Blog 8: “Dear Zindagi” and mutual induction

One of the good movies which I have seen in recent past is Shahrukh Khan and Alia Bhat’s “Dear Zindagi”..!

Courtesy: Indianexpress.com

A wonderful movie showing life of a young girl, her struggle, aspirations and stresses she goes through. Taking help of a psychiatrist, who helps her conquer her fears and guides her through a lesson, to love life..!! The part that I remember the most is his chair, which solely belongs to him and squeaks if any other person sits on it. The classic scene in this movie is the one in which, he sits on the chair, towards the end of the movie, and it squeaks.. indicating that the personality of him has changed.. to someone the chair doesn’t recognise. It is shown to be the effect of the chirpy, lively girl who is his patient. His personality gets modified, as well, while treating her..!!

We see such effects, so often in our everyday life. An influential person changes the generation of people who follow him/her. A charismatic person imbibes varied characters in the people around him/her, touching their lives…. But there is a difference.. the effect in the above examples is one way. While “Dear Zindagi” shows a two way effect..

I thought of such things in Physics as well. We have seen mutual induction, isn’t it? It says that whenever there is a conductor coil, carrying alternating current through it, it creates magnetic field around it… very similar to the psychiatrist, who has a great persona and trying to heal the patients coming to him. As long as the patient’s interaction zone is not too close, it works fine and as a simple therapy. However, if another conductor coil comes in close proximity to this coil, the magnetic lines of force of the current carrying conductor interfere with the second coil. The second coil, in our case is Alia Bhat’s character. As that happens, the field is induced in this coil as well, changing the performance of the coil, which otherwise was “lifeless”. That’s interesting, I think..!!

Courtesy: Electricalunits.com

Secondly, a Lenz’s law states, whenever current is induced in a conductor, due to its own flux, its direction is such that it tries to oppose the cause. This means, the induced current changes the original character of the coil..! On similar lines, the character of Shahrukh Khan in this movie changes, due to his own therapy and its effect on his patient, Alia..! The only condition is that the acquaintance has to be friendlier and there has to be a connection between two personalities, to make this magic work. This can happen between two close friends, or between two people who are able to connect to each other, at an intellectual level, very well. The induction effect is an outcome of mutual respect, faith and affection towards the thought processes of each other.

Interesting, I guess..!! Maybe the Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle can say more.. Since it does say that while you measure one parameter, there is an error in the other, i.e., the other parameter changes… it would be rather difficult to connect these concepts.., but one can always try..

Curiosities helps us relate two totally different episodes in a magical way.. well, some may agree, and few may disagree too.. but to pen it down is important..!!

Blog 7: Grain Boundaries and State Boundaries: An operational simile!

I was recently in Mangalore for a wonderful conference on Lasers. I had to give a talk here and also participate to listen to others. The family of researchers working on Lasers, worldwide, is quite limited.. and in that, those working on Pulsed Lasers for material depositions is further narrowed. Hence listening to such talks and also delivering one on such platforms is always fun! So I was hearing one speaker who was talking on grains and grain boundaries.

Those who are new to this field, grains are small crystals or crystallites (group of atoms) of a particular material, which show similar behavior. In any given material (say copper, aluminium, gold, silicon, any oxides and so on), the arrangement of atoms is important. If they are grouped in the form of crystallites, then the structure looks something like the one shown below.

