Monday, October 31, 2005

A "Physi-Cal" Adda!

Someone totally unconnected with Physics gave me this amazing link - where Prof. A.K. Raychaudhuri is interviewed by Parthasarathi Majumdar, Soumitra Sengupta and Jayanta K. Bhattacharjee.

Although I never had an opportunity to know Prof.Roychaudhuri personally - he inspired over a generation of Physicists from Kolkata - to say the least. There are many people who do good work - but beyond his research - he was an outstanding teacher in the sense of the term , according his students - which includes my father and uncle too - in my family. And this video was taken on July 2005 - just months before he passed away - makes it more special.

But to me - its more touching - because of the interviewers. Soumitra Sengupta , formerly of JU , now in IACS , is perhaps the reason why I came to Physics at the first place. Looking back at the summer of 1997 , still undecided about the career path - his inspiring lectures at JBNSTS summer school - which more often than not went beyond the scheduled hours - were one huge reason for me finally going in Physics. Then in spite of his busy schedule - we always had "SSG" as our mentor in JU days. Jayanta K. Bhattacharjee of IACS , much better known as "J.K.B" seemed to have an unofficial responsibilty of getting JU students started with some research in their undergrad years - and I was no exception. I must admit that due to other commitments - many times my effort did not live up to his expectations - but he was always so patient and encouraging - it was a real learning experience to work with him. Partha Majumder - of SINP , formerly of IMSc , had been a family friend - and he is an integral part of the Kolkata Physics circuit - but personally I did not have too many chances of interacting with him.

They called it an "interview" - but its more like an "adda" session. Adda is an integral part of Kolkata culture - and physicists are no exception. It was a nostalgic feeling for me to hear all those familiar voices discuss anything and everything - and somehow rekindles the focus for Physics again.

And before I forget - here is the link -

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Have to Talk!

I always complain about life being monotonously predictable. But yesterday I realized may be that was a good thing - at least academically. We have this annual thing called UF-FSU High Energy Symposium - where in a semi informal setting - High Energy Theorists from Gainesville and Tallahassee discuss their work. Now me - a total newbie - have been asked to give a 15 minute presentation in 2 weeks time. I am sure it would be a good "learning experience" for me - as I was consoled - but the basic problem is I dont yet have work which I can claim as my own!

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Congratulations and Celebrations!

As my friend in Chicago said - she doesnt care if its the Cubs or the Sox - they just want a win. And now they have a one - after 88 long years. That was when first world war was on and most of us were not even born. After Boston's fairy tale win last year - you do get a sense of deja vu.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Of Sox , Wilma and the Goddess

Back after a long unforced hiatus. A graduate student's life always remains largely uneventful - but events of momentous magnitude are happening elsewhere.

Recap: After Boston's curse-breaking-run last year - its turn of Chicago White Sox this year - they cant possibly lose the World Series now.

We escaped Wilma's wrath being in North Central Florida - but the damage to South Florida was significant.

Gators lost in Baton Rogue in a game where our offence was non existent - and the season appeared all but over - but Georgia's QB injury is giving us a glimmer of hope before the "World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party" (Yeah thats how annual Florida-Georgia game is referred to).

I planned to write something about the Orlando Durga Pujo, where we were a couple of weekends before. But then I realized - the traditional attractions of a Durga Pujo were overwhelmingly missing here - the Pujo part is highly non classical - the ambiance is utterly American and worst - hardly any female to attract my attention. The food was good - Khichuri in the afternoon and Luchi at night - so I wont really complain - but its more like a day out rather than a socio-religious occasion. Still I would applaud the fine people who put in so much effort to make this happen.

Monday, October 17, 2005

J.D.Park still #1

From Today's Telegraph -

The highest number of suicide deaths — seven — has occurred at Kalighat and Jatin Das Park stations. Central station has so far seen six suicide attempts and three deaths.

Phew! I always thought we, the proud passengers of Belgachia came second. I am actually surprised to see Kalighat rising up the ranks so fast - J.D.Park always has been a safe heaven for people jumping on the tracks. But I remember a Belagachia station employee saying proudly - we are number two. Things have apparently changed in last couple of years.

There is actually a method in madness. Its very obvious why J.D.Park tops the list. After the busy strech of central Kolkata Office goers- the footfall here is very small during the peak hours. And I dont know why - the people who commit suicide are always determined to harass maximum number of people - so they always choose busy office hours. And the overall ambience of J.D.Park is very encouraging - kind of dim lights - long platform with stairs at both end - and always quiet. But Kalighat or Central should not even be in the list by the same logic - where as Belgachia kind of fits in. But either way - I am so disappointed to see our position slip.

