Why I won’t be writing for a while…

Why I these days can’t find the time to write blog posts:

As you know, I have joined a private engineering college as a professor (though it’s a temporary appointment). I have a lot of work-load. While in the interview I had insisted on a work load of 8 hours + ME projects from the computational mechanics field, this is what I have been asked to carry out, after joining:

  1. A course on Thermodynamics (the first course on the subject) to SE (Mech.) students (4 hrs/week)
  2. An elective course on Operations Research to final year BE (Mech.) students (4 hrs/week)
  3. Guidance of three project groups (of 4 students each, i.e. 12 students in all) of final year BE (Mech.) program (technically, “only” 2 hours/group/week)
  4. A course on Advanced Thermodynamics and Combustion Technology to first year ME (Mech.) students (3 hrs/week)

Furthermore, for the first three items (and probably also for the fourth), I basically have been asked to fill in for an associate professor who quit the college (he said “for better prospects” during our brief interaction), mid-term.

Jumping in after someone has taught half-way through (more or less exactly half-way through) a course is always difficult, and it has especially been difficult for me, for two–three reasons: (i) The management and the students expect you to continue at the same pace even if you have had no time to mentally prepare for a course in advance. Even in the private engineering colleges, people typically do get to know what course they will be teaching the next semester some two-three weeks in advance, and that’s the minimum time period for the teacher to get into the right mental frame. But, in an on-going semester, three weeks means about 1/4th of the entire semester’s portion. (ii) Since a course usually builds on the material covered earlier, students expect you to know the answers, and, in the live class, while you do have a vague feel, since you haven’t had a chance to review the contextual material, you either make mistakes or at best end up only hand-waving. (iii) I haven’t taught thermodynamics before. In my last job, I had filled in someone else for this course during a re-org, but that my effort back then too was not fully satisfactory even to me, let alone to students. And, even back then, I hadn’t had a chance to review all the material well. The quick mental recall of formulae and all (so prized by students in any country, and also by professors when it comes to India) isn’t there. It takes time. Not years, not months, but at least a few weeks. Which you don’t get when you are asked to jump in. (Unless you have been one of those deadwood professors who have nothing in life except for “teaching” (i.e. not even innovative student projects let alone research, but just “teaching” by the heart, and only for learning by mugging up)—the category so highly prized by the Indian education system.)

From my last job, I know that if I am going to teach a course for the first time in my life, I need about 3 hours of preparation per hour of the actual lecture delivery. That is, about 4 hours in all. By that reckoning, I am already doing: (4 X 11) + (2 X3) = 52 hours per week.

Even if I cut down on preparation, it would still be about (3 X 11) + (2 X 3) = 39 hours.

And then, there are administrative things like meetings (3 hours at the college level which I must attend because I am a “senior” professor and a PhD holder), 1 hour at the departmental level, and 1–2 hours for my faculty groups (I am a mentor to 4 junior faculty)). And, I haven’t counted in the time spent on grading in-semester examination papers for the three courses.

On top of that, many topics of both Operations Research and the ME course on Thermodynamics are completely new to me. (About 60% part, and about 30–35% part, respectively.)

Clearly, I am putting in way beyond the norm of 40 hrs/week. In fact, about 58–45 hours, it is, at the minimum. The calculation is right. Mid last week, I had to take an extra half tablet for angina, because I was getting up at 4:00 AM for teaching two consecutive classes of two different courses both of which were new to me.

I therefore don’t have any time left for blogging.

The situation is going to continue for quite some time. Mid-October for UG and Mid-November for PG is the time to which the current semesters respectively run.

On the other hand, the ME course on CFD (though compulsory for the ME (Heat Power) program) has not been given to me. “Orders from the top” is the only reason I have been made aware of, in this connection.

The faculty member who left (and thus created a vacant slot leading to my hiring) was an Associate Professor (yes, he too had a PhD; he was about 35 years old). Here as an Associate Professor, he was making the same amount of money which I was making at my previous job in Mumbai as a Professor (at my 50+ age). However, now, for filling in his shoes in the middle of the term, they offered me 15% less salary. This offer they accommodated by not adopting the UGC scale in my case. (That was because, they bluntly asserted, I wouldn’t be approved for a Professor’s position at the Savitribai Phule University of Pune because I don’t have the required experience. It also is conceivable that they thought that the empty shoes left behind might be too big for me to fill in.)

I was given a choice: accepting the UGC scale as an Associate Professor, or choose the same Rupee payment as a gross/lump-sum salary but with a Professor’s title. I chose the latter. Reason? so that at the time of any future University approvals for a Professor’s position, I would not have to explain a discontinuity in the title of the full Professorship.

Why did I do that? Accept this offer?

Two reasons: (i) This way, I had hoped, I would get to teach CFD right in Pune. Teaching CFD would be in line with my research interests, and being in Pune would be convenient to both me and my father. (ii) I knew that professors of the Savitribai Phule University of Pune (and also their “management”s) are quite well organized a lot. With the “shikshaNa shulka samitee” i.e. the professional body deciding the fees for the private engineering colleges choosing be its members, almost each private engineering college knows everything that goes on in the other private engineering college. I therefore was sure that now that this offer was actually made by this college, not a single other college would ever make any better offer to me. As it turned out, no one made any other offer at all—better, or worse. (The Executive Director of the Trust of a better reputed college in Pune happens to be a past student of a friend of mine, and the former still respectfully returns every call the latter makes to him. I had approached the Director through this friend of mine. While my friend was honestly hopeful that I will get a good opportunity there, even though this friend is a man of the world, I still thought nothing of the kind is going to happen, once I received this offer. Turns out that I knew better. (Yes, sometimes it is a hassle in life to even know better!)

So, I accepted it. This offer.

(Dear CapMag.com and Objectivist sites, yes, the period spanning the last week of August and the first week of September is coming to an end; so kindly run a few articles highlighting the employer’s rights. You too, dear Hoover. Very, very capitalistic and/or Republicans, it would be. As to the Democrats: raise the questions as to why a woman candidate was not given a chance in my place.)

Anyway, while the payment issue can be kept as an aside (in private colleges, they do have the flexibility to offset such issues later on (I told you I know better)) what bothers me is this part: Going by the absence of any comments on the interviewers’ part during the interview, I assumed that they would give me only two courses. But they still passed on three courses to me.

Similarly, I also truly believed that I would get to teach CFD. (Unlike Mumbai university, in Pune, final year BE students don’t get to learn FEM.) But here they instead gave me Advanced Thermodynamics and Combustion Technology. The combustion technology is the latter is the part I’ve never studied, though I know its importance through my six months’ stint in Thermax (and which experience the UGC and the Savitribai Phule University of Pune anyway don’t formally count in, because I have lost the experience certificate for that job). The topic is simple, but remember the Indian requirement: being able to rattle off an answer on the fly and instantaneously—whether accompanied by understanding or not.

Similarly, I also truly believed that I would get ME students to guide. But I didn’t get any. On this count, their reasoning seems right: there are only 4–5 students in two ME programs put together.

I also truly believed that when a couple of distinction class final year undergraduate students came to me, and were enthusiastic about doing a CFD project under me, the required project group reshuffling would be possible. (Their entire group of four soon became eager to join me.) However, the students’ request was declined out of the apprehension that it would lead to “system collapse”: every one would want to work with someone else, it was feared.

BTW, this was the same idea which I have been having from 2010 or so. In 2013, I was going to use it for an ME level project at YTIET Karjat, and so had submitted the abstracts for two papers in an international conference in July 2013. Both abstracts were accepted and the full-length papers were in preparation. I had to soon later (in August 2013) withdraw the papers’ proposal because I had in the meanwhile lost that job. As to the current job: Despite two months, not a single student had yet submitted a single project proposal. So, it wouldn’t have been the case of my jumping in, in the middle of an on-going project. The project would have started from the scratch anyway. But then, the apprehension that the system would collapse could faithfully be applied in this case, but not in the case of asking me teach subjects that are new to me, in the middle of a semester, after half the portion had already been covered by someone else.

