best and Brightest, explores the minds of current foreign science and engineering students that are studying in the USA. This is another in the list of reports on similar topics by Vivek Wadhwa and Richard Freeman. And again they point out the long term economic losses the USA is setting up by failing to retain the talent trained at our universities. It is a problem for the USA and a great benefit for countries like India and China.

“Foreign students receive nearly 60% of all engineering doctorates and more than half of all mathematics, computer sciences, physics and economics doctorates awarded in the United States. These foreign nationals end up making jobs, not taking jobs,” said Wadhwa. “They bring insights into growing global markets and fresh ideas. Research has shown that they even end up boosting innovation by U.S. inventors. Losing them is an economic tragedy.”

According to the study’s findings, very few foreign students would like to stay in the United States permanently—only 6% of Indian, 10 percent of Chinese and 15% of Europeans. And fewer foreign students than the historical norm expressed interest in staying in the United States after they graduate. Only 58% of Indian, 54% of Chinese and 40% of European students wish to stay for several years after graduation. Previous National Science Foundation research has shown 68% of foreigners who received science and engineering doctorates stayed for extended periods of time, including 73% of those who studied computer science. The five-year minimum stay rate was 92% for Chinese students and 85% for Indian students.

The vast majority of foreign student and 85% of Indians and Chinese and 72% of Europeans are concerned about obtaining work visas. 74% of Indians, 76% of Chinese, and 58% of Europeans are also worried about obtaining jobs in their fields. Students appear to be less concerned about getting permanent-resident visas than they are about short-term jobs. Only 38% of Indian students, 55% of Chinese, and 53% of Europeans expressed concerns about obtaining permanent residency in the USA.

On the tonight show yesterday, President Obama said

we need young people, instead of — a smart kid coming out of school, instead of wanting to be an investment banker, we need them to decide they want to be an engineer, they want to be a scientist, they want to be a doctor or a teacher.

And if we’re rewarding those kinds of things that actually contribute to making things and making people’s lives better, that’s going to put our economy on solid footing. We won’t have this kind of bubble-and-bust economy that we’ve gotten so caught up in for the last several years.

Eric Schmidt, Google CEO, recently expressed his frustration with the policies discouraging science and engineering graduates staying in the USA after they complete their education.

That is a brilliant [actually not brilliant at all] strategy take the best people hire them in American universities and then kick them out” It happens. “Its shocking.” It happens. “I know we are fighting against it.” “We America remain, by far the place of choice for education, particularly higher education.”

Related: Invest in Science for a Strong EconomyScience, Engineering and the Future of the American EconomyUSA Under-counting Engineering GraduatesLosing scientists and engineers will reduce economic performance of the USADiplomacy and Science Research

Green Energy Projects in the Developing World

5 Huge Green-Tech Projects in the Developing World: Leyte Geothermal Field, Leyte, Philippines with a current capacity of 708.5 megawatts

Suzlon Wind Farm
Location: Near Dhule, India
Current capacity: 650 megawatts
Planned capacity: 1,000 megawatts
Estimated completion date: 2010
Built by Suzlon, a homegrown Indian energy compay, the Suzlon wind farm near Dhule will be the world’s largest when it’s completed in 2010. Already, it’s creeping up on Florida Light and Power’s Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center, which has a capacity of 735 megawatts.

Acme Solar Thermal Plants
Location: Haryana, India
Current capacity: 0 megawatts
Planned capacity: 1,000 megawatts
Estimated completion date: 2019
Acme, an Indian technology conglomerate, announced its intentions to build up to 1,000 megawatts of solar thermal power Tuesday. The company providing the technology, eSolar, makes 46-megawatt modular power plants that concentrate the sun’s rays onto a central boiler to generate steam to drive a turbine. ESolar’s Rob Rogan said that the companies would break ground on the first 100 megawatts of solar power within the year.

Qaidam Basin Solar PV Installaton
Location: Qinghai Province, China
Current capacity: 0 megawatts
Planned capacity: 1,000 megawatts
Estimated completion date: ?
Two local Chinese firms announced their intentions to install up to 1,000 megawatts of solar photovoltaic panels in northwestern China in January. The China Technology Development Group Corporation and Qinghai New Energy Company will start with a more modest 30 megawatts. They expect to break ground during 2009.

