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'We cannot allow political ideology to hijack science'

Last updated on: January 02, 2015 14:39 IST

‘Such kind of mythology-based talks do not in any way contribute to science’.

‘My biggest concern is these things will (eventually) become part of school curriculum (in India), and that is completely unacceptable.’

Ramprasad Gandhiraman, a scientist at NASA's Ames Research Centre in California, has launched a petition demanding that a lecture on Ancient Indian Aviation Technology to be delivered at the 102nd Indian Science Congress in Mumbai be scrapped. Ritu Jha reports.

Ramprasad Gandhiraman (pictured below), a scientist with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Ames Research center and the Universities Space Research Association in California, has launched an online petition demanding that a talk ‘Ancient Indian Aviation Technology’ be scrapped from the 102nd Indian Science Congress.

The Congress, to be held from January 3 to 7 at Mumbai University, will see Prime Minister Narendra Modi attending.

"I have a suspicion," Gandhiraman told Rediff.com, "that this kind of glorifying of the past without proof or scientific evidence is linked to the prime minister’s recent claim on genetic science and plastic surgery."

His petition has received 576 signatures from across the globe.

"Such kind of mythology-based talks do not in any way contribute to science," Gandhiraman continued. "My main concern is by allowing such talk in the Science Congress you are devaluating science itself in India."

"What impact it would have on Nobel laureates, who come and listen to such kind of talks that say ancient Indians had airplanes that could travel from planet to planet? You can’t imagine President Obama talking like this and the American scientific community keeping quiet."

"I sense a new trend of parliamentarians openly eulogizing the past without any scientific basis," Gandhiraman said.

Mumbai Mirror, which reported on the controversy, wrote, ‘how organisers of the 102nd Indian Science Congress… had slipped in Vedic mythology about aviation into the Science Congress’ schedule, which is otherwise packed with talks on ribosomes, resistance to antibiotics and the origin of life, and discourses on controlling the cell cycle, all delivered by some of the finest scientific minds, including six Nobel laureates.’

A woman who was operated on in the Chhattisgarh camp
Ramprasad Gandhiraman has already received 576 signatures on his petition demanding that the lecture titled Ancient Indian Aviation Technology be scrapped from the 102nd Indian Science Congress.

The newspaper reported that Captain Anand J Bodas, when questioned about his talk on ‘Ancient Indian Aviation Technology’, had said, ‘The Vedic or rather ancient Indian definition of an airplane was a vehicle which travels through the air from one country to another country, from one continent to another continent, from one planet to another planet. In those days, airplanes were huge in size, and could move left, right, as well as backwards, unlike modern planes which only fly forward.’

"People are entitled to their opinion," Gandhiraman told Rediff.com. "There’s Flat Earth Society, who still believe that the earth is flat, but those people will not find a platform to talk about flat earth in scientific conferences. So, it’s about scientific community providing a platform to discuss pseudo-science.”

“Nothing will happen to science, because whatever is not proved and substantiated will fade away, but my biggest concern is these things will (eventually) become part of school curriculum (in India), and that is completely unacceptable,” Gandhiraman said. “And that is why I decided to start a petition."

"Science should be independent of political and religious interference. We cannot allow political ideology to hijack science."

Tamil Nadu native Gandhiraman, a materials scientist, said he has attended over 30 scientific conferences and has given scientific talks in 10 countries.

He said our ancestors had good knowledge on astronomy, mathematics, materials and civil engineering like the ancient Mesopotamian civilization, and cited yoga as a major Indian contribution to knowledge.

While he has not done any research on the possibility of aviation technology in ancient India, Gandhiraman cited work published by aerospace and mechanical engineering faculties from Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore in 1974 that analyzed two books -- Brihad Vimana Shastra by Bramhamuni Parivrajaka published in 1959, and Vymanika Shastra by G R Josyer in 1973 -- and concluded that the Sanskrit texts in those books are not of ancient origin and the geometry and principle of propulsion noted in those books are scientifically unacceptable for flying.

"It’s been 40 years since the IISc faculties countered this ancient aviation claim with scientific facts," Gandhiraman said. "Mr Bodas should have challenged the scientific reports of IISc and submitted his scientific claims for peer review in scientific journals. That is how science works. This is the universally accepted way of dealing with science."

Ritu Jha in California
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