Thursday, February 21, 2008

Two things


Yesterday I watched a debate between Dan Dennet and Dinesh D'souza. The topic was 'Is god a human invention?' which was suggested by D'souza. D'souza has the charm and enthusiasm of a used car salesman. He stands up every time he has to talk, he uses his hands more than the mouth while talking. Saying all this, he did have certain interesting objections and views. It was very clear that he's an intelligent man and does not resemble the people he dated before (read Ann Coulter who's plain entertaining in her stupidity) or someone like Kent Hovind.

When Richard Dawkins says that one can never point out an atheist who committed atrocities in the name of atheism, he always covers up people like Stalin as people who committed the crimes because they wanted to safeguard their position andthey were an evil person and it had nothing to do with their atheism. But when something like Hammas or Al-queda commits an atrocity, Dawkins and the likes are eager to blame it on the religious abstraction they are working with and not the badness of the people who are responsible for the crimes. D'souza rightly pointed this out as a hypocritical stance. According to him, if people are going to blame christianity for inquisitions and islam for terrorism, the atheist also should take some responsibility for Stalin's crimes. Though there were weaknesses in his arguments, that Stalin was more of an antitheist than an atheist and there is a huge difference between marxist atheism (which is essentially antitheism) and Russell's agnosticism. Russell's agnosticism and Dawkin's and Dennett's atheism rely on scientific method while Stalin/Hitchen's antitheism relies on the fact that religion (ie abrahemic religion) has done a lot of bad things hence should be hated. But, if one wishes to club all the non-believers together, one has to take moral responsibility for the other non-believers like Stalin who also fall in their class.

So, in short D'souza's point was that if one blames his religion (a conservative christian) for inquisition and other crimes by abrahemic religion then it is the moral responsibility of the atheist to acknowledge that Stalin and Mao were atheist and killed people in name of atheism.

Ok, this is boring. The other important thing in the two things is frustration!

I can really appreciate Amrita's habit of connecting the technical terminology with real life, when most of the terminology is indeed derived from real life. Today we attended a seminar where the speaker was talking about frustrated systems. Frustrated systems are those systems where the individual particles are confused/frustrated about what state to occupy so as to be in the lowest possible energy. Such systems are generally observer in anti-ferro magnets.

Imagine a lattice of points. Each point is either up or down. Further, every adjacent pair of points want to be in an up-down conformation. Now consider a triangular lattice. If two vertices of the triangle are up and down, the third vertex gets irritated because it can occupy either an up or a down position and hence is termed as a frustrated vertex. This is an example of a geometric frustration. The only prominent example of a geometrically frustrated system is a n anti-ferro magnet. One drawback with such a system is that one can never observe the individual spins and if one wishes to study the phase transition and similar behaviors, one has to limit oneself to averaged properties such as net magnetization. There is no way one can think of to observe individual spins in case of anti-ferro magnets.

But today in the seminar we learned of a system of double layer of colloidal particles trapped inside a thin space of less than the double the thickness of one particle exhibits geometrical frustration phenomena similar to anti-ferro magnets. This was an example of a system which maps exactly onto anti- ferro magnets and yet it is possible to observe every single particle! It means that one can directly observe the individual spins while they are performing the act of phase transition. It also means that one can observe phase transition at a microscopic level. The ability to observe phase transition at a microscopic level means that one can see how infinities emerge from stable finite systems when one changes one thermodynamic variable.

I don't know if this excites you but it surely excites me. (In spirit of the following:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Samuel Skinner
I'll answer for Bass. We blame these things on religion because the people who commit some of these actions (say genocide) defend it on religious grounds. To the best of my knowledge Stalin didn't do that- he defended his actions in the name of the people, the party, the Rodina and the revolution.