SynTalk

Jul 11 2020 67 mins 1.9k

f(q) = Can you feel your fascia? (#TGAM) SynTalk is a freewheeling interdisciplinary talk show with a philosophical approach to understanding the world from a long term perspective.













#TCAFG (The Coarse And Fine Grained) --- SynTalk
Feb 02 2020 74 mins  
How do you like your Matcha? Why do fine and coarse materials behave very differently? Is surface texture usually a sign of sub-structures? How does rock become clay? Is dry clay enough to understand wet clay? Could tea be smoked? Is it simple to keep every spoonful of your morning cereal mix similar? Do pure dry solids ‘flow’ in layers and parts? Is soil a definitive sign of life? How are dust and coarse-leaf teas different? Does mechanical agitation organize matter differently from Brownian motion? How/why does swelling happen? Can mechanical grinding lead to fine structural (chemistry) changes? Does fineness evolve life ‘around’ it by offering its ample ‘surface area’? What is a tea bag? Would you be able to easily tell (moving) life & non-life apart under a microscope? Could microbes induce life into fine matter? How does refinement happen? Why do water drops jump to contact when brought close together? What flocks? What ‘flocs’? What lies ahead? Would we deploy small active rotors & ‘swimmers’ to change materials? &, will we one day understand the fundamental physics of all open pattern-forming systems? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions using concepts from active matter physics (Prof. Sriram Ramaswamy, IISc, Bangalore), geotechnical engineering (Prof. D. N. Singh, IIT Bombay, Mumbai), & chemical engineering (Prof. Gurmeet Singh, Trans-Disciplinary University, Bangalore). Listen in...

#TFON (The Formation Of Nations) --- SynTalk
Jan 18 2020 69 mins  
How old are passports? Are you a resident citizen? Are nations primeval or modern? Were the colonizers, such as England, the first nations? Are all countries multi-ethnic/multi-religious? Are there phases, then, in the process of the abstract negotiating with ground realities? How do nations reproduce, as some are born, some emerge, some mimic, & some are just put together? When are borders drawn? Why did Czechoslovakia split? Must nations be unitary? How central is ethnicity to national identity? What kinds of countries make patriotic films? Is there too much of suffering in Russian war movies? Do you know of French film ‘stars’? Do psychology and pedagogy together create a citizenry? Why do nations sometimes lose out to (say) regions and religions as the object of loyalty? Is your nationality merely an administrative reality? What moves you? What happened to classical ‘Hindustani’ music after Indian partition? What can nations share (& not share)? Is most of politics economics? Will economic globalization redefine the abstract notion of nations (& nationalism)? Or, will nations – with multiple converging rationale – keep going strong…? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions using concepts from social anthropology (Prof. John Clammer, O. P. Jindal Global University, Delhi NCR), film criticism (M. K. Raghavendra, Bangalore), & history (Prof. Lakshmi Subramanian, BITS Pilani, Goa). Listen in...




#TOLOA (The Outer Limits Of Adaptation) --- SynTalk
Dec 29 2019 77 mins  
Have we over-adapted? How fit are you? Are our adaptive responses often too private? Is any fitness measure also always about the environment? How efficiently do you communicate with the changing environment? Are cultures always born on the boundaries? Can the First World, alone, help the world adapt? Are languages naturally selected? Are more frequent words shorter, & why? Similarly, do smaller organisms adapt, or perish, faster? Why are virus harder to control? Are the adaptive constraints eventually genetic? Or, can entire complex systems sometimes adapt while overcoming the constraints of parts? What is grammar constrained by? Is ideal efficiency often not achieved because of constraints? How are SOVs more prevalent if SVO languages are more ‘efficient’? Is adaptation chance-dependent? Was USA ‘not very far’ from India around 1965? Is human cash a kind of energy-unit? How are ecological and economic models dissimilar? Are most mutations neutral or detrimental? Are elephants at the greatest risk of extinction? What does not adapt? Might the future human beings be shorter and smaller? &, will we ‘radiate’ out of Earth? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions using concepts from linguistics (Dr. Samar Husain, IIT Delhi, New Delhi), political science (Prof. Sankaran Krishna, University of Hawai’i, Honolulu), & theoretical ecology (Dr. Samraat Pawar, Imperial College, London). Listen in...

#TAOC (The Afterlife Of Colonies) --- SynTalk
Dec 28 2019 80 mins  
Do you aspire to write good English? What was Ranjit Singh’s official language? Where do your narratives come from? Is it possible to think rationally while living in a village and practicing caste? Was India (only) a land of static isolated villages? What does colonialism do to social and political formations? Are tribes expected to evolve into castes, & then into class? What has been the epistemic relationship between caste and class? Is caste truly a religious notion? Is colonialism the central fact of ‘your’ history? Did the Church and the Crown think similarly about the colonies? How do Anglicists follow Orientalists? Is the West Europe? How do we forget? Who founded the Mexican Communist Party? What do the middle class think is good? Is it possible to become modern differently? Could Christian values be taught via English literature? Did England have dissenting mini colonies even within her? Did the several nationalist de-colonising movements share common imaginations? Who drew the lines between nations? Would the World remain hierarchical and territorial? Or, would there be newer ways of coming together and making sense…? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions using concepts from sociology (Prof. Surinder Singh Jodhka, JNU, New Delhi), history (Prof. Dilip Menon, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg), & literary studies (Prof. Gauri Viswanathan, Columbia University, New York). Listen in...


#TWATW (The Word And The World) --- SynTalk
Dec 14 2019 77 mins  
Are words valuable things? When did you last search for a word? Is the seed of language also the seed of the world? How does art work? Is direct (unmediated) observation possible? Does language have a (biological) organ that works with other cognitive faculties? What is a ‘word’? Does it have an internal structure? Do speakers find various affixes psychologically real? Why is there such a thing as grammar? Are words beginning-less? Does grammar change more slowly than words and phrases? Why? Where do art’s boundaries lie? Does art have a ‘universal grammar’? Does the (real) world determine the grammatical nature of languages? What propels the artistic in us? What does the word Saturn represent? Is the world described by words dissimilar from the world we inhabit? How are ungrammatical sentences sometimes meaningful? What is the link between truth and language? Might truth sometimes be observer dependent? Are there features in natural languages that are tied to our very Being? Is the Tunisian ants’ world discrete? What gives gestures meaning? &, what will Martians understand if/when they land on Earth with their own language? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions using concepts from Sanskrit studies (Prof. Ashok Aklujkar, The University of British Columbia (UBC), Vancouver), art (Jeebesh Bagchi, Raqs Media Collective, New Delhi), & linguistics (Prof. Pritha Chandra, IIT Delhi, New Delhi). Listen in...

#TROC (The Reconstruction Of Colours) --- SynTalk
Nov 23 2019 78 mins  
How difficult is it to pick berries from a tree? Do green flowers exist? Is blue still blue if it is not being known? ‘Where’ are your eyes? ‘Who’ needs colour vision? Is colour an elemental, physical, measure of the world? Is colour also mind- (or, sensor-) dependent? Do name-ability and know-ability go together? Is lustre similar to colour? Why is there a ‘three-ness’ to colours? How is it even possible to mix colours to get new ones? Are certain colours harder to make than others? Does every quality reside in a substratum? Do you confuse intensity and colour? Do you find B&W films compelling? Why do we see colour illusions? Are dreams colourful? What is the role of colour ‘in’ imagination? Where is the Self (& colour perception) located in wakeful, dream, & deep-sleep states? How does one establish this? Are visual imagination and perception different only in degree (& not in kind)? Why are ibogaine induced hallucinations invariably described in colour? Do we ever see true colours? Why do we differentiate red and green so clearly? Do colours cause things (including evolution)? Can we imagine colours we have never seen? &, would there be a perfect black in the future? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions using concepts from neuroscience (Dr. S. P. Arun, IISc, Bangalore), philosophy (Dr. Mrinal Kaul, Manipal Centre for Humanities, Manipal), & chemistry (Prof. Nalin Pant, IIT Delhi, New Delhi). Listen in...

#TBAN (The Belligerents And Neutrals) --- SynTalk
Nov 01 2019 69 mins  
Are wars entertaining? Who is responsible for your security? What is the role of military force in life? Is history violent? Do all cultures have a historical consciousness? Are all orders political orders? Are in-group solidarity and out-group hostility built into human civilizations? However, are we neither violent nor non-violent? Are human nature and international order related? Is the propensity to use violence higher in ‘central’ geographies? Are there structured steps between peace and war? Why are slivers of violence embedded in peace? Is a subject in an empire different from a citizen in a democracy? Is the nation state the apex of the international order? Whose interests do supranational institutions serve? Do economic gains transform into military assets? Is it possible to operate without the shadow of violence? Is coercion an escalatory step of deterrence? Have we lost the balance between passions and rationality? Are both Gandhi and Fanon needed as we build newer structures? How will we compete and collaborate for resources in the future? Can war be abolished? Or, will we continue to ‘create’ war? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions using concepts from journalism & philosophy (Rajni Bakshi, Mumbai), international relations (Prof. Shibashis Chatterjee, Jadavpur University, Kolkata), & military history ((Retd.) Air Vice Marshal (Dr.) Arjun Subramaniam, ex-Indian Air Force, Delhi). Listen in...



#TATT (The Attempts To Team) --- SynTalk
Sep 22 2019 76 mins  
Do cheaters survive? Do you find joy in competing (& cooperating)? Are teams mechanisms or organisms? How do teams coordinate layers of emotions, energies, and purposes to acquire a coherent ‘personality’? What, then, keeps teams together? Is there scarcity of common purposes in the world? Is teaming essential for bacteria? Might teams, across scales, be both emergent as well as designed systems? How are cost-benefit analyses performed when group and individual goals diverge? Is your life on the spot market? Might individual liberties be compromised when teams form? In what way are all team members equal; & not? Is it better to lose playing beautifully, than to win an ugly game? Why are only certain parts of economic supply chains formalized? Conversely, why are certain ’formal’ rules just ignored? Does unemployment rate fall with increasing education? Are ‘practice’ and ‘rehearsal’ games different? How is ‘arms-race’ style evolution different? Do all teams need models? When is governance necessary? Would problem solving depend more and more upon complex teams in the future? &, how would individuals remain important? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions using concepts from philosophy (Prof. Daniel G. Campos, Brooklyn College (CUNY), New York), economic sociology (Prof. Bino Paul, TISS, Mumbai), & evolutionary biology (Prof. Milind Watve, Dinanath Mangeshkar Hospital, Pune). Listen in...

#TCAA (The Counts And Amounts) --- SynTalk
Sep 21 2019 72 mins  
Is counting just a special case of measuring? Is any kind of measuring, & scaling, dimension dependent? Do lungs ‘have’ a non-integer dimension between 2 and 3? Can you list all the numbers between 0 and 1? Do both the size and number of cells/organelles change with biological growth? Is Euclidean geometry sufficient to describe things in nature? What does thickness ‘mean’? Is size a good indicator of ‘the outer world’? How many times can one cell become another cell? ‘How’ do cells count? How determinate is that? Are evolved systems always robust? Do all dynamical systems, typically, have finite partitions? Where does end-state variety, then, come from? Why is the presence of mitochondria inside neurons spatially periodic? Are all noses proportionately similar? Must counting be happening at very small scales given the manifest proportions at the macro level? Is the link between cell type and its longevity understood? Do molecular motors walk in three dimensions? Might one, sometimes, see different statistics (say proportion of heads to tails) for different amounts of time? Will mathematics continue to take us beyond our intuitions? &, would we need to change our definition (& conception) of ordinary dimensions in the future? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions using concepts from cell biology (Dr. Sandhya Koushika, TIFR, Mumbai), & mathematics (Prof. Stefano Luzzatto, ICTP, Trieste). Listen in...


#TBAB (The Banal And Boring) --- SynTalk
Aug 31 2019 72 mins  
Are only boring people bored? How standard are your windows? How did the trivial, marginal, & everyday come to the foreground in literature, architecture, language, & ‘living’? Does space emerge ‘from’ living? Has your built environment been handed down to you? Must tragedy only be about high-born individuals? Are you ‘free’ to be bored? Has modernity produced a certain kind of boredom? How have we come to expect agency over the world? Can ‘having tea’ be the point of a novel? Can one extract the banal speech of-the-day from, say, the Rig Vedas? Is art always a dialectic between the alien and the familiar? Is boring, both, necessary & inevitable? Is ennui a privilege masquerading as an affliction? Do languages have a tight fit with their environment? Can grammar be felt as inadequate? What can you not do in Bhojpuri? How can buildings stay alive? Do we project boredom onto the world? Do you assign a value of ’nothing’ to boring gestational time outside of your control? How high would the bar of boredom go in the future? Will novels die? Will all, but one, languages die? Will we return to pre-Enlightenment performative forms? &, what would remain boring? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions using concepts from architecture (Dr. Himanshu Burte, TISS, Mumbai), literary studies (Prof. Saikat Majumdar, Ashoka University, Delhi (NCR)), & linguistics (Dr. Peggy Mohan, Vasant Valley School, New Delhi). Listen in...



#TSOC (The Seeds Of Communities) --- SynTalk
Jun 22 2019 65 mins  
Do you (only) like people like you? Is belonging ‘necessary’? Are communities homogeneous? How do communities become political actors from being social entities? Are community identities a way of becoming legible for the State? Does the idea of nations pre-suppose the idea of communities? Conversely, how do countries or communities fall apart? Are societies modern, & communities pre-modern? Can communities self-determine themselves as such? How much can communities scale? How is the community enacted, & what keeps it going? Are they all kept together by (filial) feelings? What is the interplay between blood, language, religion, ‘culture’, trade, and subsequent social formations? ‘Where’ are self-interested strangers civil to each other? Is the State natural to human beings? Does language make us human? Are (all) individuals, therefore, social? Are all women a community? &, call centre employees? Do you want to be on the winning side? Are utopias scary? What happens when we turn within? Will communities persist in the future? Or, is the future unhomely and infinitely lonely? Would there be new modalities of drawing connections? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions using concepts from political theory (Prof. Neera Chandhoke, ex-University of Delhi, Delhi), anthropology (Dr. Mathangi Krishnamurthy, IIT Madras, Chennai), & history (Prof. Gyan Prakash, Princeton University, Princeton). Listen in...

#TIIP (The Ideas In Print) --- SynTalk
Jun 01 2019 72 mins  
What would you have bought – an air pump, or a printing machine? What can you read? Does the idea of ‘writing’ automatically lead to the idea of ‘book’? Do you worship books? But, also immerse them in rivers? ‘Who’ has written the divine texts, & why? Do you (still) read aloud? Does the nature of support (say, clay tablet…) determine the writing style (…cuneiform)? Are media effects deterministic? What made paper cheap? What made/makes it to books? Why did the printing press not take off in Goa in the 16th century? Can there be complex societies without writing systems? Did print revolutionize both the Word and the Image? Why are full old books now often dismembered? Do ur-objects exist? Do books ‘want’ to be edited and ‘re-read’? Was copy always an antonym of original? Does writing have to be read to be effective? Can you play Bach just by reading an early 18th century music sheet? Are machines making impossible books possible again? Will physical books always remain a highly political object? Will we be able to read against the grain in the future? &, will writing/reading always be there (even if books disappear)? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions using concepts from book history & literary studies (Prof. Swapan Chakravorty, Presidency University, Kolkata), art history (Dr. Yael R. Rice, Amherst College, Amherst), & heritage conservation (Anupam Sah, CSMVS Museum, Mumbai). Listen in...


#TLFD (The Last Few Days) --- SynTalk
May 11 2019 71 mins  
Have you ever touched the feet of a dead body? Who will you die in the company of? Where do dogs go to die? Do they grieve others’ death? Is fear of death universal? What causes delirium? What role does religion play in dying? When do children first begin to understand that death is permanent, & that even they would die someday? Is every dying person also a living person? Could grieving turn into a disease? How ‘complicated’ can grief be? Do people who deny death often have horrible ends? Does suffering cease to be suffering when it has meaning? Are you good at saying ‘final’ goodbyes? Do the dying (humans, dogs, cats, …) know that they are going to die? Is it (so) difficult to say whether a person is dying? Do people sometimes almost come back from the dead? What are ICU ‘Rules’ for? How does Oscar the Cat know who is going to die next? Do freshly dead people smell different? Can heart continue to beat in a dead person? Do you feel ‘connected’? Are you looking to attain salvation? Will we die good deaths in the future? How ‘distributed’ or centralized would dying be? Can death make one understand Life? &, would death remain a stranger? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions using concepts from animal care (Abodh Aras, The Welfare of Stray Dogs, Mumbai), psychiatry (Prof. Santosh Chaturvedi, NIMHANS, Bangalore), & palliative care (Dr. M. R. Rajagopal, Pallium India, Thiruvananthapuram). Listen in…

#TSOE (The Suns On Earth) --- SynTalk
May 04 2019 80 mins  
What came first – the nuclear power plant or the nuclear bomb? Do you fear nuclear power(s)? What was our experience of encountering coal? What is the relationship between energy consumption and well-being? What drives demand? Is more (always) better? Why did human population grow steeply from c. 1698? Where did the muscular Uncle Sam come from? Does pollution kill more people than wars? Is nuclearization value-neutral? How are human beings a part of nuclear power systems? How does (any) technology become a political or cultural artefact? What was the first official publicity like? Can ‘something’ be an instrument of peace ‘and’ an absolute weapon of destruction? Is nuclear energy ‘sublime’? Is it democratic? Is it green? Why aren’t nuclear power plants located within cities if they are not risky? Do more plants risk more weapons? Where does spent fuel go? Can the political economy of a nuclear power plant be separated from its engineering? Why the ‘secrecy’ (?)? What is the future of nuclearity? Is industrialization necessary? Will we beam energy down from satellites? &, will we have to continue to live with (military) radioactivity? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions using concepts from nuclear engineering (Prof. R. B. Grover, HBNI, Mumbai), development studies (Dr. Manu V. Mathai, Azim Premji University, Bangalore), & cultural studies (Dr. Dibyadyuti Roy, IIM Indore, Indore). Listen in...

#TMAA (The Mediators And Actors) --- SynTalk
Mar 17 2019 77 mins  
Are ‘things’ (truly) suppressed? What does it mean to act? (How?) is the fan in your computer doing something to you? Are there many kinds of intentionalities in the world? Do animals and machines also act? Are language, metaphysics, politics, agency – all – reserved only for us? Could politicization of the material world be thought of as depoliticization of the human society? What cannot interact? Is mediation a sub-species of action? Are definitions also actions? Is a detailed description identical to an explanation? Is there a depth dimension to Reality? Are things contained in space, or does space exist ‘because’ things exist? Does the form of ‘spacing out’, then, lead to the possibilities of voluntary or involuntary actions? Does the subject always contain the predicate? Is your worldview dualistic? What is hidden within ourselves? Might action be caused by disembodied intention? What makes crowds mobs? Does the material non-human world permeate our social lives via (say) language and behaviour? Is social change, therefore, not so easy? Is capital the real actor? &, are the possibilities of the future a given, or can the world be acted upon (endlessly)? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions using concepts from anthropology (Prof. Arjun Appadurai, NYU, New York), philosophy (Dr. Enakshi Ray Mitra, University of Delhi, New Delhi), & East Asian studies (Dr. Christian Uhl, Ghent University, Ghent). Listen in...


