Does India need science?

A lot has been said about India’s long-lost scientific heritage in the past few weeks. And it is also clear that anyone who dares to question people like Dinanath Batra will ultimately be sent to India’s equivalent of Siberia (if they are lucky)-otherwise the encounter specialists will strike you down with the Agni Shastra or worse. However, since most of the political, bureaucratic and educational elite of this country have a vested interest in keeping the population ignorant it is not surprising that people like the gentleman below are considered to be experts to be interviewed on prime time:

A related news item is here:

And there are those who keep forwarding that endless dumb list of fictitious achievements that 38 percent of medical practitioners in the US and 39 percent of NASA engineers are Indian. Worse still, often some ignorant person writes some rubbish and well-educated people keep forwarding it on their Facebook pages and elsewhere.

Remember the one about the person who was idiotic enough to stand up on top of a train and got electrocuted by the 25 Kv wires? Though there is some doubt as to whether this incident actually happened in Maharashtra as described,  but what is strange is that some semi-literate person wrote a long explanation as to how electricity travelled through a camera flash and electrocuted him. Stranger still is that this semi-literate trash went viral on Facebook and elsewhere, but no one seemed to realize that it is stupid to come anywhere near a high voltage line and that any metal object with or without a camera flash makes it even more likely that its holder with be electrocuted. The Railways have a regulation saying that their employees should not come within 6 feet of these power lines and should not carry anything which comes within 6 feet of these lines either. So what great new scientific theory is being propagated here? If even IIT students start supporting these weird theories on their Facebook pages then what can be expected from them in the real world?

A fairly good rebuttal of the junk emails about the greatness of India which have been going around for the past 20 years or so is in the book:

Among the conclusions is that some form of plastic surgery was indeed practiced in the ancient times, and that some important mathematical ideas like the zero did emerge from India before anyone else thought of it. Since astrology was considered important then (and probably still is) a lot of effort was made by the ruling elite of the time to encourage the development of astronomy and mathematics to meet its requirements. It might even be possible to prove that the formula for solving quadratic equations was first developed in India. Perhaps we may take some pride in things like this.

Anyway, apart from scientific experts like our friend Viswa Bandhu Gupta we have the police coming out with theories about the unfortunate Mrs Tharoor being poisoned by polonium or thallium. Many of you who are a bit familiar with crime fiction or even the better crime programmes on TV would know that the symptoms of these poisons do not seem to tally with other aspects of the case. If you are interested enough you can Google for “polonium poisoning” and “thallium poisoning”.

There are some rather weird things like the Litivinenko case in 2006 which you can read about. Frederick Forsyth has been quoted as saying the actual events are so strange that no publisher would accept it in a novel. Then there was the umbrella poisoning with ricin, courtesy of the Bulgarian secret service back in 1978. This is another example of the truth being stranger than fiction. And thallium and its compounds are widely used in industry and medical purposes in India, so forensic scientists here should be well aware of their properties.

I seem to have exceeded my normal length here, so I will touch upon some of these topics later.