Saturday, August 21, 2010

International Congress of Mathematicians: Prof Kim Plofker on "Yavana" rules in mathematics

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Aug 20: Indian mathematics had influenced the West hundreds of years before European scholars decoded the ancient scientific texts written in Sanskrit.
According to Prof Kim Plofker, an eminent mathematician from the USA, numerous ideas and methods derived from Indian mathematics became familiar in Europe long before Western scholars began systematically studying Sanskrit scientific texts.
Prof Kim is attending the ongoing International Congress of Mathematicians in the city. She has prepared a paper on "Indian rules, Yavana rules and the transmission of mathematical ideas", highlighting the Indian contribution to mathematics.
The name "Indian" was attached to many mathematical concepts and techniques in West Asia/North Africa and Europe starting at the beginning of the medieval period, from the "Indian numbers" and "Indian calculation" adopted by Arab mathematicians to the "Hindoo method" for solving quadratic equations in 19th century algebra textbooks, she said.
According to Prof Kim, the Sanskrit term "Yavana", originally a transliteration of "Ionian (Greek)" but later used for other foreigners as well, was applied by Indian scholars to various foreign importation in sciences
including mathematics. Prof Kim has already authored a book, "Mathematics in India".
Her presentation explores the historical process of adoption and assimilation of "foreign mathematics" both in and from India. She has studied a number of Indian texts, as old as 3000 years and as recent as 18th century, to support her ideas on Indian mathematics.
The famous theorem postulated by Pythagoras was practically applied in the construction of temple pillars in India much before the birth of the Greek philosopher in 5th century BC. She also dwelt on the origin of the concept of cipher or zero in Indian mathematics and how it was propagated to the outside world through Arab mathematicians.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Fields Medal, alternative to Nobel in mathematics

By Syed Akbar
The Fields Medals, first awarded in 1936, is the most traditional and important international prize in the world of mathematics.
Up to four medals are awarded every four years on the occasion of the quadrennial International Congress of mathematicians (ICM) to recognize outstanding mathematical achievements for existing work and for the promise of future achievement.
To be eligible for the award, the candidate’s 40th birthday must not have occurred before January 1, of the year when the award is announced.
The Fields Medals were first proposed at the 1924 ICM in Toronto, where it was resolved that, at each subsequent Congress, two gold medals should be awarded for outstanding mathematical achievement. The Canadian mathematician J.C. Fields, who was the Secretary of the 1924 Congress, later donated funds towards these awards. Fields considered two undamental principles for the award: the solution of a difficult problem and the creation of a new theory enlarging the fields of application of mathematics.
In 1966, in view of greatly expanding mathematical research, it was decided that up to four medals could be given. The Fields Medal is made of gold and the award includes a cash prize of Canadian $15,000.
The 2010 Fields Medals winners are:
1. Elon Lindenstrauss of Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel;
2. Ngô Bảo Châu of Université Paris-Sud, Orsay, France;
3. Stanislav Smirnov of Université de Genève, Switzerland; and,
4. Cédric Villani of Institut Henri Poincaré, Paris, Fran

International Congress of Mathematicians: ICM 2010 opens new forum for women mathematicians

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Aug 19: Women and mathematics is the favourite theme at the International Congress of Mathematicians, 2010 which began here on Thursday.
For the first time an International Conference of Women Mathematicians is being organised on the sidelines of the ICM 2010.
This year marks the first time that a separate conference is being held with a focus on women in mathematics.
Panel discussions on women in mathematics, their achievements, and the problems they face in the profession will be the highlight of this year's ICM.
Professor Shobha Madan of the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, planned the agenda of the women mathematicians conference.
As many as nine colloquium style lectures are planned to enable participants to have an interaction with other women mathematicians.
According to Prof Shobha, it is an attitude problem of society in general that it does not accept the fact women doing mathematics.
"When I say society I am not speaking of the men alone; the society includes both men and women".
Prof Ragni Piene of Norway said women should be made to feel that the system wants them to continue and do well. "What most women mathematicians feel is that there is no reason that there should be an
She said on the contrary, mathematics ought to be a subject that is very suited for women. "I do not see any reason why it should be less suitable for women and it can be done and it is easy to combine the subject with any kind of course," Prof Ragni added.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

More than one malaria vaccine needed for India

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad:  A single vaccine may not help in the control of malaria and this major health nuisance has to be tackled through specific vaccines for different strains of malarial parasite.
A study by the city-based Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology and the National Institute for Malaria Research revealed that different vaccines need to be developed to prevent different isolates of Plasmodium falciparum, the causative agent of malaria.
"The C-terminal region of merozoite surface protein-1 is one of the leading candidates for vaccination against the erythrocytic stages of malaria. However, a major concern in the development of MSP-1 based malaria
vaccine is the polymorphism observed in different geographical Plasmodium falciparum isolates," the study points out.

