Musings of a Spectator

Location: Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India

Friday, March 25, 2005

Not without a reason...

I think I need to write a lot in order to get out of the jinx that I put myself in.
It's been quite sometime since there has been any kind of intellectual pleasure that I could derive out of the various ways in which I worked for the past few days. There are many things that could have been done but could not do. I could attend only the introductory two lectures on Paninian Grammar by Prof. Ramacharyulu (forgive me if I have got the name wrong) - I could not concentrate on my work for the past few days. Feel as though am going into an Intellectual Drain. I stopped reading, stopped thinking as I normally do.

I bid farewell to my favorite professor till now and the one I wish to build a long term relationship - Dr Madhu Mutyam, who was really kind to me in various ways. He left IIIT H for Pennsylvania State University as a Post Doctoral fellow. He was busy today, I wanted to meet him, but it feels sad, that I could not spend some good time with him.Probably a good parting gift from my side would have been some kind of token of remembrance. But then, what is it that put me off from doing so?
I was repeatedly thinking for the past week to meet him and get my second presentation to both the Profs. But haven't done anything on that direction.

What put me off fom doing all these? Of course something that is highly unpredictable - The Voter Behaviour. An interesting thing that determines the fate of many a politician every time in Democracy. Sometimes it is true that the politician may be a true leader but then how many times is it so and how many times is it that the politician can influence the voters all the way down? And make the most effective use of the mob mentality of the Voter. Mobs in what is said to be a highly informed section of the society in a campus where the information sources are the best used - an interesting area of study and of course intellectually challenging. But one thing that still lurks in my mind is how is it that one learns the art of turning people towards you? This is something that is running all through the time for I stood for an election for the fourth time till now. I was successful for the I time when I stood for the post of LabCom in my batch when there was more or less a mob voting for me (for reasons not in terms of my ability as far as I can gather - I may be wrong too) and lost twice since - an election for the LabCom again in the next year when the requirements differed and there was to an extent a good decision by the students. No Mobs this time, interestingly though. Lost an election contesting for Campus Life Council Secy., the first ever elections in the campus.
But that was still a good experience. There was a mob voting for me, thanks to the good contacts that I had. Of course, I feel that I had the credentials to justify the mob feeling so. But then lost because of another mob mentality that was there.
This time, again it is how well one manages the mob that wins. Excellent! What we can learn out of it? - What is intellectually demanding and interesting may not be what is needed in practice - Oh, how different is the world from the one it sounds to be based on what we expect to be within the limits of commonly accepted code of ethics. These are various things that one can sure learn and the more you think the more the pen flows and so does the keyboard type :)

Why do you think this is happening? Not without a reason... Alexander Pope remarked long back : "In men, we various ruling passions find." - map this statement to each of the persons that you know and you would know that it is true - what the world shows us is the various ruling passions which lead the person to do n number of things. Understanding the ruling passions and how they transform a person is really interesting and is intellectually very disturbing too :(

Saturday, March 05, 2005


This is an interesting story to give a glimpse of how things work at my institute. Probably it is so elsewhere too, but I find it very interesting. Various things that happen. And I am fortunate to be in a position to spectate, and in some cases also be a part of the work concerned.

It was sometime ago, one fine morning that I find Dr. Vishal asking my help for writing a script for a film! Yes, I am not lying by any means. The idea was to come up with a promotional film on my Institute,its significance and role in India. There were some "grand" ideas -

-> The film should start setting a picture of the Ancient Past of India that was glorious -
-> Then should talk of the opportunity in the present
-> Then take it to the future.

And then link it up with what happens in the institute and the way in which it works etc. Then he tells me the glitch in the whole thing - the contract for the film was given to a company in Kolkata! [God knows why one would need to go all the way there when locally there are hundreds of film making enterprises] they have come to the Institute and have taken the snapshots of all the things without a script in hand - ideally it should have been the case that the script is made first and then the videos and develop the film - but that could not happen said the Prof.

In order that I get an inspiration to work on the same, I was given this short film that was shown to ex US Prez Mr. Bill Clinton when he came over to Hyderabad by the then CM of AP -Mr. N Chandra Babu Naidu on how the city was developing. It was an interesting video - and to my surprise, it claims of my Institute to Mr Bill Clinton as the next Stanford! How good to be growing with such an institute!

I started thinking for some time, then left it. By the way, the Prof tells about this during my end semester exams in my previous semester [Nov '04]- after the end sems I thought about it and told him clearly that unless I am told what is the Vision of my Institute - which unfortunately is still very unclear to many - it won't be possible to think of projecting anything to people from outside. The catchline for the Institute is "Research that makes a difference" and the film was expected to project the Institute as a Research Institute - with a difference.

