The Bhatnagar prizes 2015

The Bhatnagar prizes [^] for 2015 have been announced [(.PDF) ^]. The selections seem to be, as usual, the “safe” ones. So there can’t be much to comment on, on that count.

So, let me try to squeeze out something interesting and relevant from that bit of the news.

As far as I am concerned, the first interesting bit is this: I “know”—i.e. have run into and exchanged a few words with—one of the awardees. Exactly once, at a conference. The fellow in question is Dr. Mandar Deshmukh (2015, Physical Sciences). From the presentation he made at that conference, it was quite clear (at least to me) that he was doing some neat science. While making his presentation, he had assumed that informal and abstract air which by now has become typical for the relatively younger IIT Bombay graduates. I do like this change in them. Earlier, i.e. in my times and earlier, they used to be far too arrogant, pompous, or self-assuming. Even in their informal presentations. Important to me, Deshmukh carried the same air of informality (of a kind of friendliness, almost) during the in-person chat that I had with him on the side-lines during the buffet lunch. Why, he even casually asked me (as others) to “drop by [his] lab and have a look at the equipment any time,” adding that it was “interesting,” with a glint in his eye. Hmmm… Turns out that he has continued doing “interesting” things. (This conference was in 2009 or 2010.) As far as I am concerned, this selection seems quite right. So, congratulations, Dr. Deshmukh!

The second interesting bit is that Deshmukh was the second person present at that conference with who I had chatted during lunch and who eventually got the Bhatnagar award. The first person was Dr. Umesh Waghmare. (Yet another younger IIT Bombay alumnus.)

To go on to the third interesting bit, let me note that it was not a very “official” kind of a conference. It was just a symposium arranged to honor Professor Dilip Kanhere, on the occasion of his retirement as a Professor of Physics in the (now S. P.) University of Pune. There were no brownie points to be scored from this conference; people got together only out of respect for the retiring professor—and of course, out of the love of the research topics. Important to note: People had dropped by from as far places as the USA, Germany, Sweden, etc. (I came to know Prof. Kanhere through Web searches; he had just founded the Center for Modeling and Simulation; I was interesting in anything combining computation and physics. I approached him; he allowed me to attend his classes and generally roam around in the CMS for a while.)

So, the interesting bit is the knack that Prof. Kanhere evidently has to gather together some talented (and/or interesting) people. [I don’t mean to refer to me here.] I don’t know why not every professor succeeds doing that. But some professors do have this knack. Talented folks somehow “smell” such people and almost as if “by default” gather around them. Consider Kanhere’s PhD students (or research associates), and compare them to any randomly selected PhD from any department at the S. P. University of Pune during the same time; Kanhere’s students (and associates) stand out. The current director of CMS, Anjali Kshirsagar, is his PhD student; many others have had post-docs at good institutes abroad, which, incidentally, is a good benchmark for Indian universities (other than the IIXs). This point is important.

Even while working within the “parameters” of this third-class university (I mean the S. P. University of Pune), Kanhere managed to inculcate the right kind of intellectual spirit, and culture in his group, why, even some simple manners and rules of etiquette that researchers from the first-world almost always follow, and a normal guy in the S. P. University of Pune is blissfully (or more likely: arrogantly) unaware of. (Ditto for almost any other Indian university.) At least as far as I am concerned, if I know that if someone has been a student or post-doc with Prof. Kanhere, I immediately know that my emails will not only be read but also replied—and more important, its contents would be thought about before the reply is made (and perhaps also afterwards). It’s something like the atmosphere at iMechanica that Prof. Zhigang Suo has managed to create and maintain. How do some professors succeed doing such a thing regardless of the environment surrounding them? [Compare other blogging fora and iMechanica, on this count: the overall and general civility of the interaction present at iMechanica, combined with the informality. The fact that iMechanica is based at Harvard must have helped to a great extent, but this one factor alone doesn’t explain the outcome.]

So, how is a better atmosphere created? I have no idea. But the point especially relevant to us Indians is: it requires almost no money, almost no hard-work. (Well at least, not the futilely draining kind of a hard-work). And yet, only a few professors ever manage to accomplish that. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea. [As a professor myself, I am too new to know if I could manage to do that. But my point is: I would like to at least try.]