Courtesy: httpswww.google.com

It has multiple groups (grains) randomly oriented. The inter-grain arrangement is random (but in equilibrium), but intra-grain arrangement is very systematic. Imagine a hexagonal arrangement. Well, imagine multiple atoms arranged in hexagonal fashion, which is a single grain. And such hexagonal cubes oriented in different fashion would form the entire polycrystalline material. Now, every grain will have a grain-boundary with respect to its neighbor. These grain boundaries are full of imperfections and random orientations of atoms. This is natural, because, the atoms in these locations are under loose-influence of either of the grains and hence their orientation is slightly screwed. These imperfections give rise to fatigue in the crystalline system of the material, and that gives rise to strain, stress and creeks in the material, which gives rise to a bit-of instability to the structure. A smooth grain boundary is desirable, but is never so..!! And this gives rise to the characteristic behavior of the material. The conductivity, electrical, optical and other properties are dependent on these grains and grain boundaries. The “personality” of any material, will depend upon the polycrystalline nature and the way in which it is engineered.. that is its inter-grain chemistry. If the grain boundaries are rough, the overall performance of the material gets affected to a very large extent. All the notorious atoms lying in this region create resistance to the systematic behavior of the material, giving rise to an “altered” (often, poor) performance of the material. But how about a single crystal? The crystal in which all the atoms are perfectly aligned with respect to each-other? They would behave very systematic and the performance would be very good, when any external field is applied. However, in case of polycrystalline material, large external electric/magnetic fields would be required to align all the grain –boundary atoms in a proper way to give a systematic performance.

Partial map of India : for example

Every country is like a polycrystalline material, I thought.. Every state is like a grain, comprising of people of similar types (like atoms in a grain). They speak certain language, have similar behavioral, food, dressing patterns and have similar thought-process. As we go from one state to another, the pattern changes, the language changes and again, the people there are well-aligned with each other. But what happens at the boundaries? The state boundaries comprise of people who are in complicated situation. Individual political influences from either states co-exist, languages interfere and their thought processes are also complicated. The grain boundaries are rough… similarly, the regions between the interfaces of two states is also complicated. This weak identity of the people creates barriers, misunderstandings and a kind-of polarized mind-sets. This resistance can be overcome only with a good and strong political control. It is easy to imagine that if two neighboring states have same party government, they would align with each-other easily; for example, sharing of water and electricity resources would happen easily. But if not, resistance would be large. The identity of these states and hence the identity of the country starts deteriorating, which defines the economy of the country. Therefore very strong political governance (just like externally applied electric or magnetic field) would be necessary to keep all the states together (just like keeping the polycrystalline system together). If a single majority government exists, it is easy to have a congenial country, which will develop faster than that with a government with lot of alliances.

If a country has no states, what will happen? Single state country will be most peaceful, easy to handle and with good economical standing. Think of Vatican City, a single state place with merely 1000 people. This is like a single crystal in materials. However, the nature of a country is similar to the nature of mostly made materials.. polycrystalline.. multi-state…

Thought of putting up this thought of correlation of material science with the country formation and governance… I can think deeper… and talk about the “type” of atom and “behaviour/nature” of an individual.. but that will make this blog more complicated (and interesting)!!

A material can be made to work in its best performance mode by handling the grain boundaries properly and ensuring that these boundaries are minimal. Same way, a country can run with best economy of the inter-state politics is kept minimal and people think alike..!!

Blog 6: “Un-settled” is a new “settlement” – Welcome to Generation ”Y” aka Millennials

Surfing on the net today I got caught over a nice article on Millennials. I was interested in knowing more about these, who are born between 1980 to say 2000. They are also called as Generation “Y”, because they are in between the just gone, Generation “X” and preceding Generation ”Z”..!!

Blog 6.jpg
Social network concept.
Image credit: Nadia_bormotova Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

I am fortunate to meet these, through my profession which allows me to interact with Young PhD students, Master students, and an ensemble of young people in fitness regime of mine and in social circle. Why are these people special? Well, they are related to the time-frame in which they are born and the global circumstances which have made them what they are..!!

 Wikipedia says that : “The characteristics of millennials vary by region and by individual, and the group experiences a variety of social and economic conditions, but they are generally marked by their coming of age in the Information Age, and are comfortable in their usage of digital technologies and social media.”

