Summer full of Books!

I read some books ! It might be better to write something about each of them. I wish I could write a long  form of a book review but time dictates otherwise.

A mathematician’s apology is one those rare books which makes you very uncomfortable and at the same time add so much more to your understanding  that you feel unfettered gratitude towards the author for offering that unique experience to you.

Second Creation is for those who love history of science or History, Period. In this painstakingly detailed and accurate yet lucid account of modern physics ( unification of three fundamental forces into a workable and mathematically consistent framework;  without gravity, Of course). I immensely enjoyed this book. It has a well carved out ‘afterword’  and ‘notes’ section and one would not go unrewarded for the effort to stroll through it.

For all those ardent DFW fans out there, Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace is such a valuable addition to his readers and frankly, to everyone who loves behind the curtain stories and escapades of a creative writer. I am still in awe of his New York Times piece about US Open Tennis finals ! His ‘ Brief Interviews with Hideous Men’ and  ‘A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again’ are one of my favorites. DFW’s interview on Fresh Air about his book ‘Infinite Jest’ is quite telling about the very person he was. I really wish he was alive today! I wonder how he would have responded to the chaos ‘This‘ 2016 Election cycle is.

Thomas Nagel’s Mind and Cosmos made me furious. It is such a bad critique of Neo-Darwinian point of view and I am not even a mad dog naturalist!

Jerry Coyne’s Faith vs Fact is a good read. It is a very well researched and to the point polemic which covers many topics including an important yet ignored in popular discourse i.e. Critique of accomodationism in ‘Science vs Religion’ for non-academics.

Sean Carroll’s ‘The Big Picture’ is an extremely accessible and well-written book. It is presented in a manner which immerses you in an ordinary language philosophy of non boring kind without you noticing it, and at the same time it also satisfies your hunger for scientifically informed dialogue with an ignited mind of a leading scientist doing the research at the forefront of Physics. It is a book which stays with you long after you are done reading it. I follow Carroll’s writing on his blog, So I was waiting for this book to come out for a while now. I enjoyed every page of it. Caution for fellow ‘Naturalists’ who share similar point of view – refer Carroll’s account of ‘Naturalism’ in comparison with Paul Horwich’s Naturalism as opposed to Alexander Rosenberg’s ‘Mad Dog’ flavor of Naturalism. Non- naturalists also have plenty to enjoy in this delicious treat of a book.

A word on the “progress” made by “great” branches of learning – Philosophy and Science! Let’s revisit what Peter van Inwagen (Freedom to break the laws, 2004) is trying to allude to here.

Disagreement in philosophy is pervasive and irresoluble. There is almost no thesis in philosophy about which philosophers agree. If there is any philosophical thesis that all or most philosophers affirm, it is a negative thesis: that formalism is not the right philosophy of mathematics, for example, or that knowledge is not (simply) justified, true belief. That is not how things are in the physical sciences. I concede that the “cutting edge” of elementary-particle physics looks a lot like philosophy in point of pervasive and fundamental disagreement among its respected practitioners. But there is in physics a large body of settled, usable, uncontroversial theory and of measurements known to be accurate within limits that have been specified. The cutting edge of philosophy, however, is pretty much the whole of it.

David Chalmers’ argument about ‘glass half full view’ is less than convincing. I am pretty much with Peter van Inwagen when it comes to ‘glass half empty’ view of progress in Philosophy. I am currently reading his ‘The Problem of Evil: The Gifford Lectures’.

I enjoyed Chalmers’ the Character of Consciousness. His writing on Philosophy of Mind is much more appealing for non-Philosophy majors like me than his contemporaries. I was not much drawn to Philosophy of Mind before, but Chalmers’ appearance on Sam Harris’ podcast changed that.

I found out that ending every post with an adage or a wise quote often makes that post worth much more. I also find it hard to disagree with myself.

As Camus would put it –

‘In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.’

Happy Reading     \o/

 

Albert Camus’s ‘Human Crisis’ read by Viggo Mortensen

Video

Camus was as badass of a writer as any in the history of the humankind ! Enjoy …

 

 

 

 

 

Nature of Knowledge

Just finished reading  Word and Object by philosopher  Willard Van Orman Quine. It was published in 1960 and MIT press’s 2013 edition has a foreword written by Patricia Churchland. Foreword has a very interesting tone to it. Naturalizing epistemology was an obvious aim but what it meant for Quine to criticize ‘conceptual analysis’ and go forward with writing the book and face the outburst of criticism was very admirable. Experimental psychology favors Quine’s understanding of Meaning. “Meanings do change”, writes Churchland, “..and that was precisely Quine’s point”.

