A list of books for understanding the non-relativistic QM

TL;DR: NFY (Not for you).


In this post, I will list those books which have been actually helpful to me during my self-studies of QM.

But before coming to the list, let me first note down a few points which would be important for engineers who wish to study QM on their own. After all, my blog is regularly visited by engineers too. That’s what the data about the visit patterns to various posts says.

Others (e.g. physicists) may perhaps skip over the note in the next section, and instead jump directly over to the list itself. However, even if the note for engineers is too long, perhaps, physicists should go through it too. If they did, they sure would come to know a bit more about the kind of background from which the engineers come.


I. A note for engineers who wish to study QM on their own:

The point is this: QM is vast, even if its postulates are just a few. So, it takes a prolonged, sustained effort to learn it.

For the same reason (of vastness), learning QM also involves your having to side-by-side learn an entirely new approach to learning itself. (If you have been a good student of engineering, chances are pretty good that you already have some first-hand idea about this meta-learning thing. But the point is, if you wish to understand QM, you have to put it to use once again afresh!)

In terms of vastness, QM is, in some sense, comparable to this cluster of subjects spanning engineering and physics: engineering thermodynamics, statistical mechanics, kinetics, fluid mechanics, and heat- and mass-transfer.

I.1 Thermodynamics as a science that is hard to get right:

The four laws of thermodynamics (including the zeroth and the third) are easy enough to grasp—I mean, in the simpler settings. But when it comes to this subject (as also for the Newtonian mechanics, i.e., from the particle to the continuum mechanics), God lies not in the postulates but in their applications.

The statement of the first law of thermodynamics remains the same simple one. But complexity begins to creep in as soon as you begin to dig just a little bit deeper with it. Entire categories of new considerations enter the picture, and the meaning of the same postulates gets both enriched and deepened with them. For instance, consider the distinction of the open vs. the closed vs. the isolated systems, and the corresponding changes that have to be made even to the mathematical statements of the law. That’s just for the starters. The complexity keeps increasing: studies of different processes like adiabatic vs. isochoric vs. polytropic vs. isentropic etc., and understanding the nature of these idealizations and their relevance in diverse practical applications such as: steam engines (important even today, specifically, in the nuclear power plants), IC engines, jet turbines, refrigeration and air-conditioning, furnaces, boilers, process equipment, etc.; phase transitions, material properties and their variations; empirical charts….

Then there is another point. To really understand thermodynamics well, you have to learn a lot of other subjects too. You have to go further and study some different but complementary sciences like heat and mass transfer, to begin with. And to do that well, you need to study fluid dynamics first. Kinetics is practically important too; think of process engineering and cost of energy. Ideas from statistical mechanics are important from the viewpoint of developing a fundamental understanding. And then, you have to augment all this study with all the empirical studies of the irreversible processes (think: the boiling heat transfer process). It’s only when you study such an entire gamut of topics and subjects that you can truly come to say that you now have some realistic understanding of the subject matter that is thermodynamics.

Developing understanding of the aforementioned vast cluster of subjects (of thermal sciences) is difficult; it requires a sustained effort spanning over years. Mistakes are not only very easily possible; in engineering schools, they are routine. Let me illustrate this point with just one example from thermodynamics.

Consider some point that is somewhat nutty to get right. For instance, consider the fact that no work is done during the free expansion of a gas. If you are such a genius that you could correctly get this point right on your very first reading, then hats off to you. Personally, I could not. Neither do I know of even a single engineer who could. We all had summarily stumbled on some fine points like this.

You see, what happens here is that thermodynamics and statistical mechanics involve entirely different ways of thinking, but they both are being introduced almost at the same time during your UG studies. Therefore, it is easy enough to mix up the some disparate metaphors coming from these two entirely different paradigms.

Coming to the specific example of the free expansion, initially, it is easy enough for you to think that since momentum is being carried by all those gas molecules escaping the chamber during the free expansion process, there must be a leakage of work associated with it. Further, since the molecules were already moving in a random manner, there must be an accompanying leakage of the heat too. Both turn out to be wrong ways of thinking about the process! Intuitions about thermodynamics develop only slowly. You think that you understood what the basic idea of a system and an environment is like, but the example of the free expansion serves to expose the holes in your understanding. And then, it’s not just thermo and stat mech. You have to learn how to separate both from kinetics (and they all, from the two other, closely related, thermal sciences: fluid mechanics, and heat and mass transfer).

But before you can learn to separate out the unique perspectives of these subject matters, you first have to learn their contents! But the way the university education happens, you also get exposed to them more or less simultaneously! (4 years is as nothing in a career that might span over 30 to 40 years.)

Since you are learning a lot many different paradigms at the same time, it is easy enough to naively transfer your fledgling understanding of one aspect of one paradigm (say, that of the particle or statistical mechanics) and naively insert it, in an invalid manner, into another paradigm which you are still just learning to use at roughly the same time (thermodynamics). This is what happens in the case of the free expansion of gases. Or, of throttling. Or, of the difference between the two… It is a rare student who can correctly answer all the questions on this topic, during his oral examination.

Now, here is the ultimate point: Postulates-wise, thermodynamics is independent of the rest of the subjects from the aforementioned cluster of subjects. So, in theory, you should be able to “get” thermodynamics—its postulates, in all their generality—even without ever having learnt these other subjects.

Yet, paradoxically enough, we find that complicated concepts and processes also become easier to understand when they are approached using many different conceptual pathways. A good example here would be the concept of entropy.

When you are a XII standard student (or even during your first couple of years in engineering), you are, more or less, just getting your feet wet with the idea of the differentials. As it so happens, before you run into the concept of entropy, virtually every physics concept was such that it was a ratio of two differentials. For instance, the instantaneous velocity is the ratio of d(displacement) over d(time). But the definition of entropy involves a more creative way of using the calculus: it has a differential (and that too an inexact differential), but only in the numerator. The denominator is a “plain-vanilla” variable. You have already learnt the maths used in dealing with the rates of changes—i.e. the calculus. But that doesn’t mean that you have an already learnt physical imagination with you which would let you handle this kind of a definition—one that involves a ratio of a differential quantity to an ordinary variable. … “Why should only one thing change even as the other thing remains steadfastly constant?” you may wonder. “And if it is anyway going to stay constant, then is it even significant? (Isn’t the derivative of a constant the zero?) So, why not just throw the constant variable out of the consideration?” You see, one major reason you can’t deal with the definition of entropy is simply because you can’t deal with the way its maths comes arranged. Understanding entropy in a purely thermodynamic—i.e. continuum—context can get confusing, to say the least. But then, just throw in a simple insight from Boltzmann’s theory, and suddenly, the bulb gets lit up!

So, paradoxically enough, even if multiple paradigms mean more work and even more possibilities of confusion, in some ways, having multiple approaches also does help.

When a subject is vast, and therefore involves multiple paradigms, people regularly fail to get certain complex ideas right. That happens even to very smart people. For instance, consider Maxwell’s daemon. Not many people could figure out how to deal with it correctly, for such a long time.

…All in all, it is only some time later, when you have already studied all these topics—thermodynamics, kinetics, statistical mechanics, fluid mechanics, heat and mass transfer—that finally things begin to fall in place (if they at all do, at any point of time!). But getting there involves hard effort that goes on for years: it involves learning all these topics individually, and then, also integrating them all together.

In other words, there is no short-cut to understanding thermodynamics. It seems easy enough to think that you’ve understood the 4 laws the first time you ran into them. But the huge gaps in your understanding begin to become apparent only when it comes to applying them to a wide variety of situations.

I.2 QM is vast, and requires multiple passes of studies:

Something similar happens also with QM. It too has relatively few postulates (3 to 6 in number, depending on which author you consult) but a vast scope of applicability. It is easy enough to develop a feeling that you have understood the postulates right. But, exactly as in the case of thermodynamics (or Newtonian mechanics), once again, the God lies not in the postulates but rather in their applications. And in case of QM, you have to hasten to add: the God also lies in the very meaning of these postulates—not just their applications. QM carries a one-two punch.

Similar to the case of thermodynamics and the related cluster of subjects, it is not possible to “get” QM in the first go. If you think you did, chances are that you have a superhuman intelligence. Or, far, far more likely, the plain fact of the matter is that you simply didn’t get the subject matter right—not in its full generality. (Which is what typically happens to the CS guys who think that they have mastered QM, even if the only “QM” they ever learnt was that of two-state systems in a finite-dimensional Hilbert space, and without ever acquiring even an inkling of ideas like radiation-matter interactions, transition rates, or the average decoherence times.)

