WEF, Institutions, Media and Credibility

Some time ago, I had run into some Internet coverage about some WEF (World Economic Forum) report about institutions and their credibility rankings. I no longer remember where I had seen it mentioned, but the fact that such an article had appeared, had somehow stayed in the mind.

Today, in order to locate the source, I googled using the strings “WEF”, “Credibility” and “Media”. The following are a few links I got as a result of these searches. In each case, I first give the source organization, then the title of the article they published, and finally, the URL. Please note, all cover essentially the same story.

• Edelman, “2017 Edelman TRUST BAROMETER Reveals Global Implosion of Trust,” [^]
• Quartz, “The results are in: Nobody trusts anyone anymore,” [^]
• PostCard, “Must read! World Economic Forum releases survey on Indian media, the results are shameful!,” [^]
• TrollIndianPolitics, “`INDIAN MEDIA 2ND MOST UNTRUSTED INSTITUTION’ Reports WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM,” [^]
• Financial Express, “WEF Report: ‘India most trusted nation in terms of institutions’,” [^]
• Financial Times, “Public trust in media at all time low, research shows,” [^]
• WEF, “Why credibility is the future of journalism,” [^]

“Same hotel, two different prices…” … [Sorry, just couldn’t resist it!]

Oh, BTW, I gather that the report says that institutions in India are more credible as compared to those in Singapore.

Do click the links if you haven’t yet done so, already. [No, I don’t get paid for the clicks on the outgoing links.]

Still getting settled in the new job and the city. Some stuff still is to be moved. But guess it was time to slip in at least a short post. So there. Take care and bye for now.

… I came to know about him a bit lately—certainly not when he was the Editor of ToI (or earlier). … It was sometime during the mid-noughties; it was mostly through an occasional edit-page piece or some other piece that he would write here and there. …

… I knew him more or less purely through his writing, even though we did share the same home-town, Pune. [The only few exceptions were a few TV appearances of his which I watched, once in a while, a while ago. … He somehow always seemed to appear in those half-sleeved sleeveless sweaters or something like that…]

But, talking of his writings (and TV appearances), occasional as these may have been, it was impossible to miss the fact that if phrases such as “a man of culture” or “a gentleman” might have any meaning in reality, then it would mean those few [unfortunately so very few] people like him.

Upon reading the news this morning, I was so sorry that he left us so early. …

… May his soul find “sadgati.”

Today’s Pune—the supposed Oxford of the East, the supposed City of Culture—is such that it will not bereave his loss as much as it should. … Naturally! You have to first have a kind of a value-system, a “sense” of what terms like “culture” mean, before you can even register a loss like that!

… Anyway…

My writing, both about QM and on other topics, has been going on, off-and-on. I should be back with something or the other in a while. May be about QM. May be about something else. But no promises as to when.

[E&OE]

Shaken, because of a stir

We have demonstrably been shaken here on earth, because of a stir in the cosmos.

The measured peak strain was $10^{-21}$ [^].

For comparison: In our college lab, we typically measure strains of magnitude like $10^{-3}$ or at the most $10^{-4}$. (Google search on “yield strain of mild steel” does not throw up any directly relevant page, but it does tell you that the yield strength of mild steel is 450 MPa, and all mechanical (civil/metallurgical/aero/etc.) engineers know that Young’s modulus for mild steel is 210 GPa. … You get the idea. …)

Einstein got it wrong twice, but at least eventually, he did correct himself.

But other physicists (and popular science writers, and blog-writers), even after getting a full century to think over the issue, still continue to commit blunders. They continue using terms like “distortions of spacetime.” As if, space and time themselves repeatedly “bent” (or, to use a euphemism, got “distorted”) together, to convey the force through “vacuum.”

It’s not a waving of the “spacetime” through a vaccum, stupid! It’s just the splashing of the aether!!

The Indian credit is, at the most, 1.3%.

If it could be taken as 3.7%, then the number of India’s science Nobels would also have to increase dramatically. Har Gobind Singh Khorana, for instance, would have to be included. The IAS-/MPSC-/scientist-bureaucrats “serving” during my childhood-days had made sure to include Khorana’s name in our school-time science text-books, even though Khorana had been born only in (the latter-day) Pakistan, and even if he himself had publicly given up on both Pakistan and India—which, even as children, we knew! Further, from whatever I recall of me and all my classmates (from two different schools), we the (then) children (and, later, teen-agers) were neither inspired nor discouraged even just a tiny bit by either Khorana’s mention or his only too willing renunciation of the Indian citizenship. The whole thing seemed too remote to us. …

Overall, Khorana’s back-ground would be a matter of pride etc. only to those bureaucrats and possibly Delhi intellectuals (and also to politicians, of course, but to a far lesser extent than is routinely supposed). Not to others.

Something similar seems to be happening now. (Something very similar did happen with the moon orbiter; check out the page 1 headlines in the government gazettes like Times of India and Indian Express.)

Conclusion: Some nut-heads continue to run the show from Delhi even today—even under the BJP.

Anyway, the reason I said “at most” 1.3 % is because, even though I lack a knowledge of the field, I do know that there’s a difference between 1976, and, say, 1987. This fact by itself sets a natural upper bound on the strength of the Indian contribution.

BTW, I don’t want to take anything away from Prof. Dhurandhar (and from what I have informally gathered here in Pune, he is a respectable professor doing some good work), but reading through the media reports (about how he was discouraged 30 years ago, and how he has now been vindicated today etc.) made me wonder: Did Dhurandhar go without a job for years because of his intellectual convictions—the way I have been made to go, before, during and after my PhD?

As far as I am concerned, the matter ends there.

At least it should—I mean, this post should end right here. But, OK, let me make an exception, and note a bit about one more point.

The experimental result has thrown the Nobel bookies out of business for this year—at least to a great part.

It is certain that Kip Thorne will get the 2016 Physics Nobel. There is no uncertainty on that count.

It is also nearly as certain that he will only co-win the prize—there will be others to share the credit (and obviously deservingly so). The only question remaining is, will it be just one more person or will it be two more (Nobel rules allow only max 3, I suppose), what will be their prize proportions, and who those other person(s) will be (apart from Thorne). So, as far as the bettors and the bookies are concerned, they are not entirely out of the pleasure and the business, yet.

Anyway, my point here was twofold: (i) The 2016 Physics Nobel will not be given for any other discovery, and (ii) Kip Thorne will be one of the (richly deserving) recipients.

[E&OE]

/

It’s Hot…

It’s hot—I mean the weather. I mean that in Pune. I mean the one right now.

The temperatures in the city have consistently been hovering around/above 40 degrees, and this is unusual. That way, it’s possible that the the max. temp. figures themselves might not be very much above the average. It could also be that the min. temp. is way above the normal temp. Or, if not that too, then at least the temp profile throughout the day—the total flux received per day as such—might have gone significantly up. Or, the wind is unusually low… Whatever. But the fact is that it’s been very much hot for the past many days—not just in Pune but also for most of Maharashtra (and other parts of the country). … Hmmm….

…Is it just me, or have our daily newspaper-wallahs from Pune really forgotten to print photographs or news-stories on one or more of the following (listed in no particular order):

1. Naked urchins caught mid-air on camera while jumping into: (a) Mula, (b) Mutha, (c) Mula-Mutha, or (d) a canal
2. A vendor of water-melons caught napping on a heap of the fruit at the market-yard, right on the hot afternoon
3. A sparrow or a crow perched on a municipality water-tap, its neck strenuously bent down towards the outlet of the tap, trying to drink the infrequent droplets of water coming out of the tap
4. A close-up of a dry river-bed showing that typical criss-cross patterns of cracks developed in the baked mud
5. A color photograph of a bright-red “gulmohor” tree, say on the NDA road, snapped by some practising general physician (who has not let his finer sensibilities die despite the demands of his profession and his obviously busy schedule (from 10 to 1 and 4:30 to 7:30, this being Pune))
6. A photo of the fallen levels of water in the dams nearby. Here, two options are available to the newspaper editor: (i) If he likes a long-shot, show the dry contours of the near-empty reservoir. (ii) If he likes a close-up, show the vertical water level-gauge near the dam wall which used to have red and white markings in a previous life-time.
7. A photo showing the audience in a small meeting hall, the audience consisting solely of working journalists, the photo itself appearing with a caption that the event was organized for discussing P. Sainath’s book: “Everyone Loves a Good Draught”. … Even without reading anything further from the news, it is easy to make out that they all are working journalists, because:
1. all the males in the audience have beards and no female seems to have any kind of a make-up put on
2. regardless of their gender, they all: (a) appear in cotton/khaadi “kurtas,” (b) record news the old-fashioned way, by scribing down in a school-student’s notebook, i.e. without using audio/video recorder, (c) carry “shabnam” bags

I don’t think I have seen any one of the above-mentioned news items in any one of our Pune newspapers (including the local editions of the National Newspapers) … Why is it so? Why? Have our H’ble Ministries/Departments of Information and Broadcasting, Environment, Irrigation, Water Supply, Science and Technology, Meteorology, etc. all been sleeping? Shouldn’t they be more careful and see to it that proper news items are punctually published in all our newspapers? … Weren’t the matters soooo much for the better during those BJP years?