So, you can see that things don’t always go the way I truly believe they would. I, too, don’t always know better!

(Even though, almost predictably, students supposedly have already begun giving a good feed-back about my teaching, in comparative terms, that is. When a professor remarked this part in an informal chat, I actually was blank: emotionally, as well as cognitively. I was too worried about ending that chat in a polite way as soon as possible, so that I could continue taking out notes for my upcoming class.)

Anyway, that’s how I don’t have any time in hand for blogging.

Further, until III week of September, all our weekly offs have been suspended (compensatory offs will be given later) because of some definitely valid reason (accreditation-related documentation work). That’s yet another reason… (To my mind, the only valid reason by which an extra load can be justified. But then, as I said, it comes on the top of the above mentioned 58–45 hours/week, and so, I really can’t care for the justifiability of this further additional component.)


An idea for a brief paper:

The silver lining is this. I (after two weeks) have (barely) begun somewhat enjoying teaching Operations Research (OR). It’s not exactly my field, but at the BE level, the subject seems to be such that even as the models are somewhat simpler to deal with, they also have enough potency by way of supplying some food for thought. Possibly, also some new research paper ideas.

For instance, while commuting by bus (it’s a 25 kms one-way commute for me; 1 hour to, and 1.5 hour fro due to the heavy evening traffic) I stumbled on an idea related to the topic of Queuing Theory—an OR topic which I am currently teaching. I had never studied (or even run into) this topic before, and so, while it added to my harder work, I still have managed to find this topic to be a bit of a fun.

And, I could still stumble on an idea of building some toy computer models about it. … It’s just that I am weak in mathematics and so, I have to study harder. Which means, I have to work on this idea later, after this semester gets over. 

… In the meanwhile, if you can’t suppress your curiosity, here is the idea: Hopefully, you know that the normal distribution is a limiting case of the binomial distribution. Hopefully, you therefore know that Galton’s board can provide a neat toy model to introduce the normal distribution. Hopefully, you also know that the Poisson distribution is sort of derived from the binomial distribution.

The idea is to build a similar sort of a suitable toy model (either physical or, better still, in software) for the Poisson distribution. And, to prove the convergence from that toy model to the Poisson distribution.

So, in short, the idea we are looking for is this:

Galton’s Board : Normal distribution ::  ? : Poisson distribution.

And, to supply a neat (fairly rigorous) mathematical proof.

I tried to find such a model via 3–4 quick Google searches, but failed to find any. There are any number of texts and papers connecting networks and the Poisson distribution. But what they always discuss is the use of Poisson statistics in network models—but not a finite network/graph/similar model leading to the Poisson distribution (in appropriate limits). The “Galton board” is missing when it comes to the Poisson distribution, to speak loosely.

Spoiler Alert: Here’s a hint—a very loud hint IMO. So, skip the next line appearing in the very fine print if you want to work on it yourself. (Further, the topic also is out of the syllabus of the Savitribai Phule University of Pune, and of every university syllabus that I came across during my searches on this topic—that’s why I believe this can be a good topic for a brief research paper):

The detection times of photons, and the arrival times of taxi-cabs at an arbitrary square in a city.

No, the hint may not be sufficient to you. But then, I do intend to write a paper on this topic, or at least: search better, using Scopus and other indexing services, during my next visit to IIT Bombay, and then, if the suitable paper has not yet been written, to write it.


Am too busy to be in the right frame of the mind even to just listen to music, so let me skip the usual “A Song I Like” section….


 

The noise pollution and the government-running people’s explicit, loud and strong support thereof:

However, of course, with the upcoming “GaNapati” festival and all, you know that I will have to listen to at least 10 hours of very loud “music” every day, in blatant and rampant violation of my relevant rights as an Indian citizen.

What you might not know is that both the parties in the ruling coalition in Maharashtra, viz., the BJP (the state education minister Mr. Vinod Tawade) and Shiv Sena (the party chief Mr. Uddhav Thaakare) have openly and strongly declared that if festivals (“utsav” was the term they both used) cannot be celebrated by “getting on the road,” what’s the point?

Yes, that is the point they had, concerning this issue. These are the people who are running this government. (And, government, you know, associates to “gun.”)

Another point you would not know is that every year, about 2–3 police officers on the “bandobast” duty in Pune (alone), and also about 2–3 senior citizens in Pune (alone), die because of the noise pollution (alone). Yes, police constables and even officers have suffered cardiac arrest and collapsed on the spot, after 20 hours of continuous policing in front of the loud-speakers walls that are erected in violation of the Supreme Court of the land.

There is no Kasab involved here, and I am certain that the honorable politicians must be looking at some … greater… social cultural… good, …. what do you say?

The solution usually discussed is, what else, “yoga.” (Which word is pronounced (by the proposers) as “yogaa”).) “Yoga” classes for the police, to combat their job-related stress. And also for the rest of us.

The Times of India, the Indian Express, the Marathi-language newspapers, and the TV media in general, have not isolated this above-mentioned bit. They do report such news, but only in a piecemeal manner, i.e. as the death events separately occur over some 12.75 day festival—i.e. the 11 days from the Chaturthee to Chaturdashi, both inclusive, and an additional day or two days for the final day “festivities” that, because it’s “utsav,” must run into the “pitru pandharwaDaa”—after it involves sending off the “baapaa” doesn’t it?.

Thus the media people tend to report the “incidents” as un-correlated occurrences.

(Marathi) “gaalboT” is the most they (and the politicians) are ever willing to ascribe to such incidents—incidents in which people die out of noise pollution. [“gaalboT” is the black mark mothers apply on the cheek of their infants. The idea is that the presence of a black mark distorts the beauty of the infant, and thus, by pre-satisfying an evil onlooker’s desire to destroy the beauty, it preempts the evil’s power, and so, the child remains safe. Yes, the “susanskruit” puNeri applies the term to incidents of deaths by noise pollution—after all, it’s a Hindu festival and not a Quranic prayer coming on a loudspeaker from a mosque, right? So, it has to be just a “gaalboT.”

As to me, loudspeakers should be banned for not only “gaNapati” “music,” but also the mosque prayers, the “jai bhim”/“aNNasaaheb saaThe” “festivities”, the loud crackers cracked in the middle of the night for a random marwaari/Punjabi marriage, and every other “religiosity” or “festivity” of every kind. Men may observe their religious rituals or practices, but only without affecting others’ objective rights. Sound is not a laser light; it travels also to unintended locations, and with these loud speaker walls, it travels well over half a kilometer radius to acutely disturbing levels.

But coming back to the “puNeri” culture in particular, none has bothered to study or even think of the loss of time and the non-fatal health injuries, so such things don’t at all get reported.

However, to be fair, the media have, at times, shown the due sensitivity to run news articles about the ill-effects that the loud crackers have on pets such as dogs. Such articles usually make it to the print at the time of “Diwaali,” near the end of that season: both the “Ganapati” and “Navaratri” festivals are, by then, fully over, of course. Also the “laxmi pujan.” (Each festival has, by then, been covered highlighting the due presence of foreigners, especially the white-skinned ones. Apparently, these white people come to India at the time of the Pandharpur “waari” and then they stay put until “Diwaali”. And then, almost as if on a cue, these visiting whites suddenly disappear as the Christmas approaches. At Christmas proper, only the white people working in the Pune IT industry (“expats”) get coverage, apart from the Indian-born native Christians. But not those aforementioned visiting white. At least not in Pune. … I suspect that it’s then time to shift the focus towards the Goa beaches…. But I digress…

And, I also write too long posts…

OK, some time later (after a month or so).

[If I at all find time, I may streamline a few places in this post, but I can tell you that it won’t be more than a 10 minutes’ editing. So, this post isn’t going to change a lot from its present shape. Take it or leave it. But no, I really won’t be able to come back to write blog posts on the topics such as what I mentioned the last time or so. So, bye for now, and for quite a few weeks.]

