Skip to main content

Maarten Schmidt and Jayant V. Narlikar : An Astronomer's life.

Well, I guess, if I'm being pedantic, Dr. Jayant V. Narlikar is more of a cosmologist and Dr. Maarten Schmidt is the astronomer, I guess. Moving that aside, they are two heavy weights in their respective professions and we younguns have a lot to learn from them.

I came across this autobiography (of sorts) of Dr. Maarten Schmidt wrote for the Astronomy & Astrophysics Annual Reviews journal, It's a beautiful account of his professional life as an astronomers, where all he traveled for the job and a historical perspective on what many astronomical concepts we now consider to be set in stone.

While I read the earlier article a long time back, I am only now coming around to post it here because I read this other biography [1] of Dr. Jayant V. Narlikar and his work by one of his colleagues Dr. Naresh Dadhich. You probably know Dr. Narlikar as one of those scientists who came up with the steady state theory of the universe, you know that theory that competed with the Hot big bang model of the universe, till astronomers discovered the Cosmic Microwave Background radiation. The article gives a brilliant account of Dr. Narlikar's work with Dr. Fred Hoyle, one of the principle proponents of the theory. Going beyond that, the article talks about the other contributions Dr. Narlikar made to the field, contributions that the author feels were significant but weren't widely accepted or recognized. The article goes on to talk about how Dr. Narlikar was a profilic science communicator and how he took the astronomical community forward by setting up the IUCAA in Pune, India.

Looking at the bigger picture, I think it's important for us younguns to know not only know about the theories that an astronomer contributed but the life they led as well. Rarely is the life of an astronomer and his work discussed in the same context. In fact, it's true for most scientists I guess. It's important for us to understand that science is about coming up with alternative theories that can predict the present set of observations, not flocking with the rest of them and drumming one popular theory. It's about being vocal about a theory but not force it down a junior researcher's throat. Many a lessons to be learnt.

[1]. The article was published in Current Science, which you can find a copy of here.

Popular posts from this blog

Animation using GNUPlot

Animation using GNUPlotI've been trying to create an animation depicting a quasar spectrum moving across the 5 SDSS pass bands with respect to redshift. It is important to visualise what emission lines are moving in and out of bands to be able to understand the color-redshift plots and the changes in it.
I've tried doing this using the animate function in matplotlib, python but i wasn't able to make it work - meaning i worked on it for a couple of days and then i gave up, not having found solutions for my problems on the internet.
And then i came across this site, where the gunn-peterson trough and the lyman alpha forest have been depicted - in a beautiful manner. And this got me interested in using js and d3 to do the animations and make it dynamic - using sliders etc.
In the meanwhile, i thought i'd look up and see if there was a way to create animations in gnuplot and whoopdedoo, what do i find but nirvana!

In the image, you see 5 static curves and one dynam…

on MOOCs.

For those of you who don't know, MOOC stands for Massively Open Online Course.

The internet is an awesome thing. It's making education free for all. Well, mostly free. But it's surprising at the width and depth of courses being offered online. And it looks like they are also having an impact on students, especially those from universities that are not top ranked. Students in all parts of the world can now get a first class education experience, thanks to courses offered by Stanford, MIT, Caltech, etc.

I'm talking about MOOCs because one of my new year resolutions is to take online courses, atleast 2 per semester (6 months). And I've chosen the following two courses on edX - Analyzing Big Data with Microsoft R Server and Data Science Essentials for now. I looked at courses on Coursera but I couldn't find any which was worthy and free. There are a lot more MOOC providers out there but let's start here. And I feel like the two courses are relevant to where I …

On programmers.

I just watched this brilliant keynote today. It's a commentary on Programmers and the software development industry/ecosystem as a whole.

I am not going to give you a tl;dr version of the talk because it is a talk that I believe everyone should watch, that everyone should learn from. Instead, I am going to give my own parallel-ish views on programmers and programming.
As pointed out in the talk, there are mythical creatures in the software development industry who are revered as gods. Guido Van Rossum, the creator of Python, was given the title Benevolent Dictator For Life (BDFL). People flock around the creators of popular languages or libraries. They are god-like to most programmers and are treated like gods. By which, I mean to say, we assume they don't have flaws. That they are infallible. That they are perfect.
And alongside this belief in the infallibility of these Gods, we believe that they were born programmers. That programming is something that people are born wit…