The story of photographic plates: NGC 1851

Unravelling the hidden data from the archival photographic plates of globular cluster- NGC 1851
This work got published in the ‘BASE Line’ a quarterly bulletin of JNP, Bangalore.



(This is a scanned copy of the BASE Line.  Full copy of the bulletin can be downloaded here )


Jawaharlal Nehru Planplanetarium Bangalore (JNP)

Vision and Mission 


  • To popularise science amongst general public
  • Non-formal science education,
  • To train students to take up science as a career.

BASE has established a Science Centre in the Planetarium which has become a nucleus for non-formal science education at all levels. The activities of the Science Centre and the Planetarium have made BASE a unique institution for the dissemination of science. A Science Park has been developed in the premises of the Planetarium.

Science popularisation activities of  BASE viz., sky-theatre shows, monthly astronomy lectures, monthly science movies attract over two lakh visitors every year.

Our science education activities viz., Research Education Advancement Programme (REAP), Interactive Week-end Sessions for school children, Summer Programmes, Science Exhibitions and Workshops attract thousands of students every year. Over 35 students from BASE have got admission for Ph.D. courses in premier research institutes in India and abroad. They include Raman Research Institute, Indian Institute of Science, Wild Life Research Institute, Oxford University, Michigan State University, Delft Institute, State University New York, Buffalo, University of Florida, Cornell University.

JNP Publications

JNP Website

JNP Address
Jawaharlal Nehru Planetarium
Bangalore Association for Science Education,
Sri T. Choudaiah Road, High Grounds,
Bangalore – 560 001
Land Mark: Opp. Indira Gandhi Musical Fountain, Near Raj Bhavan.

Viswa Keerthy S


‘YoU(r)’niversal Law!

Newton’s ‘Universal’ Law of Gravitation portrayed in an article -theguardian

Once there was a conversation on the topic – What is “Universal Law”? with three persons whom I know very well, here are there views… (there actual WhatsApp conversation).

First Person : Is coulomb’s law universal law …. ?

Second Person: Vo nice… will think on this… it is difficult to term a law as universal.

Second Person: for me the concern is the constant present in the coulomb’s law….

Second Person: Change the equal sign to nearly equal or the force is proportional to the product of two charges by the square of the distance between them… is more or less Universal Law….

Second Person: And I also do have a feeling that no law is universal law….

Second Person: it is nearly universal but not fully universal!!

First Person : Can u get the criterion to call a law universal

Second Person: the only condition I believe is that, it should be valid at all points in the universe…

Second Person: If this is a condition… Just a single law cannot become universal… (up to the physics that we know today)

First Person: What do u mean by just a single law

Second Person: one law cannot be valid at all places… anta

Second Person: Even Newton’s Universal Law of Gravitation is also not a universal law… the name still sticks to it.


First Person : Howda…. (Is it?)

First Person : Elli valid alla adu? (Where it is not valid?)

Second Person: Mercury ge valid agalla… (the law is not valid for mercury…)

Second Person: GPS system ge valid agalla… (it is not a suitable law for GPS…)

First Person : Every 2 particles having mass should obey

Second Person: Yes…

First Person : Mercury ge yake aagalla (Why the law is not valid for mercury?)

Second Person: I don’t remember where I read this…

Second Person: it says like this…

First Person: the light moving near the star bends due to SR or GR what ever?  But the claim is that the star attracts (not a suitable word)  light particles and in turn light also attracts the star at a very negligible force (which is not zero but negligible).  According to Newton’s law how can light attract star, it does not have mass (rest mass!!)

Second Person: But these things are accounted for accurate measurement of many things… which is not the direct consequence of Newton’s Law!!

First Person: The concept is different from Newton’s law ashte

Second Person: Mercury has a special kind of motion called “Precision of its Orbit” which is not explained by Newton’s law.

Second Person: Yes, that puts a question on Mass?  Does mass is the main source of gravity in the nature (which is true with newton’s law)

First Person : According to khan academy lecture precession is boz of sun earth interaction

Second Person: interaction through Gravity…

Second Person: if newton’s law talks about Gravity, then it should explain… these interactions… why it fails?

First Person : Yes

Second Person: btw this is only for Mercury…

First Person : Y not

Second Person: Uranus and Neptune were discovered because of the power of Newton’s Law….

Second Person: what I am trying to say is that, gravity is not just the way Newton’s Law define.  It may be true at some places but not at all places… and Newton’s law does not give full picture of it… So it is not a universal law (that is why I said “Universal Law” should not be restricted to just one law)

First Person : G is called universal constant … law is valid at every place

Second Person: humm,

Second Person: What is the source of G?

First Person: Cavendish experiment proof

Second Person: Newton’s law is not just G.  It is a constant number that is present in our universe.  But the value of G does not talk about the nature of gravity… that is spoken by other parameters in the newtons law… which is not always true at all points in the space…

First Person : Do u mean (M)(m)/ r square.  Is not true at certain places ?

Second Person: Yes, it is nearly true but not always… Once C. Sivram sir took a beautiful class in M.Sc.

Second Person: That is why we have General Theory of Relativity…

Second Person: Combination of both Newton’s Law and GR could be universal (if we really need to use this word)….

First Person: I’m stunned. .. no words

Second Person: Yes, that is Nature!!

First Person : Students ge hogi Newton’s law universal alla antha helbeka

Second Person: Interesting part is Kepler defines the motion of planet without using Gravity…. It perfectly fits..  Later newton comes and gives gravitational concept… Kepler did not even know about this Gravity.

Second Person: In fact nothing is universal!! anta ankondiddini… (In fact, I think nothing is universal)


Third Person : Even i think so…that, no law is universal “YET”

Second Person: Yet….? What next?

Third Person : May be in future we can get a universal law…

Second Person: Yes…

So, what is your thoughts on it?  Reply to this article.
I mean ‘YoU(r)’niversal Law!!

Viswa Keerthy S

Elusive Particle of the Universe

Hi, welcome to you for the year of light and welcome to you for this interesting lecture.

Celebrating IYL 2015

Yes, we are talking about light, the light which is responsible for the diverse life on Earth and spreads in the unimaginable universe.  In the last lecture we spoke about the first light from the Big Bang called CMBR.  But in this lecture I don’t directly talk about light.  Instead I talk about atoms!!

Atoms are the building blocks of matter.  We have more number of atoms in our eye than the total number of stars in a galaxy.  This is true with any object which is of the size of an eye.  In principle we humans are all collection of atoms that have different names!  The matter which surrounds us is also a collection of atoms.  Suppose if I am drinking water from a glass.  If you shoot this in a video-camera which can only detect atoms regardless of their physical size, shape, and features, you can see that some arrangement of atoms drinking the same atoms which are in different arrangement.  This means that, you can form infinite number of structures by arranging atoms.  That is what the nature is doing from all these billions of billions years and it continuous do it in future also.  So, if you look at animals, birds, plants, humans, mountains, earth, stars and galaxies all these are just arrangement of atoms.

