Archive for September, 2005

Listening to the Nobel Laureate Douglas Osheroff

September 30, 2005

Bangaloreans are fortunate to get a chance to listen to Professor Osheroff of Stanford University (Physics Nobel Prize winner, 1996) at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan on September 27, 2005. The learned professor talked on “Nature of discovery in Physics”.

Professor Osheroff obtained his Nobel prize for deep studies on super fluidity of helium isotope helium 3 at temperatures very close to absolute zero (-273 degrees Celsius). Interestingly, the Nobel-cited work was done as part of his PhD research at Cornell University (he shared the prize with his supervisor David Lee)

What was particularly interesting about the talk was the humility of the researcher, who gave credit to a whole range of people (many of them were Novel prize winners too). He talked of the influence of the legendary Physics teacher Feynman during his Caltech days (he did his Undergraduate studies at Caltech).

He talked of a strategy that lays emphasis on using the best instrument and instrumentation (not have complete blind faith in the instrument though), explore unexplored areas, look at failure as invitation for some deep insight and be sensitive to unexplained behavior and not dismissing it easily.

He also talked of the need to invest in basic research without looking for immediate economic and social benefits (that will come any way over a period of time). He illustrated his ideas with many Nobel prize winning works; he also illustrated an actual case (NMR), where even the very inventors could not predict the long-term impact of some award winning works. There was a personal touch including his family portrait and his meeting with his fiancé and the later marriage (his wife was accompanying him also). He talked of the “great days” of Bell Laboratories where he continued his research during 1972-1987.

It was interesting to note the positive influence Venki Narayanamurti (currently Dean of Science at Harvard University) and other Indian scientists had on him; Venki Narayanamurti had graduated from Cornell University; he was instrumental in Professor Osheroff’s moving into Bell Laboratories.

Professor Osheroff also answered many questions from students including the need of working for many hours productively during PhD days and course-work and its relevance to graduate studies; he mentioned candidly his unhappiness about diverting of funds away from basic research by NASA but was equally realistic to admit that he was NOT the President of the country!

He did lament the lack of emphasis on experimental work in India.

In all it was an enjoyable evening.

Can Science & Technology help the Society?

September 25, 2005

The STS (Science Technology and Society) Forum held in Kyoto during Sep 11-13, 2005 deliberated on many societal issues that can be addressed by Science & Technology. It was a remarkably well organized event that saw His Imperial Highness, the Crown Prince of Japan and Junichiro Kozumi, the Prime Minister of Japan in the inaugural session.

Participants had come from 68 countries across the five continents; Africa (Egypt, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Oman, South Africa, Rwanda, Sudan and Syria); America (Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Guatemala, Mexico and United States); Asia (Bangladesh, China, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Myanmar, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam); Australia (Australia, New Zealand), and Europe (Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Czech, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Kazakhstan, Luxemburg, Lithuania, Netherlands, Romania, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tadakhstan and United Kingdom).

Being the host country Japan had 100+ participants of the nearly 450 participants, while USA had nearly 80 participants; other counties with at least 10 participants include Germany (21), Thailand (20), UK (18), France (12), India (11), China and Chinese Taipei (10), Korea (10), Switzerland (10), and Canada (10).

The participants include

Nobel Laureates Richard Ernst (Chemistry, 1991), Jerome Friedman (Physics, 1990), Yuan Lee (Chemistry, 1986), Burton Richter (Physics, 1976), Sherwood Rowland (Chemistry, 1995), Susumu Tonegawa (Medicine, 1987), and Koichi Tanaka (Chemistry, 2002)

Prime Ministers and Ministers from Japan, Finland, Rwanda, Singapore, Sudan, Thailand and other countries were present.