The results from the study also revealed predominance of a particular type of allele among Indian field isolates. Seven such variant forms were isolated in a singe geographical location. This simply means there should be seven different vaccines each targeting a particular isolate, in the Indian context.
The study demonstrated the existence of allele specific antibodies in Plasmodium falciparum-infected patient sera. The scientists suggested the importance of a multi-allelic based vaccine for an effective malaria
control in the country.
Malaria is one of the major causes of death from infection in India as in other developing countries.  Development of an effective malaria vaccine may reduce malaria-associated severe morbidity and mortality in malaria-endemic areas.
A number of parasite surface antigens of asexual blood stages are being investigated as vaccine candidate antigens. Among these antigens, merozoite surface protein-1 is a leading candidate antigen.
"A substantial proportion of antibodies directed to MSP-119 in Plasmodium falciparum-infected human sera have been shown to inhibit erythrocyte invasion in vitro. Sequence comparison of Plasmodium falciparum msp1 sequences among different geographical isolates shows a great deal of variations," the study said.
Malaria transmission is perennial in the country but is markedly low in the plain area than forest area. Plasmodium falciparum accounted for 85 per cent of total malaria cases during the study period. In forest and plain areas, the number of falciparum cases per thousand populations were 284.1 and 31.2 respectively, whereas the parasite rate was 14 per cent and 1.7 per cent respectively.
In forest areas, clinical malaria occurred more frequently in children aged 0-5 years and declined gradually with increasing age.

Monday, August 16, 2010

IIIT-Hyderabad develops machine translation system for Indian languages

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Aug 15: Thanks to Sampark, a machine translation system developed by the city-based International Institute of Information Technology, translating Indian languages is now just a mouse click away.
To be made available to the public in September, the machine translation system is devised to translate Indian languages online.
When fully operational, the system can translate English scripts to as many as 18 Indian languages and vice-versa.
Initially, however, the new software will support only six languages. Later, 12 more will be added to the system in the second phase.
According to Professor Rajiv Sangal, director IIIT-Hyderabad, Sampark, developed by a consortium of 11 institutions led by IIIT, offers translation of Indian languages unlike Google which focuses mainly on English.

New Delhi Metallobeta Lactamase-1: NDM-1 superbug survives thanks to abuse of antibiotics

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, August 15: As they cruise infor mation super-high ways, being super heroes at their nascent careers, a whole generation of teens, university students and the young workforce are making themselves super susceptible to superbugs.
Stuck for long hours in air-conditioned offices, breathing recycled germs, nourished by re-heated food from dubious take-aways when their compromised immune systems fall apart, they usually self-diagnose or pop OTC quick-fixes putting them at serious risk of bigger illnesses.

Whether for a simple cold or a fever, these quick-fixes to deal with the `symptoms' of illness are very much part of the lifestyle mantra for the young whose rat-race has gotten faster and harsher. But scientists and health experts warn that inappropriate use of antibiotics is creating resistance in simple disease causing germs. Doctors suggest, the latest superbug, New Delhi Metallobeta-lactamase (NDM)-1, has been allowed to evolve because of a rampant overuse or rather abuse of antibiotic pills.
Indiscriminate use of antibiotics has turned into a major health nuisance. Doctors have to deal with the diseases resistant to regular drugs while researchers and scien tists are watching the emergence of a generation of superbugs. NDM-1 is capable of causing multi-organ failure and eventually death.
Dr V.K. Bhargava, senior physician, Apollo Hospitals explains, "Any drug or antibiotic has to be used only against the indication. Each fever is not bacterial.Antibiotics are only for bacterial and some fungal or viral infections. Wrong use of antibiotics for infection will lead to resistance, the antibiotic rendered ineffective."
Bacteria that develop resistance to more than one drug are called multi-drug resistant bacteria, or superbugs.
The resistant gene in a superbug is capable of spreading across bacterial species making even harmless bacteria a new superbug. Several superbugs already exist including the notorious multi-drug resistant tuberculosis bacteria and Pseudomonas which are capable of thriving even in a bottle containing antibiotic solution.

Escherichia or E. coli which causes food poisoning and gastroenteritis, has already developed a 70 per cent resistance to available drugs. The presence of the NDM-1 gene in E coli will make the bacteria even more drug resistant turning the fight against gastroenteritis into a Herculean task. India ranks high amongst countries where antibiotics use is quite high and young patients who go to doctors can be blamed.
"Bacteria are developing resistance to existing drugs, the cause of very high morbidity and mortality. Patients should not pressurise doctors to prescribe antibiotics," warns Dr Bhargava, adding that doctors must prescribe the appropriate drug for specific indication and the right dosage for the right length of time.

Infectious diseases expert Dr Suneetha Narreddy feels that doctors share the blame, "When a person develops cold/cough with or without fever and visits a doctor; the doctor may correctly diagnose a viral infection but in spite of this, the doctor prescribes an antibiotic.
Patients expect doctors to give them antibiotics for even minor symptoms and the doctor fears losing a potential client."

