#TEOT (The Everything Of Theory, May 16, 2015):

SynTalk thinks about theories & theorizing, while constantly wondering whether theories are explanatory as well as speculative (‘what-if’). Are all theories, in a sense, artistic creations and inventions (rather than discoveries)? Can we take the human out of the equation? The concepts are derived off / from Euclid, Newton, Leibniz, Alexander Pope, Robert Hooke, Boole, Faraday, Maxwell, Gauss, Hilbert, Godel, Bourbaki, Abraham Robinson, Weinberg, Stanley Fish, Lawvere, & Stephen Wolfram, among others. How all physical theories have a desire to predict & look into the future. How mathematical theories, however, do not need to predict and have no role for evidence. Further, how theories in literature are an attempt to explain the process of interpretation? Are there theories that are finished pieces of work (test: when all true statements are provable)? Are some theories destined to be incomplete? Will we ever have a complete theory for poetry? Is all of mathematics just a theory? Do all theories (real numbers, classical mechanics) have limits? Is everything that is there to be known about a triangle now known? How a theory comes to be conceived in areas far far removed from available knowledge, via a leap of imagination or (even) an act of faith. How ‘non-logical axioms’ when put into the magical black box of ‘logic’ churns out a list of ‘provable statements’. How crystalline & elegant axioms are often identified after years of calculations. Can we, for instance, axiomatize the notion of space or theorize about some currently ill understood domains of gravitation at the largest scale? How logic specifies a grammar for construction. How double negation may not work in some systems (what is not true is not necessarily false). May the idea of the observable or the ways of seeing itself be theoretical constructions? Can finished theories have parallel ways of thinking (say, lines of force, fields of force, or electromagnetic potential)? The links between theoreticity and abstraction, & is (even) man a theory (‘the proper study of mankind is man’?). Are (electrical) circuit laws completely autonomous of the fundamental Maxwell equations? Are Laws the robe and Theory the wardrobe? The links between dog star, functor, earthquake, QCD, ‘mortal grossness’, Nile floods, fluxions, video games, chariot, White Males, synthetic differential geometry, love-dove-&-shove, & the salt doll. How theories wax & wane with the consensus and dissensus of interpretive communities. Are there universal truths? Can we simulate the answer to any question with extremely efficient computation without theories? Will theory itself come to an end in the long run? The SynTalkrs are: Dr. Partha Pratim Ghosh (mathematics, ISI, Tezpur), Prof. Pramod K. Nayar (literature, University of Hyderabad, Hyderabad), & Prof. Urjit A. Yajnik (physics, IIT Bombay, Mumbai).

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

Dr. Partha Pratim Ghosh (mathematics) is currently at Indian Statistical Institute (ISI), North East Centre, Tezpur, Assam, and shall soon be joining the Department of Mathematical Sciences, University of South Africa, Johannesburg. His research interests centre around Category Theory and its applications to Algebra, Analysis & Topology with special emphasis on point-free topology. His effort is to understand the notion of a space as evident from various known instances of this notion within mathematics, and then use this understanding to ‘classify the newly understood spatial objects’ as is the case with known instances in topology and algebraic geometry. Dr. Ghosh received his Masters from Indian Statistical Institute (ISI), Calcutta, and received his Ph.D. from Burdwan University (1990), after which he went to University of Cape Town to do his post doctoral research. His Ph.D. thesis was titled Rings of Ordered Field Valued Continuous Functions which exhibits the nature of the dependence of the theory on the theory of Dedekind Complete Ordered Fields. He believes that in the long run Category Theory will be regarded as another right way to do mathematics.

Prof. Pramod K. Nayar (literature, culture studies) teaches at the Department of English, at the University of Hyderabad, India. In the immediate past, when not reading (and writing about) graphic novels, he has written about, among other subjects, contemporary literary & cultural theory (from Pearson), posthumanism (from Polity Press), celebrity studies (from SAGE), human rights (from Routledge) and surveillance (from Cambridge University Press). His work has appeared in international scholarly journals such as Modern Fiction Studies, Prose Studies, Journal of British Studies, Changing English, The Explicator, Notes on Contemporary Literature, College Literature, Ariel, Journal of Postcolonial Writing, Kunapipi, Journal of Commonwealth Literature and Westerly. He has also published essays on cultural issues and phenomena such as disappearances, selfies, violence and the making of Shakespeare as a brand. Prof. Nayar was the Fulbright Senior Fellow (Cornell University, 2005-06), and has been a Visiting Professor (2008, 2012) at University of Dayton, Ohio, USA, and has received numerous other awards and fellowships.

Prof. Urjit A. Yajnik (theoretical physics) is currently Professor in the Department of Physics and ex-Dean Student Affairs at IIT Bombay, Mumbai, where he has been since 1989. He has also been a Visiting Professor at McGill University (2010), University of California (2010), among others. His research interests are Grand Unification, and Supersymmetry Cosmology applications of Grand Unification (Cosmic strings, Baryogenesis Quantization of Gravity, Superstring Theory). He has published numerous papers in reputed journals and presented his work at various national and international conferences. Prof. Yajnik was exposed to Sanskrit scriptures since his childhood. In high school he became aware of Buddhism and Jainism as having tenets substantially different from the Upanishadic ones, which was a big eye opener. He also closely witnessed the 1960s with its wars, shortages, and black marketing, which led him to reconcile the idealistic values with the complex social evolution of India. He has strived to clarify the contents of Indian philosophies and also been exposed to various theories of society & economy. He also remains keenly interested in history and archeology, world literature, and (quality) cinema. His formal training is in Physics (Ph.D. (1986) from The University of Texas, Austin, and M.Sc. (1980) from IIT Bombay).

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