#TBBAF (The Borders Boundaries And Fences, December 13, 2014):

SynTalk thinks about (real, virtual & abstract) boundaries and wonders why some boundaries are crisp while others are fuzzy (fixed centers but no boundaries). We discuss boundaries and borders using concepts from computer science, geopolitics, defence studies, philosophy, mythology, linguistics, statistics, biology, & mathematics. The concepts are derived off / from Zeno, Darwin, Turing, Chebyshev, Korzybski, Saadat Hasan Manto, & Feynman, among others. Is the cell membrane (say) a boundary, and how does it help the organ know about the world? How does a (physical) boundary of pebbles operate ‘within’ the river Ganges? How there is a robust (crisp) line separating the solvable and the unsolvable. How is the notion of the border different from the real border (in the Gaza ‘brown strip’)? We explore the fascinating journey of ‘empires with frontiers’ to ‘nation states with militarized borders’ over the last several centuries. Is there ultimately a certain ‘life force’ behind creation of real & virtual boundaries? How does one trust a neighbor? What is the nature of boundaries around ‘languages’ & ‘species’? How do statistical systems have upper and lower bounds, and how is it possible to predict the reliability of a system with a ‘confidence interval’? Is a statistical mean similar to the center of a set? Is there a gradual inevitable dissolution of the definitiveness of borders, even if borders have been paid for in blood? How an emergent or an imposed hierarchy introduces the vertical and distorts the lateral? What is no man’s land? Is there a convexity (with inside and an outside) for a malware? How is the notion of the border, mediated by the colonial experience of certain countries? We invoke themes illustrated by, among others, Israeli-Palestinian, Indo-Pakistan, Dutch-German, Indo-Myanmar, & Chinese-North Asian borders. How are the maritime borders different? What is the long term future of the borders in context of the universal human condition? The SynTalkrs are: Commodore C. Uday Bhaskar (defence studies, Society for Policy Studies, New Delhi), Prof. K.P. Mohanan (linguistics, critical thinking, IISER, Pune), Prof. Sanjeev V. Sabnis (probability, IIT Bombay, Mumbai), & Prof. R.K. Shyamasundar (computer science, TIFR, Mumbai).

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

Comdr. C. Uday Bhaskar (defence studies) is currently the Director of Society for Policy Studies , New Delhi. He retired from the Indian Navy in early 2007 after 37 years of distinguished service. He is a recipient of the Vishisht Seva Medal (VSM) and the Prime Minister’s Letter of Commendation. He was till recently the Director of National Maritime Foundation and earlier with the Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses (IDSA), New Delhi (1989 onwards) where he served as a Senior Fellow, Deputy Director and later as Director of the Institute (till late 2005). Subsequently he was appointed the Member-Secretary of the Government of India Task Force on ‘Global Strategic Developments’ (a report submitted to the Prime Minister of India). He has edited books on nuclear, naval/maritime and international security related issues; and has contributed over 60 research articles to journals in India and abroad. He is a guest lecturer at the Indian NDC , the NATO Defence College, Rome and other military colleges. He is a Life member of the United Service Institute (USI); the Governing Council of the Indian Council for World Affairs (ICWA) and the Research and Information Services (RIS). Comdr. Bhaskar is also the President of Association for Middle Eastern Studies, New Delhi, and a Council member of the Takshashila Foundation. He is a regular contributor to the print and audio-visual media and is a columnist for Reuters, Daily News and Analysis (DNA) and Dainik Jagran. He also hosts a current affairs program on Doordarshan (national broadcaster).

Prof. K. P. Mohanan (linguistics, critical thinking) is currently a Professor in the Center for Integrative Studies at IISER, Pune. Previously, he has taught at the University of Texas at Austin, MIT, Stanford University, and the National University of Singapore (NUS). He has made significant contributions to linguistic theory in the areas of phonology, syntax, and morphology, and was the architect of an Inquiry-Oriented undergraduate program in Linguistics at NUS. His more recent academic interests include scientific inquiry and the nature of academic knowledge and inquiry in general, against the backdrop of human beliefs. He is also an ardent spokesperson for radical educational reform. Drawing on his experience as a researcher and educationist, and his thinking on academic knowledge and inquiry, he is currently preoccupied with developing systems and resource materials to nurture in students the capacity for critical thinking and inquiry. Prof. Mohanan has been instrumental in creating a few key web resources for critical thinking such as the IISER Pune YouTube channel on science education, which contains videos of inquiry oriented class sessions for 9th and 10th grade school students, and the ThinQ website (School of ThinQ) which is meant for educators interested in critical thinking and inquiry in textbooks, classrooms and exams at the school and college level). He received his MS and Ph.D. from MIT, Cambridge, USA in 1982.

Prof. Sanjeev V. Sabnis (statistics, probability) is a Professor in the Department of Mathematics, IITB, Mumbai. He obtained his Ph.D. in Statistics from Old Dominion University, USA, after completing his Masters in Statistics from Pune University. His research areas are Reliability Theory and Industrial Statistics. Prof. Sabnis has been consulting with corporate clients in areas concerning application of statistics. His expertise in forecasting, statistical modeling, data analysis, comparative analysis etc. are much sought after in many fields (such as pharmaceuticals, automotive, & online advertising industries). Over his academic career of close to 30 years, Prof. Sabnis has been a guide to close to 50 students from M.Sc, M. Tech. and Ph.D. courses at IIT. He was awarded “Excellence in Teaching Award” by IITB in the year 2011. He has also given numerous talks across the country and overseas, as well and published pioneering research papers in more than 20 leading journals. Prof. Sabnis has been uniquely positioned to balance his academic work with the very relevant industry exposure through his consulting assignments. He has also been an active member of numerous Committees at IITB and also played a vital role as a part of the Board of Studies in Statistics of University of Mumbai.

Prof. R. K. Shyamasundar (computer science) is currently the Senior Professor and JC Bose National Fellow at the TIFR, Mumbai. He is a Fellow of IEEE, a Fellow of ACM, Distinguished ACM Speaker, a Distinguished Alumnus of Indian Institute of Science (IISc) and has also served as IEEE Distinguished Speaker. He is the founding Dean of the School of Technology and Computer Science (TCS), TIFR, Mumbai, and has guided 35 students for Ph.D. He has made outstanding contributions to Real-Time Distributed Computing, Logics of Programs, Network and Computer Security. His research interests include distributed real-time systems, Logics of Programs, Concurrent programming Languages, Formal Methods, and Cyber Security. He has more than 300 publications, 8 books, 8 international patents, 3 Indian patents, and 3 Best Paper Awards. He is a Fellow of Indian Academy of Sciences, Indian National Science Academy, National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, India and a Fellow of the Academy of Sciences of the Developing world (TWAS), Trieste, Italy. He has served on IEEE Esterel Standards Committee. He is a Fellow of the Computer Society of India (CSI), Editor-in-Chief of the CSI Journal of Computing and serves on the Editorial of Sadhana – Journal of Engineering Sciences of the Indian Academy of Sciences, Bangalore, India. He is also a Fellow of IETE and is its Diamond Jubilee medal awardee. He did post doctoral work under the legendary Turing Laureate Prof. Dr. Edsgar Dijkstra.

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

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