“Spring break!” (Also other updates)

1. Spring break!

I have completed going through the first 12 lectures of the QM-I course at MIT OCW (the 08.04 course, Spring 2013 version). A “spring break” occurs in the video series at this time, and I took one.

I hadn’t exactly planned on taking the break, but it happened that way. I had completed the first 12 lectures by 11th May 2021 evening. Then I got diverted to some other sources on QM and all. So, it’s exactly a week since I’ve gone away from the course-work.

A break this long wouldn’t have happened, but frankly, I find scattering boring (the topic currently going on), and the next two lectures are on this topic. (Scattering is an essential topic in learning QM, but isn’t terribly important if your interest is rather limited to the foundational issues.)

Yes, the pace of going through the course has been somewhat slow, because I can’t stop taking fairly good notes for myself (handwritten). Still, I think I can comfortably manage two lectures per day. (The most I did was four lectures on one day. But it’s not efficient; the next day I found myself to be too tired, rather, lacking of patience to go through all the subtleties of the next lecture.)

I am not even cursorily looking into the problem sets. Yet, I’m not skipping the multiple-choice questions directly discussed in the lecture, either. … Yes, sometimes I make mistakes, but surprisingly (or perhaps not so surprisingly), I found that I was actually doing better on many of the questions where the class didn’t seem to do so well. I made mistakes on some other questions where they were doing great!… It’s all a consequence of uneven backgrounds and personal perspectives / objectives. … And yes, making mistakes is good, because you learn in the process. That’s what I believe in.

Anyway, I intend to resume the remaining lectures of this course (QM-I) soon, may be starting later today or tomorrow afternoon. Once these get over, then I intend to go over to QM-II (08.05, Fall 2013 version).

Implications for the planned document on my new approach:

I will come to writing the document (the one on my new approach) a little after I finish QM-II.

But when will it be? … I don’t know. Perhaps you can tell!… But in any case, just because I took a break in this specific MIT course, it doesn’t mean I also took a break from QM. No, I didn’t…

But yes, tentatively speaking, I could finish QM-II and start writing my document some time in June, I think. … It all depends on many things… Let’s see how it all goes.


2. The STOC Test of Time Awards:

I came to know of these awards via Prof. Scott Aaronson’s blog. I liked the idea and left a comment, here [^]. Let me copy-paste it here, for convenience (with minor editing):

Re.: The STOC Test of Time Award

Someone should study the correlations between the usual measures of (an author’s) “impact factor” on the one hand and the papers chosen for this award on the other—how well go the correlations.

I guess this is the first time I am seeing an award of this nature, and I like the idea. Reason: Mainly because it involves natural intelligence, and not some mechanically computed indices / AI… Awards like these should provide better insight into the real impact, IMO.

On another, related, point: I don’t know of any other field in engineering / physics which does something similar… May be they do, perhaps in some slightly different form(s), but I don’t know it. In case not, guess they could implement the same / similar ideas.

Best,
–Ajit

If someone is going to study correlations and all, there can be some indirect sources too, with certain parameters / weights attached to them. I mean, things like the following…

  • Papers chosen for other awards (like the best thesis award, best conference presentation award, etc.)
  • Papers highlighted in reputed review papers (e.g. “Annual Review” series, e.g., Annual review of Fluid Mechanics)
  • Papers highlighted in reputed key-note addresses
  • Salient papers from senior researchers who are specially honored / recognized (say upon super-annuation, via special conference sessions or special journal issues)
  • Etc.

All in all, it should be interesting to apply statistical / ML / AI techniques in a better manner, not relying purely on the mechanically computed indices (like the h-index).


3. My comments about QM:

Dr. Roger Schlafly has been posting many interesting entries on QM at his blog, and I’ve been posting my replies fairly regularly. … Recently, he highlighted some of the comments I made for more detailed discussions, by mentioning them in the main text of his blog posts proper.

My comments are pretty context specific and long. So, it’s not practical to copy-paste them here. Instead, it’s best if you go visit his blog, read the main posts first, and then see my comments. The recent posts on which I posted comments are (in the chronological order):

  • “Philosophers try to discredit Realism” [^]
  • “Does Quantum AI have Free Will?” [^]
  • “Quantum wavefunction is not everything” [^] (where I’ve made as many as five comments!)
  • “Rethinking entanglement of a single particle” [^]

Just thought of letting you know…


That’s about it, for now.