There is a value in such things. Kanhere’s students (and the people who had gathered for his retirement symposium) happened to be more or less the only people who (i) did not laugh at me when I said I am trying to derive a new view of QM, (ii) did not advise me to go read text-books within the first 5 minutes of my mentioning my published paper (or in the first email (if at all a reply came forth)), and (iii) did not try to avoid me the next time we ran into each other. Indeed, as far as the in-person interaction goes, the only people who have ever thoughtfully and informally commented on my QM ideas were Kanhere’s students. One of his students (then a professor himself) emphasized the complex number nature of the \Psi wave-function, and also brought home the fact that the name random variable is a misnomer, it actually being a function. Another student of his (again himself a professor) emphasized the conjugate nature of energy and time, not just of the momentum and position; see John Baez’ coverage here [^]. He also pointed out quantum chemistry to me; I didn’t know about it (“just substitute it in place of t; you will get it”). This, while people were busy saying to me that they won’t read a paper if it was about QM and written in MS Word, and that I should send the paper to a journal. (If they themselves couldn’t bother to even read the paper, why would they think that a journal could accept it? Blank-out. As far as they were concerned, the fact was that I myself had approached them, and so in that very act, I myself had put them in a higher, advising, position; they would therefore be generous in dispensing advice; the matter ended there as far as they were concerned.)

Reading the post in the plain, it’s impossible to convey what value mere “emphases” can be, because the issues are so generally well known. The point is: within the context of that particular discussion, within the context of that particular cluster of ideas, it’s just this one word emphasis that really gives you the clue. … It’s been more than five years since these comments, and I still marvel at how they got me out of my conceptual difficult spots with these off-hand but thoughtful remarks. (Their clarifications and even casually expressed emphases continue to help me, including during my recent-most brain-storming that I noted just yesterday in the previous post.) Why would only Kanhere’s students do that, despite the individual differences between them?

Thus, to use a cliche, some people manage to bring people together in such a way that 1 and 1 does not become 2; it becomes 11. How do they manage to do that? I have no idea.

How was it that Bohr managed to attract so many talented people to his institute? It is especially relevant to point out to Indians that this “institute,” when it was founded, had only one professor—Bohr himself—and a couple of other support staff. The visitors (like Heisenberg) would be lodged in a top-floor “room” (one having a low slanted roof), in the same building. Why, even as recently as in the late 1990s, the “University Department” at Utrecht had a faculty strength of less than 10—that’s roughly the time when Professor Gerard ‘t Hooft got his Nobel. The “Department” was that small; yet he would manage to attract talented folks from all over the world, i.e., even before the time that he got his Nobel. Sommerfeld had this same knack; look at the list of the PhDs he graduated and the post-docs he nurtured. For an example of the more recent times and from the US, look at the list of John Wheeler’s PhD students and post-docs: Richard Feynman and Kip Thorne count among his PhD students. Kip Thorne himself has been attracting an incredibly large pool of PhD students, post-docs and research associates.

Why do some people succeed attracting talent? Are there any lessons we can draw and learn? Let us not focus only on the Nobel laureates. Really speaking, winners of the Nobel prizes, or their mentors, do not make for a good, fitting example for us Indians. It cannot. Precisely because the achievement in question is so great, the difference in the perceived levels so large, that we Indians actually end up doing is to silently dismiss such instances away without any actual consideration. We cannot draw any lessons from them, for the simple reason that the very possibility of building the super-high-end intellectual hubs is completely surreal to us. [And, our friends and kins in the USA, esp. those in the San Francisco Bay Area, specialize in continually reminding us of the impossibility.]

So, let’s lower our bar a bit. I don’t mind doing that. But lowering the bar doesn’t mean we stop attempting. We can—and must—ask: is it possible to replicate, say, Professor Kanhere’s success, even if Wheeler’s example would be completely surreal to us? Is it possible to create an environment in which a prior PhD failure, esp. the one in engineering (and that too from a US university) runs into a physics professor, and says something using some stupid halting words which effectively convey: he wants to reformulate the foundations of QM. He says that, and still the physics professor doesn’t laugh it away right then and there? Is it possible to create this kind of an environment? Not just at an IIX, but also within the lowly S. P. University of Pune? Yes, it is possible; it has happened. … Is it possible that future Bhatnagar recipients flock together for what basically is just a “send-off” function of a non-IIX professor? Yes, it is possible; it has happened.

