Address of a location in a boundary less world

March 15, 2015

If we are interested in a border less world, what kind of address we shall give to a friend who wants to visit? Or deliver a letter to someone?

Currently the postal departments all over the world use a very hierarchical way of locating a place.  First we name a country, then a state, district, town, street, building and if you live in an apartment, the flat number, and then of course person’s name. All this sounds very logical and politically correct.  But in a world where there are several possessed boundaries.  When such political boundaries do not exist, how would you locate yourself?

In the current modern techno-savvy world, we can simply use latitude and longitude of the place. Perfect! But the lat-long numbers are  difficult to remember.

If we link lat-long to a landmark, and if the landmark has a unique number, and if the landmark is not a political boundary, such as e.g. a tree that lives longer than most buildings and roads we build, we have a better system of locating ourselves.

For example, I can say that I work close to tree 355, live close to tree 400.  We can also give directions, e.g. turn right at tree 320, stop opposite tree 455.  Since there are many many trees the numbers will go on increasing, which may become difficult to remember.

We recently started a citizen science project to map the trees, map all the trees, in India. It is in this context that I realized that the platform that we have built assigning serial numbers to the trees and to the planting sites.  Then it occurred to me we can use these numbers as another way of giving address to ourselves and the sites we inhabit.

tree 51

tree 51 at metaStudio

I meet visitors at my office and eat my lunch, drink tea/coffee at tree 51 of

If you want to create such landmarks and try to grab a smaller easy to remember number for your address, join at and map your tree anywhere in India.  If you live in any other part of the world, please send us a request by naming the locality where you want to create a landmark tree, we will create a tree mapping site for you.

On the Artchitecture of Life

December 6, 2014

A conversation on the architecture of life has been recorded and released as an audio podcast at Syntalk.  The speakers are: Dr. Pushpa M. Bhargava (molecular biology, CCMB, Hyderabad), Prof. Nagarjuna G. (philosophy of science, HBCSE, Mumbai).  The following description is the text copied from the Syntalk link.

SynTalk thinks about the key conditions that characterize and create ‘biological’ life while constantly wondering whether life is a random accident, and if we are alone in the universe (because of a singularity?). What is the future of life? How aliens (if any) are also likely to be carbon and water based, but could be completely different morphologically and functionally. How was the first cell formed, and is this one of the biggest open questions today? The continuing journey after the big bang from the physical to astrophysical to chemical to biological to social evolution (across all species via, say, pollination) way into the distant future. The concepts are derived off / from Darwin, Crick, Watson, Hoyle, Prigogine, Manfred Eigen, Delbruck, Maturana, & Stuart Kauffman, among others. Is it possible to create synthetic life in a laboratory, and does the clue to this possibility lie in the (chemical?) nature of a virus? How does speciation happen? The core significance of the cell being a ‘phase separated structure’ with organizational closure. Is the cell the unity of life? How we do ‘not’ really know where biology ends and chemistry begins. Is life a physical state (just as liquid is a state of water)? The definition of life via replication (DNA, tRNA), metabolism (metabolic charts, glucose) and energy transduction. We discuss the role of glucose as a key molecule for all life, and wonder what it is like for glucose (& other bio molecules) to be ‘outside’ life. How does self organization arise in both physical and biological systems, and how (for example) phospholipids (with hydrophobic tails and hydrophilic heads) organize itself in water? How affinities can emerge between two DNA strands. How life is a dialogical state, and neither the physical equilibrium (oxidized state like carbon dioxide) nor the state of chemical death (‘petroleum state’). How virus ‘lives’ on the border of life and non-life. How all living stems can be characterized using unique chemistry, biochemistry, structure, & function. Why life originated from water? What is the role of weak bonds (in, say, the colloidal state of protoplasm)? How does ‘conscious cognition’ arise in living systems, & what are the links with ‘emancipated reflexive motor actions’, microtubules, dance, lizard, play, & consciousness (Mind from Matter). How does a living system talk to itself (why does a child suck its thumb)? How the feeling of ‘free will’ gives an (illusory) advantage. How life has multiple answers, and an inherent capability to change. How life is an expression of abundance. How a bio molecule is not like a sphere. The future with artificial life, cognitive robotics, & ‘languages in nature’ (of animals & languages). Why we can’t wear a full body armour anymore?

metaStudio and loom

February 19, 2013

This is the third post on metaStudio featuring the special features of gnowsys-studio

This post features a space for creating an online threaded discussion forum.  There are a number of threaded discussion forums, and  this one adds to that family of web apps that facilitate communication among a group of people.  Here is a link to one of the threads Leviathan and the air pump, where we use this feature for running a small graduate course.