…I guess I’ll return here after I’ve completed the MIT 08.04 (QM-I) course, or some time after that (even if I am still going through their QM-II).

…In the meanwhile, take care and bye for now…


A song I like:

(Hindi, Instrumentals version) इशारों इशारों में दिल लेने वाले (“ishaaron ishaaron mein dil lene waale…”)
Musician: Brian Silas

I good quality audio is here [^]. … Though based on a Hindi film song, this instrumentals version feels like a separate song in its own right! Silas’ treatment of this song is refined and sensitive… (In certain other songs, occasionally, he might sound just a shade mechanical, but not here…)

The credits for the original song go as:
Singers: Asha Bhosale, Mohammad Rafi
Music: O. P. Nayyar
Lyrics: S. H. Bihari

A good quality audio for what looks like the original song can be found here [^]. An apparently “Revival” series version is here [^].

BTW, Google search throws up yet another series version over others. This version can be found here [^]. Personally, I find the sound processing in this version to be: bad!. There are unnecessary echo-like effects, and the depth is gone from the singers’ voices …

The original song has been a top favorite for many people, even for decades.

However, personally, I like the above mentioned instrumentals version (by Brian Silas) much, much more! Indeed, it’s this version that automatically surfaces up in my mind (whenever it does, that is); in comparison, the original song  is much less likely to similarly “come up”.

Anyway, see if you enjoy any of these versions and if yes, which one. … Anyway, bye for now…

 

Still loitering around…

As noted in the last post, I’ve been browsing a lot. However, I find that the signal-to-noise ratio is, in a way, too low. There are too few things worth writing home about. Of course, OTOH, some of these things are so deep that they can keep one occupied for a long time.

Anyway, let me give many (almost all?) of the interesting links I found since my last post. These are being noted in no particular order. In most cases, the sub-title says it all, and so, I need not add comments. However, for a couple of videos related to QM, I do add significant amount of comments. … BTW, too many hats to do the tipping to. So let me skip that part and directly give you the URLs…


“A `digital alchemist’ unravels the mysteries of complexity”:

“Computational physicist Sharon Glotzer is uncovering the rules by which complex collective phenomena emerge from simple building blocks.” [^]


“Up and down the ladder of abstraction. A systematic approach to interactive visualization.” [^]

The tweet that pointed to this URL had this preface: “One particular talent stands out among the world-class programmers I’ve known—namely, an ability to move effortlessly between different levels of abstraction.”—Donald Knuth.

My own thinking processes are such that I use visualization a lot. Nay, I must. That’s the reason I appreciated this link. Incidentally, it also is the reason why I did not play a lot with the interactions here! (I put it in the TBD / Some other day / Etc. category.)


“The 2021 AI index: major growth despite the pandemic.”

“This year’s report shows a maturing industry, significant private investment, and rising competition between China and the U.S.” [^]


“Science relies on constructive criticism. Here’s how to keep it useful and respectful.” [^]

The working researcher, esp. the one who blogs / interacts a lot, probably already knows most all this stuff. But for students, it might be useful to have such tips collected in one place.


“How to criticize with kindness: Philosopher Daniel Dennett on the four steps to arguing intelligently.” [^].

Ummm… Why four, Dan? Why not, say, twelve? … Also, what if one honestly thinks that retards aren’t ever going to get any part of it?… Oh well, let me turn to the next link though…


“Susan Sontag on censorship and the three steps to refuting any argument” [^]

I just asked about four steps, and now comes Sontag. She comes down to just three steps, and also generalizes the applicability of the advice to any argument… But yes, she mentions a good point about censorship. Nice.


“The needless complexity of modern calculus: How 18th century mathematicians complicated calculus to avoid the criticisms of a bishop.” [^]

Well, the article does have a point, but if you ask me, there’s no alternative to plain hard work. No alternative to taking a good text-book or two (like Thomas and Finney, as also Resnick and Halliday (yes, for maths)), paper and pen / pencil, and working your way through. No alternative to that… But if you do that once for some idea, then every idea which depends on it, does become so simple—for your entire life. A hint or a quick reference is all you need, then. [Hints for the specific topic of this piece: the Taylor series, and truncation thereof.] But yes, the article is worth a fast read (if you haven’t read / used calculus in a while). … Also, Twitterati who mentioned this article also recommended the wonderful book from the next link (which I had forgotten)…


“Calculus made easy” [^].

