Machine learning and materials design

July 5, 2015

Doug has a nice post at Nanoscale Views.

Another great concert

June 6, 2015

This time, it was Dr. Ashwini Bhide Deshpande. Enjoyed a lot! She sang from about 10:45 pm or so till about 12:15 am. Reminded me of all those Gururao Desphande All Night Music Mehfils (minus the bajji and chai at the gymkhana cafe) at IISc.

Heaven on earth

June 4, 2015

It is the week of musical extravaganza at IIT Bombay with the Spic Macay Third International Convention. Yesterday, I heard Prof. T N Krishnan on violin followed by Pt. Venkatesh Kumar. Majestic is the word to describe Pt. Venkatesh Kumar’s music; it was so calm and unhurried and yet packed so much of energy — a remarkable and memorable experience.

Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal

May 30, 2015

In Mahabharata, in Yakha Prashna episode, to the question as to the most surprising thing, Yudhisthtra answers that it is people living as though they are immortal even when they see death everyday. And, there is a Thamizh poem from Thirumoolar which also echoes the same sentiment: “The entire village — got together and wept loud; stopped using the name and referred to “dead body”, took the body to the burial ground and  burnt it there; took a dip in the water and forgot it”.

Atul Gawande’s meditation on being mortal is equally profound and deeply philosophical and at the core an attempt to address some questions of medical ethics. It asks hard questions about the way modern medicine is being practised — specifically, whether we can prolong life without worrying about the quality of life or without paying heed to the wishes of patients themselves. For a book that discusses death and pain on almost every page, it is a surprisingly affirmative and positive book. With his wonderful prose and great writing, Gawande joins Sacks and Ramachandran as one among the must-read medical writers and Being Mortal is a must-read book. Strongly recommended.

On solving real world problems

May 23, 2015

Most of the details in this post can be better understood only by those who work in cryptography, probably. However, there are some general lessons in the post and in the comments that are worth paying attention to about the role of theory and practice in solving real world engineering problems.

Gripping and disconcerting

May 16, 2015

Read Yanagihara’s The people in the trees. Here are some of the reviews: NYTimes; Guardian and Independent. Here is an interview with Yanagihara about writing the book. I am looking forward to reading her next, “A little life“, which unfortunately not available on Kindle till mid-August.

Economist son of a metallurgist father

May 6, 2015

When called upon to comment on the world we live in, I had no alternative but to fall back on the Marxist tradition which had shaped my thinking ever since my metallurgist father impressed upon me, when I was still a child, the effect of technological innovation on the historical process. How, for instance, the passage from the bronze age to the iron age sped up history; how the discovery of steel greatly accelerated historical time; and how silicon-based IT technologies are fast-tracking socioeconomic and historical discontinuities.

From here; link via Swarup.

Prof. GNKI: RIP

April 20, 2015

Prof. G N K Iyengar (GNKI) as he was known; I have three distinct memories of him. First: in one of my interviews he asked for a phase diagram and when I made a mistake, he was very gruff in his follow-up question and helped me correct my mistake. Second: when I was standing on the Tata Auditorium side to cross the road, I was a bit closer to the road than the footpath for GNKI. He grabbed my upper arm, pulled me away from the road, and released it only after crossing the road. Third: he was a regular contributor to Samskrita Sangha and always had time to ask about our activities when we met him for prescription fees. I think his wife is a Veena player and GNKI used to be very active in organising the cultural programmes for the Sangha — but that was well before our times. On his retirement meet, I remember this statement from Prof. Ranganathan: “When I joined IISc, I understood that Iyengars from Mysore are very different from the Iyengars from Cuddalore”!

I have received an email from Prof. Murty of IITM  that Prof. GNKI passed away. Even with my very limited interaction with him, I could see that he was a soft man with a very hard looking exterior. May his soul rest in peace.

Specialisation and innovation

February 19, 2015

A nice post (via Abi):

…specialization is highly efficient to optimize existing research programs, but it is counterproductive to the development of new ones. In the production line of a car, specialization allows to optimize every single move and every single screw. And yet, you’ll never arrive at a new model listening to people who do nothing all day than looking at their own screws. For new breakthroughs you need people who know a little about all the screws and their places and how they belong together. In that production line, the scientists active in public peer review are the ones who look around and say they don’t like their neighbor’s bolts. That doesn’t make for a new car, all right, but at least they do look around and they show that they care. The scientific community stands much to benefit from this care. We need them.

Clearly, we haven’t yet worked out a good procedure for how to deal with public peer review and with these nasty bloggers who won’t shut up. But there’s no going back. Public peer review is here to stay, so better get used to it.

R K Laxman: RIP

January 26, 2015

Hindu reports on his passing away. His illustrations (especially for some of RKN’s books — emerald route, grandmother’s tale) will be remembered for long! I also remember his drawing of some truck drivers drinking chai from saucer on a road side shop sitting on tyres.


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