Friday, December 22, 2006

Two poems by Badri Raina

To the readers, if any, of this humble blog, many wishes for a Happy New Year.
I am off the airwaves until next year and so I will bid goodbye with these two wonderful
poems by Badri Raina which I read many years ago, and recently obtained hard copies
from my brother-in-law Ajay Ranjan Singh, his colleague. It is very acid and is not
for the faint-hearted, but gives one something to think about. It sums up what reams of
printed pages published in the Frontline and EPW cannot, atleast in my humble opinion.
The new Indian middle class
is full of pelf and prayer;
it ogles at the fop in front,
and quarantines its rear.

The new Indian middle class
is full of potato chip;
it hogs away at restaurant,
but is careful with the tip.

The new Indian middle class
means business every way;
it will have the atom bomb,
whatever you may say.

The new Indian middle class
is cross at population;
it simply cannot undersatnd
why people live in the nation.

The new Indian middle class
is bored by argument;
argumnet so upsets
its vacuous content.

The new Indian middle class
connects with tradition;
it often needs to fly abroad
to propagate that fashion.

The new Indian middle class
is a hippopotamus;
it fattens on protected feed,
and yawns at politics.
Hippopotamus revisited

The new Indian middle class
is into Channel V,
where V stands for vertifo
and viscerality.

The new Indian middle class
drives to disco tune,
It sees nothing upon the road
except its good fortune.

The new Indian middle class
is full of stock and share;
it packs globalised machismo
in Philips underwear.

The new Indian middle class
is Pentium perfect;
Its E-Mail carries latest news
of when and where to eat.

The new Indian middle class
is glued to one-dayer;
it despises Parliament
but is buoyed by Tendulkar.

The new Indian middle class
marries in farm houses,
where poor relations never reach,
and whisky drowns all grouses.

The new Indian middle class
is too busy wot visit;
when parents lie in ICU
Archies Card does it.

The new Indian middle class
uses language like hammer,
it has no use for critical thought,
nuance, complexity, grammar.

The new Indian middle class
will surely take us far,
from hauteur, humbug, heartlessness
to bloody civil war.

Ball-point pen

Over at Nanopolitan my friend Abi had this intersesting post on the space-pen giving links a story in Scientific American. I found a more down-to-earth (so to speak) story on the ball-point pen that appeared recently on BBC quite fascinating. Which always brings to me to the question as to why in the history of our country (atleast the recent history) we have been so short on innovations, small or great?

Monday, December 11, 2006

Captain Mulla

As a kid, I had been in the NCC and had heard the story of
the sinking of the INS Khukri. An officer had told us briefly
about Captian M. N. Mulla who went down with the
ship. I had never heard of him since, and today's Hindu
carried a story on the 35th anniversary of its sinking and
how this hero went down with his ship. Very touching.

I often wonder about how about country treats its armed
forces. Indeed, it is kept in an unpleasant situation of keeping
the union through the AFSP Act., etc., which are all laws
passed by civilian Governments. Yet, so little is really known
about its activities, its heroes, etc.. I have often wondered
why it took the BJP Government (and not so many earlier
ones) to promote Arjan Singh to Marshal of the Air Force.
Comments are welcome on this subject.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Becoming a professional physicist

So here are my thoughts on how to go about trying to become
a professional physicist. Now you may be wondering why BA
is qualified to write about this, especially when there is an
article on becoming a good theoretical physicist
by none other than Nobel laureate Gerard 't Hooft. [ As usual I found
the link from this article from my friend Abi's blog Nanopolitan.]

The reasons are of course spurred by the discussions we have on
students and the supposedly declining quality of students and
so on and so forth, topic which occupy so much of our time
which could otherwise be meaningfully spent, including
of course writing more articles on blogs. But jokes apart,
let me spell out why I think I should put down my thoughts
on this subject. Now any serious student of physics is well
advised to read 't Hooft's article on this subject. He lays down
completely what is the basic minimum that a person hoping
to have a career in theoretical physics should know. Also, one
has to give some advice to students entering the subject in India.
I think 't Hooft's advice pretty much universal. The main point
is that the students who think that they are lacking the background
should, after reading his article, identify the subjects where their
weaknesses lie and go about fixing the weaknesses.

