Here’s a club which makes science a fun-filled and thought-provoking weekend activity.
What is common to chaos theory, consciousness, social choice theory, ground water quality, real-time mathematical simulation, mixed traffic flow, herbal nano-medicine and bio-inspired material science? Well, all these and ‘everything under the sun in the name of Science’ take turns to get discussed threadbare at the Science Club, every second Saturday of the month. Debating Science may not list as a fun-filled weekend activity for many, but to scientists and science lovers who participate in it, it is an inspiring occasion they wait a whole month for.
While such open-house Science sessions are quite common abroad, they are quite a rarity in this part of the world. “Though many such clubs have been initiated here, they tend to falter and get disbanded over time. However, the Science Club has been going strong for over 12 years,” says M. R. Sridharan, the current convener of the club and a senior principal scientist at the Central Leather Research Institute. Scientists who have spoken at this club include stalwarts such as noted astrophysicist Prof. Jayant Vishnu Narlikar and Dr. Mathangi Ramakrishnan, among others.
But it is not just scientists who make presentations here. One session played host to a presentation on renewable energy by eight-year-old Vishal Anand! Having made a presentation, one can’t just walk away either. An animated but friendly debate follows. “So many questions weren’t put to me even for my PhD Viva,” remarks a bemused Valli Nachiyar, Prof. and Head, Dept. of Biotechnology, Sathyabama University, who presented her findings on degradation of synthetic dyes at the last session of the club.
Confluence of ideas
The Science Club is the brainchild of Dr. T Ramasami, a former director of CLRI and present secretary to the Government of India’s Department of Science and Technology. The idea was to provide a stimulating ambience for researchers and prospective researchers of diverse disciplines to meet and exchange ideas on cutting edge Science. Discussions between people of diverse disciplines do make these sessions merrier – and more productive.
“As scientists, we work in our niches along our own individual lines of thought. Sometimes listening to developments in other disciplines triggers ideas and solutions we are not exposed to,” says Sridharan. For instance, when Dr. N. Mathivanan, assistant professor, Centre for Advanced Studies (CAS) in Botany, University of Madras, made a presentation on the anti-proliferative ability of the indigenous medicinal plant Noni, among the listeners were Dr. Krishnakumar of Sankara Nethralaya. This discussion eventually led to collaboration between the Madras University and Sankara Nethralaya on using the Noni plant in fighting human eye cancer. “We succeeded in identifying a molecule that can be an anti-cancer drug, but more research is required and we need more funds for it,” Dr. Mathivanan says.
At a time when Science is turning super specialised and niche specific, this club gives people a sweeping and integrated scientific view on reality. Science Club sessions happen at one of these venues - the CLRI campus, Institute of Mathematical Sciences, the IITM campus, and the CAS campus at Anna University, and the directors of these institutes happen to be patrons of the club. After about three hours of food for thought, the session makes way for some food for the stomach, following which the club breaks up. But the scientific tempo and the ideas set in spate by the session linger on.
Those interested in making a presentation or just attending a session may call 97890 20501 or mail scienceclub2001 @gmail.com