..Err… Leaving aside the dark-grey [“nothing is all black or all white”] humor…

…Ok. Really leaving humor aside and getting serious about something that is worth getting serious about:

Here is a reminder that now is the time to execute at full-speed all those micro-level projects like “paaNi aDavaa, paaNi jiravaa.”

… I don’t know if it is true but it’s a widely held belief that if a summer is unusually hot, as this summer seems to be turning into, then the monsoon following it also tends to be more intense. … A greater rain-fall ought to make for good news in a heavily rains-dependent country like India, but, unfortunately, this always is not true—even a greater rain-fall is only a mixed blessing. In India, just the way we waste any other natural resource (including time), we also put to waste most of the water that falls in this land… The way we function, typically, people wake up about the need to put up small dams in their places only in the month of July (just the way we wake up to the need to put up large dams in place only in mid-May).

The time to act to for the next monsoon is now—at least for those micro-level projects.

– – – – –

A Song I Like:

(Marathi) “nav laakh taLapatee, deep vijeche yeth_…”
Music: “aNNasaaheb chitaLkar” (C. Ramchandra)
Singer: “aNNasaaheb chitaLkar” (C. Ramchandra)

PS: If someone can locate a record/CD for this particular song, please drop me an email (aj175tp AT yahoo DOT co DOT in). Thanks in advance!

PPS: Now that I have begun writing shorter blog-posts covering only one-two topics (and so long as I continue doing so) I am going to reduce the number of songs listed in this last section—one, at most two.

[To be streamlined at the time of the next post]

Trivia Like the M. F. Hussain Controversy and the Women’s Reservation Bill

0. With this post, I once again resume blogging…

First, I need to quickly get a few things out of my system before I am ready to write on some of the things I have wanted to write about. … So, here we go with the more trivial (but far more discussed) matters first…

(1.) About the M. F. Hussain Controversy…

There was a spike of discussions concerning this particular controversy about one/two weeks ago. So many interesting angles got thrown up that it would be impossible to even summarize them. I felt like jumping in, but instead, just kept on reading on the ‘net and otherwise, to get the “lay of the land” before I wrote. In a way, this turned out to be a good decision.

After all, I did find a very highly quotable position post which explains most of what I had wanted to say anyway. By that, I mean the post on the topic by Dr. Atanu Dey, here [^]. Please do read it. Highly recommended.

Not that I agree with every nuance of every point he states. Speaking in overall terms about his blogging about other matters too, I suspect that there might be a difference among us in that I might look at something from a moral/judgmental viewpoint whereas he wouldn’t, necessarily. That hardly matters here, though…

Here, I find his ability to think in principles, and the straightforward way in which he puts his thoughts, marvelous! And I completely agree with all the essential points of this post of his.

Just a couple of points I shall add to what Dey has already said.

(1.a) Dey says that “[he is] not much of a paintings person, anyway.” But I am, to a certain extent. And used to be one to a major extent about two-three decades ago. So, I can add a bit about this matter.

The question I very briefly address here is: how great is Hussain, as a painter (i.e. artist)?

Even a casual glance at his paintings would tell you that he has an extraordinary mastery over the line. He is an abstract painter—which, to my mind, generally speaking, doesn’t qualify as art to begin with. This applies as much to Hussain as also to Souza, or Gaitonde, or Anjali Menon, or even Sujata Bajaj, or anyone else of their kind—which means, about 99% of today’s painters: they, too, are not artists.

But keeping this aside for a moment, the next question is: Doesn’t he show at least some elements of great art in his work?

Here, I think, as a craftsman, his defining skill is not at all light and perspective, certainly not color, nor even subject, but it’s: his line. His painting unmistakably show that had he chosen higher goals, he would have made for a recognizably great artist—and, despite spending 95 years of his life, he still has not managed to even become an artist let alone a great one.

But why do I say it’s the line which really defines his craftsmanship? Just look at the lines that define the contours of his horses, and the women he paints. His line is capable of bringing to life the sheer life power, the very unruly dynamic, of a horse. Just one apparently careless stroke of a brush in the right place while drawing the eye of a horse, and that raw, unruly energy of the horse begins to jump at you. Similarly, consider the fact that despite carrying the crudeness of the abstract technique, his straight lines still perfectly capture the contours of the feminine form, whenever he manages to slip-in to the remnants of the better elements of the technique he must have been taught at the JJ School of Arts.

So, here is a very curious phenomenon. You have a gifted craftsman—at the level of the line. But this same guy, then, refuses to use that gift to paint a picture—i.e. to create a work of art. Instead, he uses his more abstract powers to mangle the elements like the objects making up those lines, the color and the perspective etc, deliberately disorients them all, throws them together to deliberately create incoherence or even un-intelligibility in his work of “art.”

Consider its counterpart in other forms of art, for example, literature, for example, poetry. What Hussain’s approach would yield is not a poem but something like a poem. Of course it would be called a “free verse.” But the matter doesn’t end there—it gets worse. What Hussain would give you would be a collection of in-principle disconnected bunch of lines, some phrases of which being extraordinarily brilliant on counts such as drama, innovation of expression, metaphor, imagination, etc. Mind you, the brilliance would be restricted only to phrases, not even to lines—the mangling would begin right at that level. And, the lines, taken as sequence, would all be disjointed, hinting at something which, in principle, cannot at all be known, not in toto. The hints themselves could at times be grotesque, at other times sly, at other times profane (and this term is to be taken in its objective sense, not necessarily in connection with this religion or that)… You could, if you try, easily locate Hussain’s parallels in modern “poetry” too. The point isn’t that. The point is to convey what Hussain really is like, when taken as a painter. Namely, that he isn’t one.

(It would be an error to compare Hussain’s paintings with the strokes produced by a student studying at a school for the mentally retarded—the first has the ability to do better, the second doesn’t, and the deliberateness of the rebellion against integration is the crucial difference.)

(1.b) Another point that many people seem to have missed is this. I ran across a court judgment that did agree with the opponents of Hussain in all other points. However, it refused to try Hussain on a point of legal technicality. And, that brilliant piece of the legal technicality was supplied by the current Central Government of India minister Kapil Sibal. … The less I say, the better it will be to my health and life…

(1.c) Nevertheless, we must stop and ask ourselves one question. If merely brilliance in respect of an element like the line-work can be enough to qualify a guy to be counted as an artist, even when ample evidence from his art-work as well as his interviews exists that he has deliberately followed a policy of working against proper integration as required by a proper piece of art, then, following the same standards, why not also consider those millions of anonymous Indians whose “work” adorns the walls of all our public urinals to be artists in their own right, too? [And, I deliberately use the word “urinal” rather than “toilet” or “rest room,” because only the former can adequately convey the strength of the stink in question.] Why not decorate also them with those Padma awards?

(2) About the Women’s Reservation Bill

First of all I want you to note that here I am going against many politicians I otherwise respect, first and foremost, Sharad Pawar. Also, many other politicians I fear. … The reader must excuse me here; there would be too many to name them to list them individually. …

The best commentary—and the only reasonable one—that I saw in print or on monitor, came from one Mr. Parsa Venkateshwar Rao, Jr., in a column he wrote for DNA, here [^]. The only other media/blog to highlight it (in my limited browsing) was “Churumuri,” here [^].

… As usual, at least one qualification. What Rao calls “politics of identity,” I would call such things as “politics of narrowness/of insularity/of divisiveness.”

And, here’s the extraordinarily brilliant part of Rao’s comment, expressed so tersely but so well:

…Women’s reservation bill too is supposed to promote gender equality but what it really does is create yet another special interest. And society is turned into a bureau of cubbyholes. And the power of the State is increased yet again. …

Thank you for saying it, Mr. Rao!

To Swamy of Times of India, regarding his today’s column. Nope, Swamy, you don’t get it right. Hmm…

Back to basics. There are three pillars of a nation state: (i) legislative (L for short), (ii) judicial (J for short), (iii) executive (E for short). In India, the mangling of the E branch began right with the original version of the Constitution (C for short)—it’s just for five years, no principled, i.e. unreserved respect/acknowledgment of the individual rights, etc. As such, the J, if pushed to the wall, would have been helpless, in principle. For the aforementioned reason (viz. the absence of an explicit ack. of the Individual Rights), the Constitution always had been sufficiently vague—i.e. weak–that if L grew, it could not only overpower the E but also effectively restrict the J in various indirect ways. Enter the mixed ideals of Nehruvian socialism. L had become powerful. In Indira’s semi-dictatorship, it changed C and systematically weakened L and then also J. With the fall of the Berlin wall and the collapse of USSR, there seemed to be a reversal of sorts, but it was necessarily doomed because C was weak to begin with anyway so there was poor theory, and, in fact, Indira’s years had weakened the level of the public discourse to such low levels. So much so that on this issue of reservation, all major parties—Congress, BJP, and the communists—they all agree. (Also all the rest of them: they simply fight for greater reservation—not less). Ok.

