Saturday, December 31, 2022

In Memoriam, 2022!

So, farewell then, year 2022. I guess no one will remember you in a rush but everyone would like to forget you in a flash. Before that happens, I try to recap some of your major world-wide events.

January: Spent a couple of days in Jaipur.

February: Russo-Ukrainian War begins / escalates.

March: Last day at SNBose Centre.

April: Last day in Salt Lake, Kolkata.

May: Rented a new place in Bangalore.

June: Turkey became Türkiye.

July: Fields Medals announced. (I haven’t yet written the post titled “June Huh is my kind of mathematician”.)

August: Salman Rushdie attacked.

September: Queen Elizabeth II dies.

October: Nobel Prizes announced.

November: World population crosses 8 billion mark!

December: Took a one day trip around BangaloreMOS temples.

Kalpavriksha atop Mandaragiri Hill

Digambar Jain Temple at Mandaragiri

Omkareshwar Temple

Shanmukha Temple

For a much more serious recap of 2022, I leave you with the Private Eye Magazine’s

Year in Review 2022

Thursday, December 22, 2022

A Few Nice Things…

As we wrap this year, I recollect a few nice things. Frist one has to be the resurrection of Sketchbook scanlations. One of the notes in this manga mentions the four fundamental forces like this:

Four Fundamental Forces

Being a theoretical high-energy physicist, I couldn’t stop chuckling at the truth of the last sentence. It’s quite an accurate statement, indeed. But then if you want to know about them, that’s nice too and am glad that Totan Kobako does!

Second one has to be the (Medu) Vada, a south Indian delicacy. It goes well with sambar, coconut chutney, and/or even just like that as a snack. I like a well-prepared crispy vada as much as the next person. So when iD advertises that anyone can make it using their special packaging and magic nozzle, I had to give it a try myself:

Id's Medhu Vada

These turned out to be quite good, taste-wise. Shape-wise, we struggled a bit in the beginning but after a few trials, we realized three things which helped in making a good torus shape:

1. Let enough batter gather at the nozzle before trying to drop it in the oil.

2. Don’t hesitate with the cutter when you decide to drop the batter in the oil.

3. Keep the nozzle oiled up so the batter does not stick to the nozzle.

Regarding the last point, it is instructed on the packaging (and the following video) to clean the nozzle with tissue paper every once in a while. But we figured out that oiling the nozzle after cleaning helps the batter drop much more easily while retaining the torus shape and minimizing spiky protrusions.

iD’s instructional video

There you have it. Two nice things that happened to me this year. Let us leave the rest few such things to the last post of this year which should, by my grace, come out in a week or so. Till then, I leave you with

Shakeel Azmi

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

More Manga News…

I talked about the revival of my best-loved slice-of-life manga in the previous post. In this post I will talk about three more mangas, two of which are spin-offs of one of the most popular ninja-themed manga ever.

Yes, you guessed it right! That manga is Naruto. It has had a few spin-offs till date. The still-running out of those is, of course, “Boruto: Naruto’s Son”. However, now two more spin-offs have been added to that ever-increasing-list. What a prolific mangaka Masashi Kishimoto is! I would say “hats off” to him but since I don’t wear hats, a simple “congratulations” will have to suffice. Please accept it without any ill-feelings. So what are these two spin-offs I hear you ask. They are: “Naruto: Sasuke’s Story” and “Naruto: Konoha’s Story”. The first one is about Sasuke (& SPOILER ALERT: Sakura)’s quest to find a life-saving cure for Naruto because Naruto is helluva sick due to over-use of sage mode or something. The second one is about Kakashi and Guy’s vacation from Konoha with a new character, Mirai Sarutobi, granddaughter of the third hokage (daughter of Asuma & Kurenai) or some such setup. These seem like interesting stories so I’ll read a few more chapters and decide whether to continue or not. That is, these mangas haven’t yet made it to my list of manga/anime that I’ve compiled here (see the tab above?).