Now how did I, a student of Chemical Engineering in the 1980's make
the transition? Undoubtedly a very risky decision to have taken, having
taken it, I did set about it quite methodically. I registered for 3 courses
of the M. Sc in physics program and went through the course work
meticulously. There was no internet those days, and no advice from
't Hooft. So I wrote to some American Univesities for their course
booklets, both undergraduate and graduate course description, and
basically drew mental Venn diagrams and isolated those course which
defined a basic minimum. Many long hours were spent in the IIT Madras
library looking up textbooks spelt out in those course booklets and
simply sitting down and working out missing steps and learning
the basics. I think that this technique was very useful for someone
who was not supremely gifted, but was willing to sit down and
learn things. [Of course you may ask why I did not get the course
booklet from IIT Kanpur, but it just did not occur to me. Perhaps their
5 year M. Sc. program course contents were superior to the result
of the mental Venn diagrams that I used.] I must also emphasize
that one great skill I did learn from the B. Tech. at IIT Madras was
problem solving, a skill that is useful whether one goes in physics,
managements, finance, computer science, IAS or what have you.
Acknowledgements are also due to the kind advice, help and
encouragement of my teachers there, Profs. V. Balakrishnan,
G. Rangarajan and the late Prof. S. Swaminathan. Prof. M. S. Ananth
who is now director of IIT Madras was also very encouraging of
my decision and was great to talk to.

I, of course, was not the only one to have taken this risky path; mighty
seniors like Ganapathy Murthy now at Kentucky, Uma Sankar at
IIT Bombay, Arun K. Gupta who went to Caltech, and some what
junior folks including Ramesh Abhiraman who went to Yale,
Anand Subburaman who went to Syracuse, Suresh Govindarajan
now at IIT Madras, Vasant Natarajan a colleague across in
Dept. of Physics at IISc also charted this course. It would be interesting
to know how they made their transitions.

The moral of this story is that if this worked for me, it will work
for anyone. In other words, today if we get students from perceived
weak backgrounds, and if they were to put themselves with some
assistance through such a grind, they would as well as any one who
today is a professional physicist. Such professional physicists, and
for that matter scientists and engineeres are the need of the hour
for the country. This formula will work also for those who will not
be able to go to the elite programs of the IISERs and the integrated
M. Sc. programs of Mysore University and University of Hyderabad.

Quote from Andre Weil

At lunch, we were, as always, talking about students
and problems in teaching courses and the perceived
lack of response and interest from students, etc..
This subject could easily be in the category of
the 'Zendejas brothers' (source unknown: heard it
only from the authoritative source Abi at lunch),
in other words, easily a winning candidate
for the bore of the year award. However, coincidentally
I ran into the following quote yesterday from Andre Weil
the famous mathematician in an article on the
Mathematics Curriculum,"The American student...suffers
under some severe handicaps,...Apart from his lack of
earlier training in mathematics...,he suffers chiefly
from his lack of training in the fundamental skills ---
reading, writing and speaking...". I hope to write
on the subject of overcoming this handicap (I should
know, I suppose (?!)) to find a career in physics.
Now I have to rush off to a seminar.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


On Blogbharti I found the link to this unspeakable horror.
The only requiem I want to offer the victims is silence.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Popular articles by yours truly

Due to popular demand (popular defined as one request
more than none), I am posting links to my articles aimed
at popularizing science through publications in
Resonance, Journal of Science Education
and in
Current Science, which among other things is
something like a forum to discuss science policy
in the country.

The first attempt was a 2 part article co-authored with 3
summer students, J. Meeraa, Seema Sharma and Bharti Sharma,
and Ritesh K. Singh who at that time was a beginning
student in our department. This was on 'discrete symmetries'
in particle physics, which also explained in some length the
ideas of particle physics. The two parts are here and here.

The next was a report on the stunning results from
the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory, which was published in
both Current Science and Resonance, authored with Ritesh.
Since they are identical, I link the article to the Current
Science version
with certain minor errors pointed in this

Then came an article on the 2002 Nobel Prize award to
neutrino pioneers Davis and Koshiba of which I am
sole author.