[E&OE]

 

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Why do physicists use infinity?

This post continues from my last post. In this post, I deal with the question: Even if infinity does not physically exist, why do physicists use it?


The Thermometer Effect

Consider the task of measuring the temperature of a hot body. How do you do that?

The simplest instrument to use would be: a “mercury” thermometer (i.e. of the kind you use when you come down with fever). Heat flows from the hot object to the “mercury” in the thermometer, and so, the temperature of the “mercury” rises. When its temperature increases, the “mercury” expands and so, its level in the tube rises. This rise in the level of the “mercury” can be calibrated to read out the temperature—of the mercury. After a while, the temperatures of the hot object (say the human body) and the thermometer become equal (practically speaking), and so, the calibrated tube gives you a reading of the temperature of the hot object. … We all learnt this in high-school (and many of us understood it (or at least had it explained to us) before the topic was taught to us in the school). What’s new about it?

It’s this (though even this point wouldn’t be new to you; you would have read it in some popular account of quantum mechanics): In the process of measurement, the thermometer takes away some heat from the hot object, and in the process makes the latter’s temperature fall. Therefore, the temperature that is read out refers to the temperature of the {hot object + thermometer} system, not to the initial temperature of the hot object itself. However, we were interested in measuring the temperature only of the hot object, not of the {hot object + thermometer} system.

QM folks, and QM popularizers, habitually go on a trip from this point on. We let them. Our objective is something different, something (hopefully) new. Our objective is the objectivity of measurements in an objectively understandable universe, not a subjective trip into an essentially subjective/unknowable universe. How do we ensure that? How do we ensure the objectivity of the temperature readings?

Enter infinity. Yes. Let me show you how.

We realize that the bigger the thermometer, the bigger is the heat leaked out from the hot object to the thermometer, and therefore, the bigger is the error in the measurement. So, we try something practical and workable. We try a smaller thermometer. Let’s be concrete.

Suppose that the hot object  remains the same for each experiment in this series. Suppose that thermometer T1 holds 10 ml of the sensing liquid, and suppose that at the end of the measurement process, it registers a temperature of 99 C. To decrease the amount of heat leaking into the thermometer, we get a second thermometer, T2; it holds only 1 ml of the sensing liquid. Suppose it registers a temperature of 99.9 C. We know that as the thermometer becomes smaller and still smaller, the reading read off from it will grow ever more accurate. For instance, with development in technology, yet another thermometer T3 may be built. It contains only 0.1 ml of the sensing liquid! It is found to register a temperature of 99.99 C. Etc. Yet, a thermometer of 0 ml liquid is never going to work, in the first place!

So, we do something new. We decide not to remain artificially constrained by the limits of the available technology, because we realize that here we don’t actually have to. We realize that we can take an inductive leap into the abstract. We plot a graph of the measured temperature against the size of the sensing liquid, and find that this graph has begun to “plateau out”. Given the way it is curving, it is obvious that it is coming to a definite limit.

We translate the graph into algebraic terms, i.e., as an infinite sequence, formulated via a general `n’th term. Using calculus, we realize that as `n’ approaches infinity, the amount of the sensing liquid approaches zero, and the temperature T_n registered by the thermometer approaches 100 C.

We thus conclude that in the limit of vanishing quantity of the sensing liquid, the measured temperature would be the true i.e. the unfallen or the initial temperature—viz. 100 C.

Carefully go through the above example. It shows the essence of how physicists use infinity. Indeed, if they were not to do so, they could not tie the purely imagined notion of a true temperature with any actual measurement done with any actual thermometer. Their theories would be either lacking in any generalization concerning temperature measurement, or it would be severed from the physical reality. However, one sure way that they can reach reality-based abstractions is via the idea of infinity. Before the 20th century, they did.


The sound-meter effect

Suppose you have a stereo system installed in your living room. For the sake of argument, just one speaker is enough. The logic here is simply additive: it applies even if you have a stereo system (two speakers) or a surround sound system (5 speakers); just find the effect that a single speaker produces one at a time, and add them all together, that’s all! That’s why, from now on, we consider only a single speaker.

Suppose you play a certain test sound, something like a pure C tone (say, as emitted by a flute), at a certain sound level—i.e. the volume knob on your music system is turned to some specific position, and thus, the energy input to the speaker is some definite fixed quantity.

You want to find out what the intensity of the sound actually emitted by a speaker is, when the volume knob on the music system is kept fixed at a certain fixed position.

Now, you know what the phenomenon of sound is like. It exists as a kind of a field. The sound reaches everywhere in the room. Once it reaches the walls of the room, many things happen. Here is a simplified version: a part of the sound reaching the wall gets reflected back into the room, a part of it gets transmitted beyond the wall (that’s the physical principle on the basis which your neighbors always harass you, but you never ever disturb anyone else’s sleep because that’s what your “dharma,” of course, teaches you), and a part of it gets absorbed by the wall (this is the part that ultimately gets converted into heat, and thereby loses relevance to the phenomenon of sound as such).

Now, if you keep a decibel-meter at some fixed position in the room, then the sound-level registered by it depends on both these factors: the level of the sound directly received from the speaker, as well as the level of the reflected sound. (Yep, we are getting closer to the thermometer logic once again).

Our task here is to find the intensity of the sound emitted by the speaker. To do that, all we have is only the decibel-meter. But the decibel meter is sensitive to two things: the directly received sound, as well as the indirectly received sound, i.e., the reflected sound. What the decibel meter registers thus also includes the effect of the walls of the room.

For instance, if the walls are draped with large, thick curtains, then the effective absorptivity of the walls increases, and so, the intensity of the reflected sound decreases. Or, if the walls are thinner (think the walls of a tent), then the amount leaked out to the environment increases, and therefore, the amount reflected back to the decibel-meter decreases.

The trouble is: we don’t know in advance what kind of a wall it is. We don’t know in advance the laws that apportion the incident sound energy into the reflecting, absorbing and transmitting parts. And therefore, we cannot use the decibel meter to calculate the true intensity of the sound emitted by the speaker itself. Or so it seems.

But here is the way out.

Since we don’t precisely know the laws operative at the wall, altering the material or thickness of the wall is of no use. But what we can do is: we can change the size of the room. This part is in our hands, and we can use it—intelligently.

So, once again, we conduct a series of experiments. We keep everything else the same: the speaker, the position of the decibel-meter relative to the speaker, the position of the volume-level knob, the MP3 file playing the C-note, etc. They all remain the same. The only thing that changes is: the size of the room.

So, suppose we first conduct the experiment in our own living room, and register a decibel meter reading of, say, 110 (in some arbitrary units). Then, we go to a friend’s house; it has bigger rooms. We conduct our experiment there. Suppose the reading is: 108 units. Then, we take the permission of the college lab in-charge, and conduct our experiment in the big laboratory hall: 106 units. We go into an in-door stadium in our town: 102 units. We go into an in-door stadium in another town: 102.5 units. We go out in a big open field out of town, and conduct the experiment at late night: 101.5 units. We go to that open salt field in the rann of the Kutch: 101.1 units. We take the measurement at a high level in the rann: 100.91 units.

Clearly, the nature of the wall has always been effecting our measurements. Clearly, the wall has always been different in different places—and we didn’t have any control over the kind of a wall there may be, neither do we know the kind of laws it follows. And yet, the size of the room has clearly emerged as the trend-setter here.

If we plot the intensity of the sound vs. the size of the room, the trend is not as simple (or monotonic) as in the thermometer case. There are slight ups and downs: even for a room of the same size, different readings do result. Yet, the overall trend is very, very clear. As the size of the room increases, the measurements go closer and closer to: 100 units.

Why? It’s because, choosing a bigger room leads to one definite effect: the effect of the wall on the measured sound level goes on dropping. The drop may be different for different kinds of walls. Yet, as the size of the room becomes really large, whatever be the nature of the wall and whatever be the laws operating at that remote location, they begin to exert smaller and ever so smaller effect on our measurements.

