A Hypothesis on Homeopathy, Part 3

With this post, I return to the title subject after a long hiatus (almost a year).

Recently, I had a bit of an exchange at Dr. Diana Hsieh’s blog; see the comments section here [^]. What I said there could qualify as a blog post in its own right, in this series of mine on Homeopathy. Yet, looking at how the things turned out there, I decided to pursue a brief digression from my planned sequence for this series, and instead to first touch upon a simple point that so many people seem so easily to miss. BTW, I have cached my comments at that blog, and will be using those points later on in this series too.

Anyway, to return to the point of this post: It is perhaps best approached via a simple exercise, to be performed by you. For best results, I urge you to actually perform it. The exercise concerns simply putting on a piece of paper, in the form of diagrams/sketches, what we mean by a solid, a liquid, and a gas.

Anyone who has studied high-school physics knows that all matter is composed of atoms (or molecules), and hence, sketches or diagrams for the three states of matter can be made in reference to atoms.

Assumptions: To make this exercise accessible to even those who have never studied science beyond high-school, it is perfectly OK if you assume the so called “hard-spheres” model for atoms. Thus, for the purposes of this exercise, feel free to keep aside the more complicating considerations such as the fact that matter often actually exists only in the form of ions and molecules and not as atoms, or that there actually exist those quantum mechanical orbitals (or electron-gas or whatever) whose physical effects are real, or that atoms and molecules really are not spherical in shape, etc. For the time being, let’s keep aside all advanced considerations such as these. (Indeed, the exercise is interesting precisely because it is so simple!)

Now, the actual exercise is this: With the hard-spheres assumption in mind, and relying on the integrated state of all of your knowledge, draw three representative sketches/diagrams of: (i) a solid, (ii) a liquid, and (iii) a gas. The hard-spheres model assumption means that you should draw atoms as spheres (or as circles, in 2D drawings). The sketches should be as accurate, representative, realistic, etc., as possible, though you need not use compass, ruler, etc. to draw atoms—it can be a simple free-hand sketch.

Do not read further until you actually have completed this exercise.

Or (I knew you would be here without doing the exercise!), better still, to enforce the idea, let me end this blog post right here! (LOL!) I will come back with the point I wanted to make, right within a few days’ time. That’s an honest promise. On your part, you, too, please do actually draw those three sketches in the meanwhile…

It’s quite easily possible that you will “get” the point I was trying to make here. If so, your sketches will show it. If so, I will be only too happy. However, I am afraid, if my past experience is anything to go by, many (even most!) people are simply going to miss it. …Verifying if you actually got the intended point or not, can be such a fun! So, there. Just go ahead, grab a piece of paper right now, and proceed to show how the three states of matter look like. And, keep it aside (in a safe place; away from strong heat, light, having controlled humidity; away from children’s reach; etc.) We will come back to your sketches right in the next blog post. Real soon. (Within a few days. Right this week. That’s an honest promise.)

Links to my earlier posts on this topic:

A comment on homeopathy [^]
A Hypothesis on Homeopathy, Part 1 [^]
A Hypothesis on Homeopathy, Part 2 [^]

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A Song I Like:

(Hindi) “bas, ek chup see lagee hai… nahin udaas nahin…”
Lyrics: Gulzar
Music: Hemant Kumar
Singer: Lata Mangeshkar
[PS: All these years, what I heard was only Lata’s version. Per Google, there seems to be a version sung by Hemant Kumar, too! Looking forward to listening to it soon!]

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An Update to This Post (done within 3 hours):

Since this post was short, and since I usually write very long ones, and since I so particularly love this song, and since there is that “eespeshal” Gulzar-“eeshtyle” “kahaani mein ‘twist'” gradually building up about this song, I decided to include both the song in Hindi, and its (poorly done up) translation into English (by me (who else?))… Hope you enjoy (!!)

First, the original Hindi lyrics of this song. (Picked up from the ‘net.)

“bas, ek chup si lagi hai
nahi, udaas nahi
kahin pe saans ruki hai
nahi, udaas nahi
bas, ek chup si lagi hai.

koi anokhi nahi
aisi zindagi, lekin,
khoob na ho…
koi anokhi nahi
aisi zindagi, lekin,
khoob na ho…
mili jo…
<<distinct pause>>
khoob mili hai;
nahi, udaas nahi
bas, ek chup si lagi hai.

sehar bhi ye raat bhi,
dopaher bhi mili, lekin…
sehar bhi ye raat bhi,
dopaher bhi mili, lekin…
hami ne…
<<distinct pause>>
shaam chuni hai;
nahi, udaas nahi
bas, ek chup si lagi hai.

wo daastaan jo
hamne kahi bhi,
hamne likhi…
wo daastaan jo
hamne kahi bhi,
hamne likhi…
aaj wo…
<<distinct pause>>
khud se suni hai;
nahi, udaas nahi
bas, ek chup si lagi hai.

Now, a note before my (great) English translation. I have tried to keep the translation as literal as possible, keeping the interpolations down to the basic minimum. I have tried to see that the extra words given in the square brackets ([]) are not interpolations but only those that (i) serve to bridge the grammatical structures of the two languages, or (ii) suggest a possible alternative meaning, or (iii) in general serve to specify the exact shade of the meaning. Hopefully. I have also kept the repeating lines from the song, into the English translation. (They do serve a purpose, for this song.) People who know English but not Hindi may perhaps glean some sort of an idea as to why so many people find so many old Hindi songs so wonderful. Including, of course, the subtle poetry of Gulzar.

