Junoon's Mumbai Local with Dr Amol Dighe

Kitab Khana

"In a vault inside the elegant LouisXIV Pavillon de Breteuil, outside Paris, a small metal cylinder rests on a shelf beneath a double set of bell jars. It has lain there for more than a century, its repose only occasionally disturbed when the vault's three key holders perform a co-ordinated opening ceremony to let technicians enter and clean the ingot... Such reverence for a lump of metal is unusual, but has a purpose. The pavilion houses the International Bureau of Weights and Measures and that piece of platinum-iridium alloy is its holiest relic. It is the defining mass against which all other kilograms are measured. This is the international prototype of the kilogram. The IPK, in short." 
- Robert McKie, 'The future of the kilo: a weighty matter', The Guardian, 2 Nov 2018

On 20th May 2019, this physical kilogram near Paris was retired. Its weight had changed over time, and the scientific community had already started to move away from physical references for measurement. The metre, the second and other units of measurement were already being defined by natural constants - for example, the speed of light - as these constants do not vary over time. It has been decided that the new kilogram will be defined in terms of Planck's Constant. There will be no more reference ingot in a vault near Paris, no more ceremonial cleaning, no more collective ritual reverence for a lump of metal.

We are delighted to have Amol Dighe - scientist, educator and nautanki - to look deeper into what these changes mean for us. On an everyday basis, we are probably still going to go to the sabziwalla and get our vegetables measured for us against the physical kilogram weight. But with this shift, the laws of nature - the realm of quantum physics - has now become relevant to us in our everyday measurements. This is a change in philosophy, a new way of thinking. How does a change in science thinking affect the way we approach living in the world? How does this affect our philosophy of the world? 

Join us on Friday, 20 September, for a fascinating evening that joins the dots between science, philosophy and society. We will have some fun pondering on the past and projecting into the future, as science shifts out basis from the material, physical objects to the abstract intangible constant. 

Curated by Arnab Bhattacharya

Dr. Amol Dighe is a Professor of Physics at Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, in the Department of Theoretical Physics. He tries to understand the connections between the worlds pf very small and very large - particle physics and astrophysics. He searches for the unknown in the particles that come from the sky. He is an alumnus of IIT Bombay and the University of Chicago, and has worked in Italy, Switzerland, and Germany before returning to his hometown as a Mumbai local.

He was one of the first Indian Bronze Medalists in the International Mathematics Olympiad, received the Institute Silver Medal from IIT Bombay, and led the Max Planck - India Partner Group in Neutrino Physics and Astrophysics for five years. He has been elected Fellow of the Indian Academy of Sciences and the Indian National Science Academy. He has won the Swarnajayanti Fellowship from the Department of Science and Technology, and is the recipient of the Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Award. He has also won the Distinguished Alumnus award of IIT Bombay.

Apart from his scientific publications, Dr. Dighe has also written numerous popular science articles in Marathi newspapers, weeklies, and magazines. His interests range from science and mathematics to languages and theatre. But above all, he is passionately curious about how nature works. 


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