No. 37March 2003

Newsletter of the Indian Academy of Sciences

2002 Annual meeting

8-10 November 2002, Chandigarh

The Panjab University invited the Academy to hold its 2002 annual meeting in Chandigarh. This meeting, sixty-eighth in the series, was held from 8 to 10 November 2002. It was attended by over 120 fellows and associates and 30 invited teachers from outside Chandigarh and a large number of students and researchers from within. The inaugural session was held at the university auditorium on the forenoon of 8th. The University Vice-Chancellor K.N. Pathak welcomed the audience and this was followed by the traditional introduction of Fellows by the President of the Academy K. Kasturirangan. Kasturirangan then delivered his scientific address.

K. Kasturirangan

In his address Kasturirangan traced the emergence of X-ray astronomy as a new tool to study the universe in a hitherto unexplored part of the electromagnetic spectrum. Recent advances in instrumentation and space technology have made thisfield a full-fledged component of astronomy, especially able to probe strong gravitational and magnetic fields and regions of very high matter density. A large number of X-ray sources, including accreting compact objects, have been studied in detail.He related these developments to the proposed 2006 launch of India's first dedicated astronomical satellite, ASTROSAT, which will offer unique capabilities all the way from optical and UV to hard X-ray energies.

The first special lecture by P. K. Kaw on "Collective modes in a strongly coupled dusty plasma" highlighted the properties of low frequency modes which reflect the state of the strongly (Coulomb) coupled particles in the dust component. This coupling is much larger than thermal energies. Kaw described a dispersion relation based on a generalized hydrodynamics model in which the correlations are codified in viscoelastic transport coefficients and memory effects. These results were related to recent experimental results.

P. K. Kaw

S.E. Hasnain's special lecture titled "Evolution of biology: Are we ready to play God?" dealt with serious issues of general public concern raised by advances in biology and biotechnology in the recent past. He recalled the essential discoveries in genetics and life processes, including the rules and properties of the basic molecules that play a part in different aspects of reproduction, growth and metabolism, and also the variety of tools that are in use in modern biotechnology. The Human Genome project and the promise it holds for understanding and handling diseases formed the concluding part of Hasnain's presentation.

There were two public evening lectures, one by Mohan Maharishi of Panjab University on `Rasa Siddhanta and its social significance', and the other by M.S. Raghunathan of TIFR, Mumbai, on `Artless innocents and ivory tower sophisticates: Some personalities on the Indian mathematical scene'. Maharishi brought out the relevance to modern times of Bharata's theory of Rasa, as a culture-based path to conflict resolution in society; he also mentioned the difficulties with currently used yardsticks for recognising and supporting indigenous art forms.

Mohan Maharishi

M S Raghunathan

Raghunathan's presentation gave an overview of the major contributions to Indian mathematics during the Srinivasa Ramanujan period and thereafter. He gave thumbnail sketches of the careers and research work of Ramanujan and K Ananda Rau, S.S. Pillai, T. Vijayaraghavan, S. Chawla, S. Minakshisundaram, Harish-Chandra, C.P. Ramanujam, V.K. Patodi and K. Chandrashekaran, with many illuminating stories about their personalities as well.

For their contacts and influences on Indian mathematicians he also covered G.H. Hardy, Andre Weil and the inspiring Jesuit priest and teacher Rev. Fr. C. Racine of Loyola College in Chennai. The talk gave a splendid panorama of Indian contributions to pure mathematics covering practically the whole of the 20th century.

This Annual Meeting also included two half-day symposia, devoted to `Quantum computing and quantum information" and "From mantle to monsoon: Himalayan geodynamics and climatic change". These were coordinated by Anil Kumar, IISc, Bengaluru and Vinod K. Gaur of Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bengaluru respectively. In the first symposium, following Anil Kumar's introductory overview, R. Simon of The Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Chennai described the basic conceptual framework of Shannon's 1948 classical theory of information, providing the background and touchstone against which the problems and advances in quantum information theory have to be judged. S. Chaturvedi of the University of Hyderabad brought out the specifically new features of quantum information theory including the notions of qubits, description of measurements, quantum teleportation and some basic features of quantum algorithms.

This was followed by a more detailed account of quantum computation by K.R. Parthasarathy of ISI, Delhi. He brought out the importance of the unitary groups, their relation to elementary and universal quantum gates, and the design of quantum circuits. Anil Kumar's concluding survey of experimental realisations of quantum computation covered all the schemes tried out up to the present: cavity QED, ion traps, quantum dots and NMR. The difficult challenges being faced in performing nontrivial quantum computations were very clearly conveyed. Considering that this subject is extremely subtle and in a sense rather esoteric, the speakers succeeded in conveying the spirit of the developments, and the depth of ideas involved, to a large and general audience.

The second symposium covered both the evolution and the interesting features of the Himalayan geological and meteorological phenomenon. The emergence of the Himalayan range, and then the monsoon system, brought out in dramatic fashion the `mantle-monsoon' link. The presentations described what happened 8_10 million years ago when the Tibetan Plateau rose to its present height, with accompanying modifications in the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal. This led to a strengthening of the monsoon system, with a characteristic atmospheric circulation pattern. Different speakers dealt with the problem of predictability of the Indian monsoon; high resolution palaeobotanic records of climatic changes in the past few centuries; changes in the geochemistry of Ganga--Yamuna alluvium in the geological time scale; and the present silicate weathering rates in the Himalayas. The speakers were V.K. Gaur (IIA, Bengaluru); P. Molnar (University of Colorado, USA); B.N. Goswami (IISc, Bengaluru); R.R. Yadav (Birbal Sahni Institute, Lucknow); V. Rajamani (JNU, New Delhi) and S. Krishnaswami (PRL, Ahme-dabad).

N. Mukunda

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Forthcoming Events  2002/03

Refresher courses: Molecular and Developmental Genetics
Banaras Hindu University Varanasi, 2_14 July 2003

Experimental PhysicsSaurashtra University, Rajkot 3_16 Nov. 2003

Experimental Physics
Goa University, Goa
Nov. _ Dec. 2003

Berhampur University, Berhampur

Lecture series : Statistics & Probability
St. Thomas College, Pala

Cultural programme during Annual Meeting