The loom of gnowsys-studio is designed to do the following things:

  • Create a thread on a broad topic
  • Under each thread create twists.  A twist is a discussion trigger, it can be question, it can be a sub-topic of the thread.  It can be anything about which you want to seek responses from the community. If you use it to understand a topic, clear doubt, ask for help or offer help etc.
  • Under each twist, members can submit replies. 
  • Each respondent can choose a color of their choice for the text as well as the background. This will help to recognize the person’s messages easily in a long discussion thread.
  • The threads and twists can be classified using tags. Users can also rate them. The responses can be rates as well. The average score will be computed based on the ratings.

Thread’s description can be edited collaboratively.  twist can be edited, but messages once posted cannot be edited.  You can delete a message though. Whereever you can edit, the editor we provide is the same.  See the post on orgmode editor.

We have been using loom for discussions for undergraduate and graduate classes. The picture below gives you a glimpse of how a thread constructed in the loom looks like:


While sending the responses you can add a picture, use hyperlinks, write mathematical equations, embed a video, SVG images, animation etc.  Therefore, it can used for a very rich technical dialogue in a community as well. 

We will be extending the loom architecture for comprehensive continuous assessment



metaStudio for semantic networks and concept maps

February 18, 2013


This is the second post on metaStudio featuring the special features of gnowsys-studio.

The site allows collaborative construction of semantic networks between the wiki pages.  Users can define and use the relations between pages.  The graph produced is published in SVG which allows navigation of the graph by mouse click.  When Control + Click is used the graph reloads on the same page showing the additional nodes in the neighbourhood of the selected node. This way, a merged graph can be created.   Explore more pages at the site.


metaStudio, Emacs and orgmode

February 18, 2013

metaStudio, Emacs and orgmode

We have been developing a semantic platform for collaborative construction of knowledge networks of open educational resources.  We have reached some level of stability and so would invite members of the community to visit and explore the site.  The link to the site is:

Here I will keep publishing a series of posts featuring some special features and a link to where the feature can be seen or a screenshot of the feature. In this post we feature a simple online orgmode editor implemented for collaborative editing of text.

Online Emacs Orgmode Editor

The site uses a very simple wiki style text editor that uses orgmode style markup (actually markDown).  The typed text is processed directly by orgmode vida emacs on the server side script.  The orgmode text as well as the automatically exported html are stored in the database.   This editor is limited only by the knowledge of the user about orgmode use and the html export limitations of orgmode.  It can have images, embedded videos, embedded java applets, or just about anything that we need to publish on the web.

The main highlight is the easy of use and very low learning curve.  Students and teachers who have never been exposed to any wiki or web authoring have picked up the editing methods with least training.

metastudio orgmode editor

metastudio orgmode editor

embedding video and orgmode

metastudio embedding video using orgmode

February 17, 2013


Sameer Verma from SFSU visited Khairat School where we do field work and help the first OLPC project in India. The blog posted by Monsoon Grey.

Originally posted on Monsoon Grey:

In January 2013, Sameer Verma from SFSU, during a trip to India, visited Goa – a detour that happened mostly because of Harriet Vidyasagar’s efforts to keep all the working OLPC projects in India visible to the outside world, while simultaneously ensuring that we got the best minds to get a firsthand look at the projects here and to provide us inputs that would enable us to run these projects better. The previous such visit was by Walter Bender himself; this time it was Sameer from San Francisco. I’d been in touch with him over the email requesting very specific help about the School Server setup and administration, and that’s exactly what he and I focused on while he was here in Goa. Of course we had to make time between his various other engagements, but that wasn’t such a problem – it only meant that Sameer’s day didn’t end…

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February 17, 2013


A post on a new project of OLPC started in Goa by Monsoon Grey

Originally posted on Monsoon Grey:

The second Sugar-OLPC project in Goa went live today – Feb 5th, 2013 – at Nirmala Kindergarten. The first one at Merces has been running for close to 3 years now. For Nirmala KG, the planning had started a few months ago in August of 2012 (see previous post ‘Second Sugar-OLPC Project in Goa‘). We had visited the school to explore the possibility of doing an OLPC project there. Nirmala Institute of Education (NIE) is our partner for the Sugar-OLPC work that we do here in Goa, as well as the parent institute in whose premises the school is located.