In the limit that the size of the room approaches infinity, the measurement procedure tends to yield an unchanging datum for the intensity of the measured sound. Indeed, in this limit, it would be co-varying with the intensity of the emitted sound, in a most simple, direct, manner. We have, once again, arrived at a stable, orderly datum—even if there were so many things affecting the outcome. We have, once again, managed to reach a universal principle—even if our measurement procedures were constrained by all kinds of limits; all kinds of superfluous influences of the walls.


For the advanced student of science/engineering:

In case you know differential equations (esp. computational modeling), the use of infinity makes the influence of the boundary conditions superfluous.

For instance, take a domain, take the Poisson equation, and use various boundary conditions—absorbing, partially absorbing, periodic, whatever—to find the field strengths at a point within the domain (as controlled by the various boundary conditions). Now, enlarge the domain, and once again try out the same boundary conditions. Go on increasing the domain size. Observe the logic. In the limit that the domain size approaches infinity, the value of the field variable approaches a certain limit—and this limit is given, for the Poisson problem, by the simple inverse-square law!


The Infinity, and Philosophy of Physics:

Increasing the size of the domain to the infinitely large serves the same purpose as does decreasing the amount of the sensing liquid to the infinitely small. The infinitely large or the infinitely small does not exist—the notion has no physical identity. But the physical outcomes in definitely arranged sequences do, and, in fact, even an only imaginary infinite sequence of these does help establish the physical identity of the phenomenon under discussion.

In both cases, infinity allows physicists the formulation of universal laws even if all the preceding empirical measurements are made in reference only to finite systems.

That incidentally is the answer to the question with which we began this post: Even if infinity does not physically exist, why do physicists use it?

It’s because, the idea allows them to objectively isolate the universal phenomena from the local physical experiences.


Homework for you:

In the meanwhile, here are a few questions for you to think about, loosely grouped around two (not unrelated) themes:

Group I: The Argument from the Arbitrary:

Is the question: “Is the physical universe infinite?” invalid? Can it be answered in the yes/no (or true/false) terms alone? Does it involve any arbitrary idea (in Ayn Rand’s sense of the term)? Is the very idea of the arbitrary valid?

Is there any sense to the idea of a finite physical universe?

Is there any sense to the supposition that you could reach the end of the universe?

Group II: The Argument from the Unseen Universe:

Think whether you would refute the following argument, and if yes, how: We cannot rely on physics, because the entirety of physics has been derived only in reference to a finite portion of the universe. Therefore, physics does not represent a truly universal knowledge. Our knowledge, as illustrated by its most famous example viz. physics, has no significance beyond being of a severely limited practical art. Knowledge-wise, it’s not a true form of knowledge; it’s only nominal. Some day it is bound to all break down, as influences from the unseen portion of the universe finally reach us.


Additional homework for the student of quantum mechanics:

Find out the relevance of this post to your course in quantum mechanics, as is covered usually in the universities, (e.g. Griffith’s text).

A Hint: No, this is not a “philosophy” related homework.

Spoiler Alert: Jump to the next section (on songs) if you don’t want to read a further hint, a very loud hint, about this homework.

A Very Loud Hint: Copy paste the following text into a plain text editor (such as the Notepad):

The Sommerfeld radiation condition

The Answer: In the next post, of course!


A Couple of Songs I Don’t Particularly Like:

Both are merely passable.

[This song is calculus-based. Really. In the reel life, it makes a monkey of the dashing young hero (and also of his dog), just the way the calculus does of most any one, in the real life.]

(Hindi) “samundar, samundar, yahaan se wahaa tak…”
Music: S. D. Burman
Singer: Lata Mangeshkar
Lyrics: Anand Bakshi

[This song used to be loved by the Americans (and many others, including Indians) when I was at UAB—and also for some time thereafter. It, or the quotable phrase that its opening line had become, doesn’t find too much of a mention anywhere. … Just the way neither does the phrase: the brave new world!]

(English) “A whole new world…”
Singers: Brad Kane and Lea Salonga
Music: Alan Menken
Lyrics: Tim Rice


[I intended to finish this thread off right in this post, but it grew too big. Further, I will be preoccupied in teaching activities (the beginning time is always the more difficult time), and so, there may be some time before I come back for the next post—may be the next weekend, or possibly even later—even though my attempt always would be to try to wrap this thing off as soon as possible anyway.]
[E&OE]

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Is the physical universe infinite?

Is the physical universe infinite? What is the physics-related reason behind the fact that physicists use this term in their theories?

Let’s deal with these two questions one at a time.


Is the physical universe infinite?

This is one question that strikes most people some time in childhood, certainly at least by the time they are into high-school. (By high-school, I mean: standards V through X, both included.) They may not yet know a concept like infinity. But they do wonder about where it all ends.

A naive expectation kept in those years is that as one grows up and learns more, one sure would gain enough knowledge to know a definite answer to that question.

Then, people certainly grow up, and possibly continue learning more, and sometimes even get a PhD in one of the STEM fields. Yet, somewhat oddly, people are found still continuing to think that one day they (or someone else) would be able to at least deal with this question right. If the nature of opinions expressed in the history of science is any indication, for most of them, such a day never comes. So, the quest goes on to continue even further, well after their PhD and all. At least for some of them.

At least, to me, it did. And, I found that there also were at least a few others who had continued attempting an answer. A couple of notable names here would be (in the chronological order in which I ran into their writings): Eric Dennis, and Ron Pisaturo. But of course, their writings was not the first time any clarification had at all arrived; it was Ayn Rand’s ITOE, second edition, in the winter of 1990. In fact, both the former writings were done only in reference to Ayn Rand’s clarifications. (Comparatively very recently, Roger Schlafly’s casual aside threw the matter up once again for me. More on his remark, later.)

Ayn Rand said that the infinity is a concept of method, that it is a concept of mathematics, and that infinity cannot metaphysically exist. Check out at least the Lexicon entry on infinity, here [^].

A wonderful answer, and a wonderful food for some further thought!


The question to deal with, then, immediately becomes this one: If everything that metaphysically exists is finite, including the physical universe, then it is obvious that the physical universe would have to be finite. For physical entities, and therefore for the physical universe, definiteness includes: the definiteness of extension.

If so, what happens when you reach the (or an) end of it? What do you see from that vantage point of view, and looking outward? In fact, Dennis (in a blogsome essay on a Web page he used to maintain as a PhD student—the page is I guess long gone) and Pisaturo (in an essay) have attempted precisely this question.

Guess you have noticed the difficult spot: Seeing is a form of perception, and before you can perceive anything, it must first exist. If the entirety of the universe itself has been exhausted by getting to its edge, and since there is literally nothing left to see on the other side of it, you couldn’t possibly see anything. The imagery of the cliff (complete with that Hollywood/Bollywood sort of a smoke gently flowing out into the abyss at that edge) cannot apply. In principle.

“Huh?”

“Yes.”

“But why not?” The child in you cries out. “I want to see what is there,” it tugs at your heart with a wistful intensity. (In comparison, even the Calvin would be more reasonable—not just with the Hobbes but also with the Susie. (Yes, I think, the use of the the is right, here.))

The answers devised by Pisaturo and Dennis (and I now recollect that the matter was also discussed at the HBL), are worth going through.

I myself had written something similar, and at length (though it must have gone in my recent HDD crash). In fact, many of my positions were quite similar to Pisaturo’s. I, however, never completed writing it;  something else caught my attention and the issue somehow fizzled out. See my incomplete series on the nature of space, for an indication of my positions, starting here [^], and going over the next four posts.


The question grabbed my attention once again, in the recent past.

This time round, I decided to attack it from a different angle: with even more of an emphasis on the physics side of the mathematical vs. physical distinction.

In particular, I thought: If the concept is valid only mathematically and not valid metaphysically (in the sense: infinity does not metaphysically exist), and thus, if it was invalid also physically, then why do physicists use it, in their theories?

