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The Being of Science by Vikesh Siddhu

We humans naturally have the tendency to pose questions in order to understand the environment around us. A small child always tries to explore his environment, he is persistently inquisitive, he tries to answer questions himself. When he fails in this quest, he consults his parents or someone who knows the answer to his questions. Through this fundamental process of questioning he analyzes, learns, understands and grows mentally. Science operates on this fundamental principle of questioning, exploring,understanding and growing. The development of human thought can be attributed to science. Nicolaus Copernicus propounded the mathematical model to prove the then controversial fact of the heliocentric nature of earth. This theory was rejected by the Catholic Church as it was contrary to the interpretation found in biblical references. Copernicus’ mathematical proof forced the Catholic Church and the world at large to take a different view on the subject and finally come to terms with reality by changing their interpretation of the bible. This development among others, greatly changed the philosophy guiding humans and their understanding of the world. Humans have evolved because they endeavored to understand the world around them and this led to the formation of civilizations. For example , the Indus Valley civilization pioneered methods of food storage, irrigation and town planning. It was the first civilization to understand the importance of science and apply it in ways that allowed growth and diversification. Science in India developed at an exponential rate during the Vedic period. Studies in mathematics contributed to such treatises as the Baudhayana Sulba Sutra that illustrated the modern Pythagoras theorem and gave methods to calculate square roots. The decimal system and “zero” were some great developments that took place during 1200 – 400 B.C. Great mathematicians like Aryabhatta and Brahmagupta made contributions to mathematics during this time.  Aryabhatta wrote the Aryabhatiya an epitome of maths and astronomy and Brahmagupta composed the Brahmasphutasiddhanta, a corrected treatise of Brahma composed in elliptic verse.
The combined progress in science from the Vedic period to the 17th century introduced India to phonetics, phonology, morphology, irrigation systems,suspension bridges, crystallized sugar, glass molding, diamond cutting, wootz steel, various types of fabrics like cashmere wool, jute, fine cotton and innumerable technologies that the west was still to see. Combined developments in science and a stockpile of resources gave India the name of Sone ki Chidiya that attracted the attention of the west. In fact this was one reason why Europe during the 17th century started exploring the world to find our great nation. In modern times developed countries understood the concept that developmentin the world, mental or physical, is a consequence of development of science. Initiatives were taken to develop science in many western nations during the 16th century.

Countries like U.K, U.S.A, Germany, France etc started developing science and slowly introduced their methods to the world which is now known as modern science. Countries that invested in science then, grew as economies and are now known as developed nations. The United Kingdom whose Sterling Pound is 65.70 times the Indian Rupee started its journey in modern science in 1660 when it formed the Royal Society. The Society worked in areas of basic sciences. It made public the experiments conducted by its experimental scientists and tried to remove misconceptions in the minds of people. Well known scientists who played a pivotal role in developing their respective subjects were associated with this body; Sir Isaac Newton, Joseph Banks, Robert Hooke, Sir Humphry Davy, Michael Faraday and George Gabriel  Stokes are just a few. They found a platform in the form of the society to showcase their work and today the society acts like a  research institute and has recently developed a recycled wind turbine. Countries like France and Germany produced large number of scientists between the 18th and 20th century. They saw great scientific progress during  these years. Scientists like Gustav Hertz, Albert Einstein, Max Plank, Werner Heisenberg were Germans who made contributions of epic proportions. Albert Einstein is known for the “theory of relativity”, photoelectric effect, and quantum mechanics. Werner Heisenberg presented Heisenberg’s principle of uncertainty, while Max Plank explained the transmission of heat through radiation mathematically.

The United States of America took a quantum leap and emerged as a super power after the 1940’s when it laid great emphasis on the development of physics in their country. Today developed nations like USA and UK allocate nearly 8-18% of their total budget to science and research. They have become hubs of scientific research and development. Similarly nations like China and India have recognized the importance of science and development. India has increased its budgetary allocation of science and education by a whopping 3.0% during the last five years, an increase that even developed countries find
difficult to attain.

India’s “tryst with destiny” has been guided onto the  right path because we have understood the present day relevance of science and in many ways are set to revive the glorious past of our country. The world at large has problems that  demand scientific solutions coupled with social solutions. The pressing issues today are the energy crisis, environmental degradation and medicine. Fossil fuels are depleting fast and countries need to find sustainable alternative sources of energy. Environmental degradation like depletion of the ozone layer, green house gas emission, global warming and the extinction of species are leading to breaks in the food chain which can have catastrophic results. The survival of human kind depends on the balance that we can maintain in our ecological system and environment. Practical solutions to such problems can only be found with the help of science. Serious biomedical issues like AIDS, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson also trouble humans at large, biologists are searching for cures to such diseases.

India’s foray and renewed interest in science can help find solutions to such problems. In order to make a better future, a future that experiences growth of a human race, a future that seeks prosperity and improvement in human thought, we must develop science whose branches ramify and finally form the complete tree of life.

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