Thursday, December 31, 2015

A new book on cultural evolution

I am half way through the book and liked it so far. Some of the flavour of the book can be gleaned from the customer reviews: The secret of our success by Joseph Henrich. Table of contents with a free chapter here. A review by Joe Brewer at Evolution Institute

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Subir Sen RIP

Recalling an article I liked reading this year

There is no theory of everything by Simon Critchley
One quote "There is a gap between nature and society. The mistake, for which scientism is the name, is the belief that this gap can or should be filled.......What is needed is a clearer overview of the occasions when a scientific remark is appropriate and when we need something else, the kind of elucidation we find in stories, poetry or indeed when we watch a movie or good TV (Frank watched a lot of TV).....We don’t need an answer to the question of life’s meaning, just as we don’t need a theory of everything. What we need are multifarious descriptions of many things, further descriptions of phenomena that change the aspect under which they are seen, that light them up and let us see them anew.."
Another: "Some years later, I went back into his office to ask permission to switch from one course to another. “Which courses?” he said indifferently. “I’m meant to be reading Foucault, but I want to do a course on Derrida.” “Man” he replied “that’s like going from horseshit to bullshit.” "

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Piketty Retrospective

at Crooked TimberI have spent a lot of time on Piketty's Capital21 which was fascinating but I got only glimpses of parts of it. In a recent seminar in CT, I came across this article by J.W. Mason It's bargaining power all the way down which seems clearer than most. (I also liked Seth Ackerman's review in Jacobin). Apparently Piketty will respond to the seminar in January next year.
Comments in the CT article with some resonses from J.W. Mason are also worth looking.
Fun part: Comment 39. Re Barbara Solow and family – an article by her on Eric Williams and slavery has one of the all-time great acknowledgements:
“I would like to thank my sons, Andrew R. and John L. Solow, for assistance in producing the mathematical results, and my husband, Robert M. Solow, for assistance in producing the sons”.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

More links on Price Equation

Making some progress.  'Multilevel Selection Processes in Economics: Theory and Methods' by Natalia Zinovyeva ( )has a little example which helped. Another paper 'Understanding microbial cooperation' by James Damore and Jeff Gore (Supplement, to orinial paper a fairly comprehensive discussion and also a discussion of some of the difficulties.

Regimes of perceptibility

Rediscovering the 1%: Economic Expertise sand Inequality Knowledge
In the 2000s, academics and policymakers began to discuss the growth of top incomes in the United States, especially the “top 1%.” Newly analyzed data revealed that top income earners in the 1990s received a larger share of income than at any point since the Great Depression, and that their incomes had begun a dramatic upward climb in the early 1980s. This paper investigates why it took two decades for this increase in top incomes to become politically and academically salient. I argue that experts assembled two “regimes of perceptibility” (Murphy 2006) for producing knowledge about income inequality, and that neither of these regimes was capable of tracking movements in top incomes. Macroeconomists focused on labor’s share of national income, but did not examine the distribution of income between individuals. Labor economists, on the other hand, drew on newly available survey data to explain wage disparities in terms of education, age, work experience, race, and gender. By relying on surveys, these scholars unintentionally eliminated top incomes from view: surveys top-coded high incomes, and thus were incapable of seeing changes in the top 1%. Studies of top incomes that relied on income tax data thus fell by the wayside, creating the conditions under which experts, policymakers, and the public alike could be surprised by the rise of the 1%. This historical narrative o↵ers insights into the political power of economic expertise by clarifying the complex linkages between observations, stylized facts, causal theories, and policy attention.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Still struggling

with stuff related to Price Equation. So postings will be less frequent. When I do not understand stuff, I employ what an old friend used to cal 'glance therapy'.  Stare at it for hours and dream about it. Slowly some names and formulae start appearing like old friends. Of course, it is easier to understand through discussions, but when no one arouind is that interested in the topic, one has to resort to adhoc methods. A collaborator is visiting for six weeks starting January 12, and I think it will take me months to get some grip on Price Equation. Meanwhile, here are some links updating old topics.
Spread of antibiotic-resistance ene does not spell bacterial apocalypse - yet from Natuire News
US bee numbers decline as land is converted for biofuel 
The scientific limits of understanding complex social phenomena from Naked Capitalism
The science myths that will not die from Nature News
A discussion on high economic rents in Economist's View
Military to military by Seymur Hersch
Puncuring myths about India, review of a book by Sanjay Subrahjmanyam and an inrerview with the author
and an old article by George Monbiot Gift of Death