After a long break the enterprise was revived
in 2005 when a summer student Ekta Makhija wanted to
know what pentaquarks were all about. To answer this
question, I commissioned her, myself and K. Shivaraj to answer
the question. This very tough exercise led to 2 articles
in Resonance and Current Science on the subject.
Note that they are very different, and here is the
link for the Current Science article and
the Resonance article .

This year, along with 2 summer students Chitra Gautham
and Aquila Mavalankar, and Shivaraj and Alka Upadhyay
we started out to explain to the world at large what the
current status of some neutrino experiments were. We
later approached my friend S. Uma Sankar at IIT Bombay
to join us in this enterprise, which has led to a rather
impressive (even if I may say so myself) publication in
Current Science on the subject. The link is given

I guess this does not really fit here, but anyway, I will
put it down. I gave a set of lectures
on Grand Unification at an international school in Kathmandu in 1997,
and it is featured at the reviews section on the Official
Superstring Theory Web-site
right here.

Our work on dipole moments

Years ago, Saurabh Rindani and I had done a substantial body
of work on measuring, or atleast constraining the dipole
moment of tau-leptons using polarized beams. If an elementary
particle were to have a dipole moment, then it would be a
signal of CP violation (C=charge conjugation, P=parity).
CP violation todate has been observed in neutral meson
systems. Returning to our work, it has recently received
the attention of atleast one experimentalist,
see this talk.

Shiva Samudram

One of the great things about Bangalore is that one can
make some wonderful day trips. One location that we
have liked very much is Shiva Samudram which is about
140 km from here. The location is particularly nice
because one can stop by at the Lokaruchi Kamat Restaurant
for breakfast on the way in and for 'tiffin' on the
way back. Here are pictures of the
'Gaganachukki' falls

and 'Barachukki' falls.

U R Ananthamurthy

If someone were to come into our building and to ask
"You are Ananthamurthy?", my answer of course would
be "I am Ananthanarayan"! Such a contingency is not
entirely unlikely as the distinguished Prof. U. R. Ananthamurthy
is spending 3 months in IISc, as the Sundararajan Visiting
Professor and sits in our building! His first lecture is slated
for November 2 and is on 'Many Indias...' which I am
eagerly looking forward to.

Friday, October 27, 2006

I am a guest writer...

Over at Nonoscience , my lecture on Fundamental Particles
and their Interactions is now hosted by Arunn Narasimhan ,
in his guest writers section. You will observe that Arunn is clearly no
mean expert on web-design! Check out how a simple article can look so

More seriously, I think Arunn's initiative is an excellent one. With all
these evolving technologies, the more information there is on the web
of a reliable nature, the better it is. I think his efforts are highly
commendable, and I hope that other readers of this humble blog and
his not so humble blog will contribute articles to his blog.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Pictures by Aparna

These pictures on blogger are stupendous as seen in the
bird pictures of the previous post. So I cannot resist posting
this picture of pictures by Aparna. But I will get back to
more serious stuff soon!

A friendly visitor

Here are pictures that this friendly visitor allowed
me to take. He or she spent a good five minutes of
quality time with us.

Update: I have the following information obtained on request from Natasha Mhatre:
Its a Java Sparrow, a bird introduced into Sri Lanka, with few records from
the mainland. This has most probably escaped from captivity from Russels

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Markus Fierz

I read a note on Peter Minkowski's page of
the passing of Markus Fierz earlier this year.
The name Fierz is known to everyone in
elementary particle physics due to his
transformations. However, until I met
Peter in 1994-95, I was not even aware that
he was a contemporary figure. Peter, who
had been a graduate student of Fierz's has
linked a pdf file on his home page on the
life and times of Fierz.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Hamming's advice

There are frequent discussions at coffee and at lunch
about research and its quality, and how to improve it,
and of course what the role of the individual is. These
are, of course, imponderables and no one really knows
the answers to these questions. It is true that a lot
of great research took place in times of great ferment,
during war-time and during the cold-war, and it is
probably as much to do with socio-politico-economic
conditions as with the drive of individuals that leads
to truly exceptional results. But there really are,
and sadly, no short-cuts.

