Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Andrea Wulff’s The Invention of Nature

February 14, 2017

This biography of Humboldt by Andrea Wulff is inspiring and is a must-read. Strongly recommended!

RIP: Prof. Vishveshwara

January 17, 2017

Sorry to hear the passing away of Prof. Vishveshwara. I first met him  (and, I think, Prof. Saraswathi Vishveshwara) on a train journey from Mumbai — which turned out to be unforgettable since, as we were reaching Bangalore we heard about the abduction of the actor Rajkumar, and there were issues about local transportation. Soft spoken and known for his work with the planetarium, Prof. Vishveshwara will be missed.

Sarah Bakewell’s At the existentialist cafe

December 14, 2016

A nice read — mixing philosophy and biographical details of protaganists. Will make you search for some of the books on existentialism and read them. Strongly recommended. Here is a review.

Russell James’ Tenure hacks

November 28, 2016

Read on the recommendation of Xykademiqz. Good read, espeically, if you are an early stage academic. Some of the parts might not be relevant for us in India. However, on the whole, gives a very different perspective to teaching and research.

Peter Wohlleben’s The Hidden Life of Trees

November 28, 2016

Once in a while, you come across a book that completely changes the way you think about things. Wohlleben’s book did that to me for trees. For the past couple of weeks, I have been reading this wonderful short book and enjoying every page of it. As the subtitle of the book says, the book is about what the trees feel and how they communicate — discoveries from a secret world; and, what a fascinating secret world it is. After you read this book, the next time you take a walk, you will feel like giving the tree on the side a pat if not a hug. You will also feel the extrordinary urge to make all your friends read the book. Of course, the book will also make you worried and sad — worried about the way in which we carry out the destruction of these gentle giants and sad about the pain they have to go through simply because of our ignorance. A wonderful read and strongly recommended!

John Kaag’s American Philosophy

November 5, 2016

An entertaining read and strongly recommended. A couple of detailed reviews are here and here.

Louise Penny’s A great reckoning

September 5, 2016

A very satisfying and wonderful read. Strongly recommended.

 

Alan Warner’s Their lips talk of mischief

August 22, 2016

After reading The Deadman’s Pedal, I have become a fan of Alan Warner. Warner did not disappoint me with Their lips talk of mischief. Wonderful writing and thoroughly enjoyed reading the novel!

John Cahn: RIP

March 16, 2016

Prof. Ranganathan alerted me to the news of Prof. John Cahn’s passing away; here is the obituary in Washington Post. Prof. John Cahn made fundamental contributions to several branches of materials science and engineering. He is probably most well known for his work on diffuse interface models; there are two non-linear diffusion equations named after him — Cahn-Hilliard and Allen-Cahn equations — which form the basis of all the phase field models.

Our group is one among the many in India using phase field models to understand microstructures, their formation and evolution; all of us have found the selected works of John Cahn to be a great book to have, read, consult to and argue about, and, I have met Prof. Cahn in 2005 in a Phase Transformations conference (PTM) that he helped start (though I did not discuss with him).

Cahn has also made several significant contributions including to the areas of wetting, solidification, symmetry breaking transitions and so on. One of the important charactersistics of Cahn’s work is the mathematisation of materials science and the close attention that he paid to general principles (and that included thermodynamics). I also believe that his theory of spinodal decomposition is one of the (relatively rare) instances in materials science wherein the theory was formulated fairly comprehensively before experimental confirmation was obtained. Of course, like in the case of dislocations, this scenario lead many to doubt the existence of spinodal itself. To quote Cahn’s reminiscence:

Borelius fully accepted the interpretations of the results. When I met him in 1961, he was unwilling to acknowledge my spinodal theory, and kept apologizing for having caused me to waste my time with what he now felt to be a fallacious concept.

May be I will write a more detailed appreciation at a later point in this blog. In the meanwhile, here are some videos at YouTube where you can listen to the pioneer himself.

 

On book dedications

March 6, 2016

Gopalkrishna Gandhi has a nice piece on book dedications.