Jayant V. Narlikar

Jayanti V. Narlikar

Jayanti V. Narlikar

Jayant V. Narlikar

A witch, a barber & a paradox

Man likes to think of the human species as the most intelligent on Earth. The way we think, the way we reason, the way we reject alternatives that do not fit with logical thinking, all these assumed properties are used to justify the statement that man is a rational animal.

Footprints, shadows and reality

Over the last four-five years the world of fundamental physics has been revolving around the concept of the so-called Higgs Boson (HB hereafter), a particle whose media-favourite name is “God’s particle”. To look for this particle, CERN (European Organisation for Nuclear Research) in Geneva, the most advanced laboratory in the world for experiments with very high energy particles, has been desperately carrying out particle collisions.

Light traveller

H.G. Wells’ story on time travel makes very interesting reading: but does it touch reality at some stage? Is it possible for someone to travel into the past or future given a suitably designed vehicle? In an article in this series (Who is faster… you or light?, November 23, in this newspaper), I had referred to the limerick about Miss Bright, who travelled faster than light and managed to get into the past.

A planet that never was

In the summer of 1991 I was in Buenos Aires, attending the triennial General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union, briefly and more frequently referred to as the IAU.

Names in stellar frames

A few years ago there was considerable excitement in Maharashtra, at the news that one of its distinguished and revered poets had been honoured by his well-wishers by having a star named after him.

Rolling super-eyes heavenwards

When Galileo Galilei first turned his homemade telescope towards the heavens little did he realise that he was initiating a revolution.

Seeing is believing? Not always

We tend to rely on our eyes as reliable witnesses of events taking place before us. In contrast to the information conveyed by other senses like ear or nose, we trust what we see. There are glitches in this reasoning, of course. The curved mirrors in the hall of mirrors of a fair present us with our distorted images, which we know to be far from reality. Travellers across hot deserts see illusions of water reservoirs reflecting images of trees. These mirages are caused by the bending of light as it travels down from the source towards the sandy base, the bending being caused by refraction of light travelling through successively hotter, and hence less dense, layers of air. This bending ultimately leads to reflection of light and hence to the illusory presence of water.

Black holes & bureaucracy

The Bhagavata Purana carries the story of King Kukudmi who had a beautiful daughter called Revati. Several young men aspired for her hand and the anxious father wanted to make the right choice. At last he decided to consult a wiser brain, no less than Lord Brahma. He took his daughter to see Brahma. As Brahma was busy with some work, he asked the king to wait for a while. And sure enough, after waiting for a few moments, Kukudmi was admitted to the presence of Brahma.

Chasing an elusive particle

When one year ends and another begins, that is an occasion to take stock of a field in order to see where we are and which way are we headed. In mid-December last year, I attended an international conference on gravitation and cosmology held in the pleasant surroundings of Mobor beach, Goa. It is perhaps a testimony to the interesting subject that the conference rooms were well filled despite the lure of the beach.

The science of plagiarism

When I returned to India after an academic career in Cambridge, England, spanning 15 years, I was entrusted with an enquiry into a case of accusation of scientific plagiarism.

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I want to begin with a little story that was told to me by a leading executive at Aptech. He was exercising in a gym with a lot of younger people.

Shekhar Kapur’s Bandit Queen didn’t make the cut. Neither did Shaji Karun’s Piravi, which bagged 31 international awards.