Location: Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India

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 ?!


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