Image 4
Arrangement of atoms forms different structures. (Living and Non Living Things)

So it is important to study about atom.  Until the beginning of 20th century, scientist thought that atom is an indivisible particle of the universe and the fundamental particle of all the objects.  Later many observations and sensitive measurements by the 20th century scientist proved that atom is divisible.  Today we know that atom is made up of proton, neutron and electrons.  Protons and neutrons make up the nucleus which concentrates most of the atoms mass while the electrons revolve around the nucleus.  If I have to give you the feel of an atom or how big an atom is; imagine like this, consider this room (Auditorium) is of the size of an atom and this tennis ball (author is holding tennis ball) is a nucleus, than the smallest dust grain that you can find in this room is an electron!  This means atom mostly contains an empty space!  All the mass is concentrated in the nucleus.  This is a distinctive sketch of an atom.  But you might ask me a question… Do all atoms show the same characteristics?  The answer is no.  Atom with some fixed number of protons, neutrons and electrons have some physical and chemical characters.  But if you change the number of constituent particles of an atom, the characteristics also changes.  This means that if you change the number of electrons in an atom it exhibit different characteristics than the previous one.  Depending on the number of electrons in an atom a specific name is given to them, like hydrogen which has one electron, helium which has 2 electrons and so on… These are called elements.  These are arranged according to the ascending order of the number of electrons in their atoms.  This is called Periodic Table.  This table makes us to easily identify the element which has a specific character depending on its electron number.  This is about atom, and its constituent particles and their arrangement and how there characteristics changes.  But why am I talking about this, instead of light!

Yes, I will talk about light, but for a while let us go back to 1930.  Wolfgang Pauli an Astrian physicist was trying solve the mysterious violation of law of conservation of energy in process called Beta Decay.  I know all of you know about law of conservation of energy, in simple words the law says, energy can neither be created nor be destroyed.  It can only transfer from one form to another form.  And also the energy of the entire universe is constant.   In a given process the energy before the process and after the process should be equal.  No room for violation of this law in nature.  While doing math’s we may do errors in calculating the energies, but nature do not do any error.  It never violets the law of conservation of energy!  But something strange was happening with beta decay.  To know this let us learn about beta decay.  Since we know about atom, it is very easy to understand this process.  In certain elements the nucleus which contains protons and neutrons becomes unstable due to the more number of neutrons than the protons.  If something is unstable it has to give out or it has to accept something in order to attain stable position.  Here we have only protons and neutrons in the nucleus.  So, what happens to this unstable nucleus?  Yes, an extra neutron in the nucleus decays into proton and in this process an electron is emitted out of the nucleus as shown by the below nuclear reaction. (The elements which shows this behavior is called Radioactive Elements and the process is called Radioactivity). This process is called beta decay.  (Beta particle = Electron).  This is an observable process and the experiments have confirmed this nuclear reaction.  But what is the strangeness about this nuclear reaction?  You might be surprised to hear this; this nuclear reaction is actually violating the law of conservation of energy!  But the question is HOW?

n -> p + e

If you equate the energies in beta decay process, you will see that the total energy of the emitted particle is less than the energy of reactants (for now consider it as reactants).  Let me explain this… In beta decay process an extra neutron in the nucleus decays into proton and stays inside the nucleus.  But an electron ejects out from the nucleus and this electron does not belong to orbital electrons, because it is created in the nucleus and emitted out.  But the amount of energy that electron is taking out from the nucleus is less compared to the energy used in creation of the electron.  This tells us some energy is missing in this process.  When we do the experiment, there is no signature of any other particle taking the missing energy. Then where is the missing energy?  This is the question that haunted many scientists during the twentieth century.  So what do you conclude based on our experiment?  Is nature violating the law of conservation of energy or our calculations are wrong?

Pauli worked extensively on this problem of missing energy in beta decay and finally arrived at one conclusion.  He believed that the universe is governed by the order of natural laws.  And he had firm believes that nature does not violates these laws.  More importantly he also believed that his calculations are correct.  He said nature is not violating law of conservation of energy.  The missing energy in the beta decay is transmitted through a particle called ‘Neutrino’ which has zero mass but has the energy which corresponds to the missing energy!  He wrote down all the mathematical calculation to prove the existence of this particle which he called Neutrino and published the paper.  But many scientists did not believe Pauli and went on claiming that, this kind of particle does not exist.  But Pauli who was theoretical physicist, I mean the one who do only math and calculation to give the theory of nature had solid-believe on his theory.  I should say he trusted his calculations so much that, he always said this particle; I mean the neutrino should exist in our nature.  This is the beauty of understanding the nature.  This is where we should appreciate our language called maths and equations.  The numbers and equations hide the unseen exquisiteness of nature.

n -> p + e + nubar

Finally the beauty of Pauli’s calculation unfolded in the year 1956, when two physicist Frederick Reines and Clyde Cowan announced that they have indeed detected neutrino’s in beta decay process predicted by Pauli.  It nearly took 16 years to find the existence of the particle predicted by the great physicist Pauli.  But you know what, nearly trillions of trillions of trillions neutrinos have passed through your body while listening to this lecture.  For every minute billions of neutrino is passing your body.  The earth is in the shower of neutrinos from the sun, stars and galaxies endlessly.

Today I am here to talk about neutrinos.  When Pauli predicted this particle, he said it has energy but rest mass of the particle is zero, which means these particles never come to rest!!  So, how do we detect this particle?

Sir, I have question.
Go Ahead (Author)
Sir, Why do we need to detect neutrinos?  Should we detect them only to explain beta decay or is there any other use from them?

Very good question.  Beta decay problem is over, it is now confirmed that neutrinos are emitted from the nucleus and law of conservation of energy is successfully explained with this particle.  I will reframe your question like this; why do we need to detect neutrinos on a large scale? Does it give any information to us?  The answer is yes and let me give you one such example.  Let us talk about Sun for a while; the thermonuclear reaction happening at the core is powering sun’s total energy.  During this reaction photon (particles of light), neutrinos and other particles are emitted.  The light that warms the surface of the earth as well as you and me has come from the photosphere of the sun.  Photosphere is the visible disc of the sun.  As we all know that light contains photons.  These photons are generated at the core of the Sun.  It takes billions of years for a photon to reach to the surface of the photosphere; from there the photon takes only 8 minutes to travel to the earth.  So the photon which is warming you right now has left the sun’s interiors billions of years ago.  Yes….. Absolutely amazing right!  If you study this light you will be actually studying the sun’s interior which is present some billions of years ago.  So you cannot study real time sun’s core in the visible light.  But on the other hand the neutrinos which are created at the sun’s core travel to the earth in just 8 minutes.  This is because neutrinos do not interact (very very less interaction) with matter.  They just pass through it.  But photon suffers trillions of collisions with the matter spending billions of years inside the sun before emerging out of the photosphere.  So detecting these solar neutrinos is very helpful in monitoring real time sun’s core.  Not only Sun in all the high energetic explosions (Supernovae and other) that happens in our universe emits neutrinos and detecting them will give us clear picture of these events as well as our universe.

How do we detect them?  As I said neutrinos interaction with matter is very less.  They can pass through humans, buildings and even mountains!!  That is why they are called as most elusive particles of the universe.  But if we detect them we get a lot of information about our universe.  So here it is an astronomical observatory built half a mile down the earth.  This is Super-Kamikonde Neutrino Observatory built under Mt Ikenoyama at Japan.  This is a human eye to watch supernovae in our milky way galaxy.

