# The Quest for summer positions(and the resulting frustration)

In the hunt for this year’s summer internship season, I’ve learnt quite some lessons. I realised that I shouldn’t take anything for granted and everything has value in life.

This year, I was almost certain that I would be selected for IQC’s URA program since I had been working on nonlocal games since the last semester and had read and understood papers written by people from IQC and I had applied to the program with those same people as my mentor preferences. Other than IQC, I was cocky enough to apply to Microsoft Research QuArC group’s internship positions assuming that my puny research experience could convince those at MSR to hire me for the summers. You know what, my application didn’t even go into the ‘processing’ stage till the time of writing this article(‘Processing’ is the stage immediately after ‘Application submitted’ stage. So, effectively, they didn’t even open my application 😦

After getting rejected by IQC, reality struck me like a bolt of lightning and I applied to other places like Inria,Irif, UMD , TTIC and other places. But alas, all the people who did care to respond(thank you so much for the response, if anybody concerned is reading this) said that they already took interns or are not interested in taking any interns. And please, don’t even ask me about the guys who didn’t care to respond. It really feels heart breaking if you wait for something like 10 days and still don’t get any response. I really don’t understand. How much time does it take people to respond to a damn email. I don’t demand an essay expecting a response. It can be as simple as “I’m sorry I’ll not take you as an intern.”

It’s a really time consuming process, this mailing and all. I do feel sometimes like, “Hey, scientists like Albert Einstein never really searched for these so called ‘internships’. So, why should I care?” but then I remember that Einstein worked at a patent office for the whole time while he was doing his PhD and I think “umm, it’s not something which I want to do” 😛

# Mathematical Blogging

First, I’m going to try out the latex include feature in wordpress. Then, I’ll get to what I think would be a great idea for folks like me

$i\hbar\frac{\partial}{\partial t}\left|\Psi(t)\right>=H\left|\Psi(t)\right>$

Seems pretty legit, right!! People interested should checkout this link. You know what, the HTML like code in wordpress also gives a pretty legit feel. To learn more, check this out.

So, here goes the ‘great’ idea I was talking about earlier. I want to use the blog as a way to keep a ‘Research Journal’. Basically, one in which I keep writing about what I learn everyday. So, you could ask me why I should choose a blog to do this when I could have chosen an offline journal as well( Interestingly, I also bought an awesome app called Day One which is precisely for that purpose). The reason is that when I choose to write on my blog, I feel a little bit of extra motivation to actually write it down when compared to my offline journal due to the “Number of views” and other statistics showed by wordpress. It really feels like a game, you know. You get a feeling of satisfaction and fulfilment when you see the number of views rise in your wordpress statistics. It gives you a nice kind of high. So, yeah I’ll try to be more consistent from now on, especially now that I’ve seen the full power of the $\LaTeX$ and HTML capabilities of wordpress.

# Erdös

Paul Erdös was the most prolific mathematician in history, having published more than 1500 papers.

# Citations??

Today, I received a mail from academia.edu telling me that I was in the top 2% of the researchers on Academia according to 30-day views!! And guess what ‘original research’ I uploaded on academia which brought me more than 90% of the views, it was a project report for the Rotating bridge which I built as a part of the institute compulsory manufacturing processes course. This lead me to an epiphany that the relevance of any research paper should not be solely measured by the number of citations. A shallow article is easier to understand and therefore might lead to more citations just because of this fact. But, does it really mean that it is more significant?

# Improving my lexicon

I started preparing for the GRE recently and stumbled upon the conundrum of preparing for the verbal section of the GRE. I was under the delusion that my vocabulary could burgeon by the enervating process of reading a myriad of books without looking at the meanings of the words explicitly but it now feels like that was only a dilatory instinct and an ersatz for descrying the meanings of enigmatic and byzantine words. I thought it was antediluvian and anachronistic to carry a dictionary whenever I started reading something but I feel now it that might have actually helped me in the long run  🙂

I might sound like a callow avaricious fellow writing doggerel but I beseech you to stay with me. This draft is definitely not the apotheosis, acme or epitome of my writing. I don’t want encomiums for this writing but hope that it would be efficacious in being emollient to a young lad who might have stumbled upon this piece with ennui in his heart.

Anyhow, from here on, I would like to share a pretty interesting observation I made recently. When we generally read anything, we don’t pause every now and then to look up the meanings of unknown words because it feels that it might hamper the reading experience . But, I now feel due to the cardinality of the set of queer looking words being finite(and probably less than 10,000), by the pigeon hole principle I would have encountered the same words several times. Anyhow, I used to read books earlier from their paper copies and thus it was not very easy to look up word meanings. But now, thanks to my Kindle Paperwhite, it’s a breeze looking up word meanings. I hope more people start using e-book readers 🙂

# Sugar is the new Tobacco

Hey folks, I felt like this would be a good place to share one of my Facebook posts.

“Calories_in – Calories_out is the most important factor which affects weight gain” is a blatant lie being perpetrated by food companies like Coca-Cola through their shameless ads and lobbying.

Irrespective of how much you exercise, it really matters from where you get your calories. X calories from carrots and X calories from coke are processed by your body in vastly different ways. Most of the coke calories end up getting converted into your tummy but that’s not true for the carrot calories.

Fun fact: If you drink coke without the added phosphoric acid it contains, you will vomit immediately due to it’s insane sugar concentration.

