#TLAS (The Large And Small, January 09, 2016):

Why aren’t there ant sized elephants? Or, why aren’t there elephant sized ants? What is small, large or infinite? Are there theoretical limits to size for living & physical bodies? Was the Universe infinite in size even at Big Bang, & how? Is there a center of the Universe? Are there different kinds of infinity? Do different infinities have different cardinalities? What is countably or uncountably infinite? Can there be an infinity ‘smaller’ than Aleph-naught? How is infinitely small (infinitesimal) different from infinitely large? Would the smallest interesting living bodies be about 3,000 Angstroms in size, & why is this dependent on the size of DNA? Is there a reason why whales are larger than elephants? What is the reciprocal of infinity? How can point-like elementary particles be massy? How large is the (yet unknown) elementary particle comprising dark matter likely to be? For natural evolution, over very long time scales, does it pay to be small? Are we equally incapable of seeing the nothingness from which we emerge and the infinity by which we are engulfed? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions using concepts from evolutionary & developmental biology (Prof. Vidyanand Nanjundiah, Center for Genetic Studies, Bangalore), mathematics (Prof. Sujatha Ramdorai, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada), & cosmology and particle physics (Prof. Raghavan Rangarajan, PRL, Ahmedabad).

Listen in….

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

Prof. Vidyanand Nanjundiah (evolutionary & developmental biology)Ÿ is Professor at the Centre for Human Genetics, Bangalore. After finishing a Bachelor’s in physics and mathematics from St. Xavier’s College, Bombay, he obtained a Ph.D. in physics at the University of Chicago. Following that, he moved into biology. He learnt developmental biology (on the axolotl) as a post-doctoral fellow, initially at Hubrecht Laboratorium Utrecht (1973), The Netherlands; and then in MaxPlanck-Institut Tuebingen (1974-75), Germany; and Biozentrum Basel, Switzerland (on the cellular slime moulds). In the early years of his research, he worked on directed movements and collective behaviour in a soil amoeba. That led naturally to an attempt to understand the evolution of social behaviour. His current research explores how cooperation might be achieved among units that are not related by kinship and, more generally, under what conditions group interests can override those of the individual. He worked as Assistant Professor (1976-80) and Associate Professor (1989-92) at the Centre for Theoretical Studies, Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore. He worked as Reader (1980-86) and Associate Professor (1986-88) in the Molecular Biology Group, TIFR Mumbai, and retired as Professor, Department of Molecular Reproduction, Development and Genetics and Centre for Ecological Sciences, IISc, Bangalore in 2013. He tries to combine experimental work with mathematical models. His other interests are science popularisation, travelling, music and art.

Prof. Sujatha Ramdorai (mathematics) is a research mathematician who works in Algebraic Number Theory. She was with the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Mumbai, until 2010 and currently holds a Canada Research Chair at the University of British Columbia, Canada. The key areas of her research have been, the algebraic theory of quadratic forms, the non-commutative Iwasawa theory and the study of motives. She completed her B.Sc. from St. Joseph’s college, Bangalore and then got her M.Sc. from Annamalai University. After that she went for Ph.D. at TIFR where her dissertation was ‘Witt Groups of Real Surfaces and Real Geometry’. She is a winner of the Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize (2004) and the ICTP Ramanujan Prize (2006, the first Indian to be awarded the Prize). She also holds editorial positions with journals such as International Journal of Number Theory (IJNT) and Journal of Ramanujan Mathematical Society. She has served as a Member of the National Knowledge Commission (2007-09), the National Innovation Council and the Scientific Advisory Council to the Prime Minister. She is a Founder Trustee of Gyanome, a not for profit organization that aims at introducing technology meaningfully in the Indian classrooms with the aim of providing better reach and access to the millions of students by transforming the teaching and learning process.

Prof. Raghavan Rangarajan (cosmology, particle physics) has been on the faculty of the Theoretical Physics Division at the Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad (PRL) since 1997. Prior to coming to PRL, he completed his Ph.D. from the University of California at Santa Barbara, and his Bachelor’s degree, A. B. (cum laude) from Princeton University in 1988. He has also been a postdoctoral fellow at the Houston Advanced Research Centre. His areas of research are cosmology and particle physics, particularly on baryogenesis, inflation and the cosmic microwave background radiation. He has worked on different subjects in these fields such as dark matter (the unseen matter that pervades the universe), the matter-antimatter asymmetry of the universe (why do we see stars and galaxies made up of matter but not of antimatter?) and the cosmic microwave background radiation (the low temperature 2.7K radiation that also pervades the universe). Prpf. Rangarajan has also been interested in working with college students and has been actively involved with the Advanced B.Sc. Physics Programme in Ahmedabad for the last decade. He is also an Editor of Physics Education, a journal of the Indian Association of Physics Teachers.

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

#TLAS mentions: Blaise Pascal, Georg Cantor, George Gamow, Gödel, Hilbert, & Einstein, among others.