#TMMOF (The Many Manners Of Falling) --- SynTalk
Feb 24 2019 81 mins  
Why is that body heading the other way? Do different objects fall differently? Is it a mystery why bodies attract each other? What is the ontology of gravity? Did Newton find his own idea of universal gravitation absurd? When was Space first believed to be unlimited? Do belief systems and knowledge systems always influence each other? Does experience form intuition? Is a simultaneous process of falling in and falling out always ongoing in the Universe? What is it like to fall into black holes? Are they empty inside? Are their horizons smooth? Are black holes fuzzballs (or ‘string stars’)? How do they then ‘emit’ entangled radiation? Is floating a ‘kind’ of falling? Is gravity a matter related phenomenon, & not a force at all? Or, are all forces aspects of (geometric) space? How limited is our own experience of the physical world? Does reality sometimes mask itself in other ‘dimensions’? ‘How’ will you take a free kick from 30 metres outside the goal post? How much of gravity is cognizable? Can (dual) objects that appear identical in form be very different in substance? Do we also need the things we cannot explain for our existence? What is the future of our Universe? &, will we find the ‘angels’…? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions using concepts from black hole physics and string theory (Prof. Samir Mathur, The Ohio State University (OSU), Columbus), & philosophy (Prof. Babu Thaliath, JNU, New Delhi). Listen in...

#TPPP (The Public Private Puzzles) --- SynTalk
Feb 23 2019 68 mins  
Can you do whatever you want at home? Do you own private property? Do you hold (private) opinions? ‘What’ do you care for? Why & how do boundaries shift between the private and public realms? Do you have a right to health (& to smoke?)? Does economic development influence how public-private distinction is thought of? Is the process of drawing lines always political? Does increasing GDP always work automatically for publicly desired outcomes? Must private property also (eventually) be seen as enhancing publicness? Do cities get made by plans? Are urban realms continuums of spaces and energies? How do practices create temporary private spaces? Is ownership necessary? Do you often cross into others’ private spaces? Why not? Is the modern State the only public mode? Are individuals at a technical disadvantage against the collectives? How might social and individual goals be aligned? Will we remain more hung up on our differences? Will we continue to become more cellularized? How will public norms (& Laws) change? &, is the future likely to be both highly cellularized and regulated (by public norms)? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions using concepts from law (Prof. Sudhir Krishnaswamy, Azim Premji University, Bangalore), urban planning (Prasad Shetty, School of Environment and Architecture (SEA), Mumbai), & economics (Prof. Sebastian Vollmer, The University of Göttingen, Göttingen). Listen in...


#TETH (The Euphoria The Humdrum) --- SynTalk
Jan 13 2019 79 mins  
Are you in (deep) passionate love? Or, have passions calmed down? Do revolutions happen spontaneously, & what maintains them? How do we keep various commitments? Do you imagine yourself as an object? What bores you? Could we, sometimes, experience boredom in a deep kind of way? Can human relationships be authentically mediated by objects? Is consumerism itself a revolution? Do most of us not have a systematic view of the world? Do (only) individuals fall in love? Do we become more revolutionary merely if we suffer more? What role do narratives play? What is the future of – the idea of – pure love? ‘Should’ a sense of moral duty be invoked to keep marriages together? Would anything be lost if we are found to be superficial beings? Is the appeal for individualized consumption less in societies that have collective social aims? Does consumerism work because it taps into our ability to love? Do consumer culture and religiosity go together? Do we need both theory and memory? Would the sites of boredom keep changing? &, would the notion of commitment become more flexible in the future, even as we continue to fall in love? But why? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions using concepts from cultural theory & intellectual history (Prof. Craig Brandist, The University of Sheffield, Sheffield), philosophy (Prof. Raja Halwani, SAIC, Chicago), & sociology (Prof. Sanjay Srivastava, IEG, New Delhi). Listen in...




#TSAWM (The Strong And Weak Modes) --- SynTalk
Dec 22 2018 79 mins  
Is Earth one system? How stable is New York? What sort of a person are you? How does the structure of your networks change the way you behave? How do you find out if something is good? Are societies with (Royal Family-like) strong hubs bad for social learning? Can atmosphere be thought of in terms of networks? Are unstable solutions more likely to become strong? Is it coincidental that strong El Niño and weak Monsoon often go together? Why/when did Krishna have to show his large magnificent form? Is strength always a transient (contingent) ‘solution’? Is democracy the rule of the weak (the ruled…)? Could weak ties produce solidarity? Are States and Markets substitutes? Do both of these, however, needs ‘lots of’ Society (i.e. social ties)? Do you need to have friends to succeed in a competitive market? How are couplings made stronger? Can synchronization be lost after strengthening? How do dynamics and structure of networks influence each other? Can a tornado destroy the whole earth? Could seeking extreme efficiency be risky? Would there be no trade-offs in the future? &, would the world keep becoming more ‘superfluid’ (and superfluous)? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions using concepts from dynamical systems (Dr. Amit Apte, ICTS-TIFR, Bangalore), political theory & poetry (Prof. Ashwani Kumar, TISS, Mumbai), & economics (Prof. Sanjeev Goyal, University of Cambridge, Cambridge). Listen in...

#TFOS (The Faculty Of Suffering) --- SynTalk
Dec 15 2018 69 mins  
Is it nonsensical to think that suffering is a part of the ‘human condition’? Are you a passive victim? Can you easily be more or less of yourself? Who suffers? Do we suffer because we are highly (self) conscious creatures? Are you forced to engage with the everyday? Does suffering have a duration, and can we live purely (& independently) in the present? Is violence inevitable in all lives? Can one voluntarily incur suffering? Does being a victim have any moral consequences? Can sacrifice be practised narcissistically? Is sacrifice a way of taking violence, and turning it inwards? Does everyone have something to sacrifice? Do those who do not suffer lead shallow lives? Do human beings differ in the amounts they suffer? Do you decide generically? Can the underprivileged be moral heroes, & when? Why does fasting-unto-death sometimes work? Are language and suffering very closely connected? How can one suffer better? Is vulnerability (or the performance of it) potentially a political force? Is a moral life fearless? Why do people with no hope of survival fight and die for everyone else? &, must one learn to die ‘appropriately’? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions using concepts from history (Prof. Faisal Devji, University of Oxford, Oxford), sociology (Prof. Pushpesh Kumar, University of Hyderabad (UoH), Hyderabad), & philosophy (Prof. David Weberman, Central European University (CEU), Budapest). Listen in...


#TTOTS (The Traits Of The Searchable) --- SynTalk
Dec 01 2018 78 mins  
What makes Ujjain searchable? When did you last use a thesaurus? Does all search presuppose a structure, & can this structure be implicit? Is labeling necessary; when? How can one say if a text is structured? Are we all unique; but are we all also searchable because we belong to ‘groups’? Are all search problems matching problems? Is all search correlational? Can we search in different ways and find the same thing? Can different documents/texts/languages be coherent vis-à-vis each other? Is the final arbiter eventually the (human) searcher? Are you able to walk into any ‘library’ and use it with ease straightaway? To what extent can one determine (or estimate?) the identity of an unknown decomposed dead body? Does everything revolve around bones? Could our footprint give our face away? Are fingerprints gendered? How do we identify bird species? Why is image (or, even, sound) search difficult? How much can one disguise oneself? Could one search ambiguously and without, precisely, knowing what one is looking for? &, what kinds of searches are likely to remain very difficult in the future? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions using concepts from forensic anthropology (Dr. Kewal Krishan, Panjab University, Chandigarh), computational linguistics (Prof. Amba Kulkarni, University of Hyderabad, Hyderabad), & information sciences (Prof. Stephen Robertson, City University of London, London). Listen in…


#TIBR (The Irregular But Rendered) --- SynTalk
Nov 25 2018 79 mins  
Can we avoid fractals if we want to? Are our fingers irregular? Is there thumb cancer? Or, toe cancer? Are all regular objects ‘algebraically’ representable? Are cones manifolds? Do cubes have an algebraic description? Can algebraic equations catch everything (?) that topology cannot? Might two visually indistinguishable manifolds vary dramatically? Can circles have a ‘complex’ structure? Do biological objects (including virus) have edges or points? Do multi scale interactions make hearts or kidneys regular? Do biological objects always (always) live in time? Can the open Euclidean space be put ‘inside’ another space? Can shape, volume, and size (say) tell us whether a biological organ is regular? Might there even be regularity across species? When/is cancer growth predictable? Can fractals only be approximated (algebraically)? Why can’t biological objects be thought of only computationally? Is it easy to tell irregularity and complexity apart? Is ‘too complex’ as good as irregular? Can irregularity be no-where-dense? Why is 3-dimensional space much more complicated than spaces with both higher and lower dimensions? Will biology have to take the material properties (hardness, etc.) into account in the future? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions using concepts from cell biology (Dr. Ramray Bhat, IISc, Bangalore), & algebraic geometry (Dr. Amalendu Krishna, TIFR, Mumbai). Listen in...


#TTTT (The Turns Technology Takes) --- SynTalk
Oct 27 2018 78 mins  
Are you thinking of going back to paradise? Does technology exist, autonomously, without us? Is it the new vector ruling the world? Where did the idea of newness come from? Does technology come (more) from arts & crafts than science? Do both socialism and capitalism go together with technology? Was Industrial Revolution science driven? Might religious change drive technology? Similarly, do new technologies change social relations? How is organic evolution different from the technological? Are hybridization and differentiation possibilities much greater in technology? What does not change? Do we need a ‘Darwin of machines’? Is there always a gap between the users’ tactics and the engineers’ strategy? Can technology make us ‘stupid’? However, is technology neither good, nor bad, nor neutral? How did acoustics go from the paradigm of music to engineering? Are wars the mother of all inventions? Can technology be forgotten? Must there be more social actors? What is the future – Will we still have hammers? Would we blow ourselves up? Will the digital and genetic come together? &, would we have a new ‘model’ of dog every week? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions using concepts from economics (Prof. Praveen Jha, JNU, New Delhi), media studies & semiotics (Dr. Carlos Alberto Scolari, Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF), Barcelona), & history of science (Dr. Roland Wittje, IIT Madras, Chennai). Listen in...


#TVVS (The Very Very Slow) --- SynTalk
Sep 30 2018 72 mins  
Are younger systems faster? Do elephants mate slowly? Is a plastic ruler always ageing? Is only glass glassy? Why are processes slow or fast, & how do they speed up or slow down? Do all systems have an internal clock? Is water fast because it acts like a large correlated spring? Is there such a thing as fully-dissolved? Are certain social systems stable because they remain ‘useful’? How does fashion change fast? Is slowness a sign of highly connected groups? ‘How’ does inter-caste marriage happen? Is the past more important only for systems that are undergoing change? Do external disruptions lead to a revival in interest in the past? What is the opposite of revolution? What changes predictably – science or technology? How do languages die? Does protein misfolding tell us about its past? Are the biasing forces blind? Is friction a memory function? Is swapping like catalyzing? Is speed synonymous with forgetting? How do the ‘same’ human beings exist in different states? Could an umbrella theory uncover secrets of all slow dynamics? Will we remain addicted to speed? &, what will not change much in the long run? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions using concepts from physical chemistry (Prof. Biman Bagchi, IISc, Bangalore), literary theory (Prof. Sachin Ketkar, The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, Vadodara), & glass physics (Prof. Jorge Kurchan, École Normale Supérieure (ENS), Paris). Listen in...

#TMOTU (The Mapping Of The Unknown) --- SynTalk
Sep 29 2018 75 mins  
Was the Earth ever flat? Do we live in a ‘flattish’ Universe? What did we first notice in the starry sky; & was anything fixed? How did the notion of the atom come to be? Have you heard accounts of maps/globes that do not exist anymore? Was the ‘World’ once – just – Asia, Europe and Africa? Do maps always orient us spiritually within the larger (ever-changing) Cosmos? Is the Universe static? Are maps a theory? What comes first – theory or observation? How can we map something we don’t see or is largely empty? Is all Dark Matter of one kind, & how do we know that it exists? Are all stars of one kind? Could stars be cubes? Is it easy to add a newly discovered continent to an existing map? Why did the idea of Antarctica come to be? What did we first establish to be ‘real’ – the atom or the Americas? What is the shape of the Universe, & is every point on it unique? Are we bounded in time (& Space?)? Is mapping (always) observer dependent? Can everything be understood in terms of pictures? Would maps (even if sometimes incorrect) continue to offer new possibilities? &, will we keep going beyond what we already know? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions using concepts from quantum mechanics (Prof. Partha Ghose, ex-S. N. Bose National Centre for Basic Sciences, Kolkata), astronomy (Prof. Ajit. K. Kembhavi, IUCAA, Pune), & comparative literature (Dr. Ayesha Ramachandran, Yale University, Connecticut). Listen in...

#TCOTI (The Context Of The Implicit) --- SynTalk
Sep 09 2018 72 mins  
What paints the scene for you? Do you often get carried away? How do we recall the mutable past? Is all implicitness context, time, politics, language, and subject dependent? Is our freest choice also controlled by culture? What makes something visible, sayable, perceivable, or (even) intuitive? Can the visual be more implicit than the textual? Is sound most implicit? Is our implicit explicit for ‘God’? Is architecture, being both symbolic and real, the language of the given? Is architecture mythical? How does the built form (say, the stage) reflect the natural world or the cosmology? Are airports non-places? How do the givens change (either dramatically or slightly)? How might tea be advertised? Does modernity reference only itself? Do you sell things off you do not use? Why can’t a performance be fully reproduced or archived or described? Do each one of us have our own implicit? Do we always create more implicit? Can Reason make everything explicit? Will we keep pursuing the promise of presence as we attempt to ‘leap’ forward? What do we want to be? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions using concepts from performance studies (Dr. Trina Nileena Banerjee, Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta (CSSSC), Kolkata), semiotics & linguistics (Dr. Seema Khanwalkar, CEPT University, Ahmedabad), & art history / architecture (Dr. Venugopal Maddipati, Ambedkar University, New Delhi). Listen in...


#TPKT (The Places Knotted Together) --- SynTalk
Jul 21 2018 78 mins  
How far are you? ‘What’ is a place? Are they a moment of ‘realized’ relationships? Are (say) air pollution, hospitals, hydraulic systems, temperature, diseases, real estate prices, and species distributed similarly spatially? Does it take a lot of work to make a place? What does it mean for places to be similar? Have we always been placed the same way? Why aren’t there tigers in Sri Lanka? Are habitats and species always strongly correlated? Might India be closer to Madagascar than Africa in some respects? Can geological history be inferred from phylogeny? Can noise have a spatial structure? Is all data spatiotemporal, & does proximity (often) strongly imply relatedness? Are real estate prices continuous? Are context and history key to understanding spatiality? Are interactions and relations primary, & location or identity secondary? Do cities emerge to manage (or control?) exchanges at scale? When are places hybrids? Why do Gaussian processes work for multidimensional interpolation? Can we understand spatial dependences better? Would there be fewer places in the future? Would places remain tied to the notion of permanence, and the ‘pretence’ continue? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions using concepts from anthropology (Dr. Nikhil Anand, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia), statistics (Prof. Sudipto Banerjee, UCLA, Los Angeles), & biogeography (Dr. K. Praveen Karanth, IISc, Bangalore). Listen in...

#TMBA (The Murmurs Before Arrival) --- SynTalk
Jul 14 2018 78 mins  
Do you forget names and words? Are you going to get Alzheimer’s soon? Is any experience fundamentally conditioned by time? What cannot be anticipated? Can murmurs function like (unprocessed?) signs? Why are multi-parameter signals very difficult to ‘observe’ ahead of time? Is knowing all the initial conditions the primary source of difficulty? How are social systems different? Can beauty be ‘a’ number? Are nucleation events always stochastic? Does growth of protein aggregates ‘fit’ the equations more easily in a test tube than in the human body? Is change of phase akin to change of model equations? Do magnets, markets, fluids, or (even) society display some signals (say, susceptibility or compressibility) before a transition? Is it possible for a laser pulse to exit before it has entered? Does the stimulus to transform always come from the outside? Are all misfolded proteins similar the way all chairs are similar? Does recognizing new patterns need languages (& neologisms), & what happens when forms dissolve? Are repetitions (always) copies? How can we be ‘otherwise’? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions using concepts from statistical physics & econophysics (Prof. Bikas K. Chakrabarti, Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics (SINP), Kolkata), philosophy (Prof. Leonard Lawlor, The Pennsylvania State University, Pennsylvania), & biophysics (Prof. Sudipta Maiti, TIFR, Mumbai). Listen in...


#TJAG (The Just Almost Games) --- SynTalk
Jun 30 2018 74 mins  
What’s your kill count? Do cats and dogs play to win? Do you like running and racing? Does play express freedom while pushing at the boundaries of reality, materials, & rules? Does normal life lend solidity to games, even though they may be interrupted by reality? Are literature and games both forms of cultural simulation? Would a Martian visiting Earth be able to distinguish work from play? Why can games only be enacted (& not narrated) in real time by the player? Must players be aware of their effects on each other for a situation to be a game? How does nature make its moves? Are the rules of a game arbitrary though not irrational? Can legal moves be illogical and/or unethical? How ‘large’ games can be, & must they be conclusive? Can several mathematical proofs be thought of as (systemic and/or narrative) turn-based games? Are all perfect information games winnable? How are games with imperfect or incomplete information different? Can anything be learnt via play? Why doesn’t game-play develop as fast as the simulation of spaces? Could games be used for ‘serious’ purposes in the future? Would leisure stay free? Or, might games cease to be play even as we bet everything on it? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions using concepts from literature (Prof. Supriya Chaudhuri, Jadavpur University, Kolkata), logic (Dr. Sujata Ghosh, ISI, Chennai), & game design (Dhruv Jani, Studio Oleomingus, Vapi). Listen in...


#TCAO (The Chaotic And Orderly) --- SynTalk
Jun 02 2018 70 mins  
Which side of the separatrix are you? Does self-interaction make systems chaotic? Have you ever experienced turbulence? Do you have an intuition for chaotic behaviour in various realms? Is chaos always fecund? However, can chaos also be ‘produced’? Is noise the same as chaos? Can very simple systems be chaotic? Can solids, circuits, and solar systems be chaotic? How do laminar (periodic) systems transition to aperiodic chaos, & vice versa, when (say) flow happens inside a pipe? Did chaos come first, & is everything thereafter a result of its coming together with Gaia and Eros? Is it possible for the future to determine the present (or the past) – is this provable (bit.ly/2xCZdPF)? Can events be a part of a process, & what causes it? Is history chaotic? Do chaotic systems’ sensitive dependence to initial conditions prove that the World is non deterministic? Are all deterministic systems necessarily predictable? Can a very ‘small’ cause lead to a very ‘large’ effect? However, do some things just happen spontaneously? Does weather in one part depend on the rest of the world? Can we create large scale robust chaos? &, what is the long term future of our understanding of chaos? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions using concepts from electrical engineering (Prof. Soumitro Banerjee, IISER, Kolkata), fluid dynamics (Prof. Rama Govindrajan, ICTS-TIFR, Bangalore), & philosophy (Dr. Arun Iyer, IIT Bombay, Mumbai). Listen in...

