Curiosity is the fundamental basis for the process of learning about It helps children to explore, question and often wonder world they live in his book puts together many such questions the and only posted to Prot Yash Pal, like 'Why is the sky bluer? 'Why does an air conditioner "leak" water? ''Do baby chicks breathe inside the eggshell before they are born?"; 'Will life on Mars be possible in next 10 years.'; 'Why was Einstein so intelligent?' and even 'Can a human being become invisible?' Whatever the question, Prof. Yash Palls answers are marked by basis their simplicity, honesty and a gradual unravelling of the scientific behind each. Covering a wide array of subjects, this book with over (1011 questions arranged randomly, makes an interesting read for all.
Yash Pal (1926-2017) was a distinguished scientist, educationist, science communicator and institution builder. He did his PhD from Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a specialisation in high-energy physics, astrophysics, communication, science policy and space technology. He held several key positions icluding Professor at Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai; Director, Space Applications, Centre, Ahmedabad; Chief Consultant, Planning Commission; Secretary, Department of Science and Technology; and Chairman, University Grants Commission, New Delhi. He also served as the Chancellor of Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He was recipient of several awards including Padma Bhushan in 1976; Indira Gandhi Prize for Popularisation of Science in 2000; Meghnad Saha Medal in 2006; and India's second highest civilian honour, the Padma Vibhushan, in 2013. Yash Pal is also known for the science programme Turning Point telecast on Doordarshan where he explained scientific concepts in layman's language.
Rahul Pal is presently working as a scientist at the National Institute of Immunology, New Delhi. After receiving his Masters degree in biological sciences from BITS Pilani, Rajasthan, Rahul Pal did his PhD in biochemistry from AIIMS, New Delhi.
Dr. Rahul Pal and I had published a book titled Discovered Questions a few years ago. It was the time when I was deeply involved in the NCERT exercise for revising the National Curriculum Framework for school education — NCF-2005. I felt that my experience with children's queries, through postcards, Internet, hundreds of face-to-face interactions and thousands of questions through newspapers seemed to be an integral part of thinking about the nature of the new curriculum. Basic elements in this were the following: "Education is not delivered; it is constructed or created by each child"; "Observation and curiosity to understand what is observed is an integral component of living and growing up"; and "Our systems with rigidly defined syllabi and fixed ways of transacting only that which is in the syllabus, wipe away all natural curiosity; most of the unconventional questions can be dismissed by saying that `they are not school questions' or, an over encompassing dismissal by saying, 'no need to know'."
Simultaneously, we make another constriction. We demand that learning should be confined within specific disciplines. That which is not easily fitted into already defined disciplines, is not considered knowledge. This is a serious assault on learning. It ends up separating learning from life and creativity because both of these can never be contained in any single discipline.
When relieved from such limitations and constraints, one finds that spontaneous questions from students of all ages are so refreshing. I try not to act as a coaching instructor for
any discipline but I do try to take up the queries, even go on tangential excursions, keeping in mind the age and the hidden concerns behind particular questions. It is possible that my feelings and thinking in this regard had some influence on the spirit and content of NCF-1995. It is more likely that some of my vague ideas found words through interaction and wisdom of a thousand remarkable people led by Prof. Krishna Kumar, engaged in the exercise of creating the framework.
Our new book is called Random Curiosity. Perhaps the word 'Random' is superfluous, perhaps not. We feel that curiosity by nature has a random character. This might be triggered by some new observation, some new thoughts that have been idling around our mind, a chance encounter with a restless soul, or just because we have grown up suddenly, or hit by a Cosmic Ray somewhere in the brain! In preparing the final version of this book I had full collaboration, criticism, and corrections from my son Dr. Rahul Pal. Rahul, a serious young scientist from the National Institute of Immunology, has been a long time co-worker, even though we come from different disciplines. Every answer has been tried on him and often corrected. We did have differences. Rahul often gets impatient with my folksy and bazaari style. He sometimes feels that I insult the exactitude of serious science. He often prevails, but not always. He does not sulk if I do not fall in line. This book is somewhat bigger. It is based on questions, answered mainly in Malayala Manorama and The Tribune; and thus gleaned from their weekly columns. We were surprised and delighted, for the questions kept pouring in. I firmly believe that it is this stream of questions that has kept me young and "childlike". Yes, "childlike" is a description I find rather flattering at this stage of my life.
My wondering now is catalyzed and inspired by children. They often make me look at things that had passed me by. I try not to avoid inconvenient questions. But I hope I do not become too pedantic or fundamentalist in my thinking. This interaction with children is a precious gift — much beyond what I could have dreamt of at this time of my life. Initially the questions came through post but now they mostly come through e-mail. We hope that this collection, based on six years of interaction, might be amusing, joyful or instructive for readers. The basic contribution springs from the curiosity of children and others who keep writing. We continue to learn. In the end a few words about the organization of the material in this book. We have purposely decided that each question stands on its own. Therefore, we have put them in as randomly as they came. The list of the questions appearing in the text has been provided in the form of contents page; and an exhaustive index has been given at the end for the readers' benefit. We are sure this arrangement would work for the easy reading of Random Curiosity.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
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