Against this background what would this Bill do? There are certain implicit grounds for negotiating any kind of agreement in any free society. Due to a better past—and interactions with better countries like the USA and UK—despite the systematic abuse of the above sort and all the weaknesses of the Constitution and legal codes, the common implicit grounds in India actually tend to be better. This is the reason why gays (as much the “chhakke”s as the more hype urban ones) could at all live without having cases slapped against them. This is the reason why in Maharashtra, the ANS-sponsored Bill gets halted. (The reason I oppose it: What standards would permit an ordinary police officer to distinguish between proper private practice of religion and blind faith as prescribed by ANS?) This is the reason why business can at all in fact function even if enough legal codes exist that in theory it would be impossible to run a business without breaking some or the other legal code. That implicit ground is important.

In a country with as huge illiterate, semi-literate, and literate-but-uneducated population as India, a country where to run the elections you have to use symbols—not candidate’s names—it does matter a lot what kind of signals we project to all those people.

When reservations in jobs came into force, it actually did not matter to large parts of population: most of the labor is in agriculture or unorganized sector, and even in organized sector, job reservations applied only to government jobs, not private. It was bad, but it was limited in terms of impact. When the Constitution got mangled almost with each successive amendment (some of which being more deeply mangling than the others), it rather affected the upper echelons of the society—their effects on that implicit negotiating grounds that I alluded to above was at least initially minimal; in any case, their effects would have to slowly trickle and diffuse.

But when you introduce a Reservation Bill of this sort—whether on the caste basis, gender, or any other, it matters not in principle—what you do is that you not only mangle the L branch of the government out of its shape, but, since the common illiterate man, right since the Freedom Movement, has always been an active part of the political process, you also affirm to him that divisive agendas like that are alright so long as ratified by an overwhelming majority, as led by the likes of Sonia Gandhi and Sharad Pawar and Advani and others.

In other words, you affect that implicit understanding of what kind of state one lives in, for that common illiterate man. In essence, you tell him: It’s perfectly “sarkari” to be prejudiced against any innocent man. It is perfectly OK to be prejudiced. It is perfectly OK to be so even at the level of elections for law-makers. It is perfectly OK to follow the blind politics of special interest groups.

The first implications of this kind of a message has already emerged, in the form of the opponents to the Bill. … And, Sharad Pawar, and Sonia Gandhi, and Nitin Gadkari, and Brinda Karat and their lesser colleagues all find a cause to celebrate for. What a tragedy!!

. . . . .

[BTW, if someone from NCP or Indira Congress comes and asks me (which is very unlikely), rather than give them a lecture on principles and all, I am just going to be a bit smart and raise a few points in turn: (i) Why did “Sakal” stop carrying the news of new PhD awards precisely around the time I was awarded one—and why does, through other columns, it does sometimes (even if rarely) does cover the news of other PhDs… Is “Sakal” ashamed of the kind of work I had submitted for my PhD? (ii) Why did I not get that job in COEP—even after my PhD defence? [^]  (iii) Why did the IIT Bombay Conference ICCMS09 reject my paper (citing such flimsy grounds that I had used the grammatical first person while writing the abstract)? Who gave them the encouragement to behave thus anti-intellectually? (iv) Why did CERN reject my paper?. I think this might keep them busy for a while… We could discuss principles and all later on…]

– – – – –

Things I Wanted to Write About

Now that the trivia are out of my system, here is a word about what I have been wanting to write about for quite sometime, and may write in near future (not necessarily in the next post):

On the political side: The magnitude of the black money kept abroad by Indians, Why no Maharashtrian could become a PM thus far.

And, then, of course, Physics: A simple but important example illustrating how, in Physics, it is impossible to get rid of certain basic assumptions delineating the nature of your theory.

– – – – –

A Couple of Songs I Like

1. (Marathi) “kase kase, haasaayaache…”
Music: Hridaynath Mangeshkar
Singer: Asha Bhosale
Lyrics: Aarati Prabhu

2. (Hindi) “jaaye to jaaye kahaan…”
Singer: Talat Mahmood
Music: S. D. Burman
Lyrics: Sahir Ludhianwi

PS: As usual, I might edit/streamline this post a bit, later on…

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Explaining My Joblessness + A Little Bit Philosophic

If you have been reading my blog (or are one of those bustards who are responsible for following me up), then it would be obvious to you that my joblessness is deliberately planned for by the governments of USA and India together.

Notice that my joblessness has occurred at the same time as the graduates of Hyderabad’s management school got Rs. 1 Crore+/annum salaries. (And, CapMag.com, shut up; if your only reaction is going to be to defend the high salaries of CEOs, I will begin considering, you, too, as outright bustards.) It has occurred at the same time as young and incompetent IIT Bombay graduates got contracts and jobs in CAE field (e.g. Alcyon—remember the name, Kanwal?). It has occurred at the same that COEP graduates have got Rs. 75,000/month salary (e.g. Shirish Deodhar’s daughter, who got such an offer with Microsoft India. That, despite the fact that those Sun Java vs. Microsoft wars being played out in his own company, i.e. Frontier Software, with him inwardly taking Sun Java’s side. I mean, this guy supported Sun Java, and still got his daughter inserted into Microsoft India. And he still lied to me through his teeth that he had only Linux projects even when he had Microsoft projects… But then, it’s not particular to the body of Shirish Deodhar alone. It all is explained with this combo pack: Brahmin + IIT Bombay education + being a Congress (I) man’s son! (And, he would have been worse if he were a BJP or a Communist man’s son))

Now, the other side of this story. The jobs that I did get offers for/was permitted to do. The linguistically interesting things the bustards arranged.

The way these American + Indian bustards run the things, Google happily supplies links to my course material on FEM. But Google bustards and bitches don’t include my scholarly research papers into Google Scholar. … But then, what Google is doing now was only to be expected. (They are just Americans—no need to qualify them, is it, with any swear word such as a bustard and/or bitch.)

Before I came back to India in 2001, the last company who had sponsored my H1B visa was softUltimate, Inc., a small company of Hemant Pathak’s. Hemant later on closed it down. (While he dilly-dallied about immediately beginning my GreenCard sponsorship, by delaying it by one year, the smart fellow stayed back in the USA until he got his own citizenship… But then, at least he had the least decency to offer me a job once again.) Eventually, the only time the Indian bustards allowed me to get a job was with SunGard, where Hemant was working. Now, the games… Did you get the play on the name? No?  Recall that I had publically supported Microsoft in its moral defense. With the sort of bustards we have running our Indian IT industry, with the sort of principled amorality which these bustards want to promote (if it’s not Hindu Brahminism, it has to be principled amorality), they got it arranged with a company name of SunGard.

The reason I mention this all is because I have sent my resume to “Softtech Engineers”  (http://www.softtech-engr.com) and have not yet been shortlisted for the interview. Actually, they are conducting walk-in interviews

But I have gotten sick of the Indian employers bustards and bitches all finding excuses not to hire me. So, I have now decided to ask them to actually shortlist me and only then to attend the walk-in interview. (In fact, even at  Fugro, their employee incompetent Java bustard Rajesh Thorat asked me to architect not one, two, but three systems, all of which dealt more with networking than the domain of Fugro because that bustard knew only Java and only the networking domain and not petrochemical engineering. Thorat, then, smilingly found flaws in whatever answers I gave him. And asked me go back to him for a second interview should I better myself technically… Now, it  is true that I have forgotten some of my software engineering. But I am 101% sure that this pure CS-bustard was afraid that I would eat him alive should I get a chance in his company, and so, out of turf-battles, wanted to keep me out. Right, bustards Nayak? And immoral Retired Commodore? Didn’t you oblige your bosses in Delhi in shortlisting me and then treating me the way you did?)

So, even vis-a-vis Softtech, I did some homework. Here are the “lovely” aspects about them. (i) The name Softtech, if I mistake not, also was being used for her business by one lady engineer I have known—one Mrs. Kamal Purandare, my class-mate at C-DAC’s Diploma, also a COEPian herself, and a COEP classmate of my friend the Late Dr. Rajendra Kulkarni. (ii) Softtech’s board of advisors includes one Mr. Ajit Pawar, an engineer, i.e. a namesake of Sharad Pawar’s  nephew and a current cabinet minister in Maharashtra (and a political enemy of Suresh Kalmadi). (iii) On their Web site, their CEO has been shown accepting an award from none other than Sharad Pawar himself.

Now, all this could very well be a mere coincidence. Sure. But we don’t have to wait for too long to find out either. I have applied to them, called them up once, and have been told that they are going to get back to me after going through my resume.

If you browsed their requirements (and I am not sure if they have any honest requirements for all the advertised posts or not), professionally speaking, my resume fits them (and their company, to me) perfectly. So, if they at all call me for the interviews, I know to that much of an extent that they were being honest. Simple.