After the initial discussions, we had conducted a Sugar Training Workshop at NIE in November 2012 for the teachers of Nirmala-KG (see post ‘Sugar Training for Nirmala-KG Teachers‘), and decided to start the OLPC project in early 2013. In our later discussions with the school, we…

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my work in ten hundred words of science

January 24, 2013

I have recently posted what my job is without using any jargon.

  • Our job is to help make children learn. And to picture what they learn. We make children learn about the world around us. Explain what happens in the world around us. Find out the reasons for each happening around us.

    Children know something. When they learn new things, the old things they know find a friend with the new things. Old ideas join with new ideas. But, the new thing does change the old thing as well. We want to picture this change when children learn. In other words, the form of what children know changes when new things get into their heads. Making the picture of these changes is our job. We want to show this changing picture to the children, so that they get to know what they have learnt. This will help them know what they know. This will help us to know what they know. This will help parents to know what they know.

    We use computers for this work. We make the computers make the pictures for everyone to see the learning. We tell computers how to make pictures, so that computers will tell us when there is a change in what we know.

    We help children work with other children. We work with them as one of us.

    When this becomes possible we will call a party and tell everyone. We are looking for friends who could work with us. Tell everyone of what we are doing. Join us.

    — Nagarjuna. This is to describe the work of and its collaborative platform
© 2013 Ten Hundred Words of Science

Interpreting Aaron Swartz’s actions by the media moghuls!

January 22, 2013

After the tragic death of Aaron Swartz, whom I consider a freedom fighter of the digital society, the media reported stories all around the world. Today’s Indian Express ( carried an editorial piece on the subject. The article ends with the following statements:

“It cannot be given away for free, as Swartz would have wanted, since the development of learning is expensive. But business models could be created to widen access while remaining fiscally prudent. ”

The editor is either utterly ignorant of the open access as a way out, or deliberately does not want to bring to the notice of the readers of the alternatives. The editor says “it cannot be given away for free”, but we ask, why not. They all must be given away for free. Scientific communications are not to be owned by anyone other than the citizens, since they have already paid for the development of learning in the form of tax. Looking for an alternate business model or more liberal business model misses the whole point. The scientist’s have foolishly given away their copyright to the Journal publishers. For this act of passing the copyright, no compensation was given to the author or the institution the author was affiliated to. The work was not commissioned or financially supported by the publishers, but mostly by the tax payers money almost anywhere in the world. Why should the citizens pay again for the work they have funded? This is the question to be answered.

cycling in Mumbai

June 23, 2011

I used to commute daily to my office near Anushakti Nagar from my home, TIFR colony at Navy Nagar, Colaba, by local train using the harbour line (from CST to Mankhurd and return). This happened for the last 15 years. One day, on May 2nd 2011, I went to a cycle shop and purchased a hybrid citi cycle (Trek 7100). From that day till today, except when I wasn’t in the city, commuting daily to my office. The track is about 26km or 23km depending on which route I take. I am covering this distance within 1:15min with an average speed of 19km/hour without much effort.

Cycling track TIFR colaba to Homi Bhabha Centre Mankhurd

Cycling track TIFR colaba to Homi Bhabha Centre Mankhurd

The picture is one of the routes I use for my commute.

What I realised from this experience is that Mumbai is a flat city. The change in altitude in my entire stretch of 26km is only 60meters. This makes the city an eminent place to commute by cycles. I did it in the hottest month of May, and also during the rains. Cycling in the rains is certainly less tiring than the humid and hot weather of Mumbai. Having tested my endurance in both the hottest and wettest weathers, I am hoping to continue to the rest of my life cycling.

I will write once in a while my experiences.  Happy cycling!


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