The third manga which VIZ nudged me towards is “Cipher Academy”. A completely new (I guess) manga based around puzzles, riddles, cryptography, and brainy-stuff like that, including mystery-stuff like who are all these characters and what are their motivations in attending this academy! What the hell, man? Who introduces boatloads of characters in just the first two chapters! Who does “NISIOISIN” think he is? Gabriel García Márquez? Elena Ferrante? Anyway, the storyline seems promising and intriguing so once again I’ll read a few more chapters and decide whether to continue or not. That is, this manga has not yet made it to, you know what…

New Mangas @ VIZ.com

What more to read?

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Sketchbook is Revived…

Woo hoo!!! Finally, after 5 years the scanlation of Sketchbook has resumed. I am not sure about the group doing it but here it is: Sketchbook @ MangaDex. It seems to have resumed around 5 months ago but I noticed it only a week or so ago while searching for something else on Reddit! Talk about good luck. I read all the remaining chapters (150 onwards) of volume 11, and v12, and v13 in one sitting on that auspicious day. Now only one volume is left unscanlated, and I hope this anonymous but generous group or person delivers it before this year ends as X-mas present for this whole wide world. Till then, revisit v14 in these posts.

Sketchbook v14

Enjoy this feeling of impending sketchbook while it lasts.

I hope this generous group or person scanlates Scorebook’s remaining chapters too. I hear you ask what is that! Well, ‘Scorebook’ is a one-volume manga by the author of Sketchbook and here it is:

Scorebook

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Bleak Futures!

I have not written about Nature Futures in a while because most of the stories have been all right. A weekly good read, but not thought-provoking enough to provoke me to write a post here. But last week has been different. Way different because I had somehow missed stories from the previous week and read all the four unread ones together last week. And one of the previous week’s story stood out. I am talking about the story titled “The Family Tree” by Russel Nichols.

Autumn Red Tree

The setup was quite mundane, in all respects: characters, geography, interactions and emotions. Slowly, things started moving towards nothing in particular. So far so dull. Then I reached the last paragraph… and the last long sentence. My reading quickened. My gut felt punched so hard. My heart sank so deep. My jaws dropped so low. My eyes welled up so fast. My brain just couldn’t comprehend what hit it was so incomprehensible… for quite a few minutes! My whole being came to a halt screeching and skidding over very, very cold ice. It started wondering why my body was reacting so weirdly both physically and emotionally while my brain refused to re-read the sentence so that the fog of incomprehensibility could lift.

It was the same sort of reaction that washes over me whenever I even remotely consider of re-watching “Grave of the Fireflies”. I just don’t have enough emotional guts to re-watch that movie ever again. Once was enough. Even thinking about the ending feels like my guts are being knotted, stretched, straightened, and then reassembled but not how they were originally. Something definitely changed after watching that movie.

Similar reactions have occurred after reading Ernest Hemingway’s well-known shortest story: For sale: Baby shoes, never worn. Anyway, enough with my reactions to well-known movie and literature. I am not operating one of those dumb reactionary YouTube channels. Back to the Futures and it’s time to see you react to

That Story

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Happy Diwali…

to those who know what it stands for.

Happy Diwali

We celebrated it the usual way. Cleaning, dusting, cooking, decorating, eating, lighting, praying, bursting, and being happy in general. I just list the verbs because the nouns that go along with them should be obvious! If not, how else do you celebrate Diwali?

Anyway, some other news from other areas of my life. The British comedy-satirical panel show “Mock the Week” has ended after 17 years! Why did BBC choose to cancel it this year of all the time? I mean did the weekly news to mock somehow disappear this year? The ongoings in the world this year could be mocked for decades to come and “Mock of the Week” did mock it well week over week for the past few years. So what gives?

The last episode was something I was looking forward to. It has more than just news, of course. People ‘went emotional’, reminisced, and hoped they appeared on other panel shows equally frequently. The hope that I share as well. Alasdair Beckett-King got inducted in MTW just last season and has done great. He, rightfully, earned his seat in the last episode. Though, that doesn’t mean I didn’t miss Milton Jones in this episode. Angela Barnes and Rhys James were the main people chatting along the whole show. Zoe Lyons and Ahir Shah were quite quiet in this episode but then balance is the key to a show like this unlike the British parliament. Dara and Hugh as always were also there. Wish them all the best for their future endeavours. Hope to see them in expected (see the next para) as well as unexpected places (like in James Bond movies) sooner rather than later, and definitely in 2023.