But then, today’s times are what they are, and for the reasons I have given you above, none can be sure if I would actually get shortlisted, interviewed the way I should be, or offered a job.

But then, one to cut the evil networks is to expose them. Accordingly, I have decided, from now on, to blog each and every “attractive” advertisement that the Bustard Rajah, Bustard Jyotiraditya Scindia, Bustard Ashok Chavan (the by-default IT minister of Maharashtra, following the scheme the scheming Bustard Vilasrao Deshmukh and cooked up to inflate his own cash-ass), and others have released .

Also, I am going to jot down here each and every advertisement that I respond to. And, why.

I am applying to Softtech Engineers because the domain for the software development concerns engineering.

Anything else, American and Indian bustards?

I will also be applying to Sharad Pawar’s Vidya Pratishthan’s College of Engineering.  Last year Mr. Prataprao Borade had conducted my interview for the post of Principal, and had informally indicated to me that I had been selected and that they could release their offer if I had a PhD in hand. Since then, I have taught a course at COEP. Naturally, I believe that even if not as a Principal, I should get Asstt Professor’s post. If I have PhD in hand, I qualify for a Professor’s post. With that, I also qualify for the post of Principal. Right now, I have to be satisfied with Asstt. Prof’s post. Pune University has this seriously idiotic rules that MTech in Metallurgy does not count towards Mechanical. Otherwise, I can also be a Professor even if I have no PhD. But I take it that Narendra Jadhav and others, even if they don’t t say so, have take a personal enmity with me, and therefore, aren’t going to change these bureaucratic rules so that I could sit as a Principal and make some decent money somewhere. Anyway, I believe, 99%, that Asstt Prof’s post at VP COE,  Baramati, should be mine. There are some disadvantages to that post too, like the distance from Pune and all. But I am applying there as a matter of job security.

I also plan to apply to COEP whenever these exalted ladies and gentlemen release their advertisement. Rather, I plan on being inside that interview hall on looking at their faces at a close view—what they think of me when they see me in there—once again!

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I began writing a small piece on the issue of the physical vs. volitional causation. I began that way, but ended up writing a plain text file of about 22 KB. (Which means, a lot.) I will post it, but only after I feel like it.

The bustard Americans and Indians must learn to respect me better. Including the IT industry bustards (including ministers, including Congress(I) and NCP ministers) must learn to respect my mind better. And begin to give me concrete evidence. Not through their “regular” channels. But using decent, rational means. Until then, I have no particular desire to add new words and phrases to their fucking gossip circuits aimed to keep IIT Bombay bustards exalted, IT Bustards moneyed, and me, without credit—financial, intellectual, moral, etc.

Got it up your ass and therefore into your brain (because there is no other way you have left of reaching your brains/heads) smart Indian and American bustards and bitches?

Good. Now, act.

PS: I want Indian Objectivists to know that Harry Binswanger won’t, in the last analysis, support you. Neither will ARI. Not when it matters the most to you—in your own most vulnerable moments, when you should have been protected. Whether to call him a bustard or not is a matter I have not yet finalized my mind on. But, yes, it is a possibility too. (One does not live giving one’s actual enemies every benefit of doubt they have not earned. Got it, HBL excerpt-picker for today “Sunny Soloman” i.e. Sunni, Solo, Man? Got it? If, as an American he is going to rather protect bustard/bitches Americans at my expense, he too, becomes bustard—wouldn’t he? That is the matter important here.)

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Needless to add, I will “revise” this post later on. Probably, after I get my next job—of the sort I want.

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Loksabha Elections + My Joblessness

(1) Loksabha Elections:

(1.1) I went out to the polling booth right at 7:30 AM, and voted for Suresh Kalmadi. (Who else?)  [No, I didn’t get up so early on my own—my parents woke me up.]

(1.2) This time around, with so many NGOs and all conducting so many awareness campaigns about asking people to go and vote, one might have expected a greater turnout.

Yet, the preliminary estimates are that the percentage who actually voted is only average or even somewhat below the average. The figures are: about 38% (IBN Lokmat) to 55% (Times Now). I already suspect some spin at that magic figure of 38%… But anyway, to put these figures in context, consider this: in India, the record for greatest voter turn-out was set in the 1957 Loksabha elections; the figure was 62.8%.

(1.3) One often hears complains to the effect that the elected government is not at all representative of the people in general. The basis put forward is that the total voter turnout typically is only about 50% or so. (What this translates into is the fact that the winner typically does not have even one voter in four backing him up by going to the polling booth, and yet he gets to make decisions for all…)

You know about opinion polls… They take such a small sample and yet produce such accurate predictions. Accurate, assuming the right standard of judgment. …

If you contact just 2,500 people and still if your prediction is already within 2 to 3%—as in a pre-election poll—then how far wrong can you really go if you contact, say, 700,000 (7 lakh) people—as in the actual election? …Any consideration regarding the required randomness of the sample is wiped out simply because the “sample” is so massively large.

I mean, it’s a height of contradiction, rather, of punditry. Journalists vouch by the accuracy of their small-scale surveys, and yet manage to cast doubts as to how the actual elections could not be representative.

It’s high-time that our intellectuals understood that the trouble doesn’t lie in the non-fulfillment of the applicable mathematical or statistical criteria. The trouble, really speaking, lies with the idea of unlimited democracy.

Our intellectuals typically complain that the better “ghaTak” (factors, or parts) of our “samaaj” (society) do not get represented in the parliament. This, incidentally, itself is a manifestation of the pervasive Platonic-Kantian thinking prevalent in India—namely, the idea that man does not exist primarily as an individual but only as a part of a society… The language itself is not an accident; such things do not happen by accident; it only is a give-away about the nature of the premises. By default (i.e. as a matter of habit), Indian intellectuals all think that it’s the society (“samaaj”) which has the primacy—not the individual.

Indeed, I do tend to think that the blame here primarily lies with the intellectuals. In comparison, many practical politicians, even when they use such language, actually are better when it comes to the actual decision making—even if almost all our intellectuals routinely blame politicians as a class. (Recall here the discussions following 26/11. Everybody—from cine actresses to editors—were busy blaming politicians.)

(1.4) I think it would be a good idea to make a small PDF document mentioning some of the more prominent instances in which our intellectuals (e.g. editors/journalists) have subtly (and, perhaps even deliberately) spread ideas along the axis of mysticism-altruism-collectivism.

(1.5) It’s been an old idea with me, and a blog seems to be an ideal medium for expressing it. The idea would be to run a column, or a blog, of a title on the lines of, say, “The News That Was Not!” One would write down just the news that should have been, but isn’t. How editors and journos and professors and intellectuals are hell-bent on giving spin, or making mountains out of mole-hills and vice versa… Or, even, the plain case  that things simply don’t happen the way they should. Let me give you a few examples of “The Fake News” or “The News That Was Not”, in the days to come…

(2) My Joblessness:

Suresh, would you now look into the matter of getting me a right sort of (a well-paying) job? Would you tell your superiors and subordinates about it? Thank you.

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Something on Betterment of Syllabii at COEP + My Joblessness

The FEM course that I am teaching at COEP is now drawing to a close. The time is, therefore, conducive to take a review; a time to reflect upon what went wrong, how things could have been done better, etc. Naturally, this thinking mode also spills over into other things, and that is what I am going to note down here today.

I believe that COEP should take a major initiative into multidisciplinary areas of computational physics, computational mechanics, computational and engineering. In short, computational science and engineering (CSE).

I mean it in a much deeper sense than just saying that COEP should hire me with all due respect to my background and work, and allow me to pursue my research in CSE without any hassles. The issue is not about my career, primarily (though this aspect, too, is relevant). In fact, the issue is not even about introducing researches in the multidisciplinary area of CSE at the PG level…

What I am actually advocating here is a fairly major revamp in COEP syllabi, and that too, right at the UG level—a basic change right at the very course-structure level. Let me indicate in brief what I mean by that.

Every academic institution (of some note) has a certain unique set of historical, cultural, intellectual, environmental (including geographical) factors which together decide what course of action would be best for it to pursue. Here, given certain special factors specific to Pune in the recent times, I believe that COEP is extremely well-positioned to take a quantum leap into computational science and engineering. Consider some of these factors.

In the recent two to three decades, Pune has seen major developments occur in the field of computer science and software engineering. Two decades ago, Pune had become home to C-DAC, the designers and builders of India’s first parallel supercomputer. Today, Pune remains home to a top-10 supercomputer in the world (Tata Sons’ Eka).

Pune has had one of the two foremost laboratories of CSIR, namely, the National Chemical Laboratory. (The other lab comparable to NCL being the National Physical Laboratory at Ahmedabad.) Today, Pune has compounded the presence of NCL with the IISER—the institutes which are designed to go at par with IITs but with an emphasis on basic sciences. Pune also is home to some other finer talent in the field of physical sciences and engineering: IUCAA, NCRA, DoD labs, etc.

