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.

 

Ramesh Mahadevan: RIP

March 11, 2016

I learnt the sad news from Abi. I have enjoyed his book on appreciating Carnatic music!

On book dedications

March 6, 2016

Gopalkrishna Gandhi has a nice piece on book dedications.

An analysis of the budget

March 1, 2016

Ashok V Desai on the budget:

To conclude, Jaitley does not address macro issues, which only the budget can deal with. It would be unfair to say that he knows no economics, for we have no evidence of the ignorance, only of disuse. In any case, he has a first-class chief economic adviser, so the knowledge is within his reach; it is his choice not to grasp it. But as I have shown in this column, even when he reaches out to something, his grasp is less than perfect.

How can such a renowned lawyer do so poorly in budget making? There are two possibilities. One is that lawyers are worshippers of ignorance; this is supported by their attacks on the students of Jawaharlal Nehru University. The other is that one can be good at law – and as Jaitley proves, at politics – without knowledge skills. That would be a rather extreme conclusion. I therefore veer towards a third conclusion: Jaitley’s skills are not intellectual but emotional. He is good at making friends, helping people, and trading influence. He has all the skills necessary to make a good politician, except one: in politics, one has also to be good at defeating enemies and manoeuvring with intrigue. He is just the right man for the wrong job.

A nice piece

February 29, 2016

30 Pandara Road: AM on Hiten Bhaya and the gang that used to gather and discuss at 30 Pandara road. Dharma Kumar also appears along with others.

Ram Guha’s Gandhi before India

February 27, 2016

I finally managed to read through Ram Guha’s Gandhi before India. For such a lengthy book, I did not find the interest even slightly waning throughout the read. Strongly recommended.

Weekend of music

February 21, 2016

Attended Sanjay’s concert on Friday at Chembur Fine Arts; loved the Anandabhairavi, Kambhoji and Sindubhairavi especially. Today, from morning 6 am till about 5 pm we listened to Hariprasad Chaurasia, Rashid Khan, Rajam, Jayatheerth Mevundi, Satish Vyas, Ulhas Kashalkar, Devaki Pandit, Dilshad Khan and Gundecha Brothers at Shanmukhananda. Good weekend with plenty of good music. Mevundi’s Lakshmi Baramma and Rajam’s Vaishnava Janato will be remembered for a very long time!

RIP: Eco and Lee

February 20, 2016

Harper Lee passed away; and so also, Umberto Eco. I have to reread To Kill a Mocking Bird and The Name of the Rose. At some point, I should also read Eco’s book on writing thesis.

Ustad Abdul Rashid Khan: RIP

February 18, 2016

Hindu reports on the passing away of Ustad Abdul Rashid Khan; I have heard him once on Doordarshan and enjoyed it too!

To or Not-to: Co-author

February 12, 2016

A very nice piece from Geoffrey Pullum in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Yes, I know that many lab directors in the physical and biological sciences add their name to the byline of every paper, even those to which that have contributed nothing but lab space and a grant number. That doesn’t mean it’s right.

Next time when I am teaching the communication course in our Institute, I will make this piece a must-read for the students.


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