Image 1
Super-Kamikonde Neutrino Observatory (Screen grab from the documentary Cosmos hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson)
Image 2
Super-Kamikonde Neutrino Observatory (Screen grab from the documentary Cosmos hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson)

The observatory is built underneath the mountain.  This is because the instrument which detects the neutrinos is very sensitive.  Apart from neutrinos there are other elementary particles reaching earth.  If we have not shielded our instruments then the detector will pick up the signs of unwanted particles.  How to shield these particles? Yes, go underneath the mountain; let nature itself shield these particles (Most other particles can interact with matter).  Most of the neutrino observatories are built in the abanded mining places.   Since neutrinos don’t interact with matter, they just pass through the mountain and to the detector.  And because of zero interaction with matter for billions of years, they have the information of past!  If you detect them you can actually get oldest of old information regarding our universe.  Detecting even a single neutrino requires lot of big observatories like this and lot of patience because of its elusive nature.

In this observatory, 50000 tones of distilled water are stored and it is surrounded with scintillating tubes which detects the minute flash of light.  But how do you get this flash of light in distilled water?  In a minute trillions of trillions of neutrinos are passing through this huge detector.  Suppose if one neutrino interacts with the nucleus of water molecule, an electron is emitted.  This electron is detected by the very sensitive scintillating tubes by producing a flash of light.  Each flash of light can signifies the presence of neutron in the detector.  If the activity is more in outer space, I mean if there was a supernova in our galaxy, then flash of light increases indicating the presence of more neutrinos.  This has been observed during the Supernovae-1987A in the year 1987.

Image 3
Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson having boat journey inside the detector. (Screen grab from the documentary Cosmos hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson)

A flash of light is used to detect one of the most elusive particles of the universe which hides rich information about our home.  It is again the light that is doing our work!

Happy International Year of Light.
Thanks a lot for listening to me, that’s it for today.
Have a great evening.

Image Credits:
First Image: Google Images
Second, Third and Fourth Images: Screen grab from the documentary Cosmos hosted by Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson

Year 2015 is celebrated as International Year of Light and Light Based Technology by UN as a global event.  This year mark the 150th anniversary of Maxwell’s Equations by James Clerk Maxwell, the man who unfolded the secret of nature and answered what light is made up of. 

More Information about IYL 2015
UN Anniversaries
IYL – 2015 Home Page
IYL – 2015 Blog

Upcoming Topics for IYL 2015

  • Biological Industry – Photosynthesis
  • Principe, Africa – 1919 TSE
  • Copy of Earth – Extraterrestrial Planet
  • ದೀಪವು ನಿನ್ನದೆ ಗಾಳಿಯು ನಿನ್ನದೆ ಆರದಿರಲಿ ಬೆಳಕು
  • Let there be light – Newton, Maxwell, Hertz and Einstein

Viswa Keerthy S

First Light – CMBR

Celebrating IYL 2015

     If you look at the modern periodic table you will find hundred and eighteen elements listed in it. Out of this, ninety four elements occur naturally.  All these elements can be found on Earth (exceptions are there).  Elements are building block of things that you see around you.  Whether it’s a human, animal, tree, building, roads, bridges, monuments, mountains, etc, everything is made up of elements.  But the question that comes to our mind is who brought all these elements on the Earth?  How are they formed?  The answer is… all these elements are formed inside a star.  Yes, in a sense, everything that you see around is cooked inside a star!  Richard Feynman, a famous physicist once said that, the stuff which we are made was once cooked in a star and spit out.

      The entire universe comprises trillions of trillions stars which cooks the matter that we see around us.  The next question that arises is how do these stars form?  Well, these kinds of questions will go on….. it’s a never ending process. But then, where do we begin?

Yes, we begin at the beginning.
We begin at the Big Bang!

Big Bang
Artist view of Big Bang before the explosion.

     The universe which includes stars, galaxies, nebulae etc. is expanding for billions of years.  If you look back, somewhere in the past there must exist a time where the entire universe is concentrated in a point of high density (infinite density).  According to the accepted theory, this high density state of a point, exploded violently, creating the universe that we see today.  This is the Big Bang theory proposed by Edwin Hubble in the year 1929.  The explosion that we consider in Big Bang is not at all a violent explosion, in fact it is one of the silent explosions that you can ever think of and it is neither big nor bang!  This is just a name given to the theory.  The reason is this, the space, time, sound, matter, elements and more importantly the light that we feel and experience today was created after Big Bang!  Big Bang is just an expansion of a point of infinite density, nothing more that.  But then, how do we verify this theory?

     If this kind of an expansion has happened in the past, then we must be able to detect, outer surface of the expanding sphere which contains the information of big bang in the form of light.  According to the theory, this sphere of light should uniformly exist all over the space. In a sense we have to detect the first light from the big bang.  This is called background radiation of the Big Bang.  If we succeed, it confirms the theory Big Bang.

   In the year, 1960 two astrophysics namely Dickey and Pebbles were working on the challenge of finding background radiation of the Big Bang.  They came to the conclusion that, since universe is expanding from billions of years, the energy of the photons of background radiation must be less because of the expansion in space.  (Expanding Universe:  The space and time fabric between the galaxies expand.  The light or the photon which travels in this fabric also expands.  When it expands the energy of the photon becomes less – this is predicted by Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity) When they did the calculation by using Wien’s Displacement law, they found that photon’s energy lies in the microwave region of light.
Few miles away from this group of scientist there were two more researchers from Bell Laboratory namely Penzias and Wilson designing the Horn antenna for radio astronomy.  They were trying to remove the background noise in the antenna which is detected by the detector.  No matter how much they tried they were unable to remove the background noise even-though they replaced the detector for many times.  Interestingly the detector was detecting the noise in all the direction and at all times of the day.  After their unsuccessful attempt of trying to remove this noise, they come to the conclusion that, this signal is not a noise, it is actually coming from outer space.

     Later it turned out that the noise of Penzias and Wilson’s horn antennae was actually the background radiation of Big Bang that Dickey and Pebbles were searching for!  Yes, it was an accidental discovery by two researchers from Bell Laboratory who have no idea about background radiation.  All they did was they tuned their antennae to receive a microwave radiation.  The detector was detecting first light from the Big Bang but Penzias and Wilson thought it was noise!!  The temperature of the background radiation was 3 kelvin and it was in perfect agreement with the measured value from the theory.  This is famously called as 3 kelvin black body radiation curve or 3 K curve.   Both of them were awarded noble price in physics in the year 1978 for their accidental discovery of Background Radiation.  Press Release from Bell Labs can be seen here. This observation confirms Big Bang theory.  (Big Bang theory is still a debatable theory for other reasons).

Horn Antenna
Penzias and Wilson in front of Horn Antenna

     Today we have some of the sophisticated scientific instruments in the on-board satellites which are revolving around the Earth.  WMAP (Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe) has mapped the background radiation.  The first light from the Big Bang is here….

CMBR – Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation by WMAP

The Light which is the sole responsible for life on earth was actually began its journey 13.5 billion years ago.

Through light on some atoms for billions of years, eventually you have life!

Image Details:
First Image: International Year of Light and Light Based Applications – 2015 Logo
Second Image: S. Harris Cartoon
Third Image : Bell Labs
Fourth Image:
APOD Images, March 25, 2013
Year 2015 is celebrated as International Year of Light and Light Based Technology by UN as a global event.  This year mark the 150th anniversary of Maxwell’s Equations by James Clerk Maxwell, the man who unfolded the secret of nature and answered what light is made up of. 

