Tuesday, 20 January 2015

S.O.S (Save Our Science)

(Article written exclusively for India Today - Click Here)

No offense! But even Teletubbies looked more elegant than this.
The field of science and I have had a long, murky history indeed. Pardon me, but I don't seek to bedazzle the world with any remote signs of intellectual supremacy, gained by staring at dead cockroaches and frogs in formaldehyde-filled glass containers for hours at a stretch. (Hey biology, take that!)

Chemistry wasn't any fun either. It's kind of weird when the whole universe conspires to turn you into a sniffer dog, by making you smell colourful fumes gushing out of test tubes in order to determine whether the odour is pungent or not. Okay, I get it, Indian noses are trained to perpetually doubt their surroundings by sniffing for signs of gas leaks while asleep or awake, but that doesn't mean you start exploiting us by making us sniff test tubes.

Physics was all nice and good, until they started tricking us with questions like 
"a pendulum connected with a mass-less string hanging at an angle of 60 degrees from the horizontal is pushed and starts oscillating back and forth. Calculate and compare the change in angular velocity if it is done on the North Pole".

50 years down the line, when the planet is in tatters (if you remain alive or are reborn as Paris Hilton's Chihuahua for doing cartwheels to the temple and back every Sunday), do remember that in a world where polar bears and countless other creatures were facing extinction due to global warming, mankind chose to test pendulum velocities instead of saving them.

Recently, we had the prestigious 102nd Indian Science Congress in Mumbai where leading scientists were forced to do multiple face palms, thanks to some notable speakers and their creative outlook towards science.

Myth 1: Aviation conundrum 

According to Captain Bodas, a retired flying instructor, planes were first invented by Indians and not the Wright Brothers. And mind you, these were no normal jumbo jet planes. Besides moving forward and in reverse, they could even halt mid-air. Sadly, my friends, this technological innovation could not be passed down the ages and we have to make do with insignificant miracles like flying with emergency doors secured with masking tape or, as Air India calls it, "standard operating procedure".

Speaking of which, an upcoming Hindi movie Hawaizaada dwells on the same aviation myth which lacks evidence on all accounts.

Disclaimer: A bowl full of caramel popcorn may or may not have been shoved down my throat at the film producer's behest for plugging in the movie name here. Yes, those are the kinds of luxurious bribes I usually get.

Myth 2: Cow conundrum

My earliest memory of cows per se remains when I spotted them as a kid, smiling on the cover of cheese packs and milk bottles. They were white in colour with black spots, so aesthetically placed that you did not even need to Photoshop them. 

Being a Hindu, I have utmost respect for cows despite me having issues with their strategic equidistant droppings along roads. With the passage of time, I have come to the conclusion that the chances of landing your foot into cow dung is directly proportional to your efforts to avoid contact with it. For every three times that you successfully manage to avoid stepping on cow dung, a dropping from the pigeons above is rest assured. That's how karma works. 

What India truly needs is a driverless Google car, which avoids getting its tires over cow dung whilst navigating the roads. Boom! There you go Google, your next million dollar idea. Speaking of cows, Google, just in case you are filled with the "milk" of human kindness and feel like sending me my royalties, my bank account details will be made available on request.

At the conference, according to Dr Naik, bacteria in cows automatically converts whatever they eat into 24 carat gold. Quite a cool idea indeed. I can totally imagine a branded jewellery stall with a beautiful model holding a chainsaw, amidst a busy urban mall, with the hoarding "Cut the cow into two and win gold up to Rs 30 lakhs instantly". Before you know it, you shall be entitled to a "complimentary" beheading by local radical groups for offending religious sentiments.

Myth 3: Helmet conundrum

According to Mr Kiran Naik, two kings were fighting on Mars during Mahabharat and one of their helmets fell down; presumably, he was too busy Instagramming the moment and forgot to pick it up. When asked for evidence, he quickly retorted that if you Google "helmet in Mars", the picture shows up. It is with great sadness that I wish to inform you that after multiple attempts of Googling "Shaktimaan chilling with Kingfisher babes on Saturn", I was unable to come up with any such "scientific" evidence.

My heartfelt sympathies lie with all the other scientists who attended the event, seeking some thought-provoking discussions and analyses. Now, if you could please excuse me, I need to publish my research paper on the people of Ayodhaya doing the Gangnam style dance to celebrate Lord Ram's return from exile. Yes, I hereby declare that this dance form was invented in India, too. The Koreans simply aped us.
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