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Free Numbers from Philosophical Studies October 27, 2006

Posted by sumesh in Epistemology, Free, Info, Journals, Links, Philosophy.
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The Journal Philosophical Studies is offering some free numbers.  A notification from SpringerLink says, “these issues are completely free to download and
print until 31 October“. 

You can access them here

Number 1 / July, 2006  This is on Epistemic Virtue and Virtue Epistemology

Number 1 / May, 2006  Contents: Selected Papers from the 2004 Bellingham Conference

Number 1 / January, 2006  Contents: Papers from the American Philosophical Association, Pacific Division, 2005 Meeting

Or you may visit the journal site here. Philosophical Studies

Freebies from the net October 20, 2006

Posted by sumesh in Free, Google Stuffs, Info, Internet.
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      The cyberia is up for a revolution of sorts; the web is becoming more influential and mobile than anytime in the past, with fantabulous new applications, stupendous new programs and services, and out-and-out innovative start-ups popping up on a day-to-day basis.  Proving wrong all the apocalyptic predictions on the burst of dot-com bubble and the Internet, the new ball game is finally conquering the web and the world, and there are many things new under the sun! eek

This site –thoughts INFilo– will be featuring some of these new and U-friendly developments once in a month, in every second-Friday blog, if you will.

In the present blog we will take a look at some of the exciting applications Google launched recently.

***** Google Docs and Spreadsheets is a free, on-line, integrated word processing and spreadsheet program that allows you to collaborate your work with other people and make changes together.  In this integrated file system Docs  has a built-in group editing feature that keeps all the revisions other people have made,  and Spreadsheets has a chat feature that facilitates real-time group editing.

Google Dsp is a simple and extremely useful web based application with great collaboration features.  Google has launched it last week and since then I have been utilising it even for non-collaboration purposes as I don’t have MS office on my main platform (Writely was the earlier version). It is, one could say,  a really smart step for a Web 2.0 platform, one giant leap for netizens.

All that is needed for this app is a Web browser as there’s nothing to download. Files are stored (auto-save) securely on-line (so no power outages and disk space problems) and one can edit it from any comp with a net connection. Also, it has an option that let you save the files to your own comp in different formats.   It accepts most popular file formats-DOC, XLS, ODS, RTF, CSV, etc.  The on-line feature is that it let other people (multiple people) one choose update files instantly from their computers. 

redface  One can utilise this app in a number of creative ways.  One can coordinate teaching assignments, business plan and other group activities.  (I imagine this feature becoming a common teaching/learning aid in the near future.  And computers becoming cheaper as free services like Google DSP, which do not require disk space, are popping up regularly).  One can publish the files as web pages, post them to your blog and control who can see them. 

You may ask why I gave a five star rating to Google Docs & Spreadsheets,which is in beta version now.  The main reason is that it is promising, inspite of its limitations.  As you will see, there are many early-stage omissions, but I hope they are just early-stage omissions.  It will be integrated in full, with Gmail also, soon.  I also guess they have learned lessons from the failure of Google Video, well and were able hit the market of iron where it is red this time. 

So whom are you waiting for.  Go on and try Google Docs and Spreadsheets

See also the following:

***The Google Literacy Project

***/ Google Reader 

***/Gmail  GDisk One can use this facility as 2GB disk (on mail platform at present on Windows machines, but search me).

UPDATE!

****Google Co-op (Custom Search Engine) LATEST

Forthcoming: U-friendly browsers & shortcuts

Waht tihs tilte tlels auobt yuor mnid? October 18, 2006

Posted by sumesh in Cognition, Cognitive Neuroscience, Cognitive Psychology, Cognitive Science, Concepts, Mind.
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Quite a lot.

Stay tuned for more.

……. Inspirations October 13, 2006

Posted by sumesh in Biology, Chemistry, Culture, Nobel Prize, Philosophy of Science, Physiology or Medicine, Uncategorized.
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Besides inspiring those who take science seriously and pursue it dangerously  icon_rolleyes.gif   this year’s Nobel Prizes, at a minimum,  inspire many a coffee-table discussion on the business of science, its growth, serious research and the very idea of giving a prize.  Coffee-table discussions in the sophisticated time of Web2.0 techies, we must not undermine, are moving to blogophere and becoming etable discussions.

To begin with, consider Nobel Prize 2006 for Chemistry.  Dr. Kornberg is a structural biologist by vocation but the prize he won is a prize for chemistry and a surprise for many in chemistry.  Of all things, his discoveries are concerned with the transcription processes in cell.  As we have seen in the last blog his work tells a story of the information transfer from the prince DNA to the princess mRNA and the final protein production in the fortress of cell.