Presidents of Science Academies including Goverdhan Mehta, President-Elect, International Council of Science (ICSU), Pieter Drenth, President, All European Academies, Mohamed Hassan, Executive Director, Third World Academy of Sciences, and heads of several national academies were present; they include Jim Peacock, President, Australian Academy of Sciences, Kurt Komarek, President, Austrian Academy, Eduarado Krieger, President, Brazilian Academy of Sciences, Josef Syka, President, Czech Science Foundation, Raimo Vayrynen, President, Science Academy of Finland, Norbert Kroo, Vice President, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Goverdhan Mehta, President, Indian Academy of Sciences, Kiyoshi Kurokawa, President, Science Council of Japan, Akito Arima, Chairman, Japan Science Foundation, Man-ki Park, Vice President, Korean Academy of Science & Technology, William Wulf, President, US National Academy of Engineering, Yuan Lee, President, Academia Sinica, Eva Krutmeijer, Executive Director, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, and Ralph Cicerone, US National Academy of Sciences.

Heads of National Research Councils
(that fund basic R &D) including Peter Hoj, Chief Executive Officer, Australian Research Council, Arthur Carty, President, National Research Council, Canada, Dimitri Nanopoulos, Chairman, Research Council for Research & Technology, Greece, Marie Chanin, Research Director, National Center for Scientific Research, France, Klaus Hopt, Vice President, German Research Foundation, Nirmal Ganguly, Director General, Indian Council of Medical Research, Kazuki Okimura, President, Japan Science and Technology Agency, Doe Na, President, Korea Science Foundation, and Ardent Bement, Director, US National Science Foundation were present.

University Presidents/ Chancellors / Vice-chancellors/ Deans including

• Ekhard Salje, President, University of Cambridge (from UK);

• Nobel Laureate, Jerome Friedman, MIT, Nobel Laureate, Sherwood Rowland, UC Irvine, Michael Keller, University Librarian, Stanford University, Mary Burnside, Vice Chancellor, UC Berkeley, Bradley Moore, Vice President for Research, Northwestern University, Vartan Gregorian, former President of Brown University, Craig Hogan, Vice President, University of Washington (from USA);

• Alexander Zehnder, President, ETH, Zurich, David Bassi, University of Trento, Italy, Kurt Kutzer, President, Berlin University of Technology, Linda Nielsen, Vice Chancellor, University of Copenhagen, Kari Raivio, Chancellor, University of Helsinki, Deiter Rombach, Director, Fraunhofer Institute, Hans Van Ginkel, Rector, United Nations University, Netherlands (from Europe);

• Hiroshi Komiyama, President, University of Tokyo, Masuo Aizawa, President, Tokyo Institute of Technology, Katsuhiko Shirai, President, Waseda University, Robert Laughlin, President, Korea Advanced Institute of Science & Technology, Asis Datta, former Vice Chancellor, Jawaharlal Nehru University, India, Goverdhan Mehta, former Director, Indian Institute of Science, Sowmyanarayanan Sadagopan, Director, IIIT-Bangalore, India, John Wong, Vice President, National University of Singapore, Ibrahim Badran, President, Nile University, Egypt, Haider Ramadhan, Dean, Sultan Qaboos University, Oman and Krissanpong Kirtikara, President King Mongkut’s University of Technology, Thailand (from Asia)

Business Leaders including,

• Craig Mundie, CTO, Microsoft, Norio Murakami, Vice President, Google, Usama Fayyad, Chief Data Officer, Yahoo, Robert Bishop, CEO, Silicon Graphics, John Gage, VP, Sun Microsystems, Stanley Williams, Director, HP Labs, Thomas McCoy, Executive Vice President, AMD, Marko Ahthisaari, Director, Strategy, Nokia, Mike Lazaridis, Founder President & CEO, Research in Motion (of Blackberry fame), Keiji Tachikawa, former President & CEO, NTT DoCoMo, Tetsuhiko Ikegami, former President & CEO, NTT Advanced Technologies, Christian Gregoire, Senior Vice President, Alcatel (Computing and Communications industry)

