academic talks are mental torture!

I have been in academic setting for more than 10 years now, but I could not yet understand the urge and importance of attending talks. Theoretically speaking, one would expect to get some insights and possibly learn something. However, if you attend these talks a few times, you would realize that it is a very naive expectation. Furthermore, it is always requested that everybody attend these talks, particularly, if they are presented by someone important from outside of the university or the department, where the talks are usually more scattered.

Let me briefly explain the situation. Usually talks start with something known to everyone even undergrad students, and suddenly in the first few slides it switches to something which is hardly understood even by those who are in the field. Finally, talks end up with something that I could bravely say nobody understand. After a few slides, it is really a mental torture. Making people to listen something annoying is usually utilized for taking confession, which of course, is illegal. One might naively think that it is optional to attend the talk or leave in the middle, but believe me, peer pressure is far more restraining than prison walls.

I was hoping that talks would be categorized into (at least) two groups: educational and research. The purpose of educational talks would be to teach something to the audience, and the job of speaker is to make sure that it is concise and self contained. However, the purpose of research talks would be sharing the new results with the peers in the field, where a small group of audience can discuss the results almost from the beginning without the need for wasting time on lengthy and useless introductions and so on.

 

 

financial hierarchy in the modern economy.

In this post, I briefly want to investigate the question, how wealthy countries make money? One traditional view is that, they bring raw materials from other countries, and make some special processes, those can only be done by these wealthy countries, and then sell it back for much higher price. However, this is not the case always. For some technology products it may seem like that,  even then it is not all the story.

First consider the above mentioned scenario. It is important to see how the price of raw materials and price of products are being determined. I searched and there is no particular policy on that. The idea is to buy as low as you can, and sell as high as you can. So it is very advantageous just to keep the price difference as high as possible. Additionally, we could see that even the raw food which is coming from other countries, like Mexico, is being priced to a very much higher value, although no processing is made on the product. More disastrously, you could just make other countries to work for you on their land, and then sell them back what they have made for much higher price. For example, look at the diamond industry. Another way of making a lot of profit, is just to sell what they have and others do not, no matter how (un)important it is. You just have to learn how to sell it, and since nobody has it, you could sell it for whatever price. The E-product, movie, and music are in this category.

The bottom line is that: just keep the price difference high, no matter what. That is, the price difference does not have to (and it is not) reflect the amount processing done on the product. So, how do they do that then? Now politics comes handy. Either you are willingly accept to trade, or they make you to do so. Otherwise, you have to suffer harsh consequences. If it did not work, they finally come and get you. As you can see Politics, Military, Science and Technology (PMST) all are giving service to money, to maintain this price difference. You might naively expect that PMST could be used to improve sustainability of human and the environment he is living in, but unfortunately no it does not happen! On the other hand, the money itself is being minimally used to sustain its servants, that is, PMST. It is a positive feedback loop, if you know what I mean.

It is clear that the survival of this system relies on the price difference. Hence, this system never moves toward diminishing the inequality among countries. The whole world trade and global village is just another scam to maintain the profit.  Note that the same economical system operates even within the wealthy countries. Some suggestion is being made to what should be done, for example see here. However, the  main solution is to change the mentality of modern economy. After all, “it is not the creation of wealth that is wrong, but the love of money for its own sake.” (Margaret Thatcher)

کتاب “غرب زدگی” جلال ال احمد

در این متن، تصمیم دارم که خلاصه‌ای از کتاب “غرب زدگی” جلال ال احمد ارائه کنم، هرچند که خود این کتاب خیلی‌ کوتاه و خلاصه است. بی‌ شک این خلاصه نمیتواند حق مطلب را ادا کند، به همین خاطر به همه پیشنهاد می‌کنم که خود این کتاب را هم مطالعه کنند. پیشاپیش به خاطر قصوری که در کلام و برداشت من خواهد بود، از خوانندهٔ این پست و از خود مرحوم جلال عذر خواهی‌ می‌کنم.

