Miscellaneous: books to read, a new QM journal, the imposter syndrome, the US presidential elections

While my mood of not wanting to do anything in particular still continues (and also, there is no word yet on the job-related matters, including on whether I might qualify as a Professor of Mechanical Engineering in SPPU or not), there are a few quick things that I may as well note.

Updates on 17th, 18th and 22nd Nov. 2016: See my English translation[s] of the song, at the end of the post.


Books to Read:

First, the books to read. Here are a few books on my to-read list:

  1. Sean Carroll, “The Big Picture” [^]. I have been browsing through Sean’s blog-posts since before the time the book was published, and so have grown curious. I don’t have the money to buy it, right now, but once I get the next job, I sure plan to buy it. Here is the review in NY Times [^]. And, here is a latest review, written by a software engineer (whose link appeared in Sean’s twitter feed (I don’t myself use my Twitter account, but sometimes do check out the feeds of others via browser))[^]. Judging from his posts, I do know that Sean writes really well, and I would certainly want to check out this book, eventually.
  2. Roger Penrose, “Fashion, Faith, and Fantasy in the New Physics of the Universe,” [^]. This is the latest offering by Penrose. Sometimes I simply type “quantum physics” in Google, and then, in the search results, I switch the tab over to “news.” I came to know of this book via this route, last week, when I ran into this review [^].
  3. Roger Schlafly, “How Einstein Ruined Physics: Motion, Symmetry and Revolution in Science,” [^]. Here is a review [^], though my curiosity about the book rests not on the review but on two things: (i) what I had thought of Einstein myself, as far back as in early 1990s, while at UAB (hint: Schlafly’s thesis wouldn’t be out of bounds for me), and (ii) my reading the available portions of the book at Google Books. …This book has been on my “to-read” list for quite some time, but somehow it keeps slipping off. … Anyway, to be read, soon after I land a job…

A New QM Journal:

A new journal has arrived on the QM scene: [^]. Once again, I got to know of it through the “news” tab in a Google search on “quantum physics”, when I took this link [^].

It’s an arXiv-overlay journal. What it means is that first you submit your paper to arXiv. … As you know, getting something published at arXiv carries a pretty low bar (though it is not zero, and there have been some inconsistencies rarely reported about improper rejections even at arXiv). It’s good to bring your work to the notice of your peers, but it carries no value in your academic/research publications record, because arXiv is not a proper journal as such. … Now, if your work is good, you want to keep it open-access, but you don’t want to pay for keeping it open-access, and, at the same time, you also want to have the credentials of a proper journal publication to your credit, you have a solution, in the form of this arXiv-overlay journal. You send the link to your arXiv-published paper to them. If their editorial board finds it fitting the standards and purpose of their journal, they will include it.

The concept originated, I guess, with Timothy Gowers [^] and others’ efforts, when they started a maths journal called “Discrete Analysis.” At least I do remember reading about it last year [^]. Here is Gowers’ recent blog post reflecting on the success of this arXiv-overlay journal [^]. Here is what Nature had to report about the movement a few months ago [^].

How I wish there were an arXiv for engineering sciences too.

Especially in India, there has been a proliferation of bad journals: very poor quality, but they carry an ISSN, and they are accepted as journals in the Indian academia. I don’t have to take names; just check out the record of most any engineering professor from outside the IISc/IIT system, and you will immediately come to know what I mean.

At the same time, for graduate students, especially for the good PhD students who happen to lie outside the IIT system (there are quite a few such people), and for that matter even for MTech students in IITs, finding a good publication venue sometimes is difficult. Journal publications take time—1 or 2 years is common. Despite its size, population, or GDP, India hardly has any good journals being published from here. At the same time, India has a very large, sophisticated, IT industry.

Could this idea—arXiv-overlay journal—be carried into engineering space and in India? Could the Indian IT industry help in some ways—not just technical assistance in creating and maintaining the infrastructure, but also by way of financial assistance to do that?

We know the answer already in advance. But what the hell! What is the harm in at least mentioning it on a blog?


Just an Aside (re. QM): I spent some time noting down, on my mental scratch-pad, how QM should be presented, and in doing so, ended up with some rough outlines of  a new way to do so. I will write about it once I regain enough levels of enthusiasm.