The only way out, the only way that works in properly studying QM is this: Begin studying QM at a simpler level, finish developing as much understanding about its entire scope as possible (as happens in the typical Modern Physics courses), and then come to studying the same set of topics once again in a next iteration, but now to a greater depth. And, you have to keep repeating this process some 4–5 times. Often times, you have to come back from iteration n+2 to n.

As someone remarked at some forum (at Physics StackExchange or Quora or so), to learn QM, you have to give it “multiple passes.” Only then can you succeed understanding it. The idea of multiple passes has several implications. Let me mention only two of them. Both are specific to QM (and not to thermodynamics).

First, you have to develop the art of being able to hold some not-fully-satisfactory islands of understanding, with all the accompanying ambiguities, for extended periods of time (which usually runs into years!). You have to learn how to give a second or a third pass even when some of the things right from the first pass are still nowhere near getting clarified. You have to learn a lot of maths on the fly too. However, if you ask me, that’s a relatively easier task. The really difficult part is that you have to know (or learn!) how to keep forging ahead, even if at the same time, you carry a big set of nagging doubts that no one seems to know (or even care) about. (To make the matters worse, professional physicists, mathematicians and philosophers proudly keep telling you that these doubts will remain just as they are for the rest of your life.) You have to learn how to shove these ambiguous and un-clarified matters to some place near the back of your mind, you have to learn how to ignore them for a while, and still find the mental energy to once again begin right from the beginning, for your next pass: Planck and his cavity radiation, Einstein, blah blah blah blah blah!

Second, for the same reason (i.e. the necessity of multiple passes and the nature of QM), you also have to learn how to unlearn certain half-baked ideas and replace them later on with better ones. For a good example, go through Dan Styer’s paper on misconceptions about QM (listed near the end of this post).

Thus, two seemingly contradictory skills come into the play: You have to learn how to hold ambiguities without letting them affect your studies. At the same time, you also have to learn how not to hold on to them forever, or how to unlearn them, when the time to do becomes ripe.

Thus, learning QM does not involve just learning of new contents. You also have learn this art of building a sufficiently “temporary” but very complex conceptual structure in your mind—a structure that, despite all its complexity, still is resilient. You have to learn the art of holding such a framework together over a period of years, even as some parts of it are still getting replaced in your subsequent passes.

And, you have to compensate for all the failings of your teachers too (who themselves were told, effectively, to “shut up and calculate!”) Properly learning QM is a demanding enterprise.


II. The list:

Now, with that long a preface, let me come to listing all the main books that I found especially helpful during my various passes. Please remember, I am still learning QM. I still don’t understand the second half of most any UG book on QM. This is a factual statement. I am not ashamed of it. It’s just that the first half itself managed to keep me so busy for so long that I could not come to studying, in an in-depth manner, the second half. (By the second half, I mean things like: the QM of molecules and binding, of their spectra, QM of solids, QM of complicated light-matter interactions, computational techniques like DFT, etc.) … OK. So, without any further ado, let me jot down the actual list.  I will subdivide it in several sub-sections


II.0. Junior-college (American high-school) level:

Obvious:

  • Resnick and Halliday.
  • Thomas and Finney. Also, Allan Jeffrey

II.1. Initial, college physics level:

  • “Modern physics” by Beiser, or equivalent
  • Optional but truly helpful: “Physical chemistry” by Atkins, or equivalent, i.e., only the parts relevant to QM. (I know engineers often tend to ignore the chemistry books, but they should not. In my experience, often times, chemistry books do a superior job of explaining physics. Physics, to paraphrase a witticism, is far too important to be left to the physicists!)

II.2. Preparatory material for some select topics:

  • “Physics of waves” by Howard Georgi. Excellence written all over, but precisely for the same reason, take care to avoid the temptation to get stuck in it!
  • Maths: No particular book, but a representative one would be Kreyszig, i.e., with Thomas and Finney or Allan Jeffrey still within easy reach.
    • There are a few things you have to relearn, if necessary. These include: the idea of the limits of sequences and series. (Yes, go through this simple a topic too, once again. I mean it!). Then, the limits of functions.
      Also try to relearn curve-tracing.
    • Unlearn (or throw away) all the accounts of complex numbers which remain stuck at the level of how \sqrt{-1} was stupefying, and how, when you have complex numbers, any arbitrary equation magically comes to have roots, etc. Unlearn all that talk. Instead, focus on the similarities of complex numbers to both the real numbers and vectors, and also their differences from each. Unlike what mathematicians love to tell you, complex numbers are not just another kind of numbers. They don’t represent just the next step in the logic of how the idea of numbers gets generalized as go from integers to real numbers. The reason is this: Unlike the integers, rationals, irrationals and reals, complex numbers take birth as composite numbers (as a pair of numbers that is ordered too), and they remain that way until the end of their life. Get that part right, and ignore all the mathematicians’ loose talk about it.
      Study complex numbers in a way that, eventually, you should find yourself being comfortable with the two equivalent ways of modeling physical phenomena: as a set of two coupled real-valued differential equations, and as a single but complex-valued differential equation.
    • Also try to become proficient with the two main expansions: the Taylor, and the Fourier.
    • Also develop a habit of quickly substituting truncated expansions (i.e., either a polynomial, or a sum complex exponentials having just a few initial harmonics, not an entire infinity of them) into any “arbitrary” function as an ansatz, and see how the proposed theory pans out with these. The goal is to become comfortable, at the same time, with a habit of tracing conceptual pathways to the meaning of maths as well as with the computational techniques of FDM, FEM, and FFT.
    • The finite differences approximation: Also, learn the art of quickly substituting the finite differences (\Delta‘s) in place of the differential quantities (d or \partial) in a differential equation, and seeing how it pans out. The idea here is not just the computational modeling. The point is: Every differential equation has been derived in reference to an elemental volume which was then taken to a vanishingly small size. The variation of quantities of interest across such (infinitesimally small) volume are always represented using the Taylor series expansion.
      (That’s correct! It is true that the derivations using the variational approach don’t refer to the Taylor expansion. But they also don’t use infinitesimal volumes; they refer to finite or infinite domains. It is the variation in functions which is taken to the vanishingly small limit in their case. In any case, if your derivation has an infinitesimall small element, bingo, you are going to use the Taylor series.)
      Now, coming back to why you must learn develop the habit of having a finite differences approximation in place of a differential equation. The thing is this: By doing so, you are unpacking the derivation; you are traversing the analysis in the reverse direction, you are by the logic of the procedure forced to look for the physical (or at least lower-level, less abstract) referents of a mathematical relation/idea/concept.
      While thus going back and forth between the finite differences and the differentials, also learn the art of tracing how the limiting process proceeds in each such a case. This part is not at all as obvious as you might think. It took me years and years to figure out that there can be infinitesimals within infinitesimals. (In fact, I have blogged about it several years ago here. More recently, I wrote a PDF document about how many numbers are there in the real number system, which discusses the same idea, from a different angle. In any case, if you were not shocked by the fact that there can be an infinity of infinitesimals within any infinitesimal, either think sufficiently long about it—or quit studying foundations of QM.)