P.S - I actually witnessed a suicide in Rabindra Sadan station during 1994 soccer World Cup. I am absolutely sure I dont want be in a similar situation again.

Friday, October 14, 2005

So Near Yet So Far

Nobody knows if it was supposed to be that big. But somehow it turned out to be that. The most recognizable reward for a Physicist (or for an Economist and so on). Like any other subjective award - its often not fair - but that has not taken off the glitter a bit. The Swedish Prize as it colloquially referred to, is still the ultimate laurel in the field.

And amazingly - we almost had a winner this year. Like many of the illastrious Physics programs across the country - we dont have Nobel Laureates walking down the hallway - so this indeed means a lot to an emerging program like us. The Physics Nobel this year has been partially awarded to Roy Glauber from Harvard "for his contribution to the quantum theory of optical coherence.”. UF Physics and Mathematics Professor John Klauder helped to work out the mathematical theory of this phenomenon.

Part of the citation reads: “The mathematical formalism of quantized fields was developed in parallel with Glauber’s work on their applications. E.C.G. Sudarshan drew attention to the use of coherent state representations for the approach to classical physics; at this point he refers to Glauber’s work. Together with J.R. Klauder he proceeded to develop the mathematical formalism of Quantum Optics; their approach is presented in their textbook. After the initial contributions, many authors applied Glauber’s results to the rapidly evolving experimental situation in optical physics, thus creating the field today called ‘Quantum Optics’.”

We felt that Klauder deserved more than just a mention - afterall Glauber used and extended his formalism of Coherent States in Quantum Optics. But alas that did not happen. And we still await a Nobel Prize winner from UF Physics.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

New England Photos

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Not always - these pictures do not do full justice to the the amazingly scenic landscapes I travelled across.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Boston and Beyond ...

They say New England is awesome in fall. And they are so right. Although colors were slightly late this year and we ran into unusually bad weather during the weekend - the drives through scenic routes of Vermont and New Hampshsire were so pretty - and as always Boston has its own charm.

I landed in Boston on a sunny Thursday afternoon. Boston is a city meant for walking - all the travel guides warned me of aggressive drivers and bikers and even of aggressive pedestrians. What they forgot to add was often non existent and mostly confusing road signs. Driving in Boston, like any other big city is not fun.

But walking through the streets of the city sure is. I have been to Boston before - a quick Thanksgiving trip in 2003 was my first visit to any big American city. I have been to so many cities after that - but I must confess - Boston is an unique experience. Its not only about the feel of history associated with it - but the predominantly European architecture, enlightened population (After all which other city has two schools like MIT and Harvard down the same street?) - the overall ambiance is what makes Boston so special. They have red line going along the sidewalks connecting most of the major historical landmarks - it is named the freedom trail - and its difficult not to get lost in the past walking down the trail - starting from the golden dome of Old City Hall to Boston Commons to the the ever popular Faneuil Market Halls - passing through old cemeteries and churches. It leads you across the river Charles to the old shipyard and Bunker hill monument.

Did I mention the Faneuil Hall? To me - its the centre of Boston downtown. A throbbing shopping and eating place - with foods stalls from different parts of the world lined up inside the Quincy Market - spending an evening here is an integral part of the Boston experience.

I headed to Amherst, a quiet college town in the western Massachusetts at the end of the day. My friend there married his longtime sweetheart in the summer - and it feels kind of weird to see close buddies actually getting married!

Next day we went up via route 2 to the Green mountains region of Vermont - and travelled from Bennington to Brattleborough through scenic route 9. A little delay in the arrival of the peak color meant places in lower elevation just started turning yellow while the foliage up the elevation was a mixture of green, yellow and orange. Bad weather made it difficult to click too many photos though. We stopped at the little town of Brattleborough - its one of those small towns full with eateries and antique shops with a distinct old world charm.

The weather played spoilsport on Saturday. So we just just took the route 2 to Boston - which was although not brimming with colors - was nice anyway - specially for eyes used to Florida (An aside: there is a place called Florida in Massachusetts) greenery. The state routes in that part of the world are so much prettier than freeways - you cruise along winding roads and little picturesque towns.

We decided to head up north on Sunday. The sky was overcast - but it was better than last two days.We took the interstate 91 straight up - then turned into New Hampshire via route 25 and then onto route 112 - better known as Kancamagus Highway through the White Mountain region. And it was awesome.Once we were at a higher elevation - it was a riot of colors all around us - from bright yellow to sparking orange to ruby red and evolving crimson. Standing there -looking at the foliage - the pictures you get are so grossly inadequate to convey the wonderful settings. Now I know what brings so many people to these regions every year in fall - just to be a part of the spectacle is an experience I would saviour till next time. We came back via route 302 to interstate 93 to interstate 91 again - they actually take you to all the way to Canada if you continue going north.

