Archive for December 12th, 2006

Asymptotia speaks LaTeX

December 12, 2006

I just don’t know how Clifford did it!

Mahar Bha…i, unone kya jadoo kardiya hai, Bhai! (I hope I got my Tapori correct 🙂

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A movie review you shouldn’t miss

December 12, 2006

Since you cannot watch the movie anyway!

On standing on Maxwell’s shoulders

December 12, 2006

Unless one is a poet, a war hero or a rock star, it is a mistake to die young. James Clerk Maxwell – unlike Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein, the two giants of physics with whom he stands – made that mistake, dying in 1879 at the age of just 48.

Thus begins a tribute to James Clerk Maxwell in Physics Web; link via A&L Daily. What was he as a person?

You would surely have been charmed, but perhaps also surprised to meet – as MacAlister put it – “a thorough old Scotch laird in ways and speech”.

And, he was a “terrifying” prodigy:

Maxwell’s first scientific paper appeared when he was just 14, which suggests that he was a terrifying mathematical prodigy. In fact, Maxwell was a very clever boy but by no means exclusively scientific. Indeed, a poem of his was published in the Edinburgh Courant six months before his first scientific paper. He wrote the latter after meeting the decorative artist D R Hay, who was searching for a way to draw ovals. The 14-year-old Maxwell generalized the definition of an ellipse and succeeded in producing true ovals identical to those studied in the 17th century be René Descartes. Maxwell’s father showed the method to James David Forbes, an experimental physicist at Edinburgh University, who realized that it was correct. Forbes then presented the paper on Maxwell’s behalf at a meeting of the Royal Society of Edinburgh – a remarkable achievement for someone so young.

And, then there is this highly Jane Austen-ish piece:

As one Cambridge friend recalled, Maxwell was “acquainted with every subject upon which the conversation turned. I never met a man like him. I do believe there is not a single subject on which he cannot talk, and talk well too, displaying always the most curious and out of the way information.”

And, on the obscure origins of relativity:

As for relativity, Maxwell introduced Hamilton’s word, in the way that physicists now understand it, in his small book Matter and Motion of 1877. Poincaré read the work; Einstein learned of it from Poincaré; and the rest is history.

Don’t miss this wonderful piece! Have (some Maxwell-ian) fun!

On art; the good ones, that is!

December 12, 2006

When I was in art school, we were looking one day at a slide of some great fifteenth century painting, and one of the students asked “Why don’t artists paint like that now?” The room suddenly got quiet. Though rarely asked out loud, this question lurks uncomfortably in the back of every art student’s mind. It was as if someone had brought up the topic of lung cancer in a meeting within Philip Morris.

Paul Graham, as engaging as ever, tells how art can be good:

There is such a thing as good art, and if you try to make it, there are people who will notice.

Take a look!

On RKN

December 12, 2006

An article about RKN in the New Yorker; via Literary Saloon:

As such, there seemed little risk of hyperbole when Narayan’s obituary in the Guardian said that he was held to be “India’s greatest writer in English of the twentieth century.”

There is a tip on reading RKN:

It is better to read Narayan as he wrote, essentially as a writer in translation, or, at the very least, as one using a language in transition.

And then the struggles:

But, in Narayan’s story, there is, for the first eleven years, no such support: no invitation, no train, no hand. He was pursuing a vocation that did not exist in his country, that of a realistic fiction writer in English. Whom could he ask?

Somewhere in the middle is this poignant piece:

“We are what we are,” Narayan later told a biographer. “Whether you grow older, more decrepit, inside, the sense of awareness, of being, is the same throughout. I don’t see any difference between myself when I was seven years old in Madras and now here in Mysore. The chap inside is the same, unchanged.”

Finally, the tradition that Narayan established through his novels:

It is through this idea—that a self is not a private entity but a fixed, public one—that Narayan’s novels break most meaningfully with those of the West and establish their own tradition.

If you are a RKN fan, you would love the article; if you aren’t, why not take a look at it?