II.3. Quantum chemistry level (mostly concerned with only the TISE, not TDSE):

  • Optional: “QM: a conceptual approach” by Hameka. A fairly well-written book. You can pick it up for some serious reading, but also try to finish it as fast as you can, because you are going to relean the same stuff once again through the next book in the sequence. But yes, you can pick it up; it’s only about 200 pages.
  • “Quantum chemistry” by McQuarrie. Never commit the sin of bypassing this excellent book.
    Summarily ignore your friend (who might have advised you Feynman vol. 3 or Susskind’s theoretical minimum or something similar). Instead, follow my advice!
    A suggestion: Once you finish reading through this particular book, take a small (40 page) notebook, and write down (in the long hand) just the titles of the sections of each chapter of this book, followed by a listing of the important concepts / equations / proofs introduced in it. … You see, the section titles of this book themselves are complete sentences that encapsulate very neat nuggets. Here are a couple of examples: “5.6: The harmonic oscillator accounts for the infrared spectrum of a diatomic molecule.” Yes, that’s a section title! Here is another: “6.2: If a Hamiltonian is separable, then its eigenfunctions are products of simpler eigenfunctions.” See why I recommend this book? And this (40 page notebook) way of studying it?
  • “Quantum physics of atoms, molecules, solids, nuclei, and particles” (yes, that’s the title of this single volume!) by Eisberg and Resnick. This Resnick is the same one as that of Resnick and Halliday. Going through the same topics via yet another thick book (almost 850 pages) can get exasperating, at least at times. But guess if you show some patience here, it should simplify things later. …. Confession: I was too busy with teaching and learning engineering topics like FEM, CFD, and also with many other things in between. So, I could not find the time to read this book the way I would have liked to. But from whatever I did read (and I did go over a fairly good portion of it), I can tell you that not finishing this book was a mistake on my part. Don’t repeat my mistake. Further, I do keep going back to it, and may be as a result, I would one day have finished it! One more point. This book is more than quantum chemistry; it does discuss the time-dependent parts too. The only reason I include it in this sub-section (chemistry) rather than the next (physics) is because the emphasis here is much more on TISE than TDSE.

II.4. Quantum physics level (includes TDSE):

  • “Quantum physics” by Alastair I. M. Rae. Hands down, the best book in its class. To my mind, it easily beats all of the following: Griffiths, Gasiorowicz, Feynman, Susskind, … .
    Oh, BTW, this is the only book I have ever come across which does not put scare-quotes around the word “derivation,” while describing the original development of the Schrodinger equation. In fact, this text goes one step ahead and explicitly notes the right idea, viz., that Schrodinger’s development is a derivation, but it is an inductive derivation, not deductive. (… Oh God, these modern American professors of physics!)
    But even leaving this one (arguably “small”) detail aside, the book has excellence written all over it. Far better than the competition.
    Another attraction: The author touches upon all the standard topics within just about 225 pages. (He also has further 3 chapters, one each on relativity and QM, quantum information, and conceptual problems with QM. However, I have mostly ignored these.) When a book is of manageable size, it by itself is an overload reducer. (This post is not a portion from a text-book!)
    The only “drawback” of this book is that, like many British authors, Rae has a tendency to seamlessly bunch together a lot of different points into a single, bigger, paragraph. He does not isolate the points sufficiently well. So, you have to write a lot of margin notes identifying those distinct, sub-paragraph level, points. (But one advantage here is that this procedure is very effective in keeping you glued to the book!)
  • “Quantum physics” by Griffiths. Oh yes, Griffiths is on my list too. It’s just that I find it far better to go through Rae first, and only then come to going through Griffiths.
  • … Also, avoid the temptation to read both these books side-by-side. You will soon find that you can’t do that. And so, driven by what other people say, you will soon end up ditching Rae—which would be a grave mistake. Since you can keep going through only one of them, you have to jettison the other. Here, I would advise you to first complete Rae. It’s indispensable. Griffiths is good too. But it is not indispensable. And as always, if you find the time and the inclination, you can always come back to Griffiths.

II.5. Side reading:

Starting sometime after finishing the initial UG quantum chemistry level books, but preferably after the quantum physics books, use the following two:

  • “Foundations of quantum mechanics” by Travis Norsen. Very, very good. See my “review” here [^]
  • “Foundations of quantum mechanics: from photons to quantum computers” by Reinhold Blumel.
    Just because people don’t rave a lot about this book doesn’t mean that it is average. This book is peculiar. It does look very average if you flip through all its pages within, say, 2–3 minutes. But it turns out to be an extraordinarily well written book once you begin to actually read through its contents. The coverage here is concise, accurate, fairly comprehensive, and, as a distinctive feature, it also is fairly up-to-date.
    Unlike the other text-books, Blumel gives you a good background in the specifics of the modern topics as well. So, once you complete this book, you should find it easy (to very easy) to understand today’s pop-sci articles, say those on quantum computers. To my knowledge, this is the only text-book which does this job (of introducing you to the topics that are relevant to today’s research), and it does this job exceedingly well.
  • Use Blumel to understand the specifics, and use Norsen to understand their conceptual and the philosophical underpinnings.

II.Appendix: Miscellaneous—no levels specified; figure out as you go along:

  • “Schrodinger’s cat” by John Gribbin. Unquestionably, the best pop-sci book on QM. Lights your fire.
  • “Quantum” by Manjit Kumar. Helps keep the fire going.
  • Kreyszig or equivalent. You need to master the basic ideas of the Fourier theory, and of solutions of PDEs via the separation ansatz.
  • However, for many other topics like spherical harmonics or calculus of variations, you have to go hunting for explanations in some additional books. I “learnt” the spherical harmonics mostly through some online notes (esp. those by Michael Fowler of Univ. of Virginia) and QM textbooks, but I guess that a neat exposition of the topic, couched in contexts other than QM, would have been helpful. May be there is some ancient acoustics book that is really helpful. Anyway, I didn’t pursue this topic to any great depth (in fact I more or less skipped over it) because as it so happens, analytical methods fall short for anything more complex than the hydrogenic atoms.
  • As to the variational calculus, avoid all the physics and maths books like a plague! Instead, learn the topic through the FEM books. Introductory FEM books have become vastly (i.e. categorically) better over the course of my generation. Today’s FEM text-books do provide a clear evidence that the authors themselves know what they are talking about! Among these books, just for learning the variational calculus aspects, I would advise going through Seshu or Fish and Belytschko first, and then through the relevant chapter from Reddy‘s book on FEM. In any case, avoid Bathe, Zienkiewicz, etc.; they are too heavily engineering-oriented, and often, in general, un-necessarily heavy-duty (though not as heavy-duty as Lancosz). Not very suitable for learning the basics of CoV as is required in the UG QM. A good supplementary book covering CoV is noted next.
  • “From calculus to chaos: an introduction to dynamics” by David Acheson. A gem of a book. Small (just about 260 pages, including program listings—and just about 190 pages if you ignore them.) Excellent, even if, somehow, it does not appear on people’s lists. But if you ask me, this book is a must read for any one who has anything to do with physics or engineering. Useful chapters exist also on variational calculus and chaos. Comes with easy to understand QBasic programs (and their updated versions, ready to run on today’s computers, are available via the author’s Web site). Wish it also had chapters, say one each, on the mechanics of materials, and on fracture mechanics.
  • Linear algebra. Here, keep your focus on understanding just the two concepts: (i) vector spaces, and (ii) eigen-vectors and -values. Don’t worry about other topics (like LU decomposition or the power method). If you understand these two topics right, the rest will follow “automatically,” more or less. To learn these two topics, however, don’t refer to text-books (not even those by Gilbert Strang or so). Instead, google on the online tutorials on computer games programming. This way, you will come to develop a far better (even robust) understanding of these concepts. … Yes, that’s right. One or two games programmers, I very definitely remember, actually did a much superior job of explaining these ideas (with all their complexity) than what any textbook by any university professor does. (iii) Oh yes, BTW, there is yet another concept which you should learn: “tensor product”. For this topic, I recommend Prof. Zhigang Suo‘s notes on linear algebra, available off iMechanica. These notes are a work in progress, but they are already excellent even in their present form.
  • Probability. Contrary to a wide-spread impression (and to what one group of QM interpreters say), you actually don’t need much of statistics or probability in order to get the essence of QM right. Whatever you need has already been taught to you in your UG engineering/physics courses.Personally, though I haven’t yet gone through them, the two books on my radar (more from the data science angle) are: “Elementary probability” by Stirzaker, and “All of statistics” by Wasserman. But, frankly speaking, as far as QM itself is concerned, your intuitive understanding of probability as developed through your routine UG courses should be enough, IMHO.
  • As to AJP type of articles, go through Dan Styer‘s paper on the nine formulations (doi:10.1119/1.1445404). But treat his paper on the common misconceptions (10.1119/1.18288) with a bit of caution; some of the ideas he lists as “misconceptions” are not necessarily so.
  • arXiv tutorials/articles: Sometime after finishing quantum chemistry and before beginning quantum physics, go through the tutorial on QM by Bram Gaasbeek [^]. Neat, small, and really helpful for self-studies of QM. (It was written when the author was still a student himself.) Also, see the article on the postulates by Dorabantu [^]. Definitely helpful. Finally, let me pick up just one more arXiv article: “Entanglement isn’t just for spin” by Dan Schroeder [^]. Comes with neat visualizations, and helps demystify entanglement.
  • Computational physics: Several good resources are available. One easy to recommend text-book is the one by Landau, Perez and Bordeianu. Among the online resources, the best collection I found was the one by Ian Cooper (of Univ. of Sydney) [^]. He has only MatLab scripts, not Python, but they all are very well documented (in an exemplary manner) via accompanying PDF files. It should be easy to port these programs to the Python eco-system.