کتاب غرب زدگی جلال ال احمد، یکی‌ از کتابهای جالبی‌ ‌ست که درباره ی گرایش کورکورانه شرق به سمت غرب می‌‌باشد. در واقع، این کتاب بر اساس تجربیات شخصی‌ نویسنده استوار شده است. در این کتاب، نویسنده یک نگاه اجمالی به اتفاقات اطراف خود دارد و آنها را از زاویه ی پدیده شناسی‌ اجتماعی بررسی‌ می‌کند. این کتاب، نثری صریح و تا حدی شتاب زده دارد، و در تقبیح رفتارهایی که به نظرش زشت می‌آیند، چه در گذشته و چه در حال، ابایی ندارد.

در این کتاب، نویسنده، جهان را به دو قسمت تقسیم می‌کند: غرب، که دچار ماشین زدگی شده، و برای محصولات خودش به دنبال مشتری دائم میگردد؛ و شرق، که به عنوان مشتری در دام غرب افتاده، و غرب زده شده است. قسمتهای از این کتاب اشاره دارد به این موضوع که غرب برای نگاه داشتن این مشتری دائم، یعنی‌ شرق، تمام تلاش خودش را می‌کند، و گهگاهی هم دست به تمجید و تشویق از این شرق غربزده میزند. همینطور، نویسنده به این موضوع اشاره می‌کند که فقط محصولات ماشینی نیستند که از غرب به شرق وارد میشوند، بلکه فرهنگ و آئین و سنتها هم از طریق وسائل و لوازم به شرق سرازیر میشوند.

در بخش هایی از این کتاب به چرایی جوی راجع به غربزدگی پرداخته شده است، و ریشه ی آنها را در واقع دعوای بین ادیان اسلام و مسیحیت می‌داند و با نگاه گذرای تاریخی‌ به این موضوع، این نظریه ی خود را شرح میدهد. در این کتاب، یک نگاه بدبینانه به تمام کسانی‌ که از غرب نگاهی‌ به شرق دارند، وجود دارد [که به عقیده ی من پر بیراه هم نیست]. در واقع، به برداشت بنده، دیدی در این کتاب وجود دارد که اگر کسی‌، کاری در جهت شناخت شرق می‌کند، در جهت تسلط بیشتر است. بعلاوه، این کتاب، روند تاریخی‌ ایران معاصر و تحولات داخلی‌ از قبیل مشروطه، روی کار آمدن رضا خان و غیره را از دریچه ی تحولات غرب، و غرب زدگی، بررسی‌ می‌کند.

در بخشی از کتاب، راه حل این مساله، غربزدگی، را در ساخت ماشین و تربیت نیروی کار داخلی‌ می‌داند. در جائی‌، علت عملی‌ نشدن این امرِ به ظاهر ساده را، در ترس ما از ماشین و البته عدم تلاش ما برای تسلط بر امور می‌داند. در اواخر کتاب، به موضوع فرهنگ و دانشگاه می‌‌پردازد، و از فارغ‌التحصیلان خارجی‌، خوبی‌ها و بدیهاشون، قلم به میان میاورد. مهم اینکه، هم تحصیل کرده خارج‌ای که قصد نهادینه کردن فرهنگ غربی تو ایران را دارد، و هم استاد داخل‌ای که کاری جز نبش قبر گذشته ندارد را تقبیح می‌کند.

در جائی‌ از کتاب، به موضوع دموکراسی‌ در غرب میپردازد و آنرا تحسین می‌کند. البته همین دموکراسی‌ را هم ما حاصل ماشین زدگی می‌داند. نبود دموکراسی‌ در ایران را حاصل یک سری دلایلی از قبیل نبود فرهنگ عمومی دموکراسی‌ در جامعه، نبود ابزار دموکراسی از قبیل رسانه و احزاب، و نبود آزادیهای کافی‌، بیان می‌کند. و در نهایت، ابراز می‌کند که تا آحاد جامعه با مفهوم حزب و دموکراسی‌ به معنی‌ واقعی‌ آشنا نشوند، ادعای دموکراسی‌ یک ادعای خام و بی‌ اساس است.

