#TNSO (The Not So Obvious, September 28, 2019):

Do ‘birds that fly instinctively swim’? Are self-evident truths easy to prove? When is ‘want to’ not ‘wanna’? Is verification easier than proof? Are proofs explanations? Is that why proofs are supposed to be elegant? Is reasoning algorithmic? Is there one Method to all reasoning? Are all ungrammatical sentences also unacceptable? When do sentences have ambiguous meanings? Can statements with long proofs be obvious? Does economy play a significant role in language constructions? Can human beings extract insights from verbose arguments? Are young kids born with some innate inductive principles? Is obviousness purely syntax dependent? Is the measure of (theory) simplicity language-dependent? What constitutes a valid proof system? Are all mathematical proof systems automatable? Why are certain mistakes never made? ‘Can’ we hit upon scientific Truth by chance? Has Language evolved? Can ‘explanation’ be given without ‘understanding’, but not vice versa? Why is proving absence (=falseness) often harder than proving presence (=truth)? &, how might intuition, syntax, and proof systems change in the future? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions using concepts from linguistics (Dr. Tanmoy Bhattacharya, University of Delhi, New Delhi), theoretical computer science (Prof. Meena Mahajan, IMSc, HBNI, Chennai), & philosophy (Dr. Kit Patrick, Azim Premji University, Bangalore).

Listen in…

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

Dr. Tanmoy Bhattacharya (linguistics) teaches Linguistics at the Department of Linguistics, University of Delhi (DU), Delhi. His research interests are in the areas of syntax, psycholinguistics, gender, disability studies, deaf education, and sign linguistics. Dr. Bhattacharya completed his B.A. (Chemistry) & M.A. (Linguistics) from DU, and then went to complete his first Ph.D. in Linguistics from University of Hyderabad (UoH, Hyderabad, 1990-1995), and the second Ph.D. from University College London (UCL, 1995-1999). In his doctoral work, he tried to explore both big and small constructions in natural language, with the investigations confirming the Chomskyan universal grammar project of the generative enterprise. His most recent research in the domain of Syntax has been on the topic of ‘agreement’—a long-distance dependency between the verb and its (dependent) ‘arguments’ in a sentence. He has brought to the fore the importance of many of the languages of Bihar (like Maithili, Magahi, etc.) which show a type of ‘multiple agreement’ not available in the more dominant Indo-Aryan languages, like Hindi-Urdu. This work has led him to look at other neighbouring language groups, such as, Munda and Tibeto-Burman languages (of Jharkhand, Orissa and Mizoram, Nepal, respectively) and propose an areal feature or a sprachbund that exists over a large chunk of the east and the northeast of India. Dr. Bhattacharya edited the ‘Yearbook of South Asian Languages and Linguistics’ (Mouton, 2006) and the ‘People’s Linguistic Survey of India volume on Indian Sign Language’ (2014). He has been the chief editor of ‘Indian Linguistics’ (2015-2017). [Note: Also a SynTalkr on #TTAT (The Types And Tokens)]

Prof. Meena Mahajan (theoretical computer science) is a Professor in the Theoretical Computer Science group at the Institute of Mathematical Sciences (IMSc.), Chennai, a constituent unit of the Homi Bhabha National Institute (HBNI). Her primary research interest is computational complexity theory, including proof complexity, algebraic and arithmetic complexity, small-space algorithms and classes, parallel algorithms and circuit complexity, matchings in graphs. Prof. Mahajan completed her B. Tech. (1986) and M. Tech. (1988) in Computer Science & Engineering (CSE) from IIT Bombay, Mumbai. She then went to IIT Madras, Chennai, to receive her Ph.D. in CSE (1993). Her research has been published in peer-reviewed international conference proceedings and journals such as: Theory of Computing, Information and Computation, Theory of Computing Systems, ACM Transactions on Computation Theory, ACM Transactions on Computational Logic, Algorithmica, Journal of Automata, Languages and Combinatorics, Chicago Journal of Theoretical Computer Science, & Computational Complexity. Prof. Mahajan is a speaker in the ACM India Eminent Speakers Program since Aug 2019. She is a member of the Editorial Board of LIPIcs (2019-2023), and is also a member of the steering committee for the FSTTCS Conference (Foundations of Software Technology and Theoretical Computer Science) from 2016-2020. She has been invited as a speaker at multiple international conferences /workshops held in, among others, Russia, Germany, USA, France, UK, Belgium, & Sweden, and has participated in several research workshops held at the Leibniz Centre for Informatics at Schloss Dagstuhl, Germany and at the Simons Institute for Theory of Computing, Berkeley, USA.

Dr. Kit Patrick (philosophy) teaches philosophy at the School of Arts and Sciences, Azim Premji University (APU), Bangalore. His research interests are philosophy of science, economics, epistemology of law, geology, ethics, & public reasoning. He has also taught at the University of Bristol (UK) prior to coming to APU. Dr. Patrick completed his B.A. (Honors) in Natural Sciences (2005), & M.Phil. in History and Philosophy of Science (2006) from University of Cambridge (UK). He then went to University of Bristol (UK, 2010) to pursue a diploma in Philosophy (2010) and then his Ph.D. in Philosophy (2015). During his Ph.D., he was awarded the Edinburgh Award (funded by The Darwin Trust). Dr. Patrick’s core research focuses on attempts to model inductive reasoning in different sciences and in common sense reasoning. Since inductive methods may differ in different fields, his work is typically tied to detailed research of historical or contemporary scientific debates. He is interested in whether theory generation is epistemically significant; whether, and how, scientists manage to come up with the ‘right’ theories. He has also done a few research projects in philosophy of economics and legal epistemology. He has also done unpublished work, in political philosophy, meta-ethics, normative ethics, and ancient Indian history. Dr. Patrick also runs a podcast series, ‘The History of India’, since 2015. Some of his ongoing projects are focused on modelling judicial reasoning in India, deduction and verisimilitude, explanatory competition, & the hyperintentionality of inductive logic. His work has been published in international peer reviewed journals such as Erkenntnis (Springer), among others.

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

#TNSO mentionsPaul Erdős, Alan Turing, Karl Popper, Kenneth Arrow, Peter Lipton, & Noam Chomsky, among others.