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Indians lacks the cultural drive to honor science

This curious note on currency notes is inspired by the talks of my favorite astronomer Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, whose lectures fill my iPod and hard-disk and backup hard-disk.


The Prime Ministers of India and,

The Governor, Reserve Bank of India.


Dear Sir,

This note is inspired by the public lectures of astronomer Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Yesterday, the 20th of July, on the one hand I was celebrating the greatest scientific achievement of all times, the 45th anniversary of the, Neil Armstrong’s Apollo 11 landing on the moon; on the other hand I was lamenting the state of Indian science. A government report revealed that India spends only 0.88% of its GDP on scientific research against 8% for the US. And we aspire to become a superpower? Whom are we kidding? I am yet to see a superpower that spends so less on science. As I reflected over this, I had a revelation.

Not only is our science lacking money, but our money is also lacking science.”

The real issue is not that India spends very little on science. The real issue is that we lack the cultural drive to honor science in the first place. Our low spending on science is an outcome of this cultural deficiency.

How do nations honor their heroes? By featuring them on their money. Why? Because we all value and use money, the persons depicted on currency notes are individuals who have made extraordinary contributions to the nation. This allows the citizens to draw inspiration from their heroes. When I looked at the currency notes around the world, I found that every country that had a scientist was proud to display on their money the iconography of their scientific contribution which has led to advancement of the frontier of knowledge not only for their nation but for the entire humanity. Let me quote three examples:


  • Sir Isaac Newton (1643 – 1727 AD) is considered the most brilliant person that ever was. He discovered the laws of motion, the universal law of gravity, the composition of light and invented calculus all before he was 26. His portrait was British 1 Pound.


  •  Ibn al-Haitham (965 – 1040 AD) the father of modern optics, ophthalmology, experimental physics and scientific methodology and was first theoretical physicist of the world. His image was on the 10 and 10,000 Iraqi Dinari notes.


  • Abu Nasr al-Farabi (872 – 950 AD) conducted the first experiments concerning the existence of vacuum. His image was on the 1 Kazakhstani Tenge.


What gets printed on the money is important because it conveys the nation’s message to its citizens and to the rest of the world. Which country do you think make the best engineers in the world? Germany. German engineering is a metaphor for engineering excellence. And how do the Germans convey this fact? They wrote a mathematical distribution function on their money next to image of Carl Friedrich Gauss, the greatest mathematician of all times.

This tradition of honoring scientists is followed not just by developed nations but also by nations far worse off than India. England and Germany are scientific powerhouses but Iraq and Kazakhstan are not. Yet they all had the cultural drive to honor their scientists, going back hundreds of years into history to find the most deserving scientists to grace their current money. Several nations have maintained this tradition. Einstein was on the Israeli currency; Tesla on the Serbian; and Marie Curie was on both the Polish and the French currency. Many countries have featured more than one scientist. Newton, Faraday, Darwin and Kelvin were on the British; and Galileo, Volta and Marconi were on the Italian currency.

What about India? On the one hand our Mangalyaan is on its way to Mars, on the other hand we are trailing the world in the cultural adoption of science. We do not lack scientists; Bhramagupta and Aryabhatta are no lesser scientists than  Al-Haithamor Al-Farabi; Ramanujan is no lesser a mathematician than Gauss. From Baudhayana in the 8th century BC to Chandrashekhar  in the 20th century AD, India has produced dozens of extraordinary scientists that any foreign nation would be proud to feature on their money. But not India; we don’t value our own jewels. Our culture is yet to reach a state of maturity where scientific progress is celebrated in everyday life.   Therefore we haven’t honored a single scientist on our currency even though we proclaim that we have been doing science since Vedic Ages.

After independence, Gandhi has monopolized our currency notes. What message does this convey? It says three things; we value the Gandhian principles, we were British colonial slaves and, nothing else is valuable to this nation. Yes, we value Gandhian principles but do we really need to show this it across all our currency denominations? Nations that have featured scientists on their currency have also featured their other greats including but not limited to rulers and politicians. People from diverse fields have contributed at the highest level of excellence to rise of India. Can we not spare a few denominations of our currency for them? Will it be disrespectful to Gandhi if one of our currency notes features C. V. Raman or Homi Jehangir Bhabha?

