Monday, February 19, 2018

The Chandrasekhar Lectures

 Last month was a month with an unexpected  treat,  the pleasure of attending the Chandrasekhar lectures  by the distinguished physicist K.R. Sreenivasan, at the International  Centre for Theoretical Sciences in Bangalore,  which is currently celebrating a decade  of existence, and of hosting stimulating programs high intellectual quality. Prof. Sreenivasan gave a beautiful set of three lectures on Chandrasekhar's personality, work, and Prof. Sreenivasan's own seminal work on turbulence and its scaling laws.

The most interesting part of the lecture was Sreeni's take on the inner sadness of  Chandrasekhar's later years. Someone commented that the huge gap between Chandrasekhar's upbringing and  surroundings contributed to his isolation, in addition to his well known controversies with Eddington and others. Various University of Chicago alumni reminisced  about how he always kept track of  Indian students, even if he didn't really know how to interact with them,  and  didn't like them succumbing to the lure of what he termed 'fashionable physics' (i.e. various forms of quantum field theory). More down to earth forms of physics, like condensed matter physics, did meet with his approval.

Interestingly, on an occasion when Chandrasekhar had visited IIT Madras, many years ago, a student asked him what advice he would give those who are starting on their careers. Chandrasekhar said his advice was, `You have to work all your life. If you actually work all your life, at the end of your career, I assure you, your work will amount to something'. 

It was all the more appropriate that the speaker at the Chandrasekhar lectures was  Prof. Sreenivasan,  indisputably someone who had worked all his life, and with important contributions in every phase of his life, and that the occasion was his 70th birthday. We take this opportunity to raise a toast to his achievements, and to thank him for his leadership of, and unstinting support to the nonlinear dynamics community over the years.

This blog post is by Neelima Gupte and Sumathi Rao.

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