Yes, we (finally) are near the end of this post, so let me add the mandatory catch-all clauses: This list is by no means comprehensive! This list supersedes any other list I may have put out in the past. This list may undergo changes in future.

Done.

OK. A couple of last minute addenda: For contrast, see the article “What is the best textbook for self-studying quantum mechanics?” which has appeared, of all places, on the Forbes!  [^]. (Looks like the QC-related hype has found its way into the business circles as well!) Also see the list at BookScrolling.com: “The best books to learn about quantum physics” [^].

OK. Now, I am really done.


A song I like:
(Marathi) “kiteedaa navyaane tulaa aaThavaave”
Music: Mandar Apte
Singer: Mandar Apte. Also, a separate female version by Arya Ambekar
Lyrics: Devayani Karve-Kothari

[Arya Ambekar’s version is great too, but somehow, I like Mandar Apte’s version better. Of course, I do often listen to both the versions. Excellent.]


[Almost 5000 More than 5,500 words! Give me a longer break for this time around, a much longer one, in fact… In the meanwhile, take care and bye until then…]

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Would it happen to me, too? …Also, other interesting stories / links

1. Would it happen to me, too?

“My Grandfather Thought He Solved a Cosmic Mystery,”

reports Veronique Greenwood for The Atlantic [^] [h/t the CalTech physicist Sean Carroll’s twitter feed]. The story has the subtitle:

“His career as an eminent physicist was derailed by an obsession. Was he a genius or a crackpot?”

If you visit the URL for this story, the actual HTML page which loads into your browser has another title, similar to the one above:

“Science Is Full of Mavericks Like My Grandfather. But Was His Physics Theory Right?”

Hmmm…. I immediately got interested. After all, I do work also on foundations of quantum mechanics. … “Will it happpen to me, too?” I thought.

At this point, you should really go through Greenwood’s article, and continue reading here only after you have finished reading it.


Any one who has worked on any conceptually new approach would find something in Greenwood’s article that resonates with him.

As to me, well, right at the time that attempts were being made to find examiners for my PhD, my guide (and even I) had heard a lot of people say very similar things as Greenwood now reports: “I don’t understand what you are saying, so please excuse me.” This, when I thought that my argument should be accessible even to an undergraduate in engineering!

And now that I continue working on the foundations of QM, having developed a further, completely new (and more comprehensive) approach, naturally, Greenwood’s article got me thinking: “Would it happen to me, too? Once again? What if it does?”


…Naah, it wouldn’t happen to me—that was my conclusion. Not even if I continue talking about, you know, QM!


But why wouldn’t something similar happen to me? Especially given the fact that a good part of it has already happened to me in the past?

The reason, in essence, is simple.

I am not just a physicist—not primarily, anyway. I am primarily an engineer, a computational modeller. That’s why, things are going to work out in a different way for me.

As to my past experience: Well, I still earned my PhD degree. And with it, the most critical part of the battle is already behind me. There is a lot of resistance to your acceptance before you have a PhD. Things do become a lot easier once you have gone successfully past it. That’s another reason why things are going to work out in a different way now. … Let me explain in detail.


I mean to say, suppose that I have a brand-new approach for resolving all the essential quantum mechanical riddles. [I think I actually do!]

Suppose that I try to arrange for a seminar to be delivered by me to a few physics professors and students, say at an IIT, IISER, or so. [I actually did!]

Suppose that they don’t respond very favorably or very enthusiastically. Suppose they are outright skeptical when I say that in principle, it is possible to think of a classical mechanically functioning analog simulator which essentially exhibits all the essential quantum mechanical features. Suppose that they get stuck right at that point—may be because they honestly and sincerely believe that no classical system can ever simulate the very quantum-ness of QM. And so, short of calling me a crack-pot or so, they just directly (almost sternly) issue the warning that there are a lot of arguments against a classical system reproducing the quantum features. [That’s what has actually happened; that’s what one of the physics professors I contacted wrote back to me.]

Suppose, then, that I send an abstract to an international conference or so. [This too has actually happend, too, recently.]

Suppose that, in the near future, the conference organizers too decline my submission. [In actual reality, I still don’t know anything about the status of my submission. It was in my routine searches that I came across this conference, and noticed that I did have about 4–5 hours’ time to meet the abstracts submissions deadline. I managed to submit my abstract within time. But since then, the conference Web site has not got updated. There is no indication from the organizers as to when the acceptance or rejection of the submitted abstracts would be communicated to the authors. An enquiry email I wrote to the organizers has gone unanswered for more than a week by now. Thus, the matter is still open. But, just for the sake of the argument, suppose that they end up rejecting my abstract. Suppose that’s what actually happens.]

So what?

Since I am not a physicist “proper”, it wouldn’t affect me the way it might have, if I were to be one.

… And, that way, I could even say that I am far too smart to let something like that (I mean some deep disappointment or something like that) happen to me! … No, seriously! Let me show you how.

Suppose that the abstract I sent to an upcoming conference was written in theoretical/conceptual terms. [In actual reality, it was.]

Suppose now that it therefore gets rejected.

So what?

I would simply build a computational model based on my ideas. … Here, remember, I have already begun “talking things” about it [^]. No one has come up with a strong objection so far. (May be because they know the sort of a guy I am.)

So, if my proposed abstract gets rejected, what I would do is to simply go ahead and perform a computer simulation of a classical system of this sort (one which, in turn, simulates the QM phenomena). I might even publish a paper or two about it—putting the whole thing in purely classical terms, so that I manage to get it published. (Before doing that, I might even discuss the technical issues involved on blogs, possibly even at iMechanica!)

After such a paper (ostensibly only on the classical mechanics) gets accepted and published, I will simply write a blog post, either here or at iMechanica, noting how that system actually simulates the so-and-so quantum mechanical feature. … Then, I would perform another simulation—say using DFT. (And it is mainly for DFT that I would need help from iMechanicians or so.) After it too gets accepted and published, I will write yet another blog post, explaining how it does show some quantum mechanical-ness. … Who knows such a sequence could continue…

But such a series (of the simulations) wouldn’t be very long, either! The thing is this.

If your idea does indeed simplify certain matters, then you don’t have to argue a lot about it—people can see its truth real fast. Especially if it has to do with “hard” sciences like engineering—even physics!

If your basic idea itself isn’t so good, then, putting it in the engineering terms makes it more likely that even if you fail to get the weakness of your theory, someone else would. All in all, well and good for you.

As to the other possibility, namely, if your idea is good, but, despite putting it in the simpler terms (say in engineering or simulation terms), people still fail to see it, then, well, so long as your job (or money-making potential) itself is not endangered, then I think that it is a good policy to leave the mankind to its own follies. It is not your job to save the world, said Ayn Rand. Here, I believe her. (In fact, I believed in this insight even before I had ever run into Ayn Rand.)


As to the philosophic issues such as those involved in the foundations of QM—well, these are best tackled philosophically, not physics-wise. I wouldn’t use a physics-based argument to take a philosophic argument forward. Neither would I use a philosophical argument to take a physics-argument forward. The concerns and the methods of each are distinctly different, I have come to learn over a period of years.

Yes, you can use a physics situation as being illustrative of a philosophic point. But an illustration is not an argument; it is merely a device to make understanding easier. Similarly, you could try to invoke a philosophic point (say an epistemological point) to win a physics-based argument. But your effort would be futile. Philosophic ideas are so abstract that they can often be made to fit several different, competing, physics-related arguments. I would try to avoid both these errors.

But yes, as a matter of fact, certain issues that can only be described as philosophic ones, do happen to get involved when it comes to the area of the foundations of QM.

