Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The Rime... Part II


The Drafts now rose upon the right:
Out on the table did it pile,
Still hid in confusion, and on the left
Went down into the file.

And the good equation still came behind,
But no sweet Classic did follow,
Nor any day for analysis or explanation
Came to the researcher's hollo!

Her labmates cry out against the ancient Researcher, for killing the Classic of paradigm shift.

And I had done an hellish thing,
And it would work 'em woe:
For all averred, I had killed the Classic
That made the understanding grow.
Ah wretch! said they, the Classic to blow,
That made the understanding grow !

But when they understood the assumptions well, they justify the same, and thus make themselves accomplices in the crime.

Nor small nor big, like Nature's own preprint,
Did gloriously rise the Draft:
Then all averred, I had killed the Classic
That brought confusions a lot.
'Twas right, said they, such Classics to blow,
That bring confusions a lot.

The nice equation continues; the thesis work enters the Land of Results, and continues to bring new results, even till it reaches the CuriousResults.

The nice equation brew explanations anew,
The results flowed free:
We were the first that ever burst
Into such data gathering spree.

The thesis work hath been suddenly bestalled.

Down fell the equation, the explanations dropt down,
'Twas sad as sad could be :
And we did speak only to break
The silence of the PC !

All in a hot and humid lab,
The bloody Draft on table,
Right up above the file did stand,
No bigger than a Fable.

Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor data nor experiment :
As idle as painted scholars
Upon a painted parchment.

And the CiteClassic begins to be avenged.

Results, results, every where,
And did the lab-book remain white ;
Results, results, every where,
Nor any paper to write.[NOTE]

The very vacuum did leak: O Diffpump !
That ever this should be !
Yea, slimy things did drip with oil
Upon the slimy laboratory.

About, about, in lab and on table,
The junk-files danced at night :
The data-sheet, like a witch's oils,
Burnt green, and blue and white.

An EmeritusProf had followed them; one of the invisible inhabitants of this planet, neither departed souls nor angels; Concerning whom the learned Scientist,RS Hankara, and the Platonic Nanopolitan, Abinand Pthennan, may be consulted. They are very numerous, and there are no Departments or Institute without one or more.

And some in meetings assured were
Of the EmeritusProf that plagued us sore ;
Nine months time he had followed us
From the land of NoResults and more.

And every project, through utter drought,
Was withered at the root ;
We could not speak, no more than if
We had been choked with soot.

The labmates, in their sore distress, would fain throw the whole guilt on the ancient Researcher : in sign thereof they hang the Journal of Irreproducible Results round his neck.

Ah ! well a-day ! what evil looks
Had I from all, old and young!
Instead of a medal, the Journal
About my neck was hung.

For these two lines of this stanza, I am indebted to Mr. Subhradeep Chatterjee. It was a delightful walk from the Department to the Coffee house with him and Phaniraj, in the summer of 2005, that this Poem was planned, and in part composed ( See here for Coleridge's note and attribution).

Monday, July 25, 2005

A parody of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

The Rime of the Ancient Researcher



How a grad student having passed the Comprehensive was driven by experimental difficulties to the desert Country of NoResults; and how from thence she made her course to the warm lattitude of the CuriousResults; and of the strange things that befell; and in what manner the Ancyent Researchere came back to her own Doctorate.

Part I

An ancient Researcher meeteth three Post Doctoral Fellows bidden to a conference banquet, and detaineth one

It is an ancient Researcher,
And she stoppeth one of three.
`By thy flowing robes and languorous eye,
Now wherefore stopp'st thou me?

The Banquet Hall's doors are opened wide,
And I am next of Prof. Lin;
The scholars are met, the feast is set:
May'st hear the merry din.'

She holds her with her smooth hand,
`There was a grad student.' quoth she.
`Hold off! unhand me, grey-haired loon!'
Eftsoons her hand dropt she.

The Banquet guest is spell-bound by the eye of the old scholarly woman, and constrained to hear her tale.

She holds her with her languorous eye-
The Banquet guest stood still,
And listens like a three years' child:
The Researcher hath her will.

The Banquet guest sat on a stone :
She cannot choose but hear;
And thus spoke on that ancient woman,
The liquid-eyed Researcher.

`The proposal was cheered, the tables cleared,
Merrily did we start
Down the library, down the hall,
Down the laboratory to plot.