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Standard text books

I was recommended chapter 10 of Sean Rice: 'Evolutionary theory: Mathematical and Conceptual Foundations' for an account of George Prioce's work. apparently it is a standard text book in parts of USA but is not available in our huge Melbourne University library. It is surprising that even these days what is considered standard differs even in developed countries.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Three versions of a song

"AV. Meiyappan has disclosed in his autobiography, ‘ Enadhu Vazhkai Anubhavangal ’ (My Life’s Experiences) that though he launched the movie in Hindi, he later thought that by making it in Telugu and Tamil also, it would become a more commercially viable project. But call-sheet problems delayed the shooting causing production costs to go up. While Ladki was released on October 30, 1953, Penn got released on June 26, 1954 and Sangham on July 10, 1954." from an article in The Hindu Sangham  (1954) by M.L.Narasimham. In one of the popular songs, the Hindi version sounds a bit different from the Tamil and Telugu versions.  Hindi versionby Lata Mangeshkar and Geeta Dutt:

The Tamil version by T.S. Bhagavati and M.S. Rajeshwari
The Telugu version by T.S.Bhagawati and P.Suseela

Update on Foldscope

The $ 1 microscope by Ed Yong:
"At first, Prakash set up a makeshift factory in his lab and printed around 50,000 of the Foldscopes. He and his team members have since shipped 10,000 of those out by hand, as part of a broad beta-test.
Pomerantz was one of the lucky recipients. “It has been so useful for my fieldwork,” he says, having used it to study plant cells, mites, fly larvae, and single-celled parasites. “It feels like holding a piece of paper, because that’s what it sort of is. It’s also really robust. I take really long hikes in the jungle, so it gets dumped on by rain and mud—and it still works.”"
Another from The NewYorker by Carolyn Kormann.

Friend from 1970, Jack Morava

Whenever I am stuck for references, I write to Jack. Even if he does not know about the topic, he always finds somebody who can give useful references.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Two books

A book that I enjoyed very much but forgot to mention is  "Life's greatest secret: The story of the race to crack the genetic bode" ny Matthew Cobb reviewd here.
Another popular book around that time is Nick Lane's The Vital Question" reviewd here. I did not complete it since it seemed a bit speculative.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Year end reading

Nature's Oracle: The Life and Times of W.D.Hamilton by Ullica segerstrale and
The Price of Altruism: George Price and the Search for the Origins of Kindness by Oren Harman, mainly the parts to related to George Price and his work during the London stay. These seem to help a bit with the papers of George Price (1972) and William Hamilton (1975) that i have been strugling with. Perhaps to catch up some of the modern developments, I should add "Unto others..." by Sober and Wilson at some stage.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Links December 14, 2015

About Benidict Anderson's 'Imagined communities' from 2006  In a pomegranate chandelier by T.J. Clark
Why Poland is Turning Away from the west from NY Times.
The article links to an article The Political economy of liberal demcracy by Aharun Mukand and Dani Rodrik which looks promising but I have not read it yet.
Melbourne's anti-vaccine hot spots: Rich suburbs have low immunisation rates
ISIS in Libya from Business Insider
Turkey in Iraq: Turkey misfires in Iraq from Al-Monitor, What are Turkish troops doin in Northern Iraq from The NewYorker. Check also Are Turkey and Iran reviving 16th century conflict?


Still struggling with William Hamilton's 1975 paper on group selection. The 1972 paper of George Price seems a bit easier because it is more mathematical. Since a mathematician collaborator is coming soon and then there is a planned trip to India, it may be months before i get a grip (if at all) on this stuff.


An article on him by Vidya Bhushan Rawat. Another in Swedish with automatic translation. On Facebook.

