Tuesday, January 26, 2016

In Memory of Prof. Syed Twareque Ali

I write this post with deep sadness of losing a great mentor and friend, Prof. Syed Twareque Ali yesterday morning. I had invited him for EQuaLS8 for the whole of last week, not knowing that it had to end this way. He had been supporting EQuaLS since right from its beginning until now, for which we have even planned for the next EQuaLS.

Let me retell my own story of knowing him. I only knew of him by name in the beginning as far back as during my PhD studies on quantization. I believe one of his earliest papers that I have read is on systems of imprimitivity, coauthored with E. Prugovecki. He was among the selected individuals that I had kept on radar for my own study. Little did I know that I am going to meet him in person later in my life.

When I joined the Institute for Mathematical Research (INSPEM) in UPM in 2006, had the idea of continuing a lecture series that I have started in ITMA (Institute of Advanced Technology). I renamed the lecture series as Expository Quantum Lecture Series (EQuaLS). Among the earliest person that I had in mind of inviting is S.T. Ali; I was reading then his huge review article (co-authored with Miroslav Englis) entitled "Quantization Methods: A Guide for Physicists and Analysts", an article true to its name. The article itself has been cited more than a hundred times according to Google Scholar (and 45 times in the World Scientific database). Not having any connections with him before this, I hesitated in writing to him since I wasn't sure that I will receive a positive reply. Then on July 18, 2007, he wrote:

"Dear Prof. Zainuddin,
I am back in Montreal now and I am happy to let you know that I would be able to accept your invitation to come to your university and to give a set of lectures on quantization techniques, within the framework of your TSL Lecture Series 6. Since I would be in Cotonou, Benin (West Africa),
between Oct. 26 and Nov. 2, 2007, i.e., the week preceeding your meeting, I would have to make my travel arrangements relatively early, in order to get flights to the various places on the right dates. ..."

That was then a sure beginning of EQuaLS1 and his slides are still available here (we almost lose these webpages; I hope the future webmaster will keep these around).


At the end of EQuaLS1, he hugged me, saying something to the effect that I've started a good thing and it is always sad to see a good thing ended. We continued to correspond thereafter, particularly he was suggesting that Malaysia should try to host the well-known International Colloquium on Group-Theoretical Methods in Physics series during which the Wigner Medal and Weyl Prize are given (see the 2016 edition) and the sister event, International Symposium on Quantum Theory and Symmetries series (see the 2015 edition). This did not materialise (we did bid for them) unfortunately. I do get to participate in both events of QTS6 in Kentucky and Group-29 in Chern Institute, Tianjin with the help of Prof. Twareque Ali. Besides that, I had also asked my ex-M.Sc. student Nurisya to pursue her PhD under him. This brought us to closer contact with each other.

The next installment of EQuaLS, EQuaLS2 saw Prof. Twareque Ali participating voluntarily as a contributing speaker. His talk was on Coherent States and Bayesian Statistics based on his 2008 IOP paper. He had also helped me to get Paul Busch to be one of the invited speakers.


The next EQuaLS that Prof. Twareque Ali had participated was in early 2012 for EQuaLS5 in which he gave a set of lectures on "Coherent States: Theory and Applications". His slides are still available here.


Prof. Twareque Ali spent some time in the institute as a visiting scientist at the end of 2012, after which he became a speaker at EQuaLS6 which was double-billed as the 6th Asia-Pacific Workshop on Quantum Information Science (on quantum foundations). There he spoke on the work he did with Syed Hasibul Hassan Chowdhury on "Symmetry Groups of Two-Dimensional Non-Commutative Quantum Mechanics". I remembered how we had discussed on the problems of extending this to three or odd dimensions. This later led to the present research direction pursued by our PhD student Mohd Faudzi Umar on further models of non-commutative quantum mechanics, possibly interfacing with non-commutative geometry.


Fast forward to EQuaLS8, it is an event that Prof. Twareque Ali that essentially brought together speakers who came on their own travel expenses and without him, we will probably not be able to organize the event. He wasn't sure of coming in the first place but I kept on asking for him to come. He finally agreed to give a contributed talk on "Pseudo-Bosons, Complex Hermite Polynomials and Integral Quantization", which is also related to his previous work with Nurisya. For pics see here.

At the end of EQuaLS8, I told Nurisya that we should have a private conversation with Prof. Twareque Ali on possible future work and programmes with him and thus our dinner on the 24 January 2016. We agreed to have it in Seremban near where I lived. See the pics below.

There was no indications that he has any problems at the time of the dinner but I did notice he was relatively quiet. He mentioned that we should get involved in the ICTP Fellowship Programme (and I immediately pointed to Nurisya, given that I'm way too old). We ended the dinner discussion with possibility of doing projects with CRM. I mention that quantum information had revived interest in quantum foundations and was speculating the possible rekindled interest in quantization itself. He told me to write some of these ideas and my mind was already filled of thoughts of doing so. The time was about 10.30ish, and we waved goodbye to each other and told me that I should go to Montreal some time.

Our last discussion

It was just before 7am the next morning that Mr. Firdaus (INSPEM officer) rang me up about the bad news. My heart sank. He was scheduled to leave the hotel for his flight home that morning but he did not turn up. The hotel staff finally opened up his room to eventually see that he has passed away. My other half and I with my second eldest rushed off to Everly Hotel Putrajaya to see the situation. His body was brought to the Putrajaya Hospital until the final arrangements  to be made with the Canadian Embassy today.

"We surely belong to Allah and to Him we shall return". May Allah grant mercy on his soul and his contributions in science and in life in general be rewarded continuously.


YuSniZa said...

Innalillahiwainnailaihirojiun.. turut bersedih juga sebab pernah uruskan beliau as a scientist pelawat masa di INSPEM dulu. baik sgt orgnya.tak byk kerenah..

zwan said...

al fatihah..

Unknown said...

May Allah give him Jannah. He was an extraordinary Bangladesi.