Well, I agree..this generation has seen most of the digital disruption. They have also seen the changes in medium of social communication. They have witnessed the economic and political scenario changes to highest degree. These are the people who are born to a generation of people who had secured jobs, had “so-called” peaceful families and a steady life. Being a child, they have seen a comfortable house owned by their parents, couple of self-owned vehicles and farm houses. They have seen steady income in the family which has allowed them to buy digital gadgets very easily. During this time-frame itself, social media like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snap-chat and LinkedIn have come in. Created by their earlier generation and used by Millennials!! Traffic on the roads has increased tremendously and government jobs have gone down. This generation has grown up seeing the cut-throat competitions in educational system, admission difficulties in the colleges and drastic drops in the “permanent” jobs..!! I have known people from previous generations who have worked with “Telco” for their entire life…!! Well this has gone now..!! Jobs have become volatile… and this generation has actually faced the heat of these critical changes.

Let us see how they have grown and coped up. With increasing nuclear families and also traffic on the roads, all children have been given a mobile phone by their parents.. they have not “chosen” a mobile device, but they have been “given”. For the security of a child on roads and also for parents to know that they “reached safe”!! Now, getting hooked to that device is but natural, because the devices became smarter and interactive. Traffic on roads has prevented children from outdoor activities. With both parents working, naturally, the child is more on the “internet” than on a cricket ground.. again, not the choice of the child, but an restriction of the surroundings. Welcome to the virtual world, then, again, naturally..!! Social network friends, posts, boomerangs, story posts and so on.. well, they have been given these by the digital giants and Millennials are using these.. Government jobs are scarce, company and industry situation is highly volatile and they are born in the era of entrepreneurship… Well, they would mold differently from “Generation X”.. Let’s think more..

If they have seen a bad job situation, around the globe, the concept of a “secured job” will naturally evaporate from their minds. They could well think of “self employment”… which is very good for them, and hence for the nation!! Well, at family level, they have seen the struggle of their parents, their running around to bring the child up, their dependencies on maids and older family members.. If I were to be in the shoes of a teenager, now, I would ask myself, is this necessary at all? Why have an extension of family and keep running around to help them grow.. Anyways, I am not going to have pension in my life, why not earn more in the best times and enjoy my limited life.. well, works well  with Millennials! Mind you, they are much brave and smart to make their choice and execute it boldly, which was not so with those born before 1980s. The reason: the freedom; which was limited then.

Now for the properties and assets… Again, welcome to the digital world and new mobility.. With Uber and Ola services, one would not buy a car and maintain it. If someone is maintaining it, and is also making it available to me whenever required, I am good..!! I do not worry about taxes, licences and insurances. Same is true for houses as well. The time we have in life is indeed limited. One can pursue many things and live happily and cheerfully!

And just observe the social circle around. New social clubs are being set in a big way, mountaineering clubs, astro-clubs, running buddies club, fitness gyms, conversation clubs, Karaoke groups and so on. New concept of “family” is evolving, which is good… One need not have a single family, but more than that, and hence you evolve socially.. Are we going back to the social-living, which humans did centuries ago… a profound thought and needs deeper analysis..

There are flip sides to this generation too. They are often named as “selfish” and “self-centered”. The old-age homes are increasing (but we should remember that day-care centers for children were also increasing few decades back..). The relationships between men and women are increasingly becoming complex and sometimes, isolation grips in.

But to end this note, I would say that I love this generation of Millennials. They are more expressive, bold, strong, self-reliant and have independent thought process. They have few limitations and flaws, but the system has induced these in them.. we need to understand before we comment on them.

I always see budding enthusiasm and eagerness to excel, in the younger generation.. and hence “un-settled” is a new “settlement” for Millennials..!!

Unsupervised Learning… Deep Learning !

I like to listen to songs of Ed Sheeran.. I like his voice, his writings, his voice modulation and his throw of voice. Being a fan, I love to collect his songs, via downloads from digital media and also from online shops, I tend to buy few stuffs related to his albums, and advertisements. As against that, my daughter likes to listen to Shawn Mendes. She is a huge fan of him and therefore, she tries to prove the point by sharing his songs. And I do that too.