And, if such things are possible, then, the next question is: what precisely does it take to make it happen? to replicate it? I would like to know.

Over to you all.

[And, in the meanwhile, congratulations to the fresh Bhatnagar awardees once again, esp. Dr. Deshmukh.]

A Song I Like:
(Hindi) “yeh dil aur un ki nigahon ke saaye”
Music: Jaidev
Lyrics: Jan Nisar Akhtar
Singer: Lata Mangeshkar




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A recommended time sink

[Update added on 2015.09.26 4:15 PM: See the songs-related section]

Since I don’t have any time in hand and since you have all the time in the world do, let me send you to a good time sink: The “Ask a Mathematician / Ask a Physicist” blog, here [^]. Pretty good.

Some time later, when I have a little time in hand, I will go through it and make a noting here about a few posts there which I like or wish to highlight.

I stumbled on it while searching for differences between complex numbers and vectors.

A Song I Like

There is a Marathi song I like, but don’t know—any longer. I mean, I don’t recall the words, or anything else, except for a part of the “mukhaDaa” (i.e. the refrain). The words for this part are:

“ujaaDalee, poorva, ujaaDalee [flute].”

This part of the “mukhaDaa” is sung by a chorus. It must be an old song; I used to hear it while I was in school or college. However, it is not so old as “meLaa sangeet;” it could belong to the times of Sudhir Phadake, Yashwant Deo, Shrinivas Khale, Hridaynath Mangeshkar, et al. Drop me a line if you can locate it. Yes, I tried both the Google search and the “athavanitli gaNi” Web site; it’s not there. If you want, I can upload a humming of that part of the tune which I do remember. … Could the word “ujaaDalee” be different? Yes, that’s possible. Could it possibly have been an ad on radio and not a song? Possible, but not very likely…. So, there.

Update on 2016.09.26, 4:15 PM:

Got it! I got this (above-mentioned) song while searching for another song by Asha Bhosale. I was doing this second search at the “athavanitli gaNi” site, and that’s when serendipity led me to this [above-mentioned] song. The song is:

(Marathi) “ughaDi daar poorva dishaa…”
Music: Datta Davajekar
Singers: Hridaynath Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosale
Lyrics: P. Savalaaraam

OK. So, it turns out that in the “mukhaDaa” (i.e. the refrain), there is no “poorva” at all! It’s just a humming by Hridaynath (and chorus) which somehow sounded like “poorva” to me. (I had always mistaken this humming for the “poorva” word.)

Now, a bit about the other song whose details I was searching. Once again, I remember only a part of the “mukhaDaa” for this second song. It too is sung by “Aashaa Bhosale”…But chances are, I will locate it faster. The thing is, I have heard this second song more than once in the last decade or so, which is in sharp contrast to the above song, which I think I had not at all heard even once over some 3 decades’ time or more.

If I am as tied up as I say in the main post, then how come I find all this time to search through all this big list of songs, you ask?

Well, it so happened that, this morning, I was in a way done with a conceptual problem.

Ok. First things first. As a matter of fact, I have indeed been very busy with the teaching and college work. Our week-ends once again got suspended (for the accreditation-related work), and thus, we have been working for more than 15 days straight, without taking a single day’s break, and in fact with a couple of hours of extra work added per day. (Thus, my day at the college has been beginning at 9 AM and ending at 7 PM, and Saturday and Sunday have been working days.)

But this conceptual problem was interesting too. But I could not work on it, because I didn’t have any time in had. But I could not stop thinking about it either.

So, the only way I could work on it was, more or less, only in the head—just a few scribblings in a pocket diary is all I could manage to have by way of any paper-and-pencil work. (The problem is related to QM, and it is (the way I see it) mainly conceptual in nature, even if maths, of course, would be there.

[If you are really interested about what problem it was, let me put it this way: I have been seeing whether my approach (as spelt out as in my published papers) can still be defended, even after the PDC-photons-related results. In pursuing this line, I took a complete second look at all that I have thought about.]