The Imposter Syndrome:

It seems to have become fashionable to talk of the imposter syndrome [^]. The first time I read the term was while going through Prof. Abinandanan’s “nanopolitan” blog [^]. Turns out that it’s a pretty widely discussed topic [^], with one write-up even offering the great insight that “true imposters don’t suffer imposter syndrome” [^]. … I had smelled, albeit mildly, something like a leftist variety of a dead rat here… Anyway, at least writing about the phenomenon does seem to be prevalent among science-writers; here is a latest (H/T Sean Carroll’s feed) [^]…

Anyway, for the record: No, I have not ever suffered from the imposter syndrome, not even once in my life, nor do I expect to do so in future.

I don’t think the matter is big enough for me to spend any significant time analyzing it, but if you must (or if you somehow do end up analyzing it, for whatever reasons), here is a hint: In your work, include the concept of “standards,” and ask yourself just one question: does the author rest his standards in reason and reality, or does he do so in some people—which, in case of the imposter syndrome, would be: the other people.

Exercise: What (all) would stand opposite in meaning to the imposter syndrome? Do you agree with the suggestion here [^]?


The US Presidential Elections: Why are they so “big”? should they be?

Recently, I made a comment at Prof. Scott Aaronson’s blog, and at that time, I had thought that I would move it here as a separate post in its own right. However, I don’t think I have the energy right now, and once it returns, I am not sure if it will not get lost in the big stack of things to do. Anyway, here is the link [^]. … As I said, I am not interested much—if at all—in the US politics, but the question I dealt with was definitely a general one.


Overall, though, my mood of boredom continues… Yaawwwnnnn….


A Song I Like:

(Hindi) “seene mein jalan…”
Lyrics: Shahryar
Music: Jaidev
Singer: Suresh Wadkar

[Pune today is comparable to the Bombay of 1979 1978—but manages to stay less magnificent.]


Update on 2016.11.17: English translation of the song:

For my English blog-readers: A pretty good translation of the lyrics is available at Atul’s site; it is done by one Sudhir; see here [^]. This translation is much better than the English sub-titles appearing in this YouTube video [^] which comes as the first result when you google for this song. …

I am not completely happy with Sudhir’s translation (on Atul’s site) either, though it is pretty good. At a couple of places or so, it gives a slightly different shade of meaning than what the original Urdu words convey.

For instance, in the first stanza, instead of

“Just for that there is a heart inside,
one searches a pretext to be alive,”

it should be something like:

“just because there is a heart,
someone searches (i.e., people search) for an excuse which can justify its beating”

Similarly, in the second stanza,  instead of:

“what is this new intensity of loneliness, my friend?”,

a more accurate translation would be:

“what kind of a station in the journey of loneliness is this, my friends?”.

The Urdu word “manzil” means: parts of the Koran, and then, it has also come to mean: a stage in a journey, a station, a destination, or even a floor in a multi-storied building. But in no case does it mean intensity, as such. The underlying thought here is something like this: “loneliness is OK, but look, what kind of a lonely place it is that I have ended up in, my friends!” And the word for “friend” appears in the plural, not the singular. The song is one of a silent/quiet reflection; it is addressed to everyone in general and none in particular.

… Just a few things like that, but yes, speaking overall, Sudhir’s translation certainly is pretty good. Much better than what I could have done purely on my own, and in any case, it is strongly recommended. … The lyrics are an indispensable part of the soul of this song—in fact, the song is so damn well-integrated, all its elements are! So, do make sure to see Sudhir’s translation, too.


Update on 2016.11.18: My own English translation:

I have managed to complete my English translation of the above song. Let me share it with you. I benefitted a great deal from Sudhir’s translation and notes about the meanings of the words, mentioned in the note above, as well as further from “ek fankaar” [^]. My translation tries to closely follow not only the original words but also their sequence. To maintain continuity, the translation is given for the entire song as a piece.

First, the original Hindi/Urdu words:

seene mein jalan aankhon mein toofaan sa kyun hai
is shehar mein har shakhs pareshaan saa kyun hai

dil hai to dhadakne ka bahaanaa koi dhoondhe
patthar ki tarah behis-o-bejaan sa kyun hai

tanahaai ki ye kaun si manzil hai rafeeqon
ta-hadd-e-nazar ek bayaabaan saa kyon hai

kyaa koi nai baat nazar aati hai ham mein
aainaa hamen dekh ke hairaan sa kyon hai

Now, my English translation, with some punctuation added by me [and with further additions in the square brackets indicating either alternative words or my own interpolations]:

Why is there jealousy in the bosom; a tempest, as it were, in the eyes?
In this city, every person—why does it seem as if he were deeply troubled [or harassed]?

