Archive for December 9th, 2006

Finally… A time to celebrate!

December 9, 2006

The Scientific Papers of J. Willard Gibbs is available at Google books 😀 (A 1906 Longmans, Green and Co. edition–London, New York and Bombay are the three cities listed for the publisher). My attempts to read Gibbs in the past have not been very successful; but, that is not going to stop me from dipping into a page or two once in a while. Of course, what I would love the most is an annotated Gibbs–till then, we will do with what we have!

Freeman Dyson on his WWII work

December 9, 2006

Here is a two part article by Freeman Dyson on his world war II work; link via PTDR. The piece reads brutal at times:

I remember arguing about the morality of city bombing with the wife of a senior air force officer, after we heard the results of the Dresden attack. She was a well-educated and intelligent woman who worked part-time for the ORS. I asked her whether she really believed that it was right to kill German women and babies in large numbers at that late stage of the War. She answered, “Oh yes. It is good to kill the babies especially. I am not thinking of this war but of the next one, 20 years from now. The next time the Germans start a war and we have to fight them, those babies will be the soldiers.” After fighting Germans for ten years, four in the first war and six in the second, we had become almost as bloody-minded as Sir Arthur.

Take a look! If you have read Disturbing the Universe, you might already be aware of much of what Dyson has to say, though.

A tribute and a risky generalisation!

December 9, 2006

On her death anniversary, Lakshmi Viswanathan remembers M S Subbulakshmi.

Ram Guha has a thesis:

… one is likely to find more great musicians who are also good human beings than would be the case with great artists or writers.

The reasons?

One reason for this may be that artists and writers <unlike musicians> need to know of the darker side of human existence.

Another reason for the goodness of (at least some) musicians is that their art is less directly addressed to a fee-paying audience.

I could think of one more reason: by its nature, music (at least, the Indian classical one) is an art form that allows for the maximum leverage to the artist: the rendering of the same song in the same raga by Chembai, Semmangudi, Ariyakudi, MSS, Jon Higgins, Mani Iyer, DKP, GNB and MDR are all so different, (yet are but a dimension of the same abstract object), the musicians can be generous to each other without being afraid of their losing their individual identities. By the same token, no single artist can claim exclusivity to some song or raga (though, many of the fans swear by their stars), which in turn makes the artists more aware of alternative explorations. Any art form that allows for so much of individual freedom, while making the artists aware of alternative interpretations, without doubt, has more chances of making better human beings out of its practitioners. At the risk of making a sweeping generalisation, I would say that in any field, if you are sure of your individual contribution, as well as the awareness that yours is not the only contribution, you would certainly be a better human being!

On the anthropology of tourism

December 9, 2006

Here is a piece titled The tourist who influenced the terrorists (via A&L Daily),  which discusses,

Sayyid Qutb’s experience in Greeley, Colorado, bad haircuts, the anthropology and sociology of tourist behavior, the weirdly colonialist assumptions of post-colonialist scholars, the idea that Arabs can be just as touristically dorky as their American counterparts, the debauchery of Truman-era church sock-hops, Arabic travel writing, Occidentalism, Orientalism, the notion that Americans are emotionally inferior to chickens, Qutb’s influence on al-Qaida, culture shock, Otherness.

I do not know about the tourist-terrorist connection; however, the article seems to be a nice place to look for some pointers to the literature on the anthropology of tourism.

The altered shape of Darwin’s head!

December 9, 2006

… the young dilettante who left England at age 23 with a degree from Cambridge, good manners, enough money and a habit of intense concentration, but no specific ambition—and who returned at age 28 demonstrating such intellectual and, perhaps, spiritual growth that his physician father observed to Charles’s sisters: “Why, the shape of his head is quite altered.”

From this review of the recent Darwin biography at American Scientist; link via A&L Daily.

Newton: the Keynes connection

December 9, 2006

I did not know that John Maynard Keynes collected (and protected) many of Isaac Newton‘s papers; I learnt this fact from this article in Resonance (pdf). Here is Keynes’ lecture called Newton, the man.