Note, my question is not how the physicists use the term “infinity;” it is: why.

It is perfectly fine to pursue the how, but only inasmuch as this pursuit helps clarify anything regarding the why.

I intend to address this question, in the next post. I sure will. It’s just that I want to give your independent thinking a chance. I just want to see if in thinking about it independently, some neat/novel points come up or not.

A little bit of suspense is good, you know… Not too much of it, but just a little bit of it…


A Song I Like:

(Hindi) “saare sapane kahin kho gaye…”
Lyrics: Javed Akhtar
Singer: Alka Yagnik
Music: Raju Singh

[E&OE]

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What are the rules for hiring?

There is a matter of a suspense which should break by the time I come back for my next post. Here is the story. (Narrated, as usual, tortuously and at a length. (Don’t read if such posts turn you off.))

The mechanical engineering professors in the Savitribai Phule University of Pune, as you know, have been pitted against hiring of people with a background like mine: BE and MTech in Metallurgy; PhD in Mechanical. “You must have had at least one of the pre-PhD degrees in mechanical, why didn’t you?” they have been respectively saying and asking (in a probing manner).

Most people occupying the working of the faculty of engineering in this university these days, in fact have come not from the University of Pune (or the University of Poona) itself; they have come from other universities. Typically, they have come from Aurangabad, Amaravati, and Walchand—but not from IITs or IISc or the better ranked universities in the UK/USA.

In my experience (i.e. with the exception of the late Prof. Dr. S. R. Kajale, who did have has UG degree from Amaravati), all of them carry faulty notions about the traditions at this university. In the Pune (or Poona) University, these professors have tried to explain to me, in a tone consisting of a feeling of an utmost certainty as arising from a superior educational experience, the ordinary exasperation arising after not being understood, an abstract projection of an abstract feeling for the acute concerns of the jobless-ness of the person sitting across the table, as well as, all in all, a very definite sense of their own unquestionably high moral and intellectual superiority, that there always has been this policy. [They have never felt it necessary to enjoin in their comment their own experiences or knowledge of their undergraduate universities/colleges. They were in the University of Pune, they knew what they were talking about, the matter ended there, as far they were concerned.]

Wrong. Factually wrong.

The other universities might have historically had this problem, but not the University of Pune (i.e., barring a few well-known personality-related issues concerning the Mechanical and Metallurgy Departments at COEP—the only engineering college this university had, for a long time).

IIT Bombay (with a heavy institutional-cultural influence of the Russians that lasted for too long a time) also have had this problem (concerning branch-“jumping”) but rather in an off and on manner; the University of Mumbai, to my knowledge, never (not at least concerning the specific branches of Metallurgy and Mechanical).

IIT Bombay did have this problem in the mid-1970s; they were against this particular branch jumping (even while promoting their interdisciplinary research centers). Then, during the mid-1980s, they didn’t have this problem. (I could have got an MTech in Mechanical Engineering at IIT Bombay (I had enough of a GATE score to be competitive back then); it’s just that I chose not to pursue anything at this IIT—this IIT was too strong on hype and too low on the academic freedom to the student concerning mixing courses from different departments.) Then, over a period of time, by the time I was applying for PhD admissions during the early naughties, IIT Bombay had once again gone back to having a problem about branch-“jumping”. I don’t know which way blows the wind of their whims, as of today.

So, historically, other universities might have had problems with “branch-jumping,” but not so, for a long time, the University of Poona/Pune. Certainly not before the people from Amaravati, Aurangabad, Shivaji etc. began rushing in to fill the ranks of professorships, in this university. (Surprisingly, the University of Mumbai carried on their more liberal policies concerning the metallurgy and mechanical branches, despite a similar trend of demographics occurring also at its affiliating colleges; I don’t know the reason why. It’s possible that they, too, weren’t being too liberal; it was just that they didn’t have a separate branch of Metallurgy, and so, the issue of the turf-battles and the academic self-inflations of the Mechanical departments, never arose.)

In contrast, COEP and University of Poona actually had no issue admitting BE Metallurgy graduates to the ME Mechanical program—the only requirement was a first class at BE Metallurgy. (And, a higher second, if the BE was in Mechanical itself. Also, vice-versa: For ME in Metallurgy, a first class would be required from the BE Mechanical graduates, and a higher-second from BE Metallurgy graduates.)

How do I know? Because I myself had taken admission to ME Mechanical program at COEP once, back in 1989/1990 (I have forgotten precisely when). Having decided to pursue computational mechanics, I had taken admission to ME Mechanical at COEP, just as a fall-back option to my US applications, back then, I think. And, yes, even back then, I was interested only in computational mechanics. I had just an interest, no real idea of what all this sub-field involves. I in fact didn’t even know programming at that time. But, by that time, I had already spent 1.5 years on the IIT Madras campus, gotten some idea about FEM and computational modeling, and after spending some time in industry now had come to realize that computational mechanics was the field of my life’s calling. That’s how, I had taken an admission in the Mechanical department.

Actually, I had forgotten about it—I mean this admission of mine. I was reminded of it when, starting mid-2002, I tried to get admission at COEP, now for a PhD in Mechanical (with a thesis in computational mechanics, on a topic of my choice).

By the time it was April 2003, after having going through 12+ guides (all of who declined to be my official guide), and after having been declined by IIT Bombay (for branch-jumping issue), I finally was accepted by a professor at COEP. And then, the then director of COEP, Ashok Ghatol, kept my application in abeyance for more than six months.

During this time, one day in mid-2003—mid-2004, I received a letter from the COEP library threatening me with a legal action. The letter said that if I didn’t return the books I had borrowed, I would face action by the police. Yes, police, it had explicitly mentioned. The letter was delivered not by ordinary post (the way such letters usually are), and in fact not even by registered post (with the acknowledgment-due slip), but, as far as I remember it, by SpeedPost. Further, it noted that until the matter was legally resolved, I would be barred from many things such as: issuance of any certificate from COEP, applying for a job at COEP, and applying for admission for any further studies at COEP.

I first went through the collection of my books to locate this book, but couldn’t find it. (I in fact didn’t even recognize the book by its title, back then.) Until 1990 (when I went to the USA, and so, some of my habits here broke away), I would keep an excellent record for all the books I had. The book mentioned in the letter was not there in this list. (I would maintain this list in an old 80-page notebook, not in a PC database.) So, I visited the COEP library to figure out the issue. After some four/five visits to the administration building and the library on some six/seven separate days, I finally gathered that the book was supposedly issued to me not when I was a BE student, but when I was an ME student there!

Oh yes! Then the bulb lit up!! I was once a student of ME (Mechanical), at COEP! I had never attended a single class, but I had officially registered for the program, anyway.

Ashok Ghatol, the Director of COEP in 2003–04, it would seem, was being very conscientious. How else could the administration of my alma mater wake up about this library book only now—after a few months after my acceptance by a PhD guide? After all, as far as this library book went, they had never sent a single letter any single time over the earlier 12+ years. But, looking at my PhD application with this guide, they did somehow think of it. Conscientious, nay, very, very conscientious, COEP had turned, in the decade+ time that had elapsed when I was a student here last (in 1989/90).

As would be very easy for anyone to predict, it turned out that the record of the books borrowed by me were, indeed, very meticulously kept also in the COEP library. However, the signature for the last entry on my reader’s card—the entry for the un-returned book—was not mine. It did look somewhat like mine, but it wasn’t actually mine. At least I had a hard time identifying it as my signature. I could convince the library folks about my doubt, but only after not only repeatedly signing in their presence but also bringing and showing my passport to them. Finally, they yielded, and acknowledged the possibility of the existence of a doubt.