Vasili Arkhipov

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Some Indian links December 13, 2015

Why is industry fleeing Punjab? by M.Rajshekhar. Along the way, he mentions 'cow cess ' in electricity bill about 1.4% of the power bill. That seems to be recent. From a July 15 report "In a first, the municipal bodies of Punjab will introduce cow cess, to protect cows and rehabilitate them at the ‘gaushalas’ (cow shelters)."
Dr. Brahma Dev Sharma passed away. Two reports about him:
B.D. Sharma, Officer and a revolutionary from Outlook
The hero of Bastar: remembering BD Sharma and his efforts for tribals by Akash Bisht
Rahul Banerjee gets some recognition for his solutions to manage water supply and sanitation issues in his house in Indore
The anti-democratic verdict of the unelected "Earlier this year, the state of Haryana – following the state of Rajasthan –amended its Panchayati Raj Act. Through the Amendment, it introduced certain restrictions upon the right to contest Panchayat elections. These restrictions included the requirement of education (up to a certain level), having a functional toilet in one’s house, and being debt-free. As any student of history knows, educational, property and debt restrictions upon voting and standing for elections, were a standard tool used by regressive States to contain the political power of suppressed constituencies, whether it was the blacks in Jim Crow America, or Indians under the colonial British government. Haryana’s move was promptly challenged in the Supreme Court. In a judgment that came as a surprise to many, on December 10, 2015, the Court rejected the challenge, and upheld the law, disenfranchising a significant number of people."

Friday, December 11, 2015

Suzette Jordan's rapists convicted

Article with a letter from her father and excerpts from an essay by her daughter Rhea
In Memorium by Sandip Roy, March 13, 2015

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Price equation and related topics

Work in progress. I have been trying to understand a bit about altruism via Price Equation. It is not too easy since I do not have background in that type of biology or mathematics. But mathematics seems quite simple and the equation is abstract and does not really require much biology except when it comes to some applications. An overview is two book reviews of different books. The first is a review of book by D.S. Wilson by H.Allen Orr The biology of being good to others. Another a review of book on George Price George Price, The Price equation and cultural group selection by Karthik Panchanathan. The second paper has formulae without proofs but mentions the references where details are available. Many of the details are in Steven A. Frank's papers, in particular this paper. In the section 'Abstract properties: Recursion and Group selection', he says "Essentially all modern discussions of multilevel selection and group selection derive from Price (1972a), as developed by Hamilton (1975). Price and Hamilton noted that the Price equation can be expanded recursively to represent nested levels of analysis, for example, individuals living in groups." The particular paper of W.D. Hamilton  is 'Innate social aptitudes of man: an approach from evolutionary genetics'. I have read about half of both these papers and they seem readable with some work.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

An overview of Price Equation

Here is a quick overview of the scope of Price Eqation. I am trying to fill in the gaps in my understanding bit by bit and it may take several months.
The Price Equation by Andy Gardner

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Links, December 8, 2015

Omar Ali (a physician who lives in USA, I think) on San Bernadino Terror Attack
The end of Walking by Antonla Malchik, at the moment in USA but I have seen In Hyderabad people drivin to Brhmananda Reddy park to take walks.
What led to end of Kerala's matrilinear society? from The Caravan
Mathematics for democracy from AMS blogs and Let math save our democracy from NY Times
Two on Kurt Vonnegut:
How Jane Vonnegut made Kurt Vonnegut a writer
Kurt and Bernard

Monday, December 07, 2015

H. Allen Orr on Price equation

H.Allen Orr writes (unfortunately a gated article in The New York Book Review) "Now comes the deep part. Price saw—and it is far from obvious when put into words—that this transmission term can be rewritten mathematically in a way that allows for natural selection at a different biological level. So, to take a simple example, the evolution of height might reflect natural selection between individuals within populations and between populations of individuals. In fact, this mathematical maneuver can be performed recursively, over multiple levels of the biological hierarchy. In the end, the Price Equation allows one to partition evolutionary change in a trait into the possible effects of natural selection acting simultaneously at multiple biological levels, e.g., the species, population, organism, gamete (sperm or egg), and gene.....Crucially, the Price Equation showed that group selection arguments for altruism need not be offered tentatively or apologetically; they could be offered with mathematical precision.....No equation, however elegant, can solve the problem of altruism because the problem, like most in science, is partly empirical. The Price Equation shows that evolutionary change in a trait can be partitioned into the effects of natural selection at different biological levels. But this tells us nothing about the sizes of the effects at these levels." from Is goodness in your genes?