The above link is to the Wiki article, which in turn gives the link to the PDF of the book. Check out the preface of the book, first thing.


“The first paper published in the first overlay journal (JTCAM) in Solid Mechanics” [^]

It’s too late for me (I have left mechanics as a full-time field quite a while ago) but I do welcome this development. … A few years ago, Prof. Timothy Gowers had begun an overlay journal in maths, and then, there also was an overlay journal for QM, and I had welcomed both these developments back then; see my blog post here [^].


“The only two equations that you should know: Part 1” [^].

Dr. Joglekar makes many good points, but I am not sure if my choice for the two equations is going to be the same.

[In fact, I don’t even like the restriction that there should be just two equations. …And, what’s happenning? Four steps. Then, three steps. Now, two equations… How long before we summarily turn negative, any idea?]

But yes, a counter-balance like the one in this article is absolutely necessary. The author touches on E = mc^2 and Newton’s laws, but I will go ahead and add topics like the following too: Big Bang, Standard Model, (and, Quantum Computers, String Theory, Multiverses, …).


“Turing award goes to creators of computer programming building blocks” [^] “Jeffrey Ullman and Alfred Aho developed many of the fundamental concepts that researchers use when they build new software.”

Somehow, there wasn’t as much of excitement this year as the Turing award usually generates.

Personally, though, I could see why the committee might have decided to recognize Aho and Ullman’s work. I had once built a “yacc”-like tool that would generate the tables for a table-driver parser, given the abstract grammar specification in the extended Backus-Noor form (EBNF). I did it as a matter of hobby, working in the evenings. The only resource I used was the “dragon book”, which was written by Profs. Aho, Sethi, and Ullman. It was a challenging but neat book. (I am not sure why they left Sethi out. However, my knowledge of the history of development of this area is minimal. So, take it as an idle wondering…)

Congratulations to Profs. Aho and Ullman.


“Stop calling everything AI, machine-learning pioneer says” [^] “Michael I. Jordan explains why today’s artificial-intelligence systems aren’t actually intelligent”

Well, “every one” knows that, but the fact is, it still needs to be said (and even explained!)


“How a gene for fair skin spread across India” [^] “A study of skin color in the Indian subcontinent shows the complex movements of populations there.”

No, the interesting thing about this article, IMO, was not that it highlighted Indians’ fascination / obsession for fairness—the article actually doesn’t even passingly mention this part. The real interesting thing, to me, was: the direct visual depiction, as it were, of Indian Indologists’ obsession with just one geographical region of India, viz., the Saraswati / Ghaggar / Mohan Ja Daro / Dwaarkaa / Pakistan / Etc. And, also the European obsession with the same region! … I mean check out how big India actually is, you know…

H/W for those interested: Consult good Sanskrit dictionaries and figure out the difference between निल (“nila”) and नील (“neela”). Hint: One of the translations for one of these two words is “black” in the sense “dark”, but not “blue”, and vice-versa for the other. You only have to determine which one stands for what meaning.

Want some more H/W? OK… Find out the most ancient painting of कृष्ण (“kRSNa”) or even राम (“raama”) that is still extant. What is the colour of the skin as shown in the painting? Why? Has the painting been dated to the times before the Europeans (Portugese, Dutch, French, Brits, …) arrived in India (say in the second millennium AD)?


“Six lessons from the biotech startup world” [^]

Dr. Joglekar again… Here, I think every one (whether connected with a start-up or not) should go through the first point: “It’s about the problem, not about the technology”.

Too many engineers commit this mistake, and I guess this point can be amplified further—the tools vs. the problem. …It’s but one variant of the “looking under the lamp” fallacy, but it’s an important one. (Let me confess: I tend to repeat the same error too, though with experience, one does also learn to catch the drift in time.)


“The principle of least action—why it works.” [^].

Neat article.

I haven’t read the related book [“The lazy universe: an introduction to the principle of least action”] , but looking at the portions available at Google [^], even though I might have objections to raise (or at least comments to make) on the positions taken by the author in the book, I am definitely going to add it to the list of books I recommend [^].