After all these fun - came the bad part. My flight back on Monday night was cancelled - and to take the early morning flight out from Logan - I ended up spending the night at airport. And after a while - it was pretty "India-esque" - with people sleeping on the floors!

P.S - The state motto of New Hampshire ,which appears on state's automobile licence plates is "Live Free or Die"!

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Be Right Back!

I am off to a weekend getaway in New England - hopefully would be back with stories and pictures!

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

No "Word" Please!

I know everyone faces this.Working on your linux terminal - you receive some real useful information in word format. Either you have to go back to Windows or look for some non standard software in linux platform to retrieve the information. Even in Windows - if you are one of those people who refused to pay microsoft and do not appreciate software piracy - you are stuck with some bulky open source software which rarely behave seamlessly.

Time to change things. Stand up against the practice of sending word files and expect everyone to read them.A good place to start is here -

Monday, October 03, 2005

Stranded in US

From The Telegraph -

America’s desperate Indian wives - Achievers at home become dependants (sic) in land of no opportunity.

“I had a very good impression of America, that there are equal rights for women.... It’s not that I feel lonely. I feel unnecessary.”

Most people I know would refuse to admit this as a problem. In this politically correct world - its indeed difficult to do so. A man's ego would get hurt real bad if his wife is unhappy in spite of all his attention. After all , they would point out, how many of their buddies are in the US of A?

And the situation is worse with F2 visa people. At least the H1B folks have the money - may be money can't buy you happiness - but it sure makes life slightly more comfortable. But think about the poor overworked and underpaid graduate students - whose pay check in most cases is barely enough for them live decently and make an annual trip back home. When you add to that responsibility to of taking care of their spouses - I dont think that leaves too much breathing space in there. While I unequivocally appreciate their dedication to their partners - I just dont feel comfortable with the idea of a girl sitting at home whole day doing nothing productive.

Yeah - I have actually said nothing productive. Which most people dont seem to realize is that there is a dramatic difference in lifestyle between India and here. Although I personally still dont "like" it - but I realize a lady can be a "homemaker" (an aside: I feel homemaker is a far better word than the much more used housewife) there and still be mostly content. Thats not only because there are so many things need to be taken care of at home - but there is a support system around you. Your family and friends are just a phone call away - and you are so used to the surroundings that you can go out independently and do whatever you feel like.

But its hardly like that here. Whether its a shabby graduate student dwelling or a well decorated family apartment - there is nothing much to do at home except for watching TV and browsing Internet - which obviously gets immensely boring after a while. In most cases there is nothing to do either even if you go out - public transports are virtually non existent except in major cities and the surroundings are cruelly unfamiliar with strangers all around. Life is fun in USA only if you have the means to enjoy it!

And all these while - as the Telegraph story so realistically points out - it makes you "feel useless". Your husband has a gruelling work schedule - and he has a social life beyond you. Most of the days he would come back home dead tired - hardly in a situation to spend some quality time with the poor creature waiting at home. Your life has to revolve around him - after all thats how you are here - but his doesnt. And you cant expect it to get any better.

So whats the solution? To ease the Visa norms? I would strongly disagree. With American economy losing jobs badly - outsourcing and all that reasons - the first priority is to get jobs for the Americans. After all its their country! But then again you cant expect people not to be with their loved ones. Like a thousand other problems in the world - this has no apparent generalized solution. But unlike most of those - this does affect me personally.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Why I dont miss Pujo

This is that time of the year. Whenever I have a conversation with anyone from back in Kolkata - they would inevitably ask whether I miss pujo and then without paying any attention to what I say - mumble some sympathetic words.

Let me get this clear for once and all.Ladies and Gentlemen - I do not miss pujo.Yes - I repeat - I do not. And now having made it amply clear - let me explain why.

I am an atheist. Now I know pujo is more of a social occasion than religious - so me not believing in the powers of the Goddess is not the issue here. You miss something only when you actually realize other people are enjoying it while you cant. Being 10,000 miles away from Kolkata - immersed in work - chasing deadlines - you never realize its pujo. Pujo is not only four days of pandel hopping - its the expectation from months back, the shopping, the preparation. The overall ambiance makes pujo what it is. That whole ambiance is absent here - nothing around me tells me its pujo - so pujo days pass like oh so normal days for me.

Ignorance is indeed a bliss sometime.


A blowout loss. Getting a feeling that more the things change - more they remain the same.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Another Saturday. Another Game.

Go Gators. Beat Crimson Tide. We need this win badly.

What do you do...

...when things dont go your way?

You wait for them to "become" right or should they wait for you to set them right?