Many years ago someone forwarded a file containing the
transcript of a talk given by Richard Hamming. I have
never found a better discussion on the subject. Of course,
it is anecdotal and talks about many specific instances
but there is a lot to learn from this talk. There are also
questions that come in about the relevance of a given
individuals work and the circumstances in which he or
she finds himself or herself, the historical times, the relevance
and so on. But there are some inescapable points in this
talk that stick in my mind:

  • work on important problems
  • work very hard as it has a compounding effect
  • change problems

All this, of course is easier said than done.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

North Korean bomb

As a peacenik, I am sad to see that there is one more
entrant to the nuclear club. I look forward to a world
where there are no nuclear weapons. Keep dreaming, pal...

On the situation, there is no better article that I
have read than the one by Rahul Mahajan in his blog
in the commentary dated October 9, 2006.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Literature Nobel prize speculation

For what it is worth, let me speculate wildly on the Literature
Nobel prize this year. I think it is going to Salman Rushdie.


Over the years that I have been living in Bangalore, I have
visited the lovely temple at Lepakshi, just across the border
in Andhra. However, it seems that relatively few people
seem to know about it. At lunch my friend Ramamurty
thought I was pullling his leg when I said that the way
to get there is drive north towards Hyderabad and hang
left when you see signs for Lepakshi, which is what I
remember it to have always been. Later, I thought I would
check it out on the internet and this is what I found
on this site :

``Lepakshi is a small historic town in southern Andhra Pradesh,
about 120 kms from Bangalore. On the way to Hyderabad from
Bangalore, you have to take a de-tour of about 16kms on the
left to reach Lepakshi. The entrance of the city has a huge Nandi
statue in a small park. From here if you walk about 200mts , you
reach an old temple, built in a typical medival era architecture.
It is Shiva temple with a huge Shivalinga coiled with Naga, in
the open space. The pillars are all well carved and the temple
has multiple shivalingas and pooja is still performed here. The
temple compound is also huge. The place gives the feeling that
the meditations have been performed there for centuries and you
can feel the power of the same.''

Yesterday I also passed on these directions to our friends
the Anil Kumar's who may visit this place the next weekend!

Harvest moon --- thank you Aparna

Returning from a half-day trip to Nandi Hills, as we were nearing
home Aparna pointed out the rising, practically full moon on
Friday. It looked rather special. Later I read on one of the
newslines I subscribe to that it was a Harvest moon that would
appear about 12% larger than some other moons of the year
as the moon was near its perigee. Thank you Aparna!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Nobel Prize in Physics

I guess the prize for this year to John Mather and George Smoot is
not unexpected for those who have been 'Nobel watchers' and for
those who can grasp the fantastic nature of their achievement.
The observation of the anisotropies of the Cosmic Microwave
Background Radiation through the satellite observations of COBE
is a remarkable story. What impresses me is the perseverence and
the patience of such researchers.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Breaking the blogger's block

Life in IISc is never simple. First I have the blogger's block;
then there is the IISc blogspot block, which does not let
me into my own blog! However, it does let me into blogger
and hence this.

I have been reading about lots of things, so I thought I
should update this little corner.

Firstly, via Peter Woit the author of Not Even Wrong,
the book and the blog, I read about the
new web-site set up by Yau where he links us to
a letter written by his counsel to those involved
in the article on the Perelman business. I was fairly
appalled by the way in which the article depicted
Yau, undoubtedly a great mathematician. I don't know
what legal recourse he has, but he should get back
his reputation!

I have also been awfully busy with the course on QM-III
that I am teaching. I find that teaching semesters I am
about to go crazy most of the time. Trying to balance
home, teaching and research is not easy, at least for
me! I am using the book by Ryder which is very good.
Finally I have got hold of the book by Lahiri and Pal
which seems to be very nice indeed. Maybe I will
post a review on amazon? Of course I have a huge
collection of advanced books, including Weinberg,
Sterman, Brown, Itzyson and Zuber and yes, 2 signed
copies of Peskin and Schroeder.

As always, I do write elsewhere, and in particular
wrote a tough article which is posted on the Lokrajsangathan

Our submission to Current Science has finally been
accepted and we were busy with the proofs and updating
the references. I will post a revised version on the
arxiv after the article appears in print.

