Monday, March 30, 2015

Interstellar & India

This follows the recent attempts by nationalistic forces to claim that India had had a wonderful scientific past, where they were experts in building flying machines and plastic surgery, among other things.

Take heart. India also has a wonderful future in science, if you want to believe Christopher Nolan’s bleak version of the future as a world on the verge of collapse. As the film begins, in the bleak, dust-filled world, where ‘we did not run out of TV screens but food’, the Indian Air Force fly drones, powered by solar batteries, on American soil, and no one seems to be complaining. These flying machines are so coveted that it forces our hero, Coop, to follow it thought the corn fields, even with a flat tyre. He wants to capture the drone because its solar cells can power an entire firm. Later, he gushes, “…That’s a surveillance drone, with outstanding solar cells. It’s Indian…”

As an Indian, you should be proud.

As I watch ‘Interstellar’, and the characters talk about relativity, I am wondering if our Indian sages, who wrote those mystical stories in their holy books, knew something about Einstein’s Relativity Theory as well. Let me explain.

In the movie, three astronauts leave the mother ship to explore an unknown planet near a black hole. They leave one astronaut behind. They spend a less than few hours in the hostile planet filled with knee-deep water body and mindboggling waves. And when they return, 32 years have already passed by, and their colleague, who was left behind, is now an older man, while our brave astronauts are still young.

I am remembering a story I read a long time ago. I think it was a legend about the building of the famous Jagannath temple in Puri, I am not sure. Anyway, the story goes like this.

… there is an interesting prelude involved a deity called Neela Madhab, a Brahmin married to a hunter-chief’s daughter and a handful of mustard grains… we will skip that.

Finally, the king built the temple. It was so magnificent that he was not sure if there were any worthy man who could be the first to offer puja in the temple. Then Narad, the celestial messenger, appeared before the king and suggested that he should invite Lord Prajapati, the creator, himself to inaugurate the temple. The king readily agreed. Narad agreed to show the way. The journey was quick. The king met the white-haired god and stated his business. Lord Prajapati was happy to oblige.

They returned to earth on the same day. Yet, once they landed, everything had changed. The temple was now in ruin and his once so glorious kingdom was a thick growth of forest.

It was then Narad said, like the Dr Brand character says in Interstellar: “This is relativity. I knew the theory. But I was not prepared for this…”

Because one day in Brahmalok, the abode of Lord Prajapati, is equivalent to 108 yugas or ages of man. This is very complex relativity.

I wonder if those sages who told this story knew about the concept of time and gravity and how it works, or was it just flight of fancy and happy coincidences.

For a similar story and a lively discussion following Interstellar can be found HERE.

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