Thursday, May 4, 2017

D D Kosambi: Selected Works in Mathematics and Statistics by Ram Ramaswamy

Re-posted from: And then...
After what seems an agonizingly long time since the first ideas of the book took root, I got the following letter from my publishers (how sweet that sounds!) last week,

 “We are very pleased to inform you that your book has been published and it is available on Customers can order it […] etc.”
D D Kosambi: Selected Works in Mathematics and Statistics is finally done, and is now available in both e and paper formats. The cover on the right shows DDK at three stages of his life, at Harvard, in Aligarh, and finally, in his TIFR years.
To quote from the blurb: This book fills an important gap in studies on D. D. Kosambi. For the first time, the mathematical work of Kosambi is described, collected and presented in a manner that is accessible to non-mathematicians as well. A number of his papers that are difficult to obtain in these areas are made available here. In addition, there are essays by Kosambi that have not been published earlier as well as some of his lesser known works. Each of the twenty four papers is prefaced by a commentary on the significance of the work, and where possible, extracts from technical reviews by other mathematicians.
My personal contribution to the book, other than to edit is, is fairly minimal. Apart from a preface, I have basically tried to describe the academic milieu in which Kosambi found himself at different points in his life, and have also tried to infer what others thought of him in another prefatory essay, “A Scholar in His Time”.
Kosambi gave his academic manifesto in the essay, “Adventure into the Unknown” which also is one of the places where he wrote that Science is the cognition of necessity. (It is quite another matter that the phrase is not one that can be understood in a straightforward manner. Anyhow, as a quote its famous enough.) Reprinting that essay in its entirety seemed appropriate, as also another note “On Statistics” that gives a flavour of DDK’s interdisciplinarity, mixing statistics, erudition, Marxism, etc. The last of the non-mathematical writings is a project completion report submitted by DDK to the Tata Trust in 1945 and it permits, among other things, an inner view of a vastly gifted and somewhat frugal scholar who, in parallel, and for Rs 1800, carried out  6 research projects on issues as diverse as writing a mathematical monograph on Path Spaces, editing a concordance of Bratrihari‘s epigrams, and constructing an electromechanical computational device (the Kosmagraph),  among others.
The remainder of the book is a set of reprints. Of his 67 or so papers in mathematics and statistics, about a third are presented, starting with some of his first papers, Precessions of an Elliptical Orbit and  On a Generalization of the Second Theorem of Bourbaki, and ending with one of the papers he wrote under the peculiar alias of S. Ducray,  Probability and Prime Numbers.
An attempt was made to include all the important papers, in particular the ones that made his reputation such as Parallelism and Path-Spaces that along with two other notes by Cartan and Chern are the basic of the Kosambi-Cartan-Chern theory,  the various papers that laid the foundations of scientific numismatics, as well as the papers that he should have followed up but didn’t, such as Statistics in Function Space that foreshadowed the K-L decomposition. The Kosambi distance in genetics was elaborated in  The Estimation of Map Distances from Recombination Values, and this is also reprinted.
Kosambi’s obsession with a statistical approach to the proof of the Riemann hypothesis resulted in several papers of which An Application of Stochastic Convergence, Statistical Methods in Number Theory, and The Sampling Distribution of Primes are reprinted here.  These, as is well-known, effectively ruined his reputation as a serious mathematician.
Chinese. Japanese. French. German. English. DDK published papers in all these languages, sometimes exclusively, and twice the same article in translation. Also reprinted in this volume are three of the foreign language papers, the ones in German, French, and Chinese. The last is of particular interest since it was written during an exchange visit to China in the late 1950’s and only later published in English.
A number of people have helped me along the way and it is my pleasure to thank them all here. For the initial suggestion that the book be done, and for sustained and general encouragement, I am very grateful to Romila Thapar. I’ve written about this before.  Meera Kosambi was keen to see her father’s mathematical legacy appreciated and was very enthusiastic about bringing out this collection and helped greatly in more ways than I can describe. She passed away in January 2015, when she knew the project was afoot, but not in any way certain as to how it would all come out. Michael Berry, S. G. Dani, and Andrew Odlyzko discussed and advised on various  points of the mathematics.  Indira Chowdhury and  Oindrila Raychaudhuri helped vis-à-vis archival matters.  Rajaram Nityananda had had many of DDK’s papers digitized, a great boon, and one that made the reproduction of some material much easier! Kapilanjan Krishan,  Rahim Rajan, and Mudit Trivedi  helped me locate some of the more obscure of DDK’s papers. K. Srinivas retyped almost all the papers, and Cicilia Edwin painstakingly proofread most of them.  Toshio Yamazaki and Divyabhanusinh Chavda  told me of their interactions with DDK, helping to flesh out the personality. Finally, Aban Mukherji was gracious with permissions, as were all the journal editors who kindly permitted the several articles to be reprinted.
DDK maintained a charmingly frank notebook diary during his Harvard years. On the 19th of January 1927 he notes: A most restless day. I have forgotten to mention Monday the 17th and an important conference with Birkhoff thereon […] Problems: Fermat’s Last Theorem, the Four color map, the functional equation […] Today was unusually restless with a great deal of time spent, possibly wasted in the Widener. Looked up old issues of Outing, Shakespear’s Hindi Readers, most of Burton’s works [of him more later], Roosevelt on African and Brazilian ‘sporting’ – worthless – Stefansson’s excellent and much remembered Friendly Arctic
All this variety in a single day! To recall Wordsworth,  Bliss indeed it was in that dawn to be alive! Kosambi, just out of his teens, was just bursting with energy, both intellectual and physical (for which one must read the diaries in some detail). The earnestness that only comes at that age shines through on the pages quite unselfconsciously:
Exuberance indeed, but also some simplicity: Deep interest, well sustained, is essential in the acquisition of knowledge upon any subject. And the third realization of the day: Life is good.  Yes indeed, to be young was very heaven.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Sandesh Kadur talk at festival of ideas

