Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Independence day

A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history,
when we step out from the old to the new,
when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation,
long suppressed, finds utterance.

(Jawaharlal Nehru - Independence Speech 1947)

60 years. Independence. Partition. The largest displacement of humanity to ever take place in such a short span of time. It left up to a million dead bodies on the ground. A frontier like a wound, the land divided, irreparably torn apart, village from village, house from house. A farewell gift of the departing Raj.

60 years from the end of colonialism, today's India is marching towards the assertion of her position as emerging superpower of the world of tomorrow. As Nehru went on to say in that same speech "Freedom and power bring responsibility". Today's India has some of the best scientists in the world, it has the best software developers, it has nuclear weapons, it puts satellites in orbit and is planning a moon mission. Power and responsibility. The responsibility not to leave the rest of the nation behind, the part that struggles towards development. Responsibility towards its many minorities: the unity in multiplicity that is one of the founding pillars of the Indian nation.

We cannot encourage communalism or narrow-mindedness,
for no nation can be great whose people are narrow
in thought or in action.


The horrors of the Partition, immensely magnified in today's perspective by the concrete possibility of nuclear warfare taking place in the most densely populated spot on the Earth surface, make for the worst type of nightmare the modern world might envision. Yet we want to believe in a different future, one of peace and development, where the treasure of shared history overcomes and disperses the dark clouds of the recent past. Much as these words may sound rhetorical, they do have a very definite meaning.

Peace has been said to be indivisible;
so is freedom, so is prosperity now,
and so also is disaster in this One World
that can no longer be split into isolated fragments.


Taking the occasion of Independence Day to celebrate some Indian things, I want to mention a couple of Indian publishers who have been putting out a remarkable selection of really good research monographs in mathematics and physics in recent years. I am thinking in particular of Narosa (I reviewed one of their books in an earlier posting of this blog) and Hindustan Book Agency. Both publishers have been maintaining very high quality series of research level monographs.

Hindustan Book Agency

Given the general appalling situation with western publishers of scientific books, with prices spiraling out of control and quality not always matching the amount of money one is charged for the product, if you are thinking of publishing your research in the form of a book, please do consider these publishers!

In particular, I want to mention a book that HBA just produced jointly with the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research: the two volumes of the collected papers of M.S.Narasimhan, who is surely the most distinguished and influential Indian mathematician of the past half century. What immediately emerges, just by glancing through the table of contents of the book, collecting papers written in the period ranging from 1956 to 2001, is the broad vision of mathematics represented in these remarkable research papers. There are elliptic PDE's and algebraic geometry and the mathematical physics of gauge theories, and overall there is the feeling that high quality research is what matters and subdivisions and affiliations to specific subfields should bear no relevance compared to that. Narasimhan can be credited for having established the best school of mathematics in India, which competes on equal footing with the best ones in the world. His own research is inspiring and the papers collected here, resulting from his work and his many collaborations, are extremely pleasant to read. Highly recommended: get hold of this book!

Here's the full table of contents of the two volumes:

M.S.Narasimhan, Collected papers:
Editor: Nitin Nitsure
Hindustan Book Agency, May 2007, 884 pages
Hardcover, ISBN 81-85931-77-1 (2 Volume set)

-The problem of limits on a Riemannian manifold
-The identity of the weak and strong extensions of a linear elliptic differential operator
-The type and the Green's kernel of an open Riemann surface
-Variations of complex structures on an open Riemann surface
-Existence of universal connections
-Regularity theorems for fractional powers of a linear elliptic operator
-Stable bundles and unitary bundles on a compact Riemann surface
-Holomorphic vector bundles on a compact Riemann surface
-Stable and unitary vector bundles on a compact Riemann surface
-Manifolds with ample canonical class
-Vector bundles on curves
-Moduli of vector bundles on a compact Riemann surface
-An analogue of the Borel-­Weil-­Bott theorem for hermitian symmetric pairs of non­compact type
-Geometry of moduli spaces of vector bundles
-On the cohomology groups of moduli spaces of vector bundles on curves
-Deformations of the moduli space of vector bundles over an algebraic curve
-Generalised Prym varieties as fixed points
-Geometry of Hecke cycles
-Geometry of SU(2) gauge fields
-Polarisations on an abelian variety
-Fibres de 't Hooft speciaux et applications
-Projective bundles on a complex torus
-Maximal subbundles of rank two vector bundles on curves
-Survey of vector bundles on curves, Singularities, representation of algebras, and vector bundles
-­Linear systems on abelian varieties
-Squares of ample line bundles on abelian varieties
-Spectral curves and the generalised theta divisor
-Groupe de Picard des varieties de modules de fibres semi­stables sur les courbes algebriques
-Compactification of MP3(0,2) and Poncelet pairs of conics
-Rank 2 vector bundles on P4 with c1 odd and contact curves
-The Picard group of the compactification of MP3(0,2)
-Factorisation of generalised theta functions
-Vector bundles as direct images of line bundles
-Infinite Grassmannians and moduli spaces of G­-bundles
-Picard group of the moduli spaces of G­-bundles
-Hodge classes of moduli spaces of parabolic bundles over the general curve
-Hermitian­Einstein metrics on parabolic stable bundles
-A note on Hermitian­Einstein metrics on parabolic stable bundles
-A generalisation of Nagata's theorem on ruled surfaces