Let me mention the position from which I will be raising my objections (if any), in the briefest (and completely on-the-fly) words:

The principle of the least action (PLA) is a principle that brings out what is common to calculations in a mind-bogglingly large variety of theoretical contexts in physics. These are the contexts which involve either the concept of energy, or some suitable mathematical “generalizations” of the same concept.

As such, PLA can be regarded as a principle for a possible organization of our knowledge from a certain theoretical viewpoint.

However, PLA itself has no definite ontological content; whatever ontological content you might associate with PLA would go on changing as per the theoretical context in which it is used. Consequently, PLA cannot be seen as capturing an actual physical characteristic existing in the world out there; it is not a “thing” or “property” that is shared in common by the objects, facts or phenomena in the physical world.

Let me give you an example. The differential equation for heat conduction has exactly the same form as that for diffusion of chemical species. Both are solved using exactly the same technique, viz., the Fourier theory. Both involve a physical flux which is related to the gradient vector of some physically existing scalar quantity. However, this does not mean that both phenomena are produced by the same physical characteristic or property of the physical objects. The fact that both are parabolic PDEs can be used to organize our knowledge of the physical world, but such organization proceeds by making appeal to what is common to methods of calculations, and not in reference to some ontological or physical facts that are in common to both.

Further, it must also be noted, PLA does not apply to all of physics, but only to the more fundamental theories in it. In particular, try applying it to situations where the governing differential equation is not of the second-order, but is of the first- or the third-order [^]. Also, think about the applicability of PLA for dissipative / path-dependent processes.

… I don’t know whether the author (Dr. Jennifer Coopersmith) covers points like these in the book or not… But even if she doesn’t (and despite any differences I anticipate as of now, and indeed might come to keep also after reading the book), I am sure, the book is going to be extraordinarily enlightening in respect of an array of topics. … Strongly recommended.


Muon g-2.

I will give some the links I found useful. (Not listed in any particular order)

  • Dennis Overbye covers it for the NYT [^],
  • Natalie Wolchoever for the Quanta Mag [^],
  • Dr. Luboš Motl for his blog [^],
  • Dr. Peter Woit for his blog [^],
  • Dr. Adam Falkowski (“Jester”) for his blog [^],
  • Dr. Ethan Siegel for the Forbes [^], and,
  • Dr. Sabine Hossenfelder for Sci-Am [^].

If you don’t want to go through all these blog-posts, and only are looking for the right outlook to adopt, then check out the concluding parts of Hossenfelder’s and Siegel’s pieces (which conveniently happen to be the last two in the above list).

As to the discussions: The Best Comment Prize is hereby being awarded, after splitting it equally into two halves, to “Manuel Gnida” for this comment [^], and to “Unknown” for this comment [^].


The five-man quantum mechanics (aka “super-determinism”):

By which, I refer to this video on YouTube: “Warsaw Spacetime Colloquium #11 – Sabine Hossenfelder (2021/03/26)” [^].

In this video, Dr. Hossenfelder talks about… “super-determinism.”

Incidentally, this idea (of super-determinism) had generated a lot of comments at Prof. Dr. Scott Aaronson’s blog. See the reader comments following this post: [^]. In fact, Aaronson had to say in the end: “I’m closing this thread tonight, honestly because I’m tired of superdeterminism discussion.” [^].

Hossenfelder hasn’t yet posted this video at her own blog.

There are five people in the entire world who do research in super-determinism, Hossenfelder seems to indicate. [I know, I know, not all of them are men. But I still chose to say the five-man QM. It has a nice ring to it—if you know a certain bit from the history of QM.]

Given the topic, I expected to browse through the video really rapidly, like a stone that goes on skipping on the surface of water [^], and thus, being done with it right within 5–10 minutes or so.

Instead, I found myself listening to it attentively, not skipping even a single frame, and finishing the video in the sequence presented. Also, going back over some portions for the second time…. And that’s because Hossenfelder’s presentation is so well thought out. [But where is the PDF of the slides?]

It’s only after going through this video that I got to understand what the idea of “super-determinism” is supposed to be like, and how it differs from the ordinary “determinism”. Spoiler: Think “hidden variables”.