Finally, Pune also is home to many educational institutions. (I do have a great deal of reservations about their quality—but they do keep education going in some sense).

Speaking in overall terms, in India, Pune is exceptionally strong on the two components that CSE requires and depends on, namely: science (including engineering), and computation. For example, Pune has the greatest penetration of PCs for the past decade or so (which means, on a per-capita basis, Pune buys more PCs than any other city in India, large or small, including Bangalore, Bombay, and Hyderabad, and Mysore, Indore or Nasik.) Another point: MCCIA has identified Pune as the next major hub for animation and gaming industry. In any case, if I remember it right, Pune has already overtaken Bangalore in terms of software exports in USD terms. (If not, Pune would be second only to Bangalore, and a very close second at that… Pune does have companies like PTC and Geometric Software who don’t give me any jobs.)

What does it all translate into, for a UG/PG student, you ask? Let me give you a simple example.

Step inside some of the bookstores in Pune (most notably, the Technical Book Services), and you will always find a lot of movement in there—a movement of books, rather than of customers. … You see, what happens is all these labs, universities, institutes, and software companies together order a lot of books and journals. Many of these orders are handled by these small bookshops. Anytime one steps in a bookshop like TBS, you will always get a sense of how ideas possibly are moving in the city.

For example, I have seen the very latest American conference proceedings touching on topics like, say, simulation of fracture in random nanocomposites, or the use of the LB method in modeling fluid dynamical problems from tribology… Titles like these appear in these small shops literally within a few weeks or months of actual holding of these conferences in the USA… (And, I was naming just two topics among an array of them)… Now I am not sure if all these volumes actually get bought by the potential customers who order them for a review or not. But the shop owners do oblige their regular customers and get these proceedings and all from those bigger shops/agents from Mumbai and Delhi, for a quick review by the customer on a returnable basis, no questions asked and no strings attached. … Precisely one of the reasons why I hang around these bookshops a lot. (Some, like the TBS and I have grown older together—15 years is a long time in the human life-span!)

OK, so, people here in Pune are aware about the technological developments… My only concern is that it doesn’t translate into anything tangible for the UG student at COEP.

That, plus the fact that I have always had a lot to say about the way they teach mathematics and other related topics at COEP… I also used to have a lot to say about the stupid if not vengeful way in which they used to examine the hapless UG engineering student in earlier times—some three decades ago. A lot of that has now changed for the better. But still, the teaching of mathematics, even the syllabus, haven’t changed… Also, the UG program composition as such…

Now, whenever someone mention such things, people give some very typical reactions. Some of these reactions are listed below, in no particular order:
(i) Yes, I agree that we should introduce some more career-oriented courses at COEP… We should make the syllabus more practically relevant
(ii) We should cover the very latest instruction sets of the latest chips
(iii) We should introduce biotechnology
(iv) Etc.

Let me tell you my take on these:

(i) “We should change our coursework at COEP to make it more career-oriented.”

An outright stupid idea.

Yes, you read it right. An outright stupid idea.

Engineering education is meant to be theoretical. If, as a student, you cannot digest it, give it up and join a road-side garage to turn yourself into an auto mechanic.

If, as a potential employer you happen to carry the same ideas, then check out what I have to say about the sort of employer you are, below…

Indeed, here, Rahul Bajaj himself (the father of Rajiv and Sanjiv Bajaj) or, if not himself, at least responsible people (managers and all) from his company (and also managers from Bajaj Tempo/Force Motors, and TELCO/Tata Motors) used to say, when I was an undergraduate student at COEP, that they wanted to see engineering disciplines like, say, “Maintenance Engineering” at the UG level … Yes, this is serious—not a joke. Grown up and highly paid managers used to say such things to us at COEP in those times. Indeed, it should not be any surprise; Bania companies actually are known to say things like that…

I mean to say, disciplines like Mechanical / Electrical were not enough, they wanted the Sandwich training program. Then, it was not enough, they wanted super-specialization like Production Engg, right at the undergraduate degree level. Then, it, too, was not enough and so they began wanting to have Maintenance Engineering too, to be made into an engineering discipline… The only way to counter such suggestions was to ask: How’s the idea of introducing a BE in “Boiler Design for Thermax,” and another BE in “CNC Machining with Fanuc” for the smaller components-suppliers to TELCO, and yet another BE in “Maintenance in Plant No. 6 of Bajaj Auto Factory at Waluj…”? All these degrees, of course, to be awarded by the University of Pune?… (BTW, my use of the term “Bania” is more generic than being just carrying a caste-ist kind of interpretation. I don’t care for castes. All that I want to counter is some false tears being shed in certain quarters such as those by Swami in a recent ToI column. So, Bania is to be taken in a generic sense, in exactly the same way that Brahmin/Pandit is.)

Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that the practical businessmen and engineers running those automobile or engineering or components-manufacturing industries don’t face some really acute problems when it comes to staffing engineers or making use of whatever engineers they do find… The employers do have a lot of problems in finding good engineers. But what I want to point out is that all these problems, essentially, are of their own making.

These Bania idiots have no idea (not even a vague sense of an idea) as to how to employ a talented engineer with them, or how to make his theoretical skills productive in the environment that they themselves have created within the factories/offices which they own. Why, they have no idea that such a thing is even practically possible. (Despite their Harvard MBAs, and regardless of whether they are Parsis or Hindu Marwaris by Religion or caste, they all remain Indian Bania idiots at heart. The inability to perform integration is the chief attribute of whatever substitute they use for a working epistemology.)

The fact is, if you are going to make herd management the primary duty of a well-educated BE engineer, making it appear as if you are doing favor (Hindi: “Upkaar”) to him by giving him a job, it’s very obvious that he is soon enough going to cram English words for a few months so as to get a good GRE score, and then leave you as soon as he gets the I-20 form in hand. If not, similarly try to beat the system by joining a coaching class for the CAT examination… What you are going to be left with, then, are going to be mostly second-rate folks. The engineers themselves might be great personally, at least in the initial years. But the interface that you impose on them permits only so much of their productivity to come out. Over a period of time, they then loose that too, and become thoroughly second-rate themselves… By and large…. In such an environment, both the employer/manager and the employee come to develop a faulty working epistemology for approaching anything in life—their professional work included. Understanding how theory is, or can be, integrated with practice, is a theme that would be far too much for such a mentality to even think of handling. But since you have none better to employ anyway, you continue employing them, the height of creativity in cost-cutting being, what else, to employ a thinner sheet metal for automobiles… (LOL!). As a decade or so elapses, you then make that guy your Manager. Once this idiot (he has become one by now) gets the management power, the only folks he is going to feel comfortable managing are obviously going to be only the second-rate sort of folks… The thing continues. Then, something happens… Our man—the employed “engineer”—crosses three decades of his working in the same company. He has been sent on short trips abroad, has acquired public-speaking skills (including the skill to tie a tie and perhaps a tie with the tie.org organization too), and on strength of these “qualities,” he gets invited to share his “thoughts” on how to shape engineering education in the next century (the first decade of which, BTW, has already passed by.) Now, problems—real problems—do not disappear simply because someone unworthy of managing them has been promoted in his job. Naturally, our guy does carry a vague sense or an awareness that something needs to be done w.r.t. engineering education… This, he thinks, is because the syllabus is bad—it is not practical enough. And so, he advises, in a sufficiently grave and sufficiently civic tones: “Make education practically relevant…” Et cetera… (I am sure you have heard out these idiots often enough, though I am not sure you had the clarity of thought to judge them as idiots—or the inclination to judge anything any time in life at all.)

(ii) As to the next two suggestions (“engineering education is absolutely bogus and worthless if the very latest instruction sets of Intel (or AMD or RISC) processors are not included right in the next semester” or “we should include biotechnology”), you can see that these represent nothing but somewhat more informed kind of mistakes using the same, faulty, working epistemology. (As to the biotechnology-related suggestion, it often results not only from a faulty working epistemology, but also an outright lack of understanding of either biology or technology. It just happens that the speaker has heard that biotech is now in vogue in the USA (after computer science the metaphorical bus for which he missed), and so he wants to talk something about it here, that’s all… What is displayed in such cases, oftentimes, is nothing more than the favorite working mode of Indian Pundits; I call it the Parrot Epistemology. (It’s very favorite with Indians—all it involves is memorization of sounds and their hi-fidelity reproduction, emotional undertones faithfully included.)

May be I will write about them some other time… For the time being, I have to finish this post…

So, coming back to the main theme, what I want to emphasize is that for higher-quality education, we actually need not more of but less of an emphasis on practicality—especially at COEP.

In other words, I am arguing for making the COEP UG education more theoretical—but also more interesting and more solidly grounded in reality…

One way to do this is by including an emphasis on computational physics in the engineering curricula.

I will expand upon this theme (and certain other related matters) some time later on, but for the time being, let me note a few things about them quickly. (I am sure many in the USA and in India will be quick to both understand what I am saying and following it up, but without giving me any due credit—e.g. linking to my blog or dropping an email to me explicitly.)

