METRO PLUS

Nothing without A REASON

Scientific curiosity can be inculcated at a young age.

Scientific curiosity can be inculcated at a young age.  

THIS MAY be an age of supercomputers and cloning. But it is also an age where vaastu determines where the door of your house ought to be placed and a section within the academic community is keen on including astrology as a subject of study in universities.

Amidst all this is an organisation that is trying to keep the scientific spirits high among the young — Breakthrough Science Society (BSS) — a non-profit organisation started in 1995. Among its members are teachers, engineers, scientists, and people from many other walks of life who share one thing in common, a scientific temper. Among its prominent members are Dr. Soumitro Bannerjee, faculty of IIT, Kharagpur, who is its General Secretary, and Dr. Kasturi Rangan, the Director of ISRO.

The society started its Karnataka chapter eight years ago. It works not only in Bangalore, but also in faraway districts such as Bellary, Raichur, and Gulbarga.BSS takes up social causes related to the area of science every now and then. Last year, it raised its voice against the Karnataka Power Transmission Corporation Ltd. (KPTCL) for turning to vaastu and astrology to solve the glitches at the Raichur Thermal Power Station. Representatives of the society submitted a memorandum to the KPTCL Managing Director, urging him to refrain from such moves and rely on scientific reasoning. The memorandum read: "It is shocking and exasperating to see a public-funded scientific organisation such as KPTCL kneel down before a vaastu expert instead of finding a scientific solution. These moves will only dent the already low scientific consciousness in our society." The other activities of BSS include organising lectures, debates, and awareness programmes. BSS organises lectures on various topics at Panchavati, C.V. Raman's ancestral home, every fortnight.

Rajni, a lecturer in Genetics at the SJM College for Women and an active member of the council in Bangalore, says: "We want children to learn to look at beliefs critically from an early age. We have organised six summer camps and hold talks and discussions for children." To dispel the superstitions built around the solar eclipse, they projected the celestial event on a giant screen for public viewing. "It is a shame that such a beautiful phenomenon is viewed with such cynicism," she says. Another workshop worth mentioning is the miracle-busting workshop held for students last July. The students were shown what tricks quacks and magicians play to project themselves as doctors and sadhus.

Says Ms. Rajni, commenting on the huge debate on including astrology in universities: "Astrology maybe an interesting subject for some, but to introduce it as a subject of science in a college curriculum, without enough scientific evidence to back its authenticity, is ridiculous."

AMISHA SHAH

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