H. Gobind Khorana, who rose from a childhood of poverty in India to become a biochemist and share in a Nobel Prize for his role in deciphering the genetic code, died on Wednesday in Concord, Mass. He was 89.
His death was announced by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where Dr. Khorana was a professor emeritus.
Dr. Khorana, who received his early schooling from his village teacher under a tree, advanced his education through scholarships and fellowships to become an authority on the chemical synthesis of proteins and nucleic acids, the large molecules in cells that carry genetic information.
He received the 1968 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Robert W. Holley of Cornell University and Marshall W. Nirenberg of the National Institutes of Health. They worked independently of one another and received the award for showing how genetic information is translated into proteins, which carry out the functions of a living cell. More: Also in MIT News
Left, head of a Black Man from Mohenjo-daro; right, Panya woman in South India
Who are the African people of India? What is their significance in the annals of history? A photoessay by Runoko Rashidi:
Exceptionally valuable writings reflecting close relationships between Africa and early India have existed for more than two thousand years. In the first century B.C.E., for example, the famous Greek historian Diodorus Siculus penned that, “From Ethiopia he (Osiris) passed through Arabia, bordering upon the Red Sea as far as India…. He built many cities in India, one of which he called Nysa, willing to have remembrance of that (Nysa) in Egypt, where he was brought up.”
Another important writer from antiquity, Apollonius of Tyana, who is said to have visited India near the end of the first century C.E., was convinced that “The Ethiopians are colonists sent from India, who follow their forefathers in matters of wisdom.” The literary work of the early Christian writer Eusebius preserves the tradition that, “In the reign of Amenophis III [the mighty Dynasty XVIII Egyptian king] a body of Ethiopians migrated from the country about the Indus, and settled in the valley of the Nile.” And still another document from ancient times, the Itinerarium Alexandri, says that “India, taken as a whole, beginning from the north and embracing what of it is subject to Persia, is a continuation of Egypt and the Ethiopians.” More:
An Indo-Trinidadian woman selling cassava and dasheen at the Chaguanas Market.
The first immigrant ship from India, Fatel Rozack, arrived in 1845 after a journey of five months, carrying 225 Indians, most in their twenties, and over eight men for every woman. It had separate areas for men and women. Jokhan showed me a copy of its passenger log, pointing out that the first Indian to disembark was coincidentally named Bhuruth Suroop—a colonial clerk’s rendition of what I might have written as Bharat Swaroop. Trinidad is full of such tweaked spellings: Sewdass, Capildeo, Ramnarine. Until 1901, the ships were sailing vessels (‘Pal Jahaj’); thereafter, they were steamships (‘Aag Jahaj’). Jokhan pointed me to a list of ships that made the passage, the number of passengers in each, and the deaths en route. The mortality rate varied a lot. In 1858, on a ship named Salsette, 106 of the 197 Indians died. Scanning the numbers, I estimated the average mortality during the 19th century to be around 5%.
About 145,000 Indians came between 1845-1917 in over 320 shiploads. The vast majority was from the densely populated Gangetic Plain, from what are now UP and Bihar. They spoke Bhojpuri, a dialect of Hindi. Their primary driver was to escape economic destitution—intensified by repressive British taxation after the Indian Mutiny in 1857—and for a few perhaps to dodge a crime or a caste dispute. Due in part to a double failure of the monsoon, a major famine hit India in 1878-79, killing millions. Trained recruiters went from village to village promising good jobs in Damru Tapu (‘Demerara Island’). The lure was strong enough to overcome the significant taboo of Kala Pani, or crossing salt water, which rendered one an outcaste. Few women came at first but after 1868, concerted effort raised their numbers to four women for every ten men—though better, the continuing imbalance caused a host of social problems later, including violence over and against women. Because they left from Calcutta, they were also called Kalkatiyas. Until 1870, a fewMadrasis came too, but were deemed unsuitable and troublesome, not the least because many of them were urbanites. About 85% were Hindu and most of the rest Muslim. Of the Hindus, about 15% were Brahmins—more than the 9% in their home population—and most of them, writes historian Radica Mahase, had ‘earned a livelihood from the land and were also vulnerable to changes in the rural economy.’ More:
Initially hailed as a solution to the biggest question in computer science, the latest attempt to prove P ≠ NP – otherwise known as the “P vs NP” problem – seems to be running into trouble.
Two prominent computer scientists have pointed out potentially “fatal flaws” in the draft proof by Vinay Deolalikar of Hewlett-Packard Labs in Palo Alto, California.
Since the 100-page proof exploded onto the internet a week ago, mathematicians and computer scientists have been racing to make sense of it.
The problem concerns the speed at which a computer can accomplish a task such as factorising a number. Roughly speaking, P is the set of problems that can be computed quickly, while NP contains problems for which the answer can be checked quickly. More:
The Clay Mathematics Institute of Cambridge, Massachusetts (CMI) has instituted a one-million-dollar prize for solving any of the problems.