The first break-through to happen was more or less was on 20th September. …. On most other occasions when I have solved an engaging conceptual problem (or a problem that was challenging to me), there had always been a period of intense work on the same problem preceding any insight. This time round, however, it was different. I was working hard, but not on this problem. There was portion to finish in thermodynamics and operations research. Yet, I slowly made progress also on this QM problem. Further, the progress was not at all dramatic—it was slow and steady, almost like a clerical work. I somehow ended up making a delta progress each day, and much of it occurred during the 2.5 hours spent every day in commuting. Most of it was during the hour spent while going to college in the morning, and almost none of it while returning—I would be too tired in the evening. As a matter of fact, the progress mostly occurred during the early morning 15–20 minutes when I prepared and had my coffee/breakfast, or,  as I said, during these “to” commuting hours. … Typically, once I reached college, I would hurriedly note down the thoughts in a small pocket diary. Then, I would have other things to worry about, and so forget about it all. Reaching home tired at 8:45 PM or so, I would have no energy to review the diary. So, both the review and the new thoughts could occur only the next morning, and at most only for 10–15 minutes. (That was one reason why I was looking for a song with a morning touch to it, when I wrote this post.)

Anyway, while coming to work today, I realized that I had crossed a certain point of completeness about it. So, as soon as I reached college, I jotted down all the thoughts still afresh in the mind.

Tomorrow is the first off day after 15+ days of college-work, and I am more or less done with all my work (this private work as well as the one at college). And so, I now wanted to relax a bit, and so, thought of playing a song (but only in the mind). I could not “get” it. That’s why I launched the browser once again, and did a Google search. I could not locate it. So, I went on the “aathavaNitli gaaNee” site, and started going through the entire list of Asha’s songs there, to locate this second song (which I still haven’t got). Then, somehow, looking at the “poorva” in the middle of the line in this (Asha’s) list [earlier, I had checked the songs that begin with “poorva”] I suspected something and cross-checked. Bingo! I had gotten to the first song, even if not the second!!

(I am going to allow myself a bit of a wine today. Two reasons. First, I need a break. Second, tomorrow, it being the “ananta chaturdashee” day, sale of any liquor (including table wine) would be officially banned, even though unofficially, most every “dancer” participating in the procession will smell like a brewery, and yet, every policeman will ignore every such a smell-emitter. [Correction: They have moved on to the grass, and the drugs these days, I have been told.]… Thus, the ban will affect only me—not the “dancers.” So, as far as I am concerned, it’s best to finish the “business” only today. …

Indeed, to escape from all the high or very high dB noise that goes on throughout the “ananta chaturdashee” night, I was also thinking of driving out of town to some secluded and quiet place. … It’s a bloody freaking irritance—this “visarjana” procession… But then, Monday is not a holiday to us; in fact, we have to work till 7 PM, again…

OK. More, later. Next week-end or later. [The QM thingie will need some maths to be worked out and possibly some quick simulations to be done, before I can write anything about it, even here on the blog. Also, learning a bit more QM than I know now. So, it should be December at the earliest, before I can write anything about it. In the meanwhile, I will also be preparing notes and programs for CFD, and guiding student projects, etc….  So there. Take care and bye for now.]



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Writing on writings on quantum mechanics


This post is about quantum mechanics. Even though I had sworn that I would never even read let alone comment on any writing on quantum mechanics that mentions Alice and/or Bob, I am going to bend my own rule a bit and write this post.

I want to thank Scott Aaronson for writing this [^] blog post which generated this response [^] by Roger Schlafly for the writing of which post I am thankful to Roger Schlafly the impetus for writing of which post was provided by Aaronson’s writing of the post [^] which generated the aforementioned response [^] by Roger Schlafly for writing of which post I am thankful to… to… to him.

A task for you: Determine who the “him” is, here.

About the authors:

Scott Aaronson, BS (Computer Science), PhD (Computer Science), is Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT [I mean the one in Cambridge, MA, USA]. He thus lives on the east coast [of the USA], and from what I can make out, he is [mostly] a Democrat. He has authored a book (c. 2013): “Quantum Computing since Democritus,” thereby demonstrating that (i) he knows about ancient Greeks, time, computing, and quanta, and also that (ii) he overestimates peoples’ interest in any one or more of the aforementioned four. Trivia: He has received a best paper award in the field of CS, guides PhD student(s) in that field, and notes on his blog that as a PhD student himself, he “got through CS grad school at Berkeley without really learning any programming language other than QBASIC.” Conclusion: His code never really compiles.

