Big Science

16 Jul

Kundankulam nuclear power plant in south India is going critical. It would generate a sorely needed additional 400MW of power in the first stage. Tamil Nadu should be rejoicing but no, there are widespread protests.

I am a big fan of science – reasonable, provable and ethical science. I believe that such science would help us deal with many problems – if not solve them outright, it will help us develop tools to come to terms with these problems. This is going to make many angry but some one has to say it – invest in nuclear energy!

Not put up monuments to nuclear power which is what we do when we build a new power plant based on a design that is at least 60 years old, but invest in coming up with solutions that can solve the problems we have encountered so far. Yes, I understand we cannot make it 100% safe but please do not tell me that innovation has died out, please do not tell me that we cannot learn from the disasters in Fukushima and Chernobyl and make the technology better, please do not tell me, that we have reached our pinnacle and that there is nothing more to be done but fear.

Of course, I would like to live in a fairytale where pollution is non-existent, where we have a cornucopia that gives us as much food as we want, where all species of animals have their niche, where there are no wars, no drones, no dying children. But I am not living in such a world. I live in a world surrounded by poverty and hunger, diseases and natural disasters. We live in a universe that does not care whether humans as a species survive or die out. What do we do?

I agree that TED cannot solve all problems by itself – without human compassion, science alone would be a chisel with no purpose, no skilled sculptor to guide it. But should we then regress and make ourselves believe that the 15th century was a better time? Was the world a better place before science came about? Perhaps in some aspects yes, if you consider only the Amazonian forest coverage but for humans it was a miserable place. There were regular culling of the human population by famine and diseases. And unfortunately, some of our fellow humans are still living in that era with diseases, famine and lack of infrastructure. How do we help?

I know I cannot change the world with a blog post but when I see my mother with her 68-years suffering weeks of power cuts, then I ask myself why can we not build a better nuclear power station? When I see small-pox coming back again in parts of India, I wonder why have we given up on vaccination? The only technology I am not thoroughly convinced about is Gen-Food, not because it is ‘Frankenstein Food’ but because I think traditional grafting has not reached its end and if all nations can come up with a food consortium for more or less equal distribution of food, we can live comfortably without any need for this. Yes, I understand that that is not going to happen because we are not a nice species.

It is hypocrisy when people who actually have all these things – food, health care, uninterrupted power supply and cool gadgets get to decide for the rest of the world which science should be encouraged and to be invested in. And the sad part is, it is not because these people do not want the rest of the world to have what they have, it is because they actually believe that that kind of science is evil. Because they believe that they are better informed to save the world.

I do not deny the danger of atomic power stations, I do not deny that we do not completely understand nano particles in cosmetics, medicine –I do not understand all the ramifications or the causes either. I fear what I do not know. But I ask you, is the solution to all this fear saying a ‘No’ and creating more fear or investing in finding ways and means to make it better? Should we not try and plug the holes in our sinking ship or design a new kind of ship that does not have these problems in the first place or should we just say no more sailing and be done with it?

Is it possible that all the energy we put in fighting Big Pharma, Big Nuclear stations, Big-whatever could be channelized into coming up with watch-groups that would provide an independent tribunal to make sure that ethics are not ignored for the sake of profits? I know we are a creative species and we want to solve the big problems. Perhaps Big science with big tolerance and compassion and the willingness to admit that we could be wrong, will be the way. I have faith in humanity.

PS: Neal Stephenson, a favourite author of mine, gave this talk at ‘Solve for X’. He is not a charismatic speaker and drones on a bit but he stands up for his convictions, even if it is unpopular.

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2 Responses to “Big Science”

  1. Vaishali July 16, 2013 at 5:39 am #

    Hey Vani, so rightly put. You really have a way with words and i agree with you on science for causes that matter to us humans in saving, preserving, creating and enhancing our lives…………

  2. karma2000 July 16, 2013 at 7:39 am #

    Hey Vaishali, Thanks. It angers me when people who already have everything preach to the ones that do not have all that luxury. If you want change, then invest in those companies that are doing good work, support your Government in coming up with solutions and not just protest without really understanding what is at stake. Let’s see if we can at least make a difference in our children’s life and teach them to be analytical and not live in fear.

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