PANAJI: With a camera in hand and a mind full of wonder, Sandesh Kadur would often cycle to the outskirts of Bengaluru to shoot images of the wilderness.

Back then, little was he aware that on a given night, the sounds of a Nightjar bird and the sawing call of the leopard would soon lead him on a path dedicated to documenting animals for NatGeo, discovering new species and saving the endangered ones.

An award-winning wildlife photojournalist and documentary filmmaker, Kadur, through the use of still images and videos, is known for advocating the need for conservation and protection of the planet's biodiversity.

Speaking on day one of the 10th D D Kosambi Festival of Ideas on Monday, he shed light on the forested valleys and snow-covered peaks of the Himalayas besides commenting on burning issues of Goa's biodiversity.

"Less than 5% of India's land mass is protected forest area, which is very little. We need to stop with the assault on our green areas and start conserving them," he urged.
His tryst with wildlife has led to the discovery of several new species that are endemic to the mountain regions. "Over 564 species were found until 2014 and they are being discovered on a continuous basis in the Himalayas," he said.

This, in turn, has also led to the shattering of myths about certain animals in India. He explained this through his picture of a tiger scavenging on the carcass of a rhino.

"The image has shattered all romantic stories about a tiger being a gentlemanly creature that feeds on his own kill," he explained.

His expeditions also led him to capture peaks of the Western Ghats in light as well as shadow, a rare sight of purple frog, a foot-flagging frog, purple Nilakuranji flowers that bloom once every 12 years, among others; images of which he showcased to the awe-struck audience in the packed auditorium.

A firm believer of free rivers, Kadur stressed on the need to let water bodies flow sans restriction, "Mountains harness the power of monsoon and create rivers. If we stop that by building dams, it will affect the ecosystem. There are countries removing dams therefore and making rivers free again because they realise that hydropower is not as green".