My take on the video:

No, the idea (of super-determinism) isn’t at all necessary to explain QM.

However, it still was neat to get to know what (those five) people mean by it, and also, more important: why these people take it seriously.

In fact, given Hossenfelder’s sober (and intelligent!) presentation of it, I am willing to give them a bit of a rope too. …No, not so long that they can hang themselves with it, but long enough that they can perform some more detailed simulations. … I anticipate that when they conduct their simulations, they themselves are going to understand the query regarding the backward causation (raised by a philosopher during the interactive part of the video) in a much better manner. That’s what I anticipate.

Another point. Actually, “super-determinism” is supposed to be “just” a theory of physics, and hence, it should not have any thing to say about topics like consciousness, free-will, etc. But I gather that at least some of them (out of the five) do seem to think that the free-will would have to be denied, may be as a consequence of super-determinism. Taken in this sense, my mind has classified “super-determinism” as being the perfect foil to (or the other side of) panpsychism. … As to panpsychism, if interested, check out my take on it, here [^].

All along, I had always thought that super-determinism is going to turn out to be a wrong idea. Now, after watching this video, I know that it is a wrong idea.

However, precisely for the same reason (i.e., coming to know what they actually have in mind, and also, how they are going about it), I am not going to attack them, their research program. … Not necessary… I am sure that they would want to give up their program on their own, once (actually, some time after) I publish my ideas. I think so. … So, there…


“Video: Quantum mechanics isn’t weird, we’re just too big” YouTube video at: [^]

The speaker is Dr. Phillip Ball; the host is Dr. Zlatko Minev. Let me give some highlights of their bio’s: Ball has a bachelor’s in chemistry from Oxford and a PhD in physics from Bristol. He was an editor at Nature for two decades. Minev has a BS in physics from Berkeley and a PhD in applied physics from Yale. He works in the field of QC at IBM (which used to be the greatest company in the computers industry (including software)).

The abstract given at the YouTube page is somewhat misleading. Ignore it, and head towards the video itself.

The video can be divided into two parts: (i) the first part, ~47 minutes long, is a presentation by Ball; (ii) the second part is a chat between the host (Minev) and the guest (Ball). IMO, if you are in a hurry, you may ignore the second part (the chat).

The first two-third portion of the first part (the presentation) is absolutely excellent. I mean the first 37 minutes. This good portion (actually excellent) gets over once Ball goes to the slide which says “Reconstructing quantum mechanics from informational rules”, which occurs at around 37 minutes. From this point onward, Ball’s rigour dilutes a bit, though he does recover by the 40:00 minutes mark or so. But from ~45:00 to the end (~47:00), it’s all down-hill (IMO). May be Ball was making a small little concession to his compatriots.

However, the first 37 minutes are excellent (or super-excellent).

But even if you are absolutely super-pressed for time, then I would still say: Check out at least the first 10 odd minutes. … Yes, I agree 101 percent with Ball, when it comes to the portion from ~5:00 through 06:44 through 07:40.

Now, a word about the mistakes / mis-takes:

Ball says, in a sentence that begins at 08:10 that Schrodinger devised the equation 1924. This is a mistake / slip of the tongue. Schrodinger developed his equation in late 1925, and published it in 1926, certainly not in 1924. I wonder how come it slipped past Ball.

Also, the title of the video is somewhat misleading. “Bigness” isn’t really the distinguishing criterion in all situations. Large-distance QM entanglements have been demonstrated; in particular, photons are (relativistic) QM phenomena. So, size isn’t necessarily always the issue (even if the ideas of multi-scaling must be used for bridging between “classical” mechanics and QM).

And, oh yes, one last point… People five-and-a-half feet tall also are big enough, Phil! Even the new-borns, for that matter…

A personal aside: Listening to Ball, somehow, I got reminded of some old English English movies I had seen long back, may be while in college. Somehow, my registration of the British accent seems to have improved a lot. (Or may be the Brits these days speak with a more easily understandable accent.)