An English translation of this song:

[it’s] just [that] one [closed-lips] sort of quietness has set in.
no, not [a] gloomy [or a sad one].
somewhere [in the soul, or, as if] the breath [itself] has stopped.
no, not [a] gloomy [or a sad thing].
[it’s] just [that] one [closed-lips] sort of quietness has set in.

some stranger, it isn’t—
this sort of a life [which I have got], but,
[doubtful, if it] may not be beautiful…
some stranger, it isn’t—
this sort of a life [which I have got], but,
[doubtful, if it] may not be beautiful…
that [life] which [I] have got…
<<distinct pause>>
[I] have got a beautiful one…
no, not [a] gloomy [or a sad one],
[it’s] just [that] one [closed-lips] sort of quietness has set in.

the fresh early morning [breeze], too, [and] this [or the] night, too,
the afternoon, too, [I] have got, but…
the fresh early morning [breeze], too, [and] this [or the] night, too,
the afternoon, too, [I] have got, but…
I myself…
<<distinct pause>>
have chosen the evening…
no, not [a] gloomy [or a sad one],
[it’s] just [that] one [closed-lips] sort of quietness has set in.

that [sincere, or heartfelt, or] soulful tale which
I told, too, [and]
[I even] wrote [about]…
that [sincere, or heartfelt, or] soulful tale which
I told, too, [and]
[I even] wrote [about]…
today, that [tale]…
<<distinct pause>>
[I] have heard from my own self…
no, not [a] gloomy [or a sad one],
[it’s] just [that] one [closed-lips] sort of quietness has set in.

Finally, one more note on the difficulty in translating this kind of a song—a song that right in its original version itself is so atrocious!

The Hindi “chup” literally means: “with mouth shut up.” However, immediately after, Gulzaar adds the softening modifier (Hindi) “see” (literal meaning: “of that sort”, or, “something like”). All that the (Hindi) “see” makes clear is that the shutting up of the mouth is not meant in a hard sense, say, as in “just shut your ugly mouth up,” or even in the sense of: “tight-lips-ness.” The intended usage is soft. But one still doesn’t immediately know: soft, in which sense? happy, or sad?

Asking to keep the mouth shut up can be a mock order to a bright, lively and mischievous kid, as in, say, “now, wouldn’t you better keep your mouth shut up.” Yet, with (Hindi) “chup see” alone, one cannot certainly tell if it can’t actually be a sad context coming up, e.g., as in: “he is so sad/weak/in a pessimistic mood, that he obviously wouldn’t talk about it!” Etc. Thus, the same word can equally connote (i) an innocently mischievous, or a sparklingly happy, or a beautifully ironical kind of a context, or, (ii) a delicately sad sort of a situation. And then, the suggestion for the sad or delicately sorrowful meanings gets reinforced when you go over those denials the first time you read it: “no, it’s not about sadness, something else….”

And, thus, even with the original Hindi version, you really have to get to the last stanza before you can fully realize (or confirm) the exact sense in which the poet expects his (Hindi) “chup see” to be taken.

For any further interpretation etc.: Go, figure! [And, don’t forget to keep those sketches ready!]

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[E&OE]

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A Hypothesis on Homeopathy, Part 2

0. Preliminaries:

From this post on, we begin to engage in the hypothesis—if not that, at least the topics prerequisite to understanding it. The hypothesis can be stated simply, but we will have to first clarify the terms being used in it. We begin to undertake such a clarification with this post. Hope the description isn’t so general as to be vague. (I will appreciate feedback.)

1. The Idea of States Applied to Living Beings:

It will help if we approach the issue by first considering the biological nature of man (or of any sufficiently complex organism such as dogs, cats, horses, etc.) Certain salient characteristics that are pertinent to homeopathy will be brought out in the ensuing discussion.

For our purposes, we first consider a healthy i.e. a normal adult who has no unusual habits of food, daily routine, etc.

Suppose that such a man is not habituated to tobacco. Suppose further that he chews tobacco for the first time in his life. What does typically happen? Immediately, he will find a different kind of a taste in his mouth. Soon thereafter, he will feel a light feeling in head, followed by giddy-ness. His pulse will become both more quick and more irregular. He may experience nausea, and may even throw up. If he has tobacco through smoking, several of these symptoms will still appear though to a somewhat lesser degree. To those smokers who have stopped smoking and then pick up a cigarette after a long gap (of, say months), it never fails surprising them that these “newbie’s” symptoms come back for a while, once they restart smoking.

One somewhat abstract way to describe such a set of observations is to say that the state of a man changes from, say “normal” (N1) to, say “tobacco-affected” (or generally, SA, short for substance-affected). The SA state is characterized by a certain group of symptoms. As the man continues having the substance, the further occurances of the SA state now become progressively less intense. A time comes when, what the man now calls his normal state (N2) is completely unaffected by his consumption of the substance. However, upon quitting, withdrawal symptoms can appear, leading him to yet another state WS (withdrawal symptoms). If he continues staying quit, the WS state gradually recedes and his state falls back to N1. Now, he again is biologically ready to experience the TA state.

