Infosys Science Foundation Awards:
ISF announced the “Laureates” for their first year recently[^].
Kapil Sibbal himself was roped in to make the announcement for the prizes. He did this via video conferencing while sitting in Delhi. However, a section of the press took care to make it look as if he was physically present in Infosys’ Bangalore campus to make this announcement. (The same section of the press also did not highlight the way in which Sibbal welcomed the idea: he touched upon the existence of the prizes in S&T that government doles out, then touched upon the need for the private sector to come forward, and then welcomed the idea of the ISF awards. )
Notably, no prize was awarded in the “Engineering and Computer Science” category right in the first year. Since the composition of the Jury for this category seemed impeccable [it has Prof. Subra Suresh as Chairman and Prof. C. F. Shih and Dr. R. Mashelkar among other members], the initial reaction that the absence of the prize generated was tilted towards something like: “They [or We] really don’t do absolutely frontline and world-class research in the field of engineering in India.”
Now, it’s a no brainer as to precisely whom the absence of the prizes might rub the wrong way: professors at IITs and the IISc.
However, with Sibbal making the announcement, it also was a no-brainer as to who would not be found talking openly about it: professors at IITs. Naturally, the only people who could have expressed surprise at the decision could have been: (i) PhD students abroad (they still have some sense of some connection with Indian S & T), and, (ii) possibly, someone from the IISc, if at all.
Abi (i.e. Prof. T. A. Abinandanan of IISc Materials dept. [^]) posted an entry at his blog “nanopolitan”, pointing out the sort of contradictions that are inherent a decision of this kind. He did it in a humorous way: he himself awarded a Grand Prize and a citation to the Jury, for their “moronic” decision[^]. … This post of his came to my attention and, very naturally, I loved it! The most surprising part was to find some academic/intellectual from Bangalore talk against anything to do with Infosys as such. My comment appears at # 26 at Abi’s blog [^]; the same is also reproduced below.
I am happy that there is at least one academic and/or intellectual from Bangalore who is critical of something—anything—to do with Infosys. … My impression was that people from Bangalore, esp. those from the IISc, are always appreciative of anything that Infosys chooses to throw at them in particular and at Indians in general. (Until very recent times, exactly the same could be said for the English-speaking people from Bombay, the IIT Bombay, and the Tatas, respectively.) So, congratulations are due to you!
I am not sure I know what either the Jury or the ISF were looking for, in the engineering category. But looking at the prize-winners from the other categories, one *can* make a blanket statement that ISF could easily have found people of similar track record—a similar quality of research and having a similar record of the received past adorations—in the engineering category too. Quite easily.
I intend to post something more on these prizes at my own blog pretty soon, but here, let me jump ahead and say that if anyone finds Paddy (Prof. Padmanabhan) worthy of a prize like this, there really is no rhyme or reason why they cannot find a Manindra Agarwal (IIT Kanpur) or a Vivek Ranade (NCL) worthy of a similar prize in the engineering category. … I mean don’t miss my point…
My point is (and more on this at my blog): neither Agarwal nor Ranade has produced truly outstanding work. (Ditto for many other Indian engineers.) But then, my point is: neither has our sweet *Paddy*! And, otherwise, they *all* have been very much adored to a more or less equal extent in the past…
I mean, if this is going to be a *ramp walk* of sorts—and that’s what they seem to be doing, going by some of their choices for the other categories—then why leave poor engineers out of it?
That’s my point.
Anyway, good to find someone take a position against either N. Murthy, grossly over-rated himself IMHO or Infosys. And I don’t have to say that Infosys, as an organization, are grossly over-rated: they themselves tell you loudly that they are proud of their own HR policies whereby brilliant engineers (defined as 75%+ and/or rankers and/or IIT engineers and/or similar) are asked to sit at home earning nothing (because even if they join, Infy anticipates them to leave early) whereas the somewhat above-average lot gets not only jobs in Infy but also handsome salary and perks. [And the lawmakers and governments *abroad* praise N.M. & Infy for having achieved *this* for them!]
This comment itself further spawned a few Internet-quality comments at Abi’s blog; read them in original there.
Of course, I recognize that the content of my comment is controversial. And, I did not provide any justification for it there. … Therefore, here, I would like to point out a few things that go towards explaining my position or justifying why I said the way I did.
The first question to raise in order to justify my take on the matter is not:
“What is so bad/poor/unworthy of this prize in the work of, say, Prof. Padmanabhan, or Dr. Banerjee, or so.”