I also try to keep reading the ILC newline
and the CERN bulletin to keep abreast of
developments in the subject.

I read a small news item about a supernova of
2 solar masses which, of course, violates the
Chandrasekhar limit. It is hard to understand
how such an animal could have come into being.
Perhaps I should see if it has anything to do
with 'strange' stars? Comments are welcome.

That is about it for now and blogging will
improve only after teaching is done.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Whipping up media frenzy

Normally I try not to react to the imbecile media world
over, but this time I cannot resist. While the rest of the
world watched in horror at the massacre in Lebanon,
a story was suddenly floated about the arrest of a suspect
in the sad story of JonBenet Ramsey. I told myself
that if it smells like a hoax, looks like a hoax, tastes like
a hoax, then it must be a hoax. Well, that is what it
has turned out to be. It was a magnificent diversion from
the atrocities perpetrated against Lebanon.

Then there is the sad story of the wild-life warrior,
Mr. Steve Irwin who was killed by a sting-ray barb.
Now everyone knows that if you mess around with
wild animals sooner or later there will be an accident.
While it is very sad for him and his family, one saw
the Prime Minister of Australia going on TV and treating
this man as a national hero. [In the old days national
heroes were those whose marched into the valley of death,
cannons to the right of them, cannons to the left of them
(never mind that the Charge of the Light Brigade
(not the electricity bill!) was in a battle of imperial conquest),
but now national heroes are those who prance around crocodiles,
head-butt foul mouthed opponents and hit a leather bound
sphere a few hundred yards. But I digress.] Of course I would
not go to the extent of Germaine Greer's picking on the same
man within hours of his passing, for he was after all harmless.

But all this is nothing compared to the insane joy over
Princess Kiko's delivering a baby boy. Why is the media
so interested in an oppressive, feudal, formerly genocidal
Royalty and its line of succession, which in itself is

In this mad world, the only true prophet that
is left is Mr. Joker of the Batman movies who says,
``what kind of a world is it where a man can dress up
as a bat...?''

Friday, September 01, 2006

Rahul Mahajan's latest offering

Of the blogs that I frequently visit, I have a lot of admiration
for the blog and the blogger. I had sometime ago writte about
George Allen and the 'macaca' incident, which has also featured in
this latest offering .

Friday, August 25, 2006

8 planets!

I am greatly relieved to know that the number of
planets has now shrunk and poor Pluto has been
demoted to a 'dwarf planet'. Imagine the lethalness
of having to remember the names of so many
planets, had it been otherwise. What is interesting
in this entire debate is that so far there was no 'definition'
of a planet. Now there is! What will all this do
to astrology?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

12 planets!

So the Universe as we knew it will change. Now three more celestial
bodies in the solar system will be elevated to planets. Actually one of
them, Ceres, had been a planet in the 19th century and had been demoted.
This lies between Mars and Jupiter, and was until now the largest
asteroid. The other trans-Plutonian (certainly trans-Neptunian) objects
in this hallowed list are Charon and (yikes!) Xena. Hope the name
of the last one will be chosen to be something else.

BELLE results on missing energy decay

The KEK B-meson factory, BELLE recently put out some
interesting results, having observed 17 B-meson decays
into tau lepton and its neutrino, from a sample of,
yes, 450 million B-meson pairs! In the decays, the
B-mesons turn into a final state with only leptons,
with missing energy carried away by several neutrinos.
The number is in accordance with the standard model
expectations and tightly constrains the parameter space
for charged Higgs. Details can be found here.

Sen. George Allen denies making racial slur

According to many media reports on the despicable event
surrounding Sen. George Allen of Virginia, describing
a campaign worker of his opponent as a 'Macaca', he
now says that his remark was not meant to be a racial slur.
This is a terrible thing to happen to a person who is an
American albeit of Indian descent. Among the many
things noted in the article, the following are relevant:

  1. "This fellow here, over here with the yellow shirt, Macaca, or whatever his name is," said Allen, who at times pointed directly at the camera.
  2. Macaca is a class of monkey, including the rhesus monkey.
  3. "He was doing that because he could, because he could get away with it," Sidarth said. "I think he was just trying to, trying to point out the fact that I was a person of color, in a crowd that was not otherwise."
Kind of amazing that such a thing could have happened.