Of course, you may object, tobacco (or the nicotine in it) is an addictive substance. For a non-addictive substance such as tea or the table salt, the state corresponding to withdrawal will not apply. To a certain extent, you are right. However, a more careful study shows that several finer symptoms still arise even if the substance is as benign as tea, the table salt, hot chilly (jalapano), etc. Overall, the idea of changes of states, does remain generally applicable.

Some further comments on the living states of a man, are in order. A given specific living state can be distinguished by the particular group of attributes or symptoms associated with it. If such attributes change, we may associate a change of state with the man. We are free to associate a changed state regardless of the nature of the causes underlying the change, and regardless of whether we know these causes or not. Clinical evidence ought to be considered sufficient to indicate that states do change—even if by itself it may not explain anything at all. Explanation is not the first stage of a science; observation is.

The state that a man considers as his “normal” state, itself can undergo a slow change over a period of time. In the aforementioned example, the reported normal case changed from N1 to N2 over a period of time.

Philosophically, such a change does not imply a metaphysical flux: what a man considers to be his “normal” state, at any given time, is definite. However, it is just that the attributes that distinguish an N1 state from another N2 state may be so fine, or the change may occur so slowly over time, that differences between them may fall beyond a the man’s capacity to grasp or distinguish. (The story of the frog unable to notice the dangerously increasing water temperature in a slowly heated pot, is provides an example from the animal world.) However the failure to recognize the distinction does not mean that the states themselves are identical. They are not.

Thus, in our hypothesis, we emphasize objectivity of states, and as an implication, we do not elevate the subjectively described experiences to the same level as of objective observations/existential states.

BTW, observe that a chemical substance is not necessarily a pre-requisite of a state change; also radiation, heat, pressure etc. can bring about a change of state. More on this, later, in appropriate context.

2. Life Processes: Dynamic Equilibrium, Complexity and Non-linearity

(2.a) Dynamic Equilibrium

The next idea that observations such as the above suggest is one of equilibrium, more specifically, of a dynamic equilibrium.

In the above example, N1 is a state of dynamic equilibrium and so is N2. On the other hand, the SA or WS states do not refer to equilibrium even in a dynamic sense. They refer to departures from equilibrium. (BTW, depending on the nature of the substance involved, it is possible that both N1 and N2 may refer to a state of health. We shall mostly not dwell on such cases.)

Living organisms are complex enough that the number of metastable equilibrium states that may be assumed by them can be huge. For instance, consider the change of state introduced by keeping all your food habits the same but changing the consumption pattern for only one kind of a food-item. Thus, for example, consider having or not having red chillies (jalapanos) in your diet. Each such a change impinging on your body leads to a fine but definite change in its state, and indicates a different possible state of dynamic equilibrium.

Notice that we still are considering only the more or less “healthy” variety of states that may be assumed by a man (or any sufficiently complex living organism). The states assumed during the various diseases simply add another set of states.

The concept of dynamic equilibrium is vital to both the medical science and our hypothesis. Our description here is not at all adequate. We shall come back to this topic again later on.

(2.b) Complexity:

Another observation that we wish to note here is that life-processes are not only dynamic but also complex.

The word complex, in general, does not mean either “indeterminate” or “hard” (though the word is often used by physicists in the former sense, and by computer scientists in the latter sense.) Indeed, the antonymn of “complex” is: “simple.”

The idea here is that anything of interest may be imagined to be a system, made of up certain interrelated parts. If the number of parts is great or their workings, or the interrelations too numerous, or their realistic description requires too much detail to be provided, then we say that the system is complex. The politics of a village local governing body vs. that in the UN provides one good example—the moral level often is not at all different, but the latter is more complex. The difference between the simple and the complex is brought out also by considering machines: there are simple machines like the inclined plane or a system of pulleys, and there are complex machines such as a space-shuttle.

BTW, as the example of machines indicates the word “complex” does not mean: “unmanageable.” Indeed, engineered systems are often intelligently designed so as to bring complexity (including any naturally occurring chaos) under control.

The biological processes of metabolism are both extremely complex and highly interdependent. Their complexity is the reason why the medical science is not easy to build or practice. The best way to appreciate the complexity of living beings is to trace in detail all that which happens when the organism takes a particular action. For example, suppose you are hungry and decide to have a fruit. Trace all the biological systems involved in this simple set of actions: the level of energy-producing materials (say, sugar) available at the cellular level drops below a certain limit; this triggers a certain chemical signal; it translates into a neural system signal; it reaches a certain part of the spinal rod and/or brain; this last again triggers some other process because of which the biochemical states corresponding to your becoming aware of the state of hunger, happens; your conscious thinking and decision—to eat fruit—again correlates with the electro-chemical signals and states in the brain; your decision further triggers some complex process in the command center… you can carry on…

But important point is that each of these processes again is both extremely complex in itself and extremely dependent on the other parts of the overall system….

I think the fact that biological processes are complex need not be stressed any further.