Status of my research on QM:

If I have something to note about my research, especially that related to the QM spin and all, then I will come back a while later and note something—may be after a week or two. …

As of today, I still haven’t finished taking notes and thinking about it. In fact, the status actually is that I am kindaa “lost”, in the sense: (i) I cannot stop browsing so as to return to the study / research, and (ii) even when I do return to the study, I find that I am unable to “zoom in” and “zoom out” of the topic (by which, I mean, switching the contexts at will, in between all: the classical ideas, the mainstream QM ideas, and the ideas from my own approach). Indeed (ii) is the reason for (i). …

If the same thing continues for a while, I will have to rethink whether I want to address the QM spin right at this stage or not…

You know, there is a very good reason for omitting the QM spin. The fact of the matter is, in the non-relativistic QM, the spin can only be introduced on an ad-hoc basis. … It’s only in the relativistic QM that the spin comes out as a necessary consequence of certain more basic considerations (just the way in the non-relativistic QM, the ground-state energy comes out as a consequence of the eigenvalue nature of the problem; you don’t have to postulate a stable orbit for it as in the Bohr theory). …

So, it’s entirely possible that my current efforts to figure out a way to relate the ideas from my own approach to the mainstream QM treatment of the spin are, after all, a basically pointless exercise. Even if I do think hard and figure out some good and original ideas / path-ways, they aren’t going to be enough, because they aren’t going to be general enough anyway.

At the same time, I know that I am not going to get into the relativistic QM, because it has to be a completely distinct development—and it’s going require a further huge effort, perhaps a humongous effort. And, it’s not necessary for solving the measurement problem anyway—which was my goal!

That’s why, I have to really give it a good thought—whether I should be spending so much time on the QM spin or not. May giving some sketchy ideas (rather, making some conceptual-level statements) is really enough… No one throws so much material in just one paper, anyway! Even the founders of QM didn’t! … So, that’s another line of thought that often pops up in my mind. …

My current plan, however, is to finish taking the notes on the mainstream QM treatment of the spin anyway—at least to the level of Eisberg and Resnick, though I can’t finish it, because this desire to connect my approach to the mainstream idea also keeps on interfering…

All in all, it’s a weird state to be in! … And, that’s what the status looks like, as of now…


… Anyway, take care and bye for now…


A song I, ahem, like:

It was while browsing that I gathered, a little while ago, that there is some “research” which “explains why” some people “like” certain songs (like the one listed below) “so much”.

The research in question was this paper [^]; it was mentioned on Twitter (where else?). Someone else, soon thereafter, also pointed out a c. 2014 pop-sci level coverage [^] of a book published even earlier [c. 2007].

From the way this entire matter was now being discussed, it was plain and obvious that the song had been soul-informing for some, not just soul-satisfying. The song in question is the following:

(Hindi) सुन रुबिया तुम से प्यार हो गया (“sun rubiyaa tum se pyaar ho gayaa”)
Music: Anu Malik
Lyrics: Prayag Raj
Singers: S. Jaanaki, Shabbir Kumar

Given the nature of this song, it would be OK to list the credits in any order, I guess. … But if you ask me why I too, ahem, like this song, then recourse must be made not just to the audio of this song [^] but also to its video. Not any random video but the one that covers the initial sequence of the song to an adequate extent; e.g., as in here [^].


History:
2021.04.09 19:22 IST: Originally published.
2021.04.10 20:47 IST: Revised considerably, especially in the section related to the principle of the least action (PLA), and the section on the current status of my research on QM. Also minor corrections and streamlining. Guess now I am done with this post.

A prediction. Also, a couple of wishes…

The Prediction:

While the week of the Nobel prizes always has a way to generate a sense of suspense, of excitement, and even of wonderment, as far as I am concerned, the one prize that does that in the real sense to me is, of course, the Physics Nobel. … Nothing compares to it. Chemistry can come close, but not always. [And, Mr. Nobel was a good guy; he instituted no prize for maths! [LOL!]]. …

The Physics Nobel is the King of all awards in all fields, as far as I am concerned.

That’s why, this year, I have this feeling of missing something. … The reason is, this year’s Physics Nobel is already “known”; it will go to Kip Thorne and pals.

[I will not eat crow even if they don’t get it. [… Unless, of course, you know a delicious recipe or two for the same, and also demonstrate it to me, complete with you sampling it first.]]

But yes, Kip Thorne richly deserves it, and he will get it. That’s the prediction. I wanted to slip it in even if only few hours before the announcement arrives.

I will update this post later right today/tonight, after the Physics Nobel is actually announced.


