A black board, an array of books on the shelf and cartons of books serving as a dividing wall for the kitchen. This is the drawing room of retired professor of physics R. Ananthan. It doubles up as the meeting place for members of The Physics Society. The non-profit, voluntary organisation was started in 1971 when he was teaching Physics at D.G. Vaishnav College, with six of his students as members. Today, it may not be the most happening society but there is unstoppable energy in the 75-year-old Ananthan, who continues to simplify physics for students.

Hetells Liffy Thomas about his journey with the Society and why he wants to meet students.

“We do not want students who study only to get more marks. The Physics Society is a meeting place for knowledge-seekers to enhance their understanding of the subject by questioning or logical thinking,” says R. Ananthan, who quit his job in the Revenue Department to pursue M.Sc (Physics).

Until the 1990s, the Society was active with students from different colleges being the regular participants at its weekly meetings. “Many were attracted as I ask them intricate questions and go in-depth into principles. During good times we had around 30 students attending every meeting,” he recalls.

Things changed with the dwindling interest for pure science and mushrooming of engineering colleges and computer centres. “Ours is not a tuition centre so parents are not keen on sending their children. From college students we have even extended to schools, where every initiative of ours is free,” says Prof.Ananthan, whose favourite topic is mechanics.

For instance, C.S. Ravi Shankar, his former student, conducts sessions in schools on the intricacies of the subject.

The annual Physics Talent Test for students of Classes XI and XII is another significant activity of the Society. “The Test had even branched out to 17 cities, where it tests the knowledge of students beyond textbooks. Due to lack of resources it is conducted only in Chennai and Bangalore now. I want to take it again to more cities,” he says. Prof.Ananthan, who is planning to shift to Bangalore, promises to keep visiting Chennai. He is building a room in his house in Anna Nagar where a library of his physics books would be arranged. “I need funds and helping hands to carry forward our programmes. Plus, I want to meet students – that's the best medicine at this age,” he adds. Those interested may log on to www.physicssociety.com.

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Liffy ThomasJune 28, 2012

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