I was surprised to read certain statements that were attributed to the Executive Secretary of the Karnataka State Council for Science and Technology (KSCST), M. Prithviraj (“‘Superstitions can have scientific background’,” some editions, March 1). According to him, “eclipses, especially solar eclipses, can produce lot of radiation that reaches the earth. Cosmic rays that are created at this time can enter food.” Even a secondary school student knows that a solar eclipse occurs when the moon casts its shadow on the earth when the earth, the moon and the sun are aligned in a straight line on a new moon’s day. How can this phenomenon produce radiation?
During the total solar eclipse of 1980, I monitored the cosmic ray background radiation in Surat where the eclipse was slightly less than total. There was no change in the cosmic ray level during the eclipse compared to the levels before or after the eclipse. In fact, I was looking for a possible decrease which was not there. One of our colleagues in the university brought along Gujarati snacks to savour during the eclipse. It is a tragedy that the official occupies an important position and is in turn using it to propagate superstition.
People like Mr. Prithviraj should know that the moon actually blocks radiation from reaching the earth during an eclipse. And, if there could be harmful rays emitted during an eclipse, which no scientist believes, there should be more of the same outside an eclipse! I am yet to see a restaurant discarding eatables that were left there waiting to be eaten before an eclipse. Have we really been able to cultivate a scientific temper in our society by observing Science Day? As a scientist, I have my doubts; its observance is only turning out to be a ritual.
Dr. K. Sinha,
The views of the official, with special reference to solar eclipses, cosmic rays, comets and yagnas are bizarre, hilarious and fanciful. It is a disservice to children and others to spread such views on a public platform, especially on “National Science Day.” I have been a professor of physics in Grenoble, France, and I find the dismay of Prof. Nicole Ostrowsky, who was at the Bangalore function, perfectly justified.