Thursday, December 31, 2009

Summerhill Education vs. Standard School Education

Here is a passage, where Neill explains the difference between his school and standard schools.

Summerhill Education vs. Standard Education

I hold that the aim of life is to find happiness, which means to find interest. Education should be a preparation for life. Our culture has not been very successful. Our education, politics and economics lead to war. Our medicines have not done away with disease. Our religion has not abolished usury and robbery. Our boasted humanitarianism still allows public opinion to approve of the barbaric sport of hunting. The advances of the age are advances in mechanism--in radio and television, in electronics, in jet planes. New world wars threaten, for the world’s social conscience is still primitive.

If we feel like questioning today, we can pose a few awkward questions. Why does man seem to have many more disuses than animals have? Why does man hate and kill in war when animals do not? Why does cancer increase? Why are there so many suicides? So many insane sex crimes? Why the hate that is anti-Semitism? Why Negro hating and lynching? Why back- biting and spite? Why is sex obscene and a leering joke? Why is being a bastard a social disgrace? Why the continuance of religions that have long ago lost their love and hope and charity? Why, a thousand whys about our vaunted state of civilized eminence!

I ask these questions because I am by profession a teacher, one who deals with the young. I ask these questions because those so often asked by teachers are the unimportant ones, the ones about school subjects. I ask what earthly good can come out of discussions about French or ancient history or what not when these subjects don’t matter a jot compared to the larger question of life’s natural fulfillment of man’s inner happiness.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Text User Interface using PythonDialog2.7

I have been struggling to have a simple text user interface to display information, and then change the variables/ settings in a program from command line (while running the program). This all with a user menu and other tools.

It now works with PythonDialog 2.7, with only 4 days of complete work ! Here are a couple of screenshots, this is pretty cool.

First the default read of the data file and its parameters: Page 1

I can change the telescope name (to correct value "WSRT")

And once I press RETURN key in the window above, the file is modified:

More code and pics will come soon. This is the time to take this program forward...


Monday, December 07, 2009

Summerhill: Happy School

Summerhill democracy makes it a happy school.

Summerhill is possibly the happiest school in the world. We have no truants and seldom a case of homesickness. We very rarely have fights - quarrels of course, but seldom have I seen a stand-up fight like the ones we used to have as boys. I seldom hear a child cry; because children when free have much less hate to express than children who are downtrodden. Hate breeds hate, and love breeds love. Love means approving of children, and that is essential in any school. You can’t be on the side of children if you punish them and storm at them. Summerhill is a school in which the child knows that he is approved of.

Mind you, we are not above and beyond human foibles. I spent weeks planting potatoes one spring, and when I found eight plants pulled up in June, I made a big fuss. Yet there was a difference between my fuss and that of an authoritarian. My fuss was about potatoes, but the fuss an authoritarian would have made would have dragged in the question of morality--right and wrong. I did not say that it was wrong to steal my spuds; I did not make it a matter of good and evil--I made it a matter of my spuds. They were my spuds and they should have been left alone. I hope I am making the distinction clear.

Let me put it another way. To the children, I am no authority to be feared. I am their equal, and the row I kick up about my spuds has no more significance to them than the row a boy may kick up about his punctured bicycle tire. It is quite safe to have a row with a child when you are equals.

Now some will say: “That’s all bunk. There can’t be equality. Neill is the boss; he is bigger and wiser.” That is indeed true. I am the boss, and if the house caught fire the children would run to me. They know that I am bigger and more knowledgeable, but that does not matter when I meet them on their own ground, the potato patch, so to speak.

When Billy, aged five, told me to get out of his birthday party because I hadn’t been invited, I went at once without hesitation --just as Billy gets out of my room when I don’t want his company. It is not easy to describe this relationship between teacher and child, but every visitor to Summerhill knows what I mean when I say that the relationship is ideal. One sees it in the attitude to the staff in general. Rudd, the chemistry man, is Derek. Other members of the staff are known as Harry, and Ulla, and Pam. I am Neill, and the cook is Esther.

In Summerhill, everyone has equal rights. No one is allowed to walk on my grand piano, and I am not allowed to borrow a boy’s cycle without his permission. At a General School Meeting, the vote of a child of six counts for as much as my vote does.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Summerhill: Lessons and Exams-- 2

This is what Neill says about the exams:

All the same there is a lot of learning in Summerhill. Perhaps a group of our twelveyear-
olds could not compete-with a class of equal age in handwriting or spelling or fractions. But in an examination requiring originality, our lot would beat the others hollow.

