PROF D.S. KOTHARI MEMORIAL LECTURE 2004, NEW DELHI
31-12-2004 : New Delhi
Physics and National Development
I am very happy to come to an institution where Prof. D.S. Kothari was a teacher, researcher contributing in the area of physics and was the first Scientific Adviser to the Defence Minister of India. I am indeed delighted to participate in the Kothari Memorial Lecture organized by the University of Delhi. I greet the vice-chancellor, faculty members, physicists, students, distinguished guests and friends. I was thinking on this occasion what thoughts I can share with you. The topic I have chosen is ?Visionaries and National Development?.
In the hour of crisis
You are all aware of the damage caused to our people their property and the disruption of normal life in the coastal area of Tamil Nadu, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Andhra Pradesh, Pondicherry, Kerala and many other coastal states due to the impact of Tsunami on 26 December 2004.
Apart from the emergency measures taken by the government for providing immediate relief and succor to the victims, I am getting large number of calls from noble hearted persons volunteering to provide all possible support to the affected regions in this critical time. On 27 December 2004, I received a call from Dr. Swaraj Paul that he would like to take care of all the needs of hundred children who are orphaned due to the Tsunami devastation. Similarly, in India the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) has taken a lead and mounted a programme for providing water, food, clothing, shelter and medicare to the victims of this nature?s fury. Simultaneously, the Department of Defence Research and Development (DDR&D) has mobilized a team for providing integrated supply of clean water, instant food, tents for living and medical team of ten doctors and five paramedical staff for on the spot emergency relief to these victims. I am getting number of e-mails and calls from many people living in the country and abroad about the way they can provide help in restoring normalcy and also long term support for the people who have been affected by the 26 December incident. This shows the presence of human values among our people when a danger is posed for the existence of mankind. The members of the University have to ask yourself what you can do in such a situation for bringing relief to the people and also what science can do to prevent such devastating occurrences in future. They can definitely contribute in the areas of prediction of earthquake on land and seabed.
The Seismologists have put most of their efforts in studying seismic variations and patterns of foreshocks and aftershocks. In certain countries, earthquakes have been successfully predicted using a noticeable increase in background seismic activities. If foreshocks can be recognized early, giving a timely warning can save lives of many people. The stages of a rising seismic activity include, building up of elastic strain along a fault, development of cracks, increase in stress, decrease in electrical resistivity etc. This theoretical series of events could eventually lead to a way to predict the occurrence of major earthquakes. The events are still theoretical and need much more data to make them useful enough for practical applications.
The Glorious Phase of Indian Science
In India, after independence, science and technology took a two-phase progress with the momentum created in 1930 the great five scientists of international repute gave the country the great confidence. They are Sir, CV Raman, Prof Chandrasekhar Subramaniam, SN Bose, JC Bose, Meghnad Saha, Srinivasa Ramanujam. This phase I consider the glorious phase of Indian science. The scientific foundation laid by them always triggered the later generations also.
The post-independence phase of Indian science and technology
All of you know, in history, any country resolves itself initially into a few stout and earnest and knowledge giants. Particularly I took interest to study lives of three scientists, as I was interested in their scientific technological leadership qualities that focused the relationship of S&T and development of the nation. In the history of India, there may be many but I was very close to these three great personalities for one way or other. They are founders of three great institutions. I worked in two of the institutions directly and one in partnership. Dr DS Kothari, a Professor in Delhi University was an outstanding Physicist and also an Astrophysicist. He is well known for ionization of matter by pressure in cold compact objects like planets. This theory is complementary to thermal ionization word done by Dr Meghnad Saha his guru. Dr DS Kothari set a scientific tradition in Indian defence tasks when he became Scientific Adviser to Defence Minister in 1948; He created a Board of Advisors to the Scientific Advisor consisting of Dr. H.J. Bhaba, Dr. K.S. Krishnan and Dr. S.S. Bhatnagar. Later the Board was renamed as Scientific Advisory Board with enlarged membership.
Scientists ? Soldiers Partnership
Prof Kothari realized that the main purpose of Defence Science Organisation was to serve the immediate and long term needs of the users. He repeatedly stressed the vital needs for the scientist ? soldier partnership. He made efforts to establish rapport with the chiefs of the three services. In spite of the deferring ethos of the academic environment Prof Kothari was able to establish extremely cordial relations with his Senior Service Officers at all levels who belonged to the highly disciplined hierarchical structure of the armed forces. In the first phase Prof Kothari identified the following eight disciplines for development: Operational Research & Ballistics, Explosives & Armaments, Rockets & Missiles, Naval technology, Engineering, Food & Life Sciences and problems posed by special adverse environment in the operational men and material. I would like to mention here some of these disciplines are relevant and functioning even today. Now I would like to mention two instances of how Prof Kothari applied his expertise in astrophysics to solve problems specific to defence. The first relates to the physics of ?Hollow charge? or ?shaped charge?.