Related: Solar Thermal in Desert, to Beat Coal by 2020Wind Power Potential to Produce 20% of Electricity Supply by Invests $10 million in Geothermal Energy

Searching for More Effective Tuberculosis Drugs

In India: A Search for More Effective Tuberculosis Drugs

The multi-drug regimen is a major problem for several reasons. It requires TB patients to manage taking four drugs exactly as prescribed over six to nine months. If patients don’t take the full course of the medicines, the TB bacteria may develop resistance to the drugs and become even more difficult to treat. To reduce that risk, many countries require that patients go to a clinic so a healthcare professional can watch them take the medication and ensure they are complying with their drug-treatment regimen. This is both expensive and time consuming. Gokhale said that a single drug that targets multiple pathways could save time and money by eliminating the need to take so many drugs over such a long period of time.

To create their new compound, Gokhale and his colleagues exploited an evolutionary quirk in the way Mycobacterium tuberculosis builds the lipid layer that coats its surface. Unlike other organisms, M. tuberculosis displays a suite of complex lipids on its outer membrane. Some scientists have suggested that these long lipid molecules contribute to the bacteria’s ability to maintain long-term infections by confusing the host’s immune system.

Related: Fighting TuberculosisTB Pandemic ThreatExtensively Drug-resistant Tuberculosis (XDR TB)Virtually untreatable TB found

Appropriate Technology: Self Adjusting Glasses

Self Adjusting Glasses for 1 billion of the world’s poorest see better

What if it were possible, he thought, to make a pair of glasses which, instead of requiring an optician, could be “tuned” by the wearer to correct his or her own vision? Might it be possible to bring affordable spectacles to millions who would never otherwise have them?

More than two decades after posing that question, Josh Silver [a physics professor at Oxford] now feels he has the answer. The British inventor has embarked on a quest that is breathtakingly ambitious, but which he insists is achievable – to offer glasses to a billion of the world’s poorest people by 2020.

Some 30,000 pairs of his spectacles have already been distributed in 15 countries, but to Silver that is very small beer. Within the next year the now-retired professor and his team plan to launch a trial in India which will, they hope, distribute 1 million pairs of glasses. The target, within a few years, is 100 million pairs annually.

Silver has devised a pair of glasses which rely on the principle that the fatter a lens the more powerful it becomes. Inside the device’s tough plastic lenses are two clear circular sacs filled with fluid, each of which is connected to a small syringe attached to either arm of the spectacles.

The wearer adjusts a dial on the syringe to add or reduce amount of fluid in the membrane, thus changing the power of the lens. When the wearer is happy with the strength of each lens the membrane is sealed by twisting a small screw, and the syringes removed. The principle is so simple, the team has discovered, that with very little guidance people are perfectly capable of creating glasses to their own prescription.

Oxford University, at his instigation, has agreed to host a Centre for Vision in the Developing World, which is about to begin working on a World Bank-funded project with scientists from the US, China, Hong Kong and South Africa. “Things are never simple. But I will solve this problem if I can. And I won’t really let people stand in my way.”

Cool. A couple points I would like to make:

1) this professor is making a much bigger difference in the “real world” than most people ever will. The idea that professors are all lost in insignificant “ivory towers” is a very inaccurate view of what really happens.
2) Spending money on this kind of thing seems much more important for the human race than spending trillions to bail out poor moves by bankers, financiers… It sure seems odd that we can’t find a few billion to help out people across the globe that are without basic necessities yet we can find trillions to bail out the actions of few thousand bad actors.

Related: Adaptive EyecareBringing Eye Care to Thousands in IndiaRiver Blindness Worm Develops Resistance to DrugsStrawjet: Invention of the Year (2006)Fixing the World on $2 a DayAppropriate Technology

Toyota Operates High School in India

Toyota Eyes India Market, Builds School to Get Edge

Built on a rugged hillside in southern India that is populated by wildcats [see below] and monkeys, Toyota’s sprawling technical training school, which opened last year, gives about 180 junior-high-school graduates an education in everything from dismantling transmissions to Japanese group exercises.