Now that we almost completing our 67th orbit around the sun as an independent nation, it is time we catch up with the rest of world on intellectual maturity. We should respect our past and have a vision for the future; then we can become a superpower. The way to do this is by embracing science in our culture. A scientist on our money would convey a healthy and heartwarming message to the nation because scientists point towards the future.


List of scientists in the currencies of countries

Abu Ali al-Hasan Ibn al-Haitham, 10 Iraqi Dinar (1982)

Abu Ali al-Hasan Ibn al-Haitham, 10000 Iraqi Dinar (2005)

Abu Nasr al-Farabi, 1 Kazakhstani Tenge (1993)

Adam Smith, 20 British Pounds (2007)

Adam Smith, 50 British Pounds, Clydesdale (2003)

Albert Einstein, 5 Israeli Lirot (1968)

Alessandro Volta, 10000 Italian Lire (1984)

Alexander von Humboldt, 5 East German Marks (1964)

Benjamin Franklin, 100 United States Dollars (1985)

Blaise Pascal, 500 French Francs (1977)

Carl Friedrich Gauss, 10 Deutsch Marks (1991)

Carl Linne (Linnaeus), 100 Swedish Kroner (2003)

Charles Darwin, 10 British Pounds (2005)

Christian Huygens, 25 Dutch Guilder (1955)

Christopher Polhem, 500 Swedish Kroner (2003)

Democritus of Abdera, 100 Greek Drachma (1967)

Erwin Schrödinger, 1000 Austrian Schilling (1983)

Fryderyk Franciszek Chopin, 5000 Polish Zloty (1982)

Galileo Galilei, 2000 Itialian Lire (1973)

George Stephenson, 5 British Pounds (1990)

Guglielmo Marconi, 2000 Italian Lire (1990)

Hans Christian Ørsted, 100 Danish Kroner (1970)

Issac Newton, 1 British Pound

Janez Vajkard Valvasor, 20 Slovenian Tolarjev (1992)

Johann Balthasar Neumann, 50 Deutsche Marks (1991)

Jovan Jovanovic Zmaj, 500000000000 Yugoslavian Dinar (1993)

Jurij Vega, 50 Slovenian Tolars (1992)

Kristian Birkeland, 200 Norwegian Kroner (1994)

Leonhard Euler, 10 Swiss Francs (1997)

Loius Pasteur, 5 French Francs (1966)

Lord Ernest Rutherford, 100 New Zealand Dollars (current)

Lord Kelvin, 100 British Pounds, Clydesdale (1996)

Marie Curie, 20000 old Polish Zloty (1989)

Marie and Pierre Curie, 500 French Francs (1998)

Marius Mercator, 1000 Belgian Francs (1965)

Michael Faraday, 20 British Pounds (1993)

Nicolaus Copernicus, 1000 old Polish Zloty (1965)

Nicolaus Copernicus, 1000 old Polish Zloty (1982)

Niels Bohr, 500 Danish Kroner (current)

Nikola Tesla, 100 Serbian Dinar (2003)

Nikola Tesla, 100 Yugoslavian Dinar (1994)

Nikola Tesla, 10000000000 Yugoslavian Dinar (1993)

Nikola Tesla, 5 Yugoslavian Dinar (1994)

Nikola Tesla, 5000000 Yugoslavian Dinar (1993)

Ole Rømer, 50 Danish Kroner (1970)

Oswaldo Cruz, 50 Brazilian Cruzados (1986-8?)

Pedro Nunes, 100 Portuguese Escudos (1957)

René Descarts, 100 French Francs (1942)

Ruggero Boscovich, 1 Croatian Dinar (1991)

Ruggero Boscovich, 10 Croatian Dinar (1991)

Ruggero Boscovich, 100000 Croatian October Dinar (1993)

Ruggero Boscovich, 5 Croatian Dinar (1991)

Ruggero Boscovich, 50000 Croatian October Dinar (1993)

Sejong the Great, 10000 South Korean Won (2007)

Sigmund Freud, 50 Austrian Schilling (1986)

Sir Isaac Newton, 1 British Pound (c. 1984)

Thomas Jefferson, 2 United States Dollars (1976)

Urbain Jean Joseph Le Verrier, 50 French Francs (1947)

Viktor Ambartsumian, 100 Armenian Dram (1998)

Voltaire (François-Marie Arouet), 10 French Francs (1964)


Yours scientifically,

Nilotpal Kanti Sinha,

Citizen, India.