Isn’t it a story in pure biology?  By the measures of school bio, college bio, and advanced bio, it is so grumble chemists.  The only chemical tool he utilised in telling it was crystallography, which he used with uncanny originality to take the actual crystal structure pictures of an enzyme called RNA polymerase II in action- a lallapaloosa kind of great result however. 

Does this award hints at the increasing interdisciplinary nature of higher studies or the periferal biology eating into the more basic science of chemistry or the radical changes taking place in chemistry, biology and other sciences blurring all the distinctive nature of each one of them? (see the News piece “Nobel Prize blurs boundaries” by Katharine Sanderson in Nature 443, 615(12 October 2006).  One can have any of these options and it it too.   

But if we take into account the fact that most of the Nobel Prizes awarded in the last decade were like this years Prize for chemistry, one can safely predict that this trend is here to stay.  Further, the encroaching on the more basic sciences (like physics and chemistry) by the less basic sciences will increase as more and more scholars concentrate on basic research, on the complex issues of fundamental mechanisms of world and life.  However, this will neither blur the boundaries of the disciplines altogether nor reduce one discipline into another.  The complex nature of the issues and findings may unify the disciplines.  One major business of science when it grows is unification of its different branches earlier classified as per the needs of Aristotle & Co. Unification, needless to say, is the sure symbol of matured sciences and ‘the secure path’ to the increasing queerness in sciences.

As for the growth of science, let me just say that it does not work the way as Popper thought it or as Kuhn conceived of it.  One counter example did never come to outplace a theory living and kicking.  (This is a large topic, a topic for many blogs.  So search me taking this up in some near-future blogs.  That means I must move on to the next sub topic of this blog).

The next subtopic is serious research.  ‘What is it?’ you may ask.  When does it start? See the following link for a start. Well, just for a start.

 “http://uncyclopedia.org/wiki/Research

The above link tells a story of research. 

The pursuit of research, it seems, starts when one finds interest in some problem which often happens at undergraduate period (or earlier) when people are at their creative and innovative best.  Generally, the problem for research is formulated at this level as the student works under a master of the field and master the ways of doing research, uninstructed.  

Those who are genuinely interested in basic research will not find it difficult to see the gravity of the problem as they struggle to get a handle on it, or as they tirelessly try or dare to imagine every possible options to tackle the problem at hand.  Some of them get the result at a very young age as many of the great physicist had, on the other hand, some of them take a life’s time to address the issue to their satisfaction. 

 [Isn’t it the case that undergraduates outperform graduates and postgraduates in basic-research-level-tests?  This is no denying the fact that some graduates or postgraduates are great performers.  We are taking the case, here,  in general. 

The difference between undergraduates and others is very evident, especially evident in technological institutes.  The reason for this difference is hard to pinpoint. However, there are some sign posts. 

The competition in undergraduate level courses even in ordinary institutes (again, for technological courses it is very evident) is very high.  Where as competition, if any, in higher level courses is abysmally low.  Most of the applicants take up higher level course as an afterthought, after realising that as other cherished options are not available, continuing education is the best option.  Research, as one friend on mine puts it, ‘is the last resort of the vanquished’. 

It is indeed a great thing (great politically and democratically) that educational set up works as a resort, but greater emphasize on original and innovative work is needed  and newer strategies for getting the best minds must be adopted to yeild interesting findings from research work.  As this year’s Noble Prizes in sciences point basic research is important in its own right.

When and why do we give a prize to someone.  Of course, we give a prize to someone if only there is a prize to give to.  To mention, if there is no Nobel Prize for biology as the case is, one can’t give a prize for biology, unless one introduce it anew.  So if there is a discovery in biology (Nobel prize is not awarded for biology; it is awarded for achievements in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature, peace and 1968 onwards, for economics) that is more important than the discoveries in chemistry, then awarding Nobel Prize 2006 for Chemistry for a biologist is not fully unjustifiable.  The reason being the second-best-choice. 

Another point is that giving a prize is not just an act of giving something away, or an act that culminates in giving something once and for all.  More often than not, it is an attempt at harnessing the future not just that of the recipient but of the larger world also.  It is an act that takes something from the recipient in the immediate future……..[to be continued]

This year’s Nobel Prizes in sciences are  pointers in this direction. 

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for 2006

Biologists Andrew Z. Fire and Craig C. Mello won this year’s Nobel Prize for their work on the silence of the genes as the citation has it- for their discovery of “RNA interference – gene silencing by double-stranded RNA.

