The Mechanical-vs-Metallurgy “Branch-Jumping” Issue—Part II: Not Attending Inter-/Multi-/Trans-Disciplinary Conferences

0. To know the context and the primary intended readership of this post, please see my earlier post in this series, here: [^]. Of course, as mentioned earlier, everyone else is welcome to read this series, too.

1. The 57th (annual) Congress of the Indian Society of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics (An International Meet) was held at Pune this week, from 17th through 20th December, 2012 [^]. The venue was the Defence Institute of Advanced Technology (now a deemed university) [^]. (Caveat: Their Web site is often down, and with the PDF documents almost always missing. For example, try to download their faculty recruitment form.) I attended it, but this time round, without presenting any paper.

2. The conference was inaugurated by Dr. V. K. Saraswat [^], himself a PhD in combustion engineering. [Yes, the stupid primary intended readership [see part I to know exactly who all], this too is a topic common to both metallurgy and mechanical engineering.] The inaugural and valedictory functions were presided over by Dr. Prahlada [^], the vice-chancellor of the host institute (DIAT).

3. Some 180 papers were presented in the parallel sessions, many of them of multi-/trans-/inter-disciplinary nature, and with their authors coming from almost all departments of science and engineering. Even including electronics engineering, and mining engineering, apart from, of course, the usual ones: applied mechanics, mechanical engg., aerospace engg., civil engg., metallurgical/materials engg., mathematics, physics and astrophysics.

4. Even going just by my personal informal observations, people came to this conference from a lot of places: Guwahati, Kharagpur, Coimbatore, Kanpur, Chennai, Bangalore, Visakhapattanam, Hyderabad, Gulbarga, Surat, Mumbai, etc.

The foreign participation was somewhat limited this time round, with just a couple of Americans (both of Indian origin, both well-honored HoDs of mechanical or mechanics departments), and, off-hand, I suppose, one or two leading researchers or professors each from Canada, Germany, Israel, Japan, Taiwan, etc.

But, come, they did.

In contrast, the IIT Bombay QIP PhD D. W. Pande (of mechanical engineering branch from Aurangabad, now lording over at COEP); the meteorology (?) PhD degree holder G. B. Pant (sitting on the board of governors of COEP [a new addition to the stupid intended readership that should have been effected right the last time, and I will explain the reason for his inclusion the next time]); the Dean of the Faculty of Engineering of the University of Pune, PhD degree holder Gajanan Kharate (from Amaravati, now lording over at Pune, and per government, perhaps an OBC); his PhD guide the IIT Bombay QIP PhD Ashok A. Ghatol (formerly, Director, COEP, per government, certainly an OBC) did not come. Neither any of the others of their ilk.

Not even if they all are employed, and even if the places of their employment are all in or around Pune, and the conference was held right in Pune. [And that being academics, they would get discounts for the conference registration fees, and being government/university employed etc., they would get the conference fee refunded back anyway. Unlike me, who borrowed Rs. 3,500/- to attend it. Despite all that discount and its refunds, these characters still did not attend.]

And, of course, they didn’t send a single student of theirs to attend this conference either. Forget for paper presentation, not even for plain attendance.

The acceptance rate this time round was a bit higher, at about 60%. In the earlier ISTAMs which I attended, it has been 50% and lower; in fact, perhaps as low as 33% (if not 25%, but I don’t remember it too well, so let’s say, 33%). Pretty decent. Better than many reputed international journals. Even then, they still didn’t send a single student. [And, I am sure, this evil + stupid primary intended readership, while evaluating my employment application, would immediately pounce on the fact that I have no journal paper to my credit, only conference papers—if they could get past this metallurgy-to-mechanical “branch-jump” issue.]

These stupid idiots (and possibly evil characters—remember, free will as the basis of morality) with government-assured jobs and pensions and prestige, perhaps realized that if they attended the ISTAM conference, they might run into inter-/multi-/trans-disciplinary researches in mechanics and mechanical engineering. They perhaps also further realized that such a fact might then run counter to the one specific belief they fondly cuddle, cherish, openly advocate, defend and profess, and unhesitatingly act on: namely, that metallurgical graduates with PhD in mechanical cannot teach in or be hired by mechanical departments.

5. As to the research presented in the conference, much of it was not related to my current interests. But still, getting to know about the topics that other people are working on, the ideas they are pursuing, is always intellectually invigorating. I would like to write about the research part separately. Research, in fact any productive work, is such a noble thing. In contrast, for this post, I would not like to dilute the intensity of the focus on my joblessness due to the downright stupidity/evil of these above-mentioned professors/directors/government’s son in laws, etc.

However, I guess I could still mention just a couple of things in the passing.