Coming back to the variety of complex states assumed by a man, due to the reason of interdependencies and complexity, it is possible that a given state may be reached via many different alternative paths. Here, a path is defined as a definite (also continuous) sequence of intermediate state changes. Due to the complexity, existence of multiple pathways between the states is not an exception but rather a norm in the biological systems. Further, the attribute of interdependence means that the dynamic equilibria (corresponding to each individual state) are also highly susceptible to both fleeting disturbances as well  restoration of the system back to some or the other state of dynamic equilibrium. A very tiny biological stimulus may be enough to make the organism slide into another nearby state; a net effect of yet another set of stimulii may take the organism back to the original equilibrium state via some other path.

(2.c) Nonlinearity:

Finally, we shall touch upon yet another feature of biological processes: namely, that often times, they also are nonlinear in nature.

The basic meaning of the term “nonlinear” is very simple; obviously, it means: not linear. Since nothing can be defined via negations, it is perfectly logical to ask: so, what’s the point?

The point has a scope large enough that we have to go step by step, taking some concrete examples alogn the way.

If you attach a weight to a spring, the spring elongates by a certain amount. If you attach a heavier weight, the elongation of the spring is proportionately greater. A smaller input leads to a smaller output; a bigger input leads to a proportionately bigger output.

This property of proportionality does not always hold true for all classes of systems.

For a certain class of systems, reducing the input below a threshold level may lead to a zero output (e.g. the photoelectric effect). For others, the threshold may be present on the higher side (e.g. the electric fuse). For still others, the relationship may be more complicated than just the binary presence/absence of the output.

For instance, consider the human ear. We are able to clearly hear not only whispers but also loud conversations, and then, also rock concerts. The emphasis is on the clarity—we are able to make out subtle nuances of speech at each of these levels. The range of input values over which the ear can function is almost impossible to emulate in the usual, linear physical systems. For example, imagine weighing a gold ring on a weigh-bridge meant for trucks up to 10 tonnes in weight. The differences in the magnitude (a few tons vs. a few grams—about 10^7 times difference) is actually smaller than the range (10^9 or more) that the ear is able to handle.  The reason is that the ear is a nonlinear sensor. For a hundred-fold increase in the acoustic input, the ear produces a signal that is only twice as strong. This allows the further brain circuitry to remain sensitive over the entire hearing range. Nonlinearity does not necessarily mean weird.

A still more complicated behaviour is displayed by some other nonlinear systems, ones in which the system changes its behaviour near certain ranges of input conditions. We shall look at it in the next post.

References for the Next Post:

We shall deal with topics of dynamic instability, catostrophe theory, nonlinearity and chaos during the next post. We shall conceptually touch upon some of those ideas which are relevant to our discussion. If your background did not have any maths beyond XII, it would be worth your while to make a list of the topics or keywords that you found to be either too bizarre or too easily believable, about the chaos theory. If your background includes, say, first two years of maths in BSc/BE courses, you may wish to note that the references that I will mostly draw on are the following (in the decreasing order of relevance):

1. Addison, Paul S. (2005) “Fractals and Chaos: An Illustrated Course,” New Delhi, India:Overseas Press (originally published in UK by Institute of Physics Publishing).

2. Baker, Gregory L. and Gollub, Jerry P. (1996) “Chaotic Dynamics: An Introduction, 2/e” Cambridge, UK:Cambridge University Press

3. Tel, Tamas and Gruiz, Marton (2006) “Chaotic Dynamics: An Introduction Based on Classical Mechanics,” translated by Katalin Kulacsky, Cambridge, UK:Cambridge University Press

4. Hirsh, Morris W. and Smale, Stephen and Devaney, Robert L. (2004) “Differential Equations, Dynamical Systems, and an Introduction to Chaos, 2/e” San Diego, CA, USA:Academic Press

Further, I have to dig up suitable references for the catastrophe theory…. It all has become such an old thing for me by now; no touch with these topics whatsoever at all!…

Before closing: Whether you know the required maths or not, since, undoubtedly, all of you have read about chaos, here is a couple of questions—a sort of “one for the road,” that got repeated!: (i) What is (or what do you think is) the relation between resonance and chaos? (ii) Can conservative systems exhibit chaotic dynamics?

Links to my earlier posts on this topic:
A hypothesis on homeopathy, part 1 [^]
A comment on homeopathy [^]

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A Song I Like
(Marathi) “aalaa paaoos, aalaa paaoos, maatichyaa vasaat g_…”
Singer: Pushpa Pagdhare
Music: Shrinivas Khale
Lyrics: Shanta Shelke

[E&OE]

A Comment on Homeopathy

Today, I read a post on homeopathy written by Girish Shahane here [^], and then also wrote a comment in his blog. The comment actually began as a short writeup of a few lines but soon expanded enough to be a separate post all by itself. So, here, I reproduce my abovementioned comment. Of course, I may perhaps edit/expand the write up here in a few days’ time (or else I will at least delete this line).

–  –  –  –  –

Homeopathy didn’t work when I myself tried. But it did work for a few people, some very close personal friends. I don’t think I have good reasons to question the kind of rigour of observations that they exercised, at least in this matter.

This second-hand experience is apart from those (admittedly rare) documented cases of homeopathy showing its efficacy(in both good and bad ways) with animals and infants.

It would take a series of full articles about the nature of homeopathy and of its theorization as taught to the homeopathic doctors, and also about the intellectual quality of most of its practitioners. Currently I have no time; just jotting a few points.

