Machine “Learning”—An Entertainment [Industry] Edition

Yes, “Machine ‘Learning’,” too, has been one of my “research” interests for some time by now. … Machine learning, esp. ANN (Artificial Neural Networks), esp. Deep Learning. …

Yesterday, I wrote a comment about it at iMechanica. Though it was made in a certain technical context, today I thought that the comment could, perhaps, make sense to many of my general readers, too, if I supply a bit of context to it. So, let me report it here (after a bit of editing). But before coming to my comment, let me first give you the context in which it was made:


Context for my iMechanica comment:

It all began with a fellow iMechanician, one Mingchuan Wang, writing a post of the title “Is machine learning a research priority now in mechanics?” at iMechanica [^]. Biswajit Banerjee responded by pointing out that

“Machine learning includes a large set of techniques that can be summarized as curve fitting in high dimensional spaces. [snip] The usefulness of the new techniques [in machine learning] should not be underestimated.” [Emphasis mine.]

Then Biswajit had pointed out an arXiv paper [^] in which machine learning was reported as having produced some good DFT-like simulations for quantum mechanical simulations, too.

A word about DFT for those who (still) don’t know about it:

DFT, i.e. Density Functional Theory, is “formally exact description of a many-body quantum system through the density alone. In practice, approximations are necessary” [^]. DFT thus is a computational technique; it is used for simulating the electronic structure in quantum mechanical systems involving several hundreds of electrons (i.e. hundreds of atoms). Here is the obligatory link to the Wiki [^], though a better introduction perhaps appears here [(.PDF) ^]. Here is a StackExchange on its limitations [^].

Trivia: Kohn and Sham received a Physics Nobel for inventing DFT. It was a very, very rare instance of a Physics Nobel being awarded for an invention—not a discovery. But the Nobel committee, once again, turned out to have put old Nobel’s money in the right place. Even if the work itself was only an invention, it did directly led to a lot of discoveries in condensed matter physics! That was because DFT was fast—it was fast enough that it could bring the physics of the larger quantum systems within the scope of (any) study at all!

And now, it seems, Machine Learning has advanced enough to be able to produce results that are similar to DFT, but without using any QM theory at all! The computer does have to “learn” its “art” (i.e. “skill”), but it does so from the results of previous DFT-based simulations, not from the theory at the base of DFT. But once the computer does that—“learning”—and the paper shows that it is possible for computer to do that—it is able to compute very similar-looking simulations much, much faster than even the rather fast technique of DFT itself.

OK. Context over. Now here in the next section is my yesterday’s comment at iMechanica. (Also note that the previous exchange on this thread at iMechanica had occurred almost a year ago.) Since it has been edited quite a bit, I will not format it using a quotation block.


[An edited version of my comment begins]

A very late comment, but still, just because something struck me only this late… May as well share it….

I think that, as Biswajit points out, it’s a question of matching a technique to an application area where it is likely to be of “good enough” a fit.

I mean to say, consider fluid dynamics, and contrast it to QM.

In (C)FD, the nonlinearity present in the advective term is a major headache. As far as I can gather, this nonlinearity has all but been “proved” as the basic cause behind the phenomenon of turbulence. If so, using machine learning in CFD would be, by the simple-minded “analysis”, a basically hopeless endeavour. The very idea of using a potential presupposes differential linearity. Therefore, machine learning may be thought as viable in computational Quantum Mechanics (viz. DFT), but not in the more mundane, classical mechanical, CFD.

But then, consider the role of the BCs and the ICs in any simulation. It is true that if you don’t handle nonlinearities right, then as the simulation time progresses, errors are soon enough going to multiply (sort of), and lead to a blowup—or at least a dramatic departure from a realistic simulation.

But then, also notice that there still is some small but nonzero interval of time which has to pass before a really bad amplification of the errors actually begins to occur. Now what if a new “BC-IC” gets imposed right within that time-interval—the one which does show “good enough” an accuracy? In this case, you can expect the simulation to remain “sufficiently” realistic-looking for a long, very long time!

Something like that seems to have been the line of thought implicit in the results reported by this paper: [(.PDF) ^].

Machine learning seems to work even in CFD, because in an interactive session, a new “modified BC-IC” is every now and then is manually being introduced by none other than the end-user himself! And, the location of the modification is precisely the region from where the flow in the rest of the domain would get most dominantly affected during the subsequent, small, time evolution.

It’s somewhat like an electron rushing through a cloud chamber. By the uncertainty principle, the electron “path” sure begins to get hazy immediately after it is “measured” (i.e. absorbed and re-emitted) by a vapor molecule at a definite point in space. The uncertainty in the position grows quite rapidly. However, what actually happens in a cloud chamber is that, before this cone of haziness becomes too big, comes along another vapor molecule, and “zaps” i.e. “measures” the electron back on to a classical position. … After a rapid succession of such going-hazy-getting-zapped process, the end result turns out to be a very, very classical-looking (line-like) path—as if the electron always were only a particle, never a wave.

Conclusion? Be realistic about how smart the “dumb” “curve-fitting” involved in machine learning can at all get. Yet, at the same time, also remain open to all the application areas where it can be made it work—even including those areas where, “intuitively”, you wouldn’t expect it to have any chance to work!

[An edited version of my comment is over. Original here at iMechanica [^]]


 

“Boy, we seem to have covered a lot of STEM territory here… Mechanics, DFT, QM, CFD, nonlinearity. … But where is either the entertainment or the industry you had promised us in the title?”

You might be saying that….

Well, the CFD paper I cited above was about the entertainment industry. It was, in particular, about the computer games industry. Go check out SoHyeon Jeong’s Web site for more cool videos and graphics [^], all using machine learning.


And, here is another instance connected with entertainment, even though now I am going to make it (mostly) explanation-free.

Check out the following piece of art—a watercolor landscape of a monsoon-time but placid sea-side, in fact. Let me just say that a certain famous artist produced it; in any case, the style is plain unmistakable. … Can you name the artist simply by looking at it? See the picture below:

A sea beach in the monsoons. Watercolor.