Now let me come to the couple of wishes, as mentioned in the title. I will try to be brief. [Have been too busy these days… OK. Will let you know. We are going in for accreditation, and so, it’s been all heavy documentation-related work for the past few months. Despite all that hard-work, we still have managed to slip a bit on the progress, and so, currently, we are working on all week-ends and on most public holidays, too. [Yes, we came to work yesterday.] So, it’s only somehow that I manage to find some time to slip in this post—which is written absolutely on the fly, with no second thoughts or re-reading before posting. … So excuse me if there is a bit of lack of balance in the presentation, and of course, typos etc.]


Wish # 1:

The first wish is that a Physics Nobel should go, in a combined way, to what actually are two separate, but very intimately related, and two most significant advances in the physical understanding of man: (i) chaos theory (including fractals) and (ii)catastrophe theory.

If you don’t like the idea of two ideas being given a single Nobel, then, well, let me put it this way: the Nobel should be given for achieving the most significant advancements in the field of the differential nonlinearities, for a very substantial progress in the physical understanding of the behaviour of nonlinear physical systems, forging pathways for predictive capacity.

Let me emphasize, this has been one of the most significant advances in physics in the last century. No, saying so is emphatically not a hyperbole.

And, yes, it’s an advance in physics, primarily, and then, also in maths—but only secondarily.

… It’s unfortunate that an advancement which has been this remarkable never did register as such with most of the S&T “manpower”, esp., engineers and practical designers. It’s also unfortunate that the twin advancement arrived on the scene at the time of bad cultural (even epistemological) trends, and so, the advancements got embedded in a fabric of hyperbole, even nonsense.

But regardless of the cultural tones in which the popular presentations of these advancements (esp. of the chaos theory) got couched, taken as a science, the studies of nonlinearity in the physical systems has been a very, very, original, and a very, very creative, advancement. It needs to be recognized as such.

That way, I don’t much care for what it helped produce on the maths side of it. But yes, even a not very extraordinarily talented undergraduate in CS (one with a special interest in deterministic methods in cryptography) would be able to tell you how much light got shone on their discipline because of the catastrophe and chaos theories.

The catastrophe theory has been simply marvellous in one crucial aspect: it actually pushed the boundaries of what is understood by the term: mathematics. The theory has been daring enough to propose, literally for the first time in the entire history of mankind, a well-refined qualitative approach to an infinity of quantitative processes taken as a group.

The distinction between the qualitative and the quantitative had kept philosophers (and laymen) pre-occupied for millenia. But the nonlinear theory has been the first theoretical approach that tells you how to spot and isolate the objective bases for distinguishing what we consider as the qualitative changes.

Remove the understanding given by the nonlinear theory—by the catastrophe-theoretical approach—and, once in the domain of the linear theory, the differences in kind immediately begin to appear as more or less completely arbitrary. There is no place in theory for them—the qualitative distinctions are external to the theory because a linear system always behaves exactly the same with any quantitative changes made, at any scale, to any of the controlling parameters. Since in the linear theory the qualitative changes are not produced from within the theory itself, such distinctions must be imported into it out of some considerations that are in principle external to the theory.

People often confuse such imports with “applications.” No, when it comes to the linear theory, it’s not the considerations of applications which can be said to be driving any divisions of qualitative changes. The qualitative distinctions are basically arbitrary in a linear theory. It is important to realize that that usual question: “Now where do we draw the line?” is basically absolutely superfluous once you are within the domain of the linear systems. There are no objective grounds on the basis of which such distinctions can be made.

Studies of the nonlinear phenomena sure do precede the catastrophe and the chaos theories. Even in the times before these two theories came on the scene, applied physicists would think of certain ideas such as differences of regimes, esp. in the areas like fluid dynamics.

But to understand the illuminating power of the nonlinear theory, just catch hold of an industrial CFD guy (or a good professor of fluid dynamics from a good university [not, you know, from SPPU or similar universities]), and ask him whether there can be any deeper theoretical significance to the procedure of the Buckingham Pi Theorem, to the necessity, in his art (or science) of having to use so many dimensionless numbers. (Every mechanical/allied engineering undergraduate has at least once in life cursed the sheer number of them.) The competent CFD guy (or the good professor) would easily be at a loss. Then, toss a good book on the Catastrophe Theory to him, leave him alone for a couple of weeks or may be a month, return, and raise the same question again. He now may or may not have a very good, “flowy” sort of a verbal answer ready for you. But one look at his face would tell you that it has now begun to reflect a qualitatively different depth of physical understanding even as he tries to tackle that question in his own way. That difference arises only because of the Catastrophe Theory.