Now welcome to Digital World of Artificial Intelligence (AI). This world is watching both me and my daughter. The data that we collect, share and access, gives AI the understanding and it will start streaming and promoting all the updates of both Ed Sheeran and Shawn Mendes. We will get it on our social media websites as well as on our phones, as advertisements and so on. Now comes the next stage.. I am listening to Shawn, just because my daughter is sharing his songs… not because I like his songs, specifically. And same is true for my daughter. Is the machine going to know that I am actually a fan of Ed Sheeran and Not of Shawn Mendes? A conventional AI machine will not know. But, if the machine has learnt the Deep-learning way, YES, it WILL KNOW..! This is one level of learning more, which is done by an AI machine, called as Deep-learning.

As mentioned in the online literature, Deep learning is a subset of machine learning in AI, that has networks capable of learning unsupervised, from data that is unstructured or unlabeled. This is also known as deep neural learning or deep neural network. Deep learning is an artificial intelligence function that imitates the workings of the human brain in processing data and creating patterns for use in decision making.

Picture Courtesy: Matan Segev from Pexels
https://www.pexels.com/photo/action-android-device-electronics-595804/

So how does this work? Well, as we saw in previous Blog (Blog 4: How machines learn?), the huge data collected from different sources of social media, of a person, is analysed in quick time to judge his/her priorities. Now there are some algorithms which work on the data and lead to decision making. This is exactly the way in which they learn that I love music and in that I like Ed Sheeran. But normal AI will also see that I listen to Shawn. However, a Deep-learnt computer system will easily understand that I am not visiting social media sites of Shawn, nor am I downloading anything from the authentic sites of the singer. This means that I am listening to a derived source, indicating my lesser interest..! Thereby, judgment of liking is derived.

The structured algorithms are NOT given to the computer which is deep-learning. They are unsupervised. This is just like a small child, not given any lessons of school education (which is highly structured). But the child is given everything that he is supposed to know. The child figures out the way to acquire the information and create knowledge from it.. Sounds familiar…? In the same way, computers are fed with the Big Data. But processing is not “supervised”. They find out their own methods using “Neural networks” which they build themselves, using the volumes of data they get. If this data shows that I am processing more information of Ed Sheeran, it will learn that he is my favourite. Neural networks are constantly built and broken and re-formed. Just like humans evolve, these Artificially intelligent machine (Robots?) also evolve. They also become “wiser”, “smarter” and their judgement improves…. this is Deep Learning.

Technically, I do not understand much… but the machines are configured to handle data (big data) in layers (Hierarchical neural networks). The lowermost layer takes all the data. The upper layers keep adding information about the addresses, locations, personal information (which is authentically online) and so on. Hence the data is given some weighted points. This forms quadratic equations, mathematically (this is one of the models). This equation keeps modifying as the machine learns with more and more data. Again the same example… If the machine finds that today I heard 2 songs of Shawn, and only one song of Ed, it will give more weight to Shawn in the quadratic equation..!! and slowly it will do the reverse, as it collects more information about me.. This way, Mathematics keeps evolving and the machine keeps learning. I will definitely see the advertisements and new releases of Ed Sheeran and not of Shawn, in this new Digital era…. unless, ofcourse, my loyalty changes…. But trust me, the computer will know that too… and it will flip too..!!!

Now, if this is the way in which a computer learns us in such a “minutest” of details, it can become a better buddy? It can create wit and humour of my taste? It will recommend me the food of my liking (and mood of that time)? Not only that, it will order it for me? And play the music and lights of my desire? Well, the answer is yes, again..! Well, then will I not enjoy the company of such devices? An intense thought indeed… we should be careful. Where are we in this technological upheaval? Not Far…. Heard of Sophia or Zeno??

Blog 4: How do Machines Learn?