Roger Schlafly, BS (Electrical Engineering), PhD (Mathematics), is a consultant in the San Francisco Bay Area. He thus lives on the west coast [of the USA], in fact in California, but from what I can make out, he is [mostly] a Republican. He has authored a book (c. 2011): “How Einstein Ruined Physics,” thereby demonstrating that he knows about the relativity theory. Earlier (1982) he had authored another book, one on solving the Rubik’s cube puzzle; it had the title: “The Complete Cube Book,” in which he had promised the reader that using this book, they will “soon be able to solve the cube in times consistently under one minute,” thereby demonstrating that he too was interested in time, and he too overestimated peoples’ interest in pointless puzzles. Trivia: In 1993, he also patented two large prime numbers (yes numbers) as part of a cryptographic algorithm; the patent was granted [in the USA]. Conclusion: He really makes no money from his patent.

Both obtained their [respective] PhD’s from University of California at Berkeley, CA, USA.

Yes, this post was about quantum mechanics.

You mean to say you didn’t browse through the links? Why not?

About my position: Too busy to write any real post for now, and will remain so also for quite some more time to come…

As to picking sides… Well, both got their PhDs from Berkeley, you know! And, while one PhD was in Mathematics [!], the other one was in Computer Science [!!]

Ummm….. But, yes, on the whole, I [tend to/almost fully] agree with Schlafly here, not Aaronson. …. On the other hand, Aaronson’s post, I am sure, is going to generate a lot of interesting comments (and also his replies), which is a read in itself….

So, you can see at least by now that this post was about quantum mechanics.

A Song I Like:

(Hindi) “ye zulphon ki bikhari ghaTaa kyaa kaheti hai…”
Music: Rajesh Roshan
Singer: Asha Bhosale (and, Asha Bhosale)
Lyrics: Anjaan (really)

[Once again I bend my rules—and thereby for the second time straight, refer to also the video of this song. The video, too, is interesting. In fact, it is very interesting. My favorite moments in the video here [^] (which is the first link on the Google search for this song) come during 1:59–2:15, and 2:22–2:35. In fact, everything about it is lovable, including the description by the uploader that this is a “Best Classic Romantic Song.” The only thing missing seems to be the disclaimer that no kids were harmed in the shooting filming of this song.]


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What do physicists mean by “multidimensional” physical reality?

Update on 2015.09.07, 07 AM: I have effected a few corrections. In particular, I have made it explicit that the third quantity isn’t the strength of an independently existing third property, but merely a quantity that is registered when the two independent quantities are both being varied. Sorry about that. If the need be, I will simplify this discussion further and write another blog post clarifying such points, some time later.

The last time, I said that I am falling short on time these days. This shortfall, generally speaking, continues. However, it just so happens that I’ve essentially finished a unit each for both the UG courses by today. Therefore, I do have a bit of a breather for this week-end (only); I don’t have to dig into texts for lecture preparations this evening. (Also, it turns out that despite the accreditation-related overtime work, we aren’t working on Sundays, though that’s what I had mentioned the last time round). All in all, I can slip in a small note, and the title question seems right.

We often hear that the physical reality, according to physicists, is not the 3-dimensional reality that we perceive. Instead, it is supposed to be some n-dimensional entity. For instance, we are told that space and time are not independent; that they form a 4-dimensional continuum. (One idea which then gets suggested is that space and time are physically inter-convertible—like iron and gold, for instance. (You mean to say you had never thought of it, before?)) But that’s only for the starters. There are string theorists who say that physical universe is 10-, n-, or \infty-dimensional.

What do physicists mean when they say that reality is n-dimensional where n >3? Let’s try to understand their viewpoint with a simple example. … This being a brief post, we will not pursue all the relevant threads, even if important. … All that I want to touch upon here is just one simple—but often missed—point, via just one, simple, illustration.

Take a straight line, say of infinite length. Take a point on this line. Suppose that you can associate a physical object with this point. The object itself may have a finite extent. For example, the object may be extended over a small segment of this line. In such a case, we will associate, say the mid-point of the segment with this object.

Suppose this straight line, together with the 1-dimensionally spread-out object, defines a universe. That is a supposition; just accept that.

The 1-dimensional object, being physical, carries some physical properties (or attributes), denoted as p_1, p_2, p_3, \cdots. For example, for the usual 3-dimensional universe, each object may have some extent (which we have already seen above), as well as some mass (and therefore density), color, transmissivity, velocity, spinning rate, etc. Also, position from a chosen origin.