#TUUC (The Ultimate Ultimate Causes) --- SynTalk
May 26 2018 71 mins  
Do we die ‘because’ we stop breathing? Is it possible to say how ‘a’ cancer is caused? Do causes exist? Are they (always) universal, uniform, & a priori? Are all phenomena eventually multi-causal and probabilistic? Might cause be a feature of the mind? Is the ‘concept’ of cause essential? What explains changes in the world? What role do (say) our senses, culture, technology, institutions, & chance play? Why do grasshoppers jump randomly once in a while? Can randomness also have causes? Is the effect invalid without the (correct) cause? Does technology (the ‘how’) often precede science (the ‘why’)? Is understanding of causality, however, both beneficial and satisfying? Can certain pockets of genome or organisms be more mutation prone? Do hotspots of innovation emerge in a similar fashion? What is the ultimate cause of risk taking? Might heightened resilience lead to lesser disruption? Why do certain honey bees go to certain flowers? Are ultimate causes eventually evolutionary? Was the world always as it is today? Can we live without ultimate causes? Must we keep looking for causality even in a playful world? &, what is it that ultimately survives everything else…? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions using concepts from innovation studies (Prof. Anil K. Gupta, IIM Ahmedabad, Ahmedabad), philosophy (Prof. T. S. Rukmani, Concordia University, Montreal), & biology (Prof. L. S. Shashidhara, IISER, Pune). Listen in...






#TWOC (The Workings Of Clocks) --- SynTalk
Feb 03 2018 72 mins  
Do pilots experience jet lag? Why are there different types of rhythms? What does your heart beat ‘to’? Is all of life periodic (because of the sun)? Is there a master clock to everything, & are all clocks analogous? Does each cell have its own (genetic) clock? Do clocks help us stay in phase with each other? Do ‘autonomous’ (hardware) clocks always drift? How do clocks correct themselves? Are computer network clocks eventually physically anchored (in, say, Caesium clocks)? How are atomic clocks made to keep solar time? How is time served on networks? Is temporal constancy of fundamental constants, even, possible to measure? What makes a clock more accurate and/or robust? Does digital hardware ‘need’ a pulse trigger? Is time an artefact, & less ‘fundamental’ than frequency? Do clocks primarily help manage transitions, & is time keeping, therefore, state keeping? Why do the blind have shorter lifespans? Can causality exist without the notion of time? Will we do more things in the same amount of time in the future? Would our body clocks change – will we sleep well? Will all planes autoland? Is a clock-free paradigm possible? Are we too synchronized…? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions using concepts from atomic physics (Dr. Subhadeep De, CSIR-NPL, New Delhi), computer science (Prof. S. Arun-Kumar, IIT Delhi, New Delhi), & chronobiology (Prof. Vinod Kumar, University of Delhi, New Delhi). Listen in...

#TMOC (The Matter Of Cities) --- SynTalk
Jan 20 2018 72 mins  
Do villages grow up to be cities? Do you have piped water? Is your city your home? Do you feel free? Or, abandoned? Or, anonymous? Why do people come together and cohabit in large numbers? Does this itself create new possibilities (& externalities)? How ‘natural’ is a city? Can there be villages within a city unit? What is called urban? Are cities heterogeneous and diverse, but also internally hierarchical? Why do ghettoes, slums, & suburbs emerge and persist? Do cities mirror the modern nation state or the medieval empires? Can cities transform agricultural practices? Can a city sustain itself even as it destroys the river (say) on which it was set up? Are homeless poor people capable of looking after themselves? Can cities ever be taken over by slums? How large can they get? Is a lot of urban planning (paradoxically) ‘anti-urban’? Can the Market or the State fulfill peoples’ dreams? Are urban (efficiency-driven) and rural (productivity-driven) properties very differently organized? Is the future of agriculture going to drive the future of cities? Is the ‘soft’ city as real as the concrete city? Would several cities get regionally disembedded? Must the urban imagination also include the hills and the seas…? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions using concepts from urban geography (Dr. Anant Maringanti, Hyderabad Urban Lab, Hyderabad), & urban history (Dr. Awadhendra Sharan, CSDS, New Delhi). Listen in...

#THOTT (The Higher Order Thought Tools)--- SynTalk
Jan 07 2018 72 mins  
What’s a thought? Could that chair have been water? Does perception precede production? What does it mean to know a language? How & why did humans end up acquiring the very complex (& ‘discontinuous’) linguistic capacity? How do we carry meaning detached from the real physical world? Do we reason axiomatically or algorithmically? Is semantics logical? Do non-human animals care about reasons? How different is our brain from the primates ‘right behind us’? Do the ‘number’ of brain areas matter; why? Does language have a tendency to structure itself? What is one innate with when one is born? Is the linguistic faculty inferential? Do languages, thoughts, artefacts and organisms co-evolve? How can’t language be? Do birdsongs carry information without grammatical structures? Can culture cause genetic changes? Is artificial language reflexive? How does a language talk about itself? Are non-human animals very serious? Can all languages express all thoughts? Are there thoughts that language cannot express? Can crows (say) evolve a ‘language’ in the distant future, or do we have an unassailable lead? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions using concepts from linguistics (Prof. Veneeta Dayal, Rutgers University, New Brunswick), logic & philosophy (Dr. Nirmalya Guha, Manipal Academy of Higher Education, Manipal), & cognitive neuroscience (Prof. Atsushi Iriki, RIKEN, Wakō, Japan). Listen in....


#TDAC (The Discrete And Continuous) --- SynTalk
Dec 23 2017 77 mins  
Is grey ‘real’? Is all discretization perspectival? Can there be absolute notions of discreteness and continuity? Is time eternal? Is the world continuous but we perceive it as discrete? Are micro and macro objects continuous, but the meso discrete? Can real numbers be ‘made’ from integers? Are real numbers continuous (analog), & integers discrete (digital)? Do we don’t have access to ‘most’ of the real numbers? Did God make integers – or only 1 (& 0?)? What does Fourier Transform imply? What is the most fundamental signal? When does sampling not lead to loss of information? Can the sense of touch be discretized? Can surgeries be performed remotely? Does discretization happen in Nature? Is noise always continuous? Is speech predictable even if the underlying phonemes seem discrete? Do all manifolds lie on a continuum? Is making linear (analog) circuits difficult? Are higher order infinities deeper forms of ‘silence’? Does mathematics understand the ‘ambiguous’ ways in which things are (sometimes…) equal? Would a world without continuity (& community) be doomed? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions using concepts from logic & philosophy (Prof. Mihir K. Chakraborty, ex-University of Calcutta, Kolkata), mathematics (Prof. Kiran S. Kedlaya, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, California), & electrical engineering (Prof. D. Manjunath, IIT Bombay, Mumbai). Listen in...

#TCOD (The Constraints Of Diagrams) --- SynTalk
Dec 10 2017 74 mins  
Imagine taking a step forward, then a step to the right, & then a step back – where are you now? Do you have to reason for this, & how ‘far’ can you go? How are diagrammatic reasoning and representation different? Are diagrams for domains that can be represented spatially? Are mental images an internal perceptual representation shared by both internal and external inputs? Do (explicit) symbols make cognition possible? Is our cognitive architecture multi-modal? Can the blind use diagrams? How do we know what is extraneous in diagrams? Are diagrams often socially constructed? Do shapes lie somewhere between speech and scripts? Can a child learn to ‘read’ spontaneously? Are scripts arbitrary? However, are diagrams always homomorphic with ‘reality’? Are there links between the evolutions of geometry, logic, & diagrams? Can we make a diagram of ‘yesterday’? Or ‘not raining’? Can the absence of non-existent objects be represented? What if diagrams didn’t ‘exist’? Does language mimic diagrams? Would diagrams be significantly more used for proofs in the future? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions using concepts from artificial intelligence & cognitive science (Prof. B. Chandrasekaran, ex-The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio), philosophy of logic (Prof. Lopamudra Choudhury, Jadavpur University, Kolkata), & psychology (Prof. Prakash Padakannaya, University of Mysore, Mysore). Listen in...

#TAAF (The Alienation And Freedom) --- SynTalk
Dec 09 2017 78 mins  
Are you free if thoughts just occur to you? Is alienation – as loss of a sense of belonging and subjectivity – a phenomenon of modernity? Is freedom contra-causal and spontaneous? Is it truly in human nature to be free? Are people ‘already’ free? Do you exercise your freedom in the Market? Is all of production voluntary? Is production a form of fulfillment? Is leisure (without work), then, a threat to freedom? Are you overworked and overspent? Are your desires yours? Are we accumulating ‘garbage’? Why don’t consumers go on strike? Are we biologically and socially constrained? Is there a connection between language and freedom? Are you able to put together disjoint concepts out of a context? Does language create possibilities? Can notions of freedom also be propagandized? Do you think of the mountains as Gods? Is freedom (along with the ability to act) essential for survival of the human species? Is it sufficient to think that one is free to be free? Is it necessary (?) to end Capital, as we know it, to save ourselves? Can you conceive of the end of the world? Is the future just like the past? Will we exercise our angelhood? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions using concepts from philosophy (Prof. Akeel Bilgrami, Columbia University, New York), economics (Dr. Arjun Jayadev, Azim Premji University, Bangalore), & linguistics & philosophy (Prof. Nirmalangshu Mukherji, ex-University of Delhi, New Delhi). Listen in....

#TFOT (The Fantasy Of Translation) --- SynTalk
Nov 25 2017 71 mins  
Do you trust your translator? How can ‘worlds’ be translated? Where is Tamil when a novelist writes in English about Tamil speaking characters? Are all translations interpretations (judgment?)? Can one ‘read’ Nature? Can mathematics be translated into (natural language) prose? Is translation prior to language, & (therefore) is it in the nature of languages to be translatable? How then are languages different from one another? Can the forces of translation be located within one language itself? How are scientific texts different? Is symbolization a form of translation? Is science a form of storytelling? Are both equations and poetry essential & point-like? Do you read poetry with footnotes? Must the translated text do all the work on its own? Could a 20-page commentary on a 2-line sutra be considered a faithful translation? Does the specific history of interpretative communities always matter? Can Quran be translated and read as Ovi Marathi poetry? Did colonization happen via translation? But, is all translation violent? Will the ideas of interpretation, translation, & language always exist in the future? Will language die (?), but translation live? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions using concepts from poetry (Prof. Mustansir Dalvi, Sir JJ School of Architecture, Mumbai), philosophy (Prof. Sundar Sarukkai, NIAS, Bangalore), & translation studies (Prof. S. Shankar, University of Hawai’i, Honolulu). Listen in....



#TCOA (The Coordination Of Affairs) --- SynTalk
Nov 04 2017 71 mins  
Are more than a third of you crooks; could you arrive at a consensus? When do we need to work together? Can introducing uncertainty (or randomness?) get rid of certain equilibria? Is coordination necessary for resource access by multiple agents? Is building synchronous hardware difficult? Is it even possible to say whether motor proteins are coordinating? Are systems with heterogeneous agents more likely to coordinate; & when? Can you move your lips; how? Can all problems be decoupled into ‘n’ pieces? Do process ‘geometries’ and communication systems matter? How does the central bank help firms coordinate? When is central planning essential? How is the brain different from the central bank? Is more information always better? Is being precise good? Can plasticity be built? How do proteins decide which ‘track’ to choose? How do (non-intelligent?) machines coordinate? Is the dynein of the yeast better than ours? Does the ‘size’ of payoffs determine whether coordination happens? Might we be able to think of coordination as a ‘field phenomena’ using the physical notions of order parameter, thresholds, and phase transition? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions using concepts from computer science (Prof. K. Narayan Kumar, Chennai Mathematical Institute (CMI), Chennai), biology (Prof. Roop Mallik, TIFR, Mumbai), & economics and game theory (Prof. Debasis Mishra, ISI, New Delhi). Listen in....


#TKOP (The Kinds Of Pain) --- SynTalk
Sep 16 2017 67 mins  
Do you have a pain of 9? Do you malinger? 'Where' does it hurt, & when? Do you want to be admitted to a hospital? Do you want attention? Are you suffering from loneliness? Do you need morphine? Is pain subjective, & always multidimensional? Is the brain always a part of any pain experience? Is pain a disease? How can it be assessed? Can there be patients without diseases, and diseases without patients? Can groups experience pain? Is treating the pain different from treating the disease? Do only pain killers relieve pain? How does pain reinforce itself? Can social or economic or political problems be redressed at hospitals? How does torture work? Why do we suffer? Is our body socially constructed? Do you go to the gym? Can pain be addictive? Are inequality and pain really connected? Could changing the nature of work reduce pain in the world? Can self hypnosis work for unrelenting chronic pain? Might a woman’s endometrial pain (say) (sometimes) be called illegitimate, & why? What is the purpose of pain? Can one understand one’s own and others' pain via art or religion? Can pain be blocked off permanently? &, should one desire a pain free world as a right? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions using concepts from palliative care (Prof. Mary Ann Muckaden, Tata Memorial Centre, Mumbai), sociology (Prof. Harish Naraindas, JNU, New Delhi), & history (Dr. Benjamin R. Siegel, Boston University, Massachusetts). Listen in....







#TIIH (The Invisible Invisible Hand) --- SynTalk
Jul 29 2017 77 mins  
Are you civil? When do you put your self interest aside? Does it depend on the ‘evolutionary game’ you are playing? Is justice fairness? Is a fair world impossible? What do markets promote? Is 'price' the magic wand? Can price take all the externalities into account? Do initial endowments always matter? Can social order emerge in a group of only self interested individuals? When can natural selection be said to be occurring? Why aren’t all groups societies? Is there fairness (or even efficiency) in the animal world? Is despotism or nepotism the price that we pay for having a civilization? Would reciprocity be built into any just society? Why don’t all efficient markets (or equilibria) exist? Can order and disorder appear in cycles? Does enlightened self interest lead to common good outcomes? Do we get exactly what we select for? Is there often a disconnect between the individual, sub-group, & group levels? Are larger groups likely to be less fair? Would an 'equal' world (even if) be stable? Can there be a Theorem for Fairness? How much of private property must we respect to have a prosperous society? What (besides poetry) is worth striving for…? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions using concepts from evolutionary biology (Prof. Amitabh Joshi, JNCASR, Bangalore), political philosophy (Prof. Bindu Puri, JNU, New Delhi), & economics (Prof. Debraj Ray, New York University (NYU), New York). Listen in....





#TDOD (The Dynamics Of Dominance) --- SynTalk
May 27 2017 73 mins  
Do chimpanzees play politics? Why do we act spitefully or ‘altruistically’? Is one human being equal to another? Is power without hegemony possible? Is there always an established social order? Is competition for resources scrambles or contests? Is nature a good guide to explain human behaviour? Is culture a result of adaptation? Are orders of dominance always subject to change? When are leaders and subordinates coupled? Does equilibrium selection depend upon whether a game is sequential or simultaneous? Why is it difficult to give a non-patterned response to the leader? Are there compensations for being subordinated? Do subjects contribute to their domination? Are some equilibrium stable even if the initial conditions (e.g. scarcity) change? Does strategy mutate? Are dominance systems (from egalitarian to despotic) species-specific? How does bloody or bloodless rebellion occur? What makes threats credible? Is it rational to be selectively irrational? Can social systems change suddenly? Is hierarchy overturned without creating a new one? Is it possible for one person to control the whole world? Would there always be the powerful and the powerless? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions using concepts from sociology (Prof. Satish Deshpande, University of Delhi, New Delhi), game theory (Dr. Ankur A. Kulkarni, IIT Bombay, Mumbai), & biopsychology (Prof. Mewa Singh, University of Mysore, Mysore). Listen in....










#TLOS (The Lure Of Suicide) --- SynTalk
Jan 22 2017 65 mins  
Is life precious? Whose property is it? Is the final act of suicide narratable? Can you tolerate frustration? Rage? Shame? Could one commit suicide without any conscious reason? Is suicide alluring? Do we instinctively long to unite with some deep inanimate part of nature? Are we ‘beings towards death’? Does a suicide bring together both the radical uniqueness and the similarity of death? Why do men commit suicide more than women? Do you identify with your mother? Is suicide a cowardly act? How coherent is the Self? Can the killer and the killed be one? Is suicide a breakdown of the capacity to mentalize or symbolize? When is (say) fasting unto death ‘permitted’? What is the underlying promise? How does the changing body-soul relationship influence our attitude towards suicide? Do you live in a culture of honour? Is attempting suicide a crime (or a sin)? Do we have a right to be 'alive'? When (must) might we have the right to die? Why not just 'run away'? Will cyborgs commit suicide in the (perfect) future? Will there be ‘demand’ for suicide as long as there is humanity? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions using concepts from religion studies & philosophy (Prof. Purushottama Bilimoria, Graduate Theological Union (GTU), Berkeley, California), cultural studies (Prof. Manas Ray, Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta (CSSSC), Kolkata), & psychoanalysis (Dr. Madhu Sarin, New Delhi). Listen in....