If you are unable to name the artist, then check out this story here [^], and a previous story here [^].


A Song I Like:

And finally, to those who have always loved Beatles’ songs…

Here is one song which, I am sure, most of you had never heard before. In any case, it came to be distributed only recently. When and where was it recorded? For both the song and its recording details, check out this site: [^]. Here is another story about it: [^]. And, if you liked what you read (and heard), here is some more stuff of the same kind [^].


Endgame:

I am of the Opinion that 99% of the “modern” “artists” and “music composers” ought to be replaced by computers/robots/machines. Whaddya think?

[Credits: “Endgame” used to be the way Mukul Sharma would end his weekly Mindsport column in the yesteryears’ Sunday Times of India. (The column perhaps also used to appear in The Illustrated Weekly of India before ToI began running it; at least I have a vague recollection of something of that sort, though can’t be quite sure. … I would be a school-boy back then, when the Weekly perhaps ran it.)]

 

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See, how hard I am trying to become a (Full) Professor of Mechanical Engineering in SPPU?

Currently, I am not only cashless but also jobless. That’s why, I try harder.

I am trying very hard to be a (Full) Professor of Mechanical Engineering, especially at the Savitribai Phule Pune University (or SPPU for short).

That’s right.

And that’s why, I have decided to adopt an official position whereby I abandon all my other research and study interests, especially those related to the mechanics of the quanta. Instead, I have officially decided to remain interested only in the official problems from the Mechanical Engineering discipline proper—not only for my studies, but also for my research interests.

… If only I were to have my first degree in Mechanical Engineering, instead of in Metallurgy! (It was some 37.5–33.5 years ago, with my decision to choose Metallurgy being from some 36.5 years ago.) … If only I were to choose Mechanical right back then, this problem wouldn’t have arisen today. …

Tch! …

…But, well, thinking of my first degree, its circumstances—where I got it from (COEP, the engineering college with the highest cut-off merit in the entire Maharashtra state), in what class (First Class with Distinction, the highest class possible), and, most crucially, for spending all my time at what place (The Boat Club)… You know, looking back some 3.5 decades later of all those circumstances—the circumstances of how I chose Metallurgy, back then, as I was sitting at the Boat Club… Hmmm… Boat Club. … Boat Club! Boat Club!!

It gives me some ideas.

So, to better support my current endeavors of becoming an Officially Approved Full Professor of Mechanical Engineering in SPPU, may be, I should solve some Mechanical Engineering problems related to boats. Preferably, those involving not just fluid mechanics, but also mechanisms and machine design—and vibrations! [Oh yes. I must not forget them! Vibrations are, Officially, a Mechanical Engineering topic. In fact even Acoustics. …]

Thinking along such lines, I then thought of one problem, and sort of solved it too. Though I am not going to share my answer with you, I certainly want to share the problem itself with you. (Don’t ask me for answers until I get the job as an Officially Approved Full Professor in Mechanical Engineering at SPPU.)

OK, so here we go.


The Problem Description:

Consider a boat floating on a stand-still lake. The boat has a very simple shape; it is in the shape of a rectangular parallelpiped (i.e., like a shoe-box, though not quite exactly like a punt).

In the plan (i.e. the top view), the boat looks like this:
mechanicalengineeringboat

 

 

 

 

 

As shown in the figure, at the centers of the front- and back-sides of the boat, there are two circular cylindrical cavities of identical dimensions, both being fitted with reciprocating pistons. These pistons are being driven by two completely independent mechanisms. The power-trains and the prime-movers are not shown in the diagram; in this analysis, both may be taken to be mass-less and perfectly rigid. However, the boat is assumed to have some mass.

We will try to solve for the simplest possible case: perfectly rigid boat walls (with some mass), perfectly rigid but mass-less pistons, complete absence of friction between the pistons and the cylinder walls, etc.

Assume also that both the boat and the lake water are initially stand-still, and that there are no other influences affecting the motions (such as winds or water currents).

Now, let’s put the pistons in oscillatory motions. In general, the frequencies of their oscillations are not equal. Let the frequency for the left- and right-side pistons be f_L and f_R Hz, respectively.

Problem 1:

Build a suitable Mechanical Engineering model, and predict how the boat would move, in each of the following three scenarios:

  • f_L = f_R
  • f_L > f_R
  • f_L < f_R

In each case, determine (i) whether the boat as a whole (i.e. its center of mass or CM) would at all undergo any motion at all or not, (ii) if yes, whether the motion of the CM would have an element of oscillations to it or not, and finally, (iii) whether the boat (i.e. its CM) would undergo a net displacement over a large number of pistons oscillations or not (i.e., the question asks whether the so-called “time-averaged” net displacement occurs in any one direction or not), and if yes, in which direction.

You may make other minor assumptions. For instance, in each of the above 3 cases, you may assume that at time t = 0, both the pistons are at their innermost positions, with each piston beginning its motion by pushing outwards. Also check out the effect of assuming, some other, suitable, values for the initial phases.

Though not at all necessary, if it will help you, you may perhaps consider the case where the higher frequency is an integer multiple of the lower frequency, e.g., in the second of the three cases, assume f_L = n f_R, where n \in \mathcal{N}. However, note that eventually, you are expected to solve the problem in the general case, the one in which the ratio of the frequencies may be any real number. The cases of practical interest may be where the ratio ranges from 0.0 to a real number up to, say, 2.67 or 3.14 (or, may be, 5.25).

Notice that nowhere thus far have we said that the oscillatory motion of the pistons would be SHM (i.e. simple harmonic). You may begin with an SHM, but as a further problem below illustrates, the piston motion may neither be simple-harmonic, nor even symmetrical in the to- and fro-directions.

On the fluid mechanics side: In your analysis, assume that the length of the boat is much, much greater than the stroke-lengths of the pistons. Essentially, we want to ensure that the water waves produced at one end do not significantly affect the local dynamics at the other end.

