Unimaginative India

A good writeup by Parsa Venkateshwar Rao Jr on the sheer neglect of Science in India.

Everything about the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at the European Nuclear Research Centre (CERN) in Geneva is big. The money spent on the project — $3.8 billion — is big. Thousands of scientists, thousands of instruments are part of this mega project.

The 27-km tunnel is the longest for a project of this kind. The instruments which line the tunnel are a few thousand in number, especially the super-sensitive, super-precision magneto-detectors which are key to the success of the super-duper experiment ever in theoretical physics. It is here that Indians make their dramatic appearance, though it is kind of a bit role in the lavish drama. Fifty per cent of those magneto-detectors have been engineered by Indian scientists, right from conception to execution and installation.

What is overlooked in all this number crunching of the elementary kind is that beyond the big budget, big site-laboratory, big instruments and big teams of scientists is that it all stems from a big idea — what is the source of the universe. Without the pioneers’ passion to cross the frontiers of knowledge, to go back to the ancient beginnings — now reckoned to be approximately 13.7 billions years or so — the whole enterprise would be a titanic empty shell.

Consider what nuclear means for most informed Indians? It just brings to mind nuclear power, nuclear bombs, nuclear medicine, not necessarily in that order. But very rarely would it also connote in the minds of these people the teasingly infinite, infinitesimal universe of sub-atomic particles.

Indians will be able to cross this mental frontier if they can stop thinking of science in terms of its utility, in terms of visible technology and its benefits to India.

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