When one reason would be enough...

A few years ago, K R Sreenivasan, Director of the International Center for Theoretical Physics in Trieste, Italy, had a brainwave. Seeing the decreasing numbers of children opting for careers in science- not just in India where he grew up, but also in the US and Europe where he lived and worked- he thought he would ask a group of successful scientists as to why they had made the choices that they had. Many of them wrote back- almost a hundred- and their replies in the form of essays are the book One Hundred Reasons to be a Scientist.

In the preface, he writes, "A paradox of our times is that while our societies have become to depend on technological advances as never before, the interest in basic seciences is diminishing at all levels. Particularly distressing is the lukewarm interest shown towards sciences by the brightest students at the high school level. This state of affairs holds true. to the lowest order, in developed as well as developing nations, and deserves our collective attention."

Contributors to the book are mainly physicists and mathematicians, although there are exceptions. Partha Dasgupta, economist, for instance. There are Nobel laureates- Pierre De Gennes or Ahmed Zewail, and Fields medalists like Ed Witten or Michael Atiyah, or Steven Smale. A number of Indian scientists have written- eloquently- on why they chose to do science and how they manage to continue contributing at the highest levels- C N R Rao, Jayant Narlikar, K Kasturirangan. And others. Many others.

What is really nice about the book is that it is ideal dipping material. The essays are interesting and rarely come across as heavy. Mildred Dresselhaus, Professor at MIT, talks of how she managed to juggle multiple responsibilities. Freeman Dyson speaks of how much fun he has (at age 80) playing with numbers. And so on.
The contributors are so diverse, it is possible for each reader to identify, in some part, with some of the writers.

The blurb for the book reads "In this collection of about 100 highly readable essays, some of the most eminent physicist and mathematicians with some connection to the International Center for Theoretical Physics tell us about what attracted them to science as youngsters and kept it alive, and what main piece of knowledge they have added to the extraordinary lore of science. High school students and young college students, for whom the collection is primarily meant, will benefit from spending some time with the book. Even the most seasoned researcher will find it interesting."

Hundred Reasons was the first book on our site, and will always be special to us. Bringing it to the Indian reader was an important objective of SwB; one that has expanded over the years, but one that remains a part of us. Specially printed, the book is priced at Rs 200. At a bit over Rs 2 per reason, we think its a bargain! With postage (within India), Rs 250.