Now, here, given the nature of philosophy, and of its typical practitioners today (including those physicists who do dabble in philosophy), even if I become satisfied that I have resolved all the essential QM riddles, I still wouldn’t expect these philosophers to accept my ideas—not immediately anyway. In fact, as I anticipate things, philosophers, taken as a group, would never come to accept my position, I think. Such an happenstance is not necessarily to be ascribed to the personal failings of the individual philosophers (even if a lot of them actually do happen to be world-class stupid). That’s just how philosophy (as a discipline of studies) itself is like. A philosophy is a comprehensive view of existence—whether realistic or otherwise. That’s why it’s futile to expect that all of the philosophers would come to agree with you!

But yes, I would expect them to get the essence of my argument. And, many of them would, actually, get my argument, its logic—this part, I am quite sure of. But just the fact that they do understand my argument would not necessarily lead them to accept my positions, especially the idea that all the QM riddles are thereby resolved. That’s what I think.


Similarly, there also are a lot of mathematicians who dabble in the area of foundations of QM. What I said for philosophers also applies more or less equally well to them. They too would get my ideas immediately. But they too wouldn’t, therefore, come to accept my positions. Not immediately anyway. And in all probability, never ever in my lifetime or theirs.


So, there. Since I don’t expect an overwhelming acceptance of my ideas in the first place, there isn’t going to be any great disappointment either. The very expectations do differ.

Further, I must say this: I would never ever be able to rely on a purely abstract argument. That would feel like too dicey or flimsy to me. I would have to offer my arguments in terms of physically existing things, even if of a brand new kind. And, machines built out of them. At least, some working simulations. I would have to have these. I would not be able to rest on an abstract argument alone. To be satisfactory to me, I would have to actually build a machine—a soft machine—that works. And, doing just this part itself is going to be far more than enough to keep me happy. They don’t have to accept the conceptual arguments or the theory that goes with the design of such (soft) machines. It is enough that I play with my toys. And that’s another reason why I am not likely to derive a very deep sense of disenchantment or disappointment.


But if you ask me, the way I really, really like think about it is this:

If they decline my submission to the conference, I will write a paper about it, and send it, may be, to Sean Carroll or Sabine Hosenfelder or so. … The way I imagine things, he is then going to immediately translate my paper into German, add his own name to ensure its timely publication, and … . OK, you get the idea.

[In the interests of making this post completely idiot-proof, let me add: Here, in this sub-section, I was just kidding.]


2. The problem with the Many Worlds:

“Why the Many Worlds interpretation has many problems.”

Philip Ball argues in an article for the Quanta Mag [^] to the effect that many worlds means no world at all.

No, this is not exactly what he says. But what he says is clear enough that it is this conclusion which becomes inescapable.

As to what he actually says: Well, here is a passage, for instance:

“My own view is that the problems with the MWI are overwhelming—not because they show it must be wrong, but because they render it incoherent. It simply cannot be articulated meaningfully.”

In other words, Ball’s actual position is on the epistemic side, not on the ontic. However, his arguments are clear enough (and they often enough touch on issues that are fundamental enough) that the ontological implications of what he actually says, also become inescapable. OK, sometimes, the article unnecessarily takes detours into non-essentials, even into something like polemics. Still, overall, the write up is very good. Recommended very strongly.

Homework for you: If the Many Worlds idea is that bad, then explain why it might be that many otherwise reasonable people (for instance, Sean Carroll) do find the Many Worlds approach attractive. [No cheating. Think on your own and write. But if cheating is what you must do, then check out my past comment at some blog—I no longer remember where I wrote it, but probably it was on Roger Schlafly’s blog. My comment had tackled precisely this latter issue, in essential terms. Hints for your search: My comment had spoken about data structures like call-stacks and trees, and their unfolding.]


3. QM as an embarrassment to science:

“Why quantum mechanics is an “embarrassment” to science”

Brad Plumer in his brief note at the Washington Post [^] provides a link to a video by Sean Carroll.

Carroll is an effective communicator.

[Yes, he is the same one who I imagine is going to translate my article into German and… [Once again, to make this post idiot-proof: I was just kidding.]]


4. Growing younger…

I happened to take up a re-reading of David Ruelle’s book: “Chance and Chaos”. The last time I read it was in the early 1990s.

I felt younger! … May be if something strikes me while I am going through it after a gap of decades, I will come back and note it here.


5. Good introductory resources on nonlinear dynamics, catastrophe theory, and chaos theory:

If you are interested in the area of nonlinear dynamics, catastrophe theory and chaos theory, here are a few great resources:

  • For a long time, the best introduction to the topic was a brief write-up by Prof. Harrison of UToronto; it still remains one of the best [^].
  • Prof. Zeeman’s 1976 article for SciAm on the catastrophe theory is a classic. Prof. Zhigang Suo (of Harvard) has written a blog post of title “Recipe for catastrophe”at iMechanica [^], in which he helpfully provides a copy of Zeeman’s article. I have strongly recommended Zeeman’s write-up before, and I strongly recommend it once again. Go through it even if only to learn how to write for the layman and still not lose precision or quality.
  • As to a more recent introductory expositions, do see Prof. Geoff Boeing’s blog post: “Chaos theory and the logistic map” [^]. Boeing is a professor of urban planning, and not of engineering, physics, CS, or maths. But it is he who gives the clearest idea about the distinction between randomness and chaos that I have ever run into. (However, I only later gathered that he does have a UG in CS, and a PG in Information Management.) Easy to understand. Well ordered. Overall, very highly recommended.

Apart from it all:

Happy Diwali!


A song I like:

(Hindi) “tere humsafar geet hai tere…”
Music: R. D. Burman
Singers: Kishore Kumar, Mukesh, Asha Bhosale
Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri

[Has this song been lifted from some Western song? At least inspired from one?

Here are the reasons for this suspicion: (1) It has a Western-sounding tune. It doesn’t sound Indian. There is no obvious basis either in the “raag-daari,” or in the Indian folk music. (ii) There are (beautiful) changes in the chords here. But there is no concept of chords in the traditional Indian music—basically, there is no concept of harmony in it, only of melody. (iii) Presence of “yoddling” (if that’s the right word for it). That too, by a female singer. That too, in the early 1970’s! Despite all  the “taan”s and “firat”s and all that, this sort of a thing (let’s call it yoddling) has never been a part of the traditional Indian music.

Chances are good that some of the notes were (perhaps very subconsciously) inspired from a Western tune. For instance, I can faintly hear “jingle bells” in the refrain. … But the question is: is there a more direct correspondence to a Western tune, or not.

And, if it was not lifted or inspired from a Western song, then it’s nothing but a work of an absolute genius. RD anyway was one—whether this particular song was inspired from some other song, or not.

But yes, I liked this song a great deal as a school-boy. It happened to strike me once again only recently (within the last couple of weeks or so). I found that I still love it just as much, if not more.]


[As usual, may be I will come back tomorrow or so, and edit/streamline this post a bit. One update done on 2018.11.04 08:26 IST. A second update done on 2018.11.04 21:01 IST. I will now leave this post in whatever shape it is in. Got to move on to trying out a few things in Python and all. Will keep you informed, probably after Diwali. In the meanwhile, take care and bye for now…]

Just a blog-filler

Am travelling…

… May be I should’ve had a bit to report to you by now, but then, no, no such beans—well, at least not by now.

Anyway, as I said, I am travelling. And, also have not been keeping exactly very well. (But this was the case even before this short travel began.)

Also, even after returning back home, there would be a stack of other things that have to be taken care of (unrelated to ANNs, QM, etc.). So, won’t be blogging for a while. May be should come back in first week November.

In the meanwhile, you enjoy this song. But if I’ve run it already, then sure do let me know; I will play another one in its place immediately.

…Take care, and bye for now.


A song I like:

(Hindi) “aanchal mein kyaa jee”
Singers: Kishore Kumar, Asha Bhosale
Music: S. D. Burman
Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri

[Two notes: (i) The video is recommended, in particular, this one [^]. Don’t miss the beginning (which was the reason it was this particular video which was taken up for recommendation). (ii) Here, it’s the girl who gives the initial cat-call; the guy follows. (iii) Guess they were already married by the time this song was shot.]

[PS: (iii) As usual, a further extra: Have loved this song for decades, but today happened to be the very first time in my life that I watched the visual of this song. (No, I had somehow had missed the movie back then when I used to watch them.)]

 

 

The bouncing droplets imply having to drop the Bohmian approach?

If you are interested in the area of QM foundations, then may be you should drop everything at once, and go, check out the latest pop-sci news report: “Famous experiment dooms alternative to quantum weirdness” by Natalie Wolchover in the Quanta Magazine [^].

