India Science Report

January 22, 2007

I am going through the archives of a recently found site – Sci.Dev.Net which deals with Science and technology in developing world. In particular, an old news item titled Indian science teaching ‘needs overhaul’ talks about the Indian Science Report.

I found the the original report to be quite interesting. It is filled with a lot of statistics about various questions I’ve wondered about. Case in the point – What percentage of Indians know that Earth moves around the sun ? (70 percent of respondents, it seems. See page 69- Table 4.6 of the above report) and 56 percent agreed with the statement that “Human beings developed from an earlier species of animals” . 42 percent seem to believe that “Scientists are peculiar”(Page 72 – Table 4.9). I wonder in what sense ? 😉

You can see the Urban/Rural Male/Female breakups of percentages in the appendices . Before I close this post, I should give a statutory warning – rather, I will just reproduce the last part of the News article linked above

The report has drawn criticism from some analysts, who say the sampling methods were inadequate and that the results were compared with data obtained using different techniques.

“As a scientist I agree that it would have been better to compare data using the same sampling methodology over, say, three years,” Raghunath Mashelkar, director-general of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research and current president of INSA, conceded at a press briefing on the occasion of the report’s release.

“They should have had a more rigorous survey methodology,” agrees N. Raghuram, a biotechnology lecturer at Delhi’s Indraprastha University.

“There has been no data about the actual number of science students in schools, teachers, and student-teacher ratio. Even the conclusions on public attitudes towards science are based on a small sub-sample of 30,000 which is not representative enough.”

NCAER project leader Rajesh Shukla, and other scientists have in the past pointed out India does not have a systematic and comprehensive assessment of its science and technology education and industry (see A tale of two databases: India’s R&D dilemma).


News From Indian Blogsphere

January 19, 2007

I’ve updated my blogroll adding many new blogs and removing some dead links. Now, to some news..

1) Via Desipundit,

Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam raises the question of terrorism on Yahoo Answers and the world responds (Yahoo staff assure it is indeed the President)..

I should grant it to our president – sometimes he is just amazing ! And among the respondents is Kiran Bedi herself ! And my opinion, if you’re interested, is not very much different from hers as far as the general question is concerned. And it is very difficult to come up with a more useful reply unless we focus on to a specific case of terrorism…

2) Arunn points to a call to blog Just Science for one week

…we would like to propose a Week of Science, to begin on Monday, February 5, and end on Sunday, February 11. During that time each blogger should post about science only, with at least one post per day…

Bloggers who self-identify as scientists and science writers should post on:

1. Published, peer-reviewed research and their own research.
2. Their expert opinion on actual scientific debates – think review articles.
3. Descriptions of natural phenomena (e.g., why slugs dissolve when you put salt on them, or what causes sun flares; scientific knowledge that has reached the level of fact) …

I guess I should sign up too. And like Razib, I should start putting posts on queue – there is no way that I’ll be able to write one post per day.

Update :

3) Abi points to an interesting report on primary education in India.

When going through one of the posts in this month’s edition of Philosophia Naturalis, I discovered a cute set of animations at Voldosta State University’s site. And the subject ? Well, as the title should have already told you, it is the life of stars !

What is going to happen to our Sun in the future ?

What really happens inside the sun as it slowly dies ?

And, a more interesting question – what happens if you have a star bigger than the Sun ?

Or, if that sounds like a remote question , then try this – what makes the carbon in you and me ? And Why do astronomers proudly declare that “We are Star dust !” ? 🙂

That is not the only reason why these animations caught my attention. You see , when I was in my school, our physics book had about two pages about how stars are born and how they die. And our physics teacher (Mrs.Sumitra Raghavan, in case you’re one of my schoolmates and you’re curious to know who I’m talking about) decided that that part of the lesson would be left for me to teach it to the rest of the class.

Indeed, if I remember correctly, the whole of cosmology/astrophysics chapter was taught by students . I did try my level best then (and had great fun 🙂 ) – but, now, looking back at that attempt at “teaching” , I can’t but feel a slight twinge of guilt at not being able to convey the wonder of it all…

The first thought which occured to me as I saw these animations, is how effective I could’ve been at conveying what I wanted to say, if only I could’ve showed the class something like this !