Objections beginning with Avogadro’s number are logically weak, even if on a somewhat correct track. Atoms/ions indeed are structural entities, but you cannot say that the process of identifying structure stop at a particular scale of observation and with a particular way of making those observations. Indeed, structural features have been observed to exist at as fine a scale as we have been experimentally able to go.

More important here: there can be other kind of structural features that aren’t observed only by “zooming in” (though this can be necessary or helpful) but rather, in a way, also simultaneously by “zooming out,” by understanding the fine, perhaps spatially gradual, changes in the longer-range correlations or interactions between the water or sugar powder body.

Fine changes like these can perhaps play a critical (“chaos”-theoretic) influence on the biochemical processes of organisms (the latter being considered as “complex” systems). There is a fine mathematical physics hidden behind that almost hippy terminology of “chaos,” “complex,” “nonlinear,” etc.

BTW, in talking about longer range correlations in water/matter, I was not specifically suggesting quantum entanglement (I don’t think it even exists in the form usually suggested), but just indicating longer range interactions in general. (“Clusters” proposed by some homeopathy researchers provide but one example, but aren’t necessarily the thing.)

Clinical evidence is not a bad thing—our ancestors had hardly anything more than that. Analytical explanation sharpens and expands the efficacy. This does not mean that in its absence, clinical evidence is to be thrown out.

Double-blind testing protocol, in the form usually practised, isn’t suited to test homeopathic claims. The objection is not to the “double-blind” aspect of it, but to the form of the practise. It should be possible to evolve protocols better suited to test something like homeopathy. To my knowledge, this has not been undertaken.

By and large, homeopathic practitioners in India have poor intellectualization skills, and as such, though I don’t consider homeopathy a witchcraft, in general, it would be my third choice—after allopathy and (the better part of) Ayurveda.

–  –  –  –  –

BTW, I had written a bit about homeopathy earlier in this blog too. Then and now, I don’t find the time to settle down and write a long essay or a series of short articles about what I think of homeopathy, the possible reasons it might work, etc.

–  –  –  –  –
A Song I Like:
(Hindi) “sajanawaa bairee ho gaye hamaar…”
Singer: Mukesh
Lyrics: Shailendra
Music: Shankar-Jaikishan

[E&OE]

[Somewhat] Scientific, [Somewhat] Latest

Infosys Science Foundation Awards:

ISF announced the “Laureates” for their first year recently[^].

Kapil Sibbal himself was roped in to make the announcement for the prizes. He did this via video conferencing while sitting in Delhi. However, a section of the press took care to make it look as if he was physically present in Infosys’ Bangalore campus to make this announcement. (The same section of the press also did not highlight the way in which Sibbal welcomed the idea: he touched upon the existence of the prizes in S&T that government doles out, then touched upon the need for the private sector to come forward, and then welcomed the idea of the ISF awards. )

Notably, no prize was awarded in the “Engineering and Computer Science” category right in the first year. Since the composition of the Jury for this category seemed impeccable [it has Prof. Subra Suresh as Chairman and Prof. C. F. Shih and Dr. R. Mashelkar among other members], the initial reaction that the absence of the prize generated was tilted towards something like: “They [or We] really don’t do absolutely frontline and world-class  research in the field of engineering in India.”

Now, it’s a no brainer as to precisely whom the absence of the prizes might rub the wrong way: professors at IITs and the IISc.

However, with Sibbal making the announcement, it also was a no-brainer as to who would not be found talking openly about it: professors at IITs. Naturally, the only people who could have expressed surprise at the decision could have been: (i) PhD students abroad (they still have some sense of some connection with Indian S & T), and, (ii) possibly, someone from the IISc, if at all.

Abi (i.e. Prof. T. A. Abinandanan of IISc Materials dept. [^]) posted an entry at his blog “nanopolitan”, pointing out the sort of contradictions that are inherent a decision of this kind. He did it in a humorous way: he himself awarded a Grand Prize and a citation to the Jury, for their “moronic” decision[^]. … This post of his came to my attention and, very naturally, I loved it! The most surprising part was to find some academic/intellectual from Bangalore talk against anything to do with Infosys as such. My comment appears at # 26 at Abi’s blog [^]; the same is also reproduced below.

Quote:

Abi,

I am happy that there is at least one academic and/or intellectual from Bangalore who is critical of something—anything—to do with Infosys. … My impression was that people from Bangalore, esp. those from the IISc, are always appreciative of anything that Infosys chooses to throw at them in particular and at Indians in general. (Until very recent times, exactly the same could be said for the English-speaking people from Bombay, the IIT Bombay, and the Tatas, respectively.) So, congratulations are due to you!

I am not sure I know what either the Jury or the ISF were looking for, in the engineering category. But looking at the prize-winners from the other categories, one *can* make a blanket statement that ISF could easily have found people of similar track record—a similar quality of research and having a similar record of the received past adorations—in the engineering category too. Quite easily.

