Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Book review: The Scientific Edge

The scientific edge
Caught in the frenzy of reading books on Indian history and development I stumbled upon 'The scientific Edge' by Jayant V Narlikar and was up for a very demanding read; demanding in that it wasn't a light read and every idea presented in the book took my time and thoughts. I had to pause every now and then to ponder over the facts and opinions mentioned in the book.

The book 'The Scientific Edge' as is apparent from the title is a science non-fiction work. The author has elaborated on the development of science in India during the last millennium throwing in generous comparisons with the western scientific development. This 200 page book covers topics such as Indian scientific temper in the start of previous millennium, works of prominent contributors such as Aryabhatta and Brahmagupta, astronomical development in India and elsewhere, major scientific achievements during the reign of few renowned rulers, importance of scientific culture in India, science journalism and the future of Indian science.

Being the scientist that he is, Jayant has adopted a crisp factual way of writing true to his profession. The book is laden with numerous facts and statistics to support all the ideas author likes to convey. The language is simple and unpretentious albeit one requires a general scientific temperament to develop a liking towards the book. I constantly took the help of internet to comprehend the jargon of astronomical community and hence the resultant 30+ days of reading, although I left out reading a chunk of the book at the end.

When I picked up the book I had high hopes of knowing Indian scientific history better. But it is not meant to be. The author being a cosmologist has provided justice only to the topics of astronomy and astrophysics and superficially dealt with remaining sciences. There is hardly any substantial matter on fields such as metallurgy, architectural measurements, Ayurveda and the likes in which Indians had achieved remarkable sophistication. The author is critical of the lack of innovation and perseverance in Indian scientific community which is just. An unnecessary amount of discussion is wasted on the universities of ancient India. Though I agree any debate over Indian science is incomplete without the mention of universities such as Nalanda, Kashi, Takshashila, the author shouldn't have given as much hype as he has given to universities and their role in scientific development.

The book might have been a tiring read, nevertheless I am a well informed person now than I was a month before. I suggest this book to anyone who is making an effort to stretch oneself beyond the comfort zone, into another field of knowledge. I believe such an off beat read works up your grey cells and opens up few new channels in brain.

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