More Information about IYL 2015
UN Anniversaries
IYL – 2015 Home Page
IYL – 2015 Blog

Upcoming Topics for IYL 2015

  • Elusive Particles of the Universe
  • Biological Industry – Photosynthesis
  • Principe, Africa – 1919 TSE
  • Copy of Earth – Extraterrestrial Planet
  • ದೀಪವು ನಿನ್ನದೆ ಗಾಳಿಯು ನಿನ್ನದೆ ಆರದಿರಲಿ ಬೆಳಕು
  • Let there be light – Newton, Maxwell, Hertz and Einstein

Viswa Keerthy S


When Earth is close to Sun we have winter!!*

Seasons are the most wonderful thing that nature has gifted to Earth.  Without seasons, life on earth would have ceased long back.  But seasons have kept life alive on this Earth.  Changing landscape according to the seasons is the greatest beauty of nature.  Each living being on Earth can sense these changes and they adapt themselves to these changes to sustain their life on Earth. So, seasons play a crucial role in making Earth as a habitable zone for life in our solar system.

One of the age old questions is “How these seasons occur on Earth?”  Well, a fifth grade school child may answer this question. And the most celebrated answer among children is this, “Earth revolves around the Sun in an elliptical orbit with Sun at one focus.  So, when Earth is very close to Sun we have summer and when Earth is far away from Sun, we have winter.” The below image depicts what is said in the sentence.

Img 1
Seasons are mentioned with respect to Northern Hemisphere


At first stroke, this answer looks evident.  When the Earth is closest to Sun, Earth receives more sun light than at other position.  The hemisphere which is facing the Sun will have summer and the other hemisphere which is away from Sun will have winter. These conclusions can be derived from the above statement.  I studied this in my school days.  I firmly believed this explanation until I found that, this is totally wrong.  Yes, the most obvious statement that we make about seasons is wrong.  Some teachers still follow the same logic and teach wrong concept to their students!!
Let us have a closer look on how these seasons occur?

There are two motions of Earth which are evident to Img 4us.  Earth revolves around the Sun and Earth spins about its axis.  Earth takes nearly a year (365 days) to go around the Sun in an elliptical orbit and it takes a day (24 hour) to spin about its axis.  But there is a weird and wonderful thing about this axis of rotation of the Earth. (A body which rotates about its axis is called axis of rotation).  It is tilted at an angle of 23.5 degree from the vertical line as shown in the right side image. This angle or tilt is constant throughout the elliptical orbit.  And also the axis of rotation of the Earth points in the same direction at all positions of the orbit as you can see in the below image.  This direction is always towards the north.
Now let us come to our core topic seasons.  We have four seasons on Earth, summer, winter, spring and fall.


In the month of December Earth will be at position A.  At this position Earth is close to sun.  But northern hemisphere will receive less sun light than the southern hemisphere due to the tilt of the earth.  Because of this reason northern hemisphere will observe winter and southern hemisphere will observe summer!

Img 2Imag 3

But in the month of June, that is at position C the season reverses.  At this position Earth is far away from Sun compare to position A.  But now northern hemisphere will receive more sun light than southern hemisphere due to the same reason tilt of the axis of rotation of the Earth.  So, summer season at northern hemisphere and winter season at southern hemisphere.  But observe one thing; direction of the axis of rotation of the Earth is not changed.  It is still pointing in the same direction.

And the same explanation goes on for position B and D.  At position B, northern hemisphere will have spring and southern hemisphere will have fall.  Exactly reverse happens at position D.

We have got the answer!  The seasons occur on earth is because of the tilt of the axis of rotation of Earth (or Inclination of axis of rotation).

But we did not talk about the distance between Earth and Sun.  Because distance is not the cause of seasons!  Let me talk with numbers.  On Jan 4, Earth is closest to Sun with a distance of 148,000,000 km.  On July 4, Earth is at farthest point from Sun with a distance of 152,000,000 km.  The variation in distance is only 2%.  This small variation in distance cannot cause seasons on earth.

So we have seasons on Earth because, the axis of rotation of Earth is tilted. (23.5 degree).  If there is no tilt in the axis, then there are no seasons on Earth!!!

What I have learnt in school and wrote in exam is totally wrong.

Viswa Keerthy S
(*Title is with respect to northern hemisphere of Earth where I live. )


[G,c,h] = Our Universe

Richard Feynman said in one of his lectures that “The stuff which we are made was once cooked in star and spit out”.  This is true, humans, animals, birds, reptiles, rivers, oceans, mountains, buildings, bridges, earth, planets everything was made by the byproduct of stars.  The constituent elements of all these matters were created during the catastrophic explosion of stars, known as ‘supernovae’.  In other words, all living and non living things are star dust!  And also, as we see only matters around us and all around the universe, we can say universe is made up of matters.  On a fundamental scale matter is again made up of atoms and atoms are made up of elementary particles {ex. electrons and quarks (extensive study on elementary particles was done in 20th century)}.  Finally we can say elementary particles are the building blocks of the universe.  But the question is how does this universe behaves or works?  Over a period of 500 years the task of scientist or philosophers was to find the answer for these kinds of questions.  Some of them were succeeded in decoding nature’s secret and able to explain why nature behaves the way it is now or looks the way it is now? (Note: In this article Nature=Universe)

Let me ask you this question, why do you think the nature or everything should be the way it is now? Why can’t in some other way?  What made nature to restrict only to three dimensional worlds?  These are some of the fascinating questions which are still not understood to the full extent.  Nevertheless we still know some of the secrets of nature.  If a mechanical robot can give sensible answer to your question, if we can fly like birds through aeroplanes, if we can see the working heart without dissecting human body through NMR technology, it’s because we know some secret about nature and how it operates.  The laws of physics tell us how nature operates!  Many great peoples have spent their entire life in figuring out the correct laws of nature.  Today we have television, telephone, mobile, microwave, bread toaster, washing machine, air conditioner, car, train aeroplanes, etc, to make our life easy.  All these things have became our integral part of our life.  We are very fortunate to live in this privileged world.  All credits and applause should go to the people who dedicated their entire life to make our life privilege.

But now we will talk about some numbers.  These numbers show the mysteries of nature.  These numbers explains how nature operates.  These are very special numbers and hide many secrets of nature.  The numbers are as follows.


Mathematically speaking these are just numbers.  [G] is the Gravitational Constant, [c] is the speed of light and [h] is the Plank’s Constant.  These are called fundamental constants in physics which appear in Classical Mechanics, Special Relativity and Quantum Mechanics respectively.

As I said, mathematically these are just numbers but in physical world these numbers tell you the secrets of nature.  By using these numbers we can explain why earth and planets are going around the sun?  Why earth is trying to attract every other particle?  Through quantum mechanics we can able to go deep inside atoms and explain the properties and behavior of elementary particles.  Communication has made us to connect instantly throughout the globe.  Today we have all types of sophisticated medical instrument to diagnose various problems.  All these are possible because of these numbers!  Right from explaining planets going around the sun to NMR technology in hospital and live telecast in television sets at home, we need these numbers.  Nothing would have been reality without these numbers.  And again, we are leading privileged life because we know these numbers to some accurate level.