One of the seven was solved in March 2010 (read here).
Vinay sent a manuscript on August 6, 2010 to different researchers of his field and claimed that it contains the proof. His claim has to be scrutinized by mathematicians. Clay Institute is yet to give its verdict.
Vinay Deolalikar was born in India in 1971. He has received his engineering degree from IIT, Bombay and his PhD from University of Southern California. Deolalikar is currently working as the Principal Research Scientist at HP Labs.
An attorney by profession, Ms Persad-Bissessar is no novice to politics having been the MP for her area Siparia, a rural town in the south of the island, since 1995.
In the last 15 years she has weathered many political storms, even as she broke gender barriers.
Former Prime Minister Basdeo Panday (1995-2001) appointed her attorney general and education minister during the UNC’s first stint in office, and she even acted as PM.
But in 2007, in the lead-up to a general election, when it was clear that she was the best person to lead the party, Mr Panday refused to resign.
Ms Persad-Bissessar, who is married to a doctor and has a son, swallowed the humiliation, even giving a famous speech to the theme of Bob Marley’s No Woman No Cry, in which she declared her undying support for her political guru.
But all that changed last December.
As then Prime Minister Manning became increasingly unpopular, Ms Persad-Bissessar saw a golden opportunity for the opposition forces to unite to topple the ruling People’s National Movement. More:
Because they have their own minor-league spelling bee circuit. Ben Paynter at Slate:
This April’s North South Foundation bee in Shawnee, Kan., might seem like an obscure place to find the spelling world’s two biggest stars. Mostly, it looked like the sort of geeky local bee I might have attended as a kid—except everyone there was Indian. Inside Shawnee’s Hindu Temple and Cultural Center, 23 awkward kids took turns passing a microphone back and forth in a hushed beige auditorium. No spotlights, no podium, just cringe-inducing feedback on the P.A. system. And for the record, the spelling was a-t-r-o-c-i-o-u-s. Just three of the first 10 contestants spelled their words correctly. At one point, a poor kid paced in circles and clutched his crotch before misspelling beleaguered and sprinting off to the restroom.
Amid it all, 13-year-old Kavya Shivashankar pronounced words from a fold-out judging table as her father, Mirle, emceed in a sharp dark suit. Kavya, the 2009 Scripps National Spelling Bee champion, is a spelling superstar complete with signature move: She air-writes each word across her palm before speaking it. Kavya and Mirle—her innovative, ever-enthusiastic coach—were at the small-time competition to pay homage. Over the past two decades, tournaments like this one—a regional qualifier for the North South Foundation’s spelling league—have become a breeding ground for Scripps contenders. These minor-league competitions help kids as young as 6 years old work out the spelling kinks at an early age. The result has been an Indian-American dynasty at the National Spelling Bee. More:
The son of a Muslim father and a Sikh mother, Aatish Taseer is well-placed to explore Indian identity. David Mattin in The National:
In fact, Taseer’s novel is the more fully realised of the two. We follow our narrator, also called Aatish, and also returning to Delhi after years abroad, as he befriends a brash, ambitious personal trainer called Aakash, and charts a course through the new social highs and lows of his home city.
Plot comes by way of a murder, in which Aakash is implicated; but Taseer is quick to point out that this novel’s real significance resides in what lies around the murder – that is, Delhi, in all its beauty and brutality – rather than in the murder tself.
There’s no doubt, says Taseer, that his own return to Delhi, and the shocks it gave rise to, were the fuel that powered his writing.
“Coming back to Delhi was arresting for me,” he says. “First, I realised that growing up in the city I had been blind to certain aspects of it, which I now saw: the dirt, the poverty, the casual violence built into relationships between privileged people and servants.
“But there was also shock at what was changing. It was a social change that was creating kinds of people who simply didn’t exist before. I grew up in India amid a class sealed away by the English language, by certain ideas of dress, and culture, and westernisation. And outside of that class were people who had very little. Now economic activity was changing that; you see all sorts of people developing their own ideas of vocation, and aspiration, and what should be theirs. More:
India-born scientist-CEO K.R. Sridhar has unveiled his “Bloom Box,” a power plant in a box that could eliminate the traditional grid. He provided a sneak peek over the weekend.
Sridhar is the principal co-founder and CEO of Bloom Energy. Prior to founding the company, Dr. Sridhar was a professor of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering as well as Director of the Space Technologies Laboratory (STL) at the University of Arizona.
Dr. Sridhar received his Bachelors Degree in Mechanical Engineering with Honors from the University of Madras, India, as well as his M.S. in Nuclear Engineering and Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
Below, from The Times of India:
At its heart, Sridhar’s Bloom Box claims to be a game-changing fuel cell device that consists of a stack of ceramic disks coated with secret green and black “inks.” The disks are separated by cheap metal plates. Stacking the ceramic disks into a bread loaf-sized unit, says Sridhar, can produce one kilowatt of electricity, enough to power an American home – or four Indian homes.