You may assume a highly simplified model for the fluid—the problem is not supposed to have a crucial bearing on what kind of a fluid you assume. I mean to say, we are not looking for so detailed a model that you would have to perform a CFD analysis. (That task, we will leave to the Naval Architecture engineers.) However, do make sure to note how your model behaves for an inviscid flow vs. for a viscous flow.

So, in short, the problem is to determine the nature of the motion of the boat, if there is any—i.e., to determine if its CM undergoes a net displacement in the time-averaged sense or not, and if yes, in which direction it occurs.

Problem 2:

Assume a relatively smaller stroke-length for one of the pistons, and repeat the problem.

Problem 3:

Assume that one of the frequencies is zero, which is as good as saying that the boat is fitted with only one cylinder-and-piston. Repeat the analysis.

Problem 4:

Continue to assume that one of the frequencies is zero. Now, also assume that the outward stroke of the moving piston happens faster than its inward stroke. Determine the nature of the motion, if any, for the CM of the boat.

Problem 5 (Optional):

Assuming that the prime mover outputs a uniform circular (or rotary) motion, design a suitable mechanism which will help implement the idea of having non-SHM motions—e.g., different stroke-times in the outward and inward directions. Conduct an informal (or a more formal, calculus-based) displacement-, velocity- and acceleration-analysis, if you wish.

Give it a thought whether this entire idea of transforming a circular motion to a nonuniform reciprocating motion can be done away with, thereby saving on energy—in real life, there is friction—using certain ideas from electrical engineering and electronics.

Ooops!

No, no, no! No!! Throw out that horrendous idea! I mean the very last one!!

We want to remain concerned only with the Mechanical Engineering Problems proper. That is the Official position I have adopted, remember?


That’s right. What I described above was, really, really, really only a Mechanical Engineering Problem.

It really, really, really has nothing to do with anything else such as electrical engineering or quantum physics.

[And if even Prof. Thanu Padmanabhan (IUCAA) does not know quantum physics (he told me so once, right in person), why should I be concerned with it, anyway?]

Anyway, so, Officially speaking, I made up this problem only because I want to become an Officially Approved Full Professor of Mechanical Engineering at SPPU.


If you are interested in some other Mechanical Engineering problems, especially on the fluids-thermal side, check out my recent posts on the Eco-Cooler, and see if you can take further the analysis given in them.

I myself had made a much more advanced engineering analysis right at that time, but I am not going to give it—or its results—until some time after I land and join the kind of job I am looking for—a Full Professor’s. (And I hope that you do have the sense to see that this is not a “prestige issue” on my part.)

The post having a preliminary (quantitative) fluids-thermal analysis is here [^], though the qualitative analysis of the problem begins with an earlier post, here [^].


[Guess the problem, as given, is enough for the time being. I may even come back and add one or two variations on the problem! But no guarantees.]

Update right on 2016.12.02: OK, here are a couple of minor variations. What happens if, when a piston comes to a rest at the extreme stroke, it continues staying idle for a while, before resuming its towards-the-center motion? What if the piston motion is such that the point of zero displacement does not occur exactly at the middle of its overall stroke-length?

I may post some further variations on the problem, or suggest alternative analogous problems, in future.

Currently, I am not just cashless but also jobless. That’s why, I try harder.


More, may be later. As to the Song I Like section, I don’t have anything playing at the back of my mind right away, so let me see if something strikes me by the time I come back tomorrow to give a final editing touch to this post. In that case, I will add this section; else, I will not!


[After the update right on 2016.12.02: I am done with this post now, and if there are any errors, I will let them stay. If you find the post confusing somewhere, please do drop me a line, though. Best, and take care.]

[E&OE]

 

More on the project ideas. Also, a new CFD software benchmark-cum-shop-floor test.

Update added on 2015.05.17; check out the near the end of this post.

* * * * *   * * * * *   * * * * *

More on the project ideas:

In my last post [^], I had given a description of 3 different ideas for student projects. I would be interested in guiding all these projects in the near future, once I get a suitable job.

If you had gone through my earlier post about my current research interests [^], you would have sure noticed how the project idea no. 2 and 3 relate to my current research in computational modeling of the ceramic injection moulding (CIM) process.

These ideas are basically meant to provide reliable experimental bench-marks for validating separate aspects of the software that I will be writing. (I am still considering and reconsidering the issue of whether to write the software starting from the scratch, or only adapt/extend OpenFOAM.)

The project idea no. 3 (viz., paste-filling in cavity) completely keeps out the aspects of heat transfer and phase transformations, and instead selectively focuses on the aspect of mould-filling using a non-Newtonian material. Thus, if the momentum equations are handled right, predictions about the progress in the filling and the instantaneous shapes of the front at different times would be accurate. If not, the software would have to address only the momentum equations, but with better models/parameter values for the wall friction, viscosity, and surface tension.

In contrast, the project idea no. 2 (viz., melting of wax by a source) tries to selectively focus on the heat transfer and phase transformation aspects, but without significantly involving any momentum transport. (It is anticipated that the symmetry of the configuration means that convection within the molten wax would not be of much significance. However, this part, too, will have to be carefully looked into, at a later stage.)

The CIM process itself involves a liquid-to-solid phase transformation. In contrast, what the idea no. 2 models is the opposite phase transformation, viz., from solid-to-liquid. However, it does have a travelling interface. If the software handles the energy equation, the phase-transformations, and the motion of the liquid-solid interface right, then the speed of the interface should get predicted accurately. If not, the software development work would have to selectively focus only on this part.

Thus, the two project ideas split up the CIM process into two different parts. The reason is the complexity of such problems—the accurate predictions of the instantaneous positions of the moving boundary.

I was only partly successful while comutationally modeling the melting snowman (which I did during my PhD research). The software I wrote had qualitatively predicted the evolution of the shape right, but the speed of the evolution was quantitatively off the mark. I therefore knew that I had to further simplify even just this much part: of transient heat transfer, phase transformation and moving interface, but without any momentum exchanges involved in it. The project idea no. 2 tries to do precisely that: simplify just the heat-related part even further.

