Politics & the Nation
  • It is time that a majority of our blog readers should be very happy.
    • Take a look at this news report which appeared about Civil Service exam gaining popularity.  You will understand the reasons to be happy.
      • Comparisons between competitive exams may be odious; but we can't help but notice the point that there are 465 applicants for every job — three times more than the rush to join the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs), with 150 students taking the Common Admission Test (CAT) for each IIM seat.
      • This is not to throw cold water on IIM aspirants in anyway; many of who are our blog readers too.  In fact there are many who do both.
      • One of my friends often quips "IIMs are the IAS of the corporate sector, while the IAS are the IIMs of the government sector."
Finance & Economy
  • BCCI faces some taxing times
    • With its decision to hold IPL v2 in South Africa, it should now be prepared to pay tax on the income generated by it outside India.
    • Take a look at this graphic which explains the issue.
  • After a long time we are noticing SSA Aiyar again.
    • This time he takes on the GDP growth figures of the government and comes up with the finding that India's growth is not as rosy as the government statisticians would want us believe.  But that neither is the growth so bad when compared with other countries in the present turbulent times.
    • A good piece.  Take a look at it here.
    • In the process, we also take a slight diversion into what is known as the X12 methodology.  It is a statistical method for making seasonal adjustments to the data.  Take a look at this methodology in this Bank of England paper.  Especially look at the first two pages to understand the concept.
  • A bit about strategic commodity reserves
    • Commodity strategic reserves (CSRs) is a term used to describe reserves of a commodity or item, held back from normal use by governments, organisations or businesses in pursuance of a particular strategy or to cope with an unexpected event. Because of economic and security dimension of oil, the term is more commonly used to describe the strategic petroleum reserves (SPRs) maintained by 26 members of the International Energy Agency (IEA), of which the US has the largest. Among the non-IEA countries, China has been aggressively increasing its SPRs lately. India has also started building SPRs of about 37.4 million barrels of crude oil, enough for two weeks of consumption, under the government controlled agency the Indian Strategic Petroleum Reserves Ltd. 
Science & Technology
  • Electric bulb technologies and their phasing out
    • This week, the European Commission formally adopted new regulations that will phase out incandescent bulbs in Europe by 2012. America will do so by 2014. Some countries, such as Australia, Brazil and Switzerland, have got rid of them already. 
    • Incandescent bulbs are inefficient, because only about 5% of the energy they use is turned into light and the rest is wasted as heat. A typical bulb also has to be replaced every 1,000 hours or so.
    • In contrast CFLs (Compact Fluorescent Lights) use up to 75% less power and last ten times longer.  Fluorescent lights use electricity to excite mercury vapour. This produces ultraviolet light that causes a phosphor coating inside the bulb to glow. The lights can flicker, which could set off epileptic fits, and badly made ones might leak ultraviolet radiation, and may thus pose a cancer risk. There are also concerns about the disposal of the toxic mercury.
    • The third and more modern variety is the LED bulb.  An LED is made from two layers of semiconductor, an “n-type” with an excess of negatively charged electrons, and a positive “p-type” which has an abundance of “holes” where electrons should be but aren’t. When a current is applied across the sandwich, the electrons and holes team up at the junction of the two materials and release energy in the form of light. The colour depends on the properties of the semiconductor, and these can be tuned to produce light that is similar to natural daylight but with virtually no ultraviolet or heat.  They promise energy savings of up to 80% and a working life of 45,000 hours.  These are prohibitively costly though -- about $56 per bulb.
    • It is the Indo-German Iron Fertilization Experiment in ocean near Antarctica.  The experiment involved adding 4 tonnes of iron into an eddy in the ocean to stimulate the growth of planktonic algae which could suck up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and thus help check global warming.
    • But the experiment threw some surprises and proved to the scientists that while the plankton did grow, small crustacean zooplankton soon ate them all up.
    • It did serve to show that ocean fertilization was unlikely to be a method for trapping carbon dioxide in future.
Language lessons
  • hogwash: Noun
    • (informal) nonsense; ludicrously false statements
  • cachet: Noun
    • An indication of approved or superior status
    • A warrant formerly issued by a French king who could warrant imprisonment or death in a signed letter under his seal
    • A seal on a letter
  • bilge
    • Noun: Where the sides of the vessel curve in to form the bottom; water accumulated in the bilge of a ship
    • Verb: cause to leak; take in water at the bilge
  • mien: Noun
    • Dignified manner or conduct