But what/who was the source of this extra line? I don’t know. I still don’t. But no, I didn’t even think of accusing the COEP folks with any malpractice. A far more likely possibility here was that some other student (say one of my co-students at ME, or, friends in the Metallurgy department, or a student whose ME project I had informally guided in the late 80s—he had won a University Gold Medal for that project) might have borrowed my library card, and might have used it to borrow a book for their use. (This used to be a common practice at COEP. The number of books to refer could easily exceed the number of books allowed. So, people would freely use each other’s cards, often without knowledge of which book had been checked out on one’s name.) And then, probably, he had forgotten to return the book. Possible. And, of course, there could be other possibilities, too; I don’t know. (The book was not on a topic of one of my own interests back then—viz. computational mechanics.)

Anyway, even as I became very well aware of Ghatol’s utmost conscientiousness by this time, I also, by this time, was a sufficiently grown up educated Indian to be well aware of the way that Indian governments work. I would be asked to pay a fine, I was sure. And the fine, I was sure, would be within a few hundred rupees. It would have to be only a fine, not a book-replacement. Two reasons: (i) There would no possibility of book-replacement for the COEP library. The missing book, I think, was an old one, and so the possibility of finding a replacement was remote. Further, this being a government college, a policy of book-replacement would, in principle, go against the policy of procurement of any of the library holdings only in the bulk and only by the college itself, not by a student, and only from one of the approved list of book vendors. (ii) The rules for the fine would refer only to the original cost, not to the current market price, or the price arrived at after accounting for inflation. The settlement of issues via the latter route would not only violate the principle behind the procurement policy, but it would also require making a reference to the State Accounting and Finance Department in Mumbai, and there in fact would be no precedent or a policy on how to make this reference—none would even know what category the outward register’s entry should note.

I didn’t divulge the above two reasons to the COEP staff; I merely let them decide. Of course, it took a few visits to the COEP library and the main administration block, before the whole issue could be settled. The end result was, I ended up paying a fine, I think an amount less than Rs. 500. (Yes, I had to write an application, get it endorsed from two different people each in the administration block and the library, fill four copies of the challan, get them endorsed, and then go to that World Famous branch of the SBI on the COEP campus, to make the payment of this fine.) But yes, this part of the institutional objection against my PhD admission was, thereby, cleared.

[I had shown my willingness to get them a replacement copy, but this request of mine was politely declined. Apart from that feeling of guilt (who knows, had I checked that book myself and signed in a hurry?), it anyway would have been the fastest action towards properly closing the issue. Naturally, I was requesting them to let me see if I can find a replacement for the book. But they said no. Apart from the procurement policy, they were well aware that books do undergo change over editions. And, they were sure, that “the government” would always be able to find some way to source the replacement of the same edition as lost, some time later, according to its proper procedures. (I don’t know, but it is possible, that they had another copy of the same book with them anyway, stored sufficiently out of the reach of any student(s).) On the other hand, a patiently and friendly talking Distinction Class alumnus’ PhD admission could not now be held in abeyance forever, in their better judgment. Also, in their judgment, sufficient time had elapsed that even the most conscientious of the most conscientious Director could not point an accusing finger in their direction, should the matter ever come up for a review. Quite a few months (could be more than six months) had elapsed since my PhD admission application had gone in, and questions from the other side could also be raised: why had this issue come up only now, after 12+ years? Wouldn’t conscientiousness also go in the other direction? So, they let me go with a fine. Exactly as I had predicted, while explaining the matter several months earlier, to my mother. (She was unnecessarily aghast, once she read this mention of the police, on that letter.)]

But of course, obtaining the library clearance took sufficiently long time that, COEP, under Ashok Ghatol, had in the meanwhile revised the list of Emeritus Professors in the Mechanical Engineering Department, and thusly, the only guide who had accepted me as a PhD student (after a search for a guide lasting for one year and going over 12+ guides), was now denied a continuation of his Emeritus Professorship. He was declined an extension at COEP despite his having retired from COEP as a HoD, despite his being active in the field of education—including being on the board of an NIT, and despite the national level Fellowship which he had at the same time been granted by the UGC/AICTE at New Delhi. He still was declined an Emeritus Professorship. With no active professor at COEP available for guidance (it would be some months before I would approach Prof. Kajale), the matter had come back to square one at COEP.

BTW, in case you don’t know, the current dean of the Savitribai Phule University of Pune, Gajanan Kharate, has done his PhD under the guidance of Ashok Ghatol.

But of course it would be too much to expect that Gajanan Kharate could possibly be aware of the kind of institutional memory that the institutions under the University of Pune are capable of keeping: being aware of such possibilities requires a finer and longer experience with institutions in general.

Therefore, it would be too much to expect of him that the same University where he currently is the Dean, would, as recently as in 1990, in fact allow the mixing of the metallurgy and mechanical branches—even at the ME level, not just the PhD level (where the rules are anyway more relaxed).

This better practice was stopped only some time later, roughly around the same time that the IIT Bombay changed its whims in their regularly irregular course. It was the same time during which the hoards of the even more enlightened souls from the Amaravati, Aurangabad, and Walchand/Shivaji universities (but not those from IISc or IITs or foreign universities) had joined the ranks of the Approved Professors at the University of Pune. It was also the same time during which COEP’s name was slapped with the “Government” prefix, to make it fall in line with the similar Government-run colleges elsewhere in the state. If COEP had later dared to drop this part of its moniker (which, too, happened during this same period), then its alumni couldn’t possibly be relied upon to know about the better practices concerning engineering education elsewhere. Conscientiousness would be a key value to keep, especially during those troubled post-liberalization times, and especially in respect of the more exceptional ones among the COEP alumni—at least those who thought of themselves as being exceptional, anyway.

Now, cutting to the present, as far as this branch-“jumping” issue goes, there were many people wanting to go back to the (somewhat) better times, of course. (I know of at least one past Dean of Engineering of the University of Pune who did. In fact, two.)

Some other people were really not aware of the better times, but they simply faced the practical inconvenience of not getting a Government Job, and so were trying very hard to persuade both the university as well as the state government. The Maharashtra state government could only be sensitive to the representations if these were made in a democratic manner, and it would only be willing to review the mere technicalities involved, but of course, according to its own time-table—as a part of its ongoing Plans for a further expansion of the state expenditure.

Thus, while the efforts of these other people at the Savitribai Phule University of Pune didn’t at all bear fruit—I suspect that something other than conscientiousness might have come in their way—their tenacious representations to the state government certainly did. Over a period of some three years (give or take a few), the Mantraalaya finally did come to the point of concluding its ongoing reviews, and thus come to the point of issuing a GR.

It was thus that, in mid-2014, the Maharashtra State government came out with a GR affirming certain new eligibility criteria for the hiring of professors in the Government-run colleges in the state, as well as for the non-aided colleges in the state. These new criteria included allowing the graduates of the production, metallurgy and materials science branches (as also certain other new branches such as CAD/CAM, CFD, etc.) to become (full) Professors of Mechanical Engineering, if the candidate also had his PhD in Mechanical. (If he has a PhD, but if his PhD is not in Mechanical, the candidate now can still be hired, but he can now become only an Associate Professor, not a Full Professor. But at least, he can now get a job in any university falling under the jurisdiction of the Maharashtra State, now. More importantly, he can get a Government Job.) Including at the very highly conscientious university that is the Savitribai Phule University of Pune, Pune.

The GR had come out in the mid-2014. However, I didn’t know about this development. In the University of Mumbai, none was aware. None of my numerous friends (more than 10) working as Professors, HoDs, and Principals, in the private engineering colleges in the Savitribai Phule University of Pune, knew about it. Not a single one of them. And, Gajanan Kharate, even if he sure would be aware of the development, did not clarify the matter in response to the emails I sent (keeping him on the cc field for my application for a Principal’s position). In fact, he sent no replies at all—not even to the other email I wrote; this email was addressed to my friend’s friend (and a COEP alumnus), one who is a Principal at one of the (better) engineering colleges in Pune, and whose ad I was responding to. The Dean didn’t deem it fit to clarify the matter to a Principal of a leading engineering institute in Pune.

So, how did I come to know about the GR?