(1) Concerning Mathematics

What I say is: Thrash away all those “Engineering Mathematics” courses. Yes. Throw them away. Completely. Two reasons:

Firstly, the contents of these courses haven’t changed in any essential way from the times three decades ago when Wartikar brothers’ very poorly written text used to be the gold standard in Pune. (And, nowhere else!) That book is indeed fairly good, but only on that count for which an author can hardly take any credit—namely, the set of (unsolved) problems contained in it. But the main text itself is pathetic or worse on all the other important counts: (a) explanations providing appropriate context and highlighting conceptual understanding, (b) maintaining a good hierarchy in the ordering of topics, (c) the tie to physics and engineering, and (d) the production values of a book. It’s a real pity that this third-class book continues to inform the design of the syllabus in mathematics courses at University of Pune and at COEP.

Secondly, calling them “Mathematics” courses itself gives very wrong ideas to professors in this country—a country which is already so heavy on mysticism, paternalistic attitudes, deductions, etc. The effect of intrinsicism and mysticism could be easily found in any subject, but they leave an especially inescapable imprint on the teaching of mathematics. The reason is, mathematics by its nature is so abstract and “mental.” (The referents of mathematical concepts themselves reside only in the mind—not in the physical reality. When two mangoes exist in the world, what actually exists in the concrete reality is only those separate mangoes. The concept of “two” itself doesn’t exist in reality independent of the consciousness of man who has reached that stage of learning/thinking.) Since mathematics is so mental, it is so easy for the teacher to get carried away into deductive complexity upon complexity without caring anything for either the subject, or its physical correspondents, or its application, or the student learning it all. And that tendency only grows in a mystic country like India. A mathematics professor most directly insulting a student’s mind would be easy to find anywhere in the world; but they are a regular feature in India. (“What, you can’t even derive this? It’s so simple! Start with nonlinear equation and go down to linearity. Yeah, right. Start with NS and derive the Euler equation—not in a revision, but the very first time you run into it! You should be able to do it if you are smart!! Look at Narlikar. He is so smart… He became a Wrangler at Cambridge! And now, look at you… You don’t only study hard enough…” Etc. Etc. Etc. … See, how easy it is for people to get wrong ideas as soon as you mention they are going to teach “mathematics”!)

It is for this reason that I advocate that those Engineering Mathematics courses should be completely abolished. In their place, what I suggest, is to (a) begin calling them mathematical physics (which would work as a temporary band-aid) (b) completely alter the order and sequences of all the topics, (c) reduce the complexity of examination question but go ahead and introduce some more advanced topics, esp. their conceptual treatment, (d) extend the lengths of all these “mathematics” courses.

Don’t get shocked at the last suggestion! Don’t say that we have no place left for an additional course or two in maths. There is. Because, I am also advocating to also do away with all the numerical analysis courses. And also, many others (e.g. the “Applied Science” courses that do no good to anyone.)

Instead, we need to have a sequence of four to five courses on “Mathematical and Computational Physics,” all to be completed by all engineers (including the IT and CS engineers) within the first two years.

Today, at University of Pune and COEP, the situation is so bad that the IT and CS majors have absolutely no idea about, say, 3D boundary value problems, what the term stress means, what Fourier’s law of heat conduction is, and why, even about EM fields, really speaking. (They cannot even properly do visualization of a 3D wave-field… all that they can sketch is a static wave in 1D. And, theywill invariably fail to tell in which direction it would move—to the left or to the right.)

It’s for this reason that all engineers, regardless of their branch, must be taught a common curriculum which is strong on physics and basic engineering sciences, in the first two years.

These courses should emphasize the teaching of mathematics from a conceptual and physics-based viewpoint; they should keep the engineering or technological applications in sight but only as distant ends; and they should make use of computational physics as an indispensably important tool for both pedagogy as well as professional preparation.

For example, currently, COEP has no separate course on differential equations (DEs). Instead, some of the topics on DEs are distributed piecemeal, and are covered without depth. (For instance, COEP/UoP students are not taught the diffusion equation in 3D, only in 1D; most of them cannot tell when they will use Fourier’s method vs. Laplace’s even though thousands of them could easily solve the examination type of questions on either method.) Instead, there should be one complete dedicated course on ODEs and another on PDEs (possibly with vector Analysis), and more: both these courses should have not mathematics as their central focus but mathematical physics. Further, these courses should integrate the computational physics part within them. For instance, not only should the UG student be taught about the well- and ill-posed problems, but he should also be shown, with the help of some simple C++ code snippets based on the simple finite difference method, what kind of unphysicality creeps in if an ODE/PDE problem is made ill-posed. The students should be made to appreciate that they need to learn differential equations to be able to tackle the IV-BV class of problems—not in order to deductively manipulate Euler’s identity so as to satisfy an orthodox MSc in pure mathematics who would smirk disdainfully at the student’s lack of technical proficiency in rapidly performing meaningless manipulations involving it.

Needless to add, the situation at IITs is not very different. However, they are slightly better in that they do refer to Kreyszig or other books while designing their syllabii—not Wartikar—and so, the syllabus at least tends to be somewhat better—even if the students themselves or the professors themselves are not very different anyway. (Indeed, at IITs, the tendency to be rationalistic is even more pronounced.)

(2) Concerning Physics

Contrary to what the Indian Bania industrialists (or the small-scale “industrialists”) come and tell you, reduce the share of technology-specific courses, and instead, increase the share of physics (or basic engineering scienes-related) education in engineering and technology UG curricula.

A room for greater physics can be made by downsizing (or altogether dropping) technological courses. After all, going by my own practical experience (and that of hundreds if not thousands of working engineers), picking up technology is so damn easy if you are sound on fundamentals (and impossible if you are not). And, further, one way or the other, you are going to take some time to pick up technology anyway because you would be working one or two decades later… How is it possible for an e-School to prepare you for the next generation technology when none has any idea about it? So, much time is, really speaking, only wasted in “teaching” technology at e-Schools. Instead, such topics could easily be relegated for self-reading plus technical reports or seminar (say for 1 credit hour).

Let me give you one specific example in reference to the mechanical engineering curriculum even though the same essential argument can be easily extended to any other branch of engineering as well.

There is no need to have three separate courses, one on Fluid Mechanics, another on Fluid Machinery, and one more on Energy Conversion, and one more on Power Plant Engineering, all with partial overlap of contents on each. (And, we are leaving aside Thermodynamics and Heat Transfer etc. courses too.)

Instead, make it just a two-course sequence. This will become possible if students are already familiar with concepts like differential nonlinearity and differential coupling, via their earlier courses in computational and mathematical physics. (That is, the revised maths course and sequence I spelt out above.) Today, the situation is: mention these two terms and the students would look at you blankly. (They continue to do so until after their BE/BTech graduation.) Forget nonlinearity, they don’t even know that beautiful theorem by Helmholtz which says that you can always split up any arbitrary vector field into a sum of one irrotational field and another one, a solenoidal field. Now, if you go and ask any engineering mathematics professor, he will laugh and say, “no, that topic is far too advanced for an undergraduate; it requires far too much advanced mathematics.” He would say so, in the process completely ignoring (or even evading) the fact that Helmholtz himself was trained only as a medical doctor (i.e. not even as an engineer let alone as a mathematical physicist or a mathematician proper). Now, I fail to understand why is it that a 19th century medical doctor can, with self study, originally invent that theorem, but a 21st century graduate engineer cannot handle it in his curriculum? Why does this impression persist—namely, that Helmholtz’ theorem is too advanced to be presented to UG in engineering at UoP/COEP/many IITs?

The impression persists not because the topic itself is advanced, but because the teacher himself sees nothing but a further bout of meaningless symbolic manipulation which must precede before the theorem can be taught. He foresees that bout of deductive complexity whenever he happens to think of that topic. The teacher himself doesn’t consider the inductive reasoning behind Helmholtz’ theorem, he doesn’t bother visualizing fields or tracing the geometrical and physical lines of thinking about it, he doesn’t consider the simplicity of the essential argument behind that theorem. All that he foresees are those threateningly complex mathematics, because that is what his teachers had made out of that topic by overemphasizing deduction, by indulging in a dance of ideas progressing from one idea to the next each of which was necessarily kept divorced from reality. Naturally, being a well-meaning teacher, he cannot imagine unleashing that kind of atrocity upon his students while they are still in their UG years. (They need to mature, become thick enough, and then, the atrocity could certainly be unleashed against them. That’s what he means. … Everyone likes them young!)

Anyway, to return to this sub-point concerning reduction in the time spent on fluid mechanics, if basic physics (like conservation of angular momentum) and basic engineering sciences (like kinematics of deformation, including a discussion of vorticity right while introducing or discussing strains) has been taught well, then, the subsequent “mathematics” courses can also be sufficiently physical as to include a discussion of the differential nonlinearities. In which case, the strain involved in the teaching of fluid mechanics would get reduced, and so, only a two-course sequence would be enough to cover the overlapping topics from turbomachinery, hydromachinery and whatnot. Further, FM itself could also be made more interesting using CFD software for visualization (i.e. even if the students don’t take a separate course on CFD proper), and by making use of some small, simple codes illustrating and highlighting various features/aspects of nonlinearity.

