April 12, 2016
Any book with coffee, the Hindu and the computer keyboard on cover is hard to resist. And if it titled Tamil Brahmans, more so. I read it and enjoyed it a lot.
I could identify with many of the anecdotes and opinions described in the book since I have personal experience with similar opinions and people growing up in rural Tamilnadu in the 1980s (though as a linguistic minority — not as a Tamil Brahman). In any case, the value of books like this is that they help you understand your own experience and attitudes at a broader level; in doing so, they also give a perspective that is generally missing and is very different from what you would get if you are not exposed these kinds of arguments and viewpoints.
Even though reading the book is not as great an experience for me as, for example, reading Srinivas’ Remembered village, it is still one of the best books of this type I have read — I liked it better than I remember liking Beteille’s book (though Beteille’s book is a very good one too).
Strongly recommended if you are a South Indian; if not, it might still be an interesting read.
Here is an interview with the authors; here is an opinion piece on the book (with some awesome pictures).
April 8, 2016
Specifically, mathematics talks; but there are interesting things for other technical speakers too!
April 2, 2016
S Arvind in the Hindu on curd rice! The only part that is missing is the sangm poetry which proves that we have also been cooking mor-kuzhambu for at least 1500 years!
முளிதயிர் பிசைந்த காந்தள்மெல்விரல்
கழுவுறு கலிங்கம் கழாஅது உடீஇ
குவளையுண்கண் குய்ப்புகை தழும்பத்
தான் துழன்று அட்ட தீம் புளிப்பாகர்
இனிதெனக் கணவன் உன்ணலின் முக நண்ணியதே
April 2, 2016
A good read; strongly recommended if you are interested in Vivekananda.
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.
March 11, 2016
I learnt the sad news from Abi. I have enjoyed his book on appreciating Carnatic music!
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.
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.