This article was published in Abraxas Lifestyle magazine: http://www.abraxaslifestyle.com and http://www.abraxasnu.com


The analytics of social compatibility

India is the land of arranged marriages and the protagonist story had recently met five prospective brides who were equally eligible and evenly matched. All the girls have at least one unique attribute which he wanted his spouse to posses and each of these attribute was equally important to him; one of them was very beautiful; another was highly educated; another had a good sense of humour and so on. It was difficult for him to choose one girl over another. The protagonist met a data scientist, to discuss his problem of choices.

Data Scientist: This is similar to social choice theory, a framework for weighting individual interests, values, or welfares as an aggregate towards collective decision using symbolic logic. Let’s make an algorithm to evaluate the social compatibility between people. Then we will use it to find your best match form your prospective brides.

Protagonist: Why bother about evaluating social compatibility?

DS: Do you realize its immense business potential? The top two Indian matrimonial sites draw 2 million visitors accessing over 15 million pages daily. If these two websites implement the algorithm then assuming that only 5% of the visitors actually use it, you have a 100,000 daily user in India alone. In the future, if the top matrimonial and dating websites across world implement the algorithm then you can hit half a million daily users. On a pay per use or fixed month rate revenue model, look at the expected income.

P: So how can we quantify compatibility?

DS: A simple approach is to rank the girls in order of each attribute and then combine the individual ranks into a composite rank using the known methods of combining ranks. The top composite ranked girl is your first choice.

DS: Unfortunately a ranking based approach is conceptually flawed. Economics Nobel Laureate Dr. Kenneth Arrow proved the Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem, a pioneering theorem of social choice theory, which states that no rank-order voting system satisfies all fairness criterions. Moreover for critical social decisions psychology could prevail over statistics. The ideal methodology should be able to quantify the physiological aspect of human behaviour.

DS: Ideally you would want all the desired attributes of a dream spouse in one person. But in reality, the desired attributes will be distributed across different girls. So you have to give up on one attribute to gain on another. Thus the attributes are competing against each other so you have to make competitive choices.

DS: Assume that you have a total of twenty points to allocate across the attributes. How much are you willing to give up on the beauty to gain on the educational qualification of your spouse? If you allocate 15 points to beauty, you have only 5 points to allocate to education. When faced with scarce resources (points) you will be much more judicious in spending. Hence competitive choices are a better quantification of your actual psychological preference.

P: And how do we quantify competitive choices?

DS: By using conjoint analysis. It is based on mathematical psychology and is widely used in psychophysics, perception, decision-making and the quantitative analysis of behaviour. I will create a social compatibility algorithm and use your data to see what your actual psychological preferences; then we will find your most suitable match.

P: Really? You can build such a algorithm?

DS: Rest assured; I have learned conjoint analysis from one of the pioneers of the subject, Dr. V. Srinivasan. Give me two days.

(Two days later)

DS: The social compatibility algorithm is ready; and based on your competitive choices, it suggests that your most suitable match is the second girl. Hmmm … she is a teacher but you didn’t tell me what she teaches?

P: Well, she teaches statistics in a college.

DS: Statistics! I knew the algorithm was right.

Claimer: Based on a true incident. Both the protagonist and the data scientist work in the analytics industry. The protagonist and the lady statistician are now seeing each other.

Statistical regularities in the physical properties of planets

July 19


We shall show that the fundamental attributes of a planet – mass, diameter, distance from the Sun, duration of a day, duration of an orbit are all statistically correlated. We shall also see the correlation is maximum when Pluto is discarded from the calculations, thereby providing a statistical justification of the demotion of Pluto as a planet.