In the 1960’s, tobacco was marketed exactly the same way coke is being marketed these days. You could see ads of famous actors endorsing tobacco, advertising boards everywhere, canteens selling them etc etc……

It’s just a matter of time(hopefully) before the widespread effects of coke(processed foods) became public knowledge and we see ‘WARNING! this food causes type II diabetes’ on food packets similar to cigarette pack warnings.

You would see ads in movie theatres where a future Mr. Mukesh would be lying on a hospital bed as a 20 year old obese guy about to die due to type 2 diabetes telling you that coke was responsible for his death.

Here’s the youtube link to the video which enlightened me regarding this issue.

# Climate Change!!

I watched this amazing documentary on Climate change called ‘Before the Flood’ narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio. If you haven’t watched it yet, I urge you to do it now!!

So, after watching the documentary I’ve been thinking of ways in which I can change my own lifestyle so that I can decrease my carbon footprint. I’ll keep adding to this list as I get more ideas:

1. Try to make use of the day time as much as possible over night time. This will reduce my electricity consumption.
2. From now on, I will print stuff only when absolutely required, like assignment submissions or other things where I need to submit hard copies.
3. Carbon emissions of Beef >> Chicken >> Vegetables. I don’t eat beef anyway and where I live it’s not even available for consumption thanks to Hinduism absolutely shunning the killing of cows. But I do eat chicken and mutton. I lived as a vegetarian(consumed milk products and eggs) for 3 years(till April 2016) and gave up on vegetarianism when I lived in Singapore because it’s NOT easy to get decent vegetarian meals in Singapore. You have to invest additional time and energy for that  and I wasn’t really interested in doing that. So, I started eating meat again after I lived in Singapore and then I continued doing that after I came back to India as well.I’ll go back to my vegetarianism now and continue doing that till I feel that I would need to invest too much time and energy to maintain this diet.

# Reading journal/conference proceedings vs Arxiv articles

This is a note to my future self. I realised today(not exactly today… but, felt it more strongly today) that if I wanted to understand a paper which was already published in some journal/conference, it is better to first read the conference/journal version over the arxiv version. Although it is true that the arxiv version is unbounded  and yada yada yada, it is a fact that the published version has better explanations and also shows which parts of the paper are ‘more’ important.

This realisation dawned on me as I was reading the article ‘Characterization of Binary Constraint System Games’ by Cleve and Mittal. In the 3rd page of the arxiv version, I couldn’t understand why the ‘c’ condition was correct and but when I read the same sentence in the published version, I saw an explanation for that in brackets immediately following the sentence!! Aaaahhh. I resolve today that from now on, I will read the published version before the arxiv version (if both are available).

# Archaic ways of publishing research

It just seems strange that the way research is communicated to the world hasn’t changed much since a long time. Even today, the primary way that research is communicated is through articles(primarily text with images sprinkled here and there) published in journals/conferences.

Isn’t this very old fashioned given the fact that we have very high quality video recording capabilities available just at our fingertips? I was reading the paper ‘Rectangles are Non-negative Juntas’ and was struggling to understand a lot of things in the paper and luckily, I found a link to some slides made by one of the authors which were available on his homepage. This graphic representation certainly helped me get a better understanding of the paper. What I don’t understand is why we don’t have such slides for most, if not all papers published? In fact, I think every paper published should have a video available on youtube by one of the authors trying to explain about the paper.

Learning from Social Media:

I think there are some interesting things scientific researchers can learn from social media trends. Facebook posts and Quora answers with photos generally go on to reach far more people than those without photos. Similarly, I think papers which have associated videos or slides reach far more people than those without.

# My first 3 weeks at CQT

It’s been nearly 3 weeks since I came to CQT. I did not make much progress in these 3 weeks but hope to make good progress from now on since I now have more clarity over what I should do in these remaining weeks. One of the goals for my internship is to understand and present the paper ‘Rectangles are Nonnegative Juntas’ by Zuckerman et.al . Till now, I felt intimidated by the paper since I couldn’t really understand anything in the paper after reading some paragraphs in the paper. One way I can approach the paper is by going through every line and trying to understand the things I don’t understand. But, I feel this is too much pain. Therefore, I want to adapt the less efficient(?) but easier way by building up from the basics. First things first, I haven’t yet done any course on the Theory of Computation and I have a constant nagging at the back of my head that I can’t really talk or understand any complexity classes without a clear understanding of what it means to compute. Therefore, my plan for the following weeks is:

1. This week’s goal is to finish the course on Automata theory on coursera: https://class.coursera.org/automata-003 . This should take around 6×4=24 hours.
2. After finishing the automata theory course, I intend to read, understand and solve problems from Chapters 1, 2 and 12 from Arora-Barak’s book on Computational complexity. – By the end of next week. Chapter 1 & 2 should take around a day each. Keeping 3 days for Chapter 12 and Lectures 1,2 & 3 from http://www.tcs.tifr.res.in/~prahladh/teaching/2011-12/comm/
3. After doing the above steps, I am sure I will have a little more confidence to tackle the paper head on. Then, I will skim the entire paper once from starting to end and try to gauge what other things I would be needing to understand the paper.

After passing through this mental ordeal of the 3 weeks without any progress, I have come to the definite conclusion that getting to a publish-worthy idea within these 2 months is close to impossible and that shouldn’t be my goal.