Thursday, 15 October 2009

Apology to Leo Kadanoff

I have been fortunate enough to be taught by one of the great physicists of the last century (the century - I do not need to remind anyone - of Einstein, Schrodinger, Dirac, Feynman and others..) : Prof. Leo Kadanoff. Here is a man who laid the groundwork behind some of the most profound ideas (Renormalization Group) that are a crucial part of the underpinnings of the powerful field theories that are the epitome of human attempts to understand the universe.

He taught me - in fact he is teaching me this very moment - a course on Statistical Mechanics much of which is actually material created in part by him. Many crucial ideas in the field theory course Im doing concurrently originate from him and David Tong from Cambridge who is teaching that excellent course mentioned once how sleepish he felt talking about some of these ideas with Leo Kadanoff sitting at the back of the class listening attentively.

He always comes 40 minutes before his class starts and he likes to listen to whats happening in the field theory course, and he loves to then begin his lecture by giving stat mech analogues of the field theory concepts we had been looking at. He is one of the leading proponents of 'Universality' in physics - the idea that phenomena (like critical phenomena, phase transitions) look identical across branches of physics. He likes to say, and show, how we do the same physics over and over again, the same equations reappear in completely different contexts.

He is perhaps one of the most humble most polite people Ive met. And so it is with deep - almost bitter - regret that I admit that I have not learnt much from him at all. It is my fault entirely, I simply did not make the effort necessary to appreciate and assimilate the deep concepts he was good enough to put forth enthusiastically before us, everyday, even at the age of 82. Between field theory and my indolence and laziness, I just did not do what was needed.

I am ashamed. But - if for no other reason than respect for Prof. Kadanoff - I will study and become good at Statistical Mechanics and understand renormalization before Im done with this business of theoretical physics.

I have made many similar mistakes....sleeping in PSB sir's class while he poured his heart into imparting knowledge springs immediately to mind, and perhaps I will never understand DSP and Control Systems as well as I should, but this time, I wont let it pass.


Anonymous said...

so often this theme of i should do it and i feel guilty about not having done it has come up in your blogs

its time - get you act together; and JUST DO IT

its time to shake off the indolence and not give even one more chance to self-loath or to i-should-have

-well wisher
sometimes it takes another saying it

Psmith said...

thanks. Im on it.

Anonymous said...

often we realise many things quite late,and its always good to realise it at any damn stage rather not knowing nothing at all.... And i believe we can do magic at any stage of our life. Its never late for anything till you not awake.. the above comment is just too good and beautiful to read. So true whosoever has written it.
And you were a nice student. and don't worry students are often that lazy. May be thats the beauty lies in a student's life. hope you are on a fab ride of learning.