The Prof tells me that he doesnot know what it is. And let the Video tell the world including ourselves that this is the spirit, this is the vision of our institute.
And when I said that should be done by the founders and the heads of the Institute - the answer given was - let us take our understandign of the vision to the Director, if he agrees then that is it, or else, we will change it. Strange though it is, there are only very few in the world who are very clear perspective of what they would like to stand for.

So, I made all my rules, and set out to work on the script. I made the assumption that since ours is a University - and not "just" an institute, we need to sound different from an "Institute" - so the script was made after I wasting[spending] a lot of my hours on thinking what would be the best way in which one should look at the Institute. Take a look at the sample: the first few lines -

Mark Twain once remarked:
"India is: the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great grandmother of tradition."

India was hailed for its pioneering contributions to the world right from ages immemorial for the betterment of the living of the people from all walks of life and all kinds of disciplines.

Her contributions to Human Knowledge through Science and Technology standing the tests of time have left indelible impressions on the world.

Be it Ayurveda or Astronomy, Mathematics or Metallurgy, Physics or Metaphysics, they have all survived the test of time and left us with a great treasure.

!The Wonder that WAS India!

!Clock Ticks quickly to the 1990s!

The creation of the World Wide Web has brought the Internet to every corner of the world.

The world is taken over by a knowledge revolution.

At about same time, India opened her markets to the world. Indians came into direct contact with this revolution - the Information Technology (IT) revolution. A revolution that promises to transform societies in the world to
Knowledge Societies.

[Unlike the societies formed after the Industrial Revolution, the Knowledge Societies are meant for the benefit of all who belong to the society.]

After about a decade, today the world is looking towards India. This is considered the place where IT is happening !'IT' is Happening Here!

Be it in BPO market or in IT Enabled Services, Call Centers and Customer Care Services - India is the preferred destination.
(The distinctions have to be looked at)

Of late, identifying the immense pool of talented Engineering students, companies from all over the world are shifting their Research & Development bases to India.

!The Wonder that India Is!

This is the time to make a mark, this is the time for seeing this phase through to something big, bigger than what we imagine - imagination is the only limit.

(2 minutes)

!Envisioning a Dream for India!

That combines both the positives of the present and the past.

That India would be a nation that leads the world in the forefronts of innovation and discovery.

That in the process, the citizens of India shall represent what India has taught right from the time of the Mohenjo-daro and Harappa.

This sets the tone and I continued saying :

"To turn this dream to reality, India needs leaders, and in huge numbers. "

The Institute answers the ever-growing need for leaders -

"Leaders who are technically brilliant and morally sound to serve the nation in various capacities; leaders who are worthy of representing the great history of the country; leaders with scientific temperament essential for generating progressive thought. " - and this was the vision that I felt the University should have.

And my thoughts were vindicated when our Director said things are going on the right lines.

And I added my own flavor to the Institute's claim for "research" -
"The Institute is producing hundreds of leaders every year with a research-bent of mind if not researchers…"

So that one could ensure that any student who joins get the understanding of research - in fact, my institute also has this "Excitement of Research" Workshops that it started organising since the previous year to bring in that sense of excitement to students from local colleges in my place and create an environment for proper research in India too. Tomorrow, I am going to attend this workshop for the second time since it started.

Just to end things, there were some intermediate discussions over the film and the script was sent to the Kolkata people, they spent 1.0 Lakh rupees and yet the film is to see the light of the day - and whenever the Prof sees me he gets reminded of this Bengali lady who is always out of his reach who is the Producer of the film!

Friday, March 04, 2005

The Difference

Posted first on 4th March 2005 at 4:30 AM
Edited on 6th March 2005 at 3:09 AM

I am not sure when will I complete all that I promised in my previous post. But this is an important point that I noticed today which I feel is worth noting.

Yesterday, that is the 3rd of March, I gave my first technical presentation - on my Honors Project I - Introduction to Quantum Theory of Computation - to a group of 3 Professors - Prof Rama, Prof MaMu, Prof Kannan - thankfully each of them was very cooperative, but then this time this presentation was for evaluation! And may be that's the difference - I wasn't very comfortable.

I always considered myself an able presenter and am generally in high spirits when am On-Stage. But, this time the thing was entirely different. I started finding butterflies in my stomach. The idea of going in for perfection did me in. There was no proper presentation plan and actually there were series of ideas moving around my mind.

What is it that the panel wants me to concentrate on?

a) A Quantum Mechanical understanding of Computation
b) Another Computation Model which has some more power(or is assumed to have so)
c) Or both together?
d) A Mathematical or a Physical representation of Computation.

