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Science fiction & science friction

Science has grown thus far because scientists have always told us to ask the right questions about natural phenomena. And scientists have grown so far because we have been asking questions only about natural phenomena and not about man-made ones, including those about the personal riches of many scientists.

If only we had been equally inquisitive about scientists we may not have had the ludicrous situation of a few overzealous researchers claiming that the Himalayan glaciers would melt away in some distant years when in reality the world itself is going to end by 2012 as confirmed by Hollywood, which, needless to say, makes better stories on science than the scientists.

At any rate, Himalayan glaciers melting away by 2035 or even 2350 is not much of a problem to a large section of the populace that is already reeling under the effects of greenhouse gas that has led to acute shortage of tickets to Avatar, which is a science is fiction movie.

And as global warming worsens things are bound to get worse, triggering ‘strange natural’ occurrences including sticking together of different words. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a good example of the adverse effect of Climate Change. As of now only Inter and governmental are coagulated as Intergovernmental, soon, as the situation deteriorates, with the polar caps and words in upper caps melting, it will be intergovernmentalpaneloonclimatechange.

While the world gets down to question the scientists on the climate change fiasco, it would also do well to query them on the Pluto thing, as it is proving difficult to provide satisfactory answers to the imploring questions of my school-going daughter. ‘How can that which was a planet during Morarji Desai administration is no longer one under Manmohan Singh?’ is the gist of the inquiry. I have so far kept her quiet by saying that Pluto belonged to the Janata Party, which as everyone knows is defunct except in the universe that Subramaniam Swamy orbits. But suppose if Swamy switches over to some other party, the pedestal of science will naturally come crashing down. So before we decide on separate Telengana State it is imperative that we deal with this separate status to Pluto.

Why I rake up the Pluto issue is because the generation that I belong to —- now in the early 40s or late 30s — was brought up on a wonderful climate of scientific understanding and rational response. This was particularly evident when the Skylab threatened to come crashing down on these parts.

Now, many of you may wonder what this Skylab is. But back in the late 70s, when the Skylab was everyday news, we also didn’t know what it was. But by all consensus now, it was one of those things that scientists, just to keep themselves amused, had sent up in space, and that thing was said to be on a free fall in this part of the earth. If one word could precisely describe this cataclysmic crisis that was facing the humanity, then it has to be: Fun.

Understanding the severity of the situation —– an enormous and heavy ball of harmful metal was about to land on their heads, the Indian government came up with the most scientifically reasoned response: It put the police force on alert. Yes, the lathi-wielding policemen had taken position to encounter the huge object of fierce fire and a fearsome force over their heads.

I think this sensible strategy worked wonders; the Skylab eventually fell in a remote island (near Perth) where there was no presence of police.

But keeping the cops on their toes was just one part of the elaborate plan that the government had thought up. The main plank of their stratagem was, however, something stronger and stringent: Declaring holiday for days without end for schools and colleges. Yes, we the children of the 70s and 80s got several days of officially sanctioned leave from school with the rational aim of diverting the trajectory of the rapidly coming down Skylab to the distant environs off Australia.

Handing down holidays to educational institutions has, of course, been a time-tested workable ploy to combat any kind of crisis in Tamilnadu. Remember the times when the ethnic crisis broke out in the neighbouring Sri Lanka? Even as the Tamils were being butchered across the Palks Straits, the State government led by the redoubtable MGR knew that the best way to make the Lankan government stop the genocide was to close down indefinitely educational enterprises in Tamilnadu. Patently, this made the Lankan government to quake in their boots, and it could come out of this annihilation only recently, and the LTTE could be exterminated only as recently as 2009, that too when the schools were on here.

By 1984, closure of schools had evolved to be a trusted ally in tackling any kind of emergency eventuality. So when Indira Gandhi fell a helpless victim to the bullets pumped in by her own bodyguards in New Delhi, we students in Tamilnadu did not even wait for the government to declare holiday as we stayed away from school for so many days by which time even Rahul Gandhi had gotten ready for politics.

All things considered, holidays work, and that’s why we should try and save the world from global warming threat during the summer vacation. Long summer holidays to school students in Tamilnadu must deter Himalayan glaciers from melting. If for some unscientific reason this doesn’t look like working, we can probably send the scientists on a life-long holiday.

I think it would be a good start to save the world.

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