• Peter Zapf, President, Siemens, Hajime Sasaki, Chairman, NEC, Hironori Yamamoto, Managing Director, Canon, Corporate Vice President, Toshiba, Akira Takashima, Vice Chairman, Fujitsu, Morris Chang, Founder Chairman, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., Koici Nishumura, Global head of Solectron for many years, Yoon-Wu Lee, Vice-Chairman, Samsung Electronics (Electronics & Semiconductor industry)

• Henry McKinnel, Chairman & CEO, Pfizer (world’s largest pharma company), Gail Cassell, Vice President, Eli Lilly, Michael Ferris, MD, Novartis Pharma, Boerge Diderischsen, Vice President, Novo-Nordisk, and, Marc Dunoyer, President, GlaxoSmithKline (Pharma and Biotech industry)

• Hiroshi Okuda, former President, Toyota, Ichiro Tai, and Hiroyuki Yoshino, former President & CEO, Honda Motors, Jack Jacometti, Vice President, Shell International, David Fischoff, Director of Technology, Monsanto, Theresa Kotanchek, Global R & D Director, Dow Chemicals, Yuiko Masuda, CEO, Energy Business, Mitsubishi Corporation, Akio Mimura, President, Nippon Steel, Michiharu Nakamura, Executive Vice President, Hitachi, Kazuyuhiro Tsuga, Executive Officer, Matsushita Electric, James Morris, Vice President, and, Boeing Commercial Airplanes, (Automotive and core industry)

Leaders from several Special organizations like Gonzales-Finat, Director, European Commission, Seung Han, President, The 56th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, Hen ten Have, Director, UNESCO.Alison Brimelow, President-Elect, European Patents Office, Masami Tanaka, ISO President, Se-ichi Takayanagi, President, IEC, Geoffrey Yu, Deputy Director General, WIPO, Gerald Doucet, Secretary General, World Energy Council, France, Michael Oborne, Director, OECD, George Atkinson, Scientific Advisor to Secretary of State, Philippe Kourilsky, President, Pasteur Institute, John Wilbanks, Executive Director, Science Commons, Geoffrey West, President, Santa Fe Institute, and, Hiroshi Tsukamoto, President, Japan External Trade Organization were also present.

What was striking was the conduct of the conference. Kyoto International Conference Center is a mini city with resort-like features with green mountains overlooking the venue that was more like a large Buddhist temple, a large lake and a luxury hotel. Security was tight, but by no means obtrusive, and the security staff were extremely courteous; the sessions started on the dot at 8 am! There was not a single “no show” as far as the speakers was concerned, the Prime Minister being present in the venue several minutes before the inauguration on the day when the country was going through Elections to win the new Prime Minister (he got elected by 7pm on that historic day that coincided with 9×11!)

The inaugural session had Koji Omi, Member, House of Representatives and the organizer of the Conference, Henry McKinnell, CEO, Pfizer, the world’s largest biotech company, Hiroshi Okuda, Chairman of Japanese Business Federation, and former Chairman of Toyota, Ralph Cicerone, President, National Academy of Sciences, USA, Frieder Meyer-Krahmer, State Secretary for Education & research, Germany and our own Goverdhan Mehta, Chairman-Elect, International Council for Science (ICSU) and former Director, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore.

Discussions were held on six different concurrent themes, within the overall conference theme “S & T in Society- Lights & Shadows for a sustainable future”

Sustainability – Energy and Environment including global warming, emission control, long term energy path, renewable energy,

Life Sciences, including bio-ethics, stem cells, genomics and agriculture, medicine for global health,

ICT – impact on human society, including inter-operability, Privacy / Security issues,

Capacity Building, including Knowledge-based society, Science education & communication, University reforms, Intellectual Property Rights

Science & Technology for human security, including infectious diseases control, vulnerability of critical infrastructure, natural disaster management

New frontiers opened by Science & Technology, including IT, Manufacturing and Materials Science