Sharing his thoughts on the Goa-Karnataka battle over the Mhadei issue, he said, "Rivers initially were protected in the birth places by temples but now they're being affected by too much 'love.' During the riots and bandhs in Bengaluru and Chennai due to Mhadei issue, it was estimated that there were losses of over Rs 25,000 crore per day. If that money had just gone to protect these rivers we wouldn't have to fight over rivers and have a positive impact on the environment".

Elaborating further, he said that building dams do more harm than good, "Respecting rivers and allowing them to flow as they are is very important. Damming them or curtailing them or diverting them can affect everything downstream. Stopping the river from flowing into the ocean gradually leads to a multitude of fish species being destroyed as well."

Kadur also commented on the state's potential for hinterland tourism. "Tourism is a very economic one-way game but that's the shortsighted view. We need to bring about tourism in the most responsible and low-impact manner. If we can bring that about then we can save those places while showcasing them to visitors. We also need education by way of an interpretation centre at the tourist spot so that experts can explain to people the value of the place."

He further pointed out that hinterland tourism should be within a certain limit so as to not cause imbalance in the natural surrounding. "We need to spread out the tourism and have less people in each place instead of too many in one place. Thus keep the density of tourism low and not go beyond the place's carrying capacity."

D D Kosambi Festival of Ideas sees diverse line-up

Wildlife photographer Sandesh KadurWildlife photographer Sandesh Kadur
PANAH: The 10th edition of D D Kosambi Festival of Ideas is scheduled to be held from February 13 to 17 at Kala Academy, Panaji.

This year will also have an impressive line-up of stalwarts from various fields who will conduct intellectually stimulating sessions for the Goan audience. Speakers this years are National Geographic explorer and wildlife photographer, Sandesh Kadur who will speak on India's mountains of life on February 13; while professor at Tata institute of fundamental research, Mumbai, Shubha Tole, will speak on 'wiring up the brain' on February 14.

A professor at Newcastle University, UK, Sugata Mitra will speak on the future of learning on February 15. Professor of international mental health and welcome trust principal research fellow in clinical science, UK, Vikram Patel will speak on 'People's health in people's hands: Reimagining health care' on February 16. The concluding session on February 17 will be by founder, BoP HUB, world toilet organization, Jack Sim. He will speak on creating a global movement for sanitation. Live telecast of the lectures will be screened on local channels as well as on the website of directorate of art and culture.

‘Experts over celebs’ at Kosambi festival this year

Panaji: Experts with great oratory skills have been given priority over celebrity status at the 10th edition of DD Kosambi Festival of Ideas, that will be inuagurated on February 13 at 5pm at Kala Academy.

"Over the decade, we have had to attract crowds by inviting glamourous speakers. But this year, we have given importance to good orators over celeb quotient. These speakers will deliver strong content in their talks," said art and culture director Prasad Lolyekar.

The festival will open with Sandesh Kadur's talk on India's mountains of life on February 13. An award-winning wildlife photojournalist and documentary filmmaker, Kadur, through the use of still images and videos, exposes the need for conservation and protection of the planet's biodiversity.
On February 14, Shubha Tole, a neuroscientist whose research involves investigating the development and evolution of the mammalian brain, will speak on 'wiring up the brain'.

Sugata Mitra, known for his 'Hole In The Wall' experiment wherein a computer was embedded in a Delhi slum wall in 1999 for children's use, will speak on the future of learning on February 15.
Co-founder of NGO Sangath, Vikram Patel will speak on 'people's health in people's hands: reimagining health care' on February 16. Patel was listed in TIME Magazine's 100 most influential persons of the year in 2015.

The concluding session on February 17 will be by Jack Sim, who founded the World Toilet Organization in 2001. Sim, widely known as 'Mr Toilet' for breaking the taboo around sanitation, will speak on creating a global movement for sanitation. It is due to Sim's efforts that November 19 has been declared as UN World Toilet Day.

The festival will be inaugurated by IAS officer Daulat Hawaldar.