RNA interference-RNAi for short- is a gene silencing mechanism animals and plants use for controlling genetic information.  It works both as a tool to regulate gene expression and as a natural defence mechanism of cell against viruses. 

(See the  previous blog for an account of the general structure of a cell)

The information in a gene, if it is to have any use, have to be copied into mRNA molecule which, unlike double-stranded DNA, is single-stranded.

In a fascinating set of experiments Dr. Fire and Dr. Mello found that a matching strand for an mRNA(for it’s single strand) can silence all expression of the related gene that prevent protein synthesis.  The new matching strand binds to the target RNA to create a double-stranded RNA, (like a double-stranded DNA).  That is the new strand interferes with the functioning of the complementary RNA,by locking it, by making it double-stranded.  The resultant double-stranded RNA is destroyed by a set of proteins present in the cell. They found that in this way the gene expression can be silenced and any gene can be inactivated.

This method enables scientists to identify the function of each gene and to explore its pathways.  Thanks to RNAi, it may be possible to silence mutated or damaged genes that result in adverse health conditions.

These findings, along with many other recent experiments on RNA functions, allow us to peer into the detailed workings of cellular machinery.  They show that RNA plays far more important role in the cellular functions.  For instance, mRNA can regulate a specific cellular function all by its own and other types of RNAs such as micro-RNAs can function as gene  regulators.  The increasing realisation of the importance of RNAs in life constructing and sustaining functions of cell takes away much glitz and glamour from the politics of genetic determination.

Yearly Packs of Inspiration October 6, 2006

Posted by sumesh in Chemistry, Culture, Nobel Prize, Philosophy of Science, Research, Science.
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It is that time of the year when researchers from varied fields of intellectual enquiry experience the uncommon feelings of overwhelming elation and atypical ecstasy, thanks to the success some of their colleagues or predecessors achieved in carving nature at its joints and revealing some of the mysteries of the world and life. 

It is that kind of great success that makes every researcher humble and as they say, simple.  It often tells you the story of the remarkable, bold and queer steps taken by young researchers; The journey often starts with undergraduates who question everything and dare every ‘unimaginable options’, and pursue them at the cost of everything else, knowing well that the fascinating journey is the only thing that is guaranteed and not the destination.  It is a research-for-research-sake, knowledge-for-knowledge-sake odyssey.  In that journey of self-actualisation the journeyer who strikes out new paths metamorphose him/herself into a light-bearer who has mastered the path.  Prizes or results, if any, in that pursuit are just some extra benefits of continuing this inspired peregrination.

This year’s Nobel Prizes in sciences show the importance of the ground work done by researchers as a team, many researchers significantly contributing to the unraveling of the enigma of life and the world.  It would have been a great gesture if the Nobel Committee at least mentioned all those who contributed in solving the problem, even while bestowing the prize to one, two or more persons.  For science is rarely an individual enterprise, more often than not it is a group work extra ordinary.

Dr. Roger D. Kornberg won this year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry for visually showing how genes transmit messages to copy cellular functions.  He has not only described the way by which genetic information in DNA is ‘read’ and copied into messenger RNA, but created detailed crystallographic pictures of it also. 

In his meticulous account of ‘the molecular basis of eukaryotic transcription’ which is cited by the Nobel Committee as the kind of “most important chemical discovery” mentioned by Alfred Nobel in his will, Dr. Kornberg details the mechanisms of transcription that suggests possible regulation of the process.

Once we understand the importance of transcription process in constructing and sustaining life in all organisms, we can’t miss out the significance of the prizewinning discovery and its obvious applications. 

In order to tell this story let me take you back to the basics(you may overlook this part altogether, if you consider it too basic to look into)

[[The building blocks of human/animal body are cells (there are approximately 50-100 trillion cells in a human body).  Cells typically have an outer membrane and contain fluid called cytoplasm.  The most important of the parts(organelles) in the cytoplasm is the nucleus.  Within the nucleus there are structures called chromosomes which contain the genetic material of the organism.  This genetic information is stored in long strings of DNA called genes. DNA molecules, as everyone knows, are like spiral staircase.  Each stair in this ‘double helix’ is composed of the DNA bases A, C, T, G which in particular sequences constitute individual genes. In other words, each cell contains  ‘recipe’ for protein production stored in DNA segments which are called genes. 