The two plenary sessions had Hiroyushi Yoshikawa, President of the University of Tokyo, Arden Bement, Director, NSF, USA, Pravich Rattanapian, S & T Minister, Thailand, Hajime Sasaki, NEC, Chairman, El-Zubier Taha, Minister for S & T, and former Vice Chancellor of University of Khartoum, Sudan, Van Ginkel, Under-Secretary-General of UN and Rector, UN University, Holland, Philip Yeo, former Chairman of EDB, Singapore, Nobel Laureate Susumu Tonegawa of MIT, USA, Mohamed Hassan, ED of Third World Academy of Sciences, Sudan, Florence Wambagu, Harvest Biotech Foundation, Kenya and Yoon-woo Lee, CEO, Samsung Electronics, Korea, Akito Arima, Chairman, Japanese Science Foundation, Hiroo Imura, President, Kyoto University, Ismail Serageldin, Librarian, Library of Alexandria, and former Vice President, World Bank, Egypt, Daniel Goldin, NASA Administrator, USA, Arthur Carty, President, National Research Council, Canada,Theresa Kotanchek, Director, R & D, Dow Chemicals, Nobel Laureate Yuan Tseh Lee, President, Academia Sinica, Chinese Taipei, Aiko Mimura, President, Nippon Steel, Japan, Kiyoshi Kurokawa, President, Science Council of Japan, Nobel Laureate Jerome Friedman of MIT, USA, Harriet Walberg-Henriksson, President, Karloinska Institute and Member of the Nobel assembly (that awards Nobel Prizes), Rita Colwell, President, American Association for the Advancement of Sciences, Vartan Gregorian, President, Brown University, USA, and inventor of Blackberry device, Founder and CEO, Research in Motion, Mike Lazaridis, Canada

The tracks had about 4 to 6 sessions that had identified speakers, reporters and Chairs; the summary of the discussions were presented on the last day.

The Imperial Highness The Crown Prince of Japan talked of the need for sharing the fruits of innovation out of developments in Science & Technology fairly amongst all groups of people; the Prime Minister talked of the 3R’s (reduce, reuse and recycle) and the Japanese concept of “mottainai” (do not waste) to drive home the point of eco-friendliness; he illustrated the point by referring to the fact that the newly opened official residence of Japanese Prime Minister has the world’s first fuel-cell based system for electricity generation; he reminded the audience about the “Kyoto Protocol” signed eight years back in the very auditorium. Koji Omi, the organizer, emphasized the need for world-wide cooperation to solve the problems of the world that cannot be solved by any single country or by scientists alone.

A declaration was also brought out; STS Forum formally deciding to become a not-for-profit society with annual conference in Kyoto; even the dates of next year’s conference (Sep 10-12) were announced!

While no earth-shaking declarations were made, the Conference brought together outstanding global talent across diverse disciplines and identified the six key issues – ICT development to bridge the digital divide; universal access to education; standards for bioethics; control of infectious diseases like AIDS; action against terrorism; and, nuclear fusion as source of power.

(Summary of the observations by the author who attended the Conference)

Embedded Systems has a great future in India

September 23, 2005

Embedded Systems bridges several divide’s; hardware-software divide; EE CS departmental divide; divide between fun and rigor in learning; divide between theory and practice, industry and academia and in the Indian context, even the divide between Lakshmi (the Goddess of wealth) and Saraswati (the Goddess of learning); one can do hardware and still make money (it is no longer true that only Indian software companies are successful)

With IC design capability, EDA software skills, testing, simulation, verification, and libraries taking the concept all the way to “tape out”, the design eco-system is in place; we need to get the Fab ecosystem in place; under Fab-City, initiative, SIA (Semiconductor Industry Association) in India has made a presentation to the Union Finance Minister and we expect that also to be in place over the next two years.