In the case of the melting snowman, the outer boundary happens to be the singular location where all the action happens: heat enters, phase-transformation occurs, and then, importantly, the resulting liquid gets drained away, traveling under gravity over the outer surface, and in the process exposing a new surface for the heat to enter, and also moving back the phase-transformation interface. The process thus has a kind of a loop built into it, and so, despite the apparent simplicity, from a modeling viewpoint, it actually is quite complex. Something went wrong with the timings at which the successive processes took place in the simulation. But I could not reliably locate precisely where; I didn’t have any experimental data to be able to do so. My experimentation was too simple; I could not get funds for instrumented data logging, and therefore, I had to remain content with just photographically capturing the outer profiles at successive instants; continuous monitoring of temperatures at various points within the volume of the snowman was not possible.

The current project idea tries to rectify the situation. It reduces the complexity a bit further, by completely doing away with the draining part—the molten wax remains in the jar.

However, in the process, I now realized, the experimental part has become perhaps a bit too simple for a project at the ME level. Some more work could be thrown in. So, here are two possibilities:

1. Also model solidification of wax (instead of only its melting). The liquid-to-solid is anyway the direction of the phase transformation in the actual CIM process.

The simplest model to try would be just to take an instrumented jar, pour some molten wax in it, and let it solidify. If the predictions for the solidification front—its shape and size at various times—are accurate enough, then well and good.

Realize that the project idea no. 2 (viz., wax-melting using a rod for heat input) remains absolutely essential, because experimental errors involved in determining the geometry of the phase transformation front are minimal in it: the boundary of the front has a very simple geometry (ideally, circular on the top surface), and its biggest section remains at the top surface, and therefore easily visible, throughout the process. For both these reasons, its motion would be very accurately measurable. In contrast, in solidification studies, the shape of the solidification front would remain more complicated. Further,  since the front would lie interior to the block, it would not be as easy to measure ina continuous nondestructive manner.

2. Another idea is related to bench-marking and testing. I will later on post this part (may be with a little additions and editing) on iMechanica and CFD-related fora, so as to solicit some informal comments about it. Let me note down a preliminary description here, in the next section.

* * * * *   * * * * *   * * * * *

A new software benchmark-cum-shopfloor test:

In CFD, the utility of suitable bench-marks is well-established. Think of some typical cases: flow through a converging-diverging channel, flow at a corner or at a T-joint, lid-driven flow with formation of vortices at the corners, flow past an obstacle or over a step and the resultant vortex shedding, the Ahmed body, the Rayleigh-Taylor instability, the dam-break simulation, the falling droplet, etc. These have proved very helpful in validating CFD techniques and software codes/packages—at least for comparing different packages against each other. The idea I propose is in a similar vein.

The proposed experiment is very simple to perform, and yet, it is expected to be very useful. At least I am convinced about its utility enough that I have decided to write a short journal paper on it, just for proposing this test—I mean just for putting forth only the idea of the test, without performing any experimentation/simulation involving it.

Here is the idea.

Take a small solid object, say, a ball-bearing ball made of alloy steel, or a small machined cube of copper, or a small cone of brass. (The surface roughness would need to be specified.)

Hold the object at a suitably high temperature for a sufficiently long of time that it develops a steady temperature throughout its section. Or, assuming that it initially has  been at the room temperature for a sufficiently long time, now place it inside a furnace (or over a hot-plate) of a well-controlled constant temperature for a specified period of time. Basically, the idea is that we come to specify the entire temperature profile of the object.

Take a block of wax of a specified grade i.e. material properties. (Shape and size is to be given some thought, and the issue is to be finalied after some preliminary experiments.) Drill a small hole of a specified shape and size at the center of its top surface. The size of the hole should slightly exceed that of the heated small object.

Place the block snugly fitting inside a well-insulated enclosure (of specified dimensions and material/properties). Or, may be, just place it on a ceramic tile on the laboratory table. (This in fact should work better.)

Rapidly take the small object out of the furnace (or from the hot plate) and gently place it in the hole drilled in the block of wax.

Initially, the hot object will give off its heat to the air above and to the portions of the wax block surrounding it, and so, the wax will melt locally. The object being heavy will displace the molten wax underneath, and thus it will slide deeper into the block. The molten wax will rise from the side-ways. The object will soon get completely covered with a layer of the so-molten wax now convected also onto its top surface. Simultaneously, the column of the molten wax above the object will begin to solidify from the top, by giving off its heat to the air as well as to the surrounding unmolten portions of the block. Also, the heat of the object will continue to get transferred to the wax, and so, its own temperature will go on dropping down, even as it slides down. All these processes will continue until a time when the temperature of the object goes below the melting point of the wax, and so, unable any more to melt the wax, it will come to a stand-still. All of the molten wax wouldn’t have solidified by this time, and so, so we have to wait a little longer for this to happen.

Then (i.e., after waiting for sufficient time), carefully cut through the block, and measure the shape of the region of the wax affected by the heat—in particular, the depth of penetration.

The software should be able to accurately predict the extent of the heat-affected zone, esp. its depth, say as measured by the penetration depth of the object.

This experiment is very simple to perform—it involves no instrumentation. Yet it yields a very specific measure, viz., the extent of the heat affected zone, and most particularly, the depth of the penetration.

However, the process involved in the test is expected to pose a sufficiently difficult case for any CFD software to handle. There is transient heat transfer in two different phases, two successive phase transformations (solid-to-liquid, and then, also liquid-to-solid), convection of liquid wax, buyoancy effects for both the molten wax and the hot object, and motion of the solid-liquid interface. Yet, the overall geometry remains simple enough.

In CFD, people have been studying things such as rising of bubbles and rising/falling of droplets of a second-phase fluid. The process here is somewhat similar.

It is anticipated that during the experimentation, the test should also show good repeatability, provided the wax is homogeneous, and different blocks carry the same material properties.