  • You are browsing on your Facebook webpage and you see a lovely advertisement of fancy shoes. You stop browsing and gaze at it for few seconds. In few hours, you find similar advertisement on your cell phone or in your email inbox.
  • You are on tour and travelling by your car to scenic location near Mahableshwar. You click some lovely pictures using your cell phone. In some time, your social media account asks you a question “How did you find the ranges near Pratapgadh? Or how was your dining experience with “xyz” hotel near Pratapgadh?” Oops.. your GPS was on..!!
  • You are “in” for a traffic jam and your Google Maps tell you to divert, just before you land into that jam..
  • You are in a grocery shop and buy dozens of cookies and the next thing that happens is that you get dozens of recommendations of different cookies from the same/similar Mall.

Well, who is watching us? Who is keeping an eye over the likes and dislikes of us, our preferences, our budgets and our habits? Welcome to the world of Big Data and Machine learning!

(Photo courtesy: Gery Wibowo on Unsplash)

Huge computers worldwide, which are maintained by giants such as Google / IBM / HP / Amazon, are storing large amount of data. The data which they collect from a extremely complicated network of computers, cell phones, cameras and GPS devices. These are huge storages which generate big data. Someone should be able to use it, and process it for something tangible/lucrative/useful. Well, machines do that job. Machines process the data, keeping an eye on the owner of the device, from whom the data is originating. These machines slowly gather the information about the person, not only in terms of the restaurants they visit, but also the clothes they wear, the places they tour and other likes and dislikes such as brands of shoes, perfumes they wear and so on. They link this data to the brands, restaurants and tourists locations of interest; and in this way, the advertisements start flowing in.

Does this sound like humans? Well, yes. Just as humans learn through experience, the machines also learn through the improvised data. For example, a small kid, initially crawls and falls on a slippery floor. But slowly, it learns how to be careful on the floor. This is because, in its brain (database), “slippery floor” gets added in and the next time, this improved database helps him avoid skidding. In the same way, a machine starts learning using the data it has. For example, it learns that I use “Nike” sports shoes. It will show me similar advertisements. But slowly, looking into my shopping preferences, it finds that I also use “Adidas” brand for my outdoor sports activity. It will learn this and upgrade my preferences and the data that it shows, will include both “Nike” and “Adidas” brands. This is machine learning.. Humans learn by experience and Machines learn by acquiring more data.

Therefore, Machine learning is a data analytics technique that teaches computers to do what comes naturally to humans (and animals). Machine learning algorithms use computational methods to “learn” information directly from data without relying on a predetermined equation as a model. The algorithms adaptively improve their performance, as the number of samples available for learning increases. This is a giant business model, in which the telephone companies, computer industry, network subscribers, consumer industries and cell-phone industries come together to mobilise the global economy.

This is not enough. Big enterprises are making these machines more and more versatile through creation of smarter algorithms and faster decision-taking-algorithms. Slowly, these machines are becoming intelligent by learning “Deep”. Just like a kid, once knows enough to survive, starts learning specialised skills, such as making a career in automobiles, textiles, accounts or finance; so does a machine.  Deep learning is a specialized form of machine learning. This makes the computers become more intelligent and take decisions in split seconds, which is much faster than humans. This is fantastic, in one way, and has a huge flip-side too. We see this a bit later. However, till then, imagine someone showing exactly same “imagination” as yours .. or “creativity” as yours. Would you like it? And even if you don’t, can you control this technology, which is coming? We will see soon..!

Marathon Run and Meditation

January 2019. The event was of Mumbai Marathon. Full of enthusiastic participants, who come from all over India and abroad. A lovely international event, which is one of the best in the world. Early morning of Marathon day. We all gathered at around 5 am, at BKC, Mumbai. In the pool of runners, we often go in a group, but eventually separate apart and get mixed in the crowd. I was one of them. Running this event and had lot of enthusiasm and was looking ahead to the Flag off. Music was in the air.. the sun was yet to rise.. it was dusky and dark. Big lights were making the place look bright and the face of every runner was glowing with eager, energy and curiosity. Everybody was going to run with her/him self and it was going to be fun..!

