Python scripts for simulating QM, part 0: A general update

My proposed paper on my new approach to QM was not accepted at the international conference where I had sent my abstract. (For context, see the post before the last, here [^] ).

“Thank God,” that’s what I actually felt when I received this piece of news, “I can now immediately proceed to procrastinate on writing the full-length paper, and also, simultaneously, un-procrastinate on writing some programs in Python.”

So far, I have written several small and simple code-snippets. All of these were for the usual (text-book) cases; all in only 1D. Here in this post, I will mention specifically which ones…

Time-independent Schrodinger equation (TISE):

Here, I’ve implemented a couple of scripts, one for finding the eigen-vectors and -values for a particle in a box (with both zero and arbitrarily specified potentials) and another one for the quantum simple harmonic oscillator.

These were written not with the shooting method (which is the method used in the article by Rhett Allain for the Wired magazine [^]) but with the matrix method. … Yes, I have gone past the stage of writing all the numerical analysis algorithm in original, all by myself. These days, I directly use Python libraries wherever available, e.g., NumPy’s LinAlg methods. That’s why, I preferred the matrix method. … My code was not written from scratch; it was based on Cooper’s code “qp_se_matrix”, here [PDF ^]).

Time-dependent Schrodinger equation (TDSE):

Here, I tried out a couple of scripts.

The first one was more or less a straightforward porting of Ian Cooper’s program “se_fdtd” [PDF ^] from the original MatLab to Python. The second one was James Nagel’s Python program (written in 2007 (!) and hosted as a SciPy CookBook tutorial, here [^]). Both follow essentially the same scheme.

Initially, I found this scheme to be a bit odd to follow. Here is what it does.

It starts out by replacing the complex-valued Schrodinger equation with a pair of real-valued (time-dependent) equations. That was perfectly OK by me. It was their discretization which I found to be a bit peculiar. The discretization scheme here is second-order in both space and time, and yet it involves explicit time-stepping. That’s peculiar, so let me write a detailed note below (in part, for my own reference later on).

Also note: Though both Cooper and Nagel implement essentially the same method, Nagel’s program is written in Python, and so, it is easier to discuss (because the array-indexing is 0-based). For this reason, I might make a direct reference only to Nagel’s program even though it is to be understood that the same scheme is found implemented also by Cooper.

A note on the method implemented by Nagel (and also by Cooper):

What happens here is that like the usual Crank-Nicolson (CN) algorithm for the diffusion equation, this scheme too puts the half-integer time-steps to use (so as to have a second-order approximation for the first-order derivative, that of time). However, in the present scheme, the half-integer time-steps turn out to be not entirely fictitious (the way they are, in the usual CN method for the single real-valued diffusion equation). Instead, all of the half-integer instants are fully real here in the sense that they do enter the final discretized equations for the time-stepping.

The way that comes to happen is this: There are two real-valued equations to solve here, coupled to each other—one each for the real and imaginary parts. Since both the equations have to be solved at each time-step, what this method does is to take advantage of that already existing splitting of the time-step, and implements a scheme that is staggered in time. (Note, this scheme is not staggered in space, as in the usual CFD codes; it is staggered only in time.) Thus, since it is staggered and explicit, even the finite-difference quantities that are defined only at the half-integer time-steps, also get directly involved in the calculations. How precisely does that happen?

The scheme defines, allocates memory storage for, and computationally evaluates the equation for the real part, but this computation occurs only at the full-integer instants (n = 0, 1, 2, \dots). Similarly, this scheme also defines, allocates memory for, and computationally evaluates the equation for the imaginary part; however, this computation occurs only at the half-integer instants (n = 1/2, 1+1/2, 2+1/2, \dots). The particulars are as follows:

The initial condition (IC) being specified is, in general, complex-valued. The real part of this IC is set into a space-wide array defined for the instant n; here, n = 0. Then, the imaginary part of the same IC is set into a separate array which is defined nominally for a different instant: n+1/2. Thus, even if both parts of the IC are specified at t = 0, the numerical procedure treats the imaginary part as if it was set into the system only at the instant n = 1/2.

Given this initial set-up, the actual time-evolution proceeds as follows:

  • The real-part already available at n is used in evaluating the “future” imaginary part—the one at n+1/2
  • The imaginary part thus found at n+1/2 is used, in turn, for evaluating the “future” real part—the one at n+1.

At this point that you are allowed to say: lather, wash, repeat… Figure out exactly how. In particular, notice how the simulation must proceed in integer number of pairs of computational steps; how the imaginary part is only nominally (i.e. only computationally) distant in time from its corresponding real part.

Thus, overall, the discretization of the space part is pretty straight-forward here: the second-order derivative (the Laplacian) is replaced by the usual second-order finite difference approximation. However, for the time-part, what this scheme does is both similar to, and different from, the usual Crank-Nicolson scheme.

Like the CN scheme, the present scheme also uses the half-integer time-levels, and thus manages to become a second-order scheme for the time-axis too (not just space), even if the actual time interval for each time-step remains, exactly as in the CN, only \Delta t, not 2\Delta t.

However, unlike the CN scheme, this scheme still remains explicit. That’s right. No matrix equation is being solved at any time-step. You just zip through the update equations.