For processes such as the CIM, the proposed test should be of definite help in two completely different ways: not just as a benchmark for validating software, but also in industrial practice, as a convenient shop-floor test for characterizing the feedstock (i.e. for the routine process quality-control purposes).

For the latter purpose, the feedstock would have to be pressed into the form of a block. This may be achieved via simple cold-pressing, say by filling the feedstock in a container of a square base and then simply placing a specified weight on its top for a specified period of time. These aspects need to be looked into and finalized after some preliminary experimentation.

* * * * *   * * * * *   * * * * *

Update added on 2015.05.17:

This update concerns the software benchmark. A couple of points occurred to me after publishing the post.

1. Note the difference of this test from the hot penetration test of bitumen, or the hot hardness test of metals.

In the proposed test here, the hot object gets completely immersed within the wax block. We are interested not only in melting, but also in the relative motion between the hot and cold objects even as cooling takes place simultaneously. Further, we are also interested in solidification. Finally, unlike those two tests, we are not interested in measurements of forces.

(Indeed, when I thought of this idea, the hot hardness/penetration tests were not even in my peripheral awareness; I was just trying to have as simple a test suitable for processing like CIM, as might be possible.)

2. On the second thoughts, completely doing away with instrumentation may not be such a good idea.

Going by my experience of simulating the melting snowman (as well as my browsing of the transient simulations, and their experimental validations), I think that if this test is to be used as an experimental benchmark for software validation (rather than just as a quick quality-control test on the shopfloor), then it should also specify measuring the precise positions of the hot object at different times, and not just the final depth of penetration it reaches.

In other words, the software should be able to predict the times required to reach the intermediate positions, too, accutately. The intermediate times would come out right only if the software handles the entire process right.

Coming to timings, we should not ask only for the final time when the object comes to a rest. After all, it is possible that the computational technique is such that it errs on the intermediate timings, but it does so in such a way that these errors get cancelled out, and so, the total time taken for the object to come to a rest still is predicted right. Such computational techniques will still not be reliable for modeling the actual CIM processing. So, the time-position profile is of primary importance.

Since the wax (and feedstock in general) is not transparent, for experimental measurements of positions, we cannot use light, and so, a simple technique like video shooting wouldn’t work.

However, since the hot object anyway would be metallic (read: electrically conducting), it would always be possible to sense its internal positions using electromagnetic induction. From my experience of the eddy current NDT, I think, it wouldn’t necessarily have to be an LVDT, and the sensing coil wouldn’t have to necessarily enclose the entire block of wax. If my feel is right (though this will have to be determined after a bit of a trial), a simple “one-way” coil placed on one side of the wax block, should also turn out to be sensitive and accurate enough. Of course, the issue of a differential vs. a direct solenoid is something that needs to be looked into separately.

Now, inductive sensing does make the test much more complicated—you have to firsst calibrate the output of the sensing coil. However, realize, the time-position measurements would be performed only in a laboratory, not under the routine production environments. So, it should be OK. …

… Research is always multi-disciplinary. Indeed, knowledge itself cannot be compartmentalized—regardless of what many influential academicians from the Savitribai Phule University of Pune evidently think. (Though, it was not to show them down that I wrote this post/update. I was mainly concerned only with the research, here.)

* * * * *   * * * * *   * * * * *

A Song I Like:

(Marathi) “manmohana juLatil naa, taaraa punhaa”
Music: Kedar Pandit
Singer: Ketaki Mategaonkar
Lyrics: ??

[There are two versions of this song, both by the same music director, the same singer, the same melody, and in fact, both also come in the same album! One is in the usual Marathi “bhavgeet” style, whereas the other one is in the “jazz” style. (Not quite jazz all the way through, but it does use some Western instruments someway along that genre.) Surprisingly, the melody fits both the styles so well! I honestly cannot decide which one I like better, though perhaps it’s an indication of my age that I am at times inclined ever so slightly towards the “bhavgeet” version. Or may be, it’s because of Kedar Pandit’s restrained but competent “tablaa” which comes only in that version. (I didn’t know anything about him, but the Wiki tells me that he accompanies Pandit Jasraj on all concerts.) Ketaki is young, and does have limitations to her voice, but the songs here have come out very well. May be with a little help coming in from all those track-editing and pitch-correcting software they all use these days. I don’t know really, but that could easily be the case. But it also is a fact that this kind of a melody would suit her well. And, in any case, the final outcome has come out pretty neat. That counts. … I was driving in the Pune city when I first heard the jazz version on radio, and wished I were driving through a lonely rural patch, instead. So, noted down the words, and looked up the ‘net later on. … Give both the versions a try, even if you don’t know Marathi.]

[E&OE]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But, come, they did.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[E&OE]

The Recent Workshop on Advanced Nonlinear FEM at COEP

For the couple of days that just passed by, i.e. on April 9 and 10, I attended a two-day Workshop on Advanced Nonlinear FEM at COEP [^]. It was organized jointly by Pro-Sim, Bangalore [^] and COEP’s Mechanical Engineering Department. However, quite a few people from some other organizations also came in to deliver their talks. These included managers or senior engineers in charge of the CAE departments in Eaton, Mahindras, Tata Motors, CDAC, and others. The new Vice-Chancellor of the University of Pune, Dr. Shevgaonkar, also dropped by for the inaugural function.

BTW, this being COEP, there never was any question of their inviting me to give a lecture/talk as a part of any workshop such as this. I suppose that they would consider it as compromising their [unstated] standards of quality. However, I did pay their registration fees, and attend the event as a regular attendee, just to see what all things were being discussed during the event.

One part of my interest in attending this workshop concerned learning. I have never been taught FEM in a class-room, or for that matter by anyone in person as such—I’ve picked up all my FEM on my own, by going through books and writing my own code, and then also by interacting via blogs/emails. (For example, see my grappling of the issue of banding and discontinuity of the derivatives, on iMechanica, here [^], something which I took complete care of soon later on, way before beginning teaching my FEM courses at COEP and CDO/MERI….) Anyway, given that I had never sat in an FEM classroom, I thought that it might be fun to do so, for a change. Another part of my interest in the workshop touched on my professional interests. I have myself begun conducting courses on fundamentals of FEM, and I wanted to compare the cost-to-benefit ratio for my course offering vis-a-vis others’.

