My answers to the Edge questions

I was supposed to come back and write a better version of the QM-related comment which I had made at Scott Aaronson’s blog (see my last post). However, I am not going to do that right away because of two reasons: (i) I think that leaving aside a typo or two, the comment isn’t in all that bad a condition, and (ii) I have begun thinking about some of the issues involved, and so would like to come back only after getting them straightened out (with a better order of presentation).

In the meanwhile, I decided to check out my blog-ideas folder (yes, I do “maintain” one), and found that I already had some material for a post.

It had so happened that while going through Scott’s post on the Edge question, especially the beginning of that post, an idea had struck me:

why not write my own one-line answers to all the Edge questions thus far?

So, I had gone to the Edge home page, and jotted down my answers in a .txt file. That was on 4th January 2016, between 4:17 PM–5:43 PM, IST (which means, one day before I wrote my comment on Scott’s blog). The answers were jotted down very, very rapidly—average time between reading a question and starting typing answer could be barely 10–15 seconds. That’s because we were very busy with the accreditation related work, remember? Though I don’t remember that particular day, I must have finished the day’s work and only then done this thing. Here I am going to mostly copy-paste its contents.

A couple of notes before we go over to my answers:

  1. I just copy-pasted the Edge questions in the order I saw them on their home page. The order of answers was, thus, determined more or less by their Web page layout. So, the answers are not in the chronological sequence of the years over which they were raised.
  2. I am reproducing the contents of a very whimsically written file (which was written, as I said, near the end of a long work-day), and without effecting any editing at all. Today, right within a week of writing the answers, I find that I want to change the answers to some of the questions. In any case, I would certainly want to make the answers more streamlined. But, today’s editing is minimal; whatever whimsicality that had crept in, I have decided to keep its original flavor as is.

So, here we go, with a copy-paste from that file:


2004 : WHAT’S YOUR LAW?

The front velocity in the linear diffusion is a finite quantity (and in the first-order analysis, it is a constant).

2003 : WHAT ARE THE PRESSING SCIENTIFIC ISSUES FOR THE NATION AND THE WORLD, AND WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE ON HOW I CAN BEGIN TO DEAL WITH THEM? – GWB

The nation (i.e. USA): I don’t care a hoot about. The position was reciprocally derived.
The world: More or less the same. More or less the same.
My advise (to any President of the USA): Embrace 100% pure capitalism.

2002 : WHAT IS YOUR QUESTION? … WHY?

In his evolution, exactly for how long has the modern man been in the junglee-like state? (Rough estimates go like: lakhs of years of the jungle state vs. 5700 years of civilization, if you want to believe in the Western/modern science.)

Why it’s important? From many viewpoints: What led to the dominance of reason implicit in civilization? To what extent are the biological structural features really important in the mind-body connection? In what subtle ways must we still be junglee-like?

2001 : WHAT NOW?

Revising my viewpoint concerning non-relativistic quantum mechanics.
Reaching a conclusion concerning the issue of “stress or strain—which one is more fundamental?”
Writing some toy CFD code

2001 : WHAT QUESTIONS HAVE DISAPPEARED?

Whether the following phenomena are real or not: (i) rebirth, (ii) tele-many things such as telepathy, mind-reading, etc. (iii) psychic attacks, (iv) the actual American depravity in practice. Also the question of where Osama was hiding. Answer: In a cantonment town in a mostly army-ruled country that is a friend of USA.

2000 : WHAT IS TODAY’S MOST IMPORTANT UNREPORTED STORY?

How telecommunications actually changed the attitudes of rural people in India

1999 : WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT INVENTION IN THE PAST TWO THOUSAND YEARS?

I don’t answer such silly questions. Idea? I would have attempted; generalization is possible with ideas. But not with inventions.

1998 : WHAT QUESTIONS ARE YOU ASKING YOURSELF?

Are the reported incidents in which some people could predict the future events true? If yes, what could be the mechanism in the pycho-somatic i.e. yogic terms? What implication does it hold for free will (properly defined, most fundamentally, only as the choice to focus or to evade), and the nature of soul and of consciousness.

2015: WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT MACHINES THAT THINK?

It’s a stupid idea. Thinking requires a conceptual (i.e. volitional) consciousness, which in turn requires life.

2014: WHAT SCIENTIFIC IDEA IS READY FOR RETIREMENT?

None. Proper ideas belonging to proper science never retire, they get subsumed away.

There are any number of ideas that should be retired because they were neither proper ideas nor scientific. For instance, the idea of an infinite physical universe. Or, the idea that ascribing anything quantitative to the universe (as a whole) is epistemologically valid. Etc. Also, string theory.

