Category: Physics

human rightsPhysicsSocial Justice

The stateless quantum mechanics of Abdus Salam

A month back I watched a documentary on Abdus Salam, the first physicist from Pakistan to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics. During his lifetime, he made significant contributions to quantum mechanics and was awarded the Nobel for his development of theory of the electroweak interaction.

You can watch it on Netflix, here is a trailer

He was from Punjab, the region of my partner’s ancestors. Lately my partner and I have been talking through this sense of statelessness as a way of being. When the partition of India occurred in 1947, her grandparents had to flee Lahore — her grandmother and perhaps millions of others did not survive. My partner has survived “migration under duress” from Tanzania to Botswana and living in the U.S. as a permanent resident under an “evolving/devolving” immigration regime. Traveling on an African passport has brought me new insights on what exclusion and racism mean.

All that said, I have a deep lived compassion and empathy for the Abdus Salaam’s of the world. Salaam was a member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community. Pakistan refuses to recognize it as a legitimate branch of Islam.

According to the just passed Indian Citizenship Act, there are no Muslims in Pakistan who face religious persecution. So the defacement of Abdus Salam’s grave would, according to the act, constitute fake news. You can watch the Netflix documentary if you like and view a photo of the headstone. It is hard to square the fake news proclamation with 150 years of documented persecution.

The world seems in the process of canceling the right of refugees to basic claims on humanity. At this point, I don’t know what to do, other than proclaim, affirm and support the right of all humans to a country, to a place to call home, to the right to exist. Please remember Abdus Salam and the millions of people — mothers, aunts, children, scientists, cooks, farmers, hawkers and all — who today struggle to find a home.

Historically Black CollegesPhysicsComputer ScienceHumor

Mickens family laughter

I sometimes run into Dr Ron Mickens at one of my favorite Atlanta bakeries. Dr Mickens is a physicist who teaches at Clark Atlanta University (the featured image is a mural that hang in the entrance to the old CAU library). A few months ago he dropped some insights on how physicists allow their minds to explore the universe starting from simple, quirky, thought experiments. His musings always come with laughter and the earnest smile of a pure soul enjoying each moment on earth as if it were his first.

Today, I was a bit somber. We had laid our mother to rest just a few days ago. My soul ached. Sleep had evaded me last night. I stopped in the backers to pick up a treat for my brother. I was hoping Dr Mickens was there — I was hoping to pass on a call for papers to him.

He was there and was delighted to share stories of his son, who’d just recently gotten tenure at Harvard. Like father, like son, Dr James Mickens tenure post brought me some much needed chuckles today. As did this piece Slow Winter

You might enjoy this talk also

Nothing like cheerful Black excellence to raise the spirits!

inclusionPhysicsTechnology

Mothers of invention, a parting nod from Stephen Hawking

We learned of Stephen Hawking’s passing today. I learned that one of the technologists behind the assistive technology that amplified the continuous flow of so many of his ground breaking insights is Lama Nachman.

Her story and the implications for better assistive technology is fascinating.

We are both mourning the passing of Stephen Hawking and celebrating Women’s History Month in the US (wait, so that mean’s the other 49% get the rest of the year?). It reminds me of the legions of Joan Feynmans (her brother got the spotlight), Vera Sóss (other Erdös-1’s seem to get the spotlight — wait can we get an Anna Erdös number? ), Katherine Johnsons (took a while to get that spotlight), Maryam Mirzakhanis that are working away, far from the spotlight, building and unfolding the universe.