Naturally, the zipping through comes with a “cost”: The very scheme itself comes equipped with a stability criterion; it is not unconditionally stable (the way CN is). In fact, the stability criterion now refers to half of the time-interval, not full, and thus, it is a bit even more restrictive as to how big the time-step (\Delta t) can be given a certain granularity of the space-discretization (\Delta x). … I don’t know, but guess that this is how they handle the first-order time derivatives in the FDTD method (finite difference time domain). May be the physics of their problems itself is such that they can get away with coarser grids without being physically too inaccurate, who knows…

Other aspects of the codes by Nagel and Cooper:

For the initial condition, both Cooper and Nagel begin with a “pulse” of a cosine function that is modulated to have the envelop of the Gaussian. In both their codes, the pulse is placed in the middle, and they both terminate the simulation when it reaches an end of the finite domain. I didn’t like this aspect of an arbitrary termination of the simulation.

However, I am still learning the ropes for numerically handling the complex-valued Schrodinger equation. In any case, I am not sure if I’ve got good enough a handle on the FDTD-like aspects of it. In particular, as of now, I am left wondering:

What if I have a second-order scheme for the first-order derivative of time, but if it comes with only fictitious half-integer time-steps (the way it does, in the usual Crank-Nicolson method for the real-valued diffusion equation)? In other words: What if I continue to have a second-order scheme for time, and yet, my scheme does not use leap-frogging? In still other words: What if I define both the real and imaginary parts at the same integer time-steps n = 0, 1, 2, 3, \dots so that, in both cases, their values at the instant n are directly fed into both their values at n+1?

In a way, this scheme seems simpler, in that no leap-frogging is involved. However, notice that it would also be an implicit scheme. I would have to solve two matrix-equations at each time-step. But then, I could perhaps get away with a larger time-step than what Nagel or Cooper use. What do you think? Is checker-board patterning (the main reason why we at all use staggered grids in CFD) an issue here—in time evolution? But isn’t the unconditional stability too good to leave aside without even trying? And isn’t the time-axis just one-way (unlike the space-axis that has BCs at both ends)? … I don’t know…

PBCs and ABCs:

Even as I was (and am) still grappling with the above-mentioned issue, I also wanted to make some immediate progress on the front of not having to terminate the simulation (once the pulse reached one of the ends of the domain).

So, instead of working right from the beginning with a (literally) complex Schrodinger equation, I decided to first model the simple (real-valued) diffusion equation, and to implement the PBCs (periodic boundary conditions) for it. I did.

My code seems to work, because the integral of the dependent variable (i.e., the total quantity of the diffusing quantity present in the entire domain—one with the topology of a ring) does seem to stay constant—as is promised by the Crank-Nicolson scheme. The integral stays “numerically the same” (within a small tolerance) even if obviously, there are now fluxes at both the ends. (An initial condition of a symmetrical saw-tooth profile defined between y = 0.0 and y = 1.0, does come to asymptotically approach the horizontal straight-line at y = 0.5. That is what happens at run-time, so obviously, the scheme seems to handle the fluxes right.)

Anyway, I don’t always write everything from the scratch; I am a great believer in lifting codes already written by others (with attribution, of course :)). Thus, while thus searching on the ‘net for some already existing resources on numerically modeling the Schrodinger equation (preferably with code!), I also ran into some papers on the simulation of SE using ABCs (i.e., the absorbing boundary conditions). I was not sure, however, if I should implement the ABCs immediately…

As of today, I think that I am going to try and graduate from the transient diffusion equation (with the CN scheme and PBCs), to a trial of the implicit TDSE without leap-frogging, as outlined above. The only question is whether I should throw in the PBCs to go with that or the ABCs. Or, may be, neither, and just keep pinning the  \Psi values for the end- and ghost-nodes down to 0, thereby effectively putting the entire simulation inside an infinite box?

At this point of time, I am tempted to try out the last. Thus, I think that I would rather first explore the staggering vs. non-staggering issue for a pulse in an infinite box, and understand it better, before proceeding to implement either the PBCs or the ABCs. Of course, I still have to think more about it… But hey, as I said, I am now in a mood of implementing, not of contemplating.

Why not upload the programs right away?

BTW, all these programs (TISE with matrix method, TDSE on the lines of Nagel/Cooper’s codes, transient DE with PBCs, etc.) are still in a fluid state, and so, I am not going to post them immediately here (though over a period of time, I sure would).

The reason for not posting the code runs something like this: Sometimes, I use the Python range objects for indexing. (I saw this goodie in Nagel’s code.) At other times, I don’t. But even when I don’t use the range objects, I anyway am tempted to revise the code so as to have them (for a better run-time efficiency).

Similarly, for the CN method, when it comes to solving the matrix equation at each time-step, I am still not using the TDMA (the Thomas algorithm) or even just sparse matrices. Instead, right now, I am allocating the entire N \times N sized matrices, and am directly using NumPy’s LinAlg’s solve() function on these biggies. No, the computational load doesn’t show up; after all, I anyway have to use a 0.1 second pause in between the rendering passes, and the biggest matrices I tried were only 1001 \times 1001 in size. (Remember, this is just a 1D simulation.) Even then, I am tempted a bit to improve the efficiency. For these and similar reasons, some or the other tweaking is still going on in all the programs. That’s why, I won’t be uploading them right away.