Remember the bouncing droplets experiments performed by Yves Couder and pals? In 2006, they had reported that they could get the famous interference pattern even if the bouncing droplets passed through the double slit arrangement only one at a time. … As the Quanta article now reports, it turns out that when other groups in the USA and France tried to reproduce this result (the single-particle double-slit interference), they could not.

“Repeat runs of the experiment, called the “double-slit experiment,” have contradicted Couder’s initial results and revealed the double-slit experiment to be the breaking point of both the bouncing-droplet analogy and de Broglie’s pilot-wave vision of quantum mechanics.”

Well, just an experimental failure or two in reproducing the interference, by itself, wouldn’t make for a “breaking point,”i.e., if the basic idea itself were to be sound. So the question now becomes whether the basic idea itself is sound enough or not.

Turns out that a new argument has been put forth, in the form of a thought experiment, which reportedly shows why and how the very basic idea itself must be regarded as faulty. This thought experiment has been proposed by a Danish professor of fluid dynamics, Prof. Tomas Bohr. (Yes, there is a relation: Prof. Tomas Bohr is a son of the Nobel laureate Aage Bohr, i.e., a grandson of the Nobel laureate Niels Bohr [^].)

Though related to QM foundations, this thought experiment is not very “philosophical” in nature; on the contrary, it is very, very “physics-like.” And the idea behind it also is “simple.” … It’s one of those ideas which make you exclaim “why didn’t I think of it before?”—at least the first time you run into it. Here is an excerpt (which actually is the caption for an immediately understandable diagram):

“Tomas Bohr’s variation on the famous double-slit experiment considers what would happen if a particle must go to one side or the other of a central dividing wall before passing through one of the slits. Quantum mechanics predicts that the wall will have no effect on the resulting double-slit interference pattern. Pilot-wave theory, however, predicts that the wall will prevent interference from happening.”

… Ummm… Not quite.

From whatever little I know about the pilot-wave theory, I think that the wall wouldn’t prevent the interference from occurring, even if you use this theory. … It all seems to depend on how you interpret (and/or extend) the pilot-wave theory. But if applied right (which means: in its own spirit), then I guess that the theory is just going to reproduce whatever it is that the mainstream QM predicts. Given this conclusion I have drawn about this approach, I did think that the above-quoted portion was a bit misleading.

The main text of the article then proceeds to more accurately point out the actual problem (i.e., the way Prof. Tomas Bohr apparently sees it):

“… the dividing-wall thought experiment highlights, in starkly simple form, the inherent problem with de Broglie’s idea. In a quantum reality driven by local interactions between a particle and a pilot wave, you lose the necessary symmetry to produce double-slit interference and other nonlocal quantum phenomena. An ethereal, nonlocal wave function is needed that can travel unimpeded on both sides of any wall. [snip] But with pilot waves, “since one of these sides in the experiment carries a particle and one doesn’t, you’ll never get that right. You’re breaking this very important symmetry in quantum mechanics.””

But isn’t the pilot wave precisely ethereal and nonlocal in nature, undergoing instantaneous changes to itself at all points of space? Doesn’t the pilot theory posit that this wave doesn’t consist of anything material that does the waving but is just a wave, all by itself?


…So, if you think it through, people seem to be mixing up two separate issues here:

  1. One issue is whether it will at all be possible for any real physical experiment done up with the bouncing droplets to be able to reproduce the predictions of QM or not.
  2. An entirely different issue is whether, in Bohr’s dividing-wall thought-experiment, the de Broglie-Bohm approach actually predicts something that is at a variance from what QM predicts or not.

These two indeed are separate issues, and I think that the critics are right on the first count, but not necessarily on the second.

Just to clarify: The interference pattern as predicted by the mainstream QM itself would undergo a change, a minor but a very definite change, once you introduce the middle dividing wall; it would be different from the pattern obtained for the “plain-vanilla” version of the interference chamber. And if what I understand about the Bohmian mechanics is correct, then it too would proceed to  produce exactly the same patterns in both these cases.


With that said, I would still like to remind you that my own understanding of the pilot-wave theory is only minimal, mostly at the level of browsing of the Wiki and a few home pages, and going through a few pop-sci level explanations by a few Bohmians. I have never actually sat down to actually go through even one paper on it fully (let alone systematically study an entire book or a whole series of articles on this topic).

For this reason, I would rather leave it to the “real” Bohmians to respond to this fresh argument by Prof. Tomas Bohr.

But yes, a new argument—or at least, an old argument but in a remarkably new settings—it sure seems to be.


How would the Bohmians respond?

If you ask me, from whatever I have gathered about the Bohmians and their approach, I think that they are simply going to be nonchalant about this new objection, too. I don’t think that you could possibly hope to pin them down with this argument either. They are simply going to bounce back, just like those drops. And the reason for that, in turn, is what I mentioned already here in this post: their pilot-wave is both ethereal and nonlocal in the first place.


So, yes, even if Wolchover’s report does seem to be misguided a bit, I still liked it, mainly because it was informative on both the sides: experimental as well as theoretical (viz., as related to the new thought-experiment).

In conclusion, even if the famous experiment does not doom this (Bohmian) alternative to the quantum weirdness, the basic reason for its unsinkability is this:

The Bohmian mechanics is just as weird as the mainstream QM is—even if the Bohmians habitually and routinely tell you otherwise.

When a Bohmian tells you that his theory is “sensible”/“realistic”/etc/, what he is talking about is: the nature of his original ambition—but not the actual nature of his actual theory.


To write anything further about QM is to begin dropping hints to my new approach. So let me stop right here.

[But yes, I am fully ready willing from my side to disclose all details about it at any time to a suitable audience. … Let physics professors in India respond to my requests to let me conduct an informal (but officially acknowledged) seminar on my new approach, and see if I get ready to deliver it right within a week’s time, or not!

[Keep waiting!]]


Regarding other things, as you know, the machine I am using right now is (very) slow. Even then, I have managed to run a couple of 10-line Python scripts, using VSCode.

I have immediately taken to liking this IDE “code-editor.” (Never had tried it before.) I like it a lot. … Just how much?

I think I can safely say that VSCode is the best thing to have happened to the programming world since VC++ 6 about two decades ago.

Yes, I have already stopped using PyCharm (which, IMHO, is now the second-best alternative, not the best).


No songs section this time, because I have already run a neat and beautiful song just yesterday. (Check out my previous post.) … OK, if some song strikes me in a day or two, I will return here to add it. Else, wait until the next time around. … Until then, take care and bye for now…


[Originally published on 16 October 2018 22:09 hrs IST. Minor editing (including to the title line) done by 17 October 2018 08:09 hrs IST.]

Back on the ‘net!

Hushshshsh… Finally I am back on the ‘net (I mean to say, in a real way—not via smartphone). But it’s not after having the broken laptop repaired. On the contrary, it seems as if it’s no longer viable to revive my broken laptop.

So, right now, I am writing this post using an even older laptop that I had. I dug it up from the cupboard, and revived it.

Actually, you can’t call it a laptop; even the manufacturer called it a notebook (the 2008 model Compaq Presario C700, 32-bit Intel Core Duo @ 1.83 GHz, 1 GB RAM). I used to use about a decade ago. All my PhD time programs and data were sitting on it. (The thesis had been written and submitted even earlier, even before I bought this notebook; it was written on a desktop I had back then. However, after submitting thesis, it took them 2 years to arrange for the defence. That’s how, it was on this machine that I had prepared my final defence slides.)

It was a dual boot machine, with one partition running XP, and the other, Vista. I had forgotten the password of the Vista, but fortunately, not of the XP.

The trouble with XP was that both the Mozilla and Internet Explorer installed on it had already become absolutely obsolete. Also Java. (The support for these software had vanished by 2014, I now gathered.) The browsers were so old that they couldn’t handle even simplest of today’s https requests—the SSL layer itself must have been too old. So, I couldn’t have used that OS even for just surfing on the ‘net.

So, what I did over the past couple of days was to first take a backup of my PhD-time data. Then, I proceeded to reformat the whole hard disk, and installed Lubuntu 18.04.1 on it.