So, you can see the deeper sense in which I mean to say that computers and computational physics should be made use of, in engineering education…

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It’s high time that COEP took advantage of the resonating kind of institutions nearby, and certainly, the availability of well-trained people in the field of computational sciences (or at least the ready availability of such people who could, with some extra effort, be turned into well-trained people spanning computer science to science to engineering) and use both these to enhance the quality of its engineering programs.

Throwing money on buying computers accomplishes nothing. Not if things of the above kind aren’t taken up for implementation.

And, introducing biology courses in engineering programs can be, if you ask me, a very poor idea, indeed. I mean, it’s OK as an elective. But not at the FE level. And not as a means for enhancing the core engineering program itself, in general. (Think: What good would it do to introduce a course on the kinematics of machinery in a dentist’s undergraduate program, simply because he happens to use a rather complicated contraption for a drill? Or, what good would it do to introduce the mechanics of materials in an undergraduate surgeon’s program—on the grounds that he is going to cut tissues and so must know the mechanics involved in the cutting action? Doesn’t it look like an outright laughable idea right on the face of it? If yes, why does the reverse feel so appealing? Are our engineering students so dumb that they can’t look up a bones model and figure out the precise way in which the hip joint does or doesn’t develop contact? Is that the case? Or is it the case that our educators carry a remnant or a vestige of a sense of intellectual inferiority which a lot of Indian engineers feel whenever they run into doctors? (You see, in India, medical admissions would be a shade more competitive in the statistical sense—there would be fewer seats. But if you ask me, the medical admissions would also be a shade less competitive because cracking biology would of course involve more of parrot-like cramming than the sort of on-the-fly application of a few fundamental principles which physics and mathematics involves. So, doctors could be expected, by and large, to be dumber but harder-crammers…. But then, again, people (engineers) aren’t always so sure about even valid observations so long as they aren’t widely accepted in society… It’s no accident that with the IT industry and American money, engineers started earning more, and so, (dumb and beautiful) girls’ parents started running after engineers more than the doctors, and so, engineers started having confidence. But that’s a recent story, and applicable only to IT and CS folks—the same ones who can’t tell the units of stress or one honest application of the concept of gradient.)

If your objective is to enhance the engineering education, you have to increase the emphasis on basic physics, basic engineering sciences, and computational science and engineering—not on biology…

Do the first, and you will see the efforts bearing world-class fruits in a matter of time as short as a decade or less…

(Actually, there are many reasons why I don’t give a damn to the adjective “world-class.” A sidey incremental development translating into nothing of major or lasting value (or of any practical use) can also be world-class… After all, world-class is necessarily a comparative description, not absolute: it tells you about the relation of one man against others—not of the relation of a man with reality. That’s the difference.)

More on all these topics, I mean, expanding on use of computational physics in engineering, the third paradigm and its relevance, and all later on…

For the time being, I guess I have already used this keyboard a lot in one go… Time to take a break (for a few days or so)…

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I also consider it my moral obligation to keep reminding you that I am currently jobless, and that all my posts and former emails (and job applications) in this context are relevant…

…Do consider it a shamelessness on the part of all the powers that be (here and in the USA) that I am jobless when many relatively worthless folks (including those graduating BTechs from Kanwal Rekhi and Vinod Khosla and Suhas Patil’s IITs, and the BCS or BE in ITs) have been rich or super-rich.

A dean like Anand Bhalerao also is one of them. (For those who don’t know: He was willing to offer me a job as a full professor of mechanical engineering, but only on the condition that I would not talk about my (what he felt and said were “superior”) achievements to my students or my younger colleagues from the faculty so as not to disturb the “atmosphere” that he had painstakingly set up at his university… I refused, saying that I could not hang my achievements at the gates of his university so as to be able to enter as a suitably meek man once inside that campus. Achievements—real achievements—aren’t hats, I had pointed out.) A Vishwajit Kadam interviewing me and welcoming me in his institution verbally but not actually issuing the appointment letter (so that the issue of paying me salary simply does not arise later on) also falls in exactly the same category… And so do my friends who asked me to get meek at least once because I anyway had no other job in hand—-this, at a time that Anand Bhalerao himself had not noticed this weakness of my situation… With friends like these, who needs enemies? (And, in case you read this, Vishwajit: In retrospect, it is me who is sorry. I am indeed sorry that I could as low as saying, just for getting a job for myself, that I was looking forward to “encouragement” of my work from you… For that one moment, I had lost my bearing only because I wanted to conform as well as I could—I was asked, by my “friends,” to behave as “neatly” as possible. I couldn’t have managed it, and so, I ended up saying what I did—that I appreciated that “encouragement” from you, an encouragement worth 40,000 Rs per month… Sorry, indeed, I am. I should have kept my (actually) better sense compared to my “friends” (as well as my pride) and should have told you on the face that you were doing a good thing in hiring me.)

Anyway, to return to the theme of this point, this neat-looking young nothing called Vishwajit Kadam also is one of them (the aforementioned BTech IITians through to Sakal editors) if he can promise me a job but not release the appointment letter.

And, while on this line, let me also note that it was repugnant to read, just two weeks later, that some Pune educationist’s son had been caught throwing lakhs of rupees in cash at a dance-bar girl near Mumbai over the course of a single night. (I also want to note here that I doubt that it could have been Vishwajit in that dance bar there… I mean, there are many big educationists in Pune, and they have sons whose ideas of life aren’t exactly in line with education in any sense of that word… But then, how do you know that it just couldn’t have been this guy or that guy if you also know that you had been promised an appointment letter but it never landed in your hands? How do you know that such characters can be worthy of your trust?)

Anyway, far more important than the issue of dance bars, here, are the issues of education and of my unemployment… After all, anyone could easily vouch for the fact that Ms. Vidya Yerwadekar simply won’t ever go out to New Mumbai and throw lakhs of her own money on those dance-bar girls, over the course of a single night. Anybody could vouch that Vidya herself, certainly, won’t do that. Yet, how does knowing this fact about Vidya help one if the application one made to her institution, namely, Symbiosis (which spends crores in advertising itself—often also buying editorial influence in ToI), cannot bother to even acknowledge by email the job application?

And, I want to go further: Why can’t Vidya invite me for an interview for her new engineering college, I ask pointedly… After all, I also blog at Harvard-based iMechanica; have a master’s from an IIT (and at 40+ age after competitive examinations, was offered admissions to both IIT and IISc); I do research at COEP; and, Vidya herself is not all that distant in space or age to me—she probably was just a batch or two junior to me but in BJ when I was an undergrad in COEP…

I could go on, but anyway, Swami (of Swaminomics of ToI fame), it is to you that I want to remind: Hindi: “hamaam me sab nange”—whether they are (dear to your heart) Bania “businessmen”, or those “professional” “educationists” from Pune, or those Delhi bureaucrats taking pleasure in running educational institutions, or those educationists vying to become bureaucrats, or, of course, the Americans. “hamaam me sab hai nange.”

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An aside: The last few columns in Sunday ToI by M.J.Akbar have been excellent. Better than Swami’s or anyone else’s (in that newspaper)… I don’t know if Akbar has actually fallen out with the Gandhi-Nehru parivar or what… (I don’t follow up too closely on journos but vaguely remember having read in my younger days in 1980s—say in magazines like Outlook, Frontline, India Today or the like—that charges were being leveled against Akbar in those times that he would defend Rajiv Gandhi regardless of season or reason… (I guess the journo in question was Akbar only, but I am not certain.) Has there been a real change in Akbar or what? … I think that even if he has remained as acute as before, packing as many dramatic punches and twists in his writing as before, still, today, I have this vague sense that Akbar might actually have mellowed a little bit now… I mean, his writing has acquired a bit of gravitas of a certain kind that is not very easy for a journo to pick up once he has begun writing… A welcome change it is… All in all, these days, it is his columns which make for the best read (I mean within ToI)… (I can only hope that the quantum measurement effect doesn’t affect his writing style in the immediate future. (Incidentally, it is this fact which heightens my irritation at my being jobless—obviously, the powers that be do read me, take notice of what I write, and yet, continue to make sure that I go jobless. BXXXXXXs…))

[Updated and expanded on 6th and 7th April, 2009. Yes, I have expanded my entry and added even more asides in it… Do you have any problem with that, journos? IB folks? Americans? Others?]

[BTW, WordPress’ AutoSave is a great feature… In Pune the electricity goes off without warning and some 1000+ of my words were accessible thanks only to this AutoSave feature!]