Overall, I would say that it was only a barely acceptable deal at Rs. 4,000/- for the two days.  Of course, it certainly was worth more than a thousand bucks a day. I think it would have been a fairly good deal at about Rs. 2,500/- or so.

One doesn’t keep quite the same expectations from a workshop as one would from a training course. Yet, considering the fact that the settings for this workshop would be academic, it would have been better if the topics in this Workshop were to be sequenced better and treated differently. What happened in this workshop was that the individual faculty members were, by and large, actually good and knowledgeable engineers. Yet, the actual amount of knowledge to get transferred was, I am afraid, only minimal.

Many of the speakers could neither pace themselves well nor select their main topics (or subtopics) well. Further, the sequence of these lectures was not very well organized. There was this absence of an integrating theme continuously running through the lectures.

Now, I realize that it is always difficult to ensure a theme even for a small group of speakers. Sticking to a theme would be even more difficult to ensure in a workshop that is delivered by 5+ people. Yet, if you look at say, SIGGRAPH workshops in the USA, or, closer to India, the workshops covered in the NDT-related events, one can clearly see that maintaining an integrating theme, in which people progress from simple topics and fundamentals on to more complex topics and applications, is not as difficult as it might otherwise sound.

Since there was no theme, it had the appearance of a collage, not of a coherent picture. I mean, if you were to catch hold of a typical young attendee (say a BTech/MTech student) and if you were to ask him to identify in one line what distinguishes non-linearity from linearity in the context of FEM, he won’t be able to tell you that it’s all about going from: \begin{bmatrix}A\end{bmatrix} \begin{Bmatrix}x\end{Bmatrix} = \begin{Bmatrix}b\end{Bmatrix} to: \begin{bmatrix}A(x)\end{bmatrix} \begin{Bmatrix}x\end{Bmatrix} = \begin{Bmatrix}b\end{Bmatrix}. … In this workshop, there was an impressive array of topics, many insights, even more colorful pictures… But little reference was made to fundamentals.

So, if such a workshop is to be conducted in future, I think there should be three/four  (at least two/three) short tutorial or review sessions (of 1.5 to 2 hours each, complete with fill-in-the-blank type of worksheets), before the biggies begin to deliver their talks. It would always be helpful to review basics first. And, the matter should not end there. The entire workshop should be a well-ordered progression.

Another matter. The lectures should be interspersed with 30 minute sessions of actually working out simple problems, using an actual software. It would be OK even if such demos did not include hands-on experience.

Yet another matter. A workshop like this should include applications to fracture processes and mechanics. Also, handling the differential kind of non-linearity via FEM, for instance, modeling of the Navier-Stokes equation using FEM. A discussion of this aspect was surprisingly absent.

Also another matter. For an advanced topic like Nonlinear FEM, the discussions must touch upon how to abstract boundary and initial conditions from the given actual situation. This should be done via giving specific references to a few examples, rather than breezing through numerous case studies with the assumption that the audience knows how to specify the constraints. It should be assumed that they don’t. This must be done even if you don’t include topics like well-posedness, dynamic instability-related points, and so on.

One last point. This is not specific to this particular workshop, but to almost any lecture/delivery by almost any Indian researchers/engineers. Namely, that they are either poor on presentation skills. Or, they are *very* poor.

… Among all the lectures, those by Mr. Ashok Joshi (Manager, CAE, Tata Motors), Mr. Anil Gupta (Manager, CAE, Eaton), and Dr. Sundarrajan (Group Coordinator, CDAC) stood out, on this particular point. Especially the one by Mr. Joshi. …

… But many other speakers had just plain unacceptable habits of speaking: not realizing that too much time is being spent on trivia while keeping a single slide open for too long and then rushing through many other more relevant ones; lecture delivery that comes far too haltingly with far too many pauses and breaks; just too much of jumping around the sub-phrases of a single sentence with absolutely indiscriminate levels of “it”s thrown in… In general, far too much mangling of the grammar…  That way, I have no issues with accent—even an outright regional sort of accent—so long as the speaker is clear and audible. I do have a lot of issues with the contents, the grammar, and the general way of delivering statements—regardless of the accent.

I think that if they tape their lecture delivery and listen to it later (or better still: try to transcribe it on paper), they themselves will realize what they need to do. Here is a made-up example:

“… I mean, it is not like, … let me tell you, what I am trying to do it here… As the forces will be applied to it… and… it will not be the same everywhere… I am telling you, it will be different and why it will be happening is… it will not be the same… It will vary… this point, this point… Ok… You can see, it will be different, the displacement.”

The speaker takes so many pauses, so many breaks, before you realize that what he is trying to point out is the spatial non-uniformity of the displacement field—not of the applied traction (a quantity that too is visible, in a colorful manner, in the same diagram, but something which neither the uttered words nor the waved hands make any reference to, even if necessary in this context).

And, BTW, in this made-up example, I have used fewer “it”s and “will”s. I just can’t get why they can’t workout the structure of a sentence just a fraction of a second in advance before proceeding to utter it. Why do they just have to jump in somewhere in the middle of a thought, literally wherever they want, blurt out those pieces, and then haphazardly attempt to connect them with only one constant expression on the face: why are you not getting me?  … What would be so wrong if the speaker were just to take a complete pause (not even those “umms” and “hmmms”), and then just say: “A force is applied over this part of the boundary. We are interested in the displacement field in this region. We are first interested in displacement because it’s the primary unknown. As expected, the displacement field is not uniform. The interesting feature of its non-uniformity is … [so and so]. … Let’s try to understand the causal relation of this pattern with the distribution of the applied traction.”

… More than a mere presentation skills issue, I think there also is something about mental discipline, and more: something about keeping some concern with inductive integration rather than with the deductive jumping around.