Since we live in a 3-dimensional universe, we have to apply some appropriate limiting processes to make sense of this 1-dimensional universe. This task is actually demanding, but for the sake of the mathematical simplicity of the resulting model, we will continue with a 1-dimensional universe.

So, coming back to the object and its properties, each property it possesses exists in a certain finite amount.

Suppose that the strength of each property depends on the position of the object in the universe. Thus, when the object is at the origin (any arbitrary point on the line chosen as the reference point), the property p_1 exists with the strength s_1(0), the property p_2 exists with the strength s_2(0), etc. In short the ith property p_i exists with a strength s_i(x) where x is the position of the object in the universe (as measured from the arbitrarily selected origin.) Suppose the physicist knows (or chooses to consider) n number of such properties.

For each of these n number of properties, you could plot a graph of its strength at various positions in the universe.

To the physicist, what is important and interesting is not the fact that the object itself is only 1-dimensionally spread; it is: how the quantitative measures s_i(x)s of these properties p_is vary with the position x. In other words, whether or not there is any co-variation that a given ith property has with another kth property, or not, and if yes, what is the nature of this co-variation.

If the variation in the ith property has no relation (or functional dependence) to the kth property, then the physicist declares these two properties to be independent of each other. (If they are dependent on each other, the physicist simply retains only one of these two properties in his basic or fundamental model of the universe; he declares the other as the derived quantity.)

Assuming that a set of some n chosen properties such that they are independent of each other, his next quest is to find the nature of their functional dependence on position x.

To this end, he considers two arbitrarily selected points, x_1 and x_2. Suppose that his initial model has only three properties: p_1, p_2 and p_3. Suppose he experimentally measures their strengths at various positions x_1, x_2, x_3, x_4, \cdots.

While doing this experimentation, suppose he has the freedom to vary only one property at a time, keeping all others constant. Or, vary two properties simultaneously, while keeping all others constant. Etc. In short, he can vary combinations of properties.

By way of an analogy, you can think of a small box carrying a few on-off buttons and some readout boxes on it. Suppose that this box is mounted on a horizontal beam. You can freely move it in between two fixed points x = x_1 and x = x_2. The `on-off’ buttons can be switched on or off independent of each other.

Suppose you put the first button b_1 in the `on’ position and keep the the rest of the buttons in the `off’ position. Then, suppose you move the box from the point x_1 to the point x_2. The box is designed such that, if you do this particular trial, you will get a readout of how the property p_1 varied between the two points; its strength at various positions s_1(x) will be shown in a readout box b_1. (During this particular trial, the other buttons are kept switched off, and so, the other readout boxes register zero).

Similarly, you can put another button b_2 into the `on’ position and the rest in the `off’ position, and you get another readout in the readout box b_2.

Suppose you systematize your observations with the following notation: (i) when only the button b_1 is switched on (and all the other buttons are switched off), the property p_1 is seen to exist with s_1(x_1) units at the position x = x_1 and s_1(x_2) units at x = x_2; this readout is available in the box b_1. (ii) When only the button b_2 is switched on (and all the other buttons are switched off), the property p_2 exists with s_2(x_1) units at x = x_1 and s_2(x_2) units at x = x_2; this readout is available in the box b_2. So on and so forth.

Next, consider what happens when more than one switch is put in the `on’ position.

Suppose that the box carries only two switches, and both are put in the `on’ position. The reading for this combination is given in a third box: b_{(1+2)}; it refers to the variation that the box registers while moving on the horizontal beam. Let’s call the strengths registered in the third box, at x_1 and x_2 positions, as s_{(1+2)}(x_1) and s_{(1+2)}(x_2), respectively; these refer to the (1+2) combination (i.e. both the switches 1 and 2 put in the `on’ position simultaneously).

Next, suppose that after his experimentation, the physicist discovers that the following relation holds:

[s_{(1+2)}(x_2) - s_{(1+2)}(x_1)]^2 = [s_1(x_2) - s_1(x_1)]^2 + [s_2(x_2) - s_2(x_1)]^2

(Remember the Pythogorean theorem? It’s useful here!) Suppose he finds the above equation holds no matter what the specific values of x_1 and x_2 may be (i.e. whatever be the distances of the two arbitrarily selected points from the same origin).

In this case, the physicist declares that this universe is a 2-dimensional vector space, with respect to these p_1 and p_2 properties taken as the bases.