We have no class examinations in the school, but sometimes I set an exam for fun. The following questions appeared in one such paper:

Where are the following:- Madrid, Thursday Island, yesterday, love, democracy, hate, my pocket-screw driver (alas, there was no helpful answer to that one).

Give meanings for the following:- 9 the number shows how many are expected of each)- Hand (3)…. Only two, got the third right – the standard of measure for a horse. Brass (4)…. Metal, cheek, top army officers, department of an orchestra. Translate Hamlets, To-be-or-not-to-be speech into Summerhillese.

These questions are obviously not intended to be serious, and the children enjoy them thoroughly. Newcomers, on the whole, do not rise to the answering standard of pupils who have become accustomed to the school. Not that they have less brainpower, but rather because they have become so accustomed to work in a serious groove that any light touch puzzles them.

This is the play side of our teaching. In all classes much work is done. If, for some reason a teacher cannot take his class on the appointed day, there is usually much disappointment for the pupils.

David, aged nine, had to be isolated for whooping cough. He cried bitterly. “I’ll miss Roger’s lesson in geography,” he protested. David had been in the school practically from birth, and he had definite and final ideas about the necessity of having his lessons given to him. David is now a lecturer in mathematics at London University.

A few years ago someone at a General School Meeting (at which all school rules are voted by the entire school, each pupil and each staff member having one vote) proposed that a certain culprit should be punished by being banished from lessons for a week. The other children protested on the ground that the punishment was too severe.

My staff and I have a hearty hatred of all examinations. To us the university exams are anathema. But we cannot refuse to teach children the required subjects. Obviously, as long as the exams are in existence, they are our masters. Hence, the Summerhill staff is always qualified to teach to the set standard.

Not that many children want to take these exams; only those going to the university do so. And such children do not seem to find it especially hard to tackle these exams. They generally begin to work for them seriously at the age of fourteen, and they do the work in about three years. Of course they don’t always pass at the first try. The more important fact is that they try again.

Summerhill : Lessons and Exams -- 1

Here is what Neill has to say about examinations and lessons in his introduction to his school.

What is Summerhill like? Well, for one thing, lessons are optional. Children can go to them or stay away from them--- for years if they want to. There is timetable--- but only for the teachers.

The children have classes usually according to their age, bue sometimes according to their interests. We have no new methods of teaching, because we do not consider that teaching in itself matters much. Whether a school has or has not a special method for teching long division is of no significance, for long division is of no importance except for those who want to learn it. And the child who wants to learn long division will learn it no matter how it is taught.

Strangers to this idea of freedom will be wondering what sort of madhouse it is where children play all day if they want to...
[story of a student]

This story shows that learning itself is not as important as personality and character. Jack failed in his university exams because he hated book learning. But his lack of knowledge about Lamb's essays or French language did not handicap him in life. He is now a successful engineer.


Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Summerhill -- A S Neill

Summerhill is not just an idea, but an ideal. For a times on this blog, I will now copy and paste paragraphs about this wonderful Summerhill School from A.S. Neill's old book copy. I intend to buy multiple books about this school and related topics. If you have not seen this book, or read the link, I will strongly urge you to give a brief read once, at least. So, here goes the first update.

When my first wife and I began the school, we had one main idea: to make the school fit the child--- instead of making the child fit the school.
I have taught in ordinary schools for many years. I knew the other way well. I knew it was all wrong. It was wrong because it was based on an adult conception of what a child should be and of how a child should learn. The other way dated from the days when psychology was still an unknown science.
Well, we set out to make a school in which we should allow children freedom to be themselves. In order to do this, we had to renounce all discipline, all direction, all suggestion, all my training, all religious instruction. We have been called brave, but it did not require courage. All it required was what we had, a complete belief in the child as a good, not an evil, being. For almost forty years, this belief in the goodness of the child never wavered; it rather has become final faith.
My view is that a child is innately wise and realistic. If left to himself without adult suggestions of any kind, he will develope as far as he is capable of developing. Logically, Summerhill is a place in which people who have some innate ability and wish to be scholars will be scholars; while those who are only fit to sweep the streets will sweep the streets. But we have not produced a street cleaner so far. Nor do I write this snobbishly, for I would rather see a school produce a happy street cleaner rather than a neurotic scholar.