Human genome, ie. the complete set of genes, though contains around 30, 000 genes, only  a few of them are expressed, ie, used in each cell.  The role these unexpressed genes play in cellular functions is not known.  The expressed genes determine and help synthesize new proteins which construct and sustain the organism.  To put it simply, genes determine the function of particular cells

(#An aside:  Please note that this is a very simplifiedaccount of ‘gene’.  Present understanding of ‘gene’ is extremely complex that one may say that there is nothing like a well-defined gene in a cell.  Further, recent studies give much importance to the workings of RNA as are given in the Nobel Prize winning discoveries in Chemistry and Medicine this year. I put this interesting point as a topic for another blog. For now see these references.  news@nature Published online: 24 May 2006
Nature 441, 398 – 401 (25 May 2006). ]] 

Gene expression is controlled by transcription process in which DNAs in the nuclei of cells are copied to messenger RNAs whose job is to pass the information to the protein synthesizing machinery in the cytoplasm.

Transcription, if you remember,  is the process of copying and transferring genetic information to different parts of cell.  In this process information stored in the genes inside the central nucleus of cells get chemically transcribed into recipes for the proteins that are building blocks of living organisms.  And different parts of the cell work in tandem, as writers, editors, chefs, supervisors and assistants, in executing this highly complex programme and in trouble-free running of the machinery. (If the machinery is not running smooth which means some health-threatening conditions such as cancer, it is possible now at least to find where the problem lies and it may be possible in the near future to correct it)

This kind of transcription process occurs in eukaryotes, i.e., organisms having well-defined nucleus in cell.  Other organisms, for instance bacteria, use different transcription process.

Though it was known this process copied genes using RNA molecules thanks to the equally remarkable research work done by many others, what Dr. Kornberg has shown now(2000 onwards) is the detailed description of the role and workings of RNA, as he provides with the exact development of RNA- strand,   X-ray images of crystallised RNA molecules (this became a standard biochemistry tool since then), and the role of different molecules and even atoms in the process.  He revealed, through his study that spans nearly thirty years, the early phases of the transcription process which involves around sixty different protein molecules in converting DNA into messenger RNA molecules.

The transcription machinery which looked like a dark room in 1990s now turned into a well-lit, complexly organised room suggesting many a conceptual revolutions. 

#Roger D. Kornberg ,59, is a structural biologist at Stanford University School of Medicine.

#His father Arthur Kornberg, 88, a biochemist at Stanford, received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1959 for his work on DNA replication. The Kornbergs are the sixth father-son duo to win Nobel Prizes.

#His one important article is here. Science 2001, 292, 1863 and 1876.

#Dr. Kornberg has used the simple yeast as a model

#His main research work centered around an enzyme called RNA polymerase that makes RNA and regulates the process of selecting genes from the pool of thousands of them, to produce the only protein a cell needed at any particular time.

#One DNA learning site is here http://www.dnalc.org/home.html

Courtesy: The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

[To be continued….]

Dandiya:The Great Indian Social Dance September 29, 2006

Posted by sumesh in Ancient India, Culture, Dandiya, Folk Dance, Folk Music, India, Uncategorized.
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Dandiya is a mesmerizing poetry of human movements in tune to captivating rhythmic beats, intermittent jingling sound of bells and clattering of sticks, and electrifying flow of colours and light.  For those who have entered, even once,  in the magnetic range of its enticement, it is poetry par excellence.

No wonder then, from the tiny tribal pockets of ancient India it has reached every corner of the world, not just reached the divergent ‘pandals’ of our multi-cultural world; it is virtually conquering every cultural space it is allowed to unwind minds young and those try young, loudly.  [So loudly that the supreme court of India didn’t allow any concession to this eardrum-shattering-festivities happening at  every open places in dandiya lovers’ India and has ordered curbs on it on the use of loudspeakers after 10pm.  But that the geek youth are prepared to comply with the order by using headphones or moving into soundproof halls after the deadline is a matter one and it’s half!!].

The story of dandiya is like no other in that it has been successfully traversed the bounds of all human contrivances of nationality, religion, and other sectarian interests.  The art of the matter is that the western states of India, Rajasthan and especially Gujarat, have kept this art form alive, out of dormancy even while undergoing turbulent periods of historical contingencies.  The fact of the art is that in other states where it was performed with equal enthusiasm such as Andhra Pradesh it has under gone cyclic dormancy and resurgence. The vibrant culture of Gujarat [much  to say on Gujarat and Godhra, but in another blog] has played an anchoring role in giving this art form the popularity it richly deserves and the glitz and glamour it is rightly associated with.

