#TEMAF (The Errors Mistakes And Failures, May 30, 2015):

SynTalk thinks about errors, while constantly wondering if they are innately hardwired into nature. Are error free domains possible or desirable? Would we stop making history if there were to be an error free world? The concepts are derived off / from Gnosticism, Aristotle, Alhazen, Galileo, Kepler, Thomas More, Lord Kelvin, Heidegger, Cioran, Gödel, Piaget, John Bell, & Tony Hoare, among others. Is all truth temporal? The difference between systematic (in one direction) and random (in both directions) errors with respect to the true value. Do things fail in the (non-human) natural world or they just ‘happen’? Is failure about an unfolding process while errors are more punctual? How (measurement) errors are inextricably linked to the notion of standard conception and expectation. Is there a trade-off between safety (not making mistakes) and liveness (making progress) for reactive systems (that interact with the environment)? How did a perfect Being create an imperfect world, and is it possible to have a ‘theology of failure’ (via, say, the demiurge)? How we pose the existence of a creator via notions of making, design or performance of the world (as an object). Is it likely that (software) modules that are individually correct give an error when put together? How in languages that are self referential & expressive it is impossible to prove if a program is correct. How some flawed universal notions can be much more intuitive. The (deeply counterintuitive) equivalence of uniform motion and rest. How there is often a striking similarity between students’ flawed conceptions and the history of ideas. Is limited experience the main source of errors? How computer programs non monotonically learn from experience, and the accompanying process of belief revision? Is consistency the virtue of an ass? What is the opposite of failure? Does one experience profound existential nothingness when one encounters failure? How (fortunately?) utopias – the perfect social & political models of the world – fail, and links with expectations and game theory? The links between ‘the world going to the dogs’, violent movement, bugs, chess, God, invariants, flight controllers, voting, winners & losers, exponential blow up, theory of vision, clocks, the original sin, bicycle, & the verifying compiler. Is it possible that there are ‘hidden variables’ in the physical world that makes even the quantum world completely certain? Would becoming perfect be the end of everything, & should we stay imperfect? The SynTalkrs are: Dr. Costica Bradatan (philosophy, Honors College, TTU, Texas), Prof. Arvind Kumar (physics, Centre for Excellence in Basic Sciences, ex-HBCSE TIFR, Mumbai), & Prof G. Sivakumar (computer science, IIT Bombay, Mumbai).

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

Dr. Costica Bradatan (philosophy, comparative literature) is Associate Professor of Humanities in the Honors College at Texas Tech University and Honorary Research Associate Professor of Philosophy at University of Queensland, Australia. He has also held faculty appointments at Cornell University, Miami University, University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Notre Dame and Arizona State University, as well as at several universities in Europe and Asia. He works on topics in the history of Western philosophy, Continental philosophy, philosophy of religion, philosophy of literature and of film. After completing his Masters in Philosophy from University of Bucharest, he obtained his Ph.D. in Philosophy from University of Durham in 2004. His dissertation was titled ‘On Some Ancient and Medieval Roots of George Berkeley’s Thought’. Dr. Bradatan is the author and editor of ten books, most recently ‘Dying for Ideas. The Dangerous Lives of the Philosophers’ (Bloomsbury, 2015). His work has been translated into a number of languages, including Chinese, Vietnamese, and Arabic. He often writes book reviews, essays and op-ed pieces for publications such as the New York Times, Times Literary Supplement, Dissent, The New Statesman, Boston Review, Christian Science Monitor, and The Globe & Mail. He also serves as the Religion/Comparative Studies Editor for the ‘Los Angeles Review of Books.’ He is currently working on a book, ‘In Praise of Failure’.

Prof. Arvind Kumar (physics, pedagogy) is currently teaching Physics at the UM-DAE Centre for Excellence in Basic Sciences, Mumbai. He was formerly the Center Director (1994-2008) at the Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education (HBCSE, TIFR). He did his Ph.D. in physics at TIFR (1969), and after 2 years of postdoctoral work at CERN, Geneva and at London (Westfield College), taught at the University Department of Physics, Mumbai (1971-83). He has published & supervised research in a range of areas such as particle theory, quantum black holes, atomic & optical physics, mathematical sociology and physics education. His book ‘’Chaos, Fractals and Self-Organization’ brought out by NBT has been translated into Marathi and Bengali. He wrote and devised two notable commemorative radio programmes: ‘A Grain of Sand’ (on Albert Einstein), and ‘Compliments to Complementarity’ (on Niels Bohr). Prof. Kumar has also played a central role in launching the science Olympiad movement in India in 1997. He is a Fellow of the National Academy of Sciences, India and has been a recipient of INS Science Communication Award (2002), TWAS Regional Prize related to Education (2009) and INSA Teacher Award (2014). He was a member of the National Steering Committee for formulating National Curriculum Framework (2005). In 2010, he was awarded ‘Padma Shri’ for distinguished service in the field of education. [Note: Also a SynTalkr on #THOE (The Habits Of Experience)]

Prof. G. Sivakumar (computer science, logic) is a Professor at the Computer Science and Engineering Department at IIT Bombay, Mumbai. He completed his B.Tech. in Electrical Engineering from IIT Madras (1982) and went on to complete his Ph.D. from University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (1988). His thesis was titled ‘Proofs and Computations in Conditional Equational Theories’. After teaching in University of Delaware for three years, he joined IIT Bombay in 1991. His core research interests are in the theory of automated reasoning and in the applications of logic in diverse areas of Computer Science such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Software Engineering and Network Security. His work on conditional rewriting systems and equation solving has been cited in several influential surveys on Term Rewriting. In the last few years, he has made some useful contributions in proving termination properties of systems having associative and commutative functions (like $+,*$), a problem that has remained open for more than 10 years. At IIT Bombay, he is the Head of the Centre for Formal Design and Verification of Software (CFDVS) which undertakes projects related to design and verification of safety critical real-time systems. Such systems include computer based control systems used in nuclear reactors, space, avionics, process-control and robotics, where the consequences of errors can be catastrophic. Prof. Sivakumar’s other passions include chess, Carnatic music and Sanskrit.

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