Friday, August 28, 2009

coherent dedispersion: 2

I can now reproduce the results of Adithya completely. There is the issue of the code being too slow. I am working with cProfile to fix the slower portions of it. Shown above is the pulse region (B0809+74) at high resolution (16 micro-seconds) at 24 MHz. The pulse peak is 50 times above the noise, roughly. I suspect at higher resolution, it will be even sharper.

More is yet to come, when i make the code faster.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Lessons for my child: logic and rationality

Let us start with a story of a girl, who went to school regularly, studied on time and had her fun on playground. She was obedient, respected her parents and believed deeply in God. When going for an exam she would bow to her Gods, and then touch her mother's feet. She always received highest scores in exams.

Over a few years this became a pattern. However, owing to a relative's illness, her mother had to leave their home for a few weeks. The girl was without supervision, and over those weeks, she did not study well, and wasted her time in front of television. When it came to exams, she realised that she could not touch her mother's feet, since her mother was not at home. She was terribly anxious and nervous. She did poorly in exams, and to believe that her exam scores had something to do with touching her mother's feet. It required her mother all her (mother's) wit and patience to point out the obvious flaw in this logic.

Touching feet was a sign of respect, not the cause of respect. Touching feet followed from loving her mother, and acting according to mother's advice. If the girl failed to respect motther's advice about timely studies in mother's absence, touching feet would not bring in results. This is rational thinking, it connects one thought with another, and makes one 'logical' chain.

So, here is what I would emhpasise on:

  1. An enquiry into natural world has to be rational, and not based on only faith. Thus, the enquiry is not based on some book, some (God-) man's words, or Nobel Laureate's recommendation. Logical connections remove individual subjectivity, and bring in an element of unbiased understanding of nature's work.
  2. Simple explanations of phenomena are most profound, think of Einstein's equation (energy is equivalent of mass times light-velocity squared) or Newton's law of gravity.
  3. There is no role for any dogma, religion or faith based. This is not to say that science opposes any religion. Quite the opposite, as Einstein said, "Subtle is the Lord, but malicious (S)He is not". In order to understand God's (substitute with karma, nature, whatever) creations, we have to believe that He obeys his own rules, laws. Those rules have no bias or arbitrariness. To illustrate the above, think of the following: "It rains because it is God's will". This statement is very agreeable, however does not give us any predictive power. Therefore, this statement alone is not very useful. We always knew God does everything. However, a statement like "Clouds cause rains" is very useful. Again, one can discount "Clouds are because it is God's will" as per above logic, and continue to resort to natural explanations to understand the phenomena of rains.
  4. Question everything (including this statement) rationally, everything! Why, why not, what, what not, how, and how not... Convince yourself of your chain of logic entirely. It should allow you to have confidence about predicting something using your logic. Only then it will make any sense.

After all, we started with why think. It was to make our lives better, more meaningful, whatever that means. This may take you Buddha's way, or along with the Western civilization. Keep working , and keep thinking.

When you do that, remain open to enquiry from others, learn to respect opinions and debate honestly. That is going to be next in this series.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Discovery and spirit of observation

We all believe (rightfully so) that Jocelyn Bell Burnell discovered pulsars. However, there remains a very curious case of a military officer in Alaska who may have detected not just the first pulsar, but did a sky survey for them. He was alone, in a remote army camp, with a radar built to detect incoming missiles. He found pulses (specifically flashes) from Crab and other pulsars, and scouted the sky for more.

Mr. Charles Schisler was his name, you will find more on the link provided. He may not have been trained to 'analyse', but certainly knew how to discover. He knew when he did find something new. He had remarkable skill to know the preserve, to correlate, and put all those pieces together over a long interval time. All this was done at his own initiative.

He should get a honorary PhD, this man deserves that more than myself (and presumably others like me.)

To me, this just happens to show how diverse the nature of 'discovery' can be , and tells us about human spirit, in its rawest form, to know about new things. It also shows how secrecy can diminish importance of knowledge that can be shared by the rest of the humanity. This points to faulty patent scheme and copy-rights that exist today...