I said these numbers are secrets of nature because nature operates through these numbers.  We don’t know (we certainly do not know in future) why these numbers are (constants) as the way it is now.  But we can certainly say, nature looks the way it is now because of these numbers.  To some extent these constants are called universal constants.  If there are any changes in these numbers, nature never looks the way it is now!!  All our physics theories stands on these numbers and all theories are universal.  It means, if you change G , c and h values to some other numbers and if these numbers are applied to physics theories, the theories still give you result and it would suggest you a different kind of nature.  Do we have a different kind of nature with different values of G , c and h? Answer is, we don’t know! We have not yet found!

In basic physics Length, Mass and Time are called fundamental constants.  We can derive our basic fundamental constants (length, mass and time) in terms of G, c and h by using ‘Dimensional Analysis’ (mathematical process to equate two different quantities through dimensions).  Once it is done the values for length, mass and time are as follows.

Plank units

Here Length Mass and Time are called Plank length, Plank mass and Plank time respectively.  This derivation was first done by Max Plank, so the name.

The length in a centimeter scale starts from zero; we measure all our length with respect to zero.  And also we measure our time from zero seconds (i.e 0 1 2 3 4 5… seconds).  The way we measure all these quantities in our day to day life is by assuming length and time are continuous from zero.  This may workout exceptionally better for all our calculations, but in reality this is not true.  I mean, the length and time are not continuous from zero.  Plank length and Plank time are the lowest limit for the length and time.  We don’t know how length and time looks beyond this limit.  Theoretically, this is our nature’s limit.  Length cannot be defined beyond Plank length and also we cannot distinguish between two events which are happening less that of Plank time.  Right now our modern instruments are sensible to measure length at the order of 10^-18m and time 10^-23 seconds.  We have not yet reached Plank length and Plank time; it is still at the theoretical level.  But even in future no matter how sensitive our instruments, we cannot go beyond Planks length and Planks time.  This is the nature’s law!  And we don’t know and we never know how our nature (universe) looks beyond this limit.  And here the Plank mass has the order of 10^27kg.  It is the maximum mass that a point particle (like electron) can have in our universe.  That is, this is the upper limit for a point particle in our universe.  Electrons and quarks which are nature’s stable point particles are many orders less than that of Plank mass.  And again the Plank length, mass and time has those numbers because of G, c and h.  So, it is G, c and h numbers which makes nature operates in the way we see it now!

I must repeat this statement again, we don’t have any knowledge of why these quantities (G, c and h) have these numbers, but on a loose note we can easily say it’s because of these numbers our nature or universe looks the way it is now!!!  If there is any change in these quantities (G, c and h) nature never looks the way it is now.
[G, c, h]= Our Universe!

(All these fundamental quantities (G, c and h) are dimensional quantities.  The actual numbers may change if the units are changed.  In this article the units followed was SI units.  Whatever be the units the meaning of those numbers will be the same.  But in physics and mathematics there are some quantities which are dimensionless.  These quantities are independent of units that we use.  These are called dimensionless fundamental quantities.  Fine structure constant (α) and golden ratio (ϕ) are some examples.  Nature hides its beautiful features in these numbers.  And also the stories behind the discovery of Gravitational Constant (G), Speed of light (c) and Plank constant (h) are very fascinating and inspiring.  I will preserve all these topics for my coming posts.)

Viswa Keerthy S
Date: 27/12/2013

Watch out Comet ISON!

November 28th 2013: Comet ISON Status.

All our dreams of seeing brightest comet in the month of December is turned around.  Comet ISON finally ends its dangerous journey in our solar system.  On its closest approach, Sun wins the war by disintegrating comet.  Comet ISON is no more now (except the small part)!  This event was confirmed by space telescopes.

Whole event captured by SOHO
Other Reports:

You can still see other faint comets in the sky, here are the details.

(This post updated on 29th November 2013)


Comet in orbit and its tailIt’s time to dust out telescope, binoculars or whatever the optical instrument you have.  Within a month we will be able to witness one of the brightest comets which is designated as ‘comet of the century’.  If this comet travels according to predicted path (after passing sun), the prediction says, comet will become very bright in the month of December and it can be able to see through naked eye including its beautiful tail!  Be prepare to see and enjoy ‘Comet ISON’, which is having its ‘dangerous journey’ to our solar system.

Comets are the most beautiful objects in the night sky.  If a comet is bright enough, the spectacular view of head and tail in the night sky is un-explainable.   [Historically comets are associated with religious superstitious beliefs, but science disproves everything].   Comets are also the outermost object in our solar system.  Most of the comets origin place is Kuiper belt and Oort cloud, which are the outermost belts of our solar system (around 50000 AU from Sun).  Comets start their journey from here and go around the sun in a highly elliptical orbit.  This long journey across solar system makes their period very large.  There are two types of comets.  If a comet has a period less than 200 years they are called Short Period comets (ex. Halley comet- 76 years), again if their periods are more than 200 years they are called Long Period comets (ex. Great Comets).  All these comets are called periodic comets. And there are some comets which make one way trip to our solar system, which means they never come back in future!  They are lost in the interstellar space outside the solar system.  These comets have parabolic and hyperbolic orbits.        When comets are far away from Sun, they are just cold icy bodies.  When they approach sun, due to sun’s radiation comet core (icy body) melts and exhibit a beautiful tail.  They are called ‘Dust tail’.   As the distance between comet and sun becomes small, another tail starts appearing known as ‘Ion tail’ which is due to charge particles of sun and comet.  Ion tails point in the direction exactly opposite to the direction of sun, whereas dust tail will be in comet and 2 tailsthe opposite direction to sun but not exactly like ion tail.  This feature distinguishes the two tails in a comet photograph.  The central heart of the comet is composed of Coma and Nucleus.  Coma is a luminous cloud of water vapor, carbon dioxide and other gases which surrounds the Nucleus.  Nucleus is a solid core of the comet which comprises ice and frozen gases.  Hydrogen cloud envelops the coma and nucleus of the comet.  The typical size of the comet is shown in the picture beside (Image Source: Google Images).

Comet ISON by HST (Source: Wikipedia)

Comet ISON (C/2012 S1) was discovered on 21 September 2012 by Vitali Nevski and Artyom Novichonok.  It was discovered by using 16inch reflector telescope of International Scientific Optical Network (ISON).  Comet name ISON is actually the acronym of this telescope network association.  Comet ISON began its journey from Oort cloud and it is said that this journey is a one way trip! Right now it is approaching sun.  On November 28th 2013, comet ISON will have closest approach to sun (1.2 million km which is over 100times closer to Sun than Earth) and becomes very bright.  Due to its closeness to sun (approximately 1 degree), sun’s glare block the visibility of comet.  Due to this comet is also called as sun grazing comet.  But space telescope can be able to see this.  This is Comet ISON’s dangerous journey to our solar system.  During its closest approach, the high intense solar radiation can break comet into pieces and debris may go into Sun, which ends the comet journey.  Or if Comet ISON survives Sun’s high intense radiation at this distance, it will emerge as a very bright comet.  Comets behavior is unpredictable at this short distance; we still don’t know what happens to ISON on its closest approach.  The prediction says if ISON succeeds solar radiation, it will become very bright and can be seen through naked eye in the month of December.  And there are rumors that comet can be visible during day time also.  But we still don’t know whether its brightness is sufficient to watch during day time.

