Archive for January, 2020

Steven Strogatz’s The calculus of friendship

January 30, 2020

This is a gem!! The book is short; but I savoured each chapter for a few of days. With wonderful sketches by Strogatz’s teacher, interesting mathematics and with the intertwining of the personal life of the teacher and the student, it is such a pleasure to read. The subtitle of the book is “What a teacher and student learned about life while corresponding about math”. The readers will learn about both life and math — by reading this correspondence! Strongly recommended — even if you are not keen on maths.

Samanth Subramanian’s A dominant character 

January 30, 2020

I enjoyed reading Samanth Subramanian’s A dominant character: The science and politics of J B S Haldane. I knew very little about Haldane; I knew that he was in ISI, Calcutta; I knew that he did some of the calculations related to altruism (thanks to Professor Raghavendra Gadagkar’s lucid exposition — in his Survival strategies, a must, must read by the way — and talks in IISc); and, I vaguely remembered that he might have been a socialist.

Samanth Subramanian’s book is very well written; it is very engaging; and, gives a complete picture of the man, his science and his politics (as indicated in the title). It is also laugh out loud funny at places!!

I did have difficulties in reconciling myself with some of the stands that Haldane took — especially with respect to the Lysenko affair; but I guess the moral of the story is that it is very difficult for us scientists to separate our science from our politics and we have to be constantly on our watch!

On the whole, a very good read and strongly recommended!

Ashokamitran’s Fourteen years with boss

January 13, 2020

A very good read — and a quick read too! Among other people, Rajaji, Kalki, RKN’s brother who was a film editor, and RKN himself make an appearance — not to mention some monkeys and elephants. There are also some interesting titbits such as Vasan and Pather Panchali in Calcutta theatres! Now I am going to read his Iruttilirundu velichcham and Bioscope.

Tamil Characters of A R Venkatachalapathy

January 1, 2020

A very good read; the essays are of varying lengths, tone and depth — which is to be expected given that this is a collection of several published versions; the overlap is still minimal. The pieces on Periyar, Anna and Cho are real eye openers for me as well as those on Jayakanthan, Ashokamitran and Cho. Darman. Strongly recommended for those who are into Tamil culture and politics as well as those who are not!!