I think they should hire professionals from those management/BPO/similar training institutes and undergo a special training course on public speaking. Further, I think they should also introduce some basics of applied epistemology (say, as what even today gets covered in the better among those BEd/MEd courses) in the engineering/science curricula to highlight the importance of ordering, hierarchy, perceptual referents, inductive arguments, integration, and general pacing out the things to be taught. And I think they should make these courses compulsory, the grades being included in the final GPA. Then, the students will take these matters seriously, and then, the future speakers will turn out to be better.

Of course, the above criticism doesn’t mean that there was no value in the workshop. As I said, it certainly was worth about half the price. Also, the above criticism was based not just on this workshop but on virtually all the conferences that I have attended in the past decade in India (including the ISTAM ones). Indian engineers and scientists, in general (exceptions granted), are very poor on presentation skills.

Coming back to this workshop in particular, there indeed was some definite value to it. But still, … how do I put it?… I think the biggest “carry home” point(*) about it was not the contents of the proceedings themselves—it was: those shake-hands and the exchange of the visiting cards before and after the talks. … Sorry, I still can’t call them as my “contacts” yet, but yes, that socializing was, the way I see it, the biggest import of the event for most of the attendees. And that, whether for the good or for the bad, would summarize the nature of this event right.

It was so for me too…. But, apart from it, to me, personally, the event happened to provide one unexpected benefit: it boosted my confidence. (You might want to read it a little differently, too.)

And, there were certain other pleasant moments on the side, too. Dr. Shevgaonkar highlighted the importance of building CAE software in India—as against merely using the packages made abroad. Dr. Arul Selvan tried to drive home the point that materials modeling was right at the core of advanced FEM for mechanical engineers too (though I can’t be sure that the point reached the aforementioned “home”). Dr. Shamasundar indicated how automated optimization was no longer a “hi fi” thing of research but a tool already deployed right here, in Indian industry. Dr. Sreehari Kumar and Dr. Sundarrajan even touched on the issues related to solver technologies, and their discussions of the topic was a welcome addition given the kind of issue that typical Indian mechanical engineers have with any discipline other than their own, e.g. disciplines like computer science, metallurgy, instrumentation, or physics.

(*I can’t recall the informal word they use in such contexts—esp. for conferences—something like “carry home” or “upshot” “take out” or something like that…)

– – – – –

A Couple of Songs I Like:

1. (Marathi) “daari paaoos paDato, raani paaravaa bhijato…”
Singer: Suman Kalyanpur
Music: Ashok Patki
Lyrics: Ashok G. Paranjape

2. (Marathi) “bolaavaa vithhal, pahaavaa vithhal…”
Lyrics: “sant tukaaraam”
Singer: “prabhaakar kaarekar” [Not sure yet, but it appears to be him. In my guesswork, many clues I gave here earlier turned out to have been incorrect. But I could locate my CD, though not its cover. I still need to check if it’s Karekar, which I could do starting with the publication number they print on the CD itself. And, yes, in any case, IMHO, this rendition is better than any one any other singer, notably: Kishori Amonkar, Jitendra Abhisheki, Aarati Anklikar-Tikekar, Shaunak Abhisheki, others…. If it indeed is Karekar, then the “shishya” obviously rendered it better than the “guru.” I say this even if in the Indian classical music tradition it is a taboo to claim the superiority of the “shishya” if the claimant is not the “guru” in question himself. … Weird! (And let me know if you want the original clues to appear here, possibly scratched out—I hardly care for the “rules” of blogging either!!]

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.

I have been shouting about these bustards from rooftops. That is what these blogs are. But the only software development company who happened to have called me for an interview was… Can you guess? Its name was “Fugro”. Now, you might be tempted to think that this was a play on the words: “Fuck” + “Row”. Nope. Wrong. The way Indian and American bustards want industry and commerce and run, the intended hint is actually at: “Fu” + “Gro”, a stand in for “Few” + “Grow”. And, what’s the meaning of that, you ask? Well, in mid- 1998, it so happened that just when India tested the nuclear bomb, I was very fresh in beginning writing emails to Leonard Peikoff. Indeed, it was only in 1998 that I had begun writing emails to him. (I have stopped doing so for years by now. I never got a reply from him, but when I once brought up the matter by calling him in on the radio show, he did say that he wrote my emails. That was, I believe from memory, in 1998.) In the very first email I wrote to him, I had written humorously: “When I really really grow up, I will be able to tell if I am an Objectivist or not.” This particular comment, I noticed, led to a lot of activity among the socialists in media (which means, about 95% of media men and women, including Jug Suraiya (shame on you, Jug!) and Mukul Sharma (yeah! Konkona’s father)). As usual, the American bustards had begun it—Bill Clinton’s supporters in the San Francisco Bay Area began it (with local newspapers in Palo Alto being the first to do so), and then it spread to others in the USA, and then, it spread, slowly, to India. And when I say I noticed, I am being inexact. The matter was thrust into my perceptual field—both “sensory” and “extrasensory”. (Which means, media bustards and bitches inserted such things at inescapable places in newspapers. And the Powers That Be also inserted such things in my mental “space” and in my dreams, sometimes awakening me up at night—giving me stress in the process.) Though the matter began with the American socialist bustards in the SF Bay Area, it very soon spread also to the Republicans, and the right-wing Christian bustards also milked it (including my life) to what it was worth. (But, yes, when I complained at Harvard’s iMechanica about it, the Microsoft/right-wing controlled msnbc.com were the first stop “using” my life. This happened in the year 2008. Until then, the right-wingers, too, were among the bustards to give me stress and squeeze life out of me. So, if they have stopped now, it only means that the right-wingers are more disciplined in exploitation unlike the left-wingers who tend to be a bit more scatter-brains about it.) So, our Indian IT bustards, wanting and trying to protect the cash kept compressed under the ass of Azim Premji, Ramdorai/Ratan Tata, and Narayana Murthy, obliged the American bustards and thus, the only place I got shortlisted since this blog began was in “Fugro.”

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.

