#TMOT (The Modalities Of Traffic, January 16, 2016):

Have you been stuck in a traffic jam? Is it ‘difficult’ to wear helmets? Can one conceive of one’s own death? Can traffic self organize? Is the ability to reverse, as in certain molecular motors, fundamental to the design of all efficient transportation systems? Are there lanes (microtubules), porters, & ‘bypass roads’ within our cells? Why does the tendency towards order increase as the traffic density increases? How are traffic shockwaves created? What are the interrelationships between density, speed, & flow? Why can’t traffic always be directionless? When does planning need to step in? Is speed to be feared or embraced? Why are there speed limits at all? Are there interpenetrating movements of matter within our bodies? Is flow of people different from flow of goods? Are we (as people) turned into goods when we are within airports? Would all constituents in an ‘ideal’ transportation system be ‘moved’? Are roads a Public Sphere? What is the role of the State? Can States become ‘traffic police States’? Is there a conflict between logic and ethics in traffic? Is the way up the way down? Might slow vehicles be the future? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions using concepts from biophysics (Prof. Gautam Menon, Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Chennai), transport planning (Prof. P. K. Sarkar, School of Planning & Architecture, New Delhi), & philosophy (Prof. Vijay Tankha, St. Stephen’s College, New Delhi).

Listen in….

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

Prof. Gautam Menon (condensed matter physics, biophysics) Ÿ is a Professor at the Institute of Mathematical Sciences (IMSc), Chennai, where he is also the Dean of the Computational Biology Group. He did a B.Sc. (Hons) in Physics at St. Stephens College (Delhi), an M.Sc. at IIT Kanpur and a Ph.D. at the IISc (Bangalore). Following postdoctoral work and teaching at the TIFR in Mumbai and the Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada, he joined IMSc in 1998. His work covers a range of areas in condensed matter physics and statistical physics but more recent interests are the biophysical description of cellular processes and the modelling of infectious diseases. Besides academic interests, his interests also cover the interaction between science and society, and interdisciplinary science as well as science policy, especially with relevance to the third world. He has been a Swarnajayanti Fellow of the DST, India (2005-2010), a DAE-SRC Outstanding Research Investigator, India (2011-2015) and an Outstanding Referee of the American Physical Society (2011). In addition to lecturing at scientific meetings and seminars across Europe and North America, he was also appointed a Visiting Professor at the Mechanobiology Institute at the National University of Singapore (NUS) (2011-2013). He greatly enjoys teaching, only rarely turning down the opportunity to do so, in addition to preserving an active interest in the arts, music and writing.

Prof. P. K. Sarkar (transport planning) is presently a Professor of Transport Planning and Head, Department of the Transport Planning at School of Planning and Architecture (SPA), New Delhi. He has been a part of SPA for over two decades, and also spent nearly 14 years at the Central Road Research Institute (CSIR-CRRI), New Delhi. He is an active member of various national level technical committees (such as Urban Roads and Policy Committee, Highway Standards and Specifications Committee, and IMRA Committee), and has contributed over 110 research and technical papers in national and international conferences / seminars / workshops and journals. He has also been an Honorary Secretary of Institute of Urban Transport. He has written three books in the areas of Transport Planning, Sustainable Transport Systems, and Transport Economics. Prof. Sarkar has won a number of awards (such as Indira Gandhi Achiever Award, and Rashtriya Gaurav Award) for his contributions to the profession of Transport Planning. He has also been a Commonwealth Scholar (1982), and the Commonwealth Academic Fellow at the Newcastle University, UK (2013). Prof. Sarkar has travelled extensively to various parts of the world for academic and research purposes. For instance, he has studied the traffic situation in countries (& cities) such as Nigeria (Lagos), Nepal (Kathmandu), USA (New York) etc. to draft suggestions for sustainable transport system in Kolkata. Another key paper written by Prof. Sarkar identifies potential for economic gains from Inland Water Transport in India.

Prof. Vijay Tankha (philosophy) is Head, Department of Philosophy, St. Stephen’s College, New Delhi, where he has taught a variety of papers in Western and Indian philosophy over the years. He studied philosophy at St. Stephen’s College, and went on to do his M. A. at the University of Delhi. Subsequently, as a Commonwealth Scholar, he did his Ph.D. at McGill University, Montreal, Canada. His doctoral thesis was on the early Platonic dialogues, titled, ‘The Analogy Between Virtue and Crafts in Plato’s Early Dialogues’. Since then he has written and presented papers on both Plato and the Pre Socratics as well as on other philosophical and literary topics. As a Fellow of the Indian Council of Philosophical Research (ICPR) he did a study on Pre Socratic philosophy, which was published as ‘Greek Philosophy Thales to Gorgias’ by Pearson (2006) and an expanded edition was published in 2014. He is a member of the UCMS Ethics Committee and is also interested in issues of ageing. He is also currently working on a book on Plato’s Republic.

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

#TMOT mentions: Heraclitus, & Habermas, among others.