To put it simply, I am not sure if my panel is well-versed with the topic that I am dealing with.

-1th law: Never think about the panel's knowledge of the subject, but just think of doing your best job.

And the confusion in my mind - where to start from - the starting problem - was a very BIG problem. The essential idea with which I was to proceed was THE problem.

If this were my view of what I would have to present - the professor there had a different idea of the whole - the purpose of the talk is for "Evaluating the work done in my earlier semester".

0th law: Before standing before a panel, do get to know, what exactly they expect from you.

This precisely could not happen for me, for my Guide, did not suggest anything, in the past - though he was the one who encouraged me into the topic - his guidance was limited to telling me generically if this idea were good - his basic principle was get your concepts clear about the topic - we'll work on a specific problem after that,- so my first semester's work was to do the survey.

So what I was presenting was a survey on the topic?? Well - No. I was also trying to explain things which have a language of their own. The language did me in.

And by the way, what could be a survey of this topic boil down to? You tell people that "the Quantum Mechanics talks of deterministic evolution and a probabilistic measurement of physical systems and this strange duality that is associated with it is what we are trying to explain using the interpretation of Everett who initially proposed the Multiverse concept - concept of Multiple Parallel Universes - each of which influences one another - but whenever a measurement occurs it is localised to the Universe to value that it holds in that Universe resulting in the collapse of the parallelism or the interference state or the superposition state - which we try and take advantage of by tending to algorithmically utilise to our advantage" is in a single sentence the essential idea of what we are trying to do in theoretical Quantum Computation? And I doubt how many would get what all that I am trying to mean by that. [Hey, don't think I am making a false claim when I say that the above statement is mine and is written just a while ago and the time take was only to type but not to think on the correctness which you may verify]

Now, my future guide seems to be the one who has different ideas. He says who wants to know about your "understanding" of the physics - you need to look at the Computer Science fellow's way of looking at the subject. Hmm, interesting comment. Surprisingly enough, he seems to have got the point that all the notes that I read till now were by Physicists [David Deutsch,John Preskill, Michael Nielsen]talking of Theory of Computation and it is only, in this semester that I started reading the proper computer scientist's version [ Umesh Vazirani].

In that respect, I think I am fortunate to have a guide who is active in looking at what I am doing. And suggesting me what to do next. Till now, I had to look after myself, look for things that made proper sense,etc. - from now on I can leave it aside for a while and concentrate on something else.

I Law : Whenever you begin a talk or a presentation, follow an agenda - having done this so many times, yet, I made a faulty presumption on how to go about this - and this gave a very bad start to my presentation.

For the first half an hour, there was nothing happening for me. Questions like "What is Hilbert Space?" could have been avoided, for Dr Rama Murthy said you may continue though you know or not as that may not be what you wanted to convey, but I with a sense of confidence (was it false??) - said I think I know and suddenly my mind goes blank - look at my notes - fortunately I know where I wrote what - get the definition out of the bag - Vector Space V which is an inner product space with a finite dimension, it is called a Hilbert Space - huh? I did say that in order to talk of Hilbert Space would mean to start off with what is a Vector Space? which is not what I wished to go into.

II Law: When you are given an opportunity to escape, better use it rather than feeling sorry later.

But it was in the next one and a half hour that I seem to have got back my confidence levels. And I seem to have made my way back - clawed back - struggled back to get my rhythm and finally it seems to have gone on OK, but nothing very spectacular about it.

I was trying to convey somethings and knowing that there are a lot of other things as well gives a very threatening feeling. What to convey and what not to? Where to draw the line? All these need some experience or planning. And my planning seems to have gone awry due to the excessive amount of information that I tried to load into a one and a half hour presentation. An Engineering Overview of all these is required. And by the way, I should have thought of the single sentence that I wrote earlier in the post, before going to deliver my "defence".

The next time around - there should be proper amends made for the same.

II Learning - Cater to the audience. The only problem here was what I was trying to convey - was something beyond my current reach - despite the fact that I could nod to what was being conveyed by Professor David Deutsch. Expecting to produce what he teaches to an audience which is completely not aware of the points that he was speaking and yes, the spirit was not in me :( - I feel let down when I wasn't able to do a good job - but then the only saving grace is that I haven't done a good job when compared to the best I have seen. Hope that on practice, I shall reach right up there.

I think I could add a few more if I thought - or the post may not have made logical sense at some places, but I think it is not worth it, as there are 5 more submissions for tomorrow and the day after - time to move on...I need to go and get my project registered under my name which I haven't done till now. My place has an online registering system which is not used for reasons of disbelief ?!