Friday, December 04, 2015

George Price and his equation.

Off and on, I have been trying to get some idea of Price equation but have not been really able to get a handle on it. Does anybody know some readable references? Here are a couple of articles about him.
Death of an altruist by James Schwartz
The homeless scientist who tried to prove that selflessness does not exist by Theo Jolliffe

P.S. (5th December, 2015)
Here is a nice write up of a simple discrete case which seems to give a start.
There is also a book by Oren Harman on George price which has some explanations but as this review says "Harman makes a few attempts to explain the equation and its biological meaning, but in my judgment the explanations are too brief and too vague to be of much help to those who don’t already understand the mathematics."
That is only a beginnin. It may take me an year or two to et some grasp of it and there will be more posts on the topic off and on. 

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Links, December 2, 2015

How the American-style seggreation is feeding division in Europe
Top CO2 polluters and highest per capita
Izabella Kaminska on simulacrum future
Nearly half of India's districts are draught hit as crisis accelerates (via Madhukar Shukla) : "Obsessed with the latest, hyper-emotional social media trend, India’s people and mass media are all but oblivious to Bharat’s emergency situation. The only national newspaper that has consistently followed collapsing farms and failing rains is Mint. As of last week, nine of India’s 29 states had officially declared a drought, and 302 of the 640 districts are living in drought-like conditions. If you ask why none of this is on India’s primetime television shows or splashed on front pages, I will only say that the media, in general, are not interested and neither, dear reader, are we."
Underworld still has stron connections with Bollywood
Zero Hedge on ISIL oil trade

A new type of university

via Madhukar Shukla "What if you walk into a university to find out that there are no classrooms, no teachers, degrees, curriculum, and exams? Above all, you even see people learning joyfully in their own ways, involving their head-heart-hands, doing in their lives what interests them the most. Welcome to this place of learning and unlearning called Swaraj University, which for last 6 years has been providing platform for youth to identify their hearts’ vision and engage them in developing the skills and practices they need to manifest that vision...."
A university with no classrooms, no teachers, degrees, curriculum and exams-Swaraj University

Another article by Peter Turchin

The puzzle of ultrasociality (2013):In this article Peter Turchin discusses Ultrasociality, and along the way Price Eqation (Inequality) in multi level selection. A more popular explanation in Chapter 4 of his recent book Ultrasociety 

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Peter Turchin's recent book

I just completed my first reading of Ultrasociety: How 10,000 years of war made humans the greatest cooperators on earth. It needs a few more readings. I cannot say that I understood all parts of the book and felt that several parts were locally not quite correct, at least they seem to be against what I learnt from Michael Hudson and others. On the otherhand, that does not seem to matter. It is a theory capable of incorporating change of details and some predictions. It seems worth reading and pondering about. An earlier paper War, space and evolution of old world complex societies by Peter Turchin and colloborators will provide a preview of some of the ideas. Worth a look.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Arsenic poisoning in Bihar

UN climate change conference, Paris

The rich world must take greater responsibilty for climate change by Narendra Modi in and comments in
"In effect, the US wants to do away with the old idea that developed nations bear a greater responsibility for a problem that they have created. By doing a bilateral deal with China on climate change, US President Barack Obama has even signaled to the world that he can get the largest and most influential of developing nations on his side. But there are plenty of nations unhappy with this attempt at rejigging the world order, and India is at the forefront."
India unveils global solar alliance of 120 countries at Paris cl;imate summit from The Guardian
The world's climate is in the hands of just three nations from The Guardian which has more links in

COP 21: UN climate change conference | Paris