The demand side is in place; BEL, ECIL for Defense Electronics, BPL for Telecom, Videocon (after Thompson Picture Tubes plant acquisition, Videocon is the world’s No 3 TV tube manufacturer) for consumer electronics, VXL for thin clients (No 3 globally, as per Gartner) are examples of Indian corporations; Motorola, Philips, Siemens, GE, Nokia, Samsung, Elcoteq, Flextronics are present and increasing their stake in India; that should take care of demand; of course the global demand is there too

On the market side, with 2 million mobile consumers a month, mobile market is growing; TV, DVD, MP3, music, ring tones are growing everyday (Indians download million a day of paid ring tones @ Rs 6 (minimum)); with Narayana Hrudayalaya and others creating Healthcare Destination for the world (5,000 beds for heart surgery and shooting for 10% of global heart surgeries at Narayana Hrudayalaya alone), healthcare industry and imaging equipment is bound to grow; GE Wipro are working on a global product (Ultra sound, Laptop form factor, $ 1,000 price point device that would make ultra sound as common place as stethoscope for EVERY doctor). So there is a huge market

Academia, Industry and Government are coming together; I see a great potential for embedded systems in India; let us hope that before the next Freescale Tech Forum in 2006 there will be products whose ideas are generated by the people sitting right in this room (700+ professionals). That alone will make me happy to attend Freescale Tech Forum 2006!

(Valedictory Address at Freescale Tech Forum, Bangalore (Sep 21-22, 2005) at 530pm Leela Hotel on Sep 22, 2005)

Partner and Deliver

September 21, 2005

If Indian rural masses are to be served there is no option but to partner – between IT companies (Intel, Microsoft, HP, Cisco, IBM, Oracle, SAP, TCS, Wipro, NIIT..) and with firms across the industries (HLL, ITC, ACC, L & T, Banks, ILFS..); it is also time that we start delivering beyond “prototypes and pilots”

It is also important to understand India and Indians; the market research info we have on India is quite sketchy; for example, we do NOT know where the million PCs sold in 2Q05 have gone in India; Indians buy “best & cheap” (in that order); they are willing to pay (if the million paid (@Rs 6) downloads of ring tones per day is any indicator), but not for obsolete things (Intel 286 or MS DOS)

(Keynote address given at Intel ISV Forum, Bangalore, September 21, 2005)

Apple & Motorola launch iPod mobile phone

September 8, 2005

September 7, 2005 saw the final launch of “Rockr ” – mobile handset made by Motorola that has many good features of Apple iPod -by Apple CEO Steve Jobs, after nearly 2 years of high expectation.

Apple iPod has become a rave item, selling 20+ million pieces last year.

Mobile phones sell in the 500+ million range, though split across a dozen vendors each with hundreds of models.

Motorola, the inventor of mobile phones could not be the leader (a position that Nokia has enjoyed for 15 years); with the new CEO Ed Zander (former Sun Microsystems COO), and a new focus, Motorola is gaining market. Its Razr mdel is a spectacular success after many years. The new model Rockr, if successful will place Motorola in top gear. It will also help Apple to bite into the mainstream market of mobile handset instead of restricting to niche product.

It remains to be seen as to how it works; if it indeed works, it will be a win for American companies who have been steadily losing to Asian and European companies in the area of entertainment electronics.

Indian Airlines places order for $ 2.2 Billion Airbus planes

September 8, 2005

Finally Indian Government could place the order for $ 2.2 Billion worth of planes (43 of them), a deal that was to have been closed three years back.

The previous Vajapayee Government did the right thing to let Indian Airlines think bold; but suddenly developed cold feet.

Any large purchase gets into a controversy in India, where throwing mud is so easy. . The Prime Minister must be complemented for announcing this deal when the EU President and British Prime Minister are visiting India; the Western Media will cover this positive news (otherwise the media in the West routinely reports all the bad news from India; though we have plenty of them, we have many good things too, that somehow never make it to the News)

So many good projects have suffered in Bangalore – Airport, Metro, Arkvathy Layout, Mysore Expressway, Ring Road,,– all good for people, but not good for greedy politicians, who in the name of poor, squeeze out the milk meant for the poor and drink the very milk, cruel indeed.