Only by accident, and only around mid-June 2015, i.e. one full year after it had originally been issued, while idling browsing the Web site of COEP. … You see, I have been looking for an opportune time to show them—the current COEP professors—down, and so, I sometimes do check out their Web site, esp. their recruitment section. For their latest recruitment advertisement, COEP had now put up this GR on their Web site. That’s how I came to know of it.

But, by this time—mid-June 2015—professors’ posts at the leading colleges in Pune had already been filled. (I saw all their advertisements in the Pune papers during April and May, but ignored all of these, concentrating my efforts instead only on the colleges in the better run University of Mumbai, because Mumbai had no issue concerning the metallurgy-to-mechanical branch-“jumping.”)

Anyway, the point is that after mid-June, I began applying to (and indeed also sporadically interviewing at) the private engineering colleges affiliated to the Savitribai Phule University of Pune.

The current status is that chances are high that I would get a job offer at at least one engineering college in Pune. I have been offered a position by phone and I have confirmed my acceptance by phone, but I have not received the offer by email. Once the latter happens, I will update this post when that happens.

I also want to see if this blog post goes against my getting that job offer (or any other job offer). No, not exactly for fun, but I do want to do that. … It’s just me, you know… I am just so talkative. And, readative. And, also, writative. Blogative, in fact. … I just can’t help blogging…. And so, it’s quite natural to want to see if (my) blogging habits come in the way of (my) getting job offer(s). Check back for any updates concerning this aspect.

Update on the same day (2015.08.11, 5:30 PM): Yes, I have received the job offer by email. I should be joining the college right this week. More, later. [The section on a song I like has returned immediately, however; check out below.]

 

[Some editing, as usual, is due, and I may effect it, but I am not in a hurry. Done. I may go out of town for something other than the job-related matters, too, in the meanwhile…. Either visit a friend, or go on a short trip driving in the mountains, or something like that… Check back after a couple of days…]

 


A Song I Like:

(Hindi) “ashkon ne jo paayaa hai …”
Singer: Talat Mahmood
Lyrics: Sahir Ludhianvi
Music: N. Dutta
[E&OE]

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What is the soul?

I ended my last post by asking you whether you were entertaining the possibility of astrology as a valid idea. Were you?

Ummm… Regardless, I am going to write further, on more ideas of similar nature. For instance, this question:

What is the soul?

Here is an indication of the cluttered drawer that currently is my mind, concerning this question. No, I haven’t tried to put it in any order. (Why not? Possibly, it’s because I don’t care for you. I am irresponsible. I am bad.)

I will not attempt to define this term (“soul”), i.e., define it in terms of some other terms. I have over the years attempted doing so, and at last have conquered this highly alluring temptation. I conquered it by taking the soul to the most fundamental level in philosophy: at the level of axioms. [An axiom is a concept or a principle that has to be taken for granted before any thinking or discussion can ensue. A philosophical axiom is a (a) self-evident (b) fundamental (c) primary (i.e. unanalyzable concept).]

The soul is the “I” in the statement: “There is something that I am aware of”:

  • There (in space-time)
  • is (being in existence)
  • There is (Existence)
  • something (Identity)
  • that (an abstract level; contrast: “of which I am aware”)
  • that … of (Primacy of Existence)
  • I (To Ayn Rand: Consciousness qua faculty; also man the integrated being. To me: Also in addition: the Soul.)
  • am (To Objectivists: the Focus as the beginning point of knowledge and epistemology. To me: in fact also in addition the axiom of life)
  • aware (To Ayn Rand and to me: Consciousness qua a state of Awareness)
  • that—of (To me: An unnecessary appendage inserted into the English language by the British and the Americans so that people like me would continue to have difficulty with their language all their life, and so, couldn’t possibly compete with them, in any sphere of life.)

But why the hell should someone go on just being aware, in the first place? So, let’s try something more lively (and tasty).

There was a (Marathi) “peru” I wanted to eat. I saw it. I reached for it. I ate it. It tasted good. I am satiated. (The British and Americans: You try a peach or an apple.)

In this sequence of statements, wherever the term “I” came in, the Soul came in, too. (Dear Objectivist, you mean to say you had never noticed it before? (LOL!))

OTOH, it wasn’t just the soul that came in. The soul cannot see anything, it cannot grab anything, it cannot taste anything. The doer actually was the integrated being that is the individual living man that is me.

The Indian term for this metaphysical integration (in the sense I take the term) is: “yoga” (which is not pronounced as “yogaa” (and Indians are more guilty for the continued perpetration of this crime than are the Americans)).

I often differ from Indian tradition(s).

The soul has no feelings. (Dear Indians, this is the place where I most saliently differ from you.) Feelings arise only in the context of consciousness, which arises only in the context of life. The soul has no desires.

The soul is not “just a bundle of” desires. (That’s just an empiricist position—not because of the involvement of desires or feelings, but simply because: a primary being is being described via a “bundle” of its attributes. Disintegration. That’s what this position indicates.)

The soul is not even a stand-alone and integrated existing instance of desires. It is an integration, but not of anything to do with consciousness, e.g. desires.

The soul is an integration of the pre-desires (and don’t raise the issue of their origin (turtles!)) and the pre-dispositions (which, I know, are acquired by the Soul itself, during a life-time).

The soul requires life to become a metaphysically active causal agent. A soul without life is in a state of a passive kind of an existence. Not exactly passive, because there also is a dormant potential for a striving for perfection built into its state, but it is only a dormant potential. It’s in a frozen state, so to speak. It needs the warmth of the life to make its potential participate in actions—whether in the physical realm or in the spiritual realm.

To Ayn Rand, it seems, life was not an un-analyzable and self-evident primary. To me, in a certain sense, it is. (However, my thinking on this count isn’t yet clear enough.)

To the ancient Indian tradition, man—the individual living man—is an integration of soul, life and body. I accept this position (I mean, using the terms only in the respective senses in which I take them).

The soul is the soul-wise identity of a man. Repetition? Just because it’s an axiom.

The soul does have identity (and the usage is to be taken in the Objectivist sense—in the sense that each soul is an identity.)

The soul does cause life-times, but I am not sure whether it causes the principle of life itself. Is life an axiom? I don’t know. (Dear Objectivists, yes, I do entertain this question. I really am not an Objectivist.)

The soul is not the unconscious. It is the pre-conscious.

The unconscious refers to the conscious for its definition. The soul does not require consciousness to exist. It requires consciousness only in order to achieve its goals better.  In fact, to achieve its goals, it does not even metaphysically require consciousness. At the most fundamental metaphysical level, it only needs life.

By rejecting the unconscious from the soul, I think I have emptied a lot of Western garbage about it (and also the Eastern one). Allow me to continue. I also empty the sub-conscious from the soul. The sub-conscious is just a part of consciousness—with time-varying content.

The goal of a living being is not “just” to live; it is: to satiate the soul.

Life is not an end in itself (and here I again differ from Ayn Rand); the satiation of a soul is the end of life. The satiation of different desires arising due to the integrated pre-dispositions and pre-desires that the soul carries.

What is the ultimate goal for a soul? I differ once again from the Indian tradition.

  • It is not a merging with the God, or even becoming a God.
  • It also is not a mastery over Existence: How can an aspect/attribute of something ever possibly be master of that same thing of which it is just an attribute? (Try: the blueness of the ink trying to become a master of the ink.)
  • It is not even mastery over just the physical universe: How can one attribute ever be a master of another attribute? (Try: the blueness of the ink trying to be a master of its fluidity.)

The ultimate goal for a soul, I therefore think, can only be: to be the most satiated. Which means, if taken in a mathematically limiting sense, to be so satiated as not to have any possibilities of any potential for any further satiations left. (BTW, a limiting process does require a preferred direction, and thus does imply a goal.)

So the Ultimate Goal for the Soul now becomes: the metaphysically most complete state of satiation, without any element of any unsatiation in any respect ever left.