#TCOC (The Cusps Of Creativity) --- SynTalk
Jan 15 2017 72 mins  
Can you be creative consciously? Can verification of an idea be fully worked out in the unconscious state itself? Does P equal NP; & is proving computationally more intensive than verifying? Can a system be called creative if it explores all possibilities (with brute force) before selecting one? What, then, is creativity for machines? Might daydreaming have underlying processes akin to stochastic optimization or simulated annealing? Are there different types of creativity? Can it be defined? Is a non-obvious step essential? Can a software program be granted a patent? Is Transfigured Night still surprising? Can one be technically incompetent, and yet have a flow experience? Do we search for answers differently in the arts from the sciences? Is creativity domain specific? Are heuristics always 'directional'? Is the topography of the unknown solution space often rugged? Do neural networks run algorithms? Is evolution creative? What does culture do? What is the simplest creativity problem that we do not understand? Is artificial creativity possible? Would such a system classify differently? What do you expect? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions using concepts from theoretical computer science (Dr. Deeparnab Chakrabarty, Microsoft Research, Bangalore), cognitive neuroscience (Prof. Arne Dietrich, American University of Beirut, Beirut, Lebabon), & theoretical physics (Dr. Anita Mehta, Kolkata). Listen in…


#TAOD (The Agency Of Design) --- SynTalk
Dec 18 2016 69 mins  
Are you proud of your buckets and combs? Is a cup culture-specific? What's typical? Are objects a part of your identity? Can empathy be created? Can buildings foster (multidimensional) equity? What is bad design? Do the best designs (try to) do many things simultaneously? Does a challenging design problem always involve trade-offs and incentive conflicts? How do evolving needs, preferences, and available resources lead to new categories? Why do non information intensive products (such as debt) catering to perennial needs stay central for a very long time? How sharp or fuzzy are the boundaries between different products? Why don't we have labels for everything? Do we reduce the complexity of the world by creating affordances and categories? Is design always particular to a context? Are the best designs aware of the context of the context? What makes designs robust? Are income tax systems also influenced by norms of culture and identity? Are markets culturally neutral? Can designs enable transitions? Will we (even) be designing for particular needs in the future? How can self-regulating non-manipulative infrastructure be created; would community formation play a key role? Is the future of design ecological? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions using concepts from design (Prof. Uday Athavankar, IIT Bombay, Mumbai), mechanism design (Prof. Praveen Kumar, University of Houston, Texas), & architecture (Prof. Rahul Mehrotra, Harvard University, Massachusetts). Listen in…



#TDAL (The Darkness Around Light) --- SynTalk
Nov 27 2016 65 mins  
What does a bee see? Do we see light? What are we blind to? Is the universe dark? Does darkness have a physical basis? Is light a wave or a particle or both or something else? Does this depend on the nature of the detector? Is light (like a) photon for living systems? Are photons wave packets? Why haven’t all the contradictory theories of light been permanently overthrown? Is the discipline reorganized differently when we revisit it after several centuries? How is heat different from light? Is it probable that there is life somewhere vis-à-vis another (non overlapping) wavelength band of electromagnetic radiation? Do gamma rays almost don’t diffract, & why? Does light interact with 'each other'? How do a combination of optical, chemical, electrical, vibrational, and ‘dark’ processes produce visual perception? Can we simulate what the other animals see without simulating the brain? Are there other light dependent biological functions besides vision? Are we ‘stuck’ with the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics? Can the nature of light be known? &, would ‘shelved’ theories continue to be picked up and reinterpreted? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions using concepts from history & philosophy of science (Prof. Dhruv Raina, JNU, New Delhi), optics (Prof. Chandrasekhar Roychoudhuri, University of Connecticut, Connecticut), & chemistry (Prof. Anil Kumar Singh, IIT Bombay, Mumbai). Listen in....




#TTOT (The Tricks Of Transmission) - - - SynTalk
Oct 23 2016 62 mins  
How is an entity able to copy itself? How do the four DNA base (A, T, C, G) molecules function like ‘symbols’ leading to the entire genetic code? Why can’t a neuron be treated as a symbol? Are genetic and linguistic codes analogous to each other, with common notions of letters, words, sentences, grammar, and (even) punctuation marks? Is all DNA ‘useful’? How do proteins derive their meaning (function?), & how are they regulated? Does a sentence derive its value from the non linguistic realm? What is the interplay of syntax and semantics for transmission? Is the genetic language highly similar across different species? Can nearly similar structures have identical functions? Are genes the only mode of storing and transmitting biological information? How is information represented in the brain different? Is it likely that the grammar of language is similar across species? Is language constrained by biology (particularly neural systems)? Why don't all memories get transmitted biologically? Does evolution depend upon replication errors? How are artificial intelligence systems different? Why are we (yet) unable to create an artificial cell in a test tube? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions using concepts from machine learning & systems biology (Dr. Sumeet Agarwal, IIT Delhi, New Delhi), genetics (Prof. Subhash C. Lakhotia, BHU, Varanasi), & philosophy (Dr. Geeta Ramana, University of Mumbai, Mumbai). Listen in....



#TPDP (The Path Dependent Paths) --- SynTalk
Oct 03 2016 65 mins  
Are you using a QWERTY keyboard? Why do all clocks go clockwise? Can some systems get locked into sub-optimal states? Why are some processes path dependent and some not? Does the number of variables or the ‘direction’ of change matter? Can future be memory-less, & depend only on the present and not on the past? Can one ‘ensure’ that systems escape unstable equilibria? What role do initial conditions and noise play in arriving at one of multiple possible equilibria? When do systems have unique point convergence or an invariant probability distribution curve? Given enough time, do all systems visit all possible states; why or why not? ‘Why’ does time influence outcomes? Are large complex systems invariably irreversible? How do single/multiple agent/objective systems differ from each other? When does learning take place? Do biological evolutionary 'equations' have identifiable optimization function(s) and/or equilibria? Can complex systems be directed to specific (or one of a few) end states? Is persistent socioeconomic inequality also a state of equilibrium, & why might (not) affirmative action work in this context? Is stable equilibrium ‘better’ equilibrium? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions using concepts from game theory & mathematics (Prof. Vivek S. Borkar, IIT Bombay, Mumbai), and statistical mechanics & soft matter physics (Prof. Srikanth Sastry, JNCASR, Bangalore). Listen in....







#TROAR (The Recipe Of A Renaissance) --- SynTalk
Jul 17 2016 63 mins  
Why don’t we let the past be? What do we do when there is a crisis? What do we see when we look back? What is imitated? Is a renaissance a rebirth: but of something totally new (as a non identical repetition)? What is renaissance ‘about’? Is it celebratory of a past but not necessarily redemptive? Can something ontologically preexisting (& of value) be made into a ‘currency’ by naming? Is the word renaissance substantive or does it need a geographical (say, Italian/Islamic/Bengal) or other marker? Why do we sometimes see ‘new things’ within many different domains within a short period of time? Where does the discourse of newness come from? What is the self understanding during these periods of change? Might the separation of the object from its properties be the defining epistemic break? How does one understand the context of discovery? Did women have a renaissance? Why did Petrarch write letters to a (long dead) Cicero? Is a revolution a renaissance? Does a renaissance have strategic moments to separate Us from Them? Can there be a private renaissance? Can a renaissance be caused or predicted? SynTalk thinks about these and more questions using concepts from history & philosophy of science (Prof. Nagarjuna G., HBCSE, Mumbai), literature & renaissance studies (Prof. Amlan Das Gupta, Jadavpur University, Kolkata), & philosophy & literature (Prof. R. Radhakrishnan, UCI, Irvine). Listen in....

#TFAF (The Friends And Foes) --- SynTalk
Jul 11 2016 68 mins  
Did Buddha have friends? Did Gandhi have enemies? Can you renounce friends? Is friendship universal? Do we ‘need’ enemies? Is competition ever with enemies? Why is there ‘narcissism of small differences’? Can rivals be friends? How are enemies, adversaries, and opponents conceptually distinct from each other? Are democratic structures meant for pacification of politics: can enemies be turned into adversaries? Does self interest contaminate friendship or does mutual self interest bind it together? Can power be shared? Does allegiance to a world view come along with enemies that need to be fought? Did competitive sports (Olympics) come to be as a substitute for combat and battles? How is the sense of the self developed? Can there be friendship between collectivities (such as countries)? Would the European Union have come to be without the preceding World Wars? Why and ‘how’ did Panchtantra come to be? Would a highly transactional world make friendships redundant? Are there friendships in competitive sports? Is mono-modal friendship possible? Will there ever be a world where there are no friends (or enemies)? Can affection be manufactured by law? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions using concepts from sports psychology (Bhishmaraj P. Bam, Purushottam Academy, Nashik), political theory (Prof. Rajeev Bhargava, CSDS, New Delhi), & philosophy and history (Prof. Vinay Lal, UCLA, Los Angeles). Listen in....



#TAAL (The Abstractions At Large) --- SynTalk
May 15 2016 68 mins  
What cannot be abstracted? What was Grothendieck up to? Does abstraction exist all around us; as notions of (say) numbers, distance, money, & more? Further, is there a way of abstracting the notion of distance across different kinds of geometries? Is labour (power) abstract? Is it surprising that we are able to think of 2 apples and 2 oranges as just 2? Does cinema & art usually give a concrete body to abstract things like emotions? What is the method of abstraction across realms, & does it involve turning ‘inputs’ into ‘commodities’? How does the orange-seller know how to efficiently pack the oranges? How is abstractness embodied, and what role do materials play? Is the concrete an instance of the abstract? Does the word ‘room’ (say) signify a concept in our heads? Can cinema (a la ‘absolute films’) be concrete without (the artifice (?) of) actors, sets and dialogues? What role do aesthetic & philosophical principles play in the process of abstraction? Can there be/is there a method of ‘rising from the abstract to the concrete’? Why did art turn abstract? Is all art, in a sense, abstract? However, is the making of all art very concrete? Might a sculptor ‘know’ a result before a topologist does? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions using concepts from film studies (Prof. Moinak Biswas, Jadavpur University, Kolkata), mathematics (Prof. Gadadhar Misra, IISc, Bangalore), & art (Pushpamala N., Bangalore). Listen in....

#TTAGU (The Things About Growing Up) --- SynTalk
Apr 24 2016 65 mins  
Do kids understand adults? Does foetus feel pain and pleasure? What does the world look like from the crib? Is the new born infant alert, aware & awake, & not confused? What are kids pre-wired for, & is pre-wiring largely genetic? Do we learn fear? Do new-borns get bored? How do children learn, and (what) do they need to be taught? How is grammar learnt? When do kids start becoming autonomous? Have you experienced the Terrible Twos? When does a child stop being a child? Is the concept of late childhood a product of modernity? Must adolescence be a ‘productive’ period? Do children have rights? What exactly is childhood ‘innocence’, & must childhood be valourized? Can some kids be unusually cruel? Is parenthood naturally anxiety inducing? Might the absence of disclosure of love for the child be a problem? What might indiscriminate ‘limit setting’ by parents lead to? Is it hard, however, to always be a calm carefree parent? How different and similar are kids from each other, & is it alright to compare them? What is the long term future of childhood? Should kids be free? Would the basis of innateness be established in the long term? Would such a world be dystopian? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions using concepts from psychology (Prof. Malavika Kapur, NIAS, Bangalore), sociology (Dr. Shilpa Phadke, TISS, Mumbai), & developmental paediatrics (Dr. Koyeli Sengupta, Ummeed, Mumbai). Listen in…

#TROTO (The Reality Of The Original) --- SynTalk
Apr 03 2016 69 mins  
Is Colin McKenzie for real? What cannot be faked? Are fakes lies? Can copies be more valuable than the original? What is the test of something being original? Is originality a fact? Is it culturally determined? What are the ethics and aesthetics of fakes? How and at what point do we know when an experience is not real? What about reality that cannot be experienced? Is seeing believing, or is believing seeing? Is ‘seeing’ always ‘seeing-as’? Why do some of us prefer artificial flowers over fresh flowers? Does the idea of the original always imply its opposite? What kind of objects can (cannot) have copies (originals)? Can there be fake words? Or chairs? Is the copy of a copy the copy of the same original? Can there be a fake documentary film? Are there false images for astronomers? How does science ‘handle’ reality? What are the (dis)similarities between archaeology, astronomy and film-making? Is most of reality constructed, and do we really know what reality is? Does reality always depend on the technology available? Do we ‘need’ reality? Can we live (largely) with hyperreal simulacra, & will reality be dispensed with in the long run? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions using concepts from philosophy (Prof. Sharad Deshpande, ex-University of Pune, Pune), film-making (Nilita Vachani, Tisch School of the Arts (NYU), New York), & astronomy & archaeology (Prof. Mayank Vahia, TIFR, Mumbai). Listen in....


#TEOP (The Exile Of Poets) --- SynTalk
Mar 06 2016 69 mins  
Are there happy poets? Can one write poetry without having suffered (some) exile? Why has there been deep pessimism about poets, & might poets cause wars and genocide? How is deeply personal poetry dangerous? Does poetry represent perfect, universal and eternal truth? How is a poet different from a philosopher? Does poetry find its foothold in a good society, when philosophical truth is understood as a process, & not a product? How might limitless (anarchic) emotions be expressed given the limits of language? Can one ‘suggest’ that which cannot be written? How do ‘word’ and ‘meaning’ come together in poetry? What is the relationship between form and content? Is poetry a very personal use of language for the poet (and the reader)? What is the link between the ethical and the aesthetic? How might bhava become rasa? What happens the moment you come in contact with yourself? Is poem something whose essence cannot be removed from it? How & when do poems get exhausted? Should poetry be history? How did the ‘first’ poetry come to be? Is an exile always asked for? Might an exile be a voyage? Will ‘mistakes of intellect’ continue to happen? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions using concepts from political theory & poetry (Prof. Ashwani Kumar, TISS, Mumbai), literature (Udayan Vajpeyi, Bhopal), & literary theory and philosophy (Prof. Sitanshu Yashaschandra, ex-M.S. University, Vadodara). Listen in....

#TIOE (The Instability Of Equilibria) --- SynTalk
Feb 21 2016 67 mins  
How does rate of change change? Is equilibrium balance, & what happens when there is no balance? Is equilibrium attained when fast processes have done their job, and the slow processes have not started? Do all systems tend towards equilibrium? How are biological, physical, and economic systems different in this context? What would happen inside a closed box of Hydrogen atoms in (say) a billion years? Is equilibrium scale and time dependent? Is stability desirable? Is daily temperature stable on an average? Is graphite more stable than diamond? Is it possible to have stability far from equilibrium, & can equilibrium be unstable? Can prices be chaotic, & how does market achieve equilibrium? Can stability be thought of as, among others, constancy, persistence and resilience? Can ‘only’ one sub-market (or species) be out of equilibrium in a market (or an ecosystem)? What is the role of credit in creating (dis)equilibrium? Do predator-prey population sizes fluctuate naturally? Are buildings in local stable equilibrium? Will the world notice if all the human beings were to die? Is the ‘balance of nature’ strong or fragile or neither? Are there only local equilibria and ‘no’ singular global equilibrium? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions using concepts from biology & ecology (Dr. Sutirth Dey, IISER, Pune), physics (Prof. Deepak Dhar, TIFR, Mumbai), & economics (Prof. Anjan Mukherji, JNU, New Delhi). Listen in....


#TMOA (The Metaness Of Algorithms) --- SynTalk
Jan 24 2016 66 mins  
What is a (hard) problem? Can we know which problems do not have solutions? Is scheduling flights a hard problem? Is assembling cars an easy problem? Theoretically, are there more problems (uncountable) than solutions (countably many)? Are algorithms well defined? Are they a finite description for infinitely many possible inputs & processes? What is not an algorithm? Can processes be algorithmic and not computational? Does it matter how algorithms are embodied? Is every algorithm a Turing Machine? Is there a difference between equations and algorithms? Can algorithms be approximate? Where do heuristics come from? Are comparisons the easiest measurement? Do physical symbols always underlie any computation? Are the best algorithms exponential? Is there infinite richness of algorithms, & are computers infinitely reconfigurable machines? How is the real world abstracted (& discretized)? Do problems need analog computing, since (real life) variables are usually (?) continuous and not discrete? Is a recipe, then, an algorithm? Is the brain a computer? Is the world analog or digital? Do algorithms have an ontology? Are algorithms abstractions? Are they here to stay? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions using concepts from logic & theoretical computer science (Prof. Anuj Dawar, Cambridge University, Cambridge), & operations research & industrial engineering (Prof. Ashok K. Mittal, ex-IIT Kanpur, New Delhi). Listen in....


#TDWB (The Difficulty With Believing) --- SynTalk
Jan 18 2016 69 mins  
What do you believe ‘in’? Do you hold irrational beliefs? Why is it difficult to revise beliefs? Can it be beneficial to have false beliefs? Do you (objectively) believe that there is Heaven? Can beliefs be like axioms, or are they all (iteratively) based on facts? Are absurd beliefs particularly beneficial in forming a community? Does belief always imply an affect? Do you believe that voting is a foolish thing to do? Is belief an instrument of power? Can one infer beliefs of animals or children? Why is there suspension of disbelief or testing (of the truth criterion) in cinema or theatre? How are ritual spaces different? Does cinema tap into the collective (un)conscious (belief)? Is it profitable to believe that God exists? Will there be belief as long as there are skeptics? Can beliefs become redundant? Is the problem of deciding what a new belief should be NP-complete? How do we automatically change our (practical?) beliefs all the time, when it is technically extremely difficult? Would there be a pristine (messianic?) theory of belief revision in the future? How could belief revision be: a variation, a change, a decision, a monstration, or an event? Would you look through Galileo’s telescope? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions using concepts from performance theory and philosophy (Dr. Soumyabrata Choudhury, JNU, New Delhi) & logic, philosophy and computer science (Prof. Rohit Parikh, CUNY, New York). Listen in....

#TMOT (The Modalities Of Traffic) --- SynTalk
Jan 18 2016 67 mins  
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....

#TLAS (The Large And Small) --- SynTalk
Jan 09 2016 64 mins  
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....




#TMAG (The Many Addiction Games) --- SynTalk
Dec 19 2015 64 mins  
Are you addicted to snake poison? Or gambling? Are you an alcoholic? Have you quit smoking? Why are cigarettes so popular? Why are slot machines more addictive than games of skill? Why are we addicted to anything? Is there a threshold? Are some of us (genetically) more vulnerable than others? Is an addict always aware that she is an addict? Does addiction always have both ‘loss of control’ as well as ‘potential to harm’ components? Can we be mistaken about the (subjective) experience of our own bodily sensations? Is addiction always a desire for certain kinds of sensations? What precedes the craving? Are addicts price sensitive, & do they respond to financial rewards? Does tobacco tax work? What if the substance is not available? Is it always irrational to be an addict? Can one avoid severe depression via addiction? Are hardcore addicts different? Is their ethical vision deeply skewed? Might brown sugar and alcohol addicts look down upon each other? Why does relapse happen? Is it tough being an addict? Is our concept of addiction going to expand in the future? Will addiction always be there, or does it depend largely on the environment? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions using concepts from behavioral economics & philosophy (Prof. Harold Kincaid, University of Cape Town, South Africa), psychiatry (Prof. Shubhangi Parkar, Seth G.S.M.C & KEM Hospital, Mumbai), & philosophy (Dr. Kranti Saran, Ashoka University, Delhi). Listen in....

#TPOD (The Process Of Decay) --- SynTalk
Nov 22 2015 66 mins  
Is 100% memory loss possible? Is the past ‘preserved by itself, automatically’? Is the notion of decay linked intimately to the concepts of order and memory? Does life grow towards order, even as physical systems go towards disorder? Does maintenance of order require a significant amount of energy? Is there a fundamental unit of order? Are rituals (say) the work required to reproduce social order? Is anomie or agonism the opposite of order? Is too much cohesion also a symptom of decay? Do systems decay when they go ‘out of context’ vis-à-vis the neighbours? Is memory the sense-organ to perceive time? Why does a fly develop a complex memory for a life of ‘just’ 1-2 (human) days? Do life-forces wax & wane? Are there different forms of decaying? Can some systems self heal or (erroneously) self destruct? Are perpetual systems possible? Do automata (or, human beings) always display highly rule bound behaviour? Is physical immortality (with selfhood) technically possible? Can machines introspect? How do you prove that you are not a machine? Why is it that some trees do not seem to ever die? Are myths ‘more’ futuristic? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions using concepts from neurosciences & psychiatry (Prof. Sanjeev Jain, NIMHANS, Bangalore), computer science (Prof. Madhavan Mukund, CMI, Chennai), and anthropology & philosophy (Dr. Bhrigupati Singh, Brown University, Providence, USA). Listen in...