I am also reminded of the writings of Rahul Mahajan, where
he had once written that when he was campaigning against the Iraq war
before it started, many would question his patriotism, while colleagues with
'standard' American names would never get mail of that sort.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Our recent educational paper on neutrinos

This is just to provide a link to our recent educational
on neutrino experiments and their results.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Guenter Grass' confession

There are plenty of articles appearing on the recent
confession of Mr. Guenter Grass about his membership
of Hitler's elite Waffen SS. Commentators are saying
that he had no business being the moral voice of
Germany as he had not come out in the open. Maybe
they are right. But why could others not establish
this truth? This is something that confounds me about
that part of the world. When they talked years ago
about Kurt Waldheim, why did they not establish his
antecedents before he became UN Secretary General
or long before he became Austria's President. The role
of Juan Antonio Samaranch during the Franco period
is also well known --- so why was he allowed to be
President of the IOC. In any case, I do find that the
attitude of Europe towards its past is a very positive one.
There is a lot of soul-searching and a lot of 'coming out
of the closet'.

Unfortunately there is nothing of that sort in our country.
We have politicians in our midst in all political parties,
so many of who can be directly identified with specific
crimes of genocidal nature. But we have no soul searching
of this kind. There is a lot of crocodile tears about the
partition. There are those who have openly talked about
participating in specific crimes including murder, who have
been elevated to high posts in the ranks of certain
'cultural organizations'. It would be great if people took
a leaf out of the books of the European soul-searchers.
It is good to keep in mind the following quote:

"Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it."
---George Santayana

Discussion on faculty salaries

My good friend Abinandanan over at Nanopolitan has a post followed
by a simpler one on the need to enhance faculty salaries. I had a couple
of comments there on why I think the issue of demanding higher salaries
is not a justifiable one. It has been a long time since I wrote anything on
this blog, owing mainly to the starting of the semester and of course, the
famous writer's block. Let us hope that this will help me break it!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Something light for a change

I have often wondered why I feel the pressure
to write only about heaviosity in this young
blog, or in my other writings scattered all
over netlandia. Here is one that might cheer
you up: I saw someone described as a 'polymath'
the other day. I thought perhaps this means
that he is good at algebra, geometry and

However, my online dictionary says


n : a person of great and varied learning

On this note, I also find it useful to recall
the following from Alice in Wonderland:

The different branches of Arithmetic -
Ambition, Distraction, Uglification, and Derision.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Competition among scientists

I read the articles linked to on Nanopolitan under
`Just how competitive can scientists get.' It is unfortunate some
commentators have sought to read meaning into the fact that
the junior would-be colleague was a woman and the
curmudgeon was a man. I think gender has nothing to do
with it. There could just as well have been a gender reversal
between a junior colleague and the curmudgeon. There is
no need to bring in these superfluous things.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Violence against women

The media is full of the awful story about the murder of
this young woman who worked at a call-centre in
Bangalore, by a colleague and perhaps one time friend.
The amazing thing is the casual manner in which this
horrific crime has been committed. One would wonder
what could have driven this man to do this; the chances
of not getting caught were nil. Of course one does not
know how well-connected he is, and our own experience
with the countless crimes shows that the well-heeled will
probably get away with it. It must have been the massive
ego of this guy which led him to do this, as the media says
that the poor woman was not interested in him, etc..
However, there is one thing that one cannot avoid here.
Why are women, irrespective of class always the victims
of such terrible violence in our society? I am sure the
media is to blame for making violence, especially against
women acceptable. I don't know of any other society
that has had to invent phrases such as 'eve-teasing',
'dowry-deaths', increasingly 'acid-attacks'. Have you
ever known a woman to have carried out an acid-attack
against a man?

Monday, July 24, 2006

Language and the middle-east conflict

Nothing has horrified me more than the terrible devastation of the
war in the middle-east. No less sickening is the total media control,
especially on CNN and BBC, where I almost never find any views from
from the Palestinian or Lebanese side being heard. I must, however,
confess that things are so sickening that I am not watching much TV.
However, the following stuck to my mind and I dug out the transcript
from the following source from which I quote:

JAN EGELAND: It's destruction in block after block - mainly
residential areas. I would say that this seems to be an excessive
use of force in an area with so many civilians.