I intend to post something more on these prizes at my own blog pretty soon, but here, let me jump ahead and say that if anyone finds Paddy (Prof. Padmanabhan) worthy of a prize like this, there really is no rhyme or reason why they cannot find a Manindra Agarwal (IIT Kanpur) or a Vivek Ranade (NCL) worthy of a similar prize in the engineering category. … I mean don’t miss my point…

My point is (and more on this at my blog): neither Agarwal nor Ranade has produced truly outstanding work. (Ditto for many other Indian engineers.) But then, my point is: neither has our sweet *Paddy*! And, otherwise, they *all* have been very much adored to a more or less equal extent in the past…

I mean, if this is going to be a *ramp walk* of sorts—and that’s what they seem to be doing, going by some of their choices for the other categories—then why leave poor engineers out of it?

That’s my point.

Anyway, good to find someone take a position against either N. Murthy, grossly over-rated himself IMHO or Infosys. And I don’t have to say that Infosys, as an organization, are grossly over-rated: they themselves tell you loudly that they are proud of their own HR policies whereby brilliant engineers (defined as 75%+ and/or rankers and/or IIT engineers and/or similar) are asked to sit at home earning nothing (because even if they join, Infy anticipates them to leave early) whereas the somewhat above-average lot gets not only jobs in Infy but also handsome salary and perks. [And the lawmakers and governments *abroad* praise N.M. & Infy for having achieved *this* for them!]

Enough! Bye!

–Ajit

Unquote.

This comment itself further spawned a few Internet-quality comments at Abi’s blog; read them in original there.

Of course, I recognize that the content of my comment is controversial. And, I did not provide any justification for it there. … Therefore, here, I would like to point out a few things that go towards explaining my position or justifying why I said the way I did.

The first question to raise in order to justify my take on the matter is not:

“What is so bad/poor/unworthy of this prize in the work of, say, Prof. Padmanabhan, or Dr. Banerjee, or so.”

The first question which I actually had asked myself before coming to my position was this:

“What is it that the Infosys “Laureates” (or others) should have accomplished already before I could have looked up to their work as being truly outstanding and worthy of a science foundation prize like this?”

Given below is a list by way of an answer:

Prof. Manindra Agarwal:

If he were to be able to think of a solution—or at least a scheme or a definite argument for a solution—to the P vs NP problem, and if he were to also dare to publish it (even if only at a conference or at an invited talk), then I would consider it truly outstanding.

Remember, proving that computing the “pi” value is in P itself is a good work, very good, indeed. But what use is an algorithm or a result that does not actually reduce the computatioal cost? I mean, even if something is in P, it can still be a long computational effort!

Dr. Vivek Ranade:

He graduated from the UDCT (now UICT). He joined the NCL. He was nominated for, and received, fellowship in Europe. He remained with NCL. Dr. Mashelkar was DG of CSIR. He was nominated for, and received, the Bhatnagar award. Ok. [These days, he is on the board of a CFD services company even while continuing with NCL. Take it as an appreciation or a criticism, but this is a fact the last time I checked his profile out.]

Is his work comparable to, say, Patankar’s SIMPLE algorithm—a path-breaker of sorts? If not, am I not justifying that Ranade’s work is not truly outstanding (even if he could have been awarded the prize if even Paddy could get one)?

[BTW, this is not personal. Suhas Patankar did not bother to reply my email when I had written him one as a PhD student at COEP—to him and to Dr. Sparrow. Neither reciprocated. So, the inclusion of Patankar does not mean I have some good relations with him. I actually don’t! Also not with Thomas Kailath—who hasn’t bothered replying my email.]

Prof. Banerjee, Laureate (Economics):

Can he solve the problem I posed Swami in my last post (see immediatley below). I think not. Can he at all think of it as a valid economic query? I think not even that much—it just doesn’t fit the informal agendas of people like him (or of the Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen). The question I raised—is it a basic and simple issue pertaining to his field of specialty? Yes. Does this laureate have anything illuminating by way of an answer, or anything comparable by way of  clarity in whatever research work that he does publish? Answer: No! … Now answer me, why should he get a “purse” containing roughly $100,000/- (not much, if you ask me, for Infosys’ budget.)

Prof. Upinder Singh, Laureate (History)

Ask her to take up and answer this simple question: How old is the Indian civilization, according to the best of her  knowledge and expertise, and also the methods and the tools used in acquiring them—including, possibly, Reason.

Is this not a basic and a simple question pertaining to her speciality? Can she answer it without also being ridiculous/humorous in her reply? … Note, many Hindutva/BJP+ people will tell you a figure that runs into lakhs and crores of years… But such people will themselves tell you that the matter is to be accepted on Faith—not understood and settled via a process of Reason. Does she have an answer to the above question—an answer that she thinks is rational and which also is not outright humorous (or insulting to the intelligence of) a school-going kid? If not, why consider her a truly outstanding achiever of her stated field?

(I could come up with some other questions for her field too… But why should I exercise and tax my brain for her—i.e. if it’s she who is going to take home all that prize money?)

Prof. Thanu Padmanabhan, Laureate (Physical Sciences):

His case is simple, very simple, just like Ranade’s (who did not get the award).

Paddy did his PhD from TIFR; followed Jayant [Narlikar]’s lead to Cambridge; followed Jayant to IUCAA; was nominated for, and received, a Padma Shri, as against the earlier generation’s Jayant’s Padma’s (Bhushan in young age, followed by a Vibhushan later on); was nominated for, and received, the ISF award (with Jayant on the Jury).

