Summer’16 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. It reads like a poetry. You will find an unlikely friend in an aging mathematician who in his own words had past his peak of mathematical powers.

Second Creation is for those who love history of science or just plain history. 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), development of Standard Model of Particle Physics is the center of attention. 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 absolutely furious. It is such a bad critique of Neo-Darwinian point of view that non-naturalists will be thrilled of this conclusion of Nagel’s. Way too disappointing, and  I am not even a mad dog naturalist to hold it against my own point of view!

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’. Let’s see if next few months of reading some philosophical texts change my point of view or fortify it more.

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/

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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

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:

Let the (word) War begin …

It has been nicknamed – “A Highly Anticipated Debate” !

Dr. William Lane Craig Vs  Dr. Sean Carroll !

greer

Source : Greer Heard Forum

“Next month I’ll be doing something related, although under quite different circumstances. On February 21 I’ll be debating William Lane Craig at the Greer-Heard Forum, an event sponsored by the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. It will actually be a two-day event; a debate between Craig and me on Friday night, and follow-ups on Saturday from other speakers — Tim Maudlin and Alex Rosenberg for Team Naturalism, Robin Collins and James Sinclair for Team Theism. I believe the whole thing will be streamed live online, and it will certainly be recorded for posterity.” —said, Dr.Carroll, about this debate.

It will be fun for sure ..  If you are lucky enough to be in New Orleans register here.

Illusion !!

 

 

“Tonight I strike” – A short film !

This short film edited and created almost entirely using the 15 inch Hp Laptop (worth $1200). It is just incredible !

On ‘origin of the most important mathematical symbol in the history of mathematics …’

inpursuitoftheunknown

An equation derives its power from a simple source. It tells us that two calculations, which appear different, have the same answer. The key symbol is the equals sign, =. The origins of most mathematical symbols are either lost in the mists of antiquity, or are so recent that there is no doubt where they came from. The equals sign is unusual because it dates back more than 450 years, yet we not only know who invented it, we even know why. The inventor was Robert Recorde, in 1557, in The Whetstone of Witte. He used two parallel lines (he used an obsolete word gemowe, meaning ‘twin’) to avoid tedious repetition of the words ‘is equal to’. He chose that symbol because ‘no two things can be more equal’. Recorde chose well. His symbol has remained in use for 450 years.

— Ian Stuart,  In Pursuit of the Unknown: 17 Equations That Changed the World

Refer : Brain Pickings Article on this !

David Deutsch on Gregory House

David Deutsch, FRS, on the epistemology of House,M.D. ! and Why it was so fascinating ?? !!  Joy to watch ….   ( Seek at 20:20 )

Making of the world’s smallest movie !

 

 

Another Sad Day ! ….. for end of the world enthusiasts !!

So one less in the list of Earth threatening asteroids …… We still yet to call Bruce willis and his oil drilling crew to save us !

I am still worried about the number of people working on the problem of ‘Potential Asteroid Impact’. I wonder what ISRO has to say about this in their annual report which might be due shortly !!

2011ag5a

2011ag5b

Source : Here !

If you want to build a ship ….

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea” ——- Aviator Antoine de saint-exupéry (1900-1944)

 

 

An advice to students …..

I always tell students to consider the set of problems they think are personally interesting, look around to find the set of problems the rest of the world thinks are interesting, and work at the intersection. It’s one of the biggest challenges in being a successful scientist — find the right problem to work on.
Dr. Sean Carroll

 

Another Feynman anecdote …… !

R. Feynman on Papp perpetual motion engine

” One time [in 1966] some students came over to my house with one of those magazines about automobiles-Roadrunner, or something like that. In it there was an article about a marvelous new engine which works on a new principle for getting power, and it’s really quite remarkable. You don’t have to buy fuel for the car; the fuel is injected into the cylinders when the engine is manufactured and lasts about six months. Then you have to bring it back to have it recharged. The engine is air-cooled and can make a car run 60 miles per hour on the freeway.

There was a picture of the engine and its inventor, Mr. Joseph Papp, who had come to the United States from Hungary. He’s standing next to the engine, making measurements on it with a panel full of dials. Various people had looked at the engine and made various remarks about it in the article. Mr. Papp was going to demonstrate his engine in Los Angeles, and the students wanted me to go along with them to see it.

I told them nothing has enough power to go for six months like that, unless it’s a nuclear reactor, which it surely is not. ‘Fakes are always coming out,’ I said, ‘and the guy’s probably trying to get investors to invest in his engine.’

Then I told them some stories about perpetual motion machines, such as the one in a London museum which was in a glass case.It had no wires connected to it, yet it turned around and around. ‘You have to ask yourself, ‘Where is the power supply?’ I said. In that case, it was some air coming up through a little tube installed in one of the wooden legs holding up the glass case.

The students talked me into going along with them to see the demonstration. It was held in a refrigerator company’s parking lot, an L-shaped area. The engine was down at one end of the lot, while the people, about 30 or so, were at the bend of the L, some distance away.

Mr. Papp talked about how the motor worked, using vague and complicated phrases about radiation, atoms, different levels of energy, quanta, and this and that, all of which made no sense whatsoever, and would never work.