REPORTER: And if it's excessive use of force, that makes it a war crime?

JAN EGELAND: It makes it a violation of humanitarian law.

According to my table-top New Pocket Oxford Dictionary,

crime n. an offence against an individual or the state which is punishable by law

According to my online dictionary:

war crime n. Any of various crimes, such as genocide or the mistreatment of prisoners of war, committed during a war and considered in violation of the conventions of warfare.

So, why is Egeland so coy about referring to what is going on
as a war crime? Probably because if he does, then Israel would
have to be brought to court? Or is it that war crimes can only
be committed by the Rwandans, Burundians, by Charles Taylor of
Liberia, Saddam Hussein, Slobodan Milosevic, and never by the
Israelis? Enquiring minds want to know.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Project Euclid

Due to limited subscriptions, I often write to my friend Ms. Josiane Moll,
who was the librarian at the Institute of Theoretical Physics, University
of Lausanne when I was a post-doc there, to send me copies of papers.
Recently I needed one from Communications in Mathematical Physics
and she sent it to me, and also informed me of this wonderful new service
called Project Euclid and I quote from their page:

Project Euclid is a user-centered initiative to create an environment for the effective and affordable distribution of serial literature in mathematics and statistics. Project Euclid is designed to address the unique needs of independent and society journals through a collaborative partnership with scholarly publishers, professional societies, and academic libraries.

In particular, one can now download free all papers upto 1996 from Comm. Math. Phys..

I wonder if there is such a service in physics as well.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Students going abroad for studies

One of my good students expressed his wish to apply abroad
for his Ph. D.. In other words, he wants to go after his M. S.
requirements are finished, although he could have stayed on
for his Ph. D.. While it is personally disappointing, since it
is so hard to find even half a good student, it is understandable
from his point of view. Even a mid-sized American University
would have a far larger faculty selection than we have and
the number of areas represented will be greater. There is also
the probably of picking and choosing from a huge variety of
experimental and observational programs each of which would
be desperate for good students. There is, of course, one more
thing. Any good student will notice that even if he or she wanted
to work in one of our 'better' research Institutes, it might be easier
to find such a position with a U. S. Ph. D. followed by a French
or German post-doc or two. So one has no choice but to wish
such students 'bon voyage'.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

The NYT Standard Model article

Couple of friends forwarded the NYT Standard Model (SM)
to me, which is linked to the Interactions site
including Abi. Thanks very much for the article.
The author has referred to the SM as a gilded cage.
Be that as it may, does it really mean that this is
the end of the road? There are so many problems
of the SM that have to be solved, or are probably
too hard to solve. How about the old 'confinement
problem' (here's a review)? I read an article in the
CERN courier about the recent measurement of the
B-meson decay constant, a quantity that was earlier only
'determined' on the lattice. Now the experiment finds that
it is in agreement with the lattice determinations. Can one say
that when Maxwell discovered his equations for
electromagnetism, it was a gilded cage? After all
what Maxwell did for E&M, the inventors of the SM
did for electro-weak and the strong interactions. Perhaps
it will be a long wait before something new is found,
but in the meantime, it would be a good idea to figure
out what the shape and size of the gilded cage is,
whether there are any escape routes out of it, or is it
a part of a bigger cage? We have not lost hope.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Work, finish, publish

As promised in my previous post, here are a few priceless
thoughts on publishing. Publishing as a process of
creativity, summary of work done, expression of results
obtained and as a method of accounting to the public
why research should be supported. This is not about
writing a large number of papers. I remember the late
K. V. L. Sarma of TIFR, one of my early teachers
at a summer school in 1985 first quoting Michael Faraday,
who said of research (?) 'work, finish, publish'. I don't know the
precise reason for his saying this, but I guess what he meant is that
if one does not publish the results obtained in some
research project, it sort of follows you around. Publishing
is probably the final denouement in our
trade, of a job well-done (?). Don't get me wrong: this
is not about serializing results, and reporting work
piecewise to pad up the list of publications, or to inflate
it. Today, they say that there are many checks and
metrics that will take care of this kind of activity.
I recently read somewhere about this famous biologist,
Nobelist in medicine, who did not bother much about
where his papers were published, if at all. He would
often publish in obscure journals or his work would
be circulating as faded mimeographed preprints. But
this is for the great guys, not for mere mortals. It is
important that one is able to publish sufficiently good
work in sufficiently prestigious journals. Don't get me
wrong: this is not about worshipping impact factors
and H-indices, but you know what I am saying. And
finally, about publishing in Research News section of
Current Science and Resonance. I think
we owe it to the general public to explain what the
important milestones in our field are. I make my own
humble efforts to carry out this mission.