Anything else about my new approach, like delivering a seminar or so? Any news from the Indian physicists?

I had already contacted a couple of physics professors from India, both from Pune: one, about 1.5 years ago, and another, within the last 6 months. Both these times, I offered to become a co-guide for some computational physics projects to be done by their PG/UG students or so. Both times (what else?) there was absolutely no reply to my emails. … If they were to respond, we could have together progressed further on simulating my approach. … I have always been “open” about it.

The above-mentioned experience is precisely similar to how there have been no replies when I wrote to some other professors of physics, i.e., when I offered to conduct a seminar (covering my new approach) in their departments. Particularly, from the young IISER Pune professor whom I had written. … Oh yes, BTW, there has been one more physicist who I contacted recently for a seminar (within the last month). Once again, there has been no reply. (This professor is known to enjoy hospitality abroad as an Indian, and also use my taxpayer’s money for research while in India.)

No, the issue is not whether the emails I write using my Yahoo! account go into their span folder—or something like that. That would be too innocuous a cause, and too easy to deal with—every one has a mobile-phone these days. But I know these (Indian) physicists. Their behaviour remains exactly the same even if I write my emails using a respectable academic email ID (my employers’, complete with a .edu domain). This was my experience in 2016, and it repeated again in 2017.

The bottom-line is this: If you are an engineer and if you write to these Indian physicists, there is almost a guarantee that your emails will go into a black-hole. They will not reply to you even if you yourself have a PhD, and are a Full Professor of engineering (even if only on an ad-hoc basis), and have studied and worked abroad, and even if your blog is followed internationally. So long as you are engineer, and mention QM, the Indian physicists simply shut themselves off.

However, there is a trick to get them to reply you. Their behavior does temporarily change when you put some impressive guy in your cc-field (e.g., some professor friend of yours from some IIT). In this case, they sometimes do reply your first email. However, soon after that initial shaking of hands, they somehow go back to their true core; they shut themselves off.

And this is what invariably happens with all of them—no matter what other Indian bloggers might have led you to believe.

There must be some systemic reasons for such behavior, you say? Here, I will offer a couple of relevant observations.

Systemically speaking, Indian physicists, taken as a group (and leaving any possible rarest of the rare exceptions aside), all fall into one band: (i) The first commonality is that they all are government employees. (ii) The second commonality they all tend to be leftists (or, heavily leftists). (iii) The third commonality is they (by and large) share is that they had lower (or far lower) competitive scores in the entrance examinations at the gateway points like XII, GATE/JAM, etc.

The first factor typically means that they know that no one is going to ask them why they didn’t reply (even to people like with my background). The second factor typically means that they don’t want to give you any mileage, not even just a plain academic respect, if you are not already one of “them”. The third factor typically means that they simply don’t have the very intellectual means to understand or judge anything you say if it is original—i.e., if it is not based on some work of someone from abroad. In plain words: they are incompetent. (That in part is the reason whenever I run into a competent Indian physicist, it is both a surprise and a pleasure. To drop a couple of names: Prof. Kanhere (now retired) from UoP (now SPPU), and Prof. Waghmare of JNCASR. … But leaving aside this minuscule minority, and coming to the rest of the herd: the less said, the better.)

In short, Indian physicists all fall into a band. And they all are very classical—no tunneling is possible. Not with these Indian physicists. (The trends, I guess, are similar all over the world. Yet, I definitely can say that Indians are worse, far worse, than people from the advanced, Western, countries.)

Anyway, as far as the path through the simulations goes, since no help is going to come from these government servants (regarded as physicists by foreigners), I now realized that I have to get going about it—simulations for my new approach—entirely on my own. If necessary, from the basic of the basics. … And that’s how I got going with these programs.

Are these programs going to provide a peek into my new approach?

No, none of these programs I talked about in this post is going to be very directly helpful for simulations related to my new approach. The programs I wrote thus far are all very, very standard (simplest UG text-book level) stuff. If resolving QM riddles were that easy, any number of people would have done it already.

… So, the programs I wrote over the last couple of weeks are nothing but just a beginning. I have to cover a lot of distance. It may take months, perhaps even a year or so. But I intend to keep working at it. At least in an off and on manner. I have no choice.

And, at least currently, I am going about it at a fairly good speed.

For the same reason, expect no further blogging for another 2–3 weeks or so.

But one thing is for certain. As soon as my paper on my new approach (to be written after running the simulations) gets written, I am going to quit QM. The field does not hold any further interest to me.

Coming to you: If you still wish to know more about my new approach before the paper gets written, then you convince these Indian professors of physics to arrange for my seminar. Or, else…

… What else? Simple! You. Just. Wait.

[Or see me in person if you would be visiting India. As I said, I have always been “open” from my side, and I continue to remain so.]

A song I like:
(Hindi) “bheegee bheegee fizaa…”
Music: Hemant Kumar
Singer: Asha Bhosale
Lyrics: Kaifi Aazmi

Originally published: 2018.11.26 18:12 IST
Extension and revision: 2018.11.27 19.29 IST

Speaking Truth to the Ochros

Two valuable voices have been silenced at the point of the gun, in the 21st century Maharashtra.

First, it was Narendra Dabholkar. Now, it is Govindrao Pansare.