[It’s as if] Someone has a heart, so he might go on looking for an alibi [or a pretext] to justify [keeping it] beating
[But] A stone, as if it were that, why is it so numb and lifeless [in the first place]?

What kind of a station in the journey of the solitude is this, [my noble] friends?
Right to the end of the sight, why is there [nothing but] a sort of a total desolation?

Is there something new that has become visible about me?
The mirror, looking at me, why does it seem so bewildered [or perplexed]?

Update on 22nd Nov. 2016: OK, just one two more iterations I must have; just a slight change in the second [and the first [, and the third]] couplet[s]. (Even if further improvements would may be possible, I am now going to stop my iterations right here.):

Why is there jealousy in the bosom; a tempest, as it were, in the eyes?
In this city, every silhouette [of a person]—why does it seem as if he were deeply troubled [or harassed]?

[It’s as if] A heart, one does have, and so, someone might go on looking for an alibi [or a pretext] to justify [keeping it] beating
[But] A stone, as if it were that, why is it so numb and lifeless [in the first place]?

What kind of a station in the journey of the solitude is this, [my noble] friends?
[That] Right to the end of the sight, why is there [nothing but] a sort of a total desolation?

Is there something new that has become visible about me?
The mirror, looking at me, why does it seem so bewildered [or perplexed]?

 


[E&OE]

 

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What are the rules for hiring?—2

Last year in August, I had written a post of the title: “What are the rules for hiring?” [^]. In that post, I had pointed out that historically, the University of Pune (now called Savitribai Phule Pune University, or SPPU for short), in fact didn’t have this “Mechanical-vs-Metallurgy `Branch-Jumping’ Issue.” Though I have a BE in Metallurgy, I myself had taken admission, right in COEP, for an ME program in Mechanical Engineering.

In that post, I had also traced in some detail how COEP had thrown obstacles in my path at the time of my admission to the PhD program in Mechanical Engineering. (If you found (or now find) reading through all those details exasperating, then take a moment to realize what it might have been like for me to live through those artificially created struggles.)

Today, in this post, I once again return to the issue of the hiring rules. I want to provide the reader with copies of the relevant official documents, together with some discussion of the issues as well as my comments.


(I) The AICTE Norms:

If you do ‘net searches to find the AICTE norms document which governs the hiring of professors in the engineering colleges in this country, then you will find many documents floated by different colleges or universities. Most of the matter in such documents are similar to the actual AICTE document, though there often are some small and subtle differences. I don’t mind if different colleges/universities wish to follow policies that are at a slight variance from the norms issued by the AICTE. After all, these are norms, not hard-and-fast rules. To me, trouble begins only when they don’t explicitly note the points of departure. Go ahead, do ‘net searches, and you will find that not a single one of these unofficial documents has bothered to explicitly identify the changes they made from the original AICTE document.

For my purposes, I was looking for the original and authentic AICTE document. I found it faithfully uploaded at SPPU’s Web site, here [^]. Since the college/university Web sites sometimes fail to maintain all the documents or links in order, I have decided to keep a copy of this same document also on my Google Drive, here [^].

See Serial Number 3 on page 2 for Professor’s position in this document. It states:

“Ph.D  degree  with  first  class  degree  at  Bachelor’s  or  Master’s  level  in  the appropriate  branch  of  Engineering  /  Technology  with  10  years  experience in Teaching / Industry / Research out of which 5 years must be at the level of  Assistant  Professor  and  /  or  equivalent.”

True to the khaki register-style dumbness (or the (Marathi) “khaa kee!” type of “smart”ness), this wording is vague on multiple counts. (If there is someone intending to get bribes, let me state it, publicly, that I am refusing to give them any.)

You can interpret this wording in several different ways. The different interpretations can be had by mentally inserting braces “{}” to isolate the different blocks of the text together, and then working out whether these blocks of text apply multiplicatively (as in the Cartesian product) or not.

The two relevant and entirely different ways in which the wording can be interpreted is this:

Interpretation 1.0:

This interpretation says that: you should have a PhD degree in the appropriate branch + you should have a first class either at bachelor’s level or at the master’s level, but both the bachelor’s and the master’s degrees must have come only in the appropriate branch.

According to this interpretation, you are allowed to be dumb (you have to somehow manage a first class only once), so long as you have been conforming to the same branch throughout your life.

With this interpretation, the following issue arises: What does constitute an appropriate branch?