Monday, July 03, 2006

A good day's work

I often wonder what could constitute a good day's work.
After all, one does not teach much. The typical load
is 1 every 2 semesters. I have been teaching this first
course of nuclear and particle physics. I always learn
something when I do it. It is an example of applying
quantum mechanics to 'real systems'. Good students
should think of it as an opportunity to apply what they
learn in their QM I and II. Here, it is not just working
with square wells and boxes. It is also a case where
one can actually use scattering theory very effectively.
But I digress. Today's work was a good day's work
because I finished two different small projects. The
first to be finished was to finish was my contribution
to the conference proceedings for the
Linear Collider Workshop
, where I gave a talk.
When we had some summer students here, we had
worked very hard learning about the latest neutrino
experiments. We had decided to submit to
Current Science a Research News article on the
latest MINOS conclusions and to review other
experiments. Today, with the assistance of
Uma Sankar who is now a co-author we finished
it and submitted it to Current Science. That is
what I think is a good day's work. More on these
subjects (publishing, publishing in Current Science
and Resonance) later.

Friday, June 30, 2006

The string theory debate

There is a considerable debate, especially in the United States, about
the achievements and/or failure of string theory. The one outcome
of this is that there is pressure on the string community to come up with ways in which theory can be verified or falsified. Of note in this regard is the paper entitled

`` Falsifying String Theory Through WW Scattering''

by Distler, Grinstein and Rothstein. What is of course very gratifying to me is that ref.[2] of this paper is our work on axiomatic constraints on the low energy constants of chiral perturbation theory obtained from analyticity, unitarity, crossing and positivity considerations of neutral pion scattering . One has to read the paper of DGR to figure out the connections.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Some of my all time favourite quotes

Here are two of my all time favourite quotes:

``There is a strong tradition in theoretical physics, which by no
affected everyone but certainly affected me, that the strong
are too complicated for the human mind.'' (attributed to
Steven Weinberg,
for which I have never been able to find the original

``The earth is degenerating fast. Bribery and corruption abound.
Children no longer mind parents and it is evident the end of the
world is
approaching fast.'' (Assyrian Tablet, 2800 B. C., which
I first found in an email from Sreerup Raychaudhuri, and
later confirmed by google search).

Update: I wrote to Sreerup about this and in his reply, among
other things, he says:

``Incidentally, there is another Weinberg quote "We do not really understand
the Higgs sector", which nicely complements the one you have. I'm not
asking you to put it up, but it's just for your delectation.''

I must confess that I had to look up ``delectation'' on my favourite
online dictionary.
The answer it gives is

  1. Delight.
  2. Enjoyment; pleasure.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Thank you, Abi

I guess I never did acknowledge the role Abi
has played in all this. I would have never
had the courage or initiative. Of course he
is already famous as the author of

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Back from vacation

Back from vacation in Hyderabad. I left almost immediately
after creating the blog! It was a great vacation: kept my
promise of not reading e-mail or reading the internet.
Aparna had a great time with grandparents and Chinni
and Anju. Jubilee Hills was very beautiful as ever. I saw
many kinds of birds. Crosswords, sudoku, coffee and
tea made the holiday memorable. Periappa was happy
to get back to Hyderabad. Anita finally got to see and
buy many copies of 'The Little Grey Hare' (Spark-India).
At Rs. 70 per copy it is a steal. The illustrations by
Sarada Natarajan are wonderful.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

My first blog entry

I thought to myself why not? I discovered that even a
technophobe seems to be able to pull this off. I am
not sure I will be regular, but let us hope for the best.