How would you describe the state of reaching of that goal? I don’t know. But I guess the answer may be: When it is one with the soul-plenum. I mean to say: If you accept the idea that there is a plenum for souls (just the way there is a plenum for physical bodies), and if it is some kind of internal tensions (or state with pre-desires) propel the soul to grow, the only state in which the tension would cease to exist is when the soul becomes one with the entire plenum. The soul doesn’t die, really speaking—it has no life. But it does have states other than the basic existential state that is only to exist. Again, on this point, I have to think further. But it is clear to me that there are only individual souls, and no super-soul, and that the soul is outside of space and time and the physical world, and that there are rebirths. Teleology is deceptive: It appears simple, but is damn difficult to deal with—correctly.

I don’t know if that is what (at least some of the) ancient Indians have meant by terms such as the (“mahaa mahaa”) “moksha” and the (“mahaa mahaa”) “nirwaaNa”. Even if they did, there have been any number of retards—Indian, Middle-Eastern, Middle-Western, Western, Eastern, Far-Eastern, Whatever-Directionan/Place-an—to interpret terms like these in any number of irrational ways. The most salient error involves ascribing to life (and its attributes) what rests with (or is attribute of) soul. And, make an ethics and politics out of it. For example: annihilate pleasure—that’s “moksha”. Can’t do that? Suppress pleasure—that’s “moksha”. The direction from this point on can only be downhill. And these retards do go all the way down. Also throw humanity down that way.

BTW, did you know what the term “moksha” means? The easiest way to approach its true meaning is via astrology (!), even though it is not the best. But as soon as one says astrology, who really cares for anything else? Not at least initially, anyway. So, we go with the astrological approach first.

In astrology, the nature of the houses repeats, three times, this particular sequence of the four (in the order given): “dharma”, “artha”, “kaama”, “moksha”. Following my own ideas, and in brief: “dharma” (here) means: the nature, the identity, the cause, of a certain pre-desire (and note, I said, a pre-desire; not a desire—and that’s where I differ from the Indian tradition); “artha” means the act of looking around in this physical world so as to identify the physical object whose nature matches the nature of that particular pre-desire, and thus translating the pre-desire into the conscious terms as a desire; “kaama” means taking action to satisfy that desire, and to actually enjoy it; “moksha” means mentally translating the experience (mostly emotional) of the mental and bodily satiation into the soul-like (or pre-desire-some) terms, i.e. taking the experience into the soul, so to speak, thereby helping retire that pre-desire of the soul. The cycle repeats three times, with somewhat differing modulations and at different levels: the matters of the childhood and the early youth, (first four houses); those of the youth and the early mature adult (the next four); and those of a fully mature adult (the last four). So, you know what “moksha” means: it is the change of the state of the soul in different ways: “sukha” (accessible also to a child), “aShtama” (properly speaking, ”kundalini”, accessible to a man only after coming to an age), and “vyaya” (accessible only after mature adult-hood). Those are the levels in normal course and for the general case—i.e., after allowing for exceptions (like Dnyaaneshwara).

But of course, the best way to know the meaning of “moksha” would be via etymology. Here, I don’t know, but guess, that the roots could be: “mu:” + ”ksha”. “mu” means bond, and “much_” means letting go, to let fall, to let go away. (Remember “pramuchchate”?) So I guess, “mu” means that bond which is about to break or at least a bond that can be broken. “ksha” means to waste away, to pine away, and also, loss. (“kshama:” is a verb that means: to endure; “ma” means: happiness, emotional calmness, stability. “kshama:” means: to maintain mental balance or calm despite loss or damage. “kshamaa” means the quality of character that comes by following such action.) So, “moksha” (and, as usual, not “mokshaa”) should mean (though don’t take my word for it (I am careless etc.)): loss of a bond that could be broken or was about to break.

In particular, “moksha” emphatically is not the same as “mukti”; it is the latter that means freedom. “moksha” properly translates only to the breaking of a bondage.

But bondage of what? bonded to what? “moksha” by itself has no root whatsoever indicating an answer to these questions. The intelligent Indian retards have put forth “desires” as the answer. (Yes, a retard can be intelligent, esp. if he is an Indian.)

In contrast, in my thinking, the term must attach to the pre-desires.

The Ultimate Goal of a Soul, then, is to attain the Most Satiated State by retiring all the pre-desires.

I don’t know if what was described in the last sentence is metaphysically possible. I have no speculation to offer on this count either. (Yes, I am irresponsible. Also, careless.)

To me, the soul is always the individual soul. There is no metaphysical conscious being whose splinters the individual souls are. If at all you wish to entertain the idea of splinters, make sure to know that IMO the soul is not conscious, and so, what you are talking about can only be the splinters of the apersonal plenum. Why not consider them as the distinct, isolated conditions in that plenum?

Consciousness is nothing but a sophisticated means that the principle of life has caused to come into being, and a conscious being uses. How did it happen? I don’t know. Any speculation? The only way it could have happened would be under the direction of the more evolved souls—directing their own bodies, I mean. And then, passed on to the rest of us, as a faculty, via persistent modifications to the genes. (Such modifications is a very slow process but one with discretely identifiable steps. And, it is the individual soul-directed process, in my scheme.)

What does that imply? A soul can modify the physical world (including the genes), in its own “image”. Evolution refers to this fact. Nothing is random. Randomness cannot metaphysically exist (just the way a void cannot metaphysically exist). At the same time, I also reject the idea of a Supreme Commander Sitting Up There and Directing the evolution down below.

An imperfect soul must have something like a state of tension or stress built into itself; but this does not mean it even feels that. All that it means is that it, by a causal metaphysical law, this soul must take birth before it can release it. And, during those life-times, its rate of improvement should be “proportional” to how evolved he is on his (Soul-ic) perfection scale. I agree with Ayn Rand that perfection is a moral term and that perfection is achievable. I only suggest (though still have to think this thing through) that there also is a certain metaphysical sense to the term “perfection” and that the moral principle traces its root not just to life but also to the axiom of the soul.

The soul does mould life, but the moulding is not to be taken in the active, or verb-like sense. If you know calculus, the soul moulds life only via setting up the initial conditions for the system evolution (or the living being’s actions). Thus, it is the state of the soul at birth that moulds the nature of the actions of/in an individual’s life. The actions proper belong only to life, not to soul; the soul, however does have a state.

Since you don’t know my unpublished mathematical poutings, apart from the initial and boundary conditions, there also is a possibility of the continuing conditions. The soul also gets affected by life, qua its state. If not, its teleological evolution across life-times would have been impossible.


Other notes:

When I say “the” soul, I sometimes mean not a specific instance of a particular soul, but the principle of soul. I try to use “a” soul to mean the former. If I make confusing usage, the inconsistency is due to the roughness of the draft writing, as well as to my poor English. But, in any case, I never mean something Platonic (or  pre-Platonic, or post-Platonic) such as, say, the “global” soul, the “mahaa” soul that encompasses all the souls within itself.

The context should make clear the places where I borrow from others (esp. from the Indian tradition), and where I put forth my own philosophizations. If in doubt at some place, and also troubled about it: ask me!

All the philosophical debts are acknowledged, whether explicitly or not. (This is just a blog post; not a monograph.) The trouble isn’t there. The trouble is on the other hand: a philosopher may interpret some of my points in the light of some philosophical tradition that I am not even aware of, and so accuse me—not of plagiarism, but of some position that actually is not mine. Possible. They—the philosophers—are always like that. Well, not always, but mostly, anyway.

I am unreliable. I may modify my views any time. For instance, I have no clarity on whether life should be an axiom, and what exactly the relation between life and soul (in my sense of the term) is. I will continue thinking about such things off and on, the way I have for such a long time—since high-school. However, though I am unreliable and irresponsible, I will let this post stay here. I will not delete it.

OK, enough of this write-up. As usual, I may come back and edit this post a bit—but only for grammar/typos, not for altering ideas.

 

[E&OE]

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