The first question which I actually had asked myself before coming to my position was this:
“What is it that the Infosys “Laureates” (or others) should have accomplished already before I could have looked up to their work as being truly outstanding and worthy of a science foundation prize like this?”
Given below is a list by way of an answer:
Prof. Manindra Agarwal:
If he were to be able to think of a solution—or at least a scheme or a definite argument for a solution—to the P vs NP problem, and if he were to also dare to publish it (even if only at a conference or at an invited talk), then I would consider it truly outstanding.
Remember, proving that computing the “pi” value is in P itself is a good work, very good, indeed. But what use is an algorithm or a result that does not actually reduce the computatioal cost? I mean, even if something is in P, it can still be a long computational effort!
Dr. Vivek Ranade:
He graduated from the UDCT (now UICT). He joined the NCL. He was nominated for, and received, fellowship in Europe. He remained with NCL. Dr. Mashelkar was DG of CSIR. He was nominated for, and received, the Bhatnagar award. Ok. [These days, he is on the board of a CFD services company even while continuing with NCL. Take it as an appreciation or a criticism, but this is a fact the last time I checked his profile out.]
Is his work comparable to, say, Patankar’s SIMPLE algorithm—a path-breaker of sorts? If not, am I not justifying that Ranade’s work is not truly outstanding (even if he could have been awarded the prize if even Paddy could get one)?
[BTW, this is not personal. Suhas Patankar did not bother to reply my email when I had written him one as a PhD student at COEP—to him and to Dr. Sparrow. Neither reciprocated. So, the inclusion of Patankar does not mean I have some good relations with him. I actually don’t! Also not with Thomas Kailath—who hasn’t bothered replying my email.]
Prof. Banerjee, Laureate (Economics):
Can he solve the problem I posed Swami in my last post (see immediatley below). I think not. Can he at all think of it as a valid economic query? I think not even that much—it just doesn’t fit the informal agendas of people like him (or of the Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen). The question I raised—is it a basic and simple issue pertaining to his field of specialty? Yes. Does this laureate have anything illuminating by way of an answer, or anything comparable by way of clarity in whatever research work that he does publish? Answer: No! … Now answer me, why should he get a “purse” containing roughly $100,000/- (not much, if you ask me, for Infosys’ budget.)
Prof. Upinder Singh, Laureate (History)
Ask her to take up and answer this simple question: How old is the Indian civilization, according to the best of her knowledge and expertise, and also the methods and the tools used in acquiring them—including, possibly, Reason.
Is this not a basic and a simple question pertaining to her speciality? Can she answer it without also being ridiculous/humorous in her reply? … Note, many Hindutva/BJP+ people will tell you a figure that runs into lakhs and crores of years… But such people will themselves tell you that the matter is to be accepted on Faith—not understood and settled via a process of Reason. Does she have an answer to the above question—an answer that she thinks is rational and which also is not outright humorous (or insulting to the intelligence of) a school-going kid? If not, why consider her a truly outstanding achiever of her stated field?
(I could come up with some other questions for her field too… But why should I exercise and tax my brain for her—i.e. if it’s she who is going to take home all that prize money?)
Prof. Thanu Padmanabhan, Laureate (Physical Sciences):
His case is simple, very simple, just like Ranade’s (who did not get the award).
Paddy did his PhD from TIFR; followed Jayant [Narlikar]’s lead to Cambridge; followed Jayant to IUCAA; was nominated for, and received, a Padma Shri, as against the earlier generation’s Jayant’s Padma’s (Bhushan in young age, followed by a Vibhushan later on); was nominated for, and received, the ISF award (with Jayant on the Jury).
A question for Paddy? … Hmmm… It’s physical science we are talking about, right? Physics! Like, QM!!
My experience with Paddy re. QM (and I myself do have publications on this subject—the basics of quantum physics—even though no one reads or comments on them despite the controversial nature of the topic dealt with) is that just like Jayant, Paddy, too, declined my request to informally discuss my research with him. The difference is this: Jayant cited a lack of time. It was in 2002/3 (way before I published my findings), but he did forward my request to use their library, to the Librarian of IUCAA as the then Director. Thanu (i.e. Paddy’s actual first name), being junior, has yet to pick up all the tricks; he is not so suave as Jayant is. Also, perhaps not so lucky. (Jayant is now retired, but Paddy still has decades ahead… and with me as a contemporary.) I requested audience with Paddy after the publication of my QM papers. Thanu actually met me, but then proceeded to tell a lie to me right while sitting across his official table in IUCAA (funded by my tax-payer’s money). Thanu (i.e. Paddy) said: he did not know QM. … Not even the basic QM. Not even the single-particle double-slit interference experiment. And so, he could not discuss the matter with me.