Why? Why does he call it a 2-dimensional universe? Why doesn’t he continue calling it a 1-dimensional universe?

Because, he can take a 2-dimensional graph paper by way of an abstract representation of how the quantities of the properties (or attributes) vary, plot these quantities s_1 and s_2 along the two Cartesian axes, and then use them to determine the third quantity s_{(1+2)} from them. (In fact, he can use any two of these strengths to find out the third one.)

In particular, he happily and blithely ignores the fact that the object of which p_i are mere properties (or attributes), actually is spread (or extended) over only a single dimension, viz., the x-axis.

He still insists on calling this universe a 2-dimensional universe.

That’s all there is to this n-dimensional nonsense. Really.

But what about the n-dimensional space, you ask?

Well, the physicist just regards the extension and the position themselves to form the set of the physical properties p_i under discussion! The physicist regards distance as a property, even if he is going to measure the strengths or magnitudes of the properties (i.e. distances, really speaking) only in reference to x (i.e. positions)!!

But doesn’t that involve at least one kind of a circularity, you ask?

The answer is embedded right in the question.

Understand this part, and the entire mystification of physics based on the “multi-dimensional” whatever vaporizes away.

But don’t rely on the popular science paperbacks to tell you this simple truth, though!

Hopefully, the description above is not too dumbed down, and further, hopefully, it doesn’t have too significant an error. (It would be easy for me (or for that matter any one else) to commit an error—even a conceptual error—on this topic. So, if you spot something, please do point it out to me, and I will correct the description accordingly. On my part, I will come back sometime next week, and read this post afresh, and then decide whether what I wrote makes sense or not.)

A Song I Like:

For this time round, I am going to list a song even if I don’t actually evaluate it to be a very great song.

In fact, in violation of the time-honored traditions of this blog, what I am going to do is to list the video of a song. It’s the video of a 25+ years old song that I found I liked, when I checked it out recently. As to the song, well, it has only a nostalgia value to me. In fact, even the video, for the most part, has only a nostalgia value to me. The song is this:

(Hindi) “may se naa minaa se na saaki se…”
Music: Rajesh Roshan
Singers: Sadhana Sargam and Mohammad Aziz
Lyrics: Farooq Qaisar

Well, those were the technical details (regarding this song). To really quickly locate the song (and the video), forget the lyrics mentioned above. Instead, just google “aap ke aa jaane se,” and hit the first video link that the search throws up. (Yes, it’s the same song.)

As I said, I like this video mainly for its nostalgic value (to me). It instantaneously takes me back to the 1987–88 times. The other reasons are: the utter natural ease with which both the actors perform the dance here (esp. Neelam!). They both in fact look like they are authentically enjoying their dancing. Watch Neelam’s steps, in particular. She was reputed to be a good dancer, and you might think that this song must have been a cake-walk for her. Well, check out her thin (canvas-like) shoes, and the kind of rough ground in the mountains and in the fields over which she seems so effortlessly to take those steps. Govinda, in comparison, must have had it a bit easier (with his thicker, leather shoes), but in any case, in actuality, it must have been some pretty good hard work for both of them—it’s just that the hard work doesn’t show in the song. … Further, I also like the relative simplicity of the picturization. And, the catchy rhythm. Also, the absence, here, of those gaudy gestures which by now are so routine in Hindi film songs (and in fact were there even in the times of this song, and in fact also for about a decade or more earlier). I mean: those pelvic thrusts, that passing off of a thousand of people doing their PT exercises on a new, sprawling suburban street in Mumbai/Gurgaon/Lutyens’ Delhi as an instance of dance, etc.

… I don’t know if you end up liking this song or not. To me, however, it unmistakably takes me to the times when I was a freshly minted MTech from IIT Madras, was doing some good (also satisfying) work in NDT, had just recently bought a bike (the Yamaha RX 100), and was looking forward to life in general with far more enthusiasm (and in retrospect, even naivete) than I can manage to even fake these days. So, there.

[As I said, drop a line if there are mistakes in the main post. Main mistake (or omission) corrected. As I said, drop a line if there are further mistakes in the main post. And, excuse me for some time, esp. the next week-end, esp. the next Saturday late night (IST). I may not find any time the next Sunday, because I would once again be in the middle of teaching a couple of new units over the next 2–3 weeks.]


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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 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.]



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