Archive for December, 2005

Prof. AK Raychoudhri, one of the doyens of the Indian Physics Community, passed away in June 2005. He is probably one of the most under-recognised scientists of his time. Frankly, I had not heard about him till I learnt some Gen.Relativity. The famous “Raychoudhry Equation” is a crucial tool to understanding GR and played an important part in the famous work of Hawking and Penrose on Singularity Theorems. It is these theorems and the interest on compact objects that re-ignited GR research in the 70s. For those who are familiar with some GR, I would suggest that you read Prof.Dadich’s paper on the Raychoudhry equation: gr-qc/0511123

The Telegraph carried an excellant tribute to this great man. The sad part is that there was very little media attention devoted to his passing away. Here are a few abstracts from that piece :

[..]For the first time, singularities seemed inevitable in GTR, and could no longer be argued away as being artifacts of special properties of specific solutions of the Einstein equation. Again, not a result the master would have rejoiced over[..]

Here, the master is Einstein.

The central theme of the singularity theorems is how a singularity is an inevitable feature of solutions to Einstein’s GR. Raychoudhri’s equation gave hints to this property of Einstein’s equations. But the complete theorems had to wait till Hawking and Penrose.

[..]Why did Raychaudhuri himself not arrive at the singularity theorems when he possessed the key tool more than a decade in advance? The answer: he was pursuing a different programme — that of finding a spacetime free of singularities. That programme did not succeed, but careful perusal of his efforts once again bears testimony to his original approach and commitment to the subject[..]

[..]He submitted a thesis based on his work on the Raychaudhuri equation for a DSc in physics, and in 1959 was awarded the degree on the glowing recommendation of none other than John Archibald Wheeler*. Despite this, an application for a promotion to a higher position at the IACS was turned down by the authorities on some flimsy pretext[..]

After this, he joined the Presidency College, Kolkatta. He taught there for a long time. The most remarkable thing about AKR is that he taught undergrad students at Presidency. I do not know of many top-class Indian Physicists teaching at the Indian Universities. I have personally heard many of his students (now physics profs) talking about how inspiring his classes were. Prof.Dadich also lists some of AKR’s former students: Ashoke Sen, S.Bhattacharya (current TIFR Director),CV Vishveshwara,JV Narlikar and Probir Roy .

The last few lines from the Telegraph probably sums up his life in the best fashion :

[..] he was a total academic, a rarity these days. To paraphrase Einstein’s well-known remark about Mahatma Gandhi, future generations of Calcuttans will scarcely believe that such a physicist lived among us, sharing his best with so many.

This post would have served its purpose if it made ARK and his work known to a much larger audience.

*For those who didnt know, Wheeler is a highly acclaimed Theo.Physicist. He is also a well known Gen. Relativist. Feynman and some great relativists like Misner,Thorne,Wald were his PhD students.

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Attack on IISc

shA horrendous attack in the IISc campus has led to the death of a retired IIT Delhi Prof. I did not know about the attack till Friday afternoon, as I was travelling by train. I was shell shocked to see the front page of Hindu carry a pic with blood in the IISc campus. Abi, a prof at IISc has more in these posts: Post 1, Post 2, Post 3. Our hearts go out to the family of Prof. Puri. One hopes that the injured get well soon and get back to doing what they love.. research. Given that the person involved went on a firing spree makes it difficult not to view this as a terrorist attack.

This would have certainly been a rude shock to IISc and all academic institutions in India. “EVEN US?” seems to be the question in everybody’s minds and it probably sums up the disbelief. But, some (like Praveen Swami of Hindu) think that this was around the corner and sufficient precaution must have been taken. Hard to disagree with him. But, as Prof Balaram (Dir, IISc) pointed out, an academic institution should not be an armed fortress. Thankfully, the blame-game is missing and the police seem to be on the job of finding the perpetrators of this act. An approximate sketch of the assassin is now avalible.

Over here at IITM, there is increased security at the entry points to the institute. A few more armed policemen seemed to have been deployed there. For the first time in three years, I had to show my ID card to enter the institute. Nothing intrusive.. and that is the way it should remain.

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Err… Another unintended break from the blogosphere. I was caught in the floods and had to vacate my house. My travel plans went a bit awry. No time for a detailed post on any issue. So here is a bunch of links! ..

The Einstein year is coming to an end! Its 100 years since he published his four papers and his results still hold!

And there some controversy over this year’s Physics Nobel! “Elusive Recognition” for Prof. Sudarshan, says Ramachandran. And here is the letter by Prof. Sudarshan to the Nobel Commitee.

The longest comment known in the Indian Blogospere by Chetan is quite a read. Have lots of free time before you head there. U might also want to look at parallel discussions that have cropped up. More links and a similar discussion at Desipundit.

Rajdeep Sardesai has a blog! And here is the first post. I guess his channel is not available in Chennai to start with. And when it finally reaches Chennai, I just hope that it does not fall in the Set-Top Box (aka ‘Paid Channel’) category. That would mean that I will have to miss it!

I was extremely surprised at this fanatical reaction (from the CM of Bengal) to Sourav’s exclusion from Team India. Calling it an insult to Bengalis is the height of callousness. I wonder how different this is (in intent) from the trash that Togadia dishes out occasionally. Though I agree that Sourav could have been treated better, I certainly dont believe that he deserves a place in the Test XI.. Yuvraj is the man for the job.

AG Noorani has an article on free speach, in the light of the Kushboo episode. And Uma has a link to an article by KC Lakshmi on the same issue. I had a post on this, sometime back.

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Fingers Crossed!

Well.. It has started raining and cyclone “Baaz” is expected to cross the coast in the next 24 hrs.
I have a train to catch on the evening of Saturday. I just hope that the rains don’t force delay/cancellation of the train.

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