When such a hollow charge is initiated by a suitable detonator the advancing shock wave makes the liner material to collapse conically axially and a very high velocity jet of the order of 7000 to 8000 m/s is formed. When this high velocity jet impinges on the armour it generates a pressure of the order of a million atmospheres. Under the circumstances the penetration becomes hydro-dynamic and results in penetration of a few charge diameters. This was approximately 3 diameters at the end of world war II. Today, with fuller understanding of the factors affecting penetration and with more powerful explosives like RDX and HMX, designs are available where a penetration of 10 charge diameters has been obtained.
Today we have several computer codes based on 2 and 3 dimensional analysis to predict the penetration capacity. But in the early 50s the theoretical understanding was inadequate. It was Prof Kothari who applied his theory of pressure ionization in condensed matter to the case of the Munroe jet, leading to a better understanding of the phenomenon of armour penetration.
The second relates to the fragmentation of bombs and shells on explosion. He showed that the same statistical theory can be applied, whether it be random fragmentation in star formation or the mass distribution of shrapnel from an exploding shell.
He established the Defence Science Centre to do research in electronic material, nuclear medicine and ballistic science. He is considered as the architect of defence science in India. His race continued and followed up with momentum working and contributing in the areas of strategic systems, electronic warfare systems, armaments and life sciences.
Dr. Homi Jehangir Bhabha
Now, let me discuss about Homi Jehangir Bhabha . He did research in theoretical physics in Cambridge University. During 1930-1939, Homi Bhabha carried out research relating to cosmic radiation. In 1939, he joined Sir CV Raman in IISc Bangalore. Later, he was asked to start Tata Institute of Fundamental Research with focus on nuclear science, mathematical science and established Atomic Energy Commission in 1948. Multi centers were born with his vision in nuclear science to nuclear technology, nuclear power, nuclear devices and nuclear medicine. These science institutions established multi technological centers, but basic science is the vital component.
Indian Space Visionary
Prof Vikram Sarabhai the youngest of the three and worked with Sri CV Raman in experimental cosmic ray. Prof Sarabhai established Physical Research Laboratory in Ahmedabad with Space research as focus. In later years he become the Director of Space S&T Centre. The SSTC (1963) started with launching sounding rockets for space atmospheric research. Prof. Vikram Sarabhai unfurled the space mission for India in 1970 that we should build Satellite Launch Vehicle capability, to put our communication satellites in the geo-synchronous orbit and remote sensing satellites in the polar orbit. Also, he envisaged that launch vehicles built in India should be launched from Indian soil. This one visionary thought led to intensive research in multiple fields of science and space technology. Many of us had the fortune to be part of Prof. Vikram Sarabhai's vision. Myself and my team participated in India's first satellite launch vehicle programme to put the satellite in the orbit. Today, India with her 20,000 scientific, technological and support staff in multiple space research centres, supported by about 300 industries and academic institutions, has the capability to build any type of satellite launch vehicle to place remote sensing, communication and meteorology satellites in different orbits and space application has become part of our daily life. Dear young friends, you have seen how visionaries of a nation bring about economic transformation and technological change. I would like you to emulate these visionaries, dream and work for transforming India into a developed nation.
Vision and the national development
These three Indian scientists, all of them physicists, started physics research institutions that blossomed into defence technology, nuclear technology and space technology. When I study deep into their knowledge and the vision, I believe they would have realized that science has to be pushed to political leaders. It is essential that technologies that give immediate benefits to the people directly or indirectly should be packaged and successfully put with our Indian political systems irrespective of which party they belonged. The three great institutions emerged with 20000 scientists spread in institutions all over the country. Another important message conveyed by these three scientists is that basic science is very vital for growth of technology and growth of scientific technological leaders.
Technological Development in the last Six Decades
What you have seen in science and technology in the last 60 years, the predictions and happenings are going at different rates and phases. What was impossible has happened and what is thought possible has not yet happened and it will happen. Particularly in the field of aeronautics, space technology, electronics, materials, pharmaceuticals, bio-technology, computer science and software products, the world has progressed to new dimensions and India itself is a part of these challenges. Indian bio-technologists with business houses will have opportunity of analyzing the available genomic data and lead to production of drugs for healthcare and early treatment. The bio research transforming into technology will lead to higher production of agricultural products. In the coming decades, we may see, as discussed in recent International Physics Conference, the birth of unified field theory integrating gravitational forces, electro magnetic forces and general relativity theory, space and time as functions. Young people may also see in their time, as presented in the book Future Revolutions by David Mercer establishment of habitat or industry in one of our planets or moon by human race. The world will enter into launch of solar power satellites through reusable launch vehicle (hyperplane) system to meet the electricity needs of the mankind in fifty to hundred years.