Quine’s holistic view on scientific method and how language can be understood in terms of naturalistic world view is worth exploring. This book was his best contribution to date and a landmark event in the history of epistemology, according to many. His student, Daniel Dennett’s account of his own journey into Philosophy of Mind and what ‘Word and Object’ meant for him as a philosopher is very enlightening.

Next in the list to read are Plato at the Googleplex by Rebecca Goldstein and Ray Monk’s biography of Wittgenstein!

On immunity by Eula Biss, Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris and Seven Brief Lessons on Physics by Carlo Rovelli are great reads. Daniel Dennett’s The Intentional Stance demands a separate post to justify its relevance in ‘Free Will’ and ‘Folk Psychology’ debate. So, meditations on that topic soon to follow.

Also, can’t wait for Roger Wagner and Andrew Briggs’ “The Penultimate Curiosity“. Soon to be published in April, I suppose.

Happy Reading!

 

Inner Everettian !

Hugh-Everett

Once we have granted that any physical theory is essentially only a model for the world of experience, we must renounce all hope of finding anything like “the correct theory.” —Hugh Everett III,  (1973)

Little less “boloney”… a lot more “Ham”

Hands down, the best TED talk !

What a wonderful World !

 

 

 

Blackbird Fly !

 

 

 

 

Naturalism at hand

Elegance goes directly to the question of how the laws of nature are constructed. Nobody knows the answer to that. Nobody! It’s a perfectly legitimate hypothesis, in my view, to say that some extremely elegant creator made those laws. But I think if you go down that road, you must have the courage to ask the next question, which is: Where did that creator come from? And where did his, her, or its elegance come from? And if you say it was always there, then why not say that the laws of nature were always there and save a step?

—Carl Sagan, Conversations with Carl Sagan

Batman : Strange Days

75th Anniversary of Bruce Timm’s Batman !

Fire Tornado !

 

The age old problem of Navier- Stoke’s Equations and Von Neumann Machines!

Millennium Problems : These are very big deal when it comes to Mathematics. But, for some obscure reason, One of them is not very popular among Engineers, even though one of the last standing problems in classical physics – Navier–Stokes existence and smoothness (one of the millennium problems) is of major consequence to Fluid Dynamicists, Aerospace/Mechanical/Chemical Engineers and Many others alike. I still don’t know why is that the case. Maybe the recruiting agents at undergraduate level do not want to scare away students who are already bog down by assignments and homework based on the ‘Solved’ mysteries of last century. I agree, even ‘Euler’ equations – simplified form of N-V equations, will require a significant amount mathematical prowess to tame that beast ‘Computationally’ (leave aside analytically) …

Something interesting happened in February this year, Dr.Terence Tao from UCLA, has a new paper out. (Title Reads : Finite Time Blowup for an Averaged Three-Dimensional Navier-Stokes Equation). His new idea is making quite a buzz around but as most of them say, it just a new direction to the approach, but no way closer to resolving the problem. Next stop is to study the consequences of this paper and ( the one involving finite time blowup of Euler Equations), but that would be a summer Project altogether. I would be seeking help from some colleagues who have a formal training in Logic Gates. Next are the Von Neumann Machines. Still this cross pollination of different ideas from distant branches of Engineering might just pay off for the next generation wave of researchers … Yes it is as weird as Indian Hip Hop – Beware the MC !

Blowup :

Now, just to learn what it means to ‘Blow up’ a solution, We would need a whole lot of machinery of Numerical Methods and Linear Algebra. But in short means exactly what it sounds – Reaching non physical values of Physical entities ( or just infinities). Let the melody ring in your ear over and over again …

Computational Vs Theoretical Vs Experiments !!!!

This is how it feels sometimes:

Professor Andrei Linde responds to THE news !

‘Possible’ Major discovery on the corner !

Well, tomorrow might be a BIG day for the Astrophysics community. The buzz going around the possible evidence for the detection of ‘Primordial Gravitational Waves’ is huge. If ‘Higgs’ discovery was a major breakthrough in Particle Physics, detecting Gravitational Waves (atleast directly, indirect detection came in 1974) will be crown jewel in the throne of Astrophysics. Implications are very big for Inflationary cosmology and understanding the ‘Early’ state of the universe. Now, it not just any other ‘tick’ in the checklist of confirmation of the theory of relativity, it will be THE most important box in that list.