A question for Paddy? … Hmmm… It’s physical science we are talking about, right? Physics! Like, QM!!

My experience with Paddy re. QM (and I myself do have publications on this subject—the basics of quantum physics—even though no one reads or comments on them despite the controversial nature of the topic dealt with)  is that just like Jayant, Paddy, too, declined my request to informally discuss my research with him. The difference is this: Jayant cited a lack of time. It was in 2002/3 (way before I published my findings), but he did forward my request to use their library, to the Librarian of IUCAA as the then Director. Thanu (i.e. Paddy’s actual first name), being junior, has yet to pick up all the tricks; he is not so suave as Jayant is. Also, perhaps not so lucky. (Jayant is now retired, but Paddy still has decades ahead… and with me as a contemporary.)  I requested audience with Paddy after the publication of my QM papers. Thanu actually met me, but then proceeded to tell a lie to me right while sitting across his official table in IUCAA (funded by my tax-payer’s money). Thanu (i.e. Paddy) said: he did not know QM. … Not even the basic QM. Not even the single-particle double-slit interference experiment. And so, he could not discuss the matter with me.

Thanu said that lie directly to my face, keeping an absolutely straight, nay, even a sincere-looking face; he could put even seasoned politicians to shame in this particular skill. (Let him publicly deny this. And, his lie—the last time I checked, Thanu had finished authoring yet another book, this time directly touching QM.)

So, my question to this “world-acclaimed” researcher, a friend of Jayant’s (and you know the cohort: Ashtekar, Srinivas Kulkarni,…), as well as to all of them (appearing in this line) is: Pick up any basic topic of QM. (I will not insist which one it is to be.) And explain it without contradicting the evidence and without being humorous, i.e. without offending the common-sense. Or, simpler: Point out a mistake in my reasoning, my argument, my method, my approach concerning QM.

Can you do it, Paddy? (And, how about you, Jayant?) If not, why run after all that “maNi,” Paddy? (How about you, Jayant? And if you want, I can always pose the specifically mathematical aspects of my research, for you to ponder over and answer. Just let me know—drop me an email. (The offer is, as of today, open only to Padma- and/or Bhatnagar-winners and similar—not to anonymous entities found on the Internet.)

Another point. Paddy lied about QM the way he did, right? God knows whether what I am going to write next is true or not. But the fact is, my published QM papers do not talk specifically about angular momentum—they only give an outline and so talk only about momentum. An essay that Paddy/Thanu wrote just a while after our meeting [and I forgot whether it was for Current Science or Resonance or so] highlighted precisely the quantum angular momentum in particular. … Nice going, eh, Paddy? Getting adulated for “popularization of science,” “spreading the awareness about science,” all in India, for Indians (even in Marathi, as far as Jayant’s case goes.) And then, refusing meetings. And, despite that, getting all the “maNi” that kind Infoscions bestow… Must be a very nice going, Paddy (and Jayant), right?

More on such people—esp. the physicists from India—later!

– – – – –

Not Hired at the International Institute of Information Technology, Pune

I applied for the 3-rd time in the past five years for a job with Dr. Vijay Bhatkar’s I2IT [^].  However, this time round, I could actually meet with Dr. Bhatkar. He asked me to send him a document detailing the courses that I could take for them. Then, he went to the USA alongwith Kapil Sibbal. It was precisely during that time that a 30 minute presentation and the interview was arranged for me at I2IT. Curiously, students were kept out of the presentation and it occurred inside a stuffy, small conference room. The reaction to my research ideas ranged from mild antipathy [from a CFD researcher] to outright hostility [from a QM-nano-specialist who doesn’t publish on QM, doesn’t have a PhD, doesn’t have manners, but is dear to I2IT and, apparently, also to Dr. Bhatkar], to indifference [but this being honest, I have no issues with those particular people]. Naturally, I was rejected. I then wrote an SMS and an email to Dr. Bhatkar requesting a second audience to discuss the manner in which I was rejected…. I am still looking forward to receiving a reply from him. Mr. Prataprao Pawar, a question for you: Should I, or should I not, get angry at this incidence and this manner of dealing with a job application? [It was Prataprao Pawar who had arranged my meeting with Dr. Bhatkar in the first place. I had gone to Pawar to say thanks for his past help in dealing with the bureaucracy at COEP at the time of my PhD registration…. Oh, BTW, keep in mind that Prataprao Pawar’s phone call did not translate into a job at I2IT for me—apparently, “media moghul” and “politicians” are, after all, not as efficacious as what many scribes (and Internet personalities) seem to assume—I mean, I still actually remain out  of that job at I^2IT, don’t I?… Probably, after this post, Prataprao is not going to make even that one call for me in future the way he did now! [LOL!]]

– – – – –

A Song I Like: (more or less at random)

(Marathi) “veL jhaali bhar maadhyaanha…”
Singer: Usha Mangeshkar

– – – – –

PS: I might streamline this write-up a bit later on, within a few days. … The points will remain the same, but I tend to be iterative in my expression, esp. in English. (Even in s/w dev., I tend to be more iterative in crystallizing my design decisions than others.) … So, I might improve the write-up a bit, later on.

