Is Madras the cultural capital of India? Some people seem to think so. Given the film industry of Kodambakkam and Vadapalani, the Tamil publishing industry, the December music season, and recently the Madras week celebrations, besides institutions like the museums, the Government College of Fine Arts, Kalakshetra, it seems a fitting epithet. A sorely missing aspect is popular science programs. Which is ridiculous for a city that boasted of mathematician Ramanujan, and physics Nobelist S Chandrasekhar.
We have had famous scientists and mathematicians speak in Madras in recent years – Bharat Ratna CNR Rao and ISRO chief Kiran Kumar at IIT Madras, Fields Medalist Manjul Bhargava at KSRI, astronomer Jayant Narlikar, microbiologist Chakraborty, mathematicians Roddam Narasimha, Bruce Berndt, Eric Lander, Krishnaswami Alladi, Ajit Varki, neurologist Vilayanur Ramachandran, at several fora. MatScience has started an annual program, KV Sarma Foundation hosts an annual lecture and other institutions conduct programs. But these usually cater to experts, rarely to the general public.
Some of us felt that we need a forum for lectures addressed to the general public. A forum that hosts monthly lectures, where people can meet regularly and develop fellowship and a community. So we have started the Varahamihira Science Forum (this is our Facebook page). The speakers need not be professionals in their field, though we would be delighted to have them lecture. Anyone who can tell a great story, with all the drama and suspense and humour and obstacles and puzzles that science demands and boasts of, is an ideal speaker.
The first lecture will be on Sunday 20 August 2017, from 4pm to 5.30pm. I will deliver a lecture on Antoine Lavoisier and the Origin of Modern Chemisty. The venue is Wandering Artist, 51, 6th Main Road, RA Puram, Chennai. There will be an entrance fee of Rs.100/- per person. This is merely to cover costs like hall rent. We intend to run this forum as a non-profit organization. There is not even an organization, just a bunch of friends volunteering to get something going, along the lines of the Tamil Heritage Trust.
We hope we can have a series of monthly lectures, and that it inspires similar fora across the city and the state. We also hope we can form a community and launch other activities.