ডিসকাশন প্রজেক্ট - From Hypatia to Enigma of Time
প্রতিষ্ঠার ২৬ বছরে ‘ডিসকাশন প্রজেক্ট’। সকল সদস্য-শুভানুধ্যায়ীদের সংস্থার পক্ষ থেকে আন্তরিক শুভেচ্ছা!
ঢাকা, নভেম্বর ২০, ২০১৮, ৫ অগ্রহায়ন ১৪২৫, স্থানীয় সময়: ২:৩১ am

From Hypatia to Enigma of Time

বিজ্ঞান ভাবনা | ২৬ ফাল্গুন ১৪২১ | Tuesday, March 10, 2015

From Hypatia to Enigma of TimeBroadening the niche of the rational in man’s soul and society seems to be the aim of a strangely named and yet enduring movement called Discussion Project. This they want to achieve through dissemination of knowledge. But knowledge without understanding can be dangerous. Dead information enlivened by the supremely creative activity involved in the striving to understand salvages man from the ever-repeating animality to the oft-erring but ever so ground-breaking specialty of humanity. The Discussion Project launched in 1992 at Narayanganj - the unliveliest place in all the world, with only one speaker and two paying listeners - is broadly a science populariser series of lectures illuminating the approaches of a post-quantum physicist not burdened with metaphysical hangovers. And from the very beginning through all of its session — three kind: individual discussion, group discussion and open discussion — it has been payment thing at Tk 50 a person for one ‘discussion’. The beauty of this pioneering and incredible event was that on many occasions the ‘discussion’ was held to sell out house. The number of sessions and the variety subjects treated at these offer a measure of broadness of vision as well as some interesting bias. Let us look at a dozen of them:
1. The Cosmic Calendar of Carl Sagan
2. The Search for a Second Earth (enquiry into extra-terrestrial life).
3. The Geolgical Time Scale.
4. The Enigma of Time. (The Einsteinian slowing down of time etc.)
5. The Origin of Life.
6. Forces of Nature and GUT (The Grand Unifying theories.)
7. The Big Bang and Origin of Galaxies.
8. Introduction of Psychology.
9. The Euclidean Geommetry (the sum of a triangle’s angles.)
10. The Riemannian Geometry (the sum is greater than the two right angles.)
11. The Lobatchevskian Geometry (the sum less than two right angles.)
12. Incidence Geometry.

This sampling may be indicative of certain bias but it is to early to be sure about that. Asif, yes he is not known by any other name, first or third, started it all and continues to be the leading light of group, is physicist by training. But so were Bernal and Bronowski and Sagan. And yet they ventured into vistas not commonly understood as physicist. And Asif has his mentors among such specially Carl Sagan on whom he has written a book* soon to be published by the group.
If there is indeed a bias in aims and doings of the Discussion Project it is not so much on disseminating the physicist’s or astrophysicist’s idea of things or world about us there is a preponderance in the group’s thinking of phenomenon of enquiring mind and its manifestations and quests of over the centuries beginning with Thales. And as such Asif and his group places very high the achievements of Alexandria Library and the group that grew around over centuries, culminating in the sad and mad assassination Hypatia than whom there wasn’t a more luminous woman — or man - in the ancient world and even in the epochs following until we come up to Marie Sklodowska Curie, Lise Meitner. It is highly unusual for a populariser of Einstein and Dirac, Heisnberg and Shroedinger to worship Hypatia and her lost world.
Hypatia is but gateway to understanding science and mathematics or the world by setting these on the history of man’s intellectual striving. This background gives the group’s endeavours and Asif’s lectures a quality throbbing with life and liveliness.
The group gathers routinely in Asif’s small room lined with some five thousand valuable books -some of them masterpieces of all time. And there is a PC at the corner with advanced science and mathematics programmes like Matlab. Video cassettes are there of Bronowski’s Ascent of man or Sagan’s Cosmos series on origin and development of the universe. And there are charts and scrolls all around the wall. Asif is small and diffident. So are all that have gathered around him. But all of them think big and beautiful. It is hope that neither Asif nor Discussion Project will continue to be unique for a long time. Dozens of young people’s science clubs are coming up. And at least one has already made quite a mark - the Astronomical Association. Asif will be very helthfull influence on all of them. In the latest of Discussion Group lectures, Asif speaks on Enigma of Time on August 16 at the auditorium of Atomic Energy Centre, Kazi Nazrul Islam Road, Dhaka.

First published/print in Daily Star at Star Literature page, August 15,1998
Waheedul Huque , columist and freelance Journalist