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Thursday, December 25, 2008

Leaps of imagination V.R.DEVIKA

As soon as I came back to Chennai I bought a copy of the Empire of the Stars. As I read it, Arthur Miller’s keynote presentation in the Imagination conference on “Art, Science and the Creative Imagination” came alive. “How can we use our creative imagination to visualise the invisible?” was Arthur Miller’s question. “I am fascinated by the nature of creative thinking; the mind’s ability to transform information from everyday experiences into the most sublime works of art, literature, music and science. Is there anything that links the thought processes of the world’s greatest artists like Picasso and the world’s greatest scientists like Einstein? And if so, what is it? Can it make us more creative?” This has been the subject of Miller’s research for several decades.


So how did he come to write the story of Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar? “As a teenager, I read Arthur Stanley Eddington (considered the greatest astrophysicist of his time). The sheer sweep of the subject was breathtaking and the language vivid and gripping. Chandra’s writings were inspiring in another way. They exemplified how a superbly gifted scientist could use mathematics to study the nature of stars. Yet the more I discovered about Chandra’s story, the more intriguing it became. As a young man growing up in Madras he had been a prodigy, recognised by many as a genius. Then he received a scholarship to Trinity College, Cambridge. It was on the way to England in the ship that he made his discovery about the fate of white dwarf stars. But to his shock, Eddington refused even to take it seriously and subjected him to public ridicule in a persecution that went on for years. I wondered what other great discoveries Chandra might have made if this had not happened.”


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