I heard about it for the first time in my life, some ten years ago, I think.  But I got the first hand experience on the danda/the sticks only some eight years ago while I was at St. Stephen’s College in Delhi.  At that time, though it was a crowd puller of sorts, it was not so popular as it is today.  And it was still having much of the religious and ritual flavour it has amassed in its growth, from the cultural transitions of Gujarat and Rajastan.

In those days, in Calicut, Kochin, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Kolkata, Seattle, London, Tokyo, Bahrain or other places where there were a sizable population of Gujarati’s lived, outside the nearby areas of Gujarat-spread, dandiya never came out of the Gujarati pandals.  Things, however, are changing, and as the case is they are changing in interesting ways.  It is not uncommon now to hear stories about dandiya celebrations in places far away from India where there are no Indian participants, not just Gujaratis or Rajastanis, in the dancing groups.  People across the globe, not necessarily Indian faces, pay hefty entry fee to paint the town red and to revel dandiya nights.

Indian English If you still haven’t got any idea of what dandiya is, here’s an entry from a dictionary of Indian English: “dandia: n. [Gujrati] a Gujrati group dance form where men and women participate in pairs.  The dancers hold decorated bamboo sticks called dandias in their hands. At the end of these “dandias”, tiny bells or ghungroos are tied, which create a jingling sound when the sticks are struck with each other.  Dandiyas, along with garbhas, are very popular during the Navratri season in October.”

Dandiya, if the current pace of its popularity continues, may move out of the confinement of this definition to reach into the dictionaries of English and other non-Indian languages.  It is the first globalised social dance of India anyway! [Bhangda is also a claimant]

As a Great Leveler Some people dance, says Eagle in California, ” to remember” and, “Some dance to forget”.  Here, however, dance is not a personal affair primarily, and it does not culminate in complacency or disengagement from socio-political issues; quite the contrary, it plays important social and political functions.  It is an invisible tool of social restructuring, for people-largely middle class- come out in the open, making their way across the customs they follow at other-times.  It uncouples people from their passive habits and situates them at the locus of social and artistic intrigue. At a public forum like dandiya fest, there are no boundaries of class, caste, or religion.  (Even when some people from some sections of the society practised and preached untouchablity and other evil social customs wherever it made economic sense, at many dance platforms untouchability and other unjust practices were treaded upon by the preachers themselves.  The claim that dances, in the historical past of India, played important roles in setting up the idea of democratic, egalitarian societies has got many evidences, from across the country, in  its support.)  In a more consistent way dandiya is now performed by people who follow religions of different feathers, who do not follow any religion at all, who are from different countries  and so on.  Dandiya and other social dances are thus not just romantic engagements of revelers, they are great levelers of social divisions.

A few great images from The Hindu Daily are here just click here for a few copyrighted images Photo IDs, 5721455, and 5791448 show circle formation.

(Visit http://www.thehinduimages.com to buy this copyrighted image. Thanks).

Dandiya and similar dances

There are many other dances in the world that are very much like dandiya. Circle dance, which is one of the oldest dance styles, is a commonly performed dance of ancient Greece, African, South American, Asian, European and North American Indian.  In this dance participants form a circle while dancing .It became very popular in the new age, feminist culture of recent times, but differs from dandiya by being a dance done without partners.

Many participation dances are like dandiya in that they comprises of very simple steps that one can learn on the spot, and that they are done at the social functions of festivals, weddings and other gatherings.

Mixers but are strikingly similar to dandiya; they comprise of simple and repetitive steps, where one meets, from the other circle, a new person on the other side and clatter his/her stick with every move. In these dandiya-type dances, this surprise element is present at every single move.

The Indian Scene Closer home to the land of its origin, dandiya has a few close relatives. Kolyacha, a fisherfolk’s dance of the Konkan region of India is a social enactment dance. Both men and women take part in this dance of the western central India.

The social folk dance of Punjab, Bhangda/bhangra is very much popular all over the world.  It is so popular that even in dandiya fests, people start the eve with dandiya, but often end up with bhangda steps.  Popular at present is one thing, popularity growth another. I, for one, won’t be surprised if dandiya becomes the most popular dance of India in a few years. Bhangda is also a harvest dance mainly performed by men.(A few similar dances are mentioned in the following section)

Social and participation dances of regional origin are completely absent in most Indian states.