در نهایت، به موضوع ماشین زدگی خود غربی‌ها میپردازد و بیان می‌کند که مفهوم ماشین، خود غربی‌ها را هم به تسخیر در آورده است. کسل شدن و یکپارچه شدن (از بین رفتن گوناگونی) جامعه را از اثرات ماشین زدگی میداند و این بازگشت به فرهنگ شرقی‌ را نشان از خستگی‌ غرب از ماشین میداند. البته، لازم به ذکر است که در طول کتاب، از آدم‌های فرهیخته غربی هم صحبت می‌کند، که بی‌ انصافی نکرده باشد.

در کل، این کتاب قصد معرفی‌ نشانه‌‌ها و دلایل یک جامعه غربزده، از دیده نویسنده، را دارد. که این نشانه‌‌ها و دلایل، نتیجه تحلیل و تحقیق نویسنده است. به صورت کلی‌، نویسنده، به نقش تمام قشرهای جامعه از قبیل شاه، وزرا، فرهنگیها، مذهبیون، تا آدمهای کوچه و خیابان در فرآیند غربزدگی اشاره می‌کند. در واقع، نویسنده قصد ابراز نگرانی خود و البته ارائه نگاهی‌ گذرا به راه حل‌ها را در مورد معضل غربزدگی دارد. نکتهٔ متاثر کننده اینکه، بسیاری از آن‌ نشانه‌‌ها و موانع در ایران امروز هم پا برجا هستند.

Language is the mother of thought! (Karl Kraus)

When I was younger, I always looking at the language merely as a mean of communications. So, as long as two persons could understand each other it does not matter, which language or mix-language they speak. Back then, I did not pay much attention to the fact that coherence in language is important for expressing ideas by brain. Every new word is stored with a spectrum, a wave packet, of some stories, objects, and cultures attached to it. By mixing different languages these spectrum could easily overlap and lead to blocking efficient communication. Since then a single concept comes with two output values, hence, it is not a function anymore! so it does not act as a function any more! To be more explicit, consider the word science in English and علم in Persian. They refer to seemingly same subject but with deep differences. Therefore, abusing and misusing them would block the efficient communication.

As much as learning other languages is important we should remember that the inner self of us probably talk to us in our mother language. Probably, the ideas and interconnections between different memories and knowledge stored in our brain is in our mother tongue, that is, the coding and decoding in our brain is probably in our first language in the very fundamental level. We may speak or write well in other languages but it does not mean that brain is also functioning in those languages. By mix-using different languages, however, there is a danger for a brain to loose the connection between the inner-self and itself in communicating ideas.

We should also remember that every word comes with a culture decoded deep in the word. So, learning a set of new word opens up a window toward a new culture. However, as the newly imported plants may ruin the life of native habitat, newly imported word could also destroy the usage and spreading of the original language. As there is a set of laws enforced heavily for import-export of everything, we should do the same for importing new words from other languages into our language. In this way, not only we save our language, we also let new words, new ideas, and new culture to be developed within our language which finally led to new movies, new science, and new discoveries.

I encourage every one to read this nice article by Prof. Reza Mansouri, about “how and why to develop a scientific Persian language” which is in Persian.

PS: Thanks to my wife for sending this article to me which triggered this post. I also like to thank my Friend Payman, for originally posting this link on facebook, and also for a good discussions on this subject before.

List of women denied scientific glory

Today, I came across a brief list of five women in history of science who were denied scientific glory due to gender discrimination:  http://www.newscientist.com/gallery/unsung-heroines

I also like to add Emmy Noether to the list. She made a lot of different contribution in mathematical physics. In particular, in here early work, she made a beautiful connection between conserved quantities and underlying symmetry. I am pretty sure many of us know one or two examples of influential women in our field, who went unnoticed in the course of history. Salute to the all men and women who went unnoticed due to their gender, race, or religion.