[Mostly] Political, [Mostly] Latest

Here are a few (almost) random points…

1. Economics:
Can Swami (of Swaminomics) explain to me in simple enough terms the following phenomena:
1.1 If, at the most basic level, stock investments are done by keeping in view the earnings through dividends, how come Bajaj Auto shares used to be traded at more than 100 times or so during Indira Gandhi’s rule?
1.2 Similarly, for the other cases, in today’s context.
1.3 Clarification: I am not for greater control to rectify the situation.
1.4 There is a dominant streak of pragmatism in every “pro-business” “defence” which I would rather someone exposed—without proposing more government interventions.
1.5 Indeed, I think the extent that the market is overpriced precisely serves to reveal the extent of the government intervention in economy.
More on economics, later… I have an idea for modeling of certain kind of basic economic issues.

2. Sathya Sai Baba:

So much has been written about him that his case has thrust itself into being a curiosity for me for quite some time. … I wouldn’t mind visiting his Puttaparthi ashram (or some place similar) provided he can talk to me on a 1:1 basis. And it would be OK even if this occurs in front of thousands or lakhs; I hardly care for that aspect. But should his weighty followers and he himself at all come to thinking of allowing this to happen, here are the opinions (or the “baggage”) with which I would go to him:
2.1 First and foremost, I don’t believe that he is a reincarnation of the Sai Baba of Shirdi, full-stop. From what I have read of the original Sai Baba, this claim is a complete impossibility—regardless of whether Hirabai Badodekar (and the then Rashtrapati Bhavan) agree with my assessment or not, and whether APJ Abdul Kalam, Shankarro Chavan, Ashok Chavan, Shivajirao Patil Nilangekar, Jayant Patil, Sonu Nigam, Sachin Tendulkar, Suchitra Krishnamurthy agree with me or not.
2.2 I don’t agree with his critics that all he is can be reduced to a few magicians’ tricks. (And, I don’t concern myself with everything that has ever been written, said, or suspected about him on the Internet or on the BBC.)
2.3 He might have some spiritual powers and he could possibly be using it in a way that his followers feel blessed, or at least, relaxed. … Not enough of a reason to take his claim of being Shirdi’s Sai Baba very seriously.
2.4 I am not a materialist in the tradition of the so-called “rationalists” of India (the leftists and left-leaning intellectuals included).
2.5 He shouldn’t expect me to even bow down to him as a precondition of my meeting with him. If he can meet me, as I said, one-to-one, I am eager to talk to him. It won’t take even five minutes for me to place him better (than what I have above) in a personal meeting.
2.6 And, oh yes, I wouldn’t at all mind bowing to him in a manner befitting his place should he want to see me. The point is: He should not mistake my physical bowing with anything else—esp., my acceptance of all his ideas and all his claims—that’s all. Indeed, I would be very neat, just like all his followers, should I go and see him.

3. Indira Gandhi
It’s remarkable that post-Vajpayee years, remembering her is, on the whole, a subdued affair. … I mean I didn’t see full-page photos in the newspapers, and there weren’t huge cut-outs towering over buildings either… All this was welcome, in a way. After all, there still is a huge gap left between remembering her and remembering Lal Bahadur Shastri.

And, BTW, I really can’t remember her without also remembering Durgabai Bhagwat—the real iron lady between the two, if you ask me. … Again, it’s not that I agree with every position that Bhagwatbai ever took in her life…  [And, is issuing such clarifications really necessary?] But, as far as I am concerned, Bhagwat’s principled defence of Freedom during those difficult years of Emergecy was enough for me to conclude that this, in fact, was actually the case….

And, indeed, what quote could they at all find to bring out the supposed “greatness” of Indira in those recent newspaper ads? If you read through it, it’s plain and obvious that such quotes could fit in the mouth of any third-class dictator in any of the third-world countries—all that the speech-writer would need to have is some education in one of those Christian missionary schools, and he would be well on his way to utter what Indira Gandhi, we were especially seriously reminded, did!

Which brings me to another sub-point: Has Barkha Dutt lost her original fire these days? … First, there was this change of the mix of topics as soon as they had that deal with MSNBC or NBC or so. That, by itself was bad already…  I mean, Barkha would get the heat up on some topic, and suddenly that entire topic of discussion would get mixed quite incongruously (and in following with all the worst trends of the Tame Americans) with some other topic that was decidedly luke-warm. (Luke-warm, mind you. Not cold.) … And then, in such a process, the whole tempo of that hot topic would be entirely lost. Plus, they also  reduced the time spent actually debating—not just the content but also the format… All this was bad by itself… But then, esp. since her becoming a Padmashree or so, this lady seems to have lost that fire to confront the government uncomfortably that she used to have. … Or is it the case that she was a Congresswoman in disguise all the time, and that we saw that side of hers only because BJP+ was in power? Any thoughts, Barkha?…

Not that she should be the hanging point for all our worries… That’s not the idea here. If she is tired or bored out of fighting it out, she is entitled to a rest… But then, the decent way to do this is to retire from all that debating—not to dilute it to the extent that one doesn’t even feel like turning the TV on Sunday evening at 8 PM…

– – – – –

Some of the songs that I like:

(Hindi) “yehi woh jagah hai, yehi woh fizayen..”
Singer: Asha Bhosle
Music: O. P. Nayyar

[… More, later!]