I was also well prepared for this event and while getting ready with my head band, tightening of shoes and checking the headphones, I saw a young lady next to me. She said Hi, and I reciprocated. We started talking and she told me that she has just completed Delhi Marathon and was here in Mumbai yesterday for this run. She looked very well prepared and was kind-of cool. I shared my experiences of earlier runs of mine and said that mostly, I get breathless in first 4-5 kms and later, I do it well, after that phase gets over. She said, exactly the same. But her next sentence was interesting. She said “I feel spiritual after 5 kms. I run as if I am doing meditation, and then I can run any distance even without realizing”!! I was stunned. How can one compare meditation with a Marathon Run?

The flag off took place and in chirpy music, enthusiastic and cheerful atmosphere, we all started our run journey.. It goes through Flora Fountain, Marine Drive, Chowpatty, Haji Ali, Mahim Church, and the Bandra–Worli Sea Link. Wonderful route, awesome Mumbai crowd and music-drums all over. I started my journey.. 21 Kms I had to cover and we all were together .. yet alone… an interesting combination.. just like life.. The sentence of this lady again came in my mind. How can meditation be compared with run?

What is meditation? Wikipedia says “Meditation is a practice where an individual uses a technique – such as mindfulness, or focusing their mind on a particular object, thought or activity – to train attention and awareness, and achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm and stable state”. Well, in a run, as the event starts, your mind is full of thoughts of making a good run. The thoughts are wandering. As the body gears up for the long run, it initially resists and the lungs demand more oxygen. As few kms are done, the thoughts come and go.. the music and drums around seem to fade and legs start to slightly slow down and breathlessness is felt. This is exactly the time when a technique of focusing of mind comes in. Now, mindfulness starts working and the random thoughts, which come-and-go, disappear. The mid gets trained for the job we have come for… to run.. and enjoy the run. Mentally, as this gets clear, the pain in the legs cease (or legs become numb), lungs start working with optimum capacity and operate in a rhythm and you seem to be in a quiet environment..amidst the commotion of the photographers, spectators and fellow runners. This is of course Meditation state…!! You come to a stable state, in which, you can run for ever..!! Vow..!! What a thought..

While I was thinking of all this, cool breeze passed over me.. on the lovely Sea Link… and the sunrise lit up the entire ambiance, and it also illuminated my thought process… Marathon Runs are similar to Meditation…!!!

This would be true for any activity we do, I am sure, which is done with passion and ambition.. Where mind and soul are together… no need to learn meditation… differently..

Bridging Industry Demands and Academic Research

Should academics take the responsibility of going further with their research results and ensure that they are available to the public in a form that is accessible and intelligible? Well, yes…! Do manufacturers also have the responsibility to use in-house technology for product development? The answer, again, is yes…!

Keep reading the details in the Cover Article of The Tilak Chronicle, Dated September 03, 2019..

Sangeeta Kale writes about Bridging Industry Demands and Academic Research in this article for #TheTilakChronicle – https://bit.ly/2jVENLB

getting started..

Getting started.. this is my first blog. Let me share as to why I thought of creating a blog and what do I intend to write here. Luckily, in everyday life, I meet variety of people. They range from my scientific community colleagues, to my running buddies, my gym friends and people in my social circle. Well, I have often observed that during different conversations, we generate good ideas, wider understandings and deeper meanings. Depending on the people with whom we converse, the ideas interlink in an extremely interesting fashion and generate a new concept. I have often observed that with an intricate scientific concept, someone can link a profound philosophical thought.. which surprises me..!! Curiosities of different professions, scientific progresses, technological advances, and lives of various people metaphor into something which opens up new dimensions of understanding. Curiosity is at the center of human race and this urges us to explore new things and understand a single scenario in various dimensions. If these ideas and understandings are not penned down, they evaporate. And if they are shared, the think-tank expands, and like-minded people from wide areas of professional domains come together. Gathering such people is the idea of this blog. Exchanging ideas and generating new ones is the main agenda..! Let me see how I do…