#TWAP (The Whole And Parts, April 10, 2015)

SynTalk thinks about the interrelationships between wholes and parts in natural and conceptual systems, and wonders whether the part is inferred from the whole. Does a part (somehow) imply or expect the whole? The concepts are derived off / from Abhinavagupta, Newton, Kepler, Boltzmann, Boyle, Saussure, Turing, Manfred Eigen, P. W. Anderson, Chomsky, & Morris Halle, among others. In interactions between words, fundamental particles, molecules, cells, & phonemes, why are most combinations void? How do a finite number of parts create a dizzying array of wholes, and links with concepts such as historical contingency, surplus, entropy, sequencing, emergentism, & auto-catalysis? Why are transitions in biological, physical, ecological, social, and linguistic systems so tentative and statistical? Has the physics of the material world achieved a special kind of climax in the biological unit of life, & how the cell is not simply a bagful of chemicals. How the cell is both a part and a whole, & the context of cell division. Which is the most fundamental living part? How entropy comes about ‘only’ in systems of ‘many’ interacting particles. At what point can we start defining concepts such as pressure, volume, & temperature? Why certain molecular complexes self-emerge into functioning self sustaining evolving systems? Why literature does not simply describe the world, and how the non-existent also often make sense? In our daily linguistic behaviour, do we (fundamentally) use phonemes or words or sentences? How a word is a meaningful sequence of phonemes, and the similarities with gene sequencing; the difference between: ‘John killed the tiger’, & ‘the tiger killed John’. The sound patterns of language, & how any sound cannot come after one sound. Can one syllable be a whole in itself (bijakshara)? How a large chunk of the genome performs mundane functions, & discrimination results only from a handful of genes. Are carbon atoms in graphite and diamond identical in every single way, or do the atoms become something different? The links between rabbit’s horn, bureaucracy, multiverses, Lego toys, universal physical constants, Mesopotamian civilization, zebra, sky flower, existence, and time. The implications of an animal (whole) repeatedly developing into an animal (whole). How non linearity (in both deterministic and stochastic systems) is crucial for any emergent phenomena. Is the long term future of existence non local (a la ‘the ant colony as an organism’) and (potentially) altruistic? The intriguing prospect of new emergence as a result of the unprecedented ongoing meta-interactions, where parts (human beings) increasingly understand the emergent design of the whole? The SynTalkrs are: Dr. Rajnish K. Mishra (linguistics, philosophy, JNU, Delhi), Prof. B.J. Rao (biology, TIFR, Mumbai), & Prof. Sitabhra Sinha (physics, IMSc, Chennai).

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

Dr. Rajnish Kumar Mishra (linguistics, philosophy) currently teaches at Special Centre for Sanskrit Studies, JNU, Delhi. His teaching and research areas involve Sanskrit linguistics, Sanskrit poetics, Asian Literature, philosophy of language, comparative poetics, Buddhism and Kashmir Ṥaivism. He has been associated with national and international academic projects, such as Encyclopedia of Hinduism (Associate Editor, 2010), Encyclopedia of Indian Poetics (Assistant Editor), Towards an Asian Poetics: A Study in Inter-Cultural Space with Special Reference to the Works of Han Yong-un and Rabindranath Tagore (Academy of Korean Foundation, Seoul, South Korea) and Indo-Irish Anthology. He has published a widely reviewed book titled ‘Buddhist Theory of Meaning and Literary Analysis’ (1999) and several research papers in national and international refereed journals. His forthcoming book is on Ṥaiva Philosophy and Literary Theory. Dr. Mishra was awarded Okita Memorial Fellowship by Japan Foundation and the Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR) in 1998. He has been a work group member and  also lectured at a number of international universities, such as Kyoto, Japan (2000), University of Ulster, Coleraine (North Ireland, 2007-08), Queen’s University, Belfast (2008), and University of Auckland (2011). Recently the ICCR and South Asian Institute (SAI), University of Heidelberg (Germany) have jointly offered Dr. Mishra the Professor Heinrich Zimmer Chair for two years to teach Indian Intellectual History.

Prof. B.J.Rao (biology) is a Senior Professor at Department of Biological Sciences, TIFR, Mumbai. His areas of specializations are molecular basis of genome dynamics, computational biology of genomes and protein active sites, cellular physiology and metabolism. He studies how cells and organisms maintain and harness functions out of large genome information, especially in the context of evolving biological ‘plasticity and complexity’. Importantly, he probes how ‘function emanates from forms’ in the context of evolving genomes. Some of the specific problems being worked upon by his lab are: mapping and understanding the promiscuity scores of protein active sites using computational approaches; dissecting the biochemical mechanism of regulation of homologous recombination by tumour suppressors such as P53 and BRCA2 proteins; Chromosome territory movements associated with DNA damage response events in mammalian cells and Circadian control of UV-sensitivity in Chlamydomonas reinhardii. With an interdisciplinary approach of Mechanistic Biology, he is also involved in collaborative projects with chemists and physicists at TIFR to seek answers for how ‘soft electrons’ (~10eV) intersect and change biomolecules, rules followed by RNA aptamers while specifically recognizing small ligands such as GTP, developing methods to study in cell metabolism by solution NMR strategies etc. He is a Fellow of all three National Academies in India, and is also the Sir JC Bose Fellow of Department of Science & Technology, India. Prof. Rao thinks of himself as a curiosity driven wanderer.

Prof. Sitabhra Sinha (physics) is a Professor in the Theoretical Physics & Computational Biology Groups of the Institute of Mathematical Sciences (IMSc), Chennai, and adjunct faculty member of the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS), Bangalore. He did his Ph.D. from the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI), Calcutta where he worked on the nonlinear dynamics of recurrent neural network models. He continued his postdoctoral research at Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore, and Weill Medical School of Cornell University at New York City, and in 2002, he joined IMSc, Chennai. His research has focused on understanding a variety of complex systems occurring in nature and society, using techniques of physics and information theory. His current research interests include analysis of complex networks ranging from intra-cellular signaling networks to ecological food webs, computer modeling of the entire nervous system of an organism to understand how brain activity translates into behavior, analyzing the nature of dynamical transitions in cardiac activity during life-threatening arrhythmia, and the application of statistical techniques for understanding various socio-economic phenomena, e.g., the process by which certain products or ideas become very popular. His research topics span across systems biology, network dynamics, computational neuroscience & physics of social and economic phenomenon.

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

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