5.1 One was the mention of the infinite speed of propagation of heat flux in conduction, during the invited lecture by Prof. I. Chung Liu of the National Chi Nan University, Taiwan. (I involuntarily sat up straight from my habitual slump while sitting in that cozy main auditorium at DIAT.) The approach Prof. Liu began with, was already known to me from my arXiv browsing. [No, the stupid intended readership of Mechanical Engineering Professors, Deans and Directors etc., arXiv usually does not have mechanical engineering related articles. So, you need not bother with this research any further, going by your government-funded and -enforced “logic.”] This approach consists of having a hyperbolic equation (the telegrapher’s equation) in place of the usual parabolic one. These days, a fairly neat Wiki page also exists to explain this approach; see here [^]. After his talk, I walked up to him and tried to explain how a particles-based approach makes it possible to remove the instantaneous action at a distance (IAD). However, Prof. Liu was not very well conversant with the Brownian movement/Weiner processes, and so, I could not pursue the conversation further. I just passingly mentioned my own research on diffusion equation to him. [The stupid primary intended readership of government-funded Mechanical Engineering Professors, University Deans and Directors etc., wouldn’t be able to make out why the IAD at all is an issue in the first place. They wouldn’t be able to make out even after being explicitly told twice.] Anyway, even if very brief, this discussion with Prof. Liu did help bring up some of my own thoughts. There is a certain paper on diffusion equation by a Berkeley professor which I had discovered after publishing my paper, and I would like to discuss it. Guess I will write a post at iMechanica (and, naturally, also here) about it, before sending a revised paper on this topic to a journal.

5.2 The second thing was this idea that had struck me while teaching a course on FEM to the COEP undergraduates in Spring 2009. [Yes, stupid/evil intended readership, I did teach the students of the mechanical branch as well, but only as a visiting faculty, and only for one semester. I was not repeated, despite very good student feedback [which Prof. Anil Sahasrabudhe, Director, COEP, didn’t quite share with me, unlike with his practice with other professors, but I do surmise with some pretty good basis—the direct feedback of students to me–that even my official student evaluation/feedback must have been pretty good.]] The idea is concerning finding a physical interpretation for the method of weighted residuals (MWR)—or, at the least, connecting some more mathematical context to MWR, anyway. My idea being too premature, I had not shared it with these undergraduate students back then. However, since the MTech-level students are a bit more mature, I did briefly hint at it while teaching the course on FEM at Symbiosis this year.

SPOILER ALERT: I may write a paper on this idea.

The idea is this: It first struck me that there was some kind of an analog between fitting a straight line to a scatter plot (say, the least-squares fit), and the method of weighted residuals. Sure, the first is an algebraic system and the second one involves differential equations. (Even if the ansatz is algebraic (a polynomial), before getting to the residuals, you still have to differentiate it, thereby changing the nature of the game.) The algebraic vs the infinitesimal is a big difference, and it is there. Yet, the idea of a residual (and setting it to zero) is common.

Then, I recalled that it was basically the same guy who had thought of both of these ideas, at least in their seed form: C. F. Gauss. (Ok, off-hand, I think that the least squares had already been used by someone else, before Gauss, but Gauss reinvented it independently, anyway. (Turns out, that earlier guy was Legendre [^])). The fact that the same mind had invented both the techniques helped gain more confidence in this idea of treating something like the least squares as an analog of the MWR.

In this conference, I got a chance to sound out this idea to two senior professors of mathematics: Prof. Kaloni of University of Windsor, and Prof. Rathish Kumar of IIT Kanpur. Specifically, I asked them if someone had already worked out something following, say, a function spaces-based approach.

Here, I was trying very hard to recall my earlier general reading decades ago concerning topological interpretation of the differentiation operation and all, and its recent mention by Prof. Tim Poston in a brief communication that I had with him. (It was a point which I had not at all understood at all.) Now at this conference, while talking in the hallways and all, I was trying to recollect those words. But somehow, in the hustle and bustle of the conference and the very short time available for those lounge/hall discussions, I could not recall any of such words. So, I tossed the first word I could catch hold of: function spaces.

Prof. Kaloni thought that someone must have worked on it already. In contrast, Prof. Rathish Kumar raised an entirely different point: where is convergence on the algebraic side of it, he asked. According to him, MWR was not limited to just getting to the residual and setting its domain integral to zero. The essence of MWR also had to include the idea of convergence—of a (possibly infinite) sequence of steps, of a systematic process of reducing the discretization error. In contrast, on the algebraic side of it, he observed, it’s just a one-time affair: you just take the fit, and that’s it. There is nothing more to be done; there is no second step; there is no sequence; the idea of convergence doesn’t apply.

In the busy-ness of such sideways discussions, there was no time to explain that I could get (i.e. I already was thinking of) an algebraic system that can still involve the ideas of convergence. In fact, I thought about it and got at an example right on the fly. But I was sure I couldn’t have explained it in the right words—the idea just flashed right during the conversation. So, not to waste his time, I asked him what would he think of it if I could get such a system (a multi-step, converging but algebraic system), and try to establish an analog with the differential equations-involving MWR. He then said that perhaps such a thing has not been done before, and that it would be nice to have a connection like that formally worked out. [I will repeat this part in a separate post, also at iMechanica, but in the meanwhile, if you know that someone has already worked out something along these lines, please drop me a line; thanks in advance.]

So there. The stupid/evil primary intended readership, these discussions, per your government-funded and government-enforced “logic,” had nothing to do with mechanical engineering. After all, both the professors were from the department of mathematics. So, you the stupid/evil primary intended readership (consisting of folks like G. K. Kharate, A. A. Ghatol, D. W. Pande, G. B. Pant, their friends, etc.), you all sit cozy and quiet and keep on drawing your respective 6th-pay commission-enhanced salaries, allowances, refunds, etc. Keep faithfully doing that, you stupids/idiots/evils.

[I remain jobless; the “A Song I Like” section is once again being dropped.]

[E&OE]

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