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]

M Tech (Mech.) Admissions—An Open Letter to COEP Authorities

Today I noticed a print ad clarification in the daily Sakal. According to this ad, the requirements for the M Tech (Mechanical) program at COEP include a bachelor’s degree (or equivalent qualifications like AMIE) in only the following branches: Mechanical, Automobile, Production, and Industrial.

I would like to appeal the authorities to completely abolish the requirements of specific undergraduate branches for MTech admissions at COEP.

If that is not possible, then they should at least allow, for example, the Metallurgical and Electrical graduates into the MTech Mechanical program.

Consider the following reasons:

— A typical Industrial Engineer has not augmented or deepened his grasp of stress analysis via related courses such as those on metal working, materials testing, fracture and failure, NDT, etc. Further, the IE students actually don’t re-use fluid mechanics and heat transfer concepts in their later UG courses. So, these courses are often completed by them only as formal requirements, that’s all. Note, industrial engineers are mostly concerned with the more abstract and linear algebraically inclined topics such as OR, operations planning, human factors engineering, management, logistics, etc. So, the typical IE students do not have the time or the motivation to bother developing deeper insights about physical phenomena concerning stress analysis or CFD or thermal engineering. The undergraduate IE programs don’t lay any emphasis on these topics—not even by way of applications alone.

— Metallurgical programs (not all but enough of them—certainly the one at COEP), instead, include *all* of the topics mentioned at the beginning of the above paragraph. Further, they include a lot of topics concerning manufacturing engineering: metal working (an exhaustive range of these processes), heat treatment, foundry, manufacturing methods for newer materials, and why, even that “staple diet” of the traditional mechanical engineers, namely, machining.

Now, if even the industrial and production branches can be considered for admissions into the relevant MTech Mechanical programs, why not Metallurgical?

Isn’t this a matter purely indicative of the entrenched bias of the career academics?

— For MTech in Mechanical with the design stream option, not just metallurgical but also electrical engineers should be actively considered. The latter often have developed a good sense of what it takes to design rotating equipment, power-plant equipment, etc. I mean, they have a good application context and a kind of conceptual maturity about these topics, through their study of electrical machinery, power equipment, and separate design courses on both.

— Further, if the authorties really want to make sure that only the students with the right conceptual background are admitted to the MTech programs, then they should also actively consider the other side of it. They should start dis-qualifying BE/BTech Mechanical Sandwich graduates for MTech Mechanical admissions.

Don’t get shocked.

The reality is, these Sandwich folks receive only a couple of years of class-room education after their common first year. Further, whatever fewer courses they have, these often arrive in a rather mangled sort of sequence. The sequence is designed to suit the instructors, not the Sandwich students. The out-of-order sequence leads to confusion in the mind of the students about the right hierarchical order of concepts—something that is essential if gaining knowledge is the objective, not just ability to repeat some words in a parrot-like manner. The course-work does not arrive in an orderly manner primarily because the College does not bother designing and delivering a completely redesigned sequence for the Sandwich students—the College has no adequate staff to even consider undertaking that.

But that’s just one part of the story. The other part is: These students routinely hear remarks by the “practical” sort of engineers in industry who themselves often display a significantly high degree of anti-conceptual mentality. This, too, serves to discourage many Sandwich trainees from pursuing concepts to a sufficient depth. The end result is that the Sandwich stream folks turn out to be good mainly for operations and shop-floor management. As such, they should *not* be considered for direct MTech admissions; they are rather suitable only for MBA.

Now, of course, exceptions should certainly be allowed for those Sandwich trainees who have specifically worked in the design or R & D departments of large companies. That is, if the students can produce documented evidence to indicate their acquisition of higher levels of skills specifically in these two departments. Not otherwise. (Many of the companies participating in the Sandwich programs are small- to medium-scale enterprises who do not have an adequately well developed design or R & D departments. Typically, industry supervisors will happily oblige the trainee if he requests them that they mention “design” as the main activity—regardless of what he did on the shop-floor for them. The situtation is not very different from obtaining a medical certificate for getting a sick leave.)

I think most people at COEP would get shocked at my suggestion concerning disqualifying the Sandwich graudates primarily because, at COEP, the Sandwich option is (or at least used to be) a hot favorite with students. As such, typically (though not always) it was the students with the *higher* merit who (used to) prefer the Sandwich option. Therefore, the suggestion that these students now be dis-qualified for MTech admissions might come as a rude suggestion to many.

But just the fact that you had better marks, or are more talented, does not mean you are better (or even adequately) prepared to undertake a master’s in engineering or technology…. (The fact that some COEP Sandwich trainees fare wonderfully abroad in PG programs in engg. does not at all mean that the system itself is excellent—all that it means is that the student himself was good, and worked hard at his MS/MTech and PhD.)

And even if the suggestion comes as a shock, do consider the relevant facts—the shortened time for conceptual development, the haphazardly thrown together course-work, and the over-emphasis on the things “practical”…. Where is the concern for better or deeper “theoretical” work here? Theoretical work as would be necessary to undertake a master’s or a doctorate degree later on?

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In any case, though I wrote at greater length about disqualifying Sandwich people, that, really speaking, is not my main purpose here… I just included that point to induce people to think *really* afresh about these matters…

My main point here is regarding expanding the reach of the MTech Mechanical program at least to Metallurgical graduates if not also to Electrical graduates (and of the Mechanical graduates into the appropriate Metallurgical programs, of course—which, again, is *not* permitted in COEP, but *should* be…)

I am sure that my main appeal above will fall on deaf ears. … This statement needs explanation (for people unfamiliar with the way COEP in particular and Indian institutions in general work).

It is a curious happenstance that when arguments such as the above are presented, at COEP (and more largely, with any Indian government department) every *individual* would *completely* agree with *any* of those observations, and still, not raise any objection about them, and yet, collectively, every decision the same fellows eventually take would be taken as if nothing of the above sort had ever been said by anyone at any point of time. Effectively, it would be as if the matter had fallen on deaf ears.

(Readers: Go ahead. Prove me wrong. (LOL!))