All bets are on BICEP (Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization)  experiment, which is designed to measure the polarization of the cosmic microwave background (CMB). Now, this experiment is claimed to have unprecedented level of precision as compared to the previous attempts. Check out the sensitivity comparison for various experiments :

Gravdetectsensors

CMB temperature fluctuations (BICEP data, 2008) are well represented in the following movie, check this out —

When ‘Higgs’ detection was confirmed, the list of people involved in the project at CERN took more space for the journal entry than the actual paper which came after title credits ! To go through the QFT and the possible variations of it to understand the data released at CERN takes a lot out of you as a student. It is quite an undertaking if you are majoring in something other than Particle Physics at this point of time. But, classically speaking, understanding Gravitation is where the real FUN begins if you ask me. It is very deterministic and quite fascinating even to visualize while studying abstract concepts like virtual time and so on. Best summary that I could find on this subject came from two sources :

1. Gravitation (Physics Series) Charles W. Misner, Kip S. Thorne , John Archibald Wheeler.

2. Three Hundred Years of Gravitation – Stephen W. Hawking (Editor), Werner Israel.

These two books are very verbose but with great description of the matter which is considered the foundation of theory of Gravity. Big chunk of pages to cover in one sitting so I would say ‘One page at a time, Brother’ !

Now, if their claims are verified in upcoming years to come, It will be a quite a change in the way we approach the study of cosmology in mainstream. Many are going to be drawn to study inflationary way of describing the observations (all hail Guth!) back to the best known game in town ! Press release can be read here.

This is the REWARD you get from doing Physics. It is getting more and more exciting every year. Bring on the Pretty and Mighty detectors for us to play  ! Com’on !!

Satellite-based CMB observatories : 

1.COBE – Cosmic Background Explorer
2.WMAP – Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe
3. Planck*
4.Relikt Relikt-1
4.SPOrt Sky Polarization Observatory

Balloon and Ground-based CMB experiments: 

ACBAR Arcminute Cosmology Bolometer Array Receiver
ACME/HACME Advanced Cosmic Microwave Explorer/ HEMT+ ACME
ACT Atacama Cosmology Telescope
AMI Arcminute MicroKelvin Imager
AMiBA Array for Microwave Background Anisotropy
APACHE Antarctic Plateau Anisotropy CHasing Experiment
APEX-SZ Atacama Pathfinder EXperiment
ARCADE Absolute Radiometer for Cosmology, Astrophysics, and Diffuse Emission
Archeops ARGO
ATCA Australia Telescope Compact Array
BAM Balloon- borne Anisotropy Measurement
BaR-SPOrt Balloon-borne Radiometers for Sky Polarisation Observations
BEAST Background Emission Anisotropy Scanning Telescope
—BICEP Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization*
BIMA Berkeley Illinois Maryland Associations
—BOOMERanG (B2K2) Balloon Observations Of Millimetric Extragalactic Radiation and Geophysics*
CAPMAP Cosmic Anisotropy Polarization MAPper
CAT Cosmic Anisotropy Telescope
CBI Cosmic Background Imager
CG Cosmological Gene
Clover N/A
COSMOSOMAS N/A
COMPASS COsmic Microwave Polarization At Small Scales
DASI Degree Angular Scale Interfer-ometer
EBEX The E and B Experiment
FIRS Far Infra- Red Survey
KUPID KU-band Polarization IDentifier
MAT Mobile Anisotropy Telescope
MAXIMA Millimeter Anisotropy eXperiment Imaging Array
MBI-B Millimeter-Wave Bolometric Interferometer
MINT Millimeter INTerferometer
MSAM Medium Scale Anisotropy Measurement
PIQUE Princeton I, Q, and U Experiment
POLAR Polarization Observations of Large Angular Regions
POLARBeaR POLARization of Background microwave Radiation
Polatron N/A
Python N/A
QMAP N/A
QMASK QMAP and Saskatoon (SK) Data Combination
—QuaD- Quest (Q and U Extra-Galactic Sub-mm Telescope) at DASI (Degree Angular Scale Interferometer) *
QUIET QU Imaging ExperimenT
SK Saskatoon
SPT South Pole Telescope
SuZIE Sunyaev- Zeldovich Infrared Experiment
SZA Sunyaev-Zeldovich Array
Tenerife
TopHat
VSA Very Small Array

Note : Keep an eye on these bad boys (*)

Source : Robinson Gravitational Wave Background TelescopeCMB Experiments

Demonstrate !

Demo : The Movie by Alom Shaha. Its something to watch (not read!) …

 

Preach, Sagan !

preachsagan

For a long time, Cosmos has been on IMDB’s  top 10 TV shows of all time. It is no wonder that appetite for understanding of deep mysteries of cosmos fascinates people. Sagan’s Cosmos has a special place in popular culture here in West, well to be honest, even in Asia, Africa and other parts of world as well. His way of delivering the state of the art to his audience has been the bold identifier of the Science Communication in US and all over the world since 1980.

Tonight, Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey premiers on FOX and National Geographic. Stay tuned for the awesomeness which belongs to prime time television !