Thanu said that lie directly to my face, keeping an absolutely straight, nay, even a sincere-looking face; he could put even seasoned politicians to shame in this particular skill. (Let him publicly deny this. And, his lie—the last time I checked, Thanu had finished authoring yet another book, this time directly touching QM.)
So, my question to this “world-acclaimed” researcher, a friend of Jayant’s (and you know the cohort: Ashtekar, Srinivas Kulkarni,…), as well as to all of them (appearing in this line) is: Pick up any basic topic of QM. (I will not insist which one it is to be.) And explain it without contradicting the evidence and without being humorous, i.e. without offending the common-sense. Or, simpler: Point out a mistake in my reasoning, my argument, my method, my approach concerning QM.
Can you do it, Paddy? (And, how about you, Jayant?) If not, why run after all that “maNi,” Paddy? (How about you, Jayant? And if you want, I can always pose the specifically mathematical aspects of my research, for you to ponder over and answer. Just let me know—drop me an email. (The offer is, as of today, open only to Padma- and/or Bhatnagar-winners and similar—not to anonymous entities found on the Internet.)
Another point. Paddy lied about QM the way he did, right? God knows whether what I am going to write next is true or not. But the fact is, my published QM papers do not talk specifically about angular momentum—they only give an outline and so talk only about momentum. An essay that Paddy/Thanu wrote just a while after our meeting [and I forgot whether it was for Current Science or Resonance or so] highlighted precisely the quantum angular momentum in particular. … Nice going, eh, Paddy? Getting adulated for “popularization of science,” “spreading the awareness about science,” all in India, for Indians (even in Marathi, as far as Jayant’s case goes.) And then, refusing meetings. And, despite that, getting all the “maNi” that kind Infoscions bestow… Must be a very nice going, Paddy (and Jayant), right?
More on such people—esp. the physicists from India—later!
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Not Hired at the International Institute of Information Technology, Pune
I applied for the 3-rd time in the past five years for a job with Dr. Vijay Bhatkar’s I2IT [^]. However, this time round, I could actually meet with Dr. Bhatkar. He asked me to send him a document detailing the courses that I could take for them. Then, he went to the USA alongwith Kapil Sibbal. It was precisely during that time that a 30 minute presentation and the interview was arranged for me at I2IT. Curiously, students were kept out of the presentation and it occurred inside a stuffy, small conference room. The reaction to my research ideas ranged from mild antipathy [from a CFD researcher] to outright hostility [from a QM-nano-specialist who doesn’t publish on QM, doesn’t have a PhD, doesn’t have manners, but is dear to I2IT and, apparently, also to Dr. Bhatkar], to indifference [but this being honest, I have no issues with those particular people]. Naturally, I was rejected. I then wrote an SMS and an email to Dr. Bhatkar requesting a second audience to discuss the manner in which I was rejected…. I am still looking forward to receiving a reply from him. Mr. Prataprao Pawar, a question for you: Should I, or should I not, get angry at this incidence and this manner of dealing with a job application? [It was Prataprao Pawar who had arranged my meeting with Dr. Bhatkar in the first place. I had gone to Pawar to say thanks for his past help in dealing with the bureaucracy at COEP at the time of my PhD registration…. Oh, BTW, keep in mind that Prataprao Pawar’s phone call did not translate into a job at I2IT for me—apparently, “media moghul” and “politicians” are, after all, not as efficacious as what many scribes (and Internet personalities) seem to assume—I mean, I still actually remain out of that job at I^2IT, don’t I?… Probably, after this post, Prataprao is not going to make even that one call for me in future the way he did now! [LOL!]]
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A Song I Like: (more or less at random)
(Marathi) “veL jhaali bhar maadhyaanha…”
Singer: Usha Mangeshkar
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PS: I might streamline this write-up a bit later on, within a few days. … The points will remain the same, but I tend to be iterative in my expression, esp. in English. (Even in s/w dev., I tend to be more iterative in crystallizing my design decisions than others.) … So, I might improve the write-up a bit, later on.