1.1 One sub-interpretation is: Only the Mechanical branch is the appropriate branch for the position of Professor of Mechanical Engineering.

1.2 The other sub-interpretation is: You may have the Mechanical branch either at the bachelor’s or the master’s level (just the way you can have a first class either at bachelor’s or master’s level) but not necessarily at both.

Since I didn’t have a Mechanical degree at either bachelor’s or master’s level, I couldn’t qualify, according to this interpretation 1.0 (whether you follow 1.1 or 1.2).

Interpretation 2.0:

This interpretation says that: You should have a PhD degree in the appropriate branch + you should have a first class either at bachelor’s level or at the master’s level, and further, that either bachelor’s or master’s degrees should have come from an appropriate branch.

Once again, you have to decide what constitutes an appropriate branch.

2.1 One sub-interpretation is: Only the Mechanical branch is the appropriate branch for a position of Professor of Mechanical Engineering.

2.1 The other sub-interpretation is: There can be choices for the appropriate branch at any of the degrees. For instance, to become a Professor of Mechanical Engineering, all the following are OK:
BE (Mech) + ME (Mech) + PhD (Met.)
BE (Mech) + ME (Prod) + PhD (Prod)
BE (Prod) + ME (Prod) + PhD (Prod)
BE (Met) + MTech (Met) + PhD (Mech)—my combination
BE (Aero) + ME (Met) + PhD (Met.)
Etc.

This was my interpretation. It makes sense, because: (i) the wording is: “Bachelor’s or Master’s level in the appropriate branch,” and (ii) the word used is: “the appropriate branch,” not “the same branch.”

The Malady: The interpretation 1.0 was what was adopted by the former Dean of Faculty of Engineering at SPPU, i.e., Dr. G. K. Kharate.

I, on the other had, had always argued in favor of the Interpretation 2.2. The Dean had snobbishly and condescendingly told me that it was not a valid interpretation. When I had pointed out that all reputed universities and institutes abroad and in India do follow the more abstract interpretation (2.2), e.g. IISc and IITs do that, he had asked me to go join an IIT, then! I was quick to point out that I had exceeded their maximum age limit. Regardless of the quality of the argument, he had taken an umbrage at the quickness of my answer—he didn’t say anything but froze icily, and then just looked at me menacingly.

End of (this part of the) story.


(II) The Mumbai University Norms (2012):

The Mumbai University historically had always followed the interpretation 2.2, and never had major issues.

However, in view of the tightening of the government controls, they had held detailed discussions, and then had arrived at an explicit document that clearly states what all constitute the appropriate branches. They published this decision via a document called “Circular No. CONCOL/ICC/04/ of 2012”. I once again link to a copy that I have stored on my Google Drive, here [^].

See page 2 of this document, for the statement qualifications for an Assistant Professor:

“BE/ B Tech and ME /M Tech in relevant subject with First Class or equivalent either in BE / B Tech or ME / M Tech OR ME/M TECH in relevant Subject with First Class”

See page 3 of the same document for additional qualifications for an Associate Professor:

“Qualification as above that is for the post of Assistant Professor, as applicable and PHD or equivalent, in appropriate Discipline”

On the same page, certain additional qualifications expected for a Professor’s position are noted.

See page 9, Serial No. 2 of this document. For a position of Professor in Mechanical Engineering, Metallurgy is included as an equivalent/relevant/appropriate branch, even though only at the master’s level.

However, the drafting is extraordinarily clear here—there are two “or”s—one in the lowercase letters, and another in the capitals. The existence of the capital “OR” makes it abundantly clear that having only a master’s in a relevant subject with First Class is good enough. [Little wonder that the University of Mumbai always cuts ahead of the SPPU on rankings.]

As such, Interpretation 2.2 applies, and I qualify.

I anyway met with their Dean, had it clarified that I indeed do qualify, and eventually, was offered jobs as a Professor of Mechanical Engineering. See my resume regarding these jobs. (The particular link to my resume may change as I update the resume, but it is always accessible from the home page of my personal Web site [^].)

But then, of course, the University of Pune (now SPPU) believes that they are the best and the most conscientious (or least licentious) in the world. So, they were never going to be taken in by the mere fact that the University next door (one which has always been ranked higher by every agency in the world) did easily allow me to function as an employed Professor of Mechanical Engineering. (I anyway do function as a professor of engineering. The only question is: whether they allow me to get employed as one, or not. The lower-ranked SPPU’s geniuses don’t.)


