#TMOTU (The Mapping Of The Unknown, September 29, 2018):

Was the Earth ever flat? Do we live in a ‘flattish’ Universe? What did we first notice in the starry sky; & was anything fixed? How did the notion of the atom come to be? Have you heard accounts of maps/globes that do not exist anymore? Was the ‘World’ once – just – Asia, Europe and Africa? Do maps always orient us spiritually within the larger (ever-changing) Cosmos? Is the Universe static? Are maps a theory? What comes first – theory or observation? How can we map something that we don’t see or is largely empty? Is all Dark Matter of one kind, & how do we know that it exists? Are all stars of one kind? Could stars be cubes? Is it easy to add a newly discovered continent to an existing map? Why did the idea of Antarctica come to be? What did we first establish to be ‘real’ – the atom or the Americas? What is the shape of the Universe, & is every point on it unique? Are we bounded in time (& Space?)? Is mapping (always) observer dependent? Can everything be understood in terms of pictures? Would maps (even if sometimes incorrect) continue to offer new possibilities? &, will we keep going beyond what we already know? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions using concepts from quantum mechanics (Prof. Partha Ghose, ex-S. N. Bose National Centre for Basic Sciences, Kolkata), astronomy (Prof. Ajit. K. Kembhavi, IUCAA, Pune), & comparative literature (Dr. Ayesha Ramachandran, Yale University, Connecticut).

Listen in…

SynTalk is pleased and privileged to have hosted the following SynTalkrs (in alphabetical order) on its #TMOTU show.

Prof. Partha Ghose (quantum mechanics) is former Professor at the S.N. Bose National Centre for Basic Sciences in Kolkata. He is also the former Chairman of Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute (Kolkata), and a member of the Board of Trustees of the Academy of Fine Arts (Kolkata). He is known in the physics world for his contributions to theoretical physics, particularly the foundations of quantum mechanics. His paper in collaboration with Prof. D. Home and Prof. G. S. Agarwal (the GHA experiment) in unraveling the nature of wave–particle duality in single-photon experiments led to its experimental verification by Dr. Y. Mizobuchi and Dr. Y. Ohtake in Japan and later by Dr. M. Genovese and collaborators in Italy. His work on Bohmian trajectories of photons formed the basis for a comparison of these trajectories from those that were later observed experimentally with weak measurements. He has also published research showing that ‘entanglement’ can occur in classical polarization optics resulting in violations of Bell-like inequalities hitherto believed to be exclusive to quantum systems. This has led to many investigations and experiments confirming such violations and consequently to a shifting of the boundary between quantum and classical physics. Prof. Ghose is one of India’s well known popularizers of modern science. He was an anchorperson in two TV shows, ‘Quest’ and ‘Eureka’. He published a book, titled, ‘Riddles in Your Tea Cup’ (co-authored with Prof. D Home), and it has been translated into several Indian languages, Italian, Japanese and Turkish. He received the National Award for the Best Science and Technology coverage in the Mass Media of the National Council for Science and Technology Communication (NCSTC) for the period 1986–1990. He was also awarded the prestigious Indira Gandhi Prize for the popularization of science by the Indian National Science Academy. He is also a Fellow of The National Academy of Sciences India (NASI).

Prof. Ajit Kembhavi (astronomy) is presently Professor Emeritus and Raja Ramanna Fellow at the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics, (IUCAA), Pune, of which he was a founder member and Director. He received his Ph.D. from Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Mumbai. Prof. Kembhavi’s areas of expertise include gravitation theory, extragalactic astronomy and astronomical database management and artificial intelligence. More specifically, his research has focused on domains of gravity, quasars, X-ray binaries, pulsars, galaxies and warm absorbers. He was a part of the team that setup the Virtual Observatory’s India chapter, a project funded by the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology. The Virtual Observatory project enables standardization of methods of access and descriptions of astronomical data sets enabling ease of access to open astronomical data sets. He also served as the Chairman of the International Virtual Observatory Alliance (IVOA) which oversees Virtual Observatory activities internationally.  At present, he and his group are engaged in the application of deep learning to problems in astronomy and biology. As a Dean of Visitor Programmes in IUCAA, he has led the growth and sustenance of several programs held in IUCAA and across India, for promotion of astronomical research. As a Director of IUCAA, he worked towards cementing India’s participation in several large international projects including the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT),Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT), and the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO-India). Prof. Kembhavi is the Vice-President of the International Astronomical Union. He has been a Member of the Space Commission and is a former President of the Astronomical Society of India.  He is a Fellow of the Indian Academy of Sciences (IAS) and The National Academy of Sciences India (NASI).

Dr. Ayesha Ramachandran (comparative literature) is Associate Professor of Comparative Literature and an affiliate of the Programs in Renaissance Studies and the History of Science and Medicine at Yale University, USA. She received her Ph.D. from Yale in Renaissance Studies and is a former Junior Fellow of the Harvard Society of Fellows. A literary and cultural historian of early modern Europe, she pursues interdisciplinary research on literature, philosophy, cartography, visual culture and the history of science, focusing on the long histories of globalization and modernity. Her current projects range from new research on early modern South Asia to comparative philology, cartography and lyric studies. She is especially interested in generic hybridity in literary and book arts, the intertwined histories of the early modern empires, as well as of the unique book arts of the early modern South Asian world. Dr. Ramachandran has published one book, titled, ‘The Worldmakers’ (University of Chicago Press, 2015), in which she provides a cultural and intellectual history of ‘the world’, showing how it emerged as a cultural keyword in early modernity. She has also published on Spenser, Lucretius, Tasso, Petrarch, Montaigne, on postcolonial drama and on the histories of religious fundamentalism and cosmopolitanism in various journals and volumes including NLH, Spenser Studies, MLN, Forum Italicum and Anglistik. Together with Dr. Melissa Sanchez, she is the co-editor of a special issue of Spenser Studies on ‘Spenser and The Human’ which explores the poet’s complex relationship to the category of ‘the human’, by drawing on current discussions of humanism, posthumanism, and animal studies. Dr. Ramachandran was awarded the Mellon New Directions Fellowship in 2016, as part of which she is studying Persian and Arabic and aims to pursue research on cross-cultural contacts between Europe and the Indo-Islamic world in the early modern period.

Note: Any & all errors in the brief profiles above are SynTalk’s own.

#TMOTU mentionsEratosthenes, Kanāda, Ptolemy, Euclid, Martin Behaim, Amerigo Vespucci, Gerardus Mercator, John Dalton, Ernst Mach, Wilhelm Ostwald, Ernest Rutherford, Albert Einstein, Thomas Kuhn, & Paul Dirac, among others.