2013 : WHAT *SHOULD* WE BE WORRIED ABOUT?

The String Theory.

More seriously, government control of science and education.

2012: WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE DEEP, ELEGANT, OR BEAUTIFUL EXPLANATION?

The mathematical aspects of the non-relativistic quantum mechanics. (A proper theory for its physical aspects is not yet available—despite my own attempts to build one.)

2011: WHAT SCIENTIFIC CONCEPT WOULD IMPROVE EVERYBODY’S COGNITIVE TOOLKIT?

The idea that all physical theories should be local.

I wrote that down, and then realized that the question asks for a toolkit.

I think computational modeling as easily realizable using Python and its ecosystem. It should be a part of every scientist’s grooming up. (Python is already being used to introduce programming to the CBSE XI-XII students in India.)

2010: HOW IS THE INTERNET CHANGING THE WAY YOU THINK?

It hasn’t changed *my* way of thinking, much. I always was more conceptual, and always had relatively lower working memory (and therefore also lessser maths skills) as compared to the class-mates who I ended up competing or at least [being] compared with. Internet has made more people forgetful and overall more like me, simply because they can just google up a lot of the concrete information.

2009: WHAT WILL CHANGE EVERYTHING?

I have no idea. Also, I don’t think it really is important or even desirable to change everything.

2008: WHAT HAVE YOU CHANGED YOUR MIND ABOUT? WHY?

My view of quantum mechanics. I used to think that physicists were conceptually dumb. I now know that the original discoverers were not dumb—not even conceptually—but that their major flaw was either too much of careless[ness] about basic philosophical ideas, or too much of a diffidence towards bad philosophers.

Also, my view of Objectivists, Americans, and in fact, Western people in general. I no longer think that any of them could be fully relied on, practically speaking. They are not bad. [Here I meant morally bad.] In fact, they are pretty OK. They are just OK in the sense, they can be nice if you already are a practical success yourself. But if you are not a success, [they won’t bother to find that] hidden talent or spark in you. They are too crude and/or dumb and/or isolated, to be able to do that. Especially to an Indian-born. (They are rather like Brahmins in the Indian cities [and in the SF Bay Area]. The Brahmin-borns are not bad [by birth]. It’s just that a Maratha-born growing up rural areas cannot rely on them. He may receive acknowledgement of his talents from them, but not so reliably frequently to be a social norm. [Note today: It’s the elite vs non-elite phenomenon, really speaking, but the point is: I had never imagined as a young man that it would be as bad as it is, esp. in America.]

2007: WHAT ARE YOU OPTIMISTIC ABOUT?

That my new theory of QM will work out.

Actually, on most things, and speaking in terms of how I am habitually like, I am neither optimistic nor pessimistic. Habitually, if there is any one option towards which I do almost habitually get inclined, it is that: I like to know.

2006: WHAT IS YOUR DANGEROUS IDEA?

Dangerous in general? I have none. But if you mean those tiny cultural points of conversation that society people and people of culture (esp. writers of novels like Ayn Rand) use, you know, BS like: “he is too dangerous because he is too independent,” etc., then guess *my* most dangerous idea has been my sharing of the dimmed view of many people (Americans, Objectivists, Brahmins, army people, Indian University people, Westerners). Dangerous to me, that is.

2005: WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE IS TRUE EVEN THOUGH YOU CANNOT PROVE IT?

But I don’t always look for proofs, that’s the point. Validation is one thing, proofs is another. I do make sure to know the meaning and the roots of the concepts that I use. (And, sometimes, I have spent decades understanding their meaning and/or roots.)

But knowing the roots isn’t the same as proving, esp. to someone else, esp. to his satisfaction. You know how increasingly pointless and dangerous this enterprise gets.

Anyway, as the “cultural” kind of a fraud kind of an answer: My new theory of QM.

2016: WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER THE MOST INTERESTING RECENT [SCIENTIFIC] NEWS? WHAT MAKES IT IMPORTANT?

I can’t think of any. It has to be at least interesting, right? And, it has to be recent. Sorry. Can’t think of something that has both. At least not off the hand.


It would be fun knowing your answers.

It would also be fun writing my own answers afresh some time later on.


A Song I Like:

(Hindi) “dil lagaa kar hum yeh samajhe”

Singers (separate versions each): Mahendra Kapoor and Asha Bhosale
Music: C. Ramchandra
Lyrics: Shakeel Badayuni

[Another whimsicality of mine: Unlike most people whose opinions I usually find sensible, here I find that it is tough to decide which singer’s version is better. I mean to say, I don’t automatically find Asha’s version better. In fact, I like Mahendra Kapoor’s version [just] a shade better.]

[E&OE]

 

 

 

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