[Correction on April 10, 2009: The dean’s name is Anand Bhalerao, not Rajesh Bhalerao as posted earlier]

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Update on March 21, 2009

1. The University of Pune, apparently, has finally begun taking some definitive steps towards actually conducting Ph.D. examination in my case, too.  …

… Well, as a student—or, rather, as the examinee—I am not supposed to know anything about this! But I have enough friends in Pune city that I came to know about it anyway!!…

And, do notice that by making this information public, I am only ensuring that I do not exercise any quality-compromising influence on my PhD examination from my own side. By bringing everything in the open, I am only rendering myself powerless to engage in any shady activities concerning my examination. … But sure, I do have a future to worry about, and so, I do enquire people if anything is moving forward concerning my over-overdue PhD examination or not.

Of course, the news still is entirely unofficial, and it will remain so forever—you see, the University of Pune has no mechanism whatsoever to let the student know about the progress/stallings/regress/subversion of the procedure meant to ensure timely and proper examination of the thesis he submits.

Once I got to know that the University of Pune officials would be taking some steps, I first postponed  suing them in the Consumer Court. Once the news came that they have actually acted (e.g. signed!), I cancelled the plan (to sue them), at least for the time being.

But still, it’s too early to say “cheers” or even “cheer up” for that matter… As far as my information goes, they (University of Pune) still have not yet contacted the potential examiners at all… So, the examination itself is still going to be months away. And that’s because, if my understanding of the process is right, the next (remaining) procedure consists of all of the following steps:

(i) The UoP will actually send the potential examiners a 10 page synopsis. And, that will happen by snail-mail, of course… What else did you think? “Paperless office,” “e-Governance,” and all such notions are just wishy-washy things that make a V/C or two feel good during their trips abroad or during their jaunts around the countryside in Rs. 22 Lakhs-a-piece cars here in India.

(When they are present in the city for a stretch of consecutive 45 days, attending to work in their office, then, of course, these Rs. 22 Lakhs-a-piece cars, sit completely idle, one would suppose. And, in any case, even with the busiest schedule, such cars do  not do more than 350-400 km per day—whether the cars cost Rs. 22 Lakhs a piece or Rs. 5 Lakhs.)

(ii) To continue with the “procedure:” The potential examiners, if they do receive that 10-pages Synopsis, will then go through it. They will then indicate in writing whether they would be interested in examining me or not. Note, they must again use paper.

And it must be the very right kind of a paper. This last is very important too. One major reason that my examination got delayed by as many as 8 months was because, apparently, my guide did not use a particular printed form of the University of Pune, and instead sent them a computer laser printout of the same information. The computer printout was signed by him, complete with his official stamp. But, since he did not use the University of Pune’s printed form (on that fragile acidic paper), they (UoP officials) refused to recognize even his signature and stamp. So, they simply sat on the matter for 8 months. They did not even bother to inform my guide about this—not even by the ubiquitous mobile or SMS. My contacting the V/C himself by email did not help either.

It is in light of this actual experience of this V/C and this University that I am not at all sure what they (people from V/C and downwards in hierarchy at UoP) are now going to do if an examiner informs them of his willingness to examine my thesis, but uses only email and does not use one of their printed forms.

… If you are a journalist working for Indian Express or Times of India feel free to ask pose this question to the honorable V/C.  Yes, Pune Mirror, who once used in their printed newspaper a photograph of COEP from my Web site without seeking my permission, may also feel free to ask the honorable V/C about a thing or two about the above—e.g. why it was that my email to him resulted only in a stern reminders of their authority, but did not result in any action towards appointment of an examination panel for my case—only delays. Needless to add, Sakal, Tanishka journalists and editors (and the “journalists” and “editors” at Yahoo! USA and Yahoo! India) also are free to raise the same questions to the honorable V/C.

(Not related to anything in this post here, but I might as well mention that more than once in the past I have wondered: Why must all our elected representatives, ministers and public officials be compulsorily described as “hon’ble”? Why can’t a single one of them be described as, say,  “des’ble”, short for “despicable”? Wouldn’t the latter be more proper?)

(iii) Anyway, continuing the story forward, if the reply of the potential examiner is a “yes,” then UoP will send them the full length thesis I submitted 1.5 years back.

(iv) The examiners will go through the thesis, make comments, and either fail the thesis or agree to examine me in a personal examination—the PhD Defense—because in their opinion the thesis was worth examining.

(v) The UoP will arrange, at their own “pace”, and as per the mutual convenience of the dates of all the examiners, the actual examination in Pune.

(vi) If the answer of the potential examiners is not a “yes” (simply because the potential examiner feels that he won’t be able to judge my thesis for whatever reason, including the famous reason that he does not “understand it” )  at the stage in the point (ii) above, then, this would require appointment of a new examiner…

But, since appointment of an examiner takes some initiative on the part of the University, therefore, this great UoP might once again sit pretty and do nothing for yet another 1.5 years.

The loop repeats until they find someone who has the minimum required brains (and not just some American Society’s honors) to understand what I have written in my thesis—which, in my opinion, is understandable by any final year undergraduate in engineering… But, since the examiners do have the freedom to say no, they often say “no” without in any way feeling guilty about it… (I know for a fact that such a thing routinely happens for professors employed by IIT Bombay—they routinely decline to be examiners, I have been told.)

The important point is, if the examiners say no, the UoP once again enters the loop, and thus, once again gets the opportunity to kill time around by not appointing the next set of potential examiners for yet another 1.5 years…. (Going by the actual process contents, this should not take anything more than 2 weeks, or at most one to 1.5 months even after factoring in holidays, staff absence, and all. But yes, UoP can easily take 1.5 years for it—if the examinee is someone like me.)

And so on…

(vii) Yet, from now on, I believe that UoP will work under the “threat” that I could actually go to the courts, and hence, I anticipate, will move their esteemed persons around at a somewhat faster pace.

2. I have a lot of comments as well as some updates and observations to make about many topics, including about the elections, including who should be projected as the PM candidate from the Congress+Allies. (You should know my answer on the last point.)  Guess I will postpone it all for the time being… Also, some points on science and engineering and all… Keep watching…

3. Apart from it all, one of the things I’ve really missed over the past 1.5 years is the PhD defenses of many candidates of UoP who actually were examined, apparently in a timely manner, including the defenses of those PhD students who were being personally supervised by the Director of BCUD Mr. Pandit Vidyasagar himself. …

A PhD defence is supposed to be a public event, and anyone is supposed to be allowed to question the candidate. The word “anyone,” here, is of course to be taken within reason. Formally, it is within the discretion of the Chairman of the particular Examination Panel that has been appointed to examine a particular PhD thesis. (The Examination Panel is separately appointed for each PhD student, and consists of the examiners who agree as per the procedure I spelt out in point no. 1 above.) But, usually, the Examination Panel certainly allows other PhD students to attend and ask questions.

Now  I suppose it wouldn’t have taken me more than one month or so to prepare some good questions to be asked to one of Mr. Pandit Vidyasagar’s students—Mr. Pandit Vidyasagar has graduated two PhD students in the recent past and without naming the names, I can say that at least the abstract of at least one graduate fails to impress me in any way. I could certainly also raise questions to Mr. Narendra Jadhav’s own PhD students, presuming, of course, that he has had any PhD students to guide at all.

But as I said, at least for the time being, any such a thing that I could have done is being kept aside…

But, yes, if the UoP further delays my process, sure, this also is one way in which I could bring the importance of my case to their notice—the necessity of having to conduct examination in a timely manner for me, too.

And, as far as I know, this all would be perfectly legal—including my posting of this comment. And, everything here of course goes only in the interests of ensuring high quality at the PhD examinations, too!

Needless to add, when it comes to my own case, I am fully confident of facing any rational query on my thesis at the time of my own PhD examination—provided it is at all held sometime in future…

But yes, UoP seems to be taking some steps now—even though they have taken 1.5 years for what should have been a matter of 1 to 1.5 months at the most.

… May be, the fact that I was neither a Dalit, nor a Brahmin, nor a guy from the Esteemed Marathwada Region very very dear to a certain High High High Command went against me.

…Or, may be, what went against me was that my research work really was believed to be of  good quality, and hence, my case could be roped in for use in the PR wars concerning USA–India relations, nuclear deal, and whatnot, who knows?

But, yes, in today’s world, such a thing is not only easily possible, but if my judgment is right, it actually does happen routinely, including in cases like mine.

[This post, first published on the afternoon of March 21, 2009, was expanded by me right on March 21, 2009 at 10:40 PM (all times in IST).]

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The terror attacks on Bombay / Mumbai

This was the first time, I guess in all my life so far (at least since the COEP/IIT hostel days) that I watched TV for more than 5-6 hours / day. It kept my attention rivetted to the TV screen… It all was so shocking and plain different…

But war, was it? How can that be?… I mean, the question is: Can we give the respect due to a soldier—even an enemy soldier—to these terrorists?

The resignations of Mr. Shivraj Patil and Mr. R. R. Patil have brought out the essential difference of the Congress political culture from that of the rest of the parties in India.