Yes, both of them pretty much had their convictions slanted towards the left. Dabholkar was far more moderate, however. In contrast, Pansare was an explicitly avowed communist. (He was a Marxist.) But you have to put it in the context: he was an Indian communist—he believed in the constitutional means to bring about socialism in India. But, yes, as a quick ball-park estimate, they both certainly were on the left-liberal side.

But how does that justify their murders?

Dabholkar courageously spoke out against the mystic irrationalities prevalent in Maharashtra. He had waged a long cultural battle against superstitions. He, however, was always very careful to differentiate between superstition and religious belief. He had repeatedly made it clear that he had nothing against, say, the common “waarkari,” or against people going to temples/mosques/churches/etc.; he was rather against the deeply mystical and decidedly extremely irrational practices that, some times, wouldn’t even stop short of the human sacrifice.

Sure, the remedy which Dabholkar fought for, was in itself certainly questionable. Speaking of myself, I have not yet been able to convince myself fully that the anti-superstition law for which he worked so hard was either objectively necessary or convincingly effective. In the legal jungle of the kind that we have in India, one is always wary of introduction of yet another piece of legislation—one is apprehensive if it would not simply add more power to the State machinery to harass the innocent citizen.

But does that mean that some one could therefore go and fire bullets at Dabholkar?

Could any one could claim morality on his side if he were to justify Dabholkar’s killing?

It is not all that hard to imagine how, in today’s India, in today’s Maharashtra, at least some must have looked at Dabholkar’s killing approvingly. Yes, the situation is that bad. Though, it emphatically is not all bad. The cultural atmosphere still isn’t gone so down that they would publicly air their opinions, their moral stances.

As to Pansare, I now gather that he had spoken against the recent attempts at glorification of Nathuram Godse, Mahatma Gandhi’s murderer.

That action on Pansare’s part was perhaps what cost him his life.

What have we come to, in India, and, in particular, in Maharashtra?

Have we the Marathis gone so down in our culture that today we not only think nothing of taking the law of the land in our hands and coolly proceed to burn or damage public property, but we now have become also bold enough to make mockery of the very idea of the rule of the law, by killing people whose views we don’t agree with?

OK. Keep the law part of it aside. Think about the morality/ethics part of it.

Is it morally OK to take someone’s life simply because he holds or spreads disagreeable ideas?

Bring it in an even sharper focus:

Is it morally OK to take someone’s life because he holds or spreads wrong ideas?

What kind of morality do the killers illustrate? Their sympathizers?

And, what kind of morality do the people—the ordinary people—who choose to look the other way, display?

First, they came for the Socialists…

* * * * *   * * * * *   * * * * *

I know what you are going to say. You are going to object to the colour.

Why associate the ochre with the killer’s morality, you are going to say.

Answer: Precisely because Nathuram Godse’s was a shade of the ochre—that’s why. Nathuram Godse would stand absolutely no chance of being glorified (either today or for the past half-century+ time) if his colour weren’t to be the right shade of the ochre. [Just imagine any other colour for Godse, and see if he would then be glorified in today’s India the way he is.]

That’s why.

* * * * *   * * * * *   * * * * *

While writing something on these recent happenings in Maharashtra and all, I must also note this: R. R. “Aabaa” is no longer among us. May his soul remain in peace … I don’t have to say anything more about him here because most all the obituaries were eloquent enough. … But surely, he will be very much missed in the Maharashtra politics (and yes, even on the social work side).

* * * * *   * * * * *   * * * * *

OK. Let’s have a bit of a breather from all that bad or sad stuff… Too much of it can get depressing, you know…

So, let me note down something on the science side.

I have been browsing through a recent blogging debate about the MWI (i.e. the Many Worlds Interpretation) of quantum mechanics. Sean Carroll once again decided to write something in the defence of the MWI [^], even though what he writes isn’t convincing. The post has generated a lot of comments; do go through them. On the other hand, Roger Schlafly has not only noted his criticism, but also introduced issues like ID (Intelligent Design), here [^]. No, I don’t agree with Schlafly’s criticism either. In the recent past, I have criticized MWI on the philosophical grounds. My position remains the same. Yet, there is something additional about MWI that I had thought I could add, but didn’t. Carroll’s and Schlafly’s posts now provide a welcome opportunity for me to do so. However, I think that I should wait for a couple of days more or so, and let the controversy develop to a fuller extent, so that some further additional angles get thrown up. Also, I would also like to see if someone else, too, thinks of this same point which I have about MWI (the point which I did not mention earlier). … So, there. Give me a couple of days or so, and I will note down my take on the current state of this issue.



Speaking Truth to the Pinkos

Preamble: Today, I am in a “bad” “mood.” … (Marathi) “aataa maajhi saTakli!”

* * * * *   * * * * *   * * * * *  

I saw this article by Ramachandra Guha [^] highlighted at Prof. Abinandanan’s nanopolitan blog [^].

I went through the first two comments to Abi’s post, and immediately later, also went through Guha’s article. As I began reading the latter, it seemed to me way before finishing it that the author does have some kind an axe to grind here. The question was which one, but the answer was not immediately obvious within the first 10 seconds, and so, I had to find it out… Realize, both Guha and Abi reside in Bangalore; Abi highlighted the excerpt containing the Mashelkar name in his post (and has done so in the past on his blog, too); and there is this Marathi Theatre Meet currently going on in the Marathi town of BeLgao (aka Belgaum/Belagavi) currently in the state of Karnataka. … I did finally find it—the nature of the axe.