Note that from these fundamental attributes, the derived attributes such as escape velocity, density, orbit velocity can be calculated. So in this analysis our scope is limited to the abive five fundamental attributes.


1. We define SMR of a set of data A as the ratio of the sample standard deviation of the data to the maximum value of the data in A and denote it by SMR(A).

2. We define the follow sets of fundamental planetary attributes. It is to be noted that Pluto has been demoted as a planet so we are left with only eight planets namely Mercury, Venus, Mars, Earth, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.

M = Set of masses of the planets

D = Set of the diameters of planets

R = Set of the distance for the planets form the sum

T = Set of the Orbital period of the planets

X = Set of the rotation period of the planets

3. All data in this analysis is collected form NASA website. Link http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/planetary/factsheet/

Observation 1

SMR(M) = 0.331

SMR(D) = 0.370

SMR(R) = 0.368

SMR(T) = 0.360

SMR(X) = 0.331

The above values of SMR have a mean value of 0.359 and very small standard deviation of 0.011. Hence statistically we can say that each of these value is close to the arithmetic mean of the SMRs.

Inference: The SMR of the fundamental attributes of a planet are roughly equal.

Observation 2:

Even if we include Pluto in the calculations, the mean value if 0.352 with a standard deviation of 0.020.

Observation 3:

Let us calculate the mean value and standard deviation of the SMR when one planet goes missing. Because of Observation 2, we can include Pluto in our analysis without caring for its classification.

Without Pluto     : Mean = 0.359, SD = 0.011
Without Neptune: Mean = 0.358, SD = 0.021
Without Uranus  : Mean = 0.373, SD = 0.021
Without Saturn   : Mean = 0.361, SD = 0.025
Without Jupiter   : Mean = 0.359, SD = 0.022
Without Mars     : Mean = 0.366, SD = 0.016
Without Earth     : Mean = 0.366, SD = 0.017
Without Venus    : Mean = 0.366, SD = 0.018
Without Mercury : Mean = 0.365, SD = 0.015

Inference 3.1: It is interesting to note that that for each of the five fundamental quantities, the mean value of SMR when one planet goes missing is roughly equal.  This shows that there is a statistical correlation between the fundamental attributes of the planets.

Inference 3.2: The standard deviation is least when Pluto is removed, showing that Pluto fits least with the other eight planets.  This gives a statistical justification of the demotion of Pluto as a planet.

Inference 3.3: The mean and standard deviation is greater for larger planet and lesser for smaller planets. A possible inference of this could be that larger planets play a bigger role in the stability of the solar system.

A physical interpretation of the above observations could be that even if one of the planets of the solar system mysteriously vanishes without altering the other planets then, on a large scale, the rest of the planets will continue to behave roughly the same as they had before the incident. This is somewhat like a clever inbuilt damage control mechanism. Quantitatively we can say that:

1. In the Solar System, the large and small values of the fundamental planetary attributes are almost equally distributed in such a way that SMR of any fundamental attribute the planets are roughly equal.

2. The Solar System is tries to conserve its SMR of its fundamental physical attributes.

Is this a coincidence?

Mathematically this is not a wonder. We can have infinitely many set of data showing similar properties. But the question here to be asked is

1. Why should the planets be one among these infinite sets? There are infinitely many sets of data which do not show this correlation.

2. The more important question is weather the planets are trying to following some mathematical regularities due to which they produced favorable data for the correlation.

For a set of positive real numbers SMR can be between 0 and 0.5; for example, the SMR for the distance of the ten nearest stars from the earth is 0.212 with a very high standard deviation of 2.237. So there is no particular reason why SMR of planetary data should all be roughly equal to 0.36.  It may still be a coincidence that the data turned out to be favorable. However the chance of such coincidences decrease rapidly when we see that despite removing any one planet, SMR remained roughly at 0.36 with a very low standard deviation.

Finally, history has it that the Titus-Bode rule failed for Neptune and Pluto. But our observation holds holds not only for the eight major planet and Pluto but also for the hypothetical scenario when one planet mysteriously disappears. If a coincidence matches not just present data but even hypothetical scenarios, then it is no longer a coincidence.

Mathematical Explanation

Consider a finite set of positive reals having cardinality n.