The best month to see Comet ISON (naked eye comet) is December 2013, assuming comet survives its closest approach.  It can be seen during evening time as well as morning time from all over the world and all through the month.  Northern hemisphere will have best view.  Best time to see comet is on 10th to 14th of December.  Here I have attached view of comet ISON taken from stellarium (Time and date are mentioned in the image and notice the direction EAST, which means morning sky).

stellarium-000 copy


All over the world campaigning about this comet is already started and many of amateur astronomy clubs have taken this opportunity to spread the essence of science to public and students.  Even in India there is a campaigning known as “Eyes on ISON” which is conducting (probably over) series of workshops across India.  Right now all of them are waiting for 28th November.  What happens on that day we still don’t know!

In some sense the year 2013 can be called as ‘year of bright comets’.  This is the second bright comet which we are seeing in this year.                    In the month of March, comet “pan-STARRS” created buzz among amateur astronomers as well as professionals. Even this comet was in the mood of one way trip to our solar system.  In India due to monsoon, observation of this comet washed away especially in South India. Nevertheless North Indian amateurs became successful in observing and photographing this comet. Couple of times I with my friends from BAS went outside the city to observe the comet, but we were unsuccessful. What we have today is a different story.  If everything happens according to predicted way, Comet ISON will be a naked eye object from the city.  The view of comet with its big tail will be a spectacular view in the night sky.  The only thing which worries  lot is cloud! Let’s wait and hope for the best.

More Information:
Space Telescope:
Eyes on ISON:
Live Position of Comet ISON:
To download stellarium:

For public programs on Comet ISON:
Bangalore Astronomical Society:
Bangalore Planetarium:

Viswa Keerthy S

Wavefunction and Max Born

One of the beautiful theories in physics, which is more than hundred years old, is Quantum Mechanics (QM).  In 1900 when Blackbody Curve was satisfactorily explained by Max Planck, Quantum Mechanics saw its birth.  Later many great scientist of 20th century like Einstein, Bohr, Hertz, Heisenberg, Dirac, Schrodinger, Born, de Broglie developed quantum mechanics the way we see it now.  Almost all the people whom I have mentioned above have received Nobel Prize for their work on developing QM.  But to me the important thing is the idea behind the each stage of development in the QM.  Some of the concept and the experimental results were unable to explain with the knowledge of Classical Mechanics which was well developed during that time.  The new ideas and concepts which came up to explain these strange results were led to the development of this field.  Here I want to focus on some ideas/concepts of QM developed by different people and more importantly by a great mathematician and physicist Max Born.

Max Planck was the first person who broke the “continuity” concept of classical mechanics and introduced the “discreteness” in the energy called ‘quanta’ (packets) of energy in order to explain the “Blackbody Curve”.  The formula which he gave was in fact a perfect fit for the observed experimental curve.  His formula for the discrete energy includes the constant h = 6.023X10^-34 Joules, where h is Planck’s constant.  He was awarded Nobel Prize for his work in the year 1918.  Later in 1905 Einstein also came up with similar idea of ‘photon’ (packets of energy) to explain the energy concept in Photoelectric Effect.  The concept of ‘discreteness’ (Einstein called ‘photon’, Planck called ‘quanta’) again fits perfectly for the Photoelectric Effect.  So, it is the idea of quantization principle (discreteness) which led to the satisfactory explanation for all these experimental results.  And Einstein received his Nobel Prize for his work on Photoelectric Effect in 1921.  Another great scientist Neils Bohr who was a student of Rutherford and he was working on the model of an atom.  Rutherford atomic model was not satisfactorily explaining all the observed experimental results.  His student Bohr applied the same ‘quantization principle’ to angular momentum and by using Plank theory he was able to explain all the observed phenomena through his new atomic model.  Again quantization principle perfectly fits the theory.  So, in quantum world every quantity is quantized.  Today we know even space and spin is quantized!  But in classical world this is not at all true, everything looks continuous!  The idea of quantization by different people has led to the development of this unknown world known as ‘quantum world’.

scientist photo copyImage: Max Planck, W Heisenberg, E Schrodinger, Max Born. 

In 1924 another great scientist de Broglie came up with a strange concept that almost all particles which has mass is associated with wave nature with a wavelength of h/mv, where v is the velocity of particle, m is mass and h is Planck’s constant.  This is called Wave-Particle duality, where all particle exhibit both the properties of wave as well as particle.  This was a big blow in the development of QM and its a strange concept when compared to Classical Mechanics.  The theory predicted that if a car (mass m) is moving at a velocity ‘v’ is actually associated with a wave of wavelength ‘h/mv’.  Classically it is impossible for a car to move like wave, but still the theory predicted wave nature of a car and gave the value of wavelength.  But in reality the effect of wave nature in a macroscopic world (mass is large) is very small and can be neglected, which means the car’s wavelength is very small and its wave nature can be neglected!  But when it comes to an electron which has very less mass, the wave nature of an electron magnifies and it can be studied under suitable condition.  The concept of QM is to study the dynamics of these tiny particles such as electrons and elementary particles.  Theory of QM is applicable to almost all particles, but for macroscopic particles the effects are very negligible and it is neglected.  This actually makes QM theory a Universal Theory to some extent.  For predicting the strange (classical sense) theory of wave-particle duality of nature de Broglie was awarded Nobel Prize in 1929.  Meanwhile in 1925 W Heisenberg explained the basic principles of QM through his papers ‘Quantum- Theoretical Mechanics based exclusively on relationships between quantities observable in principle’.  And in the very next year E Schrödinger came up with a different approach to QM through his ‘wave equation’, which is a very famous equation in physics called as ‘Schrodinger Equation’.  In classical mechanics we write the famous Newton’s law as F=ma, where ‘F’ is force applied, ‘m’ is mass of an object and ‘a’ is the acceleration of an object.  By solving this equation for a particular system (ex pendulum) we can get the equations of motion.  Which means the solutions can predict the motion of a system (ex Pendulum) after some time (t).  Newton’s law is actually the foundation to classical mechanics. And this equation holds good for almost all systems classically.  On the other hand in QM the same equation is replaced by ‘Schrodinger Equation’ which is given below.  Compare to Newton’s law, Schrödinger Equation is not so simple and difficult to solve.Equation

Meanwhile in 1927 Heisenberg came up with another law known as ‘Uncertainty Law’.  He said it is impossible to measure the position and momentum (mass x velocity) simultaneously for microscopic particles.  It means we cannot say the position and momentum of particle (ex. electron) at the same time.  This kind of simultaneous measurement is impossible in QM.  But in classical mechanics we can easily say the position of car and its momentum at any point of time simultaneously.  In macroscopic world everything looks simple and obvious, but the same is not true in microscopic world.  This restriction has reveled striking feature of microscopic world (nature) that we cannot pin point where is the electron in a system at a given point of time.  So, the traditional way of writing atomic model (fig a) breaks down and electron never revolve around the nucleus in a circular way as we have learnt in school.  Instead the circular line becomes a disk of width ‘a’ (two dimensional representation) (fig b).  Electron is present in the region of disk, but where in the region is unknown even today. There is a debate that may be we lack the technology of doing experiment and our instruments are incapable of doing such sensitive measurement.  But this is ruled out by scientist!  It is nothing to do with our technology or the sensitivity of instruments, Uncertainty Law is a law in nature! Neither our future technology nor our highly sensitive instruments in future can go beyond this level.  It is just there in the nature, and it magnifies in microscopic level.