Alert: I write at length (more than 4000 words in all).

Spoiler Alert: What I found isn’t about [not] restoring BeLgao back to Maharashtra, but something else. And this something else is what I found to be even more interesting. So, here we go.

* * * * *   * * * * *   * * * * *

Guha begins his article with Modi, but his writing became interesting to me only when he came to Mashelkar. [Ummm, yes, Mr. Modi… But that is a fact!]. Guha begins his take on Mashelkar with:

Next only to Rao in the hierarchy of Indian science is R. A. Mashelkar.

That was the line which engaged me in a real sense for the first time while reading this article. “Watch the action, now!,” I involuntarily said to myself, “this is going to be interesting.” … To think of the hierarchy of Indian science, and still to skip over Sarabhai—the relocator of the IIM Ahmedabad to Ahmedabad and a Gujju, in a piece that begins with Modi and written by Guha—had to get very interesting. … And sure enough, I soon found my first reference point in Guha’s article. Guha says:

Entitled ‘”Indovation” for affordable excellence’, [Mashelkar’s article] is mostly about the author himself [i.e. Mashelkar].’

Interrupting my reading of Guha’s article, I immediately did a Google search (Guha does not provide a link) and checked out Mashelkar’s article in the Current Science, here [^].

Saying so might perhaps be a bit too harsh on Guha, yet, I did get a definite feeling that perhaps he was counting on the fact that very few of his readers would bother to actually go through Mashelkar’s article from the Current Science. Guha could even be counting on the fact that people also find it difficult to hold on to context whenever they read a very brief article on a very complex topic—esp. in the middle of a casual browsing on NDTV’s Web site (and even more so, while reading anything on the Web site where the article was first published, viz., The Telegraph of Kolkata/Calcutta). The Bengali-named Doon-educated Bangalore-residing author could easily have, in some way, counted on that.

Getting back to the issue at hand: No, Mashelkar’s article isn’t mostly about himself. Check out the article for yourself right away, and observe the places where Mashelkar’s self-references appear and the flow of the writing in which they do. Nothing extra-ordinary here—certainly not for a man of Mashelkar’s accomplishments.

(In case you don’t know it already, purely metrics-wise, check out what arguably is the biggest metric in favour of Mashelkar, viz., the sheer dramatic rise in the of number of patents filed by the CSIR labs under his leadership, and the sustainable way in which he came to implement this program of his. For the latter, check out also the number of patents filed after he retired from the DG-ship of CSIR. As to the very idea of patents and all, I suspect that Guha should have an opinion about it, though he avoids any mention of this point while writing this particular opinion piece, and so, let’s not pursue that angle any further.)

If some leftist experiences some highly intolerable kind of reaction in the very process of going through a piece by Mashelkar, then, to get at the real issue at hand, let him also go through Rajendra Singh’s articles; as an example, the one here [^]. Guha does not mention Singh. [In case you don’t know, Singh started out as a committed socialist in his youth. He has not filed any patents or made any profit.]

IMO, the best way to approach this controversy of self-references is to begin, not by going through its worst practitioners but those who at least arguably are its best—and IMO, both Mashelkar and Singh fall in this latter category.

Observe that whenever people who have achieved success under very trying or difficult circumstances are later on invited to talk/write about their insights and their plans for the future, they invariably make salient references to their own experiences. By definition, when they began, and while they were at it—making that success happen—no outside agent more important than their own self—their own resolute, unyielding, rationality—was available to them, in order to effect the positive changes which they did come to effect.

They must make reference to their experiences, and as a part of that, yes, also to their very personal experiences. Yes, even in “science.” The self does have a causal efficacy; if it did not, no science would at all be possible because no knowledge would be. … Who else but a leftist/materialist sort of a fool could have told Guha that science is supposed to be apersonal?

But coming back to making references to one’s own achievements and plans, the richness to the perspective that this practice brings is far too valuable in its own way for the reader/listener (assuming, again, that it comes from a man of authentic achievements).

Science sure is objective, but “doing” science also is an art—it’s a skill, a very demanding skill. And, it is a very personal skill. Each individual differs in his own skills-set. And the world—the reality—is far too complex. When significant success is at all achieved by a person, such advancement comes about only through those personal skills-sets of that particular, thinking individual. The resulting science, management practice, or achievement does carry over this personal “imprint” of his, as a background context to his work. Given the complex and delicate nature of the process, knowing more about that personal context does have an objective value. It not just a spiritual value by itself—it’s not just an inspiration to the others. It is also not just a social value—a knowledge of the kind of society that made that success either possible, or, more difficult to achieve. Apart from these and similar values, personal notes also have a cognitive function or value—precisely because achievement of success is so complex, these personal notes become helpful in putting in context the nature of the achievement itself—the kind of objective science that has been done, the kind of lasting institution-building that has been effected.

Mashelkar’s article runs so contrary to the spirit of science that I wonder how it was accepted for publication. How did the editor of Current Science allow the essay to pass without major cuts and changes?

Yeah, right.