Yes, Lubuntu does manage to run even on a 32-bit 1 GB machine. However, even with this comparatively light-weight OS, there is enormous disk-thrashing, particularly if I try to use a programming IDE. (After bootup, the OS by itself eats up something like 600–700 MB of RAM.) So far, I’ve tried installing and using PyCharm, Spyder and VSCode. They all do run, but very, very slowly. Sometimes, you have to even wait for a minute or so just for a context-switch between two processes (say, the browser and the IDE).

So, looks like despite all my valiant tries, this machine isn’t going to be useful for my ANN studies; it would be usable only for browsing. … May be I should borrow money and buy a new laptop….

But one way or the other, this decade-old machine still is better, much much better, than my new (late-2017 times) smart-phone. … As I said recently, the smart-phone is a bad idea. …

… Anyway, now that I am on the ‘net (can use a real keyboard), I should be back pretty soon, say tomorrow or the day after, with something which is much more exciting. That’s a promise. So, bye for now, but stay tuned.


A song I like:
(Marathi) “ekaach yaa janmi jaNu…”
Music: Sudhir Phadke
Lyrics: Sudhir Moghe
Singer: Asha Bhosale

[Usually, when you say “song,” what you usually mean is the basic tune. OK, sometimes, first the words and then the tune. However, this song is odd.

The real beauty of this song lies not in any one of its elements but in the way it unfolds—the way the music composer leads you through an interplay between various musical phrases and the lyrical ones. Especially noteworthy are the violin pieces which transition you from the stanza to the refrain and back. Also noteworthy is the interplay between the Western and the Indian instruments…

So, what rules here is not just the tune, not just the words, not just the orchestration, and not just the rendering in the voice by the singer. Instead, it is the skillfully arranged interplay between all these elements which truly gives the defining character to this song and makes it so beautiful.

So, it’s the music composer who really stands out here, even if the entire team is outstanding… Or so I believe. … Anyway, bye for now. ]

[May be a little streamlining, later on.]

The quantum mechanical features of my laptop…

My laptop has developed certain quantum mechanical features after its recent repairs [^]. In particular, if I press the “power on” button, it does not always get “measured” into the “power-on” state.

That’s right. In starting the machine, it is not possible to predict when the power-on button may work, when it may lead to an actual boot-up. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t.

For instance, the last time I shut it down was on the last night, just before dinner. Then, after dinner, when I tried to restart it, the quantum mechanical features kicked in and the associated randomness was such that it simply refused the request. Ditto, this morning. Ditto, early afternoon today. But now (at around 18:00 hrs on 09 October), it somehow got up and going!


Fortunately, I have taken backup of crucial data (though not all). So, I can afford to look at it with a sense of humour.

But still, if I don’t come back for a somewhat longer period of time than is usual (about 8–10 days), then know that, in all probability, I was just waiting helplessly in getting this thing repaired, once again. (I plan to take it to the repairsman tomorrow morning.) …

…The real bad part isn’t this forced break in browsing or blogging. The real bad part is: my inability to continue with my ANN studies. It’s not possible to maintain any tempo in studies in this now-on-now-off sort of a manner—i.e., when the latter is not chosen by you.

Yes, I do like browsing, but once I get into the mood of studying a new topic (and, BTW, just reading through pop-sci articles does not count as studies) and especially if the studies also involve programming, then having these forced breaks is really bad. …

Anyway, bye for now, and take care.


PS: I added that note on browsing and then it struck me. Check out a few resources while I am gone and following up with the laptop repairs (and no links because right while writing this postscript, the machine crashed, and so I am somehow completing it using smartphone—I hate this stuff, I mean typing using at most two fingers, modtly just one):

  1. As to Frauchiger and Renner’s controversial much-discussed result, Chris Lee’s account at ArsTechnica is the simplest to follow. Go through it before any other sources/commentaries, whether to the version published recently in Nature Comm. or the earlier ones, since 2016.
  2. Carver Mead’s interview in the American Spectator makes for an interesting read even after almost two decades.
  3. Vinod Khosla’s prediction in 2017 that AI will make radiologists obsolete in 5 years’ time. One year is down already. And that way, the first time he made remarks to that sort of an effect were some 6+ years ago, in 2012!
  4. As to AI’s actual status today, see the Quanta Magazine article: “Machine learning confronts the elephant in the room” by Kevin Hartnett. Both funny and illuminating (esp. if you have some idea about how ML works).
  5. And, finally, a pretty interesting coverage of something about which I didn’t have any idea beforehand whatsoever: “New AI strategy mimics how brains learn to smell” by Jordana Cepelwicz in Quanta Mag.

Ok. Bye, really, for now. See you after the laptop begins working.


A Song I Like:
Indian, instrumental: Theme song of “Malgudi Days”
Music: L. Vaidyanathan

 

 

I must not…

I must not ever let the wise counsel out of the eye.

And so, I add, for your personal pleasure, a song which I very much liked in my youth.

Well, not an issue if you don’t like it.

Happens.

–Ajit


A song I like:

(Hindi/Urdu): “ishq mein ghairat-e-jazbaat nein…”
Music: Jagjit Singh
Singers: Chitra Singh. Also, Jagjit Singh. (Yes, sometimes, he exceeds her. But, I, still like her here better.)
Lyrics: You figure out. (An exercise once in a while is not so bad for you, I mean—and what do you think of that?)

 

Suspension of blogging

Earlier, within a day of my posting the last blog entry here, i.e. right by 26th September morning, my laptop developed a problem, which led to a series of problems, which meant that, for a while, I could not at all blog or even surf on the ‘net effectively.

The smartphone screen is too small for me to do any serious browsing very effectively, let alone doing any blogging / writing / coding.


Never did buy into that idiotic Steve Jobs’ ridiculous claims anyway; bought my smartphone only because it’s good for things like storing phone numbers and listening to songs—and, yes, also for browsing a bit on google maps, and for taking snaps once in a while. But that’s about it. Nothing more than that. In particular, no social media, no banking, no e-payments, no emails, no real browsing. And, as to that prized (actually wretched) thin-ness and/or the delicate-ness of this goddamn thing. It is annoying. Just hold the damn thing in your palm, and it seems as if it itself auto-punches a few buttons and proceeds to close all the windows you had kept active. Or, worse: it launches a new window all by itself, forcing you to take a hike into an ad-link or sundry news item.

A good 1 inch thick and sturdy instrument with goodly big buttons would have been a better design choice, far better—not those bloody thin slivers on the sides which pass for buttons.


Anyway, the troubles with the laptop were these:

(i) In 2014, the screen panel of the laptop had cracked near a corner a bit, and then, subsequently, over a period of years or so, the front and the back covering parts of the screen panel had come to split apart, though only just slightly, only partially. I had shown the problem to the authorized dealer. He had advised me to do nothing about it. (If the problem were to be worse, he would have advised me to replace the screen, he had said. This was about 2 years ago.)

(ii) Then, slowly, friction began developing in only one of the hinges of the screen panel, the hinge near the same (cracked) corner. Finally, came this day when this partial splitting suddenly led to the panel-studs breaking apart (with a clean, brittle fracture). How did it happen? Because—I figured out only after the fact—the friction in the hinges together with the partial split up meant that an interior part of the screen panel was getting excessively bent, near the broken panel corner. This excessive bending was putting enormous bending moment on the studs holding the two parts of the partially split up panel near the hinges. (The overall frame of the screen panel was effectively acting as a large lever arm serving to bend the small plastic studs.)

(iii) In getting the above-mentioned problem fixed (by 29th September), some short-circuiting also occurred, with the result that now the graphics chip conked up. (No, the authorized dealer didn’t accept the machine. He advised replacement of both the mother-board and the screen. So, I did a google search and went through two private repairs-men, one of them being much better than the other. He fixed it right.)

Fixing the graphics problem took time because a replacement chip was not readily available in the local market, and there was a national holiday in between (on 2nd October) which kept the concerned courier services closed on that day.

(iv) Then, after replacing the graphics chip, once the screen finally started working, now it was the turn of the USB ports to begin malfunctioning. I got the delivery of my laptop last evening, and noticed it only after coming home.

This is a problem which has not yet been fixed. Getting it fixed is important because only 1 out of the 3 USB ports is currently functioning, and if it too is gone, backups will become impossible. I am not willing to lose my data once again.


The problem with the machine meant that my studies (and programming) of ANNs too got interrupted.

They still remain interrupted.

I guess the remaining problem (regarding the malfunctioning USB ports) is relatively a minor issue.