The Uniqueness of Dandiya

What marks out dandiya from the rest is its use of colourful, musical sticks, its dress code, the scope it offers for improvisation, innovation and creativity, and the massive number of dancers in any single programme.  As for sticks, they are traditionally made of bamboo, now come in a variety of colours and kinds. These sticks, clattering of which should be in tune with the music played and at rhythmic intervals, are the markers of time. These sticks are called dandiya, plural of the Hindi word “dandi” meaning a stick. There are many other dances in different parts of India as elsewhere which use sticks and even long bamboos to assist and invigorate measured movements in tune with the music.  For instance, northeastern states of India use bamboos and bamboos stick for a large number of dances, in some states of south of India bamboos stick are used for dance. For instance “Kolattam”(meaning, a play with sticks) in Andhra and “Kolkali”(meaning, a play with sticks) in Kerala Muslim traditions use sticks in dances.

Another identifiable feature of dandiya is its dress code. The dress code for women and men are different.  For women it is a three-piece ghagras (or chaniya, a type of skirt that flares around the wearer as she steps back and forth), cholis (blouse), and odhni (a veil or long scarf that covers the head partially and flowing down to the wearer’s back). [Sometime back when this was a fashion among young girls, I went with my niece to buy one for her.  But even after spending more than three hours and visiting most of the shops that sell ethnic wears we couldn’t select a single one! All the pieces were heavy with mirror and multi-hued embroidery work, in bright, luminous colour.  We couldn’t find a single one that is light and in neutral colour. Later she went to a different town with her father and managed to buy one.]  For the dance however, the dress not only adds charm but it makes the dancer’s move appear flexible.  Those who have long hair make it appear the fourth piece they are wearing, while taking positions back and forth..  Men dress up in matching colourful traditional dhotis and aangrakha or kurtas. With loads of mirrors on the dress, dazzling jewelleries the dancer outshines the new tech sound-active DJ lights and plasma balls.  Oil-lanterns or candles are sufficient for this kinda dress to instill psychedelic effects of lights and colours in the dancer’s minds. Its dressed-to-kill sorta effect.

Music of dandiya comprises of special tracks-you can hear a few of them here , some links are given below-traditional and fusion. A general pattern is that it starts at a slow beats, gathers momentum and culminates in the fast tracks of around 150 beats. Along with the music of the sticks, the musical tracks inject tremendous verve, sauce and pizzazz into the dancer’s movements.

Further, dandiya offers much room for improvisation and experimentation everywhere, in its rendition of songs, dance steps and so on. It’s a highly customizable product with movable widgets and edit buttons all over, to suit the needs of the user. In one of its simple form dancers move in two circles in three steps, one group moves on clockwise direction while the other takes the anti-clockwise path and clank the stick themselves and with that of their changing partners.  There are infinite number of steps one can follow in dandiya, like, Lehree (wave pattern), Trikoniya (triangular pattern), lotus, and butterfly patterns .One can try any step so long as it make some pattern and follows the rhythm of the song.  For the skillful it is like an open source software.

Another feature is that it is a participation, social dance.  Generally there are no professional performers in this art, no special artists. It is performed not for someone else and not on stages.  It is a performance that asks nothing in return.  Following the experienced or skillful anyone can join the group, and there is only dance, to take a Buddha-saying, there are no dancers!

Finally, if you look around, there is smile on every face, which is great treat to watch while smiling yourself!  Smile (Cheshire cat!) is an integral part of dandiya.

And once you are under the halo of these dances and if your steps are more or less right (otherwise your folded fingers will get beaten by the fellow dancer’s stick, and that’s fine! the occasional pain on your fingers adds to the euphoria, I’m told! It takes more time for the fingers to become swollen and for you to worry about. So don’t mull over the pain, go on when it rains and you are on cloud nine.), even before and without you noticing it you enter into the enthralling zone of ecstasy and a rhapsody of continuing elation.  It’s a general thing for dandiya dancers to have the euphoria-must-go-on-spirit even after three or four hours of non-stop fast dancing.

A few examples of dandiya raas songs are here just click for dandiya songs

The history of dandiya

Like many other dances of opulent ancient Indian culture, dandiya does not have any record of its origin or of its roots. Though there are a number of archaeological finds of the cultural activities of ancient India such as musical instruments, paintings, ornaments and so on, hardly there is an evidence of this specific sort of dance.  So it is not clear when dandiya became a part of the western folk dances of India.

However, some dance forms were depicted on the rock-shelters of Bhimbetka (near Bhopal) that dates back to ~3000 BCE in India.  And from this and other finds one can say that dance has been an important part of the cultural expressions of ancient Indians.

Around 1000 BCE many texts on different aspects of cultural life of ancient Indians, on personal and public life, duties, economics, philosophy, language and grammar, politics, poetics and dramatics, etc., were composed or codified.  And we get some information on the dance forms of the day from Bharata Muni’s opus “Natyashastra” which literally means ‘the art and science of dance’.  This text of dramatics classifies dance into four groups and tells about the cultural interactions of dance forms of different regions.  The classifications of ancient Indian dances, as per Natyashastra, are secular, ritual, abstract and interpretive.