The unit can be scaled up, installed anywhere, and be connected to an electrical grid just like you would connect your PC to the Internet. Hydrocarbons such as natural gas or biofuel (stored separately) are pumped into the Bloom Box to produce clean, scaled-up, and reliable electricity. The company says the unit does not vibrate, emits no sound, and has no smell, although Sridhar admits to some initial, but minor, glitches at some installations.
A hoax it is not, although some are suggesting there is a lot of hype around the launch — somewhat like with that of the Segway transporter that was much bally-hooed but did not live up to its billing. As with Segway, the big catch right now is cost. Large-sized Bloom Boxes of the kind installed at some Silicon Valley campuses costs around $ 700,000 to $ 800,000. Sridhar estimates that a Bloom Box for the residential market could be out within a decade for as little as $3,000 to produce electricity 24/7/365. “In five to ten years, we would like to be in every home,” Sridhar told CBS’ “60 Minutes” on Sunday night. More:
The sneak peak has generated a lot of buzz on the net: See here, here, here
Indian-American jazz musician Vijay Iyer and his Vijay Iyer Trio’s “Historicity” album was the most honored jazz album of the year. Click here to read the full article in Village Voice, and here to go to his website.
A nutritionist claims to have invented an alcoholic cocktail that could prevent festive hangovers by “cleaning” the bloodstream. The vodka-based tipple contains a string of “superfoods” that cleanse the system and ward off the effects of heavy drinking.
It is the brainchild of the British nutritional therapist and Indian “superfood” guru Gurpareet Bains, 32. He said: “This cocktail is about helping people have a good time without having to pay for it the following morning.”
The “Christmas spice-infused acai and pomegranate cocktail”, which has an alcohol by volume rate of 40 per cent, will still cause drunkenness, but its ingredients fight the symptoms of a hangover — commonly a splitting headache, parched mouth and the overwhelming desire to vomit. More:
Venkatraman “Venki” Ramakrishnan, an India-born structural biologist whose quest for scientific excellence took him from undergraduate schools in India to graduate and post-doc studies in US and research in UK, has been named a joint winner of the Nobel prize in chemistry for helping to discover how cells transform genetic code into living matter. He is currently affiliated with the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, UK
Ramakrishnan, 57, shares the award – and 10m Swedish kronor (£900,000) – with Thomas Steitz at Yale University, Connecticut, and Ada Yonath, the first Israeli woman to win a Nobel prize, at the Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot.
Ramakrishnan was born in the temple town of Chidambaram in Tamil Nadu in 1952. When he was two, his parents moved to Gujarat.
Both his parents, father C.V. Ramakrishnan and mother Rajalakshmi, were scientists and taught biochemistry at the Maharaj Sayajirao University until they retired in the eighties. The elder Ramakrishnan, now 85, lives in Seattle, where daughter Lalita – also a scientist – teaches. Rajalakshmi, who did pioneering work on developing child nutrition in India, passed away two years ago.
Born and raised in London, and of Indian/Punjabi heritage, Kamaljit Singh Jhooti, better known by his stage name Jay Sean, started rapping at 12. He is best known for his hits “Stolen”, “Eyes On You”, “Ride It” and “Tonight” in UK. He has released two albums, Me Against Myself (2004) and My Own Way (2008). Click here for MTV.
On July 27, 2004, a friend invited Guru Raj to create a Google e-mail account. A recent graduate of the University of Virginia, Raj, then twenty-one, was watching the Democratic National Convention on a television in his parents’ basement, in Norcross, Georgia. The beta version of Gmail-available by invitation only-was less than four months old at the time, and largely unproved, but Raj’s U.V.A. e-mail account was set to expire in a few weeks, so he decided to give Gmail a try.
At first, Raj tried to create an address using his own name, but, remarkably, both firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com were already taken. So he tried the name of the young senator from Illinois who was giving the Democratic keynote address on TV. To his surprise, it worked, and, moments later, firstname.lastname@example.org was quietly born. “I’m not some cute little Indian boy who grew up in America with political aspirations,” Raj, the first in his family to be born an American citizen, said recently. “I just thought it would be kind of funny to create an e-mail address based on a random senator whose name no one could spell.”
An online journal has been followed worldwide by scholars, policy makers and the occasional migrant in distress. Jason DeParle in The New York Times:
It has an editorial staff of one and annual advertising revenues of less than $2,000. It charges its subscribers nothing and pays most contributors the same. Mapping the settlement of Latino poultry workers is its idea of a sexy piece. But for a growing number of followers, it has become an important read.
Every moment has its magazine, and for the age of migration it is the Migration Information Source, a weekly (more or less) online journal followed worldwide by scholars, policy makers and the occasional migrant in distress. “My soul’s dying every moment,” an Iranian asylum seeker wrote last year in an e-mail message from Greece. “Give me an answer.”