But the rest of what he said was important, for every fraud has to have the right characteristics: Mr. Papp explained that he had tried to sell his engine to the big automobile companies, but they wouldn’t buy it because they were afraid it would put all the big oil companies out of business.

So there was obviously a conspiracy working against Mr. Papp’s marvelous new engine. Then there was a reference to the magazine articles, and an announcement that in a few days the engine was going to be sent to the Stanford Research Laboratory for validation. This proved, of course, that the engine was real. There was also an invitation to prospective investors to get in on this great opportunity to make large amounts of money, because it was very powerful. And there was a certain danger!

There were quite a few wires running from the engine down to where Mr. Papp and the spectators were standing, into a set of instruments used for measurement; these included a variac, a variable transformer with a dial which could put out different voltages. The instruments were, in turn, connected by a cord to an electrical outlet in the side of the building. So it was pretty obvious where the power supply was.

The engine started to go around, and there was a bit of disappointment: the propeller of the fan went around quietly without the noise of an ordinary engine with powerful explosions in the cylinders, and everything- it looked very much like an electric motor.

Mr. Papp pulled the plug from the wall, and the fan propeller continued to turn. ‘You see, this cord has nothing to do with the engine; it’s only supplying power to the instruments,’ he said. Well, that was easy. He’s got a storage battery inside the engine. ‘Do you mind if I hold the plug?’ I asked? ‘Not at all,’ replied Mr. Papp, and he handed it to me.

It wasn’t very long before he asked me to give me back the plug. ‘I’d like to hold it a little longer,’ I said, figuring that if I stalled around enough, the damn thing would stop.

Pretty soon Mr. Papp was frantic, so I (Richard Feynman) gave him back the plug and he plugged it back into the wall. A few moments later there was a big explosion:

A cone of silvery uniform stuff shot out and turned to smoke. The ruined engine fell over on its side. The man standing next to me said, ‘I’ve been hit!’ I looked at him, the whole side of his arm was torn open, you could see all the muscle fibers, tendons-everything. I helped him over to a chair to sit down. The youngest student in the group knew what to do. ‘Make a tourniquet out of a tie for that man!’ he told me. He gave orders to everybody, and began to give artificial respiration to another man who was lying on the ground. It was really quite wonderful to see this young student take over with all those grown men around. By the time the paramedics came, we realized that there were three men injured, the one lying on the ground most seriously: he had a hole in his chest (so the artificial respiration wasn’t effective) and he ultimately died. The other two men survived.

We were all shaking.

I turned to the young man who had been so capable in coping with the unexpected tragedy.

‘I don’t usually drink.’ I said, ‘but let’s go over to a bar and have a drink to calm our nerves.’

We went into a bar and ordered a drink, I was surprised to discover that the young man who had been the most mature of all of us was underage-he couldn’t get a drink. We started to talk about the engine. One man, an investor who had brought an engineer with him to see the demonstration, said, ‘My engineer advised me to stand mainly behind the corner of the building and just peer out during the demonstration, because these new engines are sometimes dangerous. Somebody else pointed out that Mr. Papp had previously done some work with rockets, and the explosion looked like fuel when it goes off.

My idea was that had Mr. Papp sent his engine to the Stanford Research Institute as announced, the game would be up in a few days. Therefore an explosion just big enough to destroy the engine would keep the game going a little longer; it would show the tremendous power of the engine, and, most importantly, it would provide a reason for investors to put more money into the project, now the engine had to be rebuilt. We all agreed that the explosion was much larger than Mr. Papf probably intended.

After such an explosion with the resulting fatality and injuries, there was, of course, a lawsuit. Mr. Papp sued me for ruining his engine, charging that my stalling around with the cord caused him to lose control of it. Caltech has a legal department to protect its errant professors, so they talked to me. I told them I thought he didn’t have much of a case: he would have to prove how the engine worked, and he’d have to demonstrate that in fact, taking the cord off caused the explosion.

The case was settled out of court, and Mr. Papp was paid something. I guess there’s a certain amount of wisdom in not going to court, even when you’re right, but I cost Caltech a certain amount of money by going to that demonstration.

I still think I correctly diagnosed what was happening with a reasonable probability.

And, of course, nothing has been heard of Mr. Papp’s new engine since.

(Richard Feynman, PHD) ”

Originally published in LASER, Journal of the Southern Californian Skeptics

Quote of the day – Richard Feynman

” Our imagination is stretched to the utmost, not, as in fiction, to imagine things which are not really there, but just to comprehend those things which are there. ” — Feynman, The Character of Physical Law (1965)

Final journey : Endeavour ….. Weekend distraction

Endeavour’s 26th Mission. I could not resist watching this again and again. We need catalysts like this to create an awareness about scientific adventures which needs to be undertaken irrespective of the popular opinion in general electorate. The opinion is still being created, it will take a while but when it becomes part of your culture and your day to day being, it becomes who you are – an identity to reckon with. Space exploration is not an amateur enthusiasts’ indulgence, its a way forward for our kind, Human-kind !!!

adios mi gente !!