On ghosts and darkness

Photo: P. V. Sivakumar

Photo: P. V. Sivakumar  

FRENCHMAN DR. Richard Taillet believes he is a creation of the Big Bang. As such his obsession to study the universe is natural.

When the 32-year-old astrophysicist is not in Chile to date stars, he composes music for Baba Yaga - a home-band with whom he jams to get a few stars off his head.

In the city recently on an invitation by the Alliance Fran�aise of Hyderabad, Richard deliberated on his pet subject - `dark matter', and how it is still masked in utter darkness.

A 10-year-long research on the same has made him somewhat an authority on these matters.

Beginning with a candid confession, "I have arrived nowhere," the assistant professor at the University of Savoie, France, adds, "But there is dark matter up there."

Elucidating the hypothesis of the presence of some non-luminous form in the universe, he says, "One main evidence is the dynamics of galaxies.

The velocity at which they circle the other defies gravitational action, which compels one to believe that there is more `invisible' mass to the galaxies than has been found. And that comprises dark matter."

Taillet's work mainly focuses on brown dwarfs (planet-like objects, just not heavy enough to ignite fusion reactions in their core and thus failing to become stars) on the astrophysical side, and then on particle physics.

A large part of his work deals with estimating the possibility of detecting new particles in the galactic scale.

"But unfortunately, I have not been quite successful in establishing the hypothesis," he rues as he adds assertively, "But I have not given up."

In the process of the quest, Taillet, however, evolved as a scientist who could give general public-oriented popularisation lectures about any aspect of physics. An example of which was apparent in his recent lecture.

"I am quite sure as people left the Birla Science Centre, they knew more than when they came in," he beams confidently.

Having published more than 20 papers in international journals on astronomy and physics, Taillet says, "my quest is an itch, I have to keep scratching. My failure has strengthened my scientific pursuit."

Does that mean science can explain everything?

"Science just tells us the behaviour in relation to a mathematical model. There are certain things beyond the comprehension of any human mind. But, that should not be a deterrent for any chase."

As regards the experimental status of the hypothesis on `dark matter', perhaps, we are not on the right track, or maybe we are not observing from the particular angle we are supposed to observe. Or the scientific assumptions are slightly off beam, says the bespectacled scientist thoughtfully, in an answer to a query on God and `dark matter'.

"To me, God is just a feeling, and no more." What about ghosts? "Well. I have met several of them in my life. And I am the worst," the professor chuckles. So who do you think is Baba Yaga?


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