September 20, 2019

Cosmic dust: Though it be but tiny, it is fierce!

We have always been intrigued by the origin of things; that of oceans, stars, planets, and even our own. Yet perhaps one of the biggest puzzles is the origin of the universe. This would probably explain why almost every civilisation that ever lived attempted to explain the existence of the universe and its nature. Galileo Galilei, the Italian astronomer, physicist and mathematician, wasn’t very optimistic when he said “The universe is irrelevant to study, because we will never be able to say anything about it”. Einstein, 350 years later, showed more confidence in the ability of the human mind, saying “The most incomprehensible about the universe is that it is…

March 28, 2019

Music of the Spheres

Humans have been in awe of the harmony of the heavens since times immemorial. Ancient Greeks believed that celestial bodies made music. In the clinging of hammers Pythagoras heard “a clue from God”, or so a folk myth goes. Stretching strings and plucking them, he discovered an intimate connection between mathematics and music, and that objects produced sound when in motion. He was thus convinced that planets moving in orbit should be humming a heavenly tune, and he sought to find the astronomical harmony of the cosmos.   In our modern times, another polymath longed for a similar fulfilment. In 1926 Arthur Eddington, an English astronomer lamented in his book The…

February 27, 2019

Catching Up With a Girl Left Behind

Sputnik launched just as I started elementary school; the first astronauts landed on the moon soon after I finished high school. I watched the story of our first space age unfold on our old black-and-white Philco TV as CBS news anchorman Walter Cronkite deftly narrated events that held me enraptured. What kid growing up during this heady time wouldn’t want to be an astronaut? Sadly, girls of my era were not allowed, encouraged or academically prepared to pursue careers in science and tech. “You don’t have the right temperament,” my high school guidance counselor admonished me when I told him I wanted to take advanced trigonometry. He signed me up…