It is that time of the year again. Every year in october the Nobel prize winners for the year are announced.
A lot of people have asked me if there is a Indian born Physicist who “deserves” the Nobel prize. I always tell them about E.C.G Sudarshan.
This year’s Nobel prize has gone to a group of Physicists who worked on quantum Optics. Among them is Roy Glauber. Glauber developed the mathematical representation of coherent states and used that to study light. And so did Sudarshan. Indeed coherent states are represented by what is called the Glauber-Sudarshan P representation.
So Sudarshan missed the Nobel prize again. And he has missed it before in the theory of VA weak interactions. And he also discovered the Quantum Zeno effect and that too “deserves” the Nobel. In fact Sudarshan has been nominated for the Nobel prize six times and has missed it every time.
E.C.G Sudarshan is a great Physicist who has contributed a lot to the progress of Physics. And we Indians should be proud of him. About a fortnight ago there was an article in the “Hindustan times” that Sudarshan missed the prize because he was an Indian! Nonsense! Sometimes we attach too much importance to the Nobel prize and keep feeling bad that Indians dont win it.
I know several other Physicists who have made fundamental contributions and not got the prize : David Bohm, John Bell, Klauder, Emil Wolf, Leonard Mendel, Berry, Aharonov …. the list goes on and on….
How does it matter. We Indians should be more concerned that we are not producing as many scientists as we should. And our best minds are not going into science. Our best minds are only going into monetarily lucrative professions and not into Science.
And should Sudarshan be sad that he missed it again? Absolutely not!
A scientist has already received the biggest prize: a desire and the ability to understand this magnificient creation of God. This one thing can give him happiness all his life. The love and devotion for science makes every moment filled with pleasure. This one thing elevates his life to a higher level. Before this prize given by God, the prizes given by other men mean nothing.
And a Nobel prize is not a reward for talent. Science does not progress because a few talented scientists make great discoveries. The progress of Science is a strange mixture of group effort and individual effort. Every scientist makes his individual effort in a direction that no body else takes. And one of these scientists finds the right answer. It is important that everyone takes his own individual path. Science progresses because there are a huge number of people who try to find the solution by taking different paths. So scientists should follow their own instincts and not follow the fashions of the day.
And that is something that the Nobel prize hurts. People know that some subjects like cosmology, astronomy, interpretations of quantum mechanics may never yield them the Nobel prize and so they stay away from them. It may not happen at a conscious level but it does happen. This hurts science. And it is for this reason that I personally would like the Nobel prizes to end. The concept of the Nobel prize does not help Science. Instead it impedes its progress.
Some people say that Nobel prizes inspire the younger generation. This is not true. Nobel prizes just make some scientists famous without people actually knowing what they did. We Indians know about C.V Raman but how many know what Raman effect really is!? What is the point of becoming famous when no one knows what you did! The younger generation is inspired by good books. And any good book written by anyone has the power to inspire.
The pursuit of science is almost a religious activity and when only when a religious activity has no reward associated with it does it become pure.
The pure joy experienced by a Scientist when he pursues his Science are described the the following words by Bertrand Russel:
“At the age of eleven, I began Euclid, with my brother as my tutor. This was one of the great events of my life, as dazzling as first love. I had not imagined there was anything so delicious in the world.