Either the editor is plain incompetent, or, what is more likely, too intimidated by Mashelkar’s reputation and influence to have asked him to revise his essay. Founded by C.V. Raman, Current Science is modelled on the American journal, Science, and the British journal, Nature. Like them, it publishes original scientific papers as well as shorter commentaries, book reviews, and obituaries. But one would never find in Nature or Science editorials remotely as self-promoting as this.

Really? Guha assiduously reads scientific papers and editorials from both Nature and Science?

Sure then he would know that one wouldn’t find an article like this in Nature or Science—or, for that matter, probably even on arXiv: N. P. Dharmadhikari, D. C. Meshram, S. D. Kulkarni, S. M. Hambarde, A. P. Rao, S. S. Pimplikar, A. G. Kharat, and P. T. Patil (2010) “Geopathic stress: a study to understand its nature using Light Interference Technique,” Current Science, vol. 98, no. 5, pp. 695–697.

Guha doth elevate Current Science too much, methinks.

But science begins with an interest in the world outside yourself.

Observe how this quote has been used out of its context. [I told you, Guha must rely on [your] ability to drop context.]

In particular, there are only two possibilities here:

(I) Possibility 1: (i) Guha first takes an unknown Indian student, say in his twenties, talking about some irrelevant personal things of absolutely no imaginable consequence to the development of science as such, even while talking up to a senior British scientist in his sixties who has come to India to help build an institution of science, and then, (ii) Guha takes a retired Indian FRS (etc.) of notable achievements and track record, who, now in his sixties, is supposed to share via an editorial piece his personal experiences, further achievements and ideas for the future, with a view to engage the younger working scientist in their common quest of further development, and (iii) Guha then equates the two: the senior British scientist with the audience of Mashelkar’s piece at the Current Science, and the inconsequential young Indian student with Mashelkar himself.

Don’t believe me? Re-read what Guha writes once again, and pay attention to the order in which what kind of reference appears to which man—in particular, who has been saying what personal things to whom in what kind of settings. Such things too are included when you say “context.” Going by the context, Guha equates Mashelkar to that inexperienced student.

Either Guha does that, or he does this:

(II) Possibility 2: Guha takes a respectable British name from science, and then relying at least on the argument from the association if not the argument from the authority, he tries to elevate the idea that pursuing objective science consists of wiping out any trace of the self as its crucial precondition.

I can’t think of a third possibility.

Does Guha habitually quote his quotes this way? to this kind of an effect? I have no good idea, though I wouldn’t have thought so. But then, he mostly writes about the things from the humanities, not sciences, and so, one wouldn’t really know all that well, and all that easily.

Still, observe the actual context here, the nature of each of the only two possibilities that can at all explain how Guha deploys that quote the way he does in this article. Then, take a moment to consider what it is that he must count on, in order to subtly advance his argument in this kind of a way: he must rely on your dropping of the context. [I told you so!]

I always thought that Guha was merely an enormously water- or fog-diluted—but not a white oil paint-diluted—shade of a pink. And I did also think that he wrote well—in a lucid kind of a way, even if not always in effect very persuasively. These two attributes—the colour and the quality of his writing—taken together made his articles an interesting sort of a reading, as far as I was concerned. But I also thought, with good reasons, that Guha also fairly regularly did his homework well, before embarking on lucidly painting the world in those watered down pinks. …In contrast, in the current piece, he doesn’t even care on that count of first doing his homework well. Interesting turn this, don’t you think?

One of my own intellectual heroes […] He nurtured an atmosphere of egalitarianism in the NCBS, where juniors could fearlessly challenge seniors and where honorifics such as ‘Sir’, ‘Professor’. were rigorously eschewed. Sadly, not many Indian scientists are cut of the same cloth as Obaid Siddiqi.

His acute observation about the usual sort of Indian scientists notwithstanding, realize, Guha now advances equating an informal and collegial atmosphere with … egalitarianism.

Guha is no enthusiastic graduate student, say of science or engineering, one who has just begun dabbling in writing blog posts that gush with impressive-sounding philosophical words. He is a much published intellectual from the humanities. At this point, we are still somewhere in the middle of his article. Therefore, this construct must eventually find its uses, some time later in his article. … For the time being, it might perhaps be worth noticing that among those who encouraged a nice academic/research atmosphere in India, Guha informs us Siddiqi as one of his intellectual heroes. But, in particular, Guha does not mention that other contemporary of Siddiqqi, viz., Narlikar—whom every one at IUCAA (or TIFR) would call by his first name, Jayant. …. “Gee, where is it going now? Could BeLgao come in at least now?,” I did catch myself wondering at this point. And, in comes, not Narlikar, but a different Marathi manoos! One from the humanities:

B. R. Ambedkar famously said that hero-worship is antithetical to the democratic spirit.

Another quote being quoted by Guha!

Now, this quote itself is objectively quite accurate: unlimited democracy is the rule by the mob, and it does thereby serve to annihilate, via the political means, any possibilities of any worship of any hero.

But Guha couldn’t possibly have meant it in this sense—not at this juncture in this article. Still, given the better [and actually mistaken] sense of the term “democracy” in which Ambedkar probably accepted and used it (he probably would have thought it to mean a civilized form of government on the lines of the British model, certainly not the rule by the mob—and such a meaning of the term is what both American and British intellectuals would have been arguing even in his times), it seems unlikely that Ambedkar could have meant this quote quite in the same sense as Guha now uses it. Possible, but unlikely.