Dandiya was secular in its origin and has intimate relation with the common man’s life of the day. The lore has it that dandiya was originally performed only by men with long sticks in their hands and was designed to serve as learning modules of and as practice exercise for, footwork for sword fighting.  This dance with fast movements was a dance of martial arts variety.  Further, it was accompanied by a percussion instrument ’meddale’ drummer who stands at the center of the circle and leads the dance with the rhythmic beats.  The public performance of dandiya, as it was the case with tribal/folk dances, corresponds to the agricultural cycle of the region.

[This high-energy dance form is still extant in some parts of Saurashtra, western Gujarat and Rajasthan.  In this particular form men clank their sticks around their body, above head and chests, in a variety of positions, standing, sitting, or lying, occasionally holding the sticks with their feet.  It abounds in grace, agility and vigour and as the artists move back and forth in their circles weaving varied designs and shapes offers kaleidoscopic patterns of artistic splendour.]

However, cultural transitions and regional interactions of successive periods made possible for women to join the dance. Then on both men and women dance together standing in two concentric circles moving in opposite directions and striking the short, decorated sticks, to which tiny metallic bells/ghungroos are tied, in pairs.  On the go, it became associated with new styles and stories, and merged different dance forms.  To mention, it merged with Raas-Garbha/Garbhi dances and turned out to be the well-known, and popular part of Hindu religious festivals of Basant Panchami, Navaratri and Sharad Purnima.   The musicians and drummers now stand outside the circle as the dance became ritualistic and religious and the idol of Goddess/deity (or ‘mandvi’ or a decorated earthen pot with holes in it and with a lamp/diya inside) took the place at the center of the circle.  And it is said that the sticks represent the sword of Durga, a goddess of power.

However, some tribal and folks of Rajastan and Gujarat still follow their distinctive style of performing dandiya. Many significant changes happened to dandiya in recent years, it has shed the narrow religio-ritualistic flavour and has acquired a cosmopolitan zing; it is now performed not just by religious/ritualistic people, but by everyone who wants to shake a leg; it is now not just a dance of seasonal celebration but a celebration that makes every season dance on its feet; it is not tied to a particular god or goddess, it is tied to the spirit of the youth that unties the ties of conservatism;

Many a time one finds that in place of old songs and music people are enjoying rock/pop songs as background beat.  In place of percussion instrument and shehnai player and singers, new age disco bands are rendering the song.

Not everyone is happy with these changes.   Some traditionalists and budding traditionalists make hue and cry of the new generations deviation from the path of the old.  They criticize vehemently, the rampant crass commercialization of the tradition. But they don’t remember that what they think was their tradition was not the tradition of their immediate predecessors.  They themselves have modified ‘the chaste traditions’ of their predecessors.  And they were scorned of by their elders exactly like they scorn the new generation. [Young Plato and his friends were scolded for not keeping the tradition of their society by their elders.  That was around 300 BCE] they like to believe that things are certain, unchanging, and codified.  What do you call this?  Getting old?

It is the level of sophistication that you reach, which empowers you to accept, whole heartedly, changes and looking for new variations and varieties.  It is the sophistication of the culture and the minds that let you do things in different ways, rather than sticking to the one single so called ‘traditional’ method of doing things. As we grow, technically, culturally or otherwise we realise there are multiple truths and multiple rights.  So if someone still instructs everyone to follow the ‘pure’ and ‘traditional’ dandiya, sense your level of understanding and follow the steps of your own.  And if you dance,…..dance just like YOU do.

Some new moves from Yahoo answers is here just click here for some new moves &
here for some basic moves

The Philosophy of dandiya

After all these notes on dandiya, I end this blog with this title with the hope that you will think/write about it someday.  Next time, if you get an opportunity to take part in dandiya and if you have time, pick up the sticks; and sport it on your face, a smile!  Sometime you may enjoy the experience and realise that there’s more to daniya than this blog tells you.  Sometime you may wonder that how many things are there in the world you have nothing to do with, as Socrates wondered once when he went to a market place (He said, “how many things are there in the world that I do not need!”)

(Watch the video in HD for better quality. Thanks.)

 

So dandiya offers you this legendary opportunity. —”Wanna Play? …You’ll be happy or you’ll become a Socrates!”

