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  • Now playing SpaceCollective
    Where forward thinking terrestrials share ideas and information about the state of the species, their planet and the universe, living the lives of science fiction. Introduction
    Featuring Powers of Ten by Charles and Ray Eames, based on an idea by Kees Boeke.
    "The Ghost In The Model"

    This workshop is not about what we know about the universe and how it came to be; its about the things we do not know. We live in a time of increasing uncertainty, so it would be nice to know what exactly we are so uncertain about. This workshop will cut across areas such as astronomy, nuclear physics of elementary particles and cosmology. We will leave you with questions, not answers.

    We will focus on one very specific aspect of physics - the strange elementary particle known as the neutrino. This particle will take us from the miniscule phenomenon in subatomic space to the vast reaches of exploding galaxies. Anyone who is curious about such things can join, you don't need to have a scientific background. You will find the registration details at the bottom.

    How does this course actually work?

    Our workshops enable a soft entry into subjects which are normally considered too advanced for a curious beginner. It is designed to cater busy, working people with no background in science or mathematics. People who are curious about things like 'dark matter', 'the god particle', 'the E8 theory of everything' or 'black holes' have come to the right place.

    To accommodate everyone, we do not use complicated formulae or jargon, but mainly introduce the underlying concepts in plain language (English only). The subject we have chosen for KNK102 is “neutrino astrophysics”, because we think it is very new, exciting and increasingly central to cosmology. Our subjects are highly advanced, but our presentation is accessible by anyone from a college student to a tenured scientist.

    The workshop is conducted through a temporary Google group mailing list, to which you will be added once you register. Over 10 weeks, we will post roughly 12-15 interactive lessons, which come with certain questions and exercises (often in the form of puzzles). Sometimes there are no exercises, just a discussion or debate among the participants over email on a chosen topic. Depending on the interest level, the volume of mails fluctuates. I (the Convener) post lessons slowly, and the participants are expected to devote at least a few hours each weekend. That's the minimum requirement. Some people prefer to just receive the material and read it and never interact because they are too busy or shy, which is understandable. Some people remain active throughout, and I honestly feel that they benefit more. Most of the crowd for the last workshop ( KNK101: The Language of Symmetry) came off Twitter, but that's because I'm very active on that network.

    So why the focus on neutrinos?


    Neutrinos are the smallest known particle in physics, but their impact is probably the largest. It is suggested that the total mass of neutrinos exceeds that of all other matter in the Universe. They are all around us, but invisible and whizzing by right through the atoms within us. The atom is a fairly empty place – if the atomic nucleus is like a tennis ball ( 6.35 cm diameter ) you will find the first electron orbiting at a distance of 6.35 km! A neutrino is rarely noticed as it crosses this vast emptiness at speeds near that of light.

    They are one of the main reasons that the very complete and successful theory of particle physics - known as the Standard Model - started cracking at the base. Not only did neutrinos play a defining role in the creation of the universe, according to the Big Bang model, they continue to do so today. Neutrinos from the sun and collapsing stars (supernovae) may even have a significant affect on the earth's atmosphere, geophysics and therefore Life. If you study neutrinos, you are studying both the smallest world of elementary particles, and the largest world of astrophysics and cosmology.

    I can't do math and I don't know anything about physics. Can I do the course? Do I need a calculator?

    You at least need to know the math they teach in high school. Not calculus or trigonometry, but just basic concepts like powers of 10. Physics involves astonishingly small and large numbers and you need to be comfortable with that. We provide visual aids wherever necessary.

    Can I take up physics as my profession after this workshop?

    This is not a university and we do not offer certificates, so you can't expect a job in physics after this workshop. It's more like a gateway drug; once you have done this you can learn a lot more on your own. If you are creative and persistent enough you may even be able to turn this into some sort of self-employment like I'm trying to do.

    It would be nice if you can get the people who have attended KNK101 also to share their experience briefly.

    The last workshop included an architect, a writer, an advertising professional, a medical student, engineers - people from diverse backgrounds. Here are the testimonials (this section will be updated as more come in) from some of the 20 people who attended “KNK101: The Language of Symmetry” quoted with their handles on Twitter. Often they refer to me by nicknames Fadereu or Zolt: -

    @MullerianDuct (Tushar, India) : I was one of the participants of KNK101. Fadereu is a brain par-excellence. He can really explain even the toughest of concepts in a very lucid manner. I had studied Mathematics last some five years ago in my high school until I was exposed to Group theory in KNK101. I won't say I could grasp everything but I was satisfied with what I did. One thing that I did for the first time in my life was to infer a concept on my own and deduce something different based on practical approach. The joy still remains. I want to join KNK102 very badly but being busy a little and not devoting my fair share of time won't satisfy my soul. Cheers!

    @mthing (Jeremy, USA) : KNK101 was a great experience. The modules were a well-balanced blend of historical context, theory content, group interaction, exercises, and puzzles. Class participants were from a broad range of backgrounds and math experience, but there was something for everyone in each lesson. It's been over a month since the course ended, but I'm still thinking about aspects of the material daily and reviewing the exercises and discussions. Without a doubt, this was a unique opportunity I'm glad not to have missed - collaborative learning in a guided workshop form like this is something I truly believe in, and hope to see more of in the future.

    Leonora Pinto (India) : Rohit has a great way of getting you to think about complex theories and thoughts in an intuitive way. It’s how learning should be, but rarely is. KNK101 opened my eyes and mind to things I had an interest in and liking of, but never really grasped. I still don’t completely get it – I doubt anyone can really ever completely get the forces that make the universe work – but I have a slightly wider and deeper understanding of them. Now, they don’t just boggle my mind, I know WHY they boggle.

    What is the registration process for KNK102?

    You just have to pay the fee which is Rupees 3400 (or USD 85 / GBP 50). College students can avail a discount of 50%. We accept cheques and transfers within India and only direct bank transfers from other countries. We do not have a Paypal facility, unfortunately. For details on how to pay, or if you have any questions, contact me by email: fadebox(AT)gmail.com . We start on May15, so please hurry!

    What if I can't register for this workshop for some reason, but still want to know more about this subject?

    There is a lot of material on the Internet, but it will probably take some time to find the right stuff. I do post links frequently to general interest articles on my twitter feed ( @zoltananda ) , so you can follow me, or just ask me for pointers. Always happy to help.

    Who are you anyway?

    My name is Rohit Gupta, and I am based in Jaipur. An independent mathematician-physicist who conducts collaborative workshops for artists and lay persons in advanced sciences for a living. I finished a B.Tech in Chemical Engg. from IIT Kharagpur in 1999, but after that I am largely self-taught. I had also put up some information about myself during the last workshop.
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