But still, here, I didn’t bother to check the context in which Ambedkar might have said it. Checking and all wasn’t any more necessary. I knew by now how the author was using his quotes here in this article, and finding out the subtle viewpoint from which he comes, was now getting far too interesting a goal by itself. And so I thought: “May be a hero, to Guha, is one who reifies himself out to his own annihilation in a democratic manner? … Must read on… As a temporary note: The author has heroes but he indicates no hero-worship. Either these supposed heroes actually are just zeroes who cannot at all be worshipped, or he himself tends towards being a zero that couldn’t possibly worship an actual hero, or, both are/tend to the respective zeroes. …  Must find out what is the truth, here.” That’s what I thought. Gripping, this stuff had by now become!

Respect for senior scholars for what they have achieved is fine; but when respect shades into deference and even reverence, it is not conducive to independent and original thinking.

Reverence for senior scholars kills independent and original thinking? Says who? Blank-out. On what basis? Blank-out.

Quoting someone heroic, even if in an out-of-context sort of a way, Guha no longer finds necessary at this stage in his article. He apparently has found his form, and now he can take on any one, make any general assertion, without finding any need to support it with any sort of argumentation—before, during, or after asserting it.

But leaving aside Guha for a moment, why must reverence hinder independent and original thinking? Is there any fact of reality, man’s nature included, that makes this statement compelling? … If you have an honest doubt, let me give you just one counter-example: Read what Poincare, Einstein or Feynman (and if you want an example closer to the Indian genes, Chandrasekar) have said about Newton and his theory—the kind of terms they used while expressing their respective evaluations of Newton.

Either Guha’s reading of science is very limited, or, counting on his abilities of persuasion, at this point in his article, he no longer needs to use the crutches of mentioning science—not even some vague anecdotes about it. He can now “generalize” expansively, while taking care to drop just a hint here and there to the effect that some critical sort of thinking has gone in making those generalizations. So, he now turns to generously letting us have some further pinkish pearls of wisdom, concerning what to think of a person of eminence who is found handing out some prize named after himself:

…These were are the pertinent questions, and I suspect that in each case the answer is `No’.

Why must a scientist retire, or better still, die, before a chair or an award in his name may be instituted? What benevolent/desirable metaphysical prowesses does the fact of retirement—or better still, of death—possess, which makes this practice acceptable to people like Guha? What precise value does the fact of death [or of retirement] endow on a chair/award that was not already within the powers of the life [or the work-career] preceding it? Blank-out.

Any way, the author now ostensibly does not even think that questions like these need to be pursued with full clarity. As far as such issues go, mere suspicions residing in his mind should be perfectly acceptable alternatives to stand in for any objective answers. …

Hmmm… Even if I don’t care to counter his implicit argument in more detail than I have, I could—and I think I must—supply at least a few examples going counter to the answer that his suspicion derives: Check out the name of the highest award in applied mechanics, the name of its first recipient, and his life-span, starting here [^]. Also, check out the Belytschko Award (2008–2014), here [^]. Closer home and closer to Guha’s primary expertize (viz. humanities, India), how about the Lata Mangeshkar Award for Lifetime Achievement? Think: Possibly leaving aside intellectuals, do you know of any Indian—either the man on the street or the one from those innumerable government offices, either in the agricultural fields or in the urban IT parks, either in the coaching classes here in Kota or in the research labs there in the USA—who has ever had a problem with Lata Mangeshkar “in the flesh” handing out the Lata Mangeshkar Lifetime Achievement Awards? [… Oh well, but then, what I have done is to drop a Marathi name here, haven’t I?]

In allowing (or encouraging) things to be named after themselves, C.N.R. Rao, Amartya Sen and Jagdish Bhagwati have not done anything that is illegal. What they have done is not even immoral. But it is unquestionably in poor taste.

Ah! Now I get it. Guha really, really transcends the BeLgao issue. Also the science issue. Also the hero-worship issue.

Instead, it has only been just a matter of tastes! The issue is tastes. Not aesthetic standards or their applications, but mere tastes!

And, reading further, the author seems to have so badly fallen in love (if it can be called that) with his own tastes that he would somehow arise, awake, and write for the public consumption an intellectual defence of those very tastes—his own. But not before pre-emptying the possibility that a question or two may be raised about it. The instance of his tastes which he supplies is, by his own prior declaration, unquestionable.

It’s all just a matter of taste. So what, if a recognizable eminent name or two begins to get seen in an unseemly light, in this entirely “tastefully” done process.

The author may be Indian, but he is no leader in any field. What is to his taste is both unquestionable and for public consumption, esp. of Indians. So, they should follow him…err… they should have the same tastes as his.

… Just imagine how India would be like, only if his kind of tastes were to be carried by every Indian who has achieved eminence. How much for the better the whole world would turn, if only his tastes were to be carried by all the rest of us. Tastes, such as wiping out any references to ourselves, should we ever come to write any science-related article.

Taking the essentials of Guha’s basic logic and extending it just so slightly further, even a scientific article written with the pedestrian “we” would of course be in a bad taste. And, note, I am not even talking about the royal “we” at all, let alone writing a research paper in the grammatical first person singular [^]! How disgustingly lacking in taste would that be, if it came not just from a hapless graduate student but also from a leader of science, can you imagine?