Well, there’s HIGNFY for the time being. And when will WILTY and QI start this year? How can this year go from worse to worse and still feel like worst is yet to come? What the hell…

Finally, I leave you with some twist in the thread of this story.

Happy Diwali 2022

Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Expense Splitter…

…or ExpenSplit in short, has seen a major upgrade this year. It is such a major upgrade that it removes all the limitations that my Superpartner could point out all those years ago! These will be discussed as spacetime allows but first, first things first: The look of the program has more or less completely changed.

ExpenSplit - Main Screen

The top third now has not only the revamped data input table but also the text area for names of the group members. The latter used to appear as a popup window in earlier versions. What a dumb choice of GUI-making that was! Anyway, the input table is now more user-friendly with the drop-down menu in “Involved?” column having clear texts {‘Yes and Paid:’; ‘No.’; ‘No but Paid:’} (instead of earlier {+,0,-}!) to let one know what will be done with the input amount. The name and currency of each transaction now appear above the table. In addition, the total amount for each transaction is now also shown below the table.

ExpenSplit - Input

The middle third, as before, contains the table for splitting transactions. It might seem like nothing much have changed here (apart from the ‘Total’ column) but this table can show the data in two different formats now. One is the usual ‘Splits View’ and the other is what I have called the ‘Transfers View’ which shows positive and negative numbers with straightforward connotation of ‘pays’ and ‘gets’, respectively. This table will also get an extra column added for currency if one enables the multi-currency option.

ExpenSplit - Transfers

The bottom third, as before, contains the table for calculating payments. It might again seem like nothing much have changed here but this table can show the final payments in two different formats now. One is the usual ‘Detailed View’ and the other is what I like to call the ‘Simplified View’, which just writes down the payments as instructions. Also, when muti-currency option is enabled, the currency for final payments can be chosen and the instructions are updated accordingly.

ExpenSplit - Payments

Let me now properly point out the elephant in the room that has been casually pointed at in the above paragraphs. Yes, transactions in multiple currencies in a single file are now supported in ExpenSplit, for my Superpartner’s sake. This feature is enabled from the ‘Options’ menu. The data is obtained from openexchangerates.org and the user is recommended / urged to get an API key from there to update the exchange rates bundled with the program. Those rates will be way out-dated by the time you get your hands on this program. (If this feels familiar to you, good to know that you use AcBook.)

Let me also point out that the two ‘new’ formats in the latter two tables have not appeared out of thin air, but are just the data that were saved to an Excel file (along with the .mat file) in earlier versions. This inclusion of double ‘views’ in the tables suggested some changes for how the data is saved in this version. That is, saving data in the .mat file and in an Excel file are no longer done via a single button. The ‘Save’ button just saves the data to a .mat file whereas a new ‘Export’ button saves the data to a properly formatted Excel file. (Again, this should remind you of AcBook.) These operations along with a couple of others like setting (& getting) default names and currency are done via the new menu bar and toolbar.

ExpenSplit - Top Bars

Yes, the toolbar has returned (with 4 buttons) along with a revamped menu bar with a lot of never-before-seen options (which include those already discussed above) in this program (but familiar from my other programs, see the tabs near the top of this blog). Something that is not often appreciated is that the resizing behaviour of the GUI has become slightly better than before. This is due to the slightly ‘improved’ UIGridLayout, but the flexible grid feature of GUILT is still not here!

That is all that is ‘new’ and ‘improved’ in this version. Thanks for reaching all the way down here! Now go download this program and start sharing your expertise in splitting hairs or expenses, for that matter.

ExpenSplit 3.0

Saturday, September 10, 2022

Being Cultural…

Culture doesn’t make people; people make culture. –Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Half an hour of Culture

Let’s be ‘cultured’ in this day and age.

That’s all for this post. I will leave you with

Invisible Women

Friday, August 26, 2022

To Explain the World

As the year marches on, to meet the quota on this blog, I copy and paste here a post from my WordPress blog. Enjoy!

Stained Glass Window

Today is Ed Witten’s birthday, apparently. I recently completed S. Weinberg’s book “To Explain the World”, so I will instead collect some excerpts from that book here. Let’s start with one from near the beginning of the book.