 

______

Courtesy:

Audio : nav-ratri.tripod.com/ (for songs)

Image : http://www.thehinduimages.com (the images added above for informational purpose are copyrighted. if you like any of them, buy it from them.) http://www.thehinduimages.com

Information: Internet and the links mentioned in the text above.

Video : www.invismultimedia.com, www.indiavideo.org (thanks to youtube. rediff.com),

Research… September 22, 2006

Posted by sumesh in Uncategorized.
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My Research: Presentations, Papers, and Other Pieces.

Presentations:

1) Internal Representations- an approach to Artificial Intelligence Methodology

2) An Introduction to Philosophy of Mind

3) Rethinking Mental Representations- A study in Cognitive Science.

4) Concept of Knowledge and the Gettier Problem

5) Kant’s theory of Mind in Contemporary terms.

6) Acquisition of Language and Acquiring Minds

7) On Intentionality

8) Re-presenting Intentionality: When Cognitive Science and Philosophy Meet Vakyapadiya

9) Derivations (in prep)

10) A Philosophical Inquiry into the Representational Thesis

Papers (Manuscripts/Abstracts available on request)

1) Consciousness: Phenomenality as the focus of enquiry

2) The Gettier Problem and It’s Limited Scope

3) The Barriers-meaning and experience- To Re-Presenting: an essay in AI

4) Derivations: An essay in Cognitve Science

5) The Only Concept of Consciousness 6) Phenomenology as a Science from Square One

7) Understanding the World in terms of the Study of Words- A study on Vakyapadiya

8) Sabdatattva: the Primacy of Representations (working paper)

9) The theory of Sphota and the data of Cognitive Science (working paper)

10) Representations are not ‘Representations’They are Derivations (working paper)

11) Inference in Indian Philosophy

12) The Broken Arm chair: A Critical Account of Philosophy as Conceptual Analysis

13)  A Philosophical Inquiry into the Representational Thesis

14)  Kripkensteinian Paradox, Cognitive Science and European Starlings: Casting the Philosophers problem in empirical terms (Draft)

15)  Why Kripke’s Solution to the Kripkensteinian Paradox does not Solve it. (Draft)

16)  Realism and the Representational Thesis (Draft) 

Reviews:

1) When Postmodern Bug Bites a Mighty Philosopher- a reading of J. N. Mohanty’s paper

2) The Work of a Philosophical Mind – review of The Mind doesn’t work That Way- Jerry Fodor

3) Colouring Consciousness- a review of Consciousness, Colour and Content- Micheal Tye

4) Perceiving Philosophically- a review of Vision and Mind -Alva Noe and Evan Thompson

5) The Great Indian Intellectual Balancing Act- a review of The Argumentative Indian – Amartya Sen (draft)

6) Review Of Mind -A Brief Introduction. John. R Searle. (Draft)

Some Titles from Synthese (free till October 2006) September 15, 2006

Posted by sumesh in Free, Info, Journals, Papers, Philosophy.
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Synthese is offering free access to some of its latest issues. As per one intimation from the publishers, “these issues are completely free to download and
print until 31 October“.

1) Volume 151, Number 3, August 2006
New Perspectives on Reduction and Emergence in Physics,
Biology and Psychology is>here

2)Volume 150, Number 3
The Logic of Time and Modality is <here

3) Volume 149, Number 3
Metaphysics in Science is <here

..

#This is for informational(non-commercial) purposes only.

Seminars and Conferences September 8, 2006

Posted by sumesh in Conferences n Workshops, Info, Philosophy, Seminars.
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Given below are some of the new Seminar/Conference/Workshop sites from India on Philosophy, psychology and Cognitive Science.

The International Workshop on Modeling Brain and Mind: Physical, Computational and Psychological Approaches at Saha Institute, I guess will be really great.  Look at the Invited Speakers List.

  • just click here for International Workshop at Saha Institute
  • .

    Interim World Philosophical Congress 2006 is in Delhi. It’s very well-designed site is here.

  • just click here for IWPC 2006 Delhi
  • .
    The National Academy of Psychology (NAOP), India Conference is at the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT, Bombay (14th – 16th December 2006).

  • just click here for NAOP Conference 2006 at IITBombay
  • My Old Blog September 1, 2006

    Posted by sumesh in Blogs, Info.
    1 comment so far

    Hi everybody, (anybody?)

    Finally, I’ve moved to this site. Though I’m very busy these days, I hope to post one blog a week (every Friday?). I will have more time for blogging after December as seminar presentations and other work-related commitments will be less.

    My old blog is here. http://www.thoughts-infilo.blogspot.com/