Toyota wants to turn students like Satish Lakshman, the son of a poor farmer, into a skilled employee who can boost the auto maker’s fortunes in this key emerging market. “We are learning discipline, confidence and continuous improvement,” says Mr. Lakshman, an energetic 18-year-old.

At the foundation of its growth plan is the Toyota Technical Training Institute. India’s auto market is growing at such a fast pace that skilled workers are in short supply. Toyota says the school will enable the company to develop the productive, skilled employees it needs.

Toyota has taken a similar approach in China, where it has helped the government run a technical training center since 1990. In India, rival auto makers are following Toyota’s lead. In September, Honda announced plans to open a technical college. Other car makers have formed partnerships with India’s technical institutes to improve training.

The school teaches students practical skills such as welding, auto assembly and maintenance. It also gives the young recruits a smattering of classes in such subjects as math, English and Japanese as well as lessons in the company’s cherished principles of consensus building, continuous improvement and eliminating waste.

Toyota is willing to invest in the long term. A much better sign than a company that is willing to pay their executives salaries that top the wealth of kings. Toyota also believes in education: Idle Workers Busy at Toyota.

Related: Toyota Building Second Plant in IndiaEngineering Education in IndiaManufacturing Takes off in IndiaHigh School Students in USA, China and IndiaLargest Manufacturing Countries

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MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives

MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives

MIT is providing seed funding to faculty to encourage global research. The seed funds cover a variety of expenses, including exploratory field research, workshop materials and instrument costs. Each proposal is eligible for up to $20,000 in funding. Research and collaboration can take place anywhere in the world on any topic. For all projects, up to $10,000 in additional funding is available for undergraduate and graduate student participation.

MISTI country programs also offer five country-specific seed funds for collaborative research involving France, India, Italy, Japan or Spain.

This is a good use of their huge endowment. So is the Open Courseware initiative. As is their elimination of tuition for those with families earning less than $75,000. Good for MIT.

Related: Global Engineering Education StudyMIT Faculty Study Recommends Significant Undergraduate Education ChangesFunding Medical Research

Best Research University Rankings – 2008

The annual ranking of research Universities are available from Shanghai’s Jiao Tong University. The methodology values publications and faculty awards which provides a better ranking of research (rather than teaching). Results from the 2008 rankings of Top 500 Universities worldwide, country representation of the top schools:

location Top 100 % of World
% of World GDP % of top 500
USA 54     4.6%   27.2%  31.6%
United Kingdom 11  0.9  4.9 8.3
Germany   6  1.3  6.0 8.0
Japan   4  2.0  9.0 6.2
Canada   4  0.5  2.6 4.2
Sweden   4  0.1  0.8 2.2
France   3  0.8  4.6 4.6
Switzerland   3  0.1  0.8 1.6
Australia   3  0.3  1.6 3.0
Netherlands   2  0.2  1.4 2.4
Denmark   2  0.1  0.6 0.8
Finland   1  0.1  0.4 1.2
Norway   1  0.1  0.7 0.8
Israel   1  0.1  0.3 1.2
Russia   1  2.2  2.0 0.4
China  20.5  6.6 6.0
India  17.0  1.9 0.4

There is little change in most of the data from last year, which I think is a good sign, it wouldn’t make much sense to have radical shifts over a year in these rankings. Japan lost 2 schools in the top 100, France lost 1. Denmark (Aarhus University) and Australia (University of Sydney) gained 1. Last year there was a tie so there were 101 schools in the top 100.

The most dramatic data I noticed is China’s number of top 500 schools went from 14 to 30, which made me a bit skeptical of what caused that quick change. Looking more closely last year they reported the China top 500 totals as (China 14, China-Taiwan 6 and China-Hong Kong 5). That still gives them an impressive gain of 5 schools.

Singapore has 1 in the 102-151 range. Taiwan has 1 ranked in the 152-200 range, as do Mexico, Korea and Brazil. China has 9 in the 201-302 range (including 3 in Hong Kong). India has 2 in the 303-401 range.

University of Wisconsin – Madison is 17th again 🙂 My father taught there while I grew up.
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