Technology and multiple dimensions
Technology has two dimensions. One leads to economic prosperity and the other creates the capability for national security. For the past 40 years, one way or other I have witnessed these multi dimensions of technology. For example, the developments in chemical engineering brought fertilizers for higher yield of crops while the same science led to chemical weapons. Likewise, rocket technology developed for atmospheric research helped in launching satellites for remote sensing and communication applications which are vital for the economic development. The same technology led to development of missiles with specific defence needs that provides security for the nation. The aviation technology development has led to fighter and bomber aircraft, and the same technology will lead to passenger jet and also help operations requiring quick reach of support to people affected by disasters. When nuclear science was born in India, in 1950s, India, in two decades, got nuclear medicine, nuclear irradiation for preservation of agricultural products, nuclear power and much later weapons.
Now I would like to discuss the technology which is knocking at our door and may revolutionize the life style of the future generation.
Technology through ages
Through out the last 120 centuries, unique cultures have come into existence due to advancement in technology. The first 118 centuries had a dominance of primarily stone, bronze & iron ages. The last two centuries have seen rapid development of chemical age. The advancements made in material science and technology gave the impetus for both nuclear and biological age to flourish. Succession of these technology periods has involved progression from simpler materials to more complex forms of science and engineering. We are today at the convergence of Nano, Bio and Information technologies. This age, I feel will create historical revolution and we must be at driver?s seat to contribute towards this societal change.
When I think of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, I am reminded of two personalities. First person is Richard Feynman, who described the concept of 'building machines" atom by atom in his talk at Caltech titled "There is plenty of room at the bottom". The second person is Eric Drexler, who wrote the book titled 'Nano Systems, Molecular machinery, manufacturing and computation".
Treatment for Parkinsons Disease
Recently I met Prof. Vijay K Varadan of Pennsylvania State University, US. He shared his experience on the possible line of treatment for Parkinson?s disease and Epilepsy. The primary symptoms in Parkinson Disease as you all aware are tremor or trembling in hands, arms, legs, jaw, and face, rigidity or stiffness of the limbs, slowness of movement and impaired balance. Prof Varadan has devised a wireless system for monitoring and control of Parkinson?s disease. The system consists of an implantable DNA insert in the head region for generating a pulse to the nerve system; controlled either by a modified pacemaker or smart hat. A Passive polymer based gyro sensors, which are implanted in the tremor location. The sensor gets the power from the Pacemaker and the Pacemaker then reads the tremor motion. The Pacemaker then generates the pulse in the implanted device in the head to control the tremor. This appears to be a promising line of treatment for such diseases. Prof. Varadan also has reported that the few patients affected by Parkinson diseases had a full recovery. This is an important area for Indian researchers.
India is well poised for the generation of solar energy in view of the continuous availability of sun shine through out the year. Installation of centralized solar photovoltaic systems, which can be fed to a grid, will be a long-term economically viable solution with added benefits of pollution control. Present solar cells have the efficiency of 13 to 15%. But the research effort shows that, with the advent of CNT/Polymer Composite Based Photovoltaic Cell, the efficiency of Photovoltaic cell will increase to 50%. This has been confirmed by Prof. Vijay K Varadan of Pennsylvania. This can pave the way for building mini 100 mega watt solar power stations in different regions of the country like Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu. The Delhi University should work in the area of developing high efficiency photovoltaic cells for such applications.
Conclusion : Creative Leadership
There are 540 million youth below 25 years in the population of a billion people. The nation needs young leaders who can command the change for transformation of India into a developed nation embedded with knowledge society. The leaders are the creators of new organizations of excellence. Quality leaders are like magnets that will attract the best of persons to build the team for the organization and give inspiring leadership even during failures of missions, as they are not afraid of risks. I have seen and worked with creators of vision and missions.
One of the very important ingredients for success of the vision of transforming India into a developed nation by 2020 is the evolution of creative leaders. I am giving a connectivity between developed India, economic prosperity, technology, production, productivity, employee role and management quality, all of which linked to the creative leader. Who is that creative leader? What are the qualities of a creative leader? The creative leadership is exercising the task to change the traditional role from commander to coach, manager to mentor, from director to delegator and from one who demands respect to one who facilitates self-respect. The higher the proportion of creative leaders in a nation, the higher the potential of success of visions like ?developed India.?
Now the question comes, in the present dynamic situation of India, will the creators of creative leaders emerge? Poetically, I can say that when the horizon is fully red or fully green, creator of creative leaders appear in the horizon. I believe and I am sure that this is the time, creators of creative leaders will emerge for eliminating poverty and diseases and establish a peaceful nation and there by the world.
My best wishes to all the members of this university for success in their missions.
May God bless you.