What I mean to say is that I could have resumed my regular sort of blogging.

However, last night, at around 00:40 hrs IST on 05 October 2018 there was a psychic attack on me which woke me up from sleep. (Also note the update in my last post). In view of this attack, I have finally decided to say it clear and loud, (perhaps once again):

“To hell with you, LA!”


If you wonder why I was so confident about “LA,” check out the visits pattern for the earlier part of the day yesterday, and juxtapose them with the usual patterns of visits here, overall.

In case you don’t know, all local newspapers of all California towns have been full of advertisements for psychic “consultants” providing their “services” for a fee—which would be almost nothing when measured in US dollars.


I have had enough of these bitches and bastards. That’s why, I am temporarily suspending my blog. When the psychic attacks come to a definitive stop, I will resume my own blogging, as also my commenting on other blogs, and posting any research notes etc.


And, yes, one more point: No, don’t believe what Ayn Rand Institute tells you. Psychic attacks are for real (though they are much, much rarer, and they indeed are effected in far more controlled ways, than what folklore or your average street-side vendor of the “services” says.)


No songs section this time round, for obvious reasons.


PS: BTW, no, I still haven’t seen my approach to QM mentioned in any of the papers / books, or in any discussions of any papers anywhere (including some widely followed blogs / twitter feeds), as yet. Apparently, my judgment that my approach is indeed new, continues to hold.

 

 

Some running thoughts on ANNs and AI—1

Go, see if you want to have fun with the attached write-up on ANNs [^] (but please also note the version time carefully—the write-up could change without any separate announcement).

The write-up is more in the nature of a very informal blabber of the kind that goes when people work out something on a research blackboard (or while mentioning something about their research to friends, or during brain-storming session, or while jotting things on the back of the envelop, or something similar).

 


A “song” I don’t like:

(Marathi) “aawaaj waaDaw DJ…”
“Credits”: Go, figure [^]. E.g., here [^]. Yes, the video too is (very strongly) recommended.


Update on 05 October 2018 10:31 IST:

Psychic attack on 05 October 2018 at around 00:40 IST (i.e. the night between 4th and 5th October, IST).

 

Flames not so old…

The same picture, but two American interpretations, both partly misleading (to varying degrees):

NASA releases a photo [^] on the FaceBook, on 24 August at 14:24, with this note:

The visualization above highlights NASA Earth satellite data showing aerosols on August 23, 2018. On that day, huge plumes of smoke drifted over North America and Africa, three different tropical cyclones churned in the Pacific Ocean, and large clouds of dust blew over deserts in Africa and Asia. The storms are visible within giant swirls of sea salt aerosol (blue), which winds loft into the air as part of sea spray. Black carbon particles (red) are among the particles emitted by fires; vehicle and factory emissions are another common source. Particles the model classified as dust are shown in purple. The visualization includes a layer of night light data collected by the day-night band of the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on Suomi NPP that shows the locations of towns and cities.

[Emphasis in bold added by me.]

For your convenience, I reproduce the picture here:

Aerosol data by NASA

Aerosol data by NASA. Red means: Carbon emissions. Blue means: Sea Salt. Purple means: Dust particles.

Nicole Sharp blogs [^] about it at her blog FYFD, on Aug 29, 2018 10:00 am, with this description:

Aerosols, micron-sized particles suspended in the atmosphere, impact our weather and air quality. This visualization shows several varieties of aerosol as measured August 23rd, 2018 by satellite. The blue streaks are sea salt suspended in the air; the brightest highlights show three tropical cyclones in the Pacific. Purple marks dust. Strong winds across the Sahara Desert send large plumes of dust wafting eastward. Finally, the red areas show black carbon emissions. Raging wildfires across western North America are releasing large amounts of carbon, but vehicle and factory emissions are also significant sources. (Image credit: NASA; via Katherine G.)

[Again, emphasis in bold is mine.]

As of today, Sharp’s post has collected some 281 notes, and almost all of them have “liked” it.

I liked it too—except for the last half of the last sentence, viz., the idea that vehicle and factory emissions are significant sources (cf. NASA’s characterization):


My comment:

NASA commits an error of omission. Dr. Sharp compounds it with an error of commission. Let’s see how.

NASA does find it important to mention that the man-made sources of carbon are “common.” However, the statement is ambiguous, perhaps deliberately so. It curiously omits to mention that the quantity of such “common” sources is so small that there is no choice but to regard it as “not critical.” We may not be in a position to call the “common” part an error of commission. But not explaining that the man-made sources play negligible (even vanishingly small) role in Global Warming, is sure an error of omission on NASA’s part.

Dr. Sharp compounds it with an error of commission. She calls man-made sources “significant.”

If I were to have an SE/TE student, I would assign a simple Python script to do a histogram and/or compute the densities of red pixels and have them juxtaposed with areas of high urban population/factory density.


This post may change in future:

BTW, I am only too well aware of the ugly political wars being waged by a lot of people in this area (of Global Warming). Since I do appreciate Dr. Sharp’s blog, I would be willing to delete all references to her writing from this post.

However, I am going to keep NASA’s description and the photo intact. It serves as a good example of how a good visualization can help in properly apprehending big data.

In case I delete references to Sharp’s blog, I will simply add another passage on my own, bringing out how man-made emissions are not the real cause for concern.

But in any case, I would refuse to be drawn into those ugly political wars surrounding the issue of Global Warming. I have neither the interest nor the bandwidth to get into it, and further, I find (though can’t off-hand quote) that several good modelers/scientists have come to offer very good, detailed, and comprehensive perspectives that justify my position (mentioned in the preceding paragraph). [Off-hand, I very vaguely remember an academic, a lady, perhaps from the state of Georgia in the US?]


The value of pictures:

One final point.

But, regardless of it all (related to Global Warming and its politics), this picture does serve to highlight a very important point: the undeniable strength of a good visualization.

Yes I do find that, in a proper context, a picture is worth a thousand words. The obvious validity of this conclusion is not affected by Aristotle’s erroneous epistemology, in particular, his wrong assertion that man thinks in terms of “images.” No, he does not.

So, sure, a picture is not an argument, as Peikoff argued in the late 90s (without using pictures, I believe). If Peikoff’s statement is taken in its context, you would agree with it, too.

But for a great variety of useful contexts, as the one above, I do think that a picture is worth a thousand words. Without such being the case, a post like this wouldn’t have been possible.


A Song I Like:
(Hindi) “dil sajan jalataa hai…”
Singer: Asha Bhosale
Music: R. D. Burman [actually, Bertha Egnos [^]]
Lyrics: Anand Bakshi


Copying it right:

“itwofs” very helpfully informs us [^] that this song was:

Inspired in the true sense, by the track, ‘Korbosha (Down by the river) from the South African stage musical, Ipi Ntombi (1974).”

However, unfortunately, he does not give the name of the original composer. It is: Bertha Egnos (apparently, a white woman from South Africa [^]).

“itwofs” further opines that:

Its the mere few initial bars that seem to have sparked Pancham create the totally awesome track [snip]. The actual tunes are completely different and as original as Pancham can get.

I disagree.

Listen to Korbosha and to this song, once again. You will sure find that it is far more than “mere few initial bars.” On the contrary, except for a minor twist here or there (and that too only in some parts of the “antaraa”/stanza), Burman’s song is almost completely lifted from Egnos’s, as far as the tune goes. And the tune is one of the most basic—and crucial—elements of a song, perhaps the most crucial one.

However, what Burman does here is to “customize” this song to “suit the Indian road conditions tastes.” This task also can be demanding; doing it right takes a very skillful and sensitive composer, and R. D. certainly shows his talents in this regard, too, here. Further, Asha not only makes it “totally, like, totally” Indian, she also adds a personal chutzpah. The combination of Egnos, RD and Asha is awesome.

If the Indian reader’s “pride” got hurt: For a reverse situation of “phoreenn” people customizing our songs, go see how well Paul Mauriat does it.

One final word: The video here is not recommended. It looks (and is!) too gaudy. So, even if you download a YouTube video, I recommend that you search for good Open Source tools and use it to extract just the audio track from this video. … If you are not well conversant with the music software, then Audacity would confuse you. However, as far as just converting MP4 to MP3 is concerned, VLC works just as great; use the menu: Media \ Convert/Save. This menu command works independently of the song playing in the “main” VLC window.


Bye for now… Some editing could be done later on.