Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Geek Nation - How Indian Science is Taking Over the World

[Author: Angela Saini; Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton; Hardcover: 288 pages ]
Who is a Geek ? 
From the author's perspective geek is someone who is very passionate about a scientific, technological or any other intellectual pursuit. She uses this term in a very complimentary manner.
In the western world Indians are perceived as geeks or nerds.
Angela Saini an UK born award winning science journalist of  Indian origin travels widely across India (during 2008-10) to check on the veracity of this perception.

She meets and interviews several scientists, technologists, researchers in premier academic institutions, research institutes, IT companies.
The outcome of this scientific pilgrimage is this book which presents the 
picture of the status of the scientific education and research in India. 

A book of this sort could have easily turned out to be a dry and scholarly compilation of recorded interviews and its readership been confined to academicians and researchers. 
But Saini  very effectively manages to write it in a a fairly enjoyable travelogue style with right blend of information and humor. After all she is a reporter.
"Angela in the Geekland" would have been a more apt title for this book ! 

This book educated me on several facets of scientific and technology research and development  in India which I was unaware of for e.g. OSDD (Open Source Drug Discovery) initiative, Spoken Web project, Lavasa Corporation, e-Courts  etc.

I am not sure whether this book presents a complete scenario of scientific research in India but whatever is presented in this book certainly makes an interesting read.
Therefore I would recommend this book to anyone who is keen on knowing some of the interesting facets of scientific research scenario in India around 2008-2010.



Underlying themes of various chapters and the people and organizations featured in  them are given below.


Underlying Theme: Origins of Space Research in India
  • Professor U.R. Rao, Vikram Sarabhai Space Research Center, Trivandrum 
Chapter 1 Brain Games
Underlying Theme: Engineering & Science  Education
  • Professor Vijay Singh, International Science Olympiad Training Center
  • Nitin Jain, IIT-JEE 2009 Topper & Winner of several medals in Science Olympiads
  • Professor Santanu Chaudhury, Dean of Undergraduate Studies, IIT Delhi
  • Professor Ambuj Sagar, IIT Delhi
  • Prerit Jain  - Undergraduate student, IIT Delhi
  • Rajdeep Sahrawat, VP NASSCOM
  • Ravindra Shah, Chief Compliance Officer, Tata Consultancy Services
  • Ananth Krishnan, Technologist, Tata Consultancy Services
Chapter 2 Electronics City

Underlying Theme: IT Industry
  • Thomas Simon, VP-HR, Tata Consultancy Services
  • Narayana Murthy, Founder, Infosys Technologies
  • Dr. Manish Gupta, Director, IBM Labs, India
  • Yusuf Motiwala & Apul Nahata , Founders, TringMe
  • Nishant Ranka - Undergraduate student, IIT Delhi
Chapter 3 The Long-Life Banana

Underlying Theme: Genetically Modified Crops
  • Dr  Pravendra Nath, Molecular Biologist, National Botanical Research Institute
  • Vijay Jawandhia, a farmers' right activist, Vidharba
  • Vandana Shiva, a rural rights activist, New Delhi
  • Dr. Ajay Parida, Executive Director, MS Swaminathan Research Foundation
Chapter 4 Chariots of the Gods 

Underlying Theme: Vedic Sciences
  • Subbarao Narayana, Academy of Sanskrit Research, Melkote
  • Dr. Satyanarayana, Oriental Research Institute, Mysore
  • Sanal Edamaruku, President, Indian Rationalist Association, New Delhi
  • Meera Nanda, Historian and Researcher, Institute of Advanced Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
  • Sunderaj Chandrashekar, Academy of Sanskrit Research, Melkote
  • Professor MRS Narasimha Murthy, Head, Molecular Biophysics, Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru 
 Chapter 5 The Mindreading Machine

Underlying Theme: Forensic Sciences
  • Dr Sunny Joseph, Directorate of Forensic Science Laboratory, Mumbai
  • CR Mukundan, Inventor of Brain Electrical Oscillations Signature (BEOS) software
Chapter 6 Geek's Rule 

Underlying Theme: e-Governance
  • Scot Wrighton, City Manager, Lavasa Corporation
  • Vineeta Dixit, Principal Consultant -e-Governance Plan, Ministry of Communication and Information Technology, New Delhi
  • RK Sharma, Computer Analyst & Programmer, Department of IT, Rajasthan
  • Girish Kumar Sharma, Registrar, Delhi High Court
Chapter 7 The Impossible Drug

Underlying Theme: Bio-medical Research
  • Professor Virandar Chauhan, International Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, New Delhi
  • Dr. Sujatha Narayanan, Deputy Director, Department of Immunology, Tuberculosis Research Center, Chennai
  • Dr. Sridhar Sivasubbu, Researcher, Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology, New Delhi
  • Dr. Sulagna Banerjee, Madras Institute of Technology, Chennai
  • Zakir Thomas, Scientist, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, New Delhi 
Chapter 8 Brainpower

Underlying Theme: Nuclear Energy
  • Dr Ratan Kumar Sinha, Director - Reactor Design and Development Group, Bhaba Atomic Research Centre, Mumbai
 Chapter 9 Rocket Science

Underlying Theme: Space Program 
  • Narayana Moorthy, Researcher, Vikram Sarabhai Space Research Center, Trivandrum
  • Madhavan Nair, Ex-Chairman, Indian Space Research Organization

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