As to the Chaos Theory (and I club the fractal theory right in it), more number of people are likely to know about it, and so, I don’t have to wax a lot (whether eloquently or incompetently). But let me tell you one thing.

Feigenbaum’s discovery of the universal constant remains, to my mind, one of the most ingenious advancements in the entire history of physics, even of science. Especially, given the experimental equipment with which he made that discovery—a handheld HP Calculator (not a computer) in the seventies (or may be in the sixties)! … And yes, getting to that universal constant was, if you ask me, an act of discovery, and not of invention. (Invention was very intimately involved in the process; but the overall act and the end-product was one of discovery.)

So, here is a wish that these fundamental studies of the nonlinear systems get their due—the recognition they so well deserve—in the form of a Physics Nobel.

…And, as always, the sooner the better!


Wish # 2:

The second wish I want to put up here is this: I wish there was some commercial/applied artist, well-conversant with the “art” of supplying illustrations for a physics book, who also was available for a long-term project I have in mind.

To share a bit: Years ago (actually, almost two decades ago, in 1998 to be precise), I had made a suggestion that novels by Ayn Rand be put in the form of comics. As far as I was concerned, the idea was novel (i.e. new). I didn’t know at that time that a comics-book version of The Fountainhead had already been conceived of by none other than Ayn Rand herself, and it, in fact, had also been executed. In short, there was a comics-book version of The Fountainhead. … These days, I gather, they are doing something similar for Atlas Shrugged.

If you think about it, my idea was not at all a leap of imagination. Newspapers (even those in India) have been carrying comic strips for decades (right since before my own childhood), and Amar Chitrakatha was coming of age just when I was. (It was founded in 1967 by Mr. Pai.)

Similarly, conceiving of a comics-like book for physics is not at all a very creative act of imagination. In fact, it is not even original. Everyone knows those books by that Japanese linguistics group, the books on topics like the Fourier theory.

So, no claim of originality here.

It’s just that for my new theory of QM, I find that the format of a comics-book would be most suitable. (And what the hell if physicists don’t take me seriously because I put it in this form first. Who cares what they think anyway!)

Indeed, I would even like to write/produce some comics books on maths topics, too. Topics like grads, divs, curls, tensors, etc., eventually. … Guess I will save that part for keeping me preoccupied during my retirement. BTW, my retirement is not all that far away; it’s going to be here pretty soon, right within just five years from now. (Do one thing: Check out what I was writing, say in 2012 on this blog.)

But the one thing I would like write/produce right in the more immediate future is: the comics book on QM, putting forth my new approach.

So, in the closing, here is a request. If you know some artist (or an engineer/physicist with fairly good sketching/computer-drawing skills), and has time at hand, and has the capacity to stay put in a sizeable project, and won’t ask money for it (a fair share in the royalty is a given—provided we manage to find a publisher first, that is), then please do bring this post to his notice.

 


A Song I Like:

And, finally, here is the Marathi song I had promised you the last time round. It’s a fusion of what to my mind is one of the best tunes Shrinivas Khale ever produced, and the best justice to the words and the tunes by the singer. Imagine any one else in her place, and you will immediately come to know what I mean. … Pushpa Pagdhare easily takes this song to the levels of the very best by the best, including Lata Mangeshkar. [Oh yes, BTW, congrats are due to the selection committe of this year’s Lata Mangeshkar award, for selecting Pushpa Pagdhare.]

(Marathi) “yeuni swapnaat maajhyaa…”
Singer: Pushpa Pagdhare
Music: Shrinivas Khale
Lyrics: Devakinandan Saraswat

[PS: Note: I am going to come back and add an update once this year’s Physics Nobel is announced. At that time (or tonight) I will also try to streamline this post.

Then, I will be gone off the blogging for yet another couple of weeks or so—unless it’s a small little “kutty” post of the “Blog-Filler” kind or two.]