The situation is compounded when you consider that India faces the major challenge of veterinary drug misuse. Traces of veterinary drugs are found in dairy milk, meat and eggs, thanks to administration of large doses of antibiotics in milch cattle and poultry birds.
"A single dose of antibiotics will provide resistance in an individual for up to 12 months. Considering the fact that a person is subjected to several such doses of antibiotics in a short span of time, it's no wonder that new superbugs continue to emerge," points out senior geneti cist Dr M.N. Khaja.
Dr Suneetha says, in India antibiotic abuse is more of a problem for several reasons increase in prescriptions where not indicated, availability of antibiotics over the counter with out prescription, availability of generics which are very often substandard and may not contain the right medication in the right quantity and quality, antibiotics prescribed without diagnostic facilities and empiric treatment or treating without diagnosis.
It's time for the next generation to bolster their immunities naturally, build resistance and restrain against arbitrary pill-popping.

Sampark makes translation from one Indian language to another easy

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Aug 15: Translation from one Indian language to another is now just a click-of-mouse away, thanks to a machine translation system, Sampark, developed by the city-based International Institute of Information Technology.

The machine translation system is devised to translate Indian languages online. The system will be available for public use in September.

Using Sampark tools one can translate scripts in as many as 18 Indian languages from English and vice versa. Initially, the system will support only six languages and the second phase will include another 12 languages.

According to Prof Rajiv Sangal, director IIIT-Hyderabad, Sampark developed by a consortium of 11 institutions led by IIIT offers translation of Indian languages unlike Google which focuses mainly on English.

MT tools are upcoming areas of study in the field of computational linguistics. Machine translation is the application of computers to the translation of texts from one natural language into another, he said.

One needs to just copy the text one wants to translate and paste in the box provided in the Sampark system. It can also translate entire web page with pictures and graphics intact.

The content available over the web, largely in English will be automatically translated to the Indian languages. This work involves machine translation from English to Indian languages.

Providing affordable and effective education for a large number of students, in geographically distributed locations is being attempted. This has emerged as a new necessity in the networked environment. Work is done on the effective use of information technology tools for this. IT tools can also be effectively used to make primary education available in rural Indian communities in their own languages.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Swine flu or novel human influenza: Organ transplant patients at greater risk

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Aug 13: With swine flu re-emerging this season with renewed vigour, health experts have found that organ transplant patients are at greater risk of infection and even death.

People, who have undergone organ transplant, are more susceptible than ordinary patients to the novel human influenza virus 2009. The infection rate is quite high in adults, who had received organ transplants. Though the virus affected children too, the infection was not as severe as in adults.

According to Dr Deepali Kumar, expert in transplant-related infectious diseases from the University of Alberta, as many as 71 per cent of organ transplant patients had reported pneumonia and had to be admitted to ICU.
"We assessed 237 cases of medically attended influenza A H1N1 reported from 26 transplant centres. Transplant types included kidney, liver, heart and lung," she said.

Of the 237 patients examined, 73 had pneumonia, 37 were admitted to ICUs, and 10 succumbed to swine flu.

Those who had antiviral treatment within two days of onset of symptoms recovered fast indicating that organ transplant patients should be put on antiviral treatment in case they report symptoms of swine flu. Only eight per cent of patients who received antiviral drugs within two days required intensive care as against 22 per cent of patients, who had late antiviral treatment.

"Children who received transplants were less likely to present with pneumonia than adults, but rates of admission to hospital and ICU were similar," Dr Deepali said. Starting antiviral therapy early is associated with clinical benefit as measured by need for ICU admission and mechanical ventilation.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

CCMB finds Indibacter: First bacterial genus named after India

By Syed Akbar
The first bacterial genus or for that matter
 any animal or plant genus to be named
 after India.
Jai Hind
Hyderabad, Aug 2: India has entered the bacterial domain with a new genus of bacteria, discovered recently, named after the country.
Though some plant and animal species are named after India, it is the first time that a whole genus is named after it. The Indibacter genus discovered by a team of CCMB researchers in Lonar lake of Buldhana district of Maharashtra could be useful in biotech industry for starch hydrolyses or breaking down of starch into sugars.
"We have named the bacteria in honour of our country, India," the CCMB team said. CCMB, ISRO and other research organisations in the country have earlier discovered a number of new bacteria, but they are named either after ancient Indian personalities like Aryabhata or after the unique properties the organism exhibits or the place of their
The discovery of Indibacter will throw new insight into the complex system of breaking down of sugars. It could also be useful in the fast emerging biotechnology sector in the country.
Indibacter is a gram-stain-negative, rod-shaped, non-motile bacterium. The CCMB team isolated it from a water sample collected at a depth of 3.5 m from the Lonar, a soda lake. "The cell suspension was reddish-orange due to the presence of carotenoids. It tolerates 8 per cent salinity and high alkalinity up to 12 per cent," the CCMB team led by Dr S Shivaji pointed out.
Lonar lake is noted for its high alkalinity thanks to the presence of sodium carbonate in water. As many as 55 species of bacteria from 41 genera have been discovered so far. Indibacter is the latest addition to this group of bacteria that loves alkalinity.
Earlier, 16 genera of bacteria were discovered from the Lonar lake. The new bacteria named after India was able to reduce nitrate to nitrite and hydrolyse aesculin and starch.