There remains a poetic element in modern physics. We do not write in poetry; much of the writing of physicists barely reaches the level of prose. But we seek beauty in our theories, and use aesthetic judgments as a guide in our research.

I like the phrase “barely reaches the level of prose”. It really made me laugh out loud, while reminding me of a quote by Francis Crick:

There is no form of prose more difficult to understand and more tedious to read than the average scientific paper.

Moving on, Weinberg also cites the preface to the “Treatise on Light” by C. Huygens:

There will be seen [in this book] demonstrations of those kinds which do not produce as great a certitude as those of Geometry, and which differ much therefrom, since whereas the Geometers prove their Propositions by fixed and incontestable Principles, here the Principles are verified by the conclusions to be drawn from them; the nature of these things not allowing of this being done otherwise.

I like this “way of doing science” as it is how I think about theoretical physics research, especially high energy physics. Of course, the sentiment above is as valid for any theorist or experimentalist or phenomenologist or someone in-between. Because in my view, the phrase “⋯Principles are verified by the conclusions⋯” is so broad that the “conclusions” include everything from experimental results (Gedanken or physical or any other kind one could think of) to results in terms of equations (Abstract or useful or any other kind one could think of). This broad view further enforced by the next phrase “⋯nature of these things not allowing of this being done otherwise”, puts into perspective that the “dated” view of scientific method (Hypothesis → Experiment → Confirmation? → Theory or Re-Hypothesize!) is indeed “dated”. The scientific method should instead be thought of as “Principles → ??? → Consequences”. [A better discussion along similar lines can be found here.] The “???” could be anything from a one-page mathematical proof to a simple thought-experiment to a backyard contraption to a billion-dollar lab experiment to a decades-long development of a theoretical framework. The former view of a scientific method is good enough to be discussed in a nursery class where kids don’t even realize that something could be subtracted from 0 whereas the latter is what actually happens in the real world of scientific research. Though, even the real researchers could be in denial of this fact most of the time, because the early nursery education is quite hard to override, even by the time one becomes a faculty member. A personal example of this: after I finished my talk on “3d supersymmetric localization” at SNBose and asked one of the senior professors what he thought about the talk, he replied, “I am a real physicist”! I laughed out loud, and thought, “Oh, he’s that kind of a physicist!”. By “that kind” I, of course, mean someone who hasn’t been able to move past the above-mentioned nursery education.

Someone at this point will surely interject and say something like, “what about the real world?” or “what about this thing’s usefulness?” or “what about the real world applications?” or “when will I actually need this in my real life?”. For all those interjectors, I point my index finger towards the future posts which I will write on this blog slowly and steadily, but surely, as I continue burning various bridges. Because why not? In short, here are my two cents: Have you seen the real world recently? Why the hell would I ever think about it, except in my nightmares? Supersymmetry and Superspace is a much better and nicer place to live in and it turns out to be quite useful to avoid the real world, and that’s all I need in my real life!

That went off in a different direction than intended so let’s get back on track with another excerpt from the book.

The search for knowledge of practical value can serve as a corrective to uncontrolled speculation, but explaining the world has value in itself, whether or not it leads directly to anything useful.

This again echoes what I said above or rather, what I said above echoes these thoughts of Weinberg. Of course, it’s the latter.

We get intense pleasure when something has been successfully explained, as when Newton explained Kepler's laws of planetary motion along with much else. The scientific theories and methods that survive are those that provide such pleasure, whether or not they fit any preexisting model of how science ought to be done.

Weinberg so eloquently expresses the need to throw away the “outdated” view of the scientific method, which according to him, had outlived its usefulness already at the time of Newton. And finally,

The rejection of Newton's theories by the followers of Descartes and Leibniz suggests a moral for the practice of science: it is never safe simply to reject a theory that has as many impressive successes in accounting for observation as Newton's had. Successful theories may work for reasons not understood by their creators, and they always turn out to be approximations to more successful theories, but they are never simply mistakes.

Well-said but it seems this moral is not taken seriously even by many self-appointed real physicists in this day and age!

That’s quite a long post which I definitely did not intend for it to be. So let’s leave it there, as I move on to another book of Weinberg:

Third Thoughts