Find out more on links below:

An Independent 1967 Discovery of Pulsars

AIP Conf. Proc. 983, 642 (2008)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Lessons for my child: power of observation

Cosmos is complex, perhaps too complex to fathom, and many elements of the cosmos are intertwined in nature. However, we can take it from Einstein that ``Subtle is the Lord, but malicious She is not". This means the cosmos, even though complex in detail, operates through very few, and simple and direct rules. The simplicity is of course overshadowed by multiple phenomena operating simultaneously. Careful observation of cosmos may reveal some of the secrets of its laws.
  1. It is not simply ``watching". For example, if you watch a movie, it would be meaningless exercise if you can not narrate its script or story or or meaning later. What a pity it would be, if someone had to watch Deewar or Kaala Pathar, and not remember the actor who made it all so watchable.
  2. One observes with patience. It takes all your drive to be still, and observe a hummingbird in flight while sucking nectar
  3. The devil is always in detail. One has to remember endless nights of observations by Tycho Brahe, whereby positions of Mars were known to such an accuracy, that Kepler could have one, and only one hypothesis satisfying them. One can also remember astute, and precise observations by Charles Darwin or Marie Curie.
  4. One must isolate a phenomenon and observe it away from influence by other factors involved. This sounds like, one has to know a phenomenon beforehand (to isolate it) before observing it. That is true to certain extent. In this regard, science progresses by one step at a time.
There are many exercises from our daily lives which would teach us the power of observation. An incomplete list goes as below.
  • Ants path to/fro sugar
  • Fish and their internal organs
  • Microscopes and micro-organisms in water
  • Plants grow steadily everyday, photograph a plant inside your house from the same angle over a month and make a movie.
  • Magnets and compass: migratory birds fly using their internal compass.
  • Beetles, butterflies and their colours
  • Melting ice, and freezing water.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

LOFAR first light !

Our telescope has been shown to be completely operational. The electronics worked all in parts, then they conducted tests of individual antennas, measured their responses, then they connected all of them to a massive super-computer.

The voltages from all the antennas are combined locally to 'form beams' and pass on the data to the super-computer, where a program does the job of a traditional 'correlator'. It basically compares (correlates) voltages from one reference antenna with other antennas. That tells us about structure of the astronomical sources, akeen to images of the source. We can also just add up signals from all antennas, say to observe a pulsar, where all the separate antennas will act in conjunction like a single large dish.

Follow the LOFAR on twitter...

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Lesson for my child : Curiosity

Humans are curious about variety of phenomena in our daily lives: rains, fires, hurricanes/ storms, waves, tides. It also applies to things that we can not experience using our senses: clear sky, ocean depths, stars, Sun, Moon, etc.
  1. Throughout their existence humans all over the planet have asked questions about things that were around them: their surroundings, our planet, the cosmos, the origin of all the things, and where were all going to end. वेद, or the Vedas called them पंचमहाभूत, or the five elements: Earth, Water, Fire, Wind, and Sky. Everything is made of them. It is not important if Vedas were correct or not, what matters most is that, humans thought of the cosmos. The surrounding natural elements and cosmos on the larger scale made an impact on those early Hindu thinkers.
  2. Those Hindu thinkers related various phenomena as manifestations of those five elements. This is characteristic of humans: we relate seemingly disparate phenomena using fewer logical elements. At one level, we should understand that those associations are not real, but they allow us to comprehend phenomena in an organized manner; and if the exercise is successful, we can predict certain things using those associations.
  3. Curious human will observe and think about apparent patterns. This is most crucial for the survival of species: food resources, predicting natural phenomena (predicting tides is crucial for fisher-folk, rains are important for farming).
  4. This curiosity also leads to betterment of lives:
-- waves/ tides and fishing
-- rains and paddy farming
-- diseases and micro-organisms

Here is a true story of a Goan boy who was bitten by a snake. The snake was of harmless kind, although very similar to poisonous adder snake in its appearance. A Tantrik was summoned by parents to `cure' their boy of the poison. No wonder, the boy was fine after the Tantrik performed his rituals. It so happened that the boy was bitten by a snake again, however, this time by a real poisonous adder. His parents preferred the Tantrik once more, however, all his rituals took precious time away. The boy died the next morning.

The story is important, in that one has to be curious and understand that poisonous snake alone cause harm. As far as we can make out patterns on the snake-back, we are safe, else we face grave consequences. The same goes for the rest of the nature.

Life is precious and there are no guarantees. However, curiosity and learning allow us to survive in this world better, and also make it a richer experience.

Friday, July 03, 2009

What I want my child to know

I hope to be a father soon. As a good father, I would present the best part of me to my progeny. Apart from my genes, the best thing I can pass on to my child is what I learnt in my long education in my life so far. It is the rational/ scientific thinking and attitude, along with the self-awareness, that identifies humans.