model of atom

As I said the Schrödinger equation actually tells the dynamics of the particles (say electron).  It should describe how an electron moves in a given condition (ex. Infinite Square Well Potential).  While expressing this equation Schrodinger assumed that all the required information about the particle (electron) is hidden in the quantity called wavefunction (Ψ). By applying the given condition (given potential) to the equation one should get the value of wavefunction which is normally in complex form.  After obtaining the wavefunction in its form, the required information should be extracted from the wavefunction.  And this wavefuntion is a not a localized function but a spread function!  Uncertainty Law which is present in nature is actually a hidden property of Schrödinger equation and it shows up in the wavefunction as a spread function (not localized like classical mechanics).  But the question is how do we extract the required information about a particle from wavefunction?  Here comes Max Born a mathematician and physicist with his revolutionary approach to QM through Statistical Mechanics in the year 1926 said ‘modulus psi square(IΨ(x,t)I^2) is actually gives the probability of finding the particle at a point x and time t. Which means squaring of modulus of a wavefunction is actually a real quantity not a complex number! (But remember wavefunction is a complex quantity)  And Max Born was the first person to identify this quantity as the ‘probability’ of finding electron at x at time t.  This is called Born’s Statistical Interpritation.    I feel this concept is a revolution in QM, because without this concept we cannot interpret the wavefunction.  The normalization concept which is the direct product of this idea is a very handy tool in handling wavefunction.  I feel the statistical approach is the most significant step in the development of QM.  All credits go to Max Born who identified ‘modulus psi square’ is actually a probability.  Heisenberg and Schrodinger were awarded Nobel Prize in 1932 and 1933 respectively.  Max Born was awarded Nobel Prize on Dec 11, 1954 for his statistical approach to QM, after 29 years of his most important concept.  Coincidentally his Nobel Prize ceremony date was his 72nd birth anniversary (Born: 11 Dec 1882, Died: 5 Jan 1970)! In his Nobel Lectures he began his talk like this ” The work, for which I have had honour to be awarded the Nobel Prize for 1954, contains no discovery of fresh natural phenomenon, but rather the basis for a new mode of thought in regard to natural phenomena.”  What matters more is the way we think on some observed results/phenomenon.  All great scientist have just did that.  If you ask me what is QM, in simple words I can say Quantum Mechanics is just solving Schrodinger Equation.
(Max Born visited Bangalore in the year 1935.  He worked with Sir C V Raman at Indian Institute of Science for six months.)

On an application level QM has wide verity of application.  In a real world application it is applied in Laser, MRI, Quantum Cryptography, Transistor and many more.  It is also applied in the study of Atoms and Molecules, Nuclear Physics, Astrophysics, Solid State Physics and many more.  At some point of time I said QM is a Universal Theory, but still it fails to explain some important concepts.  Even today there is a debate on the fundamental concepts and principles of QM.  It is still not a complete theory even after more than hundred years.  Never the less it is one of the famous theories in Physics.

In the developing stages, the unique ideas by the scientist played a vital role in shaping QM in a proper way.  For student like us the important thing is the ideas behind each successful stage of development in QM or in general Science.  The ideas/concepts which are different from normal thinking can actually change the world totally.  This has actually happened in the history.  When I met my friend Suraj at Bangalore Planetarium, we were discussing about the great scientist and their concepts.  He said “look Einstein is famous for E=mc^2, Stephen Hawking is famous for his chair, Feynman is famous for his teachings, but there are other great scientist with their ideas/concepts, revolutionized the world, but they are not famous among us (to some extant this is true even among science students and teachers).  Everyone tells Faraday, Einstein, Edison, Hawking but nobody remembers Maxwell, Tesla, Born, Dirac, Pauli and many more who are equally important like others.  The reason is we never tell the stories of these great peoples among students.   I feel it is the stories of these great people and their ideas are important to students rather than the confined textbook chapters.

[If you are still interested in quantum mechanics and its development I strongly recommend you to read the preliminary chapters and Nobel Lectures in the book “Quantum Mechanics: Theory and Applications” by A.K. Ghatak and S. Lokanathan.     (S. Lokanathan was my Classical Mechanics teacher in REAP Course at Bangalore Planetarium)].

[I have just shown only four scientist pictures in this article, but all of them are equally important.]

Image credits: Google images.

Viswa Keerthy S

War of Currents!

This is the story of a forgotten inventor who went on harnessing the forces of nature to the human need for almost all through his life time.  He was the one, who is responsible for the fast growth of industrial revolution in America and later at all parts of world.  He was the one, who first demonstrated Wireless Communication, Remote Control, working of Guided Missiles, uses of Neon and Fluorescent light and the first one who dreamed to harness the force of world famous Niagara Falls.  He was also a contemporary of Thomas Alva Edison, and undoubtedly a greatest inventor of all time.  His name is Nikola Tesla.

IMG_8316Nikola Tesla was born in a typical Serbian family on 10 July 1856.  His father was a Serbian Orthodox Priest.  After completing his primary and secondary education near his birth town, he was interested to do his further education in engineering.  During those days there were only two options for children’s, one should become priest or should join to Army.  His father expected him to become priest but Tesla denied both of them and showed interested in engineering.  At last Tesla convinced his father and joined one of the prestigious institutions during those days.  His subject in engineering was Electrical Engineering.  During early days of his engineering Tesla was very much fascinated with the science of electricity.  He began to do certain experiments on electricity which made him to understand in better way.  By then Michael Faraday had discovered the process of generation of electricity by Electromagnetic Induction.  Tesla began to work on this process and developed a vision of producing Alternating Current!

Electricity was still at the developing stage in 19th Century.  During that time Thomas Alva Edison was become very popular for his discovery of “Incandescent Bulb” or the “Electric Bulb”.  Electric Bulb is one of the greatest inventions of all time, because this tiny little bulb has made us to observe our night time as broad day time and revolutionized the world. After it’s discovery electric bulb suddenly became famous all over the world for its simplicity and efficient work.   He began to manufacture his electric bulb through his company “Edison Electric Company” based in US.  By that time there were many industries, and slowly industrial revolution was taking its shape in America and all over the world.  But one of the drawback for these industries was they were using Direct Current or DC.  All motors, generators and lights were using DC.  And Edison had a great faith in DC and was using DC for all his works.  He had his own laboratory in his company and he was working on improving the efficiency of motors, generators by using DC.  But Tesla an engineering graduate was dreaming about an entirely different idea of generating Alternating Currents (AC) and using AC for generators.  On one occasion Tesla expressed his interest on AC for his teacher in class.  In reply teacher said ‘you will never accomplish this…, because it is like a perpetual motion’.  Tesla was disturbed with this remark but he did not lose his interest.   Somehow Tesla wanted to carry on his work on AC but he was in need of financial assistance.  One of his friends suggested him to meet Thomas Alva Edison and continue his work with him.  By then Edison was recognized as a great electrical engineer around the world.  Tesla friend Charles Batchelor who was also a close associate for Edison agreed to give ticket for his voyage to America and to meet Edison.  Tesla agreed for this and thought he should discuss his ideas with Edison and continue his work with him.

