Wednesday, October 7, 2009

With the Nobel Prize frenzy building up, the preeminent question reemerges: when would an Indian get that honor? Many curse India’s R&D spending for this ignoble fate. But, as the Director General of India’s premier Council for Industrial and Scientific Research, R A Mashelkar points it is not the dearth of funding but the lack of questioning and intense thinking that thwarts India. We hardly think why things happen this or that way. May sound very fundamental, but from that question can emerge a path-breaking idea. Like, as Mashelkar notes:

An innovator is also one who sees what everyone sees but thinks of what no one else thinks. Look at [2006’s] Nobel Prize winners for medicine, Robin Warren and Barry Marshall. Everyone had thought that the cause of gastritis inflammation and stomach ulceration is excessive acid secretion due to irregularities in diet and lifestyle. Warren & Marshall postulated that the causative agent was, in fact, a bacterium called Heliobacter pylori. They were ridiculed but they stuck to their guns. They could see and think beyond what others saw and thought.

Once, I thought why should the four bases on the DNA pair up in only one way with those on another DNA: adenosine with guanine and cytosine with thymine. What a stupid question? Then, I came to know that this is because of the covalent bond being strong between only those bases. Had I accepted that as received wisdom, I would have never known this. Question as much as possible, even if answers are not readily apparent!

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