III The Maharashtra State GR (May 2014):

Sorry, on two counts: (i) I cannot give you a direct link to this document at the Web sites of the Maharashtra State Government. I found this document at the Recruitments section of COEP’s Web site, in June 2015, but the document is no longer to be found even at the COEP Web site. (ii) The document is in Marathi, so, my English readers would have to trust me when it comes to the titles of the columns of the relevant table.

Though the GR had come in effect in May 2014, I came to know of it only in June of 2015. The utmost benevolent Mechanical Engineering Professors (and the authorities) at SPPU are still napping dozing off, still getting annoyed when I mention the GR, and still asking me for a copy of this document (with a “knowing” certainty that they would be able to disqualify me in reference even to this GR).

I have once again uploaded my copy of the document to Google Drive, here [^].

Refer to page 13, Serial Number 2. (Fortunately, the Arabic numerals in English and in Marathi are quite similar, because the so-called Arabic numerals had originated in India anyway.)

At the master’s level, the GR expands on even the Mumbai Universities’ list of the equivalent/relevant/appropriate branches (though it cuts down on the Aerospace engineering at the bachelor’s level).

Showing this document, my last employers did offer me a position of Professor in Mechanical Engineering. (No, they didn’t give me the UGC scale. But they did offer me a full Professor’s position—and later on, treated me with full organizational respect that goes with a full Professor’s position.) I even uploaded the internal marks to SPPU’s BCUD Web site, using my own official account.)

Even then, even this year, the Mechanical Engineering geniuses and other employers at the utmost conscientious SPPU are still telling me that I don’t qualify.

As to my last employers, though their college is in Pune and is affiliated to SPPU, their headquarters are in Nagpur, not in Pune. But then, my point is, you don’t have to go so far away as to Nagpur. Go just 75 kms from this filthy place, and as soon as you climb down the Khandala ghat (and with that, also shed your obnoxious conformism of a mindless sort), and you reach a better place.


The Rules for the Maharashtra State Government’s Autonomous Institutes (November, 2014):

These are the latest rules. They apply only to the State Goverment’s Autonomous Institutes—not to the engineering colleges affiliated to SPPU.

But bear in mind that in the view of the State Government (and most every one else), these Autonomous Institutes are supposed to be in the leadership positions; they are supposed to be guide-lamps to the other colleges. It is in this context that their rules become relevant.

I found the document at COEP’s Web site, this year, here [^]. Once again, I have uploaded a copy at my Google Drive, here [^].

See page 3, Paragraph Serial Number 3.2. It says:

“PROFESSOR: Essential: (i)  Ph.D.  Degree  or  equivalent  in  the  concerned  discipline  from  a reputed  institution, preceded  by a UG/PG  Degree in the  relevant  discipline in First Class (or equivalent) with consistently good academic record; ” etc.

Much better (though not as good as the University of Mumbai’s).

Note that the PhD ought to come in the concerned discipline, whereas either the UG or the PG degree should have come from a relevant discipline.

This document thus settles the issue that the Interpretations 1.1 and 2.1 are NOT valid; only the Interpretations 1.2 and 2.2 can be. However, unlike the broadest interpretation in 2.2, here, the requirements are a bit restrictive: your PhD must be in the concerned discipline.

Thus, for the position of Professor in Mechanical Engineering, the following combination is allowed:

BE (Met) + M Tech (Met) + PhD (Mech).

On the other hand, as far as I can make it out (and I can be wrong here), both of the following come in doubt:

BE (Mech) + M Tech (Mech) + PhD (Aero)
BE (Mech) + M Tech (Mech) + PhD (Met)

Looks like they should hire people with better drafting abilities at both COEP as well as in the DTE—and most certainly, and first and foremost, at the AICTE. (Yeah, right. Keep hoping. (AICTE sits in New Delhi.))


I assert that the University of Mumbai’s draft is the best (among those considered above). If you differ, drop me a line.


For obvious reasons, for this post, there won’t be the usual section on a song I like.


I may come back and edit this post, but only for correcting typos/links, or to streamline the write-up.

Since the issues are both legal and important, I may also come back to edit this post any time in a distant future. If so, I will note those (more serious) updates explicitly. (In contrast, the immediate updates merely for streamlining and all, will not be noted explicitly.)


Update 1 on 2016.06.21: Added the detailed rules for Assistant and Associate Professor’s positions at the University of Mumbai. [The link to original document was given even earlier, but now the text of the main post also quotes the detailed requirements.]


[E&OE]