Tesla started his voyage to America, the country where he finally settles and attains its Citizenship.  During his voyage he lost his ticket and lands in America without having money in his pocket.  Somehow he meets Edison at his company and showed him the letter which his friend Batchelor had given him.  Batchelor began his letter, “Dear Mr. Edison, I know two great man and you are one of them and the other is this young man…”  These sentences indicates Batchelor had already noticed the talent and visionary ideas of Tesla.  Tesla began to explain his interest of developing and improving the generators by using AC to Edison.  Edison straight away shows his disagreement with this idea by saying it is impractical, and offers him a position in his company and suggests him to work with him for improving efficiency of DC generators.  Tesla agreed for this and Edison going one step forward offers him price money if he succeeded in his work.  Tesla, who is always fascinated with electricity, works hard and finally succeeds in doing Edison work.  After the work when Tesla enquired about his price money with Edison, he denied by saying you don’t understand American’s sense of humor!  Feeling embarrassing Tesla resigns his position in Edison Company and starts his own lab in the same street.

After starting his own lab Tesla was deeply involved in his idea of AC.  The problem with Direct Current is, it is sufficient to power light and motor, but long distance transmission was not efficient.  Tesla was trying to improve this by using AC.  He spends almost all his time in his lab and finally comes up with the idea of AC generators, and even builds a small working generator in his lab.  Tesla even took patent for this design.  One day George Westinghouse an American entrepreneur and owner of Westinghouse Electric Company visits Tesla’s lab.  Looking at Tesla’s generators and its efficient work, on spot he offered a highest position in his company and agreed to pay for his patent design work.  Within no time Tesla became a billionaire.  He became very famous for his invention in AC generators.  Noticing Tesla’s

fame in America, Edison started negative media coverage by demonstrating the disadvantages of AC at public places.  He even electrocuted animals at public places and killed them.  In turn Tesla had a public demonstration of explaining how efficient is AC for motors, generators and long distance transmission if properly maintained.  Both of them are greatest inventor of their time, yet their views on Alternating and Direct current are different.  This difference and fight between them was portrayed as ‘War of Currents’.  Finally the war dramatically ends and Tesla wins the war for his revolutionary design of AC generator.

In 1893, to mark the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus arrival in New World, World Columbian Exposition was arranged at Chicago.  For this event, Westinghouse Electric Company and Edison Electric Company were awarded the task of placing light for the entire area near the Statue of Republic.  Tesla took this challenge seriously and built large AC generation plants. It was his AC generators which were used to supply electricity for electric bulbs which are from Edison Company.  When night falls, lights were switched on everywhere.  This is the world’s first fare that was lit up by electricity.  It was one of the world’s best magnificent displays of light ever seen by mankind.  All these was possible due to Tesla’s innovative and great work on AC generators and its efficiency!  Lord Kelvin (physicist and head of International Commission which was working on to use the power of water falls to generate electricity) was also attend this great fare.  Looking at this amazing display of light as well as the AC generators, Lord Kelvin awards a project for Westinghouse Electric Company to build a Power Station at Niagara Falls.  It was a dream comes true for Tesla.  During his childhood he one’s told his uncle about harnessing the force of Niagara falls.  And now he is at the edge of making his dream to alive and creating a history in the world.  Westinghouse took this project as a challenge under the leadership of Tesla and installed two 5000 horse power generators which generated AC current and stepped up to 22000 volts and then transmitted over a long distance.  This was a great boon for the industries and the industrial revolution began in America.  Even today we are using the same design that Tesla did one hundred years ago.  He was a visionary scientist, all his work and design is exceptionally brilliant.  If we are having a privileged life due to electricity, it is all because of Tesla’s innovative ideas and thinking.  Every Hydroelectric Power Station which you see all over the world today uses Tesla’s AC generators.  This even paved way for the industrial revolution across the world, and today we know how industrial revolution has changed our way of life.

The legacy of Tesla does not end here.  He resigned his position at Westinghouse Company and starts his own lab and works on new objectives.  He concentrated his next work on transferring energy without wires.  That is Wireless Transmission and Radio Communication.  He did lot of research and build many models to demonstrate his work and even got patented for his many designs.  He again dreamed of connecting entire globe with wireless communication.  Today wireless communication is obvious for us but during his days it was unimaginable.  Tesla also invented a special coil known as Tesla Coil.  Even today it is called as Tesla Coil.  It is a specially designed coil for conversion of low voltage to high voltage in turn for high frequencies.  These high frequencies can be transmitted by using transmitter and received at the other end by using receiver.  Tesla did many experiments by using this coil and in fact he built one of the biggest Tesla Coil in his time for transmitting higher frequencies.  He tuned his frequencies in such a way that he himself should act as a receiver and he could glow a lamp just by holding it in hand anywhere in the room, without connecting wire!  It was like magic for public, and Tesla was a magician in public view.  During that time G. Marconi has announced to the world regarding the transmission of radio waves across Pacific Ocean.  But it was said that Marconi has used Tesla’s 28 patent in his work, and he even used a coil similar to Tesla coil but argued it was the design that he created for his work.  No one questioned Marconi about this and he ultimately became famous as an inventor of Radio.

After all these events, Tesla again concentrated on his other works. He built remote controlling devices, and went on studying lightning for many years.  He even built another laboratory for the study of lightning and produced the first manmade lightning from his lab.  He also worked on X rays, fluorescent and neon lights and did major contribution in developing those fields.  Tesla was a master in electricity, his work in electricity is immortal.  His thinking capabilities and a vision in each of his invention is a legendary stories.

In 1909 G. Marconi was awarded Nobel Prize for his work on Radio.  Tesla commented for this news saying “Marconi is a donkey”.  And finally 1915 Nobel Prize was   announced for Thomas Alva Edison and Nikola Tesla for their valuable contribution to the field of Electricity.  Tesla felt very happy about the prize and ready to share the prize with Edison, but before the Nobel Prize Ceremony, both name were dropped and the prize was given to another physicists H. Bragg and L. Bragg for their work on X ray analysis on crystal Structure.  Noble Prize committee remarked by saying, the announcement of prize to Edison and Tesla was just rumors and it was just an error in media.  Edison and Tesla did not win Nobel Prize!  After these unpleasant events Tesla alone continued his work in his laboratory.  Later his condition was worst and he became broke and was seen feeding pigeons at the parks in New York.  Looking at Tesla’s condition his old boss Westinghouse helped him financially.  Finally, Institute of Electrical Engineer recognized Tesla’s work and announced America’s prestigious prize “Edison Medal” to Nikola Tesla.  But Tesla goes missing during the prize distribution day, even Edison neglect the event because of his official tour.  On the same day at evening, Tesla was seen feeding pigeons near the public library building at New York, after he spotted; prize was handed over to him!

Even during his final days Tesla was working on a new project known as “Death Ray” which uses lightning beams to kill enemies.  It was said that he had the rough design of this science fiction device.  Today we know that it is impractical to build this device.     Nikola Tesla died on 7 January 1943.    He was 87 years old when he died.  He died in his hotel room at New York.  And many of his new design papers went missing from his hotel room including the Death Ray device.

Nikola Tesla is a great visionary engineer and a true inventor of all time.  He had a vision in every goal.  His work on AC generator has truly changed the way of life and well being of mankind.  He saw the beauty and powerful forces of nature and went on harnessing forces of nature to the need of mankind.  He worked in his life like a true inventor!

To honor this great inventor in 1960 the General Conference on Measures and Weights announced the unit of physical quantity “Magnetic Induction” called as “Tesla (T)”.

Photo Credit:
First Photo: It is a photo displayed at VITM, Bangalore.
Second Photo:
Documentaries on Tesla:

Viswa Keerthy S