Some day in (not too distant a) future I would like to take up studies of weather modeling. Actually, “weather modeling and prediction” would be a much bigger (or general) field. My curiosity and interests lie only with prediction of rains in India.
I am serious.
With my PhD work, I have grown familiar with computer numerical modeling tools and techniques. I would like to put them to some different kind of use. Purely as a matter of a personal hobby—i.e., irrespective of what happens on the job front.
I am well aware of the phenomenon called chaos—both in the strict and the not-so-strict senses of the term. But, really, the way I see it, chaos does *not* matter, or at least, it should not—not to the extent it is made out to… For instance, I want to know why, despite the so-called “butterfly effect”, monsoon does arrive only around the month of June in India. I mean, if the world (or at least its weather) were really to be that “chaotic” (in the sense random), monsoon might have arrived in December one year, and in March some years later. But this, somehow, does not happen. Ever. Obviously, the world is not really as “chaotic” as chaos theorists would like us to believe.
I am also aware of the rather fine record of the earlier models, e.g., the Govarikar model, and also the new models that the meteorological dept. has been testing/using. I am not entering this field with any ideas that I will necessarily be able to do better than other people.
And yet, I know that unless I give it a real good try on my own, it would always be so very difficult for me to believe that monsoon prediction is really as hard as it is generally made out to be. I mean, it doesn’t matter if it’s hard, and so, I fail in it. The point is, I want to realize just in what way it is hard. By directly “doing it.”
My motivation thus, is, really speaking, purely intellectual curiosity, and even generosity—but not altruism. But, yes, if it will help millions in India who are so crucially dependent on the (timely) arrival of monsoons, why not? I mean, if it’s not going to hurt me in any way, then, why not?
People often confuse generosity with altruism. A good clarification in this context is this: “…Whether I care or not, is irrelevant. I have a right not to care. You have no right to force me to care. …” [Taken from here. Emphasis mine.] Now, altruism, in its actual sense, is not my motivation. It’s just that in this issue (prediction of weather) I would happen to share my knowledge without charging anyone any money, that’s all.
BTW, allow me a real quick aside on this entire issue… Situations are often not quite what meets the eye. For instance, just think who would be willing to fund my research: The government? Of course not. (Independent newcomers are never welcome or funded; amateurs are not even entertained.) The private business? For instance, Reliance or Walmart? LOL! That’s even more remote a possibility. How about VC’s or alumni associations in USA or India? ROTFL. Of course not… Conclusion: Situations are not always what they seem to be. …
… I mean, oh yes. The argument that it is only the government interference in economy in the first place which makes the matters come to such a pass that even the staunchest supporters of privatization wouldn’t come forward to support any research such as mine privately, is, in principle, a valid argument. But my point here is, it’s not the only significant fact which can be stated in matters like this.
It’s, of course, true that businessmen wouldn’t come forward to fund my research. Not even if they themselves are rich. And, more importantly (from an ethical point of view), not even if they themselves are actively looking forward to invest money in the industries that are directly dependent on monsoons, e.g., agro-products. For example, people like Reliance or Walmart. Or, the shipping and airline companies (whose business, too, depends at least in part on weather prediction). None of these companies or characters is going to come forward. Not even if my total budget is never going to exceed 0.1 million US $ or so. Not even then.
Institutions are, in a physical or raw-power kind of sense, bigger than individuals, and so, in a mixed economy, over a period of time, even the people who come to occupy the top or influential positions at least in dominant businesses or industries are the people who are “businessmen” more in title than in spirit… And, that’s the sad part…
A different kind of businessman comes to occupy the centerstage when the statist elements in the economy become powerful… This has always been the case with India, whether under the Brits or after independence. (Statism precisely is the reason some specific communities like Marwaris and Gujrathis dominate private businesses—there is no such a thing as a “business gene”.)
And, these days, the “different kind of businessman” also is the case with so American businesses. Though, of course, Americans do not like to acknowledge it. Still, this is a fact. Some people seem to be so much in love with the strings “American” and “businessman” taken one at a time or in extaposition that they would rather never acknowledge the facts now-a-days denoted by these words.
This “different” kind of businessman is of the kind to whom you can never sell any idea such as, for instance, the present research. Not because your ideas have no business-value (or “worth”) but because this kind of businessman knows that he can always accumulate far more money far more easily, simply by bribing around and manipulating government controls. Naturally, a character like him would only ask: “What’s the point behind this kind of research? Go to government who take so much taxes from us…” Or worse: “Why all this verbal diarrhea?”
(I must add here that JRD was truely something of an exception—judging by his business practice, that is, and not by his words. His words oftentimes were utterly socialistically inclinded… So, don’t go by his random quotes…. But the fact is, he had extraordinarily high business standards. And vision. … None comes even close to him in today’s India, despite all this privatization and globalization that has been going on 1.5 decades by now. None. Leading Tata managers/owners included. All present-day luminaries of the Indian IT world included.)
But anyway, the research/study itself is going to be interesting… Fluid Mech. and Heat Transfer (in general Thermal Sciences), but in an unusual sort of way… There is this truly real-life i.e. a large-scale application, directly staring in your face, year in and year out…
If you have any directions to give me in my new pursuit, drop me a line. (If you wish not to be named here, that’s fine, just say so…)
Odds and Ends:
Have been thinking about quite a few things in the meanwhile—things of research / science. Will post them here as they become mature enough.
Oh yes, another thing I propose to do is also to list a few recent papers (esp. those appearing at arxiv.org) which I have found noteworthy (strictly for my own purposes/random interests). I might discuss a few of them via separate posts here soon.
The above idea had struck me about a month or two back. And then, just a week or two back, I happened across a very good site: http://www.arxivBlog.com. … I got to know of it once I happened to pursue a “Trackback” link at an arXiv paper that I had got interested in… Anyway, do have a look at that site and also tell about it to your friends…
I wonder why we don’t have a single such a site/blog in engineering sciences… Sigh…
Anyway, back to <Hindi>”Rim Zim Gire Saawan…”</Hindi> But, <Hindi>”Quon?”</Hindi>
[This post revised and considerably expanded on July 13, 2008, about 11 AM IST. Also coming up very soon: My thoughts on irrigation and water availability in India.]