The Researcher tells how the course work glided smoothly with assignments and term papers, till it reached the Comprehensive examination.

The Assignments came up upon the left,
Out of the course work came neat!
And it was brilliant, and on the right
Went down into the sheet.

Tougher and tougher every day,
Till over the exam in June-'
The Banquet-guest here beat her breast,
For she heard the loud bassoon.

The Banquet-guest heareth the proposal of toast: but the researcher continues her tale.

The Professor hath paced into the hall,
White as snow is he;
Nodding their heads before him goes
The scholars with goatee.

The Banquet-guest she beat her breast,
Yet she cannot choose but hear;
And thus spake on that ancient woman,
The liquid-eyed researcher.

The thesis work driven by an equipment problem to the land of NoResults.

`And now the EQUIPMENT came, and it
was tyrannous and strong:
It struck with its complex knobs,
And chased us further along.

With noisy data and disk overflow,
As who pursued with yell and blow
Still treads the shadow of his foe,
And forward bends his head,
Worthless plots my experiments bred,
While to NoResult land we fled.

And now there came both confusion and fear,
And it grew to a peak:
And, noise, signal-high, came floating by,
Without stop week after week.

The land of noise, and of terrible data where no meaningful signal was to be seen.

And through the analysis the noisy data
Did send a dismal sheen :
Nor fits for curves nor shapes of peaks we ken-
The noise was all between.

The noise was here, the noise was there,
The noise was all around :
It marred and masked, and roared and howled,
Like noises in a swound!

Till a great paper, called the CiteClassic, came through the snow-fog, and was received with great joy and hospitality.

At length did come a CiteClassic,
Through the fog it came:
As if it has been a ParadigmShift,
We hailed it in Science's name.

It solved the problems it never solved,
And innumerable the explanations it brew.
The noise did split with a thunder-fit:
The adviser steered us through!

And lo! the CiteClassic proveth a sign of good omen, and leadeth the research as it turned towards ResultLand through the confusing and noisy data.

And a good solid equation sprung up behind;
The CiteClassic did follow,
And every day, for explanation or analysis,
Came to the researcher's hollo!

In confusion or fluctuation, with data or noise,
It perched on table mine;
Whiles all the night, through inscrutable machine,
Came the curves divine.

The ancient Mariner inhospitably killeth the promising paper of good omen.

`Science save thee, ancient Researcher!
From the committee, that plague thee sick!-
Why look'st thou so?'-With my analysis
I shot the CiteClassic.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Welcome to Malkanthapuragudi!

I like to read books - A rainy afternoon during the monsoon season (on the pyol with smoke rising on the tiled roofs of houses) with a novel on one hand is my idea of heaven: that a cup of coffee on the other hand is my idea of nectar goes without saying. I like to listen to music - To wake up at around 5:30 on a cool summer morning listening to Bhavayami of MS is also my idea of heaven: that a cup of coffee appears in this heaven also to perform the duty of nectar should not surprise you. In fact, I know of a short story of Kalki Ra. Krishnamoorthy, where, one of his character longs for a cup of coffee in the heaven, and is pretty disgusted with himself for mistakenly comparing the wonderful coffee that his daughter-in-law used to serve with nectar. But I am rambling. I read lots of articles and books on science and technology: that is part of my job. I watch plenty of movies: I prefer to think that that is my job too. And, I love to talk about all these things. As any number of my friends would tell you - I am a compulsive talker: I watched a good movie - I read a good novel - I read about some new discovery - I found a nice book in the library - Then, I just can't keep quiet - I keep talking about them everywhere - In the coffee house, in the tea kiosk, while having lunch/dinner, on the way to and from the eating place, and just about anywhere. Recently, I found that two of my friends carried these conversations over to the internet using blogs. Now, that was tempting, and, as you can see, I can resist anything but temptation!

I have named my blog Malkanthapuragudi - After the Kanthapura of Raja Rao and Malgudi of RK Narayan. Like Kanthapura and Malgudi, this is an imaginary landscape. Also, like Kanthapura and Malgudi, I hope, it will stand for much more - It could be the microscosm of the universe in which we live in. It could be the backdrop against which greater events can take place, and greater truths be understood, and greater questions be raised and probably answered. So, welcome to Malkanthapuragudi!