In a series of posts, I will now outline my thoughts on scientific thinking and self-awareness. One day my child would read this, learn something, and perhaps laugh.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Coherent Dedispersion

Our code to remove dispersion effects from pulsar time series is now in its 5th revision. The major changes are:

1) the code reads one period of pulsar in small chunks of 32k samples
2) the chunks are dedispersed and smoothed with a factor = 4096
3) smoothed chunks are appended to the final time series.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Going Dutch !

I have now shifted my base from BITS-Pilani, Goa Campus (in India) to ASTRON, the Netherlands. It is quite a change. This blog should reflect that change in a big way. For now, there are two things going on simultaneously: pulsars (single-pulse work and coherent dedispersion) and shell search.

You will find me blogging here extensively on these in the coming days. The personal posts are on my other blog, The Laughing Buddha.

Monday, March 30, 2009

PPV maps details

Equations for the position to velocity (PPV) cubes were computed for a 3-D cube of density with its center (point P) at a given distance (d) from Sun (S). Here, by data convention, Y axis is along the line of site (SP).

For any pixel in the cube (point Q), the line of site SQ would then subtend an angle wrt the center (SP). Let Q' be the projection of Q on X-Y plane, therefore, SQ' has projections of x & y along the two axes.

We can then relate R0 (= CS = distance of Sun from Galaxy's center), R ( = distance CQ'), distance d (SP), and distance d' (SQ') through other quantities and angles (such as longitude= angle CSP).

The projection of relative velocity between S & Q' (due to galactic rotation) is added to the projections of the pixel velocities (vxx, vyy and vzz). Doing this for each pixel creates the cube "v_los". We sort the pixel values falling in different velocity bins, and make velocity maps of width 1 km/s.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Simulations: PPV maps ready

  1. Testing with 10x10x20 cubes
  2. PPV maps seem to be all right.
  3. Will now test on the desktop with full limits put in.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

MHD Simulations: PPV maps

  1. Read density, vxx, vyy,vzz cubes
  2. Compute pixel (radial) velocities due galactic rotation
  3. Add components of vxx,vyy,vzz from individual pixel values.
  4. ERROR in writing the files in PPV files

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

MHD simulations

Miguel has asked for the latest in MHD simulation cubes. so, i have read data with Python, instead of C++. it is a lot faster to write the code and test it. it is also to process and update.

  1. Read the density array: split the lines in parts
  2. Store the data in density_data[] and reshape it.
  3. plot select slices along z, and they are okay.
  4. Now read density and velocities.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

flucatuation analysis: easyGUI

  1. The program menu now has a comprehensive logical structure. There will be text files holding menu data.
  2. Program reads menu (text) files and records pulsar parameters as read from the data file. These can be later used for various analyses.
  3. The main menu leading to average profile in a sub-menu "fold menu". There wiill be plot menu on all such sub-menus.
  4. I can now display pulse sequence and zoom in on the chosen sequence area.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

fluctuation analysis: EasyGUI

EasyGUI is god-sent

  1. I can display various options in a menu window and ask the user to click and choose.
  2. I can choose the data file and read it.
  3. I can plot the average profile

All this in 3 days work. Python is getting better every day.


Friday, March 06, 2009

fluctuation spectral analysis

  1. We can now read PPR data from Gauribidanur and UTR-2, YEY!!!
  2. The problems in LRFLUC are ignored for the moment.
  3. We will now consider to write a suitable GUI. The only candidate (simplest to work with, and most basic to be found on all Python installations) is 'easyGUI'
you try it too.


Tuesday, March 03, 2009

fluctuation spectral analysis

  1. We read Arecibo data
  2. We obtain a 2-D zoomed single pulse data as an image (intensity on 3rd axis)
  3. We take 2-D FFT
  4. We fold the FFT to obtain an equivalent of LRFLUC, and it does not work properly.

Friday, February 27, 2009

fluctuation analysis

  1. Average profile zoom works:
we use Matplotlib window (ginput) to read click location.
two clicks are used to mark pulse window.

Monday, February 16, 2009

fluctuation spectrum analysis

I am writing Python code to analyse single-pulse data from radio pulsars. The idea is to make polar maps from fluctuation analysis.

  1. I can read data from Arecibo
  2. display average profile, and
  3. plot single-pulse sequences from the file.