One hopes that the politicians will let India march ahead; thinking big, taking bold decisions, commanding respect through action is the only way India can get out of the poverty; not by scuttling well-meaning projects and announcing endless subsidies.

The present Aviation Minister Praful Patel managed to get one fairly good new Terminal building within a year in Mumbai. He has now managed to close the Air India order for Boeing ($ 3 Billion) in June and the current $ 2 Billion order for Airbus. Let his tribe multiply

With other Airlines (including budget airlines) ordering planes worth $ 6 Billion, India is driving the global aviaion industry. It is time Bangalore becomes Aviation capital too (beyond IT and BT capital!)

Teachers’ Day

September 5, 2005

Fifth of September is celebrated as Teachers’ Day in India. It is a tribute to one of the celebrated teachers of modern India, former President Dr S Radhakrishnan who was a rare blend of a philosopher, writer, statesman and of course a great teacher.

India has a tradition of giving a special status to teacher. The word “guru” is itself is so exalted; the place of a teacher is sometimes even ahead of God – “Guru Brahma” and “Guru Vishnu”. The teacher is only next only to mother & father (“mathru devo bhava”, “pithru devo bhava”, “acharya devo bhava”). Guru Poornima is celebrated across the country.

Even today many of the “economically poor” village school teachers are still respected; that is the bedrock of the Nation. Let us re-dedicate ourselves to preserve and nurture this tradition. After all the seeds of Knowledge Society are thrown by the Teachers.

It is interesting to find another “teacher par excellence” as our President in Dr Kalam. Inspiration from people like him is the only ray of hope for an otherwise dark educational scene in India today.

Hurricane Caterina causes enormous loss in the United States

September 4, 2005

In the worst natural disaster in the history of USA, there was a “wreck” created by hurricane Caterina last week; it is felt that the city of New Orleans in Louisiana State is damaged irreparably.

Yes, Science and Technology are advanced, yet before the Nature’s fury, human being is so tiny.

A rich country too has its own problems when it comes to meeting calamities of this kind. All countries rich and poor, big and small, friends or foes of USA must come together to express their solidarity at this grave moment.

USA has been helping every country in moments of crises; other countries should reciprocate the same gesture towards USA.

Loss of billions of dollars of physical infrastructure will be made up; but human suffering is irreparable; sympathy and prayer are the only things that can touch humans.

Let us join our fellow citizens (sisters and brothers of America, in the words of Swami Vivekananda) emotionally.

ABN Amro Bank signs $ 400 Million deal with Indian IT vendors InfoSys and TCS and offers additional business to InfoSys, Patni & TCS

September 3, 2005

One of the large outsourcing contracts was finalized on Sep 1, 2005.

ABN Amro, Netherlands-based banking major, announced its decision to outsource the entire IT Infrastructure management to IBM (estimated $ 1.8 Billion), Application Support to InfoSys and TCS ($ 260 Million to TCS and $ 140 Million to InfoSys) and retained Accenture, IBM, InfoSys, Patni & TCS for Application Development.

This is the largest-ever outsourcing contract for Indian IT vendors. It is also the largest contract for both TCS and InfoSys. In addition, it is likely to generate another $ 100 – 400 Million Application Development work to InfoSys, Patni & TCS.

It is a sign of maturity and global acceptance of Indian IT vendors’ capability to deliver. Coming at a time when GM and ING Vysya are likely to finalize outsourcing contracts around $ 2 Billion, one hopes that those deals should also have sizeable portion for Indian firms.

It is just a question of time when InfoSys, TCS and Wipro would join the league of IBM and EDS and bag billion-dollar contracts.