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29th January in History

1908 - Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, at Cornell University, incorporates
1924 - Ice cream cone rolling machine patented by Carl Taylor, Cleveland
1929 - Seeing Eye Guide Dog Organization forms
1984 - Space Shuttle 41-B (STS-11) Challenger launched

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18th January in History

1840 - Electro-Magnetic Intelligencer, 1st US electrical journal, appears
1923 - 1st radio telegraph message from Netherlands to Dutch East Indies
1989 - IBM announces earnings up 10.4% in 1988
1998 - UCP Telethon

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17th January in History

1928 - 1st fully automatic photographic film developing machine patented
1934 - Electric Home & Farm Authority incorporated
1976 - Hermes rocket launched by European Space Agency
1980 - NASA launches Fltsatcom-3

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14th January in History

1953 - WALA TV channel 10 in Mobile, AL (NBC) begins broadcasting
1954 - The Hudson Motor Car Company merges with Nash-Kelvinator Corporation forming the American Motors Corporation
1969 - Soyuz 4 launched; rendezvous with Soyuz 5 two days later
2005 - Landing of the Huygens probe on Saturn's moon Titan.

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13th January in history

1610 - Galileo Galilei discovers Callisto, 4th satellite of Jupiter
1888 - National Geographic Society founded (Washington, DC)
1906 - 1st radio set advertised (Telimco for $7.50 in Scientific American) claimed to receive signals up to one mile
1964 - Hindu-Muslim rioting breaks out in the Indian city of Calcutta - now Kolkata - resulting in the deaths of more than 100 people.

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Don’t kill Delhi University

Delhi University is deeply troubled. Its direct stakeholders and a broad spectrum of intellectuals across the country oppose vicechancellor Dinesh Singh’s attempt to force-march the university into a four-year undergraduate programme (FYUP). The opposition is based on neither innate inertia nor ideology. Rather, the objection is to the hasty, ill-thought-out and undemocratic nature of the reform.

It could undermine the future of generations of Delhi’s students. The government and the ruling party run the risk of alienating a lot of people, playing passive bystander. If academic autonomy holds your hand, pray, why continue with a ministry for higher education, if the ministry cannot prevent harm to one of your finest universities?


How rigorous is the thinking that has gone into the changeover? The VC’s response to one simple question is telling. DU takes in some 55,000 students a year and so its capacity at present is three times as much. If a fourth year is to be added, the capacity must be expanded to four times the first-year intake (a little less, allowing for some dropouts). The colleges are already packed to the gills and any scope for physical augmentation has been exhausted, with the expansion carried out to accommodate an OBC quota. How, then, will the university come up with the added seats needed to accommodate a fourth batch of students?

We will face that problem three years from now, and will work out a solution by then, says the VC. Does this promise of jugaad tomorrow signal any seriousness about such a radical change to the BA programme?

FYUP is sold to policymakers on inter-disciplinarity, skills and superior academics. You don’t expect the VC of a central university to talk like aroadside vendor peddling the latest trinket from a Shenzhen sweatshop. But all these claims are bunkum.

Bereft of Choice

There is not one iota of additional choice, as compared to what DU offers today. There is no scope for a student to join the BA programme, sample a range of different subjects and then choose one in which to major, after one or two years, while also choosing a couple of minors. In FYUP, a student chooses her major right when she joins, and the two minors in the second year. This much choice astudent already has in DU.

FYUP’s critics are wrong when they say it tries to ape US universities. It has no such ambition. It is more straitjacketed than the present three-year degree, forget Harvard.

The so-called inter-disciplinarity is confined to 11 so-called foundation courses (FCs), all of them compulsory. The VC waxes eloquent about them. These are inane, dumbeddown time-wasters for the bright students with high marks who manage to get into DU. Whoever thought up these courses has no clue about the National Curriculum Framework, of what children learn before they leave Class X and choose their specialised streams.

The FC on information technology proves the point. It offers students basic awareness of hardware and software, teaches them to prepare documents, make presentations, surf the internet, understand storage devices, social networking, e-ticketing, e-payment, etc. The project work ranges from using Bluetooth and visiting the website of a bank to connecting a projector to a computer.

Lower Academic Content

This might sound like complex stuff to 50+ stiffs. For the digital natives who enter college now, or, for that matter, salesmen at the smartphone counter of an electronics store, this is like being taught to breathe.

But similar detritus of the everyday mundane would take up fully a quarter of the four years a student spends for an Honours degree. She would spend half her time studying her major, 15% of the time on minors, 9% on application courses (ACs).

In a three-year course, one-third the time would be spent on FCs, 42% on the main subject and 12% each on minors and ACs. Those who leave after two years with a diploma would be condemned to waste more than half their time on FCs, spend onethird the time on a main subject and 8% each of their academic time on minors and ACs.

Someone emerging with a four-year major in history would have spent less time learning history than in the current three-year programme, assuming the scheduled tutorials do take place. Many departments are scared of lost teaching hours and are trying to make up by increasing the intake in their disciplines, at the expense of other disciplines, leading to bad blood and lost morale.

In FYUP, a non-English BA student does no English at all, except as one FC in one semester. The FYUP as proposed is an improvement on the existing course, only if you assume students never went to school or that tutorials never take place at present. Otherwise, the proposed reform would do immense harm to Indian academe, students and both their scholastic achievements and employability.

Canteens, however, would do brisk business as students spend their FC time doing complex things like 3G, Wi-Fi and data streaming.

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25 july 1978 The first test-tube baby, Louis Brown, is born in Oldham, England.

In vitro fertilisation (IVF) is a process by which an egg is fertilised by sperm outside the body: in vitro. IVF is a major treatment forinfertility when other methods of assisted reproductive technology have failed. The process involves monitoring a woman's ovulatory process, removing ovum or ova (egg or eggs) from the woman's ovaries and letting sperm fertilise them in a fluid medium in a laboratory. When a woman's natural cycle is monitored to collect a naturally selected ovum (egg) for fertilisation, it is known as natural cycle IVF. The fertilised egg (zygote) is then transferred to the patient's uterus with the intention of establishing a successful pregnancy. The first successful birth of a "test tube baby", Louise Brown, occurred in 1978. Louise Brown was born as a result of natural cycle IVF. Robert G. Edwards, the physiologist who developed the treatment, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2010.

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26 July Celebrated as Kargil Vijay Diwas, named after the success of Operation Vijay. On this day, 26 July 1999, India successfully took command of the high outposts which had been lost to Pakistani intruders.

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NASA: From sketch to Skylab

Before there was the International Space Station, there was Skylab, the United States lab in space to push the boundaries of space exploration and research. Tune in Monday for a NASA teleconference to celebrate its 40th anniversary.

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