It’s so damn tasteless to have any other tastes, and so, may be, we should think of imposing his tastes on every one else? To be fair, Guha himself doesn’t at all even hint at anything like this prescription. But since it is all in a fine taste to pull down a name or two, and since he writes of his tastes with such gusto and boldness, may be, we wouldn’t be too far off the mark if we begin to think along those lines?

But of course, as the author himself would sure know, imposition of mere personal tastes on other individuals would be a very hopeless kind of an enterprise—that is, if the very nature of the enterprise were to be spelt out in a forthright manner. One must therefore first drop some prior hints to the effect that a very reasonable sort of argument is and has been in progress, and thereby make the spelling out of the tastes in the end, say, a little more palatable. And, if such a flow of the writing, if such arguments, seem to require staying clear of anything to do with morality, then all the more power to… to his personal tastes—what else?

The kind of vision he by implication seems to keep, of an India transformed thusly—i.e., in keeping with his tastes—also explains the nature of the “research” he did, before sitting down to spilling all that electronic ink. It was all only in the name of that good taste of his, of course.

Nope. I got it [at least somewhat] wrong, once again!

In societies whose spirit and form are egalitarian, or where the aesthetic ethos is one of refined understatement, what [Modi] did would be completely out of place…

If you have read both Guha’s article and my commentary on it this far, you would know by now that this article by Guha is not about Modi the person or the kind of taste which he did come to display. BTW, given the genius of Modi’s image consultants, I do wonder how they at all recommended that sort of a suit to him, in the first place. Did they intentionally mean humour, by any chance?

But, coming back to the main point, even though Guha both begins and ends his article with the customary mention of Modi, an obvious fact of the matter is, Modi’s taste actually doesn’t matter much to Guha. Certainly not at all to his more basic and abstract argument. And, as it so happens, for exactly the same reason, Modi’s mention also does not matter much to me either.

Therefore, read that quoted line of Guha’s once again, keeping the entire context of the article thus far, but now dropping just for a moment this weaved-in instance of Modi’s name. If you do that, you will then immediately come to know that, above all, the article has always been rather about the “spirit” and the “form” of societies. And what does our author have to say about these things?

Not much, really speaking! He is already near the end of his article. And so, a hint or so is all the rest of us should now expect from him.

Thankfully, Guha, a some-time professor at LSE, Yale, Stanford and Berkeley, does deliver at least on that last count, viz., that of a hint. He is at least willing to grant us a glimpse into his ideal world—the sort of ethos in which his aesthetic tastes would find themselves perfectly at home.

That world is ruled by egalitarianism!

Phheewwww…. That explains it!

Going by the logic of the entire article and the way it has progressed, obviously, by now, no understatements are necessary on Guha’s part. His position is unquestionably refined, and he tells you about it quite explicitly, clearly, unequivocally, and boldly:

It is about forming the society according to the egalitarian ideals.

The aesthetics and tastes and all that was merely a stepping stone to leap to this grand finale, the overarching purpose.

… Poor me… I just thought that it was just about this and that…. About Mashelkar or Modi, or about science or economics, or at least about articles in the Current Science and the practice of naming traffic islands near IISc Bangalore by the names of professors who are currently employed in Bengaluru… But, in the final analysis, it was to be none of these things! … [And, no, it didn’t even turn out to be anything about the state and the State of BeLgao either!] … And, for that matter, it wasn’t even about this shade of the pink versus that. … Lying underneath and also simultaneously transcending beyond all those issues and all those shades of pinks, it actually was only about egalitarianism.

Egalitarianism, as the ideal spirit and the form of the society!

These humanities folks… They always make you read so many unnecessary words, before coming to unequivocally telling you where they come from. Pheeewwwww…. Hey, did I tell you that Guha has taught in the humanities at LSE, Yale, Stanford and Berkeley? … No, he did not mention that part in his article. But I found out, anyway. That part, as well as this part about egalitarianism.

And as to the ideal of egalitarianism itself, well, check out Ayn Rand [^].

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To the NDTV editors: Yes, there was a click originating from my IP address to Guha’s article at your site (originally published at The Telegraph, Calcutta/Kolkata, West Bengal, India). No, the aforementioned page at your site was not closed within one minute. Thanks, but no, I won’t take a survey about your Web site, its presentation, or its contents. Yes, I should be visiting back your site once in a while.

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See, see, how things get totally out of control whenever they touch on anything philosophical or deeply fundamental? That was the reason why I didn’t want to participate in that FQXi essay contest either, and, indeed wasn’t even sure if I should be writing even just an informal document by way of my answers (I mean even without participating in the contest). …

Well, I have begun writing the document—my brief answers to the FQXi questions, but without forging them together into a coherent essay. Yet, I am also deliberately taking pauses… I don’t want it to grow and eat into all my time. I don’t want it to get out of control, say, the way this post has. When I began writing this post, it was going to be just a simple two or three short paragraphs’ reply, at Abi’s blog! … It always happens. I don’t know why….

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A Song I Don’t Like:

Hindi(?)/Marathi(?) “aataa maajhi saTakli, malaa raag yetoya!”