#THOF (The Having Of Fun) --- SynTalk
Nov 08 2015 65 mins  
Does Mowgli have fun? Why do we crack jokes? Why are spoofs enjoyable, & is having fun, fundamentally, an act of subversion? Does having fun require us to be innocent ‘fools’? Is fun the basic objective of human existence? What is it, then, not to have fun? Is it a fact of human existence that most of the time we are not having fun? Is pain the (obvious) obverse of pleasure? How can tragic spectacles be pleasure producing? How can an expression of sorrow, such as Blues, be enjoyable? Does the idea of fun primarily come to us in retrospect? Is having fun in the present often a contrived and laboured idea? Is the idea of fun intimately linked to the notions of spending, forgoing, & forgetting? Must fun be ethically driven? Why & how can (say) a musician sometimes refuse to entertain? Why do there exist self inflicting pain systems? How is the ‘crucified’ the model for human excellence? Why do musical concerts work, & can fun be manufactured formulaically? What is it to be an individual in a rock concert? Does one need the Other? Can ‘pure’ fun be utile and essential? Is the idea of life before marketplace the idea of innocence? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions under the metonym of fun using concepts from literary & cultural theory (Prof. Saugata Bhaduri, JNU, New Delhi), music (Vehrnon Ibrahim, FreeWillMusic, Mumbai), and poetry & film (Prabodh Parikh, ex-Mithibai College, Mumbai). Listen in...

#TRAI (The Recognition And Identification) --- SynTalk
Oct 11 2015 69 mins  
How do chicks fly back to Africa on their own? Is recognition merely re-cognition? What are the different mechanisms for differentiation? How do (say) most new-born insects recognize objects without any social support? How, besides sight and sound, odour-mediated recognition plays a special role in several species? How there is a lot of consistency with smell. We journey into the world of both precocial and altricial species and wonder if the ability to recognize may be both innate and learned. How do unhatched chicks communicate with each other and their mother? Does a life form have the option to not know? Can animals identify that which their nervous system does not allow them to identify? Do brains process information from the environment in a non-linear way? Can one recognize that which has not been experienced before? How the North American apple flies were set up to love apples even before apples were there? How do starlings recognize each other in a murmuration of almost a million? Does time need to be continuous (& finite?) for recognition to make sense? Does knowledge consist in knowing what a thing is not? Is identity always ecological? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions using concepts from chemical ecology (Dr. Shannon Olsson, NCBS, Bangalore), philosophy (Prof. A. Raghuramaraju, University of Hyderabad, Hyderabad), and ornithology (Dr. Asad Rahmani, BNHS, Mumbai). Listen in....

#TSOT (The Structure Of Truth) --- SynTalk
Oct 05 2015 65 mins  
Is 2+2 inevitably 4? Is it grue? Is it true? Is it true that facts do not live on their own? What is The Concept of Truth in Formalized Languages? How logic chases truth up the tree of grammar? Is truth the same across languages? If we used different languages would the facts be different? What comes first: truth or meaning? Is every sentence true or false? Does truth always have the IF-THEN structure? What can computers not prove, & why? What the nature of logic and probabilities does to the notion of truth, & how there need not be one logic? Can there be heuristics of ‘interestingness’ when forward chaining for a proof? Might all mathematics be done by proof checkers and Automated Theorem Provers (ATPs)? What is a candidate for a conjecture? Why is logical contradiction the ultimate no-no? Why is stock market news more difficult to write than Shakespeare, for a ‘Bayesian-monkey’? ‘Tell me what you are interested in, and I will tell you what the truth consists in’. Do (?) counterfactuals change the world by a very small amount of information? Or, does nature provide the regularities, and we provide the causal theories? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions using concepts from philosophy (Prof. Simon Blackburn, ex-University of Cambridge, Cambridge), computer science (Prof. Paritosh K. Pandya, TIFR, Mumbai), and mathematics (Prof. Rajat Tandon, University of Hyderabad, Hyderabad). Listen in....

#TROH (The Return Of Home) --- SynTalk
Oct 05 2015 65 mins  
Do you feel at home? What is the other of home – the world? We think of home variously as culture, a memory, an identity, a language, a terrain of materiality, a landscape, the zone of affect, an idea, a gharana, & a family? How the sense of belonging (to, say, a gharana) has nothing to do with place? Have all homes been founded on the basis of some principles? How is the notion of home different for the refugees and the diaspora? Can you carry your home with you? Why do we need a home, & can one make multiple homes? How ideas, often, have multiple homes. What happens, however, when a certain musical tradition (a home for some) is appropriated by the market economy? What is the home of Hakuna matata? What is the significance of land, & where our ancestors might be ‘buried’? We also explore, using the Israel/Palestine case & other instances of settler colonialism, whether it is possible to have a home without a homeland. Is home where we can debate, converse and have access to new ideas? What is the future of gharanas? Does the future of home lie in creating an equilibrium between difference and similarity? Finally, are we all merely nomads? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions, about the past, present & the possible futures of homes, using concepts from literature (Githa Hariharan, New Delhi), social sciences & philosophy (Prof. Shail Mayaram, CSDS, New Delhi), and music (Vidya Rao, New Delhi). Listen in....



#TMOV (The Mystery Of Violence) --- SynTalk
Jul 25 2015 65 mins  
Are you angry? Do we have a terrible love of war? Is it possible to think of violence without the teleological means-end schema? Why don’t we have a phenomenology for it? Is it because violence is the ground shared by enemies? Why don’t we manage to look inside ourselves for the source of violence, and often project it on to the Other? Why do even the worst of perpetrators represent themselves as being the victim? Does violence lie at the end of speech? Is today’s victim tomorrow’s offender? Do shame and humiliation turn us towards violence? What then is the agenda of punishment? How can we open up the victim’s silence? How can we access the scene of violence? Is the aggressive drive essential to human survival? Why do the under-trials expect the Judge to at least hear them out? Is hatred a revolutionary sentiment? Does militarism (love for war?) run across modes of production? Is crime (merely) an act by which one runs the ‘risk’ of taking punishment? What is the future of the act of policing? What is the distinction between violence and brutality? If violence becomes increasingly non profitable in the future, might society then need to invent violence for ethical reasons? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions, about the nature of violence, using concepts from criminology & justice (Prof. Vijay Raghavan, TISS, Mumbai), philosophy (Prof. Sanil V., IIT Delhi, New Delhi), and history (Dr. Dilip Simeon, ex-University of Delhi, New Delhi). Listen in....


#TGAP (The Ghosts And Poltergeists) --- SynTalk
Jul 11 2015 60 mins  
SynTalk thinks about the provocative questions of spectres, spirits, & ghosts, as themselves and as signifiers, while constantly wondering if they are an unnecessary residue. Can we think of the repressed voices in places of violence and ruin, using ideas of ghosts and haunting? What is the thing that haunts? What is the big deal about the ghosts? The concepts are derived off / from Plutarch, Ludwig Lavater, Thomas Lodge, Shakespeare, Nicholas Rowe, Heidegger, Freud, Weber, Adorno, Levinas, Tagore, Amos Tutuola, Derrida, Kurosawa, Arjun Appadurai, Stephen Greenblatt, Jean-Michel Rabaté, & Avery F. Gordon, among others. How the juxtaposition of the familiar with the unfamiliar creates the uncanny? Would something entirely unfamiliar be uncanny or just plain strange? Can the spectral be defined at all? How hauntology potentially challenges ontology? Do ghosts represent a world order where things are not arbitrary, and where actions have repercussions? How Shakespeare added a sense of wonder and mystery to the figure of the ghost, & made it substantial. Is Shakespeare’s Hamlet a Protestant with a Roman Catholic father? Should Hamlet have followed what the Ghost said? Are ghosts almost always ethically haunting figures? How the Derridean ghost is a bodyless body, and not a spirit without a body? Is every sense of our Being always haunted (with Nothingness)? How time is ‘out of joint’ with the ghostly. Does the uncertainty of the future always unsettle the past? Does modernity render the unexplainable superfluous, & what then are the ghosts of modernity? Is the cinematic consciousness ultimately a very spectral consciousness? What has been the life of ghosts in (say) Indian, Japanese, & South East Asian cinema? Why do Shakespeare’s tragic protagonists always see more than the others? Can a hyper rational mind experience the spectral? The links between Ur-Hamlet, 49, temporal twist, Macbeth, trauma, Hiroshima, turning table, purgatory, Madhumati, goblin, witches, The Babadook, spectral housing in Mumbai, magic, white noise, & Bhooter Bhobishyot. How the ghost expresses the yearning to grasp the mystery of history. Can we get hold of the Levinasian ‘trace’? Are there cultures without ghosts? Would our (otherwise sterile) lives need the pollution or infection of other worldliness in the future? Is it almost impossible to live without ghosts? ‘Can we speak of ghosts, without transforming the whole world and ourselves, too, into phantoms’? ‘Even if they are no longer, even if they are not yet…’. The SynTalkrs are: Prof. Shormishtha Panja (Shakespeare studies, literature, University of Delhi, New Delhi), & Dr. Suvadip Sinha (philosophy, cultural studies, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities).

#TAOM (The Act Of Madness) --- SynTalk
Jul 05 2015 68 mins  
SynTalk thinks about insanity, madness, and mental illness, & its links with questions of medicine, physiology, freedom, control, knowledge and power. We weave together both theoretical explication as well as purely personal reflections to try and understand madness, and journey in and out of mental asylums a few times. Can we understand madness ‘itself’ as a truth beyond any discussion? The concepts are derived off / from Descartes, Auguste Comte, Philippe Pinel, Owen A. R. Berkeley Hill, Jal Dhunjibhoy, Durkheim, Amartya Sen, & Jeffrey Masson, among others. What makes a (happy, purposeful, & successful) human being go mad, & can there be a master narrative? Would you prefer to be called mad rather than mentally ill? Is the core question the need (or not?) for defining the ‘abnormal’? Why & how are the mental disorders categorically or syndromally diagnosed across multiple axes? Is the DSM atheoretical, and might it be linked to our, often only partially organized, deeply held beliefs? Is the naming and formulation of the problem intimately linked with the philosophical perspective that one adopts? Can one understand the birth of the concept of the (lunatic) asylum and private madhouses? Do people ever leave the asylum after retrieving their personhood? The trends and concepts of (de-,re-, & trans-)institutionalization? How the space of madness may be a space of resistance, and then a stepping stone to growth? Has mental illness always been and will be present with human cultures? Is all madness manifested in the inter personal spaces and ‘beside the mind’? The gigantic task of capturing the inter personal and the social domain (outside physiology) when it is not an objective given. We also explore the reflexive relationship between theory, experience, and power (equations), & how we articulate the position for ‘them’. Is our understanding of some conditions, at the same time, not biological enough? Is mental disorder localized in the head? Is psychiatry very far from perfect? The links between workhouses, chains, moral treatment, neurodiversity, pagans, delusional depression, When Elephants Weep, welfare state, diabetes, Governor General of Bengal, ‘care of the soul’,~3000 BC, Serotonin, Psychiatria Democratica, Victorian era, Lahore, & the rock bottom. Do animals get depressed? Is it necessary to articulate the experience of madness? Is the hunger for this understanding a form of anxiety in us? Have the mentally ill been criminalized over centuries, & is there a deep need to not cut ‘them’ off? The SynTalkrs are: Dr. Bhargavi V. Davar (mental health advocacy, The Bapu Trust, Pune), Prof. Parthasarathi Mondal (social theory, TISS, Mumbai), & Dr. Alok Sarin (psychiatry, Sitaram Bhartia Institute of Science & Research, New Delhi).

#TMOI (The Meanings Of Information) --- SynTalk
Jun 27 2015 63 mins  
SynTalk thinks about information, while constantly wondering about its physical nature and computability. Is there information in the universe irrespective of human beings or life? Does all the meaning come from a protocol, and what if there is no shared language? Does a protocol or a context need to pre exist? The concepts are derived off / from Laplace, Carnot, Boltzmann, Shannon, Ronald Fisher, Kolmogorov, T S Eliot, Warren Weaver, & Nørretranders, among others. We retrace the journey of the notion of information within (say) thermodynamics, electrical engineering, neurolinguistics, mathematics, and computational systems, & notice how the core departure was to think of it as measurable? Does the universe speak in one language? Does ignorance go down when information is received, and is ignorance analogous to disorder? Is entropy an anthropomorphic principle, as it assumes an underlying notion of order? How, in language, the norm (order) can be identified directly from a close study of the deviation from the norm (disorder). How the brain or any system may learn how to learn and negotiate meaning via ‘bootstrapping’? Is the nature of ‘input’ processing different from information processing as the neural networks are formed in a child’s brain? What makes data information for the receiver? Why does an internal combustion engine ‘have’ to dump out the disorder via the exhaust to direct order to the wheels? Can one think of information content as an objective ‘event cone’ with past and future imprinted in it? Is all time eternally present? Is there a fundamental unit (say, bit or qubit) of information, & is it discrete or continuous or both? How & why are the first and second language signals stored differently in the brain? What is the role played by shared context (exformation) and commonality in communication? Are there different mathematical theories of communication, information content and complexity? The links between wax, steam engines, Voyager, heads or tails, ‘motive power of fire’, critical period hypothesis, It from Bit, falling stones, the case of Chelsea’s misdiagnosis, Four Quartets, ‘I do’, heat death, & Schrodinger’s cat. Can we forget something if we explicitly want to? Does nature forget (information)? Will we drown in the crazy amount of information in the future, or will we develop new tools to handle complexity? Do we need to understand human mind & cognition better? Can we communicate with animals and (may be) aliens in the future? ‘If a lion could speak, we could not understand him’. The SynTalkrs are: Prof. Vaishna Narang (biolinguistics, JNU, New Delhi), Prof. Rajaram Nityananda (astrophysics, Azim Premji University, ex NCRA-TIFR, Bangalore), & Prof. R. Ramanujam (computer science, IMSc, Chennai).

#TWOW (The Ways Of Water) --- SynTalk
Jun 20 2015 65 mins  
SynTalk thinks about the past, present and the future of water, and its dialectical relationship with Earth and life. We enter the worlds of rain, snow, ocean, monsoon, subterranean & surface rivers, dams, volcanoes, canals, lakes, estuaries, mountains, polar regions, and drains. What exactly is a river? Is water the same everywhere? The concepts are derived off / from Thales, Anaximander, Pierre Perrault, & Edme Mariotte, among others. We think of water both as an element and a compound. What would water be as a ‘ground’ of design and thinking, given that we are so wedded to the fixed dimensions of terra firma? How water is open, fluid (in space & time), and relative, and always retains its identity (?). Why are maps blue only somewhere, when water is everywhere? Do we privilege one moment in time (as rivers) in the hydrological cycle? Can we challenge ourselves to live in moments of (say) the rain or evaporation? Is there a need to include soil moisture in our imagination? How the sun is the essential driver of the water cycle, even though sunlight penetrates only till about ~100 metres in the sea. Do rivers also need water? How water is a lot more than H2O, with dissolved & suspended loads, nutrients, isotopic content, and microbial life. How & why rivers keep changing their dendritic courses? Are rivers fundamentally a series of holding & overflow systems, rather than systems with a source and a destination? How the ‘main stream’ of certain rivers may have been fallaciously justified historically by the surveyors? How stagnant water can be anti life. Have we (contextually) subjugated and privileged water, and told it: ‘be there, don’t come here’? Are floods a problem? Why do we channelize rivers, when water finds its own level? Is the earth losing water? When did it first rain on earth, and did rains come much before the rivers? The links between ~11 days, Cameroon’s Lake Nyos disaster, Catcher in the Rye, stream orders, The Big Muddy, photolysis, fair weather, Nile floods, run-offs, Sun, ecological cycles, electricity, Avogadro’s number, gravity, & independence. How water acts as Earth’s thermostat, & also helps the planet self sustain. Why doesn’t water vapour heat the earth up despite being a powerful greenhouse gas? Are there some water molecules that have never left the deep oceans or the atmosphere? How variation (a feature, & not a bug) is the life of water flow. What would happen if 100% of the rivers were dammed; could nature strike back? Can/should we simulate nature? Should dams be undone? Can future be a place of liberated water, with dissolved lines between land and water? The SynTalkrs are: Prof. Dilip da Cunha (architecture, design, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia), Shripad Dharmadhikary (social & environmental activism, Manthan Adhyayan Kendra, Pune), & Prof. Ramesh Rengaswamy (paleoclimatology, oceanography, PRL, Ahmedabad).

#TSOF (The Scope Of Fiction) --- SynTalk
Jun 13 2015 70 mins  
SynTalk thinks about narratives & stories, while constantly wondering whether it is the stories that ‘make us up’ and give us our self-hood. We delve into the worlds of literature, film making, video games, philosophy, cognitive sciences, and linguistics to explore why & how we tell & understand stories. The concepts are derived off / from Aristotle, Coleridge, Diderot, Georges Polti, Hitchcock, Labov, E M Forster, Lumière brothers, de Beauvoir, Augusto Boal, Chomsky, Salim-Javed, David Lodge, & Dennett, among others. How identity, time, memory, & emotions are knotted together by fiction. Is story telling like a flight simulator, with most of the rewards but none of the risk? How narratives however, are not synonymous with fiction and, cover both fact & fiction. Do we remember narratively, & create causal links (with mnemonic durability) between the past, present and the possible futures? The difference of a story from a (film) script, & the importance of the dramatic centre? Is narrative experience a (playful) exploration of the space of possibilities – i.e., is all fiction a game? How incompleteness is also a valid possibility in narratives. Why are morals so critical in any satisfying story? How important is it to have a sense of the ending, & how can one return the narrative time to the present? And, in the face of the crisis of our death, is our life more like episodic TV serials, rather than a Greek tragedy? Is lying or cheating a related ability to telling stories? Are stories (video games) more about tying (dying) and untying (undying)? Are there cultures without stories? How there are real physiological reactions and a willing suspension of disbelief on seeing (say) a film in a dark theatre. How can a screenwriter be moved to tears by her own story? Why can’t there be stories without characters or emotions? Are there only a finite number of plots or narratives? What do you see when you look into the mirror in a first-person shooter game? Is there a serial killer inside you? The links between ‘queen died’, 36, spect-actor, chaos, Gilgamesh, Spiderman, Flower, Lagaan, Alzheimer’s, Max Payne, jumping over the chair, alienation, Psycho Mantis, & cheat codes. How are we able to create stories, but are not able to count the number of words in our head? Is social reality the most fictionalized, & is monologue always secondary to collaborative dialogue in story telling? Why aren’t video games laugh-out-aloud funny, & does it have anything to do with the fact that you can’t tickle yourself? Is the future of fiction likely to involve a range of affects & small scale emotions? Can the story strike back at the player (or the reader)? The SynTalkrs are: Dr. Souvik Mukherjee (game studies, literature, Presidency University, Kolkata), Prof. Rukmini Bhaya Nair (linguistics, narrative theory, IIT Delhi, New Delhi), & Anjum Rajabali (screenwriting, Mumbai).


#TEMAF (The Errors Mistakes And Failures) --- SynTalk
May 30 2015 67 mins  
SynTalk thinks about errors, while constantly wondering if they are innately hardwired into nature. Are error free domains possible or desirable? Would we stop making history if there were to be an error free world? The concepts are derived off / from Gnosticism, Aristotle, Alhazen, Galileo, Kepler, Thomas More, Lord Kelvin, Heidegger, Cioran, Gödel, Piaget, John Bell, & Tony Hoare, among others. Is all truth temporal? The difference between systematic (in one direction) and random (in both directions) errors with respect to the true value. Do things fail in the (non-human) natural world or they just ‘happen’? Is failure about an unfolding process while errors are more punctual? How (measurement) errors are inextricably linked to the notion of standard conception and expectation. Is there a trade-off between safety (not making mistakes) and liveness (making progress) for reactive systems (that interact with the environment)? How did a perfect Being create an imperfect world, and is it possible to have a ‘theology of failure’ (via, say, the demiurge)? How we pose the existence of a creator via notions of making, design or performance of the world (as an object). Is it likely that (software) modules that are individually correct give an error when put together? How in languages that are self referential & expressive it is impossible to prove if a program is correct. How some flawed universal notions can be much more intuitive. The (deeply counterintuitive) equivalence of uniform motion and rest. How there is often a striking similarity between students’ flawed conceptions and the history of ideas. Is limited experience the main source of errors? How computer programs non monotonically learn from experience, and the accompanying process of belief revision? Is consistency the virtue of an ass? What is the opposite of failure? Does one experience profound existential nothingness when one encounters failure? How (fortunately?) utopias – the perfect social & political models of the world – fail, and links with expectations and game theory? The links between ‘the world going to the dogs’, violent movement, bugs, chess, God, invariants, flight controllers, voting, winners & losers, exponential blow up, theory of vision, clocks, the original sin, bicycle, & the verifying compiler. Is it possible that there are ‘hidden variables’ in the physical world that makes even the quantum world completely certain? Would becoming perfect be the end of everything, & should we stay imperfect? The SynTalkrs are: Dr. Costica Bradatan (philosophy, Honors College, TTU, Texas), Prof. Arvind Kumar (physics, Centre for Excellence in Basic Sciences, ex-HBCSE TIFR, Mumbai), & Prof G. Sivakumar (computer science, IIT Bombay, Mumbai).

#TAOQ (The Argument Over Quarrel) --- SynTalk
May 23 2015 65 mins  
SynTalk thinks about quarrels (in a general sense), while constantly wondering whether there is a civilizational ‘need’ for it. Is it possible to have a sustainable theory for interactions (and by extension, quarrels)? What are the links with language structure and language usage? The concepts are derived off / from Upanishads, Bhagwad Gita, Sarala Das, Oliver Goldsmith, Locke, Bertrand Russell, Grice, Nozick, & Chomsky, among others. Can we think of an idealized quarrel? How do we understand sentences & discourses that have non literal (suggestive) meanings? How only the non-obvious counts as information. The maxims of quantity, quality, relation, & manner for ideal conversations, and how these cooperative principles break down in quarrels. How in a legal context the adversarial system is used to resolve difference of views. Are spoken quarrels different from the written, and whether norms, conventions and several para lingual aspects are lost (& sanitized) when written? What is the difference between interests and positions? What are the set of things that are not allowed to be used as bargaining tools in a conversational context? Are quarrels structured and institutionalized in many areas of life, where it may be possible to separate the person’s views from the person? Why are there so many lawyer jokes? How deeply should one hold one’s ideas? How a lawyer (an agent) sometime morphs into the principal. Why do some societies have so many (out of court) settlements? Is it possible to have an argument without investing certain aspects of one’s self? Why should some words not be used in ‘parliamentary’ language? Is the Supreme Court always right because it is final, and not final because it is right? Where do swear words come from, and why do they linger? Who decides what is polite or impolite language? How norms of political correctness start out as public acknowledgement of past rights or wrongs. Can one apply the Theory of Implicature to understand how swear words can come to be used as an endearment? What are the dynamics of multilateral conflicts, even if they are handled by two individuals? Why many societies do not accept the pardon by the victim? The links between ego, Judgment of Solomon, Mona Lisa, ‘devastating counter example’, debates, horse trading, Ataturk, tyranny of language, & ‘matters of taste’. Would a society without quarrels be dead? Can quarrels be replaced by some playful ways of inhabiting conflicts? ‘For e'en though vanquish'd he could argue still…’. The SynTalkrs are: Dr. Arudra Burra (philosophy, IIT Delhi, New Delhi), Prof. B. N. Patnaik (linguistics, ex-IIT Kanpur, Bangalore), & Somasekhar Sundaresan (law, J. Sagar Associates, Mumbai).

#TEOT (The Everything Of Theory) --- SynTalk
May 16 2015 65 mins  
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).



#TMCI (The Multi Cultural Isms) --- SynTalk
Apr 18 2015 62 mins  
SynTalk thinks about interpretation and understanding of the self & the other, while constantly wondering why & if it is difficult to truly understand another culture. What more do we need besides translation and interpretation? The concepts are derived off / from Aristotle, Homer, Aquinas, Omar Khayyam, Descartes, Akbar, Marx, Wittgenstein, Bakhtin, Gandhi, Edward Said, Huntington, Derrida, Donald Davidson, Fredrik Barth, Stanislaw Lem, Tarkovsky, Janet Abu-Lughod, Bernard Williams, Immanuel Wallerstein, Aitmatov, & S. N. Balagangadhara, among others. Has one culture interpreted and described all others, & are all cultures cognitively understandable? Is a meta theory of cultural understanding possible? Are cultures ‘configurations of learning’, with both teachable and learnable components? Is ‘cultural-difference’ (& not culture or difference) the a priori (somewhat) like space-time, & how does the process of saliencing some domains (such as morality) work? Can pristine nature be scary? The long historical process of nomads gradually moving to cities? How a civilization (with writing, language, technology, & polity) makes its cultures robust? How the way identities are individuated may be very different across cultures, & how some modes of relationality may be inherited? Is it possible for a culture to have a private language? When do people begin to be cultured (links with city-life)? Should we try to break up culture into diverse units to see the robustness in them? The puzzle of the knitted-together-ness (inter-textuality) of descriptions (from priests’ to traders’) completely distinct from each other? How Silk Road (from China to the Mediterranean) is an indication of pre modern globalization? Does a culture need (say) territory, ethnicity, religion, or sovereignty to thrive, and is descent a vital part of any thriving culture? Why are some cultures dominant, and what is the need to bring in other kinds of narratives? The difference between the nation and the ethnie. Why did multiculturalism come up in the 1970s in Australia? The fascinating possible historical (1250-1350 AD) connections between Europe, Middle East and the Far East. Is it commonsensical to think that every culture would have a religion? Why? What then was the religion of the early Greeks or Romans? Is it only through others that we can know ourselves – the internally familiar world, and the need for the other (mirror, border, foreigner). Is monologue death? The links between theory of radical interpretation, 1480 BC, Babylon, brain matter, pottery, shamanism, lion, conquests, cutting wood, marriage, Kannada, slave trade, Nagaland, Sulh-i—kul, & the Asian Renaissance. What would be the nature of the multi-cultural moment if we come in contact with aliens? The deep need for hospitality without thematization. The SynTalkrs are: Prof. Vivek Dhareshwar (philosophy, Srishti Institute of Design, Bangalore), Prof. Rashmi Doraiswamy (international studies, Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi), & Prof. Shereen Ratnagar (archaeology, ex-JNU, Delhi).

#TWAP (The Whole And Parts) --- SynTalk
Apr 11 2015 67 mins  
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).

#TJOH (The Journey Of Healing) --- SynTalk
Apr 04 2015 61 mins  
SynTalk thinks about health & healing, while constantly wondering whether health has a fixed meaning. Is health an anxiety? The concepts are derived off / from Hippocrates, Charaka, Patanjali, Voltaire, Nietzsche, Foucault, William Osler, BKS Iyengar, Dean Ornish, & Atul Gawande, among others. When & why did the health of the population become a concern for the state, and why was this a significant historical turn? How, when & why did health enter national budgets, and create an industrial force? What is the difference between healing (subjective?) and cure (objective?)? Is healing largely phenomenological, & subjectively realized? Is ‘cure sometimes, relief often, and comfort always’ a possible underlying ethical principle? How the ‘breath’ (prana), as the universal entity within us, unifies the body and the mind when both have a history (situated in time), and are ‘ours’? Is the body a river of energy, & is it possible to understand this energy more specifically & at the molecular level? Does the medical system address the ‘whole self’ and not just the body, & what is the journey from yama to samadhi? Does every part of our body have an expression? How can we make effective therapy safer? Is the doctor a facilitator for nature to cure the person, & is Placebo Effect the most significant healer? How then is the physician the king (& not the consumer), unlike in other transactions? The distinction between the legal & the ethical responsibilities of the doctor? Is it a part of the modern condition to be perennially anxious, & the scope is then extended to treat the ‘risk’? Are the alternatives such as ayurveda & yoga also being recycled under the framework of ‘healthism’? Is it important for the alternatives to have their own systemicity, and not be read solely in terms of the dominant system? Is the crisis of medicine external to a ‘good central core’? Why is cure more important than healing for the modern medical system, and is the underlying logic solely commercial? Is the iatrogenicity (in some ways) a part of the design of the healthcare system, and does this design have to change? Is internal intervention as (if not more) important than the external intervention? The links between witches, apothecaries, acupuncture, Nitric Oxide, endorphins, 21600 breaths, 2 pegs of whisky, statins, ether, and laughter. In the journey of healing, is comfort the starting point or the ending point? Does healthcare need to integrate the notion of ‘space’ into its metaphysic? Is health a personal challenge or (largely) a technical issue? Does the system currently have our complete faith, and does the equivalent of the ‘God is dead’ need to happen? Is it possible to be a non believer of the current dominant industrial medical system? The SynTalkrs are: Dr. R.D. Lele (nuclear medicine, Lilavati Hospital, Mumbai), Prof. Susie Tharu (cultural studies, philosophy, EFLU, Hyderabad), & Zubin Zarthoshtimanesh (yoga, Iyengar Yogabhyasa, Mumbai).


#TROD (The Reasons Of Dying) --- SynTalk
Mar 28 2015 62 mins  
SynTalk thinks about dying & death from medical, ethical, existential, legal, & sociocultural perspectives, while constantly wondering how & why death is important. Is death ‘master-able’? The concepts are derived off / from Socrates, Glaucon, Epicurus, Jesus Christ, Hobbes, Stalin, Sydney Brenner, Bill Gates, Melinda Gates, Woody Allen, & Aruna Shanbaug, among others. How the hope for immortality is conceptually similar to the hope for justice? Can we avoid death before old age? How difficult is it to call someone dead, & is death an objective event? How life has changed from being ‘brutish, nasty and short’ a few centuries ago, & how the 20th century was in many ways the century of life. How is mortality different across age groups, and the role played by sanitation, vaccination, and oral rehydration over the years? Is death becoming more medicalized and protracted? Are more people now dying in hospitals? Why is it important to fight child mortality, and why is it likely that this global battle might be won or lost in the districts of India? Why the first month after birth is the most important to prevent avoidable death? Why the inevitability of death need (& should) not prevent appropriate public policy actions. How there is an opposition between life & death. What do we write on the death certificate, and why the cardio-respiratory arrest (for example) as a cause is not sufficient? How ‘extreme old age’ caused the death of Queen Mother? The difference and links between between physician assisted suicide, gradual withdrawal of care, (passive & active) euthanasia, medical care system, oral opiates, life support, & brain death. Why is the brain (stem) death becoming more popular, & possible links with organ transplant. Can there be a technology for death? How differently do people die? Can one prepare oneself to die (via philosophizing?)? What would leading oncologists do when they themselves face a terminal case of cancer? How suicide is the opposite of capital punishment. Do only human beings commit suicide; Why? Is death available to the ‘self’, in a moment when the self knows that it is no longer? How is the post-operative death different? Is the living cell programmed to die? Do we know what life is only through the occurrence of death, & is death a summation of life in some way? Is it important to not allow Market to take over death, just as it has taken over life? The importance of care for the dying? The role of the state in minimizing ‘bad luck’ deaths. How death is increasingly becoming banal and matter-of-fact, but is still (somehow) repressed culturally. Is it alright to have a cemetery in the middle of a university? How to die beautifully? The SynTalkrs are: Dr. Saitya Brata Das (philosophy, JNU, Delhi), Prof. Prabhat Jha (epidemiology, CGHR, St. Michael’s Hospital, Toronto), & Dr. Sanjay Nagral (surgery, Jaslok Hospital, Mumbai).

#TFOI (The Firstness Of Ideas) --- SynTalk
Mar 14 2015 69 mins  
SynTalk thinks about the phenomenology of getting an idea, and wonders about the fine ‘thinness’ of an idea’s form. We discuss lively, apt, inapt, frustrated, injurious, abstract, failed, & wrong ideas, and understand how an idea can sometimes (but only rarely) run away with reality. The concepts are derived off / from Plato, Guru Nanak, Kabir, Leibniz, Hume, William Blake, Peirce, Dalton, Mendeleev, Allama Iqbal, Tartakower, & Kasparov, among others. Are ideas always driven by a sense of necessity, and how necessity fundamentally deals with form (& not content)? Is the world of the sensible (matter) and the sensitive (mind) different from the (autonomous) world of ideas? Is the material world a corruption, then, of the realm of ideas? In what sense is the idea of (say) justice or table-ness enworlded? The modes of recollection, doubt, introspection, induction, deduction, or abduction. Why a solution or an idea sometimes hits one as a bolt out of the blue? Are problems also ideas? Why an epiphany can (& should) never last long? Does every idea start with an anxiety, and what is the (creative &) schizophrenic journey into the field of uncertainty? What is the granularity at which the mind operates? How blunders and combinations are all waiting to happen. Are bad ideas as rare as good ideas? What is the margin of lost memories (between remembrance and forgetfulness)? The interpretive act of rendering a poetry using melody. Can we formalize introspective rationality? Chess chunks and how expert level games are driven by pattern & experience recognition? What is the darkness of the infinite like, where one may be without an idea? The links between rabab, homeless king, Dervish dance, smothered checkmate, stylization, alaap, dreams, indrajaal, & fMRI. How the greatest empowerment (in any field) via any idea is being or momentarily becoming as large as the universe. How the likely long term change in the global political order might change the idea of an idea into one more experiential and less propositional. Does idea need to be liberated from underneath language? Is it fair to anticipate that much of human affairs in the future is going to driven by the new form of the ‘point’? The SynTalkrs are: Dr. Madan Gopal Singh (sufi music, Delhi), Prof. Navjyoti Singh (philosophy, IIIT, Hyderabad), & Pravin Thipsay (chess, Mumbai).

#TPOM (The Place Of Music) --- SynTalk
Mar 07 2015 65 mins  
SynTalk thinks about different facets of music, including its ever changing relationship with ‘place’ and time. We explore how blocks of noise, sound, consonants, melody, & ‘intention’ come together to create music. How does music exploit the spatial dimension? How does the envelope of quality (timbre) emerge? The concepts are derived off / from Panini, Kant, Bakhtin, Chomsky, Kumar Gandharva, Bismillah Khan, Alladiya Khan, Aminuddin Dagar, & Ashok Ranade, among others. Are sounds (& music) merely vibrations? Are the underlying chronotopes of (say) Dhrupad, Khayal, or Thumri different in ‘a certain way’ (a la Epic and the Novel)? Do musical gharanas (styles) named after places have anything to do with them? Is it possible to tacitly learn music (including the ragas) from the environment? Does music have an internal grammar? How music is both instinctive and cultural. What is the role of imitation? Does music live in our experience, and what / where then is music for animals & plants? The varying priorities accorded to melody and lyrics in folk & classical music. Does folk music always have a performative function? Why are instruments closer to human voice (created by God himself(?)) considered superior (like sarangi over violin?)? Why instrumental music has rarely had a solo repertoire? Are we an instrument ourselves. Why (if at all) is art music special, & how is its aesthetic different from other genres? Why / how do different stringed instruments sound different? Is human voice also a medium (instrument)? The links between beating, mongoose, bowing, crows, plucking, peacocks, blowing, music, bird song, heavy metal, & Bhendi Bazaar. How / why is the place uprooted (say Sufi music from Tunisia) and brought to a performance space? Is music first for the musician? Is it possible to easily distinguish electronic sounds from the natural? Is there a certain quality (timbre) to EDM as well? The irony of tuning the tanpura electronically (shruti box). The SynTalkrs are: Prof. Milind Malshe (literature, aesthetics, IITB, Mumbai), Dr. Suvarnalata Rao (musicology, NCPA, Mumbai), & Dr. Subroto Mihir Roy (music (Dhrupad), Pune).

#TROT (The Realm Of Things) --- SynTalk
Feb 28 2015 64 mins  
SynTalk thinks about the (sometimes?) subterranean world of things, and wonders how the world might look from the standpoint of the Thing. We also tentatively wonder if things indeed have a social life, and if the composite affair of thingness is highly linked to the notion of permanence. The concepts are derived off / from Akka Mahadevi, Rumi, Marx, Coomaraswamy, Heidegger, Adorno, Thomsen, Derrida, Jane Bennett, Maturana, Varela, Bruno Latour, & Bill Brown, among others. What (if any) is the difference between an object and a thing, and can one think of it using the framework of phase transition (& change of property)? Is materiality the primary level of reality? What is it like to be a thing from the past (when one looks at an archaeological artifact)? How a thing cannot avoid being involved in history, & there being a ‘historical ontology’ of things. Can we even posit ‘thinghood’ to something that existed before we existed? Does a water bottle have a meaning in itself? What does it mean to be a solid? Is the pyramid (today) an object or a thing? Is the distinction between a thing and ‘the elemental’ more interesting? Does the object always need a subject (with language & semantics)? Is the integrity or singularity of a thing always porous? Is it highly likely that the self organizing tendency of matter serves a social function? Does this provide a clue that things may in fact have a social life? How (& why) did inanimate (inorganic) matter create human beings, and whether we are likely to be recreated (sooner) by things left behind were we to go extinct? Does every thing get to be objectified? The links between rubber, ~23% beta bronze, atoms, CD ROMs, stainless steel, crystals, Challenger disaster, birds, robots, lotus leaves, & nano materials. ‘Why we should weld but the welding should not be seen’? In what sense is a poem a thing? ‘I died as a mineral and became a plant…’. The SynTalkrs are: Prof. Pushan Ayyub (material sciences, TIFR, Mumbai), Prof. Stathis Gourgouris (philosophy, literature, Columbia University, New York), & Prof. Sharada Srinivasan (archaeology, dance, NIAS, IISc, Bangalore).

#TNOP (The Nature Of Poison) --- SynTalk
Feb 28 2015 64 mins  
SynTalk thinks about the tantalizing cocktail of poisons, toxins & venoms, and wonders if ‘what does not kill us makes us stronger’. We also constantly explore the striking similarity (in many ways) between medicine and poison (a la the vagueness of the word pharmakon). The concepts are derived off / from Sant Eknath, Parikshit, Derrida, & RG Macfarlane, among others. We peek into the world of snakes, scorpions, bacteria, rats, SNARE proteins, Botox, & bioterror. Why are there poisons in nature at all, and is there a link to the natural tendency towards ecological diversity? Is nothing poison in the world? How ‘the dose is the poison’. We (illustratively) explore the origins, structure, molecular & cellular actions, transmission, and dynamics of the Botulinum Neurotoxin (BoNT). How the Botulinum bacteria can survive for many months inside us (unlike any other bacteria). Do we have to have crime to have a stable society, and do poisonous plants & animals serve a parallel purpose in nature? How scorpion poison can be used to (potentially) treat Brugada Syndrome, and its links with cardiac sodium channel. How it is very difficult to use vaccines to permanently protect against venoms given the speed with which toxins act. We also borrow concepts such as padarth and dravya from vaiseshika philosophy to understand the (beautiful) metaphysical link of poison with the concept of ‘space’. How ‘substance’ is something that has different quality and action. Is venom a highly prestigious molecule for the snake itself for finding prey? How, then, do the non venomous snakes make a living? Why a child is (often) not afraid of a cobra? Is it possible to look at (molecular) structure and predict its (poisonous) action? Is it possible to identify the exact molecule (& not the cocktail) responsible for blocking the pre synaptic receptors? Is a more advanced society more vulnerable to poisons? What does poison look like? Should our nature ‘be’ to understand poisons? The SynTalkrs are: Dr. H.S. Bawaskar (medicine, Bawaskar Hospital & Research Centre, Mahad), & Prof. Bal Ram Singh (biophysical chemistry, indic studies, UMass, Dartmouth).

#TPOC (The Poetry Of Coexistence) --- SynTalk
Jan 31 2015 69 mins  
SynTalk thinks about the meanings, implications and the future of coexistence between & amongst the several biological species on earth. The interaction space between species is explored via known strategies such as symbiosis, predation, parasitism, antagonism, mutualism, commensalism, & competition, while constantly wondering if ‘nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of ‘selfishness’’. The concepts are derived off / from Sushruta, Charak, Hegel, Malthus, Darwin, Hamilton, Kropotkin, Gandhi, Dobzhansky, Hawking, & Dawkins, among others. Is there often selfishness in nature without the ‘self’. Why does the host change its genetic makeup to coexist with the parasite? Why do most species exist in communitarian groups? Why does a predator never run out of prey in nature (in stable equilibrium)? How it may be unavoidable to ‘tolerate the most intolerable’. How sickle cell anaemia developed as a response to malaria. What is the difference between the antibiotic and aseptic conditions, in the context of the coexistence of different species? The links between human beings, mosquitoes, Chernobyl disaster, raptor birds, Ayurveda, dinosaurs, consciousness, natural selection, Tom & Jerry, oranges, sibling rivalry, wolves, & tribes. How do dominant & exploitative social structures result from the ensemble of unevenly evolved groups (in terms of techno economic capacity). How autonomy of certain groups (the weakest doing menial jobs, say) that had their pristine existence can be annihilated, incorporated, subordinated, subjected, or even destroyed institutionally. How cooperation amongst the uneven develop? Does consciousness promote cooperation? Is culture (merely) a survival strategy? How (bacterial) mitochondria and chloroplasts (green alga) getting incorporated into eukaryotic cells was a significant evolutionary event. Are plants and animals also cruel? How Toxoplasma gondii insidiously finds its way back into the cat (the definitive host) from the rodents (the dead end). Can there be sacrifice in the Darwinian world? How culture is a complex mix up of both material & ideological practices. Can we truly understand the concept of queen bee (without the metonymy)? Is resource abundance always temporary in the biological world? Why kids don’t always agree with their mothers? Why does each orange segment often have one dominant seed? Does the critical self reflexive faculty of human beings make them fundamentally different? Is techno capitalism likely to be a key actor? Will human beings go out and colonize other celestial bodies, even as we coexist on Earth with other species? How human consciousness, survival instinct and (the bacterial) gut instinct could be the ultimate assets for the future? The SynTalkrs are: Prof. K.N. Ganeshaiah (agricultural sciences, writing, UAS, Bangalore), Prof. Rajan Gurukkal (history, social theory, IISc, Bangalore), & Prof. Swati Patankar (molecular microbiology, IITB, Mumbai).

#TLATOS (The Lives And Times Of Sentiments) --- SynTalk
Jan 10 2015 63 mins  
SynTalk thinks about collective sentiments and its antipode, Reason, and constantly wonders if this historically naturalised dichotomy is perhaps at the root of the phenomenon of ‘hurt sentiments’. We simultaneously wonder if the realm of sentiments and affect have somehow been pathologised. The concepts are derived off / from Abhinavagupta, Plato, Descartes, Hume, Dayanand Saraswati, Marx, Gandhi, Ambedkar, Samuel Huntington, Shuddhabrata Sengupta, & Woody Allen (off Emily Dickinson), among others. Is it possible to create spaces for dialogue and ‘ruthless criticism of everything existing’? Is sentiment ever hurt spontaneously, or is it always constructed, and how do sentiments get their collective force? Where do sentiments and cultural common sense begin to develop, and what are the linkages with childhood, neighborhood, family, religion, media, vigilantism, capitalism, & the State. Which is a better path: tolerance, or dialogical curiosity? Why is reason never hurt? How there are many ways of describing everything. The special status of religious sentiments, given the claim of sanctity from a transcendental source (beyond rationality & argumentation), and their ability to articulate aggressive sentiments. Is every religion also a social and political power structure? Why (paradoxically) the UK Government could not prosecute Salman Rushdie (for Satanic Verses) for blasphemy. How the sanctity of the human life is above any hurt sentiment. Is offence for offence fine, and is offence a part of the right of expression? Is the realm of creative expression characteristically different? How the pogroms, riots, & ‘women being pulled by their hair out of a pub’ become mediatized events, & the sometimes-cynical-sometimes-critical-sometimes-partial role played by the media. Can / should the State act as a buffer zone between opposing sentiments? The need to listen fearlessly. Should diversity be seen as a universal human value? Is there a need for renegotiated and renewed sense of universal human values. The need for laws which can be critiqued and rejected or accepted in the public sphere. Is the future bleak for the spirit of negation and questioning? Is a different future dependent on a different political order? What is the future of nationalistic sentiments. The need for “Hope” (the thing with feathers), which needs no reason. The SynTalkrs are: Prof. Purushottam Agrawal (cultural history, literature, ex-JNU, Delhi), Prof. Anjali Monteiro (media studies, documentary film making, TISS, Mumbai), & Geeta Seshu (journalism, The Hoot, Mumbai).

#TREM (The (Re)Enchantment Machine) --- SynTalk
Jan 03 2015 63 mins  
SynTalk thinks about the disenchantment of the world, & wonders if it is possible for there to be multiple metaphysics for the connection between human beings and nature. Is there always something in excess of what we know & experience? We discuss disenchantment and re-enchantment via contexts of boredom, capitalism, death, art, lullabies, adivasis, rag-picking, '​tuning of a tanpura​'​, pilgrimages, sparrows, ‘a tree growing’​, & more​. The concepts are derived off / from Kant, Marx, Weber, Adorno, Heidegger, Walter Benjamin, Dagar Brothers, & Bhimsen Joshi, among others. Is disenchantment necessarily morally pessimistic? ​How has the desire to create one's own reality and the 'cult of certainty' impacted the possibility of multiple realities & (sometimes) ‘non-epistemic’ routes? Is the disenchanted route almost always a ‘personal’ choice or is it an unequal battle? Is boredom a result of thinking about life in ‘just’ one way? Is one man’s enchantment another man’s bicycle? How disenchantment is an outcome (potentially) of the ascendancy of theory over observation? Is the process of re-enchantment also often compatible with the logic of capitalism, and how it is possible to live a partly liminal life? Can art still say something that truly surprises us? Is it even possible to interrogate the dominant logic of describing the world? Can an enchanted world be substituted, bought, or bracketed by something else? Is the digital world a source of enchantment? Why are we afraid of getting bored? How a ‘2-person system’ is the basic instrument for re-enchantment. Is it possible to imagine a world where every logic is not subservient to the logic of the economy? Is it possible to think of a life which is neither controlled by the State nor entirely vanquished by death? Do we have to take our death less seriously? The SynTalkrs are: Prof. Bishnu Mohapatra (social theory, poetry, Azim Premji University, Bangalore), & Prof. Milind Sohoni (computer science, technology & development, IITB, Mumbai).


#TICAW (The Images Concepts And Words) --- SynTalk
Dec 20 2014 63 mins  
SynTalk thinks about the deep historical and ongoing interrelationships between (the all pervasive & incessantly productive) images, and concepts & words. We make the widely sweeping journey from ancient rock art to the Coca-Cola logo to images on monitors in hospitals, to possible futures (say) a 1000 years out. The concepts are derived off / from ‘Lingo Dev’, Aristotle, Hippodamus of Miletus, Freud, Saussure, Peirce, Derrida, Foucault, Le Corbusier, McLuhan, Debord, & Baudrillard, among others. Can concepts or conceptual entities come to be without language? What are the links between rock art, and speech, script, words, entoptic phenomena, induced phosphene images, catenary curves, ‘scene of experience’, & language? Do 100,000+ years old rock arts provide a promising clue to how meaning gradually emerged from the pre-conceptual pre-representational ‘cauldron’? Are letters and pictures interchangeable, and have they always been so? How images come from very ancient times and how they thrust forward from without and from within? Do we dream in images? Is there any logo which is non iconic? How the core pursuit of advertising is to give form to an abstraction. How does advertising tackle different media, & how an advertisement in the print necessarily needs to be ‘processed in the mind’? How do you create the concept of ‘Friday dressing’? How Jarawas (from Andamans) have come to use words from English or Hindi. Does extinction of languages lead to death of concepts, & the attendant phenomena of amnesia and aphasia? We discuss Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Phoenician, Greek, & Chinese scripts. How icons (& further images, diagrams & metaphors), index & symbols are different from each other? How is a notion different from a concept? Is there conflict and cooperation always at play between images (of say, Batman, Hanuman, Manga, or Anime), & are images conquering the world? Where do specters and ghosts come from? Is there an incessant mass-ification of images (via ‘procession of the simulacra’) ongoing and ahead of us, & are images the long term future of language? Are images & meanings going to be increasingly crowd sourced in the future? Is a technology-driven ‘master narrative’ taking over the visual arts, cities, & forests, and is the ‘visual landscape’ shrinking? The SynTalkrs are: Dr. K. K. Chakravarty (art, public administration, Lalit Kala Akademi, Delhi), Santosh Desai (advertising, strategy, Futurebrands, ex-McCann-Erickson, Delhi), & Prof. Franson D. Manjali (semiotics, interdisciplinary, JNU, Delhi).

#TAOT (The Arrows Of Time) --- SynTalk
Dec 13 2014 64 mins  
SynTalk thinks about the unidirectional nature of time and wonders if time is a separate ‘category’ at all. We dip into cosmology, computer science, neuroscience, quantum physics, & philosophy. We wonder whether time is essentially a (background) variable. Is time nature’s way of preventing everything from happening at the same time (a la Wheeler)? The concepts are derived off / from Newton, Fred Hoyle, Maxwell, Dirac, Planck, Godel, Bohr, Einstein, H G Wells, Wheeler, Feynman, Prigogine, Landauer, Roy Kerr, Everett, Novikov, & Zeldovich, among others. How has the notion of time changed with digital watches? What is ‘logical time’, & the importance of multiple systems synchronizing with each other? What would happen if we hit an electron with a hammer? Do we get ‘it from bit’, and what is the possible link of time with (quantized) information? Can neurons be thought of as being probabilistically synchronized oscillators? We also discuss the concept of Planck’s time as the fundamental unit, & the resultant notion of whether time is discrete or continuous. What is the link between causality and time? We discuss the fascinating links of time with thermodynamics, entropy, ‘action at a distance’, & closed / open systems. What would happen, surprisingly, if a hot star were to be connected with a cold star via a conducting wire? The nature of neurological time, and its links with octopuses, crabs, speeding cars, a ‘cache of situations’, & reflex actions. How do (memory) space & time tradeoffs impact computer algorithms? Can time be lost? How ‘branching time’ creates possible worlds that are not known a priori? Is time travel possible (via a worm holes), and does it need a conception different from ‘state-based’ time? Do animals ‘have’ time? The SynTalkrs are: Prof. Jayant V. Narlikar (astrophysics, IUCAA, Pune), Prof. Krithi Ramamritham (computer science, IITB, Mumbai), & Prof. Sisir Roy (theoretical physics, NIAS, IISc, Bangalore).

#TBBAF (The Borders Boundaries And Fences) --- SynTalk
Dec 13 2014 63 mins  
SynTalk thinks about (real, virtual & abstract) boundaries and wonders why some boundaries are crisp while others are fuzzy (fixed centers but no boundaries). We discuss boundaries and borders using concepts from computer science, geopolitics, defence studies, philosophy, mythology, linguistics, statistics, biology, & mathematics. The concepts are derived off / from Zeno, Darwin, Turing, Chebyshev, Korzybski, Saadat Hasan Manto, & Feynman, among others. Is the cell membrane (say) a boundary, and how does it help the organ know about the world? How does a (physical) boundary of pebbles operate ‘within’ the river Ganges? How there is a robust (crisp) line separating the solvable and the unsolvable. How is the notion of the border different from the real border (in the Gaza ‘brown strip’)? We explore the fascinating journey of ‘empires with frontiers’ to ‘nation states with militarized borders’ over the last several centuries. Is there ultimately a certain ‘life force’ behind creation of real & virtual boundaries? How does one trust a neighbor? What is the nature of boundaries around ‘languages’ & ‘species’? How do statistical systems have upper and lower bounds, and how is it possible to predict the reliability of a system with a ‘confidence interval’? Is a statistical mean similar to the center of a set? Is there a gradual inevitable dissolution of the definitiveness of borders, even if borders have been paid for in blood? How an emergent or an imposed hierarchy introduces the vertical and distorts the lateral? What is no man’s land? Is there a convexity (with inside and an outside) for a malware? How is the notion of the border, mediated by the colonial experience of certain countries? We invoke themes illustrated by, among others, Israeli-Palestinian, Indo-Pakistan, Dutch-German, Indo-Myanmar, Chinese-North Asian borders. How are the maritime borders different? What is the long term future of the borders in context of the universal human condition? The SynTalkrs are: Commodore C. Uday Bhaskar (defence studies, Society for Policy Studies, New Delhi), Prof. K.P. Mohanan (linguistics, critical thinking, IISER, Pune), Prof. Sanjeev V. Sabnis (probability, IITB, Mumbai), & Prof. R.K. Shyamasundar (computer science, TIFR, Mumbai)

#TFOFA (The Fields Of Forces Around) --- SynTalk
Nov 30 2014 64 mins  
SynTalk thinks about the dynamic nature & origins (since the big bang) of fundamental & emergent forces in the universe. Was there only one force at the time of big bang? How did human beings first recognize & understand both the forces of nature (shamanism, magic, storms, lightning) and the forces more in their control (combat, weapons, hunting, push & pull)? The concepts are derived off / from Aristotle, Galileo, Laplace, Newton, Halley, Oersted, Faraday, Maxwell, Mach, Bohr, Planck, Einstein, Schrodinger, Heisenberg, Higgs, Max Jammer, & Karplus / Levitt / Warshel (2013 Chemistry Nobel Prize winners), among others. How is the world held together by the various forces? What exactly is a force field? Can there be force without matter (Yes)? Does matter create its field, or can a field be its own source? How to think of Maxwell’s equations in ‘free space’, and why we need matter (as sources for (say) microphones & radio)? How do forces act at a distance? Why do we try to create early universe conditions in large colliders, and study strong & weak forces? How did the forces separate (gravitation, electromagnetism, weak & strong forces, in that order) as the universe cooled down? Why don’t bodies simply move in a straight line, and links with the concept of ‘natural motion’? Is it (even) possible to know why forces exist? Is Big Bang the new ‘prima mobilia’, and how much more do we conceptually know about forces now? How do strongly interacting (uncertain) electrons / atoms get confined in a classical body, and links with concepts of multiscaling (QM/MM; Quantum Mechanics/Molecular Mechanics) and the mesoscopic world? Why an electrical circuit is difficult to understand in terms of electromagnetic field theory. How forces bind parts together and why / how a different whole sometimes emerges? How the degrees of freedom get frozen as the number of bodies increase. Why did Bohr’s premise of simply quantizing angular momentum did not work for many-electron atoms (beyond hydrogen-like atoms)? Link of the grey zone (‘interface region’) between quantum mechanics & classical mechanics with drugs, proteins, buildings, brain, cricket ball, polymers, spark plug, steering wheel, effective theory, & wave-particle duality. How does a magnet defeat the earth and pull a piece of iron, and its links with gauge theory (with all three forces, except gravity) and the possibility of gravity as an entropic or emergent force? Are market, political, or life forces similar entropic forces? Why is gravity difficult to unify with the other forces? Has ‘force’ replaced ‘energy’ since mid 19th century (after the energy-ists)? Are a different set of forces likely to govern dark matter and dark energy? Is force just a defined concept and not purely fundamental? The SynTalkrs are: Prof. S. D. Agashe (electrical engineering, history & philosophy of science, IITB, Mumbai), Dr. Sourav Pal (quantum chemistry, NCL, Pune), Prof. Sreerup Raychaudhuri (particle physics, TIFR, Mumbai).

#TAOL (The Architecture Of Life) --- SynTalk
Nov 22 2014 64 mins  
SynTalk thinks about the key conditions that characterize and create ‘biological’ life while constantly wondering whether life is a random accident, and if we are alone in the universe (because of a singularity?). What is the future of life? How aliens (if any) are also likely to be carbon and water based, but could be completely different morphologically and functionally. How was the first cell formed, and is this one of the biggest open questions today? The continuing journey after the big bang from the physical to astrophysical to chemical to biological to social evolution (across all species via, say, pollination) way into the distant future. The concepts are derived off / from Darwin, Crick, Watson, Hoyle, Prigogine, Manfred Eigen, Delbruck, Maturana, & Stuart Kauffman, among others. Is it possible to create synthetic life in a laboratory, and does the clue to this possibility lie in the (chemical?) nature of a virus? How does speciation happen? The core significance of the cell being a ‘phase separated structure’ with organizational closure. Is the cell the unity of life? How we do ‘not’ really know where biology ends and chemistry begins. Is life a physical state (just as liquid is a state of water)? The definition of life via replication (DNA, tRNA), metabolism (metabolic charts, glucose) and energy transduction. We discuss the role of glucose as a key molecule for all life, and wonder what it is like for glucose (& other bio molecules) to be ‘outside’ life. How does self organization arise in both physical and biological systems, and how (for example) phospholipids (with hydrophobic tails and hydrophilic heads) organize itself in water? How affinities can emerge between two DNA strands. How life is a dialogical state, and neither the physical equilibrium (oxidized state like carbon dioxide) nor the state of chemical death (‘petroleum state’). How virus ‘lives’ on the border of life and non-life. How all living stems can be characterized using unique chemistry, biochemistry, structure, & function. Why life originated from water? What is the role of weak bonds (in, say, the colloidal state of protoplasm)? How does ‘conscious cognition’ arise in living systems, & what are the links with ‘emancipated reflexive motor actions’, microtubules, dance, lizard, play, & consciousness (Mind from Matter). How does a living system talk to itself (why does a child suck its thumb)? How the feeling of ‘free will’ gives an (illusory) advantage. How life has multiple answers, and an inherent capability to change. How life is an expression of abundance. How a bio molecule is not like a sphere. The future with artificial life, cognitive robotics, & ‘languages in nature’ (of animals & languages). Why we can’t wear a full body armour anymore? The SynTalkrs are: Dr. Pushpa M. Bhargava (molecular biology, CCMB, Hyderabad), Prof. Nagarjuna G. (philosophy of science, HBCSE, Mumbai)

#TNOAN (The Name Of A Name) --- SynTalk
Nov 15 2014 60 mins  
SynTalk thinks about the act and the modality of naming ourselves and the (undifferentiated flux of the) world around us, & constantly wonders whether the world gets created when we name it. The concepts are derived off / from Panini, Frege, Russell, Premchand, Zipf, Searle, Kripke, & Probal Dasgupta, among others. Are variables or pronouns (‘this’ & ‘that’) or verbs born before the names? What cannot be named (what is between green and blue?), and is the process of naming ever complete? How a massive chunk of the world cannot be named. How is the process of naming different for a computer compared to a human being? Is naming or un-naming a neutral process? Why it is essential to name a musical note (why Re, Komal Re, & Ati-Komal Re?). How the cognitive significance of a name tells us something about frequency of occurrence. Is it possible to experience the musical notes without knowing the names of the notes? Does the object or the new born child suggest its own name, and how does baptism (or naming samskara) happen? How arbitrary is naming, and what do conventions, programming aesthetics, gestures, & culture have to do with it? What role does a neither-accepted-nor-rejected legacy play in the process of naming? How names transfer during language contact? How names represent the world from a trans-historical perspective? Can names be equated to a cluster of descriptions or are their modal profiles different? How we can name by not naming (say in taboo, euphemisms, ellipsis). Are names links between two or more face to face ‘pointing’ interactions? How does one discretize a (variably grained) conceptual world? How all Proper Names need not be proper nouns (what is water?). How Named Entity Recognition (NER) is central to the process of machine translation or transliteration, & how does one (generally speaking) shift from ‘low gaze’ to ‘high gaze’ to interpret the world? How names are not nouns but noun-phrases? Does sign language need to have names? Are names independent of language? Can you guess someone’s name by looking at her? The links between names, horses, feminist movement, caste system, homonymy, & globalization. How short will names get in the future? The SynTalkrs are: Prof. Pushpak Bhattacharyya (computer science & engineering, IITB, Mumbai), Dr. Girish Nath Jha (computational linguistics, JNU, Delhi), & Dr. Avinash Pandey (linguistics, Mumbai University, Mumbai)

#TMOS (The Morals Of State) --- SynTalk
Nov 08 2014 63 mins  
SynTalk thinks about the characteristics of the State, and explores its ontological claims, contradictions, & morals both normatively and positively? The link between bandit kings, violence, sovereign, private property, law, justice, hot water bath, modern production methods, corporations, religion, Darwinian evolution, and the general will. The concepts are derived off / from Kant, Locke, Hume, J.S. Mill, Hobbes, Burke, Wendell Holmes, Hannah Arendt, Nozick, Fukuyama, Chomsky, James C. Scott, Douglass North, & Snowden, among others. How have we reached a state where (for most parts) the citizen is the principal and the State is the agent? What is the rule of law, & does the State have an absolute or comparative advantage over violence? How does (sacred) constitutionalism emerge out of nowhere? What is the ideal tax/GDP ratio, and do different models of statehood just compete for greater populations and GDP? Have States formed more easily in fertile plains with surplus? Does a State have a need for legitimacy, and where does it derive its morality from? How the consciousness about the concept of a nation inform the development of the Modern State. How authoritarian States run out of people, and why civilizations can’t climb hills. What is the difference between ‘doing justice’ and ‘applying the law’. What is minority, and how minority is not a person but a position? How did UK rule the world, and is modern terrorism a counter to the violence of the State? What happens when a perfectly legitimate State commits immoral acts? Are all at war with all (a la Leviathan)? Is statelessness or a Minimal State possible or desirable? Who wins a democratic contest? Should / does a State create feedback loops and structures of accountability? Does an individual really think for the others, and what is general will and public good? Will the construct of the State change in the long term to have other agglomerations come between the State and its citizens? Does the State withdraw only to (often) reappear? What is the likely impact of globalization and technology. Is the future DIY? The SynTalkrs are: Dr. Saroj Giri (political science, Delhi University, Delhi), Prof. Ajay Shah (economics, National Institute of Public Finance And Policy, Delhi), & Dr. Harsh Vardhan (strategy consulting, Bain & Company, Mumbai)

#TPEKA (The Power Ecology Knowledge Axis) --- SynTalk
Oct 25 2014 64 mins  
SynTalk thinks about the power-ecology-knowledge triad with a certain anticipatory emphasis on ecology & modernity and their crises in a broad sense. The discussion attempts to understand each of the three concepts from the vantage points of the other two. The concepts are derived off / from Nietzsche (will to power), Mahatma Gandhi (swaraj, oceanic circles), Schumacher (‘small is beautiful’), Lovelock (Gaia hypothesis) & Isabelle Stengers (‘ecology of practices’), among others. What is soil to a farmer, and can soil be male or female? How / when did nature become natural resource? How a certain non-modern conception of ‘owning’ (of, say, land) go together with ‘owing’, and not remain linked to the concept of property. How the power (thought of as work done per unit of time) of modern & traditional industries differ? How is the non-natural linked to a certain power-led deviation away from equilibrium & ambient conditions? Power as the nature and manner of valuing & validation, and an ecology of practices. Does a certain Will to Power underwrite both natural and human forms? Is ‘symbiosis’ a possible thematic countertrend to the Will to Power? Are the paradigmatic logics of ‘social being’ and ‘dominant knowledge’ separable from each other? How the modern panchayat systems are different from the traditional panchayat system in its political structure? What is Radical Ecological Democracy (or swaraj, or sumak causay, or el buen vivir, or Solidarity)? The significance of endogenous modeling over (seemingly) indigenous ones. How some communities conceive of themselves as earth citizens (sharing the planet with ~50 million other floral & faunal species). Do we need a certain ecological reconceptualization to include the inanimate as well. How do we all fly planes in a sustainable world? The SynTalkrs are: Prof. Sasheej Hegde (sociology, University of Hyderabad, Hyderabad), Ashish Kothari (ecology & conservation, Kalpavriksh, Pune), & Sunil Sahasrabudhey (philosophy, science, Vidya Ashram, Varanasi)


#TWOK (The Ways Of Knowing) --- SynTalk
Oct 18 2014 65 mins  
SynTalk thinks about the concept and process of ‘knowing’ and tries to understand ‘how we know what we know’. What is common knowledge (lokavidya), and is it largely phenomenologically acquired? If science is born out of common knowledge, then how do counterintuitive concepts come to be known? The concepts are​ derived​ off / from Kant, Marx, Pramatha Nath Bose, Benoy Kumar Sarkar, Poincare, Zilsel, Conan Doyle, Popper, Polanyi, D’Ambrosio, McLuhan, Gettier, Febvre, Needham, Ellul, Monge, Vance Packard, Chomsky, Said, and Kancha Ilaiah, among others. How do we really know today that the sun is in the centre of the solar system, & links with Sherlock Holmes, realism, & positivism. How keeping earth in the centre became mathematically unwieldy. What is knowledge, reason, belief, and Justified True Belief (JTB)? How did hierarchy set in between (say) pottery and weaving? Is cognitive differentiation produced via social differentiation of labour? What is the impact of loss of agriculture as a form of life? Does / how artisanal knowledge lead to abstract knowledge, and what is the interplay between theory and praxis? How does media decide what is worth knowing (agenda setting), and is the internet selfish with a will of its own? How technologies produce skepticism. Does something exist if it is not on internet and big databases (why grant patent for neem)? What is ‘generalized calculus of all curves’ a product of, and is mathematics also embedded within social norms? The new modes of production of knowledge. Does more information on candidates change voter behaviour? Will knowing remain ‘centered’? Will all knowledge become some kind of folk epistemology (with limited ethnocentrism?)? The SynTalkrs are: Dr. Amit Basole (economics, University of Massachusetts, Boston), Prof. Dhruv Raina (history & philosophy of science, JNU, Delhi), & Dr. N. Bhaskara Rao (social sciences, media studies, Center for Media Studies, Delhi)

#TIATC (The Illusion And The Cosmos) --- SynTalk
Oct 11 2014 63 mins  
SynTalk thinks about illusions from an all encompassing (cosmological) perspective. In a sense the conversation ventures into the outer (sun, galaxies, quasars, black holes, WIMPs) and the inner worlds (Brahman, consciousness), while constantly wondering what separates the ‘real’ from the ‘illusory’. The concepts are​ derived​ off / from Vedas, Bhagwad Gita, Marconi, Mach, Einstein, Sri Aurobindo, S Chandrasekhar, Brandon Carter, and Susskind, among others. Do camels see mirages in the desert? How does dark matter and galaxies lead to formation of virtual images? Does a rainbow exist? Why does a sun appear oblate sometimes? How are electrons and humans aware of the rest of the universe (Mach’s principle, anthropic principle), and how does it get its information, habit or lawfulness? Is Maya related to the concept of measurement? ​Are (say) Maxwell’s and Newton’s laws ‘an extremely well worked out myth’? Is there an Absolute Truth? Is time an illusion, and its possible links with ‘trikal drishti’ (triple time vision) and steady state theory? How Lord Indra created vowels, consonants, and grammar from eternal sound. Is fear like dark matter? How the ‘concept of truth’ (model making) is different from the truth. The difference between ‘the truth’ and ‘my truth’. How can I experience you? Is there a link between empathy and telepathy, and is telepathy possible? How Truth has an asymptotic character. What is Knowledge by Identity? The parable of the larvae and dragonflies (“Not lost but gone before”) and the rumour attributed to a frog. The SynTalkrs are: Prof. S. M. Chitre (astrophysics, Centre for Excellence in Basic Sciences, ex-TIFR, Mumbai), Dr. Matthjis Cornelissen (psychology, Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education, Pondicherry), & Dr. Devdutt Pattanaik (mythology, writing, Mumbai)

#TUOE (The Uncertainty Of Existence) --- SynTalk
Sep 13 2014 60 mins  
SynTalk thinks about the mystery of 'existence' and 'consciousness’. In a sense the conversation alternates between perspectives vis-a-vis ​human beings (meditative, wakeful, dreamy, comatose, paralysed, anaesthetised, unconscious, unarousable, dying, vegetative, & dead), a zygote, fictional characters, amoeba, bats, dust particles, ​tables, the sky, plants, ​and rocks. The concepts are​ derived​ off / from Descartes, William James, Heidegger, ​Freud, Sartre, Turing, Gödel, SN Bose, Chisholm, Libet, and ​Nagel, among others. What is the difference between ‘thing in itself’ and ‘thing for itself’? The difference between "I" and "me”, & a form of internal duality. Is there a hierarchy of consciousness (& how does it become aware of itself)? What is 'being dead’? How does one measure consciousness? We try to understand the difference between the living and the non-living. The degree of certainty, and its link with concepts of possibility, probability, & necessity. The necessity of a nervous system? Is death the loss of intelligence and adaptability? How is it possible to have non-conscious, semantic systems like machines? Does consciousness have any content? The links between Sodium Pentothal, neurotheology, precuneus, subjective certainty, apoptosis, and cogito ergo sum? The difference between consciousness and awareness, and the autonomy of thought from consciousness. ​The SynTalkrs are: Prof. Bijoy Boruah (philosophy, IIT Delhi, New Delhi), Dr. Priyedarshi Jetli (philosophy, (ex) Delhi University, Mumbai), and Dr. Deepak Ranade (neurosurgery, Pune)

#TTCA (The Two Cultures Again) --- SynTalk
Sep 06 2014 63 mins  
SynTalk thinks about the ‘sciences’ and the ‘humanities’, and speculates on the genesis, present and the future of this dichotomy. Is the 1959 Rede lecture of CP Snow still relevant, or have changes of knowledge systems & technology made the concern banal? The concepts are derived off / from Copernicus, Donne, Bacon, Newton, Gulliver’s Travels (in Laputa), Alexander Pope, Riemann, Einstein, Marconi, Heisenberg, Heidegger, life-world (Husserl, Habermas), Hardy, Korzybski, CP Snow, Leavis, Feynman, Deleuze, Wilson, Levi-Strauss, & Buffett, among others. Were there ever any polymaths? We look at the possible link between the establishment of the Royal Society (like a trade union), Newtonian physics, colonialism, and Hitler? Is there consilience & bricolage in knowledge (a la ingredients in a salad bowl)? Do ideas have a rhizomatic structure? Is Mathematics closer to art than to science? Has man’s desire to understand nature led to the ‘anthropocene life-world’ (with disciplines such as digital humanities and cybernetics)? Does ‘episteme’ have to become an easy-to-use ‘API’ to spread? Does a platform (created by designers & engineers) have to be so easy that it is beautiful (a la Angry Birds, Airbnb, Square)? The importance of ‘groundedness’; is “T-shaped” interdisciplinarity the only possible form? The importance of a ‘gifted person’ to make connections. The SynTalkrs are: Prof. Prafulla C. Kar (literature, philosophy, Centre for Contemporary Theory, Vadodara), Prof. M. S. Raghunathan (mathematics, IIT Bombay, ex-TIFR, Mumbai), & Kunal Shah (computer sciences, philosophy, Freecharge, Mumbai)

#TGBH (The Geography Behind History) --- SynTalk
Aug 30 2014 62 mins  
SynTalk thinks about the role of geography, ecology, biology & human behaviour behind history (both facts & principles). Did environmentally destructed land (like grasslands) lead to invasions? We discuss diverse phenomena such as invasions, climactic changes, agriculture, and burial rituals. Is genetics shaping and changing our collective perception of the past, and is there synchronicity in evolution? The concepts are derived off / from biology (Founder Effect, human genome sequence, single locus polymorphism, dispersal), history (Aryanisation), archaeology (Acheulean, Quaternary, Harappa, Chinese oracle bones), mythology (Vishnu Puranas, Kartikeya), geology (tectonic shift, Lonar Lake, ice-age) & ecology (Tundra, co-adaption), among others. Could the burial of a dead body have changed history and lead to the birth of art? What happened ~200,000 years ago, & how did modern humans evolve ~40,000 years ago? Why does mythology posit something impossible and then we try and make sense of it? We marvel at the link between cows, mango leaves, vitamin B, Indian yellow, ‘Pitambara’, frescoes, & heritage. How does some tribal marriage ritual involve ‘sunglasses’? Why don’t all modern humans produce art? The SynTalkrs are: Prof. Sheila Mishra (archaeology, Deccan College, Pune), Aman Nath (history, architecture, restoration, art, Neemrana Hotels, New Delhi), Anupam Sah (heritage conservation, CSMVS Museum Art Conservation Centre, Mumbai) & Prof. Milind Watve (evolutionary biology, IISER, Pune)

#TVAABP (The Vacuum As A Bubbling Place) --- SynTalk
Aug 09 2014 62 mins  
SynTalk thinks about Vacuum and asks why is there something rather than nothing? Is empty space really empty? Does vacuum exist in the natural universe or is it merely a theoretical abstract conception? Is absolute vacuum possible? The concepts are derived off / from Hindu thought (eternal recurrence), Bible (genesis, void), Aristotle, Newton, Einstein, Copenhagen interpretation, Sommerfeld (fine structure constant), Maxwell, Heidegger (PEQ), Casimir (pair production), Biermann (solar wind) and Parker (solar wind model), among others. We marvel at the beauty of nature via CMBR, pole wandering (did dinosaurs die because of this?), magnetic reconnection, cosmological constant, dark matter / energy, dipoles, plasma (a la fire?), and absolute zero. How virtual particles come into ‘being’. What is happening in upper atmosphere (~70,000 kms above earth)? What does an ‘agitated’ sun do to earth’s atmosphere? Whether the laws of causation break down with quantum mechanics and sub-micron distance scales. How do neutrinos / muons reach us via empty space? Has Quantum Field Theory (QFT) left us in a state of limbo, and do we need to reformulate our conception of God? How empty space is bubbling. How would a ride to the sun be? The SynTalkrs are: Prof. Sunil Mukhi (particle physics, IISER, Pune), Prof. Kuruvilla Pandikattu (philosophy & theology, Jnana-Deep Vidyapeeth (JDV), Pune), & Prof. R.V. Reddy (plasma physics, Indian Institute of Geomagnetism, Navi Mumbai)


#TCND (The Cellphone Named Desire) --- SynTalk
Jul 19 2014 60 mins  
SynTalk thinks about the Cellphone (the object & the metaphor). The links between multiple human identities (avatars) & social spaces, (terrestrial) fantasy, boredom and ‘shape-shifting’ performative aspects of life are explored from the lens of the Cellphone. SynTalk also examines if there is an addiction-like neurological (pathological) phenomenon afoot as we interact with our phones almost continually, and whether it is possible to understand the rise of ‘Selfie’. The concepts are derived off / from Rizzolatti (mirror neurons), Dunbar (Dunbar’s number), Human-Computer Interaction (HCI; ‘HHI’, UX, Usability), Granovetter (social networks, weak ties-strong ties), neuroscience (labile memory, somatosensory cortex, PFC, Dopamine, Oxytocin), McLuhan (medium & the message), Proteus Effect, and ‘technology appropriation’, among others. We also discuss if there is an epigenetic change happening in our memory. Is it possible for our brains to trust the computer? Does a Cellphone reduce or accentuate alienation in the society, and with one self? Has the Cellphone become a fetishistic object? Where and why is texting popular? Is not forgetting okay? What is the future? Will a new grammar evolve of dealing with Cellphones and other people? The SynTalkrs are: Biju Dominic (cognitive neuroscience, Final Mile Consulting, Mumbai), Prof. Anirudha Joshi (human computer interaction, IIT Bombay, Mumbai), Dr. Vidita Vaidya (neurobiology, TIFR, Mumbai), & Paromita Vohra (film making